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Old 05-31-2009, 09:36 PM   #1
epcotrules
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1900 miles and a soggy trip

We're veterans of WDW and I95. My daughter graduated HS on 5/21. Late that evening (11:00 PM) we pulled out of our Maryland home and headed south on route 301, crossing the Potomac, and catching up with I95 south just north of Kings Dominion amusement park. We're in the habit of driving through the wee hours of the morning in order to avoid traffic. Unfortunately I think this is going to be my last time burning the midnight oil. It took me a full day to recover from the drive this time.

We normally stay on property, but friends offered to let us stay with them at their time share at Westgate Lakes. We arrived at the resort in the late afternoon on 5/22. We visited friends in Auburndale, FL on Saturday 5/23. I appreciated this because I was in no mood for the parks. I was still exhausted from the drive. Back to Westgate. I am thankful that our dear friends extended an invitation for us to vacation with them. A trip to WDW was not in our budget for 2009. The only way we could afford it was to eliminate lodging costs. Westgate is a decent enough place. It's twenty minutes from the parking tolls at the Magic Kingdom. It's located on Turkey Lake Road. If you take Turkey Lake Road west it will intersect with FL 535, just north of the Crossroad shopping center and the entrance to the Disney Village. My wife has the annual pass which saved us the $12 parking fee for each park. Even though Westgate is a pleasant enough experience my family definitely felt the difference between staying on property and off property. I take back all my complaints about the Disney transportation system. I missed that perk.

Before I get to the park experience this time around I want to share an interesting quirk in the Disney parking experience. On Friday 5/29, my family wanted to visit HS in order to see the American Idol winner who was scheduled to be there. I was parked out and wanted to rest up for the drive back to Maryland. I arranged to pick them up at the drop off facility located between the Transportation Center and the Polynesian Resort. I took the back way in past Ft. Wilderness. Here is where the "quirk" showed itself. After I picked up the family we proceeded to leave and go park at the MK parking lot. My family wanted to do a bit of shopping on Main St. before calling and end to our vacation. On the way out, near the AAA repair facility, there is a sign that says, "Return to Magic Kingdom. Next left." The next left was about 300 feet past the sign. I took the exit and it deposited us PAST the toll booths but BEFORE the entrance to the MK parking lots. For the record, our parking was free because of my wife's annual pass. But if we were paying for our parking this would have been a way to bypass the $12 MK parking fee. It wasn't intentional on my part. I came in the back way in order to pick my family up at the Drop Off location, and simply followed the sign that indicated a return to the MK. I found it odd that following the instructions on the sign placed you past the toll booth.

It rained each and every day of our trip. Most of the rain was of the extended thunderstorm variety. Because it's early in the season these rain storms had the affect of lowering the temperature. That was a good thing. It also thinned out the crowds a bit. If you were armed with your trusty poncho you knew how to take advantage of the rain. Both Space Mountain and the Hall of Presidents were closed at the MK. This resulted in longer lines at everything else. We're used to WDW during the second week of December, so we're spoiled when it comes to lines.

I'm not sure if WDW has cut back on the number of cast members, but we noticed a lack of cheerfulness among many cast members. Also, the restrooms were much dirtier than usual. Hopefully this is an isolated incident, but it was observed by everyone in our party.

The Columbia Harbor House became one of our favorite respites. We've always passed this place, but never stopped in. The food is okay. It's fast food Disney style. The decor is rustic. But the real charm of this place is the spacious upstairs seating. We found a large dining room that overlooked the street connecting Fantasy Land with Adventure Land. It was empty. Seems like tired and aching feet don't want to climb the steps to the second floor. It provided a bit of privacy and sanctuary on a hot day. I tour the parks a bit different than the rest of my family. After a while I become "parked out" and enjoy a cool spot to rest the dogs and relax. The Columbia Harbor House is just the place to do that.

The Star Wars weekends were a blast. Ray Park (Darth Maul) was there on 5/24. We didn't leave for home until 5/29, so we got to enjoy the second Star Wars weekend on 5/29. My wife and daughter are big American Idol fans, and they were ecstatic when they heard that Adam Lambert (2009 winner) was going to perform at Hollywood Studios. My wife and daughter were there and got a bevy of photographs and some video. That was a bonus to a very soggy trip.

The other highlight was dinner at Ohana. We've done the character breakfast before, but never dinner until this trip. The skewered chicken, turkey, steak, and shrimp was fantastic. The dipping sauces really brought out the flavor. The appetizers (noodles, pot stickers, veggies, Hawaiian bread) were fantastic. Ohana is a definite "must do" during our next trip.
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Old 05-31-2009, 09:41 PM   #2
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Sounds like a great trip! Would love to attend Star Wars weekend one time - it would be so much fun! (back in 1997 I was having my pic taken with Darth Vader and as we were walking towards the entrance to Star Tours, he put his arm around my shoulder taking me out of line and ended up placing me beside R2D2 somehow by going behinds the barrier! I was so embarrassed - my brother in law and sis in law died laughing.)

Will you be posting any pics of your trip? Would love to see them!
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Old 05-31-2009, 10:28 PM   #3
epcotrules
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Pics of latest trip

As soon as I get my ten posts I will post pics of the trip.
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Old 05-31-2009, 10:38 PM   #4
epcotrules
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Okay, next post will be ten.
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Old 05-31-2009, 10:39 PM   #5
epcotrules
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Me with my daughter and my friends kids


Chewbacca


My daughter selected to be in the Indian Jones Stunt Spectacular


My wife and daughter getting crazy at Animal Kingdom


Good shot of Davey Jones using my iPhone


Splash Mountain at sundown


Old Glory just before flag lowering ceremony


Wow! My iPhone took some really next pics.
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Old 06-01-2009, 09:29 AM   #6
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Great pics!! My son has an iPhone and he takes some amazing pics as well. Thank you for posting them!

That's so cool your daughter got picked for Indiana Jones stunt show. And your pic of Davey Jones came out great Who needs to bring a camera when you've got a great one right in your phone
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WDW Trips: March 1997 (BWV), February 2008 (BWV), December 2008 (BWV), Nov/Dec 2010 (BWV)

Disneyland Trips: September 1983, AP Holder July 2013 (twice), August 2013 & November 2013

All Our Dreams Come True If We Have the Courage To Pursue Them - Walt Disney
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