I’d never been in a helicopter until yesterday. It was one of those minor life accomplishments that had been gnawing at me for the longest time. I’d had plenty of opportunities to take care of this before but somehow the timing wasn’t right or it was too expensive or I was tired or I wanted to do something else that day or whatever. I always had a dozen excuses in my pocket ready to pull out conveniently when the time came. Still, it remained an unchecked box, an unscratched itch or whatever overused metaphor applies to a situation that needed to be completed solely for the sake of completing it.
I was looking for something to do after working all day in Orlando. Readers of the Twelve Mile Circle had given me some great suggestions but I didn’t have enough time. I’d spotted a sign for $20 helicopter rides near my hotel as I walked back-and-forth to various events. I knew the price was a bit of a come-on because it had an asterisk next to it and in teeny-tiny lettering almost too small to read, "kids under 12." I walked in on a whim and prepared to walk directly out again if I couldn’t get a price at least reasonably close to that.
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You’re noticed the photograph of the helicopter so you can surmise that I succeeded. The lowest price for an adult was $25 and that was for the bare-bones cheapest tour. Prices went up quickly from there into the hundred(s) of dollars and they required at least two passengers per tour. They said they’d gladly let me purchase an adult and a child ticket and go up alone though. I’m sure they would, but I didn’t really need to take a ride that badly and I wouldn’t mind taking myself and my cash back to the hotel.
I guess I was destined to fly because a nice couple from England was considering a tour and they offered to let me ride along with them. They were equally
cheap budget-conscious and we were all happy to take the shortest, least expensive tour while blissfully ignoring any and all attempts at up-selling.
I’ve been meeting a lot of people from the UK in Orlando and this couple said that they came to Florida about once a year. I asked if they ever went to other parts of the United States and offered a couple of quick suggestions (nothing about geo-oddities so no worries there). No, they enjoyed subtropical weather and the convenience of Florida. Fair enough. I’m glad they’re still willing to travel internationally in spite of the hassle of crossing the U.S. border. I hope people continue to come over here, spend all their money and help restore the economy.
The helicopter pulled from its pad and started a circuit flying over Interstate 4, banking left around SeaWorld and heading back to the pad. I’d guess the whole thing lasted no more than about five minutes which is all one gets for the el cheapo tour. That was fine. It still counted as an accomplishment. I’d probably do it again for a longer ride in a better location. Orlando doesn’t have much in the way of variety in its terrain, all flat with glades and puddles punctuated by theme parks.
I walked right past the counter with photos for sale of us getting into the helicopter. They must have worked quickly to get those done in the brief moments we were actually in the air. However, I’d already completed my goal and I was determined to leave with the maximum amount of cash in my pocket. The fare with tax and gratuity came out to just a little more than $30, and I felt that was reasonable. They probably didn’t make much of a profit off me.
I celebrated my accomplishment by heading over to the Orlando Brewing tap room. Just for the record, it’s probably not a good idea to email photographs of one’s excellent adventures to a wife who’s sitting at home with the kids all week with the caption, "Luv me anyway?" Yes, I imagine I’ll be paying for that one for awhile and it’s probably going to cost me a lot more than thirty bucks.