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David Hastings -- June 2004 -- Walt Disney World (OKWR)


Cast of Characters

  • David, (45 years old), Husband, Father and Trip Report Writer
  • Debbie, (51 years young), wife
  • Caity, (16 years old), daughter

INTRODUCTION:

As I sit here starting this trip report our trip is only eight weeks away. I know those weeks will go by very quickly. Usually, we book our trips over a year in advance to allow us time to save up the money to pay for the trip. I always make up a weekly countdown list and when you are checking off weeks showing a vacation that is still 50 or 60 weeks away itís hard to get too excited. Originally, we hadnít planned on taking a Disney vacation this year. Our last WDW trip was in 2002 and we took a Disney Cruise in the summer of 2003. Well, we had some things that needed doing around the house this year and we never really discussed a Disney trip. Debbie did say something about visiting Maine so I figured that would be our main vacation this year. It looked like the next WDW trip was probably a couple of years off. Sigh.

Then, about eight or nine weeks ago Debbie mentioned something about joining the Disney Vacation Club. This is something that we had discussed a few times but was always something that we would like to do SOMEDAY. You know, that someday that never comes. Well, Debbie brought it up out of the blue and, of course, I was all for it and told her that I would be willing to join whenever she was ready- just let me know. I figured that would be the end of it and was surprised when Debbie brought it up again about a week later and I knew she was serious. In no time I had made the call to the DVC and a few days later we received our packet in the mail. We wasted no time in reading through everything and mailing the signed papers back to them. Done and done, we are now DVC members. I still canít believe it. Those of you who may have suffered through- I mean read- my previous trip reports will know that I am an unabashed WDW fan. Usually, at the most, we can afford to visit every other year. Now, we will be able to visit every year if we want to and one of the main expenses (accommodations) will be paid for. We plan to buy annual passes and will schedule our vacations so that we can get two trips out of each pass.

As soon as the paperwork was processed I called to make reservations for a weeks stay at our home resort- Saratoga Springs. Much to my disappointment I found that there were no rooms available. Our vacation has to be the week of June 20 as I am locked into that week at work. I should have anticipated this problem since we joined the DVC so close to our vacation time. I asked if anything was available at any of the other resorts and the only resort with a studio room available was Old Key West. I guess we were lucky to get that. Thatís alright. Iíve always wanted to stay at OKW and it is the original DVC resort so I guess itís appropriate to stay there first. It would have been nice to stay at Saratoga Springs while it was brand spankiní new but next year will be fine. We do plan on stopping by to check it out while we are there.

Iíve rambled enough and will not really go into the preplanning. I will mention that for the first time I did almost everything online. I booked the flights, joined up with Avis and reserved a car, and made reservations for the Hard Rock Hotel for our first night. I received email confirmations for everything which I plan on carrying with me just in case. Hopefully, everything will go off without a hitch. We bought our Annual Passes at the local Disney Store and I think we are pretty much all set. See you in eight weeks!

THURSDAY, JUNE 17, 2004-

I hadnít planned on resuming this trip report until tomorrow when our vacation actually starts but there has been a big change in our life that I thought I would mention. I have worked for the past 8 years as a Nabisco sales rep. Itís not a bad job but it is a salaried position and the 60+ hour work weeks are wearing thin. So I put my resume on Monster.com and within a week found a position that pays the same but I am guaranteed a 40 hour work week. Itís been so long since I worked a 40 hour week that I wonít know what to do with myself. Also, the new job will have none of the pressure and stress like I have been dealing with until now. I gave my 2 weeks notice but the second week is actually the week that I will be on vacation in WDW so I will be returning to a new job. Believe me, it will make the vacation much more relaxing and I wonít be thinking and stressing about my job as we near the end of the trip. Just one more day of work and then our vacation begins. WOO! HOO!

FRIDAY, JUNE 18, 2004-

I got up at my usual 4:00 this morning. I made sure I was on time. I want to get everything done as quickly as possible today. I actually finished all of my usual Friday stops at about 10:30 but then I spent a couple hours hitting other accounts just to make sure everything was good so that I wouldnít have anyone calling me for service anytime this afternoon. I got home about 12:30 and started rounding up some last minute things and loading suitcases into Debbieís car. I grabbed a quick shower and packed those last few toiletries into our overnight bag. I changed into the travel clothes that I had laid out last night. Just after 2:00 I left in the Taurus (my company car) with Debbie and Caity following me in Debbieís Neon. Iím meeting my boss at 3:00 to drop off the car and my other Nabisco equipment (pen-pad computer, cell phone, etc.). Iím meeting him where we park our Nabisco trucks which worked out great since we got there early and I was able to say goodbye to a lot of the drivers. Just after 3:00 my boss arrived and the transfer was quickly done. We wished each other luck and finally we were on our way! As I got into the front of Debbies car I reached under the front seat and pulled out a CD that I had hidden there earlier. I popped it in and as we drove away the majestic sounds of Handelís Hallelujah Chorus filled the car. I know, itís corny, but it was pretty funny. It felt really great to be leaving this job just as my vacation was beginning. As we drove to the airport I was one pretty happy camper.

We ended up at the airport over 3 hours early but we didnít mind. There were no lines to deal with this early. Southwest is first come, first serve in regards to boarding passes and this way we knew that we would be sitting together. We had all brought books to read to help pass the time. For the record, I was reading ĎThe DaVinci CodeĎ, Debbie- ĎTimelineĎ, and Caity- íSalems LotĎ. We knew the time would pass very quickly.

We decided to go ahead and get something to eat for dinner as we wouldnít be arriving in Orlando until late. Debbie and I picked up barbecue sandwiches from Beach Bully Barbecue and Caity got a hotdog from the A&W place. Everything was really much better than what you would expect for airport food. After that it was a quick and uneventful trip through security as we headed to our gate. We were supposed to board around 6:50 but shortly after 5:00 it really started to pour outside and the plane was slightly delayed coming in. We ended up boarding about 7:20. We ended up lifting off in the midst of a lightning storm which of course thrilled Debbie as she is terrified of flying anyway. But, everything was fine and we were on our way. The flight ended up being smooth and uneventful. Our snack was a small bag of Honey Roasted Peanuts and a bag of Wheat Thins. I thought this was ironic since I had just resigned from Nabisco who makes the Wheat Thins and my last job was with Eagle Snacks, a company which got started by producing Honey Roasted Peanuts for the airlines. I especially appreciated getting the Wheat Thins as it was a reminder that my life was going through some very positive changes.

We touched down just after 9:00, picked up our bags, and headed on over to the Avis counter. Luckily, we had no line but a lot of the others were really busy. I had rented a Premium car (online) as I knew we would need the extra luggage space. We are really bad about over packing (and this trip was no exception). We ended up with a Park Avenue. It was nice and big but the best feature, as we came to discover, was the excellent air conditioner. Believe me, this did become a factor as the vacation progressed. We loaded up the car and were quickly on our way.

I was smart and had printed driving directions off of Mapquest so that we could get from the airport to the Hard Rock Hotel without any problems. Yeah, right. Somehow, with it being dark out and me having been up since 4:00 a.m. (if I can think of more excuses, Iíll insert them later) I got us lost. And the worst thing is, I felt sure that I knew pretty much where we were. ďIím sure, Debbie, if we just keep going in this direction weíll be okay.Ē Needless to say, I was hopelessly wrong. It must be old age but I used to know my way around this area so well. Well, after taking my family on an extensive tour of Orlando and its environs we somehow eventually found the Universal property and found the Hard Rock Hotel without any problems. While Debbie checked us in Caity and I looked around a bit. We were really impressed. This hotel is extremely nice without seeming stuffy. All the employees were very friendly and would engage you in conversation telling you about the hotel and some of the memorabilia that they have on hand. There really is too much to mention but two of our favorites were a pair of Elton Johnís platform shoes and Mick Jaggerís Glitter boots. They have over a million dollars worth of memorabilia so I wish we had had more time to look around. By now it was after 11:00 p.m. I felt bad since we had really wanted to swim in the Hard Rock pool but at this point everyone was just exhausted and the pool was closed anyway. Who would have thought that at a rock ín roll hotel the pool would close so early?

We headed on up to our room and it turned out that our room was on the club level which is what they call their concierge rooms. Itís on the seventh (top) floor and you have to use your room key on the elevator to get off on that level. Apparently, Debbie did not realize that she had booked club level when she made the reservation. Believe me, it was more than I would have wanted to spend but we had already paid the room off so we just went with it. (Of course, the concierge lounge closed at 11:00 so Iím even more thrilled that I got lost on the way here.) The room itself was very nice. It had comforters (or something like that) on the beds, fabric draped over the curtain rod, a CD player, and a TV with internet and video game access. Iím sure there was more but I was pretty tired at this point. I did notice that the furniture was quite stylish. More like something that you would have in your home as opposed to what you would normally see in a hotel room. There was a desk and an easy chair with an ottoman. The room itself was quite large with a good size bathroom and a dressing area with a sink outside the bathroom. Looking out the window I could see that we overlooked the pool area which was kind of pretty even at night.

But at this point none of any of that mattered. All we wanted to do was to get into bed. We had only brought up an overnight bag so there was no real unpacking to do. I think we were ready for bed in record time. As tired as we were we all felt great. Here we are in a nice hotel and weíre at the very beginning of what promises to be a great vacation. See you in the morning!

SATURDAY, JUNE 19, 2004-

We awoke fairly early this morning even without the alarm. Debbie got her shower first and I followed quickly after. While Caity took her turn Debbie and I went to the club lounge to pick up some breakfast. We both got some mini muffins and coffee and Debbie took some fruit as well. We got back to the room and opened our drapes (the window was basically the whole width of the room) and enjoyed the early morning sunshine. The pool area is really gorgeous during the daytime. Much prettier than I expected and Iíve seen pictures. If I had plenty of money and time I could easily stay in this hotel for a week and rent one of those poolside cabanas and just relax. But, of course, this is a seven day Disney vacation so relaxation probably wonít come into it as much as we would like. Anyway, after she was ready Caity went and picked up some muffins and some juice for herself and then she put a CD in the player (Queen- A Night at the Opera) to listen to while she ate. While she did that Debbie and I did what little packing we had to do. Then we headed downstairs and Caity and I took pictures and video while Debbie went to Guest Relations and purchased our park tickets for today. Originally, we were only going to visit the Islands of Adventure theme park but they talked Debbie into picking up their 2-park tickets which would include Universal Studios as well. I figured there wasnít enough time to do both but kept it to myself as Debbie and Caity were very excited. Caity and I and also looked around the Hard Rock Store for a few minutes but I didnít really see anything that I felt like I had to have. This would be a reoccurring theme all week. Oh, well, at least I saved some money on souvenirs. After we got our park tickets we took our bags out to the car which we plan on leaving at the hotel while we tour the parks. We are parked in the Abbey Road section of the parking lot. While Debbie went to powder her nose Caity and I took some more pictures including the front of the hotel and the guitar fountain. Photography is a hobby for Caity and I, plus I have a new video camera so you can just assume that we are taking photos and videotaping everything, and I wonít have to keep mentioning it. And, hey, we all know this report is going to be too long and detailed as it is ;-). Debbie used to complain that I take too many pictures until she and Caity took up scrap booking. Now she keeps asking for more.

When Caity and I went back into the hotel Debbie was waiting for us so we headed out back to the boat dock passing the Woodstock Lawn on the way. As a side note, the HRH does allow pets and earlier I saw some guests walking their dogs on the Woodstock Lawn. It must be the designated doggie bathroom area. There may be a hidden message here but Iím not sure what it is. Anyway, we got to the boat dock and had to wait about ten minutes for the next boat. Itís already getting very hot, especially in the sun, and there was very little shade. But it was comfortable on the boat. Also, the music on the boat was Bostonís íLong Timeí which I think is one of the all time great rock anthems. Perfect for boarding at the HRH. The music did end when we got a certain distance from the hotel so the shuttle must play music appropriate to the hotel that it is visiting. Anyway, in no time we got dropped off at City Walk and in no time had entered the Islands of Adventure.

We walked straight to The Incredible Hulk roller coaster but it was down for maintenance. From our experience, this is not unusual so we just headed over to Spiderman and rode that first. I guess I should mention here that Universal allows you to move right to the front of the line if you are staying at a Universal hotel and you show the ride attendant your room card. This is the Fast Access line which is similar to what Disney offers with their Fastpass. If you did not stay on Universal property you can also pay extra when you get your park ticket for the right to use the Fast Access line. We took advantage of this all day as we were trying to get both parks done in one day. But, I must admit, I felt a little bit bad about it. The front of the line program just seems a little bit elitist. I know Disney has Fastpass but at least it is available to everybody at no extra charge. Anyway, once again, I digress. We walked quickly through the Spiderman Fast Access line and somehow missed picking up our 3D glasses. I realized it after we were in our car and underway. Luckily, the attendant had some extra pairs which they must keep handy for brainiacs like us. The ride was excellent, as always. There is a shot in the new Spiderman movie where Spidey jumps on a car and it looks exactly like one of the shots in this ride. Pretty cool.

After riding Spiderman we walked over to the lockers next to the Ripsaw Falls flume ride to drop off my regular camera and our flip flops and aqua socks so they would be handy later when we ride the water rides. Then we walked over to Jurassic Park to ride the River Adventure. We love the music on this ride- straight from the movies. (BTW, we are huge movie lovers if you havenít noticed already.) We really enjoy this ride although I think some of the animatronic dinosaurs could look a little more realistic. Unless, of course, real dinosaurs had seams as well. But the T-Rex at the end is fantastic and makes up for any other shortcomings. Also, the final drop is great.

After JP we headed over to The Lost Continent to ride the Dueling Dragon roller coaster. This is an excellent ride where you have dual roller coasters (Fire and Ice) which have some near misses as they race each other. I should mention one thing here that Universal does better than Disney. (I know, shame on me, but itís true.) They offer lockers near the extreme rides and the water rides that you can use free of charge for a short period of time to protect your belongings. These lockers actually take your fingerprint which you must also use when you are done to regain access to your locker. Pretty nifty. I guess next time theyíll be using retinal scans. We rode Fire this time. I donít know if we beat Ice or not, but it really doesnít matter, it was just fun. I think the coaster runs a little faster than it used to. We got a lot of good air time.

After this we decided to go ahead and stop for lunch. Weíre eating at Mythos and itís in this section of the park. We walked on over and found the lobby full of people waiting for a table. I put in our mane anyway and we were seated in about ten minutes. Not too bad considering the amount of people. When we got inside I saw that the restaurant was full. I was actually glad because every other time that we have eaten here it has been really quiet and I always worried that this restaurant might close. We were seated near the back windows that look out on the patio and the Super Hero section of the park across the lake. Caity and I both checked to see if the Hulk coaster was going and indeed it was. When our waiter arrived Debbie realized that it was the same waiter that we had when we last ate here two years ago. I canít remember his name offhand but he is an excellent waiter.

Due to the heat, I was very thirsty today. I donít tend to drink a lot (like the girls do) as we walk the parks but when we stop to eat I realize how thirsty I am. So I was really putting down some Diet Coke. But I never could finish a glass before he replaced it with a new one. I felt kind of bad because he would always replace the old glass with a new one and I felt like it was creating a lot of extra work for a dishwasher somewhere. I also hated to waste any of the Diet Coke so it became a challenge trying to drain the glass before he could take it. Anyway, for my lunch I ordered the Beef Briskit Barbecue Sandwich with Cheddar Cheese and Homemade Barbecue Sauce. It was an excellent sandwich and came with homemade potato chips. Debbie ordered the Penne Pasta with Shrimp. This was also very good. You know I had to try it for reporting purposes. Caity got the Caesar Salad with Grilled Chicken. It was interesting as it was full leaves of Romaine laying across a plate with the dressing and the chicken on top and the whole thing was topped with large pieces of shaved parmesan cheese. It looked really good. We all enjoyed our meals immensely but nobody had any room left over for dessert. Darn it.

After lunch we walked over to Seussí Landing and rode The Cat in the Hat. It is basically the same thing as Disneyís Pooh ride but with different characters. Itís actually a little more fun. After Cat in the Hat we walked over to Super Hero Island to ride the Hulk. By the way, the different lands are refered to as islands but theyíre really not. The park is set up around a lake just like Epcot. As we returned to Super Hero Island we had completed a circuit of the park. We dropped our cameras in a locker and used Fast Access to ride the Hulk. Unfortunately, using Fast Access you have no access to the line which will put you in the front seat. We could always use the regular line but it just wasnít that important. Hulk is probably our favorite coaster of all time but for some reason today it was very rough. Very strange, as this coaster is known for its smoothness. So we just rode it once, collected our cameras, and walked on down to Toon Lagoon to ride Dudley Do- Rightís Ripsaw Falls. We opened our locker that we had rented earlier today, changed into our flip flops and aqua socks, and dropped off our cameras. This was our first time riding Dudleyís and we really enjoyed it. Of course, it canít touch Splash Mountain, but it was fun nonetheless. We actually didnít get as wet as we had hoped as it was really hot out and we really needed it. So we headed on over to Popeye and Blutoís Bilge-Rat Barges where we knew we would get wet. I love the water, but Iíve never been a big fan of walking aroung theme parks wet, so I dressed today in clothes that would dry quickly and I had my aqua socks so I wouldnít be walking around with wet feet. So I was ready for anything! This was my first time riding Blutoís although Debbie and Caity rode it last time. I really like this ride, much better than Kali River. It was actually the most fun we had all day, so we rode it again. Not a problem with the Fast Access. The second time we really got soaked and it really felt great. The heat index was up over 100 so this was just what we needed. Especially since we wonít be taking a midday break today. After Bluto we retrieved our stuff from the locker and changed into our nice dry shoes. It was time to head out of the park although we did stop at the shops on the way out and I got an IOA shirt.

Then we left the park, getting our hands stamped on the way, as we were walking right on over to the Universal Studios park. We donít have a lot of plans for this park. We all want to ride the new Mummy ride but my big goal is to find a Van Helsing t-shirt with Kate Beckinsale on it. You know, dressed as she was in the movie. That Kate is quite the actress ;-). Anyway, upon entering the park we walked right past the new Shrek 4-D attraction and decided to check it out. Once again, we were grateful for Fast Access as the line was huge. As the name implies, this is a 3-D movie. I donít know why, but it bugs me when they call these movies 4-D. The fourth dimension is time and has nothing to do with squirting stuff at you. I know, get a life, Dave. Anyway, the movie was great- very entertaining. You could tell that they put a lot into this and didnít just knock it out to try to capitalize on the success of the films.

After Shrek we walked on over to Revenge of the Mummy. On the way we looked down one street where they had set up a display of vehicles from some of their movies. They had a lot of cars from íThe Fast and the Furiousí which we didnít care about. But the had the double-decker London bus from íThe Mummy Returnsí and the Unimog vehicle from íJurassic Park- The Lost Worldí. We got pictures with the latter two. Didnít I mention that we are movie geeks. Unfortunately, Revenge of the Mummy was closed for maintenance when we got there. Great. We werenít too thrilled as this was our main reason for visiting this park. Weíll try again later. We decided to head on over to Twister as we always enjoy that. You gotta love the preshow with Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt. We didnít know what to do next but we were all really thirsty so we decided to stop at Schwabís Pharmacy for drinks. I got a huge Diet Coke and drank it all. As we were sitting there cooling off we were trying to decide what to do next and I suggested The Gory & Grotesque Horror Make-Up Show. We saw this years ago and really liked it.

We got to the theater with a few minutes to kill before the next show. That worked out really well because in the lobby they had on display a ton of the props from the ĎVan Helsingí movie. Out front they had the carriage which was used in the film. Inside, they had just about everything else. They had clothing, weapons, set pieces, conceptual drawings, you name it. They even had the large map of Transylvania and some of the pods hanging from the ceiling. I think my three favorites were Van Helsingís hat, the Van Helsing wanted poster and the leather camisole that Kate Beckinsale wore. I got plenty pictures of everything. We thought the movie was pretty good. It never quite took that extra step which would make it great movie but very good for light summer fare. But we are such movie fans in general that we always love seeing authentic movie props.

The horror show itself was excellent. I know that not everybody enjoyes horror movies but the show is presented with a ton of humor and you laugh throughout. It had changed since we last saw it but both shows were hilarious. Also, you can tell that the people presenting the show are real actors and not just theme park employees. They really are that good. Iím glad that we decided to see this show as it became one of the highlights of the trip.

After leaving the horror show we decided to check on the Revenge of the Mummy ride one last time. By the way, as a bit of trivia, the two Mummy movies were directed by the same man who directed Van Helsing- Stephen Sommers. We liked them all, but thought that the Mummy pictures were the better of the group. The storyline was much better. Van Helsing was great (as stated above) but was more about the action and less about the story. Anyway, when we got there, we found that the ride was operating and once again used our room keys to move to the head of the line. The ride was very good- once again an excellent blending of multiple technologies. At one point during the ride, our car stopped right at the bottom of a hill. I know that we were there longer than we should have been as we saw the film that they show there two times. As we were sitting there we could hear the next ride car come flying down the hill. It came screeching to a halt just inches behind us. Debbie and Caity swear that we almost bought the farm but I was oblivious to the whole thing as I was very intent on checking out the new ride. Sometimes itís better not to know.

At this point it was getting really late so I suggested grabbing something to eat before we left the park. We were supposed to eat at Oliviaís tonight after checking in at OKW but by the time we make it out of the park, return to the Hard Rork Hotel to pick up our car, and then drive to OKW Iím sure it will be too late. So we looked around for a bit but it turned out that all the restaurants at Universal had closed as the park itself will be closing soon. So we just decided to suck it up and ride Men in Black before leaving for the night. On the way to MIB we found a spot where you could take a picture of your party standing under a model of the space shuttle. Forced perspective makes it look like the full size shuttle is sitting on the building behind you. Itís a cool example of how forced perspective works in movies and the picture looks absolutely authentic. You just canít tell that the shuttle is a model.

We got to MIB, dropped our stuff in the free locker and went inside to blast some aliens. I was totally in the zone this time and outscored both Debbie and Caity. Maybe I was taking my frustrations out on the aliens that I was missing my dinner at Oliviaís. Hey, we all have to look deep inside to develop our motivations.

After defending the planet we picked up the car and were finally heading for Disney property, stopping quickly at Walgreenís to pick up a couple things. There was also a liquor store next door where Debbie got a bottle of Lynchburg Lemonade and I picked up a 12-pack of Coronaís. We usually drink very little or nothing at WDW but we are hoping for a little down time on this trip. A cold Corona on the balcony as I relax and read my book just sounds great. Anyway, onward to Disney. At precisely 8:48 p.m. we drove under the main gate. I love seeing the purple Disney signs as that means that we are finally here. We drove directly to Old Key West and checked in with an excellent front desk clerk. She was very talkative and outgoing, extremely friendly. She really did make it seem like you were at home and that they were very glad to have you. Just what we needed at the end of a long day. We were assigned a room which ended up being in a great location. It is just across the street from the Community Hall and the main pool area. It is in a new building that replaced the old DVC offices. The room is a studio but is plenty large for the three of us for a week. We were very excited to finally be here. We got settled in quickly and decided to head over to Goods to Go to pick up something for dinner. I got a cheeseburger, Debbie got a chicken salad sandwich, and Caity got a turkey sandwich. We took them back to the room to eat. Nothing fancy, but we all enjoyed it as we were very hungry. For dessert Caity went back to the Community Hall picked up a Mickey Premium Bar from the Conch Flats General Store.

After eating it was too late and we were just too tired to look around the resort so we just finished unpacking and watched a little SNL before calling it a night.

SUNDAY, JUNE 20, 2004-

We awoke pretty early this morning without the alarm. Debbie and Caity decided to ride to the Kona Café at the Polynesian Resort for breakfast. Gotta love that Tonga Toast. I just decided to stay at the resort to explore a little and to take some pictures and video. By the way, today is Fatherís Day but we donít really have anything planned in that regard. I mean, we are at Disney World. What more could you want?

We couldnít really decide which park to hit today as all the parks are expected to be very crowded. So we just decided to hit our two favorites- the Magic Kingdom and Epcot. So when the girls got back from breakfast we got into the car and made the drive over to the TTC. We rode the ferry over this time as the monorails were swamped. Even the ferry was packed and we could tell that the Magic Kingdom was going to be a madhouse today. Luckily, we donít plan on staying too long. After a few minutes we had crossed the lake, gotten through the security checkpoint, and had entered the park. Debbie went to powder her nose and I went on to Mickeyís Philharmonic to pick up Fastpasses. Then we met Caity at Splash Mountain and rode that with only a short wait. Caity snapped a picture from the top of the drop (which really turned out great, by the way). The ride was great as always, one of our favorites. We appreciated it all the more this time as it was down for refurbishment the last time we were here so we never got to ride it.

It was already starting to get hot out so Caity and I decided to get some ice cream. I got a Mickey Premium bar and she got the Nestle Crunch Bar. Man, I love those Mickey bars. As we ate we walked on over to the Haunted Mansion. The wait was only 5 minutes and we were ushered right in. I had to snap a fast picture of Madame Leotaís headstone as the doors were just opening. But, Iím very happy to say, the picture turned out great. The eyes were wide open. Creepy looking. We enjoyed the HM, as always. Classic. After HM we headed on over to Mickeyís Philharmagic to use our Fastpasses. This was one of the attractions that we were looking forward to the most as we had heard so much about it. And I gotta tell you, we werenít disappointed in the least. MP was excellent. This and Shrek are easily the two best 3D attractions that I have ever seen. If you are in either park try not to miss them.

After MP we decided to head on over to Epcot to hit some of our favorites there. We havenít taken the monorail to Epcot in many years so we decided to take that over. I gotta admit, it was pretty boring. Not much scenery outside. I do like the loop that it takes through Future World so I grabbed a couple quick pictures. Whem we demonorailed (You know- like deplaned? OK, sorry, I wonít use it again.) we headed over to Mission: Space and picked up fast passes. We looked at Test Track but it was way too crowded so we headed on over to Canada to watch Off Kilter perform. As usual, these guys were great. We own all three of their CDís and love them. I had bought the last CD from their web sight a couple of months before the trip so that I would already know the music when we saw them here. During their show they tried to perform ĎMary Mací as a sing along but if you know the song you know how well that went. It is a VERY fast song. So they decided to do a Kentucky version of it in honor of lead guitarist Randy Holbrook. Instead of the chorus, they had us sing ĎWatermelon, Watermelon, Watermelon, Öí over and over. It sounds silly but it was pretty funny. Mark sang a new song that I liked a lot called íEverywhere I Goí. I sure itíll be on their next CD. At one point during the show a couple people started to leave and Jamie called out, ďWhere are you going? We can change.Ē To which Mark added, ďWeíll put on pants.Ē This, of course, led to a discussion in which Jamie had to explain to Irish native Mark what he meant by Toughskins, which is the Sears brand of blue jeans that Jamie wore as a kid. Husky, by the way. As you can see, these guys are very informal and a lot of fun. (By the way, they donít perform pantless- they wear kilts. This is Disney World, you know. Shame on you.)

After the show, we were heading over to Mission: Space but Caity was feeling a little sick to her stomach (probable hunger and the heat) so we figured that this was definitely not the time for that ride. I donít know that much about M:S but I do know that you probably shouldnít get on when you are already feeling sick to your stomach. So we decided to just grab some lunch. We didnít have any plans and didnít feel like fast food so I suggested the Coral Reef. We havenít eaten there in years and the girl that checked us into OKW last night was raving about this restaurant. So we decided to try it. We wanted a nice sit down restaurant where we could relax and cool off and we figured it would be fun watching the fish. We were able to get in without priority seating and were seated almost immediately.

For appetizers, Debbie and I ordered the lobster bisque and after she tasted it Caity ordered a cup as well. For my entrée I had the Blackened Catfish with the Pepper Jack Cheese Grits. Debbie ordered the Seafood Sandwich which was a fish sandwich on foccacia bread with chipolte mayonnaise and Penne Pasta Salad on the side. Caity ordered the Grilled Mahi Mahi with Garlic Mashed Potatoes. All of the meals were very good. I know that because I ate some of each. I had skipped breakfast- remember? My blackened catfist was excellent and I love pepper jack cheese grits so I was very happy. As it turns out, by the time Debbie finished her bisque, she wasnít hunger at all so I ate as much of her sandwich as I could (only about a third) but it was pretty good. Maybe just a little dry. Caityís Mahi Mahi was very good as well. I only got a few bites of that. Anyway, the meal was good and it was nice to try a restaurant that we hadnít eaten at for awhile but it was more expensive than I had expected. The total bill was over eighty dollars which I thought was steep for lunch. But no complaints, I guess I should have looked a little closer at their posted menu. At least it was a really good meal in a beautiful setting.

After lunch we headed on over to Journey into Your Imagination With Figment. Wow, if the title gets any longer they wonít need the ride. We enjoyed it as always. Iím one who doesnít think the original attraction was all that good except for Figment. At least heís back in this incarnation. And you gotta love Eric Idle as Dr. Nigel Channing. After this we didnít have anything in particular that we wanted to do so we headed back to Canada to see Off Kilter once again. Debbie and Caity sat on one of the extremely hot benches to wait for the show to start. Honestly, you could only sit where the shade from the occasional umbrella was hitting. I just stood as I wanted to film their performance anyway. The boys came out and did a great job as usual. They put just as much into their shows no matter how hot it is. I donít know how they do it. I was, however, embarrassed by the crowd. Their response to the show was lackluster at best. Debbie and Caity and maybe one or two others were the only ones consistently clapping. I figured that a lot of the audience must have been passersby who saw an opportunity to sit for a few minutes. They have probably never before seen a Celtic rock band featuring a bagpipe player- not to mention the kilts. But if you ever get the chance to see them, you should do so. Donít be fooled by the banter, these guys are musicians. `

Afterwards, the girls were craving a lemonade slushy but we were unable to find one. But we did come across a stand selling frozen lemonade, not the drink but more like an Italian ice. We each got one. They were very refreshing but not very thirst quenching. At this point we were ready to go so we took the monorail back to the Magic Kingdom switching at the TTC. We picked up the car and drove back to OKW where we took a thirty minute nap and then took turns grabbing showers. Refreshed and wearing clean clothes we were once again ready to go. We drove over to the Polynesian and looked around the hotel and the shops as we were a few minutes early for our PS at OhanaĎs. While we were walking around out back near the pool we came across a couple of rabbits who were obviously used to being around people. They let us get really close and we got some really good pictures and video. (Hey, who needs the Animal Kingdom?) After that we checked in at Ohanas and sat down at the lounge next door to wait. Debbie was feeling really sick all of a sudden so she went to the rest room while Caity and I watched Last Comic Standing and I enjoyed an ice cold beer. Debbie returned shortly after we were seated and she was feeling much better. I didnít ask for details, I was just happy for her as this is her favorite restaurant. Dinner, as usual, was fantastic. For my appetizers I mostly ate the Shrimp and Vegetable Wontonís, the Honey Coriander Chicken Wings, and the Stir-Fried Rice. I sampled each of the skewers- the Grilled Tiger Shrimp, the Marinated Sirloin Steak, the Seasoned Turkey Breast, and the Barbecue Pork Loin. The pork was my favorite. And I must say, what makes this meal great for me is the Peanut dipping sauce. YUMMM! Debbie and Caity ate some stuff as well but frankly I was too busy to care. For dessert, I ordered the Kona coffee and Irish Cream Brulee and Debbie had the pineapple with caramel sauce which comes free with the meal. Caity, exhibiting more common sense than her parents, skipped dessert.

After eating, we were stuffed and felt like some activity would do us some good so we decided to head back to the MK for awhile. Since we were in the Poly, it was only a short monorail ride away. When we got there we were trying to head for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad but Spectromagic was running and we got trapped at the entrance of the park right next to the train station. I really didnít mind since we ended up with a really great view. I ended up filming a lot of it and I am really glad I did. With the new digital video camera the lights of the parade came out really colorful instead of bleaching out as they did with my old camera. When the parade passed by we worked our way past the crowds and made it to Frontierland just as (you guessed it) Spectromagic was passing by. So we just gave up on BTMR and decided to ride Pirateís of the Caribbean. We got our own boat and enjoyed our trip, truly a classic ride.

After Pirateís we decided to head for the castle to see the Wishes fireworks show. Time was really running short so we didnít make it to Main Street but we were able to watch them from the back of the castle near the carousel. We actually had a great view of the fireworks but it was not the view that you get from Main Street with the fireworks exploding all around the castle. It was very interesting from where we were though as the fireworks were going off all around us. Caity volunteered to tape the show and she was constantly spinning and turning to get all the action. We had never seen Wishes and it was just as good as we had heard, even from our vantage point. Weíll try to see it again later in the trip.

After Wishes, rather than join the mob heading for the exit we decided to see if we could get in a couple of rides. So we headed on over to BTMR and were able to walk right on. This is Debbieís favorite ride in the MK and we all enjoyed riding at night for a change. Then we went next door to Splash Mountain where we were able to get a boat all to ourselves. This is Caityís and my favorite ride in the MK and even though most of it is inside it was fun riding this at night as well. Especially the view just before the drop. I love the MK at all times but there is something special about it at night. At this point the park was closing so we knew it was time to leave. We headed to Main Street but rather than fight the crush of people we walked through the shops doing a little browsing along the way. We didnít see anything that we had to get right away but did get some ideas for later. We did not have much of a wait at the monorail as we were getting on a resort monorail to return to the Polynesian. In no time at all we had picked up the car (AC still working great) and had made it back to OKW where we wasted no time getting ready for bed. It had been a busy but wonderful day. We were able to visit our two favorite parks (Epcot and MK) and had eaten at one of our favorite restaurants (Ohana). Not too much down time today but we didnít push it to where we were really exhausted. We just took it easy, went with the flow and did what we could. All in all, the day couldnít have been any better. Weíll sleep well tonight and look forward to our day in the Studios tomorrow.

MONDAY, JUNE 21, 2004-

We woke up fairly early this morning without the alarm. Debbie and Caity got ready first and went to Port Orleans Riverside to have breakfast at Boatwrights. I stayed behind to get my shower and to work on the trip report. I just wasnít hungry yet after all the food I had eaten last night. When they got back we got in the car and drove on over to Disney-MGM. Like everybody else we headed on down Sunset blvd. to check out the lines for Tower of Terror and Rock íní Roller Coaster. The standby for TOT was 50 minutes while the standby for RNRC was 25 minutes. I turned to tell Debbie that we needed to get the Fast passes (FP) for TOT (she keeps our annual passes in her belt pack) but she was already picking them up for RNRC. Well, we decided to go ahead and get into the standby line for TOT as I was pretty sure that it wouldnít take us 50 minutes to get through it. Caity, who hasnít ridden this attraction since 1998, was thinking that she was going to give it a try it again. So, I didnít mind a bit of a wait if it meant that Caity was going on with us. Besides, we havenít stood in the regular queue line for awhile and the themeing is really impressive. As it turns out, the wait was far less than the stated time and we were on our elevator in no time. Caity was pretty nervous but ended up loving the ride. It was actually a pretty lame drop sequence but that was probably a good thing for Caityís reintroduction. She was so excited that we bought her a t-shirt and I picked up a couple of HTH drinking glasses. I love these glasses because they are not themed to the attraction but look like real hotel glasses. I had one from before but broke it earlier this year so I bought two this time. On our way out we picked up FP for later. Caity has a new favorite ride at WDW.

We crossed the street and used our FP for RNRC. As usual, this ride was a lot of fun. I ended up riding next to an older guy who looked kind of nervous but I think he enjoyed it after all. I think the ride as a whole is pretty good but I just love the takeoff. Our song for this ride was íDude Looks Like a Ladyí. Not my favorite Aerosmith song but we do seem to get it a lot. Still, itís better than no music at all.

After RNRC we decided to check out the lines for the Great Movie Ride so we headed on down the the Chinese Theater. The lines were a little longer than I would have liked but not too bad so we went ahead and got in line. The queue was almost completely indoors which influenced our decision as it was already very hot outside. Also, today is our only scheduled Studio day so if we want to ride an attraction we need to go ahead and ride it if the lines arenít too bad. Anyway, the line went pretty quick and I think Caity enjoyed this attraction much more than she has in the past. We are huge movie buffs (I know, I promise IĎll stop saying that) and she has seen a lot more of the movies featured in this ride since her last time riding it. I remember her first time riding this at four years old and she was absolutely terrified by the Alien section. (This was back when the creature in the ceiling really dropped down with his arms outstretched.) We didnít know about this scary part at that time and were really unprepared. Well, we just recently watched the original Alien movie at home with Caity (sheís almost 17 now) and she enjoyed that part of the ride along with the rest. I think this whole thing may be an indication of how old I am getting but letís not go there right now.

We decided that we wanted just a small bite for lunch before we returned to TOT to use our FP so we went to the Sunset Ranch Market to see what was offered there. Caity got a cheese pizza from Eddies Pizza and said that it was the best pizza that she has ever eaten. High praise indeed coming from Caity who really knows her pizza. Debbie and I decided to split a footlong hotdog from the Toluca Turkey Leg Company. I gotta say, it was really excellent. Disneyís fast food is not cheap, but it is usually very good and the quantities are almost always more than sufficient. We relaxed for a few minutes while we finished our drinks and I updated TR notes while Debbie fed the sparrows pizza crust. I know, I know, but if Disney really doesnít want you to feed the birds why would they put the song in their movie?

It was now time to use our FP for TOT. The drop sequence this time was fantastic, really a lot of fun. Caity still enjoyed it so we bought a picture to celebrate this important step towards adulthood. Then we picked up ice creams to eat on the way to Who Wants to be a Millionaire?. Our timing was perfect and we walked right in. When they asked the first question to see who would play a guy in his 20ís tied with a girl who looked to be about 5 years old. Well, they ended up asking three tiebreakers before the guy eventually won. It was quite funny because the questions that they kept getting wrong were very easy and they were really teasing the guy. He finally made it to the hot seat but lost on the second question. The next guy who made the hot seat got to the 1000 point mark before losing. After the show we got right back in line for the next one. This show was also unremarkable except that at one point I made it onto the leader board. By the way, partway through this show I decided to really try to make it to the hot seat. I am very nervous in front of crowds and have never seriously tried to answer the questions quickly. But I decided to throw caution to the wind and make a real effort this time. Not a problem as I didnít do all that well anyway. There was one question (I donít remember what it was) that I just didnít know the answer to and that did me in.

After failing miserably at Millionaire we decided to look around the Muppet store since we have never done this before. We saw a lot of Beaker shirts and merchandise so I guess he must have quite a following that I just didnít know about. Then we headed back to Millionaire for one last go. This show was pretty unremarkable except that at one point Debbie and Caity made it onto the leader board.

After this we looked around some of the shops on Hollywood Boulevard for awhile and then headed on over to the Brown Derby where we had Priority Seating. We checked in and cooled off in the lobby for a short while before being seated. I was pleased to see that the restaurant was pretty much full as in the past when we have dined here it has always been almost deserted. We enjoyed the Lobster Bisque so much at the Coral Reef yesterday that we all ordered it for an appetizer today. It was very good but not as good as yesterdays. For my entrée I ordered the Center Cut Filet of Beef with Dijon crushed red potatoes, Bernaise aioli and Merlot jus or, as we say in Virginia- I ordered the steak. This meal was fantastic and I enjoyed every bite. Debbie and Caity didnít want anything heavy (after a day in the heat) and just ordered a Mixed Field Green Salad for each of them. Debbie was custom ordering the salads (which came with a lot of extras in them) and ended up really confusing the poor waitress. She eventually figured out what Debbie wanted so all was well. For dessert we all ordered the Bananas Foster Marscapone Cheesecake with Cherry Compote and I also ordered a cup of coffee. As is always the case in this restaurant the meal was excellent and I must say that the cheesecake was phenomenal. My wallet was hurting a little but for the meal that we had it was well worth it.

During dinner we had been discussing what to do tonight and the girls were really in the mood for a movie. We also needed to do a little laundry so I volunteered to stay behind and do that while they went out. I didnít mind at all. I was really in the mood to relax for awhile with The DaVinci Code and could easily do that while keeping an eye on the laundry. So I dropped the girls at Downtown Disney and headed back to OKW where I loaded the dirty clothes into a couple pillowcases (which I also washed) and headed over to the laundry room next to the main pool. I got a nice surprise as I had forgotten that the washers and dryers are free here. I bought some Tide and Downey from the dispenser and started two loads- one light and one dark. No pink socks for me. I know to separate. Then I went into Conch Flats to look around and bought two shirts that I had been eyeballing earlier. I went ahead and removed the tags and threw them in with the rest of the laundry. Then I settled down with my book as the loads ran. The washers arenít exactly quick and while I was waiting the DVC Ferry arrived with Debbie and Caity on board. They told me that they had decided to see Dodgeball. They said in spite of moments of just plain silliness at times it was laugh out-loud funny. I guess Iíll see it when it hits cable at home. The girls headed back to the room while I went to transfer the clothes to the dryers. It was starting to rain so I decided to go back to the room as well. I went back to check the clothes after awhile but I could see that they would be quite awhile yet (very slow dryers) so I went back and got a shower so I wonít have to in the morning as I will obviously be up late tonight. After my shower I went and got the clothes and enjoyed a couple cold Coronas as I updated TR notes and read my book some more. I finally made it to bed around 1:00 a.m. I still wasnít feeling all that tired but knew that I would be up fairly early so I laid down and feel asleep with no problem. Today was another great day.

TUESDAY, JUNE 22, 2004-

I woke up this morning at 6:45 without the alarm. We ate breakfast in the room today- donuts and muffins that Debbie had bought at Conch Flats last night. And, of course, weíve been utilizing the in-room coffeemaker. We left OKW about 8:45 and were through the gates at the Animal Kingdom by 9:00. We rented a locker just inside the entrance and, of course, headed right to the Safari to pick up Fastpasses. Then we headed over to Dinoland to ride Primeval Whirl for the first time. The wait time was posted as 15 minutes and that was just about right. It was pretty good. Weíve always enjoyed Wild Maus roller coasters and this one kicked it up a notch with the spinning cars. I held up the video camera and filmed most of the ride. Yes, I am that much of a geek. Debbie, who does not do well on spinning rides, almost celebrated the ride by doing the Primeval Hurl. But, once off, she recovered pretty quickly. It does, however, make me a little nervous about how sheíll do on Mission: Space. But I kept this to myself.

After PW we walked over to Dionosaur (CTX in my heart) and basically walked right through until we hit the stairs leading down to the loading area. Unfortunately, at this point the ride broke down, and we had about a five minute wait. Being on the stairs we had a great place to sit. Also, it provided a good vantage point to grab some video and a couple pictures, which are normally hard to get in this area. The ride was very fun, as usual. I remember the first time I rode this ride. I was seated in the back, left seat. At the point where the Carnotaurus starts to chase the car I remember thinking ĎOh, my God, heís way too closeí. Thatís how realistic this ride is. We still laugh about it, because I normally donít get spooked by anything.

At this point we were ready for a snack and it was hot so, of course, that means ice cream. We went on over to the soft serve place which is near Donaldís Restaurantosaurus. Caity and I got soft serve cones and Debbie got a Coke Float. All were very refreshing. Disney has the best soft serve that I have tried anywhere. While we were resting in the shade I noticed the DVC kiosk that they have here in Dinoland. The sigh on the top says, ĎFRESH DIGSí. I thought that was kind of clever considering the paleontology theme in this area.

We finished our treats on the way back over to Africa as our FP time for the Safari had arrived. This is a good example of why we love the FP system. Instead of standing in line for the Safari, we were able to ride two attractions and get a snack. You gotta love that. The safari was pretty good this time. We saw a lot of animals, but very few of them close up. After the safari, we walked through the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail. This was excellent this time as the Silverback, the mother, and the baby gorillas were resting right next to the glass. It was really great. The Cast Member in that area said to take all the pictures that we want as it doesnít bother the gorillas at all. We were really thrilled as we have rarely been able to get a good view of them at all.

After walking the trail we went over to Itís Tough to Be a Bug to pick up Fastpasses and then to Pizzafari for lunch. We love how bright and colorful this restaurant is. For her meal, Caity ordered the Mesquite Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad. Debbie ordered the Pepperoni Pizza. I ordered the Hot Italian Deli Sandwich with Chips. I figured that this sandwich would be okay, but to my surprise it was wonderful. It consisted of turkey, ham, Swiss and Provolone cheese topped with Caesar salad and pesto marinated tomatoes. The flavors mingled together were excellent. Or, I guess I should say most of them. As I went to take my first bite of this substantial sandwich a lot of the toppings slid out of it and into my lap. Basically, it was just the tomatoes and some of the lettuce which were made slippery by the salad dressing. Wow, what a mess. Nice move, Dave. The last time we ate here I managed to spill a LARGE Diet Coke all over the floor. Somehow, I just seem to be jinxed in this restaurant. Well, todays spill was messy and I was less than thrilled but I eventually got over it. Iím allergic to tomatoes so I should have pulled off the sandwich anyway. But if you do eat here sometime soon you should really try this excellent sandwich. Just be careful.

After we finished we headed on over to Itís Tought to Be a Bug. It was really funny because at one point (the crawling bugs, I guess) an old man jumped to his feet in fright. Thats what keeps these 3D movies interesting, watching the other people. After the film we walked on over to Kali River Rapids but the standby line was way too long and the Fastpass Return was 4:00 - 5:00 which would be too late for us. Too bad. Did I mention how hot it was? Since it was fairly close and the timing was right we decided to go ahead and see Flights of Wonder. This is always a favorite of ours. It changes to some extent from year to year but the bird tricks are always pretty much the same. I got a really good picture of the hawk as he flew right over my head.

It was getting close to the time that we wanted to leave but we decided to visit the Maharaja Jungle Trek on our way out. Most of the animals were staying out of the heat but there were a lot of tigers out and about which is the important thing. They were actually walking around quite a bit which is good so that everybody could see them. Usually they are in one spot and everybody is crowded around one or two windows. At this point, we had all seen enough so we headed out and drove to OKW. The car has leather seats which makes sitting difficult when we are wearing shorts but as I said before the air conditioner is amazing. Literally, in a manner of seconds, the car is cooled down. Ahhhhhhhh, best ride yet.

When we got to OKW it was too late for a swin, but the showers felt wonderful and we all felt refreshed as we headed to the Animal Kingdom Lodge for our dinner at Bomaís. This was my favorite meal last time and I was really looking forward to this dinner. We were seated in just a couple of minutes and in no time at all we were cruising the buffet. Everyone was trying so many things that I couldnít keep up and just wrote down what I had for this meal. I started off with a bowl of the Curried Coconut Seafood Stew. This was a little spicy and very, very good. It surprised me as I was not really expecting to like it that much. For my main meal I had the Pot Roast, the African Spiced Centre Cut Sirloin, the Durban Spiced Roasted Chicken, the Tamarind Barbecue Salmon, Potatoes with Afritude, Pap, Falafel, and something called Bobotie, but I donít remember what that was. For dessert, of course, I had the Zebra Domes, the Chocolate Mousse and the Meringue Nut Roll. Everything was very good but I am noticing a disconcerting trend on this trip. I donít seem to be able to eat as much as I used to. Iím only 45, but I canít seem to pack it away like I could when I was 25. Itís really upsetting when the meal is as good as this. By the way, for our drinks we all decided to have smoothies. I had a Mocha, Debbie had a Kiwi, and Caity had a Lemon. Very refreshing.

After eating we wanted to walk around a little so we went out back to check out the animals. It made me feel a little bit like I did at the Coral Reef when we were in front of the aquarium eating fish. I tried not to look guilty as I was taking pictures. Two of the animals were really close, eating from a pile that had been placed near the viewing area. One was a Zebra and the other was a large deer or antelope type of creature. I donít remember exactly. After visiting for awhile we headed inside to walk around the store for awhile. This has got to be the best of the hotel stores. It has a very interesting mix of African merchandise as well as the usual hotel themed souvenir stuff. We spent a fair amount here on our last trip but didnít buy anything this time.

At this point, after a long, hot day and a large meal, nothing sounded better than a swim. So we drove back to OKW, changed into our suits, and crossed the street to the main pool. Our room really is convenient. We really lucked out for our first stay at OKW. The night was beautiful and perfect for a swim. The pool was busy but not crowded. We very much enjoyed ourselves and swam for awhile before heading back to our room. We got back just at 9:00 and watched ĎLast Comic Standingí and then a couple episodes of ĎWhoís Line Is It Anywayí before calling it a night. Once, again, a wonderful day at WDW.

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 23, 2004-

We woke up to the alarm at 6:30. Debbie and I got our showers and let Caity sleep a little longer. She got hers last night. She was smart. She was wide awake after swimming last night and knew that she would appreciate the extra sleeping time this morning I felt great after a good nights sleep. Today is a non-park day. We have an appointment at 9:00 to tour Saratoga Springs which is the DVC resort that we have purchased an interest in. For breakfast we rode over to Pop Century to grab a bite in their food court. As expected, it was crowded, but not quite as bad as I thought it would be. This is a very large resort and I know that the common areas can get very cowded at times. Debbie and Caity each got the Breakfast Platter which consisted of Bacon, Sausage, Scrambled Eggs, Hash Browns, and a biscuit. I decided to just get some oatmeal since I had eaten so much last night I really was not all that hungry. Of course, the oatmeal tasted just like cardboard but a couple packets of sugar and some honey helped. At one point, I went up to the self- serve counter to get Caity some salt and I saw a lady literally covering her breakfast platter (same one that Debbie and Caity got) with ketchup. Iíve heard of ketchup on eggs but she covered her bacon, sausage, and hash browns too. At least she didnít cover her biscuit. After I finished my oatmeal I went outside and took a couple of pictures of some of the nearby icons. I got the large Play Doh can and the Baloo & Mowgli icons. We had really hoped to tour the resort a little but it was time to head over to Saratoga Springs. When we got there we were directed to the sales offices where we met up with Linda who is our sales representative. She took us on a tour of the resort. She was very nice and took a lot of time with us even though we have already purchased. She said it was unusual for someone to just call and complete the transaction over the phone like we did with basically no selling necessary on their part. But we had already done all the research that we needed to do on the DVC and for us it was just a matter of raising the money. Once that was accomplished it was just a matter of doing the paperwork. Anyway, Linda was very accommodating. She showed us the Studio, the One Bedroom, the Two Bedroom, and the Grand Villa. All were gorgeous and we couldnít have been happier that we bought into SS. After showing us the rooms she told us that she couldnít take us through the common areas as that would be intrusive to the guests but that we could look around as much as we wanted to on our own. That sounded perfect to me, so we thanked her and explored for about an hour or so. As with the rooms, we were very impressed. I love the colors and the overall look of this resort. It has a horse racing theme. It is very classy looking but is not stuffy at all, which was one of our concerns. I love OKW, but Iím really disappointed that we couldnít stay here on this trip. On the plus side, however, there is still a lot of construction going on, and it really is obtrusive, so perhaps it is for the better. Besides, as I said before, with OKW being the original DVC resort, it really seems appropriate to be staying there for our first DVC vacation.

After looking around, we stopped by the ice cream parlor where Linda told us we could get a complimentary treat. We each had a small sundae before we headed on out. My only disappointment with this visit was that I was not able to find a SS shirt in my size. This was something that I really wanted in anticipation of next years trip. Well, better luck next time.

After finishing up at SS we headed on over to the Wilderness Lodge where we planned on having some lunch today. But first, we walked over to the WL Villas to have a look around. The person at the desk said that no one was available to show us around any of the units but that was okay. We didnít really want to spend too much time here, anyway. So we just spent a few minutes looking around the grounds, i.e. pool, and relaxed for a little while in the Iron Spike Room. This is like the common room/den for the WL Villas and is really nice. It is full of train memorabilia as Walt loved trains. They even had one of the cars from Waltís backyard train. Pretty cool for Disney geeks like me.

After visiting the Villas we walked over to the Whispering Canyon Café to rustle up some vittles- I mean, lunch. Debbie and I both ordered the Cowpoke Pork Sandwich which is slow-smoked pulled pork with baked beans and steak fries. We both enjoyed this very much. Caity ordered the Marshallís Chicken Sandwich which was a grilled marinated chicken breast topped with espresso barbecue sauce, bacon, Tillamook cheddar cheese and steak fries. She liked hers as well even though she is not a huge fan of barbecue sauce. Our waiter was very funny giving the kid at the table next to ours a hard time for chewing gum at WDW. When Debbie asked for some Cole Slaw to go on her sandwich he went from table to table trying to find her some. (He eventually got her some from the kitchen.) He was good because he was fun without being overly obnoxious or intrusive. He would kid around for a few seconds and then leave you to enjoy your meal. Just the right balance.

After lunch we headed back to OKW where Debbie and Caity took naps while I headed to the pool where I finished íThe DaVinci Codeí. I also had a new book with me that I started. Itís a nonfiction book by Michael Crichton called íTravelsí. I had read it in 1988 when it first came out and have been anxious to read it again but have been unable to find it until just before the trip. After awhile I headed on back to the room and found Caity outside walking around taking pictures. She said her mom was still asleep so I woke her when I got back and then I took a shower before we headed on out again. Our plan was to visit Downtown Disney which is customary on our non-park day. We hopped on the DVC Ferry (formerly the Trumbo Ferry) and arrived at DD in just a few minutes. Thereís not a lot to see on the way but it is a pleasant ride nonetheless.

Our first stop was íDisney at Homeí where we just looked around for awhile. Then we walked over to the íDays of Christmasí. We looked around here quite a bit and ended up purchasing a 4-pack of glass ornaments and left then to personalized. We decided to have each of our names put on one and DVC 2004 put on the fourth. Just to commemorate our firsy year in DVC. (Plus we couldnít think of anything else.)

After this we were hungry and hadnít really made any plans for dinner so we decided to give the íEarl of Sandwichí a try. Wow, what a great decision. I must tell you, I loved this restaurant. These people really know how to make a sandwich. It looks to me like they make the sandwich on bread that isnít quite cooked all the way. They put the ingredients in the middle, wrap it in foil, and heat the sandwich which finishes cooking the bread. So you end up with a sandwich which comes out on bread that tastes freshly baked. It is absolutely superb. I ordered The Original which is fresh roasted beef, cheddar and creamy horseradish sauce. I think itís the best sandwich I have ever eaten. Caity ordered the Cannonballs which is a hot meatball sandwich in tomato sauce with provolone and mozzarella cheese. She thought hers was excellent as well. Debbie had a cold Chicken Salad sandwich which she said was good but the bread crust was hard. Her sandwich was made ahead of time which probable accounted for the difference. If they had to replace the Gourmet Pantry, which I loved, I guess I canít complain about what they replaced it with.

After our dinner we we on over to the Scrapbook Store and the Art of Disney store which share a building. While the girls browsed for scrapbook supplies I looked through the artwork on the other side. I (meaning my wallet) had been dreading this particular shopping excursion but I must admit that they used a lot more discretion than I had expected. It just amazes me how expensive scrap booking supplies are. Our next stop was the World of Disney. For once, I wasnít able to find all that much that I really felt like I had to have. I did buy a íWishesí CD and a nice duffel bag for carrying souvenirs home in. We had them deliver our purchases to our hotel since we are on our way over to Pleasure Island.

We left the World of Disney and walked right into PI since they are no longer taking tickets at the gate. They are now checking for admission media at the clubs and giving you the appropriate wristbands at that time. You know, to show whether you are over 21 or not. We stopped and got our wristbands at the Adventurers Club. We really didnít stay long at all. Caity was nervous about going in since thay made fun of her last time, you know, being a kid in a bar. It was all in good fun, but she was embarrassed anyway. She waited upstairs while Debbie and I just had a quick look around to see if they had any AC merchandise that I could get. I really enjoy this club and was hoping to get a shirt or something but I couldnít really find anything. Weíll come back in another year or two when Caity feels a little more comfortable. She turns 17 in September and looks older so I donít think they would pick on her this year but I really donít mind waiting.

Besides, it was already 9:00 and the next Comedy Warehoure show starts at 9:15 so went on across the street and got in line. We were let in in just a few minutes and I was really excited to be here. I havenít visited this club in a long time and I had really been looking forward to it. Debbie and I ordered a drink to enjoy during the show, which turned out to be really funny. It was a little off color but not too much for a 16 year old. There was one drink guy in the audience who was really obnoxious and kept yelling things out but they really handled him well. I guess they are used to that here. I donít remember who sang it but there was one song about a squirrel who had a tail that was Bushy, Bushy, Bushy. It sounds stupid now but it was really funny in the song and we kept singing that part now and then for the remainder of the trip. Anyway, the show was very enjoyable but at this point the day was starting to catch up with us so we decided to head on out. Of course, we had to stop by the Candy Cauldron first. I got a huge Peanut Butter Cup and something called Peanut Butter Heaven. Caity got a chocolate covered pretzel and Debbie got chocolate covered cherries. The girls went ahead and ate theirs but I put mine in the fridge back at the room to save for later. The ferry ride was uneventful. Caity immediately crashed in the room but Debbie and I grabbed showers before getting into bed. No parks today, but a great day nonetheless.

THURSDAY, JUNE 24, 2004-

I woke up this morning at 6:40. Thank goodness. I had set the alarm last night for 6:30 but I must have made a mistake as it never went off. Debbie and Caity both took showers but I didnít since I took one so late last night. Thank goodness for really short hair. Weíre all kind of tired this morning after the late night last night. Hey, isnít that what vacations are for? We left OKW at about 8:30 and got to Epcot 15 minutes before opening. The crowds were already huge. Just before countdown for entry a double-decker bus full of characters came by and they spent a few minutes waving at the crowd. As soon as they let us in we went and got Mission: Space FP for 10:20. Then we walked over to Test Track which was still pretty much a walk-on at this point and got in line behind a woman and her son who were riding for the first time. They were a little nervous but we assured them that they would love it. We saw them after the ride and, of course, they did. After TT, we went into Mouse Gear which is one of my favorite stores at WDW. Even when I walk in and out of other stores without finding anything I can always find something that I want here. If I was smart I would avoid this store from now on. But today I hit the jackpot. I found a really nice Mission:Space shirt and a MS glass. I also found a couple nice Souvenir DVDís. One was called íWhere Magic Lives. Walt Disney Worldí. The other was exclusively about the Magic Kingdom and was called, of course, íMagic Kingdomí. Iím still waiting for them to release a dvd containing a nostalgic look at WDW including complete ride-throughs of some of the discontinued attractions from the parks. I would buy that in a heartbeat. For example: I think it would be really neat to have a record of what Downtown Disney offered when it was still the Disney Village Marketplace. They could even release separate DVDís for each decade- WDW in the 70ís, 80ís, etc. Oh, well, itíll probably never happen. The last thing we got was a pack of Band-Aids for Caity. She has started to develop blisters on her heels.

Finally it was time to head on over to Mission: Space. I hope I like it since Iíve already purchased the souvenirs. Something tells me it wonít be a problem. Debbie is very anxious about this ride. Anxious sounds better than nervous, doesnít it? Debbie doesnít do well on rides that spin, and thatís what this ride is all about. Iíve heard that if you donít turn your head to the side during the ride you will be fine so I made sure that Debbie knew this. I think that Caity was a little bit nervous too, but not too bad. The only bad thing about having FP for this attraction is that you donít get to see the preshow and the excellently themed queue area as well. But thatís all right. Iíll make the sacrifice. We were on the ride in no time. We were joined by a woman in her late 40ís which made me kind of nervous. Iím right next to her. I wonder if sheís heard about the no turning the head thing? When we finally entered the ride I was very pleased to see that they actually supply barf bags in case one becomes necessary. When the ride started I loved it immediately. This ride is really excellent in its execution from start to finish. It really is a class act and a feather in Disneys cap. Of course, Iíve never flown in a real rocket, but this is very much as I imagined it. Nobody got sick and we all loved it.

After our journey through space and the return to the heat of Earth we decided that it was a good time to head on over to Ice Station Cool for some refreshment. Caity and I tried some of everything but Debbie skipped on the Beverly. Afterwards, we headed on over to the Universe of Energy to see Ellenís Energy Adventure. As usual, I really enjoyed the preshow but this time I slept through almost all of the ride itself. Oh, well, a little nap now and then can do some good.

It was lunchtime now so we headed over to the Electric Umbrella. We were all hungry because we had just eaten a light breakfast in the room. {I think Debbie and Caity were a little worried about M:S.) We all got the Bacon Double Cheeseburger plate which was really very good. I think I mentioned before, Disney is expensive, but their fast food is usually good and the portions are almost always too much. Anyway, this really hit the spot. Afterwards, we stopped by Spaceship Earth to check the standby time but it was more than we wanted to wait so we just headed on back to OKW for some down time. We changed into our swimsuits and had a good two hour swim. It was absolutely wonderful. The water felt great on this nice but hot day. When we had had enough we relaxed in the room for awhile, then we got our showers and headed back to Epcot, refreshed and rested.

We got there about 4:20 and it was still really hot out- 95 degrees with a heat factor over 100 degrees. Our first stop was Spaceship Earth which had a 5 minute wait. Much better than the 30 minute wait that we had seen earlier. I still enjoy this attraction, especially when its this hot. Next we headed on over to England to lok around for a bit. We went into the shop with all the English candy. Iíve been lucky enough to visit England a few times so Iíve tried a lot of this candy and I would have loved to have sampled it again but with it selling for about $2.50 per candy bar I decided that this bit of nostalgia would have to wait until another time. After we left the store Caity took a picture of me next to one of the lampposts right there in the village square in England. I have a wallpaper on my computer which is a really pretty picture of England (in Epcot). I was using this as my desktop for the last few weeks before our vacation. One day, out of the blue, I told Caity that I wanted her to take my picture in front of the lamppost which was pretty much in the center of the picture. So thatís what we did. I know, Iím a real dork.

At this point we could hear Off Kilter starting up so we headed over to Canada to watch them for a little while. I still canít believe how much these guys put into their show regardless of how hot it is. One song that they played was the Bryan Adams song íSummer of 69í which was really neat because we have heard this song a lot on the radio since weíve been down here and it has become our unofficial theme song for this vacation. So we were surprised to hear OK play it. Itís almost like they were playing it for us. (I know, youíre saying get over yourself, bit I did say almost ;-)). We had to leave just before the end of the show which we hated to do but we have PS at Le Cellier and I hate being late for anything. So we snuck out and headed for the restaurant. We had a short wait for a table so we were able to sit outside in the shade and hear the end of OKís set.

While we were sitting there I noticed two things. One, they no longer give you an I-Pod to let you know when your table is ready. You get a pager now like they used to do. Secondly, I noticed that the sign for the restaurant actually reads- íLe Cellier- A Place for Wineí. Which, in my warped brain, brought to mind the phrase, íThe Cellar- A Place to Hide the Bodiesí. I donít know why. It just kept going through my head. I know, youíre right. Iíve gotta cut back on those scary movies. Anyway, just to show you how normal I really am, while we were waiting we really enjoyed watching a couple of rabbits that kept sneaking out of the flowerbeds to eat some grass right there in Victoria Gardens. They were really cute and mostly unconcerned with the goings-on around them.

After just a few minutes we were paged and quickly shown to our table. For their appetizer Debbie and Caity ordered the famous Cheddar Cheese Soup. I wanted to try something different so I ordered the Beef and Barley Soup. I was very pleased. It was excellent. For my entrée I ordered the Maple Ginger Glazed Salmon. It came with Asian Noodle ďsoupĒ, baby carrots, shitake mushrooms, and fresh spinach. It was good but the salmon was different from what I have had in the past. I think I liked it just a little better before. However, I would still highly recommend it if you are in the mood for fish. Debbie and Caity both ordered the Sauteed Shrimp Pasta with Salmon. They both said it was good and I think they would have loved it except that it came with capers which neither are crazy about. Tonight we decided to order dessert. Debbie ordered the Peach Cobbler which got a huge thumbs up. Caity ordered the Honey and Mascarpone Cheesecake which she really enjoyed as well. I, however, won the prize. I ordered the Dessert Sampler. It consisted of a piece of Chocolate Cake, a serving of Maple Crème Brule and a small scoop of Raspberry Sorbet. All of the items complemented each other and everything went down excellently with a cup of hot coffee. I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed tonightís dinner.

After dinner we decided to start our tour of the countries. We are going to just do some quick visits tonight doing what we can to take some of the pressure off of our next visit. We skipped England since we had already visited it earlier and bypassed France as well but took some photos for the scrapbook. We stopped in Morocco and watched a few minutes of Moí Rockiní before we headed on to Japan. We spent quite a few minutes looking around their huge store. This is probably my favorite spot to shop in the World Showcase. The only thing I bought today was an Iron Chef t-shirt. I had intended to buy one on our last trip but never got around to it so Iíve been waiting all this time. Itís funny, sometimes, the things that we feel we have to have. ;-)

After finishing up in Japan our next stop was the American Pavilion and we decided to go inside as the American Adventure was about to start. I love this show but I always forget just how good it is until I see it again. Sure, it may be a little over the top, but I just love the song íGolden Dreamí. I was very pleased and a little chocked up to see Ronald Reagan in the montage at the end of the song. I had completely forgotten he was in there. By the way, the flags have been at half mast all week due to his passing.

As we were leaving the pavilion we found that it was absolutely pouring with rain outside. There was also a lot of thunder and lightning. We waited inside for a few minutes to allow things to settle down a little. Then, as we were walking towards the exit in the light rain, Illuminations began. I was amazed that it was going in spite of the weather. We didnít stop to watch it but the crowds were very low at this point so we could see it for the entire walk around the lake. We ended up seeing the whole thing and were near the exit just as it ended. We didnít hear much of the song íPromiseí, which I love, but thatís okay, Iíve heard it plenty of times.

We got back to the room about 9:45. Debbie and Caity walked over to Goods to pick up some ice cream to eat while we watched íWhoís Line is it Anyway?í. After the show Debbie and Caity went to bed while I got in the bath to read (Yes, Iím not embarrassed to admit it!) and I finally made it to bed around midnight. It was another great day in spite of the rain at the end.

FRIDAY, JUNE 25, 2004-

The alarm went off at 6:30 this morning. I slept in until 7:30 while the girls got ready. For breakfast, Caity and I ate some Hostess Chocolate Chip Muffins with coffee. Hey, weíre on vacation. Give me a break. Debbie is not so much into the chocolate thing (I didnít realize until we were already married ;-)) so we went to Goods to get her a Danish. On our way over we saw one of the rabbits that live in the bushes near our building. We see them enough that Debbie and I have actually named two of them. Debbie calls hers Bugsy and I have named mine Bushy in honor of the song from the Comedy Warehouse the other night. We ended up leaving the room about 8:20 but were unable to pull out of our parking space as there was a van sitting in the lot just behind us. I wasnít worried as I could see the driver coming out of the building. Well, all he did was throw something in the back and go back in. So I pulled my car back a little just to let them know we were trying to leave and they actually looked at us and continued to walk back and forth to their room. Seriously, all they needed to do was pull back a couple of feet and we could have left. But they decided to ignore us. Finally, Debbie said something to them (politely) and they moved their van, acting a little put out by it. Honestly, whatever happened to old fashioned courtesy. If I had been blocking somebody I would have apologized and moved immediately. I guess it takes all kinds.

Once we were on the road we made it to the TTC in no time at all. Today, we decided to take the Monorail to the Magic Kingdom. Upon entering the park, Caity headed to Splash Mountain for FP and Debbie and I headed over to Mickeyís Philharmonic and waited for her there. Ah, the perks of old age. After she arrived we walked right in and saw our second showing of MP. This really is a very good show. After the show Debbie said that she wanted to Pooh. At least, thatís what I heard. I eventually figured out that what she said was that she wanted to go on the Pooh ride so we walked over and got on with no wait as well. After, going on this ride we were looking through the shop and we noticed a very strong smell of bacon in the air. Iíve never noticed this in the MK before. It smelled great but the timing for us wasnít the best. Here we were walking around the Pooh store looking at a lot of Piglet merchandise and all we can smell is bacon. Could this be Disneyís subtle way to sell more Piglet plushies? Naw, even Disney wouldnĎt go that far. Hopefully, none of the children put two and two together ;-). Next, we quickly went on Peter Pan and Snow Whiteís Adventures. Then we headed on over to Splash Mountain to use our Fastpasses. After Disneyís lesson in reverse psychology (Donít throw me in that briar patch!) we went next door to ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. This is Debbieís favorite. For some reason I canít seem to resist filming this whole ride and did so for probably the sixth time.

At this point it was lunchtime so we crossed the park and went to Tonyís Town Square. They werenít open just yet so we waited outside for a few minutes. Since I had a couple minutes I climbed the steps to the top level of the train station to take a picture of Main Street with the flag at half mast in honor of the passing of Ronald Reagan. When I got back they were letting people inside and just before the restaurant opened the Dapper Danís came in to sing a couple songs. It was a nice touch. They fit in perfectly with the theming of the restaurant. When they were done everybody was escorted inside. We were seated at a patio table at the front of the restaurant. It was completely enclosed, thank goodness, as it was very hot outside at this point. For my lunch, I ordered the Spaghetti with Meatballs. I was disappointed at first. Usually I order a steak here but none was on the menu this time. But the spaghetti turned out to be very good. Debbie and Caity ordered the Baked Ziti but they said that it was just okay. The salad was all mixed greens which made Debbie and Caity very happy. I guess Iím probably the only person who misses salads made exclusively with Iceberg Lettuce. None of us ordered dessert today figuring we would enjoy an ice cream later.

After lunch we picked up Fastpasses for Buzz Lightyear (2:00- 3:00) and went on into Timekeeper. Then we went into Carousel of Progress. One good thing about Alien Encounter being closed is the fact that both of these attractions are open for now. This could very well be our last ride on each. You never know. Unfortunately, I kept falling asleep during COP. The big lunch and the cool theater with the comfortable seats was just too much for me. The funny thing is, I kept dozing off while I was videotaping. I canít wait to see that ;-). Afterwards, we were all ready for something cool and sweet so we stopped at one of the ice cream carts. I got a Premium Mickey Bar, Debbie got a Mickey ice cream sandwich, and Caity got a Nestle Crunch. We sat in the shade and enjoyed those before heading in to protect the universe from the evil Emperor Zurg. Caity rode by herself and was disappointed to find out that I had filmed the ride in lieu of shooting the aliens. I guess she had done well and wanted to vindicate her loss on Men in Black. After this we decided to head back to OKW for our break but we stopped on the way out at the candy shop where Caity and I picked up some candy covered pretzels.

When we got back to the room Debbie and Caity took a nap while I read my book for a couple hours. At about 5:30 Caity went over to the pool for a swim. Debbie stayed behind to start getting ready for our dinner at the California Grill tonight. The swim was very refreshing and just what we needed. After Caity and I got ready we drove on over to the Contemporary. We checked on at the guard gate and the guard told us where to park if we werenít using valet parking. I got a little confused and I think I pulled into the parking lot through a designated exit but we found a parking spot with no problem.. We walked into the hotel and made our way up to the second floor where they had a desk set up to check-in for the California Grill. The desk person called up to the restaurant and a Greeter came down and took us up in the elevator right to the 15th floor. The restaurant takes up this whole floor which is basically a penthouse atop the hotel. She took us right to our table which was located right up against the window. The view was incredible. To the right, you can see the Magic Kingdom. As you look towards the left you are looking out across the Seven Seas Lagoon. You can see the Polynesian and the Grand Floridian Resorts. As you continue to the left the Disney property extends to the horizon where we could see a huge line of thunderstorms approaching. Itís got to be one of the best tables in the restaurant.

For our appetizer we decided to split the Four Cheese Flatbread. We all enjoyed this very much. It was very nicely prepared. I assume in a brick oven or something similar. We all ended up ordering the same entrée, as well. We ordered the Filet Mignon with Four Cheese Gratin. I guess we were all in the mood for a steak. Believe me, this one did not disappoint. They were all tasty and tender and cooked to perfection. For dessert I ordered the Warm Virhona Chocolate Cake with Molten Center. It came with White Chocolate Ice Cream. Wow, what a fantastic dessert. With a hot cup of coffee it was perfection personified. Debbie ordered the Creamy Rice Pudding with Coconut Panna Cotta, Tropical Fruits, and Exotic Fruit Sorbet. This was perfect for her. Just the kind of thing that she likes. Caity skipped dessert tonight. The meal was fantastic and came to about $195 before the tip. Itís the most I have ever spent on a meal and Iíll probably never spend that much again, but I felt that it was money well spent considering the total package. Watching the sunset behind the Magic Kingdom as we ate our meal was an experience that I will never forget. Also, the thunderstorms that were approaching from the left had an incredible amount of lightning activity. I have never seen lightning so active. The atmosphere, the food, and the service were all top notch. On every trip we have one major extravagance and this meal was it for this year. (On our last trip we took the Illuminations Cruise on the Breathless.) Completely satisfied, it was time to leave.

Unfortunately, at this point the storm was directly overhead and moving very slowly so we knew that the Magic Kingdom was out for tonight. We decided to head on back to OKW. As we were leaving the Contemporary I told the girls to wait at the entrance and I would go and get the car. I ran out to the parking lot to where I was sure I had parked but the car was nowhere to be found. I walked around for about 5- 10 minutes and was unable to locate it. It was only raining lightly at this point but I was very nervous as lightning was literally striking all around me. I went back into the Contemporary very upset because I had decided that I must have accidentally parked in the Valet Parking area by mistake and I was convinced that the car had been towed. I was not happy. All kinds of questions were going through my mind. Where was it towed to? Can I get it back tonight? How much will it cost to get it back? And many more. Fortunately, Debbie and Caity, knowing how I am about losing cars in parking lots (more on that later) decided to brave the storm to take a quick look around. Of course, they pretty much walked right to it. I had parked a lot farther out than I had remembered. It just didnít seem like we had walked that far to get into the hotel when we arrived. Needless to say, I was more than happy to be proven an idiot. We droved back to OKW feeling disappointed that our last night had been cut short by the weather. I must say, this was the worst storm that we have ever encountered in all our trips to WDW. So we just watched íWhoís LineÖ.í and I read for awhile after Debbie and Caity went to bed. I hit the sack around midnight thinking that in spite of the weather it had been a great day after all.

SATURDAY, JUNE 26, 2004-

We woke up this morning at about 6:00. We took turns taking showers, and finished packing while eating some Danish that we had picked up from Goods to Go. Just after 8:00 I started hauling suitcases out to the car. We had Express Checkout so after we finished loading the car we drove on over to the Contemporary. Believe me, I took careful note of where we were parked. We went inside and took the Monorail over to the MK. The MK is a must for us on our last day. Although today we will be visiting Epcot as well since the weather cut our visit short the other night. Immediately upon entering the park, we headed over to Tomorrowland where Debbie and Caity rode Space Mountain. I skipped it as they were only running the right side and for some reason I usually get a bit of a headache on that side. Besides, I wanted a few more pictures and video of the Tomorrowland area. Then we walked over to the pirate shop to pick up a few things. This is one of, if not my favorite store, in all of WDW. Itís just fun. We bought a shirt for Caity, a couple glasses for me, and a metal key ring with three keys on it for Debbie. It is identical to the one held by the dog in the jail scene in POTC. It is very authentic looking and we will hang it in an appropriate spot in our living room.

Afterwards, we stopped by the Sunshine Tree Terrace where Debbie got a Citrus Swirl and Caity and I got some soft serve ice cream. They were really good, especially in this heat. Debbie was disappointed because she really wanted a Dole Whip but the Dole place didnít open until 11:00 and we were on our way out.

We took the Monorail back to the Contemporary and picked up our car and headed on over to Downtown Disney. We had to stop by the Christmas Shop to pick up our personalized ornaments. They looked great so we paid for them and headed on over to Earl of Sandwich to get some lunch. This time I got The Earlís Club which consisted of turkey, apple smoked bacon, Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato and sandwich sauce. I enjoyed this sandwich almost as much as the Original which I had last time. Debbie got the Original this time (fresh roasted beef, cheddar, and creamy horseradish sauce) but I donít think she enjoyed it as much as I did. She did say that her stomach was a little queasy this morning. Caity got the Cannonballs again (meatballs with provolone and mozzarella cheese) and loved it once again. Caity and I each picked up a shirt as well.

After leaving the restaurant I went and retrieved the car and came back to pick them up. Then we drove on over to Epcot. We didnít have too much time for doing anything extra but basically wanted to do the things that we have missed. Upon entering the park, we headed right over to Mexico where we rode El Rio de Tiempo (the boat ride). It is definitely a minor attraction, but I enjoy it just the same. The song, however, is just as repetitive as Itís A Small World and by the end of the ride I had composed some lyrics of my own. I have included them for your enjoyment- ;-)

Listen to Our Song
It Always Sounds the Same
It Gets Stuck in Your Head
And Then You Go Insane.
(Repeat over and over)

It really helps if you know the tune. After this we continued our way around the world taking pictures in all the countries for use in our scrapbook. We did stop in Norway and rode the Maelstrom, staying for the movie, thank you very much. In Italy we stopped to get Debbie and Caityís picture with Gepetto. I donít think weíve ever gotten a picture with him before. In Japan, we stopped and picked up a cherry flavored Kaki Gori for Debbie. We sat as she ate it and were visited by our last rabbit for the trip. He was very close to us and very unafraid. We continued our new tradition of naming the rabbits as Caity christened him Sensei in honor of us being in Japan. After our short break we headed to France where Caity and I picked up soft serve ice cream cones from the stand that also sells crepes. I donít know what kind of ice cream they sell, but it is excellent, especially for soft serve. As we passed Canada we stopped to watch Alberta Bound for a few minutes. I have never seen them before but I liked the little bit we saw today. Then we headed on out of our last Disney park for this trip.

When we got to the car we took the time to pull out a couple of the cases and packed up our last few items so that we wouldnít have to mess with it at the airport. I came across the dirty clothes suitcase and threw the shirt I was wearing into it and put on a nice, clean shirt. Its not that my shirt was dirty but it was very hot out today and the fresh shirt felt good. Besides, thereís nothing classier than changing your shirt in a parking lot. With everything back in the trunk we were off to the airport. Caity summed it up the best when she said that it was so hot that she was actually glad to leave. Once again, we were very thankful for the excellent air conditioner in the Park Avenue. I stopped for gas on the way but even so we were at the airport in a matter of minutes. We pulled up to the Southwest curbside check-in and in about five minutes our bags were checked and we had our boarding passes. Weíre about four hours early so, of course, we are in boarding section A.

Check-in with Avis was very easy. They directed me to where they wanted me to leave the car, asked my name, and checked it on a handheld. He told us to make sure we had all our stuff and we were done. The whole process took less than 30 seconds. We walked to the terminal stopping at the Disney Store and the Universal Store to look around. But, we didnít really see anything that we had to have. We were mostly killing time. We were a little early but I didnít expect the check-in processes to go so smoothly. But thatís okay. Thereís plenty to occupy us here and we knew the time would go by very quickly. And like I said, we were really glad to be out of todayís heat. It was kind of neat walking through the Hyatt as we had stayed there for one night before our last cruise.

At about 5:30 we decided to go ahead and get our dinner. Debbie and I got Filet of Fish sandwiches from McDonalds and Caity went to Sbarro and got spaghetti and meatballs. I really enjoyed the fish sandwich. I havenít had one in years and forgot how good they are. At about 7:00 we gave Florida the last of our tourist dollars at Seattleís Best Coffee, a Starbuckís kind of place. Debbie got a Cappuccino, Caity got a hot cocoa, and I got a Mocha Latte. Then we settled in and read our books until the flight started boarding. The flight home was uneventful but the final snag of the trip occurred in the parking garage at the Norfolk International Airport. I couldnít find the car to save my life. In my defense, there are multiple parking garages with multiple levels and the way they are laid out is very confusing. It took about a half hour to locate the car even with the help of security. I finally located it by going outside and retracing the drive I took which helped me find the correct building and level. Not the very best end to a very long day. But when I finally spotted the car I could have hugged it. By the way, I had written down the location of the car when I parked it but I had lost my note.

Anyway, I picked up the girls and the luggage and we were at our home in Virginia Beach in less than ten minutes. The trip was great but itís always nice to be home again. Our beagle, Buddy, greeted us in his usual, exuberant fashion, and we knew we were home.

SUMMARY AND POSTSCRIPT-

This trip was different for us in many different ways. First of all, it was our first trip as DVC members. Staying at OKW was wonderful and it was great seeing Saratoga Springs for the first time. Plus, it was the first time we have left WDW knowing when we would be back. Usually, we know that weíll be coming back, but have no idea when. We have already made reservations for Spring Break next year. It will be very busy, I know, but we canít take Caity out of school like we did when she was younger.

Speaking of crowds, it was very crowded this year. It was a real shock since our previous trip was in January, 2002, right after the events of 9/11 and the parks seemed practically empty in comparison. During that trip, we were able to complete the parks by noon or shortly after. But, in all honesty, Iíd much rather deal with the crowds knowing that Americans feel safe traveling again. This year, we just didnít push ourselves. We did what we could and didnít ruin the trip by pushing ourselves past our limit. Our first few days were very busy but before long we had gotten into the habit of returning to OKW for some down time each day. In my opinion, this saved what could have been a stressful summertime trip. Speaking of which, the summertime heat was definitely a factor this year. It was always there and was always a factor. Our afternoon breaks also kept the temperature from ruining our trip. Debbie doesnít do heat well, and was especially glad for some pool and/or nap time.

Another difference, at least for me, on this trip was the fact that I would be returning to a new job afterwards. With my last job, as a Nabisco sales rep., I would be starting to stress out about halfway through the vacation as I was anticipating going back to work. My old boss, actually wanted me to be checking voicemail from WDW while on vacation. Well, I started a new job at Red Wing Shoes after getting home and I couldnít be happier.

As a final note of interest, we got home on Saturday night and on Sunday Debbie and I went out and bought a new car for me as I will not be driving a company car anymore. I ended up getting a 2003 Silver Taurus which was literally ílike newí. It was really a nice looking car. Thatís right, I said was. Two weeks after getting the car a woman ran a red light at about 50 mph and hit me on the right side. I never even saw her coming. The force of the impact picked the Taurus up off the ground spinning it quite a few times before it came to rest against the median. Somehow I walked away, and other than being bruised and sore for a few weeks, was not seriously hurt. The woman was also okay, thanks to her air bags. Well, my car wasnít totaled but will cost $9,000 - $10,00 to fix. Luckily, I know the man in charge of the repair shop at the Ford dealership where I bought the car and he swears they can fix so Iíll never know the difference. As of now, Iím still driving a rental.

Thanks for your patience in sticking with a trip report that ended up much longer than I expected. If you take a trip to WDW sometime soon, please write a trip report so that I can enjoy it through you. We had a wonderful time this year, as always. The secret is knowing what to expect in terms of crowds and weather and plan accordingly. Problems and aggravations can occur at WDW just like anywhere else but what could be a better place for dealing with them? Thanks again for reading and as Jamie from Off Kilter says, íHave a Disney Day!í.

David Hastings

dhastings12@cox.net


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