Humans test themselves in punishing ways. We run 26.2 miles, climb high peaks, mush sled dogs for days on end. The hardiest of us can survive the tiny bicycle seats of the Tour de France.
In Orlando, we are positioned for a unique endurance test. Who amongst us can visit Central Florida's seven major theme parks in just one day?
"It can't be done."
Or "But why?!"
Well, because they're there.
Sure, anyone with reliable transportation can drive to parks and blow through the turnstiles, so we add the challenge of doing a crowd-pleasing attraction in each park, aiming for speed-oriented attractions that complement our haste.
Armed with annual passes, comfortable walking shoes and a smidge of overconfidence, we head toward the dreaded tourist corridor. Cars line up for miles heading east into downtown. The I-4 gods have smiled on us, and we laugh at our good fortune.
We arrive at our first obstacle, the Universal Orlando parking structure. The sight of employees directing traffic pleases us, but our placement in the far reaches of the Jaws section of the garage does not. As the crow flies, we are so close to Universal Studios, but we must use several escalators and sets of moving sidewalks in our hike to the park entrance. Fifteen minutes later, we're in.
My co-workers, thinking our Need for Speed theme won't be enough of a challenge, have added a twist. At each park, we open an envelope to reveal a task to be completed. Think The Amazing Race meets scavenger hunt.
Our first mission: Buy popcorn.
Ah, a movie theme.
"The thought of popcorn right now makes me want to vomit," Brian announces. We walk to Back to the Future -- The Ride instead. No, it's not really moving fast, but the plot involves going "exactly 88 mph." Close enough. The line is short, so we're out of there quickly. The ride is more rugged than I recall, but it may be I'm just not an early riser/rider.
We circle through Amity in search of popcorn. Brian knows it's available near the entrance, but when we arrive, they have only syrupy caramel popcorn. We purchase, snack, feel sluggish.
For the first time I think, "This is going to be a long day."
We venture to the studios' sister park, Islands of Adventure, and beeline for the wait board. Spider-Man, 75 minutes; Hulk, 50 minutes; Dueling Dragons, 20 minutes. We find the Dragons line more enjoyable; once we're in the castle-based queue, we decide the wait time has been overestimated. We ride Ice, take the shortcut back into line and also ride Fire.
The pace is good. Aboard Fire, I scour the skies and spot clouds organizing in the distance for Central Florida's daily afternoon thundershower. I calculate we'll be safely in the car for the rain.