Day 9 – Typhoon Lagoon & Old Town

Wednesday 22nd August 2018

Another day, another visit to a Waffle House. In light of the variety of restaurants here, we could probably be experimenting with various other breakfast options. However, it’s already so hard to find something that Joey likes, and getting him to eat anything at all can be like pulling teeth at the best of times. None of us are especially adventurous when it comes to food and we all enjoy it there anyway, so why not?

We did have to pass our turn off along 192 to get to our favourite haunt this morning, but it was only a few minutes detour.

Joey has been steadily accumulating LEGO while we’ve been here. Smart kid! It’s mostly small things, although we have indulged him a couple of times. He has taken to bringing a few bits of LEGO with him whenever we leave the house. Usually, we can convince him to leave it in the car but not today. He took a palm-sized set with him into the Waffle House. Any predictions? Naturally, within a few minutes of being seated, he dropped the set, sending dozens of bits flying in all directions – on the other side of the serving counter no less. Fortunately, our waiter took it all in his stride, although it did take a fair bit of crawling around before every last piece was found. I can only hope Joey will learn from the episode. Sometimes you just have to hit the wall before you learn.

We met up with Kirsty, Andy, their two girls, Courtney (5) and Sophia (7), once we parked the car at the Typhoon Lagoon car park and went inside to the lockers area. It was soon after rope drop, and it wasn’t supposed to be busy today. That notwithstanding, it did still take quite a bit of effort to find somewhere to park ourselves that was under shade. I do love Typhoon Lagoon, but I think they could do more to provide more shaded areas to sit. I was on point and made my way right around the park to the kiddies area scouting for shade. I eventually found a nice cabana, albeit we and the others that were already there had to squeeze a little.

Joey was exhibiting signs of stress and anxiety. Once sat, he really didn’t want to get up. He was glued to his phone and responded to questions and prompts only with quiet whimpers without making eye-contact. We knew it was going to be tough for him today. He has been telling us for some time now that he has a problem being around water. This is actually something relatively new with him. He has previously not had a problem with going to the beach (although he dislikes the sand) nor has he had any issues with going to a swimming pool. Sandy thinks it’s a combination of a few things. A couple of years ago, he had a bad experience with being submerged in the swimming pool. He seems to have a better clarity of thought now he’s on the new medication, so Sandy thinks this is making him remember that bad experience more (I’m less convinced of this but at this point, who knows). We’re also in a completely foreign environment with a huge amount of change that is currently underway with the holiday and emigration. There has been an explosion of sights and sounds coming at him from all directions. His familiar and safe surroundings have come crashing down around him, which must be very disorienting and uncomfortable for him. We’ve done what we can to limit the sensory overload but it’s probably still quite overwhelming for him. Factor all these things in and we’re seeing an exaggerated effect on him relative to what we might otherwise expect. Whatever the triggers, we’re doing what we can to calm him and be patient with him. For the first hour or so, Sandy and I tag-teamed with staying with him at the cabana while the rest of our party were off enjoying the water park.

Although it did take me quite a bit of patience and reassuring, I managed to get Joey onto his feet eventually. We agreed we’d walk to the shop and see what they had there but that we’d walk away from the water at first. Along the way, we stepped close to the edge of the very shallow sections (no more than ankle-deep). Once he tested the water with his toes, he slowly increased his daring while holding onto my hand. After about fifteen minutes or so of this, he got so comfortable that he relaxed, and we actually went into the lazy river (he had one of their life vests on). Once over the anxiety hurdle, Joey was in his element and enjoying every minute of it. This situation has typified Joey’s behaviour for the past several weeks. We have to push him up the hill and over the hurdle. Otherwise, he’ll just stay in his shell and won’t enjoy himself. It’s always a delicate balancing act between pushing and allowing him to remain in his comfortable bubble. We don’t always get the balance right.

Once we finished in the lazy river, we went to the shop at the front of the park to have a nose around. I was a little surprised that out of everything there, there was only one thing that Joey was interested in. It wasn’t a toy but a T-shirt. As luck would have it, it was ‘only’ $20 (usually T-shirts in the Disney stores are at least $30 or more, which I think is quite expensive for the quality but that’s Disney for you). Since my wallet was in my bumbag in Andy’s locker, we agreed we’d come back later in the day for the T-shirt.

One of the ways I was able to induce Joey into movement was the promise that we would be able to do the snorkelling with the sharks, which has always been a favourite of mine from years past. We made it all the way over there only to find it was no longer there. Shit! It takes very little to knock Joey off his happy perch and we were already on a knife-edge, so I was really worried about how he would react. With some distraction tactics and another trip around the lazy river, I think I was successful in getting him past that disappointment. And then he hit me with the next problem. Having NOT learned his lesson from this morning’s episode at the Waffle House about taking LEGO with him, he announced that his mini BB-8 LEGO figure was in his pocket and that it now wasn’t. Shit! Unfortunately, this was a specialist piece and not something that could easily be replaced. At this point, I could have gone one of two ways. I could have just laid the blame at his door and tried to get him to realise the error of bringing his toys with him. Under normal circumstances, that’s probably what I would have done. Since he was so precariously balanced at the moment, however, this time I decided I’d try to comfort him instead. I suggested we might make our way at some point back to the LEGO store at Disney Springs. Maybe we could find a replacement part there. I think that kept him going for a bit.

We completed our circuit of the park and made our way back to the cabana. He was again exhibiting those same signs of anxiety but was at least content to spend a bit of time playing on my phone (his had run out of battery by now). He was happy for me to leave him there while I went in search of the others. I never did find them. I did at least make it into the main lagoon for a few of the mega waves. I then slipped into the lazy river to float myself back to the cabana again. This time, I found everyone there.

Since there was still plenty of fun to be had for the rest of us, Sandy took Joey over to Disney Springs (it’s just around the corner from Typhoon Lagoon), where they would no doubt spend a bit of time in the LEGO store. In the meantime, the rest of us had some fun exploring some of the attractions here at the water park. We all did the new family raft ride, which was a lot of fun. After a rest and some snacks, Jennifer and I went on the Slusher Gusher flume ride – or at least attempted to. Two people sit in a double tube and you ride through a series of flumes. Some sections are uphill with the assist of some powerful water jets, so it’s something like a rollercoaster flume ride. Unfortunately, we got to near the top of the gantry when there was a lightning strike. It triggered an announcement that all the water attractions in the park were temporarily shutting down due to inclement weather. Everyone had to turn around and climb back down again.

Since it was by now mid-afternoon, we decided we’d call it a day and went back to the cabana to collect our things and make our way to the park exit. We passed through the giftshop on the way, where Kirsty, Andy and the girls all bought their annual Disney towel – evidently something of a tradition for them. Andy was good enough to add to their pile the T-shirt Joey had earlier seen, so as to benefit from their Disney Vacation Club (DVC) membership discount. I would pay him back later with cash.

With arms now full of seemingly dozens of bags containing clothes, towels, giftshop purchases, etc., we all trundled off to the park exit. We agreed we’d all head over to Old Town. There’s a slingshot attraction there that Jennifer had been asking about since we first arrived. Jennifer went along with Andy and Kirsty. I hung back waiting for Sandy to collect me, which she did a few minutes later.

It was a brief fifteen-minute ride over to Old Town (almost everything here is a brief five to fifteen-minute ride from everything else), where we all found each other again.

Old Town has a handful of neat attractions but is otherwise a slightly tired and run-down tourist trap that seemed to have had its heyday and was trying desperately to pull the tourists back in again. It does look amazing when lit up at night but as far as theming goes, it really doesn’t have anything on the major players like Disney or Universal. That notwithstanding, we were here very specifically for the slingshot ride for Jennifer. It’s a chair that two people are strapped in to, that’s held down by elastic cords suspended from two towers. When ‘released’, the chair is launched upwards like a slingshot – hence the name. The chair goes up and down several times until the energy is completely dissipated and the whole thing is lowered back down to the ground. As far as thrill rides go, it’s right up there and only for the very daring. All day, Andy (the bastard!) had been taunting me about getting into the contraption. In the back of my mind, I had been toying with the idea – or more accurately, trying to concoct as many reasons as I could that would get me out of it. It had gotten to the point that I would lose too much face by not doing it. Besides, Jennifer wouldn’t be able to go on her own. An adult would need to go on with her.

Now, a couple of very interesting things happened when we finally walked up to the base of the slingshot ride. Firstly, Jennifer took one look at a test run of the chair being flung skywards and then bottled it. She lost her nerve and decided there was no way she was getting on. Fair enough. Seven-year-old Sophia, on the other hand, was chomping at the bit and practically begging to have a go. Seriously! Andy was more than game for Sophia to go on, despite him refusing to go on himself. What does that tell us? Kirsty was a little more hesitant and chatted with the attendant about how safe it was, etc. To their credit, the staff were very good. As one of them put it, there’s no way they would ever put the life of a child in danger for a mere $25. Fair enough. So, where did this leave us all? It left us with one child and an as yet undetermined adult that would go on. And just who was that adult going to be? You guessed it. There was no way I was going to allow poor little Sophia to be disappointed. Coincidentally, there was also no way Andy was going to let this happen without him buying the video of me shitting myself on the ride either. He was practically in tears of laughter at the prospects (bastard!). So, despite my better judgement. Despite my sheer terror. Despite my still having a few more inventive excuses for why I shouldn’t go on the ride, I just couldn’t lose face and thus EXTREMELY RELUCTANTLY agreed to accompany little Sophia on the ride – for moral support, you understand.

Well, after some discussion about price, the size of the free ‘I survived the Slingshot’ T-shirt we’d both receive and a few more last-minute questions about safety, death and who would inherit what in the event I died up there, Sophia and I were both strapped in. One of us was giggling from ear to ear just bursting with enthusiasm for what was to come. The other had only minor control of his bodily functions and with diminishing mental capacity. Fortunately – for Andy – there was a camera fixed to the contraption that was pointing directly at our faces. I’m sure he was already pissing himself at the prospect of laughing himself into a coma at my discomfort as I was shot up into the air at several G – which he did, I might add!

The tension in the elastic supports was increased and the chair tilted back waiting for the inevitable. The nice young woman gave us a quick countdown from three and the mechanism released. We were both shot at high speed up into the air. On the way up, I believe I might have quietly uttered something to the effect that this was an interesting experience…or words very close to that effect. On the post ride viewing of the video footage, however, I think there might actually have been one or two expletives that crept in there somehow. Sophia, bless her heart, did her very best to put on a brave face while I comforted her as best I could throughout the ride. I think she was happy to have me with her. Ahem.

When the ride was finally over, and the chair was anchored to the ground again, I stumbled out and spent a few moments steadying my nerves from the experience. Sophia was like a kid in a candy store. She immediately wanted to go on again. Seriously! After a little cajoling, Jennifer finally plucked up the courage to have a go after all. That was bloody fortunate, as there was no way I was getting back into that thing!

The two girls enjoyed their launch, albeit I think Sophia enjoyed it the most, and the three of us came away wearing the ‘I survived the Slingshot’ T-shirt together. Andy was still pissing himself from the video (bastard!).

There were a few more touristy rides and attractions around the place. One that the younger kids in particular wanted to have a go on was the Ferris wheel. Since Andy paid the lion’s share of the slingshot rides (he REALLY wanted that video), I picked up the tab for myself and the kids to take a few spins on the Ferris wheel. Poor Courtney was succumbing to the effects of fatigue and tiredness at this time of night and was in full voice to make sure we all knew about it. She wanted to go into the pink Ferris wheel car specifically, but it came and went before the wheel stopped to let us on. I asked the attendant whether we could get the pink one and he gave me a deer in the headlight stare. I said it would help stop this noise, gesturing to Courtney, who was still balling her eyes out at a high rate of decibels wanting the pink one. He looked at Courtney, back at me again and then pressed a few buttons on his control panel. The wheel reversed course and we were invited into the pink one. The crying stopped.

Joey had wanted to get into a different colour car. Indeed, he wanted to avoid getting into the same car as the other three girls. I did ask the attendant whether this would be possible, but he indicated I’d need to get in with the girls on account of their age and the need for an adult to go with them. This meant all five of us had to get into the same car. That was enough to knock Joey off his happy perch and we had to deal with the effects of that for the next half hour or so. All part of the experience and routine for us.

With the Ferris wheel done and dusted, we all agreed on Chilis for this evening’s dinner for all of us. As luck would have it, there is one just a couple of minutes up the road, so we all reconvened there and were sat at a large table. A nice touch was the kids’ tablets the restaurant had to help keep the kidlets entertained throughout the course of the meal. The food was excellent – including the rather indulgent chocolate mountain many of us had for dessert. Andy and I were testing the limits of what a human adult male could consume in a single sitting. It was a close race and I wouldn’t want to call it. Suffice it to say we will both sleep well tonight. With the Eat & Play discount card we have, the bill was a very reasonable $140 including tip, which Andy and I split between us 50:50.

We bid a fond farewell to the Bisset family again at the end of the evening. They have about a week left to go before they fly back to the UK. We’ll, of course, be here for at least another month after that. Since we’ve both thrown the schedule out of the window, we don’t know when we’ll see each other again but I’m sure we will before they head home. They are all a lot of fun to be around, so we’ll look forward to seeing them again. Andy also has the DVC card, so we’ll probably leech off them a bit more for that reason as well 😉

On the way home, we stopped off at a nearby MacDonald’s so the kids could both run in and get themselves a dollar burger each. This has become something of a routine now. Anything for an easy life.

Back home, the whole shower, laundry, kids ready for bed, etc., routine sort of happened automagically and with little fuss. As predicted, we were all in bed and off to Lala land rather quickly. It was another good day.