I’ve been known to do some pretty crazy things. Far be it from me to say this is the craziest thing I’ve ever done. Crazy has so many different flavors. But, this is definitely up there.
A month or so ago, I saw an article in the Wall Street Journal about a Disney World challenge I had never heard of. You might have to Google the title. Try something like “Parkeology” or “WSJ Disney World Every Minute Matters”. The goal of this challenge? Ride all 49 rides at Disney World. Across 4 parks. In one day.
It sounded impossible to me. Exhausting. And, exciting. I wanted to be a part of this club. So, I started planning, because I’m a nut job. There’s a whole website and community of supportive folks. I took my first attempt at the Parkeology challenge.
I packed a vest (to save time going through security). Beef jerky, band-aids (thanks, Ryan), batteries, granola bars, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and sunscreen. I was ready. Or, was I?
The “Dry Run”
The challenge requires an insane level of coordination. But, it’s not just coordination and planning. There’s endurance and plenty of luck. I put all those elements together in an attempt to make it through all 48 rides (one is down for refurbishment right now). Spoiler alert: I failed. You could argue I didn’t come close. I did have a ton of fun trying, scoring 41 rides out of a possible 48. My original plan was for this just to be a dry run. We’re planning something bigger to raise money for charity. And, I’m going to keep trying until I get all of the rides.
Along the way, here’s what I learned:
#1: No Sleep Til Mickey! You need to get up very early to be ready for Parkeology. Like, way before sunrise early.
#2: You’re Going To Walk. A Lot. My wife is a marathoner. I told her I’d never be crazy enough to cover those kind of distances on foot. I was wrong. Almost 19 miles of walking.
#3: The Heat Is Your Enemy. Rain Is Your Friend. Unfortunately, thunder is your enemy as well when it closes rides. It was over 90 degrees at the start of the day and the heat was killing me. I didn’t even bother with a poncho when it started raining. I just let the rain cool me off.
#4: You Can’t Prepare Enough. Even with a ton of preparation, I made two critical mistakes. The rules of Parkeology state that you need a picture of yourself on each ride. I broke that rule less than an hour into the challenge on Star Tours. But, I didn’t figure out until I left Hollywood Studios. Between checking on FastPasses, crossing rides off of lists, chugging water and making changes on the fly, I never stopped moving or thinking for 16 hours. I was so focused on my earlier problems that I also completely missed Tom Sawyer’s Island when I had my shot to notch it.
#5: Luck Sucks. Frozen Ever After broke down in EPCOT mid-afternoon. It didn’t come back up for operation until about an hour before the park closed. By that time I had no shot. Lightning and thunder also closed Test Track. And, they forced me to go back to Animal Kingdom twice when rides got shut down there but reopened.
#6: My Stomach Isn’t As Strong As I Thought. I’ve never ridden Tower of Terror before. Riding it once early in the day, it wasn’t my favorite. Riding Rock n Roller Coaster afterwards was fine, I’ve ridden it before. Star Tours always messes me up. Riding all 3 in 15 minutes was a recipe for disaster. Sprinting back into the park to ride Star Tours again after forgetting to take a picture? Pure insanity.
#7: Dropping Wait Times Are Your Friend. I rode two popular rides (Peter Pan and Navi River Journey) in much less than the listed wait times. Both were posted at 35 minutes. The key here was that I kept an eye out for rides where the wait time was dropping. In both cases, these rides had dropped from 45 and 50 minutes, respectively. Also in both cases, I was on the ride in under 20 minutes. This is a good lesson for regular parkers.
#8: I Hate Primeval Whirl. That’s all.
Ride Outside Rides As Early As You Can. With over 20 rides in the Magic Kingdom, there are plenty of both indoor (Under The Sea) and outdoor (Astro Orbiter) rides. The latter are much more subject to weather. Afternoons in the summer are thunderstorm time in Orlando. Crank out the outside rides early.
Don’t Bring a Backpack. Lots of ways to get creative with this one. But, you can easily waste 30 minutes standing in line to get your backpack checked. This causes other issues, but it’s something to seriously consider.
The 11th Lesson
Have fun with it! I started off very serious. I was dialed in. After all, I had 48 rides to catch. As the day wore on, I realized I’d have to loosen up. After all, Disney World is the happiest place on earth. The outpouring of support on social media was incredible. So was the financial support from some friends, new and old, that helped us raise over $500 on our trial run. If you haven’t yet, check out Give Kids The World. They’re doing great work, as are the people supporting them. And, a big thanks to Mark for his cheering and donation:
Special thanks to Joseph Carpenter for his generous donation as well. These folks are great!
I can’t wait to share more about what we have planned next. Suffice it to say it’s going to be a similar level of crazy. And, I’ll need your support. So, I hope you’ll stay tuned.
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