Sheri Niklewski -- July 2001 -- Walt Disney World (Offsite, Swan)
This is the story of how one totally insane Disney fan happened to convince her in-laws to make a couple of night time visits to the Mouse.
Monday, July 16, 2001 and Friday, July 20, 2001.
Personal vehicle for Shanna, Bobbie, and Ed from Hagerstown, MD to our house in Buford, GA (outside Atlanta). Then, the same megavan (it's huge, trust me) from Buford to Orlando and then down to the Florida Keys.
This is the story how I managed to get in two nights at Disney World. Shanna is a biology major at the University of Delaware. She especially likes marine biology and my dad and stepmother, who live in the Florida Keys, are certified scuba divers. They train people all the time. Bobbie and Ed took Shanna to the Keys in January and she was certified by my dad and stepmother, Betty. Then Bobbie and Ed decided that maybe a summer time trip was in order so Shanna could be advanced certified. The planning began, things worked out. My husband, Rich, and I had just moved from Nebraska to Georgia (Rich lost his job - see my May, 2001 report for that story) so of course, we were on the way. More plans. Bobbie, Ed, and Shanna would leave Maryland on July 12th and get to Georgia on the 13th. It just so happened that our beloved Baltimore Orioles (Cal, I'm so glad you had such a great career) would be playing the Atlanta Braves that weekend. We got tickets for the night of July 14th. Since I wasn't working (hey, I am trying to get a job!), I asked about tagging along to see my dad and stepmother. And there's another reason. My sister and her husband also live in the Keys and all four of my sister's kids will be there at the same time. Kind of like a family reunion. Rich wouldn't be there but I have to take things as they come, right? Timing would be tight but we'll manage.
Bobbie usually will plan all these trips. Ed likes to take a leisurely pace so I was a little concerned. But then Bobbie asked me to help plan the trip and to find someplace halfway between Buford, GA and Cudjoe Key, FL where we could stay on Monday, July 16th. Well, let me look here. Isn't Kissimmee halfway there? Yep, it sure is. Why not stay there? I offered that up, it was accepted and there was no stopping me.
I went through www.wdwinfo.com and Dreamres and got a two room suite at the Holiday Inn Maingate on Highway 192 for $99/night. I figured after a long day of driving, we'd need some privacy. And I love Shanna but spending a night in the same bed with her was just a little too much. A suite was needed. I've stayed at the Holiday Inn before and it's fine for what we need. We were set for the way down.
Once I had that figured out, I asked Bobbie if we could do a little Disney World sight seeing while we were there. My plan was a dinner at one of the monorail resorts, then doing a full circuit of the monorail, getting off at the Magic Kingdom and showing Bobbie and Ed our Walk Around the World Brick, which they have never seen. Bobbie and Ed visited us right after we moved to Georgia and I had Bobbie make a dining decision after showing her the menus (from www.wdwig.com). She chose Grand Floridian Café, which I have eaten at before, for the choices for her and Shanna since they are kind of picky. I didn't even show her California Grill! So that was the plan. But I changed it once I saw that Kona Cafe had a better variety and better prices. Now the plan was to drive to the Polynesian, park there and be perfectly legal since we have a dining reservation, eat, ride the monorail with our one stop, and get back to the Polynesian. If we get a three hour parking pass, I'm sure we'll be within the time frame.
And then more Magic. There's no way to describe what happened next. We need a place to stay on the way back, right? Why not Kissimmee again? My internet friend, Donna, is going to be at Disney World that weekend, July 20th. Her husband is celebrating his 40th birthday then. So I sent an email to Bobbie, asking her if she would have a problem with using Kissimmee as the stopping point on Friday. Thankfully, I have a wonderful relationship with the in-laws and Bobbie basically said to plan whatever I wanted. So I did. Donna and I became very creative.
We originally just planned on dinner with everyone that night. Donna is staying at the Beach Club and we're most likely going to be offsite. So just dinner it was. Donna was in Atlanta earlier for a business meeting and had met Bobbie and Ed so this was not a problem. And I had met Donna's family last year at Disney World. This was kind of "natural" for us. But.....
Friday, July 20th just happened to be an E-ride night. I really wanted to go. I really wanted to go. I knew Rich and I would be back at Disney World in August (I'm doing a separate report for that one - that's bizarre in it's own way) so I knew I could get an Annual Pass and make it pay off. But this trip was for Shanna. I didn't want to leave her behind while I went to Magic Kingdom. E-ride was not an option for the in-laws because I don't think I've ever seen them awake after 10:00. But I knew Shanna would love it. What to do? You need a valid admission pass to get in there. Donna said she would take care of getting the E-ride tickets for us so that wasn't a problem. But the pass for Shanna was. Donna finally solved it. Just get a 7 day hopper pass that never expires and we're fine. Did I tell you we were insane? But it's money well worth spent and it's something that I can enjoy with Shanna. We'll do this and convert the hopper pass into an Annual Pass at a later time.
By the way - E-ride night, for those who don't know about it, is a separate event at the Magic Kingdom. On select nights, after Magic Kingdom closes, resort guests can ride the "premiere" attractions. It costs $12 and you have to get the E-ride tickets at your resort. You do need to have some sort of valid admission to Magic Kingdom that day as well. So, basically, for an extra $12, you get to go on the thrill rides after mostly everyone else has left. There are usually nine attractions open for three extra hours. The attractions this time were Alien Encounter, Space Mountain, Astro Orbiter, Buzz Lightyear, Tomorrowland Transit Authority, Haunted Mansion, Country Bear Jamboree, Splash Mountain, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. The E-ride reference goes back to when you bought individual admission tickets to each ride. The E tickets were for the primo rides. Our E-ride night was for 10:00 PM - 1:00 AM. Very late night.
Donna and I decided on dinner at Cape May Buffet since it's at the Beach Club and then we can leave for E-ride night from there. Bobbie and Ed would return to the hotel in the megavan and Donna graciously offered to drive Shanna and I back after E-ride.
I tried to get another good offsite "bargain" for the way back and just wasn't happy with the choices. One thing I like to do in Kissimmee is to choose a different place every time. I have stayed at the Holiday Inn but only in a standard room. I thought about it and decided that Shanna and I will not be in the room that much at all. And E-ride lasts until 1AM and we have to get up early the next day to make it back to Georgia. So sleeping with her won't be for long. So I started looking at the standard rooms. And then I got an inspiration.
I had gotten a great $155/night rate at the Swan in May. Wonder if that was still available? Expensive, yes, but sometimes you just have to pay a little more for the convenience. I was so concerned about my in-laws finding the offsite hotel after dinner. And I didn't want Donna to have to stay up even later to drive Shanna and I offsite. I checked www.wdwinfo.com and the Dreamres system. Yep, the rate is still there and available for July 20th. So I booked it. It's perfect. We can just walk over to the Beach Club to meet Donna and then Bobbie and Ed can enjoy the Epcot resort area after dinner while the others head for E-ride. And Shanna and I can take the Disney transportation back from the Magic Kingdom.
Before the trip
On Monday, July 9th, I called the local Disney Store and asked about getting the Park Passes. I wanted to get the Annual Pass voucher early so all I had to do was just convert it. Ray, the store manager, was so helpful. He said they only had 4, 5, and 6 Day Hopper Passes there but he could order a voucher for me. It would have to come from California but should be in by Thursday. Would that be all right? Sure. Anything not to have to stand in a ticket line when I get there. They didn't have the 7 day hopper pass I thought about but maybe a 4 day pass would suffice. I am so glad I made the call on Monday. Because...
Remember why we are in Georgia right now? Remember that Rich lost his job but found another one in Atlanta so we packed up and moved everything we owned? Remember all that? Could it happen again? Could Rich lose his job twice? Yep, he sure can. He came home Tuesday with the news that the Atlanta "branch" of the company was being shut down. Thanks, guys. Everyone lost their jobs. I went totally numb. It's scary when one of a two-earner couple is unemployed but two? And all this just a few days before the in-laws are coming and this trip is approaching. Rich's last day on the job would be July 20th. Yes, there is a severance package but it's not that much. Probably, maybe, enough time to find another job. Oy. But Rich said that I was still going on vacation and his parents graciously said they would foot the bill for the hotels and the meals for me. Rich told me to still go ahead with my plan. I thought about this situation a lot (as if I couldn't think about it). Both Rich and I need to have fun to get through this stress. We are both doing Annual Passes. We will visit Disney World as much as we can. Once those passes are bought, we can do cheap offsite and we don't need the sit down meals every time. So, I can't change fate. It happens. We have to live and deal with it. Most of Rich's stress came from how I would react. I just thought about it and figured that it's not Rich's fault at all. I later told a friend about all this and she said she would be screaming at her husband. What would that accomplish? Like Rich can control all this. He wasn't fired because he was incompetent. It's the nature of the business. We will survive.
On Friday, July 13th (an ominous date, don't you think?), Bobbie, Ed, and Shanna arrived. I struggled to get up on Saturday, the 14th. But once I was out of the shower, the phone rang. It was the Disney Store and Ray. My Annual Pass voucher was in! I was so excited. I ran downstairs and said that I knew where I was going that day. The other four went to some museum nearby. Not me. I headed to the Mall of Georgia and the Disney Store. This mall is the largest mall in the Southeast and I had no idea where the Disney Store was (I had only been there once). I parked at one end and figured I could just walk the length of the mall if I needed to. I found the Disney Store (it's in the middle so it didn't matter where I parked, I was going to have to walk) and Ray was working. Thank goodness for those nametags.
I got to the register and saw Ray. He asked if I needed help. I said that he had an Annual Pass for me. He said "you're Sheri, right?" Nice touch. He even pronounced my last name correctly. Ray took care of everything for me. I had decided that I was going to get Shanna a 4 day pass and then convert that into Rich's Annual Pass in August. Yes, I know, you are not supposed to share passes. I think this qualifies as an exception and if purists get on me, big deal. It's not like we're trying to cheat the system. Do the math - I'll end up paying just about the same for the upgrade and the 4 day hopper as I would if I just got the Annual Pass now. I just want one special person to share one special night with me.
Anyway, off the soapbox, I got the 4 day hopper and the Annual Pass and I swear I was beaming as I left the store. I know I was. With everything going on, this was nice. And then I listened to the Music. I left that mall with tears in my eyes and practically ran to the truck to hide myself. The song that was playing when I was walking through the mall was "Can You Feel the Love Tonight". It was just too perfect. Yes, I can feel the love. It's with your family and your friends. That's the Magic of the Mouse coming through every single day of your life.
Monday, July 16, 2001
With the in-laws, you *have* to get them moving in the morning. I am not a morning person and never will be. However, if we have to drive 481 miles to Disney World in one day, I will get up and get going. My in-laws, though, will get up at 7 AM and just take their time and if they are ready to go by 9:30, they consider that a miracle. Plus, they pack enough for an army so it takes a long time just to get the bags into the megavan. I took one carryon bag for five days. Plus a CD holder and a very small camera bag. What did the in-laws take? Five full suitcases. For the two of them. Shanna had a huge and heavy bag. What is up with that? Bobbie even asked if everyone remembered to bring a jacket. A jacket? In Florida? In July? Are you insane? Rich about lost it with that comment. I hustled everyone along and we were actually pulling out of the driveway at 8:00 AM. That was my goal of each day - 8 AM. I actually thought 8:30 was a more realistic prospect but I wasn't spitting on leaving at 8. We headed into the infamous Atlanta traffic.
And it wasn't that bad. We were well south of Atlanta by 9. We had some slowdowns but nothing major. I was driving the whole way and that would continue. Yes, I drove nearly 2,000 miles during this trip. Anything to get these people to move. I had the megavan driver's seat all the way up as far as it could go. I'm only 5 feet tall so Shanna had a ton of room behind me. And then I thought I would need blocks for the pedals. But I managed fine. The megavan? Well, it does seat seven. It has the two front seats and then two in the middle and a bench in the back for three more. Plus, it has a full and complete VCR system and the bench converts to a bed. So you can practically live in this thing. It drives very nicely except that it doesn't accelerate very well. So getting to 70 MPH is kind of tough. And I never want to drive the thing again. Eight hours per day is about eight hours too much. Oh well, at least we got there.
The drive? Boring. Especially since Shanna put in a movie and her and Bobbie watched "That Thing You Do". I thought I'd at least be able to hear it but they had headphones. Ed just read and napped in the shotgun seat. I had no conversation at all. And then things got very bad.
I was sick. Totally. I think the stress and the trip did it to me. I was not going to eat at all. Bobbie and Ed *have* to stop for lunch. I told them they had 1/2 hour and that was it. Nothing was slowing me down from Disney. However, when we stopped, I just couldn't force much into me. That lead to Bobbie preaching to me the whole day about my eating habits. Which added to my stress which produced more stomach problems. And I wanted a nice dinner at Kona Cafe that night! It was an extremely long day. Driving and fighting the nausea was exhausting.
We got to the Kissimmee area around 4ish. Here's where these trip reports really pay off. Brian had written one for his trip this year and he said something about taking Route 27 into Kissimmee. On an earlier trip, I had taken I4 from the turnpike. I looked on the map and saw where Route 27 would cut me out of I4 which was good for our arrival. 4:00 on a Monday. Rush hour time. So I took that and it was nice. And it turns out that there was a huge traffic accident on I4 and we would have been right in the middle of it if I had taken that option. That would have totally ruined the day for me. Especially since I was sick. But the accident was bad - one guy died. Yes, we managed to avoid it without really knowing about it but I hope his family is OK. I hated to hear the bad news that night. And we did see a pickup truck on fire on the turnpike. We don't know what happened with that one but I'm hoping nothing bad. I hope that person got out in time.
I checked us in at the Holiday Inn Maingate at exactly 4:20. Again, I had a bit of a wait for someone to help me. Ed and I had a bit of a discussion as to whose credit card this was going on. I couldn't remember if I needed a one night deposit or not. Ed put the imprint on his Discover card and I figured we'd settle it in the morning.
Shanna was very impressed with the suite. It was a two room suite. The bedroom had two doubles and then we had a pull out couch in the living room. There was also a full kitchen. We had plenty of room although it took us some time to figure out who was going to sleep where. I said that I would probably go to bed early with the stomach problem so Shanna took the couch. We quickly got things inside (my one bag was all I needed but everyone else needed everything) and then the other three went swimming. I just needed some quiet time after the drive. 481 miles. I needed some wine but forgot my bottle at home. Oh well, I'll be sure to have some with dinner.
I told the others that I was leaving for the Polynesian at 6:00 whether they were there or not. I figured that's the only way to get these people moving to a one night Disney adventure. Fortunately for them, they were all ready. I drove on property (I told everyone I was "home") and we went through the Magic Kingdom parking gates. Which produced Bobbie to exclaim "we shouldn't have to pay for parking, right?" No, we're not going to. I have an Annual Pass and besides, we're eating dinner, not going to Magic Kingdom. I had the unfortunate incident to be behind someone who didn't want to be there so we had a bit of a wait. Which made Bobbie get the $6 out for parking. Whoa! We don't have to pay, remember? We finally get through the gates and I get us to the Poly without incident.
We were given the 3 hour parking pass which Ed promptly put on the dashboard. We'll be out of here before that so don't bother but he insisted. OK, be pure. I led the other three through the Poly grounds and they were all suitable impressed. We saw the new pool and it's fantastic. Perfect for the themeing. Shanna needed to go and walk along the beach and get her feet wet so she did. I pointed out some of the facts that I know about the Poly. Like the buildings are named in the order of the islands. Bobbie asked why some of the buildings had balconies for all the rooms and some didn't. I was able to answer her question. I think if we had more time, Shanna would have wanted to rent a Water Mouse. But I guided everyone up to Kona Cafe for dinner.
We were seated right away which surprised the others. The place did get filled up after 7 but we had a great time. We were led to the dessert tray immediately and I knew KoKo Puffs were in my future. My stomach was still acting up so I decided wisely to just get a Caesar Salad and then dessert. Well, things didn't work out and I ended up getting my KoKo Puffs to go. Bobbie and Shanna each had soup and salad (Shanna having Caesar, Bobbie the regular), and Ed had the BBQ shrimp. We all decided we were going to have dessert.
Ed had a crème brulee and Bobbie and Shanna split an apple fritter. Like I said, I got the KoKo Puffs to go. By this time, I was feeling awful. But I was at Disney and nothing was going to stop me. After dinner (it was around $90 - Ed paid and I didn't feel comfortable enough to ask him for the receipt), we headed for the monorail. My goal was a complete monorail circuit. We did it. We didn't get off at the Grand Floridian because it's not my kind of place. But the others at least saw it and the Wedding Pavilion. I wanted to walk there but decided against it at the last moment. We did get off the monorail at Magic Kingdom so everyone could see our brick. I again told them that this is where I want our wedding renewal ceremony. I had glanced over at Guest Relations when we got off the monorail and they were quite busy. I really wanted to activate that Annual Pass so I could just cruise through the gates for E-ride night. Well, when we were done looking at the brick (still there and we're going to do the ceremony in January), the line was non-existent. I went.
I was in heaven after that. All my information was taken and my pass was activated. No, I wasn't going to use it until Friday but I was set. Shanna had the four day hopper and I had the AP. We're going to Disney World! I actually skipped over to where the other three were. Small things, right? Activating a pass? Nirvana. I walked them over to the Contemporary and everyone really liked seeing the bricks and reading the inscriptions. Bobbie thought the idea of staying in a resort where the monorail runs through was intriguing. But then she saw the garden view rooms. She thought everyone who stayed here got the tower. Nope, I had to explain the different room codes. I told her that she could easily have a tower room but she'd pay for it. That turned her off completely to the Contemporary. I told Shanna that the decor was like the Jetsons on acid and she agreed.
After the Contemporary, we reboarded the monorail and took that back to the TTC and the Poly. I thought about watching the fireworks and/or the Electrical Water Parade but it was just 8:30 and we would have had to wait for a while. We got back into the megavan and I got us back to the Holiday Inn. I crashed on the bed and Shanna went swimming. Bobbie also settled in for the night while Ed did some things in the living room. Shanna came back and watched TV for quite a while. I woke up at 12:30 and realized that I felt like a million bucks. So the trip would get better.
Tuesday, July 17, 2001 - Thursday, July 19, 2001
I got everyone up and out the door by 8:20. Total for the hotel was $110.88 with the taxes and extra charges. It was worth it. It was left on Ed's credit card so he was happy with that. I got everyone going and headed us south.
We had a nice visit with my dad and stepmother, Betty. Except for one unfortunate incident of a toilet that decided it would share its pipe with the shower. Shanna took her five dives for certification and Betty filled out the paperwork. Next up for Shanna is rescue certification. Bobbie and Ed explored Key West on their own for two days. I did it for one day solo and then had a "take it easy" day. I saw my sister, her husband, and all four kids. I had just a few "moments" with the in-laws. They just don't take vacations like I do. And Ed, Shanna, and I had one glorious night (after the toilet incident and we needed fresh air) of star watching. You can really see a lot in the sky when there's no city lights nearby.
Friday, July 20, 2001
Shanna and I had set the alarm for 7:00 but Bobbie was just a minute ahead of that. Aargh. With our bathroom being out of commission, I couldn't do much except put in the contacts, brush the teeth, get dressed, and be ready. That took all of 10 minutes for me. The others took another long hour. Aargh, again. I had already taken my bag out next to the megavan for the packing ceremony and I was ready. I waited. Finally, Bobbie, Ed, and Shanna came over near 8:00 and they were ready. Turns out they all had to stop at the potties on the way out to do whatever they needed to do. My dad and Betty offered up their bathroom but it wasn't to be. So I sat in the megavan waiting. We finally left Venture Out at 8:20 and I cruised us up Route 1.
Just to stop at a geological center to buy some rocks. I was OK with the situation. Here was what I thought and talked over with Shanna. It only took 6-1/2 hours to get from Kissimmee to the Keys. So it should only take that amount of time to get back. If we had this stop and the lunch stop, we should be there no later than 4:00. We had passes. Shanna had the 4 day hopper and I had the Annual Pass. Shanna wanted to do the Living Seas. Anything at Epcot is fine with me. If we got to the Swan by 4, we could easily be at Epcot by 5 even with showers. Back to the Beach Club by 6:30 and dinner. Doable. Insane but doable. I put on my Disney happy face and we went on. By the way, Ed bought Dave (his other son) three clumps of rocks. It didn't take us that long but it still was a stop.
And then the lunch dilemma. I have to admit, I knew what was going to happen. With the Florida Turnpike, there are just service areas. With no picnic benches. I guess I knew that. I just didn't say anything about it. We stopped for a potty break and I pointed out that there were no benches. This was lunchtime. I knew that if we continued on, we'd be in Kissimmee by 3:00 with no problems. I wanted to go on. We finally agreed that making sandwiches in the van would be OK. Once we got back in the van and I started the engine, Ed was surprised. I don't think he's ever eaten and driven at the same time. Shanna, the dear girl that she is, made me a sandwich and I munched on cherries and pretzels and just drove. We pulled into the Swan area at 3:00. I was in heaven.
I went to check us in and insisted that Bobbie and Ed use Bell Services. We had way too much stuff. This would not happen on the way out but that's for tomorrow. Shanna checked in with me and we got three room keys and then went back out. Ed still hadn't gotten anyone to help him but he hadn't gotten out of the megavan yet either. I finally made him go in search of help. No way I'm hauling this stuff upstairs. We were in room 491 which was one floor down and one room away where we were in May. We got a corner room with double windows and a balcony. While the others went with Bell Services, I parked the megavan for the trip. And I made sure it was parked in the shade. I got back just as Bell Services was leaving.
Bobbie loved the room. So that was nice. Shanna immediately jumped into the shower to get herself ready for the evening. That produced a steady stream of comments from Bobbie and Ed. How Shanna should have done that since they wanted to use the bathroom first. We had been talking about this all day. It only took 10 minutes but you would have thought Shanna was on "America's Most Wanted". I did let the in-laws use the facilities before I took my shower. Shanna and I were ready to go by 3:30. I had warned Shanna that she needed to wear sneakers and not the flip-flops she had been wearing. She said she was scared of how I walked. I probably have the slowest pace of any Disney freak. But I didn't want her to think she was in for an easy evening. Shanna and I headed out and Bobbie and Ed walked with us to the fringe of the Boardwalk. Shanna and I continued on to Epcot and Bobbie and Ed headed back with a stop at the Boardwalk Bakery for something for the morning. I was in my element - I was at Disney World and nothing was stopping me.
First up was the Entertainment schedule. Yes, I checked Steve's Soares site the night before but I was still hoping for Off Kilter. Nope, off tonight. I think Shanna even wanted to see them. But I did stop in Canada for a traditional beer and saluted Rich and the quiet Off Kilter stage. Two of my favorite pastimes. Onto the Living Seas. I pointed out as much as I could to Shanna on the way. We took in the Living Seas movie since Shanna didn't remember if she had seen this or not. She's been here before but always with school groups. So I attempted to show her the "adult" way of things.
We boarded the hydrolators and had a great laugh. I had told Shanna about these "effects" and she thought it could be a rip-off. But once she was there, she had to laugh. There were a couple of kids on this and one of them was so scared that he was going under water. We just smiled to each other and didn't say anything. It was like those MasterCard commercials. Ticket into Disney World? $50. Seeing the look on a kid's face when he thinks he's going undersea? Priceless. It was a great introduction to the Living Seas.
What can I say about doing this with Shanna? Again, priceless. I can't describe it. She's determined to do Dive Quest now. There was a diver down there feeding the fish. Shanna pointed out so many species and she just loved the whole thing. This was so well worth fighting with the in-laws for the last couple of days. We spent a good hour here and had such a great time. We did spend some time in the gift shop and I hoped Shanna didn't buy one of the Scuba Mickey's. There was one waiting for her back in Georgia to help celebrate her certification.
We did see the infamous tour groups. I have never been to Disney World in July and the size of some of these groups amazed me. No wonder they can get out of hand. There are too many of the teenagers and not enough adults to keep them organized. Shanna and I talked about different cultures and how women are treated in other countries. We wondered what some of them would do if they were able to experience the freedoms we have here.
Shanna had said she wanted to walk through the countries which really surprised me. That's one of the things Rich and I love to do. So Shanna and I walked. I did offer to take a picture for a family and told Shanna that I like doing this on every trip. She thought it was nice since the family would now have a picture of all of them. Ed is the photographer in the family and I know he appreciates other people offering to take pictures of him and Bobbie together while they are traveling. Shanna said she loved Asian cultures (her new college roommate is Asian) so we spent a bit of time in China and Japan. We also saw the Living Statues in France. Shanna was almost picked up here and I tried to play the good Aunt and not interfere. It turned out, Shanna wanted me to interfere. She got the guy to bug off after a while. We saw a little bit of the start of Blast and I think we might want to see this next month (yes, Rich and I are going, jobless or not). We did get back to the Beach Club and waited to meet up with Donna and her family and Bobbie and Ed.
Bobbie and Ed showed up first but Donna and her family were close behind. Donna has her husband, Richard, and their two daughters Jill and Grace, plus Richard's daughter, Kelly. So we were a party of nine at Cape May Buffet. We just had a few minutes wait and we were in. The buffet was great, as usual. I've never had a bad meal here. I loaded up on clams and mussels and desserts. Shanna did a nice job on the kid's platform of mac and cheese. Ed later remarked that he never ate that much seafood in his life. Conversation flowed and everyone had a great time. Ed and Richard split the check. Again, I'm not asking for prices. I'm along for the ride.
Richard and Donna had rented their car from National. However, when they got to the Emerald Isle, there were no full size cars there. The agent said that they should take an intermediate. Richard didn't think so. He insisted they get something else. So they got this beautiful minivan. It had an automatic door closer. They offered to drive Shanna and I over to the Magic Kingdom for E-ride night. We didn't argue at all. Bobbie and Ed decided to visit the Boardwalk and the activities going on there. They did end up back at the Swan and used the Grotto pool. Bobbie is not a pool person, Ed is. But Bobbie said she had such a great time with the waterfall. Ed said she had this huge grin on her face the entire time. I guess convenience won out over the price in this case.
The Beach Club construction. I hadn't realized that the new Villas were going to be right outside the Beach Club. I was surprised. I thought they would be separated by a parking lot or something. But it appears that the Villas will be part of the Beach Club just like the Boardwalk has the normal rooms and then the Villas. One of these days, those yellow construction cranes will be gone.
Meanwhile, Richard, Donna, Kelly, Jill, Grace, Shanna, and I were headed to the Magic Kingdom. Donna had paid the $6/day valet fee at the Beach Club because she thought the walk to the van every day would be a little too much for the younger girls (Jill is 11, Grace is 6). So on the way to Magic Kingdom, Donna and I convince Richard to park at the Polynesian. I figured we wouldn't be hassled too much there. Richard is a purist and it took a ton of convincing but we went there anyway. No 3 hour parking pass which really surprised me. I got one on Monday night but we don't get one on a Friday E-ride night? I guess it just depends on the gate guard. At the last moment, Donna remembers the valet parking thing. That $6/day is good for any resort. So we valet parked here. Very nice.
We monorailed over to the Magic Kingdom and I showed Donna and her family our brick. Donna's brick is outside the TTC and I had checked it out for her in May. Then through the turnstiles and over next to City Hall for our wristbands. It was 8:55. And what happens at 9:00? Spectromagic. Donna and I had not planned on that at all. The thought never crossed our minds. We were going to try and get through the shops and hit some things that weren't on E-ride but decided to stay at the exit to the wristband place (we did not block anyone from exiting) and see the parade. Richard, Kelly (she's 19), and Jill needed the restrooms so they viewed the parade from there. Shanna, Donna, Grace, and I stayed where we were and we met up after the parade.
We went through the shops to get out of Main Street and headed towards Pirates of the Caribbean since we figured it would be a walk on. But we were diverted on the way by the new Magic Carpets of Aladdin ride. This is basically a glorified Dumbo ride with spitting camels. But it's new and none of us had ever done it. So we all climbed aboard. Shanna was my ride partner for the evening. We got the front seat so Shanna controlled the height of the ride. I thought I would have a problem with it but I didn't. A dad and his daughter got into the back and they controlled the right and left motion. When Shanna realized that we would get wet from the camels, she made sure she steered us into their path. Everyone had a lot of fun with this one.
Then we were off to Pirates where Grace was a little scared. I held her hand through the ride. I'm not sure it helped but she did survive it. After the ride, I pointed out to Shanna Disney's penchant of dumping you off in a gift shop. She just laughed. We headed back towards the Hub for the fireworks. This was the main reason for getting here early. Donna's family wanted to see the fireworks. It had started spitting rain so Tinkerbell didn't fly. She was up there and we were hopeful but the girls understood that safety comes first. I was very glad that Shanna got to see a Disney parade and Disney fireworks her one day on property. Again, that MasterCard commercial. Watching Disney fireworks with your niece? Priceless.
We fought against the exiting crowd and made our way over to Tomorrowland. Richard wanted Alien Encounter. Donna took Jill and Grace over to Buzz Lightyear where they rode three times before the rest of us got out of the show. I have to say, I have never laughed so hard in a Disney attraction. Kelly had been here when she was 12 and was a little apprehensive. Shanna couldn't remember it from before. Kelly knew the storyline but Richard touched her shoulder at a good moment and I don't think I have ever heard anyone scream that loud in my life! That got me going. Shanna had been reacting all along and I just laughed through the rest of the presentation. I thought Kelly would run me over trying to get out of there. It was hysterical. I was laughing so hard, I cried. Two 19 year old girls found their limit at Disney World - Alien Encounter. I guess Mr. Eisner made it scary enough.
We met up with Donna and the girls and then all of us went onto Buzz Lightyear. I told Shanna that I totally stink at this thing so I would spin us and she could concentrate on shooting. I did shoot and I ended up with my all time high score - 136,500. Shanna had around 22,000 points so she was a little miffed with my earlier comment that I stink on it. I don't know what happened. Maybe just because I wasn't too concerned with getting a high score. But we had fun.
Then onto Space Mountain and everyone rode. Even Grace who had been scared of the dark at Pirates. I sat behind Shanna and she thought I was screaming the whole way. Nope, not me. It was the woman behind me and she almost ran me over trying to get out of this one. I love other people's reactions to these rides.
We then did the sedate Tomorrowland Transit Authority. Actually, hardly anyone I know calls it this. We all refer to the People Mover. Can we bring that name back, please? Grace was scared during the dark portions even though she had just ridden Space Mountain. Who can figure out kids? Jill hugged Grace whenever she needed it. Donna, Richard, and Kelly took another car.
We vetoed the Astro Orbiter since the line was longer than we wanted. I wouldn't have done this one anyway. Much too high for me. Even the platform is too high. Yeah, Grace can have her fear of the dark - mine is of heights. We crossed the Hub again and made it over to the other two mountains. We did Splash Mountain first. Shanna and I were in the front. Kelly and Jill in the middle and Richard in the back. Donna and Grace opted out. Shanna and I got soaked. I had to explain the whole "Song of the South" story to Shanna since she's never seen it. She asked why Disney isn't going to release it again. I explained the social dilemma. She thought that was stupid. She said that it's part of our history and we shouldn't run from it. And besides, the story sounded nice. An older guy trying to befriend a young boy. Each of them different but managing to form a friendship. Social commentary rant off. We go back to the trip report.
The picture turned out nice but none of us wanted to buy it. Shanna and I slogged off the ride. All of us went over to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Shanna loved this ride and so did the younger girls. It is nicer at night. The only other ride we wanted to do as part of E-ride was Haunted Mansion. Donna and I share the same opinion of Country Bear Jamboree. Too darn cute for more than once every few years. We did the Mansion and had a group of people trying to get the greeting Cast Member to crack a smile. I thought this group would be a problem but they settled down on the actual ride. This is another ride that's better at night.
It was close to 12:30 by now so we had time for one more ride. We let the younger girls decide. Buzz Lightyear again. This time, Shanna and I shared the spinning duties and I did well yet again. Over 100,000 points. Shanna did around 50,000 so she was disappointed I beat her again. I told her we'd just have to plan to come back together sometime and she could try again. We headed out to Main Street. The characters had been out all night and since it was so late, there were not that many people to see them. Mickey and Minnie were together and there were only three people in line. Donna got the girls over there for photo opportunities. It was nice for all three girls to get into one picture with Mickey and Minnie. Then Jill and Grace had to see Pluto and Goofy. Chip and Dale were also there and I pointed out the difference to Shanna. (Chip has the black nose - chocolate chip, get it). Then Donna took a picture of all three girls in front of the Partners statue. I explained the significance of the statue to Shanna. This was a special picture for Donna. She gets the girls in front of it each trip but there's always other people in the background. This time, it was just the girls.
We made our way down Main Street. It was such a lovely night. The rain had cooled things off so it was pleasant. We stopped at the Minnie and Roy statue at the flagpole for more pictures. I explained why this statue was here to Shanna. She thought it was appropriate. She again said that I should be a tour guide here. Yeah, in my dreams.
We monorailed back to the Polynesian. We headed for the valet stand and I guess we were kind of late. It was around 1:00 in the morning. There were only two vehicles in the valet area and they had already brought them around. So the van was sitting there, waiting for us. Excellent. Everyone wished Richard a happy 40th birthday. What a way to spend a special day. We were back at the Swan by 1:15. Richard and Donna graciously dropped us off before they continued on to the Beach Club. Their vacation is just starting, mine is ending. We promised to meet up again in the future.
Shanna and I snuck into the room and quietly got ready for bed. I stayed up a little longer to unwind and write up some trip report notes. I think I hit the bed around 2. All in all, a great Disney day.
Saturday, July 21, 2001
Shanna and I hoped that Bobbie didn't set the alarm but it blared at 7 AM. Aargh. Five hours sleep. At least I was going home today. Shanna didn't think we were in a hurry but I still wanted to be on the road by 8. We didn't make that but we were close. The express checkout slip was under the door and I took care of that. I had to put the one night on my credit card when I made the reservation. Ed said he'd write me a check when we got back to Georgia. I don't care - I just spent practically a full day at Disney World. I'm in heaven; I could care less about the money.
I was ready to go in about 15 minutes but had to wait for the breakfast routine to be over. Every time I thought they were done, someone would find something more to eat. I thought we'd do Bell Services for the way down as well but it was not to be. They didn't want to pay the tip. Fine, let's try and haul all this stuff downstairs. Why couldn't they just pack a small bag for the one night? We had to drag everything up. So Shanna and I took a load down and across to the parking lot. I brought the van around to the front and then we returned to the room to get everything else down.
We were on the road shortly after 8:30 which wasn't that bad. I again drove the whole way. The drive again was boring. Shanna watched "Pulp Fiction". Bobbie started to but I knew she'd never get into it. We had the usual lunch stop and I kept calculating when we'd be back home. I was so grateful when we hit Macon. Almost there! We had to stop for gas and I warned everyone that I was not stopping after that. It's only two hours and then I'm home. We did hit the local grocery store near the house. Bobbie and Ed needed milk so they picked that up along with more supplies for the one day drive to their home. We finally got to our house around 4:30.
Final Thoughts and Overall Feelings
This trip was special for doing E-ride night with Shanna and seeing Donna and her family again. I wish I hadn't felt so bad that first night. But I still managed to see some of Disney World without ever going through a turnstile. My reasoning for eating at Kona Café was KoKo Puffs and I did get them to go (excellent in the next two days, BTW).
My tussling with the in-laws made the trip a little less enjoyable since they just travel so differently from me. I don't know how to overcome that. Bobbie and Ed were with Rich and I at Disney World this past November and it wasn't that bad. But I didn't have Rich along with me to act as a buffer this time. With the earlier trip, whenever the in-laws got on my nerves, I pulled out the phrase "damn Skippy". It meant I needed a timeout from his parents. I didn't have that phrase available on this trip. I think part of my problem is that Bobbie is a very practical person and she doesn't see one shred of Magic of the Mouse Moments.
Special Magic of the Mouse Moments -
The next trip? Well, Rich and I had a very short weekend trip to finally meet another internet friend in August. But since neither one of us is working, I've expanded that to be a repeat of this trip. Rich has never been to the Keys and that's my excuse. The fact that Disney World is a good halfway point has nothing to do with it.
Feel free to email me with any thoughts, questions, or comments.