Day 6 A Rental Car for Universal (Theme Park)

Our car, the Ford Fusion Hybrid.

To do the next part of our epic vacation, we needed a rental car for Universal (Theme Park). An easy task for most people, but for me, well, read on.

It all began well enough. I managed to get a good sleep at our Disney World Resort. Drugs for my sore feet, fam quiet, room cool. All good.

I woke up with a good attitude at 5:54am. Before the alarm went off. I could now get up without waking anyone. Assuming, that is, I didn’t stumble into anything, drop anything, or bang my shins on anything and start swearing like an 8yr old first discovering the word f*ck.

The plan was simple. Take the shuttle to Disney World’s Car Care Center, rent a car, use GPS to get home. Being prone to getting utterly lost, and without either of my legendary navigators, The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World or The-Youngest, GPS would get me home for sure.

I’d done a check-in last night and arranged for a car to pick me up. That I’d gotten up even before the alarm boded well for the day. Yes, it was going to be a good day. A good day indeed.

I grabbed a coffee, waited outside until the shuttle found me and got the car pretty quickly. Everyone was outstandingly friendly, one of the lot attendants even standing outside listening to opera. The-Oldest would have been proud.

The car they gave me was a Ford Fusion Hybrid which was pretty cool. I’ve never had a hybrid so I would get a chance to see what they were all about.

I got into my car. Lots of new stuff. No key start, one of those press buttons. No parking brake on that I could find. Lots of things on my dashboard screen about green options, but I was too caffeinated to sort that out just yet. I’m sure when I used my GPS to get back, The-Youngest could figure out all the gadgets.

I turned on my phone to get a GPS. I activated cellular.

And didn’t have a signal.

No WiFi either.

No signal, no WiFi… no GPS.

Without GPS, I had no idea where to go or how to get back to the resort!

I went into complete panic mode. Full body sweat. Heart racing. Brain zipping around like a moth in a flame.

Ok. Ok. Take a deep breath. I had loaded up the route last night on GPS. It wouldn’t be able to track the car, but I could use signs, and the route had been mapped out.

But no. Because I’d set a personal waypoint, the 90’s parking lot, there was only the map, no route to get to the parking lot.

Ok. Ok. I could see where I was and where I had to go. I had to take a right, get on the highway, go a ways, then take an offramp. I’m sure there’d be signs.

It was the ‘a ways’ that really worried me. There were a lot of turn offs and I had no idea if it was a 15 minute ride or 12, or 22. I had to pray for signs.

I started up the car, and being in a panic mode, I made my first mistake. I didn’t check the time.

I drove off, onto the highway, still about as stressed as a new driver taking their driving test with a beautiful driving instructor while nearly blind from allergies.

I realized my 2nd mistake right away. I hadn’t reset the side mirrors on the car. They’d been set for a Peter Dinklage sized person. My 360 vision would be severely impaired, and I would have to resort to the full shoulder check.

I drove ‘a ways.’ It seemed like 15 min or so, about the same time that the driver had taken.

No sign for Pop Century.

Now, what to do? I had no idea how far this road would go. Would I end up in Miami, then take a wrong turn and end up on some bridge to the everglades, then pull over only to be eaten by an alligator?

Ok. Ok. Take a deep breath.

I was lost, but not hopeless lost, yet. I mean, I was still in the USA.

But I didn’t want to go too far, so I took the next turn. A left. The plan that I came up with in my panicky brain was to find another Disney resort or one of the theme parks, get wifi, and reorient myself. I may have to go from resort to resort like a frog hopping to lily pads, but I was sure I could find my way home eventually.

Like maybe by noon.

But was turning off the highway to be my third mistake? The one where my obituary read, He went off to pick up a car and was never seen, again?

Ok. Ok. Take a deep breath.

I went ‘a ways’. No resorts. No parks. Lots of signs. No ‘Pop Century This Way’.


I drove on and found a sign saying Epcot resorts. Well, any port in a panic storm, so I took that one. It seemed to take me in the totally wrong direction from my resort, as far as I can tell directions, but then I saw a sign for a resort. The Caribbean.

I pulled into that one.

At the gate, I had to stop. A smiling attendant came out to scan my Disney World Magic Band. I said, sorry, (cuz I’m Canadian and usually begin all social interactions with ‘sorry’), but I’m not a guest here.

“No, problem Mr. Cummings. You’re welcome here.”

“That’s awesome,” I said. “But I’m a bit lost. I was hoping to park near WiFi and see if I could get my GPS to work. I’m trying to get back to the Pop Century Resort.”

“You won’t need GPS, Mr. Cummings.” (Clearly, he had no idea how lost I can get.) He pointed behind him to the right. “It’s the next resort. Turn around here, take a left onto Victory Street, and it’s your first left.”

Somehow, I had nearly gotten home by sheer luck.

F*cking hell!

Holy f*cking hell!

There is no joy in the world quite like being lost and suddenly finding out where you are. Maybe nearly dying of thirst in a desert and finding a MacDonalds comes close, but somehow, without any real understanding of where I was, I had found my way home.

I think I had a guiding angel. I think Margot maybe.

Either way, I turned around, took the left, then another left, then found myself in the Pop Century Resort, vaguely traumatized, but ok. I literally have nightmares about this kind of thing, and I greatly fear I’m not that far away from a dementia home at the best of times.

However, I hoped the rest of the day would be better.

Traveling With Kids – San Diego – Navigation

The Ride of Death

san diego mapOk, it’s time.

Time for the oldest to take a crack at navigation.

He’s terrified.

He fears we’ll get lost, run out of gas, that I’ll get mad, that he’ll not be able to understand the map, that he’ll have to think fast and act fast.

See, the boys have been unholy terrors in the car. If I put live scorpions down their pants, they would have been less beserko-nutso. They can come back, complaining of being tired, unable to walk another step, wanting only to rest, and they get in the car and whammo, goofy-giggling-fighting silly-buggers.

It’s as amazing as it is annoying.

Especially when I’m trying to drive in heavy traffic and the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world is trying to navigate in an unfamiliar city (with roads that sometimes aren’t signed and a gps that says we’re in the ocean every so often.)

I want to say that I’ve been all zen and understanding, but there have been times I’m a millimeter from pulling the car over, tossing them out, and driving away.

So we thought this would be a good exercise for the oldest.

He’d get an idea of what it was like to be the navigator.

Destination: Denny’s.

4 blocks away.

Pretty much a straight line.

One highway to go on.

One exit to take.

I’m ready.

I know we could get lost.

Badly, badly lost.

But it’s all good.

I don’t get angry at being lost on vacation. I only get stressed if we have to make it to a certain place at a certain time, but today, we don’t have that problem.

galantSo, we get in the car, he takes the phone. Tries to talk to his way out of it.

But no way, man.

No way.

I start down the driveway towards the road.

He’s not sure which way to turn.

I hear panic in his voice.

Then he figures it out. Right!

We go right.

The Prettiest-girl-in-the-world asks, “Now where does Joe turn?

What? I dunno. What? Turn?

There’s a road coming up. Does Joe turn?

Yes. No. Road?!?!

We’re nearly at the road. Does Joe take it?

I dunno! Ah! Ack! Urg.

We just passed the road. We’re heading for the highway.

Highway?!! Wait. Eeeek. We’re on a highway?!?!!?

Do you see the Denny’s?

I have to look for that too?

Me: We’re heading to LA now.

We don’t want to go there!!!!!!!!!!!

Me: No. No we don’t.

Then there’s a large popping noise and his head explodes. Brains and skull fragments everywhere.

We pull off at the next exit as we see the Denny’s sign.

We park and he staggers out of the car, ashen-faced and twitching.

“Welcome to navigation,” I say.

The Prettiest-girl-in-the-world adds, “And that was without anyone kicking your seat or screaming in your ear.”

He just blinks and stares off in the distance in horror.

The youngest one pipes up.

“Can I navigate next?”