Turkey Day for One (Again)

Once again this year, I decided to trek to Orlando for the Thanksgiving holiday. In the past few months I decided to become a passholder at Universal Orlando so I have been visiting more frequently. I figured why not extend the Thanksgiving holiday from Thursday to Monday to spend some time checking out what I already know at Universal, and also looking into SeaWorld Orlando and Busch Gardens Tampa.

Day 1, Thanksgiving, was relatively uneventful. I arrived for early park opening at Islands of Adventure about 10 minutes before 8am, checked out my favorite attractions at that park, and then proceeded to Universal Studios for the rest of the day. I did my usual activities, and the only changes of note were the addition of a annual passholder lounge that includes an Arctic Coke machine which partially freezes bottled soda, and an unusually close dispatch on Revenge of the Mummy which resulted in my train halting after the treasure room, before the turntable, and on the turntable. That was different.

Thanksgiving at Hogwarts is ok

Day 2, Black Friday, I checked out SeaWorld for the first time ever. All three coasters at SeaWorld Orlando are delightful B&M’s. The first one I rode was Manta. It is a much better implementation of a flying coaster than Nighthawk at Carowinds for two reasons: the restraint system and the fact that they use two stations for loading. Next, I wandered over to Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin. The ride utilizes neat trackless technology, but the real draw is the penguin exhibit that follows. Next, I rode Kraken, an older floorless coaster. Simple, but fun. Finally, I checked out Mako, the latest addition to the list of coasters at SeaWorld. It is well done, and has some great turns, but overall it doesn’t top Fury 325 at Carowinds for me. Following this I rode Wild Arctic and watched the whale, sea lion, and dolphin shows. The whale show was ok, with the major marvel being 3 ton mammals jumping out of the water and splashing people. The sea lion show had a lot of humor and more interaction with the animals, but overall the dolphin show was the best of the three.

Me riding Mako with some random people

It’s notable that I did not experience all attractions and shows at SeaWorld. I specifically excluded their latest ride, Infinity Falls, because I wasn’t interested in getting wet. Others were excluded simply because I didn’t wander into them.

I re-rode each of the coasters at SeaWorld and then called it a day at that park, I returned to my hotel for some supper and then headed back out to Universal to catch their night show that I enjoy. It’s a combination of LED lit fountains, moving head lighting, lasers, and pyrotechnics. Basically all of my favorite things.

Would love to see behind the scenes of a production like this

Day 3 was a big day. It included not only my first trip to Busch Gardens Tampa, but the “Roller Coaster Insider Tour”. The tour started at 7:30 AM at the park entrance, where our delightful guide Norman checked us off on his list of guests and had us go through security and scan our park tickets. Immediately after this, we walked to our first tour of the day at SheiKra, the first B&M dive coaster in North America. After locking out the attraction, we put on harnesses and ascended 200 ft to the top of the lift hill in an elevator of sorts to take in the view of the park and Tampa.

Safety first before we ascend

During this time, Norman shared numerous facts with us about SheiKra and roller coasters in general, while allowing us to take many pictures. I won’t include many more pictures here because I think you should take the tour yourself to get the full experience.

At the top of SheiKra, with a rainbow

We descended SheiKra, and then toured the maintenance bay for the coaster to see one train under annual inspection as well as another parked train. The personnel here, notably Paul and Javier, were incredibly knowledgeable and eager to talk with us about SheiKra and the other coasters in the park.

Next, we headed over to Cheetah Hunt which is an Intamin Blitz coaster featuring three linear synchronous motor launches (electro magnets on the track move the trains which contain magnets). At this ride, we locked it out in the control booth where a member of our party noted the number of dispatches was well beyond one million. After locking out, we descended to the second launch of the coaster where Norman again shared intricate details of how the coaster works and facts about the components within.

After leaving the second launch and re-locking the gate, we went to the maintenance area for Cheetah Hunt where we observed many cool things including this incredible pallet of magnets.

Watch your fingers…

When we returned to remove our locks, the staff for the day had arrived at Cheetah Hunt and were preparing for park open as we departed.

Finally, we arrived at Cobra’s Curse, a spinning coaster from Mack Rides. This ride is unique because of the lack of an initial lift hill and the rotating ride vehicles. There’s a lift elevator instead of a lift hill to start the ride, followed by what by all appearances is a normal roller coaster ride. Then, during one of the brake runs, the cars rotate to face backwards, and you proceed down some more track. Finally, you ascend up a second lift hill, and then continue down the remainder of the track with each car spinning freely. While not an extreme experience, it is still unique and very fun.

Another technical feature of Cobra’s Curse that is of note is the ability to dispatch separate ADA trains. This moves a train to separate loading area of the station to allow participants to take more time as necessary and avoid using the moving walkway for boarding. We were able to see this demonstrated during our tour of the ride control area, which was essentially the end of the tour. Then we rode the ride!

After ending the tour, we each received two ride readmit tickets which allow users to cut the lines of attractions. I used both of mine for Cheetah Hunt as it was an hour wait all day. I took in every coaster in Busch Gardens, and ignored water rides. Also, I checked out Falcon’s Fury twice, which is a unique implementation of a drop tower where you fall face down instead of seated.

Day 4 was fairly uneventful. I spent part of day working before heading to Universal Studios for an evening visit where I enjoyed my favorite attractions and part of the holiday parade. I ended the day with something different by checking out the nearby Blue Man Group show. It was unique and I would love to see it again.

Day 5 was the last day. I dropped into Islands of Adventure for early park admission and rode Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey as well as Spider-Man, where I captured this great picture of all my friends.

Another trip in the books. I don’t know where I’ll head next, but surely it’ll feature roller coasters.

Pi Swarm (Part 1?)

Occasionally I have ideas that I struggle to execute on. Usually, this failure to execute is because of either my own laziness or finding an excuse to not follow through because somebody else has already done something. Yesterday, neither of those past problems prevailed and I followed through on a tiny proof of concept project that’s not useful for much other than my own edification. Behold, my Pi Cluster!

Not much to look at, but it’s mine.

This is something that has been done many times over at this point, but I figured I’d mess with it a bit to create a docker swarm cluster on bare metal and establish a sort of configuration management setup with Ansible.

The network layout is pretty boring. There are 3 nodes with a Fedora VM mostly to simplify accessing all of the pis with Ansible or ssh. The PiNetwork is connected to the rest of the world via the VMware Workstation NAT network (VMNet 8).

To start, I hadn’t committed to Ansible yet, so I used etcher to make 3 Raspbian SD cards. Then, I configured the hostname on each Pi and updated them on my regular LAN. Realizing how simple it could be to throw together a network with a few extra features using pfSense, I moved forward. I created a new SSH key pair just for this project and moved ahead with copying the public key to each hosts’ authorized_keys file.

As you’ve probably noticed, I didn’t document the process so some of this explanation is without imagery šŸ™ Anyway, next I installed docker using the script from get.docker.com on each node. Something like the line below is nestled away in my bash history.

curl -sSL https://get.docker.com | sh

After docker was up and running (which admittedly took a bit), I ran the hello-world container on each host and all was well. Next up was creating and joining the swarm which is super easy. The command on node01 was docker swarm init. That generates a key to use to join the rest of the nodes to the cluster after running on the other hosts we’re off to the races.

1337 hax

To demonstrate that the cluster is working, I put together a quick flask app to return the hostname of the host it’s running on, or in this case the container.Here’s that script in all its glory.

Before we go further note that you’ll need to find compatible container images to start from. Ones I’ve tried that exist are the base Ubuntu image, hello-world, and python:2.Ā  I’m not looking for much right now, just proving that this concept works, so since python:2 works, we shall surge ahead with a simple dockerfile to pull python:2, add our app and requirements.txt to it, install the requirements, and set the container’s entrypoint to our app.

A quick attempt to build that container works, but we must build the container on one of the pis so that we have an arm base image instead of intel. I’d put screenshots here but everything is cached so there isn’t much to see. Following copying the files to node01, we’re able to build our container for arm. (Still cached, so no screenshot). Now, we need to share this image via a local registry so we can access it from within the swarm. In a proper setup, we would have a trusted TLS cert and our docker workers would be happy as could be. But proper is a stretch when you’re describing a project of mine, so I needed to set the insecure registries flag when starting the docker daemon. Time for some Ansible practice.

To start, go read anybody else’s guide on how to use Ansible. I just stumbled through some documentation and ended up with this mess. Hosts are defined in /etc/ansible/hosts by hostname (node01, node02, node03). This little disastor installs vim, copies the /etc/docker/daemon.json file from localhost (that is configured for insecure registry), restarts docker, and finally installs ethtool. To be correct, docker should only be restarted if the daemon.json file is updated, but this was a first shot so I’m leaving it for now.

Exhibit A: how not to compose an ansible playbook

Despite it not being “right”, this will work for now and successfully connects to and validates or changes the hosts. (Note: probably should update to use the become command line arg instead of -s)

Now, we can push and pull from insecure registries (specifically our local one). The problem is, we don’t yet have a local registry. So I quickly put one up on my development box. That’s definitely not a best practice, but it works for now and doesn’t cost me any overhead on my pis.

That’s done. Now all of our swarm nodes (workers and managers) can access a registry on the LAN so we’ll push our arm container from node01 to the registry, create a service with that container (prompting the workers to download it), and test. I apologize for the additional images ahead, I’ll have a better solution to sharing text in the future.

Build the image…
Tag and push the image to the local registry
Build a service using that image (notice that 5000 on the container is bound to 8080 on the swarm)

Because of how swarm’s default networking is configured, no matter which node we access we get the next container in a round robin fashion. You get the idea with some requests below. Note that the container ID is different from the service replica id.


In summary I have a docker swarm cluster on raspberry pis managed partially by Ansible. Useful? TBD. A good way to the pass the time on a Sunday? Yes.

Until next time,

Escaping Reality 1 Hour at a Time

Need something fun to do with a group of friends that’s different than catching another movie or just getting blasted at a bar? Try orchestrating a trip to a local escape room and try your luck at a series of puzzles that are sure to challenge your wit.

A few years ago a friend recommended an escape room, and while I thought it was a neat idea, I never got around to trying one out because at the time I lived in the middle of nowhere. Now, I’m closer to tourist filled areas and while on travel awhile back with some friends I was able to attempt my first room. It was themed, roughly, like an old temple. There were artifacts and snakes and all sorts of trinkets and surprises. Fortunately, even with just two people, we escaped with time to spare. Also, unfortunately for my wallet, I was hooked. At $28/person typically, the rooms are expensive, but great fun.

Overall, most rooms are fit for beginners and experts alike. Ideally, the themed elements make the game fun and exciting and the puzzles actually align. Of the 4 rooms I’ve worked on so far, only one of the times was I with a group of people that had no beginners.

Rooms I’ve attempted:

***See the new page tracking escape rooms here***

Travel for One

First off, this is my first blog post in about 7 years, please enjoy the mess. The plan was for computer stuff to be here, but you’re seeing this post because nearly everyone I ran into at each destination last weekend was flabbergasted by the fact that I was alone. I plan to outline the reasons it was awesome here.


Friday morning I woke up around three in the morning and was eventually chauffeured to the train station by my roommate. You read that right; I took the train for the first time in my life and it was fantastic. The southbound Silver Meteor (Amtrak 97) arrived about 12 minutes late at 5:03. I was met by a crew of friendly folks who helped me stow my things and find my Viewliner Roomette. The bed was made up and a bottle of water was ready. I was the only person travelling in the cabin, so the second bed remained stowed. I crawled in and relaxed for a bit before falling asleep. The next thing I knew, light was shining in my room and we had arrived in Savannah, Georgia. It was around 7, a great time to head to breakfast.

I popped my head out of my little nook and Bianca pointed me in the direction of the dining car as she disassembled the bed into two seats facing each other. Meals are included with sleeping car reservations, so that rocks. Breakfast was fine. I enjoyed the scrambled eggs and bacon with some orange juice. Whatever orange juice is in Mountain Dew that is :). Something fun to note about a dining car, you are seated with random folks to maximize the use of the few seats that are available. My breakfast friends were from Virginia and headed towards Jacksonville. The young lady across from me was celebrating her 50th by going skydiving with an old friend. What a thing to do. Her companion didn’t seem interested in chatting as much and that’s totally fine too. When I returned to my cabin I setup my iPad and kicked back to watch a few episodes of a random Netflix show. We were off and moving again.

Around 11, one of the dining car employees stopped by with the passenger manifest that notified him I’d be disembarking in Orlando. He offered me the earliest lunch reservation at 11:30 and I took him up on it. When my reservation time arrived, I wandered forward 4 coaches to the dining car once more and was again greeted by George, the waiter. He sat me near the rear of the car this time with a mother and son. They were returning from New York to Orlando, so they had been on the train for awhile. The boy was super interested in his iPad and the dinner rolls he ordered so he didn’t care much about me. The lady and I spent most of meal time discussing the pros and cons of train travel, something she had done many times, and I was only just discovering. Lunch for me consisted of a hamburger that wasn’t great, but wasn’t the worst I have had. Imagine those microwave sandwiches from gas stations, that’s about all it is. I ate some of it, tipped George, and wandered back to my car with another Mountain Dew in hand.

My killer view from Car 9712 Roomette 7

In the meantime of lunch, we had a problem. You see, Amtrak doesn’t own most of the tracks they travel on, and we were suffering a touch from that. A freight train had broken down overnight and was blocking the tracks we were on. This meant that both the 91 Silver Star and 97 Silver Meteor were stopped. None of this bothered me though, because I had nowhere to be Friday, my plans started Saturday. Anything I got done Friday was just a bonus. More on that in a minute. Anyway, after about an hour and a half, of being stopped, the freight train had moved, the 91 Silver Star had continued on, and we followed. Yet another challenge was ahead…for me anyway.

Each Viewliner Roomette has a small toilet and sink setup, similar to what you find in commercial jets. While the ride in a train is smooth, it’s notĀ that smooth, and my next battle was aiming while travelling forward at 80mph. I didn’t miss. After that adventure, I changed into shorts to wander Orlando in. Just over 2 hours late, we arrived and I signaled for an Uber.

I was staying at the Doubletree at the entrance to Universal Orlando, the whole reason for this trip. If you’ve never stayed at a Doubletree, I have two important pieces of information for you. First, you can have as many of their kickass cookies as you want. Just go ask for more, they’re always warm. Second, they sneak a 22% gratuity onto any meal purchase, so keep an eye on that. I checked in online so I headed straight to my room.

No big news on the features of the room. It wasn’t the purpose of the trip. I took a quick shower, noting the sulfur undertones in the scent of the water which seems to be an Orlando thing, and proceeded promptly on foot to the park.

While in the park, I only tried out a few rides the first night. I didn’t have a reason to wait in line for a bunch of them, or even stay in the park for very long. The promo pricing I found for the 4 day 2 park pass was cheaper than most one day passes so I was fine with basically burning a day. I just wanted to get a lay of the land for what I had planned for the second day. After a few hours, I snagged a cab back to the hotel for about 5 bucks.

I closed out the night with some OK room service at the hotel. The dish I ordered was $26, and the bill I received was for $36. I added a tip because there was a spot for it. Upon further inspection I realized I passively tipped 22% of the original meal cost, and then actively tipped more. Oh well, Merry Christmas dude that brought the tray!

Attractions Visited

  • Amtrak 97 Silver Meteor (never ridden a train so I consider it an attraction)
  • Universal Orlando’s City Walk (you have to walk through to get to either park)
  • Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure
    • Poseidon’s Fury (special effects show, very cool, no wait)
    • Hogwarts Express (Hogsmeade to Kings Cross)
  • Universal Studios Orlando
    • TRANSFORMERS: The Ride-3D
    • Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon
    • Universal’s Holiday Parade Featuring Macy’s (nightly parade with great lighting, music, and SANTA!)

Money Spent

  • Train Ticket – $245 (was $69, but I added the sleeping car for fun)
  • Breakfast – Free w/ sleeping car ticket
  • Lunch – Free w/ sleeping car ticket
  • Universal Orlando 4 day 2 park promo ticket – $180
  • Tips to George, Bianca, Greg, and Juan – $40
  • Tip to the dude that brought my supper – $10.72
  • Hotel reservation prepay – $256
  • TOTAL – $731.72


Morning came earlier than expected, per usual, but that’s fine. I took a quick shower, and went downstairs to grab some grub. Turns out, I don’t spend enough time in hotels to have any sort of status, so it costs money to eat. That’s cool, I like breakfast food enough that I’ll pay for it. At this Doubletree, breakfast is provided by an onsite restaurant. The buffet is the best option at $14.95 + tax and auto 22% gratuity. My man Greg (not the cab driver, the waiter this time) hooked me up with discount. I ate a good spread of hash browns, eggs, bacon, and a banana because I’m super out of shape and today was a big walking day.

Friday night, I decided to commit to spending my Saturday with 11 strangers on a “VIP” tour of Universal. This type of experience is one I will highly recommend forever and you should be able to pick up why below. What this meant for my morning commute was I didn’t have to be at the park before opening, but a touch after. My tour was scheduled for 9:30 so I walked over at 8:45 and spent some time milling around outside the gate. Around, 9:15 I entered the VIP entrance and signed in. In the lobby, they ask your name, check your ID, validate your ticket, and then give you your VIP ticket, lanyard, and meal pass. What they also do is put down notes about your appearance so your guide can find you and give you a warm fuzzy feeling when they greet you by name.

The Creds

Next, you wander upstairs where there’s a spread of food and drinks along with some controlled chaos if it is a busy day. All the tables were full of families, so I stole a bottle of water and went to the couch. A few minutes later I met Jessica, our guide for the day. She was friendly, welcoming, and seemed to genuinely care about my experience. She asked a few questions about my interests, but I deflected with “I’m up for whatever the rest of the group wants.” Jessica did note there was a bit of a struggle finding all of our parties. There were 4 groups, including me, on the tour. Each family inquired why I was alone, I didn’t get too creative, but they seemed to appreciate the value of solo travel. One group was late, and one was hiding in plain site. Turns out, they didn’t provide quite the right description at check in, but we were able to depart a touch late to start our day.

It was immediately apparent that Jessica had a love for the parks and sharing everything she knows about them. The knowledge and history she shared as we wandered was wonderful and worth hearing in person so I won’t give any of the secret sauce away.

As you’re probably guessing, there is a cost to all of this (which I’ll list at the bottom like before). Here is what the cost includes:

  • 1 full service meal
  • 1 quick service meal
  • 1 extra drink
  • 1 extra snack
  • A great tour guide – go Jessica!
  • VIP access to rides and shows (12 is the magic number here. Also, VIP access to a ride means no wait access. You have no line. You walk up, cut in front of everyone, and sit in the best seats.)
  • Reserved VIP seating for parade viewing
  • Behind the scenes access to certain park elements

From about 10 to 5, we covered every square inch of Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios that members of our group had interest in. We started the day by entering the exit of TRANSFORMERS: The Ride-3D and filling a car with just our crew after a helpful pre-ride briefing from Jessica. This ride, like many others in the park is a motion simulator that relies mostly of manipulation of your senses to provide what feels like a high speed action packed ride protecting the AllSpark. Great way to start the day.

Next, we cut the queue at Despicable Me Minion Mayhem. Our goal: complete minion training while resisting the banana. It was chaos. I loved it, even if it was a little bumpy. Next was the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, a double inversion coaster where you pick your own tunes to jam to during the ride. There is an Easter egg I discovered after completing my adventures that may interest you, but I’ll let you figure that out on your own. Overall, a fun coaster, and we got the front row because our crew budged again (you should be seeing a trend), but the inversions did rattle my cage a little bit.

After that we were ready for a quick break so we headed to the front lot between the parks that is still functional. We received a quick briefing on what sound stages are used for at the moment and some of the history of what was filmed at the park. We also had a quick look at the Grinchmas dressing room soundstage. It appeared that Mannheim Steamroller had some gear around back there for their shows over the weekend. Then, we left the lot at a different location than we entered from, near a bathroom. That is always a welcome surprise when you’re crushing water like minions crush bananas.

Up next on the adventure was Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon. This ride is neat for a number of reasons. To start, all music throughout the lobbies and the ride was composed and performed by The Roots. Also, the Ragtime Gals sometimes appear for live performances and it uses a new live queuing system where you can schedule a time to return or retrieve a ticket and wait for the lobby lights to change to your color. Then a NBC page allows you into the waiting area where you receive the safety instructions as a rap. All of that combined with a cool auditorium style motion simulator made this adventure great, but it was better when we got off and Jessica showed us up to the operations room. We were able to peek in and see two ride operators at work. This is the type of stuff I really signed up for. 11/10. A+++. Will buy again.

We were going to head to the Revenge of the Mummy (a great ride) after that experience, but it was down for maintenance so we continued past that attraction to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley. We skipped the queue again by using an employee entrance and hopped on Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. A word of caution: it is worth your time to return and wait in the regular queues for all of the rides as the themed elements are all fantastic, especially in the Harry Potter attractions. As for the ride itself, without spoiling the story, this is a motion simulator/coaster hybrid type of ride that features 3D videos. Don’t be scared off by the word coaster, there is only one drop.

We broke for lunch after that for about an hour. I used my quick-service meal on a burger, fries, shake, and water from Richter Burger Co. I didn’t want the shake, but it was included with the meal plan cost so whatever. The food was OK, but the service was great. Everybody within the park was so nice all the time.

Post food, we went the mild but fun route with a show instead of a thrill ride. As VIPs we had front row, reserved seats at the Grinchmas show. Think Jim Carrey Grinch and you’ll get the gist of the show. Enjoyable and fun for all ages. Also, air conditioning is great. We cut through the front lot to get to the show which technically takes place in the other park, Islands of Adventure. Upon departure we were in that park instead.

One of the families got the Grinchmas folks to snag a picture of the squad

We cranked the thrill levels back up again with a spin on The Incredible Hulk Coaster. This coaster rides nicer than the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit and has some different features including a lift hill based launch, which even if expected is exciting. When we hopped off of this ride, we got a nice piece of sneaky background info on the artwork around the area from Jessica. You’ll have to take the tour to get more info.

Next up was The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man. This is a 3D simulator very similar to Transformers, but featuring more physical elements including a functioning garbage truck and real fire. The icing on the cake for this experience was after the ride, we were able to witness a profile being run on one of the carriages in the maintenance area of the attraction. Jessica even pointed out different parts of the story that were occurring during the profile so we could see how a slow moving car can provide the sensation of high speed and falling. Loved every minute of this demo.

We skipped a few water rides and found ourselves going in the back of Skull Island: Reign of Kong. This is a simulator that takes place entirely in a sort of deuce and a half tour truck themed carriage. The best part of this ride is seeing how far animatronics have come, but you’ll have to ride to find out why it matters.

Now, as I have grown up (if you believe that) I have enjoyed getting entirely soaked at a theme park less and less. Jessica understood this and suggested we try out the water ride Jurassic Park River Adventure anyway. She snagged us seats in the back 2 rows and we were off. While you can tell this isn’t the newest ride in the park, the theming was still fantastic with a few good jumps. The splash at the end, which you can view from a bridge overhead, only got my right shoulder wet. Shout out to Jessica for saving the day there.

We were nearing the end of our exploration of the park, and we saved one of the best for nearly last. We went in the employee entrance to Hogwarts Castle and cut the line again for my favorite ride: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. This attraction is made up of a carriage that puts you on your back or at least leaning back for most of the ride. No 3D here, but some pretty great effects and robots are present along with the 2D videos. It is a blast. It seems that the ride can handle incredible volumes of people too. It is designed for continuous loading so you board and hop off from a moving walkway much like those in airports and the carriage never stops.

We had accomplished 11 attractions so far, so Jessica let us weigh in on what we should finish with. Provided the suggestion of a classic of the park, we all hopped on the Hogwarts Express at Hogsmeade station and rode to Kings Cross. Our destination: MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack, one of the few attractions that is the same as it was 11 years ago when I last visited the park. Jessica provided a few key pointers on how to take out aliens and our teams did OK. Unfortunately, completion of the ride marked the end of the VIP experience as well and we parted ways with our tour guide and each other. It was worth every penny and I will do it again.

After the tour is done, the VIP pass automatically becomes an express pass. If you’re in a group this is great, but for the most part being a single rider allowed me to board a ride faster than waiting in the express line. I rounded out the day by revisiting some of the attractions and attempting to catch the Hogwarts Castle lightshow thing, which proved difficult due to huge quantities of people attempting to do the same thing. Also, I enjoyed my first Butterbeer as my meal plan snack. I went with frozen, but Jessica did suggest the seasonally available hot Butterbeer. I used my full service meal on some low budget buffalo chicken strips and a water and walked back to the hotel.

Attractions Visited

  • Universal Orlando’s City Walk (you have to walk through to get to either park)
  • Universal Orlando VIP Experience
  • Universal Studios Orlando
    • During Tour
      • TRANSFORMERS: The Ride-3D
      • Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
      • Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit
      • Front Lot Tour
      • Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon
      • Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
      • MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack
    • After Tour
      • I don’t really remember, was still pumped from tour
  • Universal Islands of Adventure
    • During Tour
      • Grinchmas
      • The Incredible Hulk Coaster
      • The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man
      • Skull Island: Reign of Kong
      • Jurassic Park River Adventure
      • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
      • Hogwarts Express (Hogsmeade to Kings Cross)
    • After Tour
      • Still don’t remember

Money Spent

  • Universal Orlando Resort 2 park VIP experience for 11/25/17 – $275.84 (cheaper on slower days)
  • Lunch in park – $20.29 value for $0 with meal plan as quick service meal
  • Frozen Butterbeer – $7.75 value for $0 with meal plan as snack
  • Supper in park – $18.07 value for $0 with meal plan as full service meal
  • TOTAL – $275.84


My trip was nearing its end and I had accomplished everything I wanted to already. This meant I had extraordinary flexibility on Sunday to take my time enjoying the park and its attractions. I startedĀ  by picking up an express pass at IOA for a cool $117. Pro tip: bring your own lanyard, it’ll tack on another $9.99 per adventurer to buy them at the park. Also, I didn’t really need it as a single rider, but I didn’t realize just how good single riders had it yet.

The first three rides I went on had no line at all in any of the queues so I just walked on Spider Man, Kong, and Forbidden Journey. The Hogwarts Express doesn’t have a single riders line so express can be worth it here, but other attractions, such as the Forbidden Journey don’t have express pass. You should definitely gauge the park attendance before hand and determine what an express pass is worth to you.

On the Studios side of the resort, I checked out most of the stuff from the day before and tied in The Simpsons Ride, E.T. Adventure, and The Revenge of the Mummy. I rode most attractions 2 or 3 times because there was very little wait on a post holiday Sunday and single riders get great service.


  • Damn near everything

Money Spent

  • Universal Orlando 2 park Express Pass for 11/26/17 – $117.14 (not worth it on this slow day)
  • Kong Lanyard – $11.08
  • Lunch at Louies in the park – $12.23 w/ free orange soda left over as beverage on meal plan
  • TOTAL: $140.45

The End

Travelling alone rocks. Having no schedule rocks. Not arguing about what to do next rocks. Being creative with responses to why you’re alone rocks. Theme parks rock. Train travel rocks. I will go back to Universal alone again, probably sooner rather than later. It was a blast from start to finish.

I want to close on a serious, and sad, note. While I am totally down with travelling alone and experiencing fun new things alone, many folks prefer to do that with family and friends. I too can appreciate adventures to theme parks and the like with family and friends. That in mind, as the fly on the wall flying solo this past weekend I witnessed far too many families that seemed to be stressed or angry with one another. Remember, the park costs money and has lots of fun stuff to do together, but the point is that you’re together, not that you’re going to every attraction in the park. Before you blow up and shout at one another for desiring to experience different attractions or perhaps enjoy an attraction more than one time, pause and remember why you planned the trip in the first place: to spend time with one another. Your kids don’t want to remember getting chewed out for running to some attraction they’re super excited about. Be kind.

Universal Orlando Resort didn’t give any of this stuff to me for free and while this isn’t a review, know that I would do it all again if that helps you make your decision on an upcoming trip.