Anticipating hotter weather I wore wicking running gear for Animal Kingdom. Our park plan of attack that day pulled us in two directions: a fast pass would be required to ride Everest, but the safari would be best to hit first thing in the am when the animals were enjoying the sun, not hiding from it. If you are familiar with the park, those two attractions are in the exact opposite corners. Challenge accepted. I split from the family to make a mad dash towards Asia promising to meet up in Africa. I wove around groups, hurdling over small children, looking for the finish line, uh, I mean the fast pass distribution center. Leg one was complete as I tucked the passes in my pocket. I took off out of Asia towards Africa and picked up another runner along the way. 'You a runner?' I asked. 'Nope,' answered the breathless gentleman. As I passed him, I yelled over my shoulder, 'You are today.' Thankfully, I found my family just as the kids were being lifted out of the stroller and sucked up by the line. I maybe ran close to a mile, but it felt great.
I'm not a huge fan of thrill rides, but I found myself enjoying the usual popular attractions such as Test Track, Aerosmith's Rockin Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror (which dropped me a record of six, yes six, times). Ava, now five and 40 inches tall, qualified to ride a few thrills, one being Test Track. I rode this attraction, in Epcot, back in 2010 and screamed the entire time. I figured I wouldn't fare well another go-round, so I opted out. I worried about Ava's experience - I didn't want her to be scared or have a bad time. Perhaps I overreacted; she loved it. She loved it so much that she wanted to go again...and wanted me to take her. So much pressure. I didn't want to disappoint so I reluctantly walked with her, hand in hand, from Norway to Test Track. She told every Cast Member that she was back while telling me what to expect. The girl talked a mile a minute, surely she was going to spontaneously pass out. Well, not a chance. We swerved around the ropes until we found ourselves in a chute waiting to board our car. When that seatbelt locks there's no turning back. I laced my arm through her spaghetti legs and held on for dear life. Little Ava, barely able to see over the seat giggled through her radiant smile the entire time. I never let out a peep. An ear to ear grin was painted across my face; I loved sharing that moment with her. The final stretch of the ride takes the passengers outside on a circular track to reach 70 miles per hour. It doesn't sound like a lot, but with no roof and a hell of an angled track it can be quite exhilarating. Ava kept smiling while I embraced the wind through my hair. And like that, we came to a stop and unloaded. If you've seen Monster's Inc. you remember Mike getting excited about being in a commercial or on the cover of a magazine. Mike, in both, has his face covered by a logo. This was Ava in the ride photo. You had to look closely to find her blonde ponytail peaking over the headrest. Other than that, the seat looked vacant. We walked back to Germany, hand and hand - she, talking about the awesome ride and I, with a smile on my face.
So many more stories from this trip...some I hope to document. I stepped into the elevator this afternoon to make my way to the lobby. It felt weird to not have to rush anywhere or to be alone. It was nice. As the doors closed, I immediately feared the runway elevator car, 'traveling in another dimension...next stop: The Twilight Zone.'
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