Parks Visited: Mundo Divertido (11/12/05), Sea World California (11/13/05)
Weather: Perfect So. Cal./Mexico "winter" weather of 70 degrees
Crowds: Fairly light all around
I've pretty much exhausted the credits in my home state; everything up north is done, everything in the L.A. area, and everything in San Diego except for one each at Sea World and Legoland. But it's hard to justify spending $50 for one credit, especially if it's a junior coaster (Legoland), even if it is in a park I really love. So, when a non-coaster-related friend wanted to go to Sea World, and told me she could get tickets for $30, well, it was a no brainer, since I liked Florida's Journey to Atlantis so much. Since San Diego's a bit of a haul from where I live, I decided to Priceline a room as well, and ended up with a nice one on Mission Bay. I <3 Priceline!
About two weeks before the trip, my friend found out she couldn't go, so now I was stuck with a hotel I had already paid for. I still wanted to get away for the weekend so I asked good friend Mamoosh if he was interested in hanging out down in S.D. for a weekend. Then we decided to email Mike Kallay to see if his soon-to-be-opened business venture would be ready by then. He indicated he would not yet be open for business, but he invited us over for dinner, which we gladly accepted. I then hopped on Craigslist, and soon had tracked down my own pair of $30 tickets to Sea World. Seemed like a good weekend was in the offing.
Saturday morning, I woke up and began to pack, when suddenly an evil leetle idea popped into my head. Inspired by a great source of evil leetle ideas (AKA "Road To Nowhere 3"), specifically, the Tijuana sequence, I realized that it was possible for Matt and I to grab the credits down south of the border and make it back in time for dinner at Mike's at 7 pm. A quick check of RCDB even yielded an additional piece of good news; the park had added a third credit last year, one of the lovely L & T wild mousies. It was a leetle unnerving that the park didn't have a web page and I couldn't map it on Yahoo...it appeared the park was located on the main street of Tijuana (the one that Interstate 5 turns into when it crosses the border) and I figured we couldn't miss it. I was doubtful that Moosh would endorse my crazy plan but he was into the idea when I picked him up...even if he did share my concerns about traffic crossing the border and about Tijuana in general (it's pretty notorious for being a rough city with some real nasty parts, for those who don't know). A quick call to Mike on the fly led us to decide to drive in to Mexico, as opposed to parking and walking over and taking a cab to the park, as Mike agreed with me that it was likely trafffic wouldn't be TOO bad.
Arriving at the border, we were pleased to see no line whatsoever waiting to get in to Mexico. We didn't even have to stop at the border! Interesting to see a country that really doesn't give a #### who comes in, but hey, that's Mexico for ya...it's no Canada, LOL! As we made our way into the heart of Tijuana, we were distressed to see that the line to get back into the U.S. stretched for miles...and miles...and miles. It was a truly epic traffic jam, and it wasn't moving. Looked like at least two hours wait, and possibly three (or more!). We decided to find the park quick, get our credits, and then try and get thru the jam so we could make it to dinner on time. Unfortunately, finding the park quick turned out to be easier said than done.
First, we missed the turn we wanted due to some very poor signage (Welcome to Me-Hi-Co! he he he). This resulted in us being dumped into a VERY dodgy area which took us 30 minutes to get out of, but we eventually found the street we had originally wanted. While I was getting used to the (crazy) Mexican drivers and their wacky roundabout intersections, Moosh was anxiously looking everywhere for signs of the park. Mike Kallay's warning to get special Mexican auto insurance for $15 before I crossed the border kept repeating through my mind as we narrowly avoided 2 or 3 fender benders. And, of course, there's the special charm of Tijuana that just added to the fun. We made our way all the way down to the end of the main drag but there was no sign of the park. We had seen some blue signs that seemed to have a ferris wheel on them, but those led us to a freeway and we didn't think that was right. We tried to call friends in the States for help but could not get a signal. I wanted to try and find someone to ask but Moosh was against the idea. It was beginning to get dark and we still had that epic traffic jam to navigate...so we eventually gave up on the credits and decided to return another time, after we had done our research properly on the internet and via phone.
We fought our way back to the line leading out of the country, but we began running into yellow ribbon barriers everywhere...in the middle of a traffic circle, causing us to go out of our way and make a U-turn...then again when we tried to make a left into the traffic. We eventually joined the queue and even luckily found a lane on the edge that allowed us to "cut" the line a leetle bit. We then hit a merge point and I was completely blocked out by non-moving traffic. Seconds later, a motorcycle policeman pulled up in front of us, dismounted, and ordered us to cease merging and get the **** off his freeway. We didn't feel like arguing (the threat of Mexican jail outweighing any and all of my rebellious tendencies) and so we exited...right into the same damn dodgy area we'd been dumped into 2 hours ago! Moosh was pretty pissed at me and my bad idea of going to Mexico at this point, and I can't hardly blame him, LOL! I decided to follow intuition and took a different route this time.
Success! We found another onramp to the border crossing! We maneuvered in and began the long wait...only to run into: Failure! Two more motorcycle cops (where are they all coming from??) stopped three cars in front of us and strung, you guessed it, yellow tape across the entire entrance ramp. We had no choice but to board an expressway heading the wrong way, into TJ. At this point, I recalled that I had noticed another border crossing at Otay Mesa when I had been viewing the map of Tijuana that morning. Given the frustration we had just experienced, we decided to try and find it...this, mind you, with only a very vague idea of where and how far it was; sans map; and with night falling pretty hard. But, hey, it had to be better than the cluster-f*ck that was the Interstate 5 border crossing! This would have been a good time to freakout but Moosh and I are both too hearty and seasoned to give in to panic...so we drove down the expressway instead.
We soon began to see signs that referenced Otay Mesa and the border crossing. Success! Again! We were flying thru the fragrant Mexican night and laughing hysterically about just how screwed we were. The freeway was running parellel to the main drag and we eventually passed the furthest point we had gotten to. The signs for Otay kept popping up, and soon we came to an interchange. None of the signs said "Otay Mesa" so we decided to keep going, but we had a suspicion that the nonchalant approach to signage in this country had possibly stung us again. Then, another one of those blue ferris wheel signs popped up...followed by...THE PARK! YES!
Now, picture this...we are flying along in the fast lane of a three lane expressway, doing around 70. There is a median to our right with entry and exit holes every few 1/2-miles, and then another three lanes of traffic, also moving at expressway speeds. The park's entrance was to the right of that and coming up quickly. Luckily, there was an "exit" hole to the other side of the expressway coming. This called for a split second decision on my part...but, hell, we were already screwed on the border deal, let's get the damn credits at least! I executed a maneuver that nearly caused Moosh to crap himself, cutting all 6 lanes, threading the exit hole, and hitting the entrance to the park standing on the brakes. VICTORY!
We parked the car and just took a few minutes to laugh at the whole crazy adventure. It was 6 pm by this point, and we were supposed to be at Mike's in an hour. We knew that wasn't going to happen, but we had no way to reach him until we got back over the border. Let's make the best of it and ride some coasters!
Mundo Divertido was actually pleasantly nice. It was well-kept, kind of upscale, and really pretty much the nicest thing in Tijuana. As I said to Moosh as we walked through the busy shopping area, "I almost don't feel like I'm in Mexico". We found a ticket booth and were luckily able to buy tickets with US currency as we had not picked up any pesos. In between Moosh's pidgen spanish, and the employee's pidgen English, we managed to buy enough tickets to hit the three credits. The park is nice...well-maintained, kind of like an upscale FEC. Not a bad effort at all! The go-karts looked fun but had a long line. There were a few other flats, and lots of kiddie rides. Nice lighting packages (LOL) and, thank God, no lines for the coasters.
The L & T mousie (Raton Loco) was up first. This seemed to be the same model Moosh and I had "enjoyed" at Lake Winnie earlier this year, but this one was less brutal, despite being mostly unbraked. What's up with that? Next was the Pinfari looper (Montana Rusa), similar to the one offered at Ocean City, Md., and not too bad at all. I kind of like the tight little loop on this ride and it isn't the "neck-breaker" it looks to be. Unfortunately, the Wacky Worm (Gusano Loco) was not operating at the time. Oh well, 2 for 3 ain't bad considering... As a funny little aside, I was worried that we might need pesos to get out of the (pay) parking lot. So I found a change machine in the arcade that took dollars, dropped one in, and got game tokens, LOL! I laughed at my own misfortune, and left them for some lucky leetle kid.
Upon exiting the park, we decided to follow up on our suspicion that the interchange we had just passed was the one we wanted. We negotiated our way back there and were rewarded with the sight of signs saying "Otay Mesa Border Crossing"...YES! We're going to get out of Mexico after all!! Joy!!! This proved to be a much better crossing point than Interstate 5. It still took an hour, but it was light years better than the 2-3 hour wait we figured on at the other one. We enjoyed the vendors working the crowd, selling everything from hot corn in a cup, to Icees, to cheap Spongebob knockoffs (how much to break the leetle Spongebob?) and even giant crucifixes with Jesus on them...yeah, that'll look good over the bed... One of the funniest moments was when we spotted a vendor with a big guitar slung over his front, and two little guitars hanging from his back. I said "How much for the geetar?" and Moosh replied "No, the leetle guitar". So that became a bit of a catchphrase that we may torture other people with in the future...
To anyone wanting to bag the Tijuana credits, I would recommend the following. 1. Do your research! Heed our tale of woe. 2. Use the Interstate 5 entry point to get in, then take the Otay Mesa crossing to get out. This will dump you on highway 905, which then takes you back to the 5. The park is relatively easy to get to from both border entry points...IF you have a map, LOL!
Exiting the country, we decided that we had come up with the perfect marketing slogan for the country's tourism office: "Mexico...What could go wrong?" ;-)
We exited Mexico a leetle after 7. We called Mike, who was very understanding and told us he would hold off on starting dinner until we got there. We arrived around 7:45, only 45 minutes late, LOL! Not bad for our Mexican adventure. Mike has a kickass pad, up on a hill overlooking San Diego's downtown, the bay, and the airport. His place is great for a hang, very comfortable and well-decorated. Mike's girlfriend Stephanie arrived with her cute leetle dog Tex and it was a pleasure to meet her, she is a lot of fun! Mike proceeded to knock us out with some great steaks, some killer wine and we finished the evening with a number of hands of Texas Hold 'Em.
We headed back to our hotel and managed to get about 7 hours of sleep. The next day dawned sunny and we headed to Sea World, a short 5-minute drive away. The park didn't look like it would be horribly crowded (this place is pretty notorious for being packed, all the time, winter or summer). We were in shortly after opening and in need of a little food to get us going. Unfortunately, the sausage sandwiches being served in the Hospitality Center looked pretty damn disgusting, so we said screw it and headed for Journey To Atlantis.
The Florida JTA is a great ride, with a seriously silly story line. The California JTA is a mediocre ride, with an even sillier story line. The popular line on the left coast JTA is that, much like our Mummy out here, Calif. got the cheapie version while Florida got the goods. Well, that theory holds true for JTA anyways. The entrance plaza is nice and inviting. The splashdown pool is pretty, I love the big splashover flowing down above the big water drop. The big fish tank is nicely done. But where's the RIDE?? Instead of a nice dark ride section with state of the art fiberoptics, we got an elevator! AN ELEVATOR!! And that's the best part of the ride, LOL! This has a few nice drops, and the "surprise" in the enclosed portion is kinda cool, but...meh. No nice dark ride, no surprises in the dark. Pretty much no surprises period, our JTA is sadly a "What you see is what you get" ride, especially in comparison to Florida's, which packs a number of surprises. And the story on this one...something about proving your worthiness, and dolphins, and someone talking about "erotic" fulfillment...at least that's what I thought I heard. The sound was (unfortunately) really clear in places but mostly garbled and inaudible in others, especially in the elevator. I'll mail $5 to anyone who can tell me what the hell happened in there. I will say though that I do have a new entry in my top 5 watercoasters. ;-)
Fortunately, the line wasn't long, and we eventually got off the ride after spending 10 minutes stacked at the end of the ride (both rides we rode at the park this day were understaffed and WAY stacking). We made our way around the back side of the park and this was a nice relaxing stroll, as most everyone was still packed at the front. We really enjoyed the penguin walkthrough, as well as the starfish area and one of the large indoor aquariums. We made a complete loop of the park before we found somewhere to eat...everything in the back was closed, except the churro/soft drink stands. The park just seemed to be in a real sleepy mode, as many things did not even open until 12 (and this on a 10-6 operating day). We enjoyed a tasty muffin and then went back to await the opening of Shipwreck Rapids.
This is one of my favorite rapids rides...I simply LOVE the way the ride was integrated into the surrounding area. Except for one small stretch, the ride is unobservable from the park's walkways. When you are on it, you are surrounded by the park but it doesn't feel like it. It really is a great ride, wet and with some whimsical theming...love the piano! They had an IOA-ish drencher pipe working and I got nailed by it...SOAKED! I think Moosh liked the ride as well, although we were both a little annoyed by the hella stacking at the end...we were in the innards of the ship at the end for a long time and it was cold in there due to us being soaked! We finally escaped and then spent the next hour drying off while using the coin-operated water sprayers to get those riding after us. Good times.
Our scheduled departure time back to the L.A. area was looming, so we decided to go hang out by JTA for a bit before heading out. I wanted one more ride just to verify my underwhelmedness but Moosh begged off, as there were more (weak) coin-operated sprayers on this ride. My second ride was just as lackluster as the first and with that we left the park and headed for home.
Thanks to Mooshie for being an accomplice in my Messican adventure, and to Mike Kallay for being a great host. Was a great weekend!!!
PS - ¿Que "pidgen Espanol?" ¡Lo hablo fluido!
I should let Duane know...wonder if the Pinfari looper is Mexicali's...now I guess Moosh and I need to go to Mexicali and find out!! You game, Moosher? ;-)
"PS - ¿Que "pidgen Espanol?" ¡Lo hablo fluido!"
Is that fluid, or fluent....just wondering... ;)
P.S. Next Solace, I expect to get some *erotic fulfillment* at SWC...perhaps the dolphin encounter? :)
*** Edited 11/15/2005 10:20:35 PM UTC by rollergator***
Actually, I just read it again. :-P
I have been across the border but nowhere near a park in Mexico. I was warned to NOT drive and to NOT eat anything or drink the water. Of course this was Juarez (sp?)
I am at least glad to hear you guys didn't get arrested for.....anything. lol!
Sounded like a VERY cool adventure!
Actually I am having a native and her taxicab brother escort us, but who knows when that'll be.
I'm not sure I'd say that out loud. I'd be too scared...
And moosh so wants me...
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