Tuesday, July 31, 2012

U.S.S. Cod - Trip report aboard a WWII submarine

While on our roller-coaster trip a few weeks ago, we had extra time one day in Ohio, so we decided to visit the U.S.S. Cod. This is a WWII-era submarine with several confirmed sinkings to its name. It's apparently the ONLY sub of that era to be maintained as a museum without alterations. Most museum ships and boats cut holes into walls, add railings, and alter the ships in other ways to make life easier for visiting tourists. Not the Cod. The hatches are original. If you want in the sub, you climb in the same way as the sailors did those decades ago.

Why mention my visit to the Cod on this blog, which is themed to Orlando-area theme parks? Because it's relevant to consider "side trips" on a vacation. Doing one thing single-mindedly can get tiring after two weeks, so the side trips become increasingly important. There is no shortage of things to do in Orlando, though nothing on the historical scale of the Cod. Orlando is more about simulation than reality. But the takeaway point is that sometimes, vacations really benefit from activities that are a different pace. Slow down and do something different.

It was a fascinating two hours we spent on the Cod, and I really recommend it. Next time around I'll find time to squeeze in the carrier Yorktown (in Charleston). I guess I'm slowly working my way through WWII museums!

Kevin Yee is the author of numerous independent Disney books, including the popular Walt Disney World Earbook series and Walt Disney World Hidden History.

Alpine slide at Ober Gatlinburg

Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is somewhat akin to a Las Vegas of the Smokies. The town isn't that big - there's a major thoroughfare and only smaller streets, but not that much more.

Ober Gatlinburg is a recreation area (not quite a theme park) outside of town. You have to take an aerial tram to get there (which costs money), and it's not for the faint of heart since you are so high up.

Inside the actual recreation area, you'll find a shopping mall, some halfhearted attempts at theming, an ice skating rink, and a whole design aesthetic that owes as much to the year 1982 as it does to Germany, its ostensible theme. 

Out back are the rides. There are almost all carnival rides with lackluster presentation, and there aren't very many of them.

But here is a gem: an actual alpine slide.

Think of a miniature-sized bobsled run, made up of concrete, and your sled is something you can sit on (no lying down). You also have a handbrake that you control. It's fun! There aren't any of these elsewhere in the South, so we had to stop here on our trip.

This wasn't our first alpine slide. We went on one at Glenwood Springs in Colorado on a previous trip back in 2006. That one went faster. It's not concrete based; that one is more like a miniature roller coaster, though you still have your own brake. It was awesome!

Of course, if you want a REAL thrill, you apparently have to travel to Austria, and do this crazy alpine slide with your hand kept off the brake entirely. This looks insane! I want to go here!

Kevin Yee is the author of numerous independent Disney books, including the popular Walt Disney World Earbook series and Walt Disney World Hidden History.