Terri Perry -- August/September 2004 -- Walt Disney World (PORFQ)
Cast of Characters
Friday, August 27th
We left Mount Sidney, VA, which is in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley, around 9:30 a.m., with reservations in Brunswick, GA at the Red Roof Inn & Suites I-95 for that night. We drove through the nearest McDonald's for breakfast on the go, and hit the ground running, down I-81. As we got closer to I-77, there were signs about an accident ahead and a detour. We had to get off of I-81 one exit past where it intersects with I-77, turn around and get on I-77 from the other direction. We took advantage of that stop to stop at a Flying J truckstop for road food (Snickers and Diet Coke, the lunch of champions!) and a bathroom break. A little further down I-77, we saw some more signs about an accident ahead , and another detour. We had to take I-74 at Mount Airy, and take Rt. 601. For some unknown reason, BOTH direction of I-77 had been re-routed down Rt. 601, and it had become a parking lot. We spent 2 hours going about 20 miles, before we could get back on I-77. If we had known, we'd have just stayed on I-74 for a while longer and taken I-20 back to connect to I-77 or something. Finally, we were on our way again. In S.C., we stopped at Maurice's BBQ in Columbia, one of a chain that was recommended by Choearfan1. It was a great dinner, and really hit the spot. I'd recommend it to anyone traveling in that area who likes BBQ. We hit some torrential downpours in S.C. too, which, after the fact, we figured out were from Tropical Storm Gaston. After the rain cleared, though, we saw a huge rainbow. We got to the hotel at around 9:00 PM. We figured out that the driving time, less the delays was about 8 hours. We had planned on about 10. There is an Exxon station next to the hotel, so we walked there and got some drinks, and scouted out a place for breakfast the next morning, watched some of the Olympics, and hit the hay.
Saturday, August 28th
We walked to the nearby Cracker Barrel for breakfast, and headed for St. Augustine, FL for a quick visit.
In St. Augustine, We stopped at the Ponce de Leon Fountain of Youth and First Landing Site. It was pretty cheesy, but very interesting. (The fountain of youth, is, by the way, filtered for your protection, which my husband, an engineer for the Va. Office of Drinking Water, found amusing.) We walked around the historic area of town, and drove around a bit, and then headed down A1A toward Daytona. We saw a lot of damage and debris on A1A from Hurricane Charley. There were roofs off, and signs twisted and completely gone in a lot of places. Of course, in the back of our minds was Hurricane Frances brewing in the Caribbean. We were hoping she'd change course soon.
I had never been to Daytona, but Mark had. He really wanted me to walk on the beach and see how hard it is, and how different it is from our favorite haunt, Myrtle Beach. We parked at the Ocean Walk, and went out on the beach. I loved it. The ocean just removes all stress from me. What a welcome beginning to our vacation! We drove past Daytona International Speedway, the mecca of al that is Nascar, and plowed on to Walt Disney World with eager anticipation.
We stopped at the Goodings at Crossroads to pick up some donuts and juice for breakfasts, and some 20 oz. drinks for the room. When we drive, we travel with a cooler that is powered by an AC adapter, and can be plugged into the cigarette lighter in the car as well, so we don't need a refrigerator in the room. We checked in at Port Orleans French Quarter, with no wait. We got room 4223 in Building 4, which was perfect. We don't like first floor rooms, and this was really close to the bus stop and for main building. We decided to eat dinner at the Sassagoula Floatworks Food Factory at the resort, and head to Magic Kingdom for "Wishes".
"Spectromagic" was getting ready to start, so instead of watching it, since we've seen it so many times, we decided to take advantage of the short lines at some of the rides, and rode Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain. We met two hilarious teenage girls, one of which didn't like the bigger rides and screamed like a banshee on both of them. We all laughed and had a great time. We also went to the "Haunted Mansion" and rode it with no wait. We made our way to the hub and got a great place near the center to see "Wishes". It really was moving, and completely awesome. We once saw an international fireworks competition, and since then, fireworks have just seemed humdrum to us. "Wishes" is as close to that as we've ever come. It's definitely not to be missed. We killed some time in the shops and went back to POFQ. We were exhausted.
Sunday, August 29th
We set the alarm for 8:30 a.m., so we could sleep in a little. Remember, this is supposed to be a relaxing vacation for us! We ate breakfast in the room. Around 10:00 a.m., we caught a bus to Epcot. We were able to walk onto "Mission: Space" with a 5 minute standby time. I have problem with vertigo, which is crippling at times, so I was hesitant to ride, but I love simulators, and didn't want to miss this one. We decided that if I had to go back to the room and knock myself out afterwards to take care of the dizziness, at least I would have tried. Although I was a little dizzy when we got off, it was completely worth it. I loved it. The weightlessness feeling was an especially nice effect. We knew we had to ride it at least one more time before the end of the trip. We got a fastpass for "Test Track" and walked through Innoventions. Working in technical fields, I find Innoventions to be boring. It was such a great concept when I first went to Epcot, but technology changes so quickly these days, that it is impossible for Innoventions to keep up. We went through the "Living Seas", which we've skipped for several trips, and afterward, we remembered why. We have access to several really good aquariums, and they are so much better than the "Living Seas". I did like the Nemo statue out front though. We ate corn dog kids meals at the Land pavilion, and then went back and rode "Test Track". We walked over to Canada, and it began to rain, so we went to France and America. We saw "Voice" and "Voices of Liberty" in the rotunda, and stayed for the "American Adventure". (The part about Thomas Edison and the telephone still irritates us, but we love the show.) We walked back to Canada to see Off Kilter perform. They were great, as usual. We rode "Mission: Space" once more, and bought a license plate frame in Mousegears for our new Miata.
We went back to the room and washed off and changed for dinner. I had re-read our notes from 2001 and seen that we saw some restaurants down Apopka-Vineland Rd. that we wanted to try. We ate at Miller's Ale House. I had clams, and Mark had ribs. It was excellent, and really inexpensive. They had a $2 Capt. Morgan drink special, so I had a Capt. Morgan's and pineapple juice. We went back to POFQ and took a boat to Pleasure Island. The new system of not charging admission to Pleasure Island itself but only charging admission to the clubs, brings a lot more kids, and no one was in the clubs. We usually like Malibu's and 8 Tracks, but no one was in either place. We had Ultimate Park Hoppers, so we could get in free, and we were glad we hadn't paid to get in. We did go in Malibu's for a little while. The employees were the only other people there, and they were hula-hooping on the dance floor. We played air hockey (The tables are in terrible shape.) and left. We went to the Adventurer's Club, and found quite a few people there. We stayed for the skit in the library about a fundraiser telethon, which was hilarious, then left to go back to the room. We watched the Weather Channel and were in bed by midnight.
Monday, August 30th
We got up early and went to Animal Kingdom. It was extremely humid. We got a fastpass for "Kilamanjero Safari" and walked through the "Pangani Forest Trek" to see the gorillas and the bats, then got a drink in the café. We met Elizabeth and Lindy, two cast memebers who worked there. They were really fun, and had us in stitches before we left. What a great start to the day. We did all of our favorites, "Kali River Rapids", "Festival of the Lion King", "Tarzan Rocks", and "It's Tough to Be a Bug". We rode the train to Conservation Station. The medical facilities and in park cams were interesting, but I wouldn't spend much time there. There were several character meet and greets, but being childless, we end up getting very nasty looks when we stand in line to get pictures with the characters, so we wait for either small lines or accidental meetings. We also saw the construction of "Expedition Everest".
We took a boat from the resort to Epcot, and walked to the Boardwalk. We ate dinner at ESPN Café. We watched the Pre-game show for the Titans vs. Cowboys game, and Mets were playing on another TV near our table, so I watched that as well.
We had reservations for an 8:15 p.m. Breathless Illuminations cruise, which was our big splurge on this trip for our anniversary. I had called an confirmed the reservation on Sunday, and was told to be a little early at the Boardwalk dock. At 8:00, the boat wasn't there. I went to the Guest Services desk at the Boardwalk, and they said that they usually arrive about 5 minutes before the cruise. At 8:15, still no boat. I went back, and a woman at the desk got right on the phone and called the recreation line, who called the marina. While she was on hold, Mark came in and told me the boat was finally there (It was 8:25.) For $190, you'd think they'd be on time. Anyway, it was worth every penny. We had a great time talking to the driver. He was very personable. We cruised the waterway around the Boardwalk, the Swan and Dolphin, and the Yacht and Beach Club. As the time drew near for "Illuminations", we made our way to Epcot and parked under the bridge between the U.K. and France, near the International Gateway. We had an excellent view, and it was really romantic.
We walked around the Boardwalk, but there was very little crowd, and no one at Jellyroll's. We talked to the doorman, and he said there should be a crowd on Friday, so we decided to try again then. We love dueling piano bars.
We bought some bug repellant at the resort gift shop because the mosquitoes are terrible. We watched the Weather Channel and the news, and went to bed around 11:30. The news about Hurricane Frances wasn't good. It looked like it might make landfall in Volusia County on Saturday morning, so our plans to go to Savannah on Saturday for two days may get cancelled.
Tuesday, August 31st
We decided to return to the Magic Kingdom. We spent a little extra time watching weather predications on Hurricane Frances. Savannah was most likely out of the picture.
We took our time at the Magic Kingdom, and got some construction fence photos for Choearfan1. We rode "Splash Mountain", "Haunted Mansion", "Big Thunder Mountain Railroad", "Space Mountain", and saw "Mickey's Philharmagic", but needed fastpasses for everything. The park was much more crowded today. We thoroughly enjoyed Philharmagic, although it should be called "Donald's Philharmagic". The 3-D effects were superb. We also saw the new show at the Diamond Horseshoe Saloon, and hated it. It is completely kid-oriented now, whereas the old show, although corny, was for both adults and children.
We went back to the room and changed, and watched more weather reports. We went to Cattleman's Steakhouse on International Drive for dinner. It was a nice restaurant, and the steaks were excellent. It poured rain for a couple of hours, and there was lightening in the sky for most of the rest of the night. We went to Walgreen's and back to the room and watched a little TV and went to sleep around midnight.
Wednesday, September 1st
We decided to go to Typhoon Lagoon this morning, since we'd never been to either of the water parks, and it was supposed to be a beautiful day. We got there right before it opened, and found a spot on the beach to put our towels and stuff, then got on the lazy river to get acquainted with the layout. I struggled to get onto my tube, and Mark thought it was hilarious. We stayed in for a couple of landings, and got out to explore. We rode the family raft ride, "Gangplank Falls", which was tame, but fun, first. The two of us got in a big raft and headed down the slide. Then, we went to "Mayday Falls" and "Keelhaul Falls", single tube rides. I ended up going backwards all the way down "Keelhaul Falls", but no worries, it was great. We walked over to "Stom Slides", and since I'm a little chicken, Mark tried it first. After a good report, I joined him. They were a lot like the water slides I remember as a teenager, only there was no mat. I really enjoyed them. Mark rode Humunga Kowabunga, but I decided not to. He didn't want to ride it again either, something about being old and out of shape. We grabbed some lunch (split a pizza). Word of warning: There were several families eating at the same tables where we were, and one of the boys at one of the tables got crapped on by a bird twice within 10 minutes. I felt really sorry for him. After lunch, we hit the Surf Pool just in time for the surf waves to start. It was great fun – like the ocean with a warning, but clean and salt-free.
Around 1:00 p.m., we drove back to POFQ, and took showers. I cancelled our Savannah reservations. We went to MGM Studios. It was pouring down rain, and something was going on, because the buses were all circling the parking lot, and not letting anyone out. Once out, we got in line for the "Great Movie Ride", but realized that we'd be late for our "Fantasmic" Dinner Package reservations, so we got out of line, and went to the pin trading shop. We went to Hollywood & Vine for dinner. The buffet was really good, especially the barbecued chicken and cranberry nut bread. We rode the "Rock n Rollercoaster" and the "Great Movie Ride", then went to the "Muppet 3-D Movie", all old favorites. We then headed to "Fantasmic". The humidity was so bad, that the smoke from the firework effects stayed in the air, and you couldn't see some of the things happening on the mountain, like the flower. It was still a good show.
We went back to the room, and watched TV, especially the weather. Volusia County was already starting special needs and mobile home voluntary evacuations for Thursday. The end of the week wasn't looking good, and we started to talk about changing our plans.
Thursday, September 2nd
We woke up early, and I went to the Food Factory for cinnamon rolls for breakfast. We went to MGM Studios and finished up there. We rode the RNR again, and Mark rode "Tower of Terror". I could handle it when there were only 2 drops, but didn't really like it, I only rode for the effects before the drops. Now I hate it. We went to "Voyage of the Little Mermaid", walked through "One Man's Dream", and took the "Backlot Studio Tour". The crowd was extremely thin because of the impending hurricane. We went back to the room, got the car, and went to find gas. Stations were already running out, and the ones that had gas had huge lines. We filled up, and went to Downtown Disney to do some shopping. We ate dinner at the Rainforest Café. I had the stuffed flounder, but it felt a little strange eating fish next to the aquarium. We used our package extras to play miniature golf at "Winter Summerland". We had been to "Fantasia Gardens" last time, and now know we prefer it, but this course was all about fun. On hole 14, I thought I would wet my pants. There is a thing that spins your ball up a pole, and drops it onto the course, theoretically near the hole. It spit Mark's ball into the bushes. I laughed so hard I thought I'd die. He didn't find it nearly as funny as I did. I even thought about it at home after we returned and started laughing hysterically again. The look on his face was priceless. If you play this course, don't take it seriously, and you'll like it.
We went back to the room and watched the weather and news again. We had already decided to leave early Saturday morning, and not hang around WDW for the morning as we had planned, but we decided to leave Friday morning instead. I-95 and the Beeline look like parking lots on the news, and we are afraid of not being able to make it home on Saturday. We had a letter on our door about buying non-perishable items to prepare for the storm because you might be in your room for an extended period of time. We didn't know if we'd get a refund, but we decided we'd rather be safe than sorry.
Friday, September 3rd
We bid a sad, early farewell to WDW and headed for home. We heard that I-95 was still congested, so we decided to take Route 192 to I-75 and head for Atlanta. We wanted to make it all the way home, but we had 1 ½ hours of sitting in traffic on I-75, and traffic around Atlanta was horrendous. We happened to hit it at rush hour, which is usually awful, but with the additional traffic of evacuees from Florida, it took us 2 hours to go around Atlanta on I-285. We decided to stay in Spartanburg, S.C. for the night. The traffic cleared up about 30 minutes outside of Atlanta, so we made pretty good time to Spartanburg, and stayed at the Jameson Inn in Duncan. We were exhausted, but we were safe.
Tips learned on this trip: