Friday, December 04, 2009

Expedition Everest

I won't bore you with blow-by-blow details about my trip to visit the Mouse House in Orlando, Florida.

But I do want to say a few words about Expedition Everest, the roller coaster in Disney's Animal Kingdom.

I'm not a big roller coaster fan. Meaning that I don't like Big roller coasters. But I was really intrigued by some of the things I'd heard about this one -- including that the Yeti stalks the coaster. Did somebody say, "Yeti?" I am so there. I mean, it's not like I'm likely to go to the real Himalayas anytime soon to catch a glimpse of the real Yeti in the flesh? Given how I managed to miss Nessie in two trips to Loch Ness, I figure my chances of coming home with a scientific discovery are pretty slim anyhow.

This was an impressive bit of Disney Imagineering. The queue takes you through an extremely detailed mock-up of a mountain outfitter's office first. You almost expect Karen Allen to walk in and challenge you to a drinking contest. Then you wind your way through a faux Buddhist temple -- complete with distressed prayer flags, statues and devotionals to the guardian spirit of the mountain: Mr. Yeti himself. The fake Buddhist temple was -- sadly -- more impressive than the real Buddhist temple I frequent! The final building in the queue is the outfitter warehouse/Yeti museum.

Yes, a Yeti museum. And the most impressive thing about the Yeti museum is that it seemed to be a REAL museum to the Yeti phenomenon! They had pictures, books, and artifacts I recognized as real, or replicas of existing items. We could devolve into a semantic argument about "real" when it comes to the Yeti, but what I'm saying is: it was very hard to tell what they were making up out of whole cloth, and what they borrowed from the existing lore.

As for the ride itself... The coaster has no loops or inversions. At 200 feet, this fake Everest is the tallest mountain in Florida. The ride does move backwards. the tracks switch, which is a little disorienting. It plummets through some very dark passages. It also has a pretty spectacular ascent (through another meticulously re-created, faux monastery ruin), and an outside drop that left me with my stomach upside down. The ride did not disappoint.

Do you see the Yeti? Well, let me give you a first-person view of the ride, and then a broader overview from several perspectives. The second video may load a little slow, but provides some better views of the different areas with accompanying James Bond music. Neither film substitutes the g-forces.

Oh, and if anyone knows where I can procure one of those fake bronze statues of the Dancing Yeti Mandala -- let me know. They weren't in the gift shop and I want one.

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