The year was coming to an end as it was December already. Christmas decorations were up in the malls and snow was on the ground, or at least there should have been more snow. Calgary was having an abnormally warm and snowless winter which isn’t out of the ordinary. But it was time for me to fly off again and for the first time this year to go to two tournaments back to back. Every trip I had taken so far had been to just one tournament, nothing back to back. These two would be a lot closer to home though, both taking place to our neighbour to the south in the USA. First up would be the 2015 USA international Challenge in Orlando, Florida. Difference this time being that I would be traveling with some friends from canada, even one guy who trains at the Glencoe club with me and a friend from Vancouver as well as another I would have just met. Sean, Kevin, Antonio, and I would all be sharing a hotel room for the week that we were in Orlando and it would be quite the experience.
The tournament would start mid-week so we headed down on a Sunday this way there would be time to practice and get accustomed to the courts. I would only be playing singles for the tournament though but after such a great performance in Suriname I was hoping to do well here too. I would be playing against another European player, Ville Lang from Finland the Finish Viking as he would come to be known as. The venue wasn’t bad as it was at clear 1 Orlando, the same clear franchise owned by my boss where I work in Calgary. So the set up was pretty familiar and the real adjustment just had to come with regards to the shuttles and their speed.
Practice went smooth as there was lots of players that I knew and was able to get a few sessions in before the tournament. Something that doesn’t always happen because I usually travel alone but this time it was nice to go with friends. The plan was that once we were knocked out of the tournament we would go to universal studios one day and then Disneyland the next day but the tournament was to come first. So game day came and we all went down to the venue to play our matches. Sean was up first and played a Chinese Taipei player, I was next up and then Antonio and Kevin played their respected players. My match started out rough against Ville but come the 2nd game I was adapting a lot faster than I had in the past and was taking the fight to him. I felt better, although he was really solid when I was patient I was able to score a lot more points but then the impatient moments would kick in and that’s when errors occurred. I ended up losing the 2nd game 18-21 it was incredibly close and I could have forced a 3rd if I was a little more patient. But it was a learning experience and I was happy with the result, the Finish Viking had taught me a lot of valuable lessons.
This meant that the tournament was officially over for me as well as for Sean. So we would start to plan out the rest of the trip. The following day we ended up staying around the area as the weather wasn’t too great and we wanted to see if there was a few more players who wanted to go to universal studios so we could rent a car and keep down the cost. Turns out the 2 of my European friends that I had travelled with before, Jan Frolic of Czech Republic and Matej Hlinican of Slovakia, were also out of the tournament and looking to head down to universal studios. So the plan was set in motion and we bought our tickets online to head to the park the next day, it would be an all-day affair.
The morning came and the weather wasn’t super amazing but was still Florida warm, with overcast skies looming and forecasted for the remainder of the day. Our bags packed and electronics charged we rented a car and started out on our grand adventure. It took around an hour to drive there and that was without traffic which was pretty long in itself but we finally saw the exits that marked Disneyland and Universal Studios, we had made it at long last and pretty early in the day only 10am at that point. Parking, we made our way to the gate…well to all the stuff before the actual gates to enter the park. There were tons of shops, food places, and just random things which was expected but we passed by it all in anticipation of getting into the park and onto some rides not before taking a group picture of course. Starting off in the park we hit up a warm up ride right away to get ready then went for a big one “Doctor Doom’s Fear Fall” which is a drop tower type ride. It wasn’t too bad but was relatively short with just a few shots up and drops. Still enough to get the blood pumping and adrenalin up though, we would continue our way through the area and onto the next part toon world. There wasn’t too many rides there and the ones that there was were water rides and seeing as we would get wet we would save those for later in the day. Passing by Jurassic Park his meant that we would now adventure to the best part of the park and most anticipates area, Harry Potter world which spanned between the2 sides of the universal park.
Harry Potter area was amazing and there were some fantastic rides. The main attraction however had broken down in the giant castle but they offered a walking tour through the waiting line and let me say that line can get ridiculously long… you could wait an entire day in line just to ride that ride. Spoiler they got it working later so we were able to come back and ride it. I have to say that is hands down my favorite ride at universal studios. But after that we went to get some butter beer which was delicious, it went down smoothly and had a creamy caramel flavor to it but was very refreshing. Following through that the rest of the guys went on one of the Harry Potter rollercoasters but I’m not a big fan of rollercoasters so I didn’t go. That was the extent of the Harry Potter part of the world on this side of the park. So we quickly went through the rest of the island and saw the Atlanta’s part and doctor Suse world then proceeded to catch the Hogwarts express over to the other side universals park.
Arriving at the station we proceeded to go through platform 9 ¾ into London and towards daigon alley which is where we stopped for lunch. The rest of the Harry Potter world had just one ride which we did and was more of an interactive experience but still good none the less. The rest of that side of the park had the themes such as Simpsons land, the MIB ride, Transformers, Terminator, Minions, ET, etc so we hit up some of those rides along with the mummy indoor rollercoaster which was a great experience and I don’t mind those types of indoor rollercoasters. The rest of the guys went on the final ride twice which was the rock and roll coaster, it did have quite the amazing and impressive drop on it but I passed. The night had come and the theme park was closing soon, we had spent the entire day there and had been able to see everything as well as ride a lot of rides. We did end up going on the water rides before leaving that side of the park, they were not bad at all just got you really wet so good thing I brought an extra change of clothes.
|Who doesn't want to chill with a LEGO hulk|
The flight back to Calgary wasn’t a bad one, had a stop in Chicago which I haven’t passed through before but thankfully no weather delays made everything smooth. Upon arrival in Calgary though was the best surprise awaiting me for my one night back home before flying out to LA for my final international of 2016, the USA Grand Prix.