Travel Dates: 29 April 3 May 2012
Travel Method: Motorcycle
Resort: Port Orleans Riverside, Standard Room
Cast: Me (Dad 50 something)
Shannon (Daughter older 20 something)
Tara (Daughter younger 20 something)
Disney Experience: Were all WDW Veterans
I have to begin this report by apologizing for not completing a previous report. I had started a pre trip report last fall and posted it to the website. Back then I was also taking my motorcycle to Orlando to visit my daughters at Disney for the Food and Wine Festival. Unfortunately, upon my return, I never got it finished. Good intentions, however, dont get a timely report posted; there was always something which seemed to delay my completing it. Over time my notes got misplaced and it would not have been possible to remember enough to make a quality report. So, this time, I promise not to post until I get the whole report finished!
My daughters are in the Orlando area going to school Shannon, the oldest, is at the Aveda Institute and Tara is at the University of Central Florida in nursing school. I believe this is the 5th or 6th time Ive made the trip down to WDW on my motorcycle. The trips usually center around the Flower and Garden Festival in the spring or the Food and Wine Festival in the fall. These visits have always been special to me as it gives me an opportunity to see my daughters and to also go to our favorite place together. On the happy side, both girls will be graduating this summer. On the sad side, it means that this will probably be the last time I do this ritual excursion. Tara is looking to be a nurse in the Air Force and Shannon desires to do hair styling for runway models in New York City. So, most likely, by the end of the summer they will both have moved away from Orlando.
Pre-trip I began looking at opportunities to visit WDW during the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival back in February. Taras last final exam for the spring semester will be Monday morning, April 30th. Shannon also has Monday through Thursday off from school that same week; so, those were the dates to work my trip around. I would travel down on Sunday, April 29th and spend that night at Shannons apartment. We would head to WDW Monday after Tara finishes her exam and leave sometime Thursday, May 3rd.
Disney provides some nice discounts to Florida residents and I was able to get a good rate at Port Orleans Riverside. I was also able to get Wild for 3 passes for myself and the girls. The passes give Florida residents a 3 day ticket to Disney theme park for $99. Ill add the park hopper option at Disney for $25. From there I started thinking about what dining options would be fun to do. I talked with the girls and we decided to have Afternoon Tea at the Grand Floridian on Monday afternoon. We also decided to have dinner Tuesday night at Boatwrights at the resort. Well bring stuff with us to have breakfast in the room and the rest of the meals will be on the fly. I made the resort and dinner reservations on the Disney World website and they conveniently provide a countdown of days left until your visit. So, with 83 days showing on the webpage, the days slooooowly count down. I checked periodically to see if a better room rate came up but nothing beat the one I made in February.
Even though Ive been to Disney World 40+ times and am quite comfortable with my knowledge of the parks, I started becoming obsessed with this trip. My Sunday morning ritual was to log in to the Disney World website, Allears.net and MousePlanet just to check things out and see if anything new was going on. I printed out the resort reservations, dining reservations, the park hours, which ones had Extra Magic Hours, etc. I even did the online customized maps which Ive never done before. They arrived a few weeks prior to the trip. I put everything into a folder to take with me. When Im inside the 10 day window I do the online check in. Ive used this in the past and have always breezed through check in. My only request during on line check in is for a ground floor room. The buildings in Alligator Bayou dont have elevators and I dont want to haul stuff up the stairs to a 2nd floor room. About a week prior to departure I start checking the weather forecasts and setting stuff aside to pack. Packing for a motorcycle trip forces you to take only what you need but since this will be a fairly short one Im able to easily get everything into the saddle bags or into the T-bag strapped on the back of the bike. The weather at this point looks good for both the trip down and back and also during our stay at Disney. I load the bags and strap everything down on the bike Saturday night and try to get a good nights sleep.
Sunday, April 29th On the Road As with many others on the day they travel to Disney World, I beat the alarm clock the morning of my departure. My plan is to leave around 6:30 am for the roughly 7 hour ride. I leave fairly close to that even though there is really no timetable to meet. I have developed a pretty standard route down to Orlando from the Florida panhandle. I keep to the back roads as much as possible and try to avoid the interstates. I top off the gas tank about 10 miles into my trip and check to make sure everything strapped on is still secure and tight after the short run. With a smile on my face I start heading east. Its Sunday morning, the sun is coming up, the bike is purring, and there are very few cars on the road. And best of all Im going to Disney World! I used to be a Get to the destination type person but since getting the motorcycle Ive really started enjoying the journey. Taking roads through small town America and seeing life in the Mayberrys of our country has been a fun venture. This morning I see people going to church, a local diner with an overflow crowd looking to have breakfast, a farmer waving to me from his yard, the smell of freshly cut grass. All of this has caused me to slow down, notice the little things, and really enjoy what life has to offer.
Even though I live in Florida it was cool in the morning when I left. Now, after several hours on the road, the temperature is beginning to warm up; partly from heading south and partly from the early afternoon heat. I take off my long sleeve pullover and re-apply a good coating of sun screen during my lunch stop. I text Shannon and tell her Im a couple hours away. There is one area where I have to get on the interstate and thats at Ocala where I get on I-75 and go 25 miles to the Florida turnpike. Making a final stop for gas prior to getting on the interstate I notice the traffic on I-75 is backed up and going pretty slow maybe around 20 miles per hour. Hmmm, chance it on I-75 or stay on Hwy 27 and pick up the turnpike further down the road. Well, here a little bit of the old me took over and I decide to take I-75 because, even with the backup, I think it will still be quicker. Its slow going for about 5 miles when I came upon the cause of the backup. A tractor trailer has caught fire and, even though the fire had been put out and it is off on the shoulder of the road, it still causes people to rubber neck to see what is going on. Once through that area it turns into a NASCAR race as people look to make up for lost time from the traffic delay. I just try to stay out of their way. I finally make it to the turnpike and it is crowded, too. Theres lots of lane changing and tailgating. Cars are passing on the right trying to get around those who camp in the left hand lane. I finally exit at the East-West Expressway and arrive at Shannons apartment without incident. We have dinner at her apartment (her infamous fish tacos!) and spend the evening relaxing. Tomorrow Tara joins us and its off to WDW!
Monday, April 30th Disney World Here We Come Taras final exam is at 10:00 and shell drive over to Shannons apartment when she finishes. Leading up to this I am wondering if I am putting undue pressure on Tara to quickly get through her test so that we could go check in at Disney. I know I would have a hard time concentrating if I knew people were waiting on me to go to Disney World! In the mean time Shannon and I walk over to the Starbucks next to her apartment for coffee and breakfast. After that we go to the store to get breakfast items, some drinks, and bottled water to bring with us to Disney. Tara eventually calls to say shes finished with her exam and is on her way. She gets to Shannons apartment around noon and we have pizza before leaving for Disney. I put my stuff in Taras car since I had unloaded everything off the bike when I got to Shannons apartment the day before. I lead on my motorcycle and Shannon and Tara follow in Taras car. On the way there I almost get run over by a car that begins to change lanes with me next to him. I dont know if he was texting or talking on his cell but he definitely wasnt paying attention to his driving. I manage to create a little space to get away from this guy and he eventually turns onto another road. We finally enter Disney property and cross under the long anticipated Welcome to Disney World sign. I had told Tara to take the lead when we get close to Port Orleans so she could show her license to the guard at the resort entrance (easier for her than for me on the bike). He welcomes us home and its off to check in. We park in front and go into the lobby. They are doing some remodeling and even though theres a sign for Online Check in, it isnt intuitively obvious where to go. Even the cast member out front is a little confused and finally tells us to just go to the window in front of us. Will is very proficient and we quickly have our room assignment and resort keys. We are in Alligator Bayou, Building 39, on the first floor in Room 3921. Will gives us a resort map and tells us how to exit the lobby parking area and get to our room building. We find the parking area for our room and get the bike and car parked in the shade. We take a few things from the car and search for the room. We find it and are happy to see that its a corner room and has an extra set of windows that the interior rooms dont have. We return to the car for the rest of our stuff and bring it to the room. I know that the buildings at Riverside are being refurbished but I cant tell if our room has been refurbished or not. The carpet looks clean and the bathroom has fresh paint but the furniture is old and scratched. The cabinet where the refrigerator sits inside has a broken hinge and the refrigerator door is missing the piece in front of the shelf to keep things from spilling out when you open the door. We manage to get the soft drinks, beer, milk, and OJ situated inside. It does have a flat screen TV so is there such a thing as a partially renovated room?
I change into shorts and we get ready to go to Afternoon Tea at the Grand Floridian. Our reservation time is for 3:50 and its approaching 2:45 so we decide to get going. Our plan is to take the resort bus to the Magic Kingdom and then take the monorail to the Grand Floridian. We take a rather non-direct path but eventually find our way to the West Depot bus stop. We sit and watch a bus for Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Epcot, Downtown Disney, and another bus for the Studios come and go. Finally after sitting for about 25 minutes a bus for the Magic Kingdom arrives. It takes another 10 minutes to stop at the other resort bus stops and I quickly calculate that it will be close to whether we make our reservation time. We finally make it to the Magic Kingdom and start walking to the monorail loading platform. As we near the ramp we notice a rope across the entrance and a sign saying the monorail is closed until 6:00. Well isnt that nice why couldnt there be a notice at the resort telling us that its closed and plan accordingly? Oh, well, plan B; take the water taxi over to the Grand Floridian. A boat is on its way in as we get in line with a number of other people. The boat goes to both the Grand Floridian and the Polynesian but we luck out as the first stop will be at the GF. We get off and walk up to the main building. We check in at the podium and apologize for being late but she assures us that its quite OK. Were seated and take a look at our tea time options. We all three decide to have the Grand Tea it has a variety of tea sandwiches, scones and jam tarts, followed by your choice of baked tea pastries, strawberries and cream, or English trifle. And for the best part it comes with a glass of Domaine Ste.-Michelle sparkling wine. I have one of the Taste of Spring teas, Shannon has Eros, and I dont recall what kind of tea Tara decides on. It is a very enjoyable and relaxing time with Shannon and Tara. I take a couple photos of them holding their champagne glasses; wondering what the commoners are doing. We sit, sip, and chat for over an hour and it is a pleasant start to our Disney stay. After our tea we take the boat back to the Magic Kingdom and then have a short wait for the bus ride back to our resort. We finish unpacking and talk for a while. Our original thoughts for the evening were to take the water taxi from Port Orleans to Downtown Disney but we discover the boats arent running due to high winds. We discuss taking the bus to Downtown Disney but after our 25 minute wait earlier today we decide to just stay and explore the resort area. We stop in at Fulton's General Store and take a look for any have to buy items. We dont find anything but I do notice a new kitchen plate/bowl pattern that I really like. In my If I won the lottery life I would have a large RV and I think this dish pattern would be in my RV cabinets. And I would be spending a good part of the year at Ft Wilderness in my RV, too! We then walk over to the River Roost Lounge and have drinks at the bar. Since we had snacks earlier at afternoon tea we decide not to do dinner and instead order the crawfish bites appetizer to share. After our drinks we stop in the food court and look around; I grab some napkins and sweetener for our morning coffee which I forgot to bring. We also take a look at the menu for Boatwrights; well be having dinner here tomorrow night. Back at the room we discuss tomorrows park options. When I originally scheduled our days at Disney I thought about going to Epcot since it had Extra Magic Hours in the morning; but Tara has an appointment in the morning with the Air Force medical recruiter to discuss her options for their nursing program. Shannon decides shell spend the morning out at the pool and Ill go with Tara to her appointment. We watch TV for a little bit then hit the hay around 11:00.
Tuesday, May 1st Air Force and the Magic Kingdom I wake up first and make coffee in the rooms coffeemaker. Tara had coffee last night and she ran a couple cups of water through the machine in hopes of cleaning out anything that could be growing in the reservoir. The girls eventually start to stir and we get ready for the mornings activities. Tara and I leave around 9:30 and drive up to Sand Lake Drive where the Air Force recruiters office is located. Tara has decided to speak with the recruiter herself and didnt need me to go in with her (good for her!). Im just going for moral support. FYI Im a former Marine officer and A-6 Bombardier/Navigator. Both the jet and I have long left our countrys service. The recruiters office is in the Florida mall complex so I drop Tara off and then mosey around the mall stores while she has her meeting. After about an hour she calls to say shes finished so I swing by to pick her up and we head back to Disney. She has a myriad of forms to fill out and submit back to the recruiter.
We get back to the room and change into our park attire basically shorts. We walk down to the West Depot and again take a route that seems a little circular in getting there. Ill have to pay better attention when we return because our route from the depot to our room seems fairly direct; for some reason we cant manage the same path to the depot. We have a seat and wait for the MK bus. Its 10-15 minutes before the MK bus arrives. After a short ride were at the Magic Kingdom! As we walk to the entrance I notice once again that the monorails are closed until 6:00 I wonder what they are doing. We stop by Guest Services to add the Park Hopper option to our tickets and then go through the turnstile and pass under the train depot. We stop for a quick photo of the girls next to Roy and Minnie at town square. Ahhh, theres nothing like walking up Main street the first time of the trip. We decide to turn right at the hub and head to Tomorrowland. Buzz Lightyear is a 10 minute wait so we do that first. My score isnt that hot so, of course, there must have been something wrong with the gun. We exit Buzz and walk over to Space Mountain and get Fastpasses. We start walking up to Fantasyland. Our ultimate goal is to find something for lunch. We look at the line for Snow White and decide to do a final ride prior to its permanent closure on May 31st. Its sad to see the old things go that are links to Walts time. I know a new roller coaster with a Seven Dwarfs theme is supposed to open elsewhere in the land sometime next year I hope its a positive move.
We decide to have lunch at Columbia Harbour House. Weve eaten here several times before and enjoy the food. I go with the Anchors Aweigh Sandwich - tuna with lettuce and tomato on a toasted multigrain bun with potato chips. Shannon has the Lobster roll and chips and Tara has the Fried Fish Basket and fries. We sit upstairs which is our usual tradition. We are in no hurry and take our time eating while waiting for our Fastpass time to open at Space. After finishing we work our way back to Space Mountain. The standby time is now 10 minutes. We enter the Fastpass return line and walk all the way to the boarding area. Both the standby and Fastpass queuing areas each have about 20 people in them. We ride the right side and on the way out I ask the girls if they want to ride it again since the line is so short. They both decline so we do the People Mover and then walk to the old Toontown area (now Storybook Circus?) along the path near the railroad tracks. We hear the train blowing its whistle as it departs the station and I am able to get a good photo of the train coming down the track. The new Dumbo and Barnstormer rides are operating in the Fantasyland expansion area. There is a lot of construction going on and even though wooded barriers are in place, I can see the new scenery beyond rising above them. We work our way into Fantasyland and do Mickeys Philharmagic. It is perfect timing because as soon as we pick up our opera glasses the doors open to go into the theater. Following Philharmagic we walk to Haunted Mansion where we go though the interactive tombstone area and then just a short wait until being invited into the dead center of the stretching room. We manage to get a spot next to the rooms exit door and we are the first out to load into the doom buggies. Interesting to note that when riding by myself the hitchhiking ghost scene at the end also adjusted to a single rider unless it was totally coincidence. The ghost sat next to me and then took my head and put it on itself. Very fun. We knew that Thunder Mountain was closed for refurb but go that direction anyway to get Fastpasses for Splash Mountain. While I am getting the Fastpasses we notice that the ride is currently not operating and cast members are turning people away at the entrance. I can hear them say that they are working on mechanical problems and dont know when it will start running again. Our Fastpass return time didnt begin for 45 minutes so we decide to go up and do Pirates. As we get closer we notice all the cast members out in front of the entrance hmmm, this isnt looking good either. Another mechanical issue and I can hear a cast member say, No, we dont know how long it will be to another guest. Shannon wants to have a Dole Whip so we head further up to Adventureland. Im still a little full from lunch so I leave Shannon and Tara to get their swirls and go to look around in the Christmas Shoppe. I meet the girls outside the shop and sit while Shannon finishes her dole whip. We head back to Pirates to see if its running again. The gaggle of cast members standing out front confirms that its still closed. We keep walking towards Splash to see if its up again. On the walk to the entrance we dont see any logs coming down the drop not a good sign. Our suspicions are confirmed and its still not running. Both Pirates and Splash have been down for at least an hour and I notice a couple guests voicing their displeasure to the cast members standing outside the entrance. We discuss options and figure we should just head back to the room and relax a couple hours before dinner at Boatwrights. We go to the train station in Frontierland and take the train back to Main Street. I havent been on the train in a while so it is nice to relax and look at the scenery. We get to the Main Street station and head out of the park and back to the room. We have a beer and watch a little TV; our dinner reservations arent until 9:00. Around 8:30 were all hungry so we head over to Boatwrights to see if they can take us early. There wasnt any need to worry as there are only like 5 tables with people sitting at them. We are seated right away and put in our drink order an Abita Purple Haze for Tara and Abita Ambers for Shannon and me. Our waitress takes our entre orders when she drops off our beers. Tara has the Crawfish Etouffee, Shannon has the Grilled Pork Chop with Amber Ale Barbecue Sauce, Cheese Grits, and Onion Rings, and I have the Voodoo Chicken with red beans, rice and collard greens. Everything is really good and we had intentionally skipped an appetizer to save room for dessert but the meal is just too much. I guess Ill have to come back another time for that New Orleans Bread Pudding and Whiskey Sauce.
Tomorrow is our last full day at the parks so it will be an early go. We plan to do early opening at the Animal Kingdom then head to Disney Studios. Well do a break in the afternoon then conclude the day at Epcot. Back to the room and asleep by 11:00.
Wednesday, May 2nd The Rest of the Parks I had set my alarm for 6:00 and we somehow manage to all get up, shower and have breakfast in the room in 45 minutes. We head back to the West Depot by the now memorized short route. Of course the first bus to come is the Magic Kingdom bus which had been our nemesis earlier in the trip. About 10 minutes later a bus pulls up with DHRS as its destination. I was debating about asking the driver where he was going when the bus pulls out. About 20 feet away from the depot the DHRS sign turns into Animal Kingdom. Arrrgh. I dont know if DHRS equates to Animal Kingdom or if the driver just forgot to change his sign until he pulled out. So we and the other 3 or 4 families waiting to go to the Animal Kingdom get to wait a little longer. Finally, a bus arrives which actually has a sign for the Animal Kingdom on it; except this one is packed. We shuffle our way towards the back and stand for the ride to the park. We get there about 15 minutes after early opening. I get up to the turnstile and run my ticket through the machine. The cast member asks if Im a resort guest and to show her my room key. Im caught off guard for a second then remember that the early Extra Magic Hour is for resort guests only. My 3-day pass is separate from my room key and she just wants to verify Im that Im staying on property. I meet up with Tara on the other side and apparently she left her room key in the room. The cast member let her in when Shannon showed her room key. Im not sure how that meant Tara was a resort guest but Im glad the cast member let her in anyway.
Our first stop is Expedition Everest. We have a select set of rides we want to do before moving on to Disney Studios. The standby time is 5 minutes so we walk through all the way to the boarding area. The ride is great, as usual, although my stomach still gets a little queasy during the backwards run in the dark. We decide to get a Fastpass for a second ride and walk over to Dinoland where we do Primeval Whirl and Dinosaur in quick succession. Our Fastpass window is now open for Everest so we head back for a second ride. The standby line is now at 10 minutes and we probably didnt need our Fastpasses but we do another walk through to the boarding ramp. We were more towards the back of the ride this time and it seemed to be better riding there than up front during our first ride. It is now a little after 9:00 and the park is now open to off property guests. As we walk to Kali River rapids we notice a slight swell of people heading back towards Everest. It has been awhile since Ive done Kali mostly because of the good possibility of getting soaked and spending a portion of the day walking around with wet clothes. But, today we throw caution into the wind and look to tame the rapids. I take notice of the caution sign on the walk to the boarding area Caution, You Will Get Wet, You May Get Soaked. This one is also about a 10 minute wait. We board our raft and I put our backpack that has my wallet, cell phones and other things we dont want to get wet in the center storage area. There are two couples opposite us in the raft who have donned ponchos and rain gear to ward off the wave of water at the bottom of the drop. We are soon up the ramp and free floating down the Kali. So far, so good - not wet yet. In no time we are stopped at the top of the drop; there being a couple rafts in front of us waiting their turn to plummet. I notice each raft in front of turns slightly clockwise as it enters the chute to the drop. I look at our seating positions in the raft and predict that we will be safe and that the poncho people will catch the brunt of the wave. As were released for our turn down the drop my calculations prove correct. The ponchos stop most of the water but they still get quite wet. I thought we were safe until further down the rapids where 3 or 4 streams of water shoot out from the wall on the left side; and of course I catch part of that. All in all we faired well, it could have been a lot worse. So, our must dos at Animal Kingdom are complete and we start our way out of the park. We take the right side path at the fork and come across a pool of water with some baby ducklings standing by the waterline. We stop to watch them as they all jump into the water and paddle around. We take some pictures as other people now notice and stop to watch. There is a wire fence along with a bamboo fence to keep the larger animals within the water area. The baby ducklings are too small for the fence to contain them and they escape and come out onto the pathway. Some of the people watching try to hurry them across the path so they wont get stepped on. Theres about 8 ducklings total but they have their own agenda and avoid being herded along. We decide to let them be and exit the park. We go out to the bus areas and wait for the Studios bus to come.
It isnt too long before the bus arrives and we are going through the turnstiles at Studios around 10:00. Here again we have a select set of rides we want to do. Our first stop is Rockn Roller Coaster for a Fastpass. On our way there I notice the standby wait time for Tower of Terror is 10 minutes. We get our RnRC Fastpasses and standby time here is 20 minutes for this one not bad at all. We walk through the queuing line to ToT all the way to the pre-show. When we exit the pre-show the line to the elevators is backed up a little bit. At the split we take the left side and soon were aboard and our elevator is making multiple drops. We briefly look at our picture at the exit and then head to the Great Movie Ride. For some reason this has always been a family favorite. We know all of the lines by heart and the movie scenes remain the same but we still continue to ride it. I do gain a sort of devious pleasure watching first time riders, especially children during the Alien sequence where the monsters come to life. I know, I know Im a sick person. After GMR I do a quick check for Fastpass return times for Toy Story Midway Mania. The return time is 5:00 which is later than we want to stay here so we skip it for this trip. Our window to use our Fastpasses for RnRC is now open so we head back down Sunset Blvd to roll with Aerosmith. We luck out again and are the first into the recording booth and are able to be next to the door to exit to our limo. We never buy the photos but each of us makes faces and funny gestures during the launch. Its now close to 1:00 so we decide to get hot dogs at the Toluca Legs Turkey Company. And these arent regular ballpark dogs; these are mac and cheese dogs we really like them. After eating the only must ride still left for us to do at the Studios is Star Tours. The Jedi training academy is underway as we enter the queue for Star Tours. Again Im surprised that there is little to no line on most of the rides. I have ridden Star Tours around 10 times now since it re-opened with the new ride sequences. I think I have seen them all now. As with the other times we manage to get our on board spy safely delivered. We decide to exit and head back to the room to relax a little before finishing up the evening at Epcot. I finish the last of my beers and the girls watch TV and nap.
After a couple hours in the room we get ready to head to Epcot. There really isnt anything thats on our must do list for Epcot other than looking around at the exhibits for the Flower & Garden Festival and staying for the fireworks. Were out at the bus depot by 5:00 and were inside the gate at Epcot by 5:20. I take some photos inside the main Epcot entrance and we walk up towards Spaceship Earth. There is no line at all so we decide to take a ride. After Spaceship Earth we settle on just heading back to World Showcase and walking around. I take a few more pictures of the displays along the way. We decide to turn right and head toward Canada. I can hear Off Kilter playing and as we near the stage they are just ending their current set. We keep on walking and go to the United Kingdom for our normal stop the beer stand outside the Rose and Crown. Three beers and $20+ dollars later we are sipping our brews and looking around The Tea Caddy tea room. We exit out into the gardens behind the shop and I take a picture of Tara next to one of the giant Twinings tea cups. We walk across the bridge into France and I debate getting a glass of champagne. The glass we had during Afternoon Tea was very nice and I would have gotten one here except I already have a beer in hand from the United Kingdom. Well, maybe Ill get one later on. We discuss food options as we continue walking and stop to look at a menu in Morocco at The Tangierine Caf. We decide to share the Vegetable Platter which consists of Falafel, tangierine couscous salad, hummus, tabouleh, lentil salad and marinated olives. I send the girls in to order and while I look for an outside table to sit. The girls find me outside and we share the food. After finishing we walk over to Japan and see that Miyuki has just started he candy sculpting session outside of the Mitsukoshi Department Store. We watch for a few minutes as she makes a lion and a penguin; then we go inside. As we enter I look on the ground and find a ten dollar bill. No one has just entered in front of us so its not intuitively obvious who may have dropped it. So, I end up giving it to the girls to spend on something. We look around for a while but dont get anything; its just a fun store to look around in. We walk past the American pavilion and take some photos and then stop in Italy to look around the shops. We feel another beer calling us and head over to Germany to quench our thirst. We all get an Oktoberfest beer and look around the shops. We talk with one of the German cast members briefly who lives just outside Munich. Following graduation Tara is going to spend a few weeks in Europe with one of the stops being Munich. We take our beers and keep walking. We still have over an hour before the fireworks begin. The vegetable platter we shared in Morocco is wearing off so we stop at the Lotus Blossom Caf in China and get an order of egg rolls and potstickers. We find a table outside and have our snack. We had seen a bottle of spiced wine in Germany which we have had before at Christmas time and really enjoyed. We decide to go ahead and get a bottle so we backtrack to Germany and buy one. We then walk to Norway and take a ride Maelstrom. One of our other traditions is to stop in the Kringla Bakeri and find something sweet to eat. Tara decides on Lefse (her usual), Shannon gets a Berry Cream Puff and I get Rice Cream (my usual). Theres about 15 minutes until the fireworks so we take our goodies outside and sit at a table to eat dessert. We just finish eating when the lights start to dim for Reflections of Earth. We stand outside behind the Kringla Bakeri and watch from there. The fireworks were good as usual and I take several minutes of video. When the fireworks are over we slowly work our way to the front of the park. We get to the Port Orleans bus stop just as one is pulling out. There is another within a few minutes and we make this one even though we have to stand for the ride back to the resort. We arrive at the West Depot and make our final trek back to the Building 39. Were back in the room by 10:00 and asleep around our normal time of 11:00.
Thursday, May 3rd Downtown Disney and Home Alas, our last day here at Disney. Its always a melancholy feeling. I remember when we were checking in I saw a number of people out front of Port Orleans waiting for the Magical Express bus to take them to the airport their stay at Disney was over. Well, now its my turn to be that person whose stay is over. We want to take the boat to Downtown Disney before I head back home later today. The first boat leaves Riverside at 10:00 so I didnt need to set the alarm clock for today. I think I was up by 7:00 and made coffee and started getting things sorted to repack in my motorcycle bags. Shannon and Tara soon followed. Everyone got their stuff packed, showered and got dressed. Around 9:00 we started taking stuff out to the car. We decide to take the vehicles to the parking lot in front of the lobby so we wont have to walk so far upon our return from Downtown Disney.
We get to the loading dock at Riverside around 9:45 and there are a few people already waiting in line. They let us load about 5 minutes later and wait to depart at10:00. Another couple boards and were on our way. We make a stop at Port Orleans French Quarter then continue on to Downtown Disney. The trip down takes about 20 minutes.
We get off the boat and our first stop is in the Art of Disney store. We browse around and I notice that none of the Thomas Kinkade prints are on display. I like his Tinker Bell and Peter Pan Fly to Neverland print and dont know if they are sold out or whether his passing has caused them to temporarily pull them from the store. We finish here and move on to the Days of Christmas store. Shannon broke her Tigger mantel stocking holder last Christmas so we were looking to see if they had something similar to replace it with. Lots of ornaments but only a couple stocking holders none that she liked. We end up not getting anything and head over to Mickeys Pantry. We look around a little bit and Tara sees a spoon holder she likes but we decide to wait to buy it at the World of Disney store. We stop in at Team Disney and I see some golf items I like but also decide to wait until we get to World of Disney. We stop for a few minutes at the Waterside Stage and listen to a middle school choir sing very nice group. We finally enter the World of Disney store and grab a basket to carry our loot. Well, after about an hour of looking around and my wallet about $180 lighter, we exit the store. We head over to Basin and the girls get a few things - kind of a tradition with us. We do a quick stop at Ghirardelli mostly for the free sample and decide to have lunch at Earl of Sandwich. Tara has the BLT sandwich, Shannon has the chicken Caesar salad and I have the Cobb salad. And, all too quickly, it was time to catch the resort boat and head back to Riverside. I take some pictures of the Tree House Villas and silently wonder what it would be like to spend a couple weeks in those. We eventually get back to Riverside and head out to the parking lot. Im able to get the couple things I bought into the saddle bags and get my other stuff out of Taras car and strapped onto the bike.
I say good bye to the girls and we depart from the Riverside parking lot around 1:00. The girls head back to Shannons apartment and I start the trek back home. I stop at the Hess gas station near the entrance to the Boardwalk and fill up the bike. I do one last check on the security of the bags and head out on Western Way. I pass by the property entrance sign and on the exit side, instead of the Welcome to Disney World it has See You Real Soon!. Sigh yes, I hope to see you real soon, too! My route back home from Orlando is essentially the same route I took down in reverse. For the most part its an enjoyable ride back home. I decide to pick up I-10 for the last 125 miles home. I see some rain clouds building up on the horizon and when I stop to get gas I check the weather radar on my Android phone. Theres rain up ahead that Ill get into in about 10-15 miles so I put on my rain gear. Sure enough, it starts out as light rain but soon starts getting heavy. Its getting a little more than I want to handle on the bike and I see an overpass coming up ahead. Theres no one behind me so I start slowing down and ease my way onto the shoulder and stop under the overpass. I sit for about 5 minutes and with no signs of it letting up finally shut off the bike and stand for awhile. I do another check of the weather radar on my phone and see the cell over me and that it should be by in another 10 minutes or so. The bad part is theres another major rain cell coming behind it. If I time it right I can get out before the next period of heavy rain comes through. It starts to let up and I take my cue and get back on the road. In just a couple miles it starts to get better and by 10 miles the rain has stopped. Other than the rain there are no other issues and I pull into my driveway around 7:30.
Final Thoughts: This was a bitter sweet trip with my daughters. It was fun being with them at Disney World but this probably concludes my semi-annual bike trips down to see them. With their departure from the Orlando area I wont be able to do the impromptu visits to see them and the mouse. Its tough to see them grow up and move on with their lives but Im proud of them and know theyll succeed in whatever they do. And who knows, maybe this next phase of their lives will allow for a different Disney experience down the road (grandkids?).
I really enjoyed the Port Orleans resort. On our past few visits to Disney we stayed at Pop Century and I think I like the quiet and relaxed atmosphere that Port Orleans provides a little better. I walked around the resort several times just to take photos and enjoy the ambience of the place. Also, this was the first time to have the free Wi-Fi access. Tara had her iPad with her and was able to easily connect.
It was nice doing things that didnt involve going to the parks. Starting our first day with Afternoon Tea at the Grand Floridian is something I could get used to. It was a relaxing and fun beginning to our visit with the mouse.
It was a little irritating to have some of the major rides down at the Magic Kingdom. I understand the refurbishment part (Thunder Mountain) but having both Splash Mountain and Pirates go down at the same time for an hour plus caused some frustration we ended up not doing either. I hope nobody saved those rides for their final day and that was the day.
The crowds were lighter than normal. Even the major rides had 20 minute or less wait times at what should be peak times of the day. We were able to do everything we wanted and, at times, the Standby line and Fastpass line were about the same.
Well, thanks for reading. And to everyone else who posts their trip reports, thank you! I realize it takes quite a bit of time and effort to type everything up and I appreciate you sharing your trips and experiences with us. Take care and Ill be seeing you in the parks!