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Archive for September, 2008

So this is our last day…kind of sad to see the trip end, but I really am excited to go home and see my wife, sleep in my own bed and most importantly, get out of this Florida heat!

Since John had never been to Florida or Walt Disney World, we decided to check out Disney’s Animal Kingdom. It’s a theme park that’s kind of part zoo and part Disney. In other words there are animals, as well as rides. It’s a pretty unique place. I enjoyed it quite immensely.

But before we could enjoy the park, we had to get there. Scott was nice enough to let us use his van so we left at like 8:00am to try to get to the park early. The Walt Disney World resort was about 80 miles or so away so we Googled the directions and off we went. Because the van had driven from Palm Bay (where the Whipples live) to Gainesville and back, we knew at some point we’d need to fill in gas. What we didn’t know was how to manage all the toll booths along the Florida turnpike.

Actually, how had could toll booths be? You give them money and they let you drive on their roads. We actually it turned out to be a lot harder than we anticipated.

We got to the first toll booth and gave the lady like $1.25. No problem she let us pass. Then we started to run low on gas and we were looking for some area where we could fill up. We drove for miles and miles and nothing looked promising so we kept on driving. Finally we saw a sign that said, “Orlando International Airport”. Bingo! They must have gas stations near there since people have to fill their rental cars before they return them back to the rental car companies.

So we take the airport cutoff and head toward the toll booth. Here’s where the fun began.

Unbeknownst to John and I, not every toll booth has someone in them. This one didn’t. It was completely unmanned. Then to make matters worse it asked for exact change (the toll was a dollar). It would only take loose change and $1’s and $5’s. Now, I had given my last $1 to the lady at the last toll booth so the smallest bill I had was a $20. John had lost his wallet at the football game (he found it later completely intact except for all his cash) so the smallest bill he had was $100.

Great, we thought, what are we going to do? We thought about reversing and trying to find another exit, but by then another car was behind us and we couldn’t back up. So the only thing we could do was go forward and take our chances. Of course we go through and the alarm sounds. So we pull over and check for cameras. Yup, there they are, pointing right at us. So we walk back to the machine to see if there’s number we can call to explain the situation. Negative, no number.

By then we don’t know what to do. We don’t want Scott to get a fine or a ticket so we start scrounging around the van looking for loose change. We manage to find a few quarters and some dimes and tons of pennies. So we count them up and we still are a few cents short. We scrounge around some more and John looks in cups and other containers and he manages to find a few more dimes. JACKPOT!

Now we’re feeling good. All we need to do is reverse and pay the toll. So we back up to the machine and throw in the dollar comprised of loose change. Nothing happens. We wait some more. Nothing happens. Now we don’t know what to do. We tried to rectify the situation, but we still don’t want to Scott to get a ticket.

John goes, “Maybe we need to reverse some more so that the machine can detect a car.” Sounds like a good idea so I back up and re-enter the toll booth. It works! Well, it worked, but now it’s asking me for another dollar. Augh! Stupid machine! I throw in a few pennies just to make sure that the machine is working. The pennies disappear and now the machine reads: Toll 0.97. It definitely works. At this point, we had exhausted our change in the car except for a few pennies so we decide to just screw it and drive away. Of course, the alarm goes off again and we speed away as fast as we can. Yeah, we’re law breakers, but we left the state of Florida so I think we’ll be okay.

Finally, we get gas and head back to Disney.

After an interesting adventure we arrive

The Animal Kingdom is divided into different lands (like the other Disney parks) with the Tree of Life right in the middle. Overall, it’s a fun place. We were told to do the safari first so we headed off to Africa to see what kind of animals we could see.

The tree of life

A rhino

Some hippos cruising under water

A croc trying to cool off

Some beast with big horns (I can’t remember what it’s called)

This giraffe was literally right outside of the tram

Some elephants doing their thing

A lion stretching on a tree

Of course Disney has to make it exciting and we can’t just ride a ride with out some kind of plot point, so on this ride we go after poachers.

Poacher central

After the ride we went on a jungle walk. This part is most like a zoo. Here you just follow the trail and you can see different animal exhibits. There were one of these in Africa and another in Asia. Both have animals specific to the continent.

It’s a meerkat, like Timon

Ahh, what a life!

I think he knows we’re watching him

Yup, he knows

After that we went to Rafiki’s place. This is mostly for kid’s as it has some characters like Jiminy Cricket and Pocahantas and a petting zoo. They also had some cool behind the scene looks at things and other neat animals in big tanks.

Here’s a snake of some sort

A not-so-hidden Mickey

These ant looking bugs are really wasps

Not all the bugs are in glass tanks

Then we walked over to Asia to check out Expedition Everest, one of Disney’s newest roller coasters. But along the way we saw a crowd gathered around with their cameras out. It took us a while to see what was attracting the crowd. Can you see it?

She has the best holloween costume

By this time we were hungry so I had to have a turkey leg. What else would we eat at the Animal Kingdom?

Mmm, turkey legs…

These guys kept begging us for food, apparently they can’t read the signs

On to Asia!

There’s Expedition Everest

Like the jungle walk in Africa, Asia’s one had its fair share of cool animals.

That’s a Komodo Dragon

A giant hanging bat

I can totally see why these guys cause nightmares

When I asked what kind of tiger this was, the lady just said, “Asian”

After the walk we did go on a few rides in Asia. Of course we tried Expedition Everest. As far as roller coasters go, it was pretty good. There were some neat surprises and other tricks. But I must say, I was most disappointed at the length of the ride. It seemed really short. Luckily the lines were short (we went as single riders and we the longest we waited was only 15 minutes) so we rode a few times.

We also did the rapids. It’s one of those “you will get wet, you may get soaked” rides. One particularly funny moment happened when we were getting in our seats. There’s a covered bowl in the middle of the raft where you can put the things you want to keep dry. Well this Asian fellow puts in his camera and phone like most other people. But then he doesn’t stop there. Much to the chagrin of the other riders on his side, he took off his socks and put them in the bowl as well. Then he put his shoes in there too! This girl made a funny face (actually it was more a face of disgust) but he didn’t seem to care. Good thing he put it on his side of the bowl.

Then we went to Dinoland USA. I think it’s a play off of a roadside attraction. As usual it’s very well done. There were some really cool rides here as well. There’s s ride called Dinosaur in which you go back in time to bring back a dinosaur. It’s very similar to the Indiana Jones ride except you go back in time.

It’s sponsored by McDonald’s so they had some fun with it.

We also went to the Finding Nemo show which was excellent. It was probably one of the coolest shows I’ve ever seen Disney do. We also saw “It’s Tough to Be a Bug” which is like “Honey, I Shrunk the Audience” and “Captain Eo”

There’s John with his “bug eyes”

Lastly, did you ever wonder how they determine what the wait time for a ride is? I found out when we went on a ride and the lady handed me this:

So that’s the secret!

And that concludes Scott and John’s East Coast trip. In addition to Florida and New York, we also passed through New Jersey, Arizona and Washington. That makes five states, five boroughs, four stadiums and one theme park. Whew, it’s no wonder we’ll need a vacation from our vacation. But all in all, it was totally worth it.

To see the rest of the Disney pictures click here.

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Once we got to Florida it was immediately clear that we were in Gator Country. For one thing the weather in New York was absolutely fabulous. It wasn’t too hot, it wasn’t too cold. It didn’t rain. We could wear shorts and t-shirts and everything was fine. Not so much in Florida. It was hot and humid. Literally, it felt like we were in a swamp. Even at night it was still hot and humid. There was seemingly no relief from the heat.

But everything got better once Scott Whipple picked us up (his van and his house had air conditioning). It was very nice to reunite with Scott and his family. They used to come to Hope Chapel but moved to Florida about six years ago.

Luckily for us, I saw him at the Sugar Bowl in January and told him we were thinking about going to Florida. He immediately opened up his home to us and even let us use hi s car! So it was a very good deal for us.

The reason we came to Florida was to watch the University of Hawaii Warriors play the University of Florida Gators at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Florida Field aka the Swamp! Unfortunately for us the University of Florida was in Gainesville which was about 3 hours away from where we were staying. Then there was the problem of the crowds. Florida has had 117 consecutive sellouts and this one was different. In comparison to Aloha Stadium which holds 50,000 the Swamp holds 90,000 (announced attendance at the game was 90,575!). Then to make matters worse, the stadium is on the UF campus (which is a learning institution first and a sports arena second) so it’s not like there’s a dedicated parking lot just for the game.

We were told to get there by 6:30am, 7:00am at the latest if we wanted to find on campus parking. So if you’re doing the math at home that meant we had to leave at 3:30am! Oh well that was the experience we wanted to have. SEC football at it’s finest. It was the first SEC game that all of us (including Scott and his boys) had ever attended so we were all kind of awestruck. Tickets for these games are very hard to come by (remember the consecutive sellout streak?) so it was a real treat to even be able to go.

Luckily Scott agreed to drive so me, John and his three boys, Ellis, Zach and Shea all got to sleep on the way to the game. We made good time and got there a little early. We were in the parking lot before 6:00am and had our choice of parking stalls. The problem is that Scott’s wife (the only one who had actually attended a game at the Swamp) graduated from Florida’s arch-rival Florida State University and their van had a FSU license plate on the back and a Hawaii plate in the front. Either way it didn’t look good. When Scott asked a man in the parking lot what he should do, the man casually responded that he “should take it off and get it off the campus”. It’s a good thing he was joking (or at least we thought he was).

But the first thing is that the campus is huge. It’s way bigger than Manoa. Second, even at 7:00am in the morning, it’s already hot and humid. Third, the atmosphere on game day is electric. Everyone was wearing Gator colors and logos. We checked out the bookstore to see what they had available and you’d be shocked to see what they put a Gator logo on. There’s the usual suspects like t-shirts, polos, sweatshirts and whatnot, but then there were also other articles of clothing that I don’t think UH ever thought about putting a logo on.

I know a guy back home that would be in heaven with this rack

I bet you feel warm and safe with Gators on your robes and pajamas

Gator flip-flops or as they call them here, thongs

And of course, Gator Crocs…does anyone else see the irony in this?

After we looked at the Gatorwear we decided to find the stadium. I mean how hard can it be right? It was probably the largest structure on campus. I gotta say, the place is huge! It’s very impressive. If you’re ever in doubt where you are, there are reminders every where.

Scott’s wrestling the Gator

The Gator Gate!

I don’t know if you noticed, but Florida managed to win two National Championships in 1996 and 2006. There are very proud of their football there (there’s a huge book called 100 Years of Florida Football) and with good reason. They have the national championships, the SEC championships, the Heisman trophies and the other national awards. John’s friend Tamar’s dad is a coach for the Gators so she arranged for us to check out the trophy room. This room is normally closed on gameday, but she totally hooked us up.

The National Championship Trophy

Tebow’s Heisman

Wuerffel’s Heisman

Spurrier’s Heisman

The poster above the interactive display

Us and the Whipple’s between the National Championship Trophys

Then once we got into the stadium I could understand why it’s rated the 3rd toughest place to play in the nation. Steve Spurrier nicknamed the stadium the swamp because he said that swamps are hot, humid and intimidating. They should not be welcoming to outsiders but Gators should be very comfortable there. There are reminders everywhere of where you are.

Is there any doubt that you’re in the Swamp?

The Ring of Honor that runs over the player’s tunnel

The newly added luxury boxes

This was the 117th consecutive sellout (announced crowd of 90,575)

Unfortunately for Hawaii we were a little outmatched. Actually we held them close in the first quarter. It’s too bad the first quarter had to end because that’s when they turned it up. They scored on offense, defense and special teams. After a scoreless first quarter, the Gators hung 28 points on us in the second and third quarters. They took a 56-0 game into the fourth quarter. We actually held them scoreless again in the fourth while we put up 10, but it was a little too late and we lost the game 56-10.
But for us just the experience of being in a big-time college football program was an experience I’ll never forget. They have so many traditions that make the experience for the fan an incredible one.

This year’s Whipple Christmas card

Me and John after the game

Oh well, let’s put that game behind us and get ready for our home opener next Saturday.

To see the rest of the day’s pictures click here.

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So after four days in New York it’s time to say goodbye. I must say, as a whole, I’m quite impressed with New York City. There is so much to see and do here. Even though it felt like we were going and going and going, we still didn’t get to see and do everything we wanted to. Oh well, I guess we’ll just have to come back again.

So on our last day, we had some last minute things we wanted to see. My friend Chuco asked me to bring him back a hat from Yankee Stadium. Unfortunately for Chuco, he asked me on the day after we went to the stadium. And since Yankee Stadium is all the way in the Bronx, the odds of us going back there again were pretty slim. But not to worry! There’s a Modell’s right in Times Square and Yong suggested that we “gotta go to Mo’s” and find a hat there.

Of course, Yong is right. There are indeed many Yankee hats there. But they didn’t really have any good ones. The ones with the Yankee logo are basically hats you can get any where, nothing unique about them. Then I saw it…the most unique Yankee hat I had ever laid my eyes on. I thought, “there’s the hat for Chuco.” So I bought it. I gave him a call to tell him that the mission had been accomplished. He asked me what it looked like and I told him it was nice. He then said something along the lines of “as long as it’s not too gaudy” he’d like it. Ummm, gaudy? Do you think this hat is gaudy?

In retrospect, maybe I should have given this to Chuco

As we were walking back to our hotel one night we spotted a 24-hour White Castle. Now I had never tried a White Castle burger but I’ve heard the Beastie Boys rap about it and more recently there was that movie Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle (although I didn’t see it). So we figured we needed to give it a try.

Can you believe this was right next to our hotel?

It doesn’t look like much, but let me tell you, those are good burgers. Not only are they small and cute, but they’re quite tasty as well. John and I quite enjoyed our great breakfast.

I ate the four small burgers, onion rings and a drink

Since we had a few hours before we had to get to the airport, John wanted to go back to Times Square (me too, to return Chuco’s hat) and check out Ripley’s Believe it or Not’s Odditorium. They have these Odditoriums all over the United States. I’ve been to the one in Orlando and the one in San Francisco, but they are cool so what the heck, let’s go.

The Odditorium is filled with bizarre things from around the world. Many of them were collected by Robert Ripley, but even after his death, they continued to collect them and show them in these exhibits. Some things are abnormalities and other deformities while other things are just unusual to us but commonplace in other parts of the world. Some are strange coincidences and still others can only be defined as unique.

Does this count as two head of cattle?

In one section they have an area dedicated to different forms of punishment and other weird ways to inflict pain on others.

Everything you need to kill the undead all in one kit!

Look how sad this fellow looks…

If only these were in use today…

One of these heads is not like the other

Then another section is dedicated various aspects of sex (both the enhancements and the rituals)

It doesn’t look sharp enough does it?

Before

After

Umm, yeah, no comment

And after that we caught a train to Newark and bid a fond farewell to New York City. Off to our next adventure to Florida!

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