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View Full Version : Ken Warden -- March 2000 -- Grand Floridian, Wilderness Lodge



Trip Reports
01-07-2007, 08:19 PM
Ken Warden -- March 2000 -- Grand Floridian, Wilderness Lodge

March 18-26, 2000

Cast of characters:

Dad (me): 40+ civil servant, 6 prior trips to WDW and 1 to DL.
Mom: 40+ part-time RN, 5 prior trips to WDW.
Kerry: 15 (going on 45), 2 prior WDW trips.
Hanna: 11 , 2 prior WDW trips.
Day 2: (Day 1 was spent driving 12 hours from home. We spent the night in a Comfort Inn near WDW.)

Up at @ 9 AM (we're not really early risers- even for the Mouse). Packed up & checked out, then ate a quick breakfast at McDonald's on the way to the park. We already had our Park tickets that we bought at our local Disney Store (saved about $40 each by not getting the LOS passes), but I wanted to check in first so we could park for free the rest of the day. Pulled up at the Grand Floridian- knew it was going to be a good day when I was impressed by the unloading area- very nice. Our room wasn't ready (since it was still fairly early), but we dropped off the luggage and got our parking pass. Headed to the Animal Kingdom. The last time we were at WDW (Oct. 1998), it was so hot and crowded at this park that we only really did Dino Land, the Safari and the Bug Movie, so there was a lot there we had never seen.

Parked the car and caught a tram for the gate. It was cloudy, a little breezy and a little cool- definitely the best time in my opinion to see this park. Crowd also seemed to be down- not deserted, but not elbow-to-elbow either. First thing was to hit the pin station- I had gotten hooked by buying the Millennium pins at the Disney Store, then moved on to buying a lot of DL pins on ebay- but had held off buying much of the DW pins because I knew we would be there in person. I had decided to buy pins at every park just for that park, so bought the 10-12 Animal Kingdom ones they had that I didn't. Then we headed to Camp Mickey & Minnie. The line for the Pocahontas show was pretty short- we stood there about 10 minutes before they let us in to the theater. I enjoyed the show quite a bit- although the target audience is younger kids- it was a good way to start. We wanted to see the Lion King show next, but it didn't look like from the schedule that we would get out of Pocahontas in time to line up. When Poca. was over we were surprised to find that we could walk right in to the Lion King show just 5 minutes or so before it began. I was extremely pleased with this show as well- top to bottom one of the best IMHO. When we came out it had begun to lightly rain and the youngest just had to have a poncho to keep dry. After standing in line to buy her one- it had just about quit raining. We couldn't seem to get the sides of her poncho to close- and seeing other people walking around with theirs fastened at the sides- it occurred to us that her's had not been finished - so we stopped at another cart and exchanged it. Checked out the Character Greeting area- moderate lines- but we had seen all the characters (Mickey, Minnie, Pooh, Eeyore, etc) several times before, so decided to pass.

We decided to do the Safari next- the wait time was @ an hour and fast pass return was about the same period- so we got a pass and went to the nearby Tusker House for lunch (I had wanted to try Flame Tree, but it was too long a walk). I wasn't very hungry from the earlier breakfast (I usually don't eat anything for breakfast), so the wife and I split a Ham & Cheese Sandwich and she helped the oldest finish off her grilled chicken salad. It still wasn't quite time for the Safari, so we walked the Pangani Trail. Had never done that before- some of it's pretty interesting- some not. By then we could go Safari- Fast Pass worked perfectly and within 5 minutes or so we were seated. We saw a lot of animals- several walking in the road and only reluctantly letting the vehicle pass. I believe they've changed the "Big Red" part of the story a bit- seems like in 10/98 you saw "Big Red" at the Poacher's Campsite- but my memory may be playing tricks on me. I had hoped to at least ride the train out to Conservation Station (were we've never been), but time was running short and I knew we still had several other "must do's" to hit- so we headed for Asia. When we were there before- there was just a big wooden fence at the entrance. I had been wanting to ride Kali River Rapids- so we headed there first. There was almost no line, so no need for a Fast Pass. The first ride the wife and I sat together and the girls sat across from us- the wife got moderately wet- I got a little wet- and the girls didn't really get wet at all (one woman in the raft did get pretty wet- we should have heeded that warning). Thinking that the ride wasn't too bad- we rode again. This time the wife and I rode in separate seats with the girls riding together. My wife got absolutely soaked through and through and I got just about as wet. The youngest wore her poncho and didn't get wet at all- the oldest just got a little more damp. The oldest insisted she wanted to get wet- so she rode 2 more times (all walk-ons) while the wife and I stood in the exit area trying to dry off a little (which was hard because it was cool and breezy). The oldest finally got pretty wet on her 4th ride and had enough. My major gripe(s) about the ride: the theming is not what I expected either in quality or quantity, and I don't mind getting wet in the normal course of going over the rapids, etc., but at the beginning I don't like intentionally going through the geysers that are there for no other purpose than to get you wet.

We were still pretty soaked, but decided to walk through the Jungle Trail- saw the tigers up close and personal- the ones on one side were pacing back and forth right in front of the windows- those are some HUGH beautiful animals. The youngest had been wanting to see the Bug Movie all day- so we headed there next. Once again- there was no real line, but it still took awhile to thread our way into the theater. We don't find the effects intimidating- and I was actually kind of disappointed in the weakness of the "hornet's sting." I enjoyed this movie much more the first time- but then I usually don't read a book but once and it's rare for me to want to see a movie twice- so I guess it's just me. By now it was getting past 5:00 and I wanted to ride Countdown- so we headed to DinoLand. We had seen everything else in Dinoland in 10/98, but the line then was too long for this ride and I passed then. I had hoped that with it being so close to park closing and with the "walk-ons" we'd had just about all day, that this would also be a "walk-on." WRONG- the line was almost out of the covered que and they weren't giving out any more Fast Passes- so we stood in line (still soggy and getting a bit foot-sore). We made it through in @ 30 minutes, but for some reason only caught the tail end of the pre-show. In my opinion, the ride has a lot of potential, but really doesn't live up to it very well. The story line once the ride starts kind of falls apart and they could use more light so you could see the dinos better. All in all, not a ride that I will go out of my way to ride again. It wasn't quite as jerky as I thought it might be from reading the RADP posts.

By now it was past 6 PM and the park was closing. I had made priority seating for 6:45 at Rainforest Cafe- so we headed there. After waiting forever and ever (they appear to take their own guest reservations before they take Disney Priority Seating)- we finally got a table. Service was fair- nothing to write home about but not as bad as I had heard about from others. I had a pretty good steak- and then we had desert (I can't remember exactly what a week later- so it must not have been anything remarkable). With the wait to get a table and the time it took for us to get our food and eat- I had begun to worry about making the last tram to the parking lot- we just did make it. Drove to the Grand Floridian and got our room number. We were VERY impressed with it- we had paid for a Lagoon View and I had requested a "No Smoking" with a Magic Kingdom view- we were in a corner room that actually faced the little island out in the lagoon, with equal views of the Poly and the MK. Got Bell services to bring up the bags, and after unpacking finally got to sleep about midnight.

Day 3: Epcot (3/20/00).

Mickey woke us up at 8:00, but we were all kind of lazy and nobody really stirred until 9:00. By the time we unpacked the rest of the way, checked out the GF some more (there was a bride getting her picture made on the big staircase and we later saw her leave in a big white stretched limo), and rode the Monorail first to the TTC and then to Epcot (they must have not been running the Monorails at peak capacity- it seemed like we had to wait on them this trip far more than any other time I can remember), it was probably after 10:30. When we got to the park we first checked out the "Leave a Legacy" area- they DO look like tombstones- I liked the old area MUCH better. We thought about riding SE, but the line was pretty long, so we continued on. Checked on the main Pin Station on the other side, but knew we were going to be there all day, so passed on buying anything at the time. Took several pictures of the back side of the "Big Ball' and then made our way around WS to France. Had 12:00 PS at Chefs de France and arrived right on time- seated within a minute or two. Our oldest daughter is taking French in HS and always insists we have at least one meal here. I wasn't very hungry, so I just got a bowl of vegetable soup, which was very good. My wife got something and shared it with me, but I can't remember what it was. Oldest daughter got her usual- the Quiche- and I also helped her eat that. Youngest daughter got the kid's Hamburger and FF- but for some reason she always thinks that a French-made hamburger is not good and she only ate the fries. We also got desert, but it's been too long that I can't remember what- but it was good. We eat here at lunch because it gives us the experience of eating there but we don't pay the "big bucks" for a major meal. We sat out in the "sunroom area" and enjoyed watching the people walking by. After lunch, the ladies walked though some of the French shops and picked up a few small items.

We wanted to ride the Norway ride, so we headed on around the circle. When we got to Morocco I decided to go in- I had always assumed that without an attraction, it was just a bunch of shops, but ended up being impressed with the general atmosphere toward the back. Same with Japan- I'd never bothered to walk all the way to the back- but we did this time and discovered a nice exhibit of porcelain puppets. The ladies did a little shopping at Italy and Germany, and of course we had to check out the pin station at the US pavilion. We realized we had burned more time than we had intended and we had PS for the Ice Cream Social at The Land at 3:00, so we rode the launch across back to the front of WS. Walked over to The Land and got there a few minutes early. Since the ICS doesn't start until 3 PM promptly, we had to wait a few minutes to get a seat. There were still a few people there eating lunch- but there didn't seem to be many there for ice cream. They seemed surprised that we didn't have "the" coupon, but that caused no problem. The ice cream was good and well-presented (I won't spoil the surprise for those who haven't seen it for themselves)- but I still wasn't very hungry and left about a quarter of it- the fresh fruit garnish (mostly strawberries) was very good. Got to see Mickey, Chip and Dale up-close and personal. After we finished,we took the boat ride- always one of our favorites. We then headed to JIYI- I have always been a big Figment Fan (although I will grant that the ride needed updating, I don't think it should have been entirely scrapped) and we rode the old JII the last day it was open in 10/98. It was pretty much of a walk-on and was a little better than I expected. I was glad to see Figment a few times- but overall I don't think this is as amusing as the old ride- I won't be in any hurry to ride it again. We then saw the HISTA show, once again with only a slight wait. Again, I thought the show was better the first time I saw it- I guess I just appreciate something more the first time. It didn't seem as long this time- but I suspect that was because I knew what was going to happen and the suspense was missing.

After the show, we decided to see how long the wait was at Test Track. When we got there, the wait was well more than an hour and the Fast Pass return time was 7:05-8:05. We stood there debating awhile because we had 7:00 PS at Le Cellier- but in the end decided we would try to eat there later and got the FP. It was only a little after 5:00, so we went "up the street" to SE (passed by Horizons- it looked totally deserted to me). SE was a walk-on by this time and great as usual (although I agree that the Walter Cronkite narration was the best). We didn't make Energy or Wonders of Life on our last trip in 10/98- so I wanted to make sure we got both of those in. Went to Energy first, and after a fairly short wait, got in. I know a lot of people don't like Ellen D., but I've always found her reasonably amusing, and found this show fairly good- although I don't think either of my daughters still care for those dinosaurs. Then went to WOL and rode Body Wars with very little wait. I had ridden this in 10/98 and had felt somewhat nauseous- rode Star Tours later in the front row without problems- so I asked for the front row this time to see if that matters. I'm not squeamish about blood, etc., but BW still made me half-nauseous- so I definitely think the ride is jerkier that Star Tours. I wanted to do Cranium Command, but it was time to go back to Test Track- so we headed that way.

I think that the way they integrate the Fast Pass line at Test Track is not one of the best- you do by-pass a lot of line, but not as much as you do in most of the other rides that use it. It must have been 15-20 minutes from the time that we got in line until we got into a car. About half-way through the car suddenly stops and the interior building lights all came on. After a few minutes a cast member with a long line of other riders behind him comes by and says the ride is down and we all have to walk out. He thinks it will be about an hour before they're going again, but he gives us all passes to go to the head of the line good anytime. It was pretty neat seeing the inside of the building with all the lights on and walking on the track.

We then headed out to WS to find a place to see the 8:10 Tapestry of Nations Parade. I had a mental lapse and it took me awhile to catch on that the parade doesn't go all the way around the WS- but essentially only covers from Mexico, to the US, and then ends around the UK. Caught on a few minutes before it started, so we didn't end up with the best viewing position. When we've been to Epcot in the past, it seemed to be one of the least-crowded parks, but this trip both days we were here it was pretty crowded- I guess the Millennium Celebration is having the desired effect of drawing people to Epcot. The parade route was VERY crowded, but we found a place in front of Norway. IMHO the parade is NOT the huge deal it's been made up to be- it's okay, but somewhat repetitive and too long for what's there. After the parade we were beginning to get pretty hungry, but there was still a big crowd hanging around for the fireworks. We looked for some carts or something quick to eat, but all I could find was the Funnel Cake Stand at the US Pavilion. Since we were there, we ended up watching the fireworks from just off to the side of the America Gardens Theater. In contrast to the parade, I thought the fireworks and show were extremely good, although the pictures on the globe go on a little too long. After the fireworks, we sat by the lagoon for a few minutes to let the crowd disperse.

We had noticed that Test Track was supposed to stay open until 10:00, so we decided to go there and see if we could use our passes to ride. As we approached, it was obvious that the ride still wasn't running- you couldn't hear the cars roaring around the track and there was a pretty big crowd out front. We had been told that to use the passes we needed to come in through the gift shop and the exit. On the first pass, it didn't look like the shop was open, but then an empty car slowly passed around the outside track- when we walked back I saw a couple of cast members inside, so we went in to see if they thought the ride might get back up by 10 PM. They were not sure, but they said they were trying to get it going and there was a small crowd waiting at the exit with passes like ours. We walked around and got in line and within a few minutes a cast member said they were getting ready to reopen, so we stood there for @ 10 minutes. They then told us the ride was back up and a fairly large group (by this time) went in through the exit. We got right in a car and off we went. We kept waiting for the ride to go down again, but breathed a sign of relief when we passed the point we had stopped earlier. I found the ride to be pretty fast-paced and better than I had expected from reading other posts. We exceeded 60 mph- in those small, open cars on that steeply-banked track, that's enough "thrill ride" for me. By the time we got off, it was past 10 PM and the big line outside was gone- so I guess all those people that had been waiting did not get to ride. Walked back through the Mouse Gear store and was surprised to find the Pin Station still open, although they were beginning to cover it up. We hurriedly bought the Epcot pins we didn't have, and I traded the cast member a Disney Store pin I had for one she had on her lanyard- my first pin trade.

We got to the Monorail Station just before the Monorail was leaving and I asked if we could sit up front. I was surprised when there was no one already there. I had a nice conversation with the lady driving- but I failed to get her name. We got the kids their "co-pilot licenses" when we got off at the TTC- you apparently have to ask because she didn't offer. By the time we got back to the GF, it was getting pretty late, but we hadn't had dinner. Went to Gasparilla's Grill and had a darn good Hamburger. The wife then took the girls to the pool (I had taken them the night before) while I rested my feet and checked out my new pins. We got to bed sometime after midnight.

Day 4: Magic Kingdom (03/21/2000)

Mickey woke us up again about 8 AM, but because we had places to go and things to do, we didn't have any problem getting up. We rode the Monorail over to the MK and grabbed a quick breakfast at the Bakery on Main Street - very good. I had signed Kerry and myself up for the Keys to the Kingdom Tour, so we had to be at the park next to City Hall at 9:45 AM. Hanna was pretty steamed about not being old enough to go on the tour, but in hindsight, with all the walking, she wouldn't have liked it. She and her Mom rode a few rides and then went back to the Grand Floridian about noon or so for a nap. Our tour got started a little after 10 AM- had about 20 people, mostly older folks from Michigan it seemed. Our tour leader was Daniel from Memphis, TN. He was extremely knowledgeable and personable, and only at the end of the tour did we learn that this was the very first tour he had led by himself- his "trainer" went along to monitor his performance and presented him with his "swagger stick" at the end of the tour. I thought I knew a great deal about WDW from this newsgroup and reading extensively, but Daniel had some questions I didn't know the answer for. He was such a good leader that at the end of the tour I stopped by City Hall and filled out a Comment Card praising him - I hope he gets the message.

When the tour started we headed up Main Street and Daniel pointed out some of the famous Disney names on the store front windows. He also told us that all of the shop doors always stay open to enhance the welcoming effect- regardless of the heat outside. We then went over to Tommorowland, where Daniel told us even more interesting things. His spiel was so good that people that weren't part of the tour kept walking up and standing to listen to him. We went for a ride on the TTA- always one of my favorites. We then walked up by the Teacups and into Fantasyland. After Daniel talked about the Castle for a few minutes, we went into the Tinkerbell shop and went below into the Utilidoors. They were not what I had pictured in my mind- more open and brightly lit, and very busy with various Cast Members coming and going. We even walked up to the tunnel entrance where arriving CMs get off the bus and come in - it seemed like all the CMs I saw coming in were pretty short, I guess they were mostly costumed CMs? Daniel told us another interesting thing- Character CMs have to work "in the fur" (wearing costumes covering their heads) before they get to work "Talking Characters," regardless of how much they may physically resemble Snow White, for example. We also got to peer into some of the vast Wardrobe rooms and went into the Cosmetology section. I didn't know, but all the Characters wear synthetic wigs "in character." We then went back upstairs and headed for Liberty Square. Daniel showed us one door on the side of a shop kind of out-of-the-way that wasn't kept open- it appeared to be a standard two-sided door hinged on both sides and opening in the middle- but in reality both sides were only one and it was only hinged on one side. We broke for lunch and Kerry and I took the opportunity to dash into Columbia Harbour House for a quick lunch - she had some very good Chicken Strips and I (not being very hungry) had the kids mac & cheese. We had plenty of time for lunch and a few minutes to relax- after the tour started back, we went to the Haunted Mansion. After standing outside for a few minutes and discussing some of the stories associated with it (and some of the features of the building), we got to go in through the Handicapped Entrance (there was a VERY long line otherwise). After getting some pointers from Daniel, I saw some new aspects of this ride that I've ridden repeatedly in the past and not seen before. We then walked through Frontierland and went backstage right next to Splash Mountain where the parades enter and exit. We saw the shop where the floats for the various parades are maintained and/or stored and got to look into a few to see where the driver sits- a VERY confined and stuffy job if there ever was one. Even the CMs here lightheartedly joked around - WDW must be a great place to work. We then got to see the trash dump building where all the trash chutes that run under the park empty out- thankfully at a distance (the smell was not very magical). We also got to see the back of Splash Mtn. and the big pool underneath where the water is stored when the 4 jet engines are not pushing it through the ride. We reentered the park through the same gate and saw the CMs beginning to set up for the 3 PM parade -which surprisingly enough, takes place at 3 PM :-). We went back through Advertureland and I almost cried when I saw the closed pooch ride (always one of my very favorites). Then we headed back down Main Street to the park in the middle of Town Square. I have not mentioned many of the interesting things Daniel told us during the tour. He was almost certain that a new ride - Aladdin's Flying Carpets - is to go in soon in the open plaza area in front of the Tiki Room. I asked him about the Fire Mountain rumors- he obviously was groping for something to say, although the look on his face seemed to say that he knew something definite about it- so I tend to think it's more than a rumor. He ended up only saying "no comment." This tour was worth EVERY penny and I would HIGHLY recommend it. I know there are longer tours that take you even deeper into the Disney Magic, but if you don't want to miss a large part of your day touring, this is the one for you. Maybe some day, when I get an extended WDW stay (if there is such a thing), I'll get to take one of the all-day tours.

By now it was almost 3 PM and we had agreed to meet Mom and "the youngest" back at the GF- so we headed for the Monorail Station. We stopped at the Poly on the way to check out their pin selection and to feed my newest addiction - pressed coins. We then caught the MR again for the GF. After waking the other 2 of our party up from their naps, we went to the Afternoon Tea at the Garden View Lounge. This was also worth EVERY penny (and it ain't cheap). The lounge is very comfortable, and although it appears to be pretty "classy" (and I don't think of myself as being an overly classy person), the staff goes out of their way to make you feel at home. The food is also great - I had the Fruit and Cheese selection with Raspberry Iced Tea. "The youngest" had "Belle's Tea" and her Chocolate milk was even the best I've ever tasted. Mom and the "the oldest" got different selections, but between them they got a little bit of just about everything that's offered. The pastries are "to die for" (as a friend of mine says). After an extended "lounge" we went back to the room for a little rest. My neck had gotten a fair sunburn during the tour, but Kerry did fine (and the rest of me didn't burn).

We had PS at Tony's Town Square for 6:15 (the best I could get @ 6 weeks in advance), so we then caught the MR back to the park. At 5:45 people were already staking out places for the 7:30 MSEP, and Tony's was very busy (in fact, they were actually turning away people without PS). I had never been in Tony's before, and in fact, had never really paid any attention to that whole side of Town Square. The restaurant seems surprisingly small. We were not very hungry after Tea, so the wife and I split a plate of spaghetti and meatballs- I'm not a big spaghetti fan, but this was very tasty. After dinner, we stood on the front porch of Tony's and watched the MSEP. I hadn't seen it in a long time- but it is very nice. It does get kind of boring with that same song playing over and over- I like the song but need a little more variety. I wish I had brought the Video Camera to tape the parade- I'm sure it will be gone by the time I get back to WDW, but we planned to come back to the MK a few days later and I thought I'd tape it then (but never did).

After the parade we "swam upstream"- going up Main Street against the tide coming down. I wanted to see the 8:30 fireworks from the bridge into Tommorowland in order to see Tinkerbell fly. We had to stand there for more than 30 minutes to keep our places- the MK definitely had a good crowd today. Got to see TB come flying out of the Castle, and at our angle, it looked like she flew right through the opening burst. I kidded "the oldest" that she could get a Summer Job in a few years being Tinkerbell, but she said there wasn't enough money in Disney to get her to do that. I always enjoy the MK fireworks a great deal, and this presentation was no exception. After the fireworks were over, we again "swam upstream" against the flow into Fantasyland to catch the last-minute line for the new Pooh ride (which Mom & "the youngest" had caught earlier that day and had become their favorite ride). We succeeded in getting in line before they "closed" at 9 PM and got to ride. I have always been a big Mr. Toad ride and wasn't happy when they closed him down (when we were here last in 10/98 they were still working on the Pooh ride)- but I'll have to admit that Pooh is an adequate replacement. I think the ride would be even better if the story line was more consistent and the audio was clearer.

After Pooh, the park was officially "closed," but it was E-ticket night and I had already bought our tickets at the GF a few days before. Rather than going all the way back down Main Street to get our wrist bands we went over to Tommorowland to get them. Since we were there anyway, we rode Buzz Lightyear 2 times- but the crowd was VERY heavy (they definitely seemed to have "oversold" this night) and this was by no means a short line. The kids decided to ride Astro Oribter, but I don't like heights, so I went to Alien Encounter instead. We have never done AE, and I had hoped "the oldest" would see it with me, but she passed. I was surprised at the number of parents that were going to take very young children in, and one of the CMs advised the ones right in front of me that the show was probably too intense for what looked like their 5- or 6- year old daughter. Thankfully, they had the good sense to take her out. To tell the truth, I wasn't terribly thrilled- I just wasn't scared. I DID find it amusing to listen to some of the other guests scream, through. After AE, I got a frozen Cherry drink while I waited for the others- the AO line was much longer and VERY slow-moving. After we met up and they sat and rested for a minute, we headed for Frontierland. We decided to ride BTMRR, and had a considerably longer line than the last E-ticket night we attended in 10/98. Almost immediately, "the youngest," who sat with her mom behind Kerry and I, freaked out. She absolutely does not like the brief "negative g's" you feel when you fly over the hills on this ride, so we all had to try to comfort her all the way through. I have to admit that I was somewhat surprised- I thought that at almost 12 years old, she might like those kinds of rides. After we sat around and rested a few minutes, we all decided to side SM. By now it was past 11 PM (closer to midnight) and the line for SM wasn't too bad. Once again, Kerry and I sat in front of the other 2 (which I now realize was part of their sinister plan- we, being larger, shielded them from some of the water). Once again, I don't mind getting wet in the normal course of water rides, but I'm bugged when they intentionally wet you down with the water cannon just before you go up the first big hill- and Kerry always maneuvers me into sitting on the side where you catch the most water. Nevertheless, we did enjoy the ride. We all got wet to some extent, and it was beginning to get pretty cool (relative to the warmth earlier that day) and breezy, so we decided we'd had enough and started back to the GF. On the way out, we passed the Country Bears, and since there was almost no line, we decided to catch what turned out to be the last show of the day. By then we were all so tired that we didn't really appreciate the show as much as we might have. We then caught the MR back to the GF and got to bed well after midnight.

Day 5: Moving Day and "Day Off" (03/22/2000)

When we booked this trip back in the Fall of 1999 sometime, I had hoped to get at least a MKC discount for GF, but never did manage to do so. In the past, we've stayed at the Poly and the Contemporary- I kept hearing all kinds of good things about the Wilderness Lodge- so we decided we'd stay there for a few days. The first time I called to inquire about that possibility, CRO had a woods view room with a 10% MKC discount- which worked out to be approximately 1/2 the nightly rate at GF, so we had to go with that. Since we'd had such a long day the day before, we didn't have Mickey get us up until 9 AM. The girls wanted to go back to the pool- I took them for 30 minutes the first night (Sunday)- even though it was lightly raining, and Mom took them for @ an hour Monday night. They didn't get to go last night (Tuesday) because we were out at E-Ticket night so late. So Mom was nice to me and took them back to swim so I could sleep in a little and start packing. When they got back from the pool and got showered, we finished packing and called Bell Services. A very nice gentleman came a few minutes later and picked up our bags to transfer them to the WL. We had some other items- camera bag, pillows, etc., that we wanted to move ourselves, so we had them bring the van around. I had told the man at the desk that I just wanted the van for a minute and then would need for them to re-park it for awhile- but the man that brought it around apparently didn't get the word and disappeared after he brought it. After I went back to the desk and dropped the keys off again- we went to the Grand Floridian Cafe for lunch with the PS I had made 60 days before. The GF Cafe is pretty nice as well- very good atmosphere and service. I had wanted to video some of the grounds, but found that the camera battery didn't have any power- so I recharged it while we ate. I had a very good hamburger and FF. After lunch, we walked around the grounds and the shops one more time and filmed some of it for posterity.

Knowing that we wouldn't be on the MR line at the WL, we wanted to ride it one more time and video out the windows. I especially wanted to capture the audio of "Please stand clear of the doors . . ." - I just don't feel like I'm at WDW until I hear that. We rode from the GF around to the Contemporary and then got off to check their pin selection and get their pressed coins. Then we rode around to the Poly and got off again - I just love the tropical garden in the middle of the lobby. After shopping and looking around the resort for a few minutes- we got back on the MR for the GF. Got of there and taped a little more of the entrance- then had them bring the van around again. With the proverbial "tear in our eye" we drove away headed for the WL.

Upon arrival at the WL, parked the van in the temporary area out front and went in to register. They didn't seem as well-organized or staffed as well as the other "Deluxe Resorts"- but that may be because they are much smaller? Eventually got registered and, since it was right at 3 PM, our room was ready. We had a Woods View- and I had requested a "non-smoking" room on the side opposite the construction. They had already assigned us a room on the 4th floor- I tried to get one floor up, but they didn't have anything. It turned out our room was too close to the front of the resort and we must have been right over the Smoke House. We had a great view of the service parking lot- but through the trees we could see the back of the Contemporary and the MR line coming out. As it turned out- we weren't in the room very much -so this wasn't a major problem. We carried our light items up to the room and called Bell Services to see if our bags from the GF had arrived. They had come over- so we had them bring them up. After I moved the van to the regular parking lot, we unpacked, went back down stairs and wandered around the lobby and courtyard awhile. I will have to admit that the lobby and courtyard is MIGHTY IMPRESSIVE (probably better than the Contemporary and GF in that area and on par with the Poly) -but compared to the other "Deluxe" resorts where we've stayed- the room is noticeably smaller and way too dark. I enjoyed the WL, but probably won't stay there again- we just missed being on the MR line too much. Mom decided to take a nap, and the girls decided to sit out on the balcony and listen to some CD's. My original plan was to drive over to some of the other resorts I've never seen, like the Beach Club, but I decided to take a "short" nap that turned out to be longer that I intended. We hung around the room for awhile and then went downstairs for dinner.

I had made PS for Whispering Canyon at 7:30- we had to wait 5-10 minutes anyway. I was surprised that the restaurant is not more separated from the lobby and is relatively small. Our waiter was "Chuck Wagon" - seemed like a nice guy, but didn't seem to be into some of the foolishness I had heard about here. I mentioned to him that "the oldest" liked Sea World better than WDW, hoping to incite him into something- but it seemed to go past him. I ordered the maple glazed pork chops and the wife and "the oldest" ordered the barbecue pork & beef platter. I also ordered a salad to try the "apple vinaigrette"- but it seemed to me to be just a normal old vinaigrette. When our meals came, I mentioned to Chuck that "the youngest" needed catsup (she really didn't). He very much surprised me- shouting "You want catsup?" She said "No, I don't." He relied "You don't? Do you or don't you, make up your mind!" He asked someone to bring him a bottle- but said he didn't want everybody to. Then he had the whole restaurant repeat after him something like "Catsup - yuk! You're in a barbecue restaurant- next time try the barbecue sauce!" By now "the youngest" was thoroughly embarrassed and wanted to kill me. "The oldest" thought it was funny but was glad it wasn't her. For the rest of the meal, I kept giving them vague threats that I was going to do something else to them or that if they did something without thinking that Chuck would get them again. The barbecue was good, but the pork chops were not and I only ate less than half of one. Chuck was very nice and took that off our bill. As we were getting up to leave, some poor guy was recognized as it being his birthday, so he had to ride a stick pony all around the lobby singing "Happy Birthday" to himself. All in all, it was not as rowdy a place as I had expected- either we caught them on an off-night or they've had so many complaints that they've toned it back some.

We went back upstairs, watched a little television and then turned in for the night. Our original plan was not to go to any of the parks today, and in hindsight, I think that was wise. We didn't get as much rest as I had hoped, but I will probably plan a "day off" every second or third day on future trips- especially as mom and I get older.

Day 6 of 8 (March 23, 2000) Disney- MGM Studios

We got up @ 8:30 or so, and eventually got started for the Studios. I had originally planned to drive everywhere from the WL (except the MK), but after the fiasco of the night before, I decided it might be safer to take the bus. We waited 10 minutes or so, and the bus was not terribly crowded. When we got to the studios, my plan was to catch everything that was new since we were last there in 10/98, plus whatever we hadn't seen the last time (Indiana Jones was closed of course- I saw it in 1994, but the 3 girls had never seen it-except on the video tape I made then). Of course, my first stop was the main pin station at Hollywood & Sunset. We then went down and got a Fast Pass for ToT (for about an hour or so later). We then went to take the Animation Tour- the movies at the beginning and end are good, but the tour itself is much shorter and less informative than it used to be when we last took it in 5/94. By the time we got out there, it was time for TOT. We by-passed a lot of the line with Fast Pass, but once inside the lobby, we did have a short wait, including the line in the "basement." We talked Mom and "the youngest" into walking through the que with us, but they bailed out when we got to the elevator car. After we got seated, one little girl decided to get off- so her dad (who was the only other person with her) had to also get off. Another lady (who had been expressing some reservations while we were standing in line) also took that opportunity to change her mind and got off- so we set off with less than a car-full. Never having ridden this before, I really didn't know what to expect- and frankly, wasn't real impressed (not to mention scared/thrilled). We dropped 4 or 5 times (I forget exactly) and the doors opened every time we got to the top so we could see outside. However, it didn't feel like we dropped too far (I don't think we ever did 13 stories) before we would stop and start back up. It did get so it was hard to tell in the dark whether you were going up or down, but I think I've had airplane flights that pulled more negative g's. We did buy our picture afterwards, and it shows me looking over at "the oldest" as she's sitting there with her hands up- she didn't find it very scary either.

After TOT we went by RnRC to get fast passes (which were for about an hour-and-a-half away). By now it was getting close to 1PM, and we had PS at Sci-Fi Dine In. We'd eaten there before in 1994, but neither of the girls remembered it- so we had decided to go back. I do think the interior is interesting and I enjoy seeing the old black and white movie advertisements. I had a pretty good hamburger and a strawberry milkshake that was good, but was a little heavier than I'm used to and would get back at me before the day was over. When we got through with lunch, I thought we had time to catch the GMR before our RnRC Fast Pass expired. The line didn't look too long- and we have never had to stand in much of a line to ride this. But when we got inside, the line was wound around and around and there was literally a mob of people. "The oldest" got rather bent out of shape because it looked like we were going to miss RnRC. Knowing about how long the ride was and how far we were from RnRC, I calculated about when we'd need to board to get through in time to get on RnRC. We got to board GMR just as that time came, and got the Cowboy side. I think the GMR generally is pretty good- in fact I'd hate to see the Studios without something like this to focus on the old great movies- but it is getting kind of tired (especially the live-action part of it) and probably does need a good rehab- I just hope they don't totally replace it with something lame. After we rode, we hustled through the crowd waiting for the parade and "the oldest" and I almost ran to RnRC. We got there actually a minute or two after our Fast Pass had expired, but the CM didn't look at them too closely and waved us on through. Once again, we by-passed the greatest part of the line, and almost walked right into the studio part. After that part, and when we walked around the corner toward the loading area, I got my first look at the "take-off" part. Between the milkshake at lunch, standing in line in the stuffy waiting area at GMR, and practically running to RnRC, I was feeling more than a little queasy- and seeing what I had in store for me didn't help. But I had promised "the oldest" that I'd ride with her and I had made up my (stubborn) mind I was going to ride everything I'd never ridden at least once. We finally got into the car and turned the corner. We listened to the spiel, but frankly I wasn't paying much attention. I am definitely not a roller-coaster fan, and this "take-off" is definitely the most intense thing I've ever experienced. We didn't buy the picture, but I looked like I had been run over by a truck in it. My queasiness never got totally out of control, but it sure helped knowing that the ride only lasts about 90 seconds. The second corkscrew just about did me in, and I had to close my eyes- the next corkscrew felt more like an upside-down loop, but I assume it was a corkscrew. I was glad when we got off- this ride is definitely not for the even vaguely faint-of-heart.

"The youngest" is a huge "Home Improvement" fan and wanted to see their stage set- so we headed for the "Backstage Pass" tour. Besides the one HI set, the rest of the tour is still heavily geared toward the 101 Dalmatian movie that was being featured in 10/98 when we were here last. I was kind of disappointed in the HI set- they've kind of got it squished into a fairly small area- I've seen a couple of real movie sets in the past and know they're not as spread out an open as they appear on TV- but this was kind of dark and crowded to the point we didn't even get any especially good picture s. Our feet were beginning to get tired by now, but the day was winding down and there were still a couple of more things to do. We've always enjoyed Muppetvision 3D- and you get to sit down for the show- so we headed that way. Thankfully, we didn't have to stand up but for a few minutes before we got to go in and sit down. The show was as good as usual- but I do believe that it's been shortened since we first saw it in 1994. After the show, it was getting close to 6PM and we'd been talking about trying to get in line for Fantasmic fairly early so we could get a good seat. It had been partly cloudy and somewhat breezy all day- but as evening approached, it became very cloudy and downright windy, and I was afraid Fantasmic might be canceled. The wife and "the youngest" decided to go and get in line for seats while "the oldest" and I caught Drew Carey- she's a big fan of his. Once again, I was glad we got to sit down. Boy, when they say part of the show is in "total darkness," they are NOT kidding. If you don't like the dark, this is not the place for you- although nothing jumps out at you or anything. After the show, "the oldest" and I walked by a couple of shops on Hollywood Blvd. to get some pressed pennies, which had become yet another addiction. We then walked over to the Fantasmic Theater- on the way in I asked a CM if they would have the show- he said he thought they would.

When we were last here in 10/94, we had to leave the day before the very first Fantasmic show- so I had never even seen the stadium. We ended up sitting there a little over a hour- but I'm glad we got there early, because it appeared to be a complete "sell-out." In years past, it seemed like the Studios cleared out by 3 or 4 PM and you almost had the place to yourself, but that did not happen this time- I guess Fantasmic (and more attractions) keep more people there later. We ended up sitting 8 or 10 rows back just to the right of center stage (the best I could tell). I got a chance to visit with a nice woman and her family from Oregon (one of the few places in the US I've never gotten a chance to visit). The show finally started, and IMHO, Fantasmic is THE BEST single attraction (show, ride, etc.) at WDW. If the Fantasmic at DL is much better- it must knock your socks off. I agree with others- I don't quite understand the Pocohantus segment in the middle- it seems to put the story off-track. With the way the wind was blowing, after the water screens had been running for a minute or two, we got a pretty good sprinkling. That effect is pretty neat- I'd like to see it some time from a little farther back and with the wind not blowing. We could also feel the heat from the flames- I was a little disappointed in the dragon- I thought he'd spit a little more fire. When the show was over- it was mass pandemonium getting out. The CM's didn't route anybody out other than through the usual entrance/exit area. We stopped at a few shops on the way out to get more pressed coins and a few other trinkets.

I had been wanting to see some of the other resorts and had already decided that I'd catch a bus over to Coronado Springs and the rest of the family could ride another back to the WL. I had to wait a good while for the bus to leave, but got a chance to have a nice long chat with the lady bus-driver. When we finally got to CS, I got off at the main stop and checked out their shops & coin press. I hadn't really eaten anything since lunch, so went down to the Pepper Market and had a very good fruit cup, steak, and baked potato. The service was pretty lousy- I just saw the guy when I sat down and when he brought my drink- I agree with others that it's pretty lousy to automatically add a tip onto your final check (but if they didn't nobody would get tipped!). I had wanted to walk around and check out the CS pool, but my feet were tired, a cold wind was blowing, and it had finally started to rain, so I passed and walked back out to the bus stop. The first bus that came was going to the Boardwalk, so I thought I'd go back there and see if their pin cart was still open and see if their coin press had been repaired from the night before. When I got there, the pin cart was still open, but they didn't have anything I hadn't already seen. The pin press hadn't been fixed either- so I pretty much wasted my time. Caught a bus back to Downtown Disney- thought about getting on one and going to another resort I'd never seen, but it was cold, rainy, and past 11 PM (and I knew we had an early morning the next day), so I caught the bus back to WL. Once you figure out the WDW bus system, it's not a bad way to travel around, and is probably about a wash compared to driving (with parking and the possibility of getting misdirected). Found the rest already turned in when I got back, and after I checked out my new loot (pins & coins), finally turned in myself.

Day 7 of 8 (March 24, 2000) "Commando Day" at the Magic Kingdom

We had 8:45 PS seating for breakfast at Cinderella's- so we were up early and at the WL boat dock by @ 8 AM. We had to wait 15-20 minutes for the first launch of the day to the MK, and then pulled up to the MK dock right at 8:30. Main Street was open but not very crowded, so we actually showed up at Cinderella's several minutes early (which is very unusual for us this early in the morning). We were taken upstairs and seated immediately- but were told that Cinderella was visiting a Children's Home and wasn't in. Our very nice waiter took good care of us, and we all ordered the standard breakfast. None of us are big breakfast eaters, so none of us ate a particularly great amount of food. The girls did get a chance to get their pictures made with Belle, the Prince, Pocohantus and Aurora ("the oldest" thought this was no big whoop). Minnie was pinch-hitting for Cinderella and we also got a chance to get pictures with her. We actually had already finished eating, but sat at the table to see Minnie. After we saw her, we paid and left.

By now the park was open, but not terribly crowded. The two daughters went and got in line for Dumbo, while I raced down to get us a Fast Pass for Pooh (the wife disappeared somewhere, but I don't remember where). After getting the Fast Pass, I could see the girls were still in line at Dumbo, so I stopped by the Pin Cart for a quick purchase (or two). I then joined the rest in the Dumbo line- and when it was our turn, Mom decided not to ride for some reason- so the girls rode in one elephant and I rode in another right behind them. After Dumbo, we still had a little time, so we rode Snow White (not too scary for 11 and 15 year-olds). Then it was off to Fast Pass at Pooh- definitely preferable to standing in line for an hour or more. After Pooh, and after shedding my usual tear over the deserted 20,000 Leagues lagoon, we headed over and rode the teacups. After the ride, "the youngest" stood in line to get autographs from Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum (hey- don't I work for those guys?) and the Mad Hatter. I thought about going into Toontown, but then realized we hadn't ridden CoP, and with the rumors about it being closed- I just about freaked at the idea of missing that. So we headed down that way, and it was just gearing up for the day. I first saw this attraction at the New York World's Fair in 1964 (that will tell you how old I am), and it's always been one of my absolute favorites- I'm going to be really, really steamed if they close it down and replace it with something stupid. After CoP, we decided to catch TTA, since Mom and "the youngest" had not gotten to ride it yet.

We didn't get a chance to ride Jungle Cruise the last time in 10/94 because it was down for rehab, so I wanted to make sure we caught it this time- so we headed through the Hub into Adventureland. After stalking some wild pressed coins, we got a Fast Pass for JC for an hour or so later. In the meanwhile, we caught the "new" Tiki Room - I think it's pretty good, but they ought to have kept the capability to do the "old" show some too- it was pretty good in it's own right. After the TR, we decided to try one of the infamous Dole Whips while waiting for JC time- they are also pretty good. We then rode JC- this used to be one of my favorites as well, but time has not been especially good to this attraction- a rehab to spice it up would help (but they would probably just mess it up based on their recent track record). We then played with the remote-control boats at Shrunken Ned's- the first time I've ever done that. I very much wanted to ride PoC, but they were down for rehab- boo, hiss!!

The kids had never ridden the Riverboat, so we headed up that way to ride it. On the way, we stopped at the Shooting Gallery- another thing I've never done. After that we got on the boat -which IMHO has also not suffered time very well- it also could use something to give it a little "zing." It would also help if they had seats- our feet were getting pretty tired by now and the kids especially didn't enjoy the attraction because they were so tired. "The youngest" had also never gotten a chance to go to Tom Sawyer's- so we got in line for the rafts and headed there. The park was beginning to get pretty crowded by now- and it had gotten pretty warm as well. I had intended to walk around the island a bit, but we were too tired. We were not especially hungry, but I wanted to get a little something at Aunt Polly's (I fondly remember my new wife and I having lunch there on our honeymoon in 1982). We decided we'd get several PB&J sandwiches and pass them around among us- but they had run out and were making them in the back as they were ordered- so the wait was much longer than it should have been. By the time we'd eaten, it was after 2:30 and "the youngest" was about out of gas. We decided to ride the rafts back over to "the mainland" without exploring the island. "The oldest" wanted to do some shopping in the shop next to Splash Mountain, so Mom and "the youngest" headed back to the front of the park to catch the boat back to WL. By the time Kerry did her shopping, people had really begun to line up for the parade. Since we wanted to get to the front of the park, we found that the easiest way to walk the streets was to get out in the middle- it felt like all those people were lined up to see us! (I kept telling her to give them her best "princess wave"- but she didn't think that was cool). We managed to make it all the way down Main Street with the parade in hot pursuit (about the time we would exit an area the parade music would start- so we weren't too far ahead). We stopped at some of the Main Street shops to check out their pressed coins and then checked them out in the Train Station as well. We sat on the steps inside the station and watched some of the parade go by in Town Square. We saw this same parade in 10/94, so we didn't make an effort to catch it this time- but it's not bad. We then left the park and went to the boat dock to catch the launch to WL. One was leaving right as we walked up, so we ended up sitting there a good 30+ minutes waiting for another. By the time we got back to the room (where Mom and "the youngest" were sound asleep) we only had time for a very brief rest.

We had PS for dinner at Crystal Palace at 5:25 (awfully early- but when I made them 60 days before I was trying to get something so we could get finished in time to see the parade and this was the best I could do). We rode the launch back to the MK and turned up at the CP a few minutes early (I got a chance to take several good pictures of the girls with the Castle in the background from the front porch). We were seated way in the back at a window actually looking over the jungle next to Adventureland. The food was decent- but nothing to really get too excited about. We got to visit with Pooh, Tigger, Piglet and Eeyore as they came around table-to-table (the last time Pooh just stayed in the foyer and didn't circulate), but they didn't spend very long with us- I guess because our kids are somewhat older and the "little ones" needed more attention (?).

We finished dinner a little after 6:30. I thought about seeing the MSEP again, and had brought the video camera with the intention of taping it, but there were still several things in Fantasyland we wanted to do, and there wasn't enough time left to do both, so we passed on the parade. We headed up to FL with the intention of seeing the Legend of the Lion King (which we have never seen)- but the next show wasn't for 40 minutes. We intended to ride Peter Pan- but the posted wait time was 30 minutes. IASW across the street was a walk-on, so we rode that. I had heard it was closed earlier in the year for cleaning, and it did look a little cleaner and brighter than I remembered in the past (this is another ride I remember fondly from New York in 1964). After the ride, the line for Peter didn't look to bad (and we still had time before LLK), so we got in line. We only stood in line for 10 minutes or so- despite the posted wait time- before riding. We had plenty of time to make it to the LLK show and sat on the floor for the pre-show. I found the puppets to be pretty entertaining- WDW needs more of this kind of thing IMHO. All this time the parade was going on, so when we came out the place was swarming with people. I wanted to catch the fireworks from the bridge into Tommorowland so I could get good video of Tinker Bell flying down the wire with the bursts in the background- so we fought the crowd and headed in that direction. We ended up standing there several minutes waiting for the "magic hour," but I ended up getting some pretty good video.

After the fireworks, we walked back up into FL to check out some of the shops, and Mom and the girls got the last ride of the night on the Carrousel. It was another E-Ticket night, so we debated on where to go to get our wristbands. The next day (Saturday) was Mom's birthday, and I had told her about the Birthday Button at Guest Services, so we decided to go down Main Street to get her button and get our Wristbands. By the time we did that, it had been a long day and we were all running low on gas, so we sat on the curb for a few minutes and "people-watched." We then headed back up the street to Liberty Square. Mom and "the youngest" hadn't gotten to ride Haunted Mansion, and I hoped to be able to run the video camera enough (without any kind of external light) to at least film the brightest spots and capture the audio- but that didn't work very well because the built-in microphone was facing forwards and away from the speakers in the back of the Doom Buggy. I had solemnly promised "the oldest" that this evening would be THE day we'd ride Space Mountain, so we headed to TL through the Hub. While I got my nerve up, we rode Buzz Lightyear (and as usual, Dad outscored the rest). Then I couldn't stall any longer and we headed for Space Mtn. I didn't realize how far up inside that mountain you had to go to get to the loading area- and not knowing what awaited me didn't help. We finally got to the loading area, and the line wasn't too bad (in fact the crowd for this E-Ticket night was very much more reasonable and manageable than it was for the one on Tuesday earlier that week, for some reason). They first wanted to put us in the very front of the car- but I didn't like that idea, which kind of exasperated the CM and she made us stand over to the side for a minute before she assigned us a row. I was pretty apprehensive about this ride after RnRC, but it's really not too bad. Our car had armrests to hold onto to and the cars have enough leg room for me to be able to brace myself- so I found it more tolerable than I thought (but I learned on this trip that I am definitely not a roller-coaster fanatic). After we rode, I was again surprised at how far you have to walk to get out. "The oldest" wanted to ride again, but I was too tired. We convinced Mom that the ride was no worse than BTMRR, so she agreed to ride with her. "The youngest" and I sat outside while they rode- Kerry said that the whole time, Mom kept saying "I don't like this" over and over, so I guess she won't be riding it again in the future. We then hit Buzz again before heading over to Splash Mtn. I thought about catching Timekeeper, but our feet were not up to the long stand- that's another attraction that seriously needs to install some seating.

When we got into the Splash Mtn. area I decided I'd gotten wet enough already on this trip and passed on riding. "The youngest" was brave enough to raise her hands up as they went over the drop, and they very much wanted to buy the picture to commemorate the moment. However, some young Neanderthal in another part of the boat managed to wake up enough of his limited brain cells to form his fingers into a shape the monitor perceived as either a gang or vulgar symbol, so they deleted the picture (the young Neanderthal had the gall to stand there and gloat- I wish they had tossed his butt out of the park). So the girls rode it again, but the picture this time wasn't very good and they decided not to buy it. This whole week was considered part of spring break, and there were obviously a lot of young high-school and college-age kids, but (to their credit) this was the only time that I saw any that were acting inappropriately. By this time we were really running out of gas and it was getting close to midnight park closing anyway, so we stopped by Country Bears to get some pressed coins and then headed for the Monorail. It's a real pain that you can't catch the launch back to WL on E-Ticket nights- you have to catch the bus from the TTC. There was a real mob to get on the bus, and one bozo didn't make things any better. He got on with a child still strapped in a stroller, probably asleep. The driver told him (not terribly politely either) that she couldn't operate the bus with the child in the stroller- they exchanged some pleasantries and then the man jerked the child out, hitting his head on something in the process- which made the child rather unhappy. Needless to say, it was not the most joyous of trips back. By the time we got off the bus and back to our room, we had logged a 17-hour day with only a few brief breaks. In hindsight, that was a definite mistake and we should have planned a day off for tomorrow, but it was our last day and there were still some things at Epcot we hadn't seen.

Day 8 of 8 (March 25, 2000) "Last-Gasp Day" at Epcot

After the long day (and night the day before) we had a real hard time getting up- but it was check-out time at the WL and the girls did want to hit the pool at least once, so they managed to get their Mom up and she took them down while I did some packing. By the time they got back and got showered and packed we were really pushing the 11 AM check-out time. We had Bell Services come up and get the stuff while I pulled the van around front. After we loaded everything up, I parked it again so we could have a little more WL time. We wandered around the lobby and got some more video and pictures. We then had lunch at Roaring Forks- not too bad. We then climbed into the van and drove to Epcot (no- I didn't get lost). By the time we got parked and got into the park, it had started to really get hot and we were already tired. I wanted to hit several things we hadn't seen earlier in the week- and today was Mom's birthday. She wanted us to buy her a tea cup from Britain for her birthday so we headed in that direction. She was wearing her "It's My Birthday" button, and several CMs throughout the day wished her a Happy Birthday. After stopping at Pin Central on the way, we stopped at Millennium Village. I'm sorry- but after going to a couple of World's Fairs, I just wasn't impressed. The only really noteworthy things, IMHO, are the Climate Eggs at Sweden (moderately interesting but not that big a deal) and the "Journey to Jerusalem" ride at Israel (not too bad). I wasn't even interested in the International Food Court. We probably burned between one and two hours here- we probably would have been better off to be somewhere else- but at least we can say we saw it. We then walked up to Britain and found the tea cup Mom wanted. We were waited on by a very nice CM named Sarah from Wales, and she was kind enough to call the special birthday number (that I guess only CMs know) and Mom had Goofy wish her a Happy Birthday as well. We then sat around for a few minutes in the garden behind the pavilion and watched a very tame squirrel consume a french fry as fast as he could stuff it in his mouth.

We also had not had a chance to ride the rides at Mexico and Norway when we were here earlier in the week, so we walked back around the lagoon in that direction. We stopped at Mexico first, and thankfully the ride was a walk-on. It also had been recently down for cleaning, and everything looked nice. When we were leaving, we saw Donald Duck giving autographs in the lobby and I stood in line to get one. He acted surprised that a great big old man would want his autograph, so I told him I had heard that the Chinese Restaurant had a great duck dish on the menu- he was not amused. The wife came up and had a CM take our picture together with DD- I look like the typical sunburned gringo tourist. We then headed up the street to get in line for the ride at Norway. I had intended to look at some of the other buildings there also, but was just too tired. The line for the ride was very long (it seems to be every time we ride it). The ride itself is amusing, but every time I vow I won't stand in line to ride it ever again (and end up doing so anyway). We even stayed to watch the movie to rest our feet and cool off. That pretty much took care of everything in WS we wanted to see, so we headed back to FW. The youngest wanted to ride Test Track again, but even the line for Fast Pass was longer than I was willing to stand in line for. We had missed the Cranium Command show the first day here, and I thought "the youngest" might appreciate some insight into the typical 12-year-old male mind, so we caught the show (pretty amusing). We then rode Spaceship Earth one more time. We did some shopping at the new Mouse Gear and watched the fountain out front do it's things to music. We had PS for the Garden Grill at 6:30, but I wasn't very impressed with their food when we ate there in 10/94, so I suggested that we pass. We had wanted to eat at Canada (to make up for missing it Monday), but couldn't get PS except at very weird times, and I wasn't in the mood to wait. I had also intended to eat at Morocco, but the walk was too far to consider. We went over to The Land to the Food Court and had dinner. The variety is not as extensive as I remember, but the food was good- especially the deserts. We had intended to stay and video the fireworks, but we were all just too tired. I made the kids an offer- if they would agree to leave, I'd take them to the pool at the motel after we checked in. They agreed and we headed to the parking lot. I was sad that vacation was over and that we were not getting to see the fireworks, but they were still an hour away and we were just ssssoooo tired.

We got back into the van and drove the 10 miles or so to the Comfort Inn on Irlo Bronson Highway where I had gotten reservations. By the time we got there, got checked in, and got our bags upstairs, the youngest was too tired to swim. The oldest decided she would- but had less than an hour before the pool closed. That was okay because she found the water was literally ice cold and it was all she could do to stay in @ 25 minutes. We then headed upstairs for a quick shower and to bed.

(Day 9- Sunday) The kids had to be ready to go back to school first thing Monday morning and we had a good 12-hour drive ahead of us, so we got a fairly early start. We did stop at a little road-side stand to buy some oranges just north of WDW, and then had an uneventful drive home.

TRIP SUMMARY AND FINAL COMMENTS (March 18-26, 2000)

In reading back over my trip reports, it sounds like I'm critical about a lot of our vacation. This is not truly the case- I guess I just expect perfection from my favorite mouse. All in all, I very, very much enjoyed this vacation, and, speaking just for myself, it was sorely needed. Thankfully, what little that went wrong was minor and easily remedied. I expected huge crowds, with it being Spring Break and all, but they were, for the largest part, quite manageable, especially using Fast Pass to avoid standing in the longest lines. Actually, the crowds seemed much more tolerable than our last trip in 10/98, even though that was supposed to be "off-peak." I was afraid the weather was going to be tough, but the worst highs were only in the lower 80's (with low humidity) and it actually got cool in the evenings once the sun went down. Once again, compare that to our last trip in 10/98, when it got into the lower 90's every day (with lots of humidity). After our last trip, I swore to myself that I might never go back to WDW, but I quickly realized that I had so much left undone that I needed to go back, especially for the Millennium celebration. After this trip, I feel like we certainly covered the high- and mid-points very well. However, now I have to set my sights on seeing WDW at Christmas time- but everyone has to have their dream, huh? There were certainly some things we wanted to do that we didn't get done- we didn't make it to Toontown at MK, didn't get to eat at Canada or Morocco at Epcot, didn't get to see Indiana Jones at the Studios (they were down for rehab), and have yet to get out to Conservation Station at the AK. I also would like to tour some of the resorts I've never seen (PO, Y&BC, OKW, etc.). Looking back on it, I also realize I didn't get a chance to try some of the famous WDW snack foods: beaver tails, etc.

Our favorite things: Dad: Fantasmic. Mom: Afternoon Tea. "The oldest": Rock 'n' Roller Coaster. "The youngest": Test Track.

Best Food: We didn't especially skimp on eating in some of the bigger name places (Cinderella's, Tony's Town Square, Rainforest Café, Crystal Palace), but the only meal that I remembered a month later was the grilled steak at the Pepper Market at Coronado Springs. For some reason, a lot of exertion takes away my appetite rather than making me hungry like it does most people.

Two Thumbs WAY Up: Grand Floridian (our new idea of heaven-on earth). Fast Pass (thank goodness for avoiding those hour-long plus lines that probably ruin vacation at WDW more for me than anything else). Fantasmic (IMHO THE single best attraction at WDW). Festival of the Lion King at AK (a great way to start a vacation). The Hunchback show at the Studios (we didn't get there this time, but I remember it well from our last trip).

One thumb up: Lobby and Courtyard of WL (however the room brings them way down- this really ought to be classified as a Moderate Resort rather than a Deluxe). Test Track at Epcot (MUCH better than I expected). The new Illuminations at Epcot (but the pictures projected on the globe go on just a little too long). The new Pooh ride at MK (although I wish they would make the audio a little more coherent). E-Ticket nights (I don't know if I would have yet ridden Space and Splash Mountains if I had to always wait in the regular lines- but needs more variety after 2 in the same week).

Minor disappointments: Tower of Terror at the Studios (I guess I was just expecting more). Millennium Village, Tapestry of Nations Parade, and JIYI ride at Epcot (the "special" millennium attractions just didn't do it for me and JIYI is pretty lame, although better than I expected- BRING back Figment!!). Countdown to Extinction at AK (just seemed to lack quality and story-line continuity). Intentionally hosing you down on Kali at the AK and at Splash Mtn. at MK (I don't mind getting wet in the normal course of the ride- but don't drown me on purpose). All the "old favorites that are now closed (Horizons, Mr. Toad, 20,000 Leagues, Skyway, etc.)- but some progress is essential for them to stay on the cutting-edge I guess.

Major disappointments: none (maybe that I couldn't stay another week?).

Things I'd do if I was in charge: Put seats in everything where you now have to stand, even if they are just benches (like Timekeeper, the Movie at Canada, on the riverboat, etc.)- your feet get enough of a work-out as it is. Expand the Monorail NOW!- if they wait until all the new resorts are on-line, the bus system is going to be a real nightmare. Rehab and invigorate some of the older rides without changing their basic qualities (like Spaceship Earth, The Living Seas, Jungle Cruise, GMR, etc.). Expand E-Ticket nights to cover more attractions, and/or open some of Fantasyland to give a little more variety.

New ways I found to put $$ in Mickey's pocket: I got hooked on the Disney Store Millennium pins in 1999 and then bought a bunch of DL pins off the net before we left. I knew there would be a ton of WDW pins I would want, but I was surprised at exactly how many there were. I didn't buy them all- but I bought plenty. Of course, after we got back, it was difficult to keep up with the new ones as they came out without getting plastered by ebay, but I finally managed to find a good buying service (I hope). My other semi-new addiction was pressed coins- we had bought a few on the previous 10/98 trip, but we got into them this time in a big way. The addiction on the previous trip- beanies - was a big disappointment this time. It looks like WDW might be getting out of the beanie business- I think we bought a grand total of 3, all of which were on sale and were the larger WDW style.

I am very thankful that I found the Rec. Arts Disney Parks newsgroup several months before our trip- I picked up on several things we very much enjoyed, such as the Ice Cream Social and the Afternoon Tea at the GF. I am already looking forward to the next trip.

Ken Warden