LarryfmScotland's Trip Report August -Now with Robin's Trip Report added as well. WOW
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Thank Larry, Great to read you again! I love both you and Robyn's reports, and have already read volume 1 on the kindle. Hurry up with volume to coz I need something to read on my hols in a few weeks! Yours are funny and make me laugh, and Robyn's are so detailed that I can imagine I'm there when reading them.
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Another great report Larry
Really enjoyed reading as ever - love your humour and descriptive way of writing
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Thanks for the report - a great laugh and very enjoyable!:) Red Raider alumnus here so nice to get the Lubbock bits too.
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I absolutely loved reading about your trip .... brilliant report. You should write a book : )
Since Larry got to tell his side of the holiday, I thought you might like to hear, as Paul Harvey used to say, "the rest of the story," so I'm posting my half of the trip.
Orlando 2012: The Walt Disney World Olympics
Robin & Larry Wilmot August 2012 All Star Movies
Travel dates: August 10 -- August 19, 2012
Travel method: Driving, driving, and, just when youre thoroughly sick of driving, we're driving some more
Resort: All Star Movies
Cast of Characters
Larry - husband of Robin; 8-time Scottish Champion Show Participant Volunteering
Robin - wife of Larry; World Champion American Adventure Sob-fest
Michael - nephew of Robin and Larry; newly graduated from High School; 4-time National Champion Churro Eating
John - nephew of Robin and Larry; also newly graduated from High School; World Champion Lover of Things that Sparkle or Glow
Ed - son of Larry and Robin; World Record Holder for Greatest Number of Consecutive Meals Consisting Solely of Chicken Strips
This trip came about because we wanted to reward our nephews for their years of dedication and hard work in graduating from High School. Obviously, there will be some cynical, negative-type folks among you who will scoff at that selfless explanation and insist that their graduation is just a flimsy excuse to get Larry and myself back to Walt Disney World AND make ourselves look good in the process. To those Negative Nancys we blamelessly hold our heads high and haughtily reply, "Eh, you're probably right."
HOWEVER, we DID actually owe Michael a trip to WDW. We were going to take Michael and Ed to WDW a few years back while Larry and I were still living in Scotland, but couldn't arrange the dates without Michael missing too much school for his mother's liking, so Larry wound up taking Ed to WDW while I went to Texas to visit my family--Michael included.
AND, at the time the graduation trip was planned, John had never been to WDW before so we definitely wanted to take him as well. As a side note, John is actually Michael's best friend since around 3rd grade and has been a fixture in our lives for many years. Michael and John have always said they were brothers. John calls Michael's parents (my sister and brother-in-law) Mom and Dad. He calls my parents Grandma and Pop pop, and he's always called me Aunt Robin. Due to some unfortunate family circumstances (unfortunate for John--we've always considered it a pleasure and an honor to have him as part of our family), John has been living with my parents for the last couple of years. He is the nicest kid you could ever hope to know and has worked so very hard to make it through High School. Were over-the-moon proud of him as he's been accepted by Lubbock Christian University and will be the first person ever in his family to attend college.
John sings like an angel despite the fact that hes never had any formal voice or music training and has more than once brought tears to the eyes of folks that we've asked John to sing for (but in a good way, as opposed to the tears--and, usually, threats of legal action if I dont stop--that I bring). He is awesome-coated awesome with an awesome filling and his voice is like fuzzy bunny slippers for your heart. I could go on and on about this lovely young man (and probably will at a later date) so we'll just leave it at the fact that Im proud to have him as my nephew.
After this trip was well into the planning stages, the Parliamentary Procedure Team that John competed in for his High School won their State competition and qualified to go on to the National competition in Orlando. The team got to fly down to Orlando and spend several days at the competition, but they also had a few free days for sightseeing and trips to both Disney and Universal Studios were planned. Their time in Orlando was limited, but for the amount of time they had, they accomplished quite a few things. John was able to visit Universal Studios (but not Islands of Adventure), the Kennedy Space Center, the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios. John got just enough of a taste of the magic of Disney that he was really looking forward to going back.
In the past (well, except for the very distant past when I was a young girl and my family used to drive because the Wright Brothers hadn't invented aircraft yet) we have always flown to Orlando. However, with the price of airfare reaching levels heretofore only seen by Spiderman, Sir Edmund Hillary, or perhaps Jim Morrison on a particularly trippy night, and since there would be four of us going instead of just Larry and me, we decided that it would be more economical to drive. After all, it was only a mere 1,500 miles from our home in Texas to Orlando (oh alright, Google Maps says 1,496) and, if you say that really fast and kind of slur your words a bit, it doesnt sound TOO bad.
Sometime amidst all the planning, Ed decided that he would like to join us but, being far above the base level of two immature 18 year olds, neither wanted to share a car nor a room with Michael and John. Ed sprang for his own airfare, room and park tickets while we picked up the tab for his food.
And speaking of food, we actually decided to go ahead and add the Disney Quick Service Dining Plan to all of our reservations. The price for the Dining Plan was roughly equivalent to what we were budgeting for food anyway (approximately the gross national product of Belize) and we figured that the convenience of everyone having their own food credits on their room cards would come in handy if we were split up at meal times.
Our rough plan was to leave early Saturday (August 11th) morning (probably around 3:00am-ish because, let's face it, who sleeps the night before you leave on vacation anyway?), drive 19 or so hours to Bonifay, Florida (arriving around 10:00pm), where we would spend the night. The next day, we would only have a 5 or 6 hour drive so we could roll into WDW around lunch time and have all afternoon and evening in the parks.
The closer we got to our departure day, the earlier we kept deciding to leave until we finally gave up saying we were leaving on Saturday and switched it to Friday evening as soon as we got off work. Sleep is for wimps. Well-rested, stress free wimps with no bags under their eyes, but wimps, nevertheless!
The London 2012 Olympics began during the two weeks leading up to our departure. Being a huge fan of the Olympics and with them being held in Larrys home country, we spent evenings and weekends that should have been devoted to organizing, planning, packing, and doing chores to get ready for our trip sat in front of the TV mindlessly watching beach volleyball, swimming, track and field, reindeer shearing, whatever. (Okay, you caught mereindeer shearing wasnt a sport in the London Olympics. Everyone knows its a WINTER Olympics sport.) It didnt matter what was on, we watched it. We even watched trampoline (trampolining?), which I didnt even know was a thing.
And cheered. We cheered for countries like Liechtenstein and Djibouti (Honestly, how can you NOT cheer for Djibouti?) and Nauru, which is a country occupying roughly the same total land mass as my living room.
Since we were riding the crest of the Olympic wave as we got ready to depart for The World, I decided to carry my Olympic torch high and bring the spirit of the games with us to Orlando. So, to borrow a few words from a dear old friend, it is with deepest pride and greatest pleasure that we welcome you tonight. And now we invite you to relax, let us pull up a chair as the dining room proudly presents...Orlando 2012.
Friday, August 10th and Saturday, August 11th – The Sleep Deprived Driving Marathon
Don’t you absolutely HATE working the day you leave for vacation? As I sat at my desk at work, time was moving at the speed of Congressional debate. Larry had gotten his hours in at his job by Thursday so he had the day off to take our cat to the kennel, run some last minute errands, and, hopefully, take a nap so he could take the late night driving shift. Michael and John were both free as birds, so everyone was pretty much waiting on me.
I finished up my main job at 3:00 but still had to stop by my other job (keeping books a couple of hours a week for a medical supply company) and put in an hour or so there. Never before in the history of history has a job been done so quickly. I was out of there by 4:00, stopped by the bank to deposit a check, filled the car up with gas, and bought a bag of ice before heading home to meet up with Larry.
We had done the bulk of the packing the night before, much to the dismay of my dog, Tad. I try to put off the actual putting of clothes into suitcases until the last minute because Tad knows that when suitcases come out, he is generally going to be left behind. Of course he’s left behind at my mother’s house where he’s more catered to than Lorena Bobbitt at a Cutco convention (Google THAT, youth of today), so I shouldn’t feel bad about leaving him but I always do.
Tad is quite happy to see you. Pearl, the cat, wishes you would die.
Trying to sneak a caramel apple. Fruit's good for dogs, right?
Anyway, we threw the rest of our necessities into our suitcase and left some last minute instructions for Ed (he wouldn’t be flying to Orlando until Sunday). We used the ice to stock a cooler with drinks and snacks for the drive to Florida. For the record, whoever decided that a 1-inch candy bar should be called “fun sized” should really re-evaluate their standards for entertainment.
We were at my mom and dad’s house by 5:30 to pick up John and Michael. Friday night is Pinochle Night with the cousins at the Goble house and the game was in full swing when we arrived. If anyone cares, it’s always Men vs. Women, and this year the women are in the lead by 8 games. Mom had graciously cooked extra food so we could grab dinner at her house before we hit the road. The boys had already eaten so Larry and I wolfed down some chicken bits, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans and hot rolls. Aren’t moms the best?
Miraculously, the three suitcases, one ice chest, three pillows, two blankets, a case of fruit juice, a box of goldfish crackers, a camera case, four iPods, several computers, assorted cell phones, enough portable gaming systems to make Best Buy jealous, and the partridge in a pear tree all fit in the back of the car. We said our good-byes all around, pointed the car to the east and headed off into the sunset where we didn’t stop for a grand total of….1.8 miles. There’s a Sonic drive-in 1.8 miles from my folks’ house, so sue me.
One Route 44 diet Coke with lime (Me), a large coffee (Larry), and a Watermelon Coke (Michael) later and we were once again on the road. We did better this time and made it about four hours down the road to Weatherford where we made our first stop for gas and to switch over from me to Larry as driver.
We stopped at a truck stop on I-20 and, while Larry filled the car up with gas, I went inside to make use of their facilities. The truck stop looked like a little narrow shack on the outside but, when you went inside, it was HUGE. The store just kept going further and further back—I actually think the back door was in Oklahoma—and it was full of thousands and thousands of car and truck accessories. And every last one of them was made of chrome. Brightly polished, shiny chrome. Chrome horns and chrome mirrors, chrome running boards and chrome decals, chrome spot lights, chrome sun visors, jing tinglers, flu floopers, tar tinkers, who hoovers, gar ginkers, trum trupers and who whompers. It kind of looked like the barn in Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but only if Leather-face was OCD and had a lifetime supply of Turtle Wax.
Anyway, we started off again with Larry at the wheel. I wanted to stay awake until we were on the other side of Dallas just in case we ran into any tricky driving. Little did I know that this would not be a problem. Once we were through Dallas I got a pillow and settled in for a nap. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to us, Larry and I have bought the car with the absolute WORST passenger seat for sleeping in. I tossed and I turned and I tried the pillow in various positions (downward facing dog, upward facing cat, whatever) but there was no sleep for me. In the backseat, John and Michael weren’t having any better luck in the sleep department than I was.
We crossed over into Louisiana and Larry kept driving until we needed to stop for gas again, this time right outside of Shreveport. We stopped at a place right off I-49 that Larry swears looked like the Vampire bar in “From Dusk to Dawn.” It was actually a casino/convenience store but it was almost deserted except for us and one other car and the darkness and mist didn’t really help the overall ambience of the place. Still, we got the gas and the restroom break that we needed and had a brief conversation with some college kids that came out of the casino and spotted Michael’s Texas Tech shirt. Turns out they attend college at Texas Tech which is where Michael will be going this Fall.
Larry said he was still good to drive since I hadn’t had any sleep so we carried on until one of the boys mentioned that they were hungry. I forgot that 18 year-old boys are ALWAYS hungry. It was about 3:30am by now and we decided that food might perk everyone up, so we spotted a 24-hour McDonalds just off the interstate in Natchitoches and pulled in there.
Michael immediately declared that he would like four McDoubles (Apparently this is an item on the Value Menu—a double cheeseburger type thing probably containing enough fat and cholesterol to clog the tunnels of the London Underground, much less a puny human heart. Me? I’m old school McDonalds with the Big Mac and Filet o’ Fish. And Grimace. Does anyone even remember Grimace anymore? And what exactly WAS he anyway? He was all big and purple and wobbly when Barney wasn’t even a glimmer in a Super dee-dupersaurus’ eye.). John, being much more restrained than Michael, said that he’d take three McDoubles.
Larry, even though he was driving, played the “I’m British so they won’t understand what I’m saying” card and refused to order seven of anything at McDonalds. (In his defense, he HAS been known to order two soft tacos at Taco Villa only to pull around to the pick-up window and receive two sweet teas.) So that leaves me, in the passenger seat, leaning across Larry and shouting our order out the window.
As soon as the words “I’d like seven McDoubles” were out of my mouth, the McDonalds immediately went into Lock-Down mode. I swear, steel bars slammed down over the windows and metal grates came out of nowhere and closed over all exposed surfaces. Michelle Obama and Jaime Oliver would be proud. Apparently this McDonalds location is a bastion of sensibleness in an otherwise out of control, calorie-laden, fat clogged industry. A tiny voice of reason came back to us over the loud speaker: “My manager will not allow me to sell you that many McDoubles.”
Really? Is this not a free county with a free capital system of markets? McDonalds is going to get preachy with me? Mc-Flippin’-Biggie-Size-Me-Donalds? When I politely inquired as to how many McDoubles the manager WOULD sell me there was much murmuring and consulting. Slide rules and calculators were pulled out. Beacons were lit. Charts were consulted. Riders were posted to the four corners of the world. Finally, the answer came back: “Two.”
Of course I know that the manager really didn’t have our good health as his motivation for nixing the seven McDoubles. I’m sure that a lot of the items on any Value Menu are loss leaders designed to lure people in to the restaurant in the hopes that they’ll purchase more profitable items as well. Defeated, we settled on three Quarter Pounder with cheese meals and one Big Mac meal. This order was met with the manager’s approval so we were allowed to advance to the pick-up window where we were confronted with our next obstacle.
Yes, there was a moth attracted to the light at the pick-up window where it was flitting around bumping into the glass. This would not be a big deal for most folks but, as some of you might know, Larry has a slight phobia of moths. And by “slight” I mean “Flippin’ HUGE!” And this was no ordinary moth. It was a giant, mutant, junkie moth with, as Larry described it, the wing span of a Boeing 737. A non-moth phobic person would probably describe the wing span as “two inches.”
No, seriously, it WAS big. And Larry screamed like a girl, rolled the window up as quickly as possible and refused to roll it down again. Luckily, speed was not this McDonald’s forte so the moth actually DIED before they brought our order to the window. I swear I’m not making this up. The moth fell from the sky, denting our car on the way down, and crashed to the pavement below. Perhaps he had eaten a McDouble.
Anyway, with the moth gone we were able to claim our food and carry on across Louisiana. Food must have been what the boys needed because they were able to settle down and actually get a bit of sleep as we drove on.
As we drew closer to Baton Rouge, we began to encounter some of the absolute WORST roads that I have ever driven on, even in my years as a Rally Driver (kidding!). I mean, I love our Louisiana neighbors and I have family in Louisiana, but some of their roads make dirt streets in Baghdad that have been carpet-bombed look good. It was a wonder that we didn’t shake parts off the car.
There was no sleeping on those roads and Michael and John were soon wide awake. We finally just started laughing uncontrollably.
We were disappointed to cross the Mississippi River in darkness, especially since Larry and the boys had never seen it in person before, but we were making good time so we didn’t complain. Larry had been driving for about seven hours by now so I assured him that I was wide awake enough to drive. We stopped for gas around 7:45am at Hammond, Louisiana, and made the change-over there. Mercifully, there was a Sonic just down the road from the gas station so we stopped there as well for a coffee for Larry and a Route 44 Diet Coke with lime for me. Onward we go.
By around 10:30 we had crossed into Alabama and everybody was ready for some breakfast. We stopped at a Waffle House in Loxley and had, well, waffles. Actually, I think only John and I had waffles but we all had breakfast. Is there a statute somewhere in the South that requires a Waffle House to be built every 100 yards?
Larry dashed next door to the convenience store and bought an Alabama cap—literally, a baseball cap with “Alabama” on it. He had forgotten to bring a cap from home so he decided $7.99 would be much cheaper than he could buy one at WDW. I figured it was just to mess with peoples’ minds when they strike up a conversation with a seemingly good ol’ boy from Alabama and then Larry opens his mouth at goes all Ben Kingsley on them.
After we gassed up the car, we had a decision to make. We had a hotel reservation in Bonifay, Florida but we had left so early on Friday night and had made such good time that we were set to arrive in Bonifay around 1:00. There was no guarantee that the hotel would have a room ready for us until the official check-in time of 4:00 so we might be stuck without a hotel room for a few hours. We figured that, if we pressed on, we could make it to Orlando by around 8:00 and have a full day at WDW on Sunday instead of just half a day.
Soldiering on met with agreement from everyone so we “borrowed” the Wi-Fi signal from the truck stop and found a new hotel in Orlando (well, Lake Buena Vista really, down by Crossroads). We booked the new hotel and canceled the Bonifay, Florida one.
Michael and John both took a turn at driving for a while as we pushed on into Florida. We stopped for gas one last time in Madison where I took over driving duties and got us on into Orlando and to our hotel around 8:00pm.
We stayed at the Staybridge Suites in Lake Buena Vista. Our room had a separate bedroom with a King bed for me and Larry and a living room/kitchen with a sofa bed for John and Michael. We were all road-weary and glad to get out of the car, however we hadn’t eaten since our late breakfast at the Waffle House so we quite hungry as well. I was in the mood for some good, fresh seafood (something we don’t get much of living in the land-locked Plains of Texas) so with our bodies greatly protesting we all got back into the car and headed to a place called Moonfish that was recommended by the hotel.
It was late and the restaurant was only about half full so we were seated immediately. The restaurant was rather dark and, with only the light from a candle on our table, I found it hard to read the menu. I considered taking it with me to the ladies’ room but thought that might look a bit weird so I decided against it. Luckily the waiter told us about an appetizer sampler with coconut shrimp, fried calamari, and crab cakes so we started with that.
I don’t know if we were just hungry or if the food was that good, but everything on the sampler platter was excellent. We were all pleased except for poor John who, as I just found out, doesn’t like coconut, doesn’t like calamari, and was a bit freaked out by the crab cakes. He did try a bit of everything though to be a good sport.
For our entrees, Michael and John both got the shrimp and scallop scampi and Larry bucked the trend and opted for the Hawaiian-style chicken (I pictured it served on a surfboard, possibly playing the ukulele, with a little lei around its neck). I, however, succumbed to the lure of the chef’s special which was lobster-encrusted Trigger fish with a lobster cream sauce. When the waiter described it he kept saying phrases like “drizzled with a light lobster cream,” “bathed in lobster,” and “encrusted with lobster” until drool was fairly running out of my mouth and we had to wring out the tablecloth. Of course I had never even HEARD of Trigger Fish so he could have totally been making that up. I’ve Googled it since, however and apparently it really is a thing.
Anyway, all of our food was delicious. The lobster-laden Trigger Fish was so rich that I could only eat about half of it but Larry and Michael were both helpful in not letting any of it go to waste. In fact, Michael wound up sopping his scallops in the lobster cream sauce. We were all way too full for dessert though the waiter did bring the dessert tray around and all of the items looked amazing. We finished up at 10:45 and were back at the hotel by 11:00.
The boys wanted a dip in the pool but it had already closed by the time we got back from dinner. They settled in with their various computers/video games, Larry got on the internet with his tablet to begin posting his version of this trip live, and I, after being awake for 36 hours and in the car for 24 of them, went to bed where I slept like the dead until the next morning.
Sunday, August 12th – The Water Fowl Food Sneak
The alarm went off at 6:30 and my body really didn’t want to get up after only six and a half hours sleep but we had a whole day of Disney ahead of us so I dragged myself out of bed, showered, and then began the process of waking up Larry and the boys.
The hotel had a free breakfast so we filled up on cereal, waffles, eggs, ham, toast, and fruit. Our goal (well, okay, MY goal) was to make it to Animal Kingdom (AK) by the 9:00 opening time, so we schlepped our luggage back down to the car and were on our way to the All Star Movies resort(ASMo) by 7:45. We pulled into the parking lot right at 8:00 and were on track to be settling in for our first ride on Kilimanjaro Safaris shortly after 9:00. I had already checked in online several days ago so all we needed to do was take a quick jog through the lobby to pick up our room keys/park passes and then slide on out to Animal Kingdom. Yep, that’s all we had to do. Just quick in, park passes, and slide out….just quick….and slide……um, yeah, no.
There was a bit of a line at the Online Check-in desk, but that was okay. ASMo to the rescue—they were diverting some staff from Guest Services to check-in. Good job, Disney. We were soon called to the counter where we were waited on by a very nice and polite Cast Member, but also a very, very, VERY sloooooooooooooow Cast Member. I’ve done online check-in several times before and the longest it’s ever taken, even with a chatty Cast Member, has been five minutes. And this was in no way a chatty Cast Member. And he moved at the speed of SLOW.
I explained that we had linked reservations for three rooms (one for Larry and me, one for Michael and John, and one for Ed) but that we were only checking in for two of them because our son wasn’t arriving until much later than evening and he would need to pick up his room key at that time. The Cast Member looked at me over the top of his glasses, harrumphed, and then turned to his computer and began pushing buttons. And then he pushed some more buttons. And some more. Every now and then he would mutter “uh huh” to himself, pause, and then begin typing again. I thought for a while that he’d forgotten about us and was busy typing War and Peace.
Larry couldn’t stand the suspense and wandered off to take some photographs. Michael and John grew bored and went to the gift shop to looks around. So that just left me. And Mr. Paint-Dries-Faster-Than-I-Move. Pushing buttons.
Larry came back after a while and said “Why aren’t we checked in yet?” I could give no valid answer, but only shrugged and indicated the Cast Member who was quite busy pushing buttons. Finally, he seemed satisfied with the ratio of button pushing on the computer so he picked up the phone and pushed some buttons there as well just for good measure. We leaned in, rapt with anticipation.
Finally, he turned to us and said, “I’m trying to go ahead and have your rooms cleaned now so you can go to them.” What a sweetie. I suppose I should have explained in the first place that we only wanted to pick up our tickets and be on our merry way. I assured him that we didn’t expect to get into our rooms right now, but really only wanted to get to the parks. He asked a few more questions about which rooms we wanted to be connecting and then began to code our keys for us. Hooray!
He gave us our information packets and our room keys and circled our rooms on a resort map. We thanked him profusely and then scurried off. The best part was that he had assigned us rooms in the Fantasia section (which is the closest section to the lobby, food court, and swimming pool). Usually, the rooms in the Fantasia, Toy Story, and 101 Dalmatians sections are considered “preferred rooms” and are $10 a night more expensive than the rooms in the Mighty Duck and Love Bug buildings because of their closer proximity to the food court and bus stop. We hadn’t booked preferred rooms for Larry and me or for Michael and John. We had used a pin code that I received on a post card to book the rooms at a discount. When Ed later decided that he would go with us, the pin code had already expired so I had just booked a room for him at the regular rate for this time of year. I had called Disney Travel shortly before our trip to add the Dining Plan and the Cast Member that helped me with that addition also checked the pin code for a discount on Ed’s room. She came up with a slight discount for him but it was for a preferred room. Even so, it was still about 40 bucks cheaper than his original rate so I had her change his reservation. I guess, since Ed’s room was preferred and we had all our reservations linked together with adjoining room requests, they put us all in the preferred section. Aw yiiisss.
We exited the lobby and were headed to our car when a Bell Services Cast Member asked if we were checking in and did we have any luggage. We told him yes but that we were headed to a park right now and we’d just deal with the luggage later. He suggested that we go ahead and leave it with him and he’d have it in our rooms waiting for us when we got back from the park, which was a brilliant idea. Five minutes of our time right now would surely beat having to drag all of our luggage across the resort when we were tired and hot from our theme parking.
We got in the car and drove quickly around to the entrance where we dropped off all of our stuff and then took off for AK.
We pulled in to the parking lot right at 9:00 so not too shabby for having spent a goodly amount of time checking in to ASMo. It had been ages since we’d taken a car to the parks (actually, it had been since we got married almost six years ago) much less ridden a Tram. We parked in Unicorn, row 29 which, although it IS the last row in the Unicorn section, still qualifies me to say that I’ve never parked anywhere but the Unicorn section at Animal Kingdom. See, it’s the little things that make my day (and annoy everyone else).
We trammed it up to the front gate and endured one of the most thorough bag checks I’ve ever seen. Or maybe it just seemed extra thorough because I was chomping at the bit to get into the park.
Tram-tastic. It looks like they're giving the tram operators giant, number 2 pencils to help out with crowd control.
Once inside the gates, we head to Africa to pick up some Fast Passes for Kilimanjaro Safari (KS) and then made our way to Asia and Expedition Everest. The stand-by line said a 10 minute wait, but we walked straight through the queue to the loading area. We thought John’s first ride on Everest should be in the front car so we asked to queue for the front. The Cast Member (CM) directed us to the correct queue where we were first in line. Everything was looking all “go for launch” (can you mix your Mission: Space and Everest metaphors like that?) when we noticed that they were sending a train out of the loading area with no passengers on it. We waited for several minutes while they held an empty train in the loading area and one in the unloading area.
It was obvious after a few minutes that the ride was down. A few people started to leave, but we decided to wait things out for a while and see what happens. Soon, a Maintenance-ish CM came through the loading area carrying a reciprocating saw the size of a horses’ leg. He headed out into the wilds of the ride while we wildly speculated about what exactly he was going to use that saw on. Obviously, with our imaginations, “some bodily part” was our favorite bet. Preferably a trapped passenger’s arm or leg. We didn’t hear any blood-curdling screams coming from the ride, but our hopes were still high.
A “suit” CM showed up for a little while and disappeared into a control room with a few other Cast Members. In a few minutes, the maintenance CM (I like to call him “Freddy Krueger”) came back to the loading area again with blood dripping from his saw (just kidding!) and he joined them in the control room. As they emerged and gave the all clear to start the ride up again; a cheer rang out from the queue.
I swear that one on the left is from "Where the Wild Things Are."
While the CM’s began loading the ride again, a woman and her son who had been waiting in the Single Rider’s queue asked us what queue we were in. When we replied that we were waiting to ride in the front car, she said, “That sounds good,” and got out of the Single Rider’s queue and moved over into our queue. Of course that isn’t allowed because the Single Rider’s queue is a separate (and generally much shorter) queue from the regular Stand By line and the point of it is to fill in gaps left by parties of an uneven number thus allowing the attraction to operate at a full capacity and the single riders to get on the ride quicker than waiting in the regular queue.
A sharp-eyed CM spotted the woman changing queues and quickly came over and made the woman and her son move back to the Single Rider area.
Michael and John were on the second train that pulled out of the station and Larry and I were up for the third. While we were waiting for our train, we asked one of the CM’s what the guy with the reciprocating saw had been cutting. The Cast Member said he was clearing some bamboo from the track. Unsatisfied with that answer, I replied that I had heard it had something to do with a severed limb, and we’re not talking tree limb either. Sadly, my investigative reporting career was cut short by the arrival of our train so that secret may go to the graves of the CM’s working that day.
I told you there was blood.
Our ride was as amazing as ever. We caught up with Michael and John in the gift shop and decided to take advantage of the Single Rider line for another go.
We walked quickly to the loading area where Michael and John were put on the very next train. Hooray for parties of three. I was up next and was sat next to a nice lady from Massachusetts. Larry was slotted in on the same train as me with a young man and woman and their dad. The dad was confused about which row he was supposed to be on so Larry actually wound up in a seat all by himself with no one next to him.
After our second ride, it was time for our Fast Passes for KS. We picked up new Fast Passes for Kali River Rapids (KRR) as we passed by on our way to Africa. We were quickly at the loading dock for our Safari but the next jeep in line that was supposed to come to our dock was having mechanical difficulties. Apparently, we were a jinx to all rides.
This could quite possibly be the worst picture of a monkey EVER.
It was just a matter of minutes before they got a jeep for us and we were on our way for our two week safari. (Is that kind of like a “three hour tour?”) We saw lots of animals, particularly a load of giraffes and a great view of the male lion. We also saw a couple of baby elephants which are always adorable. Michael was disappointed that they’ve taken out the Big Red part of the story line. The ride did get a bit dull at the end when we got to the part where you’re usually dashing off after the poachers, mostly because there are no animals after that point so there was nothing to looks at. Perhaps it will get better when they get the new zebra area finished. Regardless, it was still a good ride and John and Larry both took tons of pictures.
I don't know, Wallace. I just don't seem to have any energy lately. I think it's my thyroid.
Happy kitty. Sleepy kitty. Purr, purr, purr.
That's a face only a mother could love.
It was just about time for the next Flights of Wonder show so we headed there next, stopping along the way to pick up a couple of bottles of water to try and replace the copious amounts of fluid we had already sweated out this morning. We were all feeling like Sweaty von Sweaterson from Sweatsville. Gotta love that Florida humidity. As we were leaving the Flights of Wonder I overhead a little boy tell his father, “That was awesome Dad! Now can we go on a really FAST ride?”
After Flights of Wonder, it was time for the Kali River Rapids Fast Passes. Feeling like I was already wet enough for the morning, I decided to sit this one out so Larry, Michael and John took off for the ride while I looked around in a couple of shops and picked up a show schedule so we could check out the times for Festival of the Lion King and *gulp* Finding Nemo: The Musical.
With John’s love of music and performing, I knew he would absolutely LOVE the shows at WDW. He didn’t catch any performances when he was here previously, so I had vowed to make sure that we saw as many shows as possible this trip. Unfortunately, at Animal Kingdom, that meant Finding Nemo.
I realize that there are tons of people out there who really like Finding Nemo: The Musical, so I’m sure it’s just me but I find the whole thing duller than watching continental drift. I cannot emphasize this enough without resorting to italics. I appreciate the fact that the puppetry is exceptional and I like bubbles just as much as the next person, I really do, but I just think that the show sucks and should be force-fed into the great maw of historical obscurity.
My therapist thinks I’m too judgmental but that’s because he’s an idiot.
So, here we go, a list of reasons that Robin hates Finding Nemo: The Musical:
1. “The Musical”—Oh my bleeding ears, THE SONGS! Actually, I should say “the song” because most of them have the same tune. Big Blue WOR-UR-URLD! That’s my DA-A-AD! Go with the FLO-O-OW! Kill me NOW-OW-OW!I realize that Elton John and Tim Rice are busy folks but could Disney not have gotten some decent songwriters? Lennon and McCartney? Rodgers and Hammerstein? Jagger and Richards? Ben and Jerry? Bueller? Anyone? Anyone?
“But Robin,” you say, “most of those people are dead or, as in the case of Keith Richards, un-dead.” Point taken, but I’m betting that, even dead, they could have come up with better songs. Or, at least, silence.
I always assumed that the songs were written by some vagrant intern named Biff or Pemberton. Imagine my surprise when I found out that they were actually written by a Tony Award winning composer and his wife (Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez). I’m sure they’re a very talented pair but what can I say? Everybody makes mistakes. Even the Beatles let Ringo sing on a song or two.
2. Dory’s Voice—Sweet, merciful monkeys that voice grates on my nerves! I’m sure most people find it cute and endearing but it just makes me want to punch a baby. I’m sorry but on my list of “Things I Want to Pound with a Shovel,” Dory has to be number one.
3. The Plot—Exactly how many times can one fish die? Ten? Twenty? Oh, no! Nemo got caught in the filter and now he’s dead. Oops. Nope, he’s back up again. Dear me, the good doctor’s niece has pulled a Shake ‘n Bake with Nemo and now he’s dead. No, my mistake, he’s up again. Egads! Poor little Nemo’s been flushed out to sea and has died at the bottom of the ocean. This just in: Nemo is alive and well. Of all the bad luck, Nemo has sacrificed himself by swimming into a net and rescuing Dory but has paid with his own life. Never fear, Nemo’s still swimming. Honestly, that little fish pops up more than Hugh Hefner on Viagra.
I miss Tarzan Rocks. Tarzan Rocks was great. Tarzan Rocks rides a Harley while juggling rescue puppies. Tarzan Rocks disembowels Finding Nemo: The Musical with the tusk of a Narwhale. I appreciate those of you who love Finding Nemo: The Musical and I respect your opinion. Agree to Disagree. Especially if by “Let’s agree to disagree,” you really mean: “Let’s each continue to think the other person is an idiot.”
Anyway, heavens to Betsy I’m way off topic. I think when we last left the Wilmots they were on Kali River Rapids and Robin was picking up a show schedule. When the boys got off KRR, Michael was fairly wet, John was fairly dry, and Larry had taken the brunt of the water in his shoes. He removed his socks, wrung them out, and put them in a small plastic bag inside his camera bag. He decided dampish shoes with no socks trumped dampish shoes with sopping wet socks.
We were ready for lunch and decided that Flame Tree Barbecue sounded good so that’s where we squished off to next. Michael got the rib plate with key lime mousse for dessert, John got the pulled pork sandwich with chocolate mousse, Larry got the turkey sandwich with grapes for his dessert (they didn’t have any sugar-free dessert options and Larry has diabetes), and I had the rib and chicken combo and the chocolate mousse. We all got soft drinks to drink but we all got some ice water as well because we were quite thirsty from the heat.
We settled in at a table and I noticed that the man at a table near us was having trouble keeping a couple of cranes away from his food. I know that the wildlife can get quite aggressive over food, especially when people feed them but I must admit that I’m sometimes the culprit when it comes to sharing a bit of food with the birds. Sometimes I just can’t resist, although I do try. Anyway, the cranes were fairly aggressive and I made up my mind not to share any of our food with the birds when I happened to look down and there, at my side, was the sweetest little duck looking up at me longingly with her little beady eyes. She didn’t quack or demand food but merely stood there, blinking at me and shifting quietly from webbed foot to webbed foot.
I obviously didn’t want anyone to see me feeding the birds, especially with the crane situation at the next table, so I quietly stole a bit of the crust from Larry’s sandwich and ever so casually, slipped it down to the little duck. She gratefully took it and was very quiet about it. Whew! Everyone wins.
I went back to eating my lunch and talking with Larry and the boys when I felt a little tap on my hip. It really didn’t register at first, but then I felt it again. I looked down and saw the little duck patiently standing there. Had that been her? Surely not. For good measure, I took another little bit of Larry’s bread and handed it to her and then went back to eating.
After a few seconds, I felt the tap again. John started laughing and pointed at the duck that was by my side. She would stand up almost on tip-toe (I know ducks don’t have toes, but you get the picture) and poke my leg with her beak. Nothing aggressive, just a little “hey, remember me?” I shushed John and tried to ignore the taps but she was persistent as well as polite. Hey. *poke* Hey. *poke*
The man who had been having the crane issues had left by now so I fed her some more of Larry’s bread. *poke* I tried to talk to the boys *poke* but John was too enthralled with the duck *poke.* A family at another table *poke* noticed the duck *poke* tapping at my leg *poke* and they began to laugh at us as well *poke.*
After lunch, we said good-bye to our dining companion and headed to the 1:30 showing of Festival of the Lion King. John absolutely loved the show and said it was now his new goal to come work for Disney and be in the production.
Lion King = GOOD SHOW
My mom had called us during the show so, after it was finished I took a minute to call her back and fill her in on our day so far. She had picked up Ed from our house and was feeding him lunch before she took him to the airport for his flight to Orlando.
After we finished talking with Mom and Ed, we went to see It’s Tough to be a Bug. I loved watching John’s reaction to everything since it was all new to him.
Sadly, after It’s Tough to be a Bug, it was time for the next showing of Finding Nemo: The Musical. John loved this show as well while Larry, Michael and I wanted to kill ourselves. We do love John however, so we were okay with sitting through the show for him. He owes us BIG TIME.
Please, Mr. Shark, put us out of our misery!
Nemo had pretty much finished us off for this park so, after a quick walk through Dino-land on a mission to spot the elusive Smilodon (It’s a whole thing with my sister, Paula. A Smilodon is the proper name for a saber-tooth tiger and they had a picture of a very happy tiger with a caption that read “Smilodon sez ‘Have a Nice Day’” in Chester and Hester’s Gift Shop. Paula had asked Michael to look for it and to take a picture of the Smilodon for her.), we exited the park and headed back to the hotel to check out our rooms. We arrived back at ASMo around 4:30. We stopped by the food court to pick up the refillable mugs that came with our Quick Service Dining Plan. Michael and John both picked out a snack (Nesquick chocolate milk for Michael and a bag of chips for John) while Larry got a piece of sugar-free cherry pie and I discovered the beauty of the made-to-order ice cream cookie sandwich.
Not the Smilodon, but quite cheerful nevertheless.
At the Rialto ice cream shop you got to choose what kind of cookies you wanted (chocolate chip for me, thank you) and what kind of ice cream you wanted (cookie dough) and they made a GINORMOUS ice cream sandwich for me that would easily feed four people. All for one little snack credit. I ate about half of the ice cream and about a third of the cookie. Next time I’ll cut it into three or four pieces and share it with everyone.
Our rooms could not have been in a better location. We were on the second floor just around the corner from the swimming pool so we were close to everything but didn’t have to deal with the noise from the pool. Our room and the boys’ room were connecting. Ed’s room, though we didn’t have the key to it yet, was on the other side of Michael and John’s room so we were all three in a row. Brilliant.
Our luggage was waiting for us when we got to our rooms so we unpacked a bit and then decided to rest for a while. I called Mom (I had taken her grandsons from her, so I had to call her a lot!) and talked to her for a while and then updated my trip report notes. Larry (aka Captain Kipper) went straight for the nap option and I joined him after a while.
And nap we did. Michael came in at 7:30 (yikes!) and woke us up. I guess we still hadn’t really caught up on our sleep from our cross-country drive. Michael talked to me for a while and then he and John went down to the food court to get some dinner while Larry and I got dressed.
By the time Larry and I got to the food court, Michael and John were finished eating. Michael had the first of what was to be many orders of the food court’s Chicken Penne Alfredo. Larry and I decided that we didn’t really want to take the time to eat and we’d just pick up something later in one of the parks. Our plan for the evening was to go to a grocery store and pick up some items for breakfasts, go to Hollywood Studios to watch the 10:00 showing of Fantasmic!, then meet up with Ed and go to the Magic Kingdom for Extra Magic Hours. Hey, you only live once.
We headed out for the Publix grocery store that we had seen last night when we ate at Moonfish. John had accidentally left his shower gel and shampoo in last night’s hotel so he needed to replace that. Larry went to the produce section to go pick up some fruit while I headed to toiletries to get John’s stuff and to pick up some antibiotic cream because Larry had a hang nail that had gotten infected.
As I was going down the aisle, Michael came up to me and said, “You need to have a talk with Aunt Paula (my younger sister). She just sent John a text that said ‘Look at my butt.’”
Flabbergasted, I said something calm and reassuring to the boys like, “Has she lost her freaking MIND?”
John was focused intently on his phone. “She didn’t send you a picture, did she?!” I said. John said that Paula had just sent another text that said “Sorry. That was meant for Kate.” Kate is Paula’s best friend and I suppose that having your best friend look at your butt rather than your young nephew was a BIT preferable, but that really in no way made her first statement any better.
Another text message came through from Paula: “George Michael is on closing ceremony. Aunt Robin will understand.”
Ah, yes. Now it becomes clear. About a bazillion years ago there was a really funny skit on Saturday Night Live where Dana Carvey plays George Michael in a segment of Weekend Update with Dennis Miller. “George” is upset because a commercial failed to focus on his butt. “Look at my butt!” he tells Dennis, “It’s perfectly round. British scientists calibrate their instruments by it. It’s a force to be reckoned with. Accept it before it destroys you!”
Obviously George Michael was singing at the closing ceremony of the London Olympics and Paula had meant to text Kate the SNL quote. Mystery solved and Child Protective Services avoided. Check.
With that issue out of our way we went back to the business at hand of purchasing cereal, milk, bagels, cereal bars, shampoo and shower gel, and various other necessities. We also picked up a bag of ice so we could keep the milk cold in our cooler until we got back to the ASMo.
Shopping done, we headed for MGM and arrived just before 10:00. We scrambled onto a waiting tram and had the privilege of being the only passengers. The announcer was still quite perky even for this late hour.
We quickly made our way to the amphitheater where we stood in line for a few minutes before they started letting us in. We sat down in the Pocahontas section about mid-way down. After about 10 minutes an announcement came over the loudspeaker. “Ladies and Gentlemen, due to circumstances beyond our control, tonight’s showing of Fantasmic! has been canceled. As an apology, we’d like to give you a small taste of the show.”
The lights dimmed, the fountains fired up, and “April Showers” began to play. At first we thought it was a joke that the Cast Members were playing, but when they began to shoot off the fireworks we realized that they really had canceled the show and were now just deploying the fireworks because they couldn’t keep them all set up until the next day.
It was a shame that we weren’t able to see the full show but it was nice of Disney to go ahead and put on what show they could for us. Their fireworks are always impressive. We got up after the last of the fireworks had exploded and began walking to the exit. Most of the guests were very understanding about the situation but there were a few families that were really laying in to some of the Cast Members on the way out. VACATION RUINED!
To hear them tell it, the very fabric of our culture is now threatened because Fantasmic! was canceled. You see, this is their last night at WDW and little Susie was SO looking forward to seeing Fantasmic! and now she’s been denied her rights as a theme park guest and she’s going to have to go through years of therapy and blah de blah degibbity blah….
I felt really sorry for the Cast Members who had to deal with the angry guests. Chill, people. It’s only a show. And it could have been worse—they could have shown Finding Nemo: The Musical instead.
Not only did they cancel Fantasmic!, but some of the lights are burned out at our hotel. SHUT IT DOWN!
We trammed it back to our car and then drove back to the ASMo to pick up Ed. We had called Ed on our way back from the grocery store. He had made it safely to the hotel and had checked in. We called him again now and told him we were on our way. He said he’d meet up with us at the Food Court.
Back at the resort we met up with Ed and then grabbed the first bus to the Magic Kingdom. I had thought that Disney had extended the closing hours of the Magic Kingdom from 10:00 to 11:00 which would also push back the closing time of the Extra Magic Hours from 1:00am to 2:00am. As we were riding the bus however, we learned that Extra Magic Hours were over at 1:00. It was almost midnight when we pulled up to the Magic Kingdom so our time in the park would be short. I told the boys to race on ahead so they could get more rides in. Michael and John planned to go straight to Space Mountain (which John had already ridden) and then to go to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (which John hadn’t ridden). Larry and Ed were headed to Space Mountain first as well and then to Buzz Lightyear.
I picked up a coke at Casey’s Corner and picked out a bench by the Partners statue where I could wait for all my boys. Disney played the Kiss Goodnight at Cinderella’s Castle at 12:30 and then they played it again at 1:00. Larry and Ed met up with me shortly after 1:00 and Michael and John arrived about 10 minutes later. They had met Zack and Tiffany, two cousins from Texas and had spent the time with them riding Space Mountain again and again. Larry and Ed had indeed ridden Space Mountain and Buzz Lightyear.
They played the Kiss Goodnight again as we walked down Main Street towards the exit. John stopped to film it with his phone. A bus pulled up as we arrived at the bus stop and we were back at the All Stars around 2:00am. We quickly divided up the groceries between the three rooms (it’s great that they have refrigerators in every room now) then Larry and I went to bed. Ed said he watched half an episode of Lost on Netflix before he fell asleep. Michael and John went swimming until 3:30.
Monday, August 13th – The 500 Meter Kid Hunt
Let me start off this glorious Disney day by saying that today was my birthday. Happy Birthday to me.
After such a late night last night, when the alarm went off at 7:30 I decided not to punish everybody by engaging Commando mode so I went back to sleep until 9:30. I called Ed and told him we’d meet up in the food court around 10:30. I called John’s cell phone but got no answer. I called Michael’s phone but it went straight to voice mail. I knocked on the adjoining door, but no one was stirring. I finally just called their room phone which succeeded in waking up Michael.
Larry had been trying to post his trip report online on a daily basis but was finding the Wi-Fi service spotty at best. (Although I’m beginning to think “You have limited or no connectivity” is my computer’s way of assessing my life choices, not my network connection.) He got a day or two posted out of sheer determination before he gave up and decided that he’d just post it when we got back home.
Since Larry and I never had any dinner the previous night, we decided we’d use a couple of our dining credits for some breakfast. We quickly got ready and went on ahead to the food court so we’d be through eating when the boys arrived.
John showed up right at 10:30. He said Michael was shaving and would be down shortly. Ed arrived at 10:40 and said he had just passed Michael going back towards the rooms as Ed was coming towards the food court. Larry left to take our refillable mugs and put them in the car, which was parked out front. John went back to his room to find Michael. It was turning into one of those mornings where nothing was coming together.
John called from their room and said that Michael’s cell phone was in the room, but there was no sign of Michael. That was the first time I felt a twinge of worry—Michael never goes anywhere without his phone. I told John to come on back and meet us at the bus stop. Perhaps Michael thought we were meeting there and was outside waiting for us.
Ed and I went to the bus stop and met up with Larry on the way. John soon joined us there, but no Michael. Great. It wasn’t even noon on our second day and I had already lost one nephew. Worst. Birthday. Ever.
I could see it now, years later as the family gathered around my birthday cake every August 13th, each family member lovingly wishing me the happiest of birthdays. Oh yeah, and thanks for losing our son/grandson/nephew. You just don’t ever bounce back from that kind of trauma.
No one else wants him, I kept telling myself: a) He’s 18—Nobody in their right mind wants an extra 18 year-old. The food bills alone are a major deterrent. b) We’re at Disney—no one and I do mean NO ONE wants another child here. They’re too busy dealing with their own little progenies who are tired or cranky or bored or in the process of a complete meltdown. c) Again, he’s 18—and by “18” I mean “six foot 2 inches and over 200 pounds.” He could beat the crap out of your average pedophile.
Obviously, in my heart of hearts, I knew that no one had taken Michael. He was either looking for us in the food court or had realized he’d forgotten his phone and had gone back to the room to pick it up or he had assumed we’d gone ahead without him and he was already on a bus to Epcot hoping he’d catch up with us there. That’s what I KNEW, rationally.
But there’s always that irrational part of you that wonders how quickly you need to notify the police before the trail goes cold.
Also, there was the concern as to how we’d EVER meet up with him once we got to Epcot, especially since he didn’t have his phone with him.
I decided to send everyone else on to Epcot where they could check for Michael and, hopefully, have a bit of fun. I would go back to the room and leave a note for Michael with his phone in case he came back while we were gone and then catch up with them later.
As I walked back to the rooms my phone rang. Hoping it was news about Michael, I quickly answered it; it was my Mom. Great, now I have to tell my mother that I’ve lost her grandchild. I considered (for maybe a second) not telling her that Michael was missing but there’s just something about hearing your mother’s voice on the phone that makes you blurt out all your troubles, especially when you’re in the midst of a crisis. And my mother is an expert at getting information out of even the hardest of cases. This is how the conversation went:
Mom: Good morning, dear. How are you?
Me: Fine….exceptThatI’veLostMichaelAndIThinkHeMayBeDea dOrKidnappedOrBleedingAndLyingInADitchSomewhere!
You see how good she is?
Anyway, I explained the situation to her and she was understandably concerned. I promised to let her know the second that we found Michael. Meanwhile, I had gotten back to our rooms. I left a note asking Michael to call us immediately by his phone. Just as I finished writing, John called from the bus to Epcot to check and see if I had any news. After telling John that there was no new sign of Michael here, I went back to my room and sat on the bed, wondering what my next plan of action should be.
The gravitational pull of Spaceship Earth is luring them in.
John phoned again once they arrived at Epcot to let me know there was no sign of Michael outside the gate. This, of course, made sense because if Michael thought that we had gone ahead without him, we would have entered the part so he could look for us. I told John to try and have a good time and that I’d wait a little longer at the room.
A knock at John and Michael’s door made me jump up and run into their room in the hopes that it was Michael and he’d just forgotten his room key. Unfortunately, it was just maintenance stopping by to check out the bathtub.
Not able to think of anything else to do, I called my mom and talked to her for a while, both of us trying to cheer the other one up and assure them that Michael was (probably) just fine. Larry called to let me know that they were headed to Japan because John thought Michael would probably go there if he were at Epcot. It was good reasoning on John’s part because Michael is a huge fan of anime and video games. Michael doesn’t have birthdays, he just levels up.
A few minutes later I got a text from John: Found Michael in Japan!
I read the four words twice and then burst into tears. What a relief! I had myself a good cry for a couple of minutes and then called John to thank him for thinking of looking in Japan. I then talked to Michael for a few minutes in which I wanted to be stern and tell him never to do something like that again and didn’t he know how worried we all were but I mostly just cried and told him I was glad that he was okay. I DID tell them that I’d meet up with them shortly and that I’d call when I made it to Epcot.
The next job was to call my mom and let her know Michael had been found. She was much relieved as well and told me to go and try to have some fun now and enjoy the rest of my birthday.
I decided to just take the car since that would be quicker than the bus. I figured that, since we got such a late start, we’d probably spend all day at Epcot and having the car there after Illuminations would be much faster than having to exit with the crowds and wait for a bus. My plan was to go to the Beach Club and valet park the car there. After all, I had experienced much trauma this morning and it was my birthday and I deserved a bit of pampering.
How can I extol the virtues of the Beach Club? When Michael was little, my mom and I would bring him to Disney every year and we’d almost always stay at least part of our trip on the concierge level at the Beach Club. The Cast Members all remembered us from year to year and would comment on how Michael had grown. We’d arrive the first week of Awesome and spend our time splashing around the pool with Michael, strolling into Epcot to enjoy the Food and Wine Festival, and generally being waited on hand and foot by the staff. Ah, the care-free days of youth.
The guard at the gate let me right in and when I pulled up under the Porte Cochere a valet CM opened my car door and said “Welcome back.” See? They missed me too. I might have silently gulped when he told me that it was $12 for valet parking but I just smiled and handed him the keys and walked on into the lobby.
As I walked along the path to the International Gateway I could feel the cares and worries of the day falling away. I called John when I got inside the park. He and Michael had assumed that I’d be coming in the main gate so they were waiting at the Fountainview Café for me (and having some ice cream because it’s hungry work being lost). I told them that I’d wait for them between France and Morocco.
John is NOT impressed with Beverly.
I then called Larry and Ed who were in Italy at the moment. I told them that John and Michael were meeting up with me in Morocco and Larry said that they’d head that way as well. John and Michael were the first to arrive and I couldn’t resist a hug from both of them—Michael because what was lost was now found and John for finding him.
With the trauma of the morning behind us, I was now ready to enjoy the rest of the day. I wanted John to hear the Voices of Liberty sing at the American Adventure rotunda, so I suggested that we go there first. I called Larry and told him to just meet us there.
I'm betting that there's not another human being on the face of the earth that's whiter than Ed.
Well, okay, except for maybe this guy.
Larry and Ed were already inside enjoying the air conditioning when we arrived (they’re no dummies). Ed had bought me a pair of chopsticks and a chopstick rest for my birthday. He said I had to use them for lunch and I promised him that I would. We had about 10 minutes before the Voices of Liberty were due to start singing, so I sent the boys off to look at the painting of the airplane that seems to swivel to follow you when you walk back and forth in front of it.
Soon, the Voices of Liberty came out and started singing and we got to watch the joy on John’s face as he listened to them. It was a very good set as they started out with “I’m Proud to be an American,” finished with “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” and fit in “When You Wish Upon a Star” somewhere in the middle. The look on John’s face alone was worth the 24 hour drive.
We went ahead and watched the American Adventure once the Voices of Liberty finished, so I got a good, therapeutic cry in there. Afterwards, it was well after 2:00 and we decided that it was time for some lunch. I was in the mood for some Sushi, plus I figured I’d look less silly using my new chopsticks for Japanese food rather than a hamburger and fries.
We backtracked to Japan and, once we got to Katsura Grill, noticed that John was missing. I called his phone and found out that he was still in American and he was listening to the next Voices of Liberty show. He said he’d catch up with us after they were done singing.
For lunch, Michael got the Tonosama Combo (teriyaki beef, chicken and salmon with rice and vegetables) and the Matcha Roll (green tea swirl cake), Ed got the Tokyo Sushi Combo (4 pieces California Roll and 3 pieces Nigiri) and the Azuki (Strawberry) ice cream, Larry had the Teriyaki Salmon and Azuki ice cream, and I had the California Roll and Tsukemen Salad Combo and Azuki ice cream. The indoor seating was all taken but we found a nice table in the shade outside on their patio. A Japanese CM was impressed that I had my own chopsticks and we talked to her for a few minutes. John showed up before long and ordered the Tempura Shrimp Udon.
Lunch and new chopsticks
We had just finished eating when it began to rain. We were fairly sheltered at our table so we stayed there for a little while. John and Michael decided to go and look around the shops while it was raining (because, goodness knows, Michael hadn’t spent enough time in Japan yet today) and eventually Larry, Ed and I decided to join them.
Once the rain let up, Ed and Larry decided to make their way to Norway to ride Maelstrom. Michael and I followed closely behind them after I took a phone call from my mom. John was missing again so I called his cell phone. He was (shocker) in America listening to the Voices of Liberty. Again. I guess I was right in thinking that he would like them.
I was on a mission to China to look for the Dancing Water Bowl. I had read about this in a trip report a few months back. In the China pavilion there is supposed to be a bronze bowl full of water. If you dip your hands into the water and then rub the palms of your hands on the handles of the bowl just right, a low humming noise will emit from the bowl and the water will bubble up like a fountain around the edges of the bowl.
When Michael and I got to China, we looked around in the building that houses the terra cotta soldiers and then in the entrance to the Wonders of China show, but couldn’t find a bowl. I asked one CM about the bowl but they had never heard of it. They did; however, direct me to another CM who told me that the bowl was in the gift shop.
On the way to the gift shop we ran into Ed and Larry who had gotten Fast Passes for Maelstrom. We all began looking for the water bowl and I finally located it at the very back of the gift shop where the Wonders of China show exits. We took turns rubbing the handles, but none of us could get the bowl to do anything but slosh.
Picture of a Dancing Water Bowl as borrowed from the interwebs.
Larry got Michael and my tickets and took them to Norway to get Fast Passes for us. Not to be deterred, Ed found a Cast Member and asked him about the dancing water bowl. The CM said that he had seen it done, but had never made the water dance himself. He said that there were a few CMs in the shop that could do it. Ed was quite determined as he went from Cast Member to Cast Member asking about the water bowl. He finally found one CM that said he knew how to make the waters dance. He said that he would go and wash his hands and then meet us at the bowl.
When the CM showed up at the bowl, he explained that your hands and the handles on the bowl needed to be free from dirt and oil and that was why he had gone to wash his hands. He began to stroke the handles with his palms and immediately said that the handles had too much oil on them for it to work. I took my shirttail and wiped the handles of the bowl off. The CM began again and, after a few seconds, we began to hear a low humming coming from the bowl. Soon the water in the four corners of the bowl began to vibrate and then jump around. We all burst into applause and the CM stopped rubbing the handles and bowed to us.
The Dancing Water Bowl complete with Dancing Water. Also borrowed from the internet because we were all too busy rubbing the bowl to actually take pictures.
Larry showed back up and so we had the CM do it again so that Larry could see. While the CM was rubbing the handles and the water was bubbling, the CM had Michael put his hand in the bowl and feel the water. Michael said it almost felt like you had electricity running through your hand.
The CM went back to his register and we all tried to make the bowl work. We were having no luck until Michael finally got the hang of it. You could tell when it was about to start bubbling because the bowl would begin to emit that low, humming sound. When the bowl started humming for Michael, the CM that had helped us looked up from his register and gave Michael a big thumbs-up. Michael kept rubbing and the water began to dance and splutter.
A crowd had gathered around the bowl and Michael began showing some people in the crowd how to do it. Michael finally got where he could make it work almost every time he tried. Once when it was going really well, he had me put my hand in the bowl so I could feel the vibrations as well. Too neat.
We called John again and he was still with his new best friends, the Voices of Liberty. We went on to Maelstrom and enjoyed our journey back with the trolls. We moved on to Mexico and rode the Gran Fiesta with no wait. We were just off of the ride when John showed up. Apparently he was creeping out the Voices of Liberty and they filed a restraining order to get him to leave them alone. Larry rode the Gran Fiesta again with John while Michael, Ed and I watched at least a dozen kids come by and do one of the interactive clues to the Agent P’s (formerly Kim Possible’s) Adventure.
John and Michael contemplating how they moved Mexico indoors.
The boys had had enough world culture and were itching to get on some rides, so they went to go ride Mission: Space while I headed around to the UK pavilion to check the reservation for our dinner show. Okay, it’s not exactly a reservation and it’s not exactly a dinner show either, but the last time we were at WDW we enjoyed eating fish and chips from the Yorkshire County Fish Shop while watching the British Revolution. So, basically, I was going on ahead to snag some seats by the stage.
Glamour shot of Test Track.
Michael joined me just in time for the 7:00 show. They had ridden Mission: Space and then he came to keep me company while John, Ed and Larry went on Spaceship Earth. The rest of the gang showed up at 7:30. John went to France to have a look around while Michael and I went to go get fish and chips for everyone (except for John—he didn’t want any).
We all ate our food and listened to the 8:00 performance (John showed up in time for the show). I think Larry gets a little recharge of his British batteries when we do this.
After the show we began to look for a good place to watch Illuminations. We found a decent spot along the railing of the bridge from the UK to France but John noticed that the lower pavilion in France was open so we went down there and found a great spot right on the water.
We all enjoyed watching Illuminations and John was suitably impressed with the show. We made our way out of the park using the International Gateway and were glad that we had the car waiting for us at the Beach Club. As we walked to the Beach Club, John walked in the sand on the beach saying that he had never been to a beach before. We showed John Stormalong Bay as best we could and cut through the lobby to pick up our car. John said that, when he became rich and famous, he was going to stay at the Beach Club. We asked if he’d take us with him and he cheerfully agreed.
We picked up the car from valet. Luckily Larry was distracted while I paid for the parking so he didn’t hear the price. We made it back to our plain little All Star Movies by 10:00. Our refillable mugs were in the car from this morning so we were sure to fill them up as we cut through the food court.
Before we split up for the night, we made plans for an early morning the next day. We were going to go to Hollywood Studios and let John have a shot at the American Idol try-outs.
Back in our room, I set a 7:30 wake up call. Larry fiddled with the Wi-Fi for a bit, I talked to my Mom for a while and updated my trip report notes and we were soon off to the Land of Nod.
Tuesday, August 14th – The 1500 Meter Limp
The wake up call did the trick and we were all mostly up and relatively ready to go by 8:30. Ed was running a little bit behind so he said that he’d just take the bus and catch up with us later. We took the car to Hollywood Studios, stopping by the food court to take some beverages along in our refillable mugs.
We parked and took the tram to the entrance. Gosh, we sure have made use of the trams this trip. The bag check line was humongous and was about as slow as molasses—it took forever to get through.
Larry had said that he’d go through the American Idol audition process with John so they headed there while Michael and I took the park passes and headed to Toy Story Midway Mania (TSMM). After we got Fast Passes for everyone, we hopped in the stand by queue and were on the ride in about 15 minutes. This was Michael’s first time to ride TSMM. They had opened it right after his last trip to WDW. Not to brag, but I waxed the floor with Michael our first time. Me, beating the video game King. I was actually behind the whole game until the bonus round when I came back with a vengeance. My score was a respectable 138,000 while Michael was just a few thousand behind. I do many things well, none of which generates income.
From there we went to Tower of Terror. Ed called as we were in the queue. He was heading for Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster (RnRC) and said he’d meet up with us after we both got off our rides. We were in our elevator in about 10 minutes and Ed was waiting for us as we came off the ride.
It was blistering hot again today so I got some water for Michael and Ed and a diet coke for me. Michael and Ed went to go ride RnRC using the Single Rider line. Larry called and said that John had made it through the first audition and now had to sing for a Producer. The first step in the tryouts is singing a song of your choice, acapella, for a Cast Member. John sang “These Small Hours” by Rob Thomas. Larry said the Cast Member was very helpful with her feedback and then picked out a song by the Kings of Leon for John to try. John sang a bit of that for her and she told him he was through to the next round. (When Larry told me that John had picked a Kings of Leon song I ASSUMED it wasn’t “Sex on Fire.”)
First round of auditions.
After John passed the acapella audition, he was given an iPod, headphones, and a list of songs that are available to sing for the show. There are around 150 songs on the list ranging from Pop to County to Disney songs. You can only sing songs that are on that list for the actual show and, once a song has been picked for that day, it’s off limits for anyone else. Obviously Disney doesn’t want a finale with six or seven people singing “I Just Can’t Wait to be King,” no matter how good it sounds on paper.
The contestants then sit in a little partitioned off area and practice their songs with the iPod. It’s a bit weird to see all these people with headphones on, singing at the top of their voices. Each contestant picks two songs from the list (John went with the Kings of Leon song “Use Somebody,”and with “Stand by Me”) to sing for the Producer.
John practicing in the "green" room, which is actually in no way green.
By this time, Michael and Ed were off Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster and had decided to go right back on it again via the Single Rider line. A few minutes later my phone rang again and Larry was giving me the news that John had made it on to the 12:30 show of American Idol! Sah-WEET! Larry said they were headed our way and would meet us at RnRC.
Ed and Michael emerged from the ride right as Larry and John showed up at 11:00. John had to be back at American Idol at 11:20 and was thirsty and hungry. We got some water for him at one of the carts on Sunset Boulevard and then took him to Starring Rolls where he got a chocolate croissant. Michael got one too because it’s hungry work having your brother make it to American Idol.
While John ate, Larry told us about their audition adventure. In order to audition for American Idol, you go around to the back side of the auditorium. Larry and John headed there first thing when we were through the gates this morning. They arrived at the audition and were welcomed into a room with several other people. They were told that the first exercise was a balloon game. They were divided into teams and John and his team mates were given several balloons to keep afloat. Larry asked if he could take pictures and was told “no problem.”
Seems like innocent fun.
After several minutes of ballooning, they added even more balloons. After a while, the team dropped a balloon and they had to analyze what went wrong. The rest of the team moved to a different area but Larry and John were not sure where to go. Larry asked a woman about John singing and the woman informed him that there’s no singing here; they’re at a corporate team building event for Price Waterhouse Cooper accounting firm. Oops!
They hurried next door by the big “American Idol Experience Auditions” sign and went in there.
Hey did you guys see those people who thought we were with American Idol? How awkward was that?
I’ve mentioned the first audition already, so for the second audition John was called into another room and sang both of the songs that he’d picked only with the music track and backing vocals this time. Larry said that the producer gave John some good advice about how to project in the big theater. He was amazed that John had never had any formal training and told him that only 25 people make it to the stage each day so John had already done really well. He said that John should sing the Kings of Leon song.
Anyway, it was getting close to 11:20 by now so we took John around back of the theater again where he checked in with a Cast Member. He had a few minutes before they called him back in for his hair and makeup and for his time with a voice coach. As his family, we were to show up at the front of the theater at 12:00 where we would be let inside to watch the rehearsals.
After John left for his chance at stardom, Michael and Ed went back to Toy Story Midway Mania to get us all new Fast Passes. Our original Fast Passes were for 11:55 – 12:55, right when we’d be watching John, so Ed and Michael found a family to give those to. Our new Fast Passes had a return time of 6:15 – 7:15.
While we were waiting behind the auditorium, Larry spotted an old friend of his, Mary, who used to work at the Comedy Warehouse. She’s was working at American Idol doing some of the interviews with the contestants that are shown during the shows. We waited until she finished filming and Larry went and talked to her for a few minutes.
At noon we headed back around front to the theater entrance. We told the CM that we were with one of the contestants and they put us in the VIP waiting area with the family members of the other contestants. A few minutes later a Cast Member came and took us inside the auditorium and sat us in the “family section” at the far end of about the 10th row.
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