Some of you might have read one or more of my previous trip reports. I started writing Disney trip reports after I read Mike Scopa's "Grandmother of all Trip Reports" that documented his family's July 1994 trip. My first efforts were short "memories" reports of past trips. I'd been to Disneyland several times and Barb and I had been to WDW together in 1988 (with Barb's family), 1989 (our honeymoon), 1990, 1991, 1993 (with my parents), and 1994 (our fifth anniversary trip -- and cruise).
In September of 1995, I visited Disneyland while I was on the West coast on business. I wrote my first "live" (I now write all my reports day-by-day on the laptop) trip report during that trip. I wrote my first WDW trip report in November of 1995, when Barbara and I visited WDW with our friends Mike and Stacey. My second Disneyland report was written in September of 1996. Then, in October of 1996, we went down to stay at Old Key West again, this time with our new (3 1/2 week old) son, Allan, and Allan's grandparents Allan (I) and Carol Bennett. The report that I wrote on that trip turned out to be my most verbose to date.
I decided to make this report a little more special for me and my family by "remembering the magic" throughout the trip. Whenever I remember something from our previous trips, I'll include those memories in indented text, set off with horizontal lines. Skip over the indents, if you don't care to reminisce with me, but I hope you'll enjoy the rest of the trip report anyway...
Also, I've had the trip plan portion of this report up on the web site for quite some time. If you've already read through this part (which introduces the cast of characters and the plans for the entire trip), you might want to follow this link...to the first day of the trip.
Introduction to this Trip:
A couple of years ago, right after we purchased our Disney Vacation Club membership, we invited our friends Tony and Kathy Wiedbrauk and their two wonderful daughters and Vicki Torrey to go to WDW with us. Well, after three years of discussion and juggling vacation schedules...1997 is finally the year! This will be an interesting and fun trip because it will be our first one with teens, Tony and Kathy's daughters Melissa (17, a high school senior) and Megan (13, eighth grade).
The Cast of Characters:
I am an engineer who works for General Motors Corporation's vehicle components group.
Barbara, my wife of eight years, is a wonderful mother, a Mary Kay Cosmetics independent beauty consultant, and a coach for Community Baptist Christian School's jr. varsity and varsity girls volleyball and Bible quizzing teams.
Of course, our one year old son Allan William II will be with us too! Allan's main occupations are playing, eating, sleeping, and being adorable (please pardon the new father's bias)...all of which he handles quite well.
Tony is a financial and systems analyst for an insurance firm.
Kathy is a nurse.
Melissa and Megan are both students and future volleyball olympians.
Vicki is the Dean of Academics, and a secondary teacher at our church's Christian school.
Later in the trip, after Wiedbrauks and Vicki left for home, some other folks joined us:
Mary, Barb's Aunt, a facilities manager from Chicago, and wonderful mom to...
Caity, a sweet and charming eight year old lady with the all of the activity of the Energizer Bunny.
The Trip Plan:
We are driving down from Michigan in a caravan with the Wiedbrauks on the 15th and 16th of October. We'll stop about halfway down, in the Sweetwater, Tennessee area on Wednesday night, then continue down to WDW on Thursday. Vicki will fly down separately, arriving at MCO on Thursday night.
I've already made reservations for a two-bedroom "vacation home." Vicki, unfortunately, will be stuck with the hide-a-bed in the living room. Wiedbrauks will use the second bedroom with its' two queen-sized beds. Barb, Allan, and I will hang in the master bedroom. I've requested a room that has the additional door from the laundry room into the master bedroom's bathroom. That will make things a bit more convenient and private as we share the master bathroom with Vicki.
As members of the Disney Vacation Club (DVC), we are provided with length-of-stay (LOS) park passes to the three major parks for up to half of the capacity of our accomodations. Since we'll be staying in a two-bedroom unit that can handle eight people, we will receive four LOS passes. Barb and I will be purchasing annual passes (AP) this trip (I'll explain why in a bit) so Wiedbrauks and Vicki will use the LOS passes. In exchange, they will provide us with the dollar value of the two LOS passes we would have used. We'll apply that money to our APs. We'll also have to purchase a fifth LOS pass so everyone is covered. Since Allan will only be one year old, we won't have to buy a pass for him this trip.
Since we'll be arriving on a Thursday evening, we'll use the first of our DVC "free" park passes on the following day. On Saturday we will not have LOS park passes available, so we're planning to spend the day over at Universal Studios. Barb and I havn't been to Universal since 1991, so I'm looking forward to seeing Jaws and Terminator for the first time. Then, beginning on Sunday and continuing through Thursday the 23rd, we'll again have access to LOS park passes, so we'll spend those days in the Disney parks.
(DVC Members: Just to be exactly correct, we receive LOS passes only for those days in which we stay at OKWR using our original DVC point contracts (the points we purchased in 1994). The add-on contract, when we purchased additional DVC points in the Summer of 1996, doesn't include that perk. Therefore, I've set up the trip so that we use our original contract points for the Sunday-Thursday days of our trip and the add-on contract points for the Friday and Saturday. In order to make this work, I had to break up the trip into several separate reservations that were "linked" in the computer. Otherwise, the computer defaulted to using original contract points for the Friday night, since that's the day we wanted to use the LOS passes. I had to go over this thing with Member Services several times when I made the reservations before the representative finally got it right. Follow-Up Note: When I called member services to check on the reservation again in mid-July, the dates of the tickets still weren't correct. I certainly hope that things are sufficiently buttoned-up by October. Just to make sure, I plan to call member services just before we leave Michigan to make final arrangements and ensure that the details are taken care of.)
The Vacation Within the Vacation:
On Friday, October 24th, we'll check out of our two-bedroom vacation home. That day, the Wiedbrauks will begin their drive back to Michigan. Barb and I will take Vicki to Orlando International for her flight home.
Then, Barb and I will be checking in to Wilderness Lodge for Friday and Saturday nights, paying cash for the stay.
Finally, we'll return to OKWR for four additional nights in a studio vacation home, using add-on contract points for the additional nights.
Since we'll have our APs, we'll still have unlimited access to the parks during both the Wilderness Lodge stay and the last four nights at Old Key West.
During the very last portion of our trip, Barbara's Aunt Mary and her daughter Caitlyn (eight years old) will be coming down to WDW. As of Late July, their plans aren't solidified to the point that they know what resort they're staying, but they intend to stay on-site. We'll probably spend parts of a few days with Mary and Caity including some meals.
On Thursday, October 30th we begin the arduous drive back to the Midwest. I'm hoping to do some sightseeing along the way. For one thing, I'd love to spend some time checking out a few of the Civil War battlefields between Atlanta and Chattanooga. I'd also like to visit Oak Ridge again, and take the driving tour of that area. Regardless, we plan to arrive back at home on Saturday, November 1st.
One of the reasons for buying the APs, besides the flexibility that they'll provide for this trip, is that we're going to take a short trip down to WDW in May, 1998 to attend Epcot's International Flower and Garden Show. That's something that Barb has always been interested in seeing. Also, we'll be going to OKWR with Barb's parents and some sub-set of her sisters and brothers-in-law in the Fall of 1998. Having APs will help us with the cost of tickets for that trip too. Bottom line..the APs give us alot of flexibility.
Unlike some of our previous trips to WDW, we're not planning on using Food 'N' Fun this trip. The 1997 "debit card" version of the program just doesn't have the financial benefit that the all-inclusive meal "coupon" program had. Furthermore, since we have a much bigger group, we're not planning on having so many grandiose meals at expensive restaurants. Instead, we'll have a few select meals at the choicest restaurants. We'll choose a couple of good ones a few weeks before the trip.
For our other meals, I'd thought we'd eat alot of fast food, but after discussing things with the group in July, we agreed we'll probably have less-expensive sit-down meals instead (just not overly exorbitant ones like our old Food 'N' Fun blowouts). Le Petit Cafe, the Plaza Restaurant, and San Angel Cantina are examples that may fit the bill nicely. On our trip to Disneyland in California in 1996, we had some wonderful meals at the buffeteria-service restaurants there (Casa Mexicana, French Market, etc.). I'm hoping for a similar experience this year at WDW.
Also, Barb and I learned a neat lesson during a recent trip through Nashville. We had a nice dinner at a restaurant (Rhett's -- named after the Clark Gable character from "Gone With the Wind") in the Opryland Hotel, and ordered an entree to be split between the two of us. That gave us both a nice dinner, and left room to try the restaurant's wonderful deserts, too. I have to believe that the restaurants at WDW are used to splitting meals, too. So we'll probably do that, too, to save money and allow us more flexibility, too.
We will also have cereal / donut / bagel breakfasts in the room and perhaps have sandwiches or snacks in the room. We'll pro-rate those grocery costs among us. I'm also going to lobby to do fast food during our travel days, just because that would be easier than dealing with a cooler and picnic gear for just a few meals.
Frankly, as I update this plans report, I'm very happy about these meal plans. I had been a bit bummed about the prospect of doing alot of fast food and in-room sandwiches when I've always enjoyed the varied and unusual meals at WDW. Now, the meals will be less lavish than the Food 'N' Fun meals, but that's not a bad thing. I'm not at all disappointed, because in the past we've ended up so full of food that we didn't always enjoy our meals. This will be a much better balance between the two extremes. We won't have the extravagant time we did on our last two trips. That alone will make this trip interesting, though.
Park Touring Plans:
Since I abhor the "Disney commando" mentality, we'll definately tour the parks at a reasonable pace. We plan to take a daily break to relax and get out of the parks for awhile. A good way of doing that is to go to a park for the morning, then return to the resort for a swim, a nap, a boat rental -- anything to change pace.
To start each day, we plan to go into a park together in the morning. Afternoons and evenings (including dinner) can be separate or together, depending on what everyone would like to do that day. We do want to enjoy everyone else's company, but we want to all get some family time in, too (one of the reasons for timing the trip for 1997 is that Melissa is a senior and will be graduating in the Spring, so this this might be one of the last opportunities for the Wiedbrauks to have a family vacation.) Bottom line -- it will be fun to spend time together, but our previous experiences show that we need to balance our togetherness.
On the weekend after Wiedbrauks and Vicki leave to return to Michigan, we're staying at Wilderness Lodge. Even with the baby, we're hoping to have a combination of a romantic and family time. We might spend the bulk of our time at the resort to enjoy the expensive ambiance. We can always spend time in the parks before and after the Wilderness Lodge interlude.
During the last part of the trip, with Mary and Caity, we'll probably spend our mornings with them in the parks. We might have some lunches together, too. We're not yet sure how much time they'll want to be with us, so afternoons and evenings might be with or without them...we really havn't discussed it yet.
This is already shaping up to be a wonderful trip. I'm really excited about going down to WDW with our friends. The twist of spending part of the trip with teens and another with a precocious, effervescent second grader is a fun one. It might prepare us for some of our future trips with our own kids...
Final Planning Update:
We met with Vicki and the Wiedbrauks one last time in mid-September to discuss final details of the trip. In addition to taking care of the last few financial issues, we decided what full-service restaurants we were going to visit during the trip. The group wasn't very interested in a character meal, so we avoided the restaurants that are specialized that way. We also wanted to avoid the most expensive restaurants.
The ones we finally chose were Nine Dragons (partly because we all like Chinese food, but Barb and I had never been to this restaurant), Whispering Canyon Cafe (we all thought we'd enjoy the family atmosphere), Rainforest Cafe (not Disney, but Tony and Kathy had enjoyed this place on their stay just a month earlier, so they wanted to return), and Liberty Tree Tavern.
I made priority seating arrangements for Nine Dragons and Whispering Canyon Cafe. I know it's not possible to make advanced arrangements for Rainforest, so I didn't even try. However, after our group pow-wow, I remembered that Liberty Tree was a Character meal for dinner, so I didn't make priority seating there afterall. I just figured that we had a couple of nice meals scheduled, and that we could decide on another one after the trip got underway.
Wednesday, October 15th (Travel):
Nothing exciting to report about today. We got up early (for us) and met Wiedbrauks down I-75 in Bridgeport (a centrally located meeting place) at about 6am.
We drove South but got bogged down in some heavy traffic in the Flint area. We ended up being stranded quite some time. Afterwards, Tony said that he heard a radio report that a car hauler had run into a railroad bridge just a little beyond where we were hung up.
Eventually, we inched forward enough to be able to drive across some well-traveled grass in the median (we'd been watching other vehicles do this for twenty minutes or so, before we were close enough to do it ourselves), and over to the I-69 entrance ramp (at Miller road). We took I-69 over to I-475 then down to Hill road. Hill road took us back to US-23....just about an hour and a half after we first got hung up. It just seemed unbelievable that we'd be tied up so early in the trip.
We had a lunch at a Wendy's between Dayton and Cincinatti, then continued on our way to our hotel at Sweetwater, Tennessee. The Comfort Inn (about 2 miles East of the interstate) wasn't anything special, but it was relatively inexpensive just to have a place to sleep for the night.
After we got checked in, we had a little break then drove over to have dinner at the Cracker Barrel at the Sweetwater exit. I really like the Cracker Barrel. It's not fine dining, but the food is almost always very good, and the portions are reasonable.
After dinner, we headed back to the room and let Allan run amok for awhile to get his wiggles out. When we put him down for bed he dropped off without too much complaining.
Allan was really pretty good during the trip today. We stopped for gas and breaks every once in a while, and he seemed to enjoy being out of the car seat every chance we were able to do so. He did get tired of it, though, and hollered his lungs out several times. Even so, considering the time we had him restrained....he did really well.
Thursday, October 16th (Final Travel Day -- Check in at OKWR):
This morning we were supposed to be at the lobby for the complementary breakfast at 6am, but I made the mistake of calling to check my phone messages at work (more on this later)....it was a very dumb thing to do from a timing point of view. Because of the twelve messages waiting on my phone mail, I made our whole troop late so we didn't end up leaving the Comfort Inn until about 6:35.
Things got a little worse because Tony had been smart enough to get gas on the way back to the hotel after dinner the night before. I didn't, so everyone had to wait for us to fill up our tank before we hit the interstate in earnest.
We stopped for a short break near Resaca, Georgia and Tony had the brainstorm that we should stop at Kennesaw Mountain to see the Civil War battlefield there. I was game, so we drove to the visitor center. I got turned around on the way to the visitors center, and we ended up parking in the lot some distance from the entrance. We walked around to the path and around the building and eventually found ourselves in the back of the building - clearly not where us visitors were supposed to be.
I quipped that, "we're gonna see every nook and cranny of this place before we're done." I hate embarassing myself...even though I usually excel at it.
Kennesaw Mountain has a small bookstore and a short video presentation of the battle (part of Sherman's Atlanta campaign) that Tony and I perused. Allan was restless, and the ladies were all polite (but bored) with the Civil War stuff, so they passed on the film.
Then we struck out to take the driving tour of the battlefield. We drove out of the visitors center parking lot, and headed to the right. I had no idea where the tour started, but it really didn't look like we were in the right place, so I pulled a hairpin turn and reversed my direction (poor Tony had to figure out how to do the same....with very little notice). Then I drove back toward the visitors center, but continued on past it...surely the tour was that direction.
After continuing down a beautiful tree-lined road for quite some distance, I realized that we were heading toward the Southern end of the battlefield, but no where near our immediate goal, Kennesaw Mountain itself, so I pulled into a bank parking lot.
I took my red-face over to Wiedbrauk's van and admitted that, "there comes a time in every man's life when he must give up and ask directions."
Tony and Kathy had no idea where we were either, so we decided to head back to the visitor's center and just try to find the road to Kennesaw Mountain.
As I turned to walk back to my van, I said, "I hope everyone is enjoying my personal tour of the battlefield..."
Kathy quickly replied, "yep...every nook and cranny of it."
Well, we eventually made it back to the visitors center and around back to the mountain road that goes up to the peak. We finally made it up and enjoyed a beautiful view of Mid-Georgia. We could clearly see Atlanta's buildings in the distance and Stone Mountain a bit to the East.
After all of that, we drove back down the mountain, then made our way back to the interstate. We proceeded down I-75, stopped at another Wendy's for lunch, then continued South through Georgia and Northern Florida.
One thing of note, we made a brief stop at the Disney / AAA Welcome Center in Ocala. I was hoping to make reservations for the Friday and Saturday nights in the middle of the trip. We already had reservations for a room at Wilderness Lodge, but frankly, I was hoping to get into Port Orleans or Coronado Springs to save a little money. Unfortunately, the people at the center weren't able to come up with any rooms at the moderate resorts either.
I was struck by the difference in the atmosphere of the Welcome Center versus our other visits in other years. The Disney / AAA Welcome Center in Ocala had always been our first glimpse of the magic of WDW. This time, I didn't feel that way at all. I think it's because the atmosphere of the Welcome Center is now sprinkled in malls all across the nation, even in Saginaw, Michigan. That being the case, I just didn't feel the anticipation of "being almost there" that I'd felt on previous trips.
One thing that still had me excited, though, was listening to Disney Radio's "I'm going to Disney World, I'm going to Disney World..." tune as we made our way through the upper part of the state. That's still a sure-fire way to know that you're close to being there - and there's no Disney Radio blaring that catchy tune up here in the midwest.
Besides the Ocala break, we did stop for gas and breaks a few times and had dinner at a Shoney's near Wildwood, Florida. On the way out, Megan grabbed a lollipop from the counter, even though it was clearly marked "Ages 12 and Under." She said that she was pretty close (she's 13), so it was ok. I gave her a hard time about it before we continued on.
We finally made it to Walt Disney World and pulled into Old Key West around 8pm. Check-in went fairly well, even though the passes were set up for the wrong day. I still havn't experienced a flawless checkin at OKWR. Maybe next year. However, we did get a room that met most of my requests. It was close to a pool and a bus stop, and had a door in the laundry room to the master bedroom. With seven adults (one of which was sleeping in the living room) that feature would be nice.
When we drove over to our building and walked in the room, the Wiedbrauks were amazed. They knew what to expect, of course, but they had only seen our videotape of the resort. The rooms at OKWR are really beautiful...and large. The kitchen and living room are good sized, and the whole package with the laundry room works really well for a group of people traveling together. Even nicer is the fact that OKWR is onsite, so we have all of the advantages that we've enjoyed over the years in staying at the on-site resorts.
Carribean Beach (April 1991) Not knowing that we'd end up waiting five more years before Allan arrived, we planned our 1991 trip as our last adult kid-free vacation. We spent a couple of days in the Orlando area (staying at the hotel we visited on our honeymoon -- just because it was cheap) to see the Main Street Electrical Parade during the week just after Easter, followed by a trip South to Key West and the Everglades to miss the balance of the Spring break crowds, then returning to stay on-property at WDW for the first time ever in life after the crowds abated.
For that last part of our trip, we stayed at the Caribbean Beach Resort. We got sold on Disney accommodations real fast. Our room was in the Jamaica area, adjacent to the parking lot, but not far from the small "local" pool. Parrot Cay Island and Old Port Royale are located just over the causeway from Jamaica. The themeing of the resort was great! Detail, that old Disney hallmark, was everywhere from the cannon smoke at the themed pool to the building design and coloring to the Calypso music piped to all the public areas. Laundry facilities were located right next to our pool, so we spent an afternoon cleaning, drying, and folding clothes and swimming in between loads. We've not stayed at a non-Disney owned and operated hotel while visiting WDW since.
After we got settled in, Barb and I headed out to Goodings to buy some breakfast groceries (between what we and Wiedbrauks brought in snack food, we should be fine there). Tony and Kathy went to MCO to pick up Vicki.
We all got back and were pretty much settled in by 11pm. Tomorrow we really begin our vacation!
Friday, October 17th (Magic Kingdom, Lunch at the Plaza Restaurant, Dinner at Whispering Canyon Cafe, IllumiNations):
Today started bright and early....maybe a bit too early. Barb had the clock set and got up first, our usual morning routine. Then I got up, showered and got ready for the day. Tony planned to make up some breakfast, so we planned to have breakfast in the room before we left for the park. I stuck with simple cereal and milk with a banana. Some others had eggs, bacon, and other things.
Before we left for the park, I called work again. I was interested in learning some news about a new position I was up for at work. Beginning back in 1994, I'd written a project for a new noise & vibration lab for my division, worked to get the project approved, designed the lab, hired an engineering firm to help staff it -- then for political reasons, the operations manager of the lab was selected from our central services group instead of me. I had been disppointed about that for some time, but plugged away at the position I was in, that of Team Leader for an applications noise & vibration group. Well, this morning I got the news that I got the operations job that I'd wanted for so long. It's kinda like getting back the lab that I'd lost...so I'm pretty excited about it. My predecessor has done a good job, so I don't have a bad mess to contend with upon my return, but I'm looking forward to managing "my" lab just the same.
The morning's park du jour was the Magic Kingdom. It's a tradition for me to start each trip at the original park, and no one disagreed...so off we went. We caught a bus fairly early, just a little after 8am, and made it to the park in short order.
Barb and I had to buy our APs, since we hadn't had time to do so yet, so we went to guest services first. I tried to trade in some old passes that Melissa and Megan had from a previous trip (only one day was left on each), I knew that the Disney folks would balk at it, but I had hoped that since I was buying passes for ourselves, and that the girls were using our DVC passes, that things would be kosher. I was wrong. No matter how much I tried to convince them, guest services would not budge. As he left after his final refusal, guest services supervisor Bob (from Detroit, MI and it figures) told me that had we just lied about the passes being ours, it would have been ok. Sheeeesh....if you lie you get what you want? What's this world coming to?
Another little hiccup resulted from my disagreement with Bob & company. I had been given a spontaneous award at work for a special project I'd been working on. A week or so ago, I went over to our local Disney store and converted the check into $100 Disney dollars. I'd planned on using the $100 to help defray the cost of the tickets. Unfortunately, I got embroiled with Bob and forgot to apply Disney dollars that I was planning to use. Not a big deal, because I just ended up using the Disney dollars for meal purchases and so on until the money ran out so I had the same result.
After finally getting our APs, we made our way to the park entrance.
In a small twist from tradition, instead of starting with Pirates of the Caribbean, we started in Tomorrowland. In quick seccession, we enjoyed Alien Encounter (Barb sat this out with Allan -- and the Little One met Pluto and Goofy while Daddy was being breathed on by the bad guy).
First experience on Alien Encounter (November 1995) We had dinner at the Plaza Restaurant one night. After our meal, I thought that we might be able to catch Alien Encounter without a huge queue since it was in the evening and it was fast approaching closing time in the Magic Kingdom.
We walked over and walked right into the wait area. The pre-show did a great job of setting up the "demonstration" and the special effects to follow.
Then we walked into the teleportation demonstration chamber itself. The binaural sound and visuals during the breaking glass effects was spectacular. The feeling of the alien tentacle on my head gave me the queasies. This was the first new addition to Tomorrowland in several years...what an incredible improvement over the venerable "Mission to Mars!" We had a ball....all the more so since we didn't have to wait too long to enjoy it!
After Alien Encounter, I asked Barb if she wanted to replace the sunglasses that she'd left at home. This year, I think mostly out of stubborness, she opted to skip it. Melissa and Megan, though, put Kathy through the paces of looking at all of the available glasses. Her current pair, they'd decided, wasn't cool enough.
Remember the Sunglasses (October, 1996) First thing we did in Fantasyland was try to pick up a pair of sunglasses for Barb at the Fantasy Faire shop. This is an annual event, because she always forgets to pack the other six pairs we've bought over the years. At the same time, if I forgot mine, I'd go and buy a new pair...and I don't think Barb should suffer all week for making that blunder. We didn't find any that she liked, so we pushed on. In Barb's defense, she wears contacts so glasses aren't somthing that she thinks of often. Besides, since that's the only thing she forgot when packing for this huge trip...she's doing good (those were her words...she made me put those last two sentences in and I did.)
Later that same day...
When we landed, we continued our search for some sunglasses for Barb. We were eventually successful at the Star Trader's shop. Barb also wanted an athletic supporter for those glasses, so she could go hands free when she took them off.
Next we enjoyed Space Mountain (Aunt Vicki stayed with Allan during this one), Carrousel of Progress, and Timekeeper (Mom stayed with Allan again).
Allan found the Carousel of Progress less than captivating. He seemed to like the music (He has a really cute way of bobbing his head in time with the beat), but was bored with the rest. Probably because he's too young to follow the story line. He bounced back and forth between Barb and I for a while, then seemed to settle in with Uncle Tony who was dubbed the Candy Man for this trip. Allan quickly learned that Uncle Tony usually had some SweetTarts in his pocket, so if Allan had a choice of who he was to be held by, Tony was quite often the one.
By this time, it was almost 11am, so we took a brief poll...Kathy wanted to see the Legend of the Lion King since it was one of the few Fantasyland attractions that she thought adults would enjoy (she doesn't know how much I happen to love Peter Pan), so we headed over there. Allan was fine through most of this, but toward the end, during some of the louder musical sections, he really got feisty. I took him out, mostly because I felt sorry for his tender ears, and waited for the rest of the group to join us outside.
Allan was definately ready for lunch and a nap by this time, so Barb and Allan and I left the group to eat and have our mid-day break. We agreed to meet up at our room around 5pm.
As we walked out of the park, I asked Barb if she would mind having lunch at the Plaza Restaurant. She was game, so off we went. I really love the Plaza, and its' alter ego in California -- the Carnation Restaurant. The food is simple, but tasty, and the portions are large.
When we were being seated, the hostess asked if Allan could have crayons and a placemat to color on. We were a little concerned that he would think they were the actual entree, but decided to let him have a try. He actually did quite well, tasting Crayola only once. He did manage to get alot of different colors all over the paper. Barb saved it as his very first masterpiece. You never know that that will be worth some day - at least to us proud parents.
I ordered a chef's salad and asked for a chocolate shake to be made into a coffee shake like you can get at the Carnation. Both were excellent, especially the shake. Barb had a large bowl of chicken and rice soup and sprite, and Allan shared his hot dog, burger, and fries meal with mom with milk on the side. The total bill, before tip, was $25.87 (it included the cost of an espresso for my shake).
After lunch, we bussed back to OKWR to lay the little guy down for a nap. On the way back, our bus entered the resort and made the turn onto Miller's Road. After dropping off several guests, the bus turned around and headed on to continue the rest of the route, but we were held up near that Lake Buena Vista Golf Course green that is right by the entrance to OKWR (I'm not sure which hole it is). Anyway, our bus was stopped to allow one of the professional golfers (this was the weekend of the Walt Disney World / Oldsmobile Golf Classic) to concentrate on his shot. It turned out to be Tiger Woods!. It was really cool to see him, and if you were wondering, yes, he did sink the short putt.
Vicki is probably the most die-hard golf fan in our entire group. Throughout the day every one of us got at least a glimpse of Tiger....except guess who? She was busy watching another famous golfer she had spotted farther away - Greg Norman. She was very disgusted to discover she had missed Tiger....especially the next day when she found out that Greg Norman was not even in this tournament. Wonder who she was really watching.
When we got back to our room, I'm not sure if Allan or Daddy fell asleep first. It might have been a tie.
After the break, we caravaned over to Wilderness Lodge for our 5:40pm priority seating at Whispering Canyon Cafe. This turned out to be a much nicer meal than the lunch we had at Whispering Canyon a couple of years ago. For one thing, I ordered grilled tuna. Barb, Tony, and Vicki all had the all-you-can-stuff-yourself-with skillet meal. The girls had a grilled vegetable platter, and Kathy had the sirloin steak special.
During the meal, we enjoyed watching the kids race their "horses" around the restaurant. Even more fun, though, was Tony getting nailed for his bad table manners. Our server even pulled his handgun on him and told Tony he'd have to shoot if those elbows rested on the table one more time. The girls enjoyed seeing Dad get nailed, but I think Kathy enjoyed it more. She was splitting her sides when the gun came out of the holster.
The birch beer (instead of root beer) was excellent, too. Except for a little mix up on the bill, which was quickly corrected, the service was a bit slow, but attentive. Four beverages, the fish of the day, a complementary "happy skillet" for Allan, and a couple of adult sampler skillets (I treated Vicki, too) set me back $63.85 before the tip. I think, after this experience, that we'll definately be back to Whispering Canyon. If things had been as ho-hum as they were in 1995, we probably would have written it off for good.
After dinner, we strolled the back grounds of the lodge for a bit, then jumped back into the vans and drove over to the Beach Club. We parked there, then walked through the resort and on to the International Gateway to Epcot to catch IllumiNations 25. This was a much improved version from the "Circle of Life" extraveganza we'd endured last Fall. The fireworks, music, and laser effects were very good.....much better than the original version.
The only drawback to the show was the rudeness of several folks that wormed their way to the fence in front of us in the hour or so before the show started. This one guy in particular, huge like an NFL linebacker, literally climbed over Barb to get to the fence. When the show started, Barb asked him to kneel down to let us see (since he'd taken our place at the rail already). His reaction was a rude, "NO", and to hold his arms wide from his sides just to make the view even more restrictive. That kind of thing really ruins a nice evening...too bad.
Well, we ended the day by returning to the resort, having a brief break around the TV (most everyone else) while I finished documenting today's events.
Saturday, October 18th (Magic Kingdom, lunch at Mama Melroses, dinner at Pepper Market, Monorail Resorts Tour, Sundaes at Beaches & Cream):
Wiedbrauk's and Vicki had plans to go to Universal today since they didn't have passes to any of the Disney parks. We decided to skip Universal in favor of spending the morning at the Magic Kingdom with Allan.
We got a late start, mostly because we just got moving a bit slow today. We drove to the Contemporary and parked close to the walkway to the park. We didn't get to the entrance until almost 9am.
We spent the morning in Fantasyland.
Fantasyland (October 1996) Allan's first tour of Fantasyland was via Snuggly, one of those harnesses that allows an infant to ride ala "papoose." We started by catching Peter Pan with only a short line. I was proud of the baby. He stayed awake for this whole ride (one of his Daddy's favorites), but he sure jumped when Hook shot his cannon at us as we flew toward Neverland. It's a Small World was next. The line was very short, but the boats were stacked up like cordwood. We ended up in a lengthy queue at the end of the ride instead of the beginning. As soon as we finished up at Small World, we walked over to the skyway (no line at all) and rode it over to Tomorrowland. It was cool to see Ariel's Grotto and the new Toontown Fair areas from the air. I retrieved the stroller from It's a Small World (where we'd left it before we jumped on the skyway), and met Barb and Allan near the Grotto before wrapping up the tour.
We started this year's visit with Allan's first ride on the carousel (he was very impatient that his horse didn't move before the ride started up, then he enjoyed it immensely!) We left the stoller there at the carousel (locked with our bike lock like last year) as we did the next several rides.
Next, we rode Snow White's Adventures. Allan sat still between us in the car, and seemed to enjoy the colors and characters alot...but he's a bit young to understand the scary stuff.
We walked over to Peter Pan's Flight next. When we got in line, the queue was improperly set up for the relatively small number of people that were waiting to ride. We had to walk all the way to the right, and go around, although everyone in line was way down on the left. While we did the traditional, and courteous, walk through the queue thing, several people just stepped over the chain and jumped in front of us. Then a woman asked how to get "back in line." I pointed out the beginning of the queue. Later, we heard the same woman complaining that I'd "made" her go to the end. Apparently she had already had family in line and wasn't looking for the beginning of the line, but a way to jump it. Oh well, I'm not a cast member...so I can't be blamed for it.
When we got on the galleon, Allan sat between us like he did on Snow White, but Barb noticed that he probably couldn't see much. I perched him up on my lap and we rode together to make it easier for him to see the sights. He really seemed to think we were flying, and got startled when we dipped down as we approached Neverland. Except for that, he seemed to enjoy the colors and audio-animatronics without really "getting it."
After Peter Pan, we walked right across to It's a Small World. Allan really liked this one. He seemed to like the music (I'm one of the few that likes it too, I think). He particularly enjoyed the colorful dolls and atmosphere, though. Barb noticed that no one said there was no flash photography allowed, so she took a few pictures of me and the Little Guy.
After It's a Small World, we made our way to Dumbo, but the line was already pretty long....over twenty minutes, so we ditched it and went over to Ariel's Grotto for a bit. Mostly, I wanted to let the Little One walk around a bit and stretch...just to have some fun. He took my finger in one hand, and Barb's in another...and walked about the area trying to avoid the water spurts. For the most part, he was successful with that. It was about that time that Barb noticed that Allan was walking rather awkwardly. It seems that the Little One's Dad put his shoes on backwards before we left for the park a couple of hours before.
It started to sprinkle just a little about this time, and Allan was on overload already from the many rides we'd already enjoyed, so I retrieved the stoller and we walked back through Toontown Fair to catch the train back to Main Street. Allan liked the train ride, too, but was clearly ready for something to eat. Before we left the park, though, we spent a few minutes in the Emporium. Barb's shopping for a carry-bag for Allan's things and she wanted to see what the Magic Kingdom's largest store had before we left the park for the day.
We made our way back toward the Contemporary, retrieved our van, and drove over to the Disney / MGM Studios. We had but one goal here...lunch at Mama Melrose's! By this time the rain was more persistent than the gentle drizzle we'd been experiencing until now. It was kind of a bummer that we had the van, because we had to park way out in the middle of the parking lot, instead of being dropped off up fairly close at the bus stop. We ducked into the shops on the right side of Hollywood Boulevard, and we had the brainstorm of buying Allan a sipper cup (we'd forgotten to bring his own from the room). We found one in the character shop on the corner of Hollywood and Vine, paid for it...then made our way on to the restaurant.
We arrived at Mama Melrose's at about 11:15am. We were assured that we could have a table, even without priority seating, but we did have to wait until seatings began at 11:30. In just a few minutes we were seated and Allan was given the raw materials for his second coloring masterpiece
I ordered the all-you-can-eat pasta, starting with penna pasta with a tomato basil sauce ($11.25). I had grilled chicken added to the meal, too ($2.99 extra). Barb ordered a combo pizza, with cheese, pepperoni and mushrooms ($11.25). Both dishes were excellent! I followed up on my first dish of pasta with a penna pasta with primavera sauce. The primavera was good, but I really, really loved the tomato basil. One other thing, the chicken that I added came with the first AND second helpings. A chain restaurant that will remain unnamed (Olive Garden) only gives you the added stuff in the first helping. Just a little tidbit for you to keep in mind. Barb's pizza was spectacular, too. Allan seemed to like the penne pasta and some of Barb's pizza, too. I guess you can say he had all you can eat Italian feast. To finish things up, we took a tiramisu and a chocolate corruption ($4.95 each) back to the room to eat later. The entire bill for the meal, including beverages and tax (but before tip) was $42.18.
The service at this meal was very good, too. Mike, our server, was quick to refill our beverages...and was attentive to everything else, too. I spoke with the manager to point out Mike's excellent job, something I like to do to try to ensure that Disney's service remains high.
Mama Melrose's (October 1996) We really wanted to have dinner at Mama Melrose's because we'd never had the chance to do it during the trip so far. My first and only complaint about this meal is that we had to have such an early dinner because the restaurants at the Disney / MGM Studios close at 5:00pm even when the park is open until 7:00pm. It's too bad, because Mama Melrose's and the Brown Derby are restaurants where later seatings would be nice. Perhaps after Fantasmic! arrives in Florida, the park will stay open later and the restaurants will seat later, too. At least I can hope.
Anyway, we were seated at a great table with a nice, out-of-the-way place to park the stroller within minutes of our arrival. Our server, Kerry (actually, she introduced herself by her Mama Melrose's given Italian name, but Kerry was easier to remember so I stuck with it) came quickly and took our order. This was a Food 'N' Fun meal, so each of us ordered an appetizer, and entree' (most with options) and a beverage...and Kerry took the entire order by memory and served it flawlessly. Dad and I both ordered the antipasto salad, Barb had deep fried mozzarella, and Mom chose a bowl of the vegetable minestrone soup. With our entree's, Dad, Barb, and I all ordered the minestrone, too. While Mom had the house salad. The antipasto was excellent. It was served with a balsamic vinegar-based dressing that was fabulous. The soup, too, was superb. Dad was irritated with Mom for not letting him have some...until she reminded him that he had some of his own coming in the next go round. Mom's salad was served with the same dressing that Dad and I had enjoyed on the antipasto. For our entree's, Dad ordered a veal scallopini, Barb ordered a four-cheese pizza with mushrooms, sausage, and pepperone. Mom and I both had the bottom-less bowl of pasta. I had the marinara sauce with chicken, Mom selected the meat sauce. Again, everything was top-notch. Dad raved about his veal. I really enjoyed my pasta, too. Barb's pizza was good, but was baked a little unevenly. Otherwise, it was good, too. For desert, Dad and Barb both ordered the triple chocolate cake. I had the tirimisu. Mom chose the gelati. None of us really had room for our desert...we all pretty much just nibbled on it, but it was a wonderful taste to end the meal on.
At the conclusion of our meal, I asked Kerry if a manager was in the restaurant. She flashed me a look like she was really concerned and asked if she was in trouble about something...I shook my head no, and she left to get him. He came by several minutes later and I just told him that we'd been to Mama Melrose's several times in the past, but had never had as good of service as Kerry had just given us. He thanked us for the compliment (I hope Kerry gets a pat on the back for it) and engaged us in pleasant small talk for a few minutes before we left the restaurant. Kerry really did an exemplary job, better, I think, than any server we've had this trip (and several have been exceptional).
After lunch, we walked back out to the front of the park, then out to the van. It started raining harder that it had been before. We got soaked during the last stretch of parking lot as we searched for the van (it had been a long time since we'd driven to a park...we were out of practice about making sure we knew where the van was).
Then we drove back to Old Key West...we strolled through the general store, then returned to the room for our daily break.
The whole gang got together at about 5pm for dinner and a resort tour.
We started by driving over to Coronado Springs, Disney's newest resort. The themeing is beautiful! The entire resort has that Latin/Spanish feel, very similar to the marketplace in the Mexican pavilion at Epcot, but perhaps a bit more Tex-Mex and less "authentic Mexican" -- as if I know what authentic Mexican is like. We had dinner at the Pepper Market food court. The reports I'd heard of this place were directly on target. This food court operates with a newfangled card system. You select what you want from the various stations around the area and get your card stamped to identify what you've taken. When you're done with your meal, you give your card(s) to the cashier and pay as you exit. This was a much more organized way of dealing with differing tastes than the traditional food courts where you get your food, pay for it, then eat.
The only hiccup was that a beverage steward brought me some milk and lemonade (at my request) as I waited with Allan at the table. A few minutes later, Barb showed up with another milk for the Little One. Fortunately, the steward took back one of the milks and deducted it from our card.
For a cold beverage and milk, tacos, a cookie, a chicken caesar salad, baked potato, and hot dog plate, I was set back $24.84. Not a bad deal.
We then took a very brief (it was still raining fairly hard) stroll around the area, looked at the menu for Maya Grill (alot of expensive seafood was my initial reaction) and went back to the vans. We'd wanted to go see the archeological dig-themed pool, but didn't know how to get there by car. There are security checkpoints, which seemed to require a resort ID to get through. I never thought of trying my OKWR ID, so I don't know if that would have worked. Also, with the rain, we really didn't want to walk around the lake to see it.
Instead, we drove to the Contemporary to start our "Monorail Resort Tour." We walked around the Contemporary for a while, checking out the shops and such...then took the escalator up to the monorail platform. We rode around to the Polynesian and checked out the shops there, too. We also walked outside for a bit, just to see the nighttime themeing of this resort -- I still think it's one of Disney's best.
Next, we caught the monorail again to go over to the Grand Floridian. I asked if there was any room up front, and since there was, Kathy and the girls rode up in the nose of the train. Barb and I had done that a few years earlier and it was kinda fun to see how the monorail operates. Kathy, and the girls to a lesser extent, seemed to enjoy the perk.
We walked around the Grand for awhile, checking out the shops and just enjoying the atmosphere...I went over to the main desk and asked to see a room. Surprisingly, they were willing to show us one, so we walked with the hostess over to the Sugarloaf building next to the main building, and saw a typical room. It was nice, white bedspreads and nicely appointed, but frankly for the money that it costs for such rooms, I wasn't too impressed. A studio at OKWR is much larger and has a refrigerator and wet bar with a microwave to boot. No such amenities here. I guess that if you stay at such a premium resort, it's expected that you'll use room service instead. Tony pointed out that you're really paying for the whole package of the atmosphere and service and so on, and I agree...but I guess I expected more from the rooms, too.
After seeing the room at the Grand, we caught the monorail back to the Contemporary for our last railed leg of the evening. The view of the Magic Kingdom at night, and the twinkling lights of the resorts glistening over the waters of the lagoon was lovely.
Once back at the Contemporary, we headed for our vans and drove over to the Beach Club. Kathy had expressed an interest in having some ice cream, and I couldn't think of anywhere better to go than Beaches and Cream! Between the eight of us, we split four large sundaes and one smaller one. Barb and I didn't even come close to finishing ours, but the brownies and ice cream were wonderful. Allan particularly enjoyed the whipped cream.
After our snack, we again walked back to the vans, drove to Old Key West, and settled in for the night. I love this place!!
Sunday, October 19th (Church, Outlet Shopping, a Brief Visit to Downtown Disney):
This morning Barb, Melissa, Kathy and Vicki got up a bit early (relatively) and did some walking around the resort. Since I was designated the baby watcher of the morning, and Allan was still asleep, I performed my duties while blissfully laying in bed.
We all got moving between 8am or 9am or so and had a wonderful breakfast -- produced by le chef Antonio -- of pancakes, eggs, and bacon.
After our glorious repast, we drove into Kissimmee for church at Bible Baptist Church. We ended up getting there just about 11am, the time that the service starts at our church at home, but found that they start at 10:30am at this church. It was a nice service, even though it was a bit abbreviated by our tardiness. Allan seemed to do well in the nursury, too.
After church none of us were particularly hungry, so we decided to go up to the Belz outlets to shop at the Character Warehouse. Vicki, Kathy, and the girls all purchased some stuff. More importantly, though, I saw a sign for the newly opened "Character Premiere" shop in the same outlet complex. The older "Character Warehouse" is located at the far end of Belz in Mall 2. The new "Character Premiere" shop is larger, more spread out, and -- I think -- had a better selection of merchandise. It's located in Mall 1 of the Belz outlets. Barb and I ended up finding a couple of knock-around t-shirts for me ($4.99 each), an outfit for Allan, and a sweatshirt for Barb.
We were all starting to get a bit hungry, so we headed down to Sizzler on International Drive (the one by the Quality Inn Plaza) for dinner. I was the only one that had a dinner -- everyone else just had the buffet bar. It was very filling...and pretty good food for the price. I didn't pay a penny -- since I had picked up the tab for our ice cream the night before, Tony and Kathy paid for this meal.
We had a short break at the resort. Allan and I had a nap, some of the others swam and hot-tubbed...Then we got dressed for church and went back to Bible Baptist for the evening service. It always saddens me to see how few people attend an evening service when the crowd is so large for the morning. Fifty years ago everyone in this country went to church. Now you're considered weird if you do. It's a shame.
After church we drove over to Downtown Disney and strolled around the World of Disney, Team Disney, and Gormet Pantry shops. We'll probably go back before the trip is done for a bit more exploring.
We returned to our room and had a light dinner/snack, including my Mama Melrose's tiramisu....mmmmm, before calling it a night.
Monday, October 20th (Epcot, dinner at Nine Dragons):
This morning we got to the bus stop shortly after 8am. We went to Epcot this morning, to see some of Future World. The first thing I noticed was the change in our bus stop at the park. A new bus stop area has been built that includes OKWR, the All-Stars, and the Disney Institute. The former OKWR bus stop is now assigned to Wilderness Lodge. Bottom line...we have a bit more of a walk, but it's really not a major problem.
We started the morning at Journey into Imagination. We figured that Honey I Shrunk the Audience would be a good attraction to hit early, so while everyone else got small, Allan and I toured the fountains outside the pavilion. He was fascinated with the leaping fountains, the popcorn popping fountain, and the backwards waterfalls. We strolled into the Kodak shop and he seemed to love a small, stuffed Figment, so soft-hearted dad that I am -- I bought it for him. He hugged, and giggled, and played with Figment for several minutes...until he got tired of it...then Figment was tossed to the ground like all the other toys. At least I got a cute picture before the purple plush was discarded.
Those few minutes that I spent with my son, just looking at the fountains, playing, and talking together (as much as one can converse with a one-year-old) will remain a precious memory for a long time. I really, really love this Little Guy.
Allan (October 1996) As usual, I planned our 1996 with a level of detail that compares to the D-day invasion. Mom and Dad were going to join us this year...first on a side trip to Charleston, SC...then for two weeks at Old Key West Resort. My anticipation the trip increased on an almost daily basis until July 31st when everything went, to borrow a phrase, "topsie-turvy."
Barb and I had been hoping to adopt a baby since March of 1995. We'd investigated adoption alternatives, considered foreign versus domestic adoption, evaluated several agencies, selected one, applied and waited....and waited....and waited. The agency we had selected allow the birthmothers to choose which couple would adopt their child from among the profiles that match the birthmother's interests (kind of like a dating service, but the birthmothers choose the matches). Since there were plenty of profiles "in the system" when we first applied, we didn't go any further in the process for about nine months (ironic, huh?). In January, 1996 we finally began a four week orientation. Then we jumped through the many home-study hoops to see if we were legally qualified to be parents (no felonies, etc.) Finally, our profile information was activated and "in the system" beginning in mid-May, 1996. We were told to not expect to be selected for at least a year or two...but on Wednesday, July 31st Barb received a phone call and heard the news that a birthmother had selected us.
I had a business trip to California planned that would have us returning to Michigan a couple of days before the due date. As a precautionary measure, Barb and I bought a cellular phone and took it on the trip so the agency could call us if the baby arrived early. We toted the cel phone across Southern California and all around Disneyland -- fearing that THE call would occur when we were on some attraction when the phone wouldn't be able to catch the call.
As it turned out, Allan William Bennett II (named after my Dad) arrived late, just over a week after we returned from California. He was born on October 2, 1996, missing Walt Disney World's 25th Anniversary by a mere 2 hours and 41 minutes. Allan traveled to Walt Disney World for his inaugural trip just three weeks to the day from his birthdate. What a wonderful memory...and what a wonderful gift Allan has been!
By the way, we applied for adoption again this past summer. Hopefully things will go as well and as quickly this time around as they did the first time.
Next, we all rode Journey into Imagination. The older I get, the more I appreciate the artistry that is demonstrated in this attraction. It's not a thrill ride, and it is a bit odd, but the imagery is really quite beautiful. Vicki commented that at the beginning of the ride she couldn't remember if she loved this one, or hated it. She hated it.
The Land was next. Barb, the gardener among us, always enjoys the main attraction ride of this pavillion. We walked right on, with a wait that was only long enough to get all of us loaded. We followed the Land with the Living Seas. We didn't spend alot of time in either pavilion other than the main attraction in each.
We decided to head over to the other side of Future World next. I was planning to start with Horizons, then the Wonders of Life, and finally Universe of Energy, but Kathy and the girls wanted to stop in the Centorium to shop for a bit. Then, after buying a few items, we made our way toward Horizons, but Tony really wanted to see Universe of Energy...so we went there. Oddly enough, Ellen won the Jeopardy game with Dumb Judy and Al Einstein again. I still love those dinosaurs, too.
By this time, Allan was definately tired out. He wasn't really crabby or bad or irritable this morning, but during the Universe of Energy attraction, he cuddled in with Barb and I back and forth for awhile. That's a pretty good sign that he's beat. So while Wiedbrauks and Vicki continued visiting Epcot we returned to OKWR to put Allan down for a nap and lunch.
After our afternoon break, we headed back to Epcot. We had dinner reservations at one of the few restaurants in the park that we've never sampled -- Nine Dragons. I've heard both good and bad things about this restaurant, so I'm looking forward to checking it out for myself.
We left for the park pretty close to 5pm. Epcot was alot more crowded than I had expected -- in fact, that's been true for most of this trip so far.
We got to the China pavilion just a little before 6pm, and decided to catch "Wonders of China" before dinner. The film was beautiful. I'd really like to visit this nation some time in the future. I'd like to visit Europe again, first, but the East is on my wish list too.
After the Circlevision, we walked back to Nine Dragons and were seated almost immediately. While we all looked at the menu, no one seemed comfortable with ordering. You know how you go into a Chinese restaurant and order several dishes and everyone shares? Well, it seemed like most of us wanted to do that, but I wasn't sure. Then Barb just asked me if I wanted to share entrees. I thought she was trying to get me to take charge and decide what we would order as a group, but it turned out that she only wanted to know if she and I should share entrees.
We got into a major disagreement about it because at her prompting I just took charge and ordered for the whole group. My type A personality just took over even though I was really uncomfortable with what I was doing. After I ordered, Barb finally made me understand that she was just trying to find out if I wanted to share with HER. I was completely embarassed about jumping in and ordering for everyone, but Tony said that it was fine (and I had gotten everyone involved in the discussion about what entrees to order).
What I ordered was three egg roll orders (two rolls each), four virgin strawberry daiquiris, a milk for Allan, and our main entrees...Treasure Duck, Sweet & Sour Pork, MooGoo GaiPan, Jadetree Beef, and a fried rice dish with ham and chicken. The duck was especially good as was the pork. The MooGoo GaiPan and the Beef were a little disappointing to me (I should have ordered the Orange Beef like I'd planned to). The fried rice dish was rather plain, but popular at our table...it was the first dish to be completely consumed by our collective appetites. There was a little left over, but most everything was finished up. It turned out that the amount of food, and the variety of the selections, was perfect.
Because of the size of our group (eight or more..we just made it), they automatically added a 15% gratuity. Not unreasonable with the good, if not excellent, service that we received. The total bill came to $136.96 - steep, but not bad for eight (Tony and I later split the cost). I'd go back to Nine Dragons, but I agree with those folks that think this restaurant is overpriced.
Tonight was the night that several AOL folks were going to get together at the Gurgling Suitcase at OKWR. It was scheduled for 8pm, and I was planning to go, but we didn't get out of Nine Dragons until almost that time and I wasn't sure how long folks were going to hang around. Rather than high-tail it back to the resort, I decided to stick with our group and stroll the World Showcase Prominade for awhile. (I hope the AOL chat folks will forgive me.)
We went through some of the shops in Germany (couldn't find the mocha chocolate bar that I'd enjoyed last year) and Italy (found a pretty good alternative bar with cappuccino flavoring).
Mocha Chocolate (November 1995) I was nosing around in the German pavilion trying to decide if I wanted to buy some imported chocolate. I decided against it...mostly because I couldn't decide which ones to buy. When we returned to our room, though, I found out that Barb had snuck behind my back and bought me several bars of chocolate when I was hemming and hawing about the purchase. The mocha turned out to be my favorite bar. The one with hazelnuts was good too, as was the trifle-like one. I really didn't like the marzapan-filled or the nougat-filled ones at all, though. In 1996, I made a special trip back to buy some more Mocha chocolate...and picked up enough bars to last me (just a piece per day or so) until almost Christmas.
As we continued on, we noticed a percussion group was about to perform in the theatre just across from the American pavilion. We walked in and listened for awhile, then we left to walk right into the American Adventure. There was some special event going on in the rotunda, so we had to enter the exit of the theatre to see the show.
The American Adventure is a wonderful production. I always enjoy it. Watching makes me feel very proud of this nation and the accomplishments we've made, while pointing out vividly the improvements we have yet to make. Allan lasted for about the first 3 minutes of the show, then he was done! Barb, the least avid historian on the trip, took him out. He walked up and down the exit ramp, enjoying his freedom and making friends with Greg, the CM who was posted at the exit. Barb also took this opportunity to go visit the rose garden that is on one end of the pavillion, only to be disappointed that it had been replaced with just another annual bed.
After Sam Clemens and Ben Franklin finished their discourse, we left the pavilion and strolled back toward Italy for our second viewing of IllumiNations this trip. Tony really wanted to see it since our view had been so blocked before, so we waited. Frankly, without a linebacker in front of us...this was a much more enjoyable show. Perhaps even more so since we didn't wait an hour for the privilege.
It took quite awhile to get back to the resort. The bus wasn't too crowded, but the crowds exiting the park were huge. After we got back, several of us had a snack or beverage...then we knocked off for the night.
Tuesday, October 21st (Studios, lunch at Prime Time Cafe, Magic Kingdom, Southern Resorts Tour):
This morning I decided to have a light breakfast...mostly because I didn't want to eat much. What I told everyone, though, was that I didn't want to eat alot before going on the Tower of Terror! We left the room at our regular time of about 8am, and waited for six buses before one came by for the Studios. It really seems like bus service has degraded this year, especially for the studios and Epcot.
When we arrived at the park, we walked to the Tower waited only a short time before entering the library. The line into the service elevators was a bit longer. We ended up waiting ten minutes or so in the boiler room before making it onto an elevator. This was one place where the "go left" rule of thumb worked to perfection. Had we gone right instead of left, we would have spent at least twice as much time, perhaps more.
I got the seat that has no bar, just a seat belt. What a trip! Melissa thought she might like to sit there once. The ride was a riot, and Megan and Kathy -- both of whom had been quite unsure of this attraction -- pushed to go again. They loved it!
We exited the ride (you HAVE to walk through the store now when you leave the building) and looked to find Vicki and Allan. They were nowhere to be seen, so everyone (starting with Barb) voted to go again before we found them again.
This trip, we had a much longer wait into the library. We were held up right in front of the library door, though, so as soon as the door swung open, I walked in to the back corner where the exit door is located. After Rod Serling finished his intro, we walked out only to find the other library was opening at the same time...I was saddened that all those people would be in front of us in line. However, they were all ignorant of the "go left" rule, so they ALL -- every single one of them -- went to the right. Barb and I led our little group to the left....and we were rewarded with having to wait for one more elevator only, before we would queue up.
We were loaded into the elevator, and before our journey began, the lap bar restraints opened up. The Tower was experiencing some technical difficulties, so we were asked to get off the elevator.
During our delay, I asked the CM if we could have "skip the line passes" to compensate for having to wait. I was told that we could, but only if we left the line. The passes could then be used a single time to skip the line at the Tower of Terror any time later in the same day. We didn't think that leaving the line now was worth it, since the CMs all were expecting the ride to be online again quickly. So we waited...
After maybe fifteen minutes, we were reloaded into the elevator. This time, Barb and I talked the guy in "the seat" to let Melissa have it. I'd asked earlier, but I think he thought I wanted "the seat" for myself. When he realized that it was for Mel, he didn't seem to mind...and let her have it. She's cuter than I am, I guess.
As we zipped up, enjoyed the special effects, then plunged down and up and down and up and down, I remembered my first trip in "the seat."
Tower of Terror (October 1996) We started our day by turning onto Sunset Blvd from Hollywood and walked right to the end of the street. There was absolutely no line for the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 2 (they've added the 2 because the latest ride profile has two 13 story drops in it). Dad and I had already decided to go on this one, Mom didn't decide to try it until she reached the building...then, surprisingly, she decided to do it (mostly due to peer pressure...a friend of hers from home told her not to miss it). Barb waited things out with Allan. We were ushered into the library without a wait at all. I don't mean it was a short wait...I mean -- we walked right from the outdoors into the lobby into the library...just like that. The preview was the same as always, then we walked through the back door into the maintenance area of the hotel. The atmosphere of this place is just amazing. Mom was getting a bit apprehensive, but when I pointed out the exit she decided to stick it out.
When we reached the service elevator, I tried to get Dad to take the first row. Instead, he walked to the back row leaving me with the...yep, you got it...the middle seat. The one with no safety bar. The one with only a seatbelt. The one with nothing to hold onto for dear life. The one and only unsafe seat in the place...and it was all mine. Thanks a million, Dad.
The ride began as usual. Up to the first stop to see the hallway and the apparitions disappear into a starfield. Up again to the second stop...only to begin moving horizontally into the Twilight Zonish atmosphere of odd stuff...kind of like what Journey into Imagination would be like if you knew you were about to be dropped 130 feet twice in rapid succession.
We reached the shaft and had our first little drop. Mom yelped. I couldn't wait for the big one. Then, we skyrocketed to the top. The doors opened so we had enough light to see our lives flash before our eyes. Then DOWN DOWn DOwn Down down... Then up and uP and UP. Then, to prove Issac Newton correct again, at least in the limited conditions on Earth, we plummeted again DOWN DOWn DOwn Down down.
Dad later said that the small Kodak camera he had attached around his wrist floated up during the descents. I wouldn't know. I was sitting there wishing I had a safety bar. Thanks a million Dad. Again.
When we reached the bottom, and the last few film clips were being run before the elevator door opens, I casually told Mom that the next one was the worst. She started to really get worked up until she realized I was pulling her leg. I'm glad she didn't hit me over the head with her fanny pack. I would have been knocked unconscious. (Mom packs her fanny pack like she's a member of the studio audience for "Let's Make a Deal." It does come in handy sometimes.)
Dad decided to buy the picture just to prove that he did this tower thing. I suggested that he buy the "I survived the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror" t-shirt, but he was happier with the photo. It's too bad they don't snap the picture when you're at the top of the tower. The photos are always much less exciting than the Splash Mountain ones since the fear isn't really there yet...alas, but no.
Next, we walked over and caught the Great Movie Ride. It was about a twenty-five minute wait, alot longer than we usually wait for this ride, but we all wanted to see it. Allan was great during this one. He was startled by the gunfire during the gangster shootout, but didn't do much other than hug me really tight...and I didn't mind, believe me.
Star Tours was next. Barb sat that one out with Allan, since it's not her favorite attraction (too much wild motion for her liking).
After blowing up the Death Star again we walked over to the Prime Time Cafe for lunch. I'd made priority seating arrangements as we walked between the Tower of Terror and the Great Movie Ride. Gasson, our waiter, was a little overbearing. Worse, Mom seemed to have it out for elbows on the table infractions. Tony got nailed several times...so bad, in fact, that Gasson ended up giving him an "elbows on the table pass" because he was so incorrigible. I got nailed by mom for elbows, too. For me, she put a couple dabs of ketchup on the table where my elbows would go to remind me to not do it. Gasson cleaned it up after awhile apologizing for Mom's overbearing nature.
Anyway, for our meal, I ordered the potroast dinner ($13.95) while Barb had a bowl of chicken soup ($2.75) and shared Allan's children's potroast ($4.75). I also had the PBJ Malt while Barb had the Cookie's and Cream shake ($3.70), Vicki had a Burger ($10.75). Tony had the Mahi Mahi special, Kathy had the Chicken Marsala. The girls both shared from Tony and Kathy's meals.
At the end of the meal, Megan became frightened that the left over food on her plate would get her in trouble. It didn't help that I cleaned my plate. I mean I really, really cleaned it. I used three or four napkins to wipe it completely clean. It was virtually spotless. In fact, Gasson held up my plate and pronounced me a member of the "clean plate club." I was quite proud of myself. Anyway, back to Meg. She was so concerned that she got a napkin of her own and neatly packaged her extra food in it. A few minutes later, I tipped Gasson off about Meg's treachery. He made her get up, apologize to her parents for wasting food, and generally embarassed her completely. I figured I was on her hate list, but she seems to have forgiven me.
Immediately after lunch the rest of our party did the Muppets 4D and the Backlot tour. Melissa and Megan were chosen to play the roles of the tugboat and submarine skippers....but Megan wimped out, so Kathy took her place. Sounds like they had a great time, even though they really did get wet.
While that was all going on, Barb and I returned to OKWR after lunch for our daily afternoon break. Allan was out almost as soon as his head hit the pillow. I read for awhile (I'm in the middle of a great Clancy techno-thriller right now) and Barb drove over to the front desk to buy tickets to Mickey's Very Scary Holloween Party for her cousin and aunt (Aunt Mary hadn't been able to get tickets from home in Illinois).
As I go over the report for fine editing, I can't remember for sure if Melissa and Tony went to the Wilderness Lodge on Tuesday or Wednesday, but when they came back they reported that they'd rented a couple of water sprites. Melissa's was pretty quick, Tony's wasn't. The explanation the marina gave was that they'd been having alot of trouble with seaweed (what is it called when it's growing in a lake?) getting caught around the props and making the boats very slow.
Water Sprites (November 1995) After we left the Magic Kingdom, we monorailed back to the Contemporary and rented (with our Food and Fun cards) some water sprites. The regular cost is $30 per hour per boat. We didn't pay a penny (truly not, if you realize that our Food and Fun was more than covering our food expenses). Barb and I tooled around the lake, we saw Wilderness Lodge from the water, then River Country (deserted, we wondered if it was closed due to the cold weather). Then we floated over the water bridge to Seven Seas Lagoon and almost got run over by the Magic Kingdom I (the boat the goes between the Magic Kingdom and the TTC). We continued on to the Polynesian and looked at the building where we stayed, briefly, last Fall. On the way back to the Contemporary marina, I stole a few last glances at the Magic Kingdom. It sure looks small from where I was. As Barb and I floated through the water bridge on the way back, with the Contemporary to our left, we were almost run over by one of the boats that goes to Fort Wilderness from the Magic Kingdom. I didn't even hear the thing, but Barb said he honked at us several times. I just cruised on my way, oblivious to the world while (as Barb tells the story) a ocean-going sized ship bore down on my backside. At the last minute, I realized what was going on a pulled over to the right and almost wallowed in the wake of the big ol' mean boat. Then, carefully looking both ways and front and back as we went, yachted our sprites back to the dock.
After our break, we drove the vans over to the Contemporary and walked in to the Magic Kingdom. Our major goal for the evening was to see SpectroMagic, but we wanted to catch Space Mountain and Splash Mountain if we could.
We made a beeline from the entrance to the timing board, and found Space Mountain was shut down. So much for that one. The wait for Splash was listed as 40 minutes. We went there, and left Vicki with Allan right in front of Pecos Bill's saving a spot for us to watch Spectro. Vicki doesn't care for rides that use gravity to make their point.
Pecos Bill's (September 1989) One day on our honeymoon we had lunch at Pecos Bill's. The crowds were very heavy, not an empty table was in sight. After waiting for quite awhile, a table opened up and we sat down to eat. As we finished, a family with several very little children was walking around looking for a place to sit, we offered them our table, even though we needed another couple of minutes to finish up our meal. The relief on the faces of those two parents was worth a million!
Splash was a blast. I really enjoy this one....I can't wait to see the Song of the South sometime...then maybe I'll understand the story line better. Either way, I love the drop. Well, you know I hate it, but somehow I love it too. By the way, the wait was alot less than the 40 minutes that were advertised. I think it was more like 25.
Splash Mountain (November 1995) As we boarded Splash Mountain, Stacey was concerned about "the big one."
Each time we came to a small drop in the ride, she asked, "is that it?"
"No Stacey. Trust us, you'll know when 'it's' coming."
Funny, she didn't ask when we really did get to the big drop.
When we got to the top, I waved at the camera. So did everyone else, but I guess I was the only one that waved long enough. We have a real cool picture of me waving, and Mike, Stacey, and Barb cowering. Don't believe it. I cowered too after the picture was snapped.
I waved in the right direction this year, then cowered as always.
After our wash and spin cycle, we went back to where Vicki and Allan were waiting for us, and a group of us left to catch Pirates of the Caribbean while the others waited. The wait was short, ten minutes perhaps, and the ride was fun.
Upon our return, the others went to go see Pirates, and I got to go again. Pirates is one of my favorite attractions in any Disney park I've been in. I just wish the story and wonderful detail and length of Disneyland's original had been included in Florida, instead of the Reader's Digest version.
Pirates of the Caribbean (November 1995) We strolled through the store for awhile, then headed out for the hub. We were at the entrance to Adventureland when the announcement was made and the rush-to-the-mountains began. Instead of joining the crowd, though, we strolled through Adventureland (the Jungle Cruise and Tropical Serenade weren't yet open). After several minutes of walking, Mike asked if we were going anywhere. Of course! We were making a beeline for Pirates of the Caribbean. I can't say we walked on, there was a short (10 minutes or so) wait, but the buccaneers were as fun as ever. I noticed the politically correct changes that had been made to the ride. No longer were "wenches" for sale. But now you could buy "from the fairest maids in town." I wish someone could explain to me why that is better. We're not supposed to like the pirates, are we? Why not let them say and do things we don't like. The other big change was the women all chasing pirates in the circular chase scenes. Used to be that a couple pirates were chasing some of the prettier girls of the town, while in the last instance, a less-than-lovely lass was chasing the pirate. I thought it was a good joke. Oh well, PC is everywhere.
SpectroMagic was wonderful. I miss the catchy music of the old Electrical Parade, but Spectro is fun, too. Allan was absolutely fascinated with the colors and music and characters. Cinderella waved and smiled right at him...it was really cute.
Main Street Electrical Parade (April 1991) The last time I saw The Main Street Electrical Parade with its' enchanting "Baroque Hoedown" theme music was in 1991. The MSEP, may it rest in peace, was SpectroMagic's predecessor nighttime parade down Main Street in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom. We had heard that Spectro was on the way to replacing the venerable Electrical Parade, so we intentionally planned to catch the parade during our 1991 trip.
The old parade was a favorite of mine. I'd seen the original version at Disneyland in California as a kid, and I'd seen the WDW version (very close to Disneyland's) several times in the late 1980's. The twinkling lights, happy, foot-tapping music, toy solders (I loved watching the solders as they moved in a choreographed stepping pattern), the final float entitied "...To Honor America", and the wonderful Disney characters were just a joy to behold. SpectroMagic is a great parade, but I do miss the old one Main Street Electrical Parade...
One of our favorite tricks when watching any nightime parade at the Disney parks, is to stake out our parade viewing area early (we don't mind taking some extra time to do so, since we usually visit for several days.) As the parade starts, we'll allow some of the nearby children that have been particularly well behaved to stand or sit right in front of us. It doesn't hurt us at all, and maybe....just maybe, it can reinforce good behavior for those kids...and the ones we didn't allow in front.
After SpectoMagic, we made our way back to the vans. We made a brief detour for the Jungle Cruise, one of Barb's favorite attractions -- especially at night, before rejoining the huge crowds for the park exodus. Then we drove to Dixie Landings and Port Orleans for a brief "Southern resorts tour."
Dixie Landings (May 1993) Dixie Landings Resort always reminds me of our Spring 1993 which was a very special one because it was the first time we were able to convince my Dad to go to Florida. As I was growing up, we'd visited Disneyland many times as a family. Since my Aunt and Uncle lives in Southern California, it made sense for us to visit Disneyland when we visited them.
When the Magic Kingdom opened at Walt Disney World opened in 1971, Kevin, the boy that lived next door to me, went to WDW with his family. When he got back, he teased me incessantly that he'd been to WDW which was MUCH bigger and better than Disneyland...and that I hadn't.
Over the years, I wanted very much to visit WDW, but my Dad's standard answer was, "No. Everyone goes to Florida for vacation, so we'll go somewhere else." Mom supported Dad with a typical, "besides, it's so humid in Florida...I don't think I'll ever want to go there." Maybe they didn't...but I did.
Anyway, after Barb and I visited WDW four times, and I'd raved and talked and discoursed and bugged the family about WDW so much, Dad finally agreed to go down with us.
The last straw was when I told Mom and Dad that we would need grandparents to help us out (we were hoping to be parents before that trip). Well, Allan didn't arrive until 1996, but we had a tremendous vacation just the same.
After our short tour, we went back to OKWR for a snack and bed.
Wednesday, October 22nd (Epcot, lunch at the Rainforest Cafe, Downtown Disney, Dinner at Seasons Dining Room, Boardwalk):
This morning, the main thing on our agenda was to finish up Future World at Epcot and then have lunch at the Rainforest Cafe at the Disney Village Marketplace.
We were running a little late, by the time we were ready for the bus stop, but we still arrived at the park by 8:30am or so.
The line for Spaceship Earth very short, so we jumped in. Allan enjoyed the ride as much as we did, but got a little antsy during the decent back toward the AT&T Global Neighborhood.
Next, we went over to visit Honey I Shrunk the Audience again. This time, Barb stayed with Allan as we were miniaturized, run over by rodents, struck by a python (a friendly one, but a snake nonetheless), and sneezed on by a canine mutt.
Then we walked over to the other side of Future World to see Horizons (my nose still can't catch the orange smell everyone raves about...too bad for me) and Cranium Command (that Barb had talked Kathy, Vicki, and the girls into visiting). During the latter, I kept Allan busy in the exit area....letting him get some walking practice in.
After that, we rode the monorail over to the Transportation and Ticket Center, then caught the bus to the Marketplace. The bus for the Marketplace, by the way, is left as you exit the monorail...then to the right as you come to the TTC bus stops.
When we got off the bus at the Marketplace, we walked straight to the Rainforest Cafe. Within ten minutes of our arrival, we were seated in the Gorilla room for lunch. The atmosphere of this restaurant is really cool. I love the falling water, the aquariums, and the hanging foliage.
Allan, however, didn't care for the Gorilla in our midst.
The Little Guy was seated directly across from an animatronic Gorilla that moved it's head periodically, and waved its' arms on occasion. The first turn of its' head put its' face right into a stare at the Little One (or so Allan assumed) and scared him seriously. In fact, I've never seen his really terrified before -- but this was the real McCoy. He ended up spending most of the meal clinging to either Barb or I (Mostly Barb) and looking warily at the mean-ol' monkey across the table. We tried to show him that the simian was harmless, and even offered to let him pet the primate's fur, but Allan was having none of that action.
Regardless, the meal was wonderful. I had the Chinese Chicken Salad ($10.99), Barb had the Papagallo Pizza ($10.99) and Vicki had a burger ($8.99). I also had an iced tea and Allan had a milk, in addition to sharing Mom's Pizza. To top off the meal, I ordered a chocolate diablo dessert -- wonderful chocolate pudding and cake with a raspberry sauce and whipped cream ($5.50). The entire meal came to $48.86, including an automatic 17% gratuity -- I assume because of the size of the group.
After lunch, we returned to OKWR on the Trumbo Ferry (a boat that runs between OKWR and the Marketplace dock) for our daily break. It was a really nice, relaxed interlude.
This evening, we packed alot of sightseeing in. Barb and I went our separate way from the rest of the group for the early evening.
We started by driving over to the Marketplace. We checked out the Wolfgang Puck's Express menu (looked like reasonable food and inexpensive).
Then we walked over to the new Lego Imagination Center. We were particularly impressed with the huge Lego creations outside the shop...including some birds (ducks and a storck or pelican) that looked real at first glance) and a huge sea monster. Barb wants enough legos to make some of that stuff...yeah right.
We continued walking West, passed by the Planet Hollywood, and walked all the way to the end of Disney's West End.
The new stadium for the Circ Du Soliel is well under construction.
Fulton's Crab Hosue, the House of Blues, Bongos, and Wolfgang Puck's all looked interesting - but they're not really high on my priority list for meals. The Portobello Yacht Club, we checked its' menu too, looked more promising for our taste. We'd like to try dinner there some time.
We walked all the way back to the World of Disney store and bought the backpack that Barb had finally selected and a couple of books (Imagineering and the new book about Walt Disney's Railroad hobby -- that inspired Walt's first ideas about a "little family park.") With my MKC card, I got the 10% discount at the store.
After that, Barb and Allan and I jumped back in the van and took a little driving tour of the Disney Institute. The grounds look nice, but the place looked deserted - not surprising in the Fall, I suppose.
We also decided to go to Seasons Dining Room for dinner, since as DVC members we have a 20% discount (through the 25th Anniversary celebration). Seasons has a nice, pleasant, airy dining room. The place was fairly deserted, in part because we were a bit late (it was after 7pm by this time). I think the poor attendance at the Institute might have something to do with it, too, though.
The menu has several dishes that looked good. We both ended up settling for the orangewood-smoked tenderloin with garlic mashed potatos and corn ($22.25 each). I gave Allan some mashed potatos, but he didn't seem to like them. I also gave him some of the corn and the poor Little Guy just totally lost it. Turns out that the corn (which I hadn't tasted yet, I've learned my lesson here) was quite spicy. Allan decided to go with Mom-supplied fruit loops for the remainder of the meal. To top things off, Barb ordered the seasonal berries desert ($5.75), but I passed on desert.
Even with the food problems, Allan was really adorable during dinner. Meghan, our waitress, was really good with him. -- she brought him a helium-filled balloon to play with and talked with him every time she was by, that sort of thing. We left a nice note with the restaurant manager when we left. I also gave Meghan a tip based on the original value of the meal, rather than the final bill with the discount.
When we arrived back at OKWR, we met up with the rest of the crew, and drove over to Boardwalk for an evening stroll. We checked out the pool, walked to the Atlantic Dance end of the walk...then back to the other end. One thing I really enjoyed was the entertainment that was out this evening. A magician / escape artist act was particularly fun. We also enjoyed watching a girl whose job it was to mold customer's hands in wax. Weird, but interesting.
After that, we returned to OKWR for good. Allan was out before we got back, so he went straight to bed. One more day in the parks before moving out of the resort for the weekend.
Thursday, October 23rd (a day at OKWR, dinner at Rose & Crown):
I woke up this morning when the alarm clock went off. Barb turned if off, as usual (funny, at home I always do that...on vacation, it's always Barb). As she did so, she asked if it would be ok if she didn't go to the park this morning. It turned out that she had been sick most of the night.
After a quick consult with our resident nurse (Kathy), I drove over to the OKWR store to pick up some tablet nausia medication (Barb hates the liquid stuff) and some Sprite to wash it down with. I got to the store, and found that they had no tablet stuff in stock...so I hopped back in the van and drove over to Goodings. There I bought some tablet Pepto-Bismol, some Sprite, some Vernors Ginger Ale (I just remembered that my old pediatrician always suggested Vernors for upset stomach), and some Pringles for Barb to snack on when she felt up to it. It wasn't until I was driving back to OKWR that I remembered what had happened a few years before...
On Feeling Bad at Walt Disney World (November 1990) On Saturday night of our trip, Barb had a terrible splitting headache almost all night long. She didn't tell me about it until 4am or so, when she finally woke me up. We'd been married just over a year, but I knew already that if she woke me up because she was feeling bad -- she was REALLY feeling bad. We were staying at the Hilton that trip, so I got dressed and walked down to the front desk expecting that they would have at least aspirin or Tylenol or something. They didn't, but suggested that I drove to Goodings at the Crossroads and gave me directions to the 24 hour store.
I went to Goodings, bought some headache pain reliever, pop (soda for you Easterners), and a can of Pringles, Barb's favorite chips. I figured that with a little snack, a neck rub, and the medicine that she'd be ok. When I returned from the store I helped her with the pop and headache stuff and made her eat some Pringles so she would have something in her stomach to help the medicine work. After she layed down again, I gave her the neck rub, too. It was a bad beginning for our day....but at least Barb felt better after getting some sleep.
When I got back, I found that Wiedbrauks and Vicki had just left, so I got Barb some Sprite (Kathy had given her some other medication while I was away) and helped her get settled in bed. Then I faced the arduous task of trying to keep the Little One occupied. As I write this, he's in the Happy Camper (pack and play thingy) a bit tired himself (Barb said he woke up several times as she did through the night -- I'm still amazed that I didn't). In between his standing up and smiling at us, and laying down whimpering because he's tired, he's just playing with several of his toys.
Anyway, Wiedbrauks and Vicki have gone to the Studios to finish things up there. If Barb's feeling better this afternoon and evening, we'll all probably go over to Epcot for dinner at the Rose & Crown and to see what's left of the World Showcase.
I'm just gonna spend some time with Allan, perhaps touch up this report a bit, maybe read and relax. I'm just hoping that Barb will feel better soon. I don't think there's anything worse than feeling bad on vacation.
By 3:30pm or so, Barb decided she felt well enough to venture out for a light dinner and perhaps some hanging around in Epcot. I'd already made reservations for Rose & Crown, so we went there (besides that, it was Megan's choice.) We drove the vans over to the Yacht Club Resort and walked through the lobby and passed by Storm-Along-Bay. It really does look like a nice pool...we'll have to visit it sometime when Allan gets a bit older. (One of the perks of being a Disney Vacation Club member is that we can use any pool at any of the Disney resorts even if we're not staying at that resort. That's a privilege that is normally reserved for guests that are staying at each individual resort only, although I know there are some cheaters out there...)
We walked through the International Gateway, then made a Beeline for the pub. At the check-in desk, I was given a rather large, lighted pager and told that it would start flashing when our tables were ready. Since it looked like it would be awhile, several people from our party struck out to watch the bagpipers in Canada. Before they'd gone twenty feet, though, the pager went off. Pretty poor planning, I'd say, but no harm done.
We were seated at a couple of round tables down by the canal. It really was a very nice spot. Barb and I both ordered the Fish & Chips ($14.75) but I had the salad while Barb chose the lamb & barley soup. Barb also added a Sprite. Vicki just shared from the rest of us. That turned out to be a good thing because Barb really wasn't up to a full meal yet. My bill, before tip, came to just over $33.00 including tax.
At the other table, Tony had the prime rib and Kathy had the fish & chips. The girls shared from those entrees. Tony said the prime rib was good, but a bit on the fatty side. Everyone liked the fish & chips, though. Tony's family also shared a piece of lemon mousse cheesecake desert.
Rose & Crown (November 1995) We were hoping to catch the Canada Circlevision, once we got to the World Showcase, but we didn't have time. Instead, we watched the Olde World Players ham it up a bit (the old story of "Romeo and Edna") and walked through some of the shops in the UK pavilion. Then went to the pub for dinner.
We were seated right next to the canal, down toward the Canada end of the pub. We expected to eat, then spend some time shopping...maybe catch Impressions de France. Instead, we were treated to some relatively slow dinner service that ended up being a blessing in disguise. The meal was excellent. Much better than at Le Cellier the night before.
For appetizers, Stacey and I both had the cornish pastie ($2.95). Mike had a salmon and stilton cheese platter ($6.50). Barb ordered a fruit and cheese platter with smoked cheddar and Cheshire cheese ($4.95). For dinner Barb and I both order the prime rib with Yorkshire pudding....I love the Yorkshire pudding, I just wish there was more au jus to go with it ($20.75 ea), Mike had the roasted leg of lamb (Mike commented that it had a very strong, but good, flavor at $17.50), while Stacey had the cottage pie (she said that this was one of her best meals of the trip so far at $14.25.) For desert, Mike, Barb, and I all had the trifle ($3.25). Stacey and Mike also shared an apple-blackberry crumble ($3.75).
By the time we were finished with our meal, it was already 8:45pm or so. We ended up staying right there to watch IllumiNations. The sound for the show was poor, but that was to be expected since we weren't on the promenade. The view of the show itself, though, was fantastic! I don't remember the fireworks being as extravagant as they were this night.
After dinner, we walked through the shops of the UK for a while. I was on a mission to find a miniature Kensington Palace for Megan, but failed utterly. I also found out that the Mickey-labeled shortbread that is sold throughout WDW is made by Walker's and that the Walker's label isn't available here anymore. No matter, the stuff inside is the same. I'll probably buy a box before we leave.
By the time we finished the UK shops, Barb was ready to call it a short evening and head back to OKWR. The rest of the bunch stayed in Epcot for while longer. When we got back to the resort, I finished up today's installment then helped Barb pack for our move on the morrow.
Friday, October 24th (Out of OKWR, In to Wilderness Lodge, Lunch at Roaring Fork, Magic Kingdom Shopping, and Dinner at the Plaza Restaurant):
This morning we have to pack up our stuff and check out of OKWR. We're moving over to Wilderness Lodge today! Wiedbrauks are packing up, too, and heading back home. Both Tony and Kathy called to get an extra day off work, so they're going to take the drive home in four days and see some things on the way.
It's been a fun week with our friends. The "two-bedroom vacation home" is perfect when you have a larger, mixed-family group. The bedrooms offer privacy, but the living room and kitchen made for nice neutral territory and a meeting place. Of course, we first learned that two years ago with Mike and Stacey, and confirmed it last year with Mom and Dad...but this just shows again how wonderful our DVC purchase has been for us.
Buying into the DVC (September 1994) We stayed at the Polynesian for a couple of nights during our fifth anniversary trip. One night we watched "Fantasy in the Sky" from our own balcony. After the fireworks, Barb noticed a dinner coupon on the table in the room. It was for $50.00 off of dinner at any of several places if we would go over to the Disney Vacation Club for a tour and sales pitch. We decided to go to the Vacation Club on Sunday afternoon.
On Sunday, a Vacation Club guy picked us up at the Polynesian main door, and took us right to the Vacation Club. The tour was OK, but mainly we were impressed with the flexibility of the club. We ended up buying into it, canceling the rest of our stay at the Polynesian, canceling our reservations for the following week at Wilderness Lodge, and moving into the Vacation Club for the rest of our trip (except the side trip and cruise, or course). I could spend pages explaining the Club and why we decided to buy into it, but suffice to say we feel that it makes sense for us since we go to WDW so often anyway.
We left to drive Vicki over to the airport at about 9:30am. We'd planned to walk her to her gate, but she steadfastly refused the attention. I'm just hoping that she didn't have any problems with her flight.
After we dropped her off, we drive back toward WDW via 417. Then we connected with 535 and 192 and drove down Kissimmee's neon strip. I'm so so so glad that Walt bought up so much property. The gaudy, garish hotel / restaurant / seedy attraction strips to the east and west of WDW on 192 are proof positive that he was right about that idea.
As we drove West on 192, we came across Celebration Avenue and turned South. We drove through the New Town of Celebration, stopped at the preview center to see the town layout and check out the small models of the home options. There's only three lot sizes, as I recall, and a handful (six, I think) of home designs to choose from. They are very lovely, and are intentionally designed to foster community spirit and interaction. For example, they all have front porches that encourage neighbors to visit and talk to each other...certainly not a bad thing in today's hectic world.
We didn't stop in any of the model homes, I can't see us ever being able to afford living in this place, as much as it has advantages. The homes started at about $120,000 for a very small one and up beyond $400,000 for an "estate" home. Nice, but a bit idealistic for my liking.
OK, here goes the comment that will almost certainly cause some flaming...I like the sense of community, the ideals about good education and health care, and the values that Celebration is based on, but the planners, in my own opinion, missed one of the most important values - dedication to God and a church home. I know that not everyone agrees, and that's ok, it's just my own notion. A non-demoninational church is going to be built on the outskirts of Celebration, but clearly the Lord is far from being a central theme for the planners.
Anyway, as we left Celebration, we jumped back onto 192 and drove to the day parking lot of Fort Wilderness Campground. We'd only ever been to this part of WDW for a quick trip to River Country and another to Discovery Island in 1993.
Dad Bennett (May 1993) One of my favorite memories of the water parks was when Dad lost his swimming trunks upon landing from the water flume at River Country. Good thing that the water at that park is a bit murky.
During our 1994 trip, Barb and I bought Dad a T-shirt showing Goofy sliding down a water slide...with his trunks at his ankles. That was Dad's Christmas gift for that year....and we all still enjoy the memory.
We caught a Boone bus from the front bus stop and took it back to the area of the campground where the Tri-Circle D Ranch is located. We took Allan for a quick stroll through the petting farm. He was particularly fascinated with the goats for some reason. Then we walked over to Trails End Buffet, but weren't hungry enough to stop in. I was surprised to see that Crockett's Tavern was closed until 4pm. We also walked over the trading post and I spied a Mickey-shaped triangle for calling the gang for dinner. Pretty cool, but I didn't buy it.
By this time, it was just about 12noon or so, so we caught another bus back to our van, a Dale bus this time, and soon were on our way to our new home for the next couple of days.....Wilderness Lodge. This is a place that Barb and I had always intended to stay at, in fact I had reservations for our 5th Anniversary trip in 1994, the year the Lodge opened, but we cancelled when we bought into the Vacation Club.
Anyway, we pulled up to the overhang of the beautiful building. A bell services attendant helped us with our few bags (Barb packed well, so we wouldn't have to take everything in) and we sauntered inside.
I got to the front desk, had a very brief wait, and soon were asking for a room...this at only 12:15pm or so. Fortunately, a room was available with a king-sized bed (acceptable), a courtyard view (requested), and non-smoking (non-negotiable). The only drawback was that it was on the second floor (the same as the lobby) so our view wasn't as spectacular as some...but with the Little One, we wanted to make sure we had a place to put him down for his nap.
After getting our stuff to the room (Bell Services was pretty fast on that one) we walked over to Roaring Fork for a quick snack. The place was pretty filthy...I was surprised at the mess. Several tables had food and messes on them that really detracted from the place. I ordered a chicken fingers meal ($5.25) and a fruit cup ($2.50). Barb added a hotdog meal ($3.50) for Allan and her to split (she had some of my fruit, too, and Allan had some of my chicken as well.)
The excitement for this meal happened when I was ordering our beverages. I asked the checkout attendant, Misty, if free refills were included on the beverages.
She said, and I quote, "they are only available if you buy the Wilderness Lodge mugs."
Accordingly, we decided to buy a couple of large beverages since we were pretty thirsty, but we didn't think we'd ever get our money's worth out of the refillable mugs.
After I'd paid, Misty said to Barb as we were walking away, "you can have one refill with those."
Barb didn't tell me what she'd said until we were at a table, but I went up to the beverage dispensers and asked another CM if we could have free refills. Yes, but only one, unless you have the Wilderness Lodge mugs. I was pretty ticked off, I realize that it was only a loss of $.60 or so, but I hated being LIED TO by a Disney CM. I even went back to Misty and asked her again about the refills. This time, she said that we could, indeed, have up to one refill. When I told her that that's not what she had told me early, she didn't even acknowledge my comment. Instead, she just turned and walked away and through the kitchen door.
We're looking forward to filling out our comment card before we checkout on Sunday.
After that, we returned to our room to find Allan's crib all set up and ready to go. We put him down for a nap, but he played for awhile in the crib first before dropping off. Barb and I laid down for a reading time and nap and didn't get moving again until 5pm.
At 5pm, I got up and walked back out to the van to get some things we'd noticed we were missing. When I returned, Barb tried to call her sister in Jacksonville to see if she and her husband wanted to drive over tomorrow. As of now, at 9pm as I write this, we havn't been able to reach her yet, so we'll just have to see how things turn out tomorrow.
Next, we got moving and walked down to the boat dock and caught the next one to the MK. We didn't have much planned for the evening, just a leisurely stroll about the park. We started by walking through the shops on the East side of Main Street, still looking for one of those character cookie jars. It is a tradition that I always buy books about Disney, and Barb buys a character cookie jar every trip. This year, we've only seen Pooh and Dumbo, both of which Barb already has. She'll be very disappointed if we don't end up finding anything!
When we got to the plaza, we made arrangements for a table at 7:20pm at the Plaza Restaurant.
Then we walked back to the Yankee Trader to see if THEY had any cookie jars other than Pooh and Dumbo. No dice. Their answer was that everything had changed since World of Disney opened up at Downtown Disney. The problem with that answer is that they did not have any either - we had already checked.
We walked back toward the hub via Fantasyland and Tomorrowland, and made it back to the restaurant at about 7:05pm. Allan was pretty hungry by now, and I had a bit of a headache, so I tried to get our table early. Within 5 minutes or so, we were in.
Dot, our server, was a bit lethargic tonight. The food took a long time to arrive. Allan was fairly filled up with fruit loops by the time his grilled cheese ($4.75) arrived and Barb's root beer float ($3.25) didn't come until halfway through the meal, and then only after a reminder to Dot that we didn't have it yet. The food was good, as always at the Plaza. My Chef's Salad ($9.25) was fine, and my chocolate / coffee shake ($3.95) was great. Barb also enjoyed her chicken and rice soup ($2.95). Didn't get charged for the espresso this time, either. However, it seemed like we were always waiting for this meal....water refills, food, just plain slow service.
A funny thing happened as we were eating our meal. Bob, the restaurant manager, came over and started talking with Allan. He was very friendly. The Little Guy really seemed to liked playing with his keys.
Bob looked familiar and I asked if he used to work at the Brown Derby back in late 1995. Turns out he was the manager there at the time, and I remembered seeing him. For the rest of our meal, Barb and I laughed and smirked....here's why:
Brown Derby...and Bob (November 1995) After the stunt show, we walked over to the Brown Derby for lunch. I've been wanting to eat at this place since the Studios opened in 1989, but the prices always scared me off. With the Food and Fun cards...no problem. Mike and I both had the Cobb salad for an appetizer (I had chicken, Mike had shrimp $12.50 and $15.50 respectively). Stacey had a scallop appetizer ($7.75), Barb had chicken tenders with peppers and a mustard sauce ($5.25).
I really didn't know what I was getting with the Cobb. The Birnbaum book says that it includes "finely (perhaps a bit too finely) chopped lettuce". The book is right on target. The salad doesn't resemble a salad when everything is mixed together. The French dressing, by the way, is very light...mostly vinegar...not creamy, red, French like I was expecting. The salad was good, but very hard to describe. I'm glad I ordered it, since it's a traditional offering and I'm a traditional kind of guy, but I don't think I have to do it again.
As for beverages, the Brown Derby had some ice cream drinks that were excellent. Mike and Barb both had "Cookie Magic" that was vanilla ice cream blended with Oreo cookies ($2.75). Stacey and I sampled the "Hollywood Junior" made of vanilla ice cream blended with a Nutrageous candy bar ($2.75). Very good stuff.
For the main event, Stacey had the chicken Cobb salad ($12.50). Barb and I both had a steak special (very good meat), Mike had baked grouper ($15.95).
For desert, I tried the traditional grapefruit cake (excellent at $4.00, I just wish I had been hungrier at that point, so I would have enjoyed it more). Barb had chocolate mousse ($4.00) and Mike had a raspberry mousse ($4.00).
A couple fun things happened during our meal. They had to bring a phone to our table because Goofy called to let us know about his hand print ceremony at the Chinese theater. Also, a couple of streetmosphere guys came in and hammed it up around the piano. They might have been playing actual people from the 1930's, I don't know. But it was hard to follow what was going on anyway, since we were up in the nosebleed area of the restaurant.
One other thing, a manager-type guy named Bob (he had a Disney name tag on) was hanging around the restaurant all during our meal. I'm not sure what his role in things was, he didn't seem to be doing anything but looking around. Anyway, towards the end of our meal (thank goodness), Bob leaned up against the wall, reached down, and picked the backside of his pants, if you know what I mean. Woe, what an unfortunate sight. I hope he felt better after that.
(When we got home, and I told them about this incident, Mike and Stacey were amused that we saw "Bob the Picker" almost as much as we were.)
After our meal, we walked back up Main Street through those same East side shops. SpectroMagic was in full swing, and we hoped to beat the worst of the crowds out of the park. Our timing, it turned out, couldn't have been better. We got to the boat dock and boarded our ferry back to the lodge just as the flood of humanity began to stream out of the exit gates of the park.
We returned uneventfully, but stopped to get a Wilderness Lodge pin for our stuffed Mickey at home and a postage stamp for a post card. During the transaction, I had an odd run-in with the clerk, Don. I countersigned my traveler's check, which I'd already signed when I first had it issued before we left on the trip.
When I handed the check to Don, he rudely said, "This signature doesn't do anything for me. I need identification."
Now I admit that my handwriting has been unfavorably compared to that of a physician. Frankly, it stinks. I type almost everything because my penmanship is so poor. On the other hand, I'm not used to a Disney CM rudely agreeing with that assessment.
When Don saw that my signature on my driver's license was as illegible as the two examples on the traveler's check, he cashed out my purchase and allowed me to exit the store.
Unbelievable. Misty and Don, two Wilderness Lodge CMs were dubbed "rudest and most un-Disney CMs of our 1997 trip." Not an award that should be sought after.
(Just a side note here...I'm cringing inside because of the negative comments I've made about some of the Disney Cast Members. I try to balance things with positive comments, too, when a CM provides particularly excellent service. The problem, though, is that CMs generally provide service that is so consistently superior that the few times that something untoward happens, it becomes the exception rather than the rule. That's why the negatives stand out some clearly to me.)
After Don's rebuke, we returned to our room and got ready for bed. I worked on today's report installment (typing it so it's legible), before dropping off.
Saturday, October 25th (Epcot, Lunch at Pasta Piazza, Magic Kingdom, Dinner at Tony's Town Square Cafe):
This was a very odd day for us at WDW. We intentionally didn't set the clock, and we didn't get out of bed until 9am. Actually, I heard Allan up at 8, but since he was just talking and playing, I chose to ignore him. He got a little more adamant an hour later and so the day began.
I got up, dressed quickly, and walked down to Roaring Fork to buy some quick breakfast. As I walked through the Wilderness Lodge lobby, I was quite surprised at how busy the place was in the morning. I'd expected a much less feverish scene. I suppose the character breakfast at Artist's Point and the always-popular all-you-can-eat breakfast at Whispering Canyon had something to do with that.
When I arrived at Roaring Fork, I got in line (fairly lengthy, and with only one checkout person). An orange, serving of cereal, blueberry muffin, three milks (another one was included "free" with the cereal), and a couple of orange juices set me back $9.65 including taxes. I ended up getting checked through by my old friend Misty from the day before. I took the whole thing, including the tray, back to the room where we had our own little breakfast.
After we ate and showered and got ready for the day, we decided to strike out for Epcot. Barb wanted to see if the athletic store at the Wonders of Life pavilion had any volleyball stuff. Volleyball merchandise is very rare at WDW. That's always been strange to us since it's such a popular sport.
We walked down to the resort bus stop. The Epcot bus arrived quickly thereafter, and we drove the distance to the park. It was kind of weird to be dropped off at the bus stop that used to be ours at OKWR, but has now been made the stop for Wilderness Lodge.
We strode from the bus to the park gate and on the way to Wonders of Life, we walked through some of the Innoventions area. This was a really neat idea, back in 1995, but as I'd predicted....Disney didn't maintain it, and I'm sure they overcharged the sponsors for their floorspace. The result? Innoventions is dying faster than the old Communicore...
Backstage Magic / pre-Innoventions (April 1988) On our first trip to WDW in 1988, Barb was suffering from a broken and re-broken and re-re-broken foot. One day, I wheeled Barb and her wheelchair, with Barb's sister Lynn trailing behind, in to see some of Communicore. One of the attractions that we were able to enjoy was the "Backstage Magic" tour during which guests were given a brief description of the computer operations of Epcot. During the presentation, a human guide was joined by an annimated character named "I/O". I/O was responsible for making appropriate exclaimations throughout the guide's presentation. It seemed like every peep out of I/O resulted in a polite "Thank you, I/O" from the tour guide. If the guide said "Thank you, I/O", once she said it a hundred times. The result was that we all had to listen to Lynn say, "Thank you, I/O" for months after the trip. "Thank you, I/O."
Next, we made a quick stop over at the Test Track area, just to see what there was to see. Not much, we found out, but a couple of Test Track vehicles sped by while we were there - perhaps for testing, perhaps just for marketing reasons.
I did speak with the GM rep that was there about the attraction. He said that they were now hoping for an opening "early next year" and that trouble in fabricating the cars was the holdup. A news article in USA Today a few days ago indicated that the delay was actually due to software sequencing problems. I don't know which is right....perhaps both. One other thing, Eric the GM guy confirmed that GM employes would have a courtesy lounge and line-jumping privileges just as we did with It's Fun to be Free. It will probably be a bit more useful now that it was in the previous attraction's waning years.
World of Motion (April 1988) I remember the pride I had that Barb and I, along with her entire family, were able to jump the line at The World of Motion since I was a young GM engineer at the time. I also remember my embarrassment when the ride broke down. Worse yet, the breakdown occurred while we were sweltering in the heat wave outside the building on the curved pathway.
Then we walked back to the Wonders of Life. Barb did find a plush Goofy with a volleyball in hand, a small improvement from previous years when there was NOTHING. But still far, far short of such widespread pastimes as racquetball, tiddleywinks, and the such.
After that, we started to walk toward the World Showcase, but got sidetracked when I spotted a "cool wash" behind the Test Track. It turned out that it's really just a super elaborate softdrink sales kiosk themed toward Test Track.
We continued on our way, but got sidetracked again by a street vendor selling lemon ice. It sounded good (it was a very warm and humid day today, at least compared to the others we've had on this trip) and I bought a couple. We sat on a shaded bench near the Friendship boat dock and just relaxed...
We didn't get moving again until our ice was pretty much gone, then we started to stroll the Showcase. Canada was first, and Barb's first comment was that Victoria Gardens is much less appealing when it's full of marigolds (as it was today) than it's been with more complex plantings (like we've seen in the past). Of course, our trip to Buchart Gardens this summer provided additional basis for a negative comparison. We also walked down to see the menu for Le Cellier. If you didn't already know, it's now a steakhouse...although the atmosphere hasn't changed at all. The menu looks reasonable. We'll definately try this place, although I don't know if it will be during this trip.
We'd planned to skip the UK, since we did it's shops thoroughly Thursday night with Wiedbrauks, but Barb spotted some characters back in the garden, so we walked back. We took Allan to see the White Rabbit, but he was a little spooked (maybe he was thinking "white gorilla" or something), but after that, we decided to give up on the other Pooh characters in the area. We did snap a picture in front of the Mary Poppins topiary, though.
Next, we made our way over the International Gateway to France. It was sad to see the downstairs of Les Chefs de France and Le Petite Cafe boarded up. I understand that the entire downstairs, as well as the upstairs area that was Bistro de Paris will be combined into one humungous Les Chefs de France. At least that's what Birnbaum's says.
Chefs de France (November 1995) One night during our 1995 trip, we had no dinner reservations made. We were all getting a bit hungry, so we left the UK (we'd already had a dinner at the Rose and Crown) and continued over the gateway to France. Mike and Stacey and Barb walked around abit at the outdoor pushcarts while I stopped in at Chefs de France. Was there room for walk-ins? Wee miseur. Would you accept our Food and Fun cards for dinner? Wee miseur. Bingo...our dinner plans were set.
We were seated immediately and were provided with menus with a plethora of choices. For appetizers Barb and I both had a cheese sampler platter. Stacey had a cold potato soup. Mike went with a salmon souffl. For dinner, Barb and I both ordered beef tenderloin with a raisin brandy sauce. it was marvelous! I especially loved the raisin brandy sauce. Stacey initially planned to order a chicken dish, but the waiter talked her into the beef tenderloin instead. Stacey wished her meat had been done a bit more, but that's not uncommon (If it's not smoking like Luke Skywalker's Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen after the stormtroopers arrived, it's not done enough for Stacey.) Mike had a brochette of prawns and said it was excellent. One comment he made was "this is the first time I've had to use a knife to eat shrimp"...they were that big!
Of course, in France you have to have desert. Mike and I both ordered cappuccinos to start. Then, Mike ordered a ice cream souffl with grand marnier. I had a "cake of chocolate biscuits and a light vanilla cream." Stacey ordered a hot apple tart with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce. Barb ordered an eclair. Except for the fact that we were stuffed, I'm sure all of these wonderful dishes would have been cleaned up. As it was, we mostly nibbled at them.
This was probably one of my most enjoyable meals at Walt Disney World ever. The food was excellent, the service was top-notch, and this was another of those restaurants that I'd been wanting to visit for a long time...but didn't want to pay for. I had a blast! Getting in for dinner when our Food and Fun cards weren't supposed to cover made it all the better. It made the meal feel like a victory celebration for me.
After dinner, a double-decker bus was waiting right outside the restaurant for us (it was 10:08pm by now...) The bus drove us right around the promenade. We had to propel ourselves through Future World and on to the bus stop.
By now it was about 12:30pm or so, so we decided to have lunch. I'd not really been feeling well for the last several days and really wasn't hungry (perhaps I'd had a touch of Barb's flu) but we knew we had to get Allan something before he got too crabby.
We decided to catch a Friendship back to the front of World Showcase, walked back into Future World, and stopped at Pasta Piazza. While Barb took Allan to find a table, I got in line and ordered a slice of pepperoni pizza ($3.99) for Barb, and a meatball and tomato sauce on linguine meal for me ($7.95) which included garlic bread and a garden salad. I also got a Sprite and milk for Allan. The entire bill came to $15.57, which is definately in line with the quality of the meal. Since I was only picking at my food anyway, it was a good solution.
Just after lunch, we walked out of the restaurant and saw some of those Balzak balls for sale. Prices ranged from about $10 for the 8" diameter balls to 5 foot diameter balls costing $250! Unbelievable...
After lunch, we returned to the resort and settled in for our afternoon break. I was pleasantly surprised to find the room made up since we were back so early. We read (us) and napped (Allan and us) for awhile.
After a short nap, we got up and put on our suits for some time in the pool. Because of Allan's teething and the associated disfunction of his intestinal tract, he's had alot of diarrhea. Therefore, we also had a bunch of laundry to do. Barb threw the load of laundry into the only machine that wasn't being used in the laundry room, while Allan and I went to get towels for our dip. It turned out that you could only get towels at the far side of the pool bar, about half-way to the marina so it seemed.
We lounged in the pool for awhile, taking turns with Allan, until Barb thought the load would be done. Allan and I went back to the room. It had only been a half hour or so since we got to the pool, but neither Allan nor Daddy needed more time to get more wet. Barb joined us a short while later, after moving the laundry to a dryer.
An hour or so later, Barb went to grab the laundry was picked up and brought back to the room....some of it was hung up to dry (a few dark things that went in a second load). The rest, was folded and made ready to use again. (Note my use of the third person....Barb actually did all that stuff.)
While Barb was handling those chores, I kept an eye on the Little One, and called for priority seating arrangements for Tony's Town Square Cafe. The earliest ones I could get were for 8:15pm, so I accepted them and assumed we could do better when we actually arrived in the park.
We made our way to the boat dock, the boat showed up fairly soon thereafter, and we were off to the Magic Kingdom once again. This must be the most beautiful of all the Disney parks at night. The purists on the West coast might disagree, but the wonderful scale, lighting, the approaches by monorail and boat the lighted resorts in the background...all combine into a wonderful picture of night time magic.
We made our way to Tony's to see if we could get an earlier seating and were rebuffed. Nothing sooner than our 8:15 seating was available, so we decided to stroll some of the shops. We had about an hour and fifteen minutes to kill, so we started by making our way up the West side of Main Street.
The Emporium was packed. I havn't seen it that crowded since my very first trip to WDW. In fact, the crowds really are worse than they have been in recent years. Perhaps after the 25th Anniversary, things will slow down again.
The Emporium and Romance (April 1988) On the very last night of our first-ever trip to WDW, Barb's Dad insisted that everyone in the family buy a souvenir at the Emporium. The crowds that night were incredible (we never should have waited until late at night to pick those things up), but Barb's Dad demanded that everyone had to buy something. Barb ended up with a small jewelry box that she still keeps on her dresser.
After Barb made her purchase, we walked across the square to wait for the rest of the family to finish up. We sat there on a bench in town square, across from the Emporium -- right in from of "The Walt Disney Story" and, for the first time, seriously talked about getting married...and having our honeymoon at WDW. As we returned to Michigan from that trip, I knew I was going to marry Barb someday. No doubts at all!
At the North end of Main Street, in the sports shop, we found some onesies with Mickey playing soccer that we might go back and pick up for Allan and his friend Mitch since they were on sale for $3.00 off. (Note: We returned later in the trip and found them gone. We should have bought them when we first saw them.)
We continued on through Casey's and into Adventureland. The shops there rarely have anything that I feel the need to buy, but almost always have interesting things to look at. If you're into the Tarzan and Jane routine, this is the place for you. I tried, at one point, to see what Allan's reaction to some stuffed gorillas would be. He didn't react at all. It might have been because they were more his scale, perhaps because they weren't moving, maybe because he didn't notice them with the huge, neat looking elephant in the same room -- I don't know for sure.
We got tired of our safari by 7:30 or so, and headed back toward Tony's. When we checked in, they told us it would be another fifteen minutes or so, but they beat the mark by a few. We decided to skip the appetizer, not a problem since entrees include salad and Italian bread (with olive oil and cheese to dip it it). We both ordered the New York strip steaks ($22.75) and asked for penne pasta with tomato sauce for Allan ($4.75). For desert we ordered a couple of chocolate cake, mousse things for $4.50 each. The entire meal came to $56.55 after taxes and my 10% MKC discount.
My opinion of Tony's hasn't changed at all since our first visit. The food is always good. The service is always slow. The servers and other workers are always friendly. If you have plenty of time, you'll enjoy Tony's, if not, enter at your own risk. This evening, as it turned out, it was at our own risk. Allan was having a terrible time with his teething, and while eating he hollered out in pain several times. We did the Oralgel and Tylenol things, but neither had much impact. It's heartbreaking to know your own son is feeling so bad -- all the more so when you know there's nothing that can be done about it. The CMs, though, were wonderful. One hostess, Tara, stopped by to see Allan several times during the meal. Our server, "Leonardo", was concerned too, and very nice.
After dinner, we made our way back to the resort launch dock. The boat that was imminently leaving for the resort was standing room only -- not a good idea with a sick baby and a stroller -- so we waited for the next one. We figured it would be twenty minutes or so, but one of the smaller launches that run only when demand warrents was making for Wilderness Lodge, so within five minutes we were seated and on our way back to our resort.
We watched a little TV when we got back, and had our desert then too (we waited until Allan was asleep, lest he eat half of ours). Funny, I've literally watched only one hour of TV since we've been here...and I don't really miss it.
Sunday, October 26th (RADP meet, Magic Kingdom, lunch at Liberty Tree Tavern, Back to OKWR):
This morning we got up a bit early. We had to pack to move back to OKWR for the remainder of our stay. Also, we had plans to meet with some of the rec.arts.disney.parks newsgroup folks that I've met online over the last several years. Lisa Harris organized the "RADP Meet." We're meeting up at the "Partners" statue at the hub, then making a Splash Mountain run together.
When the clock went off, Barb got up and started getting ready. When she was done in the bathroom, I took my shower, got dressed, and walked down to Roaring Fork to pick up some milk and such for breakfast.
It was strange because the lobby this morning was so very quiet, still, empty. Quite a contrast to the bustling place it had been the day before.
I got to Roaring Fork, made my selections, and was paying for my order when another guest ordered a hot breakfast. The CM told him that the grill didn't open until 7am, but I looked at my watch and it was already 7:20! When I pointed that out, the CM -- very kindly -- reminded me of the time change that we failed to participate in. I was so amused that we'd blown off the time change that I just laughed out loud.
Then reality hit me. An hour of sleep wasted. Bummer.
Well, I got back to the room, made sure Barb was in a reasonably good mood, and told her. We both laughed about it, then decided to make the best of it by using the extra time to take some pictures of us and Allan around the Lodge. Barb is really into scrapbooking now, and every photograph is a precious thing.
One tip here for honeymooners, especially, but other folks too...make sure that the pictures you take on your trip have PEOPLE in them, I mean your spouses and kids and friends and loved ones. We have many wonderful pictures of some of our earlier trips together, but the subject matter consists mostly of stuff and scenery. Barb tried very, very hard to get me to be in some of those shots -- and to get me to take some with her, but with little success. I wish I'd done so...
When we returned to our room, I called Bell Services and they responded within five minutes to pick up our bags. I left Barb and Allan to get that taken care of, while I went to pull up the van. Before I got to the front of the hotel, they were there ready for me. We loaded up quickly (we'd packed light for this weekend stay) and made our way to the Contemporary. We left the van there, and walked to the park.
When the main entrance opened up, we made our way through the turnstiles and on to Main Street to head for "Partners." The first RADP person that I saw turned out to be Rich Pearlstein, a fellow DVC member that I've been in contact with even before I started participating in the newsgroup. Rich has provided me with lots of helpful information that I've used personally...and added to my web site. You'll find his name pop up there frequently. It was a real pleasure to meet him. Allan seemed to like him too, and played with Rich's hat for awhile while we talked.
Several others had come up by this time, Lisa Harris, Randy (from Champaign, Illinois), Deb Wills and several others (I'm sure Deb and Lisa will have a much more detailed report on the meet at Deb's site). I was disappointed that Kenny Cottrell wasn't there. He was one of the folks I particularly wanted to meet. Maybe some other time, Kenny.
Well, after Deb passed out some "door prizes" (a really nice gesture, and I'm not just saying that because I won the Typhoon Lagoon pin) we took pictures of the group...Deb rounded up a CM to shoot them for us...and about eight or ten cameras were involved in this process.
Next stop...Splash Moutain. As we walked into Adventureland, someone asked Randy about his walking stick.
He simply stated that "...at the beginning of the day, I carry it, at the end of the day, it carries me."
I pointed out that it might also be useful when faced with Brazilian tour groups. Several folks seemed to think that was funny, so I suppose we've all had some experience with that.
On the side, I also noticed that not one of the RADP folks had a park guide. I suppose we've all memorized the layout and timetable...I know I have.
Lisa continued to lead the charge as we made our way into Frontierland toward the Mountain. She even held up a bright red Can/Am RADP hat for us to follow. When I told her that we were behaving like a Brazilian tour group, too, we all laughed again.
When we finally got in line, Barb and Allan made their way around to the exit of the ride. The sixteen RADPers continued on their mission. It was fun, even a bit too short, to talk in line for awhile. Robin told me a little bit about their experiences with the DVC (they're members too). They havn't always been completely happy with the facilities, they had a particularly bad room at the Vero Beach Resort, but liked DVC much more than some of the local alternatives. One sales pitch that they endured, I'll not mention the name of the resort to protect the guilty (and because I don't remember which one it was), was over three hours long...and super high pressure.
Eventually we all made it to the loading area. With exactly sixteen of us, we fit in two boats without a problem. I was in the lead boat, the other was two vessels behind. We all had a blast, and the pictures turned out really well too.
While Barb was waiting for us near the exit, Allan got a chance to meet Brer Fox and Brer Bear. Barb said it was really cute because Brer Fox kept coming back over to see him, even though there were others waiting for his autograph.
After the ride, Barb and Allan and I left the rest of the group. We had to pace ourselves carefully with Allan's teething, so we just wanted to take things slowly and not stir anything up. Literally.
Barb and I baby-swapped to ride Big Thunder. Then we made our way around the river and rode the Haunted Mansion after first stopping at Liberty Tree Tavern to make priority seating arrangements for 11:30am eastern time, 12:30pm Bennett time. Both of these were first time rides for us this trip.
The Haunted Mansion just keeps getting better. We noticed that the mourning bride in the attic is animatronic now...kind of floats around, she used to just stand there with her heart palpitating.
We still had some time to use up before lunch, so we strolled through the shops in Fantasyland. There was only one chess set in the shop in the castle where there used to be several. I think the suit of armor is cool, too. I told Barb that I wanted to buy it, and she said that when we can afford it, we can afford two houses and she's living in the one where the armor isn't. I don't think she shares my attraction to it.
We also strolled around the Olde World Antique shop. It's now a Christmas shop (maybe just in time for the season, maybe permanently, I don't know). The powers-that-be have removed the perfume oils that used to be here for mixing your own perfume up. It's a shame that something that unique be dropped from WDW. That's the kind of thing that makes this place special, but I suppose there's always Busch Gardens. We did buy some ornaments while we were there. Maybe that proves that the special stuff doesn't pay...hmmmmm. Also, I was told by the CM in the shop that the perfume shop in France at Epcot now had the oils for mixing.
Olde World Antique (September 1989) On our honeymoon trip in 1989 we first visited the Olde World Antique shop to mix up a couple of batches of perfume from several base oils. I'd read about doing this in Birnbaum's guidebook, so Barb and I tried it. That first mix Barb entitled "Barbara's 916", a reference to our anniversary on the 16th of September. Since then, we'd visited several times and mixed up batches. It's always been alot of fun.
Finally, it was a bit after 11am, so we continued on to Liberty Tree Tavern. We knew we couldn't be seated until 11:30, but Allan was already sleeping and we figured a short nap for the Little One wouldn't hurt.
Ultimately, we were the first folks seated for lunch. Barb ordered the vegetable turkey soup ($3.25) and Pilgrim's Feast turkey dinner ($11.25). I selected the turkey corn chowder ($3.25) and Cape Cod chicken pasta dish ($12.75 and nothing like anything you'd find in New England in the 16th Century, but that's ok...it was very good). We both had birch beer to drink ($1.75 ea).
While we were eating, Allan got really, really crabby. It was clear that his gums were really, really bothering him. We gave him some more Tylenol, perhaps a bit early from the last dose, and Oralgel again. Nothing worked. He was just plain hurting. I ordered some vanilla ice cream for him, thinking that perhaps the cold would help. He seemed to enjoy that, and it did calm him down a bit. Even so, we kinda rushed through the meal.
After lunch, we stopped in Adventureland to change the Little Guy, then left the park, walked to the van, and drove over to OKWR. For the first time ever in life, check-in was perfect. Of course, there were no DVC member passes to deal with, and the first floor room I'd asked for turned into a third floor room....but you can't have everything.
Of course, it was about 1pm, and our room wouldn't be ready -- at the earliest -- until 2:45, so we went to the van, grabbed our bathing suits (Barb had packed them to be easy to get at) and we walked to OKWR's main pool bath house and changed. We spent an hour and a half just relaxing in the pool area, taking some pictures of Allan playing in the sand, swimming, and hot tubbing (Barb, while Allan splashed Daddy in the big pool).
It was fun until Allan got sick again. He was completely messed and needed to be showered to get even somewhat cleaned up. Barb took care of that, while I gathered up our belongings and made my way to the exit of the pool area. When Barb and Allan got back to the pool area, I left them to check to see on our room keys and, surprise, surprise, they were ready for us!
We drove over to the room...hauled our stuff upstairs, and settled in for a break (we all needed it after everything). (Just an observation: The third floor is not a great place to be when traveling with a baby and all the necessary accessories!!!!!)
For dinner I just drove over to Taco Bell after stopping at Goodings for Milk and some teething toys and snacks and stuff. We didn't go out again this evening...we just hung out in the room and relaxed.
Monday, October 27th (Studios, Brown Derby for lunch, Fantasy in the Sky, dinner at the Grand Floridian Cafe):
This morning was another one where we intentionally chose to not set the clock. It didn't matter, Allan woke us up at 6:30am, proclaiming the beginning of the day. Barb was concerned that he might be really messy -- not a bad assumption based on our recent experience -- but he wasn't at all. I thought I'd try come psychological warfare, and pulled the curtains to shut of the sunlight that was entering the room. With that, we put Allan back down, convinced him (somehow) that it was still night time, and managed to get another hour and a half of sleep in before Allan realized my villainy.
We got moving slowly, no hurries at all, and didn't even get to the bus until 9:45am or thereabouts. In the meantime, the rain started. I'd heard that snow was abounding up north, and just to make things even we were getting bucketfuls of rain. When the bus finally pulled in to the stop at the studios, it was pouring, so we stayed right there, probably for fifteen minutes or more, until it abated a bit. In fact, except for two storms in the past (one in 1993 when we were poured on at a bus stop at Epcot with Mom and Dad and my brother Dave) and the one in the "memory" coming up, I don't remember it raining so hard...or getting so soaked from it.
Storms at WDW and Bistro de Paris (September 1989) During our honeymoon in 1989, hurricane Hugo was zipping past the Florida coast on it's way toward the Charleston area. Although it missed Florida, the hurricane caused a lot of rain to be dumped on WDW over several days.
One night we had reservations to eat at the Bistro de Paris at EPCOT. About an hour and a half before our reservation time, Barb and I were near 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, walking toward Tommorrowland and the main gate to leave for EPCOT. That's when the daily allotment of Hugo rain started. Deluge would be a better word. Only if you've been to Florida during hurricane season do you understand what I mean.
We ducked under the roof that covers the 20,000 Leagues queue area and ended up riding the sub hoping that the rain would subside during our wait in line and the subsequent voyage. As we disembarked from Captain Nemo's sub, we found the rain dropping almost as hard as it had been. We ran toward Space Mountain and on to Mission to Mars. We halted temporarily at any shelter we could find. The water was flowing (no exaggeration) four to six inches deep over the asphalt pavement in Tommorrowland and only slightly less as we reached the Plaza and swum up main street. We were literally soaked to the skin. Our clothes were plastered to our bodies.
We caught the monorail and transferred to the Epcot express under the shelter of the Ticket and Transportation Center. As we entered the main gate at Epcot, the rains were only then beginning to subside. We walked through Future World and around the lagoon to France. Actually, we could have swum across and been less moist.
Dinner that night was the most expensive meal we'd ever had together up to that time (over $60.00, as I recall, including gratuity, but we're teetotallers, so keep that in mind), and we ate it thoroughly soaked.
Our waiter, Francoise or Fillip or something, kept staring at us...we were quite a sight, oh, and he kept saying "bon appetite". Must have been French for, "you'd be more comfortable in dry underwear."
For desert I had an exquisite mocha cream. I loved it. In fact, it was so good I would gladly have dealt with even MORE rain in trade for more. We ended up having breakfast at the Patisserie several times that trip for mocha cream, but we've never seen it there on subsequent trips....I've asked for it, but it just doesn't seem to exist anymore.
Then we made our way into the park. Our goals were minor for today, just to do some shopping, see the animation tour, and have lunch at Mama Melrose's again.
We strolled through the Hollywood boulevard shops (right side again), we've done this several times, so we didn't see anything that really grabbed us, but with the rain it was a convenient way to keep dry. As we strolled through the shops, we were discussing lunch, and we agreed to go to the Brown Derby instead of Mama Melrose's for two reasons. First, we both wanted to try a restaurant that we hadn't visited yet this trip. Second, Barb didn't want to eat at Melrose's (odd, since she loves the place). Third, and this one's free since I told you there were two reasons, we both enjoy the Brown Derby.
We made our way across Sunset Boulevard and walked up to the Derby. I asked to see a menu for lunch, and one was provided. Looked like several things could be good candidates for lunch. We made priority seating arrangements for 12noon, and walked on back to the back exit from the restaurant.
It was still pouring, so I suggested that we walk through the Soundstage to avoid the water. It wasn't strictly sanctioned, since we hadn't paid for the character breakfast there, but we simply made our way across the floor and out the far side door.
From there, we walked back to the Animation Tour. It was now about 10:45am and I was told that the next tour group would be admitted at 11am. The rain was abating a little, so we all got in line after leaving the stroller parked at the door. It was quickly apparent that the rain wasn't stopping all THAT much, so Barb and Allan returned to the overhang, while I stayed in line to keep our place.
The 11am prediction was accurate, and we started in. The spiel in the lobby was typical, only the artwork shown was for next summer's Mulan release. Then we entered the theater to see the "Back to Neverland" film with Robin Williams and Walter Cronkite. I never tire of that wonderful piece. Next, we strolled through the rest of the tour...looked like they've added the computer graphics area, and the animation demonstration at the end. Finally, we enjoyed the collage of Disney animation clips at the end. This is always a highlight of my visits to WDW. I love the things that make Disney unique...and their feature animation is certainly at the vanguard of that list.
After the tour, we made our way over to the Brown Derby. With the rain picking up again, we reversed our path through the Soundstage (just slipped past the CM at the reservations booth and walked in like we owned the place). We got to the Brown Derby lobby about ten minutes early, and were seated five minutes or so after that.
Barb ordered the Cookie Magic ($2.95) specialty drink (an old favorite) and the filet of beef sandwich ($17.95). I stuck with the traditional Cobb salad with chicken ($13.95) and just had water to drink, but added a grapefruit cake ($4.25) for desert later. Allan had chicken strips with fries and vanilla ice cream for desert ($4.75) and enjoyed the ice cream much more than the entree.
Brown Derby (October 1996) I have a habit of wanting to try out some Disney restaurants for many years before actually doing so. For example, I'd wanted to have a meal at Disneyland's Blue Bayou as a kid way back in the 70's and didn't actually make it until 1993. In the same way, I'd wanted to visit the Brown Derby since 1989 when the Studios first opened, but hesitated because of the expensive menu. Finally, in 1995 we went ahead and tried the Derby with Mike and Stacey.
We enjoyed the food so much that we visited again the following year with my Mom and Dad. That was a fun meal not just because of the restaurant's atmosphere or the fine food (both of which were wonderful) but because of the "streetmosphere" characters that came into the restaurant during our lunch. It all started when an older gentleman came into the restaurant and was introduced as Sid Cuehuenga (supposedly the proprietor of the One-of-a-Kind Shop located up Hollywood Boulevard near the park entrance). He stuck around for quite awhile doing impersonations of several old time Hollywood Stars including Jimmy Durante (he came over to our table and introduced Mom as Mrs. Calabash), George Burns, and others. All in all, an exellent and entertaining meal. One of my all time favorites at Walt Disney World.
On the way out of the restaurant, I saw a book for sale about the history of the Hollywood Brown Derby written by one of Bob Cobb's relations. It also included some of the most famous recipes from the original restaurant. It looked like it would be alot of fun to read through. I might regret not buying myself a copy, but it was in hardcover only and was kinda pricey.
After that, we walked back to the Animation Gallery (yep, through the Soundstage again), one of Barb's favorite shops (we didn't have time between our tour ending and lunch seating to check it out thoroughly). Barb found a postcard she wanted to buy, so we picked it up. Then we turned about and left the park -- strolling through Sunset Boulevard shops on the way out.
We returned to OKW, after a very lengthy stop waiting for our resort bus, for our afternoon siesta.
After our break, we drove the van over to the Courtyard Hotel, in the Hotel Plaza, and picked up Mary and Caitlyn. Barb's aunt and cousin arrived this afternoon from Chicago having survived the winter storms that have hit the Midwest.
We drove over to the Contemporary Resort, rode the elevator up to the 15th floor, and staked out our area in the California Grill lounge for the Fantasy in the Sky fireworks. We were able to take over a small area next to the windows with three chairs. Since the ladies had the chairs tied up, I strolled the area just for fun. I read some of the newsclippings about the restaurant that are posted in the hallway back to the meeting rooms, to the left as you exit the elevators, looked through some of the books that are on display, I assume for purchase, and just enjoyed the atmosphere. After roaming for awhile, I went back to the group, got Allan, and took him for a little tour, mostly to give Barb a break from her supervision.
At 7pm the music and fireworks began. It's a lovely show, and I even enjoyed the "Remember the Magic" music since I havn't heard much of it this trip.
Fireworks and Dinner at the California Grill (October 1996) The California Grill had already become a legendary restaurant before our October 1996 visit. Visitors to WDW over the previous year-and-a-half praised the restaurant that is, of course, located on the 15th floor of the Contemporary Tower. We decided to give it a try. I tried to time the reservations to coincide with the fantasy in the sky fireworks show that was being displayed over the Magic Kingdom throughout the 25th Anniversary Celebration. Thinking that the fireworks would go off at 8:00pm, I had made reservations for a window table at 7:30 theorizing that we'd be seated in time for the show. I missed the showtime by an hour, though, since the fireworks actually were scheduled for 7:00.
Mom and Dad left the restaurant just before 7:00pm to do some shopping downstairs while Barb and I waited with the baby in the restaurant lounge. Fantasy in the Sky only lasted about eight minutes, but during the show, the lights of the restaurant were dimmed and simulcast music was piped in, too. A medley of Disney tunes and the 25th Anniversary "Remember the Magic" theme were choreographed to the firebursts. Overall, it was a fabulous show. A few minutes later, Mom and Dad showed up all aglow because they'd seen the display from the fourth floor where they'd been browsing the shops.
After waiting about seventy minutes, we were finally called to our table. We walked from the seating area to the table to find it smack in the middle of the restaurant and not a window table by any stretch of the imagination. I made it quite clear that I was not at all happy and our hostess ran off to figure out how to resolve the problem. After a few minutes of looking around, I realized that the table wouldn't really be so bad...we had a great view of the show kitchen and the fireworks were already over (which is why I wanted the window in the first place). I ran off after our hostess to tell her I'd deal with the table. When I tracked Kelly down, she was working with some honcho-types trying to figure things out. I suggested that we'd stay at the table, and the manager guy offered a couple of free appetizers as compensation. I accepted...very happily.
We ordered our beverages and Barb and I selected a goat cheese ravioli for our appetizer. Mom and Dad ordered a marinated tomato salad. Both were very, very tasty. Even more so since they were free! The view of the show kitchen turned out to be a great entertainment. In between the courses of our meal we had alot of fun watching the chefs preparing food for the many patrons of the restaurant. For our entrees, Mom and Dad both ordered the pork tenderloin and Barb ordered a three-cheese pizza. I had a barbecued fillet mignon -- grilled, then doused in barbecue sauce. Very unusual for a prime piece of beef, but excellent in every respect. I topped off my meal with a cappuccino quake (cappuccino mousse with a sunflower-brittle kind of a wafer stuck in it) and Mom and Dad shared an angel food cake with pear compote. The deserts were excellent too.
I also remember another time we watched the fireworks on a more romantic evening...
Fantasy in the Sky (September 1994) After going over to the park to get our annual passes, Barb and I returned to our room at the Polynesian to get settled in. The room was huge and directly across from the Magic Kingdom, a triple-upgrade from what we'd paid for (we'd arrived a day early and they gave us the upgrade rather than make us move to a different room). Later that night we watched Fantasy in the Sky from our own porch...it was very romantic. We were on our fifth anniversary trip and it seemed like we'd always been married, even though we'd only been together for that short period of time.
After the display, we rode back down to the fourth floor, rode the escalator up to the Monorail platform, and rode over to the Grand Floridian. We had priority seating arranged for 8pm, but ended up being a half hour early. Even so, we were seated almost immediately.
Our order was taken in a few minutes, but the meal itself was super, super late. I think we ended up waiting almost an hour for the food. As it turned out, the time wasn't a big deal because Barb and Mary and Caity were enjoying the time talking about the trip so far, catching up on family talk, and the like. However, our server Carol, came to our table with a very nice cheese and fruit platter for us because our meal was so late. With all the cheese and fruit in our bellies, I'm surprised we were able to finish our meals...
Another nice surprise occurred when Allan was becoming particularly restive as we were waiting for dinner. A balloon bender guy came over and made up a pretzel-shaped rattle for the Little One. Later he came by again and made up a French poodle for Caity.
Dinner was dutch, so I only know about the charges for our meal, but Barb had a bowl of chicken noodle soup ($4.95) which she says was very good. She nibbled on Allan's grilled cheese sandwich ($8.95 can you believe it?), too. I had ordered a grillade with boneless chicken on a bed of rice with vegetables ($17.95). It was excellent, but pricey.
We were very surprised about the high prices here. We'd only been to the cafe for lunch, and the lunch menu is very similar (and priced about the same) as the Plaza Restaurant. For dinner, the menu and prices go way upscale. Good quality, the food was very tasty, but expensive.
On the way back to the monorail, we snapped some pictures in front of the topiary castle and enjoyed the atmosphere of the hotel. When we got to the platform, I asked if there was any room up front. As the next train came in, I was disappointed to see that the front cab was full....but all of those folks got off at the Grand, so Barb and Allan, Mary, and Caity got in front. I followed in the next car since they only allow four people in front. Caity thought it was awesome to be in the front with the driver. Mary thought she should have ridden in the car with me....it seems she's afraid of heights.
Dinner was nice, the fireworks were pretty, the monorail ride was enjoyed by all (but Mary).....all in all, not a bad first evening for the Illini.
After we dropped Mary and Caity off at their hotel, we drove back to OKWR and crashed.
Tuesday, October 28th (Magic Kingdom, lunch at Plaza Restaurant, Epcot, dinner at Marrakesh):
This morning started rather normal. Allan seemed to be doing a bit better on his teething. We got ready without duress, and made our way to the bus stop. The very first bus we encountered, it actually pulled up as we were still walking to the stop, was for the Magic Kingdom. We jumped aboard for the ten minute ride to the park.
We arrived just after 8:30am. The entry turnstile lines had already diminished to virtually nil, and we made our way through an onto Main Street with ease. We walked up the street and camped out in the hub, fairly close to the "Partners" statue -- our arranged meeting place with Mary and Caity. They showed up at about 8:50, having had to travel from the Courtyard to the Transportation and Ticket Center by bus, and from there to the park.
We waited until the official opening, and made our way right to the first destination of the morning....Space Mountain. When we got there, I assumed that I would have to wait with Allan at the outside of the building for the baby swap. I checked with the CM at the entrance to make sure, and found I was wrong....I had to go through the entire queue with the baby -- without the stroller -- and then perform the baby swap inside the building. This was our first ever baby swap at Space Mountain, we'd done it on several other attractions, but not this one...and I think this is the worst one of all.
Let me reiterate: The baby swap for Space Mountain works like this - Everyone in the group must go through the entire queue. This is a real pain, because you're not allowed to take a stroller. Only when you get to the loading area of the Space Mountain vehicles is the part of the group that is staying with the child(ren) directed to exit (temporarily) down the last "chicken exit" ramp. That part of the group, along with the child(ren) waits at the attraction unload area (inside the building), then waits for the first group of riders. When the first group is done, the second group walks back up the same "chicken exit" ramp to the loading area.
After Space Mountain, we rode the AstroOrbiter. That is, Caity, Mary, and I did...while Barb kept Allan company with feet firmly on the ground. I was in my own car and went up and down and up and down while spinning clockwise. It's a fairly boring ride without Barb.
Rocket Jets, now called AstroOrbiter (September 1991) The last time Barb and I rode this attraction was Before the last Tomorrowland remodeling in the mid-1990's. It's a very slow loading ride and a very short duration one, so we don't often visit it. However, the main reason why we don't is that Barb just doesn't like it...and I don't love it enough to go by myself. The last time we rode, we got in a rocket together (and yes, it was a pretty tight fit). Barb, being the front rider, had control over what altitude we flew, and I spent the entire ride trying to convince Barb to let us go up...and down. She did, after awhile, but we never really got moving the way I would have liked. We laughed about that ride for a long time afterwards...."BARB, Come on, let's have FUN on this ride, OK?" but no, she wanted to just stay down low until the spinning stopped and she could get out of this thing.
Next, we walked back to Toontown Fair to visit some of the characters. We started at Mickey's house. Mary made the point to Caity that Mickey kept his bedroom neat. I pointed out that he had 30,000 CMs to help him. We also snapped a few pictures of the backyard, then joined the queue to see the Big Cheese.
The line was full, but not anywhere near as busy as our first visit last year. It only took perhaps fifteen minutes or so to get through the entire queue. When we actually got into the room to see Mickey, we were last in line. It was fun to watch him with the other kids first. When it was our turn, Caity got his autograph and Barb and Mary snapped some more pictures. Then Allan and Barb and I all joined Mickey for another picture. Allan seemed a little careful with the very large rodent, but didn't cry. He just didn't smile too much either.
Mickey (October 1996) Our last stop for the day was Toontown Fair. We walked from Liberty Square through Fantasyland, walked past the Teacups, and left into the area. It's really a heartbreak to see Toontown Fair after seeing Toontown at Disneyland. It's several huge steps away from the quality it could have been. Too bad. We weren't there for anything other than an audience with the Big Cheese, though, so we went to Mickey's house and got in the queue. We waited a long, long time. It was probably over a half hour before we were shown in to see the Corporate Symbol himself. Mickey was great with the baby...and the Grandpa. Dad took five or six shots, hopefully one or more came out good. More pictures for that first girlfriend to see...
On the way out, I walked back to see Mickey's garage. If you've never stopped in, you should. It's more fun (for the typical guy) that most of the rest of the house.
After that, the ladies walked through Minnie's house, then we all joined the queue to visit with the "fairy tale friends." This was a fairly quick queue, too. Within ten minutes or so, we were in a room (with about fifty other people) to visit with Belle, Aurora, and Pocahontas. Caity got autographs from all three, and we got pictures of Caity with them all...and Allan and me with them all too. Tough job, these girls have, to have to be so kind and smiling with all of these people and kids all day long. I'm sure it's rewarding, in its' way, but it must be draining, too.
After we saw the princesses, we checked the line for the Grand Prix Speedway and found it to be toooooo long, so we doubled-back to catch Mr. Toad's Wild Ride (a first for this trip) and Peter Pan again. On the way, right by the Teacups, we ran into some characters from Alice in Wonderland, and Caity opted to get their autographs too. She was able to get the White Rabbit and Twiddley Dee before they all left on a break.
At Barb's recommendation, Mary left us for a moment to purchase a big thick handled pen. It's alot easier for the characters to sign autographs with a big thick pen than a small thin one. Mickey, for example, had dropped Caity's regular pen twice before he got the handle on it and signed her book.
Next, Mr Toad...on the left side. Enough said.
By this time, Allan was pretty much used up. A walk down to ride Peter Pan would have been too much, so we changed our plans and made a beeline for the Plaza one last time this trip. Barb had the chicken & rice soup ($2.95) , of course, and a bacon cheddar burger ($9.75). I had a double decker sandwhich ($10.25) and my usual chocolate/coffee shake ($3.95). Allan, with his teething, just had some of ours along with some white milk ($1.75). The whole meal came out to be just $27.36 after my MKC discount, and before the tip.
After lunch, Barb and I and Allan skipped the park for our break. Allan fell asleep in my arms at the bus stop, so I carried him back on the bus and up six flights of stairs with him completely sacked out. He's heavy, but it was a precious moment....he doesn't often fall asleep like that, and when he does, it's usually on Barb. Barb, however, decided she prefers that much more than the stroller assignment on the busses!
As we left for our evening out tonight, Allan was in terrible shape. He'd just spent a good half hour holding his mouth and crying piteously. We both felt terrible for him.
As we walked out the door, I told Barb "This is a huge mistake."
I was sure that the right course would be to call Mary and cancel and spend the evening in the room letting Allan be miserable. Boy was I wrong! As soon as we got in the van, he stopped crying, and was in a fantastically happy mood (even for him) all evening long.
We drove over to the Courtyard to pick up the relatives, then over to the Beach Club Resort. We parked the van and walked in the back door, the International Gateway, to Epcot.
We strolled from the entrance turnstiles to France, and we saw some of the living statues about. Pretty funny, because we heard one woman say that she "never saw that statue move", whereas Barb had seen it move several times. While in France, I checked in at the perfume shop to see where they had the oils for mixing that we'd been told were moved there from the Antique Shop in the Magic Kingdom.
The French CM that I asked said, and I quote, "I don't know why they would say that, they are liars." It was a typical French reaction. Well, the bottom line is that a formerly unique Walt Disney World feature is gone forever I suppose. RIP.
From there we walked straight to Marrakesh for dinner. Now that we've tried this place, it's one of my favorites. We were seated within five minutes of our arrival, on the main floor, but away from the central dance floor. The Morrocan music was playing loudly, and Allan really seemed to enjoy it. A few minutes later, a belly dancer came out to entertain...and like last year, spent most of her time getting the younger kids in the restaurant to join her. It's always cute to watch the little ones like that.
We skipped the appetizers this time, and simply ordered entrees. Barb had the beef shish kabob ($19.95) served with rice and orange pop ($1.95). I had the sultan's sampler which included brochette of chicken (ok, a chicken kabob), some beef kefta, and a beef shish kabob along with a side of rice and vegetable couscous ($22.95). To drink, I ordered a Morrocan Sunrise ($2.95) which I remembered from the last trip was wonderful. We passed on desert.
When I tried to get my MKC discount, I was told that Marrakesh isn't a Disney restaurant so the MKC isn't honored. Bummer, but it won't keep me from coming back to this place. The total bill, before tip, was $50.67, and didn't include the milk we ordered for Allan, but which they failed to include on the tab -- a fact I didn't notice until I got out the bill to write this up.
Another wonderful meal at a wonderful restaurant....
Marrakesh (October 1996) I'd wanted to have a meal at Marrakesh since our honeymoon trip in 1989. Barb was never very keen on the idea, partly because the unusual food didn't excite her....but mostly because she didn't want the belly dancers to excite me. With added pressure from Mom and Dad (who had planned to go to Marrakesh during their short trip in September 1995, but weren't able to pull it off due to a scheduling problem) Barb acquiesced.
We were all pleasantly surprised at the menu. There was a wide variety of options and each of us had several to choose from that sounded good to us. I was surprised at how similar some of the dishes were to Greek food. We're pretty familiar with Greek cuisine since we've had dinner in the Greektown area of Detroit several times. Since this was the first of our six Food 'N' Fun meals, we each ordered a Morrocan Sunrise non-alcoholic specialty drink (which was excellent) an appetizer, an entree, and a desert with a beverage. Mom and Dad both ordered the harira soup appetizer. Barb had a beef brewat. I ordered a chicken bastilla. The soup had alot of saffron in it that gave it a nice kick. Mom and Dad both liked it (in fact, after our meal they bought a cookbook with the recipe for the soup.) The beef brewat and chicken bastilla were similar. They were both thin pastries filled with the meat. To top it off, the pastry had a thin sprinkling of cinnamon and powered sugar which gave it a sweet and very unusual flavor.
Mom and I both ordered the Sultan's Sampler entree that included a brochette of chicken, some beef kefta, and a beef shish kabob along with a side of rice and vegetable couscous. Dad ordered beef kefta. Barb had the shish kabob. The brochette of chicken was simply a chicken kabob. The beef kefta was a spicy meat ball with gravy. In case you're not familiar with couscous (I wasn't until I had this meal) it's a grain, similar to wheat, that is steamed and served with vegetables. My best description for it would be that it's alot like very small grained rice in texture and taste. For desert, Barb had a fruit cup with mint ice cream. I had a pastry served with vanilla cream sauce. Mom and Dad both had crepes with ice cream.
The Moroccan entertainment was alot more low-key that I'd expected. The live music was quiet and unobtrusive. Not top 40's by any means, but not obnoxious. The belly dancing was pretty calm, too. In fact, the dancer spent more time teaching some of the kids in the crowd to dance than she did in going from table to table embarrassing the patrons (which is what I was afraid of). It was pretty cute to see the kids up there.
After dinner, we strolled the prominade. We skipped the American pavilion, but I recommended the show to Caity. I'm not sure if she bought it or not, but it really is a great one.
We continued on to Japan, and spent a great deal of time in the Mitsukoshi store. Barb decided that she wants to get back in the bonzai hobby, something she'd given up after a few deciduous fatalities. I'm glad because I've always thought the little trees are neat, even though I don't want to take care of them myself. Caity found some things she wanted, too, so we picked them up while we were in the neighborhood.
Next, we made our way to Italy where I finally picked up the chocolate cappuccino bars that I'd decided to buy. I got six, and I hope they'll last me a good long time. We strolled some of the other shops in Italy, too, then headed back toward the International Gateway.
When we got back to France, we checked on the timing of the next showing of Impressions de France, the wonderful film showing French scenery set to classical French music like Saint Saen's Carnival of the Animals and several of Claude Debussy's works. It's a lovely presentation, perhaps twenty or so minutes in length. Allan seemed to like it too, just like I do. He waved his hands with the music and really seemed to enjoy the film -- much to my surprise.
The film finished it's run at about ten minutes before 9pm and we exited the theatre, made our way to the stroller, and walked up the bridge that joins France to the International Gateway and the UK pavilion. We planted ourselves on the side of the bridge opposite the Lagoon to catch as much of IllumiNations as we could. The show started soon thereafter, and we heard the music and saw some of the higher shooting fireworks and lasers, but didn't really see much else. Perhaps Mary and Caity can catch it on another night. Can you believe it? Illuminations three times on the same trip.
After the show, we made tracks back to the van and drove the others back to the Courtyard. We made our way back to our room and let Allan play for awhile before bed to get some wiggles out. It was well deserved, since he'd behaved so wonderfully.
Wednesday, October 29th (Studios, lunch at Mama Melrose's, Magic Kingdom, SpectroMagic, and dinner at Chef Mickey's)
This morning we met Mary and Caity at the Studios. We'd arranged to meet in front of the Fantasmic! sign that's posted outside of the park as close to 8:30am as we could. We arrived a couple minutes after that. Mary enjoyed our tardiness because I'd teased her about being just like some other family members (who will remain unnamed) that are habitually late when she and Caity were a twenty minutes late yesterday morning.
Our first order of business was the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Since this was an early entry day at the Studios, there was already a lengthy line for the Tower when we arrived just before 9am. This was odd for Barb and I, because we'd never been in line for more than ten minutes or so for the Tower prior to this. Caity, though, was primed for this ride (and Mary had made it clear that if she didn't want to ride the Tower alone, she had to do it when Barb and I would ride with her - so that meant today).
We wound our way through the unkempt gardens of the hotel. It was fun to see some of the exterior details of the building and grounds that I'd never noticed before. The place really does look like it's been abandoned for sixty years. The ride, of course, was spectacular. Caity wasn't even too concerned before the drops, but she surely held onto Barb during the action.
After the Tower, we strolled back toward Hollywood Boulevard and decided to drop our priority seating for Teppanyaki Dining Rooms in favor of Mama Melrose's. I would have enjoyed Teppanyaki, but I had a hankering for Italian -- and Mary REALLY had a hankering for Italian, so that's what we decided. The other factor, of course, was having to transport to Epcot which would have been inconvienient.
The next thing on our short list was Mary's request that we see the Voyage of the Little Mermaid. This is a fun attraction, but the lines tend to be lengthy. Such was the case today. Before getting in line, I asked a nearby cast member if everyone in line would make it into the next show. The CM said yes, so we joined the line.
The CM was wrong.
We ended up standing in the queue beyond the next seating, passing Allan off like a hot potato (he really is quite heavy for a one year old) for over forty-five minutes, before we saw the line move into the pre-show room. The CM's used the pre-show room to queue everyone up, but they didn't run the pre-show itself.
The main presentation itself is visually pretty. It tells the story of Ariel, but is very, very sketchy about it. The dialog from the missing pre-show would have helped. Regardless, the girl singing the part of Ariel did a great job, a little flat at one point, but I couldn't have done better.
After Ariel grew pedal flaps, Barb voted for Muppetvision 4D. On the way over, we made a short stop for some giant "Hercules" pretzels and pop. Just a little snack to hold us over for a late lunch.
We made our way to Bunsen Honeydew's laboratory. This was another attraction that Barb and I had never waited in the queue for. Even so, we didn't wait long, but reading some of those posters, with the typical dry Muppet humor, was a riot. The show, as always, was a blast. Allan enjoyed getting his own pair of glasses, but didn't seem to wear them enough to understand the concept of 3-D.
Let me make a passing comment here, Allan did NOT do well in shows during the first part of the trip. The Legend of the Lion King is one example. However, he's done very well in shows during the second half of the trip. He had no problem with Impressions du France last night, and he did well with Voyage of the Little Mermaid and Muppetvision 4D today. I'm not sure what caused the change. It could be familiarity after two weeks of this stuff. Perhaps he's less irritable now that his big teething bout is past.
We had just over an hour to go before lunch at Mama Melrose's, so we walked all the way back to the Great Movie Ride (yes, I know Mama Melrose's is right by the Muppets, but a day at the studios is fairly hard to plan, I think.) This was our second visit to this attraction this trip, and again we stayed in a line that under normal conditions we would never have bothered with.
We were in car A this time, and Allan was very, very cautious as we rode through the gangster scene. I'm certain he was waiting for the gunplay to begin. He was also fascinated with the fire that blossomed during the western bank robbery.
One last tidbit, it was neat to be in the last row of the car. The scene after Indiana Jones is the one where the bad guy that took over our vehicle gets toasted and our original driver comes back. Barb and I were able to watch the scene get reset. Nothing spectacular, but neat to see.
After riding the movies, we walked back through New York Street to make our priority seating time at Mama Melrose's. The restaurant had no record of my priority seating, it didn't come up on the computer at all. Even so, they were prepared to seat us in ten minutes or so. I did have my priority seating card as proof that we had made arrangements, but I don't think it helped at all. It didn't hurt, but it didn't help.
We ended up sitting in the far back of the restaurant. It was kind of neat, because we ended up sitting in the table next to the one we sat at on our very first visit to the restaurant.
After we were seated, Barb ordered sprite ($1.95) and a combo pizza ($11.25). Mary and I both had the all-you-can-eat penne pasta with marinara basil sauce ($11.75). I even resisted the temptation to have chicken added, mostly because I knew that dinner tonight would be all-you-can-eat, too. To finish up, Caity ordered a kid's pepperoni pizza.
After we ordered, maybe five minutes later or so, our waiter returned to the table with a surprise for Caity. He brought out the dough, cheese, pepperoni, and sauce for her to make up her own pizza. After she put everything on, he took the pie away to have it baked. It was pretty cool, and completely unexpected.
Lunch was good. Mama Melrose's always has very flavorful food. Mary and I both even had seconds on our pasta.
After lunch, Barb and I and Allan left for the bus stop. Ironic that they call it that because we were stopped there, without a bus, for over forty-five minutes. As we were waiting, multiple buses pulled in and out for Caribbean Beach, Dixie Landings, and Port Orleans, the All Star Resorts, the Disney Institute....all of them except for Old Key West. While talking with some of the other folks at the stop we found out that some of them had waited even longer, up to an hour in the worst case, before the bus finally pulled up.
After we sat down, I asked the driver who I could call to complain to, and I was told to call bus transportation at the Transportation & Ticket Center on phone number 824-6020. Furthermore, the driver told me that only two buses (out of four that were originally on the route) were covering the Studios / Epcot runs for Old Key West and that OKW was the only resort that was cut back. However, the driver also told me that all drivers were currently on a mandatory six day, ten hours per day schedule due to a lack of help.
When I got back to the room, I called bus transportation at the Transportation & Ticket Center on phone number 824-6020. A gentleman by the name of Mark answered the phone, and when I asked who I could complain to about bus service, he called a manager to the phone.
Steve and I then had a rather interesting conversation for probably ten minutes or more. I certainly can't remember what was said word for word, but I'll do my best to summarize it.
First, Steve also shared the fact that only two buses were covering the Studios / Epcot runs for Old Key West and that OKW was the only resort that was cut back. Furthermore, he pointed out that the cutback was done at the request of DVC member services to save operating costs.
I suggested the idea that perhaps OKWR and the Disney Institute could share buses to improve service, and Steve said that that had already been tried...and rejected. It actually made service at OKWR worse.
Steve asked me about bus service to the resort in general, and I pointed out that the Magic Kingdom seemed to have the best service, but even then OKW folks seemed to wait alot more than other resorts.
Some of the other folks at the Studios bus stop had told us a horror story that I passed on to Steve. Apparently this morning, several buses to the studios in sequence had become full before they got to Turtle Pond and North Cove bus stops, the last two on the circuit. As a result, those buses just went off to the Studios without ever covering those last stops (then returned to OKWR as Epcot buses). By the time these folks were picked up, forty-five minutes after they got to the bus stop in the morning, they missed their priority seating time for breakfast at the Soundstage Restaurant.
Next, I told Steve that I didn't care about how full the buses were, I didn't care about efficiency, I just cared about how long I had to wait for a bus. Fifteen or twenty minutes, in my opinion, is excellent service. Thirty minutes is bad. Fourty-five minutes to an hour or more is unconscionable.
I told Steve that I think it's even more important at a DVC resort that this service be good, because DVC was sold, at least in part, on the premise that Disney Service is top-notch. That might be true in other areas, but NOT in OKWR bus transportation.
Finally, I asked Steve who else I could complain to, and he suggested Tom Worber, the DVC General Manager. I will certainly be writing to Mr. Worber when I get back to Michigan.
After that stimulating phone conversation, we tried to settle down for an abbreviated afternoon break. Abbreviated because of the bus wait, but also because of our schedule for the day, which had us heading over for SpectroMagic fairly soon.
We drove the van to the Contemporary for our final visit to the Magic Kingdom. We parked as close to the resort as we could, then walked over to the park to meet Mary and Caity.
As we walked under the train station, we saw that most of the center part of the upstairs was still unclaimed for the parade, we thought it was odd, but I stayed there with Allan while Barb went to the hub to meet up with the relatives. Several people were seated on train station chairs back against the stairway railing, but no one was up at the rail at the town square side of the station.
It was too good to be true.
As it turned out, the Walt Disney World Brass had moved those folks back so they could stage their retreat ceremony. After the flag was lowed, those folks resumed their spots at the rail, and we were in the second row....standing room instead of perfect seats.
I decided to move down to the far right of the upper station platform because I thought the view would be a little better from there. To our left was the tiled upper platform that included the center part of the station and the central stairway down to the street level. To my immediate right was one of the cast iron tables (fairly wobbly) and to the right of that, an overgrown shrub.
When Barb and Mary and Caity joined us, we spent the next hour and fifteen minutes protecting our turf...
One guy just walked between us and stood there videotaping. he told Barb that he would only be there a minute. Unbelieveable that he didn't ASK. People have no manners anymore.
The next classic was the older man that made his wife join him in a move past us to stand right in the foliage of a bush that was right beside us. After a few minutes of having leaves and twigs in her back, she retreated back to a spot behind us. The mister doggedly stayed put.
Next was a Dad who decided to put his three year old daughter ON THE TABLE to watch the parade. When I told him it was kind of wobbly, he checked it (with the girl standing there) and almost sent her flying. The little girl's grandfather later shoved the table against the shrub to "make more room."
Just before the parade started, a couple of teen-aged kids, a guy and a girl, CRAWLED under the before-mentioned table and stood in front of the shrub next to the mister. It was pretty crowded back there.
Of course, the last problem was the non-Americans (I surmise that from their non-English conversational language) that pushed on our backs during the parade to get a better view. I'm not knocking those folks ethnicity or nationality, just pointing out that the American cultural norm of SPACE isn't their own.
I did leave the area at one point just to walk down to City Hall to complain about the Antique Shop perfume oils being pulled. Paul, the CM I spoke with at City Hall was clueless about what I was trying to tell him, but was nice about it. He did give me an envelope to write to WDW about it. Great. Another complaint letter.
Finally, SpectroMagic mercifully began. Except for the before-mentioned non-Americans inexorably shoving us toward the precipice of the platform, the parade was great. Allan wasn't as spellbound as he was during the previous viewing of the parade, but still seemed to enjoy the colors and especially the music. Barb thinks he wasn't as interested because he was above the floats so they didn't loom over him. I think he just had seen the parade before so it wasn't as exciting the second time around.
After the parade was over, we walked downstairs and while the others went over to City Hall for a moment (you can guess why yourself), I walked around the railroad station with Allan and read the histories of the four steam engines on the line. I'd never noticed the writeups before.
After that, we walked back out to the town square and waited for Fantasy in the Sky. We'd seen it from the Contemporary on Monday night, but Caity wanted to see it from the ground. I don't blame her, it's a lovely show. When the rocket's red glare died off, we left the park and walked over to the Contemporary Resort for dinner.
This was our last visit to the Magic Kingdom this trip. Whenever I leave there, I get a lump in my throat. It's a very special place. The last glance down Main Street, the railroad station as we pass underneath it for the last time, the last sight of the castle's spires as we leave (I can't wait to see that again with the cakesicle decorations removed)...each vista carries with it a multitude of memories.
I'm fortunate to be able to return to Walt Disney World year after year, but I have so many things that are more important to be thankful for: My wonderful wife, my precious son, my wonderful family, my church and our many friends there. The last day at the Magic Kingdom always makes me think of the wonderful blessings I've been granted.
Coming to Walt Disney World is fun because of the great times I've had here with my family and friends...it's those memories that makes this "the happiest place on Earth." I look forward, as always, to visiting again next year (and I'll be coming twice in 1998!)
We got to the Contemporary Resort and made our way directly to Chef Mickey's on the fourth floor. This was the only priority seating that I made from home for our time with Mary and Caity. We figured that it would be a nice way to end the trip and that Caity and Allan would love the characters.
It turns out that we were half right on that. Remember the gorilla from the Rainforest Cafe? Apparently Allan doesn't like oversized rodents and canines either. Every time that Chip, Dale, Mickey, Minnie, or Pluto were in the vicinity, Allan was terrified. We really felt bad for him. We found, though, that if one or the other of us was holding him when the character was nearby, he dealt with things ok. He wasn't happy about it, but he wasn't horrified, either. We actually got some pictures with Minnie and Mickey and Allan, but he didn't smile much during this meal.
Caity, on the other hand, was in her glory. She got autographs from all of the characters, and even wanted to run them down in the restaurant when she became impatient when they didn't come to our table soon enough. We managed to keep her at the table by reminding her that all of the characters would come to us if we were patient. Unfortunately, that's not a virtue that Caity, even with all of her positive qualities, has in abundance.
As far as the food is concerned, it was very good. I wish Allan hadn't been so frightened, because I think I would have sampled the options more than I did. For one thing, though, the Prime rib was excellent. The chocolate mousse cake desert was spectacular, too.
After dinner, we walked over to visit the Contemporary Shops briefly. After that, we drove Mary and Caity back to the Courtyard and bid them adieu.
So ends our last night at Walt Disney World.
Thursday, October 30th (Travel):
This morning we got up a little late. We didn't end up leaving OKWR until about 9:30am. On the way out, we stopped briefly at the resort store to buy a golf ball for Kathy's brother, who collects them. Kath emailed me asking us to pick it up before we left. Since we didn't get her message until last night, we only bothered to get an OKWR ball. Hopefully, that will suffice.
Of course, since this was a travel day we didn't do much other than drive. We drove and drove and drove...
We didn't stop until we crossed the Georgia line when we pulled off the interstate to visit Myogi's Bonsai store just across from Florida. Because of our visit to the Mitsukoshi store in Japan, Barb's got the Bonsai bug again. We just have to find a better place in the house to care for the little critters. While Barb looked at the little trees, I let Allan to walk about for awhile. I figured it would make the rest of the drive go better.
After a brief visit, we continued up the road for a little while, then pulled off again to have lunch at a Pizza Hut.
Then we hit the road again. We drove through Atlanta on I-75....first time we've ever done that. Usually we follow AAA's recommendation to go around the city on I-285, but this time it looked like that traffic was worse than what we'd have to deal with on the main corridor. As it turned out, there were no major problems and no significant slow downs, even though there was some heavy traffic.
We continued on to Cartersville, Ga where we checked into a Comfort Inn in at about 7pm. We let Allan have some time just stretching his little legs. Then we drove under the interstate to the world's slowest Shoney's restaurant. The food was ok, but the place was overwhelmed with customers and low on help. Dinner took a good hour and a half, but it was fairly inexpensive.
When we got back to the room, we watched ER on TV, then crashed for the night.
Friday, October 31st (Travel):
We got up a bit earlier today than we did yesterday. We were away from the hotel by 8:30 or so, even with the continental breakfast.
We jumped back on I-75 and made our way to Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Ever since our visit to this town last year, I'd wanted to come back to explore a bit more.
We started by making our way to the National Energy Museum. It's a free admission place that tells the story of Oak Ridge. We spent a couple of hours or so here last year, so all I wanted to do was get a map of the other sites in the area for touring.
I digress temporarily for yet another of my patented trip report history lessons...
The town of Oak Ridge didn't exist before World War Two. It was built by the Army Corps of Engineers as part of the Manhattan Project to build an atomic bomb. The purpose for Oak Ridge's existance was to produce some of the radioactive raw materials that would be used in the production of the bomb. Oak Ridge was also responsible for verifying some of the processes that would be used at other Manhattan Project sites.
Those radioactive materials were needed in large quantities for bomb production. Uranium naturally occurs in two states only one of which breaks down at a rate that supports a nuclear chain reaction. In order to make a bomb, the naturally occuring U-235 would have to be separated from the much more common U-238. In fact, only .7% of naturally occuring Uranium is of the 235 isotope.
Gaseous diffusion, electromagnetic separation, and thermal diffusion were all potential processes for performing that separation. All three processes were done at Oak Ridge, in production scale, because no one was certain which of the methods was the one that would work. As it turned out, all three did work, but the electromagnetic separation method produced the quickest results.
The other task that Oak Ridge provided in support of the project was to produce uranium fuel and plutonium seeds for the huge reactors that were built at Hanford, Washington for plutonium production.
Uranium U-235 that was separated at Oak Ridge's Y-12 electromagnetic separation plant was used to produce the "Little Boy" bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima in August of 1945. "Little Boy" was a simple gun device which shot a slug of enriched uranium into a cylinder of enriched uranium. When the two masses combined, critical mass for a chain reaction was achieved and the explosion resulted.
Plutonium produced at Hanford was used to produce the "Fat Man" bomb that was dropped on Nagaski. "Fat Man" was a much more complicated device than "Little Boy." "Fat Man" was an implosion device in which a hollow sphere of plutonium was imploded into a critical mass. The implosion actually caused the resulting chain reaction to be stronger since the materials were pushed together so quickly. As a result, "Fat Man" was a more powerful bomb than "Little Boy."
Now, back to Oak Ridge. Our first stop was the Y-25 plant Overlook. From here you can see the gasous diffusion plant. As I mentioned before, gasous diffusion was a backup process to the electromagnetic separation process, so Y-25 was never directly involved in the bombs that were used during the war. Even so, the plant is very large, covering 44 acres or so.
Next, we drove over to the graphite reactor. This was the second reactor in the United States to achieve a controlled chain reaction. Enrico Fermi's primitive pile at the University of Chicago was the only reactor that went online before this one. Of course, Dr. Fermi was very much involved in the design and construction of the graphite reactor at Oak Ridge, too.
The reactor first went online in 1943, and operated until 1963. Besides the many experiments that were run on the reactor that led directly to the design of the bombs themselves, the reactor also produced many materials used in medical and energy research over the years.
While we were at the graphite reactor, I found out that a walking tour of the electromagnetic separation plant, Y-12, is available during the summer months. I just might have to return to see that sometime in the future.
After we walked about the reactor building, we made our way back into town and had lunch at the world's slowest Arby's in the world. We've been cursed on this trip home with slow restaurants...or maybe I'm just too stinking impatient?
Then we continued on to just North of Cincinnati. By this time it was close to 7pm, so we decided to get a room for the night. First I tried a Holiday Inn ($84 even with Priority Club discount), then a Hampton Inn ($62 with AAA discount), and finally checked into a Red Roof Inn ($42 with no discounts).
We drove over to a nearby Big Boy restaurant for a late dinner, then returned to the room for bed.
Saturday, November 1st (Travel Home):
This morning we got up and drove on North after a quick continental breakfast at the Red Roof. We didn't have much further to go, perhaps five hours drive at the most.
On the way, we stopped near Findlay, Ohio, at a building that bills itself as "Ohio's Largest Antique Store." It was large, but I've been in bigger ones in Michigan. There's one in Bay City for example, located fairly close to home, that's just huge.
Anyway, we strolled around the store for awhile, but we didn't find anything that we felt we had to buy. Mostly, Barb just wanted to stop in out of curiosity. She loves to see all the different kinds of antique cookie jars. Where she acquired this interest I'll never know. We'd seen this place next to I-75 for several years, and only now did we take the time to stop.
After that, we stopped for another fast food lunch, Wendy's this time, and then made our way across the Ohio / Michigan border and up to Saginaw. I caught a large portion of the Michigan-Minnesota football game during the drive. It helped to pass the time.
Summary / Conclusions / Lessons Learned
This was a great trip for us to Walt Disney World. Besides "Remembering the Magic" we made alot of new memories that we'll enjoy for many years to come. We did alot of fun things, had many wonderful meals, spent alot of fun time with our friends and with Mary and Caity.
Another thing that I'll probably never forget, I found out that I got the job I've been wanted for so long at work while we were here on this trip.
We mostly enjoyed meals at many of our old favorite restaurants. The only new place we tried this year was Nine Dragons, in China and it turned out to be a wonderful meal.
The top meal highlights, in no particular order:
Tony's Town Square Cafe - Slow service, good food, rather expensive considering the value you get.
Liberty Tree Tavern - Reasonable service, good food, good value.
The Plaza Restaurant (three times) - Uneven service (depends on who your server is), good food with reasonable prices.
Rainforest Cafe - Fun atmosphere (even with the mean old gorilla), uneven service, excellent food, good value for the cost.
Nine Dragons - Good service, good food (Barb said it was the best Chinese food she's ever had), expensive for the value.
Rose and Crown - Reasonable service, good food, good value.
Marrakesh - Reasonable service, excellent food - if a bit exotic, good value.
Prime Time Cafe - Reasonable service, good food, good value.
Mama Melrose's (twice) - Good service, excellent food, good value.
The Hollywood Brown Derby - Fun atmosphere, good service, excellent food - but in a very Californian-esoteric style, expensive for the value.
Pepper Market - this is a food court, but it operates very efficiently, good food, excellent value.
Grand Floridian Cafe - Slow but attentive service, excellent food, expensive for the value.
Chef Mickey's - this is an all-you-can-eat buffet, excellent food, excellent value (especially when you factor in the character appearances)
Quite a list for any trip!
We missed quite a few attractions this year. We never made a trip on any of the Rivers of America boats, nor did we get over to Tom Sawyer's Island. We never took the time to ride Goofy's Barnstormer in Toontown Fair or the Country Bear Jamboree in Frontierland. In Tomorrowland we missed the Raceway and Dreamflight. At Epcot, we passed on Rio del Tiempo, Maelstrom, and the Canada Circlevision film and missed several of the lesser shows including the Making of Me, Food Rocks, and the Circle of Life. At the Studios we missed alot of stuff. We never saw the Beauty and the Beast or Hunchback of Notre Dame stage shows, the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular, Superstar Television, or the Sound Show. We also missed the special effects and backstage tours.
Unfortunately, we also had to wait another year to ride Test Track.
Allan is a joy. He really did well with the trip, and took our park touring in stride. We did find that keeping a fairly rigid schedule, featuring a daily break for a nap and some "downtime," kept him from getting too tired or irritable. We would get up and to the park at about the same time each day, stop our park touring at about the same time each day, have lunch at about the same time each day, and have our afternoon break at about the same time each day. If you see a pattern forming, you're right, and Allan did too.
During our trip last year, we had my Mom and Dad with us. Having them there to keep an eye on Allan every once in a while was a blessing. I didn't realize, last year, how nice it was. This year I really did. Frankly, I'm looking forward to next year's trip with my in-laws so they can take the Little One a few times.
Old Key West
Accomodations - The two-bedroom vacation home is tremendous. Having the space (the kitchen and living room) is fantastic when you're visiting with a larger group. The laundry room is another wonderful feature that we relied upon frequently. We really missed the laundry at Wilderness Lodge and in the studio during the second part of the trip.
Service - OKWR lacks in this area compared with many of the other WDW resorts. The CMs tend to be friendly enough, but aren't overly helpful. I also hate the fact that resort deliveries for purchases in the park and marketplace stores are made to the front desk or the store rather than direct to the room.
Transportation - The bus transportation at OKWR was terrible this year. I am still amazed that the service for the moderate resorts is so much more frequent than for Old Key West.
Accomodations - The room was very nice, but small. I must admit that I'm comparing the WL room to the two-bedroom and studio vacation homes at OKWR. Having said so, the room was very nicely decorated and appointed. It also had a hair dryer, something the rooms at OKWR don't have.
Service - I was very pleased with the service at Whispering Canyon and the front desk. Bell services were extremely efficient and courteous. Unfortunately, the CMs at Roaring Fork and the hotel store were unnecessarily rude. Also, Roaring Fork was downright filthy when we had lunch there.
Transportation - The transportation at WL is less convenient than at many of WDW's other premium resorts. The boat to the Magic Kingdom is scenic, but tedious. The buses are ok, not great service but not bad.
Thus ends "Brian Bennett's 1997 'Remember the Magic' Trip Report." I hope you've found it helpful, useful for your own trip planning, and entertaining to read.
I can't wait 'till May 1998, and September 1998, and October 1999...
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Appendix -- Other Memories
I've picked out a handful of other memories from our Walt Disney World trips that stand out as particular favorites. Since they didn't come up as this trip unfolded, I thought I'd just include them here for fun...
Artist's Point (October 1996) One night during our trip Grandma and Grandpa agreed to keep the Little One so Mom and Dad (that still sounds weird a year later) could enjoy a quiet dinner out. We chose to visit Artist's Point at Wilderness Lodge. The atmosphere of this restaurant is very inviting. Wildlife scenes are painted on the walls, a nice, high ceiling and nicely spaced tables give the space a nice comfortable feeling. The menu is interesting, with several game selections, but contains some more typical selections for the less-adventurous and typically good service. Personally, I think Artist's Point serves the best steak at Walt Disney World. For this meal, Barb ordered the porterhouse steak and I had -- get this -- a buffalo sirloin. Both were absolutely wonderful. The buffalo was very tender, but didn't taste significantly different from the beef. It was a bit more firm in texture, but was still very tender. The service was attentive without being overbearing. As always at the Point, we thoroughly enjoyed our meal.
Crystal Palace (October 1996) Breakfast at the Crystal Palace has been a highlight for us for many years. The puffed french toast has been a favorite of ours since I first read about it prior to our trip in the spring of 1991. We've come back to the Palace since then for at least one breakfast each trip. The most memorable Crystal Palace breakfast, though, was in 1996. This was the first time that we visited the Crystal Palace after it was changed over to a buffet and character breakfast. What made this meal particularly enjoyable was that Pooh came over and visited with Allan. The little one was only about four or five weeks old, and Pooh spent quite awhile with us posing for pictures and fawning over the baby.
Innovations in Action (October 1996) This was an even I'd wanted to experience for years and years...the Innovations in Action Tour. The tour is a Disney University behind-the-scenes tour that includes a walk in the Utilidor (underground passages) under the Magic Kingdom, the plant nursery and tree farm, and other facilities. The cost is pretty steep ($60) but we've all wanted to see this stuff for so long. Barb really loved the nursery and other landscaping facilities (we saw more topiary back stage than we've ever seen in the parks before). I loved seeing the monorail roundhouse, Imagineering workshops, and the Utilidor the best. It's just fascinating to see how Disney does what it does...create magic!
Typhoon Lagoon (November 1990) I was unexpectedly free on Wednesday. A training session that I had planned to attend was canceled. So Barb and I drove over to Typhoon Lagoon for our first time there. What a place! The crowds weren't at all bad, after all, this was November... but again, the attention to detail that Disney specializes in is incredible. We slid down the Humonga Kowabunga and almost drowned and we learned that our favorite slides in the parks were the Storm Slides. I can't remember their names, but we tried them all. First, Barb tried the left-most slide (Jib Jammer?) while I rode the center one (Stern Burner?). Then we moved right, so I was in the right-most slide (Rudder Buster?). I can still remember laughing hysterically at Barb's startled scream when she entered the short, but pitch black, tunnel in the middle of the center slide's run. I heard her yelp as clear as if she was yelling in my year. It still bugs her when I remind her of it.
Mitsukoshi (November 1995) Epcot is a wonderful place for experiencing other cultures and cuisines. My first experience at Teppanyaki Dining Rooms, the main restaurant in the Japanese pavilion, is an excellent example.
We were seated around a counter with a stainless steel cooktop in the center. Eight of us, Mike, Stacey, Barb and I and four other people, were all seated together. We didn't know the other four people from Adam. Our hostess then provided us with menus, and gave us a few minutes to decide what we wanted.
I ordered a salad with ginger dressing. The dressing was alot like a very spicy Italian, but with a strong amount of ginger added...I had been expecting a sweet dressing, but this was anything but sweet. Good, but not sweet. I also ordered the beef tenderloin "teppan" entree (that must be Japanese for, "cooked on the stainless steel cooktop right before your very eyes...and watch out for the flying ginsu knife.") Barb also ordered the salad, but true to form asked that it be delivered with no dressing. She always likes her greens unadulterated. The New York sirloin was her entree choice. Mike also ordered the beef tenderloin, but ordered the ebi (shrimp) appetizer. Stacey ordered tori (chicken) for her meal, and passed on the appetizer. Barb, Mike and Stacey had assorted softdrinks. I had a fancy drink called an ichigo which was strawberries with pineapple and lemon juices. It was very good.
After we ordered, the hostess came back to our table with individual, warm washcloths for each of us. We were asked to wash our hands with them. Then she collected them and was off again.
Next, after our salads were delivered, the chef himself came to our area. He was clearly the strong, silent type. Didn't talk much, just grunted every so often...and bowed alot. Anyway, he started dumping vegetables of various kinds on the cooking surface, then a small amount of shrimp. Lastly, he added the meats, chicken, and a larger amount of shrimp and a ton of mushrooms.
Apparently only the very center of the stainless steel was hot. The chef started by cooking the small amount of shrimp and vegetables. He tossed, and turned them...added some oil and butter. Every once in a while, he would turn them again.
While the veggies were cooking, our chef took sixteen small bowls and filled eight with a ginger sauce and eight others with some other kind of sauce. I have no idea what it was, but the ginger sauce was alot like my salad dressing (big surprise, huh?). Our Chef then distributed the bowls to each of us at the counter.
After the items being cooked were almost done, he added a splash of soy sauce, then scooped them up and delivered them to the appropriate plate. First, mixed vegetables were delivered, in even proportions, to each of us. Next, Mike's shrimp appetizer was moved to his plate. (He reported them excellent. He was still talking about them days later.) After the shrimp appetizer, the chef started working on the shrimp entree of one of our countermates. The sirloins were done next, with the tenderloins and chicken last. After all of the entrees were served up, a large container of bean sprouts was cooked up for us. They were distributed around the counter last of all.
As we ate, the chef finished his meal chores by cleaning the piping hot cook top with a wet towel. He scrubbed it, turned the towel, then scrubbed some more. As you might imagine, there was steam billowing everywhere as he did this. I thought we were in a sauna.
Somewhere along the way, our waitress brought us each a bowl of steamed rice to eat with our meal. Like a typical gaijin, I dumped the rice on my plate and ate it with my meat and vegetables. Mike almost died! He made it quite clear that the rice was to be eaten from the bowl using the chop sticks. Like he's an expert or something.
The food was very good, but plain. Honestly, there wasn't much unique "Japanese flavor" in my meal as I had expected. This meal was not like a Chinese dinner which is cooked and served in a sweat and sour, or other sauce. Here, the dipping sauces provided the unique flavor. My meat tasted like sauted meat...the vegetables like sauted oriental vegetables. No surprises there.
For desert, Mike and I opted for the chestnut mousse, Barb and Stacey for the fresh fruit. As I recall, Stacey ended up with a few spoonfuls of Mike's mousse, too.
After lunch, we waddled around the store downstairs for a bit. Barb found some bonsai trees that she wants (she's into those things...gee thanks Dad). We found out that the bonsai could be purchased and shipped to our home. That would certainly make it easier than taking it home in the van. While Barb and I were looking at midget trees, Mike and Stacey watched someone pull an oyster with a couple of pearls in it. Good sized ones, too. I didn't see anything I particularly wanted. Especially since I figure that I'll be buying a tree before we leave for home. Mike liked the samauri swords (probably because, as a teacher, he works with teens alot). He also liked a magnifying class and letter opener set. Retail price, $240. Stacey spent some time around the kimonos. I don't know if anything caught her eye. Barb saw some pearl jewelry that she liked.