Mark Goldhaber - November 2002 - Old Key West Resort
Time of Year: Holiday Season
Travel Method: Plane, Shuttle Service
Ages Represented in Group: Pre-School, Adult, Senior
WDW Experience Represented in Group: Frequent, Veteran, DVC Member
Comments: Mark Goldhaber and family finally made it back to Walt Disney World after two-and-a-half years, and Mark finally writes a trip report. The joy of family and the magic of Disney shine through in this detailed trip report.
Mark Goldhaber -- November 2002 - Walt Disney World (OKWR)
"The New York Goldhaber Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Mouse"
OK, grab a pot/pitcher or two of your favorite beverage, a meal or two to snack on, and put your feet up. I tend to go on. A lot. A real lot. Read on, if you dare.
This was planned to finally be my first trip report. I was meaning to write something up for the last few trips, dating back to the big trip in October '99 with 23 people where I put together a pre-trip planning web site for everyone involved that really kind of served as a pre-trip report. I just never got around to doing a write-up for the trip itself. For the last family trip (to Disneyland & DCA in 2001), I found lots of information on MousePlanet, including trip reports, and I decided to write my own trip report. (Mostly inspired by Brian.) The thing about traveling with a 2-1/2-year-old is that, if you aren't careful and deliberate about getting something done, on-the-fly changes guarantee that you don't get it done. That goes for seeing attractions as well as writing trip reports, as was brought home during that trip. Therefore, this trip I planned how I would write the report and put together a report skeleton beforehand. Then came the surprise trip for a business conference in April, and I was able to write my first report for a smaller visit and get that under my belt. That should make this a bit easier. Also, since I'm not alone this trip, it'll be more fun, and I hope that it'll be reflected in the trip report.
Background exposition complete, let's get started.
Cast of Characters
The Repertory Company:
Me (Dad), 38, 17th WDW trip (3-trip DL veteran)
Hope (Mom), 36, 12th WDW trip (3-trip DL veteran)
Joshua (Miracle Boy), 4, 3rd WDW trip (1-trip DL veteran)
Special Guest Appearances for this Performance:
Grandpa Richie (my father), 60+, DVC member, frequent visitor
Grandma Natalie (my stepmother), 60+, DVC member, frequent visitor
Special Cameo Appearance for this Performance:
Mongo (a.k.a. Mark L., long-time friend), 40, DVC member, 10th visit
Our last WDW trip was in May, 2000. We hit the Disneyland Resort in May, 2001 as part of a trip to also see some friends in Northern California, but we only had three days in the parks, much of which was spent in Toontown, on the Teacups (12 times), or in the Redwood Creek playground area (see above-mentioned boy wonder). I was in heavy withdrawal, and even my wife was starting to feel the need. Add to that the fact that Joshua wanted to go to Disney again, and it was time. We started thinking about what we could do and who we could bring with us. We picked dates based on when we could get off work and other factors. We thought about a cruise/parks combo, but we weren't sure whether Joshua would be fully potty-trained by then, and they have a two-accidents-and-you're-out policy at the Oceaneers Club. Also, we weren't sure whether Joshua's asthma would be considered to require "one-on-one attention", which would also disqualify him from the Oceaneers Club. We decided to put the cruise on hold for a year or two, and then follow up on the asthma issue.
So who would we take to WDW with us? As it turned out, the week that we could go was not an opportune time for any of our friends. How about family? My mother & stepfather were out. They'll be on their own vacation then. My father & stepmother were out for the full trip, though they said that they might try to stop up for a couple of days while we're there. They live in FL and are DVC members, too. There could be an accommodations issue because they also would want the 1BR side of the 2BR unit. Hope's parents were unavailable. We decided to ask Hope's brother & his family if they'd like to join us, and they said that they might be able to come down for the Veteran's Day weekend portion of the trip. Once we got into reservations mode, though, they had to back out. So it looked like we were going it alone this trip.
That worked out well for us, as it turned out. It prompted us to set our next two trip dates after that in advance. We're going to go down in February 2003 with the Hope's parents joining us for part of the trip, which will be nice because they're easy to get along with, and they were also a good babysitting option when they joined us in May '00. We're also going to go down in October 2003, guests to be determined. (Did I mention that I love being a DVC member?) This also helped to ease the decision to get Annual Passes on this trip, since we'll be able to use them on three different week-long trips (henceforth known as the "Brian Bennett plan").
We've since confirmed that my father and stepmother will join us for Tuesday through Friday, staying on their own points at the same resort. That also resolves the accommodations issue, as they'll get their own 1BR (and saves us points, too!). We also confirmed my mother and stepfather as the guests for next October. We also set the dates for February and October.
We will be staying from November 8 to November 16 in a 1BR at OKWR. Weve asked for a first-floor room near Hospitality House, as weve found that it seems to work out well with Joshua at this point. Flights were to be booked later, when there would hopefully be a sale going on. I booked a minivan from National ($428.14 including all fees for 8 days - thank you Disney Club discounts), though I planned to watch for more sales right up until departure.
You know, I remember when we used to do the Disney commando thing, going from dawn to dusk, and we had a big plan for where we were going to eat every meal, because the variety of restaurants was one of the things we loved best at WDW. Then came Joshua, and all planning went out the window. It took three trips to break me (WDW 10/99, WDW 5/00, DL 5/01), but I think Ive finally given up on the commando thing. I did pretty well with taking it easy in April during the conference. It was probably the Disneyland trip, where I didnt get my chance to visit the original Haunted Mansion, the original Pirates, the original Tiki Room, or ride Splash, but visited Mickey s Toontown twice for better than an hour each time, rode the Teacups 12 times, Casey Junior twice, and saw much more of the Redwood Creek area than I cared to, that I finally realized that I just needed to pick my top priorities and let everything go until the next time. And now, with three trips in twelve months (four in eighteen months), I can safely allow myself to think "I can put that on the to-do list for next time" and mean it. It's amazing how much of the plan is for Joshua and how little is just for us grown-ups. So even though my prioritized to-do list looks like a bit of a commando plan, not much of it is mandatory and I can probably miss a good chunk of it and not be disappointed. It worked in April. We will see about this trip.
We're not what you would call "budget travelers", but we're actually doing a lot better since we had Joshua, since we used to have a lot more expensive meals every day, and I used to stock up on the Disney clothing and collectibles. We've got some higher expenses with Joshua -- notably as related to his health (he was a "micro-preemie" -- 2 lbs. 1.4 oz. at birth -- and still has reflux, allergy, and asthma issues and wears glasses, but is otherwise the most amazing, intelligent, and sweetest kid) but on the whole, we're spending less on the trips.
At this point, I should probably mention our Joshua Incentive Program. To encourage positive behaviors, we have instituted the Special Sticker Chart. It works like this: for each performance of one of the desired behaviors (dressing himself without complaining, undressing himself without complaining, a day with no accidents, etc.) he gets a Special Sticker on his chart. When he fills an entire row, he is entitled to one Special Thing. A Special Thing is good for anything that he wants, within reason. It could be an override of a decision on bedtime or where to eat for dinner, or it could be any merchandise up to $10 before tax. Joshua did a very good job of saving up his Special Things before the trip, and he had six to spend by the time we left.
One last thing to mention about Joshua is his sensitivity to carageenan. This common food additive happens to be one of Joshua's major food allergies. Anything more than a trace amount and either he throws it right back up or he has an instant asthma attack. We know that there are certain foods that we need to check, and others to just stay away from. But we get surprised sometimes.
Well, by the end of June, the airfares hadn't gone down, and all of the mid-day and early evening USAir return flights were showing up as sold-out. Southwest had just released their November fares for booking online. We decided to pay a little extra to get non-stop flights on Southwest, a moderately early flight out, and a mid-evening return. Unfortunately, this meant that we needed to change the car reservation for a later return, turning an 8-day rental into a 9-day one. In the meantime, one discount was no longer applicable, so the minivan rental became $526.34 (through Avis, BJ's Wholesale Club discount) for nine days. At the same time, we also swapped Vero Beach points in for OKW points so that we could use the OKW points to make our reservations for February with Hope's parents. (2BR with them for 3 nights, 1BR for 5 more nights.)
In August, another car rental deal! Dollar has an American Express cardholder rate on a Dodge Caravan for the full 9 days for $432.46! Repeated checking on the web pays off with a drop of $76, and we're right back near our original rate for the shorter rental! Score!
By early October, after two more iterations, we were now down to $349.90 on the minivan via a discount code on the Dollar site. National is about $1 higher, and I don't think that their minivan model has the integrated car seat, so Dollar wins for now. Of course, after Joshua's 4-year physical, we found out that he wouldn't meet the 40 lb. weight guideline for flying without a car seat, so it turns out we'll have to bring it anyway. It also turned out that the minivan we got didnt have the integrated car seat anyway. I guess you cant just check the feature list for the standard model of the minivan and assume that the rentals have the same equipment. (Insert Tony Randall's "assume" lecture from "The Odd Couple" here.) We got spoiled in May 2000, when our rental minivan did, in fact, have the integrated child seat.
In the meantime, the postcards that I had signed by Mickey during my business trip would show up in the mail occasionally. (Thank goodness that he doesn't understand postmarks yet!) The postcards were a big hit with Joshua, and helped to build his excitement for the trip.
On With The Show!
Prologue, in which our heroes frantically prepare for their adventure
(Thursday, November 7 - "A Long Night's Packing Into Day")
Stuff to do expands to fill the time available to do it in. I don't know why, it's just the law. Our list of things to do took all night as always, despite starting early during the day. Of course, the errands that we had to do before packing took excessively long, too. We were actually pretty well organized before packing, but there was so much else to do. I had to finish a web site update that I had promised, half a dozen carefully worded emails to be sent, much electronic gear to be dusted off and tested, and some web site bulletin boards to give a final check. By the time we were done, we had just enough time to grab a shower before waking up Joshua and getting ready.
Act I, in which our heroes depart "the real world" to make their pilgrimage to the Promised World and arrive at their "home away from home (resort)"
(Friday, November 8 - travel, check in at OKW, lunch at Olivia's, dinner at Cape May, Winn-Dixie run)
Hope's plan of "let's aim for 5:00 so that we'll be on the road at 5:30" actually worked! We pulled out of the driveway at 5:32. By 6:00, we were schlepping the luggage into the terminal, after having discovered that there were no Southwest skycaps out for curbside check-in, and that the luggage cart dispenser in the parking garage was not functioning. This would prove significant, as my right arm would be in pain the rest of the day. No problems checking in at Southwest, and we were headed back upstairs to the security check. They decided to have a quick look at my laptop, and the bag with all of the toiletries and medicine required a thorough hand check, probably because of all of the foil pouches with the asthma medication.
Having survived security, Joshua and I camped out in the central concourse waiting area while Hope made a McDonald's run for breakfast. We made our way to the gate and ate breakfast and gave Joshua his asthma treatment and other meds while waiting to board. Even though we were holding boarding group "A" passes, we took advantage of preboarding to give us a chance to install Joshua's car seat and get him set. Compared to US Air, we found that the seats on Southwest had much more leg room, which is nice for large-sized folks like us. If we're cramped sideways, at least we have room front-to-back. During the flight, they served the famous Southwest Airlines peanuts. Joshua had some, then immediately threw up. (Weve gotten very quick with airsick bags over the years, so we were able to contain the protein spill.) We had checked the ingredient list, but carageenan wasnt on the list. We were puzzled. After we came home, when we discussed it with Joshuas allergist, he said that some companies take full advantage of the 2% rule. If the ingredient is less that 2% of the product by weight, they dont have to list it. Many companies dont, for whatever reason. Apparently, Southwests peanuts contain carageenan. Either that, or he has another food allergy that we havent spotted yet. Southwest probably figured that it wouldnt affect anybody, since its a pretty rare allergy. But Joshua has never been one for standard illnesses. Neither has his mother. Anyway.
We took off on time, and landed 20 minutes early. After taking our time getting the car seat and everything else off the plane (and us, too), we gathered our luggage at bag claim and went to get a luggage cart. A skycap tried to give us a lift. With 7-8 bags including carryons and the car seat, I'd much rather spend $3 on a cart, especially with a long wait at the car rental counter. At the closest luggage cart dispenser, someone had crammed a couple of cardboard cards into the slot, rendering it inoperable (sabotaged by skycaps?). Not our day for luggage carts. Luckily, the next dispenser worked, and we were on our way downstairs. A potty stop later, we were at Dollar, still 25 minutes before our reservation time. Not to worry, though, there was plenty of time to wait on line. I think that I'll sign up for FastLane before our next trip so that we don't have to wait on line. Finally, much quicker than it felt, I got the car, still just before our reserved 12:00 time.
We went out, got the minivan, installed the car seat, and we were off. A quick trip down the Greeneway ($2 in tolls to exit 6), a short ride down 536, and we were welcomed home at Disney's Old Key West Resort. Checking in, we found out that (as I had been told by the room assigner) the resort was 100% full, and our requested building was unavailable. Instead of being in building 13 a short walk across from Hospitality House as we had requested, or in the first building grouping on Miller's Road as the room assigner had told me, we were in building 32, right near the Turtle Pond bus stop, but far from Hospitality House and from the building that my father will probably be in when he arrives on Tuesday. Even better, the room wasn't ready yet. That part I expected, since it was still only 12:45, and room availability isn't guaranteed before 4:00.
We had originally planned to eat lunch at Rainforest Cafe, activate our annual passes at the Downtown Disney Guest Services desk, and then go grocery shopping, figuring that the room would be ready by the time we finished all that. It probably would have worked, but we were too tired from missing sleep (Hope and me), getting up early (Joshua), and just traveling (all of us), not to mention the heat outside, that after a quick consultation, we decided that we would have lunch at Olivia's and hit Rainforest later in the trip.
After we finished lunch (sandwiches, $35.62 with tip), we tried checking on the room, not expecting much and being proven right. We decided to show Joshua around the pool areas while we waited. After seeing the pools, Joshua decided that he wanted to play in the kiddie pool for a while. Luckily, we had his swimsuit readily available. During his swim, I checked on the room again (3:00). Hallelujah, it was ready! After giving Joshua another half-hour in the pool, we got in the minivan and headed for room 3215. It's a nice 1BR unit with a good view of the creek and the golf course. Breakfast tomorrow morning should be pleasantly serene and scenic. One nice discovery was that the toilets are quieter than we remembered. Goodbye turbo toilets! After getting everything moved in and calling for an 8:00 PS at Cape May Cafe, it was nap time. Boy, did we need it! Between no sleep for us, getting up early for Joshua, lugging luggage, and sweating in the 85 degree heat (which felt hotter comparea to the chilly Albany weather that we had left), we were totally drained. We napped from about 4:30 until about 7:00.
When we got up, we discovered that the lack of turbo in the toilet also meant a lack of flushing power. We narrowly avoided calling maintenance for a plunger. After that, it took us so long to get moving, give Joshua his evening asthma treatment, and get out that we didn't walk up to Cape May until about 8:10, only to find that they couldn't find our Priority Seating. Eventually, we discovered that Samson at Dining had made the reservation for the 16th! The hostess was nice enough to give us priority anyway, and we were seated at 8:30. Dinner was delicious. We tried very hard to not eat too much, but everything was so good that we had to try a little bit of everything, and were very full by the end. Irving was very attentive, and we reciprocated with a nice tip. With DVC discount and tip, dinner was $62.31, a very good value for the food.
Over dinner, we decided that we should probably start the day tomorrow early at the Magic Kingdom, take a break by monorailing over to Epcot, and then getting back to the Magic Kingdom for SpectroMagic and fireworks. I was in favor of avoiding the MK until evening, but was overruled. We also decided that, even though we were still very tired, we needed to do the grocery shopping so that we could eat breakfast tomorrow morning, so we went off in search of Winn-Dixie. One of my goals on this trip was to shop anywhere other than Gooding's. I just didn't want to pay those inflated prices any more, just to be able to go to the closest place. We found the Winn-Dixie just a little ways down the road from Goodings and did a really quick run around the store. We applied for their discount card at the checkout counter (since Customer Service was closed for the night) with no problem, and the checkout clerk even helped Hope track down Joshua's rice milk. (Leaving her cash register in the process, which shocked us New York-types.) Our grocery bill was half of my estimate, which means that we probably won't see Gooding's again unless we need to shop after midnight, since that's when Winn-Dixie closes. (A major grocery store that closes. Another foreign concept to us New Yorkers.)
Back to the room, unpack groceries, unpack luggage, and Joshua and Hope into bed. I stayed up to update the trip report before turning in for the night. It's so much nicer typing the trip report into my Palm m130 using my new Palm keyboard compared to writing everything in manually and getting writer's cramp.
All in all, a good, no-rush day to start the trip.
High points: Joshua splashing in the kiddie pool, his huge, multicolor drawing on the paper placemat at Cape May
Low points: Not getting our building choice, having the dinner PS messed up, the broken luggage cart dispensers in Albany and Orlando
Act II, in which our heroes launch an ill-timed assault on the densely-populated Magical Kingdom, and experience magic and not-so-magic moments
(Saturday, November 9 - Magic Kingdom)
OK, so we're stupid. We go to the Magic Kingdom on a Saturday, during a three-day weekend. What the heck is wrong with us? Well, when I originally agreed that we'd start the day in the Magic Kingdom, I figured we'd get there early, hit some rides before it got too crowded, and run over to Epcot until it was time to go back for Spectro and fireworks. Duh!
First of all, we were all still so tired that we got a very late start. We took our time, and fed the ibises outside our patio after we had finished breakfast. We played around a little to talk about being here, as Joshua has some difficulty with transitions. By the time we got out, drove to the TTC, searched for and found Joshua's brick and our WDW25 brick, activated our Annual Passes, and got to the Magic Kingdom, it was approaching 12:00. However, here was where we had a Major Magical Moment. As the monorail came around the last curve, Joshua exclaimed in awe, "Cinderella Castle!! RIGHT THERE!! OUT MY WINDOW!!!!!" Everybody in the monorail just couldn't help grinning.
Next, it was time to go through security. Now, you have to understand that we dont travel anywhere lightly. At Walt Disney World, we generally have Joshuas stroller, a bag with the video camera and related gear, fanny packs for me and Hope, a tote bag with Joshuas nebulizer if were expecting to be out past dinner time, and the Backpack of Many Zippers. We started using this backpack as part of Hopes One Bag Theory when we had to carry a bottle bag (or, later, rice milk bag), a bag of medications, and a bag with changes of clothing. We no longer have to worry about the rice milk bag, but this backpack has so many compartments that we can store anything. We have compartments for sunscreen and related items, small toys for instant access, wipes and emergency pull-ups for when we run out of underwear, art supplies for during meals, and the main compartment with his medications, emergency snacks, and changes of clothing. Now, remember, when going through security, all zippers on all bags must be opened. It was at this point that we developed our methodology for getting through security quickly. Hope got Joshua through security, opening her fanny packs zippers, while I began putting the bags on the counter and opening all of the zippers. The guards usually got a kick out of the Backpack of Many Zippers, as we opened all of the compartments and flaps in rapid succession. By the time that Hope finished, I was ready to start showing the guard all of the various compartments, and as he finished each bag, it went under, on, or around the handle of the stroller. We managed to get through security fairly quickly each time by being prepared. And the Backpack of Many Zippers provided some entertainment most times.
After making it through security and entering the park (Yay!) for the first time this trip, Hope and I decided that it might be best to get a Fastpass for Pooh and then head for lunch. We were surprised at the sheer number of characters that were out. The characters were everywhere! Hook and Smee in front of the Chapeau, Fred and Tennessee Bear from the Country Bear Jamboree, Gepetto, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, Brer Rabbit, Mickey, Goofy, Max, Baloo, King Louie, and the White Rabbit were all spotted within 15 minutes strolling around the hub, through the castle, and around to the Enchanted Grove. But first, on our way up Main Street, U.S.A. towards the hub, we came upon a group of singers and dancers in turn-of-the-century garb performing on and around the horse-drawn trolley, just South of the hub. Joshua really enjoyed it, because he already knew one of the songs ("I'm Walking Right Down the Middle of Main Street, U.S.A.") from his Disneyland Sing-Along video. After that, we got a photo and autograph with Brer Rabbit, as his line was short, and Joshua likes Brer Rabbit. After we finished, all of the characters went into the castle on an apparent end-of-shift.
We followed them through the castle and picked up a Fastpass for Pooh at 12:40 (return time 3:45-4:45), then Joshua and I got in line for the White Rabbit for photo and autograph while Hope made a rest stop. We asked Joshua if he wanted to ride the Teacups, but he wasnt interested. We convinced Joshua to take a break for lunch, and we ended up at Starlight Ray's (table in the back toward the castle). Lunch was $27.38, but it took visits to two long lines to get everything. After the lunch break, we walked around Goofy's Wise Acres Farm (though not the Barnstormer), then to Minnie's House, and ended up getting a photo op with Pluto signing Joshua's autograph book. Next, we took the Walt Disney World Railroad around to Frontierland, and walked past Splash Mountain just in time to come out across from the path to Adventureland 10 minutes before the Share a Dream Come True parade kicked off, and only a couple of people back from the parade route. By getting up on his knees, Joshua was able to see over and around the heads of the kids sitting in front of him, so we were in good position.
<RANT MODE ON> OK, I'll admit it. My first thoughts upon hearing about this parade were, "Oh, boy. Somebody decided that they needed a parade where all of the floats are ready-made merchandise." I still think that, but I think that at least they did a decent job with it. The snowglobe floats were nicely done, there were lots of characters on and around the floats (a must for a Magic Kingdom parade), and there was plenty of opportunity for interaction. That said, I still don't like the merchandise concept. <RANT MODE OFF>
As we walked down the street in Frontierland, after the parade, Joshua excitedly picked up a couple of pieces of the confetti and showed them off to us, so we told him that we'd hang onto those for the scrapbook that we're going to help him do as a project after the trip. We stopped to get Hope and Joshua new hats. For some unknown reason, Joshua wanted a purple-and-pink Minnie Mouse baseball hat. I like to think of myself as not gender-biased or macho or anything, but I still did give him some gentle encouragement for him to pick a male character hat. Nothing doing there, so the Minnie cap it was. We went for a potty break, then we headed to Fantasyland, got a Fastpass for Peter Pan (at 3:48 for 7:40-8:40), and continued on to Pooh.
It was at this point where we had Meltdown #1.
Joshua, for some reason, is timid about many things, especially unknown things. We're not sure why. It may be related to "first-born overprotectiveness" which we try to avoid, but I'm sure that we do. It may be related to many preemies or medically fragile children getting used to making sure that something is safe before trying it. Or, it may just be in his nature. In any case, he gets especially frightened right before trying something new, even if he is really looking forward to it.
In this case, he had been talking about riding the Pooh ride for weeks, looking forward to it. However, as soon as we were getting ready to get in line, he started freaking out. We got into the Fastpass line anyway, as we knew that if we didn't get him on the ride, he wouldn't ride anything the entire trip. He had said that he was afraid that the ride would be too dark, so we gave him a small flashlight to shine whenever he thought it was too dark and he got scared, and that if he shined it at the heffalumps and woozels, they would run away. Unfortunately, he got himself so worked up by the time we were nearing the loading area that he triggered an asthma attack. We ended up going through the chain, bringing him out through the exit and store, and getting him to the stroller and his meds bag to give him a treatment. He calmed down quite a bit after the treatment, but he still was whimpering a bit. As much as we explained and comforted him, he was committed to working himself into a panic. Back through the FastPass line we carried him. Once we were on the ride, he clutched onto us and didn't want to look at anything, but he kept that flashlight shining at everything. Little by little, he loosened up as he realized that we were telling the truth and that everything was pretend. At the end, he asked us why the heffalumps and woozels were all pictures and not real. He was still having trouble internalizing it. As a reward for being brave and trying the ride, we bought him a honey pot vehicle die-cast model to remind him that he did it and doesn't have to be scared. We'll see how long that lasts.
After that, we stopped to get some popcorn, and then some ice cream. OK, the ice cream was mostly because I wanted that instead of the popcorn. We first checked out the soft serve. I asked them for a list of ingredients at Mrs. Potts' Cupboard, and sure enough, it contained carageenan. I guess no soft serve for Joshua at Walt Disney World. Luckily, the Mickey Premium bars from the outdoor vending (ODV) cart were OK. He ended up with a good part of the bar on his face, but that was OK. He was back to his smiling self. From there, we went to Toon Park to let him run around for a little while. We decided to walk through Mickey's house, since we hadn't done that yet, and went to the Judge's Tent to meet the Big Cheese himself. After an autograph and a few pictures, we went back to Toon Park while Hope stopped by the restroom. When she returned, we decided to split up. Hope took Joshua to Donald's Boat while I took the stroller to stake out a place for SpectroMagic.
I ended up getting about a 3-foot stretch right behind the rope just out front of that Emporium annex that they built on top of Center Street (I hate some of these urban renewal projects!), then called Hopes cell phone with my location. While waiting, I got to watch the Dapper Dans perform up and down Main Street and chat with some nice folks from New Jersey and a gentleman from Britain, whose girlfriend walked off to shop and wasn't back by the end of the parade. Most of the New Jersey folks took a stroll before the parade, and didn't make it back until right around the 5 minute warning.
Hope and Joshua rode the train from Toontown to Main Street, retrieved his nebulizer from the locker and did his regular evening asthma treatments, then came down Main Street and met me around 6:30. The parade was great, as always. Joshua really liked the parade, but some of the villains like Ursula and my favorite (Chernabog) unnerved him a little. I got some great shots with my new digital camera, and I finally videotaped the parade. This was a major accomplishment, as SpectroMagic was The Parade That Got Away. The first time I tried to tape the parade, we set up the video camera on a tripod, sitting right on the curb in front of the Main Street train station. Perfect viewing. And then the rain came. It poured. It was the last day of our trip. We sat there with our ponchos over us and over the camera gear until we got soaked from ground water runoff. The parade was finally cancelled right before its scheduled start time. The next time we tried to tape it, we had seats on the curb right across from the train station. Not perfect, but still a great spot. The lights went down, I started the tape, the first float came around the corner, and the camera battery died. The other battery was in the room charging. 0-for-2. Finally, this time, I had the video camera in my left hand, my digital camera in my right hand, and I was shooting with both. Im amazed that it worked, but it did, and I finally have Spectro on tape. Yay!
After the parade, we walked up to Casey's for hot dogs, fries, brownies, and drinks ($27.71) at one of the tables and an obstructed view of the Fantasy in the Sky fireworks. Joshua liked the fireworks as well, and then we were off to the bathroom to change Joshua into dry clothing and long pants. We then were on our way to Peter Pan's Flight and another meltdown.
Meltdown # 2 was much less severe than # 1, since he didn't need asthma medication and we could try to build on the success at the Pooh ride. We were able to convince him to get in line, and there was a little protesting, but nothing bad. We got on the ride, and again we were proven right in telling him that he shouldn't be afraid. After we got finished, we again told him how proud we were of his trying the ride. We offered him the option of going on it's a small world or going back to the hotel, and he picked going back. We can't fault him for the choice, since we were all exhausted.
We walked toward Town Square through the expanded Emporium/Sports shops, as the crowd for the second showing of Spectro was huge again. By the time we got to Town Square, traffic was just terrible. We had gotten into the exit pathway when a woman darted under the ropes and headed up the path, almost stepping on Joshua in the stroller in the process. After we exchanged "pleasantries", we headed on toward the parade crosswalk. Unfortunately, someone had fallen in the crosswalk and needed assistance. This led to the crosswalk not being opened for the next three gaps in the parade. Finally it opened, and we headed for the locker to get Joshua's nebulizer, packed it up, and returned the locker key. Again unfortunately, by the time we got our stuff ready to go, the rest of the parade had passed, and the hordes were racing through the railroad tunnels like cattle down a chute. Somehow, we got all of our stuff and a sleeping Joshua onto about the third monorail train back to the TTC. We transferred to the tram, took the long hike back to the car, back to the resort, and got Hope and Joshua into bed. I stayed up to update the budget numbers and start on today's section of the trip report. I was so tired that I started falling asleep while I was working on the report. I finally gave up and went to bed.
We had wanted to take a small break, and to just run over to Epcot for a little while to break things up, but our late start and the Fastpass times that we got prevented that. Despite that, Joshua was a trouper, and was in good spirits aside from his last-minute panics, which he managed to get through.
High points: Joshua's first look at the castle, chancing upon the live entertainment on Main Street, seeing all of the characters out, the fact that we were able to get him past his fear (at least for a little while), great seats for Spectro
Low points: Joshua's meltdowns, the looks that people gave us as we raced through the store on our way to getting his asthma medicine
Joshua accomplishments: conquering his fears on Pooh and Peter Pan
Act III, in which our heroes explore a frozen ski resort in a tropical climate and later meet an old friend
(Sunday, November 10 - Blizzard Beach, dinner at Whispering Canyon Cafe)
Our original plan was to go to Blizzard Beach tomorrow, but the weather forecast said that the rain might arrive tomorrow afternoon instead of Tuesday, so we decided that we needed to move it up a day. Of course, since we were all tired from yesterday, we got another late start. We took our time getting ready and eating breakfast with the ibises, took some time dealing with Joshua's resistance to getting ready in the morning, and finally got to Blizzard Beach a little before noon.
After getting some extra sunblock and a sand toy set for Joshua, we were off to Tyke's Peak. Joshua at first wanted to ride the inner-tube slide, but suffered a last-minute panic again, so we let it slide for now. We figured that we could get him to warm up to it before we left, especially since he hadn't been on any other slide yet. At least it was nice being around the water on our third consdecutive day in the mid-80's.
We got him up to the little slides at the top of the hill, and he had no problems there. He really enjoyed them. We also got him to go down the slow tall slide down to the fountain area, which he was OK with, but he didn't like the sprinklers at the end. For some reason, he doesn't like water coming down on his head. However, after another couple of trips down the small slides, he agreed to go down the body slide with his flotation vest on.
He had to ask the lifeguard at the top about a dozen questions to make himself comfortable, but he finally got on the slide. Then he had to do it again. And again. And again. Finally we got him out and went for lunch.
I suppose that it's appropriate that the speed of the line at Avalunch was glacial, considering the park's frozen theme. After finally getting our food ($20.94), I joined Hope and Joshua back at a picnic table near Tyke's Peak, and we wolfed down lunch. To let lunch settle before letting Joshua in the water again, we took a walk around the park. Joshua really enjoyed seeing in person all of the stuff that was in part of his "Beach Party at Walt Disney World" Sing-Along video.
Joshua was a little timid about approaching Melt-Away Bay, but with Hope out in the water and joking about the litle waves coming around the corner, Joshua slowly worked his way out into the water, eventually letting Hope carry him out into the main part of the wave pool.
After circling the front of Mount Gushmore, we went back to Tyke's Peak, and Joshua decided that he was ready to ride the inner tube ride. Four times. A little more playing on the small slides, two last rides on the body slide, and it was time to go.
We got back to the resort and rinsed off, then did Joshua's evening medicines and waited for our friend Mark (we call him Mongo to avoid confusion) to call regarding dinner. He had called us when he arrived, and we had exchanged voicemails. We finally agreed to meet at our room at around 6:30 and try to go to Whispering Canyon Cafe for dinner. The friends that he was travelling with were exhausted from their trip so he was the only one joining us.
I called Dining to see if we could get a PS for Whispering Canyon, but the only opening for the evening was at 8:40. She suggested that we take it and go over there and see what the walk-up time was. We got there shortly after 7:00. PS seating time would be 15-20 minutes from the PS time, while the walk-up time wa 60 minutes for parties 5 or less and 90 minutes for 6 and up. Since we had seen the end of the Magic Kingdom fireworks as we got out of the minivan, we knew that everything would be getting crowded anyway, so we decided to stay. And since 8:00 is well before 9:00, we waited on the standby line.
The waiting area had a whole bunch of Lincoln Logs for the kids to play with. However, there were so many kids at the table that they were practically elbowing each other out of the way. Eventually, equilibrium was reached, and everybody got to build something. We also toured the lobby, since Hope and I hadn't been there in many years, and we took Joshua to see the stream and how it "feeds" the pool. Thankfully, he didn't ask about the change in the water as it passed under the last bridge before the pool. He's perceptive enough that we might've had to think really fast to avoid ruining the magic.
We got in right around 8:00, and we were starving! But we hadn't even ordered beverages before they announced the 8:00 Pony Express ride. I stood and kept an eye on Joshua as he went around the restaurant. He was having a blast until the big kid behind him fell into him and his pony banged right into Joshua's head. Joshua got back up and finished the ride with tears in his eyes. I asked him if he was OK, and he asked me who won. I told him that everybody won. He was very brave, but a bit spooked. We all told him that we were proud of him, and he calmed down as soon as we got some food into him.
Of course, that took a little while. Once we got back to the table, we found that Hope and Mongo had ordered our beverages, but we were still waiting for the bread that Hope had asked for as soon as we sat down. Jeffro came by shortly and took our order, and Joshua's grilled chicken meal came out within five or ten minutes. Of course, the bread (corn bread and biscuits) didn't show up until about 8:50, about 40 minutes after Hope first asked for it. I believe that there was a problem with the bread in the kitchen, but I'm not sure. The rest of the food came in a timely manner, and was excellent. Hope and Mongo started with salads, while I had the BBQ Shrimp appetizer. Hope had pork chops, Mongo had roasted chicken, and I had the St. Louis ribs. When the 9:00 Pony Express ride rolled around, Joshua went up to participate again, but got scared with some of the bigger kids there, and decided to take a pass on the ride. Hopefully, this won't affect his participation in the coconut race at 'Ohana later this week. Next, it was time for dessert. We didn't really have room, but we forced it anyway. We're on vacation, right? Hope had apple pie, Mongo and I had Chocolate Delight, and Joshua tried the Worms in the Dirt. Joshua didn't really like the concept of gummy worms, so made me eat them (he didn't want them around at all). It's not too much of an imposition, since I like gummy candies, but it didn't really go with the mound of chocolate that I had. All told, it was $127.29 for the four of us. Joshua fell asleep on Hope's shoulder while we waited for the check.
After a delicious meal and desserts, we headed back to Old Key West. Mongo decided to stay around for a little while to talk and watch the football game, so we laid Joshua down on our bed while we sat and talked. We watched our Jets beat the Dolphins and draw within one game of first place. J! E! T! S! JETS! JETS! JETS!
After the game, we surfed the news channels until we finally tracked down the news story that we were looking for. Unfortunately, the news was not what we wanted to hear. The space shuttle launch scheduled for that night had been scrubbed due to an oxygen leak in the cabin. Not good. Oh, well. At least that means getting to bed earlier.
Anyway, Mongo left and went back to Room 5230, and I worked on the trip report before dropping off to sleep.
High points: the look on Joshuas face at the bottom of his first body slide, seeing Mongo, food at Whispering Canyon
Low points: bread delays at Whispering Canyon, slow service at Avalunch,fighting with Joshua over getting dressed, going to the potty, etc.
Joshua accomplishments: conquering his fears and going on the slides at Blizzard Beach, finishing the Pony Express Ride at Whispering Canyon instead of lying on the ground crying
Act IV, in which our heroes swim, play, and unexpectedly chance upon friends
(Monday, November 11 - pool, Studios, Hollywood & Vine, Downtown Disney)
Another slow start today. I'm not sure why it's so hard for us to get out the door this trip. Maybe we're still exhausted from a rough couple of weeks before the trip, or maybe it's just trying to keep up with a rambunctious 4-year-old. Who knows? In any case, we hung out, had some eggs for breakfast on the patio (we couldn't feed those to the ibises -- that would be an abomination!), did some laundry, then decided to hit the pool.
We decided to walk over to the Turtle Pond pool area to check it out. It looks like a very nice pool, with a sandy playground, a spa, and a shuffleboard court. However, no kiddie pool. Joshua was not happy. We adjourned to the main pool at the Hospitality House.
I watched Joshua play in the kiddie pool while Hope got some swimming time in the big pool, then I convinced him to go see what Mommy was doing. We coaxed him into the pool, bobbed around with him under the bridge, over to the dolphin fountains, and then he was ready to go out and go back to the kiddie pool.
Hope watched Joshua in the pool while I went to get us lunch from Good's to Go, including a sandpail meal for Joshua ($26.76). When we finished eating, of course he had to try out the new shovel and pail for a little while. Then it was time to go back to the room and change for the Studios.
Joshua wanted to ride the bus to the Studios, but he gave us a really hard time getting changed. Thankfully, the 1:00 bus came a few minutes late, and we made it out in time. Joshua was very excited to see the Tower of Terror as we arrived, and to see Mickey on the top of the Crossroads of the World kiosk. Unfortunately, he was so excited that he forgot to pay attention to what his body was doing. After we changed him into dry shorts and let him buy the Pooh spinny-light that he wanted with one of his Special Things, we headed off to the Big Hat. Joshua had a lot of fun playing with the 100 Years of Magic (100YoM) kiosk games, with me providing him with the correct answers. When we finally finished, we headed off to Playhouse Disney -- Live on Stage!
<RANT MODE ON> I like some things about the Hat. It evokes thoughts of Disney Magic and of my favorite character, Sorcerer Mickey. It's very impressive, and it's a fun symbol. That said, it doesn't belong where it is. With that big wonkin' hat at the end of Hollywood Boulevard, you can't see the Chinese Theater, and it ruins the whole sense of place. You never get that feeling of being in "the Hollywood that never was ... and always will be." You're thrust into a disfunctional world of kitsch. And don't tell me about the Castle being the same thing. There was never a building completing Main Street and giving a sense of discontinuity when you find it right behind the Castle. (And on a side rant, get rid of the friggin' Epcot sign and wand over Spaceship Earth. We KNOW where we are, and it removes the sense of awe and wonderment from the impressive Geosphere.) Anyway, if the hat were elsewhere, like the Animation Courtyard, it would be superb. I think that Disney has two reasons for putting the thing smack in the center of your view. 1) It's a big "weenie" right in front of you when you enter the park. (For those of you who don't know, a "weenie" is Disney-speak for a large structure designed to draw you into an area. Think Cinderella Castle, Big Thunder Mountain, Space Mountain, etc.). The Studios is the only park without a big "weenie" right in front of you when you enter. (Magic Kingdom: Castle, Epcot: Geosphere, Animal Kingdom: Tree of Life.) 2) They have already changed the park's icon from the Earffel Tower to the Big Hat. Not necessarily a bad thing, but not necessarily great, either. I'm thinking that they're planning to demolish the Earffel Tower and reclaim the land under it to expand the park. This might be good if they use it well, but I'll miss the Tower if it goes. I still wish they'd move the Hat. I don't think it'll happen. Sigh. <RANT MODE OFF>
They've revamped the Playhouse Disney show since we last saw it as Bear in the Big Blue House -- Live on Stage! They've added characters from Rolie Polie Olie (Olie, Billy, and Zowie), The Book of Pooh (Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, and Eeyore), and Stanley (Stanley, Dennis, and a special guest gorilla). The show is fun, and Joshua enjoyed dancing along with all of the characters. There were also bubbles from the ceiling and a confetti shower. (The bubbles get pretty much throughout the theater, but if your kid wants to catch some of the confetti, you need to sit near the front of the side seating areas, toward the inside aisles.) During some of the action, Jamie (the host) sits down near the front of the aisles on the floor. (Did I mention that it's all floor seating except for some benches at the back for those who can't get down and back up from the floor?) Anyway, Jamie sat right near us, and invited Joshua to sit with her. He liked that, but was still more interested in watching Pooh than talking to her.
Joshua thoroughly enjoyed the show, and afterwards we decided to set out for the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure. On the way, however, we chanced upon Minnie Mouse outside her trailer along Mickey Avenue. We quickly got in line, about 6-8 families back, and waited our turn. Finally, Joshua got up to the front of the line, and Minnie crouched down to take and sign his book. Of course, Joshua then crouched down too, so that they would be doing the same thing. Very cute. Of course, she loved his Minnie hat.
Since it was starting to get later, we decided to press on directly to the HIStK playground, despite seeing Sorcerer Mickey in one of the soundstages for photo ops and autographs. (Of course, we didnt mention to Joshua that we saw Mickey.) Once we got to the playground -- er, Movie Set Adventure Joshua looked around and wasnt sure what to do. He tried the film canister slide and decided it was OK. Next, he decided that he wanted to try the spider web. <Insert ominous music here> Joshua is generally not happy about being up in the air. He refuses to try Dumbo. And yet he wanted to try the spider web, which for those of you that havent seen it is a large rope net climber that stretches about 30-40 feet up, and has a number of climbs up and down. We asked him if he was sure, and he said yes. Since Hope cant do the climb, it was up to me to join him. Let me say that Im not a lightweight by any stretch of the imagination (more like a super-heavyweight), and I was extremely grateful to the Imagineers for making sure that everything was heavily reinforced. I definitely got a workout. We had a pretty smooth trip up most of the way, and Joshua only started getting scared 2-3 climbs from the top. I told him that if he went a little further, it would be just as far going forwards as backwards, and he would be able to do the whole thing. I had to tell him that at each of the remaining climbs. Once we got to the top and started down, he was in much better spirits, and he was so excited when we got back down to the bottom! Whoopee! High fives for both of us from the Cast Member at the exit. (And I deserved one, too, after hoisting myself up those ropes!)
We wandered out to New York Street, where we pointed out the spot where they filmed some of the opening dance number to "Celebration" on Joshua's "Beach Party" Sing-Along tape. He really got a kick out of that. He started singing and doing some of the steps and hand motions in the middle of the street! We moved on to the Muppet Theater for MuppetVision 3-D. We caught the whole pre-show and, even though he didn't understand all of the jokes, Joshua laughed at plenty of the pre-show. Joshua really liked the movie, though afterwards he spent a bit of time questioning the motives of many of the characters. "Why did Bean Bunny do that?" "Why did the Swedish Chef fire the cannon at the screen?" "Why did Fozzie Bear squirt water at us?" "Why?" "Why?" "Why?" We tried to answer all of his questions, but it reminded me of the episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where Data creates an android daughter and at one point she keeps asking him "Why?" "Why?" "Why?" questions. He turns her off and says, "Tomorrow, you start school." There are definitely times when I wish Joshua had an off switch, too.
In any case, after we left the theater, we chanced upon Kermit and Miss Piggy stamping autographs behind the theater. Joshua got in line for an autograph, and we got some very dark digital pictures of the three of them.
After that, we headed toward Hollywood & Vine for dinner, figuring that we'd have no problem getting in so close to Fantasmic's start time. We were right. There were about 8-10 tables occupied in the whole place. They had just closed the left side of the buffet, which was unfortunate, since we were seated on the left side of the restaurant. The food, however, was excellent. There was lots of good stuff for all of us, and we were all full by the time we left. With tip, dinner was $60.47.
We walked out of the park slowly, enjoying the look of the park at night. When we got to the bus stop area, a Downtown Disney bus was right there. Since it was early, we asked Joshua if he was up for a trip to Downtown Disney. He said that he wanted to go, and we got on the bus.
When we got to the Marketplace, we stopped to look at the jumping fountain. Joshua wanted to try it, but we didn't have a bathing suit for him or a towel to dry him off with. Maybe next time. We had realized that we forgot to send a birthday card to my one-year-old niece (birthday the following Sunday), so we checked in 2 R's to see if they had any cards there. No luck. We'll try again later. We looked at the decor at the entrance to Rainforest Cafe before spotting the carousel. Joshua decided that he wanted to ride it on a bench with Hope, so we bought them tickets and they rode while I stayed with the stroller and bags, and tried to get pictures around the woman who was walking back and forth on the carousel taking pictures of her children.
Next, we were off to the new Once Upon a Toy store. Although I was immediately drawn to the Haunted Mansion Clue and Theme Park Monopoly games, Joshua was in charge, and we headed back to the second section, which had construction stuff such as Lincoln Logs (including the cool Wilderness Lodge set), Tinker Toys, and Bob the Builder toys. While they're not Disney, Joshua does have a fixation with Bob the Builder, so he decided that he was going to use some of his Special Things to "buy" some Bob the Builder trucks. We grabbed them and put them into a basket. Then we moved on to the next section. Here was the stuff that I was really looking forward to seeing. The Walt Disney World Railroad was chugging along a loop overhead, and the Monorail was running around a large table, going past all of the available accessories! This was really cool! Joshua and I watched it for a bit while Hope checked out some of the other toys. Then it was on to the Plush and other dolls/action figures in the back room. We saw all sorts of stuff, but nothing that we wanted to add. I went to check out (in the monorail room) while Joshua played with the Cinderella Castle toy with all of the princes and princesses, captivating the attending Cast Member in the process. He just has a natural charisma and draws admirers like flies to honey.
Next, it was on to the Lego store, where Joshua decided that he needed to play on the playground, then to build a car to race down the track outside. I watched him play while Hope made a rest stop, then she took over while I got a head start at World of Disney. I searched World of Disney for a card for my niece, but, unlike the predecessor stores to World of Disney, there were no greeting cards to be found. I also looked for a new Disney watch, since one of mine had cracked the crystal. Nothing really caught my fancy. I picked up a bunch of stuff for me and for the trial scrapbooking project for Joshua. Hope and Joshua caught up to me before I got to the men's clothing. Hope had bought Joshua a Bob the Builder Lego set, because it had the one truck that was not available on the shelf at Once Upon a Toy. (Joshua had gotten Muck, Roley, and Scoop. Lofty was on display, but not on the shelf, and I was told by a CM that there were none in the back. I know, I know, that's not all the trucks, but there were no Travises or Dizzys available that we could see.) In addition, Joshua had decided that he wanted to get a Kali River Rapids die-cast raft with another Special Thing. We looked a bit more, then Hope took Joshua out beause he was nearing meltdown because he was getting hungry and starting to be too far past his last asthma treatment. I finished in menswear and headed to the checkout counter. I asked the CM which of my possible discounts (Disney Club, American Express, Disney Vacation Club, or Annual Passholder) would get me the biggest discount. She asked me if I was charging my room to my AmEx. I told her that, since I'm a DVC member, there's no room cost to charge to the AmEx, but that I was using my AmEx to cover everything that I was charging to the room. She told me that I could get a 15% discount by using the AmEx (vs. 10% with the others). She had to confirm that, since she wasn't sure about the no-room-charge thing, but it was cleared, and I saved over $50. (Yeah, you do the math, I still spent a fortune.) Of course, now that AmEx is no longer the Official Card of Walt Disney World as of January 1, that discount is going by the wayside.
I got outside, found Hope and Joshua at a table between World of Disney and Ghiradelli. She had given him a snack from the Backpack of Many Zippers, but they were both exhausted from the heat, so I went into Ghiradelli for a bottle of water. While in line, I heard familiar voices, and realized that the people in front of me in line looked familiar. It was Sue and Sandy, friends of ours from our temple back home. They were down with all of their kids and grandkids at Port Orleans Riverside, and were due to meet up with the rest of the family shortly. We all went outside and chatted while Josha drank some water and had a snack, then we were off for the Old Key West bus stop. After an uneventful ride back, a little playtime for Joshua with his new toys, and then his asthma treatments (a little late tonight) and to bed. I stayed up a while to work on the trip report, then I was off to bed, too.
High points: Joshua dancing at the Playhouse Disney show, Joshua crouching down with Minnie when she signed his autograph book, singing and dancing on New York Street, the food at Hollywood & Vine, all the cool stuff at Once Upon a Toy, running into Sue & Sandy (the first time weve unexpectedly run into people we know in all the trips weve made)
Low points: Fighting with Joshua to change after the pool, not being able to find greeting cards at the Marketplace
Joshua accomplishments: climbing the spider web despite how high it was
Act V, in which our heroes enjoy a brief respite, welcome family, and travel around the world in an afternoon
(Tuesday, November 12 - Luna Park pool, Epcot, Le Cellier, Olivia's)
Well, this was the day that Grandma Natalie and Grandpa Richie were supposed to join us. We had our usual breakfast with the ducks and ibises, called my father to get a tentative arrival time, then headed for the Members' Open House at the Beach Club Villas. They were nice, but not as spacious as the Old Key West villas. Basically, you're trading space for location (and access to Stormalong Bay!). We decided to try to get a reservation there for next October with my mother and stepfather. By then Joshua will be really ready for Stormalong Bay, and Epcot is my mother and stepfather's favorite park, so it's worth a try.
Next, we headed back to the car and drove over to the Boardwalk, as we had promised Joshua a chance to see the Keister Coaster and to swim at the pool there. While we were walking in, my father called to let us know that they had arrived. I'm not sure why, but the cell connection was terrible. I don't know whether it was on my end at the Boardwalk or on his end at Old Key West but either way it was prettty miserable. We agreed to meet at the International Gateway to Epcot in about an hour and a half, and then we'd head straight to lunch at Le Cellier. I watched Joshua play on the little playground behind the kiddie pool there while Hope went looking for somewhere to change him into his suit. Note: if you're a DVC Member planning on pool-hopping over there (I'm assuming that you're not a regular resort guest pool-hopping against the rules), wear a bathing suit to the pool. When Hope went to change Joshua into his suit in the pool house (bathrooms), the heat nearly knocked her out. We sat under an umbrella while Joshua played in the kiddie pool with a little girl about his age named Hannah. Because she was quite verbal for her age, Joshua actually had someone to carry on a good kid conversation with, and they got along swimmingly (pun intended). They played in the water with and without Joshua's little inflatable beach ball. Since Hannah enjoyed getting wet under the elephant sprinkler, Joshua decided to try it with her, despite his fear of water falling on his head. He went under the sprinkler, and he enjoyed it! They played for quite some time, then it was time to dry Joshua off, change him (I just held a towel up around him while Hope changed him out by the pool this time), and start walking to Epcot.
We walked out from the pool area along the channel and along Crescent Lake in front of the Boardwalk to the International Gateway. We met Grandma and Grandpa just inside the gates and the usual familial hugging, kissing, and other greetings ensued. We headed off for the Canada pavilion. Grandma was riding an ECV due to her continuing recovery from foot surgery. While the Food and Wine Festival was tempting, the extreme heat made us seek out air conditioning. This was my first time eating at Le Cellier since the old days when it was a dimly-lit buffeteria. After all I heard about the Cheddar Cheese Soup, I needed to try it despite the heat outside. It was definitely worth it. The soup was great! The breadsticks were a hit. I think that the consensus was that the pretzel breadsticks were the best. The men had Grilled Steak Burgers (me with cheddar, Grandpa without cheese), the ladies had Cast Iron Seared Lake Trout, and Joshua was the chicken nugget boy again. I don't know the cost, since Grandpa picked up lunch. During lunch, it became apparent that Joshua needed an asthma treatment. Hope took Joshua into the bathroom and gave him medicine via inhaler and chamber, and also changed his pants while she was there.
Once we left, Joshua asked whether or not there was a playground in Epcot, so off we went to the Viking ship playground at Norway. There's not a whole lot there, just a see-saw (teeter-totter to some of you) out front, and then a ramp up to the ship, a bridge over to a pier, and a rope climb from the pier to the ground. Nobody was going up the rope, just down. Joshua climbed down many, many times (with me providing an anti-gravity assist). Grandpa looked on from on board the ship and took some pictures with my camera. Hope and Grandma waited in the shade in front of the playground.
After Joshua had sufficiently slid down the rope, we headed for the Outpost. I knew that OrisiRisi were performing, and Joshua absolutely loves drums. When we got there, the performance was already underway but nobody had joined the drum circle yet. I brought Joshua up, and coaxed him to sit on the chair. I sat down next to him and we started drumming. Joshua stared at the OrisiRisi drummer the whole time, trying to match his drumming method and drum location as well as his rhythm. Hope, Grandma and Grandpa played spectator. Joshua had a great time, and we drummed until the end of the show. It seemed that the performers got a kick out of watching Joshua.
We walked on to the trains between Germany and Italy and watched the trains run around for a while before taking a water taxi back to World Showcase Plaza. We raced past a performance by the Kristos to get Joshua to the potty at Innoventions West in time, then stopped for a snack and some air conditioning at the Fountainview Cafe before heading to Imagination. Since we hadnt seen Journey Into Your Imagination with Figment since it reopened, we weren't sure whether or not Joshua would respond positively to the new version of the ride (especially in his current mood). Hope took him to the Image Works while Grandma, Grandpa, and I rode. The train effect and the big blast of air before the finale probably would have sent Joshua into another freakout, so it was a good thing. Grandma and Grandpa took over playing with Joshua while I rode again with Hope. The new ride is really a lot better than the "interim" version that scared the heck out of Joshua back in 1999 when it opened. It's still not as good at the original to my mind, but it's still very good, and it's great to see Figment again. (And the "Dean Finder" nod to Dreamfinder is welcome, but I still miss the old guy.) I will admit, however, that it now themes well with Honey, I Shrunk the Audience. After sending some strange e-mail postcards from the Image Works, Hope took Joshua to see the jumping fountains, Grandpa went back to their car to get their umbrellas (the storm clouds appeared to be moving in), and I waited with Grandma. We had been hoping to catch the 5:00 performance by the 5th Dimension at the America Gardens Theater, but it was getting close. Grandma sent us ahead, and we headed around World Showcase. We considered a boat, but they were at the far side of the lagoon, so it was quicker to walk. We passed by an Off Kilter performance, but didn't have time to stop. We also passed A Chair Act in France. We were able to hear Off Kilter across the lagoon as we walked to America. We arrived at the theater, and the show was already underway. Even though we put Joshua's headphones on, he still said that it was too loud, so we listened to the show from a bench between the pavilion and the ODV carts. The performance was pretty good. I looked for my folks a couple of times during the show, but couldn't see them. We ran into them after the show outside the theater. It seems that they were not too far behind us, and they ended up in a handicapped seating area right up near the front.
We decided to regroup at the resort and have dinner at Olivia's in light of the inclement weather. Grandma and Grandpa headed for the main exit and we headed for the International Gateway. We stopped first to watch Matsuriza. Joshua loved watching them play the taiko drums, and Hope and I were just blown away by the fact that the little girl that we first saw playing the drums was now obviously a teenager. It was definitely a "boy, I feel old" moment. We managed to just make it onto a FriendShip outside the International Gateway and floated back to the Boardwalk. We drove back to Old Key West, gave Joshua a treatment, and met my folks at Olivia's. Of course, the skies opened up during the asthma treatment, so I donned my poncho, raced to the minivan, and moved it over close to the building. Hope caried Joshua across the short strip of plantings and into the back of the van, strapped him in, climbed up front, and off we went. I dropped them off under the porte cochere, and then found a very close parking spot. (Yay!) I raced in, and we all sat down to another very nice dinner with good service (at true Key West speed). My father had talked to Guest Services at the resort, and they had let him borrow a wheelchair for my stepmother for the duration of their stay at no cost (but with a credit card imprint, just in case). We browsed the Conch Flats General Store after dinner for a while, then my folks went back to their room, and we headed to Gooding's to pick up some fruit for the next morning's breakfast and to get that birthday card for my niece. Joshua fell asleep on the way there, so I dropped Hope off near the entrance so she wouldn't get too wet and went to park with Joshua while I waited. Hope finished, came out, I picked her up and we went back to the room. We got Joshua into bed, I called Dining to get a PS for 'Ohana the next night, worked on the trip report some more, then dialed up to check e-mail before going to sleep. After discovering that I had a new mess to clean up when I got back to work that couldn't be done via e-mail, I decided not to check work e-mail again while we were away, and went to bed.
High points: watching Joshua in the pool with Hannah, Joshua drumming with OrisiRisi, seeing my parents, seeing Figment again
Low points: not much, just the lousy cell connection
Joshua accomplishments: letting water sprinkle on his head and laughing about it
Act VI, in which our heroes launch another attack upon the Magical Kingdom with the new recruits, and one is wounded in the assault
(Wednesday, November 13 - Magic Kingdom, 'Ohana)
After getting everybody up and dressed, and giving Joshua his medicines, we met my folks in their room for breakfast. They had a second-floor room in building 62 (one of the new buildings). I think it was room 6224. They had a beautiful view overlooking the fountain near the causeway. While there, we discovered that, while we did not have a turbo toilet, it was not standard throughout the resort. After a pleasant meal and conversation, we headed for the Magic Kingdom. We all piled into our minivan, stowing my stepmother's wheelchair in the back and grabbing their handicapped parking tag. We drove to the Magic Kingdom, parking in the handicapped section. We walked to the TTC, showed Joshua's brick to Grandma and Grandpa, then split up to travel to the park. We went up the ramp to take the monorail, while my folks took the ferry. This worked out pretty well. This gave us a head start to get through Security with all of our stuff, and we were through and ready when they arrived. The rain last night had cooled it off just a bit, and it was a beautiful day in the 70's.
Boy were there characters out today!! Mickey & Minnie and Donald & Daisy had two separate photo locations set up in front of the flower Mickey at the entrance. On our way up Main Street and around the Castle to get a Pooh Fastpass (stopping for a photo on Main Street, which would later prove somewhat fateful), we saw Captain Hook, Mr. Smee, the White Rabbit, Aladdin, the Mad Hatter, Cruella de Vil, Clopin, Suzy & Perla, Goofy & Max, Chip & Dale, Fred & Shaker from the Country Bear Jamboree (not that stupid movie), Baloo & Rafiki, Pluto, the Tweedles (Dee and Dum), and the White Rabbit again. That Rabbit is fast! I have no idea how he got to Fantasyland before us! (I think that the Zoo Crew scheduler needs to check the overlap times, unless one of them was late -- ha, ha, ha....) We got the Pooh passes, then headed for it's a small world, which is my stepmother's all-time favorite ride. We had a good time on the ride, especially Grandma and Joshua. Unfortunately, it was at this point that we discovered that my father's digital camera had broken, so we were completely reliant on my camera for the rest of the trip. After our ride on the Happiest Voyage that Ever Sailed, Joshua decided that he had to go to the potty, so we went to the Princes' room across the way. Others took their turn, then we headed for the raft over to Tom Sawyer Island. On the way, we stopped on the pier/boardwalk/bridge to let Joshua see the bottom of the splash and the turn from Splash Mountain. It's funny how he's so obsessed with finding out everything he can about the rides that he's too small to go on.
Tom Sawyer Island has been kind of an albatross around Joshua's neck. When we went to Disneyland in 2001, he was really looking forward to seeing the Island because of his "Disneyland Fun" Sing-Along video. Unfortunately, we didn't get to the Island before nap time. And our first night there was the only night they were showing "Fantasmic!" Which at Disneyland (for those of you who don't know) takes place on and around Tom Sawyer Island. So the first time he saw the Island was during prep for and the show of "Fantasmic!" Since he was still 2-1/2 at the time, that spooked him out of going to the Island for the rest of the trip. He immediately regretted that decision, and has wanted to try again ever since.
Anyway, we got on the raft without too much problem, even with Grandma's wheelchair. Once we got to the island, Grandma waited at the seating area at the landing (since she couldn't take the chair anywhere else). The other four of us wandered the trails over to the fort (doing the barrel bridge before taking the other bridge to the fort). I went upstairs with Joshua and we walked around, looking out the turrets and watching the steamboat pass by. Joshua asked why there were guns and cannons there and I tried to explain in terms that he could understand, but he really doesn't have the knowledge base yet. We walked back to Grandma and then made a quick trip to see what Aunt Polly's had in the way of snacks. Unfortunately, it was all soft ice cream, so we took the raft back over to the mainland and Hope got Joshua some popcorn to hold him until we could get some lunch into him. We walked back to the main street in Frontierland, and my father decided that he and my stepmother would split a hot dog. I decided to have one by myself. I love those dogs. They're the same 1/4-pound dogs that they have at Casey's. They're huge, but they're delicious. A meal on a roll.
We continued on to Fantasyland and stopped by Peter Pan to check the Fastpass time and see what the story was loading-wise for transfer-from-wheelchair Grandma. They gave us a handicap return pass, which is similar to a Fastpass, but it lets us on through the exit, park the wheelchair, and then get on the pirate ship as the previous family exits. The handicap return pass time was slightly earlier than the Fastpass return time, but since this was the only time we needed to use this, I don't know if that's a consistent thing. However, it's nice to know that they now have a fair way of loading wheelchair-bound guests that doesn't encourage abuse. Bravo!! On our way back to use the Pooh Fastpasses, we realized that Joshua needed an asthma treatment. Hope gave him an inhaler/chamber treatment outside the ride, then we all got on line, Grandma using her cane. Joshua did well with not freaking out this time, but he was still a little timid for most of the ride. He was insistent that Hope and I ride with him up front, otherwise I would have sat in back and let Grandma or Grandpa ride with him and Hope. Once the ride was over, we slowly made our way back to Peter Pan, where we saw Wendy out and about near the exit. We rode Pan (again, Joshua wanted to ride with me and Hope, but it was probably a good thing, as my father is much more experienced helping my stepmother get into vehicles, and this one was a bit more difficult). After riding Pan and collecting the wheelchair and stroller, we went over to Cinderella's Golden Carousel. Grandma decided to wait this one out, even though we told her that Joshua didn't like riding the horses, and she could sit on the bench seat with him. Grandpa and I rode the horses right in front of the bench, while Hope and Joshua sat on the front bench seat. We asked Joshua who would win the horse race, and he said that "the horses can't race, because they can only go up and down." Can't pull one over on a four-year-old.
<RANT MODE ON> Getting off the Carousel, we noticed that the floor of the Carousel was badly faded and missing paint in many spots. It obviously hadn't received a fresh coat of paint in well over six months. Uh, guys? Quick tip. If you want people to think it' worth paying good money to travel great distances to pay high hotel rates and high admission prices instead of going to their local Six Flags park, here's a clue. Pay attention to detail and to upkeep. 'Nuff said. <RANT MODE OFF>
Next, it was time to get lunch for Joshua and Hope, and the rest of lunch for Grandma and Grandpa. I was still full from my hot dog. Grandma and Grandpa split a chicken garden salad, Hope had one by herself, and Joshua had a PB&J meal. Cost for Hope and Joshua (including beverages) was $12.59. Refreshed, we headed for Tomorrowland via the castle, dodging the crowd for the 3:00 parade. We ran into Buzz Lightyear by the rocks as we entered Tomorrowland, and Joshua wanted to get an autograph, so we stopped for that stamp, then went on to ride his Space Ranger Spin. We all had fun, but I was the winner with 164,400 points. Next, while Hope and I got Joshua to the bathroom for fresh shorts, Grandma and Grandpa bought Joshua a Buzz T-shirt in commemoration of our ride. Then, it was on to the Tomorrowland Transit Authority. It was a little tricky getting Grandma on the moving ramp up to the loading area, but we got on and had a nice trip around Tomorrowland. After that, it was time to change Joshua into another pair of pants. (And people wonder why the backpack is always so full - we don't travel light!) Then, we were off to Adventureland for the Jungle Cruise.
Thanks to the back-door entrance for wheelchair guests, we were able to bypass about 10 minutes of line, and we were off on our cruise. I guess they dont have the handicap return passes here. We had a nice ride, then headed back towards Main Street. Along the way, we saw Baloo, King Louie, Timon, and Launchpad McQuack. I can't remember seeing Launchpad out and about since the days of the Disney Afternoon promotional events. We stopped at the restrooms near Caseys for some of us to take a break. I was the last one back out, and when I came out, I found Joshua and Grandma dancing to the ragtime pianist. Of course, Grandma was just standing there and moving her arms with him, but the looks on their faces as they danced together was wonderful.
Once we hit Main Street, I walked ahead to get to Town Hall to see if I could get a listing of all of the names and businesses on the windows on Main Street for a story I'm trying to write. No such luck. While I'm sure that such a list exists, they aren't making it available to Guests. I guess I need to try Plan B, which entails taking digital photos of all of the windows. I went to the lockers under the train station to meet Hope and Joshua, who were retrieving the nebulizer and other stuff. We then continued on to the Main Street Exposition Hall, where my father was picking up the photos that we took on Main Street that morning.
And then, disaster struck. I went in to check where my father was in line, and after ascertaining that he was at the counter checking out, went back to let the others know. As I went down the steps, I looked back to see if my father was done at the counter yet. Big mistake. The inside of my left foot landed on the step, but the outside of my foot, where my weight was, missed the step, I rolled my ankle, I heard something pop, and I collapsed in a heap. I tried to roll with the fall, which I later found out saved two of the major three ligaments in my ankle. It still didn't help the first one, which was pretty badly sprained, at least as far as I could tell. Of course, I tend to try to ignore pain, so after five minutes, when I got up and was able to put weight on it, I figured I'd be sore but OK, and we left for dinner. I was woried about missing our PS at 'Ohana and not having a window table for the fireworks. Priorities, right?
We decided to take a motor launch to the Polynesian, as it was a nice evening for a boat ride. This also saved us from trying to push Grandma's wheelchair up the monorail ramp. Folding the wheelchair and stowing it on the launch was pretty problem-free. Once we arrived at the Poly, walked up to the Great Ceremonial Lodge, and took the elevator up, we were seated very quickly at a window table on the right side of the fireplace. This is not my preferred side as it is removed from the main floor to the left of the fireplace, which makes it hard to get to and watch the kids' activities. However, it did provide a nice, unobstructed view of the fireworks, which went off right before the included caramel-covered pineapple dessert.
We've had a number of great meals at 'Ohana in the past, and this one was good as well. I overdosed on the shrimp and the turkey, though the pork and beef were excellent as well. (The peanut sauce went with the turkey just wonderfully.) The appetizers have changed since the last time we were there, and not for the better. They're still really good, but no longer "wow". Theyve also replaced the sausage and salmon with the beef, I think. On the whole, though, we all really enjoyed dinner, and we definitely got our money's worth.
During dinner, Joshua did get to participate in the coconut race. However, he got upset because his coconut did not roll straight. Images rolled through my brain of Mel Brooks' cross-eyed Governor in "Blazing Saddles" complaining about his paddleball toy "This one's warped! Why do I always get the warped one?" Although he was last, he did finish, and he claimed his prize -- a heaping handful of gummy worms. (Don't worry, they were placed in his hands with a pair of tongs. They are indeed sanitary, no germ transmission here.) He brought his worms back to the table, and surprise! he wanted to try them! Probably something about having won them and not wanting his prize to go to waste, I don't know. Of course, whatever the reason, he tried the gummy worms and liked them. I had to bring the rest back to the room for him.
We didn't order any dessert, as we were stuffed. Dinner for four adults and one child, with tip, was $143.47. We walked across to the monorail and took it back to the TTC. We walked back to the car, me leaning on the stroller heavily by now. We dropped my folks off at their room, and made it an early night. Joshua was asleep long before we hit the room. We put him down, and I quietly watched the bedtime stories on channel 14 out of curiosity. Comparing the stories to the schedule, it appeared that they never adjusted the broadcasts for the end of Daylight Savings Time a couple of weeks earlier. It looks like the Read-Along DVDs might be worth a trial run at home with Joshua in the near future. With ice on my ankle, I went back to work on the trip report. I was making pretty good progress when the driver for my Palm keyboard caused a complete reset of the Palm, and I lost everything that I had written since I last backed up the Palm midway through my writeup of Saturday's events. ARGH!!! If I could erase everything that happened since 5:00 (except dinner), I would be a very happy camper. Looking back, I think I may have overflowed the input buffer, as I am a very fast typist and I don't always wait for the Palm to catch up. I've made it a point to try to slow down when typing into the Palm, and it hasn't crashed since, so I must be on to something. I threw in the towel and went to bed.
High points: Grandma and Joshua on its a small world, Grandma and Joshua dancing to the pianist at Caseys Corner, dinner at Ohana
Low points: Spraining my ankle, Grandpas camera breaking, my Palm crashing and losing most of my trip report
Joshua accomplishments: handling his Tom Sawyer Island fear, trying food that he thought that he didnt like (gummy worms)
Act VII, in which our heroes tend to the wounded and confirm that a certain theme park is indeed Nahtazu
(Thursday, November 14 - Centra Care/Downtown Disney, Olivia's, Animal Kingdom, Chevy's)
Well, by morning, I was in tremendous pain and could not put any weight on my left foot. Luckily, during dinner last night, Grandma and Grandpa asked to take Joshua to Downtown Disney this morning to get him his Hanukkah presents, which they would ship back to our house. We got dressed and had breakfast while waiting for them to arrive. We swapped minivans, my folks taking ours with the car seat and Hope & I taking theirs. They went off to spend lots of time in the Lego store and World of Disney, while we headed for Centra Care, just up 535 from Hotel Plaza Boulevard. (Turn left onto 535, and it's the first left turn that you can make, before the next light.)
The clinic was clean, busy, and appeared to be well staffed. They didn't accept my HMO as insurance, which I expected, so I'll have to put in for reimbursement when I get home. We had to wait about an hour before I was seen. X-rays proved negative, so it appeared that it was just a sprained ligament. They told me to stay off it for the next day and keep it elevated and on ice, gave me a stirrup splint and a prescription for anti-inflammatories, and sent me on my way, $321 lighter. We called my father's cell phone, and they had just returned to the room and were hanging out while Joshua played. We stopped at Eckerd to pick up the medication, then met up at the room.
Joshua had shown Grandma and Grandpa the car ramps outside the Lego store, they played there for a while, then went to World of Disney, where they bought him a monorail ($60), the Astro Orbiter accessory ($22), and an attraction activator ($6) so that the Orbiter would run for a few seconds every time the monorail passed it. Boy, are we glad that they can buy him gifts like that so that we don't have to! Also, since he told them that he had to go to the bathroom voluntarily and went with no accidents all morning, they bought him a Mickey art kit with pencils, markers, crayons, paints, an eraser, a pencil sharpener, a ruler, and glue. They also bought him a pad of note paper with a picture of the Fab Five on a monorail so that he would have enough paper to draw on for the remainder of the trip. This was a very useful purchase, as it occupied him quite a bit in restaurants and in the room for the rest of the trip. Next, they took him to Ghiradelli for water and a cookie before heading back to the room. He was drawing with the art set on the patio with them when we walked in.
Since the PA at the clinic had told me to stay off of the ankle, we decided that we would have lunch at Olivia's, then I would stay back at the room to rest while the others would go to the Animal Kingdom, and then we'd all have dinner together at Chevy's. We all piled into our minivan for the short ride over to Olivia's, and we had another nice lunch (again at traditional Key West speed). Grandpa again picked up the check, so I don't have a listing of what we had or how much it cost. While Hope was changing Joshua again, my father drove me back to the room and then went back to Olivia's to pick up the others. I checked my home e-mail (not touching the nasty work e-mail again!), then I laid down on the sofa with my leg up and a Ziploc full of ice on my ankle. I proceeded to fall asleep and not wake up until Hope and Joshua shook me awake when they returned 5 hours later.
According to Hope, they had a great day at the Animal Kingdom. After they entered the park, they saw Tigger down by the Discovery Island boat launch that was converted to a character meeting spot. They gave Joshua the choice between meeting Tigger and going on the safari, as the line was long and they wanted to give him enough time in the Boneyard before going to Tarzan Rocks! Of course, he chose Tigger. (He was also wearing his Tigger hat with the fuzzy ears and tail and his Pooh and Tigger baseball shirt, so that made for a great picture and great reaction from Tigger.)
Next, it was on to the Boneyard, where he went on every slide except the blue one, went over the bridge into the sand pit, climbed the stairs, and went across the bouncy bridge to the big slide. He had a great time, and they had a hard time getting him to leave. They stopped for popcorn on the way to Tarzan Rocks!
When they got to the Theater in the Wild, they were originally shown to the handicapped seating area at the back of the theater. Because Joshua has some difficulty seeing detail at a distance, Grandma Natalie offered that everyone else should move down closer and she would stay in the back. A cast member overheard, and said that there was a small handicapped seating area up front, if you took a winding path to the right of the theater. They all went down, and ended up in the front row of the theater (audience right/stage left). The bottom of the path is right next to where the restrooms are. They ended up being able to see lots of the detail of the show, but missed some of the larger effects that are visible from further back. For example, they were able to see how the skate monkeys were sitting on the trees, picking their fur, yet they weren't able to see the effect of them doing the jumps from all different directions one after the other, due to the viewing angle.
After the show, they headed toward the Maharajah Jungle Trek to see the real animals, but then ran into the crowd waiting for the 4:00 parade. As soon as Joshua heard that the parade was coming, he wanted to see the parade. He was given a choice between seeing the parade and seeing the animals, since the last showing of Festival of the Lion King was at 4:45, and there wasn't time for both. Of course, he chose the parade. We're going to get him to see the animals in February, come Hell or high water. Anyway, they took a spot at the intersection on Discovery Island near Flame Tree Barbecue and sat and waited for the parade. And waited. And waited. They first caught sight of the parade at about 4:15, and it didn't actually get to where they were sitting until almost 4:20. If you're late getting to watch the parade, run over to Asia, and youll probably have plenty of time.
The parade itself was great. During the parade, the characters kept coming over to Joshua, despite there being lots of other kids around him. Between his smile, his glasses, his cute Tigger hat, him dancing to the music, he was just a character magnet! He was visited by Chip, Baloo, Pluto, etc. Every character that was on his side of the parade route stopped and interacted with him. As the float with Minnie passed, Joshua asked why he didn't have her bow on. This kid doesn't miss a thing. I had told him that the clothing, eyelashes, and bow were the easy way to tell Minnie from Mickey. Trust him to notice that Minnie wasn't wearing her bow. He didn't like the fish puppet for some reason. He shook the hand of one of the lady stiltwalkers. He loved the drummers. By the time the parade passed, it was about 4:35.
They high-tailed it over to the Festival of the Lion King and made it with a couple of minutes to spare. Since Grandma was in a wheelchair, they got seated up front in the handicapped section, which was great for Joshua. They were in the warthog section. (They still couldn't figure out the warthog noise by the time that they got back to the room.) Joshua kept wondering where Simba was until the floats came out. During the introduction to the "Be Prepared" number, they flooded the floor with theatrical fog. This was not good for the asthmatic boy sitting at floor level. Luckily, since Hope was aware of the dangers of theatrical fog due to our experience in community theater, she kept Joshua's mouth and nose shielded from most of it, and an asthma attack was dodged. (I was reading where an opera diva is suing the San Francisco Opera for injuries to her vocal cords and an asthmatic condition brought on by theatrical fog.) Disney might want to take a closer look at this chemical usage, even if it does to a tremendous job of recreating the scene from the movie. Anyway, Joshua could still breathe, so he was really enjoying the show. Then, during the last number before the finale, Joshua was picked by a gazelle to go up and participate. The whole time that he was playing the gourd/shaker and "playing follow the leader", he was very intense and serious, trying not to make a mistake. When he was done and the gazelle brought him back to his seat, he had a huge grin on his face and was so excited to have been in the show.
After the show, they headed back to the room. My folks dropped Hope and Joshua off and went back to rest for a little while before dinner. Hope and Joshua woke me up and told me about their day. I got up and partially thawed myself (sleeping for five hours with a bag of ice on your ankle can numb it quite a bit). My father wanted to go to Chevy's for dinner, so after we did Joshua's asthma treatments and other medication they came back and picked us up and off we went, Grandma limping with her cane, me limping without one. We had a very nice dinner. I can't remember the details, and again since Grandpa picked up the bill, I have no record of the dishes or the cost. However, I do remember that the portions were HUGE and that we couldn't finish them. We agreed that we probably could have ordered one dish for each couple and had enough food. The kids meal had plenty of food, too.
We went back to our room, and my folks took their minivan back to their room. For only the second time all trip, Joshua was awake when we got back to the room for the night. We let him play for a little while, then it was bedtime for all of us.
High points: Joshua playing in the Boneyard, the Tarzan and Lion King shows, Mickeys Jammin Jungle Parade (for the others)
Low points: not being able to join them to see the high points
Joshua accomplishments: enjoying Tarzan Rocks! without asking for his protective headphones despite it being pretty loud, going across the bouncy bridge and down the big turny slide" at the Boneyard despite being nervous about the height
Act VIII, in which our heroes bid farewell to family and travel all over the World via water, ground, and (highway in the) sky
(Friday, November 15 - Studios, 50's Prime Time Cafe, Epcot, MK, Epcot)
With my stirrup splint and anti-inflammatory medicine, my foot was feeling much better, so I was planning on walking as much as I could, leaning on the stroller if necessary. If I was no longer comfortable walking, we could go rent a wheelchair for me, though I preferred to avoid it. We met my folks at their room for breakfast, then headed off to the Studios in our respective vehicles. They rented a wheelchair and were waiting by the time that we arrived. We had parked right near the tram lane, almost all the way in the back of the first section of the lot, right before the line of trees. We rode the tram in, made it in through Security, and met my folks right in front of the Crossroads of the World, where we headed for the Big Hat. I took what I classify as The Best Photo of the Trip of my father holding Joshua in front of the Hat. (I know, while I hate the hat, it does make a great photo backdrop. I just wish that they'd move it out of the way....)
After a potty break to change Joshua, we played with the 100YoM kiosks under the Hat again, then headed for the Playhouse Disney -- Live On Stage! show again. While in line, I used my cell to call WDW-DINE and get a PS for 50's Prime Time Cafe for lunch. Joshua loved the show again, though I'm not sure how much Grandma and Grandpa liked it from the seats in the back. Next, we went to the HIStK Movie Set Adventure. I couldn't go up into the spider web with Joshua this time due to my ankle, and I advised my father against it as I wasn't sure that he was up to it in light of the difficulties I had on Monday. Joshua had fun on the slides and other stuff, though. My folks got tired of watching and not being able to see him for very long and not being able to do much, so they went for a scenic walk before meeting us for lunch.
After Joshua burned off some energy getting his fill of climbing and sliding, we walked down New York Street and around past Star Tours and Indy on our way to Prime Time. While I took the stroller around the upper level of the Echo Lake walkway, Hope took Joshua to check what kind of ice cream they had at Dinosaur Gertie's Ice Cream of Extinction. It turns out that the TollHouse Cookie ice cream sandwich does not have carageenan. I think I know what's for dessert!
We met up with Grandma and Grandpa, checked in at Prime Time and sat down to wait. While we waited, Grandma and Grandpa tried to remember the name of the actress whose scene we came in during the middle of. Later on, the mystery was resolved when we saw that the show's title was "I Married Joan" on the next loop. We were seated after not too long of a wait, and then we waited at our table for "Aunt Linda". And we waited. And we waited. After about 15 minutes, we got our menus. After about another 10 minutes, we were able to order. Waiting for our food took so long, we had to give Joshua a snack to hold him until the food. When we hadn't seen our food 50 minutes after we sat down (having seen other tables in our area also waiting long times for food, always with an excuse from Aunt Linda), we called the manager over. He promised to take care of it. He also offered us free desserts for our trouble. We told him that we didn't have time for dessert. He offered to give it to us to go. We told him that we just wanted our food. He went back into the kitchen to find Aunt Linda. Our food was on the table within 5 minutes. We were all so hungry that within a little over 5 minutes, all that was left was the bones from the fried chicken. The food was good, if very late. The manager stopped by to let us know that he was taking 15% off of our bill. We thanked him and told him that we just wanted to make sure that it didn't happen to someone else, too. With all of the disappearing that Aunt Linda did, there was none of the interaction that made us want to go to Prime Time in the first place. We're going to have to think hard before we go there again. By the time we got and paid our bill, it was time for Grandma and Grandpa to hit the road and head home to Boynton Beach. We said goodbye outside the restaurant and they headed for the exit while we headed back to Dinosaur Gertie's.
When we got to Gertie's, we asked for a TollHouse sandwich. The cast member asked us if we wanted two of them for free, as she was going to throw them out because they were "damaged". I'd never heard of this before, but we took one to split. We had no need for two. She asked us if we were sure, and we told her to give it to the next person to come by. Nothing like a little well-timed Disney Magic to set you back into a good mood! We shared the ice cream as we walked down Sunset Boulevard so that Joshua could get closeup look at the Rock 'N' Roller Coaster (unfortunately, the guitar was shrouded for rehab) and the Tower of Terror. We strolled out of the park, and saw a FriendShip waiting at the dock. Since Epcot was our next destination, we thought it would be nice to take a leisurely cruise over. My ankle was hurting a little, so we decided to ride all the way to the Epcot stop instead of walking over from the Yacht and Beach stop and avoiding the Boardwalk leg.
Once inside, we walked all the way around to the Outpost to see OrisiRisi again. Joshua and Hope played while I took video this time. We caught the entire performance this time, which was really nice. Next, we stopped by the trains, and then over to Matsuriza. (Can you tell Joshua likes drums?) Unfortunately, the Voices of Liberty had the week off, so we didn't get to see them. We walked around to the front of the park, then took a monorail to the TTC and another one to the Magic Kingdom.
While I spent about an hour trying to get photos of all of the Main Street windows (stopping to watch and photograph the Flag Retreat ceremony in the middle), Hope took Joshua to ride the Carousel, small world, and TTA. He wanted to ride Peter Pan, but the wait was over an hour, and Fastpass return was further back than that. When I finished with the photos, I met Hope and Joshua by the Plaza Pavilion. We were going to try to get some food into him, but he said that he wasn't hungry, so we went over to Jungle Cruise for one last ride in the Magic Kingdom. Skipper Brooke did a good job, then we headed off toward Main Street. This meant that after not being able to get Joshua off of the teacups at Disneyland last year, he didnt ride them once this trip. Since the fireworks were so close, we stopped at the railing in front of the Crystal Palace construction walls to watch the show. While waiting for the fireworks to begin, I gave Joshua an inhaler/chamber asthma treatment. After the show was over, we stopped at the benches while Hope ran into the Baby Care Center to see if they had pull-ups in Joshua's size, since we weren't sure if we had enough to get home. She bought a six-pack for a reasonable price, then she brought Joshua into the bathroom to put one on him, as we were out of underwear in the bag, and we weren't sure if he would be awake much longer.
We waded through the throngs to the main entrance, as the park was closing, so everyone in creation was heading to the exit. We figured that, looking at the lines, it was 7-8 monorails vs. 2-3 ferries, so we went for the ferry so that we wouldn't have to take Joshua out of the stroller. At least both ferries were running, so it wasn't too long a wait. Once at the TTC, we took the monorail over to Epcot. Joshua was complaining that he was hungry, and we explained that the fastest place to eat was Epcot, since the car was all the way at the Studios. Once we got into Epcot, we headed straight for the Electric Umbrella, since Joshua said that he wanted pizza. After we got food into him, he was much better. Dinner was $26.82 for the three of us.
While Hope went to ride Spaceship Earth, I took Joshua to play in the fiber-optic lights in Innoventions Plaza. He believed that the lights were flashing because he was stepping on them. He's so cute! After the lights, we went to Innoventions East, played some of the computer games, then found the Epcot 100YoM kiosks. Joshua was still enjoying them (again with correct answers from me) when Hope finished her ride and joined us. We made a quick stop to let me take a couple of pictures of Mission:Space and let Joshua get a close-up look at Test Track, then it was off to MouseGears for some last-minute shopping. We finally found the retro-Epcot shirts (I got two, Hope one) and bought stuff for our offices. It took so long to get waited on that Illuminations was ending and Hope couldn't take Joshua for one last look at the water-up by Imagination.
We headed for the bus stop, since the FriendShips stopped running when the Studios closed at 7:00. Joshua fell asleep in the stroller while we waited the 10 minutes for the bus. The bus dropped us by the entrance of the Studios and we had to walk to the car. I was not looking forward to this. (Remember, we parked in almost the last row of the first section of the lot.) We got to the minivan, loaded Joshua, the loot, and everything else, and headed back to the room. We got in around 10:00 and my ankle was killing me by the time we got everything in. After we got Joshua into bed, we sat for a while snacking (with my ankle up and iced), Hope organized a bit for packing the next morning, then we hit the sack.
High points: free ice cream from Dinosaur Gerties, drumming again with OrisiRisi, Joshua dancing in the fiber optic lights at Innoventions Plaza, the Flag Retreat Ceremony at the Magic Kingdom, finding the retro Epcot shirts, doing our version of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (though more like cars, trams, boats, monorails, ferries, and buses)
Low points: the mob scene leaving the Magic Kingdom, Joshuas hunger meltdown, lack of service or interaction at 50s Prime Time Caf
Joshua accomplishments: not being scared of the dark inside Space Mountain on the TTA, remaining in mostly good spirits despite the marathon day
Act IX, in which our heroes depart their "home away from home (resort)" and return safely to "the real world"
(Saturday, November 16 - pack, check out, Animal Kingdom, go home)
And all too soon, it was over. We got up, ate breakfast, Hope finished packing, and we were out at 10:30. (Good thing that we aimed to be out at 9:30, or we would've missed checkout time!) It was a tremendous downpour when we left, so packing the car was interesting. We decided that, since it was way too early to head to the airport, we would stick with our plan and head to the Animal Kingdom, even if the storms were drenching us through our ponchos.
We got to the Animal Kingdom and had a wonderful time trying to keep Joshua dry in a standard raincoat while getting him to the tram. Luckily, when I prevailed on the parking lot CM that I didn't want to go to the far end of the row because I had a sprained ankle, he let me park at the near end of the aisle, so it was only a short dash to the tram.
Once we got off the tram, we put Joshua in the stroller under the rain shield and headed for the souvenir stand outside the entrance. We got him a kid's size poncho, which was still three sizes too big for him, but at least it covered him. We knew that, if we were to eat lunch before heading to the airport, we only had time to see either Tarzan or Lion King, but not both. Since I had never seen Tarzan Rocks!, we decided to go there. We went into the theater and got aisle seats in the center section, a few rows above the break. We really enjoyed the show. Hope said that it looked like a totally different show from that angle. She also said that there were a number of tricks that the skaters did in the first show that they didn't do this time. I think that it was probably due to the fact that people tracked water in on their shoes and left the track at the middle row of the theater wet. Regardless, the show was still fun, though during Jane's transformation number, I couldn't help think that I was watching a slow-motion striptease. Every time she reappeared, she was wearing less clothing. I expected her to disappear one more time and reappear in a bikini top and thong. Hope had the same feeling. She also remarked on the eye-candy nature of Tarzan. I guess that's the new version of Disney trying to give "something for everybody".
After the show, Hope wanted to look for a sweatshirt, so I took Joshua in the stroller under the rain cover and got my first look at Chester and Hester's. I was unimpressed. I got the same tacky feeling that I got at Paradise Pier at Disney's California Misadventure. Sorry, but it just didn't feel "Disney" to me. It didn't exactly scream "quality". Anyway, we looked at the Boneyard and I asked Joshua if he really went on all those slides, and he said "yeah, all except the blue one. Can I try it now?" I told him that it was too wet, and that we had to leave soon. We kept going, but I told Joshua he could do the slide in February. He wanted to to see the building for Dinosaur, so we went to the beginning of the walkway to the ride so that we could see. I think that this was the last attraction that he couldn't go on due to height that he needed to see the front of.
We met Hope at the nearest store, bought Hope's sweatshirt, then proceeded toward the exit, heading for Rainforest Cafe, since thats where Joshua wanted to eat. Unfortunately, the wait was 25 minutes to get seated. At the standard rate of service at Rainforest, he wouldn't make it to lunch without screaming, so we made an executive decision to push Rainforest off to our next trip in February. When we explained the wait to Joshua, he agreed. We splashed back to the car instead of waiting for the tram, and headed for the McDonald's nearby. It was very nice, with Toy Story showing on a huge video wall. We ate quite a bit, as we were very hungry by then, then headed to the minivan. We took the less-direct way back to the airport so that we could leave the property on 536 and gas up at the 7-Eleven right before the entrance to the Greeneway. We took the Greeneway back to the airport (another $2). We checked the luggage at the curb and got our boarding passes with no hassle at all, then had an easy drop-off at Dollar. And, since we dropped the car off a little early, we had a charge at 8 days, 3 hours, which was a few bucks less than the 9 days charge which would be levied if we had hit that four-hour mark. We walked to the gate, got ourselves set, then took care of getting some snacks for the plane. We got some pizza from Sbarro's for the flight, and rearranged the bags so that we could carry it all. The plane arrived from Islip late, and there were many wheelchair passengers on the flight. (More than I'd ever seen get off a single flight before.) They ran us all on board, but we still ended up pulling away from the gate 25 minutes late. We arrived in Albany at 8:35, about five minutes early, so go figure. The flight itself was uneventful, as we kept the peanuts away from Joshua. They gave Joshua a pair of wings and an activity book on the flight. The wings are plastic with a bit of stickum on the back now. The old metal wings from my childhood were a casualty of economics long before 9/11 made them a potential weapon. Anyway, by the time we got our luggage, got it to the car, drove home, and unloaded, it was about 10:00. By the time we got ourselves settled and to bed, it was after midnight.
High points: not much, since we had to go home, but the folks at Dollar and Southwest were really nice, and unexpectedly saving a few bucks at Dollar was nice, too
Low points: going home, disappointment at Chester and Hesters, the rain (rain, rain came down, down, down)
Epilogue, in which our heroes attempt to recover after their arduous journey
(Sunday, November 17 - fallout)
This is where planning ahead really pays off. We may be totally exhausted, but we have a whole day to recuperate before returning to work and day care.
We took our time unpacking and rested all day. Fortunately, the Jets won, so that put a positive spin on the day. Thanks to the rest, we weren't total zombies when we got back to work and day care on Monday. Just partial zombies.
This was our first time flying Southwest, and we were very pleased. Aside from the peanut incident, everything was handled smoothly, and everyone was very nice, from the skycap in Orlando to the counter staff to the flight crews.
Winn-Dixie was very pleasant to shop at, the staff was very nice, and it was much cheaper than Gooding's. We just can't count on the produce there.
It was great to see all of the characters out and about in the parks. I can't remember seeing that many characters out in a long time, if ever.
Most of our dining experiences were good, ranging from nice to excellent. Not every meal, but the majority.
This was a very social trip. It was great to spend time with my father and stepmother, and to see Mongo, Sue, and Sandy.
It was great to have a good spot for SpectroMagic. It wasn't the front row in front of the train station, but it was still a very enjoyable location.
It was nice to see that there is now a method to allow Guests in wheelchairs to get into attractions without having to go through the queue, but still not have advantages over the average Guest. This will still allow those guests to ride, but it should stop able-bodied guests from using wheelchairs to try to jump the line. They can just as easily get a Fastpass. I'm not sure what percentage of attractions use this method yet, but it should be expanded to 100% of wheelchair-accessible or wheelchair-transferable attractions.
My father, who is heavily into photography in general, had his camera break when he first tried to use it in the parks. We later found out that it was not repairable, and he's now in the process of replacing it.
Joshua's meltdowns were not unexpected, or even worse than usual, but they still put a damper on whatever event that they came during.
We had a number of incidents of slow service at restaurants. This used to be less frequent at Disney. Just another sign of the falling standards.
Speaking of falling standards, they can't afford a few buckets of paint and enough man-hours (sorry, staff-hours) to paint the worn floor of the Carousel or the chipped, faded, and peeling walls and railings on Main Street? Whatever happened to stripping and painting everything regularly whether it needed it or not? And how about the landscaping? The wonderful topiaries have been disappearing at a steady pace over the last few years, and they're sorely missed, as are all the flowers and other decorative landscaping. There is more and more grass and other nondescript foliage, and park is much more mundane for the change. Those of us frequent visitors notice the poor condition of the buildings and the grounds, and infrequent or first-time visitors don't notice it per se, but get the feeling that it's no better than a Six Flags or Busch Gardens park. The attention to detail has been cut as Eisner cuts the budget to save his job. Oh, well. I was determined not to let it interfere with having a good time, but it was still disappointing.
I was upset at getting lousy cell connectivity when we needed it. We usually get good cell connectivity, especially at the resorts, but it just crapped out on us between Old Key West and the Boardwalk.
I think that Chester & Hesters Dino-Rama is just too cheesy for the park that it's in. (I'll reserve judgement as to whether or not it's too cheesy for Disney in general, since it's no worse than some of Paradise Pier at DCA, but I'm not a fan of that area, either.) It seems that a park that does so much to make you feel that you're in a natural setting should not put such a glaringly artificial environment in the middle of it. I mean, the other structures in the park are made to seem like undisturbed native buildings, with the only high-tech type stuff hidden in a non-descript building in the far corner of Dinoland. Oh, well. If Disney wants to get into the carnival business, they can lower themselves to that level in the parks as well as in the boardroom.
The Sorcerer's Hat. Move it. It's nice, but not where it is. See the earlier rant.
Spraining my ankle. A month and a half later, I'm just finishing physical therapy on it. It hasn't been fun. Plus, it cost me the ability to see all the fun that Joshua had at the Animal Kingdom.
My Palm resetting and killing all of my work. I lost some wonderful turns of phrases that I had done, and my Hat rant was much better written than the one you read earlier. It cost me my momentum, and I ended up not continuing the actual writing (as opposed to note-taking) until after we returned home.
Aunt Linda at the 50's Prime Time Cafe. She turned an expected fun last meal before my folks left into an ordeal that left a sour taste in everybody's mouth. We're going to think hard before we go back there.
And, since I cant end on a low note.
Joshua's first sighting of Cinderella Castle (and the immediate levitation of the spirits of everyone in the monorail car as they joined in the sense of wonder).
A free ice cream sandwich from Dinosaur Gertie's right when we needed it most. After that disheartening lunch at Prime Time, to have a dose of Disney Magic right afterward saved the afternoon from starting on a real down note and let us start enjoying ourselves again. It's almost like she sensed we needed some magic around then.
Watching Joshua on it's a small world with Grandma Natalie. It's Grandma's favorite ride, and she gets like a little girl when she's riding. It was so much fun watching them together.
Watching Joshua drumming, dancing, conquering fears, and just plain being cute. Isn't that what it's all about? Sharing these great, Magical moments with your children, and making memories to last a lifetime? (After all we went through with Joshua, to finally be at this point is just mind-boggling to me, and I almost can't believe that I got the chance to write those sentences. It's just a Magical Miracle to go with our little Medical Miracle.)
We had budgeted the trip at about $4500, including the $1010 for Annual Passes. We managed to bring it in at $3471. I'll take it. Next time, we shoot for lower. We'll definitely be able to cut down on souvenir purchases, since it'll be only three months between WDW trips instead of two and a half years. (And, hopefully, no medical bills.)
February 8-16, 2003, (at Old Key West) with Hope's parents joining us from the 8th through the 11th. October 10-18, 2003, (hopefully at Beach Club Villas, otherwise OKW) with my mother and stepfather joining us from the 10th through the 13th.
If youve read this all the way through, I give you my thanks (and my astonishment at your stamina!). I hope you enjoyed my take on the World, and that you took away some new knowledge or way of looking at things. (Or if not, at least the vicarious thrill of being along on somebody elses trip to WDW. Thats one of my favorite things about trip reports!) Have a Magical Day!