March 15, 2020

The Scariest Vacation of my Life

The Scariest Vacation of my Life
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for March 15, 2020

We went on a week-long vacation to Florida last week.  It was the scariest vacation of my life.  We'd had it planned for a couple of months as it was the first time Luke and Avery's colleges had Spring Break on the same week.  So we thought we'd do it up right and plan a bunch of fun activities in Orlando.  The week before we started getting nervous about the trip because of the corona-virus outbreak.  The Thursday before I was at my doctor for a check-up and asked the nurse about how concerned I should be. She told me I should be more concerned about the flu. On Friday, Miss Sheri asked her doctor if we were ok going on vacation, she said she was coming to Florida the same time and she wasn’t worried about it.  So we said it must be OK.  

When we arrived in Florida, I heard on the news that someone asked the VP, Mike Pence, about traveling and he said the chance of the average American getting the virus was low and he talked about the days when he brought his kids to Orlando. 

So again I thought we were ok.

Then the stock market started crashing every day.  And on Wednesday, we had the back to back shocks of the NBA suspending their season and Tom Hanks said he and his wife were diagnosed with the virus.  So the anxiety meter started overheating.  

The next day, we were at Hollywood Studios when I received the notification that Disney had made the decision to close down their parks.  And that was the time we decided to cut our vacation short and headed home a day earlier than we originally scheduled. 

It's just crazy this is happening.  Could you image in December if someone told you there would be no NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball, PGA golf, Disneyland, Broadway, college, k12 schools, or church by the middle of March? 

I would never have believed that was even possible.

Now we are home and are prepared for the social distancing. We have bought groceries to last us a couple of weeks and are planning to hunker down for awhile.  We will be praying that this situation begins resolving itself and all of our friends and family remain safe in the process.

We did have some fun while we were in Florida, though, and I thought I'd share the positive stuff with you in the rest of this post.

We arrived on Sunday and planned a relaxing day at the hotel pool, but thought it would also be fun to stop by Disney Springs to do some Disney shopping.  Buzz grabbed Luke's butt shortly after this photo was taken, so we we had a little dust-up with him but he insisted it was innocent.

We almost bought these t-shirts but couldn't agree on who would get to wear the Han shirt, so we decided against it.

On Monday, we booked an excursion to go deep sea fishing.  When we arrived, we found out that there were 5 foot swells on the open ocean, so we agreed to just stay in the harbor instead.  That was probably fine with us because I'm not sure how much fun it would be to fish when you're bouncing all over the place.

We just love the critters on the ocean and are constantly pointing out different things for us all to check out.  The captain probably thought we were a little goofy.

The dolphins started chasing us for awhile which was a thrill.  They actually were close enough that we could reach over the side of the boat and touch them, but we didn't want to be accused of anything inappropriate.

Space-X had a bunch of boats in the harbor where we were fishing which was really cool.  They use this boat to catch the nose-cones of their rockets which contain all of the expensive electronics and stuff.  Whoever is driving that boat must feel a lot of pressure to make sure they're in the right place to catch it.  I'm guessing there might be a computer or two involved to help position it right.

We had pretty good luck fishing, even if they weren't quite as big as we were hoping had we gone out in the deeper water.  We caught a bunch of Spanish mackerels which we discovered have razor sharp teeth and a bluefish.  Best of all, we all caught at least one so the fun was spread out pretty equally.

Captain Pat from Denise Marie Charters out of Port Canaveral was great.  Very friendly guy and he's been fishing his whole life so he knew just what to do to make sure we were catching fish.

After fishing, we took a long drive through Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.  It is so cool seeing huge, wild alligators right outside the window of your car.  I kept wanting to get out to get better pictures, but for some reason my family didn't want me to.

There's also a bunch of birds in the refuge as well.  Not sure why the alligators don't eat more of them, but there must be a reason.

This bird was pretty rough on the fish he caught.  I mean I understand that a bird's gotta eat, but did he really have to stick him through the eye like that.  Just seems a bit excessive to me.

The next day we all asked ourselves if we'd seen enough alligators already and the general consensus was no.  So we headed over to Gator Land!  

 Gatorland calls itself the "Alligator Capital of the World" and who am I to argue with them?  It's 110 acres of alligators of all shapes and sizes.  It's been in business since 1949.  I wasn't sure of what to expect, but we were very pleased with the experience.

The first thing we saw was the Jumperoo show where they dangle big chunks of chicken on wires in the air and then the Gators jump out of the water to snag them.  Such good redneck fun.

The alligator trainers put on shows where they do different tricks with the animals.  I guarantee this guy ain't making enough money to be taking the kinds of risks he's taking.  It must be for the thrill of putting your chin on something that could snap your head off.

There's a bunch of wooden trails through the swamp which gives lots of opportunities to get up close and personal with the critters.

I had a little bit of a tiff with this bird when we both saw a piece of food on the railing at the same time.  Unfortunately, he beat me to it.

These guys look like they have a real good sense of humor.

I asked one of the ladies who worked there how many alligators they had in the park and she told me more than 2300.  That doesn't sound very exact to me.  I mean who's counting these things?

We went to see the Blue Man Group at Universal Citywalk.  They don't let you take pictures during the show of course, but they were nice enough to come out and take some pictures with us afterwards.  It was a really fun show.

The main goal of our trip was to get on the new Rise of the Resistance ride at Hollywood Studios.  We did all the right things to get on it.  We showed up at the park an hour and a half early.  We watched a bunch of YouTube videos with tips.  We had the phone all set up to get tickets in their virtual queue and ended up with boarding group 78.  We felt pretty confident we'd get on the ride when the staff told us they were able to get to boarding group 140 the day before.  The boarding groups were steadily moving forward as we watched the app all morning and we were starting to think we might get on before lunch.  Then the dang ride broke down at noon and was still broken when we went to ask them about our chances at 6 pm.  They gave us the bad news that we missed our window and wouldn't get on it while we were there.  Oh, well.  Hopefully it is working better the next time we get to Florida.

We did have a ball exploring Galaxy's Edge since we've all been big Star Wars fans for many years.  It's pretty impressive what Disney has built.

Miss Sheri's vacation highlight was meeting Chewbacca in person.  He was walking by doing some work on the Millenium Falcon and she shouted out "I'm sorry to hear about Han."  He stopped, turned over to look at her, slapped his heart a couple of times, and gave out one of his classic growls.  It was pretty touching.

We did get to go on the newest ride in the park, Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway.  It was the coolest ride I've ever been on.  We're all big technology geeks and they have a lot of cool stuff in this ride using projectors, robotics, and artificial intelligence to create a lot of unique experiences.  Well worth the wait!

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