If you had asked me at the beginning of the year if I expected to spend multiple months on furlough, having to find new employment twice in the same year, and only doing a few day trips and one random road trip to escape the stress from the lack of stability that led to job search #2, I would have said no... but it's 2020 and here we are.
But as the calendar turned to October, I at least had something to look forward to, and that was the wedding celebration of my friends Andrew and Brittany. As they were having their wedding on Disney Property, the original plan was for the wedding to be attended by family and a select group of friends, then they would have a sort of extended wedding reception for the larger collection of friends to take part in over the course of nearly a week between Disney World and Universal Orlando, spending a day at each of the six separate theme parks.
This would also be a chance to finally use my new "toy" of sorts, as I upgraded my suitcase when I received a birthday gift card from my mother, but had not yet had a chance to try it out (I just used my back pack for the quick road trip the previous month) until this trip. This was the first hard-sided, four-wheel suitcase I've had, and from the first run with it, I really appreciated how much easier it was to organize and to move when rolling through the airport to the bag drop. I also liked having the built-in lock for it with the ability to change the numbers. The only downside was that the Hong Kong Disneyland Sticker I put on it for this trip didn't even last past the first flight before being totally ruined, so I figured I'll just find something else to attach to it to make it easier to identify another time.
One of the things I have grown to love about flying out of Seattle in the morning is when the weather in conducive to seeing the cascade mountains on the way out, especially Mt. Rainier when flying South out of the airport. The problem though was that it was a particularly foggy morning as seen during the ride to the airport with a barely visible air traffic control tower. But it isn't unusual to have a heavier fog in this region in the morning this time of year, so I was hoping that it might clear up closer to take-off.
Since there was some time before the flight to Orlando, I wanted to get some breakfast, as was intending to head to a quick-service place, but then I noticed that the Trail Head BBQ had the glorious sign stating that Priority Pass holders were welcome there. You may be familiar with Priority Pass, which is a program that grants access to various lounges at airports, and is sometimes included with a particular travel-based credit card (as one I have is), and when Restaurants participate in the program, the first $28 of the bill is covered for you, you just have to cover the rest and any gratuities given to the service staff. This worked out really well for me as I was able to get a breakfast sandwich with an extra crossiant, a couple bottled drinks to take with me on the plane and a beer (Alaskan Brewing Co. Amber for those who may be curious) for just over two bucks with the applied credit!
I used this feature when in Houston earlier this year on my way to Bogota in Colombia when I had lunch at one of their restaurants. Easily one of the best things about the Priority Pass as it can add options for how you use your time waiting for your flight.
With this flight, it was back to an old trusty friend, and unofficial airline of Coasting with Culture, Alaska Airlines. It's hard to pass on flying with them considering how many direct routes they offer from SeaTac, with only Delta being anywhere close to the same number of options. This was my first flight with them since I flew to Orlando last time for Chelsea and Jay's wedding in March, and since that time, Alaska became one of the airlines to leave middle seats empty, which they are continuing until closer to the end of the year.
Thanks to my frequent flying with them, I had maintained my MVP status for 2020, which granted me an upgrade for this flight as it wasn't quite full, making a far more comfortable ride across the country. While I haven't flown nearly as much this year, Alaska was one of several airlines to announce they were extending frequent flyer statuses into 2021, so hopefully by then I can find a way to keep it up as these upgrades are nice when they come!
As it turns out, the fog wouldn't lift for the flight as I had hoped. It was still pretty thick when we began to taxi, so I came to accept that this might be a flight to go right into nap mode once we took off. But it was neat to see one of Alaska specialty livery planes for their Hawaiian Island routes. They have had a few other special paint schemes ranging from Disneyland-inspired to one featuring the "Chief Football Officer", Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks.
What I would come to find out though as we took off is that yeah, the fog was heavy, but it was also very low to the ground. It wasn't long before we were flying over the fog, which made for some really cool views outside! In many respects, it seemed like we were flying over an ocean, and the Cascade Mountains made up the coast line. It was truly a beautiful sight indeed!
While I was sitting on the wrong side of the plane to see Mt. Rainier because of our Eastbound journey, the flight did give me a chance to see at least two of the five volcanic peaks of Washington State, these two being further to the North of Rainier. The first was that of Mt. Baker, which is the closest of the five to the Canadian Border. The other was Glacier Peak, which had some steam coming out of it's vents about a year and a half ago, so researchers began monitoring it more closely, although my understanding is that it's still believed Mt. Rainier is the most likely to erupt next out of the five. (The other two, which are South of Rainier, being Mt. Adams and Mt. Saint Helens.)
As we continued further over the Cascades, I could spot Interstate-90 below, which is the longest Interstate highway of the US. If someone were driving below through Snoqualmie Pass, they would have covered the first 50-60 miles of the over 3,000 miles it would take to reach the other end in Boston.
A bit more than four hours later, we were preparing to come into Orlando International Airport, but we had to circle around for a bit as a typical Florida thunder storm was hitting it. This was the first time I had seen a cloud formation like this that involved a thunderstorm as most of the time I see them, I'm on the ground. It was pretty neat to get a different viewing spot for it though.
And luckily the delay was brief as we would land only after a couple laps around our holding pattern.
That first evening would be fairly low-key as everyone was trying to get things ready for the wedding, but Andrew (the groom), Alison (his sister), Susan (his mom) and I grabbed dinner at the Hurricane Grill off of US-27, then Andrew and I went back to his place for the night, where we took in the 5th installment of the Fast and the Furious franchise, which was actually the first one I ever watched.
The next morning, which was the day before the wedding, we all relocated to where we were staying for the week (although Andrew would only be there for one night). We had a fairly nice Airbnb located near the Posner Park area off of the intersection of I-4 and US-27 that came with a pool in the back that would come in handy after a few of the days at the parks following the wedding. It was perfect for our group as we had anywhere from five to maybe 10 people staying over any given night.
You could tell the owners of the house geared the place to tourists because of the decorations in the house had a few references to different movies that are parts of theming from the nearby parks.
This was especially prevalent with the bedrooms as each one (save for one of the two larger bedrooms) had a specific theme tied to Disney or Universal, whether it was Harry Potter, Disney Princesses, and Star Wars, which had one of my favorite light switch plates I've ever seen!
While I was tempted to stay in the princess room (because who doesn't want to stay in the princess room!?!?), I ended up with the Marvel Superheroes room, because who can turn down having the Avengers watching over you at night!?
After we got settled in, and some errands were run, the families of the bride and groom went to a rehearsal dinner, leaving the rest of us to fend for ourselves, so I made my way to a a favorite pizza place of mine when in Orlando called Flippers, then picked up some more beer for the evening with everyone when they all returned.
The next morning, the lovebirds would be getting hitched!