I promise, I’m not in a sugar coma (well, at least not right at this moment; but check back later).
The last week has just been a big, busy blur of activity. A big, busy FUN blur, but a blur nonetheless.
My dad and “baby” brother (who is now 18 and a high school graduate-to-be) arrived from Pennsylvania on Thursday afternoon for the holiday weekend. I had a big meeting at work, so I had to send DadJovi to the airport, but I was able to sneak out a little bit early and get home in time to relax in the sun and watch E. teach her Pappy how to catch lizards.
The main event of the day came that night — cheering on Syracuse in the Sweet Sixteen.
Somehow, my official lucky game-watching outfit has become my CJ Fair headband that I wore in the Winter Park 1oK and my 17-year-old shirt from our National Championship run (which we lost) during my freshman year. I dug this shirt out of the archives for our first game of this year’s tournament and we keep winning. That means I have to keep waring it — holes and all.
And it brought luck again! Our famous 2-3 Zone shut Indiana down. They looked stunned. Oh, what was that about your No. 1 seed? Buh-bye. Bring on the Elite Eight!
On Friday, we got up early and headed to one of our favorite spots in Central Florida — DeLeon Springs State Park. The park is gorgeous, but there’s a tastier reason to make the trek.
Since it was Spring Break and a beautiful day, we were expecting it to be crowded, but we never anticipated it’d be THAT crowded.
We arrived at 9:45 (the restaurant opens at 9) and put our name on the list. We were told to expect a 2.5 to 2 3/4 hour wait! Say what? The problem with this is that you’ve already travled all the way there and paid entry into the state park. They know they’ve got you by the pancakes.
Thankfully, there is plenty to do to pass the time (well, at least some of the time).
We started out in the history center and learned more about the history of the park. There was a touch table for E. to touch turtle shells, animal horns, an armadillo shell and fossils. My dad, a Civil War buff, read up on the history of the area, including its (tiny) involvement in the Civil War.
And then my elephant-obsessed daughter discovered that she was born about 60 years too late.
Only in Florida.
We then hit the nature trails for awhile.
After we’d walked around, played soccer, dug up snail shells from a stump and watched E. play on the playground, we finally caved and broke out the big guns.
Listen, when you’re waiting to eat for three hours, you gotta do what you gotta do.
FINALLY, they called our names. You’d have thought we’d won the lottery we were so happy.
It’s hard to say that pancakes and bacon are worth the wait, but these almost are worth the three-hour wait.
I explained the whole pancake-making process after our last visit, so check this post out to learn more. Bottom line? All-you-can-eat pancakes that you make at your own table with the toppings of your choice? That’s how you spend a Friday.
And Friday night was also basketball night. Even though the late games are killing us all, we stayed up to cheer on DadJovi’s Duke Blue Devils to a victory.
Saturday was more low-key. E. had piano lessons in the morning, then she made her Pappy chase her around the neighborhood as she rode her bike. In the afternoon, we dyed Easter eggs and had a little hunt for E. in our yard. Her Uncle Charlie got tricky by taping an egg to one of her arrows and hiding it in the trellis.
But all day, we were just killing time until the main event — Syracuse’s Elite Eight game against Marquette.
Of course, I had to suit up again.
AND IT WORKED AGAIN! For the first time in 10 years, we’re going back to the FINAL FOUR!!
And guys, in case you don’t follow me on Twitter, you’ve missed the most exciting part of all of this — DadJovi and I are going to the Final Four too!! My father-in-law got us tickets for Christmas, so we were Atlanta-bound, no matter who was playing. I’ll tell you much more about this later in the week but holy shit, I can’t believe this is actually happening.
Jumping ahead to Sunday, we hoped and hoped that Duke would find a way to knock off overall No. 1 seed Louisville in their Elite Eight matchup but it just wasn’t their day. It’s hard to feel too sorry for ourselves after watching Kevin Ware’s horrific injury but it would have been so amazing if BOTH our teams were in the Final Four the one year we were going. So close. But at least one of us is going, and as you’ll find out, it’s even more fitting to our love story that it’s Syracuse going. I’ll share all later!
On Easter Sunday, we woke up before the sun for our now annual tradition — making the 90-minute drive north to Juniper Springs.
To save time, I’ll let you read my recaps from the last two years to learn all the details about this spectacular run. The highlights are that it’s a 7-mile trip. You start at one point, then a bus picks you up at the end to drive you back to the start.
We split up into two canoes — DadJovi, E. and my brother in one and my dad and I in the other. The trip took about 3.5 hours, and although we didn’t see as many gators as usual, we did see something DadJovi and I had never seen before — a momma gator with her three tiny babies. Too cool. I also saw a deer on the river bank for the first time.
More importantly, no one ended up in the water, which considering the tight turns, downed trees and fast-moving current in places, is not always an easy feat.
And I annoyed my dad with a selfie or two.
I have to admit that I had second thoughts about taking us all down the run. Would my brother hate it? Would this be the year that E. bores of it? Would my dad and I end up fighting too much to work together? (let’s just say we both have very specific ideas about how things should be done). But it all worked out perfectly and I think everyone had a blast, even if I did end up with a two hands full of blisters, splinters and thorn cuts.
Two funny things. I just realized that DadJovi has worn those same shorts for the past three years. I guess it’s time to get him a new suit. And two, to answer the question that I always get asked the most — yes, the whistles are required. I’m still not really sure how someone would hear us blowing a whistle at mile 3, especially on a day like this one where we were one of the first boats out and only came across three other boats. But those are the rules.
After the run, we took advantage of the warm day and spent some time at the beautiful springs.
No, I was not getting into the 72-degree weather but my brave husband and brother hit the platform dive. It was fun to watch them having a blast.
But the fun wasn’t over yet! There was one other big item on our holiday itinerary, and it involved a certain boy wizard.
In the interest of brevity (says the girl currently forcing you to read a novella), I’ll let you read my full Wizarding World of Harry Potter recap from my list visit with my brother.
A couple notes, though. For starters, this time, we wised up and did Forbidden Journey first. We arrived at Islands of Adventure at about 7:45 a.m. (I know, I wanted to shoot myself) and we were still able to stroll right on into WWOHP. When we made our way back there, it said the line for Forbidden Journey was 75 minutes. We hopped into it, and when we got into the castle, we opted to go the Single Rider route again. SO worth it. From the time we got into the line until the time I got off the ride, only 45 minutes passed. That’s got to be some kind of record.
But the best part for me? I didn’t get sick this time! I attribute that to two things. One: I didn’t ride Dragon Challenge first like I did last time (and I predict I’ll never ride it again). And two: I waited until after Forbidden Journey for one of these babies.
We missed our window — again — to ride Flight of the Hippogriff. When we first arrived, the line was only 20 minutes, and I really wanted E. to ride it. But she was still tired and cranky and only had eyes for Seuss Landing. So while my brother and I spent time in Hogsmeade, my dad took one for the team and rode every ride twice in Seuss Landing.
Besides, it was Mommy’s turn to play dressup for a change. Hermione, you better watch your back. I already have the hair, and with the robe and wand, I’m unstoppable.
After we had our fill of Harry, we met back up with my dad and E. To be honest, I kind of hate Universal. I know I’m a Disney person but we only bought one-park tickets and there’s just not much at Islands for someone E’s age. It was frustrating. I’m going to save my full rant for a later post but let’s just say, we were struggling to find things for her to do while my brother hit the big rides like Hulk and Spiderman.
She was a happy camper, though, since I let her go to her happy place — getting her face painted. My Lord, that child loves to have her face painted.
And of course, she stalked out every single elephant in the park.
And we ran into a certain green, grumpy guy.
Yes, it’s good to be E.
By the time we left in the afternoon, we were all beat. I’m talking, E. and I both went to bed at 8 p.m. beat.
But it was certainly an Easter weekend to remember.
What are your Easter traditions? What’s the scariest/most exotic animal you’ve ever encountered in the wild? Am I the only Universal hater?
Jen Cook says
Juniper Springs looks amazing. I’ve never been but now I’ll have to check it out!
Also – I’m a total Universal hater as well. (And I don’t like to really say that.) I try to like it….but it tries too hard to be something it’s not. Plus, it seems to have a less classy group of tourists that hang out there.
I’m so mean.
Victoria @ Running Peanut says
J and I LOVE Universal, but you’re right: there isn’t as much for a child E’s age to do. We went a lot before I was pregnant and we go now when we have out of town company because we get free tickets and C just sleeps in her stroller.
You just wait until C is no longer happy riding in the stroller … for a family theme park, it’s surprisingly lame for little kids. I know Studios would have been better for her but our only real reason for going was WWoHP. I actually thought about buying a season ticket before we went if we were going to spend all that money for a one-day pass but now I’m glad I didn’t. I have zero plans of returning any time soon.
Oh, you MUST go sometime. Your boys would love it. Maybe wait until they’re just a bit older though and can be the second rower for each of your boats. It’s a pretty tough and technical trip. But definitely amazing.
And I have a full ranty anti-Universal post brewing. It just makes me angry and stabby. If it weren’t for WWOHP I’d never go again.
Sounds like you guys had a wonderful time. We went to one of our local parks as well and rented a little powered skiff to go up and down the river – I was too chicken for the canoe and we wanted to keep the family together. It was such a beautiful day.
as an avid universal fan (and possessor of annual passes) i can concede that for smaller kids disney is absolutely better. we’re really enjoying taking daphne up there right now and just taking her for walks around the parks, and with annual passes if we’re only there for a few hours that’s fine by us.
something else i have to comment on. i am a HARDCORE roller coaster fiend. for serious. my dad and i have gone on roller coaster vacations around the country. i have probably been on upwards of 40 coasters all over our great nation. the dueling dragons is the ONLY COASTER EVER that has ever gotten me woozy. ever. and it’s only one of the two, but i can never remember if it’s the red or the blue! one i can get off and i’m fine, but the other i have to immediately sit with my head between my legs and try not to ralph. weird weird weird.
I’m glad to hear you say that about that coaster. I freaking LOVE roller coasters but in the last couple years, I’ve started getting sicker and sicker on them. But I’ll still usually power through, particularly at Disney where none of them make me sick. But that Dragon bitch kicked my ass last time. Yup, I was right there with you with my head between my legs afterwards.
And roller coaster vacations sounds like the greatest thing ever! Must learn more!
As for IOA, it’s just so not little kid friendly. I’m sure Studios is better with all the Despicable Me and Shrek stuff but I was so frustrated w/ IOA. Even its amenities and bathrooms irritated me. Yup, I’m apparently now THAT Disney is superior person. Don’t worry, I find myself obnoxious too.