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Sue Holland -- December 2000 -- Walt Disney World (DL, OKWR, HHI)


Who/When/Where:

  • Who:
    • Sue (me - 42), DVC member
    • Chris (my son - 14)
  • Dates: December 15 - 30, 2000
  • Travel Method: Personal car
  • Resort: Dixie Landings (2nts), Old Key West Resort (studio 6nts), Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort (studio 7nts)
  • Experience: Extremely experienced, averaging 6-7 weeks a year at WDW for Sue; about 4 weeks or so for Chris (he doesn't miss school for Disney). This is the 3rd year in a row that we've spent our holidays split between WDW and Hilton Head.

INTRODUCTION:

This is a trip we always look forward to - spending the holidays with Disney. Chris gets to come along on this trip, since he won't be missing any school. We both love Hilton Head - I think he'd rather spend the whole 16 days up there, but I'd miss Comedy Warehouse and seeing friends who live by WDW too much to skip the week at OKW! On a bi-annual basis we invite our friends Sheila & Colin to join us on this trip; they joined us in 1999 and will join us again in 2001. For this year we're on our own, so we'll be staying in a studio for the entire trip. Since a studio is nicer than your typical deluxe WDW room, it's not a hardship at all <g>.

Those of you who've read my reports over the years can probably predict much of what will happen. We're not big "parks" people - the parks are a nice place to spend a couple of hours, but beyond that we'd rather be elsewhere. There's not much we haven't already seen & done at WDW (except for those things we don't want to see or do), so we just hit our favorites and don't worry about the rest. Eating is a big part of the trip - not eating huge meals, but eating our favorite things, at favorite places. I of course will spend most nights at the Comedy Warehouse - I just don't ever tire of that place. The fact that it's non-smoking, I can go alone without feeling out of place, and the humor isn't just a series of words I can't type here is part of the appeal, and it what got me there the first time. What keeps me coming back is the fact that the cast are incredibly talented, the shows are completely improv (unless they do their scripted piece once a night like they usually do during the holiday season - it's a "feel good" story) so each one is different from any other one, and the cm's who work offstage are a nice bunch of people.

Chris is a major DisneyQuest fanatic, and likely will spend as much time as I allow him to over there. He also loves Comedy Warehouse, and will come with me there a couple of times. Friday nights I can get him in for free (with my PI AP), but the actor he likes best doesn't normally work that night - so I'll buy him a ticket another night. At 14, Chris looks & acts older, and I doubt he'll hear anything on stage that he hasn't already heard discussed on the school bus.

If the weather is warm enough, I hope to spend time relaxing at Stormalong Bay - pool hopping is one of the nicest perks of DVC membership. I'll also enjoy rollerblading, and perhaps we'll rent bikes at WDW. I'd like to see the Christmas parade some afternoon - it starts running daily the day after we arrive. We won't bother with Illuminations, Fantasmic, or MSEP - been there, done that, once was enough (yet we did them all at least twice, lol)! I was just at the Osborne Lights the night before Thanksgiving, but that's one that I don't mind repeating. Also, the Lights of Winter at Epcot are a favorite sight of mine, so I'll be sure to check that out. Mostly we'll just drift around and avoid the crowds as much as possible.

Once we get to Hilton Head we'll have even less structure to our days! We'll get up when we feel like it, do lots of bike riding, visit favorite restaurants from past trips & hopefully try a few new ones, I'll rollerblade, perhaps we'll see some movies or go miniature golfing. I'll hit the outlets on 12/26, but will probably do so without the teenager! Chris enjoys playing pool, so unless he meets up with a bunch of other guests playing pool then I'm sure we'll be playing pretty often. Last year they had quite a few fun activities - and some that they didn't handle very well - so we'll check the activity schedule & sign up for the stuff we're interested in early. It's a beautiful resort, even more so during the holidays with all the decorations. For people from FL it's perfect for Christmas - cool enough to be definitely crisp yet not as cold as it would be in New England! We can't handle that kind of cold anymore!

Finally, on the way home we'll stop for lunch at WDW somewhere. I hate the long drive to and from HH, but hopefully knowing a stop at WDW is coming that will help make it more bearable.

Although it's just the 2 of us on this trip, there will be opportunities to see other friends who will be where we are at the same time. Hopefully Nancy & Kathy - the 2 locals - will guest star in the report...we're still working on the specific dates, due to their busy holiday schedules. Diana (dhester917) will be at OKW this weekend, so I'm happy to be seeing her again so soon (she was on the early November trip)! Darla (iluvDVC) arrives at HH the day before we leave, and Pat (dsneydiva) ended up booking 3 HH nights during our stay (Pat was also at the early November trip). There are also 2 people from work (Joe & Margaret) at OKW for our first 2 nights there - in their own studio, of course (I would never put more than 2 adult sized people in ANY single room). Joe works for me as our warehouse manager, and Margaret (his wife) works in the accounting office. They've both become big WDW nuts in the past 2 years. Last year while we were at the Sterling Conference at Coronado Springs I'd attended a number of seminars on motivating the changing workforce and was discouraged because Joe had accomplished some significant things at work but there literally was no money in the budget to even consider granting him a pay increase. But - as a DVC member, I could give him a little vacation in appreciation of his work, so I discussed it with him & made the reservation. It's not a pay raise, but it's better than nothing at all <g> and they're both excited about their 2 nights at OKW...and ended up adding the Saturday night before at Hotel Royal Plaza (the only thing left a couple of weeks ago). We may run into them - and if so it'll be interesting to hear their thoughts on OKW.

The nights before the trip were spent packing...a chore I've come to hate! I used to love packing, and would do so weeks before a trip - but now I think I travel so much, packing is no longer part of the fun...it's just plain work! Darla (iluvDVC) suggested that OKW should just keep a set of my clothes for me up there...and I liked that idea - but doubt Disney would go for it!

The plans so far (keeping in mind they're likely to change a great deal)...

Friday 12/15: Work 1/2 day at most, get Chris from school early, check in to DxL, meet Nancy at 7, Comedy Warehouse with Chris, Diana (Dhester917) & her husband Mike

Saturday 12/16: AK, Lights of Winter (Epcot), Osborne Lights

Sunday 12/17: Check in to OKW, MK, Comedy Warehouse

Monday 12/18: Rollerblade, Stormalong Bay, Comedy Warehouse

Tuesday 12/19: MK and/or Epcot, Comedy Warehouse

Wednesday 12/20: AK, Comedy Warehouse

Thursday 12/21: Rollerblade, Some park, Comedy Warehouse

Friday 12/22: Rollerblade, possibly Comedy Warehouse w/Chris

Saturday 12/23: Drive to Hilton Head, grocery shop, ride bikes, dinner out

Sunday 12/24: Ride bikes, rollerblade, eat out, beach

Monday 12/25: Christmas Day - open gifts, eat in studio, ride bikes

Tuesday 12/26: Shop outlets, Pat (DsneyDiva) arrives

Wednesday 12/27: Ride bikes, rollerblade, eat out, beach

Thursday 12/28: Ride bikes, rollerblade, eat out, beach

Friday 12/29: Ride bikes, rollerblade, beach, dinner with Darla (IluvDVC) & family

Saturday 12/30: Drive home, lunch at WDW

DAY 1 - FRIDAY, DECEMBER 15, 2000:

Plan: Work 1/2 day at most, get Chris from school early, check in to DxL, meet Nancy at 7, Comedy Warehouse with Chris, Diana (Dhester917) & her husband Mike

Actual: This morning I got the rest of the stuff loaded in the car - the trunk is absolutely packed tight, as is the back seat and the floor behind the front seats. It's amazing that we made this trip with 2 other people last year and fit everything into just 1 car....plus the small Christmas tree! This year the Christmas tree stayed in the garage - there just wasn't room, and it wasn't worth the bother just so we'd have a tree on Christmas day.

Except for 1 minor problem that I was able to resolve, work went smoothly. I left just before 11am, picked Chris up at school, and we were on the road shortly after 11:30. I'd brought him lunch from our Cafe at work, and the staff there bought him his favorite sandwich in addition to the meal I paid for - so he had a cheeseburger, fried chicken breast sandwich, seasoned fries, and a Twinkie! I got a few bites of his lunch. The drive was uneventful, with no major traffic. I'd forgotten that Chris' last trip was our July/August vacation which included the 4-day Wonder cruise that he didn't find out about until after he was already on the ship! Today he was asking me if there were any surprises this trip. I didn't know what he was talking about, and intelligently said something along the line of "huh?" - and he said "surprises - you know, like any cruises or anything", lol! I told him his cruise surprise was a one-time surprise...this trip was just WDW & HH. He did not realize we were staying at Dixie Landings for the first couple of nights, and was very happy about that - he loves this resort.

With one stop for gas, we arrived at DxL just after 2pm. It looks like they have many more stations to check in at now, and many of them were staffed. The lobby was pretty noisy - lots of people hanging around, and the big roped off queue area really detracts from the ambiance. It sort of gave it an All Star feel. We were checked in shortly (the line moved quickly) and my requests were all met but the room was not ready yet. I had a bunch of cookies in the car, along with camcorder tapes, laptop, etc...so I asked the cm if anything non-smoking was ready. She found one in the next building (Oak Manor), on the ground floor (I always request top floor), so I took it. The only top floor room ready now was a smoking room, and there is absolutely no way I would ever even step foot in there!

We drove over and moved a few things into the room. Chris grabbed his mug and went to the food court for a drink while I got our stuff settled in the room. The room was clean & attractive. It's a typical moderate room - not very big, but definitely a big step up from the All Stars (I use the All Stars on occasion, but they are very different from a DxL room in my opinion). We've got 2 double beds with a nightstand between them, ceiling fan, attractive table with 2 chairs, an armoire, bench, double pedestal sinks outside the bathroom, and a closet rod to hang clothes.

We had a couple of hours to kill before we needed to be anywhere, so we headed to the bus stop. At this point I realized I was glad to have been moved from my original building (Magnolia Terrace). The bus stop between the 2 buildings was closed off for refurbishment, and they'd set up a temporary bus stop right at the Magnolia Terrace building. I would think the rooms on this side would hear bus noise, since the buses are so close to their doors! We sat at one of the benches and the Epcot bus was the first to arrive. Since we are the last bus stop, once we got on board we went directly to Epcot. At the entrance there were maybe 3-4 people ahead of us, and after passing mostly unsold Leave a Legacy things (I'll be glad when those things are gone from here) we walked right onto Space Ship Earth. After that we headed to Test Track, but it appeared to be just starting up again after having been closed. Cars were going around, but they were all empty. Chris decided to skip the ride and wait for me at the interactive stuff in the exit area, but I ended up deciding to ride another time. I wasn't sure how long it would take for them to get things going again.

I retrieved Chris and we could hear Cast in Bronze playing - but they finished before we got there. They're set up by the Christmas tree this year. He wanted to do Ice Station Cool, so he went in thru the entrance and I used the exit to bypass the cold part. I never drink any kind of soda - just don't like it - but Chris tries them all and likes the watermelon (China) the best. After drinking enough of that soda to float the Wonder, we headed back outside. There really was nothing we felt we had to do here today, so we decided to head back to the resort. On the way out we sent a few email postcards to people. So far the crowds everywhere have been non-existent - but I imagine World Showcase is busier due to the Tapestry of Nations parade.

They just opened new bus stops at Epcot, and the nicer resorts are at the new spots - which are closer to the park entrance! The All Stars and the moderates (except for Coronado) are at the old spots...and I think Wilderness Lodge is there also. Coronado & OKW are now closer, and I saw a bus stop for AK, but did not notice what the other ones were for.

The bus pulled up as we arrived, and left 2.5 minutes later for Port Orleans. We got off there and walked along the river back to Dixie Landings. It was 5pm, so we hung out in the room long enough to catch the weather report. Chris was saying he was hungry again (hard to believe), so we left right after the weather (about 5:20) and drove to Downtown Disney. The weather is calling for heavy fog late tonight and tomorrow morning, so I think AK can wait for another day. There's no point in doing a safari if the animals are not visible through the fog! We parked over at Pleasure Island and then walked over to Cirque du Soleil on the West Side. I checked to see what seats were available for a friend during her February trip, but on all 3 dates only seats way off to the side or way in the back of the 2nd section were available...at 6 weeks out. She only wanted tickets if the seats were really good, so I didn't get them - they can book at 6 months before another trip.

Next stop was dinner at Wolfgang Puck's Express - a favorite of ours. Chris got the table while I got the food - an order of chicken tenders with macaroni & cheese ($7.37). They list it as a kid's meal, but it's a huge portion! Chris ate most of it, and said he was still hungry! He wanted another order of macaroni & cheese (it IS very good) and swore he could eat it, so I gave him money and sent him back inside. He came out with a large carry out container full of the mac/cheese ($4.19). We managed to finish it - and he was finally full! He wanted to look in the Virgin Megastore, so we headed over there, and later wandered around part of the Marketplace before going back to enter Pleasure Island just before 7pm.

We went to the Jazz Club and spent Nancy's break with her - and gave her a tin of different cookies I'd made for the holidays. I enjoy baking, but tend to only make time for that before Christmas - and then give a lot of it away, since I don't need to keep all those cookies! We had fun catching up - it's hard to believe I was just up here less than a month ago, and then just a couple weeks before that (definitely not complaining). We made lunch plans for later in the week, then at 7:30 she went back to work and we headed to the Comedy Warehouse.

The Island seemed deserted - and since the 7:10 show was already inside, there were no guests in line yet for the next one (8:15). I introduced Chris to cm's Joe/Jose and AnneMarie, and we talked to them for quite a while until the line formed. Chris enjoyed watching the bartender who juggles bottles & stuff while pouring drinks - and who I hear also makes quite a mess back there with spills and broken bottles <g>! But, it looks pretty cool, and the guests tend to like it. We got into line a little late, and pretty soon saw Diana walking around looking for us. She and her party had been in the first show, which was now over. She joined us in line, and her husband Mike & friend Theresa decided to stay outside and watch the band. It was so great to see Diana again - after only a month! Chris had met her a couple of years ago, but hadn't seen her since then. We ended up with seats that were not very good - over against the side wall, down on the front row of bar stools on the floor, but we didn't really mind. Jim Roberts was the keyboard player tonight, and we chatted briefly on his way to the keyboard. The actors were Matt, Jake, Greg, Jennifer B (long hair), & Mary - 5 terrific people, but not a very great show. They tried, and it had a few funny moments, but it was not one of the better shows. I did get my Bye Bye Blues, and Chris got a virgin strawberry daiquiri ($12 including tip).

After the show we joined up with Mike and Theresa and went to the Adventurer's Club - which was also not very busy when we arrived. We sat in the main salon, went through the new member induction ceremony, and when it was time we went into the library for Samantha Sterling & Fletcher Hodge's sing-along. The actress with the long red hair was Samantha tonight, and she's my favorite in that role. She was very funny, in a slutty sort of way (in keeping with the character), and did a great job. It was the first time the others had seen this show.

When the final part began, with the nerdy Amil Bleehall came out carrying a fake cow, Diana just about lost her composure. Last month she'd nearly fallen off her stool at the Comedy Warehouse when a suggestion of an occupation was asked for and someone gave them "lactation consultant" and then Matt came out in a cow costume and pair of eyeglasses and pearls - complete with the udders & everything. Amil saw her laughing and came over to her, and she just laughed harder & harder, turning red. He asked her if she needed mouth to mouth, lol, and she couldn't answer him! He held out the cow to her, so the cow could give her mouth to mouth! Finally he went up front and started his song, which includes the audience having to pretend to milk a cow several times. He noticed that Chris wasn't really participating fully (a 14 year old boy doesn't feel very "cool" pretending to yank on imaginary cow udders hanging over his head), so he came back and asked Chris if he was lactose intolerant or something. During the next verse, Chris made a lackluster attempt at milking - really just putting his elbows on the arms of the chair and moving them back and forth....not extending them up over his head and moving them up & down. Once again, Amil came back and got on his case...he told everyone to look at the lazy milker, or something like that. For the final verse, he stood next to Chris and screamed at him "MILK! MILK! MILK FOR YOUR LIFE!!!!!!" as we were all hysterical laughing (Chris too)! I swear I had tears in my eyes, and my head ached from all the laughing - it was so funny!

When the show ended we got up to leave, and a woman came called my name and came over. She turned out to be Beth from radp - she reads these trip reports and recognized me, and was very nice. On the way out of the library Chris was ahead of me and she asked if that was my son. I said "yes - that's Chris", and the cm at the door said "the milker", lol! We said goodbye to Beth, and decided to leave the Adventurer's Club.

Mike & Theresa stayed outside to watch the band again, while Diana, Chris & I got in line for the 10:40 Comedy Warehouse show. Chris wanted to sit way down front, so we got in line early enough to be in the front row. This time the cast was Mary, Krista, Jake, & the 2 Jennifers - and the show was absolutely hysterical! They did the conducted story, and the deaths were great. The funniest was Mary & Jake as Barbie & Ken dolls riding in the Barbie jeep in the style of a polka, lol! Those people are so creative!

After the show we said goodbye to Diana, and walked around a little bit until it was time for the New Year's Eve show. Chris enjoyed it - I can take it or leave it....probably prefer to leave it, lol! The fireworks and confetti are fun, though. When that was all over, we went to the car & drove back to DxL, arriving about 12:15. We had the TV on for a little while, then he went to bed about 1 and I stayed up to finish the report and get it posted.

We did everything in the plan today, and although it was a very long day - it was a lot of fun! Since it was such a late night, we plan to not make it an early morning tomorrow.

Miles walked: forgot to wear the pedometer :(

DAY 2 - SATURDAY, DECEMBER 16, 2000:

Plan: AK, Lights of Winter (Epcot), Osborne Lights

Actual: I purposely did not set the alarm for this morning, and woke up about 8. I didn't see any fog out the window - just bright sunshine & clear blue sky. It was already about 65 degrees :-) I watched the news to catch the weather (looks good for today) then showered and made a cup of cappuccino (Folger's Cafe Latte Vanilla Vibe decaf). I generally avoid caffeine - except where chocolate is concerned <g>. Chris was still sound asleep so I read some of the downloaded messages for a while and woke him up around 9:30. We headed to the food court (Colonel's Cotton Mill) for breakfast and always enjoy the walk over 'Ole Man Island (main pool area). The food court was mobbed! Ugh - I would normally have been through here much earlier, and almost ready to leave a park by now, lol, so I don't experience crowds like this! Chris got biscuits & gravy, and we also shared a sesame bagel, and I got 2 of their big delicious cookies for later ($5.25 after Disney Dining Experience discount). The toasters here do NOT brown anything - I sent the bagel through the big toaster once, and then through 2 cycles of the pop-up toaster on the darkest setting, and it was still pale white...but crispy. It tasted fine - just looked funny.

After eating we went back to the room to drop off the cookies and change into our swimsuits. Originally I had planned on taking Chris to DisneyQuest and then leaving him there while I returned to DxL to lay by the pool. However, he decided he wanted to go swimming, so we skipped DQ. He went in the pool and did the slide a few times, while I laid on my lounge chair with a magazine and a CPE (continuing professional education) tax course. The CPE thing is no fun, but if I have to do it, I might as well do it in a place I enjoy. Chris soon tired of the DxL pool, and since we cannot pool hop until we move to our DVC resort, he asked if he could go to DQ. LOL - I think he lasted about 1/2 hour at the pool. He returned to the room to shower & change, then came back to my chair so we could make plans to meet later in the day. He caught the bus to Downtown Disney (said he had a really cool bus driver who sang to everyone) and spent about 4 hours at DQ and listening to CDs at Virgin. He had a bunch of redemption points at DQ, left over from when those games used to be included in the daily admission, so he redeemed them for a very big plush Chihuahua and a bag full of junky candy. The dog reminded him of the Taco Bell commercials...only much larger!

It was a beautiful day for the pool - nice and warm but with a breeze that kept me from being uncomfortable. I ended up getting most of the CPE course done, so I was happy with that, too. About 2pm I returned to the room to get changed. We had eaten some of the cookies already, and I grabbed the rest of them figuring Chris would be hungry by the time we met at 4pm. I grabbed our light jackets from last night - and more confetti from PI fell out, lol! It ended up being so warm tonight we never even used the jackets. I also called Disney Dining for a priority seating for lunch with Nancy on Wednesday, and got right in to the location we wanted at the exact time we wanted :-) Chris originally was going to come with us, but changed his mind when I told him we'd be there a while....we'd sit around talking and not "eat & run", so now Nancy & I can enjoy lunch without having to censor our discussion <g>! I hope I don't blush when the server brings the breadsticks <g> - another reminder of the fun trip last month!

As I walked to the temporary bus stop I saw a tour bus in the parking lot. Several adults were dragging their luggage to my building, and most had a case of beer with their suitcase. That was not a very comforting sight...but I never heard any noise that night - thank goodness! The same cm was stationed at the bus stop - he just sits there and answers any questions, I guess while the regular stop is shut down. It seems like a pretty boring way to spend the day - just sitting around.

I got to Epcot about 2:45 and rode Space Ship Earth again since it was a walk-on. Afterwards I went to Test Track, which broke down again - but only briefly. It was about 15 minutes before I got inside, which is a long time for the single rider line. When I got out it was almost time for the first Cast in Bronze show, so I headed over there. They're playing holiday songs, and are set up right at the Christmas tree. A pretty big crowd was there waiting, but I only stayed for the first song since I needed to go meet Chris at the International Gateway.

I met him, and we returned to Future World since ToN was ready to get started and we did not want to have to fight the crowds. We had not seen Ellen's Energy Adventure in a while, so we did that - arriving less than a minute before the preshow started. We both enjoyed the attraction - Chris likes the humor, and I mostly like looking at Alex Trebek...he looks really good in this film. Next we went to Living Seas, and opted to skip the briefing room (movie) and go straight to the hydrolators. We didn't spend much time there - it was pretty chilly inside! When we came outside we had about 30 minutes to kill before the tree lighting ceremony at 5:55, so I sat on a bench near lake outside Imagination, and Chris went to Ice Station Cool. He came back a couple of times with a big handful of snow to play with (Florida kids love snow), and finally went back a third time to drink soda. At 5:55 Cast in Bronze came out to play 3 songs (we could hear them, but were too far away to see them). There was a woman singing during the 2nd song, and it would have been better to just have the music without the vocals. After the 2nd song they lit the Lights of Winter, and then the tree was lit (they used some guest family to throw the switch). It was very pretty, and we walked over there to take a couple of pictures and get a closer look at it all. It was pretty crowded too, and several guests were talking to the Cast in Bronze guys.

We headed out through the International Gateway (getting caught in the 2nd ToN) and walked around the Boardwalk. We took the walkway from BW to MGM (finally open, after all these years, lol) and it measured 1 mile from Jellyrolls to the MGM entrance. It's a nice wide path - it would be good for rollerblading if it was longer. The entrance to MGM was jam packed with a huge crowd of people entering the park...almost as bad as SuperSoap Saturday! Eventually we got inside, and headed straight to the Commissary for dinner. Chris was not thrilled with anything on the menu, but he had to make do, since I wanted to try it (yes - I'm the parent, so I call the shots - but he's not suffering too badly). I ordered him the kid's fish & chips and got the beef fajita wrap for us to share ($10.60). He said the fish & chips were just ok, and he never wants another beef fajita wrap again, lol! I wasn't thrilled with it, either. It was very large, but the meat was kind of tough, and it wasn't spicy at all. I should have gotten the chicken yakitori over white rice....next time!

After dinner we walked to New York Street - which was still mobbed even though it was 7:30 by now! I think it was worse tonight than it was at 6pm on Thanksgiving! There was a lot of the snow/soap blowing down, so it looked cool (despite still being 75 degrees outside). The lights were beautiful, as always. Chris spotted several of what he called hidden mickeys. When we finished with the Osborne Lights we left the park - by now it was 8pm and everything was closing up anyway.

The bus stops were a mess! Since the park had closed, each bus stop was full - but even worse was bus stop #10 at the end....where the bus to Epcot loads. That waiting area was all filled in, and the line extended way back several bus stops - blocking access to those bus stops for the people trying to go to those resorts. It took me a while to figure out how to get to our bus (stop #9) since I could not see where it started through all the people waiting to get on an Epcot bus. When our bus came, we were far enough back that we had to wait for the next one - but that was ok since it came in a few minutes and that way we did not have to stand (I wouldn't mind, but the teen tires easily). Back at DxL, I got off at the main stop so I could check out the store. Chris stayed on until our bus stop, yet we got back to the room within 30 seconds of each other!

Since we leave tomorrow I packed up our stuff, and brought some things to the car...including that big stuffed dog of his! It looks like tomorrow will be chilly - and I only packed summer clothes in the DxL bag, so hopefully it won't be too bad. Chris has the long pants he wore up Friday, so he'll be ok. I enjoyed our stay at DxL, but am very happy to be starting the "real" trip tomorrow. That's not a slam on DxL at all - I just really prefer being "home" at a DVC resort vs. any place else.

Chris watched TV until he went to sleep, while I downloaded the pictures, finished the report, and did online stuff.

It was another great day. We skipped AK, but there's plenty of time left to get over there. It was nice to not have to be anywhere in the morning, and just relax at the resort. I enjoyed my night off from the Comedy Warehouse, and seeing the holiday lights at Epcot & MGM.

The first bunch of pictures are on photopoint now. Go to www.photopoint.com and go to my albums (WDW1972@aol.com) and find the WDW Trip 12/00 album.

Miles walked: 8.5

DAY 3 - SUNDAY, DECEMBER 17, 2000:

Plan: Check in to OKW, MK, Comedy Warehouse

Actual: Chris was asleep by 10:30 last night; I stayed up until about 1am. The day before, John (JoBro912) had IM'd me about 2am to say "GO TO BED", lol! It was 2pm over in Thailand where he was, and last night he was on an airplane on his way here - so no reminders to get offline. We'll just wait and see how much HE sleeps on his vacation, lol - more than me, I'm sure, but probably less than he's used to.

I woke up at 5:25 (my normal time on a work day) and forgot where I was - actually was going to get up and get ready for work, before I remembered I was at WDW. One thing about coming so often is work life and vacation life blur together - which is not a complaint. I have to work (and would want to even if I was suddenly wealthy), and whether I do it all in Ft Myers or take care of some of it while I'm staying in a WDW resort makes no difference to me.

I went back to sleep until 6, then showered, checked the weather, and made a cup of cappuccino.

They're calling for temperatures to drop from where they are now (65) and tonight to be in the upper 30's with wind chills in the 20's! YIKES!! Today we're most likely "homeless" for most of the day, since we're changing resorts. Since we will be at OKW for 6 nights, I will wait for my studio that meets all my requests rather than taking anything that might be available now. A little after 7 Chris got up & showered/dressed. The express checkout was on the door, and everything looked fine - I can't do too much damage in only 2 nights <g>. We went to the food court for breakfast about 7:30, and it was much less crowded than yesterday. Chris got his biscuits and gravy, but with eggs this time, and I got another sesame bagel ($4.99 after DDE discount). I used the other big toaster today, and after 2 toastings the bagel was perfect.

After eating it was back to the room to grab our stuff & load it in the car, then we drove to OKW. We checked in a little after 8, and the cm confirmed that all of my requests had been met, but it wasn't ready yet. We took the next bus to the Magic Kingdom, arriving shortly before 9am. It was very windy...and quite cold! At rope drop Chris went to ride the Speedway while I got a couple of Fastpasses for Space Mountain. They still had the sign out from last night, saying all the Fastpasses were gone for the day - but I tried the machine and it worked. The return time was not until 9:45, so I headed to the Speedway to meet Chris.

When he got off, we went to Fantasyland and pretty much walked right on the Pooh ride. Next we walked on Peter Pan, which now has a redone queue area...it looks like perhaps they plan to add Fastpass here. We returned to Tomorrowland, and I rode the Tomorrowland Transit Authority while Chris rode Astro Orbiter. There were not many guests waiting, so the cm let Chris stay on a 2nd time. After TTA I went and used the 2 Space Mountain Fastpasses - the standby line was still extended almost back to Astro Orbiter, so I was very happy to be able to bypass all that waiting time! After the 2nd ride, Chris was waiting for me at the exit. He'd ridden the Speedway one more time while I was doing my rides.

We took the walkway over to Toontown, but skipped Barnstormer because there was a line. The train was in the station, so we got on and rode back to Main Street. We had seen and done enough for today, and were ready to leave MK. First, we went back to the Bake Shop and I got a couple of pieces of the banana nut bread ($4.22), then we stopped in the candy store and got my marshmallow thingy, a rice krispie thing with chocolate for Chris, and 2 small Mickey truffles to eat now ($6.34).

We rode the monorail around to the Grand Floridian and went inside to see their tree and the gingerbread house/snack bar. It's all the same as last year, but it's pretty enough to see each trip! After wandering around a little bit, we went out to the bus stop to wait for a bus to AK. We were going to have lunch at Rainforest Cafe there, since I had a coupon for a free appetizer that expires later this week. While we were sitting at the bus stop, I noticed the coupon is not good on weekends, so we decided instead to have lunch at Spoodles - Chris loves that place. We still went to AK briefly, though. I showed him the secret path between Asia & Africa - I told him it wasn't any big deal, but I think he still was expecting more than it was <g>. The park was very busy, and I felt sorry for the very wet (and possibly not too bright) people who had evidently ridden Kali River Rapids on this very cold & windy day! Even Chris was not interested in riding that today!

We went to Africa to check on Kathy's gorilla - he was out, but on the family side. Once again, I could smell him before we got there <g> and was surprised to see him on that side. The other side wasn't blocked off, but there were no gorillas in sight. The dominant silverback was sitting in the shade, near a rock - nice & close to the glass, but it was too dark to get a decent picture. We continued along the trail, and then left AK. Chris had eaten half of his rice krispie thing, and was complaining of being hungry, so we took the bus to the Swan and walked over to Boardwalk. At Spoodles they had a Sunday brunch sign out front....damn, I did not expect that! We wanted lunch, not brunch, but went inside to look at the menu. Inside it was so crowded with people waiting and kids running around crazy, neither one of us even bothered checking the menu - we turned around and walked out.

I took a chance & called OKW - and to my surprise our studio is ready (at 1pm)!! That solved the lunch problem - we can just eat at Olivia's at OKW. We took the Downtown Disney bus from BW and transferred at the Marketplace (where Chris finished his rice krispie thing) to OKW. We went straight to Olivia's and were seated immediately. I got my usual - the mixed field greens salad, and Chris got the bbq pork sandwich and a coke. With our AP's we each got a free dessert to take with us (chocolate layer cake for him, chocolate chip pecan pie for me). Between the 20% DDE and the free desserts, this place is a real bargain ($11 plus $4 tip) - and the food is good and the atmosphere is pleasant.

After lunch we drove to our studio in building 45. Chris was excited - this is his favorite building, because it overlooks the Trumbo Canal. Our unit is on the end by the road, however, so we do get noise from the buses coming to a screeching stop at the stop sign. We carried 1 load of stuff up to the studio, and when we opened the closet door it swung right out because it wasn't on it's track. Chris tried to fix it (since he can reach the top of the door), but was unsuccessful, so I called maintenance. The cm was there in less than 5 minutes! He replaced a part on the door and now it works perfectly.

I unpacked our stuff while Chris strung lights around the porch railings - it will look pretty after dark. He wanted us to rent bikes, but no way was I going to ride in heavy winds...especially a cold north wind! Besides, we'll have bikes for the entire stay at Hilton Head. He was bored, so I sent him off to DisneyQuest with money for dinner & instructions to be home by midnight. I relaxed in the studio watching WDW TV and updating the report. If it was warmer I'd go walk around a park, or if it was less windy I'd go rollerblading - but instead, I'm just wimping out today! I ended up IM'ing with a couple of people, and before I knew it - it was almost 7pm! I threw on some long pants and the warmest jacket (with gloves) and got ready for PI. Our Christmas lights look great, by the way - Chris wrapped them from floor to railing, lol!

I arrived at Downtown Disney about 7:15, and since it was cold outside I figured I would be safe not entering PI until at least 7:30 for the 8pm Comedy Warehouse show. I wandered around the West Side, then walked quickly to the Marketplace - stopping at Ghiradelli for a sample of chocolate before returning to PI. Once inside, I went to the Comedy Warehouse and saw that the first show is 8:15 now....it looks like they just drop the first show and keep the last 4 at their original times on Sundays through Wednesdays now. I walked around trying to stay warm, and then sat in the Adventurer's Club for a while. Eventually I headed back outside about 8pm and listened to Frankie & the West End Boys while watching the Comedy Warehouse line form. They never did get very many people, and soon I saw the cm's talking to the people in line, and the guests leaving. I knew what that meant, but went over anyway, since the cm was someone I hadn't seen in a while. She (Debbie) confirmed the show was canceled, and we chatted for a little while. It turns out Layden was off tonight, too.

I knew I was not going to last waiting around another hour for the next show, but there was a good chance some friends of Nancy were going to be looking for me at the club tonight - and I had no way of reaching them. I hung around until about 8:30 or so before leaving - there was hardly anyone out tonight (except for the huge Pampered Chef convention that had over 1/2 the Island blocked off for their private party). Hopefully I'll get to meet Nancy's friends one of the next few nights - and hopefully the weather won't be so cold it keeps everyone away!

I drove back to OKW and downloaded the pictures taken today at some of the resorts. Darla (iluvDVC) had asked me to stand by the MK Christmas tree and take 2 pictures of the castle - one normal, and one on the highest zoom so she could see how my camera does. Those pics will be in the album in case anyone is interested how far a 3x optical, 6x digital zoom can go. The pictures were taken at the lowest resolution - 640x480. Ordinarily when using the maximum zoom I would take the picture at a higher resolution, but I wanted to show her what the worst case scenario would be.

Back at the studio I made a cup of cappuccino to warm up, and ate part of the pie from lunch. At 9:30 I heard the fireworks from Illuminations, and could see them (not well - but they were visible) from both the front window and the porch.

Chris got home at almost 12:30 - he'd missed the bus, the returned to DQ to use the rest room, and had to wait for another bus. We have zero tolerance for being late though, so he'll pay by being grounded tonight. At the least, he should have called or beeped me to let me know he was running late.

The day did not exactly go according to plan, and it had it's share of frustrations (canceled Comedy Warehouse show, no lunch at Spoodles) - but overall it was still a good day. At WDW, how could it not be a good day??

Miles walked: 8.6

DAY 4 - MONDAY, DECEMBER 18, 2000:

Plan: Rollerblade, Stormalong Bay, Comedy Warehouse

Actual: I woke up by 7:30, and saw on the TV that it is 35 degrees - so no Stormalong Bay for me today! By noon they expect it to reach mid-50's. That's too cool for rollerblading also - at least for rollerblading in FL. It's also too cool for us to comfortably enjoy a park early this morning, so I had figured on letting Chris sleep while I ran over to the Character Premiere shop at the Premium Outlets without him. We can go to a park after that - when the temperature should be getting close to 50 at least.

I did the usual stuff - posted yesterday's report, sent the pictures to photopoint, showered & got dressed (even turned the heat on, since it was chilly in the studio). For breakfast I made some mint hot chocolate and ate some of the banana nut bread. Chris ended up waking up before I left, so he had a bowl of golden grahams for breakfast and we both went to the outlets. The only store we bothered with was Character Premiere, and there wasn't anything that either of us wanted today. Chris did see an ESPN shirt that he said he liked, but I just ignored him because that shirt is already wrapped up as one of his Christmas presents.

We drove back to WDW and stopped at the Beach Club to drop off a box for a fellow DVC member who is staying there. Bell services took the box, put his name on it, and said they would deliver it to his room. From there we drove to AK and entered the park around 10:45. Our first stop was at Kilamanjaro Safari to get Fastpasses for 12:55 (standby line was 60 minutes). Chris got a frozen banana and ate it while I went in to see what the gorillas were doing. They were all back on their usual sides, and the big silverback was sitting down near the cave with only his face above the wall. He kept yawning - as if we were keeping him up or something - and when he yawned we saw all of his ferocious looking teeth! I never did time it right to get a picture of the fangs bared, and then the other gorillas came closer and he stopped yawning to keep an eye on them.

We walked over to Dinoland and since Tarzan Rocks was starting in 10 minutes we went to that show. We took seats in the very back row of the bleachers they set up in the back - so that way we were able to sit on the back of the seat without blocking anyone else's view. Chris had never seen the show before, and it was only my second time. He enjoyed the rollerbladers best, but thought their tricks could have been more daring. I enjoyed Tarzan in his loincloth best, no surprise there <g>. Nothing like a scantily clad man with washboard abs performing acrobatic moves for my pleasure to get the day started!

After the show we stopped in Asia and I did the Maharajah Jungle Trek while Chris went to stand at the exit of Kali River Rapids to shoot riders with the elephant water guns. I saw several tigers, but they were all just laying around in the sun. We left Asia to return to Harambe, and sat to wait about 10 minutes for our Fastpass time. I wish I had looked at the standby line - there was zero wait! LOL - here we were standing around waiting for our Fastpass time so we could get on faster, when in reality there was no wait at all! It was very strange.

The safari was very good, except for the 2 kids in the row behind us who kept standing up and grabbing onto the back of our seat and accidentally hitting 3 of the 4 of us in the row. The woman next to me said the boy even pulled her hair (not on purpose). The idiot mothers of the 2 kids paid no attention at all - at least I'm assuming they didn't see that the brats were disturbing a row of people and chose to do nothing to stop them. One lady in my row was an elderly lady with a sore back...she was not happy with the kid behind her at all! Finally about 1/2 way through the safari I turned around and asked one mother if she would please keep her kid from pulling on our seats (he'd put his hands down behind a woman's back and try to pull up the rubber padding on the top portion of the back of our seat!) and have him stop hitting us with his hands and pulling the lady next to me's hair. She looked at me like my request was unreasonable (no surprise there), but she did tell her son to sit down and stop touching our seat or else she'd "whip him". He kept asking her why he had to sit down, and the only responses she gave him were along the line of it being because "that lady" is bothered by you touching her seat.....nothing about being courteous to others, or just plain being safe & doing what the driver said to do (stay seated at all times). Arrgh - enough of that...I kind of felt bad for the boy, if that's what his mother is usually like. The rest of the safari was much nicer, since we were no longer being battered, lol! Lots of animals were out, including both lions. The driver stopped for pictures, which made everyone happy.

We were done with AK by now, so we left the park and entered Rainforest Cafe. The wait would have been about 30 minutes, but with the Safari Club card (check the Rainforest Café website) we waited less than 5 minutes to be seated. I had a coupon for a free appetizer - most likely from a Safari Club newsletter, so we got the chicken pita quesadilla (normally $7.99) to share, plus Chris got the chicken Caesar salad & coke (about $14 plus tip). The food was very good, and as usual the portions were huge. We really had enough food for 3 people, and could not finish it all. Two men stopped by the table and asked if I was Sue - not sure how they ever recognized me in that dark restaurant! Regardless, it was nice to meet them - Dan & Josh, trip report readers <g>. They even knew who Chris was, lol.

After paying the bill we walked back to the car and drove to OKW. By now it was 2:30 or so, and it was warm enough to go without a jacket (until it gets dark, lol). We stopped at the studio briefly and then walked down to the main building and rode the Trumbo Ferry to the Marketplace. Chris has one more Christmas gift to buy, for someone in Ft Myers. We found 2 possibilities in the Christmas store, but will wait to buy it until we return from Hilton Head on 12/30. There's no need to risk breaking it during the trip to & from Hilton Head.

Chris headed over to DisneyQuest - I'd decided to not ground him after all, although he does have an earlier curfew tonight (10pm) and will not get a second chance if he screws up again. I looked through some of the shops, and then rode the ferry back to OKW. It was almost 4pm, and I felt like I really needed to do something besides sit or walk - so I rented a bicycle for an hour.

I rode to the Conch Flats Trail and rode it to the Tree houses and rode past all of them. I continued down the trail to the rest of Disney Institute and found the way to the Fairway Villas. I had never been back there before, and they're really pretty from the outside (I had heard they are kind of 70-ish on the inside). It looks like each building holds 3 units, and you park your car under the building (great for keeping it cool in the summer). I even saw the Grand Vista Homes, and rode past them. I was surprised - I thought there were 3 of them, but there are 4. They were probably really impressive back in the 1970's, but they are not anything special by today's standards. Still, it's pretty cool to stay in an actual house on Disney property <g>. For the money though, a grand villa at OKW would be my choice! Next I rode through the Bungalows, which are also being repainted. Rather than being brown, they are now a series of shades of a peachy tan color - much warmer than the brown. It will look nice when they're all done.

I rode back to OKW and rode past all the buildings there, then returned the bike to Hank's Rent & Return before walking back to the studio. Once inside I watched the weather on the early news (another colder cold front coming for Wednesday - yuck), turned on the Christmas lights and updated the report. Oh yes - I ate a little of the marshmallow thing, too - not out of hunger, but just not wanting it to get stale before I did eat it!

While I was online, Leesa IM'd me about meeting at Comedy Warehouse tonight, and I was glad to hear they'd be coming again, since I left early and missed them last night. There was a knock on the door, and when I opened it there were 2 cm's from housekeeping holding a gorgeous Christmas tree type thing!!! I had no clue what that was about, and thought surely they had the wrong room, lol! But, the card had our name on it, so I gladly took it and set it on the table. I'll take a picture of it later and post it on photopoint (in a day or so) - it's really pretty. I opened the card - it was from Darla (iluvDVC) and Steven - how sweet of them to do that! This afternoon just kept getting better and better...and I also got to finalize plans with Kathy (dznynut) for later in the week. It's great traveling with the laptop & staying in touch with friends like that.

By now it was 7:35 and I was still IM'ing with Kathy, so we ended that and I ran out the door to rush over to Pleasure Island to get there in time for what I thought would be the 8:15 show. On the way, my beeper goes off in the car....oh crap - stopping to make a phone call would certainly cause me to miss the show :( At the red light I checked the message - it was only Chris telling me he'd left DQ and was going home, lol! Whew - crisis averted, I parked at PI and practically ran through the turnstiles to see if there was a line at Comedy Warehouse. Not only was there no line, there was no show! Damn - once again, the show had been canceled. The next one would be 9:05, so I had over an hour to kill.

I spotted a cm (someone new) and asked him if Layden was working, and he said yes...then stopped to describe him and ask me if that was who Layden is, lol! Guess he doesn't know their names yet <g>. I went to the outside bar and asked the bartender if he knew how to make a Bye Bye Blues, and he did - although he said he hadn't made one in about 2 years! He doesn't usually work there anymore, and was bored out of his mind tonight. I was his first customer, and he'd been open more than an hour. The Island did get busy later, but up until 9 or later it was pretty deserted.

I wandered around, then sat in the Adventurer's Club, then went back outside to sit on a bench and listen to Frankie & the West End Boys again. The wind wasn't blowing, so it was not uncomfortable out there (last night was miserable). After the band finished, I made one last walk around, and then got in line at Comedy Warehouse. I think the actors this show were Mary, Mark, Jake, and the 2 Jennifers. I spotted someone who came in at the last minute who looked like Leesa, but she didn't see me. The show was great - they did some funny Santa auditions between the different games. They repeated them at a later show, but the best batch were during this particular show.

When the show ended, the lady who looked like Leesa stayed inside looking for someone - me! It was Leesa! Darryl had decided to wait until the next show, so she was alone right now. It was fun talking in person for the first time, and she brought me the most fabulous thing - a CD of pictures taken by Darryl in the Comedy Warehouse. He's an excellent photographer, and the pictures she had sent me previously are great! She was telling me stuff about the CD - like how she'd grouped pics into certain directories, and I asked her how many pictures were on that thing! I just about fell over when she said "Oh, at least 2,000"! Oh my gosh - two THOUSAND??? LOL - ok, now the evening has matched the afternoon for "greatness" :-)

We went outside and met up with another "regular" - Mark from the Boston area. I am almost positive we were seated together once, as 2 singles, and we may have chatted briefly before a show. Leesa knows him, so he joined us. It was so incredible - he counts the people in line just like I do, lol! We compared what we felt was the "right" number of people to get ahead of us to get the seats we liked best - and Leesa & Darryl understood it & didn't think we were nuts! It turns out his favorite actor...the one he most wants to see, lol - is Layden! We talked about other actors, and I mentioned (my other favorite) Kelly, who's no longer there - and as soon as I mentioned her name, Mark raved about how much he liked her. I guess besides being fun to meet someone who loves the Comedy Warehouse as much as I do, and has such similar opinions on specific Com Warehouse people/things - it's also reassuring to see that other

normal

people feel that way <g>. He spends about 5 weeks or more here each year, with Comedy Warehouse being the main attraction.

We ended up seeing both the 10:30 and the 12:05 shows as a group. The 10:30 show had a large group of really obnoxious people. Neither Mark nor I had ever seen it that bad before - they actually yelled to insult an actor once, and gave other actors difficulty by not shutting up. Leigh the manager and a security cm came and stood in the aisle near these people finally to keep them in line and stop them from disrupting the show. It was a very large group - at least a few rows of seats. I forget exactly who was in each show, but Layden was in both, and Matt was in at least 1. The rest of the casts were people from the first show. Matt was hysterical as a contestant on the talk show Up Your Alley. He was a guy who gets meat for Hormel to put in Spam. He had a club he used to get meat that wasn't ready to become meat yet <g> and then put it in the back of his Pinto until he had a load to bring in. He stayed in character as a psychotic type of guy - pretty funny. In the last show they did Schmeopardy, and Layden played Chesty Drawers - a large breasted blonde cabinet maker. At one point he raised his hands over his head, then brought them down and accidentally hit his "boobs" and started laughing. He was going on about how he's so big he can't even see his feet, lol - and then used his boobs as a shelf to write on when answering the final question. One of the others told him to just wait 20 years, and Layden replied "yes, by then I'll have a laptop"!

Between the shows we stopped to say hi to Layden, and Leesa asked if she could take a picture of him with Mark & me - his "biggest fans". So, we did the picture, which Leesa will send to both of us via email. I'd brought Layden a container of cookies I'd made, which he was more than happy to take off my hands, lol - and checked his schedule to make sure he'd be working when I brought Chris back. Back outside I stood around talking with Mark, Leesa & Darryl met another regular, and we all joined up in line during the New Year's Eve show. There was so much confetti tonight!! I still had it falling out of my clothes back at OKW, even though we picked off what we could see while in line. By now it was 1am and Leesa & Darryl were going out to eat somewhere. They invited us to come along, but we both needed to get back to our resorts. Mark was saying his flight gets into Boston about midnight, so he was going to try to change it - perhaps to the next day. LOL - a chance for another night of Comedy Warehouse can make a person do just about anything. It was a fun evening, and I can't wait to see those pictures on the CD (2 THOUSAND......oh wow!).

Back at the studio, Chris was sound asleep. I finished up the report - which took until almost 3am. I'll wait & get online to post it after my nap (setting the alarm for 6 - have plans for the morning), though.

The day's plan flew out the window last night with the cold temperatures, but it was an incredibly wonderful day! We slept in, enjoyed AK, had a great lunch, I didn't rollerblade but I at least rode a bike; Darla's Christmas tree gift, and the wonderful evening at PI made it a really fun day!

Miles walked: 8.1

DAY 5 - TUESDAY, DECEMBER 19, 2000:

Plan: MK and/or Epcot, Comedy Warehouse

Actual: I happened to wake up at 5:45, and decided just to get up then rather than wait for the alarm at 6. If I fell back asleep I might not have wanted to get up! I showered, dressed, posted yesterday's report, and caught up on the email before Chris got up at 7:30. I finished the tiny bit of chocolate chip pecan pie and made a cup of mint hot chocolate - we'll eat more at the DVC member update/breakfast thing at 8am. Somehow we made it to the update by 8 - I had my doubts! It was a full house, and there really wasn't anything new in the presentation since last summer. Chris got a bagel & juice, and I ate a pink muffin (not sure exactly what it was, but it tasted ok). They said they expect WLVillas to sell out within a year, yet Beach Club Villas won't be ready until summer 2002 - so it looks like they'll be left with the problem of no WDW DVC resorts available to sell again.

The update ended at 8:45 and we drove to Wilderness Lodge to take the boat to MK, arriving at MK about 9:30. The weather was supposed to turn nasty this afternoon, so I was hoping we'd spend a short time in MK, go to WL for rollerblading/biking through Ft Wilderness, then look at the WLVillas units with Chris, and then have lunch somewhere. That plan never happened, though. Once in the MK we split up - Chris went to ride the Speedway and then get me 2 Fastpasses for Space Mountain before meeting me at Big Thunder. I headed directly to Big Thunder, where the line was already extended to the upper part. It had been a while since I'd ridden though, so I waited - and enjoyed the ride. I went to get back in line again, but it was extended outside by now, so I decided one ride was enough. It was too early for Chris to be back, so I wandered around looking for a place to take a couple of pictures for Leesa - so she could see how different pictures come out with my camera (she's researching her own digital camera purchase). I ended up taking some of the rose garden in MK - including one where I zoomed in and the bee sitting on the leaf is very visible. Those won't be in photopoint - they're such big files I did not want to waste the space there.

I headed back to Big Thunder to meet Chris, and we walked over to the Haunted Mansion. It was a bright sunny day when we went inside, and a dark, gloomy, completely overcast day when we came out 15 minutes later! Rain looks likely, so there goes the rollerblading and bike riding again. We went to Tomorrowland, and actually stood in line to board the TTA - it was that busy now (10:30)! After the ride we browsed in a shop or 2 until it was my Space Mountain Fastpass time (10:50). Before riding TTA we'd stopped at Buzz Lightyear and got Chris a Fastpass (11:15). I went & did my 2 rides on Space Mountain while Chris played in the arcade there and then did Buzz. When I finished my 2nd ride, he had just finished Buzz - so I picked him up at the exit and we decided to leave MK. It was very crowded today, and a cold north wind had picked up. It felt bitter cold to me!

Leaving Tomorrowland we ran into Chris' TV/Media teacher and stopped to chat with him. He's also a DVC member, staying at OKW for a few days. On the way out of the park we stopped in the candy store and got a small truffle for each of us, then went to wait for the boat back to WL. The lifeguard was all bundled up, freezing his butt off on duty while people were swimming (picture on photopoint). He laughed when I asked if I could take his picture. We walked over to WLVillas, and found out that Marti was working at the desk in the main WL lobby. I showed Chris the units first - he loved them, and wants to stay here sometime. We'll try it on a short trip, but I'm not willing to be so far away from PI for more than a few nights. I love the decor, but hate the location here. We walked over to old WL, but missed Marti - the desk was empty. With no idea when she would return, and since Chris was hungry, we did not wait around.

We drove over to the Boardwalk and went to Spoodles for lunch, getting seated right away. I ordered a glass of sangria and the sesame Caesar salad with chicken added. Chris got a root beer and the marguerite pizza. After the DDE 20% it was $20 plus tip. Chris wasn't crazy about his pizza, and I wasn't overly impressed with it either. My salad though, was delicious!! It wasn't too large either, and I ate every bite (except for part of the chicken that Chris ate and the red things that I wasn't sure what they were...perhaps roasted plum tomatoes). All the plates I saw going by looked beautiful & creative. I may not like very many different foods, but I certainly do appreciate the work & artistry that goes into creating a nice presentation on the plate - and eating at a place that takes time to do this is fun. On the way out of the BW the groundskeepers were busy covering all the flowers, in anticipation of freezing temperatures (wind chill in the teens expected) tonight.

After lunch I dropped Chris off at DisneyQuest, with instructions to be home by 7 to change to warmer clothes for his night at the Comedy Warehouse to see Layden perform. I returned to OKW, and had a message that a package had been delivered for me - so I drove down (no walking today - it's too COLD, lol) to the front desk to pick it up. (OKW has covered up their flowers also) A group of my internet friends do a thing called Secret Santa - where we draw names and then go buy ourselves a Christmas present from our Secret Santa person <g>. We set a nominal dollar amount, but some Santa's are more generous and just ignore that. My Santa got me a very pretty ruby and cz bracelet in a panther link style (and it actually fits my wrist), for example - and I think a couple of the ladies may get digital cameras from their Santas. I'm glad my Santa has such good taste <g> and knew just what to get me! Hopefully whoever draws my name as her Secret Santa will buy herself 150 or so DVC points - that would be a great present!

Back in the studio I updated the report, downloaded pictures, and did all the usual online stuff. For many people this would be a terrible way to spend vacation time, and if I was only able to visit WDW once or twice a year I'd probably agree with them! However, with this nasty weather I can't think of any place I would rather be than in my comfy warm studio. If the weather was nice I'd be rollerblading or laying by a pool - but I'm just as happy staying "home" this afternoon. I also did some laundry (boring) and Chris ended up coming home by 5pm because DisneyQuest was overrun with a large group of unsupervised kids. He figures he'll be back tomorrow, so there's no point putting up with them today.

We looked at some of the pictures on Leesa's CD - she wasn't kidding about the # of pics! It will take a long time to get through them all <g>. We left the studio by 7pm, and drove to All Star Movies for a quick dinner in their food court. Chris decided he wanted pasta, and of course that was the stand with the longest and slowest moving line. I waited until he was almost to the counter before I ordered my dinner, so it wouldn't get cold. Since I was using the DDE card I wanted to pay for it all at one time. He got pasta with meatballs, I got chicken rice soup (just ok - wouldn't get it again) and we shared a chocolate chip cookie ($8.70 after 20% DDE).

We left All Star Movies at 7:45 to drive to PI, fully expecting to see the 8pm Comedy Warehouse show be canceled. I bought Chris a $10 admission ticket using my DDE card, and once we got inside I was shocked to see a crowd of people entering the Comedy Warehouse! We went ahead and got at the end of the line - we didn't have great seats, but at least we were inside rather than shivering outside. No Bye Bye Blues for me tonight, due to the chilly weather. Instead, we shared a hot chocolate during a couple of the shows. The show featured Mary, Greg, Jake, Josh and Jennifer K - a pretty great group of actors, but the show was just ok. When it was over, we went back around to get in line. Layden would be working the next 3, and I figured we'd try to get into the first 2 of them.

Outside a man approached asking if I was Sue, lol - and this time it was James (NasaNut) with his wife & daughter. They were very friendly, and it was nice talking to them for a little while. They headed off to the Adventurer's Club, and Chris & I got in line for the 2nd Comedy Warehouse show. This time we saw Layden, Jake, Krista, Mary, & Jennifer. We were seated on the first row of bar stools behind the 2 rows of tables on the floor - at the end of the row near the bar. Layden came out from the bar area, saw Chris & said a quick hi on his way backstage. This show was much better, and had some pretty funny scenes. The only bad thing was a really obnoxious woman who kept yelling things out loudly when no suggestions were wanted or needed. Finally one of the cm's went up to talk to her - the actors had already tried to deal with her several times, but she was either too drunk to notice or didn't care. It's strange to have encountered disruptive behavior here 2 nights in a row - especially so early.

After this show we headed right out and since nobody was in line for the next show yet we went and stood inside the Adventurer's Club to stay warm. We got in line for the 10:30 show about 10 minutes before the doors opened, and this show had the Conducted Story game that we both like. The actors were Layden, Mary, Krista, Josh & Greg. None of the deaths were particularly good though. Krista conducted the story, and Layden was the winner who wrapped things up - so neither of them had to die (which is too bad because I'd bet they each would have done a funnier death than what we saw). Greg's death was a new style I'd never seen before - he had 3 other actors with him (they were all grimacing when he was saying this was the style he'd chosen) and at all times 1 had to be standing, 1 had to be sitting, 1 had to be kneeling and 1 had to be laying on the floor - with them all rotating positions and the story having to make sense with these positions. I think they had to work so hard to remember what position to get into, it was hard to create a story I could follow - I have no idea what it was really about. It was a good show - just not one of the best ones. We left after this show, and drove back to OKW. It felt good to come into the nice warm studio!

Today we did what was in the plan...which wasn't much <g>! It was a nice relaxing day - I just wish the weather had been sunnier and warmer.

Miles walked: 7.5

DAY 6 - WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 20, 2000:

Plan: AK, Lunch w/Nancy at Le Cellier, Comedy Warehouse

Actual: I knew last night that we would abandon any AK plans for this morning, given that it would be so cold. I just do not handle the cold temperatures as well as I did 14 years ago when I lived up north, and it's just plain not comfortable to be out in cold weather like that. Instead, I spent time online last night and did not set the alarm for this morning, figuring the earliest we might do anything would be a 10:30 arrival at DisneyQuest (a nice, climate-controlled environment, lol).

I ended up waking up around 7:30, and got up at 8. Chris slept until I woke him up after 9. We had breakfast in the room - hot chocolate, banana nut bread, and cereal for Chris. We left the studio at about 10 or so, and drove to DisneyQuest. They let people inside the lobby, but not into the elevators until 10:30. We immediately went to Cyber Space Mountain and each designed a roller coaster. Chris' was a level 2 (out of a possible 5), and I rode his with him. He refused to ride mine (a level 4), so I rode it alone. We did the virtual Pirates of the Caribbean next, getting paired up with 2 other people. It was fun, as always. The rest of the morning we spent playing different games & some air hockey. Chris could spend all day on the racing games - but I lose interest after about 2-3 minutes.

We went upstairs to get Chris some lunch - a Quest burger and strawberry fruit smoothie ($7.54 after 10% DVC discount). I asked the person working if they accepted Cheesecake Factory gift certificates there, and she said "absolutely". That's good news for me, since I earn free CF gift certificates on Etour and it will be really easy to use them here! The closest Cheesecake Factory to me is in Ft Lauderdale, which is a 250 mile round trip.

After Chris finished his lunch we went down to the 4th floor and I got a piece of chocolate mousse cheesecake to take back to the room ($5.02 after DVC discount). Chris got a booth with the email postcard things and sent a couple. We left DQ for the Virgin Megastore so Chris could show me a racing computer software game he is interested in. When we were done in there I gave him money for dinner and he returned to DQ while I went to drive back to OKW. Out in the parking lot I noticed icicles hanging from most of the trees out there!! It was so strange to see that in Florida, lol!

Back at the studio there was a recent message from Nancy suggesting we change location of our lunch. Only about 10 minutes had passed, so I called her at home and said the change was fine with me, and we moved the time up since she was ready to leave now. She had been reading yesterday's trip report and got to the lunch at Spoodles part and remembered what a great lunch she & I had there on an earlier trip. That memory, combined with not wanting to walk to Canada in this cold weather, prompted her call. I called to cancel our PS at Le Cellier, and made sure we could get into Spoodles without a problem. Later I remembered I'd told John (JoBro912) we'd be at Le Cellier in case he wanted to stop by - and now I had no way to reach Nancy or him. Hopefully he didn't stop by (sorry, John) after all.

I left the studio and drove back to the West Side to take a picture of those icicles, lol! From there I drove to the Boardwalk and walked around the lobby area a bit. The DVC cm mentioned they had lost all of the flowers under the trees last night, and the groundskeepers had ripped them all out today. When I got outside I could see they'd put in signs stating that Jack Frost had visited last night, lol! It was still only in the low 40's by now - almost 1:30pm. I went to Spoodles and Nancy arrived within a couple of minutes.

We were seated right away, and had a great relaxing lunch. I ordered the same sesame Caesar salad with chicken that I had yesterday - and it was just as delicious as I remembered. I finished every last bite again, so it must be great! Nancy got the crusty Italian baguette she had loved last time, and said it was great. For dessert we shared (but didn't finish) the chocolate Marco polo cake. It was good, but not something I would order again. I like my chocolate really rich & heavy - this was more on the lighter side. It had some raspberry and blackberry flavor, and a small scoop of jasmine tea ice cream (sounds weird, but it tasted good). The time passed quickly, and we were the only ones left in the restaurant when we finally rolled out of there.

She headed to work, and I returned to OKW to catch the last part of General Hospital. If it had been warmer, I would have wandered around World Showcase, or gone rollerblading - rather than sitting inside. But, it gave me a chance to update the report and get online for the first time today, take care of a little work stuff - and check out more of those pictures on the CD.

At 7:30 I rushed out of the studio and drove to PI - but first had to stop at the OKW store to buy milk for Chris' cereal in the morning! I got a quart for $1.50 - I didn't think that was too bad, especially for a resort store, and it was worth any extra cost for the convenience. I parked at PI and entered about 10 minutes before the 8pm show. My timing was perfect - the line was long enough but not too long. I was seated on the first barstool row (behind the 2 rows of tables), but on the right side, the seat by the stairs. This gave me a corner to lean into, and the servers did not walk in front of me all night, so it actually wasn't a bad spot. It's probably the best seat in that particular row. I didn't write down who was in which show, but I saw the first 3 shows and it was always some combination of Layden, Krista, Josh, Ryan, Philip & Greg. Shows 2 & 3 had pretty obnoxious people who answered the phone (especially show 2 - even Layden appeared to be getting kind of ticked off when the jerk kept giving made up information and then it being discovered later by yet another lie). All the shows were pretty good - especially the 3rd one, which was very funny. They tortured Josh in that show - being so young, and from Canada, he sometimes has no idea what the clues mean even when they become obvious to just about everyone else, lol! It was an enjoyable evening, even though it was cold waiting between shows.

After the 3rd show I chatted briefly with Greg, then left PI and got back to the studio by 11:40 or so. Chris was still awake, watching TV. He'd beeped me between shows to say he was going home. He'd pretty much stayed in DQ all day, except for going for dinner at Wolfgang Puck Express (macaroni & cheese).

The day didn't exactly follow the plan - AK was gladly dropped due to the weather, and lunch with Nancy changed location. The most important things - meeting her for lunch, and going to the Comedy Warehouse did happen, and it was a good day. I'm sorry to see my time here coming to an end in a couple more days, but we are looking forward to Hilton Head (except for having to pack and make that long drive). WDW is not the best place to be when it's so cold, in my opinion - but December thru February you never know when you book your trip if there will be cold front during your stay.

Miles walked: 3.3 (boy, does that look pathetic, lol!)

DAY 7 - THURSDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2000:

Plan: Rollerblade, MK w/Kathy, Comedy Warehouse

Actual: It's still too cold for rollerblading, so once again we made a change in the plan. For breakfast I finished the banana nut bread and hot chocolate; Chris had more cereal. We left the studio just after 8:45 to drive to the Studios. It was a balmy 42 degrees by then <g>.

It wasn't too crowded getting into the park. We decided to do Star Tours first, and walked right on. Next we went to the Great Movie Ride, where we walked right on to that (cowboy side). The cm's talking during the blow up the bank scene could barely be heard over the music - they need to either lower the volume of the music or provide microphones for the cm's. Chris didn't want to, but we did Muppet Vision next - it was a place to sit down inside, lol! It was a cute show, but it would be nice if they updated it.

By now it was 10:15 and I would have seen Doug Live but we just missed it. We browsed through all the shops on Hollywood Blvd and Sunset Blvd. One of the shops now carries a big selection of the smaller fitted tee shirts that I need - mostly with Studios stuff on them, but some generic to WDW. At the Villains' candy store we each got a small truffle, then walked down to do the Backlot Tour. Since it was so cool they did not use guests in the water tank demonstration - they used mannequins. We were seated in the front car with the tour guide, and he did a very good job. His name was Jason, and he made me think of Nina (excagirl) because he was kind of cute, and she has a thing for cute young cm's named Jason <g>! She definitely would have liked this one.

By now it was after 11 and we had done all we wanted to at MGM. The next Doug Live wasn't until 11:30, and doing that would have made the afternoon too rushed. We took the tram back to the car and drove back to OKW to pick up the cookies I'd brought for Kathy. We drove over to the Contemporary for lunch, and the cm at the guard house asked why we were there (nicely). I told him we came for lunch, he asked where, and I told him the Concourse Steakhouse. He handed me a 3 hour parking pass. LOL - the parking pass was immediately folded up and buried in with some other papers - no way was I going to put their silly pass on my dashboard (it said noon, so would be good until 3, and I knew I'd be there longer than that). My member parking permit will have to do - since DVC members get to pool hop, I can spend the entire day at the Contemporary if I want to, and will not be limited by a 3 hour pass. The parking lot was not full - not even close - and like others have posted, I don't see Disney towing away a guest's car.

We walked into the Contemporary and went up to the 4th floor. This was the first time we'd eaten at Concourse Steakhouse, and we were very impressed with it. We were seated right away, and had a table with a nice view of the passing monorail. Chris ordered the steakhouse burger with steak fries and a coke - this was a 1/2 pound burger made from steak, and even though I'm not much of a burger person I ate several bites because it was so good! I ordered the 5 onion soup, which was a lot like French onion soup - and very good also. The warm sourdough bread they brought out before the meal was also great! With the 20% for DDE the check was $11.85 plus tip. I saw a couple of people get a Caesar salad that looked wonderful, and think I'll try that next time -it's definitely worth visiting again!

After lunch we looked through the shops on the 4th floor. They're redone, and I like the changes. They sell the small truffles, and lots of other candy now <g> and less of the non-Disney merchandise. I gave Chris money for dinner and he went off to DisneyQuest, and I returned to the car to get Kathy's cookies and walked over to the MK. I got there just after 1, and headed to the Bake Shop. The banana nut bread from Sunday was gone now, so I bought 2 more slices ($4.22) for the next few days. Afterwards, I was going to ride the TTA but Tomorrowland was almost impassible. As far as I could see, it was a mass of people - shoulder to shoulder. I got as far as Alien Encounter and gave up....retreating to Main Street.

It was early to meet Kathy, so I figured I'd go sit in a rocking chair in front of Tony's. I no sooner got there and sat down, when I saw Kathy wandering around by the Christmas tree (where we'd agreed to meet) - so I went over to greet her. We walked around for a while, then claimed a spot in front of the castle for the 3pm Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Parade. This is the only daytime parade worth waiting for, in my opinion (I'm not much of a parade person anymore), but I'd skipped it last year. The sun finally came out and warmed things up enough that it was comfortable sitting there. The parade was beautiful, and it was so much nicer sharing it with a good friend than with a teen who is too cool to watch it, lol! Chris would have watched it if I made him, but he wouldn't have enjoyed it very much.

After the parade Kathy exited through the cm area since she had to take care of a couple things before singing at the Candlelight Processional tonight. Thanks for coming out (umm - not "coming out" like Maria on the last trip, lol - I mean coming to visit with me), Kathy - it was fun! I figured Main Street would be clogged up, since the parade originated in Frontierland - so I inched my way into Tomorrowland and rode the TTA to give the crowds a chance to disperse.

After getting off the TTA, Tomorrowland was an absolute mess! I'd never seen it so crowded (and hope to never see it that crowded again). Larry - I hope you realize how much more crowded WDW will be on your next trip....MUCH worse than you've experienced in July, at least in MK! I'd had all of the MK I could take - so I headed down Main Street and left the park. The walk back to the Contemporary was pleasant, and I drove back to OKW to get caught up on the trip report and go online briefly before heading out to PI. Last night I'd put on 2 pairs of socks - and that seemed to help keep my feet warmer, so I did the same tonight. I arrived at PI around 6:45, and went straight to the Comedy Warehouse. It was deserted - no line, no cm's outside.

I wandered around PI until 7, then returned. A few people were in line, but it didn't look good. Sure enough, the show was canceled. Nancy had emailed me suggesting I stop by to see her at 7:30, so now that the 7:10 comedy show was canceled, my schedule was wide open <g>. I left PI and wandered around the Marketplace before returning at 7:30. The Jazz Club was locked, but a cm was inside and I was able to get him to let me in. Some of them are starting to recognize me as Nancy's friend, lol - and the girl I asked to let Nancy know I was here already knew my name. I'm only in there before the place opens, when there are no other guests.

Nancy came out and we chatted for a few minutes before she had to get back to work. I hadn't expected to see her again this trip, so this was a nice (but short) visit. It also did wonders for my overall mood, since I was not happy that the first show was canceled yet again! I returned to the Comedy Warehouse and passed the time talking to the cm's working outside there until it was time to join the line. While I was talking to them a man who apparently recognized me from somewhere came over and said a few things - and I was embarrassed that I drew a complete mental blank over where I would have known him from. He obviously felt we knew each other, but I had no clue at all! I ran through the people from the internet I'd met, but although he looked familiar, I was pretty sure he was not from the internet.

When I was seated, they had 1 empty seat in the middle of the 2nd row of chairs on the floor, and it turned out to be behind the man from outside. I got my Bye Bye Blues (might be the last one of the trip - not sure if I'm going to PI tomorrow night) without having to ask for it (the cm knew what I always order) and she told me Layden had called in sick that night - bummer. The show was very good - with Greg, Matt, Mary, Krista & Mark.

After this show I went outside to get in line again, and the familiar man invited me to join him & his wife - so I did. I admitted I couldn't remember their names - Jim & Cheri - and they didn't say anything to make me think they would be reading this report, but if I'm wrong - I apologize for not remembering where we'd met! They were really nice, and although they live up north and only come to WDW every year or so, their main focus of the trip is spending every night at the Comedy Warehouse - my kind of people, lol! What they do during the day doesn't matter - it's secondary to their Comedy Warehouse nights. It was pretty cool to meet other people with their priorities similar to mine at WDW, lol! We enjoyed the next show - it was even funnier than the first one (both were great). Mark & Krista were out, and Jake & Philip were in - otherwise it was the same cast. Jake was especially funny tonight <g>.

After this show I decided to head home. Chris had beeped me between shows to say he was headed home, so I figured he'd be there by now. I said goodnight to Jim & Cheri, and left PI for the short drive back to OKW. Since I have to pack tomorrow, I brought in the suitcase. I'd left it in the trunk to keep other things (Christmas gifts, rollerblades, some groceries for Hilton Head, laundry detergent) from shifting around back there. Chris was in bed watching a movie on the Disney Channel - he said he waited 45 minutes for a bus from the West Side :(

I downloaded some pictures I'd taken for a Comedy Warehouse fan I've been corresponding with, finished up the report, and turned in relatively early (for a WDW night, lol) - figuring I'd post the report in the morning.

The day went mostly according to plan - except for not rollerblading. We added MGM, which is a park I seldom go to - perhaps because we were finished with it in 2 hours....there just isn't much there that I need or want to do on a regular basis. Lunch was great, and I was glad to find another good place to eat. Seeing the parade was great, and spending time with Kathy is always wonderful. My night at PI was a mix of disappointment (canceled show, no Layden) and fun (meeting the other Comedy Warehouse fans, & the shows were good). Overall, it was a good day! Tomorrow is our last full day at WDW, which is kind of sad. However, we've still got the Hilton Head trip to look forward to.

Miles walked: 7.75

DAY 8 - FRIDAY, DECEMBER 22, 2000:

Plan: Rollerblade, possibly Comedy Warehouse w/Chris

Actual: I didn't get up until 7:30 again - it's kind of nice sleeping in like this. For breakfast I made us both hot chocolate, I finished the cheesecake and Chris had cereal. We're headed to Epcot this morning, with plans for lunch at Le Cellier, so we were out the door by 9:30 to drive to Beach Club. The cm there asked why we were there (this is the first time I've been questioned here) so we lied and said we were having breakfast at Cape May. She gave me a 3 hour parking pass, which I did not display in the window. We ended up being there 4 hours, which is not unreasonable - and there were plenty of empty parking spaces when we arrived and when we left.

We walked through the International Gateway and headed to Future World. There was a lot of planting going on in Epcot and over at the Beach Club - along with more bare spots Jack Frost signs. They lost a lot of flowers to the freeze!! We went to the Land and walked right onto Living with the Land. It was just us and 1 other family on the boat. Next we saw the Circle of Life, which was not even 1/2 full.

While we were waiting for the show to start, I asked Chris what he wanted to do tonight, since it was our last night at WDW. The conversation went like this, lol -

Chris: Comedy Warehouse

Sue: Ok

Chris: Will Layden be working?

Sue: I doubt it - Friday's one of his normal nights off

Chris: Oh, never mind then

Sue: Ok

::::pause::::

Chris: What about Mark? Will he be working?

Sue: Probably - He worked last night, but was off a couple nights before that so I doubt he's off tonight again.

Chris: YES!! Ok, let's go to Comedy Warehouse

Sue: Ok

Chris: Will Jennifer (K) be there?

Sue: Not sure - Didn't see her last night, not sure about night before. Tonight might be her first night back, or maybe her 2nd night off

Chris: Hope she's working....What about Jake?

Sue: Don't know - he worked last night, that's all I know

Chris: Ok

I think I'm unintentionally raising a Comedy Warehouse addict - one who is picky enough to decide whether or not to go based on whether his favorite(s) are working! I see a PI annual pass in his future as an adult <g>. Oh - I finally remembered where I'd seen the guy from last night before - it was the night before that inside the Comedy Warehouse. He was seated in the row behind me and saw my refillable bottle and started talking to me about it (he has a few at home from earlier trips) - no wonder he only looked familiar but I didn't know his name or anything!

After Circle of Life we watched the fountain briefly, then I rode Test Track while Chris played with the driving game thing in the exit area. I got there just as they were taking a group of single riders in, so I had no wait at all before the pre-show - it was great! The standby line was 70 minutes! I picked up Chris and we walked around World Showcase, starting with Mexico. Epcot was amazingly uncrowded considering it was early entry day. I guess everyone is at the MK each day, lol!

When we got to Canada it was time for lunch. We hadn't made a priority seating, but at 11:35 they were able to take us right in and get us seated. I ordered a glass of the white zinfandel (Beringer) and the waiter asked if he could bring me a wine I'd like even better - and if I didn't like it, then he'd bring the white zin. I said sure - and he brought a white wine, Trentino Moscado. It was the best wine I'd ever tasted - it was great! He commented he was glad he got me to try something new (if he only knew how rarely that happens, lol). I'll be sure to order this again. We enjoyed the breadsticks, but Chris decided that now he likes

my

multigrain, so that got eaten in a hurry! We got a 2nd order, though. I had the cheese soup for my meal. Chris got a coke and the Caesar salad with flank steak. The salad was also great, and he loved it - he stopped just short of licking the plate clean, lol! He wanted the millennium dessert, but I knew he'd never finish it and even the thought of a single bite was too much for me - so we did not get dessert. We did take the leftover breadsticks, wrapped in foil by the waiter. With the 20% DDE discount the check was $18.41 plus tip.

We were finished with Epcot, so we left via the International Gateway and walked around to Boardwalk. We looked in the Bakery (Nancy - still no crème Brule, or I would have brought you one at work) but didn't buy anything. We ended up getting him a mochachino cooler at the coffee cart outside ($3.71) - he liked it, but I thought it had too strong of an espresso flavor. It was gone before we reached Yacht Club!

At Yacht Club I gave him the sourdough breadstick (knowing we wouldn't eat that one) and he fed some ducks and birds on the beach. There was a young girl there, so I gave her half the breadstick to feed the ducks. She had the ducks eating out of her hand, so Chris tried putting little pieces in his hand and extending it - and the brown birds came and ate from his hand. Fun at WDW doesn't have to be about thrill rides and staged shows <g>.

When the breadstick was gone we went into the Yacht Club to see their Christmas tree - nice, but nothing special. Passing the Beach Club I noticed the Frozen Sunshine at Beaches & Cream was up to $4.95 now - didn't it used to be $3.50 not too long ago??? We drove back to OKW and Chris got busy taking down the Christmas lights and putting them away. He was heading to DisneyQuest after he finished, and would meet me outside PI later tonight.

I went rollerblading (finally)! It was about 65 degrees & sunny, and I skated through the Tree house Villas and down to the rest of the Disney Institute. It felt good, and was fun. When I got back to the studio I packed up most of our stuff, and brought it to the car so we only have a couple of small things to carry out in the morning. I watched General Hospital and did some online stuff before heading out for the evening about 5:30.

I drove to Beach Club, and once again the cm at the gate asked why I was there. I said I was there to see one of their guests - figuring there was a remote possibility I might run into John (JoBro912) since he's staying there, and I could give his name if need be. She just gave me a parking pass and seemed almost apologetic about it - saying "they're getting really strict about parking these days". This time I put the pass in my dashboard - I knew I'd only be there an hour or so.

I walked quickly into Epcot through the International Gateway, and headed to Morocco for a glass of wine ($4.51). They were out of the white, so I got the blush - it was good, but compared to that excellent wine in Le Cellier this afternoon, this wine was like vinegar <g>. Wine in hand, I strolled over to the Epcot Christmas tree, getting there just as the singer was finishing her song. When she was done, they lit the Lights of Winter, and then the tree - it was really pretty up close. It was a nice way to end the holiday trip to WDW, also.

I knew I'd get caught in the Tapestry of Nations crowd, so I decided to start heading out now so I wasn't late to meet Chris. As I headed down the hill at International Gateway I heard someone call my name, and was happy to see the handsome John coming towards me with a hug! It had been 2 years since I'd seen him, and we stood around catching up for a while. He & his son are living in Thailand right now, where the time is 12 hours ahead of our time, and his son is still suffering from jet lag - basically he's got his nights & days mixed up, poor kid! John - hope the rest of your trip went well, and you got the monorail set back to Thailand in one piece!

I left for PI, arriving about 6:45 (to meet Chris at 7). I got his PI ticket, then went to Candy Cauldron to buy a truffle for now and a couple of chocolate covered pretzels for later. While I was in the store, I saw Chris pass by. I met him over at the entrance to PI and we went inside and joined the line at the Comedy Warehouse. The actors this time were Krista, Matt, Mary, Jake & Greg. Chris was hoping Layden would be there, but he was off. He was disappointed Mark wasn't in the show, but I checked the schedule and found he'd be in the next show.

We left as soon as the show ended and got in line for the next one. This time it was Mark, Jake, Matt, Philip & Krista. The show was excellent - they did the Torture an Actor game, with Philip being the one tortured. Some people aren't too crazy about him, but I think he's great! He's very enthusiastic, and kind of

over the top

at times, but that's exactly what I like best about him. Sometimes other people have been offended by that, though. In any event, I almost always enjoy his work. Mark didn't disappoint either - he is always funny.

After the show I exchanged holiday greetings with a couple of the actors - although we don't know each other, they recognize that I'm a fairly frequent guest and so I'm somewhat familiar to them. Generally, they're all really nice & appreciate their fans. We left the club, and Chris was claiming to be hungry, so we decided to leave PI to find him some dinner. The line for the next show was really long, so staying for the show was not an option!

He picked the Pepper Market for his dinner, so we drove over to Coronado Springs. They have a couple of beautiful Christmas trees in the convention center (we entered thru there rather than the lobby, since we had parked at that end of the parking lot). They also had their big gingerbread display set up outside the Pepper Market. Chris got the taco salad ($8.22 - no DDE discount here because it's not a Disney restaurant) to go and we brought it back to OKW. I saw they now have bourbon chicken over rice or noodles as an option at the oriental type food stand! I love that stuff - but no way could I eat it tonight, especially at 9:30!!! We may make this our lunch place a week from tomorrow on our way home from Hilton Head.

Back at OKW Chris ate his entire taco salad - he must have been hungry, since that thing is HUGE! His dad called, and we each talked to him for a while. I finished up the report, had some cappuccino and breadsticks, and got online one last time in Florida.

We did everything in the plan today, plus spent time at Epcot and had a wonderful lunch at Le Cellier. The weather finally warmed up enough that it was comfortable - thank goodness!

Miles walked: 9.2

DAY 9 - SATURDAY, DECEMBER 23, 2000:

Plan: Drive to Hilton Head, grocery shop, ride bikes, dinner out

Actual: I was up at 6, and got Chris up at 7 to get ready to leave WDW. Breakfast was hot chocolate & banana nut bread for me; cereal for him. Since I've complained on past trips about noise from neighbors here, I should mention that this trip we were lucky to have nice quiet people next door - we never heard them, but know they were there because we saw them outside. I guess the units ARE soundproofed well enough for normal, considerate people.....

Tonight at Hilton Head we're paying cash for our studio. As the resort gets closer to sell-out (sales of DVC points) cash nights are getting more expensive, and soon I expect they won't even be available at all. 2 years ago I paid $64 for a studio. Last year Sheila paid $109 for a 2-bedroom unit. This year I'm paying $105 for the studio.....a bargain compared to WDW, but a big jump from $64! Fortunately, I bought more HH points this year and won't have to bother with cash nights in the future - I did this year because we have an extra HH trip this April (plus next December) and wanted to stretch the points. For non-DVC members, the cost of DVC rooms on Friday & Saturday nights is significantly higher than Sunday thru Thursday, so it's made sense to pay cash for some of the weekends.

My express checkout was hanging from the doorknob by 7am - nothing but a long list of local phone calls <g>. Since DVC members tend to debate this topic - I'll mention that my local calls were all $.35 and the toll free (800) calls were free. Non-DVC members would pay $.75 for each of those calls, including the toll free ones. We left OKW about 7:45 for the long boring drive to HH! The only traffic we encountered was about 10 minutes of sitting still in Jacksonville - I think a drawbridge was up (out of sight). With 2 stops for gas but no meals, we arrived at the resort about 5.5 hours after we left OKW. There seemed to be more traffic on the island, and I didn't remember all those traffic lights from past years!

For the first time, we had to wait in line to check in. They have 3 windows to check people in, but only 2 staff were working today. Both were busy, plus there was one family waiting ahead of us. It didn't take too long though, and then it was our turn. There was a little confusion because of the 2 reservations - the 1 cash night and the 6 points nights. However, they will check me out and back in tomorrow, and I won't have to go down to the front desk or do anything. The studio was ready, and all of my requests were met - non smoking, top floor, water view. Actually the water view is off to the side, but that's ok. The cm confirmed that all studios and 1br units are in Live Oak Lodge (the main building) except for the 5 of each that are located directly under the grand villas. She told me those were not very good units - and I told her we already knew that, after being stuck with one 2 years ago (never again!). For those unfamiliar with DVC, the grand villas are beautiful 2-story units that hold up to 12 people and have gorgeous hardwood floors. The noise from people walking on that floor carries down to the studio & 1br units directly underneath (the grand villa is on the 2nd & 3rd floor of the 3 story building).

The cm had a package for us - Christmas gifts from my Dad - but I know of a couple more packages that haven't arrived yet. We went up to take a look at the studio before starting to bring anything in. The studios here are laid out like BW and WL Villas. They're larger than the studios at either of those resorts, though. The color scheme is similar to WLV, but WLV is prettier (in my opinion). Our porch is huge!! Darla could put her whole family out there, lol! There's not any extra furniture though - just the 2 wooden rocking chairs and the little wooden table.....and lots & lots of empty floor space. We face west, so we have a nice sunset view.

For the benefit of people unfamiliar with this resort, Hilton Head Island is an island off the southern coast of South Carolina. It's shaped like a high-top tennis shoe, and the Disney resort is on it's own island within the island (it used to be a private estate). It's the smallest of the DVC resorts, with only 102 or 103 units. I think 70 of the units are 2br villas, which makes it difficult for people to book anything besides a 2br during summer if they don't own points here. Besides Live Oak Lodge there are 20 buildings of villas and the recreation/community hall/shop/snack bar building. We've got a 300' fishing pier, marina, and meandering paved paths with stuff like hammocks, swings, benches, etc along the way. Disney also owns 3.5 acres on the ocean, where they built the Beach House. It's 1.5 miles away by bike or tram (or drive your car) and it has another pool (besides the one on the island at the main part of the resort), and arcade, snack bar, and some other stuff. It's right on the beach. When we go over there, we usually ride our bikes, and park them under the building in the garage.

Inside Live Oak Lodge is Big Murgie's Den. I think Big Murgie is the fish that got away, if I'm not mistaken. One side has a nice fireplace, and people can sit on chairs or comfy sofas and talk or watch TV. On the other side is the pool table - a popular gathering spot. The guest laundry is also in this building. There's a fitness center next to the gift shop in the building over by the pool.

I'm not crazy about being located in Live Oak Lodge for the trip, since it's at the edge of the resort and I'd rather be more central, but it's better than being stuck under a grand villa! I hadn't paid attention in past years to notice that Live Oak Lodge is not an enclosed building. The elevator is outdoors, and when we leave our studio we're under a roof, but still outdoors. Coming around the corner after getting off the elevator is like walking in a very cold wind tunnel to get to the units! Brrrrrrr!

We brought in the stuff from the car, and just left it in the studio to be unpacked later. It was 2pm and we were hungry! We drove over to our favorite restaurant (Chris had been looking forward to this all year) - the Big Bamboo Cafe. It's a little place, upstairs over a shopping center and not marked well at all. We only knew about it last year because Layden had recommended it and raved about the place. We tried it, loved it, and returned the next day to eat there again. Anyway, we get there and find that it doesn't open until 4pm (no lunches, only dinner). The manager was inside, and he opened the door to talk to us, so I asked him if they'd be closing any days around Christmas like last year. He was great - he talked & talked & talked to us forever, giving us more information about the place than we ever would have asked for, lol! They've got new owners now, and will start a new menu in February. Most of the same stuff will be there, with more added. He talked about the improvements they've made already, and his looking forward to taking a vacation in January - all kinds of stuff. Chris spotted Layden's nametag hanging above the bar (it evidently is a tradition for Disney cm's to pin their nametag up at the bar in Kissimmee by the same name - I remembered Layden mentioning that last year, but hadn't noticed the nametags since there are only a few of them here).

We were still starving, so we thanked the guy for his time & information and said we'd be back another day. There was no way we wanted to wait 2 more hours, lol - so we went to another favorite place - Hilton Head Diner. This place is open 24 hours, and is right near the resort. It's not a cheesy, tacky diner - it doesn't even look like a diner. It does a good business, and has great food. I got my usual - the French toast. They make it with challah bread, and it's excellent. Chris got a coke and the deluxe cheeseburger platter. The check was $11.95 plus tip, and on the way out he got a huge chocolate chip cookie and I got a twisty cinnamon/nut thing. The pastry is also huge - it barely fit in the meal-sized Styrofoam container, and is delicious. It's flaky pastry with lots of nuts and cinnamon running through it :-) While we were in there, I noticed every single other person was wearing a sweatshirt or sweater...something with long sleeves. I was sitting there like an idiot in a shirt that is practically sleeveless - looking like some tourist from Florida, most likely. When I unpacked later I left most of my stuff in the suitcase - it's just not going to work up here!

We stopped back at the studio to start unpacking. They've added hair dryers to the units (same kind as at OKW) and now the studios have a VCR. We'd noticed this at Vero last summer also - the Inn Rooms have a VCR. The studio at OKW and WLV does not - and I'm assuming BWV still doesn't either. Chris set up the Christmas lights on the porch, while I unpacked. When I was done he went downstairs to see if our bikes had been delivered yet, and happened to run into the bike guy. He also picked up another package that had just come via federal express (gifts from a friend). I'd called the resort my last week at work to see how much the bike rentals would be. For members, it's $25/bike for our stay. I checked the company we used 2 years ago (last year we used Disney) and the bikes were $16/bike for our stay. They deliver & pick them up, and if we were not there they would have left the paperwork with the combinations to our locks in the unit. They'll be back to pick up the bikes after we've left next Saturday - very convenient.

We rode the bikes around the resort briefly, and stopped at the recreation window to sign up for some of the activities. Actually, I signed up for some activities - Chris only wanted to do 1 of them. We asked about Dwayne - a cm from last year who was a lot of fun. Unfortunately, he's no longer working for Disney, and is at a resort somewhere in North Carolina. It's very cold today - only in the 40's. I'm really, really growing tired of this cold weather...and am starting to question how long I'll continue spending this week up here. Tomorrow it's supposed to be mid 50's, which is still cold to me, and then the next couple days it will only be 40 or so...with nights in the low 20's. That is NO fun. I want to do outdoor stuff, but not if I'm freezing my butt off, lol!

We put the bikes away (locked them up in the bike rack in the garage right next to our car) and drove over to do grocery shopping at the Piggly Wiggly (lol - love that name). I'd decided we were not going to fight the crowds at the limited # of restaurants open on Christmas day, so we ended up getting some frozen Boston Market stuff that can be microwaved. We also got a chef's salad for Chris, some crackers/cheese, caffeine free hot chocolate for nights, soda, water, yogurt, milk, etc. It's a small store, but the people are real nice. We came back and put the stuff away, then Chris headed out on his bike. There's a paved path/tunnel that goes under the road to get over to the Beach House, but it is closed off due to road construction out on the road it passes under. That stinks - that's a tough road to have to cross on your bike. He came back and played pool for a while, since he was too cold outside. Then he came up to the studio with some hot apple cider (complimentary in Big Murgie's) and snacked on crackers & cheese while I finished updating the report.

I'd taken several pictures of the studio, and they're out on photopoint now for anyone who wants to see what it looks like. I doubt we'll be going anywhere most nights....I won't want to leave the heat in my studio to face that nasty cold weather outside! My mood (not that I'm in a bad mood, I'm just not in a

thrilled to be here

mood) right now may be influenced by the fact that I only got about 2-3 hours of sleep last night (not sure why, just couldn't fall asleep) and/or the fact that I feel like my body is fighting off a cold. Being tired and frozen doesn't help, lol! I took one of Chris' Claritin D pills that the allergist prescribed for if he gets a cold - maybe it will help. Dang, even my feet are cold - I'd better go back to the double pairs of socks for the week! I shouldn't have returned Tarzan to Nina either - I'm sure HE could warm me up, lol!

After Chris had finished his snack, we went downstairs to play pool for a little while. A family was playing, so we waited for them to finish. Chris went to get another cup of the hot apple cider, but it was empty (along with the basket of cookies). He told a cm at the front desk, who went to get more but returned to tell Chris they were all out of cider but he could make him some hot chocolate. Chris said no thanks - then turns around 2 minutes later & asks me if I'd go make him a cup of hot chocolate in the studio & bring it down.....lol, I don't think so!

We played 2 games of pool before someone else came to use the table - Chris won both times. He's been playing a lot this year, so he's gotten a lot better. We took a walk over to the recreation area, and I was shocked to see people sitting in the hot tub, and a girl swimming in the pool!! I told the hot tub people they were crazy, lol! The store was closed, but we went into the fitness center. The big piece of universal type equipment was gone, but the other stuff (2 treadmills, a stepper, a bike, and some new thing I'd never seen - like a no impact jogger/walker thing) all looked new and very nice. I used the treadmill for a short time, while Chris used some of the other stuff, then we walked back to the studio. We were in by 8pm, lol - a far cry from my WDW nights <g>. I just want to get warm & crawl into bed before getting online - he's playing Nintendo64 games (he brought the system with him). I'm glad I bought some Disney flannel for this trip - it'll get worn tonight & the rest of the week, then be put away until next year.

It was a good day, and went according to plan. Hopefully I'll feel better in the morning, after a decent night's sleep. Tomorrow we'll do as much outdoor stuff as we can, since it will be the warmest of the next 3 days. The campfire was canceled tonight due to the cold - in it's place they're showing It's a Wonderful Life in Community Hall, with popcorn for everyone (we skipped it). I've got a 2 hour Beach Nature Walk at 9am - should be fun...I'll pile on the clothing!

Total miles walked: 3.2 Since we won't really be doing much walking for the rest of the trip (mostly biking & skating hopefully), the pedometer is officially off duty until February.

DAY 10 - SUNDAY, DECEMBER 24, 2000:

Plan: Ride bikes, rollerblade, eat out, beach

Actual: I'd set the alarm for 7:30, and got up then. I did sleep a lot better last night, but kept waking up briefly. Perhaps tonight I'll just crash and not wake up at all. I definitely feeling achy, and my head feels all fuzzy, so I took another Claritin and stocked up on Kleenex for my pockets, lol! Breakfast was cappuccino & banana nut bread; Chris is still in bed, but he's got hot chocolate & cereal for whenever he gets up. It's 28 degrees outside - perfect weather for a walk on the beach, right??? My beach nature walk is supposed to last from 9-11, so I'll meet up with Chris when it's done.

Other activities scheduled for today (that I'm not planning to participate in - but I'll list them for the benefit of people considering a visit here) include a Nature Kayaking Trip (NO WAY) at noon, Fly Fishing class for adults & kids older than 10 at 1pm, decorating cookies for Santa at 2 (age 5 & up), and then the visit from Santa at 6. Santa will come, along with a helper and sit in front of the fireplace at Big Murgie's Den and read the Christmas story and listen to the kids' wishes. He'll give them each a candy cane and the parents can take pictures.

I left the studio at 8:40 so I'd have time to walk to the store, buy a Sunday newspaper, return it to the studio, and walk back to join the walk group. At the store, the newspaper box was empty, so I asked the recreation cm what time they get delivered. She made some calls & found out they were at the front desk but just not brought over yet. So, walked back to Live Oak Lodge, got my newspaper, put it in the room, and got back to the store in time. Fortunately the resort is pretty small - so even the opposite ends are not that far apart.

Our guide was Eric - he's been here for 3 months and is developing new recreation programs at the resort. He's most interested in the birds, plants & wildlife, so that will be his focus. There were only 3 other people on the walk this morning - 3 siblings (18, 14 & 12) from Ohio. They were really nice, and we all enjoyed the walk. Another family had signed up, but were not there. The recreation cm said they usually ran late, but after about 10 minutes she called their unit - guess they decided not to do the walk, and didn't bother to call and cancel.

Eric took us by van over to a different beach, and explained the different birds, plant life, and some of the history of Hilton Head Island. We got to ask all the questions we wanted, and just had a really nice morning. It was fairly chilly, but as long as we didn't stand still too long it wasn't bad. The kids just wore sweatshirts - I wore a lot more! I was expecting more of a fitness-type walk, and this ended up being more of a short stroll to see some of nature event. I'd like to see them add a fitness walk on the beach some day - that would be fun.

Back at Live Oak Lodge, I found Chris playing pool with another kid. I put in a load of laundry and returned to the studio to warm up. The other kid had to leave, so Chris called & asked me to come down and play pool - so we played while the laundry finished up. Hehehe - I won 3 out of 4 games - which surprised us both....definitely a fluke! By noon it was 51 degrees and sunny. Chris thought it was beautiful, and didn't even wear a jacket or sweatshirt. I was still chilled to the bone :( and thought seriously about just sitting in front of the open dryer for a little while, with the warm laundry piled on my lap, lol!

Chris played one last game with another teen while I got the laundry put away, then we got our bikes and rode over to Shelter Cove (right across the bridge from the resort) to see if the chili I like is still on the menu at San Miguel's. I like the flavor/spiciness of chili, but can't ever order it out because I don't like beans. San Miguel's makes theirs with pieces of steak (rather than ground beef) and no beans. They're located in a little shopping area right on the marina across from our resort, and I imagine eating outside would be a nice thing to do in the summer. We got our bikes and rode over, only to find out they're not opened on Sundays this time of year. They did have the menu posted on the door, and my chili is still on there, so we'll be back another day.

We rode the bikes over to Fuddruckers - which is a very casual burger type place that Chris loves. They make their own hamburger patties fresh daily, and make their own buns also. Chris had the 1/2 pound cheeseburger and a coke; I got the side salad and a bun. The took and buttered/grilled the bun for me, so it was nice & warm - and delicious. Total check was $8.52. They also have grilled chicken salads and chicken Caesar salads that looked wonderful - but too big unless Chris gets a smaller burger so he can help.

When we left Fuddruckers I figured we might as well ride down to the beach today - this may be the nicest day for that. We rode past Disney's beach house to see more of the neighborhoods back there, and then returned to Disney and rode our bikes out on the beach. The tide was low, so the beach was very wide - it's one of the widest beaches I've seen. Eric this morning said about every 7 years they pump more sand up on the beach to widen it some - to keep it nice for the tourists. We rode way down to the rocks near the beach I was at this morning, then rode back.

There were a few people who'd just gotten out of the pool - the sun actually felt pretty good, and the wind wasn't blowing much up there. We headed back to the main resort, and Chris went back to use the pool table while I went to the mall. The mall here is very small - mostly yuppie type stores, but it's worth walking through to see it. I don't think I even spent 20 minutes in there, though. From there I rode past Fuddruckers again and went to the Piggly Wiggly to pick up a couple of things - including a big can of creamy tomato soup that's microwave & serve. Soup sounds good for me tonight and it makes 2 servings so Chris can have some if he wants. I rode back to the resort and found Chris waiting to use the pool table with another teen. A bunch of people were watching some football game on the big screen TV, so I opted to go relax in the studio. The cm was just bringing out the hot apple cider, so I took a cup of that with me. All together we were gone about 3.5 hours, and I'd say we rode our bikes for 12-15 miles.

I updated the report, then went to lay on the couch, covered up with a blanket. I stayed there for over 2 hours - dozing on & off, and felt better when I got up. Chris called to see if he could go play ping pong with some kids - Santa was arriving at Big Murgie's Den so they had to quit playing pool for little while. Chris can pretty much do whatever he wants when we're on vacations - as long as I know where he'll be, so he went off to play ping pong and I snuck down to the car to get his last gift out of the trunk. Months ago we'd seen a scooter on home shopping network (when they were just coming out) and he'd said he wanted it but I told him I wasn't going to spend the money for something like that. Then when he left the room I called & ordered it - having it shipped to work. It's in a box, all wrapped up and tucked way in the back of the trunk. I brought it up and slid it under my bed - I'll put it by the tree before he wakes up in the morning.

I decided to go take a look at the Santa event - I'd watched it the 2 previous years. This year though, it was a madhouse - you could barely enter the room and then you couldn't move! I turned around and left, returning to the studio. Chris is due home at 7 so we can watch the Christmas special from WDW (but he decided he didn't want to watch it so I let him go back out after dinner). He ate some crackers & cheese, along with most of the soup (which was excellent) - I'm not sure what's open tonight, and I really don't feel like going out.

The day went according to the plan, except for no rollerblading, and it was a good day despite not feeling the greatest. It's hard to believe tomorrow is Christmas though - and I hope everyone reading has or had a Merry Christmas.

DAY 11 - MONDAY, DECEMBER 25, 2000 (Merry Christmas):

Plan: Christmas Day - open gifts, eat in studio, ride bikes

Actual: After going to bed at 10 last night, I didn't get up until 8:30 this morning - but must have needed the rest! It looks like a gorgeous day outside - sunny, blue sky - but the TV says with the wind chill it's only 21 degrees! It's supposed to get into the lower 50's but be windy today.

I showered and got breakfast (cappuccino and banana nut bread) and Chris had some hot chocolate and cereal - then we opened our gifts. He got some N64 games, clothes, a scooter, & some other little things. He gave me a beautiful amethyst & cz necklace & earrings set (his dad picked it out and got it, actually). It comes down to a "V" shape, with 3 marquis shaped amethysts on either side, and 3 small round cz's on each side. The earrings are marquis shaped studs - very pretty. I didn't get a whole lot of Disney stuff - just the Christmas Mickey antenna topper, a really cool mouse pad, and a screen saver with a bunch of quotes from Walt Disney. There was also a stocking filled with a bunch of Disney hard candy hanging from the door knob of each unit.

Chris' dad called after we'd opened the gifts, and then Chris played with one of his Nintendo games for a while until it was time to call my brother's family in NH. My dad is spending the day there, so we got to talk to the whole family.

The only activity I'd signed up for today is the 2pm Resort Nature Walk, which will be led by Eric and may include part of the marsh. The other stuff on the activities list includes It's a Wonderful Life movie in the den at 11, Discovery Dolphin Tours at 10 & 2, Parent Christmas Tree Wrap Up (kids get to wrap up their parents) at 1, and the campfire at 7.

We went outside and I rollerbladed while Chris used his new scooter. In the sun it really didn't feel that bad out there. We went inside after a while and played a couple of games of pool. One of his friends from yesterday came and watched, so I quit to let them play. The guy seems nice - he's 19, but he's not much bigger than Chris is. His family is cooking a turkey today.

We had our Christmas dinner in the studio about 1:30 - turkey medallions with stuffing & gravy, plus some macaroni & cheese for Chris. The turkey/stuffing is the frozen Boston Market brand - microwavable. Since we're in a studio, our cooking abilities are limited. It was actually very good - and plenty for the 2 of us. It made the studio smell like a turkey dinner, too.

At 2pm we met for the nature walk. One of the other guests (Bob) recognized me from last year, so we chatted. He remembered we were from Ft Myers, that Sheila & Colin were with us, and had played pool with Chris last year. They're members from Florida, and this is their 3rd year this week also. The walk was nice, but so chilly we bailed out less than 1/2 way through. As we passed Live Oak Lodge we quietly ducked into the parking garage and went up to the warm studio.

I'd suggested we see a movie but Chris preferred playing pool or Nintendo - so that gave me the opportunity to see a movie he wasn't interested in <g>. I think the last time I went to the movies was here at Hilton Head last year, lol - so it wasn't hard to find something I hadn't seen yet! The theater opened at 3:30 and when I got there at 3:15 there was a long line of people wrapped around the building. They opened up a few minutes early, though. Most people were there to see Castaway - I saw What Women Want (Helen Hunt, Mel Gibson - comedy). It was a cute movie - but if Chris had come he probably would have been better off with one of the action movies.

I got back to the resort a little after 6, and found Chris in Big Murgie's Den playing pool with a group of teens. He'd written out his thank you cards while I was gone (not on his own - he was told he couldn't leave the room until they were done, lol) I talked to him a little while, then grabbed a 1/2 cup of hot apple cider and went up to the studio. He wasn't interested in going to the campfire tonight - after breaking the s'mores eating record last year, he still doesn't want to see a s'more! Originally I'd planned to skip it too, but the idea of chocolate being available forced me to go out. Rather than do the campfire, though - I went to the fitness center and used the treadmill. The campfire ended shortly after I was done working out, so I got my s'mores ingredients and took them back to the studio to heat in the microwave. Mmmmmm!

I'm in for the night - I lit one of the Christmas candles I received as a gift (thanks, Kathy) and curled up in bed to get online. Chris came home to eat his chef salad for dinner (I just nibbled on different things) and then went back out for a couple of hours to play more pool with the other teens. Last year it was mostly younger kids here this week, so it's nice to have so many teens for him to hang out with.

Chris was telling me he heard a woman complaining at the front desk - saying they should have canceled the campfire because it's too cold and windy, and people will get sick and it will be Disney's fault - LOL!! How ridiculous - she can certainly choose not to attend if she thinks it's too cold, and "being" cold won't give you a cold! Oh well - I don't know what the outcome was, but I doubt Disney will be canceling their activities for all guests based on the opinion of one guest. The campfire was very crowded, by the way - lots of people didn't seem to mind the weather.

It was a nice relaxing day. We didn't ride bikes (too cool & windy) but did rollerblading instead. It's supposed to be upper 40's by tomorrow afternoon, so I'll spend the morning shopping the outlets and then we'll do some outdoor stuff if I can stand the chill. Tomorrow night hopefully we'll eat at Big Bamboo Cafe for the first time this trip.

DAY 12 - TUESDAY, DECEMBER 26, 2000:

Plan: Shop outlets, Pat (DsneyDiva) arrives

Actual: We'd slept with the drapes open last night, to wake up when the sun came up. I woke up about 7:30, and woke up Chris. He'd made plans to meet Heather (14 yr old from my beach nature walk) at the fitness center, but he fell back asleep. I did, too - and got up about 8:30. The weather person said the wind chill was 12 or 16 degrees - I don't remember which. He got up while I was in the shower, and we had breakfast (cappuccino and the last of the banana nut bread for me, cereal for him). He headed out with his scooter to look for his friends, and I headed to one of the outlet centers.

The main attraction is the Disney Catalog Outlet - the rest of the stores are shops I can find anywhere, for the most part. At Disney, everything was 25% off the marked down price, except 50% off the holiday stuff. I'd wanted a hard case for my sunglasses, and found a cute one in black leather with Eeyore imprinted in it (regularly $12, today $2.99) so I got one for me and one for Sheila since she's a big Eeyore fan. I also found a cute Mickey Mouse business card holder ($18 for $10.13) for my desk - it matches a set of bookends I'd received last Christmas. They had the set of 4 Mickey Mouse head shaped Christmas ornaments in the burgundy color, so I picked those up for someone else ($25 for $9.38). Then, I got an additional 10% off for showing my resort id - not sure if it's for being a resort guest or a DVC member. They had a bunch of those Christmas ornament sets that come in a box that looks like a book - Snow White & the 7 dwarves. They were marked down to $9.99, so they'd be just $5! Darla - if you want me to pick up a set for your mother, let me know.

My only other purchase was some chocolate from the candy store - Kilwin's (from Michigan, I think). I wanted just plain chocolate, but tried a sample of their bear claw fudge - chocolate with a bunch of caramel running through it, and whole cashews - yummy! I just got 1/2 slice, which is good because Chris decided he didn't care for it. At this point I headed back to the resort to meet Chris. I can visit the other outlet center another day.

I'm not signed up for any activities today, but the list includes Trees of Longview Island (that's the name of the island the resort sits on, people will create leaf & bark rubbings while learning about the trees) at 10, Nature Kayaking at 12, Dolphin Discovery at 10 & 2, Gyotaku (painting with a dead fish - ages 5 & up) at 1, Southern Snowball Fight at 3, and Goofy Bingo at 7. Chris was in the studio playing Nintendo when I returned - none of his friends were around today.

He was hungry, so we rode our bikes (VERY chilly ride, lol) to the Hilton Head Diner. I knew if I ate a normal lunch I wouldn't be able to eat dinner, so I planned on just getting something small here. Soup sounded good - and I ordered the cream of turkey, but the waitress confided that it wasn't very good. I tasted the French Onion Soup, but it was way too salty for me (I use absolutely no salt at all - I hate the taste of it). I ended up with an English muffin, lol. Chris got a breakfast special - 2 eggs, sausage, home fries, 2 pancakes and a coke. Total check was $9.51 plus tip. For anyone planning a visit here, check www.discoverydining.com - from that website you can buy gift certificates to HH Diner and several other restaurants - and pay half price. At HH Diner you can buy a $15 certificate for $7.50 - I think as many as you want. The website says it takes 5-7 days for your certificates to arrive, so it won't do me any good this trip, but I'll be sure to order some for the next trip.

We rode back to the resort, and I went to the studio to watch Port Charles. There's been one ongoing problem at the resort this time that I haven't mentioned in the trip report because I was hoping it would be resolved quickly. But, here we are 4 days into our stay and it's not any better so I made yet another trip to the front desk. When we checked in, they were having problems with the cable TV, and Adelphia was out trying to fix it. As a result, the sound on the TV was full of static - it's hard to understand what's being said, and is very annoying/distracting. Normally I wouldn't be watching much TV in a Disney resort - but with the cold weather, we spend more time in the room. Besides - in a Disney resort it's unacceptable for anything to be not working. I'd gone to the front desk at least once a day, and called other times - checking on the status of the cable being fixed. One time they offered us free videos - LOL, as members we get free videos....that's nothing special. A couple of times they said we could use the TV in Big Murgie's Den, since that one was working - that wasn't acceptable either. I want to be able to crawl under the covers and watch TV in the privacy of my studio - not in a public area where people are playing pool right next to me!! Besides, other people may not want to watch what I want to watch!

Last night the cm suggested they could move us - but that is a major pain as well....there is no bell services here, and the idea of packing up everything and moving in the freezing cold weather is NOT something I would want to do. What I want is for them to fix it. I'm not one of those people who would play this to their advantage to get some freebies - I absolutely HATE that "gimmee" mentality - I just want to be able to hear what's being said while I watch TV in the room that I've paid for. Today the front desk manager is the one I talked to, and he said he'd send someone up to take a look at it (this is the first time they've sent anyone - up until this point it's always been "cable problems"). So, we sat around the damn studio waiting for the maintenance person to arrive. I'd consider just heading back to FL, but would lose the points for the rest of the trip, and I'm hoping they'll be able to fix it today.

On a more pleasant note, our last package from friends arrived today - with Christmas gifts - money for Chris and a nice pair of earrings for me. The maintenance guy arrived after about 30 minutes, checked the TV and went to get us a new one, saying it was probably the speaker. Chris had been saying the same thing all along, but I dismissed it - figuring what does a kid know! Next time I'll listen, lol. The maintenance guy came back with a TV and a helper, swapped out the TV and presto - perfect sound!

Now that we had a working TV we headed out to ride our bikes <g>. Chris didn't last too long before he asked if he could go back - it was really cold out there! I continued on for a while, until I couldn't stand it any more either. I thought Chris might be playing pool, but he was in the studio playing Nintendo. We went downstairs to wait for the pool table. Bob was there while 2 of his kids were playing, so I chatted with him. They live just 20 minutes from the Vero DVC resort, and expect to be back here again this week next year for their 4th year in a row.

Bob & his family left to do the Southern Snowball Fight, and Chris & I played a couple of games of pool before anyone else came in. There was a nice fire going in the fireplace, and it felt really good to stand with my back to the fire and let the heat warm me up some! Chris added another log when it started to die out, and I sat in a rocking chair by the fireplace to watch the beginning of General Hospital. Eventually other people came in, including a lady with a couple of young kids. It didn't seem like sex scenes on a daytime soap opera were the best choice for the kids, lol - so I went upstairs to watch the rest in the studio.

At 5 I went downstairs and pulled Chris away from playing pool with the teens. We drove over to Big Bamboo Cafe and had a meal that surpassed anything we were expecting. We were seated right away, and brought a basket of popcorn. The waitress was a very sweet girl - very attentive and so nice. I ordered the chicken Caesar salad ($7.95), which comes in a bread bowl - and was loaded with chicken! It was also delicious - even the bread bowl tasted great (usually those things are more for show than for taste, in my experience). I ended up taking at least half of it home for another day. Chris got a coke and one of the early bird dinner specials. Those are a terrific value - it's a glass of beer or wine (we got wine, and I drank it), soup or salad (the salad would have been enough for a meal for me), entree with vegetable & choice of potato, and dessert - all for $12.95. The entrees are the full portion served at regular price after 6pm, too. He chose the 7oz NY strip steak with a salmon filet, and got French fries for his potato. The steak was delicious and tender, almost to the point of not needing a knife, and was quite large! The salmon was also huge, and he wolfed that down in no time flat. He's not normally a big steak lover, but he ate every bite of the steak, raving about how delicious it was (I tried a bite, and he was right). We also had fresh hot French bread - also wonderful! Chris said he wished we lived on Hilton Head so he could eat this every night, lol! Tonight's dessert (not sure if it's the same all the time, or if it changes) was hot blueberry cobbler with whipped cream - also very good. We really enjoyed this restaurant last year, but tonight's meal exceeded what we experienced last year, and we'll definitely be back. Total check was about $24 plus tip.

We drove back to the resort, and Chris went to join the teens still playing pool. I put the leftover Caesar in the refrigerator, then went to the fitness center to use the treadmill for about 1/2 hour. After eating, it felt good to get some exercise. The only bad part was the TV was set on the History Channel - which would have been one of my absolute last choices of things to watch, and I'm too short to reach the TV to change the channel. So, I watched the end of some show with a very hunky younger Robert Conrad called Black Sheep Squadron - didn't care for the show, but enjoyed his dimples and physique <g>. I never realized that all women in the army (or whatever branch of service this was about) looked like super models - they take off their helmet and shake out this gorgeous mane of long blonde hair, lip gloss and makeup still perfectly in place. That just struck me as kind of funny, thinking the History Channel might have been more into reality. I guess they show what people want to watch, though. To be fair, the Robert Conrad character was the only guy in skin tight pants and tight tee shirts - the other guys (who I guess were not the stars) were in baggy clothes like you'd expect to see <g>.

Anyway, sorry to digress - Chris & Heather came in to work out while I was there. She was really good on the stepper, and he used the bike machine. When I finished up I left them and returned to Live Oak Lodge. On my way in I spotted a woman and girl walking out to the parking lot, and called out "Pat?" It turned out to be Pat (DsneyDiva), so we talked for a while before she headed to settle in her studio. We made plans to meet for dinner at Big Bamboo Cafe tomorrow night.

I returned to the studio and made a cappuccino (still stuffed, but wanted something warm). Chris came back for his swimsuit - he, Heather & a group of the other teens were going swimming! It's 34 degrees outside, but they don't seem to mind, so I gave him his swimsuit and he went off.

Tonight's the first night that we have neighbors in the connecting 1br unit. At least, I've not heard any noise at all up until now. There's a young child in there, and a bunch of bumping/stomping around. I do wish DVC did a better job soundproofing their units, and hopefully these people won't be loud!

Overall it was a great day, and only warmer weather could have made it better. I'm still glad we're here, despite the nasty cold weather, though. Tomorrow is supposed to be the warmest day of the week - a high of 55. I can't wait!

DAY 13 - WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 27, 2000:

Plan: Ride bikes, rollerblade, eat out, beach

Actual: Last night was probably the best night's sleep yet - I'm not waking up as often to blow my nose, and can breathe better. It's still a big adjustment from the more humid environment I'm used to - having the heat on really dries out the air, and in doing so makes my nose & throat really dry and then I get a mild headache from the pressure of being clogged up. It's no big deal though, and will pass once we get back to FL. It does remind me of why we quit even considering going to Massachusetts for the holidays, lol!

Today is Member Day, but I'm not sure it really means much here. At Vero on member day all members get 10% off in the shop - I've not seen anything to indicate that's true here. Also, there's usually a DVC member update on member day at the other resorts - but don't see that on the schedule here either. They are serving "Coffee in the Cottage" - in one of the grand villas - from 8:30-10, but since I don't drink coffee and we've seen the grand villas before, I'll skip it. At 9 is the Member Exclusive "Behind the Ears" Tour, which I signed up for. I believe I also did it last year, so we'll see if it's the same thing still.

Other activities scheduled, which we do not plan to participate in, include: Disney Discovery Club Beach Adventure for ages 3-12 from 9am-noon ($20 members, $25 guests), Crabbing activity at 10 for ages 5 & up ($12M,$15G), Dolphin Tours at 10 & 2, Unbirthday Party for ages 7-12 at 1pm, Unbirthday Party for ages 3-6 at 3pm, and the Campfire at 7pm.

I was up at 7:30, and for breakfast had hot chocolate and blueberry yogurt with granola mixed in (always a favorite). Chris didn't get up until I left, and most likely had cereal again along with the Ghiradelli Chocolate Raspberry coffee I'd made for him before I left. I'd packed the coffee, but forgot a coffee filter! Since a box of coffee filters lasts us longer than a DVC membership, he asked at the front desk and they gave him a single filter.

Today is trash & towel day for us, which is good - I've used the last of the Kleenex! I left the studio just before 9 to go meet the Behind the Ears Tour over at the store. There were several people taking the tour, including Pat. The normal tour guide was on vacation, so Carole from the preview center did it, and did a good job. It was the same tour I'd done last year - they talk about the themeing and details of the resort, but no behind the scenes stuff. Pat mentioned that in the grand villa they were going to do a drawing for a couple of prizes, so I ran over there when the tour got close to that building, figuring I'd catch up with the group a little later.

There was a DVC guide talking to people about the new WL Villas, but I didn't have time to stay for that. I entered my name into the drawing, chatted briefly with the other DVC person and headed for the door. As I got to the door, a man sitting by the fireplace called my name out, but I didn't recognize him. He asked me where my rollerblades were, lol, so I knew it was someone from the internet! It turned out to be Richard & Martha from the DVCtalk egroups list - he'd written that he'd be looking for me here, but I either didn't receive or just missed reading that message. Sometimes egroups seems to drop messages :( I went over and talked quietly with him for a little bit, then left to go find the tour group.

I must have just missed the tour, with them turning one way as I headed the other, because it took a while to find them. We ended up in Live Oak Lodge, and when the tour was over Pat & I decided to stop by the grand villa to see if we were winners in the drawing <g>. We got to talking to the DVC person there, and I told her I'd put a bunch of WL Villas pictures on photopoint. She said that earlier today some members were talking about those pictures - she heard one member giving the URL and my screen name to another member, lol! What a small world that then I show up in person just an hour later! They also did the drawing - Pat's name was the first one drawn, so she won the beach bag she wanted! The 2nd name was somebody else - it would have been funny if we'd both won, but the odds were against that!

Pat's studio is directly underneath this grand villa, so we stopped down there for her to show me their non-view. She'd requested a view of the harbor, and her building faces the harbor - but from the front. She has a view of the harbor while in the bathroom, lol - otherwise her view is out to a wooded area. None of the balconies overlook the harbor, and on the tour they explained why - because they'd overlook the parking lot and also to respect the privacy of people who may be living on the boats in the marina and the villas across the harbor. The bit about the boat people and villas sounded rather farfetched to us both, but I can understand Disney not building a balcony on the side of the building where people park.

During the tour someone asked why Disney doesn't have a restaurant on site. Part of the answer was they wanted to be a good neighbor - since there are 6 restaurants right across the bridge, within walking distance. The more plausible reason (in my opinion) given was also that with over 250 restaurants on HH Island, Disney didn't want to build their own and try to make it profitable. They said our dues would have been higher, to support it, and it would have meant fewer villas to sell since the restaurant would have to go somewhere (the little island is fully developed). Personally, I think they made the right decision, and hope to never see a full service restaurant added at the resort - I like things just as they are here.

Someone had asked me what the snowballs were made of at the Southern Snowball Fight yesterday. Bob & his family did the tour this morning, so I asked him. It was socks....balled up socks, evidently. He said it was fun!

After leaving Pat's studio I returned to our studio and found Chris watching the Munsters and eating cereal. I rushed him through the rest of his breakfast (at 10:30, lol) and we got on our bikes and rode down to the Coligny Circle area. My legs were kind of sore from the biking, which surprised me - normally that's not been an issue. So, I pedaled slowly and after several miles I realized the return trip I'd be riding against the wind! Yuck! Chris just wanted to play pool, so I sent him back to the resort while I rode around longer before starting the trip back. We rode about 10 miles.

I went to the studio and finished the Caesar salad from last night, thinking since Chris had breakfast so late he wouldn't want lunch. Just as I was almost done, he called me in the studio to ask if we could go to Fuddruckers for lunch! I told him I'd already eaten, so he asked if he could go alone. I gave him money, and off he went for another 1/2 pound cheeseburger. I watched Port Charles and then headed back outside to roller blade around the resort. Most of the roads & paths on Hilton Head are not really good enough for rollerblading - they're too rough. I like a really smooth surface, like I have in Florida.

I returned the skates to the studio and decided to go for a walk on the beach. Today it was still barely 50 degrees, but the nasty icy wind was missing, so it actually felt pretty nice! I ran into Chris & another teen walking back from Fuddruckers - he wasn't interested in going to the beach, so we agreed upon a time to meet back in the studio. I parked at the Beach House and walked on the beach for almost an hour. I didn't mention that this morning in the grand villa the DVC cm asked me if I knew Patty & Mark - and used their last names and city they live in. I thought of SweetP, but figured the odds of it being her were pretty slim, so I said I didn't know them. The cm was saying they stay at HH every 3 months - the most regular guests! Anyway, as I'm walking on the beach and about to take a picture, someone yells Hi Sue - and it's SweetP (Patti), her husband Mark, & their daughter. It turns out they ARE the couple the DVC cm was talking about, lol! They spend 4 weeks a year at HH, plus time at the other DVC resorts. Patti said they are to HH what I am to OKW, lol! We chatted for a while - I'd met them a year ago at OKW.

The beach was beautiful, and lots of people were out enjoying the day. When I got back to the beach house I saw Pat's daughter Cara in the pool with some other kids, and Pat & I sat around for a while before I returned to the studio to watch General Hospital. Why are these soap opera women wearing backless and midriff baring skintight tops when they're supposedly in upstate NY and it's snowy outside??? LOL - Here I am in 50 degree weather all covered from head to toe, indoors and out! I got online, and was able to take care of some work issues before heading out for dinner. Luckily the person I leave in charge is very good - I sent him information he needed, he made the right calls to resolve the issues, and got back to me to let me know what he'd done and how it worked out - all within an hour! I love email (and competent people)!

Speaking of competent people (insert slight sarcasm here), I was surprised when I returned to the studio earlier to find the housekeeping carts gone, but no trash & towel service had been performed in here. I called housekeeping about 1:30, and was told that they were at lunch now & she'd leave them a note so they'd be sure to not forget to service my unit. Our damp towels have been laying on the bathroom floor all day, so NOT getting clean towels today is not an option! At 4:20 there still was no sign of them, so I called again - this time the phone rang at the front desk (a sign that perhaps they were gone in housekeeping, perhaps??). Jerry from the front desk called them, then called me back - the system said we received trash & towel yesterday, but that's wrong. She said she'd call housekeeping back and tell them we didn't receive it yesterday, so I'm assuming they'll send someone over to take care of it today. It's a shame that person will have to work beyond his/her shift, but I guess that's not my problem to worry about. Frankly, these problems - missing the trash/towel, having the TV problem for 4 days - shock me. I hope it's not a sign of what I can expect from this resort in the future.

I left the studio about 4:45 to go watch Chris & the teens play pool. He said he wasn't hungry at all, and would rather just have cereal for dinner! LOL - I guess that's what a 1/2 pound burger 2.5 hours ago will do for you! There's no point in me buying a dinner that isn't going to get eaten, so I told him he could stay here. Pat & Cara (her daughter) showed up at 5, and I drove us over to Big Bamboo Cafe. They loved the atmosphere of the place and each decided on the steak & salmon that Chris had ordered last night.

Service wasn't nearly as good as last night - our waiter was rather abrupt, we never got popcorn, never got bread, and I was left with the impression that he was doing us some huge favor by waiting on us. Pat liked him better than I did, and we did talk to him a bit & he got friendlier, but it was nothing like last night's experience. However, the food was excellent, and that's really what we were there for. Pat got the clam chowder with her dinner, and she said it was excellent. The dessert tonight was warm peach crisp, which she also enjoyed. I just got the French onion soup, which was delicious - not salty at all! Pat bought dinner - Thank you, Pat! Poor Cara was starting to fade before we got out of there - I think she would have fallen asleep at the table if we'd let her (she's 8 yrs old).

We got back to the resort just before 7. Pat & Cara went to the campfire; I checked on Chris and then headed to the Fitness Center to use the treadmill until the campfire was over. I got my s'mores ingredients to take back to the studio, and returned to the room. I did find out that Chris' s'mores eating record was broken by some kid last summer who ate 14 of them! I told him, but he's not interested in trying to reclaim the record, lol!

Chris was in the studio eating crackers & cheese for dinner, then he went out to play pool with the teens for the evening. The trash & towel had been done - for the most part. They missed one full trash can and didn't replace the missing paper plates. So, we've got a single paper cereal bowl that I guess we're expected to use & rinse out each day for the rest of the week! When the housekeepers arrive tomorrow, I'll get some more from their little room. I settled in for the evening (can hear that the neighbors are home now - slam, slam, yell, etc) to finish the report and get online.

We did everything on the plan today, and it was one of the best days yet. The rest of the week looks pretty bad weather-wise, so I'm glad I was able to do a lot today. If it is rainy tomorrow, I'll do laundry and spend time at the outlets - since biking and rollerblading will be out of the question.

DAY 14 - THURSDAY, DECEMBER 28, 2000:

Plan: Ride bikes, rollerblade, eat out, beach

Actual: The rain started last evening before Chris got home, and it rained all through the night. There's 100% chance of rain all day & night today, with it continuing into Friday morning - yuck! Obviously, the biking, rollerblading & beach are out of the question for today.

I was up around 7:30, showered, and threw the laundry in before having cappuccino & yogurt with granola for breakfast. I'd hoped to do laundry today anyway, so I could pack tomorrow - one thing I've gotten used to with DVC is coming home with clean clothes - no need to do laundry after a trip! Chris didn't get up until almost 10, and he had crackers & cheese for breakfast, with some hot chocolate. Garlic cheese spread isn't my idea of breakfast food, but if he's ok with it, that's fine with me.

Today I'm not signed up for any activities, but the list of available things includes: Shadow's Doggone Adventure (hearing the story about the "mascot" of the resort - Shadow the golden retriever) at 10, A Glimpse of Shadow (photo op with a dog who is "Shadow") at 11:30, Dolphin Discovery Tours at 10 & 2, Nature Kayaking Trip at 2, Gyotaku (painting a tee-shirt with a dead fish) at 3, Longview Cooking Club - A Taste of Wine at 6 ($12 M, $15 G), and Kids Night Out (ages 5-12, $20M, $25G) from 6-9.

At 10:30 I headed out for the other outlet center. Chris didn't want to go, so he stayed at the resort to play pool. I spent a couple of hours shopping, but didn't end up buying anything. At the petite store the clerks were excited to meet someone who can wear a size 0 - they say the get several of that size in, but never see anyone buy them, lol. I tried on a few things, but didn't find anything so great I had to have it. I think I was at the Hilton Head Factory Outlets I center, which is the bigger of the 2, and has quite a few good shops. I love the Escada shop, but even at outlet prices it's still more than I'll pay. I have 1 pair of Escada slacks that were $520 (I got them for about $30) and they are the most gorgeous piece of clothing I own - I can wear them sitting in the car for an hour, and when I stand up they look like they've just been pressed and I only put them on a couple of seconds ago....they're amazing! Anyway, I saw several really pretty items, but $989 dresses and $200 jeans were not in the plan for today <g>.

On the way back I stopped at the other outlet center to pick up a turtle apple at Kilwin's Candy store. The guy was just about to make them, so I waited about 20 minutes or so for it. It's a big granny smith apple, dipped in caramel, coated in chopped pecans, then dipped in chocolate! It looks delicious, and Chris & I can enjoy that tonight <g>! I was back in the studio in time to catch the end of Port Charles, then just hung out relaxing until Chris returned at 1:30 for our lunch.

We went to San Miguel's - another of our favorite restaurants here. It's located right across the harbor, but for the first time, we drove! Normally we ride our bikes over, but normally it's not a nasty rainy day! We were seated right away - only 1 other table was occupied at this hour, although a few people were at the bar. The guy who seated us & waited on us is the same guy we've had every year, so maybe he's the owner or something. I got the chili - nice & spicy, and made with chunks of steak rather than ground beef. Also, no beans!!! I ordered a side of sour cream, and mixed a spoonful of it into the chili to make it less spicy - it was delicious! I noticed sangria on the menu, so I ordered a glass of that. It came in a big tall glass, and it was delicious also <g>, and at $3.25 a very good value. Chris got his usual coke and a tostada that was basically a taco salad. He loved it, but ended up taking part of it home to finish later. The total check was $17.18 plus tax, and we were both stuffed.

Leaving the restaurant, the wind had really picked up. It was damp, raw, cold, and the wind just cut right through you. This is part of the reason I'll NEVER live in New England again! I hate days like this, and I'm glad we don't get them in Florida. We drove back to the resort and he went off to play pool while I did some packing before General Hospital started.

I called DVC member services to book a Thanksgiving trip for next year. I reserved Wednesday, Thursday & Friday nights at OKW, but may drop the Friday later since I've got 13 nights there ending November 10th - and will be back closer to Christmas in December. If I decide to make the next Christmas trip shorter, then the Thanksgiving time will come in handy - we'll see how I feel about it as the time gets closer.

Shortly before 6 I walked over to the Fitness Center. By now the wind was blowing pretty hard, and it felt really cold outside!! I tried to shelter myself with the umbrella, and at the same time tried to avoid the deep puddles - what a pain. I'd finally gotten smarter, too - I brought the remote control from the room. The TV in the fitness center is set up on a high shelf, and I can't reach it to change the channel. I certainly didn't want to be subjected to the History Channel from 2 nights ago, or ESPN like last night <g>, so I brought my own remote! Nobody was in there, so I set the treadmill for a 30 minute brisk walk, changed the channel to the local news, and went about my business. A young girl named Ashley came in and took the treadmill next to me and had the audacity to run, lol! I felt like an old lady next to her, lol - but that's ok. When my time was up I returned to the studio. Chris was in Big Murgie's Den watching a video with a teen friend.

Back in the studio I finally connected with a friend from college - we'd been playing telephone tag since the end of my OKW trip. We don't talk that often (she keeps a worse schedule than I do), so it was good to just catch up on things for an hour or so. Chris came back to the studio to eat his dinner (leftovers from lunch) and then I cut up the turtle apple. WOW, was that thing good! I nicely let Chris have the bigger portion, and I caught him licking the plate when he was done, lol! He'll be headed back out later to spend time with his friends, playing pool and hanging around the den.

Thank goodness this rain is supposed to stop by morning! When you live in Florida, you just don't see rain lasting more than an hour or so - unless you're in a hurricane situation. Today wasn't a terrible day, but it certainly was a far cry from what I hope for on a vacation...due entirely to the weather. It was relaxing, and I enjoyed myself, but I wouldn't want more than 1 day like this per year, lol! Tomorrow is our last full day - our last chance to sleep in, the day we need to pack everything up, and our last chance to eat at some of our favorite places (until April).

DAY 15 - FRIDAY, DECEMBER 29, 2000:

Plan: Ride bikes, rollerblade, beach, dinner with Darla (IluvDVC) & family

Actual: Once again I opted not to sign up for any of the activities, although I probably would have done a couple of them earlier in the trip if the weather was cooperating. The schedule for today includes: Secrets of the Marsh (1 hour tour) at 9, Longview Arts & Crafts - make a decorative plate at 10 ($12M, $15G) for ages 13 & up, Pinckney Island Birding & Gator Adventure - 2.5 hours walking tour at 2pm, Longview Cooking Club -Cooking with Matilda ($12M, $15G adults only) at 3, Unbirthday Party for ages 7-12 at 3, and Teen Billiards from 7-9.

Chris wanted me to wake him up by 8 so that he could see a couple of his friends for the last time. A few have already left, but Damien (the 19yr old from DC) leaves early this morning, and Mike (16yr old from NY) leaves around 10. Mike & Chris were planning to play pool until Mike had to leave. I got up around 7:30 or so, had some cappuccino and did more packing. Chris went off to play pool, and returned about 9:30.

We loaded the stuff up on one of the carts and brought it downstairs to load it in the trunk of the car. All we've got left are a few small things we'll carry out in the pre-dawn hours tomorrow! We headed to Hilton Head Diner (me on my bike, Chris on his scooter) for a late breakfast. The rain had stopped during the night, and it was turning into a pretty day - sunny, blue sky, but very frigid air! I got my favorite - the French toast, and he got the Hilton Head special again. The food was great, and the check was just under $13 plus tip. On the way out I bought 2 more of those cinnamon twists to take back to FL - those things are huge, and so good...I think it was $4 for the both of them.

We rode back to the resort, put the cinnamon twists in the studio, then walked around the resort a bit. I took several more pictures (the pool, shop, campfire pit, etc) but since the cables are already packed, I won't be able to post them until after the trip (either Sat 12/30 or Sun 12/31). I stopped at the bike rental window to check the price for our April trip. Darla & Steven will be with us, and if they want bikes also it would be $70 for all 4 ($25 each for the first 2, then $10 each for any additional ones). When it's just the 2 of us it's cheaper to get bikes delivered from offsite, but if 4 of us rent them it brings the cost down to where offsite isn't much cheaper.

We went up to the store, and I saw the new member pin. It's a lot like the old one, but it's quite a bit bigger...too big in my opinion. It looks kind of stupid - over sized, like we'd be wearing a billboard on our chest screaming "member", lol! Pat had mentioned it, and also didn't like it's large size, so she didn't get one. We walked back to Live Oak Lodge, and ran into a couple of boys Chris knows...so he went to play pool with them while I took the car to go get some gas for the trip home.

Back at the resort, Chris & the boys were playing pool, so I went up to the studio to start updating the report. I think I was there about 3 minutes before Chris called - the boys had to leave, so he wanted me to play pool with him. I went down, and we played for about an hour. I noticed a lot of people checking out this morning - most likely members getting out before the points go up <g>!

Later we decided to go for a bike ride. He'd gotten grease on his pants earlier in the week, so he went down to try to clean the grease off the bike's chain - not sure if that will help or not...I suggested he tuck his pant legs into his socks, but Mom's aren't always "cool". Of course, I don't think it's very "cool" to walk around with grease on your pant legs, either <g>.

We rode our bikes over to the Beach House. Crossing the main street is VERY treacherous - I'll be glad when they finish construction and open our under-the-road bike path again. I would not want to see Steven try to cross this road on a bike in April! The Beach House was deserted, but there were many people out on the beach - including some guys without shirts playing football or something (didn't notice what they were doing, I was so shocked to see so much bare skin on this very cold day). We rode our bikes out onto the beach, and there were clumps of foam everywhere - it kind of looked like snowdrifts! I'm not sure what causes this - we don't have this near us in FL, so maybe it's a result of the cold weather. I took some pictures of it, and Chris rode his bike through some of it.

We ran into SweetP and Mark on the beach again <g> - they spent yesterday indoors also, due to the rain. Eventually we returned to the resort, after taking some pics at the Beach House (to be posted after the trip). Crossing the street coming back isn't nearly as bad! We returned to the studio, where I updated the report, got online, and watched General Hospital (I won't have to spend weekend time watching the tape at home, since I'll be all caught up).

Eventually I decided to go outside, knowing that Darla should be arriving any minute. As I walked down the steps - her van pulled right up, lol - great timing! She came in to check in, while the rest of the group stayed outside in the van. She ended up in building 25 - overlooking the pool. We headed over there to bring all their stuff into the unit. She was with her parents, her sister & niece, and of course Steven. Her brother & his family were in a separate vehicle, about an hour behind them.

Steven, Chris & I headed back to our studio, and along the way ran into SweetP and her daughter - so I stopped to chat with her while Steven & Chris continued on to the studio. Steven was talking loudly about exactly how much money he had....and SweetP said "that sounds like Steven", lol - we hadn't seen see her come up! Soon, I collected the boys and we drove over to building 25 to meet the others so they could follow me to Big Bamboo Cafe. Darla had already called her brother on his cell phone, and since he was so far away told him to find somewhere to eat - we couldn't reschedule the Big Bamboo since we were going there for the early bird (that ends at 6).

We drove over, almost losing Darla's groups at a red light, and then again in the first traffic circle. Luckily nobody was behind me so I was able to stop and motion to the people entering the circle to go ahead of me. They must have thought I was nuts though, since it was my right-of-way and I was just sitting there <g>. I didn't want to lose the others, though, and they were having trouble getting into the circle. Eventually we made it to Big Bamboo Cafe, right on time for our 5:30 reservation.

We were seated quickly, and from there it got confusing for a while. The waitress was pretty quiet, and I think we were a little overwhelming for her....and she didn't do much to help things. One person would say something, and a different conversation would start, and she'd just look helpless at us. Steven started asking a relatively silly question...loudly & repeatedly, as an 8 year old who'd just spent 13 hours cooped up in a van might be expected to do, and someone else started talking loudly to him basically telling him to be quiet until later, lol! Somehow, we managed to get the orders given and the waitress happily escaped from our table <g>. Four people ordered the early bird specials, and tonight the salads were a fraction of the size of the other nights. In my opinion, tonight they were the right size, considering the other food that was coming, but I think everyone else would disagree with me. Darla's parents and Chris all got the NY strip steak & salmon special. Chris said it had been better the other night, but it was still good. Darla got spaghetti & meatballs in a bread bowl. It didn't have enough sauce for her taste, and she was surprised it contained 5 very large meatballs - that's a lot of meat! Her sister Deb got the char grilled chicken salad in a bread bowl, which she enjoyed. I got the chicken Caesar salad in the bread bowl again - it'll be cool enough in the car tomorrow to take the leftovers with us, if Chris doesn't finish it first. Steven got the kid's cheese pizza. Leeanne got a bottle of milk, since she's only 10 months old! The dessert with the special was apple crisp, which was very good but had a bit too much cinnamon. I don't think that stopped anyone from finishing it, though <g>. Because we were at least 6 people, the gratuity was already added onto the check, which came to $93. Not bad for dinner for 7 people.

On the way out of the restaurant, I saw this really bizarre looking girl coming up the stairs. As you exit, you're on a small landing and have to go down a split stairway to the ground floor. She had her hair all hanging down in front of her face - covering it completely! Also, she was swaying from side to side - either heavily intoxicated or on drugs.....it was very strange. Chris stood to the side & kind of stared - I stepped aside to give her room to maneuver up the stairs & into the restaurant before I started down. I didn't want to be on the stairs in case she swayed towards me and tried to correct herself and ended up falling down the stairs or something! It was very weird - and it was only 6:50pm!

We drove back to the resort, only losing Darla once (but waiting off the side of the road for them to get through the light they missed). Chris went up to Big Murgie's Den to join the teens for pool. I went to the studio to collect the remote control & my water, then went to the Fitness Center. I'd told Darla I'd be there, so after a while she & Deb came in. When I was done with the treadmill we walked back over to Live Oak Lodge so they could see that building, plus see my studio. The studio is different from the 2nd bedroom in the 2br unit because it has the sleeper sofa instead of the 2nd bed, and it has the kitchen area & a porch. It was fun having our trips overlap like this, although it would have been better to have an extra day. Chris & I will be sharing a 2br with Darla & Steven for 5 nights Easter week, so we'll have more time then to do stuff. Now I get to go back home to Ft Myers and read her trip report for the next week or so, lol!

I finished up the report, made a cup of (decaf) cappuccino and got online one last time from Hilton Head. I've set the alarm for 4:18 (no particular reason for the 18, that's just where it was when I lifted up my finger), hoping to be on the road by 6.

Today was a good day - much better than yesterday, lol! We did everything on the plan except for the rollerblading. In the morning the roads were still wet, so I just packed the skates away in the trunk. I'll skate in Ft Myers where it's warmer <g>. It's hard to believe this trip is finally nearing it's end....it's only been 2 weeks, but I feel like we've been gone forever!

DAY 16 - SATURDAY, DECEMBER 30, 2000:

Plan: Drive home, lunch at WDW

Actual: Last night Chris asked to stay out later than normal, since the teens were busy with their pool tournament long past the scheduled 9pm ending. I gave him until 11:15 - since we had to be up so early in the morning. He was having a great time, and hates leaving the resort and all of the other teens (& the pool table).

We finished up the yogurt & granola for breakfast, and were ready to leave ahead of schedule. I noticed my express checkout wasn't hanging on the door, but saw them on others. I called the front desk to ask where it was, and the cm told me "You didn't sign up for express checkout"! Now, I've never been a Disney cm but it's not too tough to figure out that when a guest has a problem with something they do NOT want to hear something that basically says - "well, it's your own fault". Sheesh! A simple "sorry, we don't show you as being set up for express checkout - would you like me to check you out over the phone and send up a copy of your account?" would have been much better - especially since I know I DID sign up for express checkout when I gave them my credit card. Sadly, this sort of polite, friendly incompetence is something I've seen way too much this week in Hilton Head. It's like the cm's aren't trained thoroughly....they're relying on skills they learned working elsewhere, which sometimes fall short by Disney standards. Oh well, enough ranting about that....I'll save it for HH management and hope to see some improvement in April and next December. I asked the cm to please check me out right away and I'd send Chris down to pick up the printout...we were on the road by 5:40 am.

There was a terrible accident near Savannah - it looked like a semi truck destroyed a car...the car was so smashed in I can't believe anyone would have survived (besides the driver of the truck). It was so early in the morning, traffic was light, so the backup wasn't too bad. The debris covered a huge stretch of the interstate, but the victims were long gone from the scene. Other than that traffic jam, the rest of the trip was relatively traffic-free. It got kind of heavy in Orlando near the parks, but not nearly as bad as the traffic going the opposite direction.

It was very difficult staying awake - I hate driving anymore, especially doing so on so little sleep. I couldn't very well go to sleep until Chris was in for the night though - and I'm sure as he gets older I'll be experiencing more lost sleep waiting up for him <g>.

We arrived at WDW at 11am, and went to Coronado Springs. The parking lot was full, so I parked in the Convention Center parking lot - which was fairly busy also. There was a big group set up in the ballroom, and it turned out to be someone's memorial service. I'd never thought of that type of event taking place there - it seemed weird, but I guess if you need a lot of space, it makes sense. It was just kind of sad for people to be going to one of those during the holiday season - speaking from personal experience.

The Pepper Market was mobbed - not an empty seat in there, huge long lines at the registers, and overflow people eating in the lounge across the hall! We decided to take a walk around the lake to give the people a chance to clear out of the Pepper Market. It was a chilly walk - about 40 degrees! I feel bad for anyone planning to see Illuminations tonight, lol! We finally went back and were seated right away. Chris got the taco salad and I ordered the bourbon chicken. He loved his salad, and gets it quite often. I was disappointed in the bourbon chicken - it was bland & tasteless. I'm used to a kind of sweet sauce with it, but this had nothing. The girl asked if I wanted soy sauce, and I'd said no - soy sauce is nasty, and too salty. Perhaps what she was calling soy sauce was actually the right bourbon chicken sauce which just happens to contain soy sauce....I don't know. I do know I won't be ordering it again, lol! We picked up a couple of M&M cookies on the way out, to eat in the car. The total was $24 - a waste of money, in my opinion, but I guess we can't make great choices every time! I noticed later (south of Tampa) that she never charged the 10% service charge - I guess because we had 2 carryout containers plus the cookies were in a bag. We weren't trying to scam them - I assumed since the cards were not stamped "to go" that they would know we'd eaten there.

We were back on the road by noon, home by 3. I was soooooo happy to be home, lol! We unloaded the car and unpacked right away. I even put the suitcases away - I don't want any reminders of traveling for a while!

SUMMARY:

This trip was a mix of very good and not-so-good experiences. The OKW portion was great - everything there was just as expected, which means pretty much perfect <g>! That excludes the weather, of course, since I am not one of those guests who believes Disney has any control over the weather at all. I can't believe how COLD it was this trip, and it's expected to continue to be colder than normal for as far as I can see on the weather sites. It was disappointing to not be able to do the things I normally like to do on trips because it was too cold (or raining, or too windy). However, if I'm going to be on a trip during bad weather, it might as well be a DVC trip!

The Hilton Head portion of the trip is something we were looking forward to the most, since we go there so less frequently than OKW, and it was disappointing in a lot of little ways. Perhaps if I'd not been there the past 2 years I wouldn't have noticed the little changes for the worse. It's still a beautiful resort, and the cm's and other guests are very friendly, but I hope they start paying more attention to the little details.

I've never been on a Disney or DVC trip before where I was looking forward to going home. I'm sure a big part of it was the miserable (based on what we're used to) weather, but also I realized that from the 3rd week of October thru Dec 30, I've spent more than 1/2 that time in a Disney resort. Ok, so what's the problem with that, lol! Well, I think since it was too cold for me to do my usual vacation stuff, I started missing being home. I'm looking forward to being home now for a while (6 weeks), going to work each day, coming home at the end of the day, and just being very boring. We'll see how long that feeling lasts, lol - I may be climbing the walls craving another trip by the end of the week <g>.

Speaking of trips, my next vacation will be mid February. Chris & I will be spending a free (Marriott Rewards) night at the new Fairfield Inn offsite on 2/17. I've got a studio at OKW starting 2/18 for 6 nights. I also booked a studio at OKW for our friends Sheila & Colin for 2/18 & 19 - then Sheila will take both boys back to Ft Myers on 2/20 so they can return to school while I stay at OKW. It'll be my first time going to WDW during Presidents' Week, and I expect it will be busy, but I don't care. I can do my hour or 2 in the parks when they open, then go lay by a pool or go rollerblading (PLEASE let the weather cooperate, lol) and spend time with friends.

DISAPPOINTMENTS:

  • Brrrr - cold, nasty weather is something I could have lived without! Living in Florida, that would mean anything less than 70 degrees <g>. It did not ruin the trip, but I would have liked more time rollerblading and laying by the pools. I did hate that the cold weather caused the early Comedy Warehouse shows to be canceled due to not enough guests in attendance. Normally we love Hilton Head because of the cool weather there in December...normal is 61 during the day. We had too many days that didn't get out of the 40's - which is not comfortable to me.
  • The reduction in some of the little things we've come to expect at Hilton Head was disappointing, and I hope is not a sign of year by year "cheapening" of that resort. We used to have hot apple cider available all day - now it's down to most evenings. The first year on Christmas day all rooms got a nice chocolate dog bone with Shadow's name on it - very nice themeing, and a great tasting gift. This year it was a bunch of hard candy - no themeing at all, and a potential safety hazard for young kids. In past years they kept the fire going in the fireplace at Big Murgie's Den....this year I think I saw one in there twice the whole week! Can we not afford wood for our fireplace? Taken in isolation, each of these things is no big deal, but it's a shame that any of the nice extra touches we've seen in the past might be discontinued.

MAGICAL MOMENTS:

  • Pleasure Island with Diana - once again, a hysterically funny good time was had by all! Watching her when the cow was presented to give her mouth to mouth is something I won't soon forget <g>! Also, having Chris picked on for not milking the cow was hysterical - and something I can threaten to tell his friends if he gets out of line <g>.
  • Comedy Warehouse with Leesa, Darryl & Mark - meeting someone else as nuts about the place as I am, sharing the same favorites, etc was a lot of fun! Leesa was an absolute doll to make that CD for me, and I can't wait to view all of the pictures.
  • We had some great meals at places we don't normally go to - Spoodles was excellent enough to go 2 days in a row for the same item, and the Concourse Steakhouse was a wonderful surprise. We're both looking forward to going back there - I want to try their Caesar salad next time.
  • As always, time spent with friends is the BEST time of each trip. Besides the locals (Kathy & Nancy), it was fun to have friends who had trips that overlapped mine. It was fun running into Pat frequently that day at HH, and going out for a relaxing dinner. I enjoyed seeing Darla again, but it was a shame we didn't have a whole day. Chris was looking forward to seeing Steven, but by the time they arrived from Ohio, it was dinner time, and the resort had a teen activity scheduled that night (the only night of the trip). Oh well - I'll get to see her for a little longer in February, when her trip overlaps mine again <g>.
  • There were LOTS of teens at Hilton Head this year, which was great for Chris. He would have still had fun without any of them (last year there weren't many kids his age), but he enjoyed making a lot of new friends (he's saying how he has to email them all, lol). Best of all, there wasn't a single teen that I saw who didn't seem really nice - polite, fun, someone you don't mind your kid hanging around with.

Until next time

Sue Holland

wdw1972@aol.com


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