Sheri Niklewski -- August 2001 -- Walt Disney World (Offsite)
This started out as a Mouse Suicide Run. However, it was expanded thanks to jobs disappearing.
How can I explain this one? Way back in early 1998, I discovered Brian's website with all the trip reports on it. It took me about six months to work through all the ones that just interested me, let alone every single one that was on there. To thank everyone for their reports, I did my first trip report for my October, 1998 trip with just Rich. I have since followed that up with a report for all my trips. I think this is my ninth one. Anyway, somewhere in the cold Nebraska winter of 1999, I got a wonderful e-mail from a woman named Adrienne. She lives in New Jersey with her family and we've passed e-mails back and forth ever since. And I'm talking e-mails just about every day. We've helped each other plan vacations and just generally talked Disney. Through this friendship, though, I feel like we have become close friends. I think I know her family as well as she knows mine. We gripe to each other about work situations and family. Whenever something important happens in my life, I feel like Adrienne should be the first to know.
Rich lost his job in Nebraska in October of 2000. He found another job in Atlanta in January of 2001. I had to stay in Nebraska for four long months after Rich left so I could finish up my job and get everything ready to go. Adrienne helped me through those times. And yet I still hadn't met her in person. I'm only an eight hour drive from Disney World now so I knew weekend trips would be possible with taking a day or two off work. However, Rich is very short on vacation time thanks to the move so he didn't want to miss a single day of work. Could I make this pay off? At the moment of this writing, I'm not working.
If you read my trip report from May of 2001, I drove down to Disney World and back by myself. I did four solo days at the front of the trip and four solo days at the back. Each time I drove, I just couldn't sleep. So I ended up driving all night. I knew I could do it if I needed and wanted to. And if Rich came along, it would be another driver.
I asked Adrienne just when in August she was taking her trip. Maybe I could make a weekend pay off. That's why Rich and I were making the Mouse Suicide Run. We'll leave sometime in the wee hours of Saturday, the 11th or, my preference, between 10 and midnight on Friday, the 10th. We'll arrive at Disney World no later than 8:00 AM. We can get some breakfast and then tackle a park or two. I will have my Annual Pass from last month and Rich will just need to upgrade a 4 day hopper pass to his Annual Pass and we'll be set for the day.
Adrienne and her family (Rudy, Rudy, Jr. and Alex) are being joined by two of their friends, Jeanne and Doug. All of them had planned to dine at Boma that Saturday night. Not being the shy one with Adrienne, I invited Rich and I to join them. We love Boma so this is perfect. Rich and I will then spend Sunday at Epcot doing my favorite thing. Watching Off Kilter for the first three performances and finally leaving Disney World around 4 in the afternoon. We should be back in Buford by midnight, our normal bedtime anyway.
And then things changed yet again. Rich lost his job again. It's a tough time in the tech field right now. So Rich and I were both out of jobs. Rich was getting a severance and he would be paid through this time. I decided that we would not do a Mouse Suicide Run but rather a little less insane pace. We'll leave Friday morning and get to Kissimmee around 4 or even earlier if we can. We don't have to make a ton of stops. One for gas and maybe one other one. We'll do Epcot that night. Rich already has ruled out Magic Kingdom so we'll concentrate on Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and MGM just for a few things. We'll leave on Monday, the 13th and drive to the Florida Keys to see my dad, stepmother, and sister. We'll return to Disney on Thursday, the 16th and go back to Epcot for that evening. We'll drive home on Friday, the 17th.
I went through the Kissimmee Visitor's Bureau and www.floridakiss.com and booked the Best Western Eastgate for the nights we needed. Normally, I like to try different places but the $35 rate was too good to pass up and I stayed here in May so I knew the place. This will be Rich's first time since 1985 staying offsite so I'll be sure to get his reactions to onsite versus offsite.
I have my Annual Pass from July and Rich will convert a 4 day hopper we have into an Annual Pass. I'm planning several trips to Disney World during the next year so the passes will definitely pay off. We did not do the Premium Annual Pass which would have added the three water parks, Pleasure Island, and Disney Quest into the mix. Why didn't we do the PAP? Because the last time we had one, we *never* did the other perks. It's an additional $100 to upgrade so I decided that if we really wanted to do a water park or Pleasure Island, we'd just pay as we went. I highly doubt we'd do those things, though. We'd rather go to Epcot and walk around World Showcase (as you will see).
We'll have the dinner at Boma with Adrienne and her family and that's probably going to be our only sit down meal. The rest will be counter service unless one of us finds a job between now and then.
The week before
Somehow, I convinced Rich to get up at the insane hour of 4:00 AM to make this trip! Actually, I just asked him when he left in May to get to Disney World. He said somewhere between 6 and 6:30. I suggested that we do the same thing this time. Which meant with the two of us, we'd have to get up around 5:00 AM. Rich approved of that. And then a couple of days later, I innocently said that I probably wouldn't be able to wait that long and how did 4:00 AM sound? Rich just sighed, rolled his eyes, and we were set. I told you he just puts up with me. With this development, we should be at the hotel no later than 2:00 PM.
I still have $20 in gift certificates to Rainforest Cafe from the Freeride website. So I wanted to use them this trip. I called and made a seating for 4:00 on Friday, the 10th for the place at Animal Kingdom. I'm not entirely sure we'll make it but we'll see. With the Rainforest Cafe, I just don't want to walk up there and be faced with an hour wait.
Rich took the car and got the oil changed, the tires properly inflated, and more antifreeze (do you need antifreeze in Georgia in August? Yeah, you do). I got some audiobooks from the library and filled the car up with gas. Rich made the cat sitting arrangements and we were set.
Day One - Friday, August 10, 2001
I was up right before the alarm was going to go off at 4:00 AM. I ran into the shower and was ready to go in about 15 minutes. Rich dragged himself up while I finished the last minute packing. The night before, I had gone to bed extremely early - 8:00 PM. Rich stayed up and took care of the cats (that is a novel in itself - we just took in three stray kittens and are trying to get them settled into a life inside a house and not on the streets). I figured I was well rested enough. The only thing I had asked Rich to do Thursday night was to bring the cooler in so I could just fill it up in the morning. Well, he forgot so I had to do it. But the cooler was in the basement and still filled with Rich's sports cards from the move. That didn't make me very happy. Rich also had to check on the cats before we left. I made peace with the King of the House - Todd, the cat we've had for three years. He still doesn't know the other three are hiding out in the extra bedroom. We will not bring the kittens to see Todd until they have been thoroughly checked out by the vet. Todd is too precious to us to upset his life.
Somehow, I managed to get Rich into the car and going by 5:00 AM. I started out driving. By 6:30, I was getting extremely tired and started to not feel the best so I pulled into a rest area and Rich drove for a while. While I slept. And slept. And slept. I guess getting up at 4:00 AM is not a good choice with me! I felt really bad for Rich driving all that way without anyone to talk to. I finally struggled awake somewhere after we crossed the Florida border. Rich drove a little more and I needed to make a stop. We were OK on gas but decided to combine the two stops and continue through to Kissimmee.
The gas stop was eventful. Not the actual filling of the tank but the phone call Rich had to make. Remember those stray kittens we took in? Well, there was one more out there and we wanted him off the street too. We had been working with a neighbor lady, Ann, to humanly trap the kittens which we did with the first three. Ann's mission last night was to get the last one herself and reunite him with his two brothers and sister at our house. Ann left a very long message on Rich's cell phone saying she was successful! We are so very glad to get these four kittens inside. They were crossing the road in front of our house and people just are not looking out for them. Then Rich had to call Ann back. Let's just say Ann is not a person of few words. I ended up filling up the tank, going to the bathroom, and still waiting for Rich to finish his call!
After Rich was finally done with the cat talk, he picked up a couple of Diet Cokes and some snacks inside the station. We had paid at the pump for the gas. The cashier here just cracked us up. First of all, she had such a Southern accent. And then she just couldn't believe that we paid at the pump and then came inside. I guess not many people do that. For expenses, the gas was $17.50 and the snacks were $3.
I took over driving even though Rich said he was fine. Then he figured it out. I had said we were about two hours from Disney World. He knew I didn't want him driving us there. I almost never let him drive in and around Disney World. He really doesn't know his way around the area and it's just easier.
By this time, it was only 10:30 and I knew that we'd be at the hotel way before check in time. With some Kissimmee hotels, they won't hand out the rooms until after check in time which is usually 4:00. I didn't want to have to go to the hotel and find that out. So I suggested to Rich that we just go straight to Epcot and then check in later. I thought he agreed with me. Rich ended up falling asleep as we approached Kissimmee so I just drove us on property. As it turned out, Rich didn't think we were going to do this! He was unprepared since he has certain shorts that he likes to wear so his wallet doesn't fall out. Oops. He had the wrong ones on for the trip down. Of course, he didn't tell me this until we were somewhere in World Showcase.
I parked at the Swan and we changed a few things around in the car since it was hot and humid and we didn't want anything to melt. Unbeknownst to me, I did the biggest blunder headed thing anyone has ever done on vacation. More on that once we return from Epcot.
We walked over to Epcot using the Boardwalk. Rich had a four day hopper pass from last month that we needed to exchange for an Annual Pass. I wanted to do this at the International Gateway since those Guest Relations people are almost never busy. We did this transaction with me handling just about everything. I think Rich handed the guy his driver's license and that was it.
Then we were through the turnstyles and I was happy. I love this place! I checked the entertainment schedule to see if Off Kilter was there. I had checked Steve Soares'site
(http://pages.prodigy.net/stevesoares/index.htm) before we left and they were on vacation but I could hope. No, not there. Fiddlesticks had replaced them. Hopefully, this is not a permanent thing.
We did our traditional beer in Canada ($13.25 for one large and one small). Then we did what we like here. Just walked through World Showcase. We stopped on a bench at Mexico and watched the ducks. We again remarked how fearless these animals at Disney World are of humans. They know they are safe here. We saw the Mexican performers and then continued on around to Germany for another beer. We did make a stop for a snack at China and the Lotus Blossum Café. Pork fried rice and fortune cookies. Perfect for the day and the price - $5.57. The day was hot and humid - high 80s but extremely moist. Both of us really were unprepared since we thought we'd be doing this after a stop at the hotel. So we took our time. We stopped in America and watched the Fife and Drum performers. They did a tribute to the members of the military and it was very nice. They played all the military branch anthems and then did "Taps". Then they did "God Bless America" and invited everyone to sing along. No one really did but it was nice.
We finished up with our walk and headed out of International Gateway and back to the Swan. We went the Yacht/Beach Club route this time. On the way back, I saw a guy setting up to take a picture of his family with the Dolphin in the background. I said something to Rich about offering to get them all in a picture. The guy must have heard me and eagerly gave me the camera. I just love doing this for people.
We got back to the car and here's where the bonehead move comes into play. When we moved those things around in the car, I kept my driver's door open so I could relock it. I never closed the door! So the car not only was unlocked for the past four hours but the driver's door was standing wide open! Fortunately, nothing was taken. We had a cell phone on the floor, a laptop in the back. Whew. Rich said that this definitely has to get in this trip report and he's making sure everyone that we know what I did.
I drove us to the Best Western Eastgate at 5565 West Irlo Bronson Highway. I stayed here in May and didn't think it was that bad. Especially for only $35/night. I mentioned that rate to a friend who insists that coming to Disney World is too expensive. He was surprised you can get a good room for a cheap price. It's not on property but it's fine for our needs this time. Check in went smoothly and everything was in order. The lady checking me in said that if we needed tickets, the Guest Services people over at their counter could help me. Rich said that we didn't need anything and I'm an "expert". But on the way out, the guy at Guest Services, who was on the phone with another customer, puts that customer on hold and asks if we need any tickets. I said no, we already had ours. Then he gives us a little spiel on how he's there for any questions and just come back if we want. Fine. But then he kind of ticked me off. Remember, he still has the original customer on hold - well, not really hold, he's just got his hand over the receiver. The guy then asks if we want free dinner theatre tickets. Anytime I hear "free" in this area, I immediately think "timeshare presentation". Besides, Rich and I are not dinner theatre people. So I declined. The guy insisted. I said no thanks because we had dinner plans every night we are here. The guy then says "I can't believe you are passing up free tickets". Well, mister, that's not your problem, that's mine. I thought his behavior was rude.
One thing about this hotel. It charges you $1/day for the in room safe. Most of the Kissimmee hotels will charge you extra for something. Usually, it's for the phone usage. So you get to pay for something you never use. Rich made sure we used the safe since we were paying for it. Just be prepared when you get there for a little extra added surprise. You can't fight it although I have tried.
We're towards the back of the building and on the third floor. Fine by us. The room is standard with two double beds, dresser, small desk and chair. It had a funny smell to it when we first walked in and the toilet had some sort of constant drip coming from it. Rich noticed that right away. I said that if he wanted to switch rooms, we'd better do it now because I wasn't unpacking just to move. But we figured the smell was because the air conditioner hadn't been turned on all day. Once we did that, it was fine and we couldn't hear the toilet so we decided to stay.
It took us a couple of trips up but we got everything into the room and just crashed for a while. Rich took a nap and I just watched TV. Around 5 or so, we decided that dinner was in order. Rich specifically mentioned non-chain pizza. I grabbed the phone book and let my fingers do the walking. Pizzaria Uno was just up the highway so I suggested that. Rich was very interested in that prospect so off we went. Rich had a pepperoni pizza and I stuck to just a salad with excellent creamy scallion dressing. We had garlic cheese bread for an appetizer. With beverages, total was around $25 which wasn't bad and the meal was very good.
We talked about our plans for the next couple of days and I really wanted to go back and do another walk through World Showcase tonight and maybe get in Tapestry of Nations and Illuminations. On the way, Rich remarked something about maybe seeing Blast. I had seen the beginning of this in July and thought Rich would like it. So that became our goal. I parked at the Swan again and we walked over to Epcot. Can you tell we like this place?
We got to America and the theatre right before the performance was about to start. We found some seats in the middle with a tree kind of in the way. But the tree was skinny enough. What can I say about this show? I went there mainly because Rich is the music lover. But I was totally blown away by Blast. Rich describes it as a percussion and brass dance troupe. But they have everything precisely choreographed and everyone is totally in synch. It is unbelievable. They did receive a very well deserved standing ovation. I checked to see how long they are performing and it's only until August 23rd. I had hoped to see them again at Labor Day. Maybe we'll try again on Sunday night.
After the show, I decided that Germany would make a nice spot to view Tapestry of Nations and grab a beer. We didn't get far. While we were enjoying Blast, a nice storm had rolled in. It had started to sprinkle before the end of the show. We got as far as Italy and the skies just opened up and the thunder and lightening began. And kept up. And kept up. The 7:45 parade obviously was cancelled since it started raining sideways. Of course, Rich and I don't wear ponchos or carry umbrellas at Disney World. They just bog us down. This would prove to be a mistake tonight. It wasn't going to stop raining.
We stayed in the wine shop in Italy with lots of other people and waited. Finally, at 8:30, the thunder and lightening had abated quite a bit and we decided to make our way to the car. Lots of people were bailing out by this time. Illuminations probably was not going to go off tonight and if it did, we'd be totally wet and miserable anyway. So we slogged around to the Swan. Let me tell you, that storm was a nasty one. We ended up literally wading through puddles. We had no choice. The water in the puddles was well over our shoe tops. Of course, can you get any further away from our car than the Italy pavilion? We were totally soaked by the time we got there. We pulled off our shoes and socks and just threw them in the back seat. And we were cold as well.
I got us back to the room and we immediately changed out of our wet things and got into our nighttime clothes. I dove under the covers for warmth. The rain did continue all night. We put our shoes on top of the air conditioning vent and hoped they would eventually dry out. I was luckier than Rich - I brought another pair of sneakers along. But Rich's shoes weren't as wet as mine. We were hoping his would be wearable in the morning. If not, he was going to wear his water shoes and I'd take him to the Nike outlet on the way to Disney World and get a second pair of sneakers for him. We were in bed by 11:00. It was a long, long day.
Day Two - Saturday, August 11, 2001
Well, I guess getting up at 4:00 AM took its toll on Rich because he slept in until 10:30. He likes to get up and ready first and that was my excuse for not getting awake until then. Can't prove anything otherwise. We got ready and headed out around 11:30 (Rich's shoes were fine, mine were still soaked). We hoped our passes would still work since my bag last night was soaked. It's a nice bag and I've never had a problem with it on the water rides like Kali or Splash Mountain so it does keep out some wetness. But not last night. Nothing was ruined but I had to dry things out overnight.
I asked Rich where we were going. He didn't want to make a decision. We had talked about a combination Animal Kingdom and MGM day. Which one first? I decided on Animal Kingdom since that closed earlier than MGM. I drove us over there and parked where I normally park. I could tell by the parking lot that it was going to be a busy day and I was right. I remarked to Rich that I was fine just walking through the park and seeing things. We didn't necessarily have to do the attractions.
As we were walking up to the entrance, I said that I should have brought the Rainforest Café certificates because we probably could have gotten in now without that much of a wait. Rich said that he definitely needed a snack. Why didn't he say that before we left the room? So my mission was to find him food. Nothing interested him as we went by it and I got a little testy. I finally told him he was on his own. He said he just wanted a hot dog. Well, I don't think those exist at Animal Kingdom. But Rich doesn't know Animal Kingdom and if he just would have said what he wanted, I would have gone to MGM first. But we got back on track and continued on.
We made it back to the Safari and the stand by time was only 15 minutes. The line was kind of slow moving and we were behind a family with a girl in a wheelchair and then a huge stroller. I knew that the stroller needed to be stowed at a certain spot in the line and, sure enough, when we got there, the reason for the slow moving line was people clogging it up to stow their strollers. The Cast Member there was trying to get people to move over to the side and into where you put the strollers but I guess people think they will lose a few minutes if they let other people go around them while they do this. We finally made it through there.
I learned a lot about how they seat people in these vehicles during our long wait to board. We were with another couple so it was the four of us waiting for the first row in the vehicle. Some vehicles have just two seats in the first two rows and some have the full four seats in each row. The guy doing the boarding was getting everyone set up correctly until someone somewhere totally screwed him up. He said that they were taking the trucks offline and that wasn't right. So we had some hits and misses. But the Cast Member kept his sense of humor and made sure we were in the next available truck. And it was nice that he explained it all while we were waiting.
We had an enjoyable Safari and a good guide. We learned a few things that we hadn't heard before and it's always nice to find out more animal facts. The elephants and giraffes were being shy and we didn't see many of them. But the male lion was sleeping on his back and that was really funny to see. After the Safari, I picked up a bottle of water for $2.50 and was very pleased to notice that the Cast Member took that plastic top off of it before he gave it to me. Rich and I spent a lot of time in May picking these caps up off the walkways since some people don't seem to find the trashcans.
The day was getting hot and humid again and I knew the park was more crowded than we like to see. I cautioned Rich that I didn't think we would get many attractions in. He said that was fine but let's just see. He said for me to direct us to the water ride (meaning Kali River Rapids).
I did that and the entrance into Asia was clogged big time. They had a special India thing going on and they had some dancers right there. It was a mess trying to get by everyone who stopped and wanted to watch. They had some Cast Members getting people through but Rich had a point. If you want to do something like that, do it somewhere a little wider. Basically, it was single file to go through and people were constantly stopping, not realizing they were holding up everyone behind them.
And we did all that for nothing since the standby line for Kali was 45 minutes. The FastPass time wasn't that bad but we weren't sure we'd be here then. So we fought our way back through people. Our goal was Dinosaur but after seeing the hoards in Asia, I was not hopeful. Rich had mentioned that a soft pretzel would be fine for a snack and we saw a stand with them. We got one of those (one of these is enough for a meal for us) and a couple of beers. I wanted to eat in the Flame Tree BBQ seating area and got a little turned around with how to get in the "back way". I took us all around to the entrance. Turns out, the soft pretzel stand was just across the walkway from the back entrance! I just couldn't see it because there were that many people streaming by.
But we had a nice break and shared the pretzel and enjoyed the beers. We didn't want much because we had the seating tonight with Adrienne and her family at Boma. We want to get our money's worth with the buffet. After our break, we went to Dinosaur. And headed right back. 60 minute stand by time and I didn't want to get a FastPass here either. Tarzan Rocks just let out and everything was really crowded now. We made it back to It's Tough to be a Bug and the stand by was 30 minutes. I was pretty hot by now and the thought of standing in the line for that long was not appealing to me. Plus, I was wearing my second pair of sneakers and they are not walking shoes. I'm just not as used to them as I am with my regular pair.
So we headed towards the exit. I suggested going to The Scary Store. That's what our friend, Lindy, calls The World of Disney at Downtown Disney. Here's the reason for the visit. We've had Nebraska license plates for 11 years. Nebraska requires both front and back plates. Now we have Georgia plates but only on the back. My car looks horrible with no front plate. So I was looking for a Disney license plate for the front. Rich reluctantly agreed to the trip to the Marketplace.
I drove us there and got a pretty decent spot. I thought for a Saturday, Downtown Disney was fairly deserted. The AMC theatre had a huge line, though. But the shops were fine. I did find a nice license plate (not metal, though) for $6 with the Fab Five on it. And then I paired it up with a license plate holder with the "Been There, Done That, Going Back" slogan on it. I have the magnetic bumper sticker on my refrigerator and the sunshade in my car so why not? This was the only thing we did here and then it was time for a break in the room. We made it back to the car and I checked to make sure the plate and the holder would work. Darn it! It won't. But we figured the license plate on the front could be adapted and then Rich suggested checking out the holder on the back plate. That fit. We don't have the tools to get these on now but I'll just innocently suggest this to my dad when we see him. He's Mister Tool Man.
Then, back to the room and just relaxing until the seating. We left for Animal Kingdom Lodge and Boma around 5:45 so we would have a chance to walk around and see things before dinner at 7:15. We had been to the Lodge before but didn't have a chance to really explore it. Since the restrictions on this resort have been lifted, we didn't have any problems getting through the gate guard. We did get a parking pass but it was very hassle free.
We walked around seeing the animals. At this time of the evening, the animals are brought in for feeding. We saw several different species and got an opportunity to walk around and see the Lodge in the daylight. We also walked around the pool area and neither one of us was overly impressed although we did like the two hot tubs. We got to Boma in plenty of time to wait for Adrienne and her family by the check in stand. I had made sure that I put a big Piglet on my camera bag so Adrienne would recognize me. I sort of knew what she looked like from her website but I wasn't sure I would remember.
I heard "Sheri?" and there was Adrienne and her family and friends! It was wonderful. I've "known" Adrienne for over two years and meeting in person was just like chatting on the internet. Rich and Rudy got along very well and Jeanne and Doug were so nice. Rudy Jr. and Alex are wonderful boys and I can see why Adrienne is so proud of them. We were seated almost immediately and we found out later that it just so happened that a table for nine had opened up just as Adrienne checked in.
The dinner was fantastic, just like the last time. I had really hyped this place to Adrienne and I'm glad everyone liked it just as much as Rich and I did in May. Conversation flowed easily and the food was wonderful. We talked baseball (Adrienne and her crew had gone to a Tampa Bay Devil Rays game on Thursday night), Universal Escape (Adrienne had gone there one day and we compared and contrasted that versus Disney World), what Adrienne had done so far at Disney World and what we had done. Plus, Rich managed to tell everyone that I left the car door open at the Swan. I wasn't at the table when he did that and when I returned, Adrienne asked me how the security was at the Swan. I hit Rich.
We talked at the table for quite a while after we almost demolished the dessert table. Those concoctions are positively wonderful. And I am not a dessert person. We didn't get out of there until 9:00. When we left, there were still plenty of people waiting to be seated and Rich and I felt a little guilty about having taken a table for that long. But we should be forgiven since it was a special night. We said goodbye to Adrienne, Rudy, Jeanne, and Doug (Rudy, Jr. and Alex had made off to the arcade). It was so very nice to meet Adrienne in person and I'm so very glad we did this.
Rich and I went back to the room and I ended up going deep into Adrienne's latest book. She had given me an autographed copy of it at dinner. I couldn't wait to start reading it. I stayed up until after one in the morning before I finally had to put it down to get some sleep. Long day.
Day Three - Sunday, August 12, 2001
We slept in a little until 9:45 and then got up and started the process to get going. We still hadn't hit MGM and we only wanted to do three things there - Sounds Dangerous, Rock N Roller Coaster, and Twilight Zone. Then we were going to end this Disney portion of the trip with another visit to Epcot.
I drove us over and parked at the Swan which was perfect for being in between MGM and Epcot. And yes, I did shut the door and locked the car this time! Since it was still the morning and I didn't think it would be that hot, I suggested taking the walkway to MGM. We did and it was very pleasant. Until I realized that water would be a prime issue with me today. I think I found every water fountain in MGM today.
Our first stop was FastPasses at Rock N Roller Coaster. We checked the standby time at Twilight Zone and it was 30 minutes. Rich said that wasn't bad for the ride. I really didn't want to stand in line that long but figured I could handle it. But we did the FastPasses first and it was 11:54 when we got them with a return time of 1:35-2:35.
Word about FastPasses. If you know how to use them, skip this part. If you don't, here's how they work. We could return to Rock N Roller Coaster any time between 1:35 and 2:35 and basically walk right into the ride. However, you have to plan your FastPasses since you can only have one or get another FastPass two hours after you got your first one. With us, after 1:35, we could get another FastPass for another attraction. That's when our window opened up with Rock N Roller Coaster. Or, since we got the FastPass at 11:54, we could get another one at 1:54 which was 2 hours after we got the first one. Lots of people were clogging up the FastPass distribution lines trying to get FastPasses when they already had a valid one and hadn't used it up yet.
So with FastPasses in hand, we returned to Twilight Zone. Only to find out that in the five or ten minutes we were gone, the standby time had gone up to 60 minutes! I think Beauty and the Beast had emptied out and that was the reason for the longer lines. No way. I had mentioned to Rich that if he needed a snack today, I knew where to get a hot dog. We did stop in the Animation Store first to see if they had anything we were interested in. They of course did, but nothing we could afford. I guess we have to get jobs first. The air conditioning was very nice and it was here that I figured out that I was close to getting overheated.
We checked the wait at The Great Movie Ride and it was 25-30 minutes. It was air conditioned but we've seen this enough that we didn't want to wait that long. We were walking over to Sounds Dangerous and Rich smelled some food. It was at the ABC Commissary. But he looked at the menu and decided he just wanted that hot dog. So off to the Backlot Express for that. We shared the hot dog meal with fries. Oh, and we had a couple of beers. I actually didn't want mine that much so I asked for a cup of water too. That really hit the spot. But I managed to down the beer after a while. We sat directly under an air conditioning vent and that cooled me off a lot.
After our nice respite, we headed for Sounds Dangerous and got into the area right away. A Cast Member came out and told everyone to fill in every available space. When we got there, the right side of the counter thing had a line. We went to the left one and around everyone and were basically in the middle of the crowd.
We had a good show and there was only one kid who didn't really know what was going on. But that was counteracted by some kids who really enjoyed the show. This is the first time that I've heard applause at the end of this show. I decided to check out the standby line for Twilight Zone so we headed over there again.
Standby time was 20 minutes and we decided to do this. It was around 1:15 so we hadn't entered our window for Rock N Roller Coaster and I figured we had plenty of time. Except - they must have had a screw up with the FastPass here because their line was just as long as ours. You weren't going to save anything at this point. And Disney World realized that because the FastPass line continually moved and ours just moved so slowly. Very slowly. Once inside, I realized that they were getting the libraries filled with FastPassers and then letting a limited number of standbys join them. We spent 30 minutes getting up there. 30 long, hot minutes. But we were in. We were lead into row 5 and I'll tell you, if you get the last seat in row 5, you're going to get the "seatbelt seat". A guy and his significant other were behind us and I told Rich to warn the woman. She was primed for the "seat". Once in there, Rich told the guy that he might want to switch. He did. After the ride, he said that was probably the best thing that he ever experienced. I still want to do the seatbelt seat but I always chicken out.
We had a good ride and only had to listen to this one guy loudly tell everyone that if you go to the right side, you go up higher and drop lower (not!). And we had another guy in the front row of our elevator that was making wisecracks during the show. I get so nervous on this thing and I didn't appreciate that at all. But he shut up once the drops started. At one point, I didn't even know if we were going up or down. I didn't bother to count the number of drops and I walked out of here shaking, like usual. I think I've only been on this thing once and not shaken afterward.
Then on to Rock N Roller Coaster with FastPasses. Now, I hate roller coasters. But I can do this one because I can't see the tracks so I have no idea what's going on until it's too late. Where did they seat us? In the second car. I'll tell you, you can see the darn tracks from there. I don't think I've screamed that loud for years. But it was fun and I survived. I think the fact that I've been on there before helped quite a bit.
After we "did" MGM (or what we wanted to do at MGM), we headed out for Epcot, our favorite. We decided to take the boat the whole way. It takes about 30 minutes but we were in air conditioning and off our feet. Not a bad way to get to Epcot, in my opinion. I did remark to Rich that if the clouds rolled in, to make sure that we were a heck of a lot closer to the Swan than the Italy pavilion.
We stopped for the traditional beers in Canada and Rich asked the beer vendor there when Off Kilter would be back. I had seen that their CDs were still being sold so I was glad about that. The vendor said that they would be back but Fiddlesticks was "helping them out". Since then, I saw on Steve Soares' site that they are back but only playing Monday and Tuesday. Fiddlesticks is on the rest of the week. And the vendor said that Fiddlesticks was there until September. Total for beer here was $13.25 (one large, one small).
We strolled along and ended up getting a bench in China. After a while, the Cast Members closed off the drawbridge here so they could get some floats for Illuminations out. It only takes a few minutes but some guests were really torked about it. Oh well, just wait a while and then you can go. We decided that the first performance of Blast was in order so we headed there. We did stop in at Germany and got two large beers for our wait. But once we hit America, we were in for a surprise.
There was a huge line waiting for Blast! Packed. We knew the other night that we basically just walked in at the last minute so there was no need to stand and wait in the sun. So we went over to the seating area for the Liberty Inn and just sat and enjoyed the beers for a while. The Fife and Drum Corp came out and just marched past us. Rich went to see them but they didn't stop outside the pavilion but continued on to the courtyard.
About 20 minutes before showtime, the lines were let in. We just waited. We noticed that the crowds enter from the right so there were plenty of seats to the left. So we waited until most of the line went in and then entered and went over to the left. And then slid to the right and got great seats just about in the middle. It was in the sun but the performance was only ten minutes away and it lasted about 20 minutes so what's 30 minutes in the sun? And then clouds came in so we were set.
The show was even better than the other night. Since there was severe weather before, I guess we didn't get the full show. We did today. Lots of interaction with the audience and lots of the performers being in the crowd. Excellent. The cast exited out through the middle aisle and I figured that they would head to the nearest air conditioned place. However, when we made our way out, the cast was there, shaking hands and thanking everyone for being there. Excellent touch. This is such a great show.
After this, we decided to walk again. Rich suggested one of my favorite places, Fountain View Bakery. He wanted to see a fountain show. But he didn't tell me that until we were walking towards it. I hated to tell him but I had to - the fountain is down right now. Rich just rolled his eyes and said "then why are we doing this?" I convinced him that a nice glass of wine would be OK anyway. There are lots of things being refurbished right now getting ready for the 100 Years of Magic celebration. We understand that things like that have to happen in order to keep things fresh and new.
However, what happened next just totally destroyed me. Yes, Off Kilter can take nights off, yes, take the fountain down for cleaning, yes, do any refurbishments you want. But - they don't sell wine at the Fountain View Bakery anymore! They took it away from the Refreshment Port and replaced it with McDonald's and now it's gone from the Bakery?! Oh, that just made me so mad. I loved being able to relax here for an hour or so and watch the fountain and have a glass of wine. And now it's gone. And the replacement? Liqueur flavored coffee. Yeck!
After I finally recovered, I thought about checking out Test Track. We headed over there and went into the singles line. We had a little bit of a wait here since a lady in the standby line (which was 90 minutes) decided that she couldn't take the heat. Her husband wisely picked up the now unconscious woman and took her to the entrance. The Cast Members attended to her and soon the emergency people were there. After a while, she was wheeled out and I'm assuming taken care of. The remainder of her party stayed in line and went on the ride.
But we entered the singles rider line and got on right away. Nice ride and it really cooled me off. After this, we were in time for Tapestry of Nations and I just wanted to hear the music. But we kept walking and found ourselves a nice bench to watch it from. Yes, there were people directly in front of us standing but I wanted the music and most of the puppets are higher than eye level anyway. We had to laugh at the poor Cast Member who had the task of getting people on the walkway to actually walk and not stop and watch the parade. They are doing a better method of crowd control here so that's good.
Then we decided that we really liked Blast at night so it was back over there. The line this time was almost bearable so we got into it since we knew they would be releasing us soon. Again, we went to the left and got great seats. Another wonderful show and we made sure that we shook hands with the cast afterwards and thanked them for their work. Just a nice, nice performance.
After the show, we wanted some food. We needed some food. But where and what? Rich decided that the delivery pizza at the room was fine. I wasn't happy with that but we went anyway. We walked back to the Swan and then I drove us to the room. We ordered a large pepperoni pizza for Rich and some chicken wings (mild) for me. I finished reading Adrienne's book and that was basically it for the night.
Summary of what we've "done" at Disney World in this short trip. Test Track, three performances of Blast, Twilight Zone, Rock N Roller Coaster, Sounds Dangerous, and the Kilimanjaro Safari. We've been here three days and a lot of people would think we're insane for not doing more. But that's the way we tour Disney World. There's a heck of a lot more things to see and do then the rides.
Day Four - Monday, August 13, 2001
The alarm went off at 8:00 and we got up to get going to the Keys. I packed while Rich got ready. It wasn't hard to pack since we hadn't unpacked yet. Then Rich loaded up the car while I got ready. We were checked out by 9:00. Total here was $105 which is about what we would have paid for one night at All Stars. So that made the trip a little more bearable. We had to make a stop at Publix on the way out since I knew the opportunities for grocery stores were going to be few and far between in the Keys. Then out to the turnpike. I used the Osceola Parkway instead of 192. I had used 192 last month and it was horrible with all the traffic and the lights. I knew the Parkway would be a straight shot with little traffic. We had to pay $1.25 in tolls but it was worth it. We had been saving our change at home and brought all the quarters with me. I gladly handed over five of them for the hassle free drive.
Then onto the turnpike which is utterly boring. I knew that from last month and had anticipated it. But I was excited about taking Rich to the Keys so I didn't mind. I drove until we needed gas and had to stop at the turnpike service plaza. It was around lunchtime and after last month with Rich's parents, I did *not* want to stop for lunch. However, Rich had other ideas. He said he wanted a burger. I just about hit him. But he said he would just get it and eat it in the car. Well, he's never experienced the Florida turnpike service plazas. The gas place is a ways from the eating place. I told him that. I suggested that I fill up the tank while he went and got us a couple of burgers. He agreed once we pulled in and he saw what I was talking about. I also knew that the service plazas can get busy but I held my tongue about that. If he was willing to get the burgers, fine. I filled up the tank for $24.20. The gas prices aren't that bad for the only choice you get. I was going into the restroom when I noticed Rich coming back. With nothing. Once he got to the car, he wanted to get a couple of Diet Cokes from the station. Nope, only Pepsi products and only in a machine. Two strikes now. I asked what happened with the burgers. Rich said "do you see that bus over there?" He said the lines at Burger King were six deep and all the registers were crowded. OK, let's eat those cheese crackers we got at Publix earlier today. We did pay the extreme toll of $10.90 each way but it is the best way to get from Disney World to the Keys. If my dad is willing to pony up the bucks, then it must be good.
Rich took over driving until we got into Key Largo. I wanted to drive in the Keys so Rich could look around since he's never been here. We stopped at the Keys Welcome Center for the bathrooms and to switch drivers. We had to stop at the Big K Mart in Key Largo so Rich could check on sports cards. While he did that, I called my dad and told him where we were. He and I figured it would be about an hour and a half until Rich and I got there. Well, it would have been. If certain people from Louisiana would understand how to go 55 MPH instead of 45 MPH. In a 55 MPH zone. Ever driven Route 1 in the Keys? No passing for miles. And when you can pass, there's usually cars coming in the other direction. It was agonizing. I had to go over the Seven Mile Bridge doing 45 MPH. It's a 55 MPH zone. I was so totally frustrated by the time I got to my dad's.
I finally pulled into Venture Out, which is kind of like a trailer park. Once we got off Route 1, though, I had Rich turn on my cell phone because I just knew I was going to have problems with the gate guard. We had such a hassle last month with this. My dad said that everything was taken care of but that's what was promised before. I pulled up and said that we were visiting Unit 606. Darn it, the same thing happened again! The gate guard said "I can't let you in because I have no record of you." Fortunately, I was prepared, took the cell phone, pressed Talk twice to get my dad's number back in there (last number dialed) and immediately talked to Betty. Who then called the gate guard right back. Then the guard was nice about things. He said that he doesn't get the paperwork on guests until 4:00. Betty told the people that we were going to be there around 2:00 but they didn't tell that to the guard. Very frustrating. We finally got our pass and we were in.
Met up with Betty. My dad was out at my sister's getting a pillow for us to use. He returned soon and we all just visited. Dinner was discussed and Monte's was decided on. This is a place where you use plastic utensils and you sit at picnic tables. But the food is excellent. Dad had a fisherman's platter, Betty had the jumbo fried shrimp, Rich had the peel and eat shrimp, and I had fried oysters. I also did an appetizer of mussels. Dad and Betty generously picked up the check here. Thanks guys!
After dinner, we went to my stepsister's house that she and her boyfriend are building. Literally building. Tammy is Betty's daughter. She wasn't there but John was. I'll tell you, this house is going to be extremely nice. Three bedrooms and a nice enclosure downstairs. A thing about houses in the Keys. Any new house has to be on stilts because of the hurricane and flood threats. You have to go through hoops to get any kind of building approved. John is an electrician and he's doing all the work on the house himself. And he's done a great job. Rich and I were very impressed.
Then we went over to my sister's house. Also very nice except that her daughter, Kelsey, has to have her room downstairs in the enclosure. And you have to walk outside to get there. Very strange but Sandy said that Kelsey likes it that way. We saw one of the iguanas that live in the area. Ugh. My sister's husband, Rich, and my Rich talked football and cards. We had a nice visit and then left so they could eat dinner. Rich was grilling hot dogs for them. Betty mentioned that we wanted to have some lobster during our visit and Rich generously gave us four that he had in the freezer. My Rich said the other Rich would never miss them. I guess he had about 40 of them. And the other Rich doesn't even eat lobster!
We came back to the trailer and just visited for the evening. Dad and Betty's friend, Gary, stopped by for a while. He's really nice. We talked about our plans for the next day. Dad and Gary were going to dive the wreck and Betty would stay on the boat. They invited us along for the day but we declined. Last time the boat stopped for a while, I got terribly seasick and was not willing to repeat that experience. Rich wanted to go out on the boat but all he needed was a short ride and he'd be fine. So Rich and I decided to go to Key West.
Day Five - Tuesday, August 14, 2001
Dad and Betty were up around 7:30 or so. Somehow Rich and I managed to sleep until after 9. How we did that is beyond me. This trailer is extremely small and we're bunking on the futon in the tiny living room. Dad and Betty were very quiet so Rich and I just snoozed.
Gary came over right after we got up so we kind of waited until the three of them took off in the boat. I went online to check emails since it had been three long days until I could do that. Rich got ready and then we switched places. We left for Key West around 11:00.
The drive was as agonizing as the one to Cudjoe Key! Can't people read the speed limit signs? Rich said he was going to drive out of the Keys so he didn't have to listen to me cuss other people out. We made a quick stop at the K Mart for Rich to do his sports card search. Nothing. I made it finally into Key West and went to the City Hall parking garage/lot. All the spaces are metered and we had all those quarters ready. I found a spot inside so at least we wouldn't have a hot car to come back to. I plugged in enough quarters for three hours but the meter only registered 2 hours and 30 minutes. And then it started flashing "Out of Order". Well, I paid so I'm not going to worry about it. I can argue a ticket if I get one.
We headed down the famous Duval Street and I realized that I was starving. Quite a difference from when I was here with the in-laws. I had eaten at the Hard Rock Café then and I liked it so I suggested it to Rich. He was game for a snack. I thought we'd just do a couple different appetizers but Rich didn't like any of them. So he ordered a pulled pork sandwich and I wanted the deli roast beef sandwich. Both were huge. I managed to finish most of mine and Rich had to bail out and just eat the meat from his because the bread just disintegrated. But it hit the spot and we were set for the day.
After our "snack", we just walked the streets of Key West. We went to Mallory Square and there was a cruise ship in port so that was kind of neat to see. We also saw this catamaran getting loaded up for a voyage. Rich said that he would not want to do that since they had about 90 people crammed on there. He said that was way too many people. I guess a cruise is not in our immediate future.
Our main goal was to go to the Ernest Hemmingway house and see the cats. Go figure, like we don't have enough at home already. We went down Whitehead Street and headed for the house. And gagged at the $9 price to get in. So we just saw some of the cats from the entrance gate and longed for our new kittens to get integrated into the house. Then we walked back to the car. We only had 21 minutes left on the meter so we timed it fairly well. I asked Rich what he thought of Key West. He said he's seen it, doesn't have to see it again. It's a nice place but once in a while is enough. Dad and Betty later said they very rarely go into Key West.
I decided to drive Rich past the Southernmost Point in the US so I headed there. Very tacky. Just a big thing there. But it was congested with people having to get their picture taken. Then we drove near a pier and I suggested we stop there and walk out on it. We saw the AIDS Memorial and then headed out on the pier. Just for a walk and get near the water. There were a couple of guys out there and one was trying to make some money by taking pictures of families. With the family's camera. This guy then told the other one that he was going to pound down another six pack and then he'd be back. Both guys talked with us as they rode their bikes away. The six pack pounder has been here since 1971 but we're not supposed to tell anyone. Oops.
I drove us back to the trailer with a stop for ice on the way. Dad, Betty, and Gary had just pulled up on the boat so it was good timing. Gary had caught a lobster so we got a good look at a Florida lobster. No claws. All of us visited for a while and we talked about dinner for the night. Betty decided to make the lobsters for us. Gary would decide later if he would join us (he didn't). My stepsister, Tammy (Betty's daughter), stopped by and we had a nice chat. Rich hadn't seen her for years and they really got along. I like that my extended family all have a good time with each other.
The dinner was fantastic. Betty grilled the lobster tails and then added grilled corn on the cob and some baked potatoes. I totally pigged out. Dad was tired after dinner and went to bed. Betty, Rich, and I stayed up and visited and talked.
Day Six - Wednesday, August 15, 2001
Today was a kind of take it easy day but it was topped off by a wonderful experience. Rich just wanted to take a ride on my dad's boat so after we all got up and had a patented Bob Sowa breakfast (scrambled eggs, potatoes, onions, and cheese all together - excellent), we headed out for a quick ride. Gary came over but opted out of the boat ride.
We went out to Little Palm Island which is a very expensive resort. Extremely expensive. Rooms start at $1200/night. You can't just go out there and walk around, either. So we just cruised past it and wondered why anyone would want to spend that kind of money to live in a hut with no TV and no phone. I'd die!
We saw a waterspout on the way which was kind of neat but also kind of scary. It's like a tornado on the water. Then we went to Bird Island and Picnic Island. I had seen Bird Island on my visit here five years ago and it was literally covered with birds. However, Hurricane Georges did a number on the island and there's hardly any birds there now. Picnic Island is a place where the locals take their boats on the weekends and swim and just have a good time. Not much to the island itself but it's just a local hangout. And then we cruised past Cook Island and then back to the trailer.
The afternoon was spent with Betty working, my dad reading, Rich watching TV, me working on the trip report, and Gary napping. Very interesting, I know. We did an early dinner of hamburgers since we were going on a sunset cruise. Dad and Betty's friend, Greg, owns a business and does these cruises. When he doesn't have clients, he'll take friends out. Tonight, he didn't have clients so the four of us were going to go. Gary was leaving for Ft. Lauderdale. We said goodbye to him after dinner and then headed to Key West and the boat.
And what a boat. It's name is Bagatelle and it's a 45 foot Hatteras Yacht. It has a big deck, a nice cockpit and an air conditioned salon. It also has a wet bar and bathroom. Very nice. And the cruise was excellent. Greg served hors d'ouvres and all we had to do was sit back, relax, and enjoy. Greg took us up towards Mallory Square and it was interesting to see it from a different angle. Lots of people were lined up on the shore waiting for the sunset. It didn't disappoint. I snapped tons of pictures that I hope turn out. Greg was so nice to do this for us since this cruise normally costs $395! So here's my shameless plug to thank Greg. The website is www.bagatelle.org, the email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, the phone number is 305-872-9524. Your captain is Greg Thomas and tell him that Bob Sowa's daughter sent you and you might get a discount. And he also does full and 1/2 day cruises and special events like weddings and parties. Shameless plug off.
After the cruise, we met up with a very nice cat named Charlie Brown. Made us miss our cats even more. Then we just went back to the trailer and got ready to leave in the morning. Rich and I went outside to look at the stars and I think I'm going to print out the star chart for our latitude and see if we can't go somewhere without so many lights and do some stargazing one night. In bed fairly early for the drive back to Kissimmee tomorrow.
Day Seven - Thursday, August 16, 2001
Up at 7:00 so we can get to Kissimmee as early as possible. Have to make the last night at Epcot a good one, right? We said goodbye to Dad and Betty and we don't know when we'll be able to see them again. They travel quite a bit so maybe they'll be going through Atlanta sometime. Rich has now seen the Keys and while they are nice, once you've seen them, you've seen them. We left around 8:00. Rich did drive out of the Keys so I wouldn't be cussing the whole way. We stopped for gas in Key Largo since it was a lot cheaper than the lower keys. Then we hit the turnpike and had that boring drive. It was enlightened somewhat by the audiotape I borrowed from the library. Stephen King reading "Desperation". Something like 21 hours of tape. But it made the time go by just a little better.
I drove us into Kissimmee, again not trusting Rich around the area. And I did a stupid thing. Instead of driving the extra seven miles on the turnpike and using the Osceola Parkway to get in, I figured I'd save the $1.25 and the mileage and just use 192. It was only 2:00 so I thought I'd be safe. Ha! We did make a stop at a K Mart and Rich finally got some cards. Now he was satisfied that he had packs to open. The traffic wasn't that bad but I must have hit every red light on the stupid road. By the time I traveled the whole length, I was a little ticked. Plus, it started to rain so when we finally made it to the Best Western Eastgate, we had to run through the drops to check in. We're staying at the same place because it was easier this way and the $35/night rate was too good to pass up again. This time though, we were in the front of the building and on the fifth floor. That's fine but the elevator is all the way on the back side. Rich decided to lug things up the stairs. I figured the suitcase wasn't that heavy anymore so I took that while he took the cooler. No the suitcase wasn't that heavy but it's too big. But we made it. This room was just like the other room in appearance but it just goes to show you what a difference a room can do for you. I liked this one a lot better. No leaky toilet and it just seemed brighter.
Rich opened his cards and I tried to find something on the TV. I was actually chomping at the bit to get on property. How many more packs to open, my dear? Rich finally finished and we discussed dining options. Rich wanted offsite and that was fine. I knew there was a Bennigan's on the way and since it was early afternoon, it wouldn't be crowded. I got us there and Rich settled for a burger while I did a Philly cheesesteak. Total here was $30 and Rich remarked something about nothing at Disney would have cost us that little. I just glared at him.
I got us to the Swan parking lot again. We walked over to Epcot and entered for our last night. Of course, we headed to Canada for the traditional beer but were disappointed. The kegs were not on. OK, on to Norway then. We got a small and a large and then sat outside Germany with the beers and just watching people. We were too late for the first showing of Blast and while we were sitting there, Rich innocently asked if we could go to the 5:45 show. I agreed but little did I know this would start a blast of Blast. They were letting people directly in the show and not having a line this time. Wonder why? Is the weekend a little more crowded? The show was great as usual. We made sure we shook as many of the performers' hands as we could and we thanked them for the show.
We made it out of here in just enough time to catch Tapestry of Nations again. I love this parade and the music. After the parade, we checked our watches and decided that we could walk through World Showcase yet again, split a beer at Germany and continue back to see Blast for the 7:10 show. Can you tell we like this thing? So that's what we did. We looked at the Blast CDs and videos. We decided that we wanted to be able to experience the whole thing so we talked about getting the DVD. We didn't do it yet but at least we talked about it. After yet another great show, we were in time for Tapestry of Nations again. We really ODed on the entertainment this evening. But that's what we like about Epcot - a different experience every time.
And what did we do after Tapestry of Nations? The 8:15 showing of Blast! And we bought the DVD. It was $30 which is a little high but I think we'll be watching it quite often and showing it to friends. And if this ever comes to the Atlanta area, we are there. If you read my trip report from May of 2001, you'll know that I saw Off Kilter so many times during that trip. Rich really kidded me about it. At one point, I made nine performances in a row (over two days). A friend wanted me to go back and count how many times I saw them. Nineteen times in eighteen days. Now we had seen Blast three times in a row and a total of six times. Rich cannot say anything more about my Off Kilter fixation!
I had said that I didn't need to see Illuminations since it was late and I was getting tired. But we found a spot along the rail so we decided to top off the night with some more entertainment. We had some limited views with trees in the way but the rest of the show was fine. I love this music as well and also tear up when the song "Promise" comes on. That's the one that will be playing when Rich and I renew our wedding vows in January. 20 years. I guess you make a lot of promises to get this far.
We made our way out the International Gateway and back over to the Swan. I actually let Rich drive us back to the hotel! If we continue these shorter trips, I guess I'm going to have to trust him sooner or later. He did fine in the driving. I was very tired and I knew tomorrow would be a long driving day.
This time, I wasn't sad about leaving Disney World. Maybe because I'm getting it in smaller doses these days. I know I'll be back. Hopefully, over Labor Day to see Lindy. Depends on the job situation. But it's only a day's drive. And I will definitely be enjoying Disney World with all my family in January for the ceremony.
Back to the room where I set the alarm for 7:00 (ugh!) in order for us to make it back before the Atlanta traffic started for the weekend.
Day Eight - Friday, August 17, 2001
Got up and ready. Rich wisely decided to use the elevator this time. Packed and checked out and headed for home and the cat and the kittens. The drive again was boring. We listened to Stephen King for most of it. We timed who drove when so Rich could take us through Atlanta. We live on the northeast side so we had to go all the way through. Rich didn't want me cussing people out. I just have no patience with stupid drivers. Yes, I am a perfect driver (not). We needed gas about an hour from the house so I pulled into a QT. Big mistake. The place was packed. We had a bit of a wait to even get to a pump. I got very testy when the guy Rich told me to pull up in back of came out of the store and *then* started pumping his gas. I finally got to a pump. After this, Rich drove. And we hit a major problem. The right lane going back to I285 was closed off. That was fine. Except three school buses had to unload. One at a time. We sat and waited and waited and waited. We did encounter jams at the infamous Spaghetti Junction. And this was only at 3:00. I'm glad we timed this so that we weren't there at 5:00.
We got to the house and Rich now has to own up to his boneheaded move of the vacation. I had given my house key to Ann, the neighbor lady who was looking after the kittens. Rich didn't bring his house key, figuring that we would go in through the garage since we had the opener in the car. One problem. We hired a service to take care of Todd, our king cat. We've met Donna and she's a great lady. But she takes her job seriously. She locks any door that opens in the house. Like the one from the basement to the first floor. And the one from the house to the garage! We were locked out of our own house! Rich ran up to Ann's house and, of course, she wasn't home. He called Donna and, of course, she wasn't there. So we left a message for Donna and sat on the porch to wait. Poor Todd knew we were outside and was loudly meowing inside. We asked him to unlock the door but I don't think we were translating into cat language very well. The only good thing was we still had some beer in the cooler!
After about 15 minutes, I suggested to Rich that he call Ann and leave a message on her machine. So he did that (thank goodness for cell phones). Turns out Ann was home after all - just in the backyard when Rich went over there. So Rich ran back up there. He was gone quite a while and then he and Ann came back. Ann had taken the kittens to get checked up yesterday and then decided to keep them herself. I think she's up to 15 cats now. The place that she takes her strays to told her that these guys would never really integrate themselves with another cat as long as they had the four of them together and off to themselves. So Ann took them to live with her other 11 cats. Rich was disappointed but he's a little relieved as well. Trying to do this was going to take patience and, as you can see from my driving habits, I don't have a lot of that. So Rich was going to have to do all of it. At least the kittens are off the streets and eventually will either live a happy life with Ann or be adopted by someone Ann approves of.
Overall Thoughts and Observations
I had Lindy do some checking into the Off Kilter situation. They will be back so that makes me feel better. I was just afraid with the Disney cutbacks that my marathon in May would be the last time I saw them. I like that Disney changes things to keep it fresh but Off Kilter needs to stay. Same with British Invasion.
Seeing Blast so many times might seem a bit odd to some people. But it suited us just fine. Except for Test Track, we never ventured into Future World. At Animal Kingdom, we only did the Safari. We did three things at MGM and never made it near Magic Kingdom. But this was a great trip. There's a section on mouseplanet called "Beyond the Parks". I guess we do "Beyond the Rides".
Meeting Adrienne in person was simply wonderful. I've said it before in one of my reports but I'll repeat it here. People said that the internet would make humans grow apart since you can just sit and type and not have any interaction. Wrong on this account. I've met Donna and Lindy in person. I even made sure I saw Donna last month at Disney World and we're hoping to see Lindy again over Labor Day. Meeting Adrienne was the topper. She is such a great friend and her family is so nice. And so are Jeanne and Doug. I am so very glad we did this and would have stuck to the original Mouse Suicide Run if we had to.
Best Western Eastgate - it's a nice place and the price was right. But the next time I stay here (and there probably will be a next time), I will ask for a room towards the back since that's where the elevator and, more importantly, the ice machine is. Using the stairs and going up five flights is not my idea of a vacation.
Kids - we seem to pay attention to these guys since we no longer have any of our own. I found that parents were a lot more tolerant this trip than in the past. Maybe because it was so hot (90+ temperatures). We did our normal stroller test and Rich pointed out a few that maybe could have walked instead of having a stroller. I didn't care - I'd rather have stroller debates than seeing a kid being overly hot and overtired and a parent lambasting them. I know these parents want a hassle free Disney vacation but that is not going to happen with kids. Heck, it didn't happen when mine was 17, it's not going to happen when yours is 7. Count on at least one meltdown a trip. Rich and I had one, we dealt with it, life goes on.
We have since watched the Blast DVD and I loved it. Rich liked the Epcot version better since it didn't have as much "slow stuff". A word about Epcot entertainment. You're not going to get the whole enchilada. The performances are usually limited to twenty minutes. We found that out from the comments of the performers at the Flower and Garden Festival. So you get a slice of the entertainment. The Blast DVD was almost two hours long. All the music they did at Epcot was on the DVD and we really enjoyed seeing what they did on the stage. It basically was the same as what they did at Epcot. I really hope that Disney can bring in this quality of entertainment in the future.
And we have since found out that Blast will be in Atlanta February 12-17, 2002. Guess who will be the first to buy tickets on December 16th? We are going! Thanks Disney for introducing us to such a great show. Another shameless plug - the website is www.blasttheshow.com. They are touring so see if they are coming near you.
Feel free to email me with thoughts or comments.
PS - We did adopt two adorable kittens since the trip. I named them Gus after the mouse in Cinderella and Belle after the heroine in Beauty and the Beast. Have to keep those one syllable names going for our cats. Todd is tolerating them as much as he can. And we leave August 31st for our next trip. Back down there for Labor Day. More Magic of the Mouse Moments.
PSS - And I finally did get a job! It's just until the end of the year but it's perfect for me. It'll be a horrible commute but it's worth it. Rich is still looking but the pressure is off for a while.