Steve Russo -- January 2001 -- Walt Disney World (BVR)
January 13-20, 2001 at the Boardwalk Villas Resort.
For the purposes of this trip report, Sue, Wayne Barb and I are the "parents". My Dad, Pop, is just that - "Pop". All others, even though they range from 19 months to 30 years, are the "kids". Me and my family are the Russos, Sue, Wayne, et al are the Goergens.
This will be a difficult trip report - trying to keep track of 12 people and also conveying some of the history that brought this group together. Barb and I took Michelle and Stephanie to WDW in 1984 as an add-on to one of my business trips. While we tried again the following year, a bad back and surgery (for me) cancelled the trip and really endeared me to the family. Sue and Wayne had their first trip, with Jeff and an infant Kristen, in the late 70s (1979?).
In the summer of 1989, Wayne and I discussed the possibility of taking the entire family to WDW the coming February. This discussion occurred at the 19th hole after a round of golf and seemed like a great idea. There was some skepticism as to whether we could still remain friends after a week together. We went anyway, staying off-site at the Days Suites and had a great time. A tradition was born.
We did it again in 1992 staying on-site for the first time at the Caribbean Beach Resort (CBR) and again in 1995 (how did we miss 2 years?!) at the All Star Sports. Since 1995, we've had a number of trips separately and together. Typically Sue & Wayne head down to visit Jeff (then Jeff & Kelly). Sometimes Kristen tags along, some times not. Barb & I have gone each year with Stephen. The girls (Michelle, Steph, and Kristen) had reached an age where vacationing with parents wasn't cool (even though their parents are very cool) and actually have taken some trips on their own (with friends).
In the fall of 1999, Sue & Wayne were visiting WDW (and Jeff & Kelly), took the DVC tour and bought in several weeks later. Barb & I, with Stephen, were there in February 2000. I think Sue & Wayne buying in gave us the incentive to do something we have thought about for 4 years (and should have done 4 years earlier!). So now we're all DVC members with the Boardwalk Villas Resort (BVR) as our home away from home.
Shortly after our buy-in, I had the great idea that we take one last full-family vacation together. (OK, I'm not sure if it was my idea or not, but it's my Trip Report so I'm taking credit.) My Mom had passed away in December 1999 and I really wanted my Dad to come with us. We called him from WDW during our February trip and he kept saying that he really missed us. Now here's the rub - he's 85 and has never flown before! Describing him as apprehensive would be an understatement.
The next step was to choose the time. For years we were restricted to President's week to allow for the school schedules - even though it's a very busy week. We adjusted and would either get there early (Thursday of the preceding week) or stay a few days later. This involved pulling the kids from a few days of school but, teachers cooperated by sharing future assignments and the kids did their part.
In 1999, Barb, Stephen and I opted for January (MLK Day week). We had great weather (high 70s and low 80s) and no crowds. Could we do it again? We booked a 2BR Villa at BWV for January 13-20, 2001. Sue and Wayne opted for the 1BR, as they would be using some DVC points in May.
Sue and Wayne took that visit in May 2000 and stayed at Old Key West (OKW) and loved it. We were not so lucky and had to wait ....and wait....and wait.
Planning didn't start, in earnest, for some time. We get together with Sue & Wayne frequently and we certainly talked about the trip a lot. During the summer of 2000, I did make a reservation for 12 at the Hoop-di-doo Revue (HDD). I had read somewhere that the earlier the reservation, the closer to the stage - and that's what I wanted. We also booked our flights at this time - non-stop USAirways MetroJet service from Albany, NY to Orlando. We would leave at 7:05 AM on Saturday, January 13, 2001and arrive MCO at 10:50 AM. Our return was booked for 6:00 PM on the 20th. Ticket cost was $212 per person but we did get a break on my Dad's (senior) and one companion ticket (around $185). We didn't want a car, so I took some RADP advice and booked Tiffany Town Car for our transportation to and from MCO (a first). The cost of a 12-passenger van (for the 9 of us) was $87, which beat the price of 2 Town Cars.
As we moved into fall, I followed with a reservation at the Liberty Tree Tavern (we usually try for a character dinner here or at the Garden Grill at the Land). I also published a tentative agenda (see below) with a big caveat - I felt there was no way we could keep all 12 of us together all the time. The rule is that if anyone wants to do or see something else, go do it! We'll meet up again for dinner, lunch, etc. The other rule was that the agenda was to be viewed as a guideline - not gospel. If we wanted something different or to spend additional time somewhere, so be it! Here's the agenda:
1/13/2001 Sat Fly to Orlando
Additionally, I had been accumulating a number of "tips" from RADP and other trip reports. I'd been saving these in a spreadsheet, organized and sorted by topic (did I mention that I've been accused of being anal???). Buried in these tips were the words to "It's a Small World" - kind of and inside joke because the kids (Jeff, especially) HATE this ride - even though it's a must for the parents (just once a trip - I find it relaxing - so sue me!).
I also started sending regular Emails (weekly at first, then more frequently as our departure date drew near) that showed the time to "touchdown" and a Disney trivia question. This was designed to whet the appetites and, I think, it succeeded.
In early January I Emailed Tiffany to verify our reservation (no problem) and also checked with Sue & Wayne (after all - Sue, Wayne, barb, and I are footing the bill for this trip) about their interest in a Fireworks Cruise. There's one from the Boardwalk for Illuminations - Reflections of Earth (IROE). They liked the idea but, unfortunately it was booked for the entire week we were there. I tried again a week later, hoping for a cancellation, but no luck. The CM on the DVC line did inform me of a "new" cruise being offered for the MK fireworks. Same price ($120 + tax & tip) for a pontoon boat that seats 12. I took it.
One last bit of planning info. There's one bit of planning that comes down to wishful thinking - the weather. December and January, to that point, had been extremely cold in Florida, the Orlando area, and for that matter, much of the country. I already mentioned our experience in January and was beginning to wonder if we were just lucky. Actually, in our 11 trips since 1990 (some 80-85 days), I believe we have only seen about 6 hours of actual rain. The temperatures have always been in the 70s (at least) and frequently in the low 80s. In short, we had been blessed (with the exception of the very severe tornados that Barb, Stephen and I endured one night in February 1998).
Lastly, we wanted to commemorate this occasion with matching T-Shirts. I know it sounds like a "Griswald" thing but hey, we're corny and we'd do (almost) anything for grins. The parents hatched this idea during dinner one night (actually over a couple of Black Sambuccas). We came up with a design (sort of), a color (navy), and a naming scheme. Each person would get the name of a Disney character on the breast of the shirt, in white script. We struggled for a while with the names and came up with:
Barb went to work ordering the shirts (got a good deal at $15 a pop). The back had a circle that said "Walt Disney World 2001". Inside it had the "Goergen - Russo Family Reunion". They looked great.
One of my traditions for these trips is to construct a beginning to our video. Over the years it's had themes (FLA Law), flashbacks, out-takes, and has always included music and (sometimes) humorous credits. For this one, I searched the web and found character photos and pieced them together with the credits (Wayne and Sue are Mickey and Minnie, etc.). For background music, I used "Zip-a-dee-doo-dah" from a Disney CD and pulled the whole thing together with PowerPoint and recorded it.
BTW, we usually psyche ourselves up for these trips (like we need it) by watching past trip videos (this starts with about 45 days to go). I also spent a lot of time with my Dad - showing videos, books, etc. so he'd know what to expect. I also briefed him thoroughly and frequently on the nuances of plane travel. I wanted him to know what was happening so he wouldn't be surprised.
Almost done. The next step was a group meeting, one week before departure. Pizza and beers (and sodas) at our house with everyone there (Jeff and Kelly via telephone). We took care of last minute details such as who was driving, who was picking who up, etc. WE ARE SO READY!
Last item, on Tuesday, I faxed a room request to the BWV - asked for a room near the elevators for my Dad and if possible, the use of a wheelchair around the hotel. He's pretty mobile but at 85, with a plastic knee, I knew the amount of walking would be too much for him. Sue had made a request for their room to be near ours.
Side story - In June, we had, against my judgment and wishes, purchased our first dog - a Black Labrador Retriever that we call Gunnar. Needless to say, Gunnar has become part of the family. All of my arguments (where will he stay when we're at Disney?) had gone unheeded but were now reality. After much searching and angst we found a suitable kennel (very nice actually, but also very expensive). Barb and Stephen had the chore of dropping him off Friday afternoon. Barb cried but I knew she would - she cries at everything. Nevertheless, we would all miss him a lot but were committed to having a great time regardless.
Day 1 - Saturday, January 13
Pop slept at our house for convenience. Our alarm went off at 4:00 AM and we were up and at it immediately. We're usually early risers, although not this early. The coffee had been set up the night before. I woke everyone and we proceeded to get showered, caffeined, and dressed. I had loaded the luggage into the car the previous night so we were ready.
We had arranged to meet at the airport at 6:00 AM. However, one trait that we share with Sue & Wayne is that we're always early. We once arranged to meet Jeff & Kelly at Universal at 8:30 AM. Jeff was surprised when we gave him grief for being late, even though he arrived precisely at 8:30. Our comeback - when we say 8:30 we mean 8:15!
We arrived at the Albany Airport at around 5:45. Kristen and Michelle had stopped at our house to pick up Steph. I dropped Barb, Pop, and Stephen at the curb with the luggage figuring they could get in line to check baggage while I parked the car. I circled back around the airport access road and parked in the indoor garage. I walked quickly through the garage and the overhead connector to the terminal and then down the escalator. I could see my group already at the counter so I raced through to join them. Check-in was uneventful. When we finished, we say Sue, Wayne and the kids by the escalator. They had already checked in ( I told you they would be early).
We hung out chatting and downing coffee & muffins (Egg McMuffins for Wayne) until flight time. The flight went according to plan. I did watch Pop during liftoff - remember, it's his first flight. He had his baseball cap pulled down low, his eyes closed, and he somehow had scrunched his 5'6" frame even further into the seat. He came through it fine and even announced later that it wasn't as bad as he expected it to be.
We actually landed in Orlando a few minutes early. We caught the monorail to the main terminal and rode the escalator down to baggage claim. True to form, there was our Tiffany driver, Marco, holding a sign that said "Russo". I introduced myself and shook his hand (Pop asked me later who the "friend" was that I met in the airport). While several of us waited at the carousel, I took Pop back to find a restroom. When I returned, I noticed Marco was gone. Barb & Sue sent him looking for a baggage cart - big mistake. Here comes our luggage, but no Marco. Several minutes later, Marco shows up with the "shopping cart" sized baggage cart - remember we have luggage for 9 people. We load the cart with some, wheel or carry the rest outside and Marco goes to get the van.
Within minutes, we're loaded and en route to BWV. I'm surprised at the lack of "green" - most grassy areas are that winter-brown that we see in the Northeast. I know it's been a cold and very dry winter in Florida but I miss seeing the green grass I expect. I should also say that it's pretty cool out - probably in the 50s. A lot warmer than the 12 degrees we left in Albany but - hey, I want warmth. In about 20 minutes I finally see what I've been waiting for - purple road signs - the first indication that you're at Disney and on vacation. Soon after, we pull into the turnaround at the Boardwalk.
We leave everyone with the luggage carts while Sue and I go to check us in. A very friendly CM named Aida checks us in. I ask if she's named after the Verdi opera and she says, "Yes". Sue is impressed that I know this, especially since my artistic tastes begin and end with golf, bowling, and the NFL. Our rooms are not ready yet (surprise, surprise) but we get our key cards and store the luggage with Bell Services. Barb and I go to the Guest Services counter to purchase our passes (Sue, Wayne, and family all have APs from the previous trip in May). We've been debating, for months, whether to go with APs, Unlimited Magic Passes (UMPs) or 7-day park Hoppers. The APs are out (we won't be back within 1 year) and we had a bad experience with UMPs last year - Stephen got sick for our last day and a half so we wound up not using them for an entire day. We would get a DVC discount on UMPs or a Disney Club discount on the Hoppers - making the Hoppers about $12 more per pass. We opt for the Hoppers, figuring that Pop may not want to go to the parks every day, someone could get sick, a meteor could strike, etc. To make a long story short - we should have gone with the UMPs.
I also indicated to the CM at Guest Services that I had requested a wheel chair for my Dad (85, etc.). She wheeled one, marked "Epcot", from around the counter. When I asked what the fee would be, she replied "Just bring it back when you're done". Is this a great place or what? I thanked her profusely and wheeled it over to Pop. Outside of the trip out of the hospital, he had never sat in one but it would become his good friend over the next week.
Jeff, Kelly, and Emily would be driving over and meeting us at around 4, when the rooms were ready. So, checked in and luggage stored, we headed on to the Boardwalk looking for lunch - it was around 11:15 and our day had started at 4:00 AM - it was damn near dinner time.
We opted for the ESPN Club and found it didn't open until 11:30. We killed a few minutes in the Arcade and gift shop and then went in to chow down. We sat at 2 tables. The ESPN club is not cheap but also not unreasonable (like most restaurants on Disney property). We ordered the usual mix of tuna (Steph's favorite), Turkey, Burgers, etc. At one point, Pop visited the Men's Room and came back amazed. "There's TVs over the urinals and in the stalls". The bill, including tip came to about $12 perperson.
Did I mention it was cool, breezy and overcast? Back on the Boardwalk, Pop turned to me and said, "I thought you said Florida was warm". We headed over to Epcot, via the International Gateway (IG). I recall making this walk, in reverse fashion, one other time. I'm impressed with how close it is. We enter and walk through International Showcase (IS), past the UK, Canada and through the archway connector to FutureWorld (FW). The arch is not lit but I know it's impressive when it is. I recall this being there several years ago but not every year. I don't recall seeing anything that describes when or why it's there (or not).
We head over to Test Track (TT), which is down (surprise, surprise). We opt for FastPass, which spits out tickets for 6:40. It's now about 1:00! So much for that. OK. Spaceship Earth (SE) will be our first ride. Off we go and there's no line. The CM at the bottom of the queue walkway informs me that I need to stow the wheelchair in the stroller parking area. OK, no problem except when I get back, another group has filtered in between us so my Dad is way up ahead. I kind of wanted to ride with him on his first Disney experience but it wasn't in the cards. He rode with Barb and enjoyed it a lot.
After the ride, we spent some time in the AT&T area and were surprised to see some new things (and some old ones gone). We exited and realized that we were on the opposite side of the stroller parking where the wheelchair was. No problem...you guys wait here and I'll go get it. I hoofed it over, found the chair and was walking it back up the hill when a strange thing happened. I saw, coming toward me, a couple from one of those mid-East (or is it Asian?) nations. The nations whose religion forbids the woman to expose more than her eyes. They're walking toward me and for some reason, I'm looking at this woman's eyes, which is the only part of her I can see (other than the flowing veils and such). She looks at me and for God know what reason, I wink at her. I should say here that it was a friendly wink (like a Hi!) not a lecherous one, but I have no idea what made me do this. Anyway, when I join the others I relate this story and there are a couple of chuckles. Later though, Jeff reminds me that in some cultures, the husband can divorce her based on that exchange. Isn't that a pleasant thought?
I'll mention this only once - Pop is always cold. If the temperature is in the 70s, that's flannel shirt time for him. It was probably still in the 50s or low 60s, comfortable for us, but he had his winter jacket on and his hands stuffed into the pockets with his cap down. He was absolutely huddled in the wheelchair and it was pretty comical to see this later on the videos.
On to Journey Into Your Imagination (JIYI). None of us like it since it changed although I will say that, unlike most, I was never a huge fan of Figment. I think the new JIYI is acceptable meaning I'll do it once per trip, no more. We spent some time in the hands-on area with Michelle, Pop and Stephen making faces into the camera while the screen shows the distorted view (some very ugly mugs). Pop seems to enjoy the area where you step on the floor tile and hear the sound of what you step on (golfer, bowler, elephant, etc.). It's always been one of Barb's favorites. Wayne always enjoys the exhibit where you wave your hands in front of some sensors and lead an orchestra (I refer to him as the only Orchestra Leader in existence with butt-cleavage).
On to Honey, I Shrunk the Audience (HISTA). This is one of our favorites. I've always loved the True Colors slide show (I used to fancy myself as a bit of a photographer). The pictures are beautiful and I like the song. I kind of tolerate the introduction to the "Inventor of the Year" show - I guess I've seen it too many times. On into the theater where, this time, I sit next to Pop. I can't wait to see his reactions to the mice, lion, snake, etc. I really like this film and especially like to sit near someone seeing it for the first time.
After HISTA, we strolled back through WS and made our way back to BWV to see if the rooms were ready. Sue and Wayne's was ready around 3:15 and they proceeded on up to wait for the luggage and unpack. The rest of us hung out and relaxed on the wicker chairs and rockers on the back porch (veranda?) of the Boardwalk. It was relaxing but I was anxious to get into our room, unpack and freshen up. The sun had come out and warmed things up but it was still pretty cool by our standards for Florida.
After several calls to check on the room, we went up to Wayne's. Wayne and I were in need of some refreshments so we went to the BW to check out the General Store. We bought a 6-pack of Bud ($9.00) and a 6-pack of Coke ($6). Somehow, at check out, they apply a discount which brought the total down to $12 and change. They give the discount to everyone so I'm not sure why - my speculation is they charge the full price per can ($1.50 per beer) and then discount because you bought the whole 6-pack. Who buys single cans of beer?!? Not us!
Back in the room, we had a couple of beers and sodas. Finally, I called at about 4:15 and one of our rooms was ready (we had 3069 and 3071, right off the elevators). Wayne's room was on the same floor but a loooong walk from ours. We used our key and found that both rooms were ready. I called down to Bell Services and our luggage showed up in about 5 minutes. Unpacking followed.
For those who haven't seen the rooms at the BWV, here's a description. The 1 BR has a central kitchen/living/dining room area. The kitchen is smallish but functional, complete with a full size refrigerator, range, and dishwasher. It also has ample cabinet space (stocked with plates, cups, silverware, utensils, etc.) and a microwave. There is a small table with 2 chairs and 2 more chairs at an eating counter off the back of the kitchen counter.
The bathroom is very large with a large walk-in shower, toilet, sink and shelf. Adjacent to the bathroom is a large dressing room with sink/vanity, a walk-in closet, and a Jacuzzi tub (only used once, by Stephen, on this trip). Adjacent to the dressing room is the master BR with a king bed, armoire with 27" TV, chair, and 2 nightstands. Outside the bathroom there is a closet which houses the stacked washer and dryer - a nice set up and very useful considering that DVC members don't get a daily towel service - and I hate to reuse towels.
There is one additional closet in the entryway. The living room has a pull-out queen sleeper sofa, armoire with TV and drawers, a chest/ottoman, and a chair.
The 2 BR Villa is formed by combining the 1 BR with a studio with a connecting door. The studio (home to Stephen and Pop) is arranged like a typical hotel room. Bathroom with bath/shower and toilet. A vanity/sink in a small dressing area with a closet. A queen bed and a double sleeper sofa. The added bonus was a small kitchenette with mini-frig, microwave, and a couple of stocked cabinets.
Each room had a double-door access to a balcony. The balconies from the mater BR and living area were joined but there was a wall between these and the balcony outside the studio part.
All in all, it was plenty of room for the 6 of us. Sue and Wayne remarked later that they wished they had gone for the 2 BR as well, but it seemed like the 1 BR worked fine for them. They did comment that the rooms at OKW were much bigger. I don't have that comparison and thought these rooms were plenty big especially when compared to the CBR (my benchmark hotel) - and certainly much larger than the rooms at the All-Stars.
Now it was time to wait for Jeff & Kelly. We saw them pull up, from our balcony, so Wayne and I went down to help with the luggage. Jeff had a made a shopping run of all non-perishables for all of us so his Camry was loaded to the roof. We were offered some help from a CM who loaded the whole car (luggage and about 20 shopping bags) and brought it up. Jeff used valet parking because the lot was very full (Lotusphere was here - more on this later).
Unpacked and with some of our sustenance stored (breads, muffins, chips, tuna (for Steph), breakfast cereals, etc.), Jeff took Sue & Barb to a nearby Goodings for the rest of the groceries for the week (the essential such as beer, milk, soda, deli meats). The market was one near the crossroads and 535 which I found either on RADP or someone's trip report.It took them a long time and it was expensive (a case of Coors Light for $22? C'mon.).
OK. Time for dinner and a park. The plan said either MK or Epcot depending on our level of tiredness so we opted for Epcot. It had already been a long day. We came through the IG and entered WS just in time to catch the Tapestry of Nations (ToN) parade. We were ushered to the right, inside the ropes that are supposed to be for traffic. The CMs try to keep this moving but some groups always stop here to watch the parade. Needless to say, this creates a major bottleneck. We pushed through (a group of 12 including 1 wheelchair and 1 stroller) and actually had a great view of the puppets and drummers in the parade. I have his CD and really love this music. It opened up after a bit and I had some fun pushing Pop's wheelchair alongside Emily's stroller. It was interesting to watch as the 85 year-old and the 19 month-old interacted as they rode their respective vehicles.
We opted for dinner at the American pavilion. Just an assortment of burgers, chicken-fingers, and such. I waited as Barb went through the line to help her carry the trays. After ordering, she waited a very long time behind two men who were engaged in a heated discussion (argument?) with the CM trying to serve them. After about 5-10 minutes, they finally leave with a single tray with 4 soft drinks. What the hell were they discussing?
We eat and play around a bit with Emily. For Sue and Wayne, this is their first (and only, so far) grandchild and they haven't seen her since May, so they'll be trying to get as much quality time with her as possible.
Next stop...Test Track (TT). Michelle and Steph are anxious to ride because it wasn't completed during their last trip. The line looks to be about 30 minutes so in we go. Pop won't be riding so he's tucked away against a wall with the other non-riders (Jeff, Kelly, Emily, and Wayne). He's looking for all the world like Nanuck of the North. After a minute, I realize that he's freezing and it would be cruel and unusual punishment to let him sit there while we ride so I let everyone know I'm taking him back to the hotel.
Now it's a brisk walk back through the IG, pushing a wheelchair. Unfortunately, the 8:10 ToN parade has started so now I've got to negotiate the crowds as well. Needless to say, as I'm pushing the chair up the hill by Canada (inside the ropes and dutifully following the arrows on the ground indicating direction), a group of teens (Brazilians?) coming the other way decides that this would be a great place to pull into my lane and lean against the wall to watch ToN. Now we've got a major backup. The CMs wave flashlights and plead with these kids to "keep moving". They stare blankly and refuse to move as if they don't understand English (don't the flashlights give you an idea of what they want you to do?). So the folks in front us, us, and the long line behind us pull out into the left-hand column area to continue up the hill (we've now violated the keep right rule). After about 10 feet, we meet another group coming down and we're in their lane. They do the expedient thing and pull to their left (our right) and now their going aganst traffic and also trying to push through these kids against the wall. A major traffic jam that could have been easily avoided if people COULD JUST DO WHAT THEY'RE TOLD and HAVE SOME CONSIDERATION FOR THOSE AROUND THEM (excuse the venting).
I got Pop back to the room (all warm and cozy) and I hoofed it back to Epcot (I was sure getting my walking in today). I parked myself in the UK and figured I catch my group as they made their way back. I was standing across from that outdoor bar, outside of the Rose and Crown, and contemplating a Bass Ale. I looked back to see if I could see the others, then back to the bar and noticed that a line of 8-10 people had formed - in 30 seconds! So much for the beer.
The others finally appear and I figure we'll find a spot to watch IROE but, everyone was tired and wanted to head back. We catch some of the fireworks, over our shoulders, as we walk back to BW. Back to the rooms where Barb and I have a beer on the balcony (I'm certain Wayne is doing this now too, but he's too far away to see). Everyone's in bed by 10:30 or so. Not bad for a first day.
Day 2 - Sunday, January 14
I leave a wake-up call each night for 6:30 AM. I'm an early riser (never wait for the alarm) but I'm hoping that someone else picks up the phone each day to hear Mickey's greeting of "Up and at em". No such luck.
We've got a pretty good system of coffee, breakfast (cereal, fruit, English muffins), showers, etc. where someone is always in the bathroom while someone else is eating, getting dressed, whatever. I always have my fears about my girls because they tend to spend a lot of time with their hair - but they have that down to a science now too.
We had planned to meet at around 8:30 for the bus to the MK but, at 7:45 the Goergens call - they're ready (I told you we're always early). So were we. So, after the Goergens complete the 6 mile hike from their room to ours, we cram 12 of us on the elevator (this would be a frequent event) and head down to the first floor for the short walk to the bus stop. The bus is there in about 5 minutes. This begins what will be a weeklong system of everyone getting in line at the front of the bus and me waiting in back with the wheelchair. As Barb gets on, she asks the driver to open the rear doors and I fold and carry on the chair. We usually try and sit in the back of the bus so I just keep the chair against my legs, or otherwise stored as out of the way as possible. More than once, as the back doors would open, several others would leave the line at the front and try and get on the bus with me - some folks just have no patience at all.
We're through the gates at the MK at around 8:30. OK, it's time for the first restroom break of the day. I use this opportunity to take Pop through the Confectioners (Bake Shop?). I'm looking for the marshmallow Mickey thing with the M&Ms that I've seen so often in Sue Holland's trip reports. No luck. Not even a Mickey truffle in sight.
Now down Main Street and over the Adventureland entrance for rope drop. We queue up with a small group and wait for opening.
NOTE - We (I) have a specific philosophy on touring each park. We get there as early as possible, follow a specific pattern for the attractions we want to do, and get out before the crowds get heavy (usually by lunch time). It's then back to the hotel for pool, rest, shopping, whatever and back to the parks late afternoon. At this time we usually see the tired masses leaving as we enter. My touring strategy is not for everyone - it sometimes crisscrosses the park (esp. at AK) but, it works. We never wait more than 10-15 minutes for a ride, rarely use FastPass (FP), and typically get to do everything we want and more - usually several times. We don't adhere to a Commando mentality but, we move with a purpose. However, if we see something that we would like to see or do, we do it. The plan is just that, but we are free to deviate at will. End of speech.
The recording (Ladies and gentleman, boys and girls....) comes on precisely at 9:00. I check my watch and realize that I'm only off by about 10 seconds. This gives my anal personality something to do at each rope drop for the rest of the trip. We stroll through and let the fanatics racing for one of the Mountains (Splash or Thunder) race by. We walk by the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse - we do this about every 4-5 years and I think that's plenty. First stop is the Jungle Cruise. Park the wheelchair and stroller and walk right on (why would anyone want to arrive here at 11:00 and wait 45 minutes for this?). It's a favorite ride that is good, but made great if you get the right Guide. Our guide today was good and I never tire of seeing the backside of water. In one of my old videos, we have the guide pointing something out with "Look to your left and you'll see the elephants bathing. Now if you look to your right and then back to your left, you'll see it one.......more.......time". Don't ask why, but I find this funny. But I've never heard it used by a guide since - was it an ad-lib?
Next, Pirates of the Caribbean (PoC). Another favorite, another walk on. Once, two years ago, Barb, Stephen, and I were going to ride and saw the line out the door. We left, did something else, and returned to a walk-on. This touring strategy works. Pirates is always a favorite and I made sure to point things out to Pop (there hair on the guys leg on the bridge, etc.).
The Enchanted Tiki Room is next. Wayne always loved this but the rest of us were kind of bored. I think the upgrade has done wonders. It seems shorter, more comical and overall more enjoyable. When we left the Tiki Room, however, the construction of the new Aladdin ride forces you to walk a long way around to retrieve the stroller and wheelchair.
Thunder Mountain is next, also a favorite. We kind of did the infant/senior swap here. Everyone rode except Pop, Jeff, and Emily. Then it was back through again with Sue and I hanging with Emily and Pop.
Splash Mountain was next, but it was a still a little cool. A word on the weather. It was cool yesterday and downright cold last night - as it has been for the past 6 weeks. The temperature is supposed to hit 74 today (Yes!). I have a theory that it's always 3-4 degrees warmer at WDW than what they report on the local news - anyone else noticed this? Anyway, by the late morning it was well into the 70s and the extended forecast is calling for warmer each day, reaching the 80s by Tuesday, and no rain! I told you we were lucky.
We bypass Splash and back through Frontierland. I point out the Liberty Tree Tavern to Pop, explaining we'll be having dinner there later in the week. Haunted Mansion is next - another favorite. The female CM at the door is great - she's scolding everyone for not moving quickly enough and not moving to the center of the room. I think she threatened to hang someone. We take the Doom Buggy tour, pick up our hitchhikers and exit by the horse-drawn hearse.
We hed up the hill to, yes, It's a Small World (IASW). The kids, particularly Jeff, HATE this ride. I admit it's not a real thrill, but to me it's the greatest stress reliever on the planet. You can't help but sing or hum the song (we parents tend to sing on the ride), but....I think there's some merit to Jeff's suggestion that they equip the boats with Buzz Lightyear's laser cannons and allow you to shoot the dolls. Either that or put in a flume-type drop for the boats. That could be fun. Anyway, we get some great videos on the ride of Emily smiling and Jeff scowling. Although they won't admit to it, the video clearly shows Michelle, Kristen, and Steph smiling broadly as we ride through.
We contemplate a ride on Pooh but it's a 30 minute wait and we know we'll be back (remember the strategy). On to Tomorrowland and Buzz Lightyear. It's the first time for Michelle and Steph and everyone likes this ride and compares notes on how well they did. Stephen has always had trouble scoring but comes in around 150,000 this time.
The kids and Barb take on spin on Space Mountain while Wayne buys Pop a bag of cookies at the outdoor shop. When they come out it's about 11:45 and time to head back. The Giants are playing the Vikings in the NFC Championship game at 12:30 and Wayne is a huge Giants fan (he's been wearing Giants stuff since we got on the plane). His plan is to watch back at the room since he doesn't trust himself around people - he tends to curse loudly and throw things if the game isn't going well. Stephen and I are die-hard Jets fans, Jeff is Cowboys fan (go figure) and the girls and Pop don't really care either way (one caveat, they want the Giants to win or Wayne will be miserable SOB for the rest of the trip).
I'm reminded here of our (Barb, Stephen , and me) trip 2 years ago at CBR. The Jets played the Broncos in the AFC Championship and Stephen and I watched in the room as Barb walked 31 laps around CBR's lake, not wanting to be anywhere near us. The Jets held a 10-0 halftime lead (only 2 quarters to go for the Super Bowl) and wound up losing. They had Denver 3rd and 15 from deep in their territory in the 3rd quarter when Victor Green fell asleep and let McCaffrey catch a 45 yarder from Elway down the middle of the field. It was downhill from there and yes, we were depressed. But it only lasted a couple of hours - we're at Disney! Side note - only a true Jets fan can remember that kind of detail from a heartbreaking loss (there have been many) and not remember what he had for lunch yesterday.
Caught the bus (back door with the wheelchair) back to BWV and back to the room. We had an in-room lunch of sandwiches. The kids (Michelle, Steph, Stephen, and Kristen) headed to the main pool (not sure of the tempurature but it felt like 78). I watched the beginning of the game and it got ugly quick - Giants up 14-0 and the Vikings showing nothing. I decided to kill some time going for a walk with Barb, Sue, and Kelly. We met by the elevators and I stepped outside on the balcony there. From there I saw Michelle and Stephen at the top of the Keister Coaster. I had my camera so I zoomed in full for a shot but it's still hard to tell it's them.
The 4 of us walked over toward the Swan & Dolphin looking for the walkway to MGM. I read somewhere that it opened in November. I finally asked a passing CM and he indicated the walkway alongside the lake (go through the opening between Jelly Rolls and the Atlantic Dance Club and runs to your left along the lake - between the lake and BWV. Why isn't it labeled? There's no sign indicating where it goes.
From there we strolled over through the Yacht & Beach Clubs just kind of site-seeing. I took a couple of photos of the BW from across the lake that came out pretty good. By the time we had circled the lake back to BW, it was hot (Yes!). Back to the room for the rest of the game (got uglier - the Giants blew them out).
After the game, everyone came down to our room for the ceremony of handing out the shirts. I did this from behind the kitchen counter and Wayne grabbed by camcorder to catch it for posterity. I handed out Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy and Gepetto to some chuckles. Now for the kids - the 7 dwarfs. I'd pull out a shirt and call "Dopey!". Lot's of anticipation until I threw it to Jeff and everyone laughed. "Grumpy"" and throw it to Kristen. It was cute watching Emily react. After everyone laughed, she would chime in with her own "Ha, ha, ha". They're really cute at that age but I'm glad they belong to someone else - I've done my time. Anyway, Wayne finished off the video by singing "The Giants are going to the Super Bowl" several times.
Now for dinner. We opted for pizza delivery. The big issue was how many for 12 people and what kind? We finally decided on 4 with various toppings. About 30 minutes later, our tuxedo-ed waiter shows up with a linen tablecloth, real plates and silverware, cloth napkins, etc. With our crown, paper plates and tissue would have sufficed. Anyway, Barb and Sue take care of the bill with cash - big mistake. They don't realize that the tip (18%) is included so they tip the guy again. The bill, including tip was $62 and they tip another $10. I figure this guy just got an $18 tip for delivering 4 pizzas - he'll be back.
We devour the pizzas, retire to our respective rooms for freshen ups, and prepare for an evening at Pleasure Island. Jeff & Kelly won't be joining us since the Comedy Warehouse is not really appropriate for Emily. They're going to Epcot instead. Sue goes to Guest Services to buy PI passes for her, Wayne and Kristen. PI is included in our Park Hoppers but not their APs. It seems a little lavish to spend $14.95 just to go to CW, but they want to do it.
We head to PI, via Downtown Disney bus at around 6:15. We enter at the Marketplace and do the walk through. As I'm pushing the chair, I try to point out the interesting things to Pop - the Rainforest Café, the Lego displays outside the store, etc. We enter PI and get the appropriate wristbands and stamps. A minor bit of confusion as Barb and I go through and are called back by Sue and Wayne. Stephen's in line with them and they won't let him through without a parent. No problem.
It's about 7:00 and the first show at the CW isn't until 8. I've never done the Adventurer's Club shows (wish I could say why) but really want to tonight. We leave the kids to wander the shops wile the "adults" head to the AC to browse and maybe have a drink. We leave the wheelchair on the upper level and take the stairs down to the bar. There's a ton of stuff to see in this place. There's only a handful of people sitting in the bar area so we sit at the bar and order a drink (beers all around and a ginger ale for Pop). I catch the bartender's eye and give a little motion with my hand, indicating Pop's barstool. He reaches under the bar for a switch and then Pop's barstool starts sloooowly, moving downwards. In about a minute he realizes something's going on and soon he's at eye level with the bar. Everyone in the bar gets a chuckle and Pop handles it fine - I was afraid I might have embarrassed him - he's sensitive in some areas. I actually would have preferred to get Wayne with this gag, but I had told him about it before we came in the bar (duh) and lost the element of surprise.
As we're finishing our drinks the kids come in sit. We tell them how they missed Pop's "rise and fall". We head over to get in line at the CW. I'm careful to wait until there's at least 20 people in line so we can avoid the floor seats (they're really not bad but you spend the entire show looking up at the performers). As we enter, the CM at the door tells me I can store the wheelchair on the upper level by the popcorn machine, which I do. We wind up in the first row of elevated seats on the left - but the rear seats with the counter behind us. Pop complained mildly about the counter in his back but it must not have been too bad because he dropped it quickly.
Typical show - very good. I've spent a good part of my professional career delivering presentations in front of groups. I know how hard it is to "think on your feet" and I didn't have the added burden of being funny. These guys are very good at it. I recognize Mark (who I just heard is leaving) because I believe he's been in every show I've seen since 1995. He's always there. The highlight is the last sketch where they do the show "Up Your Alley". There's a heavyset girl, I think her name is Jen, who we saw last year. The topic, last year, in "Up Your Alley" was "hamsters". She came out in a smock and hat and introduced herself as working in a 7-11. She described her job a stirring away that gel-like glop that forms around the ham - a "ham-stirrer". Sounds corny but she pulled it off. With her facial expressions and body language, it was hysterical.
This show's audience suggestion for the game was "can opener". Again she came out dressed and speaking like the biggest backwoods yokel ever. She ran a crane and, if you were ever stuck in a toilet, she'd use the crane to rip off the roof and get you out. A "can opener" - get it? Again, she was hysterical.
After the show, no one seemed interested in hanging around (I miss the Adventurer's Club, once again. Maybe next year) so we casually stroll out of PI and back to the bus stop. Back home to the BW. We turn everyone loose and this is where the parents decide to get some quiet time for us at the BelVue Room. This is a quiet bar/loungs on the main floor of the BW. There are a bunch of board games and tables around that folks take advantage of. The room also has a bunch of old (1940s) radios, that when tuned, deliver old radio programs and songs. One night, we heard "The Shadow". We just sat, relaxed, and chatted about the trip over a couple of cocktails. This was a vacation evening at its best. A great day.
Day 3 - Monday, January 15
Very similar to yesterday. I usually get up first, throw on shorts and a T-shirt and venture to the kitchen to make coffee. The girls are usually asleep but my well-planned activity and noise gets them stirring. Steph typically showers right away and Michelle follows her. I'm not sure of the sequence in the other bed room with Pop and Stephen, but I usually go over and wake Stephen up - Pop's usually up and dressed at this point. Barb follows Michelle and I follow Barb for showers. I'm last by choice and because once showered, my hair takes no time compared to the ladies (and thanks to my ever-growing forehead).
One side note here - I've prided myself on wearing shorts every day (except the arrival and departure days) at WDW for the past 5 years. We have been that lucky with weather. This is no exception - shorts yesterday and again today. The forecast calls for it to hit 76 today, so with my theory of WDW, it'll be 79-80.
Once again the Goergen's call - they're ready early (see a pattern here?). Grab the chair, stroller, etc. to the elevators and out the back to the BW. The boat is there waiting for us (and we're the only passengers) so off we go. Man, this Disney transportation is great.
OK, it's not so great. The boat chugs along with stops at the Swan & Dolphin before getting to the Studios. I'd much prefer walking (and for the rest of the trip, we did). We enter, pause for the inevitable rest room stop before we go anywhere (this is a recurring theme when traveling with Barb, Sue, Michelle, etc. - someone always has "to go" and then they go en masse). We stroll casually and join the mob ( a small mob really) on Hollywood Blvd and wait for the rope drop.
First stop is the Tower of Terror (ToT). This is a favorite ride for most of us. I enjoy it but admit to always being apprehensive at that point where the wall in front of you illuminates and you know it's about to happen. I have, however, taped the entire ride (didn't disturb anyone with lights or such, thank you). It's not one of Wayne's favorites so he waited outside with Pop, Jeff, and Emily. We walk right through into the room for the Rod Serling intro. I recall being in this room, several years ago, when I overheard the mother and 2 daughters next to me. They were in very excited conversation because they thought that it was this room that dropped. I could have had a lot of fun with this but, instead, just explained wahat would happen so their fears were eased. I can see why some folks get really nervous here - if you've seen any of the TV ads for ToT they typically show an elevator car with a bunch of standing people. As usual, the ride was good, but I didn't feel like it had the same spark as earlier rides. Something about the drop sequence was a little tamer. Even so, when we viewed the picture that's taken at the top, Steph & Kristen were side by side, eyes and mouths wide open with looks of sheer terror.
Now to Rock n' Roller Coaster with Aerosmith. Last year was the first year this was open for one of our trips and Stephen had to ride alone (3 times). I'm not real big on coasters to begin with and Barb doesn't like the upside down bit. Stephen's been asking me for months if I'll do this with him and I keep putting him off with a "maybe". Well today isn't the day - maybe later in the week (heh heh.). The kids (minus Kelly) ride this and love it. It's the first time for Michelle and Steph and they love this kind of ride. They're sick!
My touring plan says that Star Tours is next ( I know it's not exactly next door, but I told you this plan works). It's a walk-on. I've explained this ride to Pop and he's game. Star Tours has always been one of my favorites but, I admit it's getting a little tired. I've probably ridden it 3 dozen times now and I keep hearing rumors of it's being upgraded to the pos race from Episode 1. I'd love to see it happen.
Off we go to the moon of Endor. Pop has a death grip on the arm rest the entire time. So much so that he leaves no room for Barb to hold on and she's being tossed around in her seat. When it's over, Pop needs to pry his fingers off. I think he enjoyed it, but he'll never do it again.
Next to Muppetvision 3D, another favorite. I never tire of hearing Kelly giggle when Bunny Rabbitt does the buzzzzz thing around Miss Piggy. Although we only catch about half of it, this pre-show is my favorite - I love when Ratso impersonates Mickey "Rats, shmats, what do they know? They're tourists.". Now it's off to the Great Movie Ride which I know Pop will like.
This is the first ride where having Pop in the wheelchair pays off. We bypass the winding line in front of the movie clips (only about half full) and go right to the front row. I grimace when the CM asks "How many in your party?" and I say 12. In less than 5 minutes we're off. We get the cowboy with us (in 10 years and countless rides, I have never seen the gangster side. What are the odds of this happening?) and the ride is uneventful. Our CM guide is just OK. I really love the film clips at the end but, because we're in the first car (first row, really), we don't get to see all of it.
The Backstage Tour and Catastrophe Canyon are next. Some of the stuff in the graveyard has changed but, overall, this is the same ride. It needs to change a bit. I was impressed though with the wheelchair handling. I pushed Pop through the first parts and when it was time to board the tram, I left the wheelchair with the CMs who delivered it to the tram drop off point, saving me a pretty good walk. Thanks.
Done for the morning, we head out but, there needs to be a restroom stop just before the exit. While waiting, Stephen and Pop switch places - Pop pushes Stephen in the wheelchair for the benefit of the video. It's about a 10-15 minute walk by the BW - it could be faster but we strolled (we're on vacation).
Lunch in the room again. Barb used the washer and dryer for some laundry and towels (this will become a daily occurrence so this will be the only mention of it. We actually brought home clean clothing:)). To the pools.....the kids to the main pool. Barb and I went to the quiet pool. I needed to do some exploring and figure out what Community Hall was all about. It's a nice set up with video rentals (free for DVC members but, who wants to watch a video at WDW? It would have to be a very rainy day), table tennis, some video games (free, with a self-policed 20 minute maximum), etc. They also sell snacks and soft drinks here. We took a quick dip and then sat poolside and chatted. The sun was hot - I think my estimate of 80 is right on. After a while, Stephen joined us - also to check out the Hall. At around 3:30, we headed back to the room for showers, etc.
The plan for the evening was Fantasmic. Michelle, Steph, and Pop had never seen it. We walked to MGM and got there around 5:30 - Fantasmic is at 7. The kids were going to try for RnRc but the line was too long. Once again the wheelchair helped, sort of....they brought us down to a spot just left of center. The are behind the top row of seats was for wheelchairs and you could put 2 people (Barb and I) in front of the chair. Everyone else sat below us (Stephen, Michelle, and Steph right in front of us, the Goergens one row and slightly to the right in front of them). Pop was hungry, so I ran down for a $3.50 hot dog (of which I ate half). Everyone else seemed to be going for the pretzels and sodas.
The pre-show started and we were led through some songs (I taped all the girls doing the YMCA thing) and a couple of waves. Something I haven't seen before was the "Slow wave" because "weeee haaaave tiiiime tooooo kiiiilllll". It was impressive that this large, disparate audience got it right the first time.
With about 15 minutes to go, the bleachers are full except for the very ends (right side reserved for the Dinner/Show deal, left side for everyone else). A guy (spanish speaking, Brazilian?), maybe in his early 30s, appears behind me speaking quickly and frantically to his wife to hurry and join him. He's looking at, and motioning his wife to, an open spot 3 rows in front of me. The spot looks like it might hold a thin adult and 1 child. He has one child, his wife has another and here they go, climbing over people to get to it - and they squeezed in! I'm certain the rest of the people in that row now had to operate in 6" less space than they had minutes earlier. I don't know why this stuff bothers me, but it does. Have you ever been walking down a path at WDW, doesn't matter which one or how wide it is, and your faced with an oncoming group that's walking 6 or more wide? Invariably, none of them move - they keep on walking and talking and I wind up slipping behind my wife to let them pass, then I catch up. What's up with that? I'm 6'2" and 215 lbs. And if I drop a shoulder, I'm going to win most of these battles, but I don't. Someday I'll just hold my ground and see what happens. Excuse the rant.
Fantasmic is every bit as good as I remember. Michelle and Steph love it and Pop later declares it was his favorite thing at WDW. I guess you'd call this evening a success.
We waddle out with the other 5,000 people (or is it 7,000?). Walk right by the bus stops and the crowds to the path back to the BW. It's well lighted but there is one spot, under the bridge, where there's a chain link fence with an open gate. The gate could be closed and there's a lock on it. Is it ever locked? Why? What would happen if you were walking back and encountered it locked? Swim to the BW?
Back at the BW, we're deciding on dinner. Pop begs off because that 1/2 hot dog (plus the sandwich Barb made for him - he needs to eat early - he's 85!) has filled him. I wheel him upstairs and get him settled then join the others on the BW. It's a toss-up between ESPN and Big River Brewing Company (BRBC). Each ahs a long wait and, mainly because we've already eaten at ESPN, we opt for BRBC. Sue puts our name in and gets a lighted pager. Now we just hang out on the BW, chatting and people watching. Michelle and Steph decide they're not hungry enough for a dinner so off they go.
I mentioned that Lotusphere is here. I understand they have 10,000 attendees staying mostly at the BW, Yacht & Beach Clubs, Swan and Dolphin. They're all over the place and the main reason it's taking so long to get a table. I've been in the IT business for 30 years and have attended many, many conventions like this. What I can't get over is here these folks are, at 9:00 PM, at WDW, and they're still carrying their Lotusphere backpacks (assumed jammed with handouts from the day's session) AND wearing their ID Tags (Hello, My name is Jim) on neck chains. Is there a rule about this? I would have been in my room, changed, and at a park within minutes of the last session. Is it me? End of another rant.
After about an hour, we're finally paged and seated. We sample a couple of the home brews - Wayne has a German pilsener and I had a honey brown. Not bad. The place is noisy! Might be the acoustics but it's difficult to hear anything at the table. We order a variety of steak, chicken, and pasta dishes - can't remember the specifics. My take is that I was not impressed. Maybe it was the wait or the noise, but I wanted to get out of there. Not someplace I'll return to real soon.
It's now past 10, so it's goodnight to all. Another great day with a not-so-great dinner.
Day 4 - Tuesday, January 16
Wake up, etc. holds the same pattern. The plan today if AK with the Hoop-Di-Doo Revue (HDD) tonight. Stephen's been talking about the bread there for months. AK opens a bit earlier at 8:00 so we do get an earlier start. The bus comes quickly, I do the back door thing, and we're there in plenty of time for opening (my watch is still only about 10 seconds off). I've been telling Pop and the girls (Michelle and Steph) about AK for months so they're ready. They've also seen several videos.
This is the park where my touring strategy seems the strangest - mainly because it criss-crosses the park several times, but it works. I wait for nothing and some things (Kali River Rapids) must be done last! First stop is to Safari Village for It's Tough To Be A Bug (ITTBAB). Somehow we miss the turnoff (was it labled?) and spend several minutes with a map trying to figure out where we are. We finally find the path and stroll through looking at the carvings on the Tree of Life (this always amazes me). Finally, we're inside and the CM directs me and Pop to the wheelchair queue while everyone else slides into the next row queue. The CM here, a quirky little guy, seems enamored with the 3 young girls and spends a lot of time joking with them. After all, they're 3 attractive young ladies, in their early 20s, and they do get attention (more later). He leaves and returns with a fake spider. Now Stephanie has this thing about bugs - she hates them. Spiders, particularly. So for the next 3 minutes, we watch this guy chase Steph around with his spider. I swear if he caught her, she would have shoved the spider up his nose.
The movies great and we're all dutifully admonished for our cavalier attitude toward insects. Next up - Dinosaur (formally Countdown to Extinction). I've read some RADP posts where people claim this ride has been slowed down a touch. I would tend to agree - maybe a touch - but it's still fun. We do the infant/senior swap thing again. After Star Tours I'm leery about enticing Pop onto anything with a rough ride.
After the second ride (no waits for either) we head through Asia, looking at the sights, to Africa for the Kilimanjaro Safari Rides. We walk through the entire queue (Everyone does this first thing - wait just a bit and there's no line - my strategy does work) and at the very end, they take us to a loading dock on the right which I realize is for wheelchairs. Park the chair and on we go. It's a good ride and we save Little Red. We actually get a very good view of the lions and a cheetah, but less so the giraffes, ostriches and elephants. On my last trip they were all over, giraffes running, eating, and playing, etc. I guess each trip is a little different and that's not a bad thing. It was during this ride that my camcorders "low battery" light showed itself. With my old camcorder (Sony Handicam) I used 2 batteries and kept them rotated. Even though they were rated at 2 hours, I typically got 20-30 minutes of record time. The new camcorder (also a Sony) has the Info-Lithium battery. It provides a fairly accurate readout of time remaining and gives almost the full 2 hours of recording. Unfortunately, I charged it and used it at Christmas and haven't re-charged it since (duh). Now I'm trying to use it sparingly to save the battery.
After the Safari, another tradition, started last year (is that long enough for a tradition?). A late breakfast at Tusker House. This late breakfast idea should work because tonight is the Hoop-Di-Doo and we want to be good and hungry for that. Coffee, juice, pancakes, breakfast sandwiches, etc. for all. Next, the walking tour through Pangani Forest. Lot's of stuff here - gorillas, bats, bugs, hippos, etc. This is a cool place and it's great to be able to go through at your own speed - as slow or fast as you'd like. Although with 12 of us, it's difficult.
Now it's almost time for the Festival of the Lion King show (which, for some reason, I've never seen). We hoof it back to Camp Minnie - Mickey and walk right in. I nail a front row seat with Pop (wheelchair). Everyone else is close, off to my right. This show is great and I tape some of it, until the battery goes belly-up for good. Man, am I stupid. So I pull out the 35-mm and shoot some photos. Pop is really impressed at all the activity - singing, dancing, acrobatics, gymnastics, characters, etc. At one point, one of the "monkeys" comes over and starts picking and eating insects off Pop's head :).
Everyone liked the show and it's almost time to leave. But first, let's get wet! On to Kali River Rapids (KRR). Barb, Stephen, and I rode KRR last year and Stephen and I got soaked. But, Barb managed to be in the "front" as we slid down the falls - she was absolutely engulfed by a wave that splashed up over the side. She couldn't have been wetter if she slid over the side for a swim. It was funny watching people look and point at her as we left the park.
Most of us (Pop, Jeff, and Emily stay behind) head through the long queue. The only stops are to gaze at the folks getting "dressed" - hooded parkas, drawn tight around the face, shoes removed, pant legs rolled up - why do they go on this ride? We walk right through and right on to a raft and off we go through the burning rain forest. Around turns, over falls, we're careful to keep our feet on the foot rail and off the floor where 2 inches of water is sloshing around. We get wet (surprise), but nothing close to last year. Have they "tamed" this ride down, too? Someone mentions that it was tamed down because they had a lot of complaints from people who got too wet. What? I also noticed that we were not "bombed" with those air cannons at the end - what gives? When we cam off the ride, we walked up on the bridge where the controls for the air cannons are and saw that the control panels were fitted with covers, making them inoperable. Huh? Were they broke or intentionally disabled?
At this point, everyone's ready to go but Stephen wants to go through the Maharajah Jungle Trek and see some tires. We make arrangements to hook up back at the hotel and Barb, Stephen, Pop and I hit the Trek. The tigers are out. So are the Kimodo dragons (these guys are cool - have you ever seen the episode of "Crocodile Hunter" where he nestles into a nest surrounded by 15 of these guys?).
We finish the Trek and walk out - strolling casually to take in the animals along the exit trail. As we go over a bridge, I point out to Pop the spot where, last year, I saw workmen painting "rust" onto railings. Only at WDW.
Back to BWV for a little R&R, mostly pool time. We use the quiet pool again and it lives up to its name. I also remember to re-charge the camcorder battery. Our HDD reservation is for the 5:30 seating. All the literature says to allow 120 minutes for transportation. From past years, I know it can be a hassle. I've driven there and waited for Boone or Crockett bus. The transportation guide says to bus to Downtown Disney, transfer to the Transportation Ticket Center, then to a bus for Boone or Crockett (sheesh!). Jeff checks with Guest Services and they tell him there's a boat to Fort Wilderness that goes right to Pioneer Hall from the docks outside the MK. Do we believe them?
Being good citizens, we opt to try the boat and leave the hotel at 3:00 to allow the full 120 minutes of travel, just in case the boat was someone's dream. We head to the bus stop and within 30 seconds, here's the MK bus (I do the back door thing). We head straight to MK, walk from the bus stop to the boat docks where there's one sitting there beyond the FW sign. Steph heads down to ask the Captain and then waves us on. Within 2 minutes, we're sailing for FW. If we were running late, this never could have happened. We dock at FW at 3:35. 35 minutes to get from BW to FW using a bus and a boat! Now we have time to kill.
Crockett's Tavern doesn't open until 4:00, so we sit in the rocking chairs, chat, and take turns browsing and shopping at the General Store. Stephen comes out and hands me a gift, a pin with "Steve" on it. Nice gesture. I add it to my small collection on my camera bag strap. I do have a nice "2000" pin with several characters and I'd like to get a "2001" to go with it but haven't seen it yet. At 4, we head into Crockett's for a drink. The girls opt for something fancy (I can't remember the names but they included several ingredients and looked and tasted like Kool-Aid. Wayne and I have beers (surprise). Whatever they ordered, Kristen and Michelle get to keep the glass (so that's what I paid for) - it's in the shape of a boot. At around 5, I head over to Pioneer Hall and exchange my receipt for tickets. I then check in with the CM on the steps who gives me instructions - get the group together, over here for your picture (no, thanks), then to the CM with the clipboard for check-in, then wait to hear your name for seating. Back to Crockett's, fill everyone in, and head back over. Our waitress had told me that I should take the wheelchair ramp between Crockett's and Pioneer Hall, into the restaurant. From there, they'll bring the wheelchair in through a side door onto the first floor (no stairs). Cool.
Everyone else goes to PH, I head up the ramp with Pop and in where I'm told that I need to enter with everyone else at the front door. Huh? Back out again to the front where they tell me that wheelchairs should use the ramp, etc. OK. Back up the ramp where, this time, a CM says to "wait here - you're in the right spot. We'll bring you in in about 20 minutes after everyone else is seated". I wait. In about 2 minutes, they open the side door and bring us in (I'm so confused). They bring Pop and I to a table for 12 right in the middle of the floor and fairly close to the stage. I guess making early reservations has paid off.
By the way, remember those "Goergen-Russo WDW 2001 Family Reunion" T-shirts? This is the night we picked to wear them. If you've never been to the HDD, it's worth a trip IMHO. It's not cheap (we paid $43 per person - Emily was free) but the price includes tax, tip and all you can eat and drink in 2 hours. Everything is served family-style. Dinner consists of bread (killer bread - maybe it's the bread, maybe it's the butter - maybe it's both - bit it's great!), salad, BBQ Ribs, Fried Chicken, corn, beer, wine, sangria, and strawberry shortcake for dessert. Make sure you're hungry.
Everyone's seated and we start on the bread. In about 3 minutes, we're asking our waiter for more. As we start the salad there's a pounding on the Hall door. The Pioneer Hall Players are here. The cast is 3 guys and 3 girls and they're all great. I'm terrible with these names but I'll try. The "lead" guy I think is "Jim". He's a young stud type that our girls immediately nickname "Ken doll" for obvious reasons. He's backed up by a gambler type (name? I'll call him Gambler) and the comic-sidekick-relief, Six Bits Slocum (the Fearless Bearfighter). The girls also have a lead - very cute and a great voice (I'll call her Darla - it's wrong but....), a ditzy blond with a great ditzy-blond voice and laugh (Blondie for now) and a schoolmarm type (Dolly?). Anyway, they put on a show during and after dinner - it's somewhat corny (you expected Shakespeare?) but the cast is talented and they can pull off even the lamest jokes. Bottom line - it's fun.
At one point, the cast ventures into the audience (both main floor and balcony) and they'll ask a particular table's occupants where they're from. They announce that to the audience then work the city name into their song and keep going. During this stretch, Darla(?) happens by and catches sight of Barb's T-shirt. Whoops. Here's the spotlight and she informs everyone that this is the Goergen-Russo Family Reunion from Albany, NY (although her first attempt was Gorgonzola:)). I got most of that on video.
Anyway, we're snapping pictures, taking videos, eating everything in sight, there are bits of ribs in my hair, chicken in my mustache, bones everywhere, watching the show, laughing and having a good old time. I said it was fun. Just as you're finishing dinner (they bring all the wait-staff on stage for a can-can type dance to a song called "Strawberry Shortcake" as they deliver the.... strawberry shortcake) the cast comes into the audience to seek 4 "volunteers" to appear with them in the final skit - a tribute to Davy Crockett. The Gambler has come over and centered his attention on Kristen and Steph - he's asking for a volunteer and assures them that one of them will be in the show. They both decline (they're so shy) but he persists and finally Stephanie agrees. Off she goes to the stage where each character introduces their volunteer, chosen for his intelligence (as Blondie pats his ample gut), his bravery, his strength, and her beauty (Steph) - we'll never hear the end of this.
Later, Steph comes on stage in a "Can-Can / Saloon Hall" dress and headband. She does a little can-can in the show and then has one line. Blondie says that "that there dancing girl needs to kiss that there bear (Six Bits)". Steph replies, "I couldn't do that, I'd be too em-bear-assed!". Much applause and laughter (I told you it's not Shakespeare). Steph gets a photograph of her on stage and a certificate of thanks from the players. She'll also have to live down 2 videos - both Wayne and I taped the entire thing.
Bellies full and properly entertained, we leave PH and start for the boat dock. We're 100 feet away, when Kristen realizes she forgot her "boot glass" on the table. Her and Wayne head back to retrieve it. In about 2 minutes they're back with the glass. The glass is warm from having been run through the diswasher. We haven'' been out of there 3 minutes and the glasses are already washed, getting ready for the next show. This place is unbelieveable.
We walk down the dock to the waiting boat and are able to see the MK fireworks across the lake - is this cool or what? The boat is crowded, but we get on - I stow the wheelchair and stand up front where Barb and Pop are sitting. It's really a pleasant evening and the fireworks show on the trip back is a bonus.
We expect a major wait for the bus because MK is letting out as we get there, but it's not a problem. We're on within minutes (I do the back door thing) and we're back at the BW shortly after 8. Everyone splits up here. Back to the room for some, the BW for games, ice cream, etc. for others.
The parents opt for JellyRolls. A couple of beers while we listen to the dueling pianos. The ever-changing piano players are good - it's amazing how many songs they know. They take requests on cocktail napkins (with a tip or their crumpled and thrown into a corner). The audience is mostly Lotusphere folks complete with backpacks and nametags. How many times can they play "Piano Man"? The requests are varied - from John Coltrane to the Gilligan's Island theme song. This could really be fun with the right crowd.
Be bag it around 10:30 and call it a night.
Day 5 - Wednesday, January 17
The forecast today is 84 degrees. The plan is for MK this morning, R&R in the afternoon, then over to the Grand Floridian to pick up the boat for the MK Fireworks Cruise.
We're up and out early (as usual) and get a short wait for the bus (I do the rear door thing). Entry into MK and down Main Street to the rope drop for Tomorrowland. Our plan is to walk through to the end of FantasyLand and ride Winnie the Pooh first because we were shut out the other day (30 minute wait and you know my strategy). I've not ridden Pooh yet but have read some good reviews. I'm disappointed - so is Barb, Stephen, Michelle, & Steph. I'm not sure about Pop - he just kind of grunted when I asked if he liked it. Jeff, Kelly, and Emily break off here to go to Mickey's Toon Town.
Now it's Space Mountain - it's a walk on. I've heard they replaced the cars here and the new ones are faster. We ride the right side after a slight delay for equipment problems - not what I want to hear on a ride like this. The ride does seem faster to me but it might just be suggestion. From here it's on to the TimeKeeper (Robin & Rhea) and a trip through time. We take a spin on the WEDway (I know it's now the TomorrowLand Transit Authority - Wayne still calls it the Weedwhacker). Several years ago, Jeff, Wayne and I were stuck on this. After about a 20 minute wait, and lots of groaning, a CM got us out and led us (and about 6 others) down the track through a very dark tunnel (couldn't see a thing) and through an access door to an exit. As we got out of the car I started whistling the theme to "The Bridge on the River Kwai" and Wayne and Jeff joined right in. On our 10-minute walk down the tracks, the CM wasn't amused. As we were navigating the tunnel (I couldn't believe he brought us this way without even a flashlight) we were making comments about the lawsuits resulting when we tripped and fell in the darkness - we'll call it "StevieWorld".
I still haven't done Alien Encounter. We first did this several years ago (I remember Steph had a death-grip on my hand and had pretty much slid out of the shoulder harness onto the floor) and I can't get any of these chickens to go again. Stephen had promised he'd do it if I did RnRC with him and I bailed on that so I guess we're even.
The kids opt for some more thrill rides (the Mountains). The parents and Pop head for Carousel of Progress (CoP). Haven't done this in several years and I know it's been upgraded and re-habbed. After a 10 minute wait, were ushered to the wheelchair entrance (front row seats) and the spinning begins. I really think Pop will enjoy this trip down memory lane and he does - when he's awake! I catch him dozing several times. It's a good show but not one I'll do every year.
We stop at Casey's Corner for lunch. Not sure why, but hot dogs sound like a good idea. We do a little shopping on the way out. Wayne's been adding to his pin collection and Pop's looking for a hat to match his "MGM Studios" black fleece that we bought him last year - and has become part of his everyday wardrobe down here - even though it's in the 80s!
Back to the BWV for R&R. Pool, laundry, etc.
Now we have reservations for the MK Fireworks Cruise. We pick up the boat at 6:30 at the Grand Floridian (GF) and I was told by the CM that took the reservation to be there at 6:00. I know this is just Disney's way of ensuring you're there by 6:20 (like they have to tell us that:)) but we plan for it anyway. Leave at 4:00 for the GF, hang out there and look around, have dinner, and find the boat. Our plan is to bus to MK then ride the monorail (one of my favorite rides) to the GF. Pop decides to pass on the Cruise so we make sure he's set for dinner. After that he's got his books and the TV. He looks a little bushed - we've had him on the go quite a bit - so the rest may do him some good.
The bus shows after a 5-minute wait. The monorail is waiting for us and we're in the GF lobby at 4:45. This is truly a magnificent lobby. Several stories high, glass elevator, lots of sofas and chairs on the first level and a grand piano. The folks sitting in the lobby are mostly seniors and they look very tired - I mean they're slumped in chairs, not talking, some dozing - it's kind of a bizarre scene. We take the elevator down and out the back door looking for the boat dock. This is a great looking hotel (it should be based on the rates). We wander past the pool area and ask the bartender where the boat dock is . We're close and eventually find it using one of those etched maps on a pedestal. We're early (surprise).
We find Gasparilla Grill and Games so it's dinnertime. It's every man, woman and child for himself here. Burgers, chicken sandwiches, salads, etc. It's a nice spot with some ready made items, a grill for orders, a pizza oven, and coolers for beer, wine, and soft drinks. We eat and the kids blow some bucks on the video games. We wind up outside at a couple of umbrella tables - chatting and people watching. The view here is great - you look across the lake to MK and can see Cindarella's Castle. At 6:00, I walk over to the dock to check in. Uh oh, the boat house is closed and locked up tight. I read the sign and it closes at 5:00 - whoops. I go back inside Gasparilla's and ask the counter lady if I'm in the right spot for the Fireworks Cruise. She says "Yep" but somehow I'm not convinced. Back to the pedestal map and this is the only boat dock I can find - it must be the right one.
Back over at 6:10 - still empty. Back at 6:20 - nothing. Now I'm getting worried. Kristen walked around to the back of the boathouse and noticed a light on inside. In another minute, out pops a CM getting ready to drive a laundry cart somewhere. Yep, you're in the right spot. Almost immediately, here comes our Captain "Giancarlo" - spoken with a thick Italian accent. He loads the 11 of us onto a pontoon boat and off we go - cruising around Seven Seas Lagoon and into Bay Lake by FW (Hey, weren't we here last night?). It's relaxing and there's enough to see with views of the Contemporary, MK, GF, FW, etc. At about 6:55, Giancarlo is positioning us for a view of MK. We're about mid-way between the GF and the Contemporary, toward the MK side. It's a great view. Wayne's taping and he's managed to capture the castle in about 5 different colors but, he's trying to get it when it changes color. Never succeeded.
At 7:00 we hear the announcement and watch Tink slide down. You can hear the music, but not well. The view of the fireworks, however, is outstanding. Lots of oohs and aahs from the 11 of us. Fireworks end and Giancarlo takes us out again. At one point, we're cruising at a moderate clip when we sense one of the larger transportation boats bearing down from the rear at a much faster pace. Giancarlo hits the gas and off we go. Back at the GF, we dock and exit. Giancarlo is calling my name as he ties up the boat - probably thought I was going to run off and stiff him on the bill. The tab comes to $120 - I thought they told me that tax would be added but I guess it was included. The parents are covering this (as we've covered most everything else including airfare, hotel, etc.) and now we're searching for cash - we settle on $70 each which gives Giancarlo a $20 tip - not extravagant but I figure this guy gets paid to do what we pay for - watch fireworks! What a job!
Now it's a walk through the GF, monorail to MK, switch to the Epcot monorail and home. We stroll through Epcot and some decide to stay for the IROE fireworks (Barb & Steph went back). Back at the UK it's time for a beer. I buy 4 from the outdoor bar at Rose and Crown - $7 apiece - whoa! $28 for 4 beers? I try to give the CM $32 but he insists he can't accept the tip. They have no problem with tips inside but I think I remember that outside they work for a different company(?) and can't accept them. While everyone else wits up on the bridge, staking out our spot to view IROE, Wayne and I decide it's time for a smoke with our beers. There's a quiet, quaint little street across from the Rose and Crown. In the back, there are benches, (simulated) gas lights, store fronts, cobblestones, etc. - it's really nice. I think I need to remember this spot for future needs - whenever you want a quiet place to sit and relax for a while.
Back to the bridge. The show starts and it's magnificent. Lot's of people say "we watched it from our hotel balcony, or the bridge by the Y&B Clubs" but, I'll tell you - you need to be there. So much of the show is down low, on the water (low fireworks, flames, etc.) that if all you see are the fireworks up high, you've missed half the show. The show ends - applause, applause - and it's a 5 minute walk back to the BW. I love this. I can't tell you how many times I've done the "Disney waddle" with 20,000 others through WS and FW for 30 minutes, only to get in line at a bus stop, only to stand on the bus back to the hotel. This is great!
Back at BWV, I make arrangements to get Barb and meet Sue and Wayne in the BelVue Room for our "parents time". Did I mention that we like it there? Stephen joins us this time and sips his Coke while we do the 7&7 for Wayne, Chivas and a splash for me, Amaretto's (rocks) for the ladies. It's always fun to sit back, relax, and talk about what a great time you're having - kind of reliving the day's events.
Day 6 - Thursday, January 18
Forecast today is 86. I'm loving this weather - we are soooooo lucky! The plan today is Epcot in the morning and dinner at the Liberty Tree Tavern tonight. On our first day, Sue noticed a spot in JIYI where we can have a picture taken. We're looking to get all 12 of us with a background of some kind. Several years ago, we had this done in what is now MouseGear (what was it called before?) and had a nighttime view of Spaceship Earth as a background. I think Jeff, Kelly, Emily and Pop missed that one so now a picture of the Dirty Dozen. Also, we decide that we want our T-Shirts for this picture (Thank God we only wore them one evening:)).
Off we go in our "not so fresh" T-shirts, walking through the IG. It's really neat to be here early. We were the only ones walking through WS - past the UK and Canada into FW with no one around at all, save two CMs who wished us a cheery "Good morning".
First stop is Test Track. I missed it the other day so I'm on this one. It's a walk-in to the pre-show. We come out and most of us decide to ride again - there's no line (how are you liking my strategy?). From here it's off to JIYI for the picture. We're surprised when the CM needs approval from a manager for this - they don't do 12 people at once as a rule. Anyway, she gets permission and we start. First it's me, Barb, and Pop. Snap, flash and we're up on the computer monitor. Then it's Michelle, Steph and Stephen. Then Wayne, Sue and Kristen. Finally Jeff, Kelly and Emily. Now I realize why they don't like to do 12 at once. The CM is struggling with the mouse, trying to position the 4 groups of 3 into something that looks natural - it ain't easy. We chose the MK background with pixie dust swirling around us and a number of the characters in the foreground (Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, etc.). The parents pay (see a trend here?) the $29.95 cost. The package is for six 5x7s and we arrange to have it delivered to the hotel (when it shows up the next day, they threw in 12 wallet size photos as well - thanks).
Split-up time. The kids want rides (although we see them later in the Electric Umbrella stuffing their faces), Jeff and Kelly, with Emily, the parents and Pop head to the Living Seas. The fish are always enjoyable. Now on to the Land where we ride the boat tour - always impressive what they do here. Pop's impressed as well which is good. The CM is an older gentleman and we're sitting up front (the wheelchair). As he's delivering his presentation I glance back and notice Emily is fast asleep (got it on video). As we exit the boat, I thank him and compliment him on a nice job. He said, "I can really put 'em to sleep, can't I?".
Jeff & Kelly break off here to do some other things. They're thinking of Food Rocks and Innoventions. Someone mentions pancakes so the parent and Pop are on a mission. Wayne checks with the Garden Grill and they're still serving breakfast (it's about 10:30). It's $15.95 per and includes eggs, breakfast meats, etc. but all we want are pancakes. Off we go to the spinning restaurant. We're seated and our waitress seems amused with the "Just pancakes" order. We do get orange juice (freshly squeezed and lots of it), coffee, lots of pancakes, and even some French Toast sticks. Everything's great and our hunger is satisfied. This "brunch" is a good idea because we've got another ealy (5:30) dinner planned.
Because of the time, there's only one other occupied table and this is a character breakfast. We get lots of time with Mickey and Chip & Dale. I take lots of video as we go through the "Which one's Chip" routine. They actually play a little one-on-one basketball at our table using a wadded up napkin and one of our glasses. A good time.
By the way.... Everyone (CMs, hostess, Mickey, Chip, etc.) likes our shirts. They all comment and laugh and especially like the names (Mickey, Minnie, etc.). We get a kick from telling them that the Seven Dwarfs are out in the park.
Next we hit the Universe of Energy with Ellen - a walk-on. I think this is better than the old version - I like the comedy. The wheelchair puts us in the back row of seats and at the end, everyone's leaving and we're still "locked in" our row. I think the CMs forgot we were there. Finally, one notices us and frees us. We stroll back through World Showcase, have a beer in Germany, take some photos in Italy, and back to the BWV. It's downright hot now and pushing the wheelchair up the hills is starting to feel like work.
The kids are already at the pool so we head down (Pop takes a nap). Wayne and I brought a few beers with us so it's swim, relax, sip, chat, etc, for a couple of hours. Shower, change, and we're off (all 12 of us) to MK and our 5:30 PS at the Liberty Tree.
Walking down Main Street, I need a restroom (me, not the girls, for shame). I send everyone off and I duck into the restroom next to the Crystal Palace. I figure they're way ahead of me so I hoof it toward Adventureland and take the bridge, just prior to the entrance, to Frontierland skip through a shop and come out right next to the Liberty Tree - a new shortcut! I look right and here comes my group.
When I booked this PS, I told them we had a birthday (Sue's is actually the 21st , but we'll be home then) and they told me to mention it when I check in. Wayne's been telling me for weeks that he wants nothing to do with this because "Sue will be pissed" but I'm persistent and I enjoy embarrassing my friends whenever I can. We're seated immediately at a large table for 12 - one side of the table is the cushioned bench aganst the wall. I'm at one end, Sue and Wayne at the other.
This is a character dinner (Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, etc. in 18th century type clothing) and, for $19.95, you get a family serving of salad and rolls, honey-glazed ham, flank steak, turkey, smashed potatoes, vegetables, stuffing, gravy, etc. A pretty good deal and lots of character interaction and photo opportunities. At one point, Goofy actually climbs over the table to sit with the 3 girls, his arms around them (probably an 18 year old guy in there!). Towards the end of the meal, the "town crier" shows up and rings his bell. "Hear ye, hear ye. On this 17th day of January, 2001, we celebrate the birthday.....". Sue realizes what's going on and she handles it well (Wayne was all wet, she didn't seem pissed at all). At one point, Goofy just about knocks her down with a hug. We have a great time.
We're leaving at around 6:40 and decide to get "out of Dodge" before the fireworks and the crowds. The kids opt for a last run on Thunder Mountain. We do some shopping on the way out (a hat for Pop, golf shirt for me, sweatshirt for Barb) and head for home. It's the BelVue Room again for the parents. Another great day.
When we get back to the room, Stephen comes to me with a problem. The toilet in his and Pop's room is filled to the top. Unfortunately, he's already used it. I'm not sure what caused it but it's a problem. Now I know, if I had a plunger, this thing is over in 10 seconds - but I don't. The smart thing is to call Housekeeping now and have them send someone. Nah! Let's flush it first to see if it fixes itself. Wrong move. Now I've got water all over the bathroom floor so now I decide to call for help.
A very nice man shows up with a plunger and, in 5 seconds, solves the problem. He offers to send someone up for cleanup but I decline thinking I caused the mess, I'll clean it. Plus, I explain, I've got people sleeping here (Pop was curled up under the covers and out like a light). He assumed it was a baby (close) and told me that I could use the towels and he'd be back in 10 minutes with a fresh supply. He indicated he would "knock softly" so as not to wake the baby - he actually demonstrated his soft knock so I'd know what to listen for. What a nice guy.
I got to work and cleaned up the mess, using 2 large bath towels in the process. True to his word, my friend showed up minutes later, knocked softly and entered carrying a week's supply of towels for me (Note to DVC members - if you need more towels, here's the way:)). He also wore a rubber glove and carried a trash bag which he used to remove the soiled towels. What a guy! Another example of that Disney magic.
Day 7 - Friday, January 19
Has a week gone by already? We've taken a number of vacations and I've always said that WDW is the only place I've gone where I'm genuinely sorry to leave. Every other time, no matter how much I've enjoyed it, I'm ready to go home. Not here.
Our last full day and we planned MGM in the morning, anything you want in the afternoon, and Epcot tonight. As we were getting ready, the phone rings. I figure the Goergens are ready early again. It is the Goergens but they have a slight problem - They're all staying back for a while except Kristen who will be coming with us.
In a few minutes, Kristen comes in and explains the problem. Wayne was in the bathroom doing what one does naturally, when he decided on what could be described as a "mid-event, courtesy flush". All of a sudden, he felt like he was sitting on a bidet (OK, all together now, EEEEEWWWWWWW!!!). Kind of a sick coincidence considering our problem of last night. Anyway, he quickly realize his problem and starts yelling for anyone to bring him towels. Water is now seeping under the door into the adjoining rooms. I won't bother you with the gruesome details of what followed except that Housekeeping sent 2 people, one on her first day. After viewing the disaster, she turned to her partner and said, "Do you want to handle this one?" Anyhow, Housekeeping handles it well, Sue and Wayne get an armload of new towels (attention DVC members), and their room gets a spic and span treatment including a shampooed carpet. Aaah, that Disney magic.
Off we go to MGM. It's 8:30 and it's already getting warm. It's a 15 minute stroll down the walkway and we're in. I opt out of ToT to sit with Pop. We get a coffee from the cart by the exit and just hang out, sip and chat. He tells me he's having a wonderful time and I know he's not kidding - I can tell from watching him at everything we do. Plus, he is by no means shy. He'll tell you what he thinks.
The girls finish their 13-story plunge and off we go to RnRC. I can't tell you what came over me this day, but I decide I'm going to ride. Barb hangs back with Pop and I join Stephen and the 3 girls as we walk through the queue (it is a walk-through - if I had to wait, I might have chickened out). Before I know it we're in the pre-show. It's pretty cool - a real life-sized film of the band and their manager. They invite us along to the concert across town. "Don't worry" says the manager. "I've got a very fast car waiting for you in the alley". Uh, oh.
We exit into the "alley" and, because there's no line, we're moving quickly through the queue area to the boarding spot. I glance to my right and I see a loaded "limousine" moving into position. It kind of moves slowly backwards, almost as if gliding. I look up and see lights like they have at drag races - red, red, red, GREEN!!!!! The limousine vanishes. When the light went green it shot forward at what must have been the speed of light (squared). What the hell am I doing here? I don't like coasters, I don't go upside down (at least not on purpose). Surely goodness and mercy will get me out of here. Now.
No such luck. We've been moving so quickly that before I know it I'm at the load point and this vehicle from hell is in front of me. Kristen climbs in up front, Michelle and Stephen behind her, Stephanie and her now-sobbing father in the back seat. We pull forward, make the left turn to line up with the "entrance to hell" and, all of a sudden, I sense that we're ever so slightly gliding backwards. Oh, God!
I look up ahead and see those lights. I have a death-grip on the handles of the shoulder harness. I can feel beads of sweat on my forehead and my bladder is threatening to evacuate - right now! Red, red, red, GREEN!!!! Holy s***!!!!!! The rest of the ride is a blur. I thought I remember the takeoff but, when we viewed the picture later, it looks like my eyes were closed. Maybe it was just a real hard squint. I do recall the loop and the corkscrew. I've never done this upside-down thing before, but it is kind of cool. You know you're heading up (and in the case of the corkscrew, to one side) but, at the point you're about to say "Whoa" your through the loop and out the other side.
I was surprised at how short the ride was. I think I read it's about 90 seconds although it seems shorter. I'll need to do it again so I can see more (next year, I'm done know. Thanks).
When we came out, I had the kids prop me up under my arms as if they were helping me walk (God, I'm a funny guy). Barb, Pop, and I go see Beauty and the Beast while the kids go for more rides. We arrange to meet for an early lunch at the Sci-Fi Drive-In Theater. We get there early, almost ride Star Tours but don't. When the kids get there, we try to but an Indiana Jones show has just let out and the Star Tours line is out the door (timing is everything). We shop for a while on the backlot streets. Barb and I buy a photograph book - silver with a silver metal inscription. It's really nice even if it's $22. We've been buying the small Disney books, one for each trip but we should be able to get 3-5 years worth of photos in this one.
On to lunch. The Sci-Fi Theater is a great spot. It's over-priced but the food is pretty good (stick to simple things, like burgers) and I like the show. You sit in a modified 57 Chevy (and similar) and watch previews of 1950s movies (mostly very bad horror movies). Cool.
Steph had to leave before lunch. Her friend, Jeanette, is visiting her today. She used to live in the Albany area, now lives about 30 minutes from WDW and is over for the day.
After lunch, we start back to the BWV. Lo and behold, it's finally happened. On the trip back, Pop sheds his sweatshirt and is in short sleeves. It must be warm today. Back at the hotel, Barb and I decide to take a stroll through World Showcase so we walk over to Epcot and go see the American Adventure. There's a group (maybe 15) and a bass player in the foyer and they're singing "Fever" and snapping their fingers. Good sound, especially with the acoustics in there.
We stroll back over the bridge and grab a beer at the Rose and Crown. Follow me I say, as I lead her t that quiet street Wayne and I found the other night. It's packed. What? I hadn't realized it the other night but there's a gazebo type stage back there and the British Invasion was playing. I'm a huge Beatles fan so this was great.
We finish our beers and stroll out, this time opting for the scenic boat ride back to the BW. The boat's almost empty and we sit outside. This is very nice! Back to the room to start packing.
For dinner tonight, someone suggests "Stubby's" over in the Swan (or is it the Dolphin?). We wander over around 5:30 and spend some time exploring the hotels, checking out the restaurants and their menus. Stubby's is OK. Kind of a cafeteria although they will cook up special orders. After dinner, we wander back. Pop heads to the room, Steph and Jeannette are off having ice cream or something. They plan on meeting up with Michelle and Kristen at JellyRolls later.
We head for Epcot. The kids head for TT. The parent opt for France and a glass of wine. I order 4 Cabernets from the outdoor cart and am surprised when the girl asks to see 4 people - but I get it. I round up Barb, Sue and Wayne and we take our wine to some benches in France. It's quiet, we're sipping and chatting, and the ToN parade starts. We have a great view from these benches, we're sipping wine, does it get any better? What a nice way to spend our last night.
When the parade's over we stroll over to the bridge by the UK to stake out our spot for IROE. The kids come back and join us and we, once again, marvel at this show.
IROE over, we stroll back through IG and to the BW. Have I said I really like this? One more stop at the BelVue and we call it a night. The forecast for tomorrow is cold and rainy. A front is moving through and the forecast for the next 3 days has highs in the 50s. I told you we were lucky.
Day 8 - Saturday, January 20
This is it. Home today. We get our receipt under the door. Our bill is $14. That's for the one drink Barb and I had at the main pool. I had no cash so I charged it.
We finish packing, have breakfast and call Bell Services to store our luggage. The Goergens have done the same. We head down to DD for some last day shopping. It's cold. And windy. And damp. It rained overnight.
Shopping and lunch at DD. Not much that was very interesting. Back at the BWV, we stake out the lobby. It's a little sad watching people check in knowing that their weather will be nothing like what we had. But, hey, they'll still be at WDW and I'll be home shoveling snow again. I'd trade.
We spend time chatting and watching Emily play on the floor. We know this will be tough on Sue and Wayne, particularly Sue. After a week with their grandchild they have to say goodbye. The good new is that Jeff, Kelly and Emily will be coming to Albany in May so we'll see them again soon.
At around 2:00, Jeff & Kelly say their goodbyes and head for home. A few minutes later someone says there's a guy outside with a sign that says "Russo". Must be Marco from Tiffany. It is, only this time he has a smaller van with no room in the back for luggage - so he loads the luggage in the second seat and we climb into the back.
At the airport, we find that out 6:00 flight is delayed in Hartford. Oh, well. We camp out and boarding begins at around 6:45.
Now the only low point of the trip. As we're walking down the jetway, I hear a thump behind me followed by a scream (Michelle's). Pop was walking behind me, tried to step over the jetway's seam, took a mis-step, and fell. I dropped my stuff and went to him. All he said was "get me up". I got one side, Wayne the other and we lifted him to his feet. As we did, I glanced down and saw his left foot pointing behind him to the right. My heart went into my throat until I realized his shoe had come off. Wayne later said he saw and thought the same thing.
We got him up and onto the plane. He was complaining a bit about his right elbow and shoulder and kept stretching those out. A USAirways rep came onto the plane and took some info, name and address stuff. Pop wanted to get home so off we went. The pilot talked about a tailwind and mentioned we were at 705 mph! We actually made it home minutes late, after leaving 50 minutes late.
The post script is that Pop wound up in the emergency room where we learned he broke 2 ribs and tore his rotator cuff. He's a tough old guy but, wow. As I write this, he's almost done healing and still stays it was a great trip.
A great trip with good friends. I hear others say that vacationing with friends is difficult but not for us. I think we've known each other so long and get along so well, that there's (almost) never a problem.
The Boardwalk was great. First time there but we liked the rooms (a lot), the location (the walk to Epcot and MGM is great) and the amenities. I had planned that we'd try to stay at OKW next year, but am now re-thinking that.
I thought that touring with 12 people would be a real pain. It wasn't. Be flexible. If you want to do something else, go do it. Be accommodating. It works.
We're already looking forward to next year's trip. The planning will start soon. I don't know if it will be just the 3 of us again, 5, 6, or maybe all 12. Either way, we'll enjoy it.