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Kim Howe -- November 2004 - Walt Disney World (Offsite)


Players:

  • Kim - 15th visit and trip report writer

Planning:

Taking this trip was in the back of my mind since my October 2004 trip; as fall trips were becoming an annual event for me with my first being October 2003. Both of these trips (reports on this site) were “girls only” with my travel partner being my friend, Paula. This fall, however, I would be traveling alone since Paula couldn’t swing a “girls only” fall trip after her January 2004 Disney cruise, a June 2004 WDW trip and an upcoming January 2005 Disneyland trip with her family.

I didn’t decide to do a third annual fall trip until sometime in the summer of 2004 and then had to wait until Southwest opened their flights to include early November. I decided on early November to coincide with both the Food and Wine Festival at Epcot and hunting season in upstate NY. You see, the start of these fall trips was to get away when our husbands were busy hunting. The exact dates of this trip were based on the availability of the flights I wanted-nonstop and cheap. SW is the only airline offering nonstop from Albany to Orlando and at a reasonable rate, no sense checking elsewhere. After many combinations of dates: Friday - Monday, Thursday - Sunday, Wednesday - Sunday, etc. I settled on Wednesday to Monday, November 10 - 15 for $205 round trip. These dates would also include the Super Soap weekend which I have no interest in since I don’t watch soaps and the Festival of the Masters, which I thought would be fun to checkout one afternoon.

I had an open invitation to stay with friends, Mary and Peter, who are friends from NY who relocated to FL and are now Cast Members. Their spare bedroom was open during these dates, so I was in luck.

Right after confirming my flights, I checked out rates at Alamo and National with various discount and coupon codes and reserved a car with National using a code from Mousesavers combined with an Entertainment Book coupon for $20 off for a rate of $155 for 6 days all fees included.

No Priority Seatings were necessary for this trip, so no further planning was needed. Just waiting.

The Trip:
Since this will be my first trip as a “party of one,” I will try to point out any different experiences in doing such.

Day One: Wednesday, November 10
Got to bed at a reasonable hour the night before and slept well until 3 a.m. I got up when the alarm went off at 4 a.m. and was out of the house by 5 a.m. It’s a chilly 22 degrees outside. My husband was going to the airport with me so I wouldn’t have to pay to park the car during my trip. Thanks, Bill! While I sat in the car, he searched the house for about ten minutes looking for his wallet. Finally, he gave up and we left for the airport arriving around 6 a.m. for my 7 a.m. flight. I pulled up to the curb and after our goodbyes, he drove off and I pulled my luggage inside. The Southwest check-in line was fairly short but grew considerably within a few minutes. I’d arrived at a good time. At 6:05 a.m. I was walking to security where I found the longest line I’d ever seen in ALB. It was all the way down the walkway bridge to the parking garage but it proved to move quickly. By 6:25 a.m. I was through security and heading for the gate. I queued up in the front of the “C” boarding section.

Since I was flying alone, needing only one seat, and not caring where I sat, I wasn’t concerned about getting to the airport any earlier or checking in online and printing my boarding pass before hand to get in the “A or B” sections. When traveling as a couple or a family, this would not have been the case. So, here is the first difference in traveling alone.

Boarding started a short time after I arrived and the SW jet-way at ALB allows for boarding at both the front and rear of the aircraft. I decided to try something new and headed toward the back entrance where I found lots of empty rows. I chose a window seat since the flight was full, so I wouldn’t have to get up and move anyway. The couple who sat next to me were quite pleased to learn both seats in my row were available so they could sit together. We took off a little early.

There was a family of five with a screaming baby who arrived at the gate late so they did not pre-board and get seats together in the front of the aircraft. Luckily the two older brothers were in the row in front of me and not their baby brother who was quite a few seats further back. The parents took turns with the kids and toward the end of the flight a stranger from the row with the baby sat with the older boys. I don’t blame her for taking the lesser of two evils. She introduced herself and told them that she would be sitting with them until dad returned. She did a good job acting as a baby sitter making sure they didn’t spill their drinks and stopped them when they started kicking the seats in front of them. Neither of the parents ever returned and the boys were fine landing and all without mom or dad by their side. It appeared they had flown before and were quite comfortable which impressed me since they were only about five and seven.

During the flight, besides watching what was going on with the boys in front of me, I updated my notes and ate the Cheerios I’d brought; saving my SW snack of peanuts and Nilla vanilla wafers for later. At 8:05 a.m. the pilot announced we were 580 miles from MCO and I took a little nap. We landed a half hour early at 9:30 a.m. If you’ve ever flown SW, you are aware their flight attendants are quite humorous. Their announcement at the end of the flight included, “…make sure to take all of your personal problems (pause), oh, personal belongings with you.”

As we were descending for landing, I noticed a lot of blue patches on the ground and my thought was that they were swimming pools. However, as we got closer to the ground it was clear that they were blue tarps on roofs of houses damaged by the hurricanes in September. I would see more of this as I drove toward WDW. It was spotty, though, with some areas suffering damage while others did not.

The familiar voice and announcement on the Monorail to the main terminal which is similar to that on the WDW Monorails brought a smile to my face. I took my time walking to baggage claim since there is always a long wait at MCO. I browsed in Disney’s Ear Port store but still had to wait for my bag. Well, I actually had two bags but I packed my clothes in the smaller one and packed the smaller one in the bigger one, so there was only one visible. I did this in order to have lots of room for my WDW purchases on the way home.

Bag in hand and rolling behind me, I took the escalator down to ground level and walked outside down to the National rental car garage. The temperature was quite pleasant and the sky sunny. I usually walk inside and so seeing the Mears shuttle pick up area outside was something new. There were lots of people waiting and they didn’t look happy. I continued walking past other shuttle pick up areas and then across the road to the garage, up the escalator and to National’s Emerald Aisle. Emerald Aisle membership allows you to bypass the rental counter, go directly to the garage to pick out any car in the Emerald Aisle parking area. You have to rent a mid-size but you can take any vehicle in the parking area including full size and specialty cars without an additional charge.

I walked down the entire aisle checking out all my options in vehicles. There were full size cars and SUVs and one PT Cruiser but I wanted to get a mid-size car since it is what I am accustomed to driving. I decided on a sporty light blue, two-door, Dodge Stratus with Kentucky plates. It certainly wasn’t brand new with 17,000 miles but it would be easier to find in parking lots full of white cars with Florida plates. I got settled putting my bag in the trunk and adjusting the seat and mirrors. Checking out of the garage went fine and my quote of $155 was printed on my receipt. Before I actually left the garage, I realized I was really hungry and shaky so I got out my bottle of OJ I brought from home and cookies from the flight. What a pig I am, in opening them, I spilled them both. At least, I didn’t get any on me. I thought Bill would have a laugh at that if he where with me since this is out of the ordinary for me and something I would laugh at him for doing.

I took the south exit from the airport, got on the Greenway (SR 417), paid $2 in tolls, exited at International Drive/SR535 and made it through the green light at the intersection of SR535/536. This is good since it is a very long red light and I was in a hurry to see those purple signs. Soon I was on WDW property and traffic was moving slowly due to road work near the welcome sign. This made it able for me to take my traditional picture of the sign even though I was driving. Yay! Next, I was getting my AP out for the Magic Kingdom parking plaza where I was waved through and parked in Minnie 41.

I debated about changing into shorts or keeping my Capri pants on. I felt I wouldn’t be too warm in the Capris and would probably appreciate having them on later in the evening so I didn’t change. I’d packed my shorts in an outside zippered area of my bag for easy access along with my visor which I did grab. I made sure I had the car keys so I wouldn’t get locked out. This was something I was very cautious of and did each and every time I got out of and locked the car this trip. Bill is usually the keeper of the keys when we travel, so here was another difference in traveling without him. The keys were really big and cumbersome with two keys, a large plastic tag and the button entry thing. The next day, I did what Bill usually does and removed the button entry thing from the rest and just carried that and left the actual keys concealed in the car. This saved lots of room in my small purse. I just hoped that the battery in the button thing didn’t go dead like Sheri’s did on one of her trips so I wouldn’t get locked out.

I hopped on the tram and boarded Monorail yellow to the Magic Kingdom where I saw lots of characters out in Town Square. I stopped along Main Street to listen to the Dapper Dans. Here, a woman approached me and asked if I’d bought my visor in the park. It is white and has Pooh on the brim and I guess she liked it. I was tempted to give it to her since it is too tight, gives me a headache and I only paid $1 for it at a Disney outlet near Disneyland.

My goal was to get a FastPass for Space Mountain, call Bill and get some lunch. As I walked to Space Mountain, I noticed that Stitch was open and the stand-by wasn’t too long. After I got my FP, I queued up for Stitch. The grand opening would be next Tuesday, the day after I would return home. I was hoping for an opportunity to catch it during this trip, so I was pleased. Over the course of the next five days I noticed it was open each day up until the day before the grand opening. Sometimes the stand-by wait was very very long. I found it to be just as others had already reported: similar to Alien Encounter only with a different alien, scary for children and the seats were very very uncomfortable on your back. I tried to sit up straight and not lean back which was very uncomfortable also. I thought Stitch’s breath smelled like peanut butter. CMs had handed out surveys to families with young children upon entering the queue and were collecting them at the exit. I overhead one mother filling it out ask her young daughter if she liked it and she answered, no.

After exiting through the gift shop, I noticed PUSH the moving and talking trash can outside. I sat down and watched until he went backstage. The CM operating him was not hard to find but the kids didn’t seem to notice and were quite inquisitive on how he was working. I was having a good time having caught the Dapper Dans, Stitch and PUSH all so soon after entering the park. They were all on my “to do” list this trip. I was feeling a little awkward not having someone else there with me though.

After my diversions, I made my way to the Plaza Inn for lunch. I’d never eaten there so this was on my “to do” list too. I put my name in for a table and was asked how many in my party and was told it would be ten minutes. I told the CM I would be making a phone call from the phones by the restrooms nearby.

I’d like to note here that by the reactions of CMs during my trip, I felt that a “party of one” definitely isn’t the norm and their responses not as routine. A few of them stammered with their usual spiel and the host at Boma didn’t even change his. He simply referred to me as if I were more than a “party of one” which I found quite humorous.

I went to call Bill to let him know I arrived and everything was fine, actually everything was going wonderfully. Just as I did, Cindy’s show in front of the castle began and boy-o-boy was that loud. I noticed everywhere this trip, volumes seemed to be turned up higher than usual. Twenty units were deducted from my calling card for calling from a pay phone. I thought that this was twice as many since the last time I used a pay phone. It wasn’t a big deal since I have hundreds of minutes on my card and only paid about three cents a minute. So, this is much cheaper than using my cell phone, outside of the area my plan covers, at 79 cents a minute. Anyway, I got through to Bill but we didn’t talk long because it was so hard to hear. I asked him to also call my mom to let her know I was okay and enjoying myself. Oh, and he found his wallet in his truck.

When I returned to the restaurant podium, I let them know I was back and sat down to wait to be called. This was my first people watching opportunity, which I found to be something I did more traveling alone than if I had a companion to talk to. Once called, I was seated at a table that I could look out the window so I continued people watching. A Main Street celebrity sat with a couple waiting for a table outside the restaurant and chatted with them for a long time. When I left, she was still there showing them a photo album. The couple seemed to be having a good time with her. I was served by CM Lisa and had a large salad with grilled chicken on top that was quite good totaling $13 with tip. Other menu offerings included sandwiches, wraps and burgers. The décor was Victorian. On my way to the restroom after lunch, I met the Mayor of Main Street coming on stage and we exchanged greetings.

Then I was off to the Main Street jewelry store which was only half the size it once was. I wasn’t sure if the new wall was a permanent change or just installed while refurbishing took place in the back part of the store. My intention here was to check out the 14kt jewelry, price it and try and decide what I would purchase with birthday money I’d brought just for this purpose.

My FP window for Space Mountain was about to run out so I walked pretty quickly in that direction. I entered the FP queue behind two large people with one on an ECV and one in a wheel chair being pushed by an older slim woman. They appeared to be a family with the father in the ECV and the adult daughter in the chair with mom pushing. The wheelchair moved very slowly through the queue and the daughter called to dad a number of times to slow down until they caught up. I didn’t realize how much of an incline this queue has and mom was having a hard time even with the daughter helping roll the wheelchair along. At the end of the final incline the CM at the turnstile came down and pulled the chair from the front. I wondered how difficult it must be for them to enter and exit the ride vehicles. I am slim but tall and I feel awkward getting in and out of them. Since they went to the right and I went to the left, I didn’t find out. During the walk down the queue there was another couple in front of me. They were very put out that this family was going so slowly especially since people in the stand-by line were passing us instead of us passing by them. I sat in the back seat and had a fun but silent ride since everyone in the rocket train was quiet, not one scream from us.

I left Tomorrowland and walked through Fantasyland. The construction wall was still up around the 20,000 Leagues lagoon and a bulldozer could be seen above it. Pooh had a short line and I thought I’d go on it but a CM at the stand-by entrance said that it was down and would remain so for another hour. What silly people to be waiting until then. Fantasyland was very crowded and the construction wall all along the lagoon made the area seem very closed in. The Sword in the Stone show was taking place as I walked by to Mickey’s PhilharMagic. The stand-by was posted at 15 minutes so I went in and did not have to wait that long. I love the songs in this show and sang along. Many of the guests around me were seeing it for the first time and I always enjoy the reactions of first timers.

After the show, I walked behind the castle toward Sleepy Hollow. Why is there a designated smoking area behind the castle? I seems like a silly place to me especially when there is another one right behind the Christmas Shop in Liberty Square. Anyway, as I walked through that smoking area, I saw Meeko and Pocahontas. Across the bridge at the entrance of Adventureland were Rafiki and some Jungle Book characters, I don’t recall their names. Pirates of the Caribbean only had a 10 minute wait posted so I headed inside. Both sides were open and no one was going left, so I did and walked right on while people waited on the right side.

I didn’t have such good luck in Frontierland, though. Big Thunder Mountain Rail Road had a 40 minute stand-by and Splash Mountain had a 70 minutes stand-by so I said no way to that. Instead I walked around a very crowded Frontierland since the 3 p.m. parade was about to begin there very soon. My goal was to see the parade and then leave the park via the train to Main Street station in order to meet friends, Mary and Peter, at Epcot at 4 p.m. As parade time neared, I positioned myself near the crosswalk between Adventureland and Frontierland on the Splash Mountain side and when the CM closed it off once the parade began, I was able to stand pretty close to the front. I left just before the last float went by so I could get through the crowd to the Railroad station while they were standing still. That plan worked out well and I boarded the train just before it left the station.

During my trip around the backside of the park, I could see a lot of storm damage including stumps of trees that had been cut down with some still leaning or lying down in the wooded areas. The removal of some of the trees made backstage areas visible. I hope in time replacements will cover it back up.

I made my way from the train, to the Monorail, to the Ticket and Transportation Center, to the car and then to Epcot without any delays. There were no CMs in the parking lot, so I drove as close as I could get to the park and found a space behind the handicapped area. I got to the turnstiles where Mary and Peter were waiting right at the stroke of 4 p.m. After greeting each other, we entered Epcot and walked around World Showcase’s Food and Wine Festival counter clockwise since we went clockwise last year. On the way around, I had a shrimp roll at the Florida booth, cheese soup at the Canadian booth, and a beef kabob at the Moroccan booth. We also caught the tail end of a cooking demonstration in the Spanish area.

We queued up for the 5:45 p.m. Cubby Checker show in the handicapped line since Peter walks with a cane. Mary went to the front of the line to make sure we would be okay waiting there. Peter was concerned the line was only for wheelchair bound people. She returned saying we were fine and were soon let in the theater. We sat in the front row right next to the runway. The couple who sat down next to us knew Mary and Peter from another show they’d attended during the festival and we all chatted before the show started. During the show Chubby escorts this woman and a young girl nearby us, who was dressed in a poodle skirt and had been dancing the entire show, on stage with him to dance. He performed an energetic show for a 60+ year old man. He wore a jean jacket, skin tight jeans and blue suede shoes. His hair was so perfect we wondered if it was a wig. Mary took some pictures with her new digital camera and she got some great close ups. She also got a few seconds of video of Chubby doing the twist.

I was thirsty before we sat down and was going to stop on the way into the theater and get a drink from a fountain we passed but I was afraid I wouldn’t be let in the handicapped entrance once I was separated from Mary and Peter, so I didn’t get the drink. By the time the show was over, I was very thirsty. When Mary suggested we try the Woodchuck hard cider, I agreed and chugged half my glass right down. It wasn’t very cold but I didn’t care at least it was wet. I got a potato and leek soup at the Ireland booth while Peter went to get a cup of coffee in the bakery in Norway. Mary and I met him at a table outside the bakery and we sat and chatted there for a while. It was only 7:30 p.m. or so but I said I was tired and asked if they wouldn’t mind if we left. I’d been up since 3 a.m. We had a nice and easy time at the festival this Wednesday night. The lines at the food booths were short and the walkways were not very crowded. I’m sure it’s a very different story on weekend nights.

Mary rode with me to their house; we took I-4 and were lucky to find no traffic. When we went through the security gate in their community, Mary introduced me to the guard and asked for a permit for me to use during my visit to allow me to come and go as I pleased. When Peter arrived, he said he had a problem starting his car and remarked that Mary didn’t have her cell phone on when he tried calling us but it wasn’t a problem since he got it started after a short time. It must have been a really short time because he walked in about three minutes after us. He thinks there is an electrical problem with it.

We sat up and chatted some more and I finally excused myself at 9:30 p.m.

Day Two: Veteran’s Day, Thursday, November 11
I slept in until 8 a.m. and after showering discussed plans for the day with Mary and Peter over a glass of OJ. We decided to meet at 5:30 p.m. at the Contemporary Resort and from there go to Property Control. Property Control is a store backstage where CMs can purchase discounted WDW items. My plan for the day was to shop for discounted WDW items at the Character Premier and Character Warehouse at the Belz Mall on International Drive in the morning. I would spend the afternoon at the Disney MGM Studios before catching the flag lowering ceremony at the Magic Kingdom at 5 p.m. and meeting them afterwards. Being Veteran’s Day I felt it would be perfect day to take in this ceremony.

By the time I left Mary and Peter’s it was 9:50 a.m. which was fine because the mall didn’t open until 10 a.m. With no traffic on I-4 it was a quick and easy drive. Besides planning a WDW trip, shopping while at WDW is something I really look forward to and enjoy. However, I have been disappointed with the quality and selection of adult clothing during the last few visits and this time was no different. I don’t mind paying for a good quality item that will wash well and last. There just aren’t a lot of nice adult items offered anymore. What I find is cheaply made and geared to teens and young adults. There aren’t any nice blouses or tops; everything is t-shirts that are made to look worn out. I think “retro” is what they are calling this look. I have worn out looking Disney clothes at home. Okay, okay, I’ll step off my soapbox…

Even though I was underwhelmed, I didn’t leave empty handed either. At the Character Premier I picked up an Ariel dress ornament and the Mickey folk art candle topper both at half price. I also picked up a $34 tie for $10 all totaling $21. There were other items I was interested in but didn’t have the size and/or color I’d needed/wanted. At the Character Warehouse I picked up a luggage tag and a short sleeve button down shirt both at half price, totaling $26. Each year I get Bill one of these shirts. He has about half a dozen now and he prefers them to t-shirts. I was glad to find it here as there weren’t any at the other store.

I was in a shopping frame of mind and instead of heading to the Studios at this point (12 p.m.), I went to the Character Premier at the Orlando Premium Outlet Mall instead. I made good time getting there and was glad I chose to do this running around early in the day and on a weekday. Here I found the size/color I was looking for in some infant things I saw in both of the other stores. I also picked up a pair of underwear in my size I saw at the other stores, too. And lastly, a big can of hazelnut flavored coffee that was not available at the other stores, either, all totaling $37. So, between all three stores, I wound up finding the sizes/colors/flavors of most everything that interested me. What I didn’t find that I was looking for was 14kt jewelry. There were some nice watches but I already have four.

Since it was past lunchtime by now and close to 1 p.m., I was really hungry and was going to get a slice of pizza at the food court next to the Character Premier but decided to just skip the Studios now and go to the new Earl of Sandwich at the Disney Marketplace. This was something else on my “to do” list for this trip since I hadn’t tried it out yet. I was having fun not feeling tied to a schedule either. My awkward feelings of being alone from the day before had vanished too.

It took me a few minutes of circling the Marketplace parking lot to find a space but I managed to get one right behind World of Disney. The Earl of Sandwich was very busy with a line snaking in the queue. I was tempted to leave but took my chances. Luckily, it moved very quickly but still gave me enough time to review the menu and decide on what I wanted only to change my mind once I saw the daily specials listed on the counter. I got the cappicola, salami, ham, mozzarella and tomato with Italian dressing. I didn’t get a salad or cookie that they were pushing and didn’t need them since the sandwich was large enough and on warm bread-yummy, $6. After I got my order, I had a hard time finding a table inside or out due to the large crowd that had been ahead of me in line who were now eating and others also saving tables for those still in line, which I don’t think should be allowed. It was raining lightly or else I would have gone elsewhere to sit outside on a bench or something. I did finally find a table where the people there were finishing up. I chatted with one of the ladies at the table and learned she was from Long Island visiting friends. She was very friendly, but her friends made me feel as if they felt I pushed them out of their space when I asked if they were leaving soon. That certainly wasn’t my intention. As I sat and ate my sandwich, I observed the people around me. There was a woman sitting by herself next to me, who I was tempted to ask if I could sit with her before I found the table I was at, who was eating a salad. She just ate all the toppings off of it and threw away the whole bowl of lettuce-what a waste. I hate to see food wasted.

I wanted to get a personalized baby’s first Christmas ornament this trip and knew I should do that early in the trip so it would be ready before I left. So, I went into Days of Christmas to take care of that. I asked the artist personalizing ornaments how long it would take, but she didn’t know and advised me to check at the counter. I got in the short line but it took forever and ever. The CM commented on how patient I was waiting for so long when it was my turn. The work schedule was very full but I could have one ornament done by Monday at 12:15 p.m., the day I was leaving. The cost for personalization is $3 for the first name, $2 each after or $5 for a name and date. After finding this out, I went in search of the ornament I had in mind but was disappointed to find that they only had blue ones and no pink ones. I looked around for an alternative but didn’t find anything I felt would be suitable so I left. I’d considered getting a baby Pooh plush embroidered but they could only print the baby’s name and not “Baby’s First Christmas.” At least they could have it done in a few hours.

I browsed in the new pet store that now takes up half of the Pooh store and also the home store. On my way to World of Disney, I stopped and got a chocolate sample at Ghirardelli. It was a yummy one with caramel in the center. At World of Disney, I priced jewelry pieces again finding some pieces that I didn’t see on Main Street. I tried on some rings to determine which size I wear. It’s been a while since I got a new ring and that’s what I was leaning towards. I really liked the one with big CZs arranged in the Mickey head and ears shape but it looked hideous on my hand. The smaller one was too small but the colored stones also in the Mickey shape were appealing. No definite decision yet. I also saw the pearl earrings Paula saw and liked from last year’s trip and decided I would get them for her.

I finally pulled myself away from shopping and headed over to the Magic Kingdom. Earlier I’d decided it would be most efficient if I parked at the Contemporary and walked over to the Magic Kingdom since I was meeting Mary and Peter there later and it would also be convenient to pick up my car after we returned from Property Control. So, I didn’t lie to the guard when I told him I was meeting friends and doing some shopping. He asked for my ID and gave me directions on where to park.

I arrived at the park just before the end of the 3 p.m. parade so it was easy for me to enter the park and get to the restroom before guests watching the parade started moving again. By the time I left the restroom, the parade crowd had disbursed. Good timing! I walked over to Tomorrowland and found a real bottleneck between Stitch’s Great Escape and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. The Space Mountain FastPass return times were too late for my plans so I did Carrousel of Progress. There was a technical difficulty and I sat in the second scene three times. When we didn’t rotate out of the scene the first time, people were mumbling what’s going on. The second time, we all laughed and we cheered the third time when we did rotate on to the third scene. I thought it was fun and it created a special memory of this classic attraction. Another favorite, the Tomorrowland Transit Authority, was next. While on this I noticed the stage missing and it actually makes the area look better. The Stitch line was very long today.

I left Tomorrowland and wandered through the rose garden and out to the hub. Cindy’s show was about to begin, so I stood and watched that. It was as cute as always and I enjoy seeing all the characters. When it was finished, there were only a few minutes until the flag lowering at 5 p.m. which was actually announced as I was walking down Main Street. I don’t ever recall it being announced before and I thought it was because of Veteran’s Day. I thought the ceremony might be a little more special today and I was glad when I learned it was. I had my Mickey with flag socks on just for the occasion too.

There was a podium and risers set up and the garden area around the flags was roped off. Soon the members of Voices of Liberty walked to the risers and a CM announced them from the podium. The women were wearing dresses of solid red and white while the men were wearing black pants with blue shirts. They sang “America the Beautiful” and “Proud to be an American.” Then the Main Street Philharmonic marched out onto Main Street from a side street and came down to Town Square where they stopped and performed “My Country ‘tis of Thee” before continuing on around Town Square to stand in front of the Railroad station. There they played the National Anthem as the CM security color guard lowered and folded the flag. They were accompanied by a special color guard made up of CMs, one from each branch of the military, who’d recently returned from active duty and wearing their uniforms. The ceremony was especially patriotic and very nicely done. I was glad I made a point of being at the Magic Kingdom to see it that day. The Voices of Liberty ended the ceremony by singing “God Bless America” with the audience joining in.

Since the ceremony was a little longer than usual, I had to scoot out of the park and quickly make my way to the Contemporary to meet Mary and Peter in the lobby. I felt that the Monorail would be quicker than walking since I was meeting them in the lobby and the Monorail would drop me off upstairs. It probably was quicker than walking but it didn’t seem like it as I stood and waited for the train to arrive. I saw it coming from the Grand Floridian and then it stopped and sat on the tracks for what seemed like forever. I thought maybe they were putting another train on the tracks and did see one on the rail that leads to the roundhouse but on our way to Property Control it was still sitting there. Once in the Contemporary, I took the elevator to the lobby arriving right at 5:30 p.m.

We took Mary and Peter’s car to Property Control which is behind the Magic Kingdom. Peter was surprised to find the security both we passed through was closed. He waited in the car and read while Mary and I went in. She had to show her ID and told the guard I was her guest. I had been there once before a few years ago and the building we went to this time was not there last time. Last time there was a huge tent not a building. What I found inside were basically the same items I’d seen all morning at the Character Warehouse and Character Premier stores. Additional items included resort clothing without any WDW logos or characters, some pins and collectables but nothing super great. I did find an infant sun hat to match the sundress I bought earlier in the day and I picked up a pin of a Christmas tree with Mickey, Minnie and, I think, Pluto that said, “My First Christmas.” These items were half price. I also picked up a couple of bags of cha-cha mix that were full price. The difference between the WDW outlet stores and this one is that CMs get an additional 10% off. Plus, they get a holiday discount of 40% on full price items (plus the regular 10% discount). The CM at the check out register swiped Mary’s ID but I was able to pay for my purchases with my credit card, $16.

At the back of this building there was an area that was not open. Mary said that was where used items from WDW resorts and such are sold such as furniture and décor. She said she’s picked up some nice fake house plants that just needed a little TLC to make them usable again.

We went next door to a trailer type temporary building that was there the last time I was at Property Control. At the time, this building had collectables and jewelry in it. Now, it was quite different indeed. The items in this building are 75 percent off and the majority of them are damaged. We made a game out of finding something we may be interested in and then finding what was wrong with it. I found an ornament of Duchess and her kitten Marie from The Aristocats that I thought was nice for Paula. I couldn’t find what was wrong with it but I still didn’t get it. Another day, I saw the same ornament and noticed that Marie holds a Mickey shaped ornament from her paw and that was what was missing from the one I saw at property control. Ahh. I bought the good one and Paula loved it.

There was a box of hats marked $2 each and, darn it, if there wasn’t the same sun hat I’d just bought next door for $6.99. I checked it all over and I couldn’t find anything wrong with it either. It wasn’t worth the hassle to return the higher priced one and get that one though.

I also found a pair of denim shorts with the Mickey shape stitched on the back pockets that I’d seen at all the outlets that morning but none of them had my size. The sizes were either 4, 6, 8 or 14, 16, 18. This pair of shorts was my size! They were the only ones I found in there too. It was really weird, as if they were placed there just for me to find because they weren’t hanging on the rack with the other shorts, they were just sitting on top of them. I couldn’t believe it when I didn’t find anything wrong with them either. The zipper being the first place I checked. I was pleased to pay 75 percent off instead of half off at the outlets or the full price at World of Disney. Yes, I saw them in there and they were marked at the full price.

Also in this building, which I could hardly believe when I realized it, was lost and found stuff for sale. Yes, clothing, hats, shoes, belts, cameras, lens caps, etc, etc. all for sale. The majority of it was in pretty bad condition too. Peter had come in and joined us at this point and he wondered where all the good stuff goes. I just didn’t think it was right for WDW to sell such stuff. I thought it should have been donated to the Salvation Army or Goodwill or something for crying out loud.

Mary told me about a big Property Control sale that’s held the beginning of December for CMs and spouses or significant others only-no guests or other family. At this sale, discounts can be up to 75 percent off original prices and some of the items offered are quite nice and not just dated or out of season stuff. The first day of the sale begins quite early in the morning and people are waiting to get in. The parking is at the lot off of World Drive before you get to the Magic Kingdom parking plaza and the CMs are bused in from there. Mary said there wasn’t anything she wanted bad enough to go through all that.

After this shopping spree, it was about 7 p.m. and we sought out some dinner. They dropped me off at my car and we met again at Coronado Springs and went to the Pepper Market. The college I work for will be holding its FL alumni gathering at Coronado Springs in April and I wanted to check it out a bit so they suggested we eat there. We walked in through the convention center so I could see that and then we made our way to the Pepper Market. I’d never eaten there before and they showed me the ropes. For those who are also not familiar with this place, here’s how it works. There are a number of food stations offering different items-deli, Mexican, Italian, Chinese, kids favorites and a grill. Once you make a selection, your card is stamped and at the end of your meal when you check out, all the stamps are totaled up. There is limited wait service at the tables basically refilling drinks and the gratuity to cover this is automatically added to your bill. I felt some items were pretty pricey for basically a food court and for families to rely on everyday.

There were many dishes that looked appealing and it was hard deciding what I wanted. Mary and I both got the sampler from the Chinese station. There were four entrée dishes to choose from and you got to pick two. Between the two of us we got all four items and split them so we could try everything. It came with rice or noodles and an egg roll. The man told me that mine would take ten minutes so we took her plate and ate that, then went back and got mine. It worked out well since by the time we were done with one the other was ready and hot. Peter got grilled vegetables and a couple different types of fruit since he is on a strict diet to loose weight in order to have a knee operation. It wasn’t that busy and we sat in a quiet corner which allowed for a nice relaxing meal and nice conversation. I offered to pay for their meals as a token of my appreciation for their hospitality, but they refused. I won in the end because I bought them a gift card for Joe’s Crab Shack, a restaurant off property they like, and left it in my room at their house when I left with another small gift I’d brought with me to give them.

Before we left the resort, Peter wanted to stop in the gift shop. The Candlelight Processional CD was playing and since Mary was in the CM choir last year, she sang along even in the different languages. She swore that she wouldn’t collect pins but she bought a lanyard and a few Mickey pins justifying the purchase due to her 40 percent CM holiday discount. I found a Pooh shirt I liked which came to $17 with the discount.

Mary rode with me back to their house and we took Lake Wilson Road. Before bed, we chatted about plans for tomorrow. Peter and I will ride together to Epcot and see “Space Mickey Mary” at Mission: Space. He will ride home with Mary at the end of the day. I’m unsure what I will do. Finally, we went to bed at 10:52 p.m. The weather today was cloudy but warm with light showers at times.

Day Three: Friday, November 12
I was up at 7:30 a.m. and spent some time catching up on my notes before showering and getting ready. We left at 9:30 a.m. and on our way to Epcot, Mary called with her set times. The first on was 10:05 a.m. and we wouldn’t be able to make it. We got to the park at 10 a.m. and parked in an area where CMs park. We walked to the turnstiles and went through the CM and guest one since it had the shortest line.

We headed to the Land first and are given a red card to carry through the queue to give to the CM loading the boats. This is how they are determining wait times. We only waited five to ten minutes in stand-by. We saw pumpkins that were growing in a mold to shape them like the three circles Mickey head. After the ride it was close to 11 a.m. and we split up.

Peter went to Mission: Space to see Space Mickey at 11:10 a.m. and I went to the UK in World Showcase to make a reservation for the Twinings tea presentation later today. Thank you to the person who mentioned this new addition to the Food and Wine Festival and also advised to make reservations as soon as World Showcase opened. The presentations were offered on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at three different times between 4 & 6 p.m. I was unsure of where to make the reservation. I saw a line had formed at the beer garden at the Rose and Crown and asked a woman in line if this was the line for the tea presentation and she told me it was for the beer tasting. I went inside the pub and the CM in there had no clue what I was talking about. I walked around the pavilion looking for another CM to ask but saw no one. I saw a family group sitting on a bench and asked them if they knew but they didn’t. Frustrated, I went with my gut instinct, returned to the line at the beer garden, just waited in it, asked the CM making the reservations and sure enough it was the correct place. I chose the last presentation at 5:10 p.m.

I returned to Future World and Mission: Space to meet up with Peter and Space Mickey. I thought he said to meet him inside the store at the exit but I didn’t see him in there. I didn’t think that was a very good area for a character meet and greet so I went back outside and looked around but didn’t see Peter or Mickey. Finally, Peter found me and took me around a wall to where Mickey was hiding. We queued up and waited for our turn to see not only Mickey but Goofy too. We witnessed a family with three children hand the characters tee shirts for them to sign without a sharpie pen or something hard for them to write on. The CM greeter asked another guest in line to borrow their autograph book for Mickey and Goofy to use to lean against to sign the shirts. So, if you want a soft clothing item signed by characters, I’d suggest you have a sharpie pen and a clip board or something hard for them to press against.

Finally it was our turn and we had a variety of pictures taken: both of us with both characters and then separately all with both our cameras. Bye, Mickey! The sun was really in a bad position for picture taking casting a harsh glare and causing us to squint. The digital pictures I saw on Peter’s camera weren’t that great so I wasn’t too hopeful for mine to turn out any better. Luckily, my pictures came out pretty good and I framed one.

Since Peter’s plan was to stay in Epcot all day, I decided to split and go to the Disney-MGM Studios today since I’d skipped it yesterday and I didn’t want to be there over the weekend during Super Soap weekend. I felt bad because I would have also liked to spend the day with him but stuck with my logical decision.

On my way to the International Gateway to leave the park, I witnessed a couple sitting on a bench enjoying a dish of something. The woman had a wine glass also sitting on the bench and as a CM walked by he tried to catch the glass as the wind blew it. He missed and it spilled. He said he’d get her another one. She looked at him in total shock, as if to say it wasn’t his fault the wind spilled it and you don’t need to replace it. I just smiled and kept walking. Disney magic.

It was close to noon and I was still hungry even after having gotten a pierogie and kielbasa on my way past the Poland booth on my way from UK to Mission: Space earlier. I decided on fish and chips in the UK and was pleased to find no line. With my fish and chips ($6.50) in hand I exited the park and found a waiting Friendship boat at the dock. I asked if I could board with food and since I could, I did. The boat sat there long enough for me to finish it. It’s very tasty but the serving is too small for the price. I was really uncomfortable because it was pretty warm outside; I’d just walked a ways and was eating a hot dish. I was glad the CM put on the air conditioning before we left the dock. One of the last people to board went to open a window and I told her the air WAS on, so she didn’t open it. Thank you. I could have walked to the Boardwalk dock faster from the time I got on the boat and waited for what seemed like forever, but I sat back and enjoyed the ride and the cool air, finally.

I got off at the BoardWalk dock since the boat goes to the Yacht and Beach Clubs first before the Swan and Dolphin and then the Studios. Instead, I walked all the way to the Studios on the sidewalk along the canal on the BoardWalk side. This was the first time I’d done this, so there was another thing off my “to do” list. It was warm out so I took my time and whenever possible walked in the shade. Let me just note that “warm” is relative. It was probably in the low 80s. During this trip I noticed Floridians (Mary, Peter, their friends and neighbors) had on long sleeve shirts and/or light jackets when I was perfectly comfortable in a short sleeve or sleeveless top.

Anyway, back to my walk. On my way, I noticed that the public parking lot for the BoardWalk is right behind the tennis courts next to this path. I thought that parking there and using this path was another alternative to parking at the Swan and going to the Studios. I also mentally reviewed all the jewelry options I’d seen but still hadn’t decided which piece(s) to purchase. Before I knew it, I was there and so was a Friendship boat. I wasn’t sure if it was the one I’d been on or not. It was 12:30 p.m. when I entered the park.

The first thing I did was check the show schedule for the Beauty and the Beast then I got a FP for Little Mermaid with a return time of 1:50 - 2 p.m. The Great Movie Ride had a 25 minute wait posted and since I wouldn’t be able to see the next Beauty and the Beast and still make my FP window for Little Mermaid, I just got in the stand-by line. It moved along but slowly enough to enjoy the movie clips. I was in a ride vehicle in less than 25 minutes. I looked for the hidden Mickey but, once again, I was not able to find it.

I took a walk to the newly named Big City Street with the newly added San Francisco Street to check out how the Osborne Family Light display was going up. Most of them were on the buildings from top to bottom about six inches apart. A small area was blocked off where CMs were still working on them. There were also displays on the rooftops and the angels were at the far end of the street in front of the arch. The San Francisco Street looked pretty good. I noticed a big sign at the construction site advertising the new stunt show opening in 2005.

Walked back to Hollywood Blvd and did some browsing in the clothing store there. This store usually has nicer clothing and it didn’t disappoint. I saw some items I hadn’t seen yet this trip and hoped to find them in World of Disney for my big shopping spree.

My Little Mermaid FP was open so I walked there and went into the outer room. I found a spot where I could sit on the floor and lean against the wall and made some notes while I was waiting. It proved to be a nice diversion from standing and people watching. Once in the theater, I timed it so I got a seat in the center of a row. I enjoyed the show as always with its sing-a-long tunes and neat special effects.

After the show, I walked directly to the 2:45 p.m. Beauty and the Beast show. Even though the theater was very full, I was able to find a seat on the aisle down front by the stage and as soon as I sat down, pre-show ‘Four for a Dollar’ started to perform. Nice timing! This is another favorite and I enjoyed this show very much too. I noticed that the costumes seemed to be fresher than last fall when I saw it. I think they were new and a little different than the old ones.

On my way back up Sunset Blvd I browsed in the stores. Hearing some commotion outside I looked out and saw a Streetmosphere act taking place so I went to watch it. It was a magician performing a card trick followed by another skit which was pretty funny. The kids that were picked to participate were just hilarious. At the end the young volunteer received a pass to allow him and his family to the head of the lines. Cool.

I grabbed an apple ($1) for a snack since I was feeling a little hungry but didn’t want to get something big since I didn’t know what my dinner plans would be. I then went to watch the Superstars and Motorcars parade and positioned myself at the end of the parade route near the park exit, so I could get the heck out of there quickly and back to Epcot. My plan worked like a charm and there was a Friendship boat just pulling up to the dock.

I got off at the Swan and Dolphin resorts and walked the rest of the way to the International Gateway. I had some time before my 5:10 p.m. tea presentation, so I had a seat on a bench in France and waited for Server Amusant. I was selected to participate in the show and nobody I knew was there to see me. Yet, another difference in traveling alone. In hindsight, I should have handed my camera to someone to take my picture. I had to sit in a chair and hold a rope with my feet that marked the audience boundary and then stand up and mimic some of his mime movements and he acknowledged I did a pretty good job.

Tea time had arrived so I returned to the beer garden next to the Rose and Crown restaurant and saw another woman sitting by herself, so I asked if I could join her. Her husband had copped out at the last minute and she was glad for the company. So was I. They were traveling form Baltimore, MD and we chatted about timeshares and our experiences at WDW. The presentation was put on by Twinings teas. We each had three clear heavy plastic tea cups and three different tea bags-a Jasmine green, a black and a lemon and ginger herbal, a pitcher of hot water and a handout about teas. We brewed and sampled the three teas. I thought they were pretty strong and one was to the point of being bitter. Then, duh, I realized that was probably because we weren’t using a full cup of water in order to conserve it to make sure it lasted for all three teas. Once I diluted them a bit, they were better. While we were busy doing this, the presenter talked about tea history in general and then the types of teas. Black teas leaves are oxidized (turned dark like an apple does), green teas are processed so that they don’t turn color and have a lighter flavor and, finally, herbals teas are not tea at all but dried herbs and flowers. The lemon and ginger tea was especially good iced. At the end of the presentation, which lasted about a half an hour, everyone received a tea caddy and some tea bags as a gift. A nice and unexpected surprise. Something free at WDW.

On my way through Canada, I stopped to listen to a group called Fiddler’s Joy. They were very good and I preferred them much more than Off Kilter. Sorry Sheri. I was feeling hungry again so I got a quesadilla ($3.50) at the food booth in Mexico. It was pretty big and lasted me for the rest of the evening. Now I sound like Sue. In China I caught the child acrobats which are just amazing in their performances but they don’t look very happy. I went in the store to see if there was another shawl like the one my mother-in-law bought last March, but I didn’t see one to pick up for myself.

Up until this point, I’d been expecting Mary or Peter to call me to make plans for dinner. It was well after Mary’s last set and they should have met up by now. I decided that they probably just went home and to leave Epcot and go to the Magic Kingdom. On my way out of the park, I stopped at a pay phone and called Bill. He wasn’t home, so I left a message. Since I had that darned tea caddy to carry, I decided to get rid of that at the car. Since I was right there, I drove over to the Magic Kingdom instead of taking the Monorail. There was no CM in the parking lot, so I pulled all the way up as close as I could get to the Ticket and Transportation Center in the front row of Minnie and then walked over to get on the Monorail.

I expected Wishes to be at 9 p.m. but it was at 8 p.m. It was a good thing I decided to leave Epcot when I did or I would have missed it. I walked around the park until the show started. I watched from the hub near the popcorn cart. It was a perfect location for both viewing and hearing the soundtrack since there is a speaker right there. I’ll admit that even though I really don’t like it that all the big trees have been removed in the hub area; it makes it easier to view the fireworks. So, it’s good at night, but is too open and barren during the day. Each time I see Wishes, I appreciate it more and more. I wasn’t one to fall in love with it the first time I saw it. I still preferred Fantasy in the Sky better because I liked the big weeping fireworks. I expected a difficult time leaving the park in a huge shoulder to shoulder crowd, but it wasn’t too bad. I took the ferry and practically walked right on. At the Ticket and Transportation Center, I walked out to the car.

I took Old Lake Wilson Road “home” and I was glad to have a car in front of me and behind. It’s a dark country road and though that’s what I am accustomed to at home, I didn’t want to be out there all by myself if I had car troubles even with my cell phone. Another thing I wouldn’t have given a second thought about if I weren’t alone. I caught up with Mary and Peter once I arrived safe and sound and we made plans for tomorrow. I updated my notes and turned the light out at 11 p.m.

Day Four: Saturday, November 13
I was up at 7:30 a.m. and got ready for the day. The plan was to go to a craft show at Mary and Peter’s community center and then do some shopping at the Marketplace at Downtown Disney. Mary had offered to use her 40% off CM holiday discount towards my purchases there.

We walked to the community center and were there at 9 a.m. Nothing really caught my eye. There were some nicely made baskets but I need another basket like I need a hole in the head. I have 40+ Longaberger baskets plus numerous others all over my house. I did get a gourd dipper and a wooden frog, though, for Bill which I’ll save for Christmas. I also bought some cookies at the bake sale. Mary bought some, too, and we were both disappointed. They were spice raisin coffee and were just too bland. I do have to say that the prices on the craft items were pretty reasonable. I only spent $17.

At 11:15 a.m. we are on the road to the Marketplace. We got on the ramp for I-4 and realized we shouldn’t have because the traffic was heavy and moving very slowly. We made our way to the next exit which was only 1 ½ miles away and got off and took back roads the rest of the way. Parking was difficult once we got there due to the Festival of the Masters Art show taking place throughout Downtown Disney. We found a space down by Pleasure Island and walked back to the Marketplace. The sidewalks were crowded as expected. We took some time to look at the sidewalk art done in chalk. Some were very good but the positions the artists were sitting in looked very uncomfortable to me.

Our first stop was the World of Disney. I showed Mary what jewelry I wanted-14kt gold amethyst ring with the stones in the Mickey head shape for me and the pearl earrings for Paula. ($145) Then I filled a basket with everything else I’d seen over the last three days. ($224) We brought walkie talkie radios today and when I was finished shopping, I called Mary to come meet me. She’d purchased cheerleader pom-poms for a homecoming themed dance coming up at their community center. On our way out of World of Disney we sampled various coffee and hot chocolate flavors. The hot chocolate was very sweet and steaming hot and I burned by tongue.

Our shopping continued at Days of Christmas where I got the fabric princess dress ornaments, all but Belle anyway since they didn’t have hers. I also got the first in a new series of disc ornaments. ($33) This series, I believe, will be movies and the one I bought is Snow White. Last year I completed the Mickey through time series of disc ornaments.

By this time it was just after 1 p.m. and Peter called after he’d gotten off work. He decided not to meet us for lunch so we were on our own. We decided to take our bags to the car and take the ferry to Olivia’s at Old Key West for lunch. When we returned to the dock we had a half hour to wait for the next ferry so we wandered through Disney at Home and the Art of Disney. We thought we returned to the dock early but found a lot of people already queued up. I was afraid we might not make it on the next one, but once eliminating the people in line waiting for the ferry to the West Side, there was enough room for everyone going to Old Key West and Saratoga Springs.

I noticed the ferry has changed and is no longer a pontoon boat with nice comfortable seats which provided a quiet and relaxing ride. The new ferry is like the one that runs back and forth to Port Orleans which has hard seats and its engine is very loud. I’m sure the change from the pontoon boat is to accommodate the additional guests since this ferry now services the Saratoga Springs resort. It’s too bad since the ride to Old Key West was very much part of the charm of going there to eat.

We asked for and were seated at an outside table at Olivia’s. There was a wedding party in the smaller room inside and a few people in the main dining room but we were the only ones outside. We each got the soup, salad and sandwich special and shared a huge dessert. We took our time and talked while also watching guests walking by. This is such a quiet relaxing place to eat. My share of the bill came to $16 after the CM discount plus I added a few more dollars to the tip that is automatically put on CM bills.

We browsed the gift shop where Mary had a conversation with other CMs about signing up for and singing in the Candlelight Processional. We also walked through the lobby and down by the pool but with the constructions walls couldn’t see anything. By this time it was late enough (4 p.m.) in the afternoon that the ferry was running every thirty minutes so we didn’t have a long wait for the next one. We were prepared to take the bus back to the Marketplace otherwise. Planning your time around the ferry is important if you are watching the time since they only run every hour on the hour from the Marketplace and the half hour from Old Key West until 4 p.m. when they run every half hour.

We decided on the rest of our day…I offered to drive Mary home but she decided to go with me to the Magic Kingdom to see SpectroMagic and Wishes. We browsed some more at the Marketplace, got a Ghirardelli chocolate sample and then walked through Pleasure Island to the West Side where we wandered through some of the Festival of the Masters’ booths. We found we were not really interested in this type of art and since it was nearing the end of their day (5:30 p.m.), they were closing up anyway. We were sure that the dark clouds and threatening sky encouraged them to pack up also. Soon it started to rain and we decided to browse in the Mickey store nearby where Mary bought a Mickey Mouse Club sweatshirt she’d been admiring. She was a member of the MMC as a girl and even has home movies she showed me that evening of her and her neighbors putting on a skit imitating the show. By the time we were ready to leave the rain was just a drizzle and we headed to the car.

We drove to the Contemporary, used Mary’s ID at security, parked near the sidewalk to the Magic Kingdom and walked over. This would be the most convenient when exiting at the end of the night. It was a little cool so we took our sweatshirts but no rain gear since it had stopped. The park was crowded but not nearly as bad as I expected for a Saturday night with a running of SpectroMagic.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was our first destination for FPs. Mary’s ID didn’t work so the CM gave her a FP. Our return time was 7:40 to 8:40 p.m. We rode Pirates of the Caribbean queuing up on the left side and walking right on to a boat while the right side had a line. We ventured over to the Haunted Mansion next where a 20 minute stand-by was posted but it was probably only a 10 minute wait. We positioned ourselves to be first out of the stretching room. The ride went down for a few minutes before we boarded our doom buggy but we had an uneventful ride after that. Our Big Thunder Mountain Railroad FP window would open in 15 minutes so we walked back that way. Mary asked if we could get on sooner and I told her I didn’t think so but we could try and we did. Obviously, the CM wasn’t pay very close attention or didn’t care. The stand-by was 40 minutes. We asked for and got the last car and had a great nighttime ride.

We tried to get a FP for Splash Mountain next but we couldn’t because our window for the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad window hadn’t opened yet so we waited. No one else was around except for the CM. Mary dug out two Test Track re-entry tickets traded them for two FPs (return 8:20 - 9:20 p.m.) from the CM and we were on our way.

Mary had never ridden the Magic Carpets and the stand-by line was posted at 10 minutes so we queued up. Mary talked to two little girls in line asking them about their day and if they saw Mickey and Minnie and who was their favorite character. Their answer was Stitch. The ride went down when we first queued up but was soon online again. It s neat to watch the procedures the CMs go through in order to bring ride back up again. The carpets weren’t numbered, yet we were instructed to ride in the number we were assigned. Before each ride the CM shouted these instructions and that number one was red, etc., etc. I thought this must be new since I don’t recall it from my last trip/ride. I’m sure the poor girl was hoarse by the end of her shift. I hoped a recorded version of the instructions would be added soon. Mary sat in the front and controlled up and down movement and I was in the back and controlled tipping forward and back. I kept telling her to watch out for the camel that he would spit on us. She didn’t know they did that and we got spit on. Too funny!

To Tomorrowland next to ride Buzz since Mary doesn’t do Space Mountain. I told her it was too bad we couldn’t get FPs and she said, “Why not?” Then it dawned on me that since we didn’t use our passes to get our Splash Mountain FPs, there was no reason why we couldn’t get Buzz FPs. Yay! I went first and got a return time of 9:10 to 10 p.m. Mary’s ID didn’t work again and the CM starts a conversation with her asking where she worked and such and then he gives her three FPs with a return for 8:05 - 9:05 p.m.-now! So we got in the FP line; yes, they were not letting people with FPs in for a few minutes and a line had formed. Since my FP did not overlap with the three the CM gave us, I wanted to get rid of that one first and tried to use it now but this CM was checking closely and he noticed the window hadn’t opened yet. I pulled out the good FP and he let me in. Then I handed the CM collecting them the later one so we both had matching FPs for our next ride otherwise we couldn’t go together. Our scores were pitiful even though we got stuck at the end. At least Mary got over 100,000-Planetary Pilot. This was the first time I didn’t keep squeezing the trigger. Instead I just held it down thanks to the person who reported that tip. My thumb always got a cramp otherwise!

We walked right around and got right back on. The stand by was 50 minutes-yikes! There was a family in front of us and the mother seemed to be blind. The father was practically dragging her through the queue and onto the ride vehicle. She even commented to him to slow down. I don’t know how much enjoyment she got out of the experience but at least she had a score of 2,000. Our scores were better than our first ride through but not by much.

It was time for SpectroMagic to start and I thought our best bet would be to jump in a walkway once it was closed for the parade to go by. We tried this in Town Square so we could make our way via the Main Street Railroad after the parade to Frontierland to get on Splash with our FPs. We bombed out on both “great” ideas though. For one, the walkway we chose was kept open during the entire parade so we couldn’t jump in that open area. Many people tried but the CM posted there did an excellent job in keeping people out and the walkway open. We felt bad for the guy and Mary said that is one job she wouldn’t want to do. So we wound up watching from behind four rows of people which was fine since it wasn’t like it was our first time seeing it or had planned on taking pictures. Our second failure was the realization that the train does not run during the parade, DUH, because the parade crosses the tracks in Frontierland. SO, we followed the parade all the way back to the boardwalk and then cut over to Splash.

Splash was deserted and we didn’t even need our FPs since both lines were walk ons. CMs weren’t even assigning seats in the boats. I chose the second seat, Mary was in the third and a mother and daughter in the fourth. Shortly after starting, we saw a kid running along the walkway toward us. It was in the area where after you go along the outside, then turn and double back around inside. At first I though it was a CM because it was so dark. When I realized it was a kid, I was very surprised and scared for his safety. Our boat continued on and once inside, the kid (7ish) came running up again, this time following the boats. It turns out he’d been in the boat behind us with his younger brother (5ish) and no other adults. The little brother was still in the boat and the older boy wanted him to get out too. Our boat yelled, “No” to him to not get the brother out. I yelled and motioned to the exit and told him to go through that door. What does he do? He jumps back in the boat! From the looks on their faces, it appeared that they were scared and couldn’t understand what we were saying.

Finally, the ride shuts down and a CM comes out and asks the older boy to get out of the boat. He refused and the CM left. When she returned she told him to stay in the boat. It was very loud with the music still playing and she was yelling in order to be heard. Those kids were scared! Where were their parents? Why were such young kids riding alone? By the time the ride resumed, we are a wreck from worrying about them and, needless to say, didn’t enjoy our ride at all. They did stay in the boat the rest of the ride but were in trouble when they got off. A CM spoke to them and the father was there too. We didn’t stick around to see or hear what happened but they weren’t there long because by the time we viewed our pictures and theirs, they walked out past us. The father was yelling at them in another language. We wished we could understand what he was saying so we could determine why they rode alone and the kid got out of the boat. In their picture, the younger boy was sitting back in his seat and looked like he didn’t know what was coming while the older brother was hanging on and had his head down.

By this time Wishes had just started and we were emotionally drained and not in the mood to stand and watch them. So, we walked out of the park catching them as we went. I was hungry and Mary was too but this late everything in the park was closed so she suggested we stop at a pizza place near her house. We stopped in the restroom in Town Square and when we came out it was raining again. Ugh! We walked in the rain and were glad, at least, for the protection of our sweatshirts which we took off once at the car. We were wet but not soaked.

We took the back roads home to avoid any possible traffic on I-4 and found the pizza place closed at 11 p.m. on a Saturday night. What kind of pizza place is that!? Oh well, we bypassed our other options and just went home. As we were nearing their house, Peter called to find out where the heck we were. He was worried since he thought the park closed at 9 and not 10 p.m. Once we were inside, we caught up with him on his day and shared our experiences with him. He just shook his head-crazy women! To bed at midnight and sleep comes easily.

Day Five: Sunday, November 14
I woke up at 7:30 a.m. very tired. I caught up on my notes, showered, dressed and had breakfast with Mary and Peter. I tried to call Bill three times but the phone was busy. (It turned out the phone was not working and he got our neighbor who is retired from the phone company to fix it. He had been a little put out that I hadn’t called until he realized why. We finally connected on Monday afternoon while I was waiting to board my flight home.) Mary, Peter and I decide to meet for dinner and Peter tries to get a PS. Our first choice was Mitsukoshi…in Japan but it was full so we settled for the Brown Derby at 6:30 p.m. I left them at 9:50 a.m.

My first stop was the Character Corner at the Lake Buena Vista Factory Stores since I hadn’t shopped their yet. As is usual at this store, I didn’t find anything worth purchasing but I always have to go just in case. Just down SR 535 I stopped in at the Polynesian Isles Resort where we’ll be staying for our February 2005 trip. We’d stayed at this resort before so I was familiar with it but had some things I wanted to check into. I was waved through the security gate as if I was a guest. I guess he saw my pass for Mary and Peter’s community and thought it was for this place which was not very reassuring. I just laughed it off, parked and went to the registration desk.

My concerns were the bed arrangement in the second bedroom, being able to stay in the same unit for both weeks and the views from some of the other buildings compared to the one we stayed in before. The unit we stayed in previously had a great view but two twin beds in the second bedroom. My confirmation said some units had queen beds and since we were having couples as guests, I wanted to try and get a queen. I was told that two of their buildings had queens and which ones they were. And, if I called a couple of weeks before check in, they might be able to assign me to one of those buildings and also be able to stay in the same unit both weeks. I asked if I could walk around the resort and see where those two buildings were which was fine but they informed me that half of the resort was currently closed for renovations to repair damage sustained from the recent hurricanes. Those two buildings were included and they hoped to have the whole resort open in January. I hope so too. The location and views from both buildings were about the same so I won’t really have a preference for one over the other. I was pleased that they are in the new section of the resort where we stayed last time. With that settled, I moved on to Joe’s Crab Shack on SR535 past the WDW Village entrance.

Here I purchased the gift card for Mary and Peter as a thank you for their hospitality since they wouldn’t let me buy them dinner the other night. It’s a restaurant they go to often and we’d eaten there with them last March so I knew where it was. I would leave the gift card for them with a small gift I’d brought from home when I left on Monday so they couldn’t refuse it.

By now it was noontime and Coronado Springs was my next stop for lunch. I ordered the pizza with everything and an iced tea ($13). Many of the other diners were conventioneers that looked as if they’d just arrived and checked in since they were carrying tote bags or note books with their respective convention name on it. I enjoyed people watching as I ate.

Afterwards I spent some time walking around outside the resort and inside the convention area to familiarize myself with the layout and what they offered. As I mentioned earlier, my workplace will be holding a gathering here in April and I’d been asked to coordinate it, so I was doing some homework. I was looking in particular for a few of their smallest rooms since our group will not be large. I was lucky enough to also see a luncheon buffet set up and thought it was presented well. One of the conferences was handing out laptops and software instead of a tote bag or traditional notebooks. WOW, I thought that was big time! I think it was a pharmaceutical company. During a visit to the restroom I saw something that didn’t make sense. I used the handicapped stall which had its own sink. The box of tissues was on a shelf above the mirror. I thought “how the heck is someone in a wheelchair supposed to reach them when it was a stretch for me, standing at 5’8?” Some things just make you go “hmmm?”

Finally, it was time to hit a park and I chose Animal Kingdom. I tried to park in a lot close to the gates and it turned out to be the handicapped lot. The CM there directed me to the regular lot. Oops, sorry. Once at the regular lot I tried to drive as close as I could toward the gate but a security van saw me and started following me so I decided I should just park in the farthest area, Giraffe 44, where the tram was picking guests up instead of walking in.

Once in the park I got a FP for the safari with a return time of 2:05 - 3:03 p.m. I walked through the Pangani Forest Trail finding the hippos sleeping underwater near the underwater observation window. It was pretty cool to see them raise their heads every once in a while to breath. The family of gorillas was especially active from their window also. The CM there was doing an excellent job talking about their pecking order, dominance and family life VS bachelor life behaviors. He spoke in a manner that all ages could understand without talking down to the adults. I was quite impressed and learned a lot. Once the family moved to the back of their habitat, I followed them around and continued to watch them go about their gorilla business. They certainly do have very obvious personalities.

By this time, my FP window was open and before I rode, I got another one. The FP line was relatively long but I got pulled out with some others to fill a handicapped jeep. I thought this was going to get me on the ride sooner but since we waited a long time for a handicapped person to come along, it didn’t. Finally, we were okayed to leave without any handicapped guests. I saw most all of the animals and an added bonus was that those on the Serengeti were all grouped together and my photo was filled with all types of animals. It rained during our trip but stopped by the time it was over. Our driver did a great job making it informing and exciting. I sat in the back seat on the right side (a first) and it was very bumpy.

The 3 p.m. Lion King show was next on my agenda and I got a seat in the Warthog section. I chose the back row so I could lean against a backrest. This show was as good as always and the enclosed theater is a nice touch. I was seated around many seeing the show for the first time and there were lots of oohs and aahs. I got up just before the end so I could get a head start out since the last time we got caught up in some pretty bad stroller traffic and I needed to get back to Harambe before my second safari FP time expired. Luckily the Warthog section was directed to exit at the entrance. I guess since no one was queued up for the next show, they let us out that way. This helped my situation immensely and I was out of there in a flash. That mission accomplished my next worry was getting snagged up in parade traffic but that wasn’t a problem either and I made it in good time.

This time the FP line was much shorter and I rode in the same spot on the jeep. I guess it’s were they put singles. There were still a lot of animals out and we saved Little Red again. Do those ostrich eggs ever hatch? Back out in Harambe, the parade was just returning as I exited the safari so I walked right up to the rope and watched. I highly recommend watching the parade in Harambe as it goes backstage. You don’t have to wait for a front row view.

Next I wandered over to see the construction site for Expedition Everest and enjoyed a premium Mickey bar along the way-yum. It is a very pleasant area of the park with few people along the walkway. I’m sure this won’t be the case once the ride opens. After my loop around and back to Discovery Island, I exited the park and took the tram back to the car. Once there, I changed from shorts into long pants for the evening. I also took a photo of a van painted in camouflage. It wasn’t just spray painted this was quite detailed so I took a picture of it for Bill.

I drove over to the Studios arriving at 5:30 p.m., parked in Stage 43 and took the tram to the gate. It was still Super Soap weekend and there were a ton of people lining the street for some soap parade. I walked through the stores to avoid the crowd on the street and then down to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster but the FP return was too late for my plans so I just walked around the park killing time before our 6:30 PS. I happened to see that the Osborne Lights were lit! What a bonus! So, I walked all through that. I overheard a CM telling another guest that she was surprised that they where lit and it sounded as if it was not scheduled or at least she wasn’t expecting it. I didn’t find it to be as quaint as it was on the residential street but it was still impressive to see.

As I made my way over to the Brown Derby I came upon an area where costumes worn by actors from the soaps were for sale. There were lots of gowns and they were not ridiculously priced like I expected. Probably earlier in the day there were less expensive items that sold quickly.

I arrived at the Brown Derby early and it was a good thing. Mary’s cousin and her husband joined us and our PS time had changed (with the number of guests) to 6:20 p.m. We had a short wait before we were seated at a corner table. There was a cool draft and everyone but me was cold. I’d even taken my jacket off. Mary had on a turtleneck and a jacket-thin FL blood. This restaurant is very expensive so to keep the bill down, the others ordered just entrees-two were really meant to be appetizers. I, on the other hand, was on vacation and so ordered wine, a salad and my entrée. With the CM discount my portion of the bill came to $33. We enjoyed nice conversation during dinner even though the doors we were sitting next to were opened sometime during dinner and the soap actors performing on the stage under the big hat did not create a nice atmosphere for such a restaurant. We left the park before it closed at 8 p.m. and went our separate ways. We met at “home” and chatted a bit while Mary worked on making sneaker pom-poms for the homecoming dance on Saturday night to match the hand pom-poms she bought at the World of Disney.

I went into my room at 10 p.m. for bed but wound up packing until 11 p.m. and then went to sleep.

Day Six: Monday, November 15
Awake at 7:30 a.m. and after showering and dressing I wrote out a thank you card for Mary and Peter and set it with their gifts. I chatted with Mary over some orange juice, printed my boarding pass (section A) and finished last minute packing. I tried calling home again but still got a busy signal with both my calling card and by dialing direct. We said goodbye (until February) and I was on the road at 10:25 a.m. without a definite idea of what I was going to do until I had to be at the airport at 5 p.m.

I got on I-4 and as I was driving had a great idea-I’d have breakfast at Boma. That is, if they where still serving since it would be close to 11 a.m. by the time I got there. Security gave me a three-hour parking permit and I walked inside. It was very quiet and nearly empty at Boma but I was in luck since they where still seating people. CM Dilly was my server. I didn’t see the omelet station until I had my plate full-bummer. I tried the sausage biscuit casserole, corned beef hash, bacon, sausage, French toast, scrambled eggs, fruit and pecan sticky buns with Boma’s famous special juice-yum. ($20 w/tip) During breakfast I updated my notes and when I finished eating, I went outside and sat by the pool where I finished catching up on my notes. I sat in a lounge chair in the shade except for my legs. The sun was very warm. I browsed the gift shop before I left the resort at noon.

By now, I’d decided to return to the Magic Kingdom today. I parked in Goofy 48, took the tram, then the Monorail to the park. My first destination was Tomorrowland to get a FP for Space Mountain with return time of 1:30 - 2:30 p.m. The stand by was 20 minutes. The Tomorrowland Countdown band was performing in the area where the stage once stood, so I walked over to listen and watch them. They were kind of a marching band maneuvering around while they played. They were very portable with their drummer’s platform and speakers on wheels. During an audience participation part, a woman sitting near me, who was by herself, was asked to join the band and she asked me to take her picture with her camera. So I took quite a few pictures as she marched around. It felt good to help out another “party of one”.

I’d wanted to catch the Hall of President’s on the half hour but lingered too long in Tomorrowland so I didn’t make it in time. Darn. Instead, I tried to see the Country Bear Jamboree but they were closed while the holiday show was being installed. Double darn. As I was walking back through Frontierland along the boardwalk, I heard my name being called. It was Mary and Peter standing in the turkey leg cart line! We chatted and Mary told me she’d just signed up for a Minnie shift at the Studios for the next week. She was very excited because she’d be signing autographs at the hat and riding in the parade. She thanked me for the gifts and we said goodbye once again.

I continued on my way to ride Space Mountain via Fantasyland. Pooh had a 60 minute stand-by wait with FP return at 3:10 - 4:10 p.m. proving to be more popular than Space Mountain. Wow. Once inside Space Mountain, I went to the left, got in the front of the rocket and as we pulled away from the loading area the ride went down. It lasted for about ten minutes but at least I had a seat. CMs were called to walk the track but one stayed behind at the loading area. The work lights came on but I couldn’t see the tracks from where I was. People in line could, though. I think one rocket went through the ride with passengers because I heard screaming and the people in line were looking up at the tracks. The CMs who walked the track returned and the lights when out and we were on our way. This ride seems SO much faster from the front seat. Fun, fun, fun with a big smile!

Oh, I forgot to mention that before my ride when I was walking through the FP queue, I saw the couple in front of me jump from the FP side to the stand-by side. They did this when they where close enough to see there was no line on the stand-by side by the turnstile, even though the stand-by time was posted outside at 20 minutes. Then I saw the man put the FPs in his pocket. I surmised they did this in order to use their FPs to get on again after this ride-slick!

I got another FP when I exited for 2:55 - 3:55 p.m. and set off for the Hall of President’s but I missed it again. I noticed a woman sitting on one of the rockers on the porch watching over a stroller at the Hall of Presidents that I’d seen sitting there on my previous attempt. That looks like a great place to sit and chill out for a while. From here, I just wandered and wound up doing The Enchanted Tiki Room with a four minute wait. I enjoy this version but think the original is better because it’s a classic. I’m glad it still runs in Disneyland. Since I had a lot of time, I got in the 20 minute stand-by for the Jungle Cruise next but it didn’t take all that. Our skipper was just okay but at least the sound system was good and I could hear which made it better than the last time I rode. The puns are really pretty funny but no one was laughing at them. Either people are not listening or too dumb to get them-duh!

Back to Space Mountain and ride the on the right side this time in the front of the rocket for another fast ride. I felt like I was all alone in the rocket because everyone behind me was so quiet. When I exited, it was almost 3:30 p.m. and I could either try for Hall of President’s again or head out. I decided to head out after I got a citrus swirl in Adventureland, which I’d tried to do another time this trip but the window was closed. I’d read that they were pretty good and wanted to try one. My opinion was that they weren’t as good as I expected but I’d get one again. The orange juice swirl was pretty bitter but the sweet ice cream off set it.

After I said good bye to the Magic Kingdom until February, I found a Monorail waiting and a tram waiting, too. At the car, I changed from shorts and sandals to long pants, socks and sneakers. I also took a Bonnine for motion sickness for the plane ride. I packed everything away and headed to the Car Care Center/Hess station for 13 gallons of gas at $1.92 a gallon. I left WDW property for the Greenway (SR 417) and hit green lights all the way-yay! Paid the $2 in tolls and followed the signs to the airport, terminal and the National Car Rental return. The National employee checking me out teases me by saying my bill came to $450 when he was pointing to the actual figure of $155. I didn’t fall for it. Ha!

There was no line at ticketing. After I checked in, I left my bags with baggage security and found a looong line at security (4:55 p.m.). At least it moved pretty quickly and I got through with no problems. The Monorail was waiting for the ride to the terminal. I tried to call Bill from the gate but I still got a busy signal. I used the restroom to freshen up a bit. I found a seat at the gate and updated my notes until my phone rang and it’s Bill-yay! He told me about the phone not working at home and Bob coming over to fix it. I sat and people watched until boarding time and got in the end of the A section line. Once on the plane, I finished my notes before take off. I sat in the emergency exit row which only had two seats. At first I sat in the aisle but when someone asked to sit with me, I just moved over. The kid (in his late teens) in back of me had such long legs, his feet were right to the seats in front of my row! The pilot announced the temperature in Albany was 38 degrees which wasn’t too bad. I napped and soon we were landing. Bill met me and it was good to see him and it was a good feeling to have someone waiting for me. It was also nice not to have to drive home or to pay for a week’s parking. Thanks, Bill!

Summary:
This was a wonderful trip. It was a first in many ways with traveling alone and staying with friends. The weather was perfect with warm temperatures, low humidity and lots of sun with only a few showers. It was the least “commando” of any of my previous trips and I enjoyed letting the magic happen naturally instead of trying to create it.

I would definitely travel to WDW by myself again. I am familiar with both airports, having the convenience of non-stop flights and comfortable driving in the WDW area that I didn’t mind being alone at all. I never felt unsafe but was more aware of my surroundings than if I were not alone. There were times that I missed not having someone with me in the parks but for the most part, I enjoyed my alone time. I enjoyed doing whatever I wanted and not feeling like I was inconveniencing any one else. I spent more time with Mary and Peter than I expected I would and maybe this had an effect on my enjoying the trip so much. Perhaps if I’d stayed at a hotel and didn’t spend any time with anyone I knew I would feel differently.

It’s after the holidays as I finish this report and my next trip is less than a month away. Like I already mentioned, we’ll be staying at the Polynesian Isles resort for two weeks with my brother, his NOW fiancé (hurray!), my mom, her friend, George, and Bill’s mom staying with us but not all at once. Until that report, thanks for reading and feel free to contact me with your thoughts or questions.

Kim Howe
HOWEKM@Cobleskill.edu

 


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