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Thread: Savvy's Marathon Weekend Trip - Yacht Club Resort - 1/9-1/14/20

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    Savvy's Marathon Weekend Trip - Yacht Club Resort - 1/9-1/14/20

    Savvy's Marathon Weekend Trip - Yacht Club Resort - 1/9-1/14/20

    DATES: 1/9-1/14
    RESORT: Yacht Club
    Me (31), 30+ trips
    JF (33), My husband, his fourth trip
    Sis (28), My sister, also 30+ trips
    ZF (28), Sis's husband, his sixth trip
    Mom & Dad (57), My parents
    HIGHLIGHTS: WDW Half Marathon, Marathon, Rise of the Resistance

    Hi all! This is my belated report from WDW Marathon Weekend 2020. I cranked out a bunch of this while it was still fresh. Then, you know, the world started falling apart with coronavirus, and I lost track. As my family debates whether to cancel our upcoming September trip, I decided to finish this. Might as well recount my last pre-Corona Disney trip for you all, and for myself.

    In 2019 we had no WDW trips whatsoever. I got married and spent my vacation budget on a honeymoon to Aulani and Disneyland (a trip report that's waiting to be finished). The year prior, we went to WDW for Sis's wedding, but that felt more like playing host than vacation.
    On top of finally returning, this was our first big Run Disney event in a few years as well. Not counting the races that were cut in half or canceled completely due to weather, my last half was Princess Weekend in 2015 I think, and for a while I believed it was over for me due to repeated knee issues. After finding the right physical therapy and strength training regimen, however, I've been in consistently good running shape for 2 years, and was beyond thrilled to run another Disney half. So although this was going to be a shorter, busier trip, I was really excited for it.


    We were leaving Thursday 1/9. I planned to pack the prior weekend, but I threw my back out Saturday morning and spent the next two days icing and sleeping off a muscle relaxer. Since I lost the whole weekend, plan B became taking a half day on Wednesday.

    I didn't enjoy taking extra PTO, but it was nice to have extra time. Packing for unpredictable Disney January weather is more complicated than packing for September, when it's just plain hot. The forecast this week was warm, but I still felt the need to pack a mix of summer and winter clothes, plus all the running stuff: two pairs of sneakers, the run outfit, tape, energy jelly beans, space blanket, etc.

    I also saw the chiropractor and dropped the dogs off at the pet spa. As usual, I stood there calling, "Bye! I love you! I'll miss you!" as they bounded off to play and didn't look back. JH got home from work around 6 and finished his packing quickly. We had a romantic dinner of Chinese takeout and Live PD before lights out around 9.

    Alarms went off at 5:30 and we were out the door by 6. According to Savvy family tradition, we met at my parents' house to consolidate luggage and persons into as few cars as possible. We drove to an offsite parking lot and transferred to the airport using their shuttle. The driver handled all the bags, so it was an easy process.

    Once at Newark Liberty, we went right to the TSA Pre line. I was a little nervous since my boarding pass was still showing my maiden name and all my identification was now in my married name. I had already updated my name with TSA Pre, but when I called United MONTHS ago, they said my maiden name would remain on the boarding pass. They assured me, however, that the TSA agent would see a note indicating my name had changed. I was a little skeptical, but neither the United employee checking our bags nor the TSA agent said a word. Cool. (For the return flight, however, this was not so cool. More on that later.)

    The flight was easy. No delays or problems. They rebooted the Direct TV just before takeoff, after which my screen wasn't working, but I had a book. I also napped and head bobbed the second half of the flight. Sleeping on a plane is rare for me, but I chalked it up to the headache I was having.
    Mom and Dad never got their Magical Express tags, so upon arrival the four of us went in search of Starbucks while they went to the luggage carousel. We met back up and walked right onto a bus, which sat maybe another ten minutes before departing. It's always a tossup with how many stops this bus makes. At minimum we have the Yacht and Beach Clubs, but usually also have Boardwalk and Caribbean Beach, depending on the time of year. Today it was just the first two, so we made it to Yacht Club around 1:45 pm. Sis and I had checked in using the app a few weeks ago; she got the lucky text that her room was ready, while I got the one that said it was not. Mom and Dad were having technical issues so they checked in the old-fashioned way and were also given a ready room. We were able to change and stash our stuff in their room, which had a fantastic view of the lighthouse and Crescent Lake. Both rooms were on the fourth floor, so on our way out I chatted with a very nice CM at the front desk who said he'd try to get JH and I on the fourth floor too.

    First stop was the race expo at the Wide World of Sports. Transportation is provided from the Yacht Club's Convention Center and has always been fine in our opinion. We had a short wait for a bus, then a quick pick up at Beach, and maybe a 15 minute ride to WWoS. Navigating the expo itself is a bit of a process, with bibs in one building, t-shirts in another, and prepaid race merch in a third. I don't mind the walk, but a CM asked Sis to participate in a survey about the expo format, and she thought the many stops were inconvenient. If you're local and just want to get in and out, I can understand that.

    We did a little bit of shopping and picked up our prepaid merch. Sis, registered for her first marathon this year, got the Marathon jacket, which was a retro white and blue design she liked. I preordered the Marathon weekend magic band - my first magic band splurge, and now that they won’t be complimentary anymore, I guess it's good to get used to. JH also found a nice hooded half marathon shirt featuring Donald; in the year prior he wanted to get one so bad, but that design was for the Wine & Dine Half, and as we were only doing the 5K. I was glad he got to make up for it with this year's shirt, which he ended up wearing as a jacket during the trip.

    Once we were all done shopping, we caught a bus to the Polynesian, where we had dinner reservations at 'Ohana. We arrived well ahead of them, so we decided to try Trader Sam's, but it was a 45-minute wait for a party of six. Bummer. I did notice that the grotto now opens at 3 pm vs the 4 pm we're used to, which is good to know. In the past, we try to make it at opening time to prevent a long wait. Since we missed out today, we went up to the Tambu Lounge instead.

    My headache from this morning was raging at this point, and I suspected my glasses were to blame. They get too twisted out of shape sometimes. While I didnt like the idea of mixing Tylenol and alcohol, I took two pills, took off my glasses, and closed my eyes for a bit. After twenty minutes some of the edge was wearing off and I could enjoy the glass of prosecco I ordered. Meanwhile, Sis had checked us into the restaurant half an hour early since we were all good and hungry. Our buzzer went off not to long after that.

    The family-style meal has been the same here for years, with some minor changes. The only thing different tonight was the mixed green salad, which had either spinach or kale; either way, served raw, it made it a bit grassy for my taste. Everything else was wonderful. The appetizers, all great, included dumplings, broccoli, lomaine, and chicken wings. The skewer options were, shrimp, chicken, and beef, which was rare. The guys didn't mind, but mom left hers mostly untouched. Finally, dessert was the famous bread pudding served with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce. This dessert always has the remarkable quality of making me go back for seconds and is one of my favorite desserts on WDW property.

    After dinner we took the monorail over to Magic Kingdom, which was still festive with Christmas decorations. Big fan of them. What I'm not a big fan of is MK's winter hours, closing at 8 pm every night. Since we only had 90 minutes before closing, we walked around, just enjoying being here. After a wide swing around the park we hit a few rides, the People Mover, the carousel, and Haunted Mansion. The others went back to the hotel, but Dad, JH, and I decided to stake out a spot toward the entrance of the park to watch the fireworks.

    Sis disagrees, but I think Happily Ever After is a wonderful improvement on Wishes. On our last trip JH, was very sweet and stood in the pouring rain to watch them with me. Tonight was dry, but we booked it out just before the grand finale to beat the crowds. It was a 20-minute wait for our bus, which was made less pleasant by a sewer smell hanging around the bus stop. Later during the half marathon, I smelled it again. Not sure what's going on, but Disney should really fix that. Gross.

    Our bus was packed and left quite a few people behind. Back at the Yacht Club, we followed Dad upstairs to get our bags and head to our own room, 4201 according to the app. On our last trip for Sis's wedding, every wedding guest had been upgraded to water view rooms except for my parents and JH/myself. Dad had negotiated his way to an upgrade and begged me to let him negotiate on our behalf, which I refused. These days it seems they block all standard rooms off for conventions guests, and even the garden views were sold out for this trip. We were all forced to pay for water views, and Dad, wanting to see what kind of view we had, followed us back to the room.

    We rounded the corner and Dad gasped dramatically, claiming that we had a suite. I thought there was no way, but we opened the door, and our jaws dropped. We'd been given a gorgeous one bedroom suite with a view of Crescent Lake and the pool. It was way more space than two people needed, but I took it as karma for not begging for an upgrade last year.

    I couldn't imagine what we did to get this upgrade, when it hit me: I changed my last name. I have a theory that if it's your first time staying at the Yacht Club and they have the space, they upgrade you. This is why all our wedding guests got upgrades except for Dad and myself. I've been a guest at YC many times under my maiden time, but this was our first time with my married name on the reservation. Hence, our first trip upgrade! Woo!
    After several minutes of threatening to take one of the beds for himself, Dad left and we settled in. I put the resort TV channel on and enjoyed the Disney music while unpacking. JH did an adorable dance around the suite to celebrate all the space. We called it an early night and went to sleep.


    We slept great. The new beds are so comfy. Since the hotel's latest renovation, you can hear a lot of whatever is going on in the hallways and other guest rooms with the hard floors, but the seclusion of the suite reduced some of that noise.

    What I did hear was the start of the 10K around 5 am. A bit later, I rolled out of bed and saw the first few runners going by outside. JH joined me, and we watched them for a while before heading down to buy our refillable mugs and get coffee. We've enjoyed these mugs in the past, but the I found the coffee brewed downstairs too watery and began to prefer the K cups in the room instead. I'll try to remember that next time.

    The rest of my family came to see the suite and enjoy coffee together. The plan today was to take it easy walking around Epcot, have an early dinner at Via Napoli, and get to bed early before the Half Marathon. On Christmas morning, Sis passed around a baggie with pictures of all the different countries. We each got a country or two, and the deal was that when we walked through your country, you got to choose a new snack or drink for the group to try. We were hoping to pull that off today.

    We cleaned up and walked over to International Gateway, where I boo'ed the new Skyliner but was relieved to see it hadn't created a huge crowd at security. The first stop was the Boulangerie Patisserie les Halles. That translates to "breakfast in France." (Kidding.) Between the group, we sampled the Poulet au Pistou, Croissant Sale, and Croque Monsieur. They were all magnifique!

    On our walk toward Future World, I noticed there was a crowd across the water in Norway. Even though World Showcase officially opens at 11, the Google confirmed that Frozen Ever After opened at 10. The group placated me and walked over to the ride, which showed a 20 minute wait but was more like 10. From there we walked over to the Land Pavilion to attempt standby on Soarin'. Along the way I was a bit bummed out by all the construction. I know this is an epic transformation for Epcot, but between the lack of working attractions, shops, and festival booths, the park felt so empty. It was a stark contrast to all the hustle and bustle of Food & Wine.

    I mused on this while stupidly ignoring the pain my new sneakers were causing in my right leg. My knee buckled somewhere between Canada and Starbucks, giving me a small heart attack. Thankfully there was no real harm done, but after riding Soarin', JH resolved to help me find flip flops while the rest of my family when on the Land. Mouse Gears was closed for renovations but had moved over by the former Universe of Energy. The temporary place was a quarter the size of the regular store, and all we found there were crocs in size 10/12. We pulled out our phones and tried to use the Shop Disney app to locate something in the park, but hit a dead end.

    I told Sis to go enjoy the Test Track fastpasses without us so we could check World Showcase. Besides, there's nothing fast about fast passes on Test Track. The FP and standby lines merge way too soon because of the car design phase, and I hate the additional wait time after that. So we moved on toward Mexico but struck out country after country. I can’t believe how hard it was to find flip flops in Florida.

    Just as I was on the brink of walking back to the hotel, JH told me to pop a squat outside Japan and went into Mitsukoshi - arguably one of the best shops in all of WS. He sent me several pictures of flip flops small enough for my feet and had the CM cut all the tags off so I could pop them right on. Did I win the lottery with him or what?

    My leg felt better as soon as I made the shoe swap. Mom and Dad caught up to us here and were heading back to the hotel. I got several distressed texts from Sis because we were messing up her food tasting plan, but the knee buckling had freaked me out. After the race tomorrow it could buckle all it wanted, but not before. We decided to head back with my parents and have an afternoon at the pool.

    The weather was in the upper 70s, warm enough to hang on a lounge chair but not enough for me to dip a toe in the water. JH was brave and went for a dip. While he did that, I checked out the new walk up window for Beaches and Cream. I was delighted to see coffee (the flavor, not the beverage) was back on the menu and got a two scoop cup with whipped cream and chocolate sauce. Yaaaaaass.

    Sis and ZH joined us a bit later, and we spent the afternoon lounging around together. A few months ago on our honeymoon at Aulani, I fell asleep quite a few times at the pool, something I thought was a result of post-wedding exhaustion. It turns out it might just be me getting old, because I passed out today too.

    We went back to Epcot for dinner at 4:45 and were seated at Via Napoli after a few minutes. We split the arancini and calamari appetizers, which were both good. I could have used a glass of red wine to go with it, but that would have been counterproductive to the whole pre-race hydrating thing. Carb loading was totally on the table however, and boy did we go for it. Most of us got personal pizzas; I went with the Quattro Formaggi, a four-cheese white pie, and was not disappointed. JH got the lasagna and was singing its praises as well.

    Not much to report on for the rest of the night. Sis and ZH didn't have to get up early so they went on to enjoy Epcot a bit more, but the four of us went back to the hotel and called it an early night. We stopped at the Beach Club marketplace to get a pack of bagels to split and went to bed.


    Disney recommended getting a bus by 3:30 am the latest, and for the first time, we were totally fine catching the end of that window. JH and I dragged ourselves out of bed at 2:30 to change and eat our quick breakfast. I stepped out on the balcony and was relived to be met with 60 degree weather, which meant we could leave our space blankets and gloves behind. We met Mom and Dad downstairs at 3:20 and were the second group of people waiting for the bus. By the time it showed up 20 minutes later, however, we had a surprisingly long line of people behind us, and not everyone made it on. There were definitely a lot of cars and buses on the road but no real traffic, so we were dropped at the Epcot parking lot quickly. The timing worked out pretty well actually. By the time we made it through security and used the porta potties, it was time to walk to the corrals.

    Kind of a funny aside here. Sis gave mom and myself a unique Christmas present this year, something called a "pee pocket." Let's just say, it's supposed to make it easier for women on the go to...well...go. Without getting into too much detail, neither of us felt these were effective in a porta potty scenario, but we thought they were hilarious.

    As in races past, it's a pretty long walk to the corrals, and it was almost 5 by the time we got to them. I said goodbye to JH, Mom and Dad, who were heading to corrals G and H. I made my way up to C, a spot I was pleasantly surprised to earn with a proof of time from a brutal and stormy 10K at the Jersey shore last spring. We had just half an hour to wait in the corral, but wow am I still convinced Run Disney made a mistake replacing Rudy Novotny. Carissa was great, but I've got nothing positive to say otherwise. There was fumbling over pages of script and no explanation of whether they were using mini waves. They announced corral A but didn't specify whether the next release was a mini wave or corral B. I only figured out it was B when I suddenly found myself at the start. My family said corrals were not announced through the rest of the releases either, so they had no idea how close they were until it was go time.

    My fireworks went off and I was running, and I took a moment to savor this fact. I really never thought I'd be at that start of another Run Disney half with all my knee issues. This was truly magical.

    I don't want to bore you with the details of me running 13 miles. To sum it up, it was pretty freaking humid, and I was sweating two minutes in, but I finished in 2:31. It's about fifteen minutes off my PR, but given the conditions and that I only got up to 9 miles in training (half of which were walking), I'll take it. I DO have several thoughts in terms of the race itself, which by all means you can skip if it's not interesting to you.

    1. Despite our perfect timing, we got lucky, and I suggest catching an earlier bus from your resort. I heard there were substantial pick up delays for the 5K and 10K, and the Marathon the next day was a HUGE transportation disaster. People got on the buses within the window Disney recommended and sat in traffic 1-2 hours. Others were bailing out of their Ubers and jogging the two or three miles to the start. Disney pushed the start back 15 minutes to accommodate as many people as possible, but this was clearly their screw up.

    2. Why were we not announcing corrals again? What happened to the punny comments like "corral B is Brave" and "corral D is Daring!" HELLO. BRING BACK RUDY.

    3. The course itself is the same it's always been. Mile 5 is the highlight, running down Main Street and later the castle, which is all lit up. This is an unforgettable moment, and I even glimpsed Sis in the crowd here. Miles 7-10 are tougher. It's just one long road all the way to Epcot. I didn't notice a significant difference in characters and entertainment, but Sis said the Marathon was extremely lacking. I will say that the bands and choirs we had in the past have largely been replaced by one-man DJ's sprinkled along the route.

    4. Before I forget, I have to say I am blown away by all the people who get up in the middle of the night to volunteer or cheer on others. I get up for personal accomplishment. Volunteers are doing this for a bigger cause. Way to go and thank you!

    5. If you attend a race as a runner or spectator and need to meet up, I suggest relying on the Find My app for those with the iPhone. With the crowds, we barely had service and often couldn't send or receive texts. With Find My, I could keep track of my family's progress during both races and find them easier.

    6. I'm sorry, but if you run Disney, you knew this one was coming. The only thing magical about these races is the time running through the parks. Registration costs continue to rise while quality in other areas ebbs away. Once upon a time, when I was young and yet to suffer my first running injury, I registered for the Inaugural Tower of Terror Ten Miler. I checked in at the Expo and was given a high-quality champion shirt and a bag full of goodies, including full size Cliff and Luna bars. At the Princess Half a year later, I got a mesh drawstring bag at the finish along with a box full of post-race snacks. For $100 we could sign up for the Race Retreat, a covered tent that protected you from the elements and offered private restrooms, bag check, padded stretching area, and a hot meal before and after the race. The medals were solid and beautiful, and the race announcers kept the crowd excited and ready to go before start time.

    This year, I paid more than ever for registration. I passed on what's now called the Runner's Square, a uncovered area that offered only water bottles and bagels, fruit, and snacks. I got a crappy t-shirt that itches and frayed in the wash on the hand wash cycle. While my medal made it home safely, many on social media shared pictures of the colors literally peeling off of theirs. Expo freebies are a thing of the past, and the snack box at the finish had one edible item for me, the famous nacho chips and cheese dip. The new announcing lineup lacked the charisma and energy of former announcer Rudy, who was undoubtedly let go - like everything else- to save money. It all shows.

    Was this my last Run Disney race? Maybe not. I got all the feels I was hoping to feel during this run and had a blast. I'm THRILLED I did it. But the greediness of Run Disney is getting to be too much even for me.

    Okay so. I cross the finish line, get my snacks and drinks and head to our designated meet up spot. I plop on the ground and stretch. Everything is sore but nothing hurts, and I'm eternally grateful for this. I'm good for a while, but eventually the cool breeze turns from refreshing to chilly.
    Sis, who was nice enough to get up early and cheer us on in MK, caught the monorail over and met me. At this point we determined from runner tracking that it was going to be at least another hour wait for everyone else. I couldn't sit here shivering for another hour, so we went over to look in the merchandise tent. I grabbed a hideous purple tech sweatshirt that I'll probably never wear again, but in that moment, it was worth the $50 it cost. Well played, Disney.

    JH came in about an hour after me. Considering he didn't really train, I was insanely proud of him and thought he did awesome. He said he pretty much ran the first five or six miles straight before having to slow down. Dad crossed about ten minutes after him, and Mom was just another five after that. We shuffled over to the line for our bus, and this is where I'll actually commend Run Disney and the bus companies for being so organized. There were three waiting buses for just our resorts, and the volunteers counted people out to making boarding a snap.

    On our way back, I used the app to move back our breakfast reservation at Ale & Compass from 10:55 to 11:30. We got dropped off, showered, and met back downstairs. When I went to check in, the CM said it was no problem adding Sis onto the reservation, but the restaurant was technically closed while they finished breakfast. We wouldn't be seated until it officially reopened at noon. I don't understand why the app would even let me make a reservation when the restaurant is closed, and I had only booked this to enjoy a hearty breakfast. And we were hungry NOW. The CM was nice enough to cancel our reservation without charging the cancellation fee.

    We went to the Market instead and got some food to go. Despite the fact that I was "starving," I had eaten chips and a banana already, so I settled for a hot turkey sandwich. It was only after I bought it I realized it had swiss cheese (not a fan), but Dad was nice enough to trade me for his ham and egg on a pretzel roll. Yum.

    We all kind of split up from here. ZH was already golfing, and Mom and Sis went off galavanting somewhere I can't remember. Dad went back to his room, and JH and I went back to ours to relax. I opened the balcony door to get what was now the warm breeze and sounds of Stormalong Bay. JH fell asleep quickly. I settled into bed next to him with ice on my knees and back. I thought I'd fall asleep as well, but there were some good shows on and I spent the next few hours watching TV.

    Dinner was another early one so that Sis could get to sleep. JH woke up around 2, and we checked in with my family shortly after. Mom and Sis were already shopping at Disney Springs, and ZH was meeting us there from the golf course. Dad was still around, so we met him downstairs and walked out to the bus stop...just as the bus to Disney Springs was pulling away. Not wanting to wait 45 minutes for another, I used the app to order a Minnie Van.

    It was three times the amount as a regular Lfyt, but whatever. Our driver was nice and chatted with us about all the up and comings at WDW. He also played the same music they play on the resort buses, which was a nice touch. He got us there in less than fifteen minutes and dropped us where he thought was the closest to the Boathouse. I find the new Disney Springs huge and confusing, but knowing the Boathouse is on the water made it pretty easy to find.

    We met up with the others and had a drink at the bar while waiting for them to page us. I wasn’t a fan of the cramped booth they put us in, but dinner itself was fantastic. JH and I both got the shrimp and andouille mac n' cheese. YUM.

    I wanted to get to the Christmas store and pick up a Donald ornament you could get personalized with a 13.1, I was too beat after eating. JH and I also had reservations at Chef Art Smith's on Monday, so I figured I'd get it then. We took the bus back to the Yacht Club and bid Sis goodnight.
    Dad, JH, ZH, and I went for a little night cap at Beaches and Cream. I figured there was no better time than after running 13 miles to finally try one of those fancy signature milkshake. I got the chocolate one, which was served in a plastic souvenir cup with a brownie on top. Sadly, I was not impressed. It tasted like a Wendy's frosty, not a nice thick milkshake like I normally get here. The brownie was dry.

    JH was nice enough to trade me for his chocolate and coffee sundae. After everyone finished, we called it a night.

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    I heard the noise from the starting line at 5 am and was wide awake. I sent Sis a good luck text, unsure if it would get to her right away, but she answered immediately. She complained about the delayed start and the fact that she had to go to the bathroom, since you can't really leave the corrals this close to start time. I saw social media that they were only delaying the race 15 minutes and reminded her there would be a porta potty early on in the course. Not that it's legal per se, but plenty of people also just pick a tree and go behind it. I don't know. I'd have to be very desperate to do that.

    I got a text notification that she crossed the starting line at 5:45; with her anticipated pace, I figured she'd be done around noon. We originally planned to split up and cheer her on at multiple points along the course. Mom and Dad were going to take the Grand Floridian (mile 9 I think), JH and myself Animal Kingdom (16-17) and ZH would stay behind at the Boardwalk (24.5). Sis talked us out of this. She said it would be too chaotic with the traffic and that she really needed us most at the end. Given there were still runners sitting in buses on the clogged roadways, this worked out for the best.

    My thighs were so stiff when I got out of bed. Yowch. They needed some lovin'.

    I changed into my workout clothes and let JH know I was heading down to the gym. There were several guys down there using the weight machines and the one stationary bike I wanted, so I settled for the reclined bike instead. I did that for 15 minutes, just enough to ease the tension in my legs, then spent another 15 foam rolling and stretching out.

    I would have liked to do a lap around the boardwalk, but half of it was on the race course. Still, it was a good opportunity to figure out if and how we could get over there when the time came to cheer on Sis. I started out heading left toward Epcot and found the path coned off just before the bridge. I lingered a bit and saw the first wheelchair racing across the other side. Then I circled back past Beach and Yacht in the other direction. Here I found the cones cutting of the Hollywood Studios walking path. There was plenty of space for viewing here. They had also left a foot of pedestrian walking space along the Boardwalk, so we'd have no issues.

    I stopped at Mom and Dad's room on my way back and spent a while helping my Dad get Fastpasses. I got back to our room around 6:30 and was surprised to find JH fully dressed and drinking coffee on the balcony. He’d been up since I left and thoughtfully got a coffee for me as well. I showered and joined him out on the balcony.

    We had rescheduled breakfast at Ale & Compass for 9:30 this morning. That gave us plenty of time to relax, ice my knees, and watch the first waves of runners across the boardwalk. Mom had a light breakfast on her own, so we met Dad and ZH downstairs at the restaurant and were seated in a few minutes. We all got the buffet, which is continental and includes an entree of your choice. Since the buffet is filled with delicious carby options, I opted for an egg white veggie omelet. The omlelet was just ok, but I really enjoyed grazing the hot and cold buffet options; I had an English muffin with peanut butter (which they offered to toast), cheese, mini croissant, and smoked salmon. The guys had more elaborate entrees that they all seemed to enjoy, and we washed it all down with coffee and a round of mimosas. I paid with my Disney Visa and got 10 percent off the check.

    Mom was waiting for us outside the lobby with the signs we had made. Mine featured Sam Eagle and played on a quote for Muppets Christmas Carol: "Keep going! It's the American Way!" I regretted not thinking of "Stopping in the middle of the race is distinctly unpatriotic." Oh well.

    We found spots at the beginning of the Boardwalk next to a lady on a mobile piano. She and her partner occasionally switched off, playing a mix of mostly Disney songs and singing along. We bopped along to the music and cheered the tired souls making their way through the last mile and a half. Even just standing here, we were soon sweating. It was pretty beastly conditions for running 26 miles, but these were the fast runners, and they weren't letting it show.

    After a while they started slowing down. I used the Find My app to track Sis as she made her way through Animal Kingdom, toward and through Hollywood Studios, then finally toward the Boardwalk. I had sent her a text to let her know where we were. Around 11:30 she finally came through in her Buzz Lightyear outfit, looking tired but upright and pretty sturdy otherwise. We gave her a quick hug, and she was off again.

    The one thing she wanted when she got back was a Mickey pretzel with cheese. Mom walked over to the pretzel booth on the boardwalk but was getting attitude from the CM who couldn’t confirm what time they were opening. She ended up walking all the way back around, past Yacht & Beach, and into Epcot to try to get one from the America pavilion. JH and I went to the Beach Club marketplace to see if by chance they had them, but no such luck. We got the text Sis crossed the finish line at noon and knew she was planning to come straight back, so the four of us went to the bus stop to wait. Just two minutes before the bus pulled up, Mom came jogging back, with pretzel and cheese victoriously raised above her head.

    Sis was the first one off. She was exhausted, but I envied the way her eye makeup was still flawless. The first thing she did was ask who wanted her massage appointment at Ship Shape. She just wasn't feeling it. Mom convinced her to go for it anyway, so she went off to shower. ZH was hanging back with her, and Mom and Dad were staying at the pool, so JH and I walked to Epcot ourselves.

    The weather was absolutely perfect today, sunny and in the low 80s. I did desperately wish a festival was going on though. It was a little sad walking around with all the closed booths. I had managed to snag a FP for the Seas with Nemo, so we did that first and walked around the exhibits for a while. It was feeding time for the manatees, so they were more lively than usual today.

    There wasn't much else Future World had to offer right now. We went back into World Showcase on the Mexico side and went into the pavilion. JH tried the skeletize yourself thing from Coco, but it didn’t seem to work properly, or we just couldn't figure it out. We also rode the Gran Fiesta Tour, which I love, but I think it's only a matter of time before this goes the way of Maelstrom.

    We spent a while strolling around the countries, making a stop in Japan for a spicy tuna roll (pretty good) and to browse the shop. Every time I shop here I sorely want to buy a tea set, but I can never get over the sticker shock. I didn't like any of them enough to drop $80.

    We also stopped in Germany for something new I saw on Facebook, the beer pretzel bites. The presentation was adorable: a handful of pretzel bites served with caramel dipping sauce in a mini plastic beer mug. The taste was so-so. I found the caramel too sweet, and the bites too bland on their own. I'm glad we at least tried it.

    After a bit more country strolling, we headed back to the Yacht Club and joined Mom, Dad, and ZH at the pool. Sis showed up half an hour later. She said her massage was glorious and wants to make it a routine vacation thing. Not that we’ll be able to get massages this year (if we go at all), but I'm interested in trying one, too. JH and I had to cancel our spa day at Aualani because he was still recovering from poison ivy.

    Back to today. It was too chilly for my taste, but that also meant there were no crowds. It was nice not to have to fight for our preferred lounge chairs and find each other so easily. After a few hours of napping, reading, and actual swimming for JH, the only one brave enough to do so, we all split to clean up and met back down for drinks at Hurricane Hanna's. Luckily there was no game on, so we grabbed six free seats together at the bar. I passed on my regular frose and opted for a prosecco, which was pretty good.

    Dinner was at probably our favorite restaurant on property, the Yachtsman Steakhouse. Sis checked us in and came back laughing, saying the woman had thanked her for taking off her hat. By “hat” she was referring to the Marathon mouse ears Sis got for finishing today. I took a looksee and recognized the CM; a few years ago, when JH and I checked into dinner here, she looked us up and down and said "Oh good, you are properly dressed." I see she hasn't changed! Mom was a little put off by the exchange, and even more so when I recalled our own story. We understand that signature restaurants have a dress code, but to mom's point, it's still Disney. There shouldn't be anything wrong with Sis finishing her dressed up look with a pair of Mickey ears. At the same time, we recognize this lady is just doing her job.

    We were seated after about 15 minutes, and I lost count of how many CMs apologized for the wait. It didn't feel that extreme to us, but I guess they really take their fine dining seriously here. We started with another round of drinks; I remember JH got a smoked turkey, a bourbon drink he enjoyed on our honeymoon at the Grand Californian. It was a nice surprise to find it on the menu.

    The bread basket did not last long. There have been several articles floating around about these onion rolls, which are everything and more. You can order them next door at the Crew's Cup, served with butter and roasted garlic spread. Needing an after-dinner mint is a small price to pay for these babies.

    The six of us split the cheese plate, which is different every time, as a starter. A real cheese aficionado could probably eat the entire thing, but our tastes are different enough that everyone is satisfied with a small sample. JH and I also split the truffle mac and cheese side as a side - very good but very rich, and more than enough for two. For my entree I got the chicken and dumplings, which was really a drumstick served on a bed of gnocchi. Not what I expected, but pretty good. I should have just gone for the steak though. This is the only place I ever order steak, but I was afraid I would fill up on it tonight. We all ended up taking out doggie bags and skipped dessert.

    JH and I said goodnight to everyone and went back upstairs. When I said I wanted another drink, he humored me. We went back downstairs and got drinks to go from Ale & Compass. I also picked up a Mickey shaped brownie from the Market. We brought our haul upstairs and watched TV for a bit. The brownie was just ok. The drinks were better, but we fell asleep before finishing them. Not a bad way to end the day.


    Finally, it was time to enjoy the trip without all the rigid planning that comes with races. JH and I slept in until 8, which was later than I was planning, but I suppose that's what three drinks does to me now.

    Mom and Dad ditched us to hit MK at opening. I peeked out our side window and waved to Sis, who was sitting out on her balcony. We agreed via text to meet downstairs after showering. Neither JH or I was especially hungry, so I grabbed a cup of hard boiled eggs and took it to the bus stop, where we met Sis and ZH. The bus was sitting there, so we hustled over and hopped on. Despite saying resolutely to JH that I wouldn’t be the person who eats hard boiled eggs on the bus, my tummy started rumbling halfway into the ride. I did my best to eat them out of my backpack and spare my neighbors from the smell.

    The bus dropped us at MK, where I was surprised to find the Christmas decorations still up. I thought those would have been pulled over night. Mom and Dad met us on Main Street. Since today was Medal Monday, Sis, JH, and I donned our medals and took pictures in front of the castle. For a moment I felt vastly inferior to those doing the same with all their Dopey medals. It’s gotta be a real strain on your neck when you're walking around with five clanking medals all day.

    We then used our FP on Peter Pan’s Flight, which is Mom's favorite. Everyone was hungry, so we went back to Main Street and waited in a very long line for Starbucks Coffee and two $9 chocolate Mickey-shaped donuts to split. They tasted much better than I expected. And despite my past displeasure at putting a Starbucks on Main Street, I have to admit it was nice getting a stronger cup than what the resorts serve.

    After checking the current wait time on the MDE app, Sis proposed we wait in line for Pirates. On the way, I took a picture with the entrance to the new Club 33 in Adventureland and said "hello" into the doorbell, but no one answered. Rude.

    Pirates was about a 20 minute wait, which gave me plenty of time to drink my coffee before dumping it. After that we used our FP for Haunted Mansion and split up. JH and I went back to Adventureland to sit through the Tiki Room, then, of course, grabbed more snacks: a classic dole whip and two egg rolls, cheeseburger and pepperoni. Sis had the cheeseburger ones at her wedding reception, which tasted mustardy/pickly to me (not my taste), so I noshed on the pepperoni and forced myself not to finish it. JH tried both and agreed the pepperoni was better.

    Somewhere between Adventureland and Frontierland we stalled, unsure what to do. We had 4:45 reservations at Chef Art Smith's and FP for Epcot Forever at 8:30. I was hoping to squeeze AK in this afternoon, but we'd be cutting it too close.

    We decided to take the monorail to Epcot to get some more walking in, then planned to take the bus to Disney Springs from our hotel. On our way out of MK, a storm trooper baseball cap in the Emporium caught my eye. I bought it. It's a little big for my head but it’s nerdy and fabulous and I love it.

    We got to Epcot, and I was pleased to see you no longer have to go through security a second time. I guess they must have you go through it at the T&TC before you get on the monorail. We walked through the park without doing much (again forgetting there isn’t much to do here now) and got back to the hotel pretty quick. It was back up to the room for a little refresher, at which point I started my indecisive debate about whether we should keep our reservations. I was so tired of having to be somewhere. I really didn't want to waste time schlepping to Disney Springs, but I had also booked dinner knowing JH would love it. He recognized my fidgeting and awkward conversation for what it was and agreed to be more spontaneous tonight. Plus, he really wanted to get to Trader Sam's, and there was no time like the present.

    So here's my pro tip. Cancelling a Disney dining reservation within 24 hours can get you hit with a fee. Disney Springs restaurants, however, are not Disney owned. I called the restaurant directly and had the reservation canceled for free. Score!

    We decided to get a Lyft straight to the Polynesian to save some time. Our driver was uncomfortably quiet but got us there quickly. The security guard at the gate gave us a bit of inquisition, finally asking if we had reservations at Trader Sam’s. I let him know no, we did not, since it was a bar. He let us through.

    Due to its size, Trader Sam's can only have so many people inside, and we usually try to get there before opening so we don’t have to wait. It had already been open an hour by the time we got there. The CM let me know it would be a 45 minute wait again and took my phone number. We spent maybe ten minutes browsing Boutiki before I got the text that we could head back, snagging seats at the surfboard table in the hopes of getting a sinking seat. Nobody sank during our stay, but there were enchanted effects aplenty, including several Krakatoa eruptions and Nautilus dives. I stuck with my Krakatoa punch while JH tried a seasonal tropical snowstorm, which he said was a bit sweet. The new plan for tonight was to nosh, so we also split a chicken flatbread, which I LOVED. It had the same peanut sauce they serve upstairs at 'Ohana. After an hour we went back upstairs to catch the monorail.

    Next stop was the new Enchanted Rose lounge at the Grand Floridian. I loved the makeover, especially the gold chandelier above the bar. We sat by the window and shared another round, wine for me and beer for JH. I was surprised by how empty and quiet the place was. It was a relaxing setting but a bit jarring after the rowdiness of Trader Sam's. We split the crab macaroni and cheese, which came in an adorable little cast iron dish and was very good.

    I think JH got something else as well, but sadly, I can't remember. This is the part of my trip report where I picked back up writing after four months. I apologize as the details will probably get fuzzy from here.

    We took the monorail to the T&TC and transferred to the Epcot monorail. Once in the park, we made a lap around World Showcase to kill some time before we could access the Fast Pass area for the Epcot Forever fireworks. The designated area opened at 8:30; by the time we got there at 8:45, it was packed, and all the areas along the railing were already two people deep. I’m not sure I’d consider this FP worth it, but to be fair, we didn't stay for the show. We had only made the FP in the first place because my parents and sister wanted to. When I got the text that they weren’t going to make it back in time for dinner, we decided to bail and walk back to the Yacht Club. I don't have documentation here, but I’m pretty sure we made a stop at Beaches and Cream on the way up to the room. Tomorrow was an early Rise of the Resistance day, so we went to bed.


    Oh boy. I don't need notes to remember this day.

    Sis and I had done our research in the weeks leading up to today. I know the last few months have been bananas, so as a refresher, Rise of the Resistance had been open a few weeks at this point. To accommodate every nerd in the world who needed to ride this ride (says a self-proclaimed nerd), the ride has a virtual boarding system accessed on the MDE app. You and everyone in your party had to be physically in the park to join the virtual queue. Because of the crowds, Hollywood Studios was opening earlier than usual, with guests let into the park even earlier to ensure they could join the queue precisely at opening. The first big wave of Star Wars enthusiasts seemed to have come and gone over the holidays.

    How. Ever.

    Despite being the most technologically amazingly advanced super star attraction in the world (or whatever Disney is calling it these days), the ride has been breaking down constantly. We couldn’t do anything about that but cross our fingers and hope. We did, however, decide to head out the door at 5:45 for opening. Not quite so early as the folks who were arriving at 4:30 over the holidays, but still early enough to ensure we’d get in the park early.

    JH and I rolled out of bed at 5:30 and donned our Star Wars gear. Did I mention how much I love my new storm trooper hat? We met my dad, Sis, and ZH downstairs and started our walk to the park. It was cool but dry and comfortable, and there was a sizeable crowd by the time we got there. It felt like we were waiting a while even once they started letting us inside. After 20 minutes of shuffling we finally got in and were able to walk a good distance toward Galaxy's Edge before hitting the rope.

    As 7 am approached a cast member came around with a megaphone to give people instructions for joining the virtual queue. He said to close the app now and not open it until about 2 minutes before go time. He also said the "join" button would turn from gray to red at 7, at which time we could click it, select our parties, and get in the queue.

    7 am finally came. Sis got her boarding group right away, in the low 20s. Dad couldn't get the button to turn red at all until I told him to go back and refresh. He got group 68. For me, the app wasn’t recognizing JH as being in the park, even though he has scanned in with his magic band and was standing right next to me. I couldn't move forward with him in the party and angrily fought with it a few minutes before finally booking a stupid group for myself. 88. Super. With all the breakdowns, there were days where they didn't even make it to 88.

    We started our walk into Galaxy’s Edge, and I was steaming. Like, Kylo Ren having his light saber temper tantrum in 'The Force Awakens' steaming. Sis pointed out a cast member help area along the way, so JH and I told them to head on without us and got in line. I told the CM that the app didn't recognize JH. She tapped our bands, waved her magic wand, and got JH added to boarding group 88 as well. This was lovely and could have been painless had Disney warned people about this glitch ahead of time.


    Woah, sorry guys. I'm still recovering from the new park reservation process I had to do last week. The one Disney's PR team said had no technical issues and all the problems were due to "user error" and "people trying to make reservations too early." Cute.

    Anyway. Apparently, this missing person thing was known issue. I can understand glitches, but I don't understand Disney’s decision not to communicate about them. It's like if they pretend there are never systems issues, I'll be dumb enough to believe it's really just user error. In this case, if I had known to join the group myself, I would have done it four minutes sooner and got a much earlier boarding group.

    Once the CM resolved this issue for us, we got in standby for Smuggler's Run. The line was everywhere, twisting through Galaxy's Edge and showing a 90 minute wait. We had ridden this one in Disneyland on our honeymoon and knew the line moved quick, so we joined. It ended up only being 45 minutes, and honestly, I enjoy the details in the queue more than the ride itself anyway. It’s neat you’re all assigned different roles, like in Mission Space, but some roles seem more interactive than others. In California, we were pilots. We were so bad at it that I think the others in our ride were genuinely annoyed with us. I was relieved today to be an engineer, which basically just required pushing buttons as they lit up.

    Afterward, we made a stop outside for some breakfast - a French toast pretzel JH found somewhere near the Muppets ride. We met up with everyone else including Mom, who had walked over for our FP on Toy Story Midway Mania. We zipped through and got on. I made up for my Buzz Lightyear fiasco and won, 166,000 to 142,200.

    I noticed the app wasn’t showing any boarding groups for Star Wars, so we swung back by there to see where they were at. There were quite a few people standing around, obviously waiting. The CM told me they hadn’t even opened yet. Not a great sign for the ride to break down before its first boarding group.

    I'd seen on social media that with the park being open this early, people were basically walking onto all the other rides while waiting for their group to be called. Not so, at least not anymore. Though it was only 9 am at this point, every other decent ride in the park had an hour plus wait. We decided to head back to the hotel and spend one last afternoon relaxing by the pool. This is at least one good thing about the stupid virtual queue. You don't need to stay in the park, and you can monitor the groups being let on the ride from the app. Once your group is called, you have two hours to make it back.

    My only concern was getting on the ride before dinner reservations. I did my best not to obsess over the queues, limiting my phone checking to once per hour. We had a lovely afternoon lounging, swimming, and eating ice cream. My timeline is fuzzy here, but I think the queues hit group 80 around 2 pm, so we went upstairs to clean up and change. As a precaution, I packed our nice clothes for dinner in my backpack.

    By the time we were walking back toward the park, the queue was up to group 89. Yay! Exciting!

    We had a nice walk, went straight to Galaxy's Edge, and met the back of a cranky crowd. The ride was down. Okay. This is fine!

    We wait ten minutes, and the cast members open the line again. Awesome!

    We spend 30 minutes shuffling through more impressively designed queues and even some interaction. We get on a transport, are hijacked by the First Order, and marched off for prisoner interrogation. JH and I are placed on the blue dash on the ground and are waiting with our fellow prisoners.

    And then we wait. We wait a little more. And then some more.

    I study the faces of the First Order cast members, but they are in character and giving away nothing. Finally, a phone on some panel rings. The CM is stone-faced the entire time, even as she turns back to say that luckily for us, interrogation has been postponed, and we're all leaving.

    A previously quiet woman next to me has a bit of a loud breakdown and doesn't care who hears it. Apparently, it's her fourth time getting kicked off the ride today. Her husband and kids gave up two kick-offs ago, and this has consumed her entire last day of vacation.

    I feel her. As we're ushered out through a backstage area, JH and I choose not to be one of those twenty people who head straight to the poor cast members stationed outside to take their verbal beating. We position ourselves directly across the path from the entrance to the ride where these cast members are lined up, dealing with guests agitated and downright hostile. Several feet behind them (and out of the warzone) are a few engineers and spiffy looking managers. I watched them intently the next 40 minutes, glancing down at the clock and trying to calculate how much longer we can wait before we have to leave for dinner.

    Finally, I notice something subtle change in the CMs behavior. JH and I move closer to the entrance, and just a few minutes later, they let us back in. We go through the whole queue again - faster this time since we made it to the front - and were thrilled to be put in the interrogation room. I know there are tons of videos and recaps online, but I won't give away any spoilers here.

    I will just say that after all the ups and downs and basically 11 hours of waiting for this ride: I. Was. Floored.

    This ride is everything Disney boasts and more. Like. Holy cow. The way we got "out" of the interrogation room literally made my jaw drop. I would not spend another day going through the hassle of the virtual queue again, but at least it was all worth it.

    We got off the ride just in time to walk swiftly out of the park and catch a waiting bus for the Contemporary. Once there, we cleaned up and changed in the lobby bathrooms and met everyone else at the Contempo Lounge for one last round of pre-dinner drinks. After, we headed upstairs for dinner at the California Grill and had a fabulous meal. We split a potato pizza appetizer, and I had sushi for dinner. A few of us went outside to watch the fireworks when they went off, but we were too full for dessert.

    It was a nice way to end our trip. These days it make me a little sad thinking that was one of the last meals we had to together as a family before the world went on lockdown, but I'm also SO grateful we got to go.

    DME pickup the next morning was uneventful, but I had a very unpleasant experience at MCO. Despite no one batting at an eye at my last name being different Newark, this was a huge problem here. The first two TSA agents at security were very nice about it and said I just had to fill out a form at a desk across the way. The third agent who met me there, however, has clearly dealt with her fair share of obnoxious customers and was quick to blame me for this mistake. When I nervously laughed and reiterated my story, how United refused to change my name and promised it would not be an issue, it was like she didn't hear me. She kept repeating some line about how now we had to deal with this situation because I didn't take care of it before I left home. It was completely unnecessary, and it got my blood boiling.

    Granted. Her job is security, not customer service. But after over a decade of taking customer abuse, I make it a point to be especially kind to every customer service representative I have to deal with, and I was nothing but nice to this lady. She continued to initiate blatant insults at me, and after the third or fourth one, I started firing back. My mother, bless her, thought I was going to get myself arrested, and stayed with me while we sent everyone else through security. It ended up with both of us cooling our tempers, and somewhere toward the end of this 30-minute process, she finally heard my point that United refused to change my name.

    "That's illegal, they aren't allowed to do that," she told me. Whatever. My name change is final now and that will never happen again - but hey, here's a good lesson for all of you. Trust no one, and bring your dang marriage license with you.


    Big sigh.

    I think for the first time in my life, we'll be canceling a Disney trip. We're booked to arrive Labor Day Weekend of this year.

    I remember thinking when coronavirus all started that we'd be totally fine to go to Disney in September. As the weeks and months have passed, things have been looking more grim every day, with just enough sparks of hope to prevent us from cancelling. It seems like my opinion on whether we can or should go changes every day.

    Right now, the most tangible obstacle is that two week quarantine both to and from the tristate area. If those don't lift, we can't go. Simple as that.

    In what seems to be the unlikely case they both lift, I guess the next biggest question is whether it's safe to go. New Jersey was in bad, bad shape for quite a few weeks. In my personal life, I was getting up at 5 am to snag a grocery delivery for a week away. In my professional life, I had parents of doctors and nurses sobbing, begging me to find them face masks to send their children.

    After, what, over three months now, it's finally just starting to feel normal going to the grocery store again. But many other things are nowhere close to normal. My family has not eaten a meal at the same table together since March 5th. JH and I had to cancel our first dinner reservations last weekend because it was raining, and the restaurant has no cover for its outdoor dining. And twenty minutes wearing a mask on a summer day in Home Depot's garden center almost sent me into an anxious tailspin.

    To my mom's point, do we really want to leave a state where things are finally, slowly, trying to recover, to enter a state with record numbers of cases being reported? I'm not really concerned getting the virus myself, but I'm concerned about my parents.

    We know the Yacht Club will open about two weeks before arrival, and after 48 frustrating hours, I finally got park reservations for everyone. But even if a miracle happens and cases go down and quarantine orders are lifted, is it worth it? I’m watching videos of people walking through Disney Springs with their masks on, just living life like it's no big deal, and it's killing me. If anyone is currently in Florida and walking around with the masks all the time, please, tell me if it's really as doable as it seems.

    So. I don't know folks. I feel bad complaining at all because these are scary times, and I'm lucky this is all I have to complain about. Our annual Disney trip has been the one thing that gets me through the year. I suppose I'm struggling with the fact that this year of all years, when I need it most, I know it's probably not happening. We need to make a decision by August 6th.

    Of course, we’ve all already booked our September 2021 stays at the Yacht Club as a backup. During a moment of quarantine insanity, JH and I also booked an Adventures by Disney trip for June 2021: Italy and Switzerland.

    In reality there is much to look forward to, I just wish it could be sooner. Who knows. If we do cancel, maybe we can go for a long weekend at some point. I apologize if the ending here took a sad turn. Please excuse any typos, as I'm rushing to get this posted before work starts, and thanks as always for reading!



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