Clan M Goes Back For More The Cast: Me - Geoff_M, age 36, 7th trip Mrs. M - Diane, age 35, 4th trip Daughter - Kristina, age 9, 2nd trip Son #1 - Charles, age before 6, age after 7, 2nd trip Son #2 - Steven, age 19 months, 2nd trip Cameos by: My Sister - Sally, age 28 Her Boyfriend - Tom, age ?? Duration: 6 days (1/1/01 to 1/6/01) Stayed On-Site at Wilderness Lodge It Started With A Trip To the Zoo --- Clan M made its first trek to WDW in January of 2000. It was a great trip. We spent 8 days there in the quiet of late January. We went everywhere, saw everything, did everything. Most rides had little or no lines. We walked on Dumbo twice in a row! Due to the length of our stay we saved money on admissions by buying Annual Passes (AP), and got a nice AP discount at Port Orleans to boot. When we went home, we were mentally prepared to let the APs gather dust and expire... RRRRIGHT! In late summer we started to go through Disney withdraw. My wife Diane got a free rental of a Disney sing-a-long video that was filmed at Animal Kingdom (AK). After we watched it, Kristina and Charles said "Please don't show us that again. It makes us sad!" The final straw was a trip to our local zoo on Labor Day week-end. The zoo has a large new African section that opened in 1999. They consulted extensively with Disney in the planning stage. It REALLY shows. Though not nearly as detailed and grand as AK, the influence is evident. As we walked, my wife and I remarked about the things there that reminded us of Disney. The next thing you know we were "what if-ing" another trip to WDW. Last year Diane was on maternity leave from her teaching job with Steven. We couldn't bare the thought of going during the Christmas mad-house or the heat of the summer. My wife perked up we when she realized that she didn't have to go back to school under January 8th while a lot of other schools were starting back up right after New Year's. We ended it with "Well, if we can find some cheap air fare, maybe we can pull it off." We fired up the PC after we got back from the zoo and put the kids in bed. We live in SW Michigan. So we checked flights for Detroit, Chicago, South Bend, Fort Wayne, Grand Rapids, and Indianapolis. They were all pretty pricey... except Indy. Delta was offering non-stop service to Orlando for $153 round trip (plus 1/2 price for Steven with his car seat). Bingo! We picked January 1st to fly down in order to miss the Christmas mess and chose a January 6th return to allow an extra day for travel problems before school started. We'd drive down to Indy the night before our flight (New Year's Eve) and stay at a hotel, get up bright and early, catch the 8 AM flight, and be in the Magic Kingdom by 1 PM. Where To Stay? --- We stayed at Port Orleans in 2000. We really liked it. Our room was in Building 5, ground floor, with a walk out to the pool. At first we thought we'd return there. Then we realized that since this was the last time we'd all fit in one Disney room (Steven is 1 1/2 years old) at most hotels, we opted for a deluxe resort. Our research landed us at Wilderness Lodge (WL). We held our breath for the announcement of AP rates for WL. At first it didn't look like they were going to offer them and we'd have to take a financial hit, but they finally were published and we snagged one. 12/31/2000 Off We Go --- December 30th I packed the van (it's a "guy thing"). We weren't sure if we were going to leave home the night of the 30th or the morning of the 31st. My parents live not too far from Indy, so we could have flopped there had we left on the 30th. In November and December of 2000, we received 82 inches of snow in SW Michigan. It snowed on the 30th and, not wanting to drive on snowy roads at night, I decided to wait until the next morning to start the grand adventure. Diane was very disappointed. But we realized we'd made the right call when we saw all the fresh signs of cars that went off of I-94 the night before as we drove in the sunlight of the next morning. We listed to the WDW Millenium CD and the 2000 WDW park CD on the way down I-94 and I-69. We took our time getting to Indy. We weren't in a hurry, and I'm glad we weren't. About 30 minutes south of the Indiana state line I saw a sea of brake lights in front of me. There was a bad accident about Ã‚Â¼ mile up from where we stopped. The state troopers had the south-bound lanes closed. We found out why about 5 minutes later when a med-evac helicopter appeared and landed on the road just after vehicles' resting place. We were stopped for about 45 minutes before we got moving again. It gave me time to think about how lucky we were and how small my problems were. We stopped at my parents for a late lunch/early supper and then drove to our hotel in Indy around dark and checked in. We had hoped to swim there, but discovered the pool was outdoors and ice covered... oh well. I'll never forget the time I heard a comedian comment that hotel rooms only have two settings on their thermostats: "penguin habitat", and "hatching baby chicks". I opened the door and it was definitely set to "chicks". The heat was cranked to about 85 degrees. We cooled the room off and after a short time decided to try and get a good night's sleep since the alarm was set for 5 AM. I said "try" and get a good night's sleep because we failed. This was New Year's Eve. Now I didn't expect a nice and quiet hotel. But we got more than we bargained for. The locals were having a bash down at the other end of the hotel. But their idea of a New Year's celebration was to rent a room at the hotel, leave their kids in the room unsupervised, while mom and dad go boogie down till 2 AM. We had three out-of- control kids ages 7-12 (from our guess) in the adjoining room and more across the hall. We had bed jumping, TV audio (they seemed to preferred the Cartoon Network), rap music, chasing, yelling, crying, etc. until 2 AM. Every now and then "mom" would check on them for a minute, tell them "Now, behave!", and then take off again. Diane wanted me to complain, but in my opinion there wasn't much actionable that was going to happen. "Besides", I'm sure they'd say "it's New Year's Eve!" Steven, the baby, was the first to drop off. Charles was second not too long after. The oldest finally nodded off around 10 PM. Diane was out around 11 PM. How'd I know? I couldn't get to sleep until the noise stopped and only clocked about 3 hours sleep. Not how I wanted to start the trip.