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01-07-2007, 07:36 PM
Lance Caros -- April 2000 -- Offsite

April 3-18, 2000.

The Cast

Lance - I'm 35 and work as a commercial underwriter for an insurance company. I'm the trip report writer, husband of Jenny, and Dad to Megan and Bryce. I've been a lifelong Disney fanatic thanks to my parents who took us frequently to Disneyland while visiting my Grandparents in California. I truly believe Disneyland is the happiest place on earth and Walt Disney was the greatest person of the 20th century. My Mom (the greatest mom in the world) tells me that we sat next to Walt at a breakfast on Main Street when I was 9 months old and they chatted briefly with him. Except for 2 or 3 years I've been to Disneyland at least once every year of my life (probably more than 50 trips in all). This was my fifth trip to WDW.
Jenny - My beautiful wife of 10 years and mom to Megan and Bryce. Works part time as a customer service rep for the same insurance company. The most organized person I have ever met. I don't think she will take offense if I also mention she's quite a babe. She married me knowing about my Disney addiction. Thankfully she acquired one too. She's been to Disneyland many times and this was her fifth WDW trip.
Megan - Our beloved first born. She turned 7 shortly after the trip and finished 1st grade. Thankfully she got her mom's looks and smarts. She loves to draw and wants to be an artist when she grows up. She's very tall for her age and meets all attraction height requirements except for a couple of the coasters at Islands of Adventure. She's very adventurous and will go on any ride she is tall enough for. She was born into loving all things Disney. She first went to Disneyland at 6 months old and has logged 10 trips there so far. This was her third WDW trip.
Bryce - Our beloved second born. He turned 3 shortly after the trip was over. He goes to a daycare 3 days a week. He's starting to go through a delayed little "terrible two" phase but he's generally a pretty happy guy. He's also very tall for his age and meets the 40" height requirement of many rides. He loves almost all the characters but especially Winnie the Pooh, Tarzan, The Seven Dwarfs and Peter Pan. He also loves anything to do with pirates and dinosaurs. He was in diapers during the trip but has since graduated to underwear. He still has a bottle although it's high time for that to come to an end. He's been to Disneyland 3 times starting at age 6 months. This was his second WDW trip.
Hometown - Carnation, WA a beautiful rural area in the Cascade foothills about 30 miles east of Seattle.

Before starting you should be aware that my report from our trip last year was 51 pages. It can be found at http://www.mouseplanet.com/dtp/trip.rpt/report_files/wdwtr99/caros99.htm. I'm kind of wordy and it's likely this report will run about that same length. So, now that you have received fair and proper warning you may proceed at your own risk. If you want to see a picture of us click on the following link http://albums.photopoint.com/j/ViewPhoto?u=499922&a=7127321&p=24184069 If you would like to see our vacation photos they can be found at http://albums.photopoint.com/j/AlbumList?u=499922&Auth=false. There will be a list of our photo albums. Just click on which day you want to see. If there are any pictures that I particularly like or think they go along well with the text of this I'll provide a direct link to them during the report. Each day's heading also has a link to the pictures from that day.

OK, now on with the report!

Day 1 - Monday, April 3rd 2000. Travel day.

Up at 5:30AM after a night of waking up every hour or so in anticipation of the trip. Three of us were using frequent flyer free tickets (one donated by Mom) so we had to leave on a Monday instead of the weekend despite making reservations over 10 months in advance. We left the house at 6:30 and arrived at Sea-Tac at 7:30. Al (my stepdad and known in Bryce-speak as Owl) had just dropped my mom off to meet us. We had goodbye hugs and kisses and she very kindly took our car back to her house so we didn't have to pay the $9 a day at the airport.

We bypassed the very large Northwest airlines regular check-in line and went to the e-ticket line. What a breeze! E-tickets are great plus they earn bonus frequent flyer miles. Our flight left almost on time at 8:40. It was three and half-hours to Detroit. Jenny sat between the kids (to prevent warfare) and I sat on the aisle of the row behind them. What sweet relief to fly without a squirmy toddler on my lap this year. To all the childless people who complain about crowded airplanes, long layovers, lousy food, and delays etc. let me assure you that you have no idea how uncomfortable flying can be until you have flown with young children. Thankfully the kids were well behaved. They know the drill well. Besides many flights to California and several to Florida they have also been on long flights to Hawaii a couple of times. Still, even the world's best-behaved toddler (which I'm not claiming Bryce to be) is still a toddler and prone to loudness and wiggling (much like me after a few drinks). Thankfully Bryce slept for the last hour or so of the flight.

We had ordered kids meals in advance and a lowfat meal for Jenny. The kid's meals consisted of cheerios, milk, banana and bagels with peanut butter and jelly. Jenny's lowfat meal was a banana and yogurt. I had the regular meal which was a ham & cheese biscuit (none of that lowfat garbage for me!) and a banana. The nice thing about ordering the special meals is that you get served before everyone else.

We landed in Detroit around 4 Eastern Time and killed the hour layover by sitting in a restaurant/bar. The kids had large pretzels and the parents had well deserved beer. We remembered that Meg had left her handheld electronic hangman game aboard the plane. I went back to the gate and they checked the plane but couldn't find it. Oh well, a lesson to be learned in responsibility.

We finally got on the plane and waited for takeoff. And waited. And waited. And waited. Finally the captain announced that the flight was delayed because the catering truck was running behind schedule. I'd have rather skipped the crummy meal and left on time but Northwest decided we should wait. We finally took off about an hour late. This plane was a DC-10 with the 2-5-2 seating configuration. We hadn't been on one of these since the last Hawaii trip 2 years ago. The nice part was that we filled two rows, the girls in front and boys in back with no one seated next to us. This was fortunate because the kids were getting restless. Thankfully they were quiet but they were very fidgety.

An annoying lady in front of Jenny leaned her seat back for the entire flight even though she was in an exit row and had no one in front of her. I know it was her right to do so but I thought it was kind of inconsiderate since there is so little room in the seats as it is. At least Jenny and Megan are average size and fit in the seat fine. I'm on the extra large size and would have been severely cramped if they had reclined their seats. The bulkhead seats are always tempting for the extra room but we just have too much stuff with us in the carry-on bags. You have to stow all of your carry-on items overhead in the bulkhead which just would not work with all of the bottles, crayons, games, books, snacks etc. that we need for the kids.

We arrived in Orlando at 8:40. As we were coming down through the clouds Bryce announced that he saw Peter Pan outside. When we touched down he yelled to Meg "Sissy, we're home!" Apparently, he thought he had just taken a 12-hour joy ride and was now going back to the house.

We hopped on the monorail and heard the familiar Disney voice that is always the signal of the start of the vacation. Meg and Jenny went to pick up the luggage while Bryce and I went down to Dollar to rent the minivan. There was no line at Dollar and we had a very friendly reservation agent. It turns out he had spent some time in Washington while in the military. He really enjoyed the area and hoped to move back soon. He was enrolled in a vocational college, learning computer programming. I told him there would be companies begging for him if he comes back. It really feels like a new era gold rush in Seattle. There are many hi-tech companies that are desperate for people.

It sometimes makes me feel like I'm missing the bandwagon but I like my job, it pays well (but not hi-tech kind of money) and best of all it allows me to work less than 40 hours a week and have a great family life. So many people here work horrendous hours. They get paid well but what kind of trade off is that when you have a family? Maybe I'm just lazy and it's an excuse but I'd much rather trade off some money and be able to enjoy this time in my children's lives. It only happens once and it goes by so quickly. Wow, I just totally got off on a tangent there. You'll probably notice that a few times during this long report. I'll try to keep the rants to less than several pages in length.

The total for the 2 weeks and 1 day minivan rental was $550 with all the assorted taxes, fees and gouges. I had made the reservations on the Dollar website using the KISS promotional code, which was for $199 weekly (before taxes). As soon as we finished up we turned to go back up the elevator and there were Jenny and Meg, what excellent timing. The luggage had come through very quickly and they got a Smart Cart and wheeled everything down to meet us. We all walked across to the garage and got the keys. We found the Plymouth Grand Voyager van and I was glad to see that it was white. Last year's was dark green and it seemed that almost every rental minivan in Florida was the same color. We later discovered that every rental minivan in Florida is now white. Oh well, at least white was cooler. Jenny tied a lime green D.I.S. ribbon on the antenna primarily so we could help spot it easier.

We were on the road by 9 and took the Greeneway ($2 in tolls). We went past Crossroads about half mile and arrived at Cypress Pointe. I checked in while the rest waited in the van. The lobby was nice and the pool looked great. Unfortunately, they did not have the ground floor unit we had requested and they assured would be waiting for us. The check in process was slow and the front desk people did not seem competent at all. There were several people coming back to say that there were already people in the rooms they had just checked into. I heard them repeatedly tell people on the phone that they were completely booked. We were assigned to a third floor unit. I spoke to a manager who said again that this was the last room available. So rather than risk not getting anything at all (it sounded like this was happening to others) I went ahead and took it with the intention of checking tomorrow about moving.

We found our building and tried to park by it but there were no available parking spots. We ended up parking about half a block away. The next rude surprise was the lack of elevators. Lugging the two 60 pound plus suitcases and assorted other bags up 2 flights of stairs was not my idea of vacation fun.

We walked into the room and were disappointed. There was nothing "wrong" with it. It was a nice enough place but it just seemed to be missing something. Part of it was being tired after a very long day of travel. Part of it was being unhappy about the third floor. Part of it was the lack of a view. Mostly it just didn't feel as nice as the Hampton Oak Plantation where we stayed last year. There was definitely no magic here. The landscaping is minimal and the arrangement of the buildings is really poor.

Still, the unit was as promised. It had two bedrooms, two bathrooms, full sized stacked washer/dryer, complete kitchen, fold out queen sleeper sofa and 52" TV in the living room. The master bedroom was very large with a king-size bed and a very large bathroom. There was a large shaped Jacuzzi tub and a separate shower area. There was a curtain that separated this area off from the bedroom. It would have been nice to have a wall and door along with a separate toilet area, which was right next to the shower. Still, it was comfortable and at 1200 square feet it had the space we wanted to stretch out for our 16-day trip.

Here is my offsite versus onsite rant. I love all the Disney resorts. We spent a good part of our trip visiting them and they are truly attractions in their own right. I'd love to stay on site and someday I'm sure we will. However, with the kids being at the age they are at we really feel like we need some space, a kitchen and a washer/dryer. I'd love to stay at Old Key West but a two-bedroom unit was $550 per night for the time we were visiting with no MKC or AP discounts available. Cypress Pointe was $89 per night. Obviously there is a very real difference in quality between the two but not nearly enough for me to pay more than 6 times the price. I'd rather stay at Cypress and have a long vacation than to stay for only a couple of days at OKW. Yes, we sacrificed the magic of staying on site but for the same price as an All Star room I'd choose to stay here (or somewhere else offsite) again.

It was time to unpack, so to get the kids out of Jenny's hair while she did that, the rest of us went to Publix to get groceries. We arrived at 10:45 and they had already locked the doors. The posted closing time was 11. So, we went to the very close but very overpriced Goodings. We picked up sandwich fixings, breakfast foods and beverages. $20 for a case of Bud Light was a gouge but life without beer is unthinkable so it stayed in the cart. The checkout at Goodings was slowwww.

Back to the condo and I played the part of the pack mule once again. These two flights of stairs are starting to get old already. I really wish there were an elevator. I guess I can use the stair climbing as an excuse to really load up at the buffets during the trip. The kids were still pretty wound up but we put them in the king bed in the master bedroom with Jenny. They eventually quieted down and fell asleep. I slept in one of the single beds in the second bedroom. Wow, separate beds, it was kind of like June and Ward Cleaver. I wrote some of the trip report notes and finally fell asleep at 1AM. I was wide-awake at 6AM so I read the book I had brought along. It was one of the few Stephen King books I hadn't read. How ironic that it's title was "Insomnia".

Day 2 - Tuesday, April 4th 2000. River Country. Partly cloudly with some afternoon rain. High temp in the low 70's. Pictures for the day are at http://albums.photopoint.com/j/AlbumIndex?u=499922&a=7099142

After reading for a while I woke Jenny up at 7:30. She was feeling jet lagged from the long day of travel and time difference. The kids were up and full of energy though. We got ready for the day, which was a time consuming process. Feeding, clothing, sunscreening and packing up supplies for the kids is a lot of work!

We went down to the front desk to see about changing rooms. There was a very long wait. I'm really unimpressed by the service here. I don't expect much for the price we are paying but still the front desk is a hassle because of long lines and not terribly competent staff. I finally got to the front of the line and they said a first floor handicapped room would be opening up later in the day if we wanted to move to it. We decided to check it out later.

We left for River Country around 9:45. We took the back roads up 535 and then down Vista Blvd. This was definitely the best route for us to get anywhere on the northern part of Disney property. There was hardly any traffic (except for CM's going to work) and we were to Fort Wilderness in 10 minutes. We hop on the bus and get to River Country just after the 10AM opening.

We used our 7-day park hopper plus tickets for the first time. We had purchased the tickets a month prior over the phone using the Magic Kingdom Club 800-phone number and got the Magic Box promotion that was running at the time. The kids loved the Magic Box that the tickets came in. There were 2 Splash Mountain beanie babies, Disney coloring books, crayons, Bug's Life pencils, Mickey pencil sharpener, millennium license plate frame, Birnbaum's Official WDW guide, luggage tags and the millennium CD. I was debating buying a separate admission since River Country is cheaper than the other water parks and we could save our "plus" option for one of those. We just wanted to get right in though so we used the hopper passes.

There were very few people inside River Country. We claimed our umbrella and chairs in Kiddie Cove, which was easy to do since the only other person there was the lifeguard. He thankfully let Megan play there even though she's about 4" too tall. We had told her beforehand that she wouldn't be able to play in the kid's area and she was sad about that. She's had so much fun there in the past. We made sure that she just played there before there were other kids around. Later when it got busier she "helped" Bryce in the area and they had a good time together.

Meg went down the biggest water slide in Kiddie Cove, which is really fast and not for timid kids at all. She had her arms over the edge of the slide to try to slow down and ended up getting a slide burn on her arm. It just was red to start with and we didn't think too much of it. Later in the trip it ended up blistering and scabbing over. Poor kid, we should have paid more attention to it and gone to first aid but it didn't look that bad that first day. That didn't slow her down at all though.

I finally convinced her to leave Kiddie Cove and go on the white water rapids with me. She wore a life jacket there. She can swim pretty well but the water is deep with a very strong current and she was more comfortable with the life jacket. I really had to talk her into going on the large body flume. I knew she would love it since it's a bigger version of the kid's slides that she goes on all the time. She came off with a huge grin and we went on it 2 more times. I had to practically drag her back to have lunch.

Jenny bought cheese fries and beer from Pop's Place. We had brought turkey and ham sandwiches/bagels with us along with Pringles and Coke. We had just started to eat when it started to rain. It was kind of socked in and most people packed up and left or moved to the covered areas by the lockers. We stuck it out under the umbrella and the rain stopped after half an hour.

Jenny took Meg for a run on the white water tube ride and then the 2 body slides. Meg was hooked on them now. I changed Bryce back into dry clothes, put him in his stroller and we went for a walk to one of my favorite places in all of WDW, the Cypress Point Nature Trail. I was hoping Bryce would nod off into a nap but he was too interested in finding lizards and waving at all of the passing boats. I just love the serenity of this trail. It's a place that I can visualize anytime and almost smell the eucalyptus trees and see the Spanish moss hanging from the Cypress trees. I've rarely come across other people on the trail.

After our stroll we headed back in search of Arctic Dots but it was apparently too cold because the stand was closed up. We met back up with the girls and Jenny and I swapped kids. Meg talked me into going on the tube and body slides about 6 more times but then I wised up and told her I would watch her go by herself. I found a bench where I could see both the top and bottom of the slides and let her at it. I wish she had this kind of energy when it came to cleaning up at home. She was tireless and must have gone down another 6 slides. I finally dragged her back to check on Jenny & Bryce.

Jenny had taken Bryce for a walk and as she turned to throw something in the garbage he went over and jumped in the deep end of the pool. She had only taken a step or two away from him and realized that she better glance back to see what he was doing. It was right then that he went for a swim. She fished him out quickly with no harm done. He was very nonchalant about the experience. Jenny on the other hand was scared senseless and guilt ridden.

The park never got too busy. It was a very relaxing way to ease into the vacation and just unwind from the stress of work and the long flight to Orlando. River Country is one of our favorite things at WDW and is the traditional start of our vacations. It's not everyone's cup of tea but it's such a serene setting that we love it.

We noticed a high percentage of British guests in the park today, which was fine with us. They are generally so much better behaved than most of us Americans. Almost all of them that we have chatted with are very friendly with a keen sense of humor. And they write great trip reports! OK, enough with the Anglo love-fest and back to the rest of our day.

We left a bit after 2PM. I took a wrong turn while trying to go back to the condo the same way. We ended up on Hotel Boulevard which was OK, it just took a few extra minutes. I went down to the front desk and took a look at the first floor unit that was available. We quickly decided against it. There was no real privacy with the drapes open. The view out the front was of the parking lot. Since we had already unpacked everything we decided to just stay where we were. At least with the 3rd floor room we have a bit more privacy and there is no one above us causing noise.

I gave the kids a bath while Jenny went to Publix for major grocery shopping. The kids loved the Jacuzzi. When Jenny returned I took the kids to Belz outlet mall so she could get situated and organized in the condo. I found Belz mall #2 easily. The kids saw the carousel so we had to go for a ride. We then entered into a shopping frenzy like I have never experienced in my entire life. The Character Warehouse rocks! I'm not normally a big fan of shopping (unlike a certain spouse who will remain nameless) but good God, I was practically in sensory overload and grabbing everything in sight. I guess I've been conditioned to all the years of paying the high prices for the park specific merchandise because everything here seemed like a steal. All three of us were having a great time.

I had to eventually sift through the massive pile I collected and put back about 2/3 of it. I didn't want to overdo it and knew that we would be back so I slapped some sense into myself and did only about $50 in damage. I ended up getting mostly clothing for myself as I thought Jenny would rather shop for herself and the kids. I got a very nice polo shirt with a fairly discreet Adventureland logo. I've longed for years for a shirt like this but could never justify the price. This one had an original price tag of $62 and was marked down to $12. I also got a very cool dark green Animal Kingdom Sweatshirt for $10. Both of them were available only in XXL or larger which was fine since I'm an XXL anyhow but it seemed like the very best deals only were available in the largest sizes.

We went back to the condo and picked up Jenny. We were in search of Bahama Breeze and I went the wrong direction on International Drive and ended up going all the way back to Belz. I stopped and found a phone book with the address listed. We eventually found the restaurant and could tell by the lack of parking that it probably was out of the question. I ran up and checked. No thanks; we decided to pass on the 70-minute wait.

We headed back to Crossroads and tried Chevy's but it was a 30-minute wait. Jungle Jim's had a 15-minute wait so we stuck it out there. Bryce was pretty cranky by this point so I ended up carrying him on my shoulders around the restaurant to look at all the animals. I had a Coke with probably 4 refills and a Buffalo (as in Buffalo wing spices, not actual Buffalo meat) cheeseburger. Jenny had a Bud Light and chicken nachos which Meg promptly helped herself to. The kids also shared a plate of mac & cheese. For dessert we all shared the worms and cream (gummy worms in an ice cream sundae) which the kids loved. There was a person making balloon creatures for the kids. Meg got a flower and Bryce got a parrot, which the lady tied onto his shoulder. Bryce spent the rest of the night saying "arghhh matey!" to everyone he passed. Total for the meal was $32 with tax, tip and a couple of bucks for the balloon lady.

We took the short drive to the condo a couple of blocks away. Jenny and the kids nodded off around 10 and I worked on the trip report until 11:30.

Day 3 - Wednesday, April 5th 2000. Epcot. Clear and sunny but breezy and cool with high temperature of 70. Pictures for the day are at http://albums.photopoint.com/j/AlbumIndex?u=499922&a=7099254

We got up at 6:30 and watched the weather channel. We debated on long pants but decided on shorts for all with sweatshirts and spare pants for the kids just in case it's too cool. We have to remember that this is a like a summer day for us back home although it was pretty cool in the morning. We left the condo at 8:15 and were walking past Spaceship Earth at 8:40. All of Futureworld was open so we went straight to Test Track. Jenny and Meg rode first. There was no real line yet but it took about 25 minutes for them to get through the ride. While I was waiting with Bryce I got three Fastpasses with a 9:35 to 10:35 return time. I figured this would work as well as doing the baby trade but as it turned out later the Fastpass here was not so fast. Also, while waiting I picked up a new World Showcase passport ($10.55) for Megan since she had enjoyed it so much last year.

It's been a couple of paragraphs since I last went off on a meandering tangent here's another one to keep things interesting (or dull depending on your point of view). We used our FRS (family radio system) radios today. We had used them in the mall and at Costco for the previous few months and loved them. This was our first try in the parks with them and I can't imagine life without them now. They are so convenient for when you split up as we often did for a variety of reasons (baby trade on rides, bathroom stops, snack breaks etc.). Whenever we split up we would turn on the radios and clip them to our pockets.

It saved so much time and grief in looking for each other later. We did get some interference especially at Epcot and the Magic Kingdom but it didn't bother us too much and we were almost always still able to communicate. We have the Audiovox model 230, which has 14 channels and the standard 2-mile radius. The privacy codes would have been nice but even without them it was fine most of the time. I bought them from www.mercata.com back in November at $40 for the pair (including tax, free shipping and first time customer discount). I've never seen a cheaper price for a pair of radios that has 14 channels. They are very small and seem to work as well as any other brand I've seen.

OK, back to the trip report. The girls called us on the radio when they were done and we found each other. Jenny thought Test Track was overrated but she and Meg still enjoyed it. We went over to the Wonders of Life pavilion since our Fastpasses wouldn't be up for a while. We went right into Body Wars. It was Bryce's first simulator ride. He met the 40" height requirement and although he was not quite 3 he was game to ride and is usually quite brave. Even when he's timid on a ride he is quiet so we weren't too worried about him disturbing others. He seemed to really enjoy it. His review was "It was bumpy and we went through the icky, sticky stuff (the bloodstream)". We played around with some of the exhibits in the pavilion. We skipped Cranium Command because a show had just started.

We went back to Test Track and Meg and I got in the Fastpass line. As we entered the attendant gave us a card and asked us to give it to the attendant at the pre-show area. They were apparently measuring the time in the Fastpass lines. It was about a 10 minute wait until we got to the pre-show, then a couple of minutes for the pre-show and finally another 10 minutes to actually get in the vehicle. That's not exactly what I was expecting from Fastpass but it was certainly better than the 60-minute wait in the regular line. I liked the ride but felt as Jenny did that it was overrated. It certainly didn't seem to be all that state-of-the-art to warrant all of the delays in the opening of the attraction. I'll definitely go back but won't wait long for it.

We went over to Innoventions and sent 2 e-mail photo postcards to friends and family. We would have done more but some people lined up as we were doing the second one. I love those postcards. They are a fun way to say hi to everyone back home.

We went over to Honey I Shrunk the Audience and had about a 10-minute wait for the next show. I tried my skills at getting seats in the exact middle of the theater and came pretty darn close. I love letting that first wave of pushy people go right past you and then seeing the look on their faces as they are told to move all the way to the end of the row. Of course they usually don't move all the way down but I'm getting pretty good at predicting how many people to let in front before we start down a row. The show was entertaining as always. I love to watch the reactions of first timers. Bryce wore his glasses and enjoyed the whole show this time. He was a little nervous of the snake and lion but he had seen the show several times before and is starting to realize it is "pretend".

The exiting crowd all seemed to head to Journey into Your Imagination so we decided to save it for later. Megan was starving so we went to the Refreshment Port, which she claimed last year had the best hot dogs in the world. We also got a coke and a frozen yogurt. We sat on some benches along the lagoon and relaxed and ate for a few minutes.

We all were all excited to get into World Showcase, which the kids love as much as Jenny and I do. We started in Canada and looked at the gardens and walked back past Le Cellier to see the waterfall and white water river area. It was in between shows of O Canada so it was very peaceful with no one around.

We went over to the United Kingdom to check on our 8PM priority seating at the Rose & Crown. I was worried that might be a bit late to ensure a table with a view of Illuminations. The hostess said to check in at 7:30 and we should have a good shot at it. We went to the back garden area of the United Kingdom. I love this area. It's one of my favorites in all of WDW. It's normally quite peaceful and there are often characters roaming about. The kids found the Kidcot station and made Tapestry of Nation masks on long sticks. It was a neat idea in theory but I'm sure someone without children thought it up. The sticks became weapons to thrash the other sibling with. The sticks mysteriously disappeared later in the day (nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more...for you Eric Idle fans).

Mary Poppins was in the area but neither child was interested in meeting the practically perfect one. Soon after though Peter Pan came out and we had a truly magical meeting. He was a fantastic Pan. He spent about 5 minutes alone with Bryce talking about pirates, lost boys, Neverland and how Megan was like Wendy because she was the big sister. There were no other children around when Pan came right up to Bryce but a few gathered later. Peter still spent a couple of extra minutes finishing his Neverland tales to Bryce and didn't rush through. Bryce is a huge Peter Pan fan but was a little shy. Pan was so gentle and sweet with him though that I almost cried. I hope it made Bryce's day. It certainly made mine. Here's a picture of Bryce and Peter http://albums.photopoint.com/j/ViewPhoto?u=499922&a=7099254&p=24010172

OK, here is another rant. The meeting with Peter Pan is one of the things I will point to when some people inevitably ask us why we take our children to Disneyland and WDW when they are too young to remember it. Bryce probably won't remember the encounter but why should he (and the rest of our family) be denied special and happy times together until they can be remembered? This was a 16-day trip where we were together almost every second of every day. It was joyful time full of bonding and connections that don't always happen in day to day home life. Jenny and I always went on vacation with our parents when we were children and I feel very strongly that it's important for our family to do the same. I look back now and see the effort that my parents made through our extensive travels and I think it set a very good example that I try to follow now myself as a parent. I really believe that travel is one of the most enriching things a person and family can do. It's certainly taxing at times with children but rewards like this make it all worth it. Once again, back to the report.

Pan told us that Captain Hook was coming out but he had told the Captain that he had to be nice. Bryce was a little intimidated by Hook despite spending the past few days saying he was going to call him an old codfish when he saw him. Hook was on his best manners although he did try to "Shanghai" Jenny. He let her go after Peter gave him a stern look. Bryce blew a final kiss to Peter as we were leaving and Pan jumped high in the air to catch it. Thanks Peter Pan. I'll always remember this meeting.

Meg had spent most of the time still working at the Kidcot station and had created quite a masterpiece. She also got her passport stamped. We wandered over to the Millennium Village and Meg played a long game of miniature golf in Scotland. We all watched her and she had a good time trying each of the holes. We went to the Gifts of Cuisine area and shared an African peanut crusted chicken wrap. It was just OK. It was cold and the chicken was dry. It wasn't as flavorful as I was hoping. We went through the Sweden exhibit, which was mildly entertaining. The kids liked the winter season the best. We wandered around the rest of the areas but really felt that everything was second-rate by Epcot standards. We spent less than an hour in the pavilion. I suppose if we took our time with some of the exhibits we would have liked it better but it just didn't seem as appealing as the rest of World Showcase. As we left we stopped by the absolutely huge Millennium Village bathrooms. This is a perfect stop for those who hate lines at restrooms.

We backtracked a bit to see Off Kilter in Canada. They were as good as I remembered. I thought Jenny would enjoy them more (men in kilts!) but she didn't seem too fanatical about them so I passed on buying their CD. It was starting to warm up finally so I took off my sweatshirt and stupidly forgot to put on sunscreen. My pasty Northwest skin turned a nice shade of lobster red by the end of the day. The worst part was my scalp. I had gotten a crewcut right before leaving and even though it was not that warm this day the sun still beat down on my poor melon and made shampooing a painful experience for a few days.

We went over to France and Jenny continued on to Japan to bring back a Kaki-Gori (shave ice). I went to France's Kidcot station with the kids and did another thing that was not very bright. The Kidcot activity involved more of those masks on sticks. I let the kids go at it and stood back and people watched. After a few minutes I realized that the kids were painting their masks rather than just sticking things onto them and coloring like at the other countries. Meg was fine but Bryce was taking the opportunity to get more paint on himself than the mask. Jenny arrived back and was not too pleased with my relaxed parenting during her absence. Most of the paint was on Bryce's jacket so I took it off and went to the restroom and tried my best to clean it but a lot of it would not come off. Dad was deservedly in the doghouse for a few minutes but we all forgot about it quickly and moved on.

We saw that the living statue was about to perform so we waited outside Chefs de France. Megan was really excited because she wanted to see one last year but we never got a chance. The statue (didn't they used to be called "The Living Statues"? Now they are listed as "The Statues") was incredible. It's amazing how still they can be and how much they look like a real statue in head to toe complete whiteness. The crowd gathered in a half circle in front of her and people took turns walking up to her and posing for pictures. She would often move very subtly and pull a girl's ponytail or tip someone's hat just as a picture was being taken. We really enjoyed the performance and stayed for most of it. As we were leaving we saw some bizarre guys on stilts with a compass and maps and weird costumes. They kind of resembled something from the computer game Myst.

I took Bryce and went in search of apple juice for him and didn't have any success. The girls in the meantime had caught the end of the Houzali Troupe in Morocco, which perform spine-bending contortions. They really like the show. I'll have to make a point of seeing them next time.

We went over to one of Jenny's favorite places in all of WDW, the courtyard area of Italy and watched her favorite group, Nova Era. They were as fantastic as always. We picked up their new CD since we have practically worn the one out that we bought last year. The music is so beautiful and it's such a lovely area to take a break. I got an Italian lager for Jenny and a lemon granita for Megan during the performance and we had a good rest.

We headed to Japan in search of milk or juice for Bryce who was now clamoring for it. The girls did the Kidcot station while Bryce and I went to the Yakitori House. While in line Bryce fell sound asleep in his stroller. I got his milk for later and put it in our collapsible cooler in the back of the stroller.

I had just finished reading Kevin Stringer's wonderful millennium trip report at http://www.mouseplanet.com/dtp/trip.rpt/report_files/wdwtr00/stringer00.htm before our trip and decided I was falling far off his pace for beer consumption at WDW. So to remedy the situation I ordered a Kirin. I also got our first order of Yakitori. I had been meaning to try this for a long time but had never got around to it until now. We all love any kind of Asian food and teriyaki is a frequent meal in our house.

I met the girls and as I turned to hand the Yakitori to Megan, Jenny absconded with the beer! I turned to protest and in the milliseconds that lapsed Megan had virtually inhaled the Yakitori! She did save a few grains of rice for Jenny and I to try. Jenny also graciously allowed me one sip of beer. I guess that they have lived with me long enough that they are now starting to act like me! Poor things. Meg also got rice candy in Japan and loved the edible wrapper. It brought back fond memories of my childhood. I love that stuff.

We continued our feeding frenzy into America where we picked up the cinnamon and sugar glazed pecans. Yum. We went to the America Gardens Theater and saw Barrage. We weren't sure what to expect but we were really in for a treat. They are a bit hard to describe. They are a young (teens, early 20's) group of Canadians. There are a couple of guitarists and drummers in the background and then one by one about ten violinists come out and all play together. The music is very eclectic. The Epcot guidemap says "Calypso, Country, Jazz, Swing...no style of music is off limits" and that was true. They are a very talented bunch. I'm thinking of tracking down their CD. I should have bought it at the time.

After the show Bryce woke up and we went to Germany where you can't leave until you've had a beer. So, Beck's fulfilled our exit visa requirement. The kids had a lot of fun watching the model trains. I told Bryce to move along so we could go see the characters nearby and the 50ish guy next to us did a double take and asked me if his name was Bryce. The guy was excited because that was his name so he fawned over Bryce for a few minutes. Nice fellow, Bryce still remembers him and calls him the big Bryce. It's funny what kids remember. We worked our way over to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs where Bryce got a hug from Sneezy while Megan made another of the ill-fated masks. We noticed Bashful hiding his face in a corner. That was pretty cute.

At the Outpost we finally found a can of apple juice for Bryce. It's pretty tough to find in World Showcase. The kids played with the drums for a while before we went on to China. We noticed the Pu Yang acrobats were just coming out as we arrived so we were able to sit front and center for their show. There was quite a crowd that formed around us so we really timed it perfectly. I had wanted to see this show last year but missed it. I'm really glad we got to see it this time. They are all so talented. We all sat kind of spellbound during their performance. I hope they stay around long enough for us to see them again in future years.

We went to Norway and watched the band Spellmannsglede for a few minutes. They were OK, a pleasant diversion but not one of my favorites among the many entertainers we saw. The kids saw the Viking ship and immediately ran to it and pretended to be pirates. We let them burn off some energy there for a quite a while before moving on.

In Mexico we saw they were putting up the ropes for the Tapestry of Nations parade so we lined up. We didn't realize it but it turned out that we were in the disabled section. It finally dawned to us as we were surrounded by wheelchairs so we were going to leave but some very nice elderly ladies in wheelchairs said, "you are with us" and told us we should stay. We took them up on their very kind offer. I went in search of another beer since we had bypassed several countries without one and we were falling behind the benchmark set by Mr. Stringer. I went to the Cantina de San Angel and got in line at the bar area. The poor bartender was working alone and was overwhelmed by the crush of the thirsty crowd. After a 15-minute wait I got the biggest Dos Equis they had and a churro for the kids and made it back right after the parade started.

We loved the parade. The music is very moving and the puppets are really in synch with it. Almost every puppet bent down and touched the kids. I really liked the large puppet that was operating a smaller puppet. The ladies next to us seemed to enjoy having the kids around and the attention they were getting so we didn't feel quite so guilty about staying in the area.

We walked back slowly around to Canada and eventually checked in at Rose & Crown in the UK at 7:30. They were all out of pagers and were turning away anyone without a priority seating already. I was nervous about our chances of getting a table with a view but we would stay either way. After about 20 minutes I checked back and got a pager so we just relaxed a bit and waited for it to go off. We had a good time laughing (to ourselves) at the people who came upon the Rose & Crown and would inevitably say something like "Ooh! Let's have dinner here so we can watch the fireworks." Everyone seemed to think they were the only ones to "discover" what a great place it would be for dinner. The harsh reality quickly hit them though as they were soon turned away. Some people need to get a clue and read a guidebook or two before they embark on a major vacation. I smugly waited for the priority seating I had made 120 days in advance. What an arrogant jerk, huh?

Our pager went off at 8PM and we were led to a perfect table. I couldn't have asked for better. It was right in the center on the upper level of the outside patio. What a treat, it was exactly what I was hoping for but not by any means expecting. The tables below us had their umbrellas up which partially blocked our view but they were later lowered so we had a perfect unobstructed view.

Jenny and I ordered a very nice bottle of French Merlot and both decided on the fish and chips. I know, red wine with fish, how gauche, but it's what I was in the mood for and it was very good. The kids ordered macaroni & cheese. The fish was good, not the best I've ever had but it was fairly light and not greasy. It was one very large filet rather than several small ones. It was served with very good peas. OK, so Jenny and the kids said they were good. Don't tell my mom but I didn't eat my vegetables. We finished up and ordered dessert just as they were lowering the umbrellas in front of us. Dessert was peanut butter playdough and it was a big hit with the kids. It really did look like playdough on a plate. It was served with marshmallows, M&M's, pretzels and a cookie. The total bill with tax and tip came to $69.



It had cooled off quite a bit again so we all bundled up in our sweatshirts during dinner. Illuminations 2000 started during dessert and it was spectacular. The globe is a great addition and we really enjoyed the images on it. The music really made the show. We all sat in awe for the entire length. All of us except for Bryce that is, who was doing his impersonation of Georgia Stringer by holding his ears and telling me that he didn't like the loud fireworks. He did fine through the show; he just didn't care much for the loud explosions.

We hung out in the restaurant for about 15 minutes after Illuminations ended so we could give the crowds a head start. Things were very manageable and we made our way out slowly but at least not shoulder to shoulder. We stopped to watch the fountain and the sidewalk lights for a bit on the way.

We remembered the general vicinity of the van and were looking for it when I had one of my exceedingly rare good ideas. The van had a remote-locking device on the keychain that honked the horn when you used it. So, I held the remote up high and started clicking until eventually we heard the honk. There was a long line of cars waiting to get out of the parking lot. All of the cars in the rows around us had already left so I naughtily drove across the empty rows and was able to blow past probably a 10-minute wait. I'm sure that Karma will catch back up to me with a long freeway wait in the near future but it sure did feel good to get right out of there. We got back to the condo and the girls were asleep by 10PM. Bryce was full of energy so I took him into the other bedroom where he finally nodded off at 11:30. At 5:30AM he had a rude awakening by falling out of bed but I tucked him back in and he went back to sleep.

Day 4 - Thursday, April 6th, 2000 - Typhoon Lagoon. Warm and mostly sunny. High temp of 80. The photos for the day are at http://albums.photopoint.com/j/AlbumIndex?u=499922&a=7099525

Jenny and I were up at 6:30 getting ready for the day. The kids woke at 8 and we left the condo at 9:30. We had to wait a few minutes for opening. We immediately made our way to Ketchakiddie Creek and snagged a table with an umbrella and a couple of chairs. Megan went running up ahead to go on her favorite slide from last year and was turned back by a lifeguard because she was too tall. She came back disappointed. Jenny took her up to the kid's tube ride and they sweet-talked the lifeguard there into letting Meg ride. I went to get life jackets for the kids and had a fun exchange with the Jamaican guy at the counter who looked at my drivers license and announced I was from "Washington, da state that rains all da time, mon. Not Washington da capitol."

I met back up with the others and then took Megan off to the waterslides. We went on the two tube rides Mayday and Keelhaul falls first and then went on all three storm (body) slides. Megan loved them and quickly forgot all about Ketchakiddie Creek and the 48" height limit.

The crowds were pretty light all day today. We were able to go on all of the slides without any wait. We floated back via Castaway Creek and had a wonderful time. This is another of my absolute favorite things at WDW. It's so relaxing to get in the tubes and just float around the entire park. Meg loved the rain forest area and the occasional diversions along the way. Back at Ketchakiddie Creek she traded parents and repeated the slide frenzy with Jenny.

Bryce and I had a good time hanging out and doing all of the little kid stuff. He was having as much fun as his sister was. This is such a fun place for young kids. It is kind of sprawling and can be difficult to keep your eyes on the little ones but it's just heaven for them. There are lots of interactive areas, slides and plenty of shallow water and sand. He especially liked the alligators and the small body slide.



When the girls came back we had our picnic lunch and played for a while longer in the kid's area. I changed Bryce, put him in the stroller and went for a walk. As we were crossing a bridge we saw the girls below us in Castaway Creek and they were having a good time relaxing in their tubes.

Bryce finally nodded off and I met up with the girls again. We let Bryce sleep in his stroller and I went in search of a beer, which proved elusive. After walking across most of the park I ended up at the bar and decided the long walk deserved the very large souvenir half-yard of beer. I got many comments, a few envious looks and the occasional male-ape grunt of approval from all the other beer-bellied guys as I took the long walk back. That yard glass really makes an impression with people especially when they are hot and thirsty. I'm sure Jenny would have received several marriage proposals had she been the one walking back with it.

Being the wonderful husband I am I relinquished the brew to my darling wife who suddenly became very popular in our area. Meg and I went to the wave pool for about 45 minutes. She liked the bobbing waves and I liked the "big" ones. It's funny how in my younger days when I went to Hawaii often and surfed I would consider these to be waves for weenies. Now however, these seemed just fine. Meg and I had a good time together and I finally had to drag her back to our spot. We left around 2:30 and gave our spot to a very nice British family.

We went back to the condo for showers and baths. Jenny attempted to go to Belz but I-4 was gridlock so she came back. I took the kids to the Lego store at Downtown Disney for about an hour while Jenny did some laundry. The kids could probably live at the Lego store if they were offered the chance. I eventually had to bribe them out of the play area with chocolate from the Ghiradelli shop. We drove back to the condo (sure is nice being less than a 5 minute drive away) and picked up Jenny and then went to the Beach Club.

The Beach Club was one of the few resorts we had never visited before so we enjoyed looking around the lobby. We passed by Cape May buffet and it looked like a very nice setting. We continued on and scoped out Stormalong Bay. I'd love to stay here. Maybe we will if we hit the lottery.

We found our dinner destination of Beaches and Cream, went inside, sat down and then got right back up and left. It looked like a pretty fun place but it was much smaller than I was expecting. The only available table was right in the middle and it was not at all comfortable with the kids. So, we decided to go to Cape May and got right in. We had a good meal and we really enjoyed the restaurant. The selection of food here didn't seem as extensive as at some other buffets but everything was good including the ribs, chicken strips and deep-fried shrimp. The service was very good. After I had about 3 refills of Coke the server brought me my own pitcher which I also polished off by the end of the meal. Good lord, I felt like a camel. Must have been all that swimming earlier. Overall we liked the meal but it wasn't one of our favorite buffets. The total was $63 with tax and tip.

We went back to the condo and relaxed and everyone was asleep by 10:30. Today was a very nice "down" day for us to relax after our long day at Epcot yesterday and a busy day tomorrow at the Magic Kingdom. I guess we didn't really relax with the stair climbing at Typhoon Lagoon but it's more of a mental break that I really think we need between the major parks. Also, it's such a treat to be able to swim and enjoy the warm weather since it's not something we can often do back home. So, we really like to take advantage of the water parks.

Day 5 - Friday, April 7th, 2000 - Magic Kingdom. Warm and mostly sunny. High temp of 83. The pictures for the day are at http://albums.photopoint.com/j/AlbumIndex?u=499922&a=7099685

Everyone is up at 7AM and we begin the arduous daily process of getting the kids dressed, sunscreened, fed and out the door. We left at 8:20 and went the back roads again but parked at the Polynesian. We told the guard truthfully that we were going to eat at 'Ohana. Of course we failed to mention that it was for dinner 10 hours from then. I felt some guilt but the parking lot wasn't very full so I justified it to myself that we weren't putting anybody out too much.

We went up to the monorail for our real destination of the Magic Kingdom. We walked up Main Street and had about a 5-minute wait for the rope drop. I took the kids directly to Dumbo while Jenny went to get Fastpasses for Pooh. When we arrived at Dumbo it wasn't running yet so we got right on the Carousel which was just finishing up the first ride of the day. Mickey was on the Carousel riding with a little girl and holding her hand. When the exited he gave her a hug and kiss. It was very cute. The girl was beaming (as were her mom and dad). I had read about the characters sometimes riding with a guest on the first ride of the day on certain attractions. What a great idea, it really looked like a special memory for the girl.

We took a spin on the Carousel and both children said they were riding Bullseye (from Toy Story 2) so there were frequent yelps of "ride like the wind Bullseye!" Jenny spotted us and took pictures. As we exited, Dumbo was just opening up so we got in line and only had to wait through the current cycle. Megan wanted to ride alone so Jenny stayed back and took pictures while Bryce and I went together in the Dumbo behind Meg. Bryce enjoyed jerking us up and down while I shook my fist in mock rage and called him a crazy flyer. He giggled the during the entire flight. Megan was proud that she "won" the race and stayed in front of us the entire ride.

We were trying to knock out as much of Fantasyland as we could before things got crowded so went over to Peter Pan which can sometimes have long lines but we had a less than 5-minute wait. This is my favorite Fantasyland ride. It's such a neat feeling flying over London and Neverland. Bryce was a little timid of the dark for some reason despite having been on this and lots of other dark rides many times. He was nuzzled up against me but by the end of the ride he must have gained some courage because he yelled over the side and called Captain Hook and old codfish.

We went across the street to It's a Small World and got right onto a boat. I like the fountain at the start of the ride but this version is really kind of a disappointment compared to the elaborate exterior and a slightly different interior at Disneyland. The kids didn't mind a bit though and they sang along to the familiar song.

Snow White was next where Bryce was again a little timid despite having been on the ride many times before. I guess it's a new phase he's going through.

Our Fastpass time had arrived so we went for our first ride on Pooh. Fastpass rocked here. We blew by the 20+ minute regular line and got right into our honeypot. We all like this one a lot. Both kids love Pooh so it wasn't a surprise that they would enjoy it but I also thought it was very well done. I especially liked the bouncing with Tigger, the floating during the flood and the Heffalump that blows smoke rings.

I then took Bryce with me to Space Mountain to pickup Fastpasses while the girls continued onto to Toontown. The radios came in handy and we met up easily in Toontown.

Our first stop was the Barnstormer for Bryce's first roller coaster ride. Barnstormer was having mechanical difficulties and the line quickly grew behind us. We stuck it out and ended up waiting about 20 minutes. Bryce's review was "that was fast!" He's a man of few words.

It was getting pretty warm and to help keep the kids shaded we bought them both overpriced Pooh hats from the farmers market stand next to the Barnstormer. The kids were both whining for candy and rather than do some effective parenting technique that required energy I folded like a house of cards and bought them each some.



We went to the Hall of Fame for some character time. We had a 15-minute wait to see Minnie, Pluto and Goofy. We got lots of hugs, kisses and pictures but thankfully no autographs. Meg's got a couple of autograph books filled from past visits and I'm glad she doesn't push for that anymore because it's kind of a pain. The characters were very good as always, very gentle and patient. I don't know how they do it all day. I don't think I could be so patient.

We took our favorite "hidden" path from Toontown to Tomorrowland and got in the Fastpass line at Space Mountain. This was another very good Fastpass experience. We breezed by the 30-minute standby line and waited less than 5 minutes until the girls were in their car. I took Bryce down to the baby trade area to wait. Megan came off the ride beaming because she sat in the very front seat. Jenny took Bryce outside while Megan went back on again with me. She was a chatterbox and recounted the entire ride to me as we walked back up the exit, got in the car and climbed the lift hill. It was a good ride but as always I can't help to think how much better the Disneyland version is with the Dick Dale soundtrack and the tight turns.

We checked out Buzz Lightyear but didn't like the 30-minute wait so we went over to Cosmic Rays for lunch. We sat down front by Sonny Eclipse so the kids could have some entertainment. The kids shared an order of corn dog nuggets and fries. Jenny and I shared an order of fries and a chicken ceasar salad. The greek salad looked great. I'll have to get that next time.

After lunch we went on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority. It was a nice relaxing ride as always and a good escape from the growing crowds. We then hit the Carousel of Progress which the kids had never been to. Megan really liked it and they both thought the revolving theater and "There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow" were cool.

Things were pretty busy by now but Megan and I went on Splash Mountain with a pretty short wait. I prefer this version to the Disneyland one. They aren't significantly different but the details seem better and the story is easier to follow.

Big Thunder Mountain was next. The girls were first and had a short wait. We did the baby trade so Megan got to ride again with me right after they exited. We really lucked out with short waits at both Splash and Big Thunder because the area seemed pretty swamped as we made our way out. People were getting ready for the afternoon parade.

We decided we needed a breather so we took the raft over to Tom Sawyer's Island. We had been to the Disneyland version many times but this was our first trip over at WDW which is superior. The Magical Moments parade was about to start so we went to Aunt Polly's and got a shady table by the water with a good view of the parade route. I got a ham and cheese sandwich for the kids and a pink lemonade for everyone to share. The kids didn't care much for the rye bread on the sandwich but the ducks they fed it to sure liked it.

After the parade we explored the island. We climed up the windmill and then played for quite a while at the treehouse. The kids found the teeter-totter and merry-go-round rocks and had to give those a try. We bounced across the suspension and barrel bridges on our way to the fort. We had a lot of fun shooting the air rifles and discovering everything at the fort.

We took the raft back to the mainland and decided it was time to finally see the new tiki room show which we passed it up on our last trip. The kids like the old version but we all enjoyed this one too. Some of the new jokes were pretty funny. I was glad to see that the update seems to hold the audience better. I was disappointed on the last few trips to see a good percentage of the audience get up and leave in the middle of the show. We walked by Pirates of the Caribbean, which was still being rehabbed for a few more days. We stopped in the Plaza del Sol Caribe Bazaar store at the exit of the ride. It was of course not very busy with the ride not operating so it was fun to look through when we were practically the only ones there. Bryce got a pirate dagger, hook and eye patch that he still plays with everyday back home. He spent lots of time poking his sister and dad with the dagger and shouting "arghhh!"



Bryce was pretty wiped out so we put him in his stroller and he conked out very quickly. So, we took a break and got a pineapple juice and pineapple whip. We hung out for a while in Adventureland and then made our way back to Main Street. We stopped at the Kodak store and checked out the picture that was taken of us on Main Street this morning and bought it.

We exited the park and took the resort monorail back to the Polynesian where Bryce woke back up. We found 'Ohana and checked in for our priority seating and were led right to a great table by the windows and with a good view of the fire pit. I really liked the atmosphere of the restaurant. It seemed more authentic Polynesian than the resort itself. This was probably my favorite meal of the trip. When we were led to the table they brought along the Hawaiian sweet bread so we snacked on that until the appetizer platter came with spring rolls, potstickers, salad and several condiments. Bryce insisted on taking most of the salad. He ate a good portion of it though and we got more later so that was all right. Megan practically ate her body weight in potstickers. Jenny and I did manage to get a few of these later also. Since everything was virtually inhaled we ordered a second round of the same.

The vegetable stir fry with noodles and salmon came out next and it was also good but we didn't plow through it with the same gusto. Right after this they had a game for the kids where they raced around the restaurant while sweeping a coconut with a broom. The kids had a great time and received some rock candy for their participation.

Next came the skewers. They brought the 3 foot long skewers of beef, turkey, Portuguese sausage and prawns. You just told them how much of the skewer you wanted and they piled it on your plate. Everything was great. The prawns were a real treat, the only down side was having to take the shells off them but it was definitely worth the effort. I love portugese sausage so that was fun to have. The steak was OK. Not the most tender cut but fairly flavorful. The real surprise though was the turkey. It had a delicious marinade and was probably the most tender turkey I've ever had. It was almost more like really good chicken rather than turkey. As we were finishing up the skewers they had a hula-hoop contest that the kids both enjoyed. There were no prizes though and they were looking forward to more of that rock candy. Some whining ensued but thankfully the pineapple and caramel dip at the end of the meal was served. The kids love pineapple so they polished off most of it and forgot about the candy.

It was quite a feast. This restaurant is definitely my kind of place and I hope it will be a regular stop for us on future trips. The service was very good too. The total bill came to $75 which included tax, tip, a couple of beers for Jenny and soft drinks for Meg and I. I noticed that this was one of the few buffets to charge separately for soft drinks.

We walked back to the car, which was such a treat to not have to deal with the TTC. I felt a little guilt over the parking again but figured dropping some money at the Polynesian's restaurants and shops justified it, in my mind anyway.

We had a quick and easy drive back to the condo and arrived there at 8:30. The kids were pretty tired and went to sleep by 9:30. I wrote some of the trip report notes and nodded off at 10:30.

Day 6 - Saturday, April 8th, 2000 - Belz outlet mall & Cypress Pointe pool. Warm and mostly sunny. High temp of 80. The pictures for the day are at http://albums.photopoint.com/j/AlbumIndex?u=499922&a=7099975

We woke up at 7:30 (wow, sleeping in today). By the time we got everyone organized we finally left a little after 9AM. We stopped by the Mercado shopping center to pick up our condo voucher from the RMI office. RMI is a kind of condo wholesaler and it's where we booked our Cypress Pointe room. They had considerably cheaper rates than what Cypress Pointe itself was able to offer. The catch is that you had to pay in advance for the room and there was a $99 non-refundable portion of the payment. We checked out the company quite a bit though and were comfortable with using them.

Everything turned out fine with them. The guy was kind of razzing me a bit about taking 5 days to pick it up the condo voucher since you are supposed to get it the next day if you arrive late. He was good-natured about it though. He offered up a couple of timeshare presentations in exchange for dinner shows or park tickets. He was very laid back about it though and I politely told him no and that was the end of it. He mentioned that most of their bookings are time-share presentations and that the internet deal that we booked through was their best offer since the rates were very cheap and there was no commitment to a presentation.

We continued up International Drive and found our way back to Belz and the Character Warehouse where Jenny transformed into ROBOSHOPPER. After I physically restrained her from buying everything in the store she calmed down and got into serious shopping mode. She was as thrilled with all of the deals as I was. We are so used to paying the inflated park prices for everything. The kids were driving her nuts by wanting to show her everything so I took them to the food court so she could take in everything more slowly and not go into sensory overload.

I bought some overpriced cookies for the kids and after purchasing them Bryce proceeded to have a meltdown in the center of the mall. He was so worked up that I couldn't understand what the problem was other than it was something involving the cookies. After several minutes of him crying, people looking at us and me trying to figure out what the heck was wrong I finally caught on that he wanted a "sparkly" cookie.

Translated from toddler speak that means a sugar cookie with sprinkles rather than the evil chocolate chip cookie that I forced on him. I'm sure I should have taught him an important lesson about how he should have been grateful for the cookie that he did get. Of course I took the easy route and bought the sparkly cookie and all was well again. Apparently the lesson he learned was that if you yell loud enough in public then dad will be forced to give into your every whim.

Jenny finished up shopping and ended up not doing too badly. Lots of shirts and picture frames and a few gifts for friends and family back home.

We went back to the condo then down to the pool where we staked out a spot by the volcano. This was a nice area because it was near the shallow end of the pool for Meg and the volcano had water cascading down that Bryce could splash in. Jenny and I "relaxed" by the pool in between going back to the room several times for snacks, pop, more towels, etc. The kids were in their needy/whiny mode and seemed to enjoy asking for the few things we didn't have by the pool. Of course they usually asked just as Jenny was returning from their prior request.

They finally tired of the game and at about 2PM I took Bryce back to the room for a bath. Megan and Jenny followed soon after. Bryce took a much-needed nap and Jenny stayed with him in the room, cleaned up and did laundry.

Megan and I took the back roads to the Contemporary and went to the arcade. We had a great time playing all of the games and winning a lot of tickets. She traded them in for the requisite bunch of trinkets worth a combined total of probably a quarter.

We then went up and caught the monorail for a complete circle. The front car was full and we didn't feel like waiting so we got a car near the back. As we passed in front of the Grand Floridian we saw Cinderella's glass coach and white horses going to pick up a bride and continue on to the wedding chapel. Meg was suitably impressed with the procession and a fellow next to us said something about it not coming cheap. He said he had been married at the wedding pavilion. I said "but it's worth it for a once in a lifetime event". He then told me that he was on his second marriage so we kind of laughed at that.

We went back to the condo and Jenny had some wine chilled for us. We relaxed for a while before heading back to the Contemporary. We went up to Chef Mickey's and had a 5-minute wait for our table. We had our picture taken while we waited. We looked at it later during dinner and it didn't turn out too well so we passed. Once again Chef Mickey's turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip for the kids.

We had lots of the delicious Parmesan mashed potatoes. I don't know why but WDW always seems to have the best chicken fingers so we had lots of those as well. The flank steak and prime rib were just OK but I thought the ribs here were fantastic. They seemed much better than those did at Cape May a few days before. They had a delicious peppery Jack Daniel's BBQ sauce. I also had penne with peas and ham in pesto and a Jamaican jerk chicken, which is one of my all time favorite foods. The jerk was fabulous. It wasn't as hot as most but was surprisingly spicy for a Disney restaurant.

The kids ate a lot of ham, olives, macaroni & cheese, hot dogs and they both loved the ribs. Megan was in the middle of carnivore frenzy with ribs flying this way and that when Dale sneaked up behind her and gave her a good startle. We had lots of visits from Dale also along with Mickey and Minnie. Hugs and kisses and something looking like a flying tackle by Bryce were leveled on all of them. Donald was also in the restaurant but he stayed out front with Goofy. Both kids loved the napkin waving during dinner.

The service was good. They were quick to clear plates and I must have had 4 Coke refills. In looking back over the list of food we ate I'm shocked we had room for dessert but we went up front and made cupcakes with the kids. Bryce was surprisingly modest in the amount of decoration on his but Megan tried to outdo her creation from last year with approximately 1 quart of icing topped with 1 pound of M&M's and sprinkles. The creation listed to the side severely and obviously her eyes were bigger than her stomach but she made a valiant effort of it. Jenny had ice cream and I had a slice of banana cream pie that was good. All in all it was a wonderful meal. The total with tax and tip came to $62.00

We waddled out of the restaurant and up to the monorail where we rode around 1 1/2 circuits and finally got off at the Polynesian. It was funny to see how relaxed everyone was when getting on the monorail at the resorts. Contrast that to our stop at the Magic Kingdom, which was filled with grouchy parents and crying children. I was thankful that for a change we weren't among their ranks.



At the Polynesian we stopped by the gift shop, Trader Jacks and I bought a really cool cube that you could arrange in to all sorts of different WDW photos. As we were leaving Megan found a Little Mermaid search and find book that I promised we would find and buy later. Luckily we did find it later but I know better than to put off buying something that one of us has our heart set on.

We went out to the beach. It was breezy and a little cold tonight. We searched around for an empty cabana but had no luck so we sat on some lounge chairs and waited just a couple of minutes for the start of the Electrical Water Pageant. This was our first time to see it and it was very cute. The kids really enjoyed it. I wouldn't go out of my way to see it again but it was fun to see something that a lot of people overlook. It's another of those small things I have on a seemingly endless list of things to try at WDW. The Polynesian at night with all of the Tiki torches and the perfect beach is certainly a beautiful setting to watch it from.

We caught the monorail back to the Contemporary. Bryce and I went to get ice water for everyone while the girls went to the marina to watch the fireworks. While we were at the food and fun center the guy in front of us took out a brown paper bag and poured a nice long shot of something high proof, by the smell of it, into his refillable mug. He commented to a perplexed CM watching him that "this is the happiest place on earth, right? I'm just trying to have a little fun." From the slur of his speech this apparently wasn't his first attempt at fun with the refillable mug program.

The fireworks were just ending as Bryce and I got to the marina. It was a unique view of them and they were quite close by. Bryce once again did a Georgia Stringer impersonation and covered his ears and shouted "too loud" at every blast.

As we were walking through the lobby to leave we noticed a ton of prom dates going up to the California Grill. It sure looked fun. They were all dressed up and using their best manners. Funny how it doesn't seem that long ago that I was doing the same but then I remembered that Meg is a closer number of years to going to her prom than how many years it has been since mine. I figured that little bit of trivia would warrant a whack upside my head from my lovely wife so I kept it to myself.

We hopped in the van and took the back roads again to the condo. It was amazing. We saw almost no traffic the entire way back. It's definitely an easy route from Cypress Pointe to anywhere near the Magic Kingdom. We were back in the room at 9:30 and the kids were asleep soon after. I wrote notes for the trip report before nodding off at 10:45.

Day 7 - Sunday, April 9th, 2000 - Animal Kingdom. Cold in the morning but sunny all day. High temp of 70. The pictures for the day are at http://albums.photopoint.com/j/AlbumIndex?u=499922&a=7127014

We were up and getting ready at 6AM today. We checked the weather and it looked cool so we decided that would work very well for our planned day at Animal Kingdom.

After the normal routine getting the kids ready we were out the door at 7:15. We parked not too far away then Bryce and I walked to the entrance (well Bryce rode in his stroller) while the girls hopped the tram since it was nearby and just about to leave. We all arrived at about the same time and joined the lines waiting for the opening.

As we got in line we noticed "Peabody" the robotic trash can was entertaining the crowd around us. I had read about the similar "Push" in the Magic Kingdom but had never heard of Peabody. It was great. It looks exactly like any other garbage can in the area but it moves amongst the crowd and talks with people. Apparently it has a microphone in it as well because it asked us where we were from. We told it Seattle and it moved right up to Jenny who was videotaping and said "Hello everyone back in Seattle watching this tape in your living room. Keep your feet of the coffee table!" Peabody asked to wear Megan's safari Pooh hat she bought at Belz but she wasn't too sure about that so it moved on to an older couple wearing matching shirts and told everyone to look at the cute honeymooners. They got a good laugh out of it.

The gates opened up about 7:50 and I was a bit disappointed that there was no opening music. We had really enjoyed the Circle of Life playing on our visit last year. It really set the mood. Anyhow, we made our way into the park and of course totally blew past the Oasis on our way to the safari. Someday I'll take my time and explore this area but the call of the safari first thing in the morning is just too strong.

We walked right onto our jeep and even though we were bundled up it was chilly! The safari was a good one. We saw most of the animals. The male lion was in his usual place sunning himself and the female was walking nearby. The kids were disappointed that a rhino didn't ram us as happened last year. They both still remembered that a year later.

After the safari we went to Camp Minnie-Mickey where both Minnie and Mickey were greeting people by the stream near the entrance to the area. We joined the short line to meet them. As it was our turn a couple of CM's came out and said that Minnie and Mickey would be moving to their usual greeting area further back in the camp. They lined everyone up and we were thinking that was fine because we would all walk down in line and we would be first to meet them in the new area. Well what really happened was a glorious bit of Disney magic. Minnie took Bryce by the hand and Mickey took Megan's. They walked hand in hand all the way to the new area with them. They stopped a few times to point out interesting things in the stream and the squirting water at the bridge. The kids were just beaming that they were the ones that got to walk with Mickey and Minnie. Once we got to the character area they exchanged hugs and kisses. It was magical moment and we were glad we had decided to bring the video camera with us.

As we left the greeting area we saw Pooh & Eeyore so we got in the short line to meet them. The kids gave more hugs and kisses and we took some great pictures. Terk from Tarzan had about a 10-minute wait but we stuck it out to see her (I felt like screaming "Terk is a girl" to all of the people in line who kept referring to her as "him").

We saw that the Pocahontas show was about to start so we went into the theater and discovered that it was the training session we were at rather than the actual show. It was not very interesting but we probably would have enjoyed it more had we seen the real show before. A lot of people walked out before the end of it. It was still very cold and Jenny sat in the back of the theater in a sunny spot for warmth.

"It's tough to be a bug" was our next stop and I missed the entrance somehow. Jenny asked a "super greeter" CM where "A bugs life" was and he semi-sarcastically said it was on video but if we wanted to see "It's tough to be a bug" then we should go over there. From his response I got the impression that it was a very frequent and irritating question for him. We know better too. Oh well, it didn't dampen our Disney spirits any. We found the path and once again marveled at what a magnificent creation the Tree of Life is. It's hard not to stop in your tracks and just stare at all of the wonderful carvings. We went fairly quickly through the line though and passed up most of the gawkers only to have a 15 minute wait for the next show once we got to the theater.

Megan remembered the show from last year and I don't think Bryce did but we primed him for it before hand and told him that there were scary parts but that Hopper and the bugs wouldn't get us. He ended up really liking the movie and said, "Hopper is mean!" at the end of it. I was relieved because it's a pretty intense show for kids and I thought he would probably be more scared of it this year but he did just fine. Megan, who fears no ride, of course did fine.

We walked across the park to Countdown to Extinction and picked up Fastpasses. Then it was onto the Boneyard for some major playtime. Both kids had a great time there and spent most of their time at the Dig Site. It was nice visiting when it was still cool because I'm sure this place is a sweltering oven when it's warm out.

We went back to Countdown to Extinction, which unfortunately had broke down. It was back up and running but the lines were long and they were letting the regular line and Fastpass line inside at an equal pace so Fastpass turned out to have absolutely no advantage. Still, it wasn't too terrible of a wait, about 20 minutes. The girls rode first while Bryce and I waited in the gift shop and played with all of the dinosaurs. We all laughed at Jenny & Meg's picture where they were pretending they were terrified.

We did the baby trade so Meg went for a second ride with me. I forgot how loud the ride is. I know they tamed down the vehicles a bit for it's new incarnation as "Dinosaur" but the volume was still quite high. It's a fun ride as long as you don't try to compare it to the similar but far superior Indiana Jones at Disneyland. Megan told me when the picture was coming and she hammed it up and screamed for the picture while I opted for a sleeping pose with my hands up as a pillow beside my tilted head. It came out pretty funny but we didn't buy it.

We were all a little hungry so we went to the Flame Tree BBQ. Jenny and I had read a lot about the seating areas down by the river and we really wanted to try it. It turned out to be fantastic. There were two other couples in the entire area so we had a huge section by the river all to ourselves. It was a beautiful, peaceful area to get away from the crowds that were starting to form. We loved the architecture, landscaping and great views in the area.

We all shared an order of cheese fries, bread bowl salad and a Coke. The bread bowl salad was very good and it was plenty for the 4 of us as a snack. The salad was kind of like coleslaw (which is one of the few foods I don't care for) but better and had lots of chicken breast pieces. We got ripped off with the fries though. They were $4.10 and our basket was less than half full. I came to about 40 cents per fry! As we were leaving though I saw people with fries piled high so we were just unlucky (or they probably thought I looked like I didn't need any more!) Total for the meal was $14.15

After lunch we went to Tarzan Rocks which we all really enjoyed. The Tarzan soundtrack quickly became one of the favorites in our household so all of the songs were familiar. The lead singer was certainly no Phil Collins but he and the others were energetic and put on an entertaining show. Tarzan was incredibly buff in his loincloth. I noticed Jenny spending entirely too much time using the zoom feature of the video camera. Bryce was in his element when they finally got to "Trashing the camp" and he did his usual toddler dance to his favorite song. We felt this was the best of the shows that we had not previously seen. We will definitely go back.

We went to Asia but it was very busy and the walkways were quite congested so we passed on most of the attractions. We had seen everything in the area last year except Flights of Wonder so we went there since it was starting soon. We got seats but the theater was completely filled shortly after we sat down. The show was OK. The birds were beautiful but the presentation was fairly similar to animal/bird shows at Sea World, Universal, etc. I wouldn't be in a hurry to go back.

When we left the theater things were extremely crowded as we walked along the path to Africa. We stopped and got a frozen strawberry bar for Megan and a Simba's paw print for Bryce. They both loved their treats and ended up wearing a good portion of them. We were amazed at all of the people sitting along the path with food from Mr. Kamal's. It didn't look like a very pleasant way to eat. We took the less crowded path just past Mr. Kamal's and we were surprised at how few people there were in the area. There were several unused tables and chairs, which would have been a much better place for a meal.

We found the sheltered smoking area and there were no smokers there so we took a seat to relax and have a break. After we cooled off for a few minutes I took the kids on the "secret path" which was very close by. They both loved this because they got to go across the rocks in the stream and they felt like they were somewhere that really was a secret. There were no other people on the path even during the subsequent half dozen loops the kids made. It's a short path but very pretty and one of those nice little out of the way treasures that makes WDW so special.

I went in search of beer and apple juice. I ended up at the Dawa bar in Africa for the beer and Tusker House for the apple juice. I came back and we enjoyed our break in the secondary path, which was still nicely empty. The high temperature only got to just above 70 today but it really felt quite a bit warmer than that. I've read countless trip reports about how the Animal Kingdom just seems hotter than any other park and I really agree. I'd hate to be here on a truly warm day. This is a park we will forever save for the cool days.

We left our resting area went over to the Tree of Life gardens. We had about an hour to kill before our priority seating time at the Rainforest Café. Most of the areas in Africa and Asia were very busy and we didn't feel like fighting crowds. This was our first visit to the gardens on the backside of the tree and we loved it. It felt far removed from all of the hustle and bustle in Africa. There were very few people walking the many paths. The kids enjoyed looking at the anteaters, capybara and other animals. We followed the trails along the river and some of them provided breathtaking views of the river and the tree. It was a great vantage point and a nice way to view the tree up close without gumming up the line for It's Tough to be a Bug.

When it was time for our early dinner we walked over to the Rainforest Café. Bryce was in his stroller and fell asleep right before we got there. They let us wheel him in and put his stroller at our table. We scooted him in where his chair would have been so it worked out well that he wasn't in the way. We were seated near the gift shop. It wasn't the best table but we didn't much care. Meg was thrilled with it though because we were close to the elephants, which are her favorite animals.

We had pork pot stickers for an appetizer and they were disappointing. They seemed a little over done and oily. They also had a tamarind sauce with them that I didn't really care for. Megan ordered the chicken nuggets, waffle fries and a root beer. Jenny had the Chinese chicken salad and the big can of Foster's lager. I had the BBQ shredded pork wrap with waffle fries and a Coke (OK, actually about 4 Cokes by the time the meal was done). Meg liked her meal. She went through about a pint of ketchup with the waffle fries. Jenny really enjoyed her salad and it was huge. My wrap was good but not great. There were a few fatty pieces of pork, which are never pleasant to find. The wrap came with the same tamarind sauce that was on the pot stickers. Thankfully, it was in a cup on the side. As usual at the Rainforest Café, we all had more than we could eat.

A guy at the table next to us had just sat down next to the elephants and was touching their trunks when they started trumpeting as the thunderstorm started. He got quite a start while his significant other and the rest of us got a big laugh out of his surprised expression. Our total bill came to $55 with tax and tip.

I paid for the entire meal with gift certificates. A couple of these I received from joining the Rainforest Café Safari Club. It costs $10 to join but you are given a $10 certificate and then mailed another $10 certificate later so it more than pays for itself. You also get walk up priority seating which is really nice since it always seems to be busy at all of their restaurants.

The rest of the gift certificates were from Internet point programs. I primarily use Freeride, Mypoints and Beenz. I try other programs occasionally but those are my favorites. I've had very good experiences with them and none of them are the multi-level marketing type thing where you sign up others to make money. You do get a small referral bonus when others sign up and list you as a referral but the vast majority of points you get are from clicking on advertising banners. It takes a LOT of clicks to get all the points and it's only a buck or two per hour. However, if you spend a lot of time on the computer anyhow and have a separate window open it's easy to get points in your spare time. It's also kind of fun. I average about $100 a month for the 3 point programs combined. I don't want to sound like too much of an advertisement for these but feel free to e-mail me at lancar@altavista.com if you want any tips on them.

We were all tired and full after the meal so we went back to the condo. After a short rest we drove to the Swan for a look around. It's a very nice hotel and the location is great but it just doesn't have the same feel as the "official" Disney resorts. We still had a good time looking around though. We walked over to the Boardwalk. Megan wanted to get a hair wrap and although I knew it was expensive we let her anyhow. While Jenny waited with her, Bryce and I took a stroll on the Boardwalk. We bought some of those delicious sugar-cinnamon glazed pecans and some roasted pistachios. We walked back and shared with the girls. Megan loved her hair wrap although it only ended up lasting a couple of days.

We all walked over to Seashore Sweets in search of dessert. We found a table out on Boardwalk where the kids could alternate between eating ice cream and running around in circles. They were pretty wired and must have been catching their second wind and here we were loading them up on sugar. What was I thinking? We had a cookies and cream hot fudge sundae with whipped cream, mini M&M's and a cherry. We also had a chocolate/vanilla swirl bowl of nonfat frozen yogurt, which was surprisingly good. Of course it didn't compare to the sundae but Jenny and Bryce liked it a lot.

We decided we had a full enough day so we went back to the room. Once there, we discovered Bryce no longer had his jacket. I felt bad because Jenny is the organizational queen of the family. Every day she packs up our daily supplies while the rest of us eat breakfast. She always has whatever item we may need whenever we may need it. Unfortunately, we take her for granted and tend to assume that she will be in charge of all the hats, coats, sweatshirts, etc. that we shed during the course of the day. I tend to be the mindless pack mule and just cart around all of the stuff without paying much attention to what it is. "Strong back, weak mind" as my dad always used to say about himself. Like father, like son I guess.

Bryce is still too young to be responsible for his own things but Megan and I really need to get better about that. Thankfully, Bryce was getting close to outgrowing the jacket and he had another one along for the rest of the trip.

I made some notes for the trip report and we all fell asleep by 10PM.

Day 8 - Monday, April 10th, 2000 - Blizzard Beach. Warm and sunny all day. High temp of 80. The pictures for the day can be found at http://albums.photopoint.com/j/AlbumIndex?u=499922&a=7127095

We woke up at 7:30 and watched the weather channel. It looked like it would be a perfect day for Blizzard Beach. Yesterday was cool so we were worried but they said it would warm up and they turned out to be right.

Once again it was a major pain to get the kids fed, into swimsuits and coated with sunscreen but we eventually left the room at 9. We drove to the All Star Movies resort because we wanted to see the "Andy's Room" area of the Toy Story section. It was great. Buzz and Woody are impossibly huge and the kids loved seeing all their favorite characters. We got lots of pictures. We noticed that all of the room areas were just buzzing with kids. They were running and yelling along the walkways outside the rooms. The resort looks like a fun and active place but definitely somewhere to avoid if you are looking for peace and quiet. I would choose Cypress Pointe anytime since it's the same room rate as the All Stars and I can't imagine being cooped up in one of those tiny rooms with my active, darling, little children for 2 weeks. Of course maybe that's why the All Stars had so many kids running about. The parents probably told them to go play outside and give them some peace.

After we saw all that we wanted to see we headed over to Blizzard Beach just as a couple of busloads of teens were arriving. Things didn't look promising. There was a pretty large crowd at the gate as we waited 10 minutes before we were let in. We went straight to path for Tyke's Peak to await the official rope drop at 10AM. We turned out to be the only people there. I guess we were worried over nothing. The rope dropped and we found a great picnic shelter area and stashed our stuff. We played around for about 10 minutes before another family finally arrived.



Megan and I took the chairlift to the top of Mt. Gushmore and rode Teamboat Springs, the family raft ride. It was one of Meg's favorites from last year and she enjoyed it again this time. It's a lot of fun, very speedy with lots of turns and quite a long ride. It's much better than the equivalent at Typhoon Lagoon where you have to carry your own raft up the mountain and you get a much shorter ride.

We went up the backside of the mountain to the Runoff Rapids slides. I convinced Meg to go on one of the double tubes with me. I didn't realize that you can only take the single tubes through the enclosed slide so we had to take one of the slides on either side of it but we had a good time and yelled the whole way down.

We walked around to the front of the mountain and climbed it from there to go on the toboggan racer mat slides. I was glad to see the bumper at the end of the slide. I came perilously close to crashing in April 1995 shortly after Blizzard Beach opened. All of that body mass really generates some speed! I got most of the way to the end but stopped safely short this time. I looked back to see Meg stopped way back by the bottom of the hill. We went back up the hill and did the toboggan storm slides. I really like the mat slides since you go down head first and on your stomach. It's a nice change from the usual feet first, on your back type of slide.

Castaway Creek provided a relaxing way to get back to Tyke's Peak. We took an entire lap around the creek and had a lot of fun. It was amazing how light the crowds were today after we thought it was going to be busy. We noticed there was hardly a line all day long for Summit Plummet. Even so, I skipped it this trip. I've been on it (and battered and bruised by it) enough times without feeling the need to go everytime. At least, that's what the cowardly little voice in my head was saying. I've never met a roller coaster yet that's scared me but for some reason I really have to gather up my courage for Summit Plummet. There's something about climbing up that tower and looking almost straight down the slide that really gets me. Of course, the fear of an atomic wedgie doesn't help. Still, the view from the platform is so spectacular that I'll have to make that climb again sometime.

After meeting back up with Jenny we traded places and Megan took her on the same circuit we had just completed. I hung out with Bryce and we played in all of the fountains and small slides in the area. The children's areas in the water parks are so neat. Bryce gathered up his courage and went down the tube slide in Tyke's Peak. He was pretty proud of himself and couldn't wait to tell the girls when they came back. I was starved so I broke into the bagel sandwiches, Pringles and Coke we had brought with us.

When the girls came back they had lunch and then Meg talked me into going to the Ski Patrol Training Camp. She really likes this area and it's perfect for her since she's now too tall for Tike's Peak. She loved going across the "ice floes" while holding onto the overhead cargo nets. She also went down the slides and swam in the pool. We then went over to Meltaway Bay and bobbed in the waves. We returned to Tike's Peak and the kids played together for a while before we packed it up and left at 3:30. It had been a fantastic day. After thinking it was going to be busy it turned out to be one of the least crowded days we had ever spent at Blizzard Beach.

Back at the condo we showered and cleaned up for our next outing. We had wanted to try Juan and Only's at the Dolphin and figured we could also look for Bryce's jacket at the Swan. We checked at the front desk of the Swan and they said they found it and would bring it right down. Someone came down but unfortunately, it was a different blue toddler jacket. The Swan staff was very friendly and I really appreciated them looking.

The girls stayed and looked around the Swan while Bryce and I went to Seashore Sweets. They said all lost and found items go to the Boardwalk Inn front desk so we went there and they looked for about 15 minutes but didn't turn up anything. Oh well, it wasn't a major loss but we figured we might as well look since we were back in the area.

We met the girls back at the Swan (using those great 2 way radios again) and went to Juan and Only's at the Dolphin. There was no wait for a table and we went in and noticed how nice the place was. It was not the typical Mexican restaurant we were expecting. We opened up the menu and both looked at each other with the same expression of "let's not do this". I told the hostess we had changed our minds and I was sorry. She said it was no problem, so we high tailed it out of there. I guess we were looking for the nachos, burritos, enchilada type of Mexican restaurant and this was definitely not it. It was quite upscale with prices to match and just would not have been a very comfortable dining experience with the children.

We remembered Kevin Stringer's trip report and what a nice casual meal they had at the Scat Cat Lounge so we went over to Dixie Landings to check it out. We looked around a while and finally asked where it was and you guessed it. Scat Cat's is at Port Orleans, not Dixie Landings. So, I figured we could walk over along the path by the river. It was dark now and we were all tired and hungry. We walked by the main pool and I tried to remember how to get to Port Orleans. For some reason I was kind of turned around and couldn't get my bearings at night. There are no signs pointing the way and after asking 2 CM's and getting two different sets of directions we finally gave up.

So, we went back to the van very tired, cranky and hungry. We all had pretty short fuses by this point and we were trying to decide where to eat and not snipe at each other too much. We decided to head back to Crossroads since it was close to the condo and if nothing else we could go to Taco Bell if we had to. I went in to check at Chevy's and the wait was 15 minutes and I decided we could handle that. They gave us a beeper/buzzer and we were seated in 10 minutes. We ordered a much-needed pitcher of beer and everyone was in a better mood with food and drink in front of them. The chips and salsa were polished off in seconds.

Megan had the bean and cheese burrito kids meal that came with really good french fries. It was kind of an odd combo but she liked it. Jenny had the grande nachos and they were huge and delicious. I had the steak fajita nachos that were very good but not as good as Jenny's. Mine were the type where each individual chip is adorned with cheese, meat, salsa, etc. whereas Jenny's were the big mound o' chips and cheese type of thing that was about a foot high. Bryce ate off of all our plates. This was our first visit to Chevy's and we really liked it. It is very kid friendly with concrete floors, intentionally tacky interior and loud atmosphere. The service was very good. The prices were extremely reasonable also. We had more than enough food for all of us. The total with tax and tip came to $35. I'd definitely go back.

It was 9:00 by the time we finished dinner so we drove the 2 blocks back to the condo and everyone fell promptly asleep.

Day 9 - Tuesday, April 11th, 2000 - Disney-MGM Studios. Very warm and sunny all day. High temp of 84. The pictures for the day are at http://albums.photopoint.com/j/AlbumIndex?u=499922&a=7127131

We were up at 7AM and after getting ready we left at 8:20. We went immediately through the gates but the crowds were lined up at the end of the street for rope drop at 9. We stopped first to make Fantasmic dinner reservations. We had planned to go to Mama Melroses but the latest seating available was at 3:00. The Brown Derby had an opening at 4:50 so we took that instead. There was very little available since the new system allows resort guests to book the dinner one week in advance. So, just a word to the wise to make you seating as early in advance as you can. I'm sure the rest of the reservations filled up within the first half-hour of the park opening.

We waited for rope drop at the end of Sunset Boulevard and went right to Rock & Roller Coaster. I rode it first with Megan. There was no wait. We went right into the pre-show area, which was fun and then into the very short line to get into the cars. We had just enough time to see a couple of the other limos taking off very rapidly. This was Megan's first looping coaster and she was excited about it. I had heard mixed reports of some people saying the coaster was smooth and some saying it was rough. So, I asked for a seat in the middle of the car and it was very smooth. It was an awesome ride. I've been on far more intense coasters but none that had such a great theme and was in the dark. Just like Space Mountain at Disneyland, the music really adds something that takes the ride to a whole new level. It was so fast that I didn't recognize which songs played and I'm an Aerosmith fan.

While we were riding, Jenny had picked up Fastpasses for the Tower of Terror. The girls then went on Rock & Roller Coaster first though since our Fastpass time wasn't up yet. They also got on with almost no wait. They sat in the very last seat and thought the ride was quite rough. Megan was bounced around and had a headache after the ride. She didn't much care for that ride. I should have told Jenny not to sit in the back. Jenny loved the ride though. It was definitely something that was needed at the Studios.

After their ride we went to Jenny's favorite show, Beauty and the Beast. It was the first show of the day and we got there just a few minutes before it started and before the theater was completely filled. We caught a little bit of Four for a Dollar and they were great. They are a very talented and fun a cappella group. The Beauty and the Beast show was as good as always. We all rate it as one of our favorites. The costumes and music are fantastic.

As we left the theater Jenny remembered that she left her water bottle under the seat. Bryce and I swam like fish upstream against the exiting crowds and by the time we got back to our seats it was gone. I asked the clean up crew if anyone saw it but they weren't too helpful.

Our Fastpass time had arrived so we went to the Tower of Terror. The girls rode first and I got a child swap pass so Meg and I could go on after they got off. Bryce and I waited in the gift shop and bought Jenny a new Tower of Terror water bottle. The girls had a great ride then Meg and I took the service elevator back up for our ride. I asked for the seatbelt seat but it was broken. We sat in the back row. The new drop sequence from last year was as wild as I remembered it.

We were really impressed now with Sunset Boulevard. There was so much to do now with Rock & Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, Beauty and the Beast and Fantasmic. Surprisingly the traffic seems to flow very well in the area. I was amazed that throughout the day there was never more than a 10-minute wait for both R&RC and TOT.

Bryce needed apple juice so I went in search of that with him while the girls went to see the Doug show. I had seen it last year and hadn't been too impressed even though I like the cartoon. It was getting very warm and when I finally found apple juice in a big bucket of ice, I scooped some of the ice into my hat and it really helped to cool off. When the girls came out of Doug I took the kids to Bear in the Big Blue House while Jenny shopped at the Art of Disney store. The show was very cute. The kids watch it back home so they liked seeing all of the familiar characters. The theater was blessedly air conditioned so I enjoyed that!

Jenny had found a print of the Tree of Life that she wanted to buy and I told her to wait because I had seen it at the Downtown Disney Art of Disney Store and we could get our Magic Kingdom Club discount there. We walked over to the Sci-Fi Drive-In for our 11:30 priority seating. Bryce had fallen asleep so we wheeled him in the stroller up alongside our car. We had been to this restaurant in 1995 and really enjoyed the atmosphere but found the food marginal and overpriced. So, we decided to just do appetizers and desserts. We ordered french fries, onion rings and chicken flatbread. The onion rings were very good. The flatbread was good but quite small. It wasn't much to share between three of us. Toward the end of the meal, Bryce woke up and was a bit disoriented by the dark surroundings and the sci-fi movie trailers playing up on the big screen. He wasn't too happy about being there and asked to leave several times so I took him for a walk after we ordered dessert. We came back a few minutes later and he decided to stay when he saw dessert. It was the cookie monster and was very good. It was like a hot fudge sundae on top of a chocolate chip cookie. Overall we were pleased with our meal here. We were definitely glad that we didn't order full entrees though. Appetizers and desserts were the way to go. Total with tax and tip came to $22.

After lunch we went onto Star Tours for Bryce's first ride. He really liked it and now refers to anything bumpy as being "just like Star Tours". I'll be glad when they finally change the movie though. I remember riding the Disneyland version shortly after it opened. It seemed so impressive then and is almost second rate now. I guess we keep raising our expectations.

We tried to find our way to the backlot to take the tour but we couldn't find what appeared to be the shortcut so we went all the way back to the Animation Courtyard. We stopped at the Great Movie ride on the way and really enjoyed it. We got the cowboy scene again which we always seem to get. The Wizard of Oz scene always amazes me. The munchkins and especially the Wicked Witch of the West are so lifelike. I was glad to see that some of the film clips at the end of the ride had been updated.

After our ride we stopped and picked up Fastpasses for the Little Mermaid show. Then we continued onto the backlot tour. While we were in line an obnoxious New York family next to us entertained me. The dad was speaking arrogantly about something to his wife. He folded up their stroller that had an open can of Orange Crush in it. What a mess! I know it's terrible to derive joy from the misfortune of others but I couldn't help myself. I'm kind of biased against people from the Northeast. I know plenty of nice people from there so I shouldn't generalize but I find many of them to be loud and arrogant. I guess I should just recognize that it's a cultural thing and I'm from a very different area. I'm sure I probably annoy them in some way so if I have offended anyone reading this, I apologize. The backlot tour was the same as always.

After the tour we saw Muppetvision which I probably enjoy more than the rest of the family. I'm the only one who finds a "net full of Jello" in the lobby to be funny. They also kind of look at me funny when I'm the only one to laugh at Sam Eagle's "tribute to all nations but mostly America".

The kids would not allow us to escape the area without some playtime at Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground. They had fun running around and blowing off their excess energy. It was much easier this year because Bryce is mobile enough to run around with Megan and she's nice enough to allow him to tag along. I chased the kids around while Jenny had a beer at the Backlot Express. I'm such a prince of a husband!

Our Fastpass time finally was approaching so we went to see the Little Mermaid. The Fastpass "window" is only 10 minutes because you are guaranteed to get into a particular show. Fastpass worked great. We went in toward the end of the time indicated and were let into the waiting area right by the doors. As soon as the end time on the Fastpass arrived they let in all the people who were waiting outside in the standby line. I think this is another great show. There are so many different effects and they are all very well done. Of course, it's one of my favorite Disney movies so that also helps.

We killed a few minutes and then went over to Brown Derby for our Fantasmic dinner. I was a little nervous because it's a very nice restaurant and the kids were kind of wound up despite my pleas for them to use their best restaurant manners. Thankfully, we were seated in a booth. That helped to contain our little darlings. We also had a fantastic waitress, which also helped. She quickly brought out some delicious bread for the kids to get started on. Then she thoroughly explained the Fantasmic seating. We ordered the kids mac & cheese so they could get started and not have to wait for us to decide on our meals. The mac & cheese was not too great, it was kind of thin and runny. Jenny decided on the salmon and it was very good. I had the filet mignon and it was excellent. I love a good filet but this had to be one of the best I've ever had. It was cooked perfectly medium rare and could be cut with the fork. The total meal with tax and tip came to $60. I'm really glad we ended up eating here. We probably won't be back until the kids are older but it was a very nice dinner in a very nice setting.

We had time to kill after dinner so we went back to Rock & Roller Coaster. Jenny and Megan rode and it was a walk on! I was amazed at how light the crowds were today. We really lucked out. While we waited for the girls, Bryce spent his time dancing to the music outside and flirting with a teenage Japanese girl nearby. She was entertained by his dancing and he was hamming it up. I told him to say konichiwa and a few of the other words in my limited Japanese vocabulary. She seemed so excited and surprised to hear him speak Japanese. They spent the next few minutes playing together. Jenny and Megan came back so we said sayonara to our new friend.

Megan and I then went for a ride. I caught some more details on this ride. It helped as we were near the front. I really love this coaster and hope it will age as well as the others.

The girls went for another ride on the Tower of Terror while Bryce and I got some chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream from Hollywood Scoops. When we met back up I went to Catalina Eddie's to get a Coke. It took about 10 minutes because the group in front of me made their dinner decision and purchase as difficult as closing a mortgage on a home. Why can't people look at the menu before they get up to the window instead of standing there and asking each other what everyone wants? It drives me crazy.

While we were eating our ice cream we discovered that Megan's Winnie the Pooh hat was missing. We were kind of bummed since we just bought the overpriced thing at the Magic Kingdom a couple of days before. It was time to go to Fantasmic so I went there with the kids while Jenny checked at lost and found for the hat. They had dozens of hats but Meg's wasn't there. Just as Jenny was giving up looking a cast member walked up with an item to turn into lost and found. It turned out to be Meg's hat. What great timing! The CM said it was left at the Brown Derby.

We met up with Jenny at the Fantasmic stroller area. What a sea of strollers! I'm glad we had our own. It was much easier to identify than the hundreds of rental strollers that look exactly alike. We got to the theater right at 8:00PM, which was the latest time to arrive for the guaranteed seating. The theater was completely filled! I was surprised since the park didn't seem too busy today. I knew the show routinely fills up but I thought we could waltz on in at 8 and the reserved seating wouldn't be filled. Boy was I wrong.

We were looking for a place to sit when an usher directed us to a row of unused disabled seating. It was the very last row and the wheelchair area was right behind us. I felt kind of guilty but the CM said that it was OK. If we had arrived 30 seconds later we would have had to go to the standing room only area. We couldn't believe our good luck. The seats were especially good because they allowed for a quick exit. We really enjoyed the show. It's quite a production and to be able to see it in a theater was a real advantage over it's Disneyland counterpart. I prefer the Disneyland version but I don't often see it because to me it's just not worth the investment of time that is needed to stake out a spot. The kids liked seeing all the characters and thought the mist screens were cool. We bailed out during the last 2 minutes of the show. I know it's the best part but we've seen the Disneyland version and I really didn't want to get caught in the crush of people leaving. We had a nice easy stroll out of the park. It was nice to be ahead of the hordes.

Today turned out to be the best day we have ever had at the Studios. We made the quick drive back to the condo and the kids hit the sack and promptly nodded off at 9:30. I stayed up until 11 making trip notes.

Day 10 - Wednesday, April 12th, 2000 - Pool day. Very warm and sunny. Brief evening showers. High temp of 84. The pictures for the day are at http://albums.photopoint.com/j/AlbumIndex?u=499922&a=7127212

Everyone woke up at 7:30 and went through the normal morning routine. We left the condo at 9 for a visit to Old Key West. What a mistake going there! We all fell in love with the place. We had been there before but never had a chance to really explore. It's a good thing it's sold out because we were all set to buy.

We went to the front desk and asked if we could take a look at a 1-bedroom unit and they said no problem. A very friendly CM brought around a golf cart and drove us to the unit. It was very nice. We normally like having a 2-bedroom condo but we could easily have a nice long stay in one of these units. A second bathroom would be nice but we could certainly live without it. The CM showed us all around and was probably getting nervous that we weren't going to leave! I liked everything about Old Key West and now I'll be even more jealous of Brian Bennett, Sue Holland and other DVC owners as I read their wonderful trip reports from there.

We went back to the main area and looked around the pool area and practically had to drag the kids away.

We then went back depressed to Cypress Pointe. Oh, how it pales in comparison. Of course, I'm cheap and at 1/6 the nightly 2-bedroom Old Key West rate I'll still stay here.

It was getting warm so we went down to the pool. The area was pretty full but we found a table and a couple of chairs. It really is a nice pool area. The volcano is fun. Megan liked the waterslides and Bryce liked the kid's pool.

At noon there was a free lunch. They had hot dogs, potato chips, baked beans, macaroni salad and potato salad. It was all very good and the people were very nice. It made us all feel a little better about staying here.

We were enjoying our lunch when someone said those two magic words, "free beer". It was the adult equivalent of hearing the music from the ice cream truck. We tried not to trample small children as we stampeded to the brew. Suddenly, we were ready to buy into Cypress Pointe. OK, maybe I got a little carried away there. Still, in the words of Homer Simpson "Ah, good old trustworthy beer. My love for you will never die".

Soon thereafter a portly pirate from the pirate dinner adventure came and raffled off dinner shows, hats, t-shirts and the like. We didn't win anything but it turned out to be a very fun afternoon that helped paint Cypress Pointe in a better light.

We went back up to the room and gave the kids a quick bath in the big Jacuzzi tub. Bryce had a meltdown when I let the water out of the tub. Apparently, he was not finished with the bath yet and didn't appreciate me putting an end to it. It was definitely nap time. He nodded off pretty quickly after we got him calmed down.

Megan and I decided to go to Winter-Summerland miniature golf. We had decided on the way there that summerland would be fun and when we got there that was the only side open anyhow. It appeared that they were doing some work on the winterland side but I couldn't tell what. Just routine maintenance I guess. We used our Magic Kingdom Club card and saved 20% off for a total of $14.21 for the two of us.

It was a fun course and very kid friendly. Many of the holes are contoured towards the cup and Megan got a hole-in-one on several of them so that was a real confidence booster for her. The holes are very cute and all incorporate the Santa and his elves on vacation theme. It was really warm and very humid this afternoon so we didn't enjoy the course as much as we might have in the evening. I'll definitely wait until it's cool for our next golf outing.

We picked up Jenny and Bryce at the condo and then set off for Downtown Disney. We went to the marina and rented a boat, which is one of my favorite things to do at WDW. I was glad to see they had plenty of pontoon boats available. They are much better than the canopy boats and cost just a few dollars more.

We brought a cooler full of snacks and juice for the kids and champagne for the adults. I'm not sure if you are supposed to have alcohol on the boats but I didn't see anything posted or in the rental agreement about it. Still, we were discreet with it and drank out of plastic cups.

Our first spot to visit was the lagoon at the Disney Institute Villas. We had never been in this area and it's really nice and relaxing. If the price were right I would consider a stay there. We continued on and saw all of the Treehouse villas. It's another place I'd love to stay but could never bring myself to pay the outrageous rates for. Our cruise took us past Port Orleans and Dixie Landings before we sidetracked over to Old Key West and then finally back to the marina. We were out on the water for 75 minutes but they only charged us for an hour, which was very nice. $60 is pretty steep for an hourly boat rental but it's a must do for us on each trip. I prefer the waterways here for the canopy boats but the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake area is much better for the water mice individual speed boats.

We walked right next door for dinner at the Rainforest Café. I showed the Safari Club card to get the walk up priority seating. We got to go directly to the gorilla room waiting area and had about 10 minutes before we were seated. The regular line had over an hour wait. The kids were restless so we ordered waffle fries for them right away to keep them occupied. Jenny had the quart of Foster's lager and a Blue Mountain club sandwich. She really enjoyed both. Megan and Bryce shared a gorilla grilled cheese sandwich, chips and a Coke. I had my favorite Rainforest entrée, the pastalaya shrimp and a Coke (once again about 4 Cokes). The pastalaya is outstanding if you like cajun/creole food. It has lots of great chicken, andouille sausage, shrimp and not too many vegetables getting in the way. The pasta was practically swimming in chili oil and the whole thing was very spicy and not for the timid or calorie conscious.

Overall, it was a very good meal. We had better service and food than the other day at the Animal Kingdom Rainforest Café but I think it just happened that way. I don't think one is necessarily better than the other is, they are pretty similar experiences. We probably just liked our meal choices better here and happened upon a better server. The total with tax and tip was $50 and I paid $30 of it with the remaining gift certificates I had.

We left the restaurant and there was a complete downpour of rain. We ran quickly over to the Art of Disney store. Meg slipped and fell but there was no harm done except for a squabble that erupted between Jenny and I. Neither of us was quite sure what it was about. It was just one of those times when we weren't communicating well and we were both getting tired and cranky. It was mostly my fault and it didn't help when Jenny couldn't find the Animal Kingdom poster that I assured her would be here. They had several Tree of Life posters but not the same one we saw at the Art of Disney store at the studios. As it turned out we found a different one that we liked even better. It's a beautiful rendering of the Tree of Life and it is filled with hidden Mickey's. We were able to get our Magic Kingdom Club discount so that was nice. We now have the poster framed and displayed in our upstairs hallway.

By the time we finished up in the store the rain was letting up. It was about 7:30 and we weren't quite ready to turn in. I was feeling kind of bad about arguing earlier and decided ice cream would put everyone in a better mood. So, we went over to Ghiradelli, which was packed. The girls spotted someone leaving a great table outside though so they snagged it while Bryce and I got the ice cream. We ordered the Cable Car sundae and it was fantastic. It had two scoops of rocky road ice cream with hot fudge, marshmallow, whipped cream, nuts, cherries and 2 cute little chocolate cable cars. I later mentioned the name of it to my sister who is a big Ghiradelli fan and she pratically recited the menu description word for word. I guess I got the Disney obsession while my sister got the chocolate obsession in the family.

We enjoyed our ice cream and got to watch a spectacular sunset. It was a great ending to the evening. Unfortunately, we didn't end it there. We went to the World of Disney store, which seems to be perpetually crowded and we browsed around for a while. Bryce had picked up a large inflatable ball and was determined that we were going to buy it for him. Both kids are usually pretty good in stores and don't generally whine for us to buy them things. For some reason though Bryce decided to have a meltdown over the ball. So, we beat a hasty retreat from the store and drove back to the condo. On, the way back we heard Megan counting from the backseat and she proudly declared "I have 19 owwies!" For some reason that set us all off laughing. It was nice to end the night on that note.

Day 11 - Thursday, April 13th, 2000 - Epcot day. Very warm, sunny and humid (100%). High temp of 83. The pictures for the day are at http://albums.photopoint.com/j/AlbumIndex?u=499922&a=7127321

We woke up at 6:30 and were out the door at 8 to Epcot. We got to see the opening ceremony with the release of the doves. The kids really enjoyed that. We also spent a little time looking at the Leave a Legacy monuments that I didn't particularly care for. I had debated before the trip about buying a tile and decided to wait and see. Once I saw them in person I really didn't care for them. The images are kind of dark and the whole area has kind of got a depressing mausoleum quality to it. I'd also really be disappointed if I had a tile that was higher up than 7 feet.

Once we entered the park we made a beeline for Test Track. The girls went first while Bryce and I waited in the exit area and looked at all the cars. After about 20 minutes the girls found us. It turns out that the ride was not operating and they had been looking for us the whole time since I had forgot to turn my radio on. I didn't make that mistake again. The radios remained on every time we separated.

At Bryce's request we went for a ride on Spaceship Earth (although he refers to it as Epcot). It was still before 9 so there wasn't any line. After our ride we saw Future Corps. They were very good and I was saddened to hear that they stopped playing at Epcot shortly after our trip. I always hate to see the quality Epcot entertainment go away because it's really what makes Epcot our family's favorite park. We also liked the chalk artists in Italy and Cast in Bronze that are no longer there. However, we did find a couple of new acts on this vacation so hopefully they are replacing old acts with new acts of equally high quality.

Innoventions was next on the agenda so we could send some more e-mail photo postcards. There was no one there so we did a bunch. We then went over to the other side of Innoventions and sent video e-mail. That was a really fun idea but most people back home were unable to view the video. I didn't have any luck viewing it either when I returned home. The few people who did see it said it was very cool.

Since we had missed it on our last Epcot visit, we then saw Cranium Command at the Wonders of Life. Everyone loved the show. The pre-show with General Knowledge cracks me up. The kids then played at the interactive areas of the pavilion.

We had not yet seen the new version of Journey Into Your Imagination so that was the next stop. We lucked out and there was no line. We all liked the ride. It wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be after I had read so many negative opinions of it. I preferred the old version but this one was OK. The kids liked the upside down room a lot and got a laugh when the toilet spilled a few drops on me.

After the ride we went through Imageworks. We had always skipped it on previous trips so I can't compare it to the old version but we loved it. We spent quite a while playing around with everything. We sent some more photo e-mail postcards then just about died laughing at the video cameras that record you and then play back in slow motion. We could have spent most of the day entertaining ourselves like chimps in front of a mirror but people were beginning to stare at us so we decided to move on. The new version of the electronic philharmonic was really cool also.

It was nearing our 11:30 priority seating time for the San Angel Inn so we went to Mexico. The restaurant was empty and we were seated right next to our table from last year. It was great, right along the water and that helped to entertain the kids. They had fun waving at the passing boats. As usual we tore through the chips and salsa like a starving pack of wolverines. The kids split the 2 burritos and rice childrens meal while Jenny and I split the huge plate of nachos. We both had Dos Equis also. It was a great meal and sharing was definitely the way to go. Things are expensive here (over $10 for the nachos) but the portions are very large. There was a group of about 10 people next to us and it looked like they were doing the same thing. They were at a round table and every other person's order alternated between soup and an entrée. Our total lunch bill including tax and tip came to $32.

After we left the coolness of Mexico we found it turning into a sweltering afternoon. It was very humid. The kids found the Viking ship again in Norway so they played there until we once again dragged them away. We braved the line for Maelstrom and it turned out to be a 15-minute wait. Both kids liked the ride and the backward waterfall. I once again felt a pang of guilt by blowing past the movie but it's just not something I want see repeatedly.

China was our next stop and it was so hot that we mostly hung out at the Yong Feng Shangdian store to cool off. There were lots of things to look at though so it kept us entertained for a while. Bryce got a wooden plunger toy that pops out a cork attached to a string. He loved the popping sound it made but after about the one-millionth pop I was rethinking the wisdom of the purchase.

We continued our pattern of quickly moving from one air conditioned area to the next and found the misting areas at the Outpost. Bryce also got an apple juice there.

When we were ready to brave the heat again we went to Germany and all 7 dwarves and Snow White were out again. I took the kids over to see the model train while Jenny got a Beck's beer. We got to see a train derailment so that was exciting. One of the trains hopped the tracks and then another train smashed into the wreckage. There was quite a crowd gathered around. It was pretty funny to see everyone gawking at the accident.

Italy was our next stop and it was hot there. Africa hot. I got another lemon granita to cool us off and we found a great table right in front of the Nova Era stage. Their show started after just a couple of minutes and we really felt bad for how hot they must be in those elaborate costumes. At least they had big fans blowing on them. Today was Paolo the drummer's birthday. It was another very good show and while they have always been Jenny's favorite entertainment they are getting near the top of my list also.

We made a beeline for the American Adventure so we could cool off. We saw the Voices of Liberty and they were very good as always. Bryce was riding on my shoulders during the show and I felt him lay his head down on top of mine. I had Jenny look up at him and sure enough he fell asleep up there. It was pretty cute. Here's the picture http://albums.photopoint.com/j/ViewPhoto?u=499922&a=7127321&p=24016745.

After the Voices of Liberty performance we started to line up to go to the theater. They then announced that the show was not operating. I wish we had known that before waiting 20 minutes. At least we got to see good entertainment and had some sweet air conditioned relief from the infernal Florida heat. Keep in mind as you read this that hot for us is relative. I'm sure it's no big deal for most folks but for us in the Northwest hot weather is a very rare thing. We had the first 100-degree day in Seattle's recorded history a year or two ago. We generally consider anything in the 80's to be hot and 90 to be miserable.

Back outside we put Bryce down in his stroller for a good nap. We wanted a snack and relief from the heat so we went inside the Yakitori House in Japan. I was walking up to the line when a guy practically ran in from the other door and kind of barged his way in front of me. It was really rude but I figured it was just one guy and I would let it slide. Then, the rest of his party of 8 came in and started giving him their orders. Grrr! I gave him my best "I'm a very large, scary looking guy that you don't want to mess with" glare but he ignored me which is probably a good thing. I am a big guy at 6'2" and well over 230 pounds but I've never been in a fight in my entire life. Nor would I ever be over something so trivial. But sometimes I like to pretend I'm not a big creampuff. The fact that the guy was a New Yorker didn't help my mood any. I finally got through the line and ordered a Kirin beer for Jenny, a Coke for me and an order of Yakitori that somehow Jenny and I each managed to get a bite of before it was once again polished off by Megan. I slowed her down enough to make sure she didn't eat the bamboo skewer.

After cooling off, we went past Morocco and into France. I found the Petite Boulangerie and bought a coconut macaroon pyramid. The tables outside were very hard to come by but we found one just as someone was leaving. The macaroon was delicious. It was almost 100% shredded coconut. Jenny hadn't been with me when I bought it and she took a bite thinking it was something else. She dislikes coconut so she got an ugly surprise. Megan also dislikes coconut so I got the whole thing to myself. Yum.

The girls needed to cool off so they went into Impressions de France while I strolled around with Bryce, who was still sleeping in his stroller. I ended up in England and we looked in the shops. The girls called on the radios when the movie was over and we met back up and decided to call it a day at 5:30.

We left Epcot and rested back at the condo until 7. We decided that we would again try to find Scat Cat's lounge for dinner. We had no problem since we went to Port Orleans this time. The parents had a couple of much needed beers and the kids had soft drinks in cute Port Orleans kids cups. The live music had just started and it was great. It was just one guy but he played quite a variety of instruments. His name was Elliott Styles and I think he performs Wednesday through Sundays starting at 7PM. We really enjoyed his music. It was a fun mix of easy listening tunes and Disney music. The kids thought he was great and he provided all the entertainment to keep them happy and quiet while we got to relax.

We ordered nachos and jester fries (kind of a cross between potato skins and potato wedges) and enjoyed both. The nachos were a big hit with everyone. We asked our server which dessert would be best to share and she suggested a Bourbon Street banana split. It was no longer on the menu but she said she could talk the chef into making it. It was a delicious recommendation. Butter pecan ice cream with hot fudge, hot caramel, pecans, bananas and whipped cream. This turned out to be a really fun meal in a relaxed setting. We were concerned before we went that a lounge wouldn't be the best place for kids but it was fine. It's right off the lobby and between Bonfamille's restaurant and the food court at Port Orleans. It didn't feel like a bar and we were entirely comfortable with the kids there. We were all glad we had read about it in Kevin Stringer's trip report. Thanks Kevin! The total cost with tax and tip was $27.

On the way back to the condo we saw some of the fireworks from Illuminations. Even though we couldn't hear them Bryce covered his ears in anticipation of them. We got back to the room at 9:30 and everyone was asleep by 11.

Day 12 - Friday, April 14th, 2000 - IOA day. Warm but rainy all day. High temp of 79. The pictures for the day are at http://albums.photopoint.com/j/AlbumIndex?u=499922&a=7127387

We got up at 7 and watched the weather forecast and it didn't promising. Rain was predicted for most of the day. We left the condo at 8, parked in the Universal garage and took the long walk to the front gate. I was really impressed with the Port of Entry. It was very pretty and exotic. Once we entered, our first stop was the Incredible Hulk coaster. We all got in line but quickly discovered that it was closed down due to the rain.

So, we moved onto Spiderman. The line was pretty impressive with the mockup of the newspaper offices but I didn't get to enjoy it much since there were obnoxious teenagers everywhere! IOA has an entirely different crowd mix than the Disney parks. It's even quite a bit different than Universal Studios. I don't have a great tolerance for rude teenagers and they seemed to be everywhere here. Our next visit will definitely be a Monday through Thursday so we can hopefully avoid them.

We finally got through the line and up to the ride vehicle in about 15 minutes. They measured Bryce again and he still met the height requirement. I should have read up on the ride more beforehand. I knew it was a simulator ride and I figured it would be similar to Star Tours and Body Wars. Boy was I wrong! Bryce did fine but it was much more intense than I had planned. We all thought it was one of the best rides we have ever been on. The melding of the simulator, 3-D and ride vehicle was just incredible. The ride was one huge surprise after another. It just kept getting better and our first thought after getting off was to go right back on.

Unfortunately, the line had swelled so we walked over to Dr. Doom's Fearfall. The regular line had a 45-minute wait but we found the single ride line and got right onto the ride with no wait. That was a score, plus we got to do the child swap so I just waited with the kids while Jenny went first. She came back with eyes wide as saucers. The kid next to her on the ride said, "Lady, you can open your eyes now" after the ride was over. Apparently, she had a death grip on the safety harness, closed eyes and an ear piercing scream throughout the whole ride. I've never seen a ride yet that scared her but this one seemed pretty close. I don't think she's anxious to repeat it.

It was my turn next and so I got right on and strapped into my seat. I had read about the ride but somehow forgot that it was not just a shot straight up. That part of it was great and quite a rush. The part I was not expecting was the shot downward! You actually go down faster than gravity pulls you. I was waiting for that moment of weightlessness at the top but instead was pushed downward for an even scarier ride since I wasn't expecting it. It was a terrific thrill and I loved it. I was also relieved to find that my wet pants were just a result of the increasingly heavy rain.

We walked through Toon Lagoon and were not impressed. The theme here just seemed kind of lame. Popeye's Bilge Rat Barges and Dudley Doo-Right's Ripsaw Falls looked like fun but we weren't in the mood to get soaked to the skin this early in the day. In retrospect we were soon wet from the rain and should have just gone on them anyhow.

When we got to Jurassic Park the rain really started coming down so we all put on our ponchos. We still didn't feel like a water ride so we skipped the river adventure, which we have been on at Universal in Hollywood. We got to Camp Jurassic and I convinced the girls to go on the Pteranadon Flyers. There was a big line up at the entrance but it appeared that it was mainly adults being turned away because they didn't have children with them. I told the girls that they would probably get right on once they got past that group. Well, it turned out they had a 25-minute wait so they weren't real thrilled with me. They said the line was not very pleasant since they had the big fans going which just sprayed the rain on them even worse. They actually were thankful for the fans though as the guy in front of them had apparently loaded up on the baked beans from the Hoop Dee Doo Review the prior evening. Still, they liked the ride once they got through the long and odoriferous wait. Jenny was surprised at how zippy and high up the ride was since it was designed for kids and you have to have a child along to go on it.

While the girls were waiting, Bryce and I explored the camp. There wasn't anything too exciting but some of the dinosaur noises and footprints in the area were neat. After we got bored we headed out and found a cart selling smoked turkey legs. We got one and then went to a nearby picnic shelter area. While eating the turkey leg I noticed three generously proportioned, OK really large, women watching every movement of the turkey leg from the plate up to my mouth. They had a look in their eyes that I recalled from somewhere. Then I remembered a recent nature documentary and the cold steely eyes of piranha when a slow moving wounded ox entered the river. One of the ladies came over and asked where I got the turkey leg. I quickly pointed her in the right direction, thankful to escape with my turkey leg and life intact. Soon, all three gals, who appeared to be sisters, were happily munching away.

The girls called us on the radios and found us at the shelter. The place was crawling with people all trying to stay out of the rain. We went to the Triceratops Encounter next and there was no line. I couldn't believe the size of the queue area and would hate to be here if it was full. Shortly after we got into the pen they announced the dinosaur was having an "allergic reaction" to a shot. I'm not sure what that was all about but we were all escorted out of the area. Perhaps it was their way of moving people along so they didn't stay forever but if so it was unfair to those of us that had just arrived. On the way out somebody told us we could come back later through the exit.

We made our way over to Dueling Dragons. It wasn't running but the line was long and it was expected to be back up in a few minutes. We found out that we all had to go through the entire line to do the child swap. That's always a pain but it was especially unpleasant here. The queue is impressive but dark and scary for Bryce. Once again obnoxious teenagers who screamed incessantly surrounded us. After about 5 minutes in line we were stuck in a hot, loud tunnel and we would have left but there was no way out at that place. Thankfully, the line got moving again and went pretty quickly from then on. It was about a 20 minute wait overall.

We got to the area to choose the fire or ice side and we chose fire just because it was shorter. I was amazed at the line for the front seats. It was longer than the line for all of the rest of the seats combined. I'd like to ride in the front but I'm not willing to wait twice as long to do so. An employee told Jenny that the best ride was in the back so that's where she headed. I waited with the kids (Megan was willing to ride but was just about an inch too short) in the child swap area. Jenny came back and said it was one of the best coasters she had ever been on. I couldn't wait. She took the kids and left while I hopped in the line.

They asked for a single rider so I got right on the next ride. I was in the second row of seats. If I had been paying attention I would have noticed the seat in front of me, in the front row, was open. Oh well, this was almost as good. It was a great ride. It was on par with some of the coasters at my favorite park for thrills, Six Flags Magic Mountain in California. The parts of the ride where the fire and ice sides intertwine were cool but I was expecting more of that. I only noticed it a couple of times and very briefly at that. Still, it's a very good coaster with a smooth ride and insanely tight turns. It's definitely on my top 10 list of coasters. I would have liked to ride the ice side but I didn't want to wait in line again.

The kids wanted to see the triceratops again so we went in through the exit. The dinosaur was "sick" and shivering this time when we saw it. What's up with this lame storyline? At least they didn't shoo us out this time. The employee with the triceratops was just terrible. She was trying to answer questions but failed miserably. Apparently, she was new to working the attraction because she did not have a clue. Still, the dinosaur was interesting to look at and the kids enjoyed it so I'm glad we went back.

We were going to see Poseidon's Fury but we just missed the start of one of the shows so we kept going. We had a brief stop at the Watering Hole for a Venom Spit (lemonade slush) for the kids, a Michelob for Jenny and a Red Stripe for me. As hard as it may be to believe, I generally don't drink beer very often. I'd choose a Dr. Pepper or Coke over beer 9 times out of 10. The one beer I will always make an exception for though is Red Stripe from Jamaica. I know a lot of people think it's a poor quality, poor tasting beer but I love it. It brings back a lot of happy memories of our honeymoon and past cruises to Jamaica. So, I'm always thrilled to find it.



We found the Enchanted Fountain and I was really disappointed to find it not operating. I had read a lot about the fountain and it sounded like a lot of fun. I thought the kids would have really enjoyed it.

So, we made our way into Seuss Landing. The rain was finally easing off a bit so that helped our enjoyment of the area, which was very cute. It was similar to Toontown in many ways. Our first ride was the Caro-Seuss-el. We boarded our unusual creatures and had a fun spin while waving to Jenny who was taking pictures.

Then it was over to one fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish with a 5-minute wait. It was a great twist on the Dumbo theme. I took the kids while Jenny took more pictures. We sat in a "two fish" that was big enough for all three of us. Meg had the control and followed all of the directions in the song exactly. We still got wet at one point though. We also got a few fairly good splashes at the end of the ride where your fate is left to chance. We really had a fun time on the ride.

The Cat in the Hat ride was next door so we went on it with another 5-minute wait. It was a very cute ride. I've always loved the story so that helped. The quality didn't seem quite up the new Winnie the Pooh ride at the Magic Kingdom but it was similar. I was surprised at the spinning of the vehicles. It was really fast considering that the target audience of the ride is fairly young kids. I held onto Bryce tightly so he didn't get bounced around too much.

The kids needed some playtime so we hit the If I Ran The Zoo playground. There were a lot of entertaining things and the kids really had a good time. They especially liked playing tic-tac-toe with the tall, odd Seuss creature that I can't remember the name of.

Jenny went in search of another beer and found the nearby Backwater Bar which really looked fun. Not with the kids though, so she got the beer to go and joined us at the playground. We finally convinced the kids to move on and then they saw the Green Eggs and Ham Café. Some major whining ensued but we assured them they would like Margaritaville just as well. OK, so it was a little white lie there but it got their minds off of Green Eggs and they really did end up enjoying Margaritaville later.

We went back to the Hulk and found it operating again. There was only a short wait and I rode first. While waiting, I overhead an employee saying that it was shut down earlier because the tires were wet. As I boarded the middle section of the coaster I noticed the lift hill was made up of tires rather than the traditional chain lift. I was sitting there thinking that was a stupid idea since rain was not uncommon in Orlando when all of the sudden I was LAUNCHED up the lift hill. My god, what a rush, so that's what the tires were for. I had read quite a bit about the Hulk but somehow I missed the part about the initial launch. The ride was great and once again was on par with many of the coasters at Magic Mountain. Megan will enjoy this one on our next trip when she is tall enough. Jenny then took her turn and she liked it as much as I did.

We were all starting to drag at this point. We normally don't go to a theme park on two consecutive days and with the weather being kind of miserable we decided to call it a day. We left the park and went over to Margaritaville. It was a little after 4 and there was no wait. We were seated at a booth and the kids liked it because there was a squeaky ship wheel they could spin and annoy their parents with. The restaurant had a fun atmosphere. It had kind of a tropical and sailing theme. There was a big video screen showing Jimmy Buffet videos.

The kids were restless so we ordered them the mac & cheese at the same time we ordered our drinks; another Red Stripe for me, a Bud Light for Jenny, a Coke for Megan and water for Bryce. Jenny ordered the chicken quesadillas and was disappointed with them. They were cooked too long and the tortillas were all browned, hard and crunchy. We probably should have sent them back. I had the jambalaya, which turned out to be the worst I've had. There was nothing really "wrong" with it but a Cajun certainly didn't cook it. It was a little spicy but the ingredients and flavors just didn't meld together. It was like each item (rice, chicken, andouille, shrimp) was cooked separately and then thrown together at the end. It just didn't have that slow cooked taste with a really good roux and where all of the flavors marry together well. Service was also just OK here. It wasn't a bad meal by any means but it's not somewhere we are likely to return to. The total meal with tax and tip came to $45.

We drove back to the condo and Bryce fell asleep on the way there. I carried the 40-pound toddler up 2 flights of stairs and then recuperated in the room for a while. Jenny prepared everything for the next day and did laundry while Megan and I went to visit a rental house. One of my favorite Disney websites is www.wdwinfo.com A moderator from that site, Vernon, was having an open house so people could see a rental home. Meg and I found our way to the house, which was just a couple miles south of the Disney property. I had not RSVP'd so I felt a little awkward about just showing up but Vernon was a gracious host and quickly put us at ease. We met his beautiful daughter Caroline and within 2 minutes the girls seemed like they had been lifelong friends and went off giggling to Caroline's room.

Vernon is a thoroughly friendly fellow from England and he introduced me to his American girlfriend, Jana, and her very cute son Gus. They gave me a tour all around the house, which was beautiful. After looking around I'm convinced that this is the way for us to stay. We really like having all the comforts and space of home and you get all of that with a rental house. Plus, the kids would love having their own screened-in pool on the back patio. After looking around and having a pleasant chat with Vernon and Jana about our respective trips so far I had to practically pry Megan out of her new best friends room. We said goodbye and were really glad to have made the visit.

It was a quick trip back to the condo where Jenny and Bryce were waiting for us. We picked them up then went off to Downtown Disney. We had seen the silhouette cart on an earlier visit and decided to have one made of the kids. My folks always had these made of my sister and I at Disneyland every year so it was kind of fun to carry on the tradition. The artist was very talented, friendly and good with the children. Amazingly, they sat still and behaved very well for him. There are three copies of the silhouette so we kept one and gave the others to my mother and sister. It was a fun and fairly cheap souvenir.

Ghiradelli's was calling to us and we had visions of another sundae but when we got there it was mobbed. Every table was full and the line was almost out the door. The kids were quickly appeased though when we told them they could play at the Lego store. Jenny watched them while I went to McDonald's and got McFlurrys (one Oreo and one Butterfinger) and an order of fries. It was nice because they had a separate line just for desserts. For some reason there were about half a dozen apparently high ranking McDonald's people in suits just wandering about. I'm not sure what that was about.

Well, it wasn't Ghiradelli but the kids were having a fantastic time playing, the weather had gotten better and we all enjoyed our ice cream and fries on a nearby bench. Once again the evening ended on a very pleasant note.

We went back to the condo and straight to bed at 9:30.

Day 13 - Saturday, April 15th, 2000 - Magic Kingdom and Epcot day. Cloudy but very warm during the day. Heavy thundershowers in the evening. High temp of 83. The pictures for the day are at http://albums.photopoint.com/j/AlbumIndex?u=499922&a=7127518

We woke up at 6 and left the condo at 7:45. Today was an early entry day at the Magic Kingdom. We of course weren't eligible for early entry since we weren't staying on site but I thought I would give it a shot and if they wouldn't let us enter yet we would just ride the monorail and tour the resorts for a while.

There was no problem getting in and we were walking up Main Street at 8:15. I almost wished we had got there right at 7:30 but I was still happy to be in halfway through the early entry time. We made a beeline straight for Buzz Lightyear since we had passed it by last time. Megan rode with me while Bryce went with Jenny. My first and only ride on this last year resulted in a score of 773,700 (yes, I did memorize the score and yes I am proud of it!) so I was sure that my subsequent rides would end in the max score of 999,999. Oh how the mighty have fallen. My score was only a little over 300,000. Figuring that it had to be some sort of problem with my laser I convinced everyone to ride again using "there's no line" as an excuse. This trip through I scored 150,000. I was devastated. Had my once masterful video game skills failed me? How could I keep scoring less than half of my previous ride? I quickly led everyone onto another ride before Megan was able to overtake my score and forever shame me. Seriously, though I love the Buzz Lightyear ride. It's a lot of fun and I think it's a great addition to Tomorrowland.

We went right onto Space Mountain and Megan once again scored by getting to ride with both parents when we did the child swap with Bryce. Afterwards, we went to Autopia and it had a 20-minute wait but we thought it would only get worse later so we stuck it out. While we were waiting in line I noticed the nice lounge in the control tower above the loading area. I wonder if it was once corporate sponsor lounge? It appeared to be empty now and I don't think the ride currently had a sponsor. We had a great ride. Bryce "drove" my car and the girls were behind us. We went nice and slow so they continually bumped us. The kids just loved the ride and giggled the whole way through.

We moved onto Fantasyland and for another ride with Pooh then Peter Pan and finally a spin in the teacups. It was getting quite warm and we were hungry and ready for a break. We walked through Toontown and then along our favorite path to Tomorrowland with the intention of having a snack on one of the benches. Even in the shade though it was just too warm in the area so we moved on. We had the bright idea of going to the old swan boat docks but discovered it was a smoking area so we quickly bypassed it and went to the Plaza Pavilion. It was open but there was hardly anyone around. We found a nice relaxing spot with a good view and had our bagel sandwiches and chips we had brought in the collapsible cooler. It was a very nice break in a relaxed out of the way area.

After our break things were very busy so we got a Fastpass for the Jungle Cruise then went to the Pirates of the Caribbean. Pirates was open again after being rehabbed and it was very crowded. The sign said it was a 45-minute wait, which I doubted, since it has such a large capacity. I still would not normally wait but this was probably our last opportunity to ride and I didn't want to miss it.

I forgot how much more entertaining the queue is here compared to Disneyland so that helped pass the time. It ended up being 25-minutes, which is about the longest I've ever waited for it, but I'm glad we went. The ride doesn't compare to its West Coast counterpart (my all-time favorite ride) but it was still great and we all sang along to every word of Yo Ho! Boy, this ride sure brings back a lot of fond memories. It doesn't seem that long ago that I was Megan's age and snuggled up to my dad because I was scared of the pirates.

Our Fastpass time was up and we got right on the next Jungle Cruise boat. Fastpass rocks! We passed up a 45-minute standby line. It had been a long time since I had been on the WDW version and I think it's quite a bit better than at Disneyland. There's just more to it plus the indoor temple area is cool.

It was starting to get very warm, humid, crowded and our energy was going quickly. So, we went to the Country Bear Jamboree to cool off. Bryce fell asleep on my shoulders while waiting and slept through the entire show. I had forgot that WDW has the old version of the Country Bears and I didn't like it nearly as much as the newer one at Disneyland.

At the end of the show we struggled to get out of the exit lobby. It was packed with people who overflowed from Pecos Bill's. They were sitting on the floor eating. What a miserable, cramped and uncomfortable place to try to eat. Pecos Bill's itself was jammed full of people. I was amazed that people just camped out on the floor when they could have walked a few yards and found a bench along the river that at least afforded a little more privacy and comfort. Maybe everyone wanted the air conditioning though.

We wanted to get another ride on Splash Mountain so we headed that way to get a Fastpass. As we got near the junction where you can go left to Splash Mountain or right to Big Thunder Mountain it was just complete gridlock. The sea of humanity was crammed together and barely moving. There was no way I was going to subject us all to that so we went along the river to the right and went to Big Thunder Mountain. The wait wasn't too bad despite the crowds nearby. The girls went first while I waited with Bryce. I was able to find a shady spot and let Bryce sleep while we waited. The girls found us and then Megan went back for another ride with me this time. It's nice that you just go through the exit to do the child swap on this ride.

We were hoping to stay for the Main Street Electric Parade but none of us were going to have the stamina for it with these temperatures and crowd levels. We've seen the parade at Disneyland so we figured it was just better to skip it than to push too hard and make everyone grumpy.

Megan was thirsty so we stopped at Sleepy Hollow and got a root beer float. We decided that the Magic Kingdom had stopped being fun today so it was time to move on.

We had wanted to ride the monorail from the Magic Kingdom to Epcot via the TTC so this gave us an excuse. Megan really enjoyed the long monorail ride and seeing Spaceship Earth. So, did Bryce who had just got up from his nap.

We entered Epcot and went straight to Test Track but noticed it was not operating so we went to the Electric Umbrella for some food and decisions about what to do. We all shared the veggie wrap and the parents split a Bud Light. We were in heaven at how much more peaceful it was at Epcot. The frantic pace of the Magic Kingdom, coupled with the crowds and heat made it just about unbearable for us. Early entry really causes the park to get packed early and stay that way all day. It's best to go there for a few hours early and then move to another park. Or avoid the early entry park altogether if you can't get there right at opening.



We hadn't yet been to Ice Station Cool so that was our next stop. I stuck mostly to the Krest Ginger Ale while Megan loved the Kinley Lemon (which I thought tasted liked Alka-Seltzer). We made many attempts to trick others into drinking the Beverly but most people were wise to it. We just kept walking around with a cup of our favorite soda and talking loudly to each other about "you have to try the Beverly, it's so good!" People love to eavesdrop and eventually we found an unwitting sucker. It turned out to be the family that was in front of us at the Autopia queue earlier in the day. The dad filled up his cup with Beverly and took a big ol' swig. I waited but no reaction. Doesn't this guy have any tastebuds? He handed the cup to his wife who knocked back the rest of it and I got the reaction I was hoping for. She looked like she was ready to spew it out and start whacking him for allowing her to drink it. Beverly can entertain me for hours. That doesn't sound too good does it? But you know what I mean.

We went back around to see Kristos but their performance was cancelled because a storm cell was about to pass through. It was pretty funny because there were a couple of cast members running about taking wind measurements and talking on their radios about how the cell would be passing by in 4 minutes. I was amused and amazed that they thought they could predict the weather with such accuracy. Sure enough though as we left the area to find cover at the Living Seas the wind started gusting strongly and the rain came down. What kind of super Doppler radar does WDW have?

At the Living Seas we had about a 10-minute wait to get into the hydrolator. It was really nice to have the option of bypassing the movie since it was never one of my favorites. The kids loved seeing the manatees, sharks and sea turtles. The dolphins were really playful so we had a great time watching them. Bryce had a small tantrum over not being able to continually ride the escalator so we beat a hasty retreat.

The little guy calmed down and we went to The Land. I took the kids down to the restroom while Jenny bought some honey-roasted peanuts on the way in. I was disappointed to find that the men's restroom on the bottom level of the pavilion did not have a diaper-changing table. Still, that's one thing I appreciate about WDW. Back home it's about a 50% chance of the men's room having the changing table but here it's very rare to find a restroom without one.

We took the Living with the Land boat ride first. I always enjoy this ride. It's relaxing and interesting. Right at the exit the kids found an activity table filled with little multi-colored cylinders that looked like Styrofoam. They were made of cornstarch and could be cut with scissors and stuck together by just dabbing them lightly on a sponge. Since they were nothing but puffed, extruded cornstarch with some coloring they dissolved in water. The kids had a great time playing with them and I thought it was a very cool, environmentally friendly toy idea. The cast member was really great with the kids and spent a lot of time showing them fun things to make while subtly working in the environmental benefits of the product.

Jenny left on a beer safari and eventually went all the way to the United Kingdom before she bagged one. While she was on her expedition I took the kids to Food Rocks. Megan remembered it from last year and was excited to see it again. We all loved it. Megan recognized most of the songs. Both kids were thrilled to hear "Richard" the pineapple sing Tutti-Frutti. We have a favorite Disney tape back home that is of Little Richard singing children's songs. It's one of the few tapes that I enjoy as much as the kids. It doesn't drive me crazy like Barney and some others do.

After the show we met up with Jenny (thanks again to the radios) and decided to call it a day. We got back on the monorail, found the van and drove back to the condo. We decided to stay in for the evening since thunderstorms had moved in and there was really heavy rain and lightning.

Jenny braved the elements and drove to Goodings for milk and a few other items. She brought back a big bag of assorted Taco Bell items for dinner. It felt good to have an early evening and rest since this was our third theme park day in a row. We hit the sack at 9:30 and everyone slept well.

Day 14 - Sunday, April 16th, 2000 - Blizzard Beach day. Cloudy but warm and no rain all day. High temp of 80. The pictures for the day are at http://albums.photopoint.com/j/AlbumIndex?u=499922&a=7127641



Everyone was up at 7 and we arrived at Blizzard Beach just before the 10:00AM opening. Jenny sprinted ahead of us as they counted down from 10 for the rope drop. She fought her way through all of the others staking their claim in Tike's Peak and snagged our favorite (and last available) picnic shelter.

This was not a good sign. The area was already bustling with people and the chairs were going quick. Things were definitely going to be busy today. Megan and I took off for the chairlift but it was packed so we went around the backside of the mountain to runoff rapids. We then went on the toboggan racers and Cross Country Creek before heading back and giving Jenny a turn.

It was only 11 but Tike's Peak was completely full. Every available chair was taken. I was sitting at the picnic table with Bryce when we had our first encounter with rude English people. A husband, wife and three teenage boys approached and I told them our space was taken but the father barged in and said, "we just want the corner back there". We had all of our gear sprawled across the picnic table, which took up the majority of the shelter. There were no chairs available so they put their things down in the corner and all three boys cut through the vegetation and jumped into Cross Country Creek Creek. A lifeguard appropriately scolded them.

The husband then decided to go look for a better area to sit and took off searching. The wife had to wait since the boys wouldn't know where to find them. After about 45 minutes the boys and husband returned and they left for their new area. I felt bad that I was being kind of territorial (like a dog) over "our space". Still, we were in an area that was for children under 48" and their families. I'm sure they weren't familiar with the park but they had the map and seemed able bodied enough to walk to an area that wasn't packed full (and I saw several of those areas while on Cross Country Creek). They probably thought I was rude for not sharing the space. It was more room than we actually needed but not nearly large enough for the 5 of them also. I chalked it up to a cultural difference on the idea of personal space.

Jenny and Megan did the family raft ride, the mat slides and Cross Country Creek. When they came back we ate the picnic lunch we had brought with us.

There was a very large group near us that consisted of two big families from New Jersey. We chatted with them a while and they were very nice folks. They were staying at the Contemporary and didn't seem to know much about WDW. We talked to them for quite a while and gave them tips on what to see and do and they seemed appreciative. Some of them got up to go get lunch and we offered them our picnic table since we were done with it. They said no thanks but asked if they could bring us back a beer. We said no thanks this time but thought it was very nice of them to have offered.

It's funny how my prior opinions of both people from the Northeast and the British were switched today.

After lunch another British family came into our area but this time we were more hospitable. They had two young kids and they were just looking for a place to set down their gear and get out of the sun. They got their things settled in and then went off to play in the water. We didn't see much of them after that so it wasn't like they were intruding.

We played around Tike's Peak for a while longer but it was so crowded that we finally decided to leave at 2:30. We gave our table away to the nice folks from New Jersey.

Back at the condo it was showers and baths for all. It was high time for Bryce's nap so Jenny put him down while Meg and I went Belz for one last outing. Character Premiere was our stop this time and I didn't think it was significantly different than the Character Warehouse. We found sunglasses for everyone that were a great deal and I also got another sweatshirt. I'm really going to miss all of the bargains at these stores. I wish they had them back home.

Port Orleans was on the agenda again for this evening. We wanted to rent a surrey bike and ride it over to Dixie Landings but by the time we arrived the bike rental place was closed. So, we went to Scat Cats lounge again since we had enjoyed it so much a few nights earlier. Unfortunately, the kids were in foul moods. They had been fighting all the way to Port Orleans and then at the table. Their parents patience was wearing thin. It got to the point that we had to separate them. They were both upset but they needed a few minutes apart. Normally, they get along very well but like all siblings they have their moments. During a 2-week vacation we had to expect a blowup or two and this was certainly one we could deal with. I took Bryce for a walk. We went over to the gift shop where I bought some chocolate coins to bribe the kids with. I guess it wasn't the best parenting technique but it worked and they calmed down and enjoyed the music.

We ordered the Nawlins Nachos and Jester Fries once again. The kids stuck to ice water, I had a Coke and Jenny tried a Hidden amber bock that she didn't much care for. We again had a very enjoyable evening and Scat Cats will probably be a regular stop for us on return visits. The total bill with tax and tip came to $20. The kids got a kick out of putting tips in the musician's jar.

After dinner we went down to the river and hopped on the boat to Downtown Disney just to go for a ride. It was a cool evening and breezy on the water. Jenny had brought along sweatshirts for everyone though so we were OK. We loved the boat ride. It was especially pretty at night and was a great way to get to Downtown Disney. Once we arrived at the dock we asked if we could just stay on for the return trip. The driver said no problem as long as the boat didn't fill up with people waiting to get on. It didn't so we stayed on and took the journey back to Port Orleans with a stop at the West Side along the way. We will have to put the West Side on the agenda for the next trip since we didn't get a chance to visit this time.



Back at Port Orleans it was time for dessert so we stopped at the Sassagoula food court for an ice cream sandwich, a couple of Nestle chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwiches and a Mickey rice krispy treat. It was another great end to another great day. We got back to the condo about 9:30 and everyone was quick to sleep.

Day 15 - Monday, April 17th, 2000 - River Country day. Partly cloudy but warm and no rain all day. High temp of 82. The pictures for the day are at http://albums.photopoint.com/j/AlbumIndex?u=499922&a=7127694

Up at 7 and out of the condo at 9:15 so we could end our vacation the same as we started it, at River Country.

We arrived about 15 minutes prior to opening and found a line already. I needed to buy tickets since we had already used our 4 "plus" options from our 7-day park hopper tickets. I got in line but they didn't have any of the ticket windows open.

A "supergreeter" was out front entertaining the crowd but Jenny and I found her annoying. She had this totally whiny, Fran Drescher-like voice that just grated on us. She kept asking if everyone was ready to go in and I kept saying "no" because I couldn't buy tickets! While waiting Megan got to be a part of the flag raising ceremony. Finally the window opened about 1 minute before the park opened and we were able to get tickets and join the line of people entering. The first family through the gates got to lead the procession of people and received a refillable mug and a few other prizes. They also had a prime spot on the main beach with chairs and umbrella reserved for them.

We quickly went to Kiddie Cove to snag a spot, as did many others. Things were definitely going to be busier today than they were on the first day of our trip.

The girls immediately went on the tube ride while Bryce and I stayed in the kid's area. While we were playing in the water, Goofy came out and visited us. He was all dressed up in his swimwear and wanted to play with Bryce but the little guy was being strangely shy. A bunch of other kids came though and splashed around with Goofy for a while.

When the girls came back I then took Megan on all of the slides. She has an endless supply of energy when it comes to the water parks. After a while I sat on the rocks and just watched Meg repeatedly climb up then go down the slides. She had a fantastic time.

Jenny and I later took turns video taping each other and going down the slides in the swimming pool that drop you for about a 6-foot free fall to the water. She made nice, graceful entries into the water. I, on the other hand, sent a "Perfect Storm" sized wave across the pool when my ample body came down with a SPLAT! on the water.

Up at the fountain area, with the cattle skulls that shoot water, they had activities with Minnie. There was a game of "Minnie says" going on and Bryce tried hard but didn't last too long though. Megan on the other hand did great and was in the final group of 5 kids that made it all the way through. Both kids had a lot of fun and got a keychain for their efforts.

We had our usual picnic lunch of bagels with cream cheese, Swiss cheese and sliced turkey breast. Pringles and Coke rounded out the salts, fats, sugars and empty calories food groups.

After some more play time I took Bryce out in his stroller and he napped while I video taped for a while. I got a lot of shots of the Cypress Point trail and the crowded conditions at the main beach of River Country. Jenny had heard that they reached maximum capacity and closed the park to new arrivals.

I stopped on the way back to our space and got some Arctic Dots. We got chocolate mint flavor as requested by Megan. They really hit the spot. There was a really cute Scottish family in front of us and I couldn't help but think of Scrooge McDuck everytime they spoke.

Jenny went out for a ride on a water mouse and she loved it. She went for half an hour and had a great time going over the wake of the larger boats and just zipping around. She tried to talk me into going but I'll save it for the next trip. The park was still packed full and we had our fill of everything so we left around 3.

After baths and showers back at the condo I took the kids to Downtown Disney while Jenny stayed and did the sad task of packing up. At the World of Disney store Megan got a stuffed Pluto and Bryce got a toy Buzz Lightyear. We also picked up an oval frame for the silhouette of the kids. We played around at the Lego store again; the kids couldn't get enough of the place.

After a couple of hours we drove back to the condo and picked up Jenny then went to Coronado Springs for the evening. We had dinner at the Pepper Market. We had been there last year it was pretty good compared to some of the other food courts. I had Kung Bao chicken, which was very good and very spicy. Jenny had the market nachos, which were huge but not that great. Megan had the kid's pizza and Bryce had a little of everyone else's food.

The service was terrible here. We had a waitress that seemed to want to hurry us out of the restaurant as soon as possible. While I was putting a forkful of food into my mouth she came up and asked if I was finished. I had a couple of different plates on my tray and one of them was empty. I assumed she wanted to take the empty plate so I nodded OK as I continued to eat. She then proceeded to take my whole tray! I grabbed the plate I was still eating from though before she got away with it.

A couple of minutes later she came back and asked Jenny if she was done. Once again it was as Jenny was taking a bite and she had over a fourth of her meal still in front of her. She obviously was still eating so we really got annoyed with the waitress at that point. It wasn't as if we were being slow by any means. We generally eat quite quickly.

The kids had finished but were clamoring for cookies so I got them some and then found a manager. I told him that our meal was fine but our server was very intrusive to the point of taking food away from us while we were eating it. He thanked me for telling him about it and said he was sorry and offered to buy us dessert but we didn't take him up on it. As we left to pay I saw the manager call over our server. I felt bad for her but it really was terrible service. I never did quite figure out why she was giving us the bum rush.

After dinner we were all full and tired but I suggested a trip over to the Dig Site to see the pool and playground. The suggestion was well received by the kids but not by Jenny. It was a bit of a walk over there but once we got there we were all glad we had went. The theme of the pool area is outstanding. We found our way to the playground and there was no one else there. The girls hopped on the swings and had a contest to see who could go the highest. Bryce and I played on the slide and toddler area. It was a lot of fun having the place to ourselves and once again it was a perfect ending to the evening.

I stopped and filled up the gas tank at the Exxon across from the West Side. I went inside to get a bottle of apple juice for Bryce and was greeted with a blank stare by the clerk when I paid. She never said a word, just rang up the bottle and looked at me like I was intruding on her time. I paid and left thinking that Disney needs to have their own gas stations!

We went back to the condo and put the kids to bed. I went to the front desk to pay off the remaining bill. We had already gave them the voucher from RMI for the $89 per night room charge but we had been told by RMI that we would need to pay approximately 12% in taxes. When they pulled up my bill they said all that was due was $1 for a couple of local phone calls. I told them that we owed taxes on the room and they said that no, we were paid in full.

So, I went back to the room and told Jenny. We figured we would try again in the morning to pay them. We got to sleep around 10:30.

Day 15 - Tuesday, April 18th, 2000 - Travel home day.

Up early at 4AM for our trip home. I went down to the front desk and spoke to a manager about paying the taxes. He checked again and said that the voucher paid the room in full and insisted that we did not owe anything else. I thanked him and walked out thankful to have saved the $162 or so that we had anticipated paying. Since we didn't have to pay taxes the room turned out to be a fantastic deal at $89 per night.

We woke the kids long enough to get them loaded into the van and made the sad trip back to the airport. The car drop off was easy, as was the check in. We had an uneventful flight to Memphis and then a long flight back to Seattle.

My mom and sister brought our car to the airport and then followed us back to our house in their car. They watched the kids for a couple of hours while I mowed the lawn and Jenny unpacked.

And so ended our vacation.

I suppose I should do a nice summary and provide as many helpful tips as I can but after writing this "novel" I'm not sure I'm up to that. Besides, everyone has his or her own ideas of what is helpful or useful. If nothing else I hope you've found this mildly entertaining and helpful.

Feel free to e-mail. I'd be happy to "talk" to you.

Lance Caros