Archive for August, 2009

Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit Roller Coaster Now Open at Universal Studios Theme Park

August 30, 2009

After an extensive delay, the much anticipated Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit Roller Coaster is now open at Universal Studios Theme Park in Orlando Florida.

Scheduled to open in the Spring of 2009, the coaster has created a lot of buzz with these unique features:

  • A customizable sound track that allows you to hear the song of your choosing during the ride
  • A video of your ride, available for purchase, that includes the soundtrack you selected
  • A 167 ft. straight vertical climb
  • Stadium seating that gives every rider an unobstructed view
  • A twisting inversion where you begin the loop on the inside but are on the outside when you reach the top
  • 3,800 feet of track
  • Up to 65mph of speed
  • Unique design allows four coasters to be on the track at once, each one carrying only 12 passengers
  • Can handle over 1800 riders per hour

Universal is hailing this as “the world’s most technologically-advanced roller coaster.”  Their ads state it’s “adrenaline pumping and music thumping,” “gasping with excitement,” and “pulse-pounding flight.”  Does the ride live up to the hype?  Inquiring minds want to know!

We haven’t had a chance to try out this new ride, but if you have please leave a comment and let us know what you think.

Stay tuned–as soon as the LanceAround team has the opportunity to experience the Rockit, we’ll let you know!

Meet an Astronaut at Kennedy Space Center

August 24, 2009
Grammy LanceAround Meets the Astronaut

Grammy LanceAround Meets the Astronaut

Almost seven billion people inhabit the earth. That’s 7,000,000,000. Less than 500 of them have been to space.

One of the neatest things you can do in Orlando is the “Astronaut Encounter” at Kennedy Space Center. You have the opportunity to meet one of the unique individuals who belong to this exclusive club.

Jon A. McBride was a pilot on Space Shuttle mission STS 41-G in 1984. For 197 hours he experience 16 sunrises and sunsets every day on the shuttle Challenger. He was also scheduled to be commander of STS-61-E, but this flight was cancelled after the Challenger accident. When Young and Crippen flew the first shuttle mission in April 1981, Jon was the lead pilot in the front chase plane that guided them into a perfect landing.

Today Jon spoke at our monthly meeting for the Central Florida Vacation Rental Manager’s Association. This week he is the featured astronaut you can meet at the Kennedy Space Center. Grammy LanceAround came down from Pennsylvania to visit us. She took Number One Daughter to meet the astronaut at the CFVRMA meeting.

What question would you ask an astronaut if you had the opportunity? Our group had some fascinating questions.

Question: “Do you believe there is life out there?”

Answer: “Do you mean do I believe in ‘aliens?’ I think the only aliens I have ever seen are here on earth!”

Question: “What was the most exhilarating thing about your flight?”

Answer: “Like John Carpenter said after his Apollo flight, ‘the part between the lift off and the splashdown.'”

Question: “What was your motivation?”

Answer: “Well, we didn’t have astronauts when we were young, we had Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon.”

# 1 Daughter with the Astronaught

# 1 Daughter with the Astronaut

Question: “Do you really believe Orion will be built and we will go back to the moon?”

Answer: “Yes, it’s just a question of when.”

Afterwards Number One Daughter ran up to Jon to get his picture and then had Grammy’s picture taken with him as well.

It’s the opportunity to meet people like Jon McBride that make the Kennedy Space Center one of the best attractions in the Orlando area for the well informed traveller looking for “more than a mouse.”®

African Ethiopian Restaurant in Orlando

August 17, 2009
Service--Ethiopian Style!
Service–Ethiopian Style!

Unexpected adventures provide some of the most serendipitous memories of our lives, don’t they?

When our daughter took us on vacation to San Francisco, we had one of those moments when we discovered the Massawa Ethiopian Restaurant in the heart of the Haight-Ashbury district. Delicious food–unlike any other food I had ever experienced–was served on a large round plate in the center of our table. The different dishes were clumped beside each other on a flat, spongy piece of injera–Ethiopian bread at least two feet in diameter and completely covering the plate.

We ate the food with our fingers, occasionally spinning the plate so we could each try the various fare. The bread had a vinegar-y taste, like sourdough, and the dishes ranged from lentils to cabbage to green beans to split peas. Each one having a unique flavor, difficult to describe but enjoyable to experience.

This memory came to mind as Mrs. LanceAround and I, along with our three offspring, were driving down International Drive last week. This road is reminiscent of the Las Vegas strip–lots of flashing signs, tourist attractions, restaurants, hotels–everything but the casinos. Mrs. LanceAround’s sharp eyes caught a sign proclaiming “Ethiopian Cuisine.”

Tucked away in the midst of all the tourist trappings is a small, hidden plaza which houses the Nile Ethiopian Restaurant. We arrived around 10pm on Saturday and met Ermias & Ababa Gebremedhin, the owners. They came to Washington D.C. from Ethiopia about 12 years ago. In 2007, they moved to Orlando and opened up the Nile Restaurant. Ermias was a soccer player in Ethiopia and neither he nor his wife, Ababa, had any restaurant experience.

Ermias Gebremedhin Serves Us Ethiopian Coffee

Ermias Proudly Serves Ethiopian Coffee

When I asked Ermias why he left Ethiopia, he replied, “Ethiopia doesn’t give you a chance.” He enjoys the freedom and opportunity that are present in this country. He says his wife “pushed me” to open the restaurant. He quickly credits her with their success, stating that she is the one who can cook.

We enjoyed the decor of the Nile; a mixture of standard tables and chairs along with round African stools–shaped like large drums–With an even larger and taller drum-shaped table. The food is served on a single, large plate placed in a woven basket with a woven lid that has a large, slightly curved handle similar to the shape of the stem on top of a pumpkin.

One taste of the food and we were immediately transported back to our memory of that first Ethiopian meal we experienced in San Francisco. It was unique and bursting with flavor.

Mrs. LanceAround does not like sourdough bread, so she was not crazy about the injera or the collard greens. But she heartily enjoyed the lentils, yellow split peas and green beans. # 1 Daughter is a bit finicky and did not eat much. No worries, the three LanceAround males scarfed up everything else. A unique treat that made for a great adventure.

Give the Nile Ethiopian Restaurant a try. Expand your horizons! You might just discover something…serendipitous!

Nile Ethiopian Restaurant, 7040 International Drive, Orlando, FL  32819  407.354.0026. Entrees from $9 to $15.

Best Ice Cream in Orlando

August 8, 2009
Best Ice Cream in Orlando
Tropical Delight Homemade Ice Cream

Driving down highway 192 about 5 miles east of Disney World, Mrs. LanceAround and I are suddenly blinded by a small, hot pink building with yellow trim. But what really catches my eye is the sign saying, “Homemade Ice Cream.”

Inside we meet Noelia Scharon, owner of Tropical Delight Homemade Ice Cream.  Noelia just moved here from Kennett Square, PA where a magazine proclaimed her ice cream as the “Best of Philadelphia 2009.” She explains that she had to get out of the cold weather, so she moved to the Disney area.

Some of you may recognize Kennett Square, PA as the “mushroom capital of the world.” And, yes, in addition to the common flavors of vanilla, chocolate and strawberry, Noelia makes a mushroom flavored ice cream! She also makes avocado, tamarind, rice pudding and a sweet corn enhanced with chili powder.

I buy a scoop of toasted coconut and a scoop of peanut butter. Mrs. LanceAround gets one scoop of her favorite–pistachio. The charge is only $5 for both. The ice cream is primo–sweet, creamy and delicious.

Noelia displays a fresh tamarind

Noelia shows Mrs. LanceAround a fresh tamarind

We are about to leave when Noelia talks about how she makes everything from scratch. She holds up a tamarind and some limes and proudly shows her ice cream machine from Mexico.  I can’t resist anymore, so I get a quart of rice pudding and a mango sorbet pop for vegan # 2 son. Noelia throws in another quart of pistachio for Mrs. LanceAround at no charge.

I pay another $9.25 and prepare to leave.

“Do you have a plastic spoon?” Noelia asks.

“I have a spoon.” I reply.

“Is it plastic?” she asks again. I give her a quizzical look. “Metal spoons affect the taste of the ice cream.” she offers.

“Even stainless steel spoons? asks Mrs. LanceAround?

Noelia nods her head and I say, “You are a true ice cream aficionado!” with a smile on my face.

Tropical Delight, Homemade Ice Cream, 3516 W. Vine Street, Kissimmee, FL  34741,  407.348.0004 , Hours: Mon-Sun 12pm to 9pm.

Top 10 Posts of the Year

August 1, 2009
# 1 son finds "The Spot" while Geohashing

# 1 son finds "The Spot" while Geohashing--Check out "Seeking Nothing in the Middle of Nowhere"

Wow, has it been a year already since we began this experience of “social networking?”

It has been so rewarding to see the number of friends reading this blog climb every month. I thought this would be a good time to review my personal top 10 posts from our first year together:

1. Spiritual Renewal During Vacation–This post speaks of something very close to my heart. I hope you enjoy it.

2. Seeking Nothing in the Middle of Nowhere–I am as surprised as anyone to find this so high on my top ten list; especially since it does not have anything to do with Orlando (necessarily.) It was just such a serendipitous experience that is so well captured in this post that is has become one of my favorites.

3. Kennedy Space Center–Of all the major attractions in the Orlando Area, this is the one I would not want to miss. Yet most tourists do not even visit it. Pity.

4. Auditioning for American Idol–Okay, I confess, I don’t know if this post is my favorite because it is so good or because it was written by # 1 Daughter. Perhaps both (I hope!)

5. Orlando On a Shoestring–In these uncertain economic times, it’s nice to know that families can still have a great vacation without having to spend a lot of money.

6. Maitland Art Center–This phenomenal place caught me by surprise. If you love art, you don’t want to miss this place.

7. Robert is Here–Guaranteed to be the only post in the universe that compares shopping at Harrods in London to shopping at a fruit stand near Everglades National Park. Yea, my mind just kinda works that way…

8. Taxi Cabs in Orlando–This is a heartwarming story of a company that chooses to do the right thing even when they don’t have to.

9. La Nouba–This show in Downtown Disney always touches me so I tried to write a post that would touch you. It is not as good as the actual La Nouba show, but it comes from the heart.

10. Where is Central Florida–This collection of eclectic thoughts is a metaphysical fugue on the meaning of place. Not really. But it probably gives you more insight into how my mind works than helping you understand where Central Florida is. Yet for some reason, I really like this post.