From Hoth to Happiness: Turning Winter Blues into Blue Milk

Jennie

I’m a traveler. I love learning about new cultures, the local customs, the people, their way of life. I am but a visitor to their land and it’s not my place to force my ways on them; it’s to come back home with a greater knowledge than I left with. For 2020, after much thinking and planning, I decided it was time to go off-world, to a small place hidden within a magical land. I would venture out in April to the Southern Rim and in August to the Western Rim. 

Then that word came along. The word that upended all of our lives in some fashion. And while it may have paused my planned adventures, it actually afforded me a better opportunity to explore the Southern Rim in December. As a resident of Hoth at least 6 months out of the year (also known as Northern Indiana), going to sun, warmth, and yes, humidity, was a nice change before all the white stuff fell here. It was my first time off-world, and I’m excited to share a bit of my experience with you and offer some tips and tricks (while valid in this ever-changing landscape).

First, I had to reserve my passes for a particular landing pad each day before I arrived as there are only limited reservations to each one. I chose 4 different days during my stay at the landing pad called Hollywood Studios. Spoiler: while I enjoyed the other landing pads as well, this was by far my favorite.

My first day I woke up early, got on my data pad promptly at 7am and obtained my boarding group for Rise of the Resistance. You can do this from your lodging or anywhere else, as long as you already have a reservation at the landing pad that day. If you miss out at 7am, once in the landing pad you can try again at 2pm (now 1pm). Luck was on my side as I nabbed boarding group 47. Soon after I was soaring through the air via the Skyliner transportation and landed safely at my landing pad destination.

Security was tight, checking everyone’s temperatures, making sure everyone had the correct types of masks on (no gaiters allowed) and then searching bags. Of course, since I’m a problem child I got searched because my umbrella set off a scanner. I’m such a Rebel. Once through it was smooth sailing. I checked out a few things on my way to my final destination since it wasn’t crowded yet. After a brief detour it was finally time to head over to Batuu. I’d been looking forward to this moment since I first heard of this place. My heart was pounding and I was giddy with excitement. Once I got to the boundary of this off-world destination, I took a deep breath, proceeded onward and tried my best not to cry as I was finally entering my dream destination…

Welcome to Batuu and the Black Spire Outpost! It was beautiful! It’s everything I had heard about and then some. I honestly cannot find the words to adequately describe the feeling you get as you enter and you start seeing the X-Wing and droids and all of the details around you. It was truly mesmerizing and enthralling, putting me in almost a dream-like state. I took in all the sights on my way to my favorite hunk of junk in the entire galaxy, the Millennium Falcon. She was glorious.

I promptly hopped in the line and walked straight onto Smuggler’s Run and was the pilot of my own Falcon. I cannot tell you how much my inner child (and current adult) were geeking out in these moments. I was on the Falcon, not only that, I was piloting the Falcon. Holy crap! What an adventure it was too! Loved every moment of it. However, I did find out that I should have eaten breakfast before getting on it because my adult equilibrium is not the same as my inner child’s. If you ever get motion sick, I highly recommend taking motion sickness medicine ahead of time and making sure you’ve eaten and are hydrated properly. It was all worth it though.

Needing breakfast, I wandered over to Ronto Roasters for a scrumptious Ronto Breakfast Wrap. Most food at the landing pad can be ordered ahead via your data pad’s app. You just have to wait until it’s ready and then retrieve it. The Ronto Breakfast Wrap was good, but the lunch/dinner version or a normal Ronto Wrap is much better, which I found out days later. Needing something Batuuian to wash it all down with, I grabbed some blue milk and found a quiet little spot by some droids to enjoy it while taking it all in. Well, at least quiet in comparison to C-3PO’s incessant chatter. A few days later, I tried the green milk and I have to say, I preferred the blue. Both are unique though and are worth the try.

It was still early in the day so I explored the local markets while talking to the local merchants, grabbed some Kyber crystals at Dok-Ondar’s, explored the Creature Stall, and tried to contain my spending. Afterall, it’s still day 1! While roaming about the Outpost I saw the evil dictator, errr, I mean Supreme Leader Kylo Ren and his crony Stormtroopers. I may have uttered a few things at them that elicited responses. Sorry, once a Rebel, always a Rebel.

I was a bit parched from the humidity so it was perfect timing for my reservation at Oga’s Cantina. The drinks are outrageous and delicious. I may have tried every alcoholic provision on the menu between 3 visits to the Cantina. A trick most travelers may not know is that you can actually take some drinks to go if your time limit of 45 minutes in the Cantina is approaching. I highly recommend the Fuzzy Tauntaun. It’s quite the shocker of a drink. The Jedi Mind Trick was probably my favorite. While trying all the outrageous drinks and bites to eat, DJ R-X3 is up on his platform spinning some out of this world tunes to keep it lively in the cantina. Never have I felt more relaxed and at home amongst scum and villainy. Maybe it’s time to rethink that Rebel tag or maybe it was the Jedi Mind Trick… 

Soon after leaving, I stopped in my Bantha tracks because the great Chewbacca appeared. I cannot tell you how excited I was to see him in person. I just wish I could have gotten a Wookiee hug but the pandemic precautions stop you from fraternizing with the local celebrities. Rey and Vi were also hanging with Chewie, helping him cause trouble as usual. They were great to the kids and adults that wanted to say hi and get pictures, even if it had to be socially distant.

After that, Bright Suns! My boarding group was called for Rise of the Resistance! I hurried over and joined the queue after having my boarding credentials checked a few times. They really don’t like stowaways on board. The line was a bit long this day but it had had some problems earlier in the day and had been down for a while. To be fair, it breaks down at least once a day so you have to be patient. It’s a massive experience with tons of moving parts. Once you’ve been on it, you’ll understand.

As for Rise itself, how can I best describe it? I won’t give any of it away, because that’s half the fun. If you really want to know, there are plenty of videos online that will take you through it. The experience though is incredible and is easily the best attraction I have ever been on. It is definitely not your normal ride! And the more you put into the experience, the more you’ll get out of it, so live your best Rebel life (or First Order if that’s really your thing). It’s so good that honestly, it kind of ruined attractions at the other landing pads for me.

After coming down from the excitement of Rise of the Resistance, I found some dinner at Docking Bay 7. I tried the Endorian Fried Chicken Tip Yip and the Batuu-Bon for dessert. Both were delicious and I highly recommend them. It’s a very other-worldly industrial place where you can eat inside to escape the Batuuian humidity for a while.

Time to walk off dinner and look around as the sun was setting on the Outpost. It’s beautiful by day but enchanting at night. The colors, the shadows, the details even in the faintest light. The Falcon, lit up with the spires behind it… Breathtaking.

My last event of the day was to build a Droid. This is a really cute thing to do as a kid or an adult. I created R8D9 (in honor of my late Grandfather, Rudy). He’s the best little droid with a Rebellious personality. Afterwards, he and I packed up and headed out of the landing pad to our resting space.

The subsequent three trips to Batuu were similar in nature, which included a bit of exploring outside of the Outpost each day. I was lucky enough to get on Rise of the Resistance each day I tried for a boarding group. I did get “stuck” on it for about 30 minutes the last day, but I was stuck in one of the best places so I didn’t mind getting some extra time to take it all in.

That said, my third trip to the Black Spire Outpost was probably my favorite. Two of my lovely Stardust sisters met me at the landing pad and we explored Batuu together. The best part that day was Savi’s Workshop. Two of us had never built a lightsaber before! For those looking at it thinking it’s a bit expensive, yes it is, but it is one of the coolest experiences I had while there. It’s not just building a lightsaber like you build your droid. There is history and pageantry involved. I’ll admit, I cried a little during it because of how overwhelmed I was during the build. It was a dream come true to build it, and to do so alongside my sisters only made it more special. Of course, we had to take a bunch of cool photos afterwards too!

After 9 exhausting, yet exhilarating, days at the four different landing pads, it was time to return home to Hoth. My lightsaber and R8D9 came on the plane with me as my carry-ons. I had no trouble getting through TSA since they’re pretty used to these foreign objects coming through now. When you go to stow your lightsaber in an overhead bin, put it in after all other luggage has been placed there. This will prevent your lightsaber from being smashed by someone trying to stuff a bag in there. Your droid will fit nicely in it’s backpack underneath the seat in front of you.

It’s taken a bit for me to really process all that I experienced on Batuu. It was like being in the dream of your childhood fantasies and it takes a bit to realize you weren’t dreaming. In the spirit of my usual travels, I brought back some of the culture with me. My friends may not understand the experience if they don’t understand the Star Wars universe, but they can tell it is something special by the twinkle in my eyes when I talk about it.

I took a calculated risk traveling during a pandemic, especially to a place with so many people. Each landing pad, lodging option, and transportation method had measures in place to keep you safe. Hand sanitizer was plentiful everywhere you went and mask wearing was enforced. Each attraction has lines on the ground for social distancing and there were spaces, rows, or barriers between each group of people while riding. When I travel, my ankles are usually a magnet for strollers, yet I survived nine days without ever being bit (hit) by one. I felt safer everywhere there than I do going to my local grocery store at home. 

Whether you travel (safely) now or wait until things are better, I implore you to go to Batuu and see it for yourself, you won’t regret it. 

Til the Spire!