Sue Holland -- March 2003 – Walt Disney World (Offsite) / Hilton Head Resort
Note: As Sue spent time at Pleasure Island and in other adult venues on this trip, this report has some information that may not be appropriate for young readers.
DAY 1 FRIDAY MARCH 14, 2003
Who: Sue, DVC Member
Plan: Work, Dinner at Wolfgang Puck's Express, Comedy Warehouse
Actual: I drove to Chris' school so I'd be there when he got out at 3:30, then he drove up to WDW. I called Leesa when we arrived, so she could meet us at Wolfgang Puck's Express for a quick dinner before going to the Comedy Warehouse. I ordered the tortilla soup and the guy went back to the kitchen and returned saying they were all out! Yikes - that's a serious tragedy <g> so I decided a hunger strike was called for. Actually, there was just nothing else I wanted <g>. As I was paying for Chris' chicken fingers and macaroni & cheese he came back to tell me he had some soup on his line, so I ended up getting it after all! The soup was great; the chicken fingers were barely ok; the macaroni & cheese was good.
Leesa had gone ahead to Comedy Warehouse, so Chris & I met her at the back door. Bob & Virginia were there, so I talked to them and Leesa while Chris called his dad on the NexTel. He also put the phone on vibrate mode before we went in, but didn't tell me. Tracy & Tyger were in the line upstairs, so we saw them after they were seated.
The 7:20 cast was Karl, John, Todd, Krista & Chris. Chris directed Krista & Todd in a 1-act play taking place in the Rainforest Café. They were on their first date, Todd was an hour late, Krista was an alcoholic, John came in as their waiter (who is also a nuclear physicist) and they ended up going to Hawaii for 2 months just as the volcano erupted. It was an ok scene. Madrigal was next, which is a structure I like but rarely get to see. They take 4 made up tabloid headlines, each actor sings one of those titles, then they scramble up the words to create new titles. Tonight Todd had "Grasshoppers eat Washington", Chris had "Sadaam has a tail", Karl had "Elvis gives birth to 2-headed alien" and John had "Michael Jackson has 1000 plastic surgeries."
They did Scene Freeze, with suggestions of veterinarian, bicycle, t-shirt, hippopotamus. Unfortunately my phone had vibrated, nearly scaring the crap out of me since I didn't realize it was on that setting! I checked, saw it was Tim, and ignored it. Soon it vibrated again, and thinking it might be important I missed this structure because I was in the restroom finding out that Tim hadn't meant to contact me - grrr. What little bit I saw at the end seemed funny, but I missed almost the whole thing. Chris & I chatted with Christine on the way out - she thought Chris was in college <g>.
Back inside we saw Mark from Boston, who is a regular who comes down several times a year. He saw us & came over, so we talked until the next show started. The 8:15 cast was Karl, Todd, John, Chris & Rich. They opened with a poem "My libido is bigger than your libido". It was ok, but there's not much they could do on a Disney stage with that title <g>. Next was Emotions, which I always love. Tonight Rich & John (the newest guys) were the 2 actors creating a scene as the decoration on top of a wedding cake. At one point one of them messed up and responded to the emotions called by both callers (instead of just the person calling for him), but they recovered. Overall it wasn't that great for an Emotions structure, but it was definitely the best part of this show. Chris came out next and sang a western song called "The old bike." They also played Up Your Alley about archeology. Chris was the host Lois Common Denominator. Karl was an apeman named Ook who was the missing link. Todd was Rick, a manager at the McDonald's on Sandlake Rd, who found a dinosaur bone chip in a burger. Rich was Simon the archangel.
After the show Todd came over and we talked to him until the next show. I mentioned someone had played a character named Todd X (with X being Todd's real last name) in a recent Schmeopardy, and it was a spoof of him. He got a kick out of it, and wanted to know who had done it (Greg) and then he shocked us all by saying a curse word! Granted, it was a mild curse word, but coming from Todd anything stronger than "darn" is a shocker, lol! He was completely kidding around - the curse was for shock value & nothing more - and it worked! Tracy & Tyger left for home, and soon the next batch of guests was let in.
Mark from Boston was seated in the row behind us, and came down to talk again. He brought the cast a Starbucks apron last night, so if you see a Starbucks apron worn in a show, it's courtesy of Mark (he works for them). Before the show Philip will often make an announcement from backstage, and tonight he said in his announcer voice - "Ladies and gentlemen, What's that horrible smell? It's YOU." LOL! Later some people were doing the wave in the audience (groan - I HATE that thing) and Philip announced "Ladies and gentlemen - It's official - The wave is the stupidest thing in the world." I loved it <g>!
The 9:15 cast was Philip, Krista, Rich, Chris & John. They did Song Cue, with Krista & Philip as a couple having to paint the fence in their backyard to satisfy their homeowner's association. They did "Equality, remember?" as an opera song, "You missed a spot" as a polka, and "I just don't get these people" as a gregorian chant. Surprisingly, although I normally hate gregorian chant this one was very funny!
They did Cliché next, torturing Rich in a spacehip headed to Mars. He had to guess "French rifle for sale; never fired; only dropped once." He got the first part easily, but then struggled with the rest - in a good, funny way. The clues were good, and it was a lot of fun. When the show ended Mark came over to say goodbye since he was leaving. If only he'd stuck around - he'd asked what Layden was doing these days but I told him I hadn't seen him in a while & wasn't sure. Mark missed the chance to see Layden tonight - he's always been a big Layden fan.
We were getting ready to leave and I saw these 2 leprechauns come in the side door - fully outfitted in the green leprechaun costume, beard, etc. My initial reaction was along the line of "oh my god, look at those freaks in leprechaun costumes" and then Chris said the one nearest to us looked like Layden. LOL - I did recognize his voice when I heard him, and sure enough it was him! The other leprechaun was Jake. Layden came over and asked if I'd ever used google to run a search on his whole name (first & last), which seemed like an odd question. Evidently he did, and one of the things that came up was a report someone had written about going to see Fairy Tales last year - he wondered if that was me. He recited parts of it, and I couldn't help but laugh because it WAS me, and the stuff he remembered was pretty funny. We talked for quite a while, and he loved Chris' Comedy Warehouse shirt (Adie & Lisa - can we print another one?) He also talked quite a bit about SAK Comedy Theater downtown, and suggested I check to see if he's working and then come down some weekend when I'm in town. He's been working Thursday, Friday & Saturday nights there. Just last weekend I'd been talking about SAK with Tracy & Tyger, so we'll definitely have to go one of these times. Anyway, it was a really nice visit with Layden, but soon it was time for him to get backstage and time for us to leave PI. I'll put a picture of him as a leprechaun with Chris & me in the Ofoto albums.
Chris drove us back to Leesa's, where Leesa went online and did a Google search on Layden's name. The first match was my report of Greg's birthday/going away party - and everywhere Layden's first or last name was mentioned was highlighted. I've never really searched for anyone before, but you could spend hours doing that!
Chris took a shower, listened to some cd's and went to bed. I finished up the report and got online for a short while. Today ended up being a great day (night). The shows were not as strong as they used to be on a Friday night, but with a bunch of subs and some new people they need to really fill in the gaps with some of the stronger regular performers. Rich did a good job tonight again, and I think he's definitely a good addition. John was also very funny at times - it's clear he's very talented, but sometimes when he's soliciting information he's a bit harsh/rough. Hopefully with time that will improve - many of the best ones had a somewhat rocky start.
Tomorrow we'll finally get to Hilton Head!
DAY 2 SATURDAY MARCH 15, 2003
Plan: Meet Sheila & Colin, drive to Hilton Head, check in Quality Inn, Atlanta Bread
Actual: I got up around 7, got Chris up at 8, and Sheila/Colin arrived by 8:15. We loaded up and were on the road by 8:30. We should have arrived at Hilton Head around 1:30 but thanks to the horrible traffic and periods of sitting on I-95 without moving, it was 4pm by the time we got here - a very long 150 minutes longer than normal! At one point in Georgia as I-95 was a parking lot, some of the many spring breakers returning up north were getting restless. One guy got out of his car and jogged along side between his car and ours - and he beat us, lol! We eventually left the highway for about 20 miles otherwise the trip would have taken even longer. It's giving me reason to rethink plans to return for spring break next year. As much as I love Hilton Head, the drive to Ft Lauderdale to hop on a cruise ship is just so much easier!
Once on the Island we found the Quality Inn easily. It's not far onto the island, directly across the street from the Walmart (gives you an idea about the neighborhood - this would be the Hilton Head version of a slum <g>). Sheila knows somebody through work who got her these rooms for $25 each - so it was a no-brainer for one night. We both agreed we'd never book a vacation here, but for a place to sleep for one night it meets our needs just fine. Each room has 2 double beds, coffee maker, microwave, refrigerator, safe, small table with 2 chairs, and a desk. It's clean and quiet, but definitely a cheap motel room. I'd say it's worth up to about $50/night if this is the type of place you choose to stay at.
After settling into our rooms we drove across the street and had an early dinner at the Atlanta Bread Company in the Publix shopping center across from Walmart. The others had never been to an Atlanta Bread before, but they all seemed to enjoy their food. Colin got a large caesar salad, Sheila got the southwestern chicken soup and ½ of a turkey sandwich, Chris got the ½ roast beef sandwich & ½ caesar salad, and I got the ½ veggie sandwich. We were pretty stuffed when we left there.
Our next stop was the outlet mall, to visit the Disney store - called Character Corner. It had a lot of the same merchandise I saw at Character Premiere in Ft Lauderdale a few weeks ago, and at Premium Outlets outside WDW. We didn't get anything, but it was worth going over to look. The boys wandered around and Chris bought a couple of cd's he'd been looking for, then Sheila & I bought a snack at the candy store. It was getting cold outside - the weatherman said the wind chill was in the 40's at 6:15! The temperature was warmer, but it felt cold.
Coming back from the outlets I commented that since we're not at Disney it doesn't feel like we're at Hilton Head yet, and Sheila agreed. Tomorrow will be the real start of the vacation - today was the HELL we had to go through to get here <g>. Sheila dropped me off at the motel and the rest of them went to Walmart. We agreed to meet at 10:00 tomorrow morning, so it will be a nice lazy night & morning. Even though I was just a passenger, the trip up was exhausting so I'm looking forward to doing nothing for the next 15 hours or so!
DAY 3 SUNDAY MARCH 16, 2003
Plan: Check in to Grand Villa, rent bikes, buy groceries, get settled
Actual: I got up around 7:30 and got Chris up shortly after 9. Sheila's clock was set a half hour early (oops), but we were able to get ready sooner also. I talked to Nancy online - hopefully she & Clinta will have an easier drive than we did! I also got pretty well caught up on the boards, email and with Greg's life in New York City. Finally about 9:45 we were out the door.
The weather is looking better later in the week. Today will be cloudy, Monday looks rainy, but Tuesday through Thursday looks mostly sunny & warm enough to lay at the beach house pool! Before we went too far there was a stop I needed to make - I asked Sheila if we could please stop at Walmart. No, I haven't been smoking crack cocaine, and yes I still despise the place, but Chris forgot to pack his belt and his pants kept falling down. Walmart was right across the street from the Quality Inn, and I figured it might be the only place open on a Sunday morning. To be fair, it wasn't a bad Walmart (some are positively frightful), although we found typical shoddy service in there. Oh well - we got Chris his belt and hopefully won't have any reason to return there.
We drove to the Hilton Head Diner, which was doing a booming business. I went in to put my name on the list while Sheila and the boys looked for a parking spot. The wait was only 5-10 minutes, which wasn't bad at all. This place has good food, reasonable prices, large portions, and a great bakery case. Today they had a magician going around to the tables, and since we had an extra chair he sat down and joined us for a while. He did a card trick and told a few jokes - very nice, funny man. We couldn't figure out how he did his trick - he was very good. He also showed us his wallet, then set it on fire - that was easier to figure out <g>. The magician is here on Sundays only, so if you get the chance, stop in on that day. He makes the rounds to all the tables and it was more fun than I expected it would be.
We all ordered breakfast - I got the french toast made with challah bread, which is my favorite here. Chris got the HH Special, which is 2 eggs, bacon, grits & 2 pancakes. He also got a huge glass of chocolate milk (felt like we were at 7-11 ordering a Big Gulp, lol). Colin got bacon & eggs with toast and home fries. Sheila got the neopolitan omelet, which had tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. Everything was very good - the check for Chris & me was just over $12 but I added a cinnamon cigar pastry on the way out.
We then had a very short drive to the Disney resort - ahhh, home at last! We went inside and were thrilled to find our grand villa was READY!!! Not only that, of the 5 grand villas there is 1 that like much better than the others, and that's the one we got - building 18 with a marsh view. Pamela checked us in, and was very friendly and nice. She didn't explain everything because she knew we'd been here before, so the process went fairly quickly. I asked if she knew what time the Private Affair dinner was, and she said we'd need to ask Chef Gordon.
We drove around to park the car permanently and unloaded all of our stuff onto one of the nice wooden carts. I quickly took pictures of the inside of the grand villa before we got all moved in! Pretty soon the phone rang & it was Pam from the front desk making sure everything was ok - that's always a nice touch. The villa was perfect - even nicer than I'd remembered them to be. There is a 4th full bathroom, so Chris doesn't have to use mine at all. My bathroom is the size of my kitchen in Ft Myers, lol, with 2 separate rooms. I've also got a separate porch off my bedroom, in addition to the long porch that is outside the living room and dining room. My porch has 2 rocking chairs & a small table, while the longer one has 2 rocking chairs and the picnic table. Sheila & I decided they were going to have to throw us out of here on Friday!
We unpacked, and Chris called to have some firewood (complimentary) delivered. Sheila and I went out on the big porch to review the recreation schedule and identify which activities we'd sign up for today. The phone rang - it was Pam again, telling us Gordon had stopped by and said our dinner would be at 6:30 but he'd call me before then. He's not working today. I thought that was really nice of her to remember about our dinner time! We went back to looking over the schedule and the doorbell rang. This time it was a cm from recreation, delivering a basket full of cookies with a note taped on it from Gordon! He'd made a batch of my favorite cranberry walnut (I don't think he knows they're my favorite) cookies - and shaped them into Mickey Mouse heads! It was so cute, and everyone was looking forward to eating them. His note included "Welcome Home", the official dvc greeting. I have to admit the cm's at Hilton Head really outshine the ones at the other dvc resorts, and always have. Perhaps it's the fact that the resort is so small, they can provide more personalized service to the guests. It's really nice, whatever the reason.
As if things weren't going well enough as it was, I looked outside and saw the sun shining! It actually cleared up and was a gorgeous afternoon despite the weather forecast. We decided to go do our recreation sign-ups and rent our bikes, so we walked to the pool area. We signed the boys up for Ultimate Frisbee on Monday, Teens Night Out on Tuesday, and the Teens Nature Kayaking Trip on Thursday. We signed the adults up for the Beach Nature Walk on Monday, Gordon had already signed us up for the Longview Cooking Club Member Micks "Ear" (wine & hors d'oeuvres with dvc members) on Wednesday. We may sign up for more after Nancy & Clinta arrive and have a chance to look at the schedule. We got all 6 bikes now, too - since we weren't sure Nancy & Clinta would arrive before the window closed at 5.
We went back to the villa, and the boys left to play pool. There was another knock on the door and this time it was our firewood. They left a huge pile outside the door and gave me a full package of starter logs. The boys will be thrilled! Sheila & I decided to share one of Gordon's cookies - to our surprise they were still warm!! It's his day off, yet he baked and delivered us cookies - wow!
Sheila & I walked around the resort, caught up with the boys playing pool, then walked over to Shelter Cove Harbour. The boys rode down to the Beach House, and later Sheila & I rode the resort van down there and walked on the beach for a while. We got back around 3, just in time for the cranberry walnut cookies in the den, where the boys were playing pool again. I headed back to the villa and updated the report, and Sheila came back shortly.
We spent the rest of the afternoon online, working on a change to our June cruise on Holland America Line (HAL). I'd read last night about a special promotion code for our ship, our date, with fantastic savings. I wrote to the travel agency, but hadn't heard back yet so I called them. It turns out customer service is closed on Sunday, but the agent who answered called HAL to check on the promotion. She came back and said HAL was going to give it to us - YAY!! Our final payment was due tomorrow, so we were just under the wire to get the savings. I ended up with a full suite - over 500 square feet, concierge lounge/service, free laundry & dry cleaning, large verandah - and it will cost me $100 or so LESS than the ordinary verandah cabin I'd booked (half the size, no concierge). In Sheila's case she was able to upgrade 9 categories for about $100 or so less than she was paying. She's in the smaller suite ("only" almost 400 square feet <g> vs her original less than 200 sq ft cabin). We were thrilled, to say the least! We spent time online researching the different cabin floorplans, and seeing where our new cabins would be. We both have a full whirlpool tub with shower plus a 2nd shower stall in our bathrooms - I've never cruised like that! Last year when we were here we were online researching breast cancer treatments and tamoxifen, and reading about the cruise is a whole lot more fun!
Nancy called - they were almost on the island. We arranged to meet them at Atlanta Bread since it was closing in an hour. We got the boys and made the drive to Atlanta Bread, arriving just as Nancy & Clinta were walking across the parking lot. Everyone enjoyed their food. Chris got one of the heath mocha frozen coffee drinks and a chicken caesar salad, while I got the tomato soup and ½ veggie sandwich. After everyone finished eating we went grocery shopping at Publix to pick up supplies for the week. Nancy & Clinta are cooking Thursday night, plus we needed breakfast and snack food.
I rode back to the resort with Clinta, while Nancy rode with Sheila & the boys. We got back at the same time and stopped at Live Oak Lodge, where Nancy & I went in to pick up her keys and Clinta followed Sheila around to our parking area. The friendly cm Dave found the keys quickly, and it turns out he knows Clinta. Dave did the college program 5 times, and knows Clinta from the 4 internships done at WDW. I showed Nancy Big Murgie's Den, then we walked back to the villa.
She really liked the grand villa! I gave her the tour, then we put away the groceries and got settled a bit. There is plenty of room for everyone, and it's such a nice place. At some point after 7 we walked over to the campfire program, which was in full swing. It was also mobbed, as it always is - they really need to expand this area. Most people have to stand, because there is not nearly enough seating. We went upstairs and watched the campfire antics for a while, then stood around talking until it was time for s'mores. Nancy & I were the only ones who got them tonight, and we toasted our marshmallows in the campfire once the crowd had thinned out.
We walked back to the villa and sat around the living room talking. When the boys came back they started a fire in the fireplace, but then went upstairs to play video games and the fire ended up burning out. We also learned that the 2 teen girls staying in the unit directly below us are "really hot". Sheila noticed them checking Chris & Colin out earlier <g>.
A little before 10 I went to my room to finish the report and catch up online, while the others stayed up in the living room. Today was an incredibly perfect day from start to finish - way beyond what I'd expected. The weather turned out great, our villa was ready when we arrived, the villa is absolutely gorgeous, Nancy & Clinta had an easy drive up, and we got that unbelievable HAL cruise upgrade! Oh yes - I stepped foot in a Walmart and survived <g>. I'm not sure tomorrow can possibly be as great as today, but I'm sure it'll still be wonderful.
Tomorrow assuming the weather is nice we will do the Nature Beach Walk in the afternoon, and eat at Big Bamboo Café for an early dinner.
DAY 4 MONDAY MARCH 17, 2003
Plan: Ride bikes, Beach
Actual: At Hilton Head there's no need for an alarm, so I slept until I woke up on my own at 8. It was raining and the current forecast called for 80% chance of rain all day until about midnight, so I guess we won't be as lucky with the weather today! I showered and got online, giving the others time to get up and start coming downstairs.
Pretty soon everyone was up, sitting around talking over breakfast. Eventually we decided to head out despite the rain. We dropped the boys off at Live Oak Lodge to play pool, and the adults went for a drive. We stopped at a cute bookstore where everyone bought a book to read (except me - I brought one from home), then stopped at a travel agency to pick up another copy of the HAL cruise brochure. On the way back we stopped at the Beach House, which was pretty quiet today! We looked around, then returned to the villa. The boys had a fire going and were playing a video game (not allowed in the living room, so they had to move it when we got home). Everyone just relaxed, doing whatever they felt like - napping, reading, snacking, etc.
Just before 1pm we walked over to the Mercantile to meet the tour, but found out it had been canceled due to the weather. They left a message on the phone, but since I hadn't taken the laptop offline we didn't see that there was a message. Nancy & Clinta checked into some kayak rentals (not Disney) with the help of a recreation cm, and we all got St Patrick's Day leis and a foil wrapped chocolate coin. When that was done we went back to the villa and hung out for a while.
Later I went over to the fitness center and used the treadmill for 35 minutes - nobody else felt like going. The boys came back from Ultimate Frisbee at the Beach House, which had also been canceled - but due to the wind. They were soaked, so Sheila threw a load of laundry in the washing machine. Before 3pm we walked over to Big Murgie's Den and ran into the new general manager (Ralph) outside. I introduced myself and we all talked for a while before going inside. The cookies came out shortly, and there was also hot apple cider today instead of lemonade. I let Chris beat me at a game of pool, while the others sat in the den watching tv. Pretty soon I returned to the villa for General Hospital, and Nancy joined me. The others came back as well, and were puttering around the villa.
Around 5 we left for Big Bamboo Café. Nancy & Clinta really liked the atmosphere, and the menu. I noticed Layden's nametag is missing now - only the other 2 are still there. We were seated right away and had a waitress who did a good job. Chris got his usual - the salmon and NY strip steak with salad and dessert early bird dinner. Sheila got the same. Clinta got a salad and the grouper sandwich, and said it was excellent. He also got a piece of key lime pie to take back to the villa, and he tried one of their dark beers. Nancy got the baked stuffed sole early bird dinner, Colin got a huge plate of nachos and I got a glass of wine and the soft pretzels. I'd seen the pretzels on the menu from day 1, but was never able to order it because I couldn't eat that plus a dinner. Tonight I decided to give it a try. It was 2 soft pretzels with some honey-mustard sauce for dipping. One was plenty, so most of the 2nd one came home with us - along with the 3 early bird desserts (chocolate cake). We were all stuffed, and the check only came to about $84-85 for the 6 of us. Everyone's food was great - the restaurant was a big hit!
We stopped at Piggly Wiggly briefly before returning to the villa. The boys went over to play pool and the adults went for a brisk walk to the end of Shelter Cove Harbour and back. There was a full moon, and it had stopped raining at last! After our walk Clinta went to sit in the jacuzzi while Sheila, Nancy & I sat around talking in the living room. By 9:30 we'd all gone to our rooms, ready to call it a night!
The weather today has really sucked. It has either poured, drizzled, or been cloudy and about to rain <g>. Hopefully the worst has passed and it'll be ok until the next batch of rain arrives in 2 days! We didn't follow the plan, but we had a great day - very relaxing. I'm glad Nancy & Clinta like the resort, despite the weather!
DAY 5 TUESDAY MARCH 18, 2003
Plan: Ride bikes, beach, Private Affair
Actual: During the night it rained really hard - but by morning it had stopped. Everything was soaking wet outside, though, which means biking or rollerblading was out of the question for a while. I was up around 7 and found Sheila had been up baking a couple of loaves of cranberry walnut bread. Chris of course sleeps through it all <g>. I showered and dressed, ate a piece of the cranberry bread (yummy), and made a big cup of cappuccino. There was a message from Gordon confirming our dinner - that should be fun!
After everyone was up and had eaten breakfast we headed out. The boys were bike riding and playing pool. The adults went rode the bikes over to the Beach House, and then walked on the beach for about 2 hours (down to the rocks where the Beach Nature Walk takes place). It was overcast but not raining, which kept it fairly cool. The time passed quickly, and we enjoyed looking at the beautiful beach-front homes as we passed.
Back at the Beach House we thought about eating at Signals but decided to return to Tide Me Over at the main resort instead. We made a detour so I could take a picture of the resort from across the waterway, then parked our bikes outside our villa. Chris was finishing his leftover salmon & mashed potatoes from last night, but he joined us for a 2nd lunch at Tide Me Over. I heated what was left of my pretzel and took that with me, while Sheila turned her leftover strip steak into a steak sandwich and brought that along.
Chris got a delicious banana smoothie and a really great fried chicken caesar salad. Colin had been eating one of these every day, and now I understand why. Nancy & Clinta shared one of the chicken caesars and a turkey wrap, along with a soda and a raspberry smoothie. They were impressed with the food, and we'll probably eat here again tomorrow.
After lunch Chris & I rode our bikes to the HH Diner and got another cinnamon twist for me and a huge chocolate éclair for him. Chris stopped to play pool on the way back, then came home to change and go to the pool. At 3 Sheila & I walked over to Live Oak Lodge for the cranberry walnut cookies. It was mobbed over there - a dad was playing pool with 3 too-young children and the den was full of families playing board games. We got our cookies and left immediately - it was not nice and peaceful at all, lol! Sheila decided to go to the hot tub, and I spent time online and watching General Hospital.
Around 5 Sheila & I went to bribe the cm's with cash to take Chris & Colin off our hands tonight (Teen's Night Out), then we returned to the villa. We were standing around the kitchen talking when Sheila noticed the sand dollar she'd picked up on the beach this morning appeared to be alive. When we were on the beach she looked at it for signs of life for quite a while before deciding to take it! Now that she saw it was alive, she needed to return it, so she went to the pier and set it free.
We left for the Beach House around 6:10 and arrived shortly before 6:30. Signals did not look like a counter service place anymore - Gordon had set a table for 4 with tablecloths, candlelight, and had nice music playing. It looked great! I introduced Gordon to the others, and we took our seats. Throughout the entire evening, Gordon was fantastic! He's an excellent chef - the food was superb, perfectly prepared, and he's such a nice guy, too. I thanked him for the cookies he'd sent, still surprised he remembered me from last year.
We started with wine - Nancy & I chose a sauvignon blanc that was excellent, Clinta had a merlot and Sheila had a port. For appetizers Nancy had the crab cake, and she raved about it - it truly looked & smelled wonderful, and I hate crab! Sheila got the crab soup/bisque and it was in a huge bowl and also wonderful. Clinta & I had the french onion soup - omigod we've never had onion soup that good! It was not salty at all, and had such a great flavor - but it was in such a huge bowl it would have been 2 meals for me! Nancy tried some of it, and declared it excellent as well.
For dinner we each had a different entrée, all prepared by Gordon in our presence. Clinta's filet mignon was melt-in-your-mouth good, and consisted of 2 filets. I tried a bite, and it was incredible. Nancy got the grouper, and it was also excellent. Sheila got the tilapia, which she enjoyed (I didn't try this), and I got the most fabulous pork tenderloins with pecan rice pilaf and onion confit (didn't touch the green beans). Wow - it was amazing, and I surprised everyone with how much I ate. We were in for a surprise though - the best was yet to come.
Before dessert, Gordon poured champagne for everyone - we all drank it except for Sheila, who doesn't really care for champagne. It was good stuff! For dessert Sheila loved her white chocolate raspberry cheesecake, but I didn't care for it. Clinta got the caramel vanilla flan, which I thought was ok - but since I don't like flan, "ok" is high praise <g>. Nancy & I got the pots-de-crème, which I wasn't sure about when ordering but it turned out to be worth the cost of the dinner! Oh my god - talk about food worth selling your soul for! We dubbed it a chocogasm - Nancy & I both had chocogasms at the table, on either side of Clinta! This dessert was soooooooo good - it's indescribable, and when it comes to chocolate I'm not that easy to impress. Nancy, being a chef herself, is probably even tougher to impress, but she raved about this meal from start to finish!
We cannot possibly recommend this meal higher to anyone coming for a visit. Ideally, your party should be no more than 4-6 people. I think beyond that, the experience will suffer because Gordon will have to rely on someone else to assist and it's just not as intimate with so many people. We rolled out of there, most of us with some leftovers wrapped "to go". We thanked Gordon for a fabulous meal, and drove back to the villas.
Nancy & I had each taken back most of our dessert, and used masking tape to seal the containers shut and wrote threatening messages on the tape with permanent marker - basically warning anyone that touched this that they would DIE. Chris came home to change into long pants - evidently the teen's night out was mostly 13-14 year olds, so it wasn't the greatest for him, but he was headed out again. We decided we might open one of the 3 bottles of wine we had not touched yet this trip <g>, and went off to get into more comfortable clothes. I wore my new Sorcery Mickey jammies for the first time.
I started a fire in the fireplace and the 4 adults sat around talking with a glass of wine. It was after 11:30 before we called it a night. Today was so terrific - being outside biking and walking on the beach with friends was fun, and the dinner tonight surpassed all of our expectations! Hopefully we'll do it again some year soon!
DAY 6 WEDNESDAY MARCH 19, 2003
Plan: Ride bikes, Beach, DVC Member Event
Actual: It might have been the wines and champagne, but I went to bed at 1 and couldn't get to sleep until after 2. Then, I was awakened at 5 by a big thunder/lightning storm. Finally at 8 I got up for good. After I showered I found Nancy & Sheila out on the big porch. Chris woke up early because he was meeting someone for pool this morning at 9:30. He ate his chocolate éclair (most of it - it's the size of a sub sandwich) for breakfast and left for Live Oak Lodge. Nancy & Sheila were making bacon, eggs, toast, and we cooked cinnamon rolls as well. Breakfast was great, and the villa smelled terrific!
After breakfast Clinta ended up going back to bed, the boys each headed off in their own direction, and the rest of us hung around the villa for a little while. I'd put in a load of laundry before breakfast, and finished that up. Sheila put in a load after breakfast and when it was done washing she & I went out for a bike ride. Nancy walked over to Shelter Cove to look in the shops there, figuring we'd all meet up again around 1pm or so today.
Housekeeping came to do the trash & towel, and it was nice to get that out of the way early. Sheila and I rode our bikes for about 3 miles, but the wind made it kind of tough so we didn't go further. We ran into Chris on the way back - he was headed to the Beach House to swim. Sheila & I browsed in the shops at Shelter Cove, and I bought a small print for home. We were back in the villa around 12:30, so I got online and watched Port Charles.
We went to meet everyone at the Mercantile just before 2. Bryan the naturalist was checking people in (Dottie, he was happy to hear you'd sent your greeting) - although 28 signed up, there were only about half as many who showed up (or less). We went by van to Burke's Beach, which is about 3 miles from the resort. Every time we do this Beach Nature Walk it's very cold, and today although it was just cool, the wind was incredibly strong! Once we got past the dunes it was hard to keep from being blown over. Another internet reader came over and introduced herself - Judy. I remembered meeting her when she first introduced herself while we were in line at Comedy Warehouse quite a while ago - she's really nice, and we had a little more time to chat this time. She'll be at the Members' social tonight, too. Everyone on the tour was really nice, and people chatted with each other instead of keeping to themselves. We had a couple of little kids and they were well-behaved also.
Bryan found lots of live specimans of different sea creatures, including sand dollars, welks, and crabs. He explained a lot, and it was very interesting. I found a really big shell that was already dead, so I got to keep it. After about 1.5 hours people were ready to head back - the wind and blowing sand was becoming a pain in the butt! We rode back to the resort and shared the last cranberry walnut cookie 3 ways, lol! Back at the villa we warmed up and cleaned the sand & salt off before going to the social.
We left for the Beach House about 4:45, not wanting to be late for the 5pm wine and hors d'ouevres with Gordon. Chris had met Gordon today at Signals and had quite a conversation with him about the dinner last night and my food pickiness <g>. Gordon is such a nice person - a definite role model for all cast members.
There were already quite a few people present, so we signed in, paid our fee ($15/person) and got our first glass of wine. They had different cheeses and crackers, chips and salsas, a couple baskets of pins (VWL and WDW 2002), and 2 trivia questions. One was the exact date HH opened - I had no clue, so I didn't answer. The other was to put the 6 dvc resorts in order based on when they opened. I'm pretty sure I messed that one up - mixing up HH and BWV. There was a cm pouring wine and pink lemonade, and Gordon was there ending to the food. He brought out shrimp that a lot of people liked, and then some bruschetta that was also excellent.
We talked to each other and some other people. Judy was there, along with a Nancy who'd been on the nature walk this afternoon. I also met a Bernie & Chris who were really nice, and a guest of dvc members. We had a streetmosphere character - Annabelle May Merriweather. As he story goes, Gordon used to be her chef, but since he's moved to Disney she hasn't had a decent meal. We had fun with her - talking about makeup, jewelry, and all the girly girl stuff <g>. She was a true southern diva, and just so happened to be the recreation cm who swapped our bikes out for us the other day, lol! We talked to Gordon quite a bit as well, and continue to be impressed with him. His memory is absolutely amazing - he remembers specific things I said to him a year ago when I was just one of many guests here.
Gordon made delicious chicken satay, with all white breast meat instead of that nasty dark thigh meat. Nancy positioned herself next to Gordon's table, so she was the first to grab what was cooked and pass it over to me <g>. Thanks, Nancy! It was fabulous - although the chocogasm is better than the chicken sataygasm <g>.
They did the trivia contest winners, and just before the drawing I'd told Sheila to get a card and I'd give her the answers for the dvc resort opening order question - well, her entry was the first one picked and since it was correct she won! She won 4 HH coasters and free soda coupons. She initially gave 2 to me, then took 1 back so each of the 4 of us could have 1. The HH opening date question was won by Judy - it opened March 1, 1996. Judy won 2 HH luggage tags and 2 coupons for free admission to any Longview Cooking Club event (Gordon's stuff) except for Private Affair. She gave me 1 of the luggage tags, which was really nice of her - thank you, Judy!
By 6:30 the party was winding down. We talked to Gordon outside for a while and said our goodbyes. I thanked him for all he'd done - we really enjoyed our dinner, and he was definitely the highlight of this trip for all of us.
We drove back to the villa and met the boys. Colin wanted chicken wings from a place we'd gone to last year, so he & Sheila went there. It has no non-smoking area, so there's no way I'd be there on a cool night when they wouldn't have the garage doors open to let the outside air in. Chris wanted Fuddruckers, so Nancy, Clinta, Chris & I went there. Nancy & Clinta got burgers and shakes - Nancy got one big enough that she had leftovers for tomorrow. Chris got the burger, fries & pie combo - a 2/3 pound burger! I ate a sliver of his burger and some of his fries - everything here is delicious. We got back to the villa before Sheila & Colin, since we didn't have as far to travel.
Clinta went to the hot tub, and Chris joined him a little later. Nancy & I ate some of our choco-gasm from last night - omigod, there is nothing better than this <g>. The ladies watched tv for a while, then headed in separate directions around 9pm or so. The room keys had all stopped working, so Chris took them to the front desk to get the problem fixed.
It was another great day at Hilton Head! The rain stayed away, and although the nature walk was extremely windy, it was also fun & informative. The DVC members' social with Gordon was excellent - Nancy commented that she'd met several really nice people (typical dvc members <g>). We're having such a relaxing, nice time at this beautiful resort.
Tonight rain is expected, and we're under a tornado warning until 11pm. Tomorrow looks real questionable in terms of weather, but we'll hope for the best.
DAY 7 THURSDAY MARCH 20, 2003
Plan: Ride bikes, Beach
Actual: I was up before 8, to a very gloomy day. A check of the weather channel revealed it was not expected to get any better, with either light rain or strong thunderstorms predicted all day and night. Damn! The tornado watch has been extended until 3pm, and the flood watch until midnight. Looks like we won't be doing much outdoors today.
I went out to the kitchen when I heard Sheila get up, and then we were joined by Nancy. We had breakfast in the dining room one last time. Nancy was planning to stay in today, and will be cooking dinner tonight. She & Clinta were going to try a kayaking trip, but not in weather like this. Sheila & I talked about walking on the beach, but that was before it started to rain.
Chris got up, showered, had breakfast, and then called for more firewood to be delivered. Sheila, Chris & I went over to Live Oak Lodge to settle the bill thus far, and the cm was just finishing with out firewood when we returned. We decided to do the walk on the beach regardless of the weather, so Sheila & I drove to the Beach House. Chris rode over on his bike and met us on the beach.
We walked towards Coligny, but only stayed out about an hour. The thunder was getting louder and more frequent, and the rain was heavy at times. Chris gave up and returned before us. It seemed like as soon as turned around to go back, the weather cleared ahead of us - we walked back in sunshine! Earlier Bryan the naturalist had called to say the teen kayak trip was canceled, but now he contacted Chris to say they were going to do it after all. Colin decided to skip it, but Chris will be going.
Sheila & I returned to the villa, and ate lunch (leftovers) with Nancy. I tried getting online, but I'm still having access problems (since last night). Luckily the second try worked! We went over to the recreation window to pay for Chris' kayak excursion and buy him lunch at Tide Me Over, then Sheila & I went out to get gas, pick up some stuff at Piggly Wiggly, and then walked through the mall. The sunny blue sky turned dark & ominous in the blink of an eye - and the it got cooler at the same time. By 3pm it was pouring, thundering and lightning outside. Chris' excursion got cut a little short, and he was soaked when he returned. Nancy & Clinta had gone out bike riding and also got caught in the rain, but were back before the downpour.
Chris changed and headed out to play pool, while the adults hung around the villa. I started another fire in the fireplace, and the weather cleared up again. We started packing up the excess stuff in the kitchen, and Nancy began preparing dinner. I went out for a walk and worked out in the fitness center, returning just after 5:30. Between the fire in the fireplace and Nancy & Clinta's cooking in the kitchen - WOW did that villa smell great!!
We're having tomato/mozzarella salad, pork tenderloin, real mashed potatoes, some green bean thing nobody expects me to eat, and homemade custard with fresh strawberries for dessert. We've got lots of wine, and they're even making onion confit like Chef Gordon <g>.
Everything at dinner was excellent, and we had a great meal. Afterwards Chris went mini-golfing with a friend and Colin went to meet one of his friends. Although the boys came together, they really don't have enough similar interests to spend much time together, so they each go their own way on vacation. The adults sat around finishing the wine, then Clinta & I went out for a walk through Shelter Cove. When we returned we ate the custard with sliced strawberries - wow, that was really good too.
Even though the weather really sucked for most of the day, it was another wonderful day here. We relaxed, got a little exercise, and just took it easy. Chris enjoyed his kayak outing, and the dinner Nancy & Clinta prepared was rivaled only by Chef Gordon himself. I heartily recommend traveling with your own personal chef team <g>.
Tomorrow we have to leave, but at least I've got a night at the Comedy Warehouse to look forward to. I'll just hope there are some good people working, and not a bunch of subs.
DAY 8 FRIDAY MARCH 21, 2003
Plan: Return to Leesa's, dinner Atlanta Bread, Comedy Warehouse
Actual: I got up at 6:30, and Sheila was evidently up early as well. After showering I could hear her taking stuff out to the car. We'd planned to leave by 8, and we were ready about 15 minutes early. On the way off the island we stopped at Atlanta Bread to buy bagels for Tim and to get some for breakfast. Sheila & I each got a bagel, while the boys got breakfast sandwiches. As we were just about to the interstate (about 1 hour of driving) we realized Chris had left his wallet on top of the armoire in my bedroom. I was furious with him, when his explanation was that he figured I would get it for him. Excuse me, but if that's the case don't put the damn thing on top of a piece of furniture that's taller than me! Ugh.
We went back to the resort, got his wallet, and were on the road again by 9. With a few traffic slowdowns we got to Leesa's just after 3 - still worse than the 5 hours it should take. I'm thinking next year I'll need to do some driving before dawn to cover some ground before the traffic builds up. We unloaded our stuff from Sheila's car, and said goodbye to her & Colin. We hung out with Leesa the rest of the afternoon, and left for Atlanta Bread around 4:45.
When Chris started my car the "service" indicator light came on. I HATE car stuff, or anything else I don't care to understand, so I was having a fit not knowing if the car was about to blow up or not <g>. The manual made it sound like I wasn't sure to destroy the engine if we drove it a bit, and it was possible the problem would clear up on it's own if the electrical system was just wet. We went to the library, to the gas station, and then to Atlanta Bread. Chris called our local Saturn dealership and got the phone # of the one closest to us up here, then called to see what hours their service dept would be open tomorrow. They're going to try to work me in if I get there at 8am - yuck!
We ordered our dinner - the menu at this Atlanta Bread Co is a bit bigger than at the other 3 locations I've visited. This one includes pizzas and pasta dishes. Things were a little slow - perhaps they're still figuring out what the heck they're doing, but the food was excellent. I ordered the half & half - bowl of tomato with fennel & dill soup and the ½ veggie sandwich. Unfortunately after I ordered and paid they realized they were out of that soup, and there was nothing else I wanted, so they refunded that portion of the meal. Chris got a ½ honey maple ham sandwich and a caesar salad. Leesa got a turkey sandwich.
When we left Atlanta Bread the indicator light was no longer lit in the car - perhaps it was just a wet electrical system! We drove to Downtown Disney and headed to the Marketplace to look for a Grumpy t-shirt for a trip report reader, but did not find the one she wanted. Grumpy certainly is popular this year, though - there must have been a half dozen or so different Grumpy shirts!
We went back to PI and headed up to see Susan outside the Comedy Warehouse. Tracy & Tyger were in line, so we added them to our passes for the 2nd and 3rd shows. Since I wasn't entirely comfortable with the car situation, we were only going to stay for the first 3. Carol Stein was on the keys tonight.
The 7:20 cast was Philip, Brian, Christine, Jen & Krista. Philip opened the show, and was completely zany and over the top with his facial expressions, movements, and choice of words. It was great though - because he was SO animated it livened up the audience, which makes all the difference at an early show. We were hysterical - Chris loves watching Philip act so crazy! The opening song went really well, and the show was off to a great start! Krista rang the bell in Should Have Said, where Brian was at a sperm bank with Jen. Christine came in as an ugly nurse who was supposed to assist (give him a hand, lol) with making his donation. Philip was a very eager person waiting to be the next donor -one of their most frequent donors. It was very funny, with many lines I imagine the parents who'd brought elementary school-age kids had to explain later, but I was glad they didn't dummy it down because the kids were in the audience.
Next was Forgotten Songs, and they were all excellent. Philip was an Italian opera singer named Jimmy Baggadonuts (bag of donuts) with a wig stuffed in the belley of his shirt, singing "Linty bellybutton." Krista did an excellent drunk Judy Garland singing "Pink Dress" - she sounded just like Garland! Brian, Chris & Jen came out as the welcome wagon hicks singing "Saginaw is my home".
Krista and Jen did storytelling about drinking beer, and this structure might have been ok, but since the rest of the show had been so strong it was a big let-down to me. Luckily the closing number kept the show from ending on a weak note. Christine solicited a story, and got one about an adult lady who was drunk at a party and pooped in her pants. Chris did not want to take it, and luckily got another story that they were able to use. Overall it was a terrific show, with the exception of the Story Telling thing, but then I rarely like that one.
After the show Denise (tinybeetle) from RADP came over & said hi - I'd met her last November at the Fortress dinner in Boma and it was nice to see her again. She got back in line and I talked to Brian about his gig in Ft Myers last weekend - unfortunately I missed it since I was here and in Hilton Head.
The 8:15 cast was Christine, Brian, Philip, Jen & John. Philip directed a 1-act play that took place in a pub in Ireland. Chris was the pub owner, Brian was a cellist who was in love with her but had an illegitimate daughter with a stripper (Jen as Bubbles). The stripper had been run over by a bus driver, who happened to be John. John had washed Brian's cello and it turned into a guitar, then John had to do Riverdance with a limp. John was very strong in this scene - his words and physical actions were all extremely funny! The whole scene was strange, but fun.
They did Up Your Alley about frisbees, hosted by Brian as Sideways Johnson. Philip was Bob Whammo, from the family who invented the frisbee. John was Jason Spaniel, a professional frisbee catcher. Jen was a hair stylist who won the Frizz Bee competition in NJ. It was another very good show! We talked to Jen after the show - she's still leaving in early June, unfortunately.
The 9:15 cast was Matt, Krista, John, Jen & Brian. They opened with the name rhyming game and Krista won. Jen rang the bell in Should Have Said - Krista was a FL jail employee, John was her co-worker, and Matt & Brian were the idiot prisoners who tried to escape but tunneled into Krista's office again. It was short but cute. Next Krista sang a country western song called "I'm getting sick, let's get drunk tonight" with the help of the others as a completely out-of-step chorus line behind her. It was hysterical watching them fail at getting synchronized, and Krista's lyrics were very funny.
They played Schmeopardy, hosted by John as Alec Trebeck. He kind of lost control - the 3 categories were completely ignored and each contested would choose a category not even mentioned, but it was funny. Matt was great as a fat blonde Sally Struthers who offers a certificate program in heating/air conditioning. He kept asking about snacks. Brian was hysterical as Ken Worth, a very flaming gay long distance truck driver who usually said something that had more than 1 meaning. Jen was Phyllis, a nerdy and mousy sociologist who likes to watch people. It was a very bizarre Schmeopardy, but definitely one of the best ones we've seen. It was another great show - it seemed like a real shame to be leaving early when the shows were going so well, but there wasn't any way to predict it. The shows were so much stronger & funnier than last Friday (last Friday's shows were not typical), but we still decided to call it a night. We talked to Jen again on the way out, then left PI.
The car is still fine - so tomorrow I'll call Saturn after they open and tell them I won't be in after all. I'll mention the problem next time it's in for service at home, though. We got back to Leesa's and Chris went to bed on the couch while I finished up the report and got & posted. We plan to be out of here by 7am tomorrow, so I've got most of the weekend to do stuff at home.
Today wasn't that great of a day, but the night was a LOT of fun! I hated leaving Hilton Head, and was not pleased that we had to backtrack because Chris left his wallet behind. The traffic was a pain at times, the car thing scared the crap out of me, but hopefully that's all in the past now and the night was full of laughter and good times shared with friends at the Comedy Warehouse.
DAY 9 SATURDAY MARCH 22, 2003
Plan: Breakfast at Mara, Drive home
Actual: We were up and out the door by 7, with no car problems <g>! We stopped at Atlanta Bread to pick up another couple dozen bagels for Tim and then drove straight to Animal Kingdom Lodge. Mara was not overly busy, so we had a quick but nice breakfast before hitting the road for home. Chris got a bacon & egg wrap, while I got the yogurt/granola thing (plus 1 to bring home). Everything tasted great, and we were ready to get home at that point. We ended up getting home before noon, which is what I'd hoped to do!
I love the DVC resort at Hilton Head, and sharing it with friends is the best way to go for me. Even though the weather was crap much of the time, and I didn't get to do all of the outdoor stuff I'd hoped to do, I still had a great time. The Private Affair dinner with Chef Gordon was so incredibly awesome - I will definitely invite friends again so we can do this! He is such a nice man, too - as everyone who's met him already knows. I'll be doing an article on the dinner for MousePlanet in the next couple of months, along with one on the grand villa. A few pictures are in this trip album but most of them I'm saving for the articles. The url is http://www.ofoto.com/I.jsp?m=6814414102.77241622803&n=1122636204
Sandwiching the Hilton Head time between a couple of nights at the Comedy Warehouse worked really well - although the first night wasn't their best work, the last night more than made up for it. It was a pleasant surprise to run into Layden, although in his leprechaun costume I didn't even recognize him until Chris said something.
The highlights/magical moments for this trip were:
The negative stuff wasn't enough to offset all the great stuff, and we just made the best of it. As stated earlier, the weather was lousy part of the time, but that gave us an excuse to stay inside and enjoy the grand villa. The traffic is something we don't have control over - but I'll try to beat it by altering my driving times next year.
My next trip will be a short one next weekend. The primary reason is to have lunch with a bunch of Fortress friends on Sunday, so I'll spend Friday & Saturday nights at the Comedy Warehouse and if the weather is nice I'll lounge by a pool on Saturday. It'll be a short trip, but it'll be fun to see these people again. In May I'll be back for a "real" trip - staying at OKW for 5 nights, and with Leesa for a night or 2 before that.
Until next time - thanks for reading.