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Old 06-08-2005, 09:25 AM   #1
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crazyj4488's Avatar
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Houston, TX
Posts: 633

Arrow I'm Baaack! - Day 1 - SOLO Trip Report w/ Photo Journal - Lonely Traveller

All of the pics seen in this photo journal were taken by me as I travelled the parks. They follow the report as closely as possible; most of them were taken at the time in which the content refers to. Click on the links shown to view pics as you read. Enjoy!

WDW SOLO trip report – May 23-27, 2005
Day 1

Lonely Traveler

Me – Jeff - 29 yr old male – 10th time to WDW – 1st SOLO Trip

Me and My Sally

The Shopping List
Ballpark investment in trip for 5 days: $1050
Here is a sample list of stuff I spent money on during my trip:

1 Roundtrip Non-Stop Airline tickets on Continental from Houston to Orlando $332
4 Nights at Pop Century Resort – Regular Season – AP Rate $322
5 Day Standard Size Rental Car (Maroon Chevy Malibu) – National Rental Car $126
1 Official WDW 50th 2 CD Set – Album (good stuff)
2 Boxes of Granola Bars for Breakfast and Bedtime Snack
1 750ml Bottle of Absolute Vanilla
1 750ml Bottle of Starbucks Coffee Liquor
1 Half Gallon – Skim Milk
3 Foster’s Beer (Pint Can)
2 Liter Bottles of Diet Coke
2 Liter Bottles of Fruit2O
2 Walt Disney World – Mickey Engraved Cocktail Glasses
1 Walt Disney World – Mickey Engraved Beer Mug
1 Deli Sub and Bag of Chips – Pop Century Food Court
1 Roast Beef and Provolone Sub – Electric Umbrella – EPCOT
1 Double Scoop Cone - Cookie Swirl – Main Street Bakery
9 Gift items from Japan Store – World Showcase
2 Pinnochio Village Haus Burger Meals
1 Lunch Meal with AP discount at Rainforest Café (Animal Kingdom)
3 Churros
1 Dole Whip Swirl
7 Bottles of Water
6 Bottles of Diet Coke
1 Bag Dorritos

Monday, May 23 – Arrival Day

I woke up at my parent’s house around 6:30AM. Doing this was convenient for me since they live on North side of Houston and are much closer to the airport than I am. My Mother was nice enough to take me to the airport before she had to go to work. Once at the airport, I kissed her goodbye, thanked her, and headed for the bag drop since I had already checked in online and had my boarding pass.

The wait for the plane to depart was made more pleasant because I had my IPOD mini with me. I sat at the gate and listened to a podcast called The Mousepod. The Mousepod is an hour long show which concentrates on everything Disney. This episode concentrated on a guy who, basically, grew up in Disneyland because he lived in a motel with his Mother in Anaheim. They were a destitute family and his only sense of stability was going to Disneyland each day where he watched privileged families tour the park. This guy’s Mother ended up abandoning him one day. He was waiting at the front of the park to get a ride home and she never showed. He went from Disneyland’s doorstep to a foster home but still managed to get back to the park where he grew up, got a job there, and, eventually, started something called the extinct attractions club. Now he produces DVDs based on Disney attractions that are no longer around. This was an absorbing and fascinating story which set the stage perfectly for my first SOLO trip to WDW.

Ipod - Mousepod

The flight itself was non-eventful but pleasant. I listened to some more podcasts with my Ipod just to pass the time and before I knew it, we were on our final descent into Orlando. The flight time from Houston was just under 2 hours which, to me, was just like another day in Houston traffic. I thought to myself how bad this was going to be for me. For once in my life, since I now find myself running my own business, I have both the funds and freedom to hop on a plane and visit Orlando just about any time, within reason, that I feel like. Holding an annual pass for the parks even gave me more of an excuse.

This solo trip was taking place only 3 weeks after I had just spent 7 days at Disney World and it only confirmed this new found revelation of freedom for me. It was weird because all I could think to myself about this whole experience was that I was, possibly, doing something wrong. In the past, it had always been a HUGE stretch of financial resources and time just to take one trip to Disney World every 3 years or so. My life definitely had changed for the better. My hard work at college, in the workforce, and everything I put into starting up my own business were really starting to pay off for me. The challenge and internal struggle I have with all of this has to do with allowing myself to enjoy this new found freedom and the ability to relax while away from home. Ever since I have been in business for myself, I have found myself worrying and feeling guilty each and every time I left town for vacation. My job had become my life and I still, to this day, fight with setting aside personal time since I constantly feel the need to earn a living. After all, no one is cutting me a check every two weeks. If I don’t get out there and push myself to do some work each day, I don’t eat; plain and simple.

Given all of this, deep down, I had decided that this trip to Orlando would be an exercise in successfully separating my personal and professional life. I decided that I would do everything I could to make this trip all about me and not feel guilty about what I was doing. As I stepped off the jet way and entered the terminal at Orlando International, I resolved to be a different person while away from home.

Serious, life affirming, thoughts aside, I quickly drew my Canon Powershot digicam just so it would be ready to visually document this personal journey of mine. I knew looking at the pictures, after my trip, would be a surreal experience because there weren’t really going to be any pictures of me or anyone else. I was alone for an entire week and I would only be taking pictures of things I was seeing as I traveled through the parks. I decided just to snap pics of anything and everything I felt like no matter how inane they might seem to other people. The resulting photo journal would be a memento of my own experience; something that could not be compared to another person’s perspective.

The first thing I decided to take a quick picture of was the airport monorail station which connected the terminal to the main concourse at Orlando International. Since childhood, I have carried a vivid memory of these airport monorail stations and trams. They were the first things you took a ride on upon your arrival and the voice heard in the monorail audio recording was the same guy’s voice that is heard on the Walt Disney World monorail system. The simple audio cue heard on this transportation system instantly made me realize that I was about to have that wonderful Disney park experience all over again.

Orlando International Monorail

I quickly headed to the bag claim to retrieve my belongings and then headed down the escalator in order to cross the street to the parking garage. Upon entering the parking garage, I walked up to the second floor where the National Rental Car lot was located. I had an Emerald Aisle card and a reservation which meant I could pick any car in the lot I desired and just take off in it. I loved the ease of this experience. There was no waiting in lines with the Emerald Aisle service; something I had promised myself to do an absolute minimum of while on every vacation to Disney World.

After picking out the exact same model Chevy Malibu (this one was colored maroon) I had rented 3 weeks ago, I threw my bags into the trunk, popped in a favorite CD, and headed towards the exit. While driving down the toll road, I thought about how quiet the airport was and how empty the roads were in comparison to my last trip. This was a really good sign and I knew I was in for a treat right up until the Memorial Day weekend began on the Friday I was set to depart.

The Rental Car

Before I knew it, I was within 3 miles of the Walt Disney World front gates. The last 50 cent toll booth I arrived at was unmanned and I had only paper bills on me. I yelled at the driver behind me to see if he had change for a dollar and he told me to blow through it. I was in a rental whose license plate was not connected to my name so I hit the pedal. In a matter of minutes, I was passing under the front gates of Disney World at around 1:00 PM. It was such a welcomed sight for me.

WDW Front Gates

I had reservations at the value level resort called Disney’s Pop Century and the signs for the hotel appeared quicker than I expected. I ended up making a rather abrupt lane change all the way across the road. At first, I worried myself about driving like an idiot tourist, but then looked around to realize that there wasn’t a soul on the road around me. It was almost an eerie feeling.

The sign for the Pop Century resort was quite colorful and energetic. My heart was racing as I pulled up to the guard at the security booth. Oddly enough, she asked me for an I.D. after I told her that I was checking in. She didn’t even bother to check a list for my name so I couldn’t figure out what the point to even looking at my I.D. was. I always found the Disney resort security guards to be a joke. They never stopped me from going where I needed to go. I’m sure they had a purpose; I just had a hard time figuring out what that was.

Pop Century Entrance

As I entered the Pop Century property, I snapped some pictures of the signage I saw along the road. There were some funny comments on them like, “Color TV and Air Conditioned!” I immediately noticed that the landscaping wasn’t as fancy as the moderate level resorts. The shrubbery was quite plain but trimmed perfectly. I even found the main lobby building to look quite bland in its theming. It looked more like an airport terminal than a resort to me but I really didn’t mind it for the price I was paying to stay there. I knew this resort would serve my basic needs during this solo trip. I only wanted to be staying on-site in a clean room. Disney rarely screwed up the clean part and I was just happy to be back in the world.

Entering Pop Century 1
Entering Pop Century 2

The lobby of the Pop Century Resort, again, looked plain and felt like a shopping mall or airport terminal but it had a consistent style. Everything sort of fit together on this property and you could tell it was fairly new. Its charm was found in the playful nature of its colorful signage and pop culture meanderings. The one thing that was bugging me was the lack of intimacy. Everything around me felt plastic, cold, and mass-produced for a less sophisticated audience.

Pop Century Check-in

The lobby was, pretty much, empty and there was no line at the huge check-in counter. The friendliness of the cast member who welcomed me to the Pop Century Resort took a bit of that impersonal edge off the surroundings and I was happy that she fulfilled my request to be placed in a room away from the pools (loud kids) and near the parking lot. I also had my choice of the 70’s, 80’s, or 90’s themed buildings which was an added plus. I, of course, picked the 80’s building after seeing pictures of the cool looking Rubik’s Cube stairwells and was quickly headed back to my car in order to make my way over to room 7285. This room would be my home for the week.

The grounds of the resort were quiet as I made my way to my room. I knew this would change towards the end of the week so I tried to enjoy it while I could. I parked my car as close as possible to the building I was in and made my way up through the giant Rubik’s cube stairwell to find my room which was on the second floor. I only had one mid-sized rolling bag and my laptop shoulder bag with me so getting up the stairs in one trip was no big deal. I did think the parking lots were a bit farther away from the buildings than at Port Orleans Riverside where I had stayed 3 weeks ago. I thought to myself how the extra distance and stairs would be an un-welcomed burden when returning exhausted from the parks each evening.

Room 7285 was facing the parking lot but that didn’t bother me one bit. I’m not really into views and I was alone. I simply wanted something quiet. I did, however, notice that right down the hallway was a nice view of Hourglass Lake. The first neat thing I liked about my room was that the number plate for my door had a large computer mouse symbol on it. How fitting that was for an IT professional such as myself.

Pop Century Room
View from Room
View from Building

Upon entering the room, I instantly got this dorm room vibe from the place. The beds looked really small and the room, itself, was quite tiny. Since I was alone, the size of the room didn’t bother me one bit but I couldn’t help thinking about how more than 2 people would probably kill each other if they had to stay in this place for more than 5 days. The furnishings in the room were very bland but not ugly, the sink area looked too small for any woman’s collection of toiletries and the framed paper poster on the wall was really cheap and tacky looking. The bed spreads also appeared as if someone had vomited on them. While they were perfectly clean along with everything else in the room, the patterns on the spread were just too loud and plain ugly. Hands down, one of the most annoying things in the room was the nasty lighting. Every bulb in the joint had one of those power-saving fluorescent fixtures in them. Therefore, when you turned the lights on, it felt as if you were in an institution of some sort or back at the office. They could have, at least, put just one lamp in the room with an incandescent bulb in it to make the room feel a bit cozier and warm. There wasn’t one normal lamp to be found in this room; just a bunch of goofy looking wall sconces.

No matter what I thought of the room, I was happier than I could ever be just being there. It was clean and I was still on-site. I knew everything would be very close to my little home away from home. It felt so weird; yet so good, to know that I had a week ahead of me and everything would be done according to how I wanted to do it. I had no one else with me to be concerned with. I would have no one else’s bladder or stomach to worry about while touring the parks and this would allow me to get around efficiently and effectively.

While unpacking, it didn’t take me long to completely fill in all of the tiny sink top counter space with products and I am a guy. I went to wash my hands and was immediately annoyed with the low water pressure and the water saving fixtures which were installed on the sink. It only let out 5 tiny streams of water. I felt like I was in an airport bathroom struggling with one of those motion sensor things. In short, it drove me nuts!

I did really like the free in-wall room safe which was located near the sink and clothes rack. It was just big enough to store my laptop in but I have one of those ultra-small models. I don’t think you could fit a standard-sized laptop with a 15 inch screen inside the safe. Right away, I knew I would be using that safe every day to store my valuable piece of electronic equipment and any extra cash or credit cards I didn’t want to carry with me to the parks. There was also an iron and ironing board hanging there next to the safe. This was one of the last things I expected to see in a value resort but there it was. I guess Disney wants people looking like they have a bit of class while walking their parks versus a bunch of wrinkled and creased freaks.

After getting unpacked, I was ready to head out on my first adventure. Arrival afternoon was always spent at EPCOT. I had been doing this for years. The Future World section of the park is always less crowded in the late afternoon because most people start moving into the world showcase too see the sights and hunker down for their late lunches and early dinners. My plan was to head to the Boardwalk resort, park my car, and walk through the International Gateway. This would give me an easy, crowd free, exit after the Illuminations fireworks show ended later that night.

The Boardwalk resort and the entire EPCOT resort area was about a 2 minute drive down the street. I loved this! When I arrived at the Boardwalk parking lot security booth, the guard simple waved me through; no questions asked. This was fine by me and it didn’t take me long at all to find a spot since all the hotel lots I had seen looked, mostly, empty. Again, every place I had been today, including the airport and roads, were quiet. It was hotter than hell outside but the crowd levels were definitely to my liking during May. This was my third trip to Walt Disney World on this particular month. If you can stand the awful heat, it’s a great time to go.

So I exited my car and headed off to the grounds of the Boardwalk resort. It was a charming place and I felt like I was visiting Coney Island while walking down a small staircase which led out onto the boardwalk itself. There were about 4 or 5 people milling around on the entire boardwalk as I made my way towards EPCOT’s International Gateway entrance. The length of the walk didn’t bother me. I even noticed that my legs were well conditioned after my last seven day trip to Disney just 3 weeks prior. The heat, however, was ridiculous. It was, literally, hard to breathe and the sun was just about as intense as I have ever felt it. As much as I could, I walked the path under the cover of trees or any other shade producing entity I could find. I was in for a sweaty week.

The Boardwalk

It didn’t take me long to get into the park. I proudly took out my Annual Pass, scanned my fingers in the biometric system, and there I was standing inside EPCOT. It felt great.

I made my way through the World Showcase while walking towards Future World. I walked pasted the U.K. and took a moment to admire the Winnie the Pooh topiary they had out front. I had missed this on my last trip and thought it was pretty damn cool looking.

Pooh at U.K.

I wanted to get over to The Land, grab a Fastpass for Soarin’, and take a ride right away. This was Disney World’s newest headliner attraction and I only had the opportunity to experience it twice on my last trip. Some more rides on this attraction were, definitely, in order.

The Land pavilion entrance was riddled with strollers and people waiting around. This building was certainly getting more attention now that it had the new attraction in it. I made my way down the stairs and grabbed a Soarin’ Fastpass that had a return time of 6:45 PM on it. It was just past 2 PM and I was surprised that there were any Fastpasses left for the day. It was just another example of how light the crowds were. After grabbing a pass, I went ahead and rode Soarin’ using an old Fastpass I had from my last trip. Again, it was a great experience and I wouldn’t be missing my other Fastpass return time before the end of the night.

The Land 1
The Land 2
Inside the Land!
It's Soarin

Next up, I really wanted to get over to The Living Seas pavilion as I had missed it on my last trip. I noticed a small line inside the front doors and, immediately, turned around as I knew I could walk right in just a little later in the day.

The Living Seas
It's Nemo!

I wanted to ride the Journey Into Your Imagination attraction one more time as I had such a bad taste in my mouth over the newest rehab. I just had to confirm the inane and cheap nature of this attraction by repeating the experience. Of course, after riding through it for the second time, my opinion had not changed. It was so sad how they had ruined this attraction. I found nothing on this ride that stood out or made my eyes open a bit wider. It was a time waster; plain and simple. I even thought it was funny that, for the second time, there were no more than 4 people in the loading area for the ride. No one really likes the thing and I really hope they do something about it. Disney could do so much better.

Journey 1
Journey 2
Journey 3

As I shook my head and walked away from the imagination pavilion, I started to really feel the need to get over to Future World East in order to ride Mission Space. I had only rode it twice on my last trip since my travel partner at the time, Sally, really didn’t like the way it made her feel. I had vowed to visit this attraction a couple more times on this trip since I was alone and I knew there would be no wait in the middle of this quiet afternoon.

Mission Space
Mission Space 2
MS Queue Area 1
MS Queue Area 2

My assumption over Mission Space was accurate. It was nearing 3:00 PM and there was only a 5 minute wait posted for the attraction. I went ahead and entered the themed queue area, which I never had the chance to even enjoy, and was immediately put onto the blue team. I stood in the back of the briefing room and took a small video of Gary Sinise’s spiel using my digicam. I wanted to video the entire odd experience of entering the space capsule so I could watch it later.

MS Pre Show

Surprisingly enough, the ride made me feel a bit nauseous and I had to take some slow deep breathes in order to gain my equilibrium back while I made my way out of the building. The diversions such as the space race game situated right before the obligatory exit area gift shop had never held my interest so I quickly made my way out into the relentless Florida sun.

Test Track, as usual, had a ridiculous standby wait time but the single rider line didn’t look bad at all. I took advantage of my solo status and was loaded onto a test vehicle in about 10 minutes. The ride kinda stunk because the sound wasn’t working in our car. We had no narration while making our way through the test facility. I never thought the absence of the narrative would cause everything, up until the speed loops, to become quite boring. After exiting the attraction, I had such a bad taste left in my mouth that I decided not to ride it again during my trip even though I had, at least, 4 Fastpasses for it.

Test Track

I really wanted to ride Mission Space more than once but I couldn’t. I was still feeling a bit off from the first ride. I had read in the unofficial guide to WDW that riding it on an empty stomach causes nausea as your blood sugar is low. I hadn’t eaten much at all and really didn’t feel the need to. Food would only slow me down anyways. Therefore, I made my way back over to The Living Seas pavilion in hopes of finally getting to tour it and the new attraction called Turtle Talk with Crush.

By this time, there was no line leading into The Living Seas. However, there was this idiot on one of those motorized carts running into every single turn in the queue area. Every time he would hit a wall; he would stop and back up and continue on. I just couldn’t understand what the heck was wrong with this guy. People behind me were laughing at him and I swear he was doing it on purpose because his wife was laughing too.

Shortly after the dude who was simply too lazy to walk his *** around the park held the entire line of people up trying to get into the pavilion, we were let into the pre-show theater. They gave people the choice of heading straight over to the “hydrolators” that lead into the main aquarium area but I chose to watch the movie as I had not been to The Living Seas in quite some time.

I always remembered the pre-show at The Seas to be quite dramatic as the narrator talked about the power of the ocean and how our world, basically, started with the oceans. Any show featuring the science behind the oceans is good in my book. The oceans are such a mysterious place and the pre-show was really getting me excited about touring the huge aquarium.

After the pre-show, they make you ride down to seabase alpha in the “hydrolators.” I find this whole deal to be a frustrating waste of time as you don’t go anywhere in the “hydrolators.” The doors close you in this small space with a bunch of other people, the floor shakes, and the doors on the other side open up into the aquarium. I’m not big on wasting time while at the world and this was a good spot to do it in. I should have just taken the “exit” door to the side of the loading area to bypass this part of the show but I decided to be a good sport.

I walked all around the aquarium and enjoyed hanging out by the manatee tank for quite some time. I always found these “sea cows” to be such peaceful creatures. Just watching them swim around in their huge tank eating lettuce soothed my soul. I thought about how much I needed one swimming around in my backyard for those stressful days. I could simply watch my sea cow and chill.

After my Zen moment with the manatees, I decided to check out Turtle Talk. I was a little worried that it would be too geared towards kids and that I wouldn’t like the show. On the other hand, Disney always seems to come up with things that surprise me in a positive manner so I kept an open mind as I found a seat in the small auditorium.

There was a cast member with a microphone helping people get seated and he told all the kids to be seated on the floor up front. In front of the audience, and very close to where the kids were seated, was a large high definition screen with what looked to be a small part of the ocean floor projected onto it. We all called for Crush to come out and he obliged by swimming out and up to the screen.

The entire show turned out to be one of the biggest highlights of my trip. I laughed and laughed at this goofy turtle saying, “DUUUDE” over and over. The way he swam around and interacted with the kids was pretty amazing. He continually called on kids by name and commented on exactly what they were wearing. This was definitely an innovative new attraction and a welcomed addition to The Living Seas. I can’t wait to go back and see the show again someday.

After my fun with Turtle Talk, I exited the pavilion and was quite anxious to make my way over to the front of the park where I could ride Spaceship Earth a couple of times. It was after 5:00 PM and you will never find a line for this attraction at this time. It wasn’t long before I was riding through the enormous geospehere and I decided to remain in my seat when it was time to exit so I could ride through it twice in a row. I took some videos of the ride with my digicam and, generally, just got lost in the whole thing as I usually do. Spaceship earth is hands-down one of the finest dark ride attractions ever conceived by man. You could argue that it is in need of an update but I find it just fine the way it is.

SpaceShip Earth Mural

I was pretty thirsty after my voyage through the history of communication and decided to walk all the way back into World Showcase in order to grab a pint of beer at the Crown & Royal Pub which is located within the U.K. pavilion.

U.K. Pavillion

I stood near the bar, enjoyed my ice cold pint of Harp lager, and watched the piano player in the bar perform some decent covers. One of his Ray Charles’ renditions wasn’t half bad so I tipped him. I was quite anxious over the fact that I had run of the park and I threw down the large beer down quickly. To say the least, I was feeling no pain as I headed back into Future World to find a bite to eat.

I headed over to The Land to check out the new counter service restaurants there. I had been previously warned by the Inside the Magic podcast that the new restaurants at the re-vamped pavilion were pretty lousy. I walked around and checked out the new menus which were displayed on flat panel displays above the service area. Nothing really looked good to me. Most importantly, none of the dishes looked even remotely looked like the pictures and there was hardly anyone eating the food there. What a sorry excuse for an updated food court it turned out to be. The Land used to be one of my favorite counter service stops at EPCOT and now they had turned it into a joke.

I left the entire pavilion feeling a bit uneasy about where I was going to find a meal. The only other large counter service area left in Future World was The Electric Umbrella and I didn’t think they would offer anything worth a damn. I was pretty much correct. My feet were tired and I was too lazy to continue my search for some palatable items. I caved and ordered the Roast Beef with provolone sub at The Electric Umbrella and ate it on the second floor while watching the Fountain of Nations put on its choreographed show.

Fountain of Nations 1
Fountain of Nations 2

Afterwards, I was sorry I had eaten this thing they called a sandwich. It was utterly awful but I shrugged off my negative feelings since I realized that I was at a theme park. Food is notoriously over-priced and less satisfying than some of the worst fast food establishments in theme parks. Disney really does a better job than most places and I couldn’t complain to myself for more than 5 or 10 minutes. I had better things to do on this wonderful day. I simply vowed to make wiser dining decisions throughout the remainder of my trip.

My Fastpass for Soarin’ was ripe so I headed back over to The Land to take a second ride. I’ve taken the ride on Soarin’ five times and was seated in the front row each and every time. That way, I wouldn’t see feet dangling in my field of view. On this visit, I had to request a seat up front. One of the cast members was happy to accommodate me since I was solo. This was one advantage to being alone in the parks. I was, usually, able to get seated quicker than most groups standing at the front of the loading area since cast members were eager to fill empty seats on all the ride vehicles.

It was now nearing 7:15 PM and I needed to make my way into the World Showcase in order to see the Illuminations show at 9:00 PM. Therefore, I made my way towards Norway since I wanted to take a ride on Maelstrom. Of course, there was no wait for the ride and I enjoyed it just as much as I always. Maelstrom was definitely one of my favorite boat ride attractions at Disney World. I only wish it was a bit longer.

On the Way out of Future World
Entrance to World Showcase

After slowly wandering around the World Showcase a bit, I figured I would grab a spot for Illuminations even though I had about an hour left until show time. I had seen and done everything I wanted to on that day and felt completely satisfied with my experience. Sitting around and resting my feet was a good plan at that point.

I wanted to be near the International Gateway when Illuminations ended so I could quickly exit the park without having to deal with EPCOT’s nightly cattle drive to the front of the park. It wasn’t long before I found a spot which seemed to offer an unobstructed view of the middle of the lagoon. The spot I choose was on the bridge connecting France to the International Gateway walkway and the U.K. I was literally 100 yards from the park exit. This was a winner.

My Illuminations Spot Near the I-Gateway and France

I only had a 45 minute wait until the show started so I took a seat on the pavement, rested my feet, and looked through the many pictures I had taken on my digicam throughout the course of the day. I was enjoying the cooler weather and music being piped into the area compliments of the park’s P.A. system. The vibe around me was a warm and pleasant one. Everyone seemed in good spirits during this gathering around the lagoon.

In front of and below me was a terrace closer to the water. It was roped off for a catered company event of sorts. I did some people watching as people filled the area below me to get their free food and drink. Everyone in the area had that typical fake grin plastered on their face as they schmoozed their way through the obligatory pleasantries found at all company parties. In that very moment, I felt victorious in the fact that I no longer had to endure such events. I was lucky enough to be running my own small business after years spent in the workforce; I now did things on my own terms. This microcosm of events that led to some simple self-discovery only lifted my spirits further as the sun went down over the lagoon. At that moment, I was completely happy and comfortable with myself even though I was hundreds of miles away from home with no one by my side. I would turn 30 years old this year and life had thrown enough harshness, pain, and unexpected events at me to allow myself to truly find out who I was. Furthermore, affording myself the opportunity to spend some quality alone time in a place that was firmly connected to some of my best childhood memories, told me one thing. I was no longer a lost soul trying to figure out what made him happy in this world. Simply put, everything I’ve always needed for happiness was, mainly, within me.

The Illuminations show only solidified my small life affirming experience. Everything from the birth of the Earth through fire to the arrival of and common bonds formed by humans of different cultures sat just right with me at that moment. The show ended with a fury of fire and blinding light; while people cheered the finale, I quietly slipped out of the park in less than 2 minutes time.

Illuminations - Earth From Fire
Illuminations - Celebration of Life
Illuminations - Glory
Illuminations - Finale with Photo Effect

The walk back to my car was an interesting one. I strolled down the boardwalk at night, watched a live comic perform with some kids near the water, and just took in the sights and sounds of the area. There was a small but steady breeze rushing over the stylized buildings on my left and out over Crescent Lake on my right. The neon lights adorning the boardwalk shops and restaurants reflected upon the water. The atmosphere was perfectly inviting but my feet and back were aching from my busy day which started almost 15 hours earlier. My meager digs at the Pop Century Resort would be a welcoming sight.

Boardwalk at Night - Flying Fish

I jumped into my rental car and headed for The Boardwalk exit. I didn’t, however, head directly back to my hotel. I took the Osceola Parkway to I-4 and exited 535 so I could stop at Walgreens for some sundries. I, first, headed into the Walgreen’s liquor store to pickup a couple pints of Foster’s Lager, a small bottle of Absolute Vanilla vodka, and some Starbuck’s coffee liquor. I loaded my bag full of vices into the rental and headed back into the main store for a couple boxes of granola bars (the perfect quick breakfast), some Fruit2O, Diet Coke, a bottle of milk for the White Russians, and a disposable cooler to store it all in. The last item was necessary since I was staying in a value resort at Disney. The moderate level resort I had stayed in three weeks ago came with an in room fridge. I already missed that fridge but would make due thanks to the freedom my rental car provided.

It wasn’t long before I was back at Pop. I lugged my large collection of goodies up the Rubik’s Cube staircase and entered my little Disney dorm room. I then put all my groceries down and headed to the ice machine to fill my cooler. Some ladies were at the machine doing the same thing and even mentioned to me that they were only missing beer and liquor. It looked as if I wasn’t the only one at Pop wanting to drink their tired feet into a coma-like sleep. Upon re-entering my room, the shower called my name and I spent some quality time rinsing the residue of perspiration off my body. I was surely enjoying the light crowds but the heat was insanity. I was sweating too much to be comfortable in the weather I was experiencing. The only thing that made it all bearable was my spray-on sunscreen and the little washcloth rag I kept with me at all times to dab off the beads of sweat which adorned my forehead.

Arriving back at Pop - Night Shot

Before I jumped in bed, I opened the wall-safe and got out my small laptop. I turned on a Mouspod podcast while I brushed my teeth and got ready for bed. I had a White Russian, typed up some trip report notes in bed, and enjoyed the Mousepod show before dialing up a 7:15 AM wake up call on the hotel phone. The next day was my Magic Kingdom day and I wanted to be there for the morning rope drop.

The bed at Pop wasn’t too comfortable but proved adequate. I didn’t need to be in the lap of luxury while traveling alone. Just the basics would do and this was exactly what Pop offered. It wasn’t long before I drifted off into a deep sleep. My first SOLO day at the world had ended. I was smiling inside.
~*~Jeff From Houston~*~
Founder of The Disney Podcast Network
Host of The Meandering Mouse Podcast

Last edited by crazyj4488; 06-12-2005 at 07:41 AM.
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Old 06-08-2005, 10:07 AM   #2
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Old 06-08-2005, 10:09 AM   #3
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Glad you enjoyed it...thanks for the feedback!

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Old 06-08-2005, 10:11 AM   #4
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I felt like I was there. Can't wait for the next day.
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Old 06-08-2005, 11:49 AM   #5
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Wow, you really wrote a long first day! I crack up over some of the things you do. Not to be noisy, but you talked about your travel companion, wasn't she your girlfriend-Sally when you went 3 weeks ago.

Thanks for posting your trip report again, it has sort of been slow on the Trip Reports Board-noone must have the time to do them.
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Old 06-08-2005, 02:37 PM   #6
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One of the most enjoyable and informative trip reports I've read in a long while. Very well written. Loved each detail. Photos are GREAT! I couldn't help but think that your mother must be so proud of you! Loved relating to the solo traveler....that would be awesome. I spent a week in June last year at Disney while my daughter attended a dance workshop. We stayed at Pop Century with a nice rental car so that I could ferry her back and forth on I-4. I adored the time by myself in the park. With only 1, it was easy to fit myself into rides, shows and meals. Can't wait to read/view your next installment. P.S. Loved your use of tech equipment. Made me want a mini ipod!
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Old 06-08-2005, 04:23 PM   #7
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Welcome back, Jeff.

Okay, time to talk about that Illuminations spot you picked out. That's the spot where my family and I sat during our May trip, except we were on the concrete landing in front where you were seeing that corporate event.

Though we liked the spot because it gave us quick access out to International Gateway, we found that we couldn't really see the pictures on the Earth and felt that we missed part of it as Earth rolled down. Did you find this as well?

I was a bit disappointed that UG and Tour Guide Mike never pointed this fact out.

If you could pick the ideal spot to sit for Illuminations WITHOUT having to eat a meal to sit, where would it be?
Off to neverland...

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Old 06-08-2005, 05:16 PM   #8
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Absolutely FANTASTIC!!!!! I really enjoyed reading your trip report.
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Old 06-08-2005, 05:20 PM   #9
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Way cool! That was a greta trip report and very nicely written and great pics! I am sooooooo jealous! I would love to have a solo trip but my wife continues to nix the idea! Thanks for posting. It made me feel like I was on the trip intead of you. Thanks!
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Old 06-08-2005, 05:32 PM   #10
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Yes, some of the details are hard to see on the far side of the lagoon. However, you kind of have to make a trade-off....massive crowd cattle drive versus peaceful walk. I found that spot by the I-gateway to be pretty nice...better than the one I had in front of Norway in April.

The best spot I noticed during my last trip as I, basically, moved around half of the lagoon while the show was live was near Canada. There were plenty of spots available in that area and the scenes were even easy to see behind someone standing at the railing. The show was so close from that vantage point, I swear you could singe the hair of your arms during the massive fire elements.

Thanks for the positive feedback....Piglet, I'm glad you got to have the SOLO experience while your daughter was doing her thing down there in Orlando. It's really a specia experience being alone with your thoughts and feelings while touring the parks...it really gives you a whole other perspective.

Last, the ipod was a really cool thing to have with you in the parks. I don't think it would be very nice to use around someone else but I found it to be great while out there alone. I was riding Mission Space at Midnight during my last trip while my Ipod was jammin in my ears...pretty cool stuff. It definately kept me company at times.

And yes, that last report with Sally was mine...same Sally as mentioned here....she rox and was quite the trooper on our trip

Anyways, I'll try to get the rest of the reports done ASAP. Some really interesting things happened to me while I was out there...the first day was pretty basic.

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Old 06-08-2005, 06:12 PM   #11
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I have been waiting for your report! Can't wait to make my first Solo trip (methinks February!).
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Old 06-08-2005, 06:31 PM   #12
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If you can get down there for a Solo trip in Feb, you will have a really interesting experience. I loved it. I did catch myself talking to myself a couple of times towards the end of the trip...LAFF It was usually when I came across someone rude or saw something a bit off-color....I'd be like, "what the hell are / were they thinking???!?!"

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Old 06-08-2005, 10:21 PM   #13
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Hey J. sounds like you had a great 1st day. Can't wait to read the rest of your reports. Sorry I missed you at Jelly Rolls on the Tuesday night. I am looking forward to my 1st completely solo trip in May 2006 I hope????

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Old 06-09-2005, 02:25 AM   #14
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Yeah, I got sidetracked that night. After I saw WISHES, my Sister phoned me from Austin as I was walking back to the CR. She's a doctor searching for a different job and needed me to help write her a cover letter for an available position. Doctor's are very focused and busy people who don't find the time to develop their writing skills so I was glad to help out. I went back to POP that night and spent almost 2 hours writing the letter for her while I sipped on some cocktails. I was pretty beat anyhow.

I just heard that she may get the job!!! Yes, I missed Jellyrolls with some DISers but it was for a worthy cause. Hope u all had a crazy fun time!

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Old 06-09-2005, 07:49 AM   #15
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Your version of a white russian with vanilla vodka and starbucks sounds really good. I'll have try that.
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