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 01/01/2001 Getting There's Half The Fun --- We booked our flight on Delta back in September before the Delta pilot job "non"-action of late 2000 started. Our flight was to depart Indianapolis at 8 AM on Jan 1. I checked the flight status the night before and all was "go". We awoke at 5 AM in our Indy hotel room, packed the car (I admit I wasn't too careful about being quiet for our good neighbors!), and I called the Delta automated info line (the # I know by heart now 800-325-1999) again at 6 AM. I was told the flight was cancelled due to "crew unavailability". Luckily I had installed the "Expedia To Go" AvantGo channel on the Palm Pilot and saw that ATA had a flight due to leave at approximately the same time. I called ATA and they said there was still room, but Delta would have to put us on that flight. We raced to the airport, got there 60 minutes before the scheduled departure and found long lines at both the Delta and ATA desks. We stood there some time and moved very little when a Delta agent came from behind the counter and asked for "Orlando passengers". When she got to us she took our tickets and went behind the counter, returned, and said we were booked on the ATA flight. "Great, so we need to get in the ATA line???" I said. "No, you need to wait in our line to have your tickets revalidated so ATA can except them" she replied. So, we waited... and waited. About 15 minutes before the ATA flight was due to depart, someone behind the Delta counter got a brainstorm. The "revalidataion" was merely a rubber stamp. So an agent came out and went down the line stamping the tickets of those people waiting for the ATA flight. WHAT A CONCEPT!!! Off we rushed to the end of the ATA line. They started calling for waiting Orlando passengers to come foreward. We did and were then told "No, we're only taking ATA passengers now!" Fair enough, their people come first. At T-minus 5 minutes they finally call for "Delta people". I was told, due to time limits, we can't have seat assignments, we can't be sure our luggage will make it, we can't be sure the plane will still be there. "Great, we'll take it!!!", I said. The 1000 meter sprint to the gate commenced, we had some fun at the security check point for kicks, and arrived at the gate area... only to literally have it shut in our faces with 10 yards left. We knocked on the glass door, and an ATA gate agent appeared over my shoulder. I showed him our tickets. He said "Sorry, you're not on ATA. We're not taking any more Delta flyers." I said "Is the plane full?" He said, in a rather annoyed manner "No! But Delta sent you down here too late!" Diane doesn't remember it, but there were tears in her eyes. The next Indy flight to Orlando didn't leave for another 7 hours... if it wasn't cancelled too! Let me pause here for a second and say, on one small level, I can understand where the guy was coming from. I know "on time %" is the yardstick by which airlines are measured, and Delta could have handled the situation better, BUT this guy was out of line telling frantic families with children "Tough toe nails!" Then someone who looked like a pilot came out of the jetway and walked to the gate counter and talked to the "jerk". Whereby I heard the following conversation: ATA Captain: "Sure, let them on." ATA "Jerk": "But you're already late." Captain: "No problem, we'll still get there within the window." ATA "Jerk" (In a "If I gotta!" tone): "Well... it's your call!" Captain: "Let them on." I then interjected a strong "Thank You" to the Captain. My family and several others were then allowed to board. Diane (she still doesn't remember it!) cried harder at the news. It was pure tension release. On board it was announced that there was a special passenger aboard. A small girl named "Alexandra" was going to Disney World as part of a "Make a Wish" trip. That sure put our problems in proper perspective. A Boy Named Joseph - This was the third time Clan M had taken to the air as part of a vacation, and we still had yet to sit together on a plane. Last year Delta lost our seat assignments on both legs and we were scattered (except for Mom and Baby) throughout the aircraft. Kristina and Charles are EXTREME extroverts, unlike Mom and Dad. They love to pick out complete strangers and talk their ears off. Their favorite targets seems to be young childless couples who appear to be on romantic outings. Their new "friends" don't seem to mind, but we tell them "Feel free to tell to our kids to "buzz off'." Diane parked Kristina in the first open seats she could find. Kristina sat next to a 12 year old boy named "Clay". He at first seemed annoyed that a 9 year old girl was next to him. But later they were best friends sharing information about Disney and Game Boy cartridges. I parked Charles was next to a retired couple from Florida who had spent Christmas with their kids and grand kids in Indianapolis. He started "chirping" as usual about the last trip to Disney, school, how his sister was a "creep" at times, tried to show them how to play with a Game Boy, etc. etc. They ate it up. The plane was on of ATA's L-1011 "cattle haulers". I prefer aisle seating and looked for what would work best. I spotted a truncated row of two seats in front of middle door of the plane and next to the galley. In the window seat was a small boy and the seat next to him was open. I asked him if the other seat was taken and he said "No". We did a quick introduction and he said his name was Joseph. In the New Testament, Romans 8:28 tells us that everything happens for some good, and if there was a reason we had to go through the mess we did at the airport that morning, I'm convinced Joseph was it. He was pretty shy at first. I asked if his family was also on the plane. Turns out he was an unaccompanied minor flying home to Florida from a Christmas visit with his biological father in Illinois. He didn't seem too wild about being on the plane and I'm sure his was also thinking about a lot of the things that go through the mind of a child of divorced parents while being shuttled. He started to open up and showed me his Game Boy and the cartridges he owned. I asked how old he was and he said he was in 1st grade. I then got an idea. Charles is in 1st Grade too. He also had his Game Boy with a different set of games than Joseph. I asked Joseph if he'd like to swap games for the flight with my son Charles. He said "Yes", and then I decided to take it one set further. I traded seats with Charles. Charles and Joseph had an absolute blast together. They were both the same age. They both loved their Game Boys. Charles shared his snacks we packed for him and introduced Joseph to Pop Rocks. By the time we landed, Joseph was a different kid. He thanked me for letting him play with Charles. The flight attendants, who were in charge of his well being, thanked me too. What a difference in feelings two hours make! In Chadland (sorry couldn't let it pass) --- By luck, and a further delayed departure, all of our luggage made it safely. We went to National's Emerald Aisle for our car. Last time we had a car that didn't fit all of our luggage. Our cooler and stroller had to be thrown in the back seat, much to the complaints of our kids. This time I found a nice full sized car and in no time all our stuff was in the trunk and we were buckled up. That's when I spotted the "Welcome L. Kenny" sign on the dash. Nuts, I went over one aisle too far. (L. Kenny, if you read this... Sorry about that!). We quickly and sheepishly bailed out and moved back into our proper area. I picked out an Oldsmobile Intrigue since it was the largest car there... and what the hey, Oldsmobile's about to become extinct. I was almost able to get everything in the trunk again, except Kristina was blessed with a cooler in her lap. We were on the Florida Greenway about one hour later than we planned to be, but it was a miracle we were there. Had we been barred from the ATA flight we'd still have been sitting in the Indy airport with at least 3 more hours of waiting time to go. On the way to Wilderness Lodge (WL) we stopped at a Burger King for the last reasonably priced food we'd see in long time. We also stopped at the nearby Publix for our in-room breakfast items and snacks. At Last --- We pulled into WL around 1:30 PM. We booked the resort having never seen it in person before. It was incredible. The detailing and theming is fantastic. It was decorated for Christmas to boot. There was garland around all the railings and a 50 foot Christmas tree in the center with teepee shaped lights. Charles said he "Liked the Indian stuff". We must have been upgraded big time... without even asking. Our reservation was for "standard view" so, since we didn't fax in a request like last time, we were prepared for "parking lot city". We were given room 3002. Imagine our surprise when we found it was on the end of the wing, faced Bay Lake, we could see the "geyser" and boat dock. Cool! "And Now For Something Completely Different" --- Let me pause for a second here and explain something. When we visited "The World" for eight days in January, 2000 we did a "commando" tour of WDW. It was a great success. We knew going into this trip that it would be different. We'd concentrate on things we liked last time, or the few things we wished we'd done the first time. So if our plans seems a bit out of whack or unorthodox, that's the reason. We quickly unpacked and headed for the Magic Kingdom (MK). We arrived in the midst of the "Magical Moments" parade. Diane was on a mission. Steven was 15 months old when we planned the trip and we decided to hold off and have his first haircut at Disney. "Fluffy", as we often called him, was about to get his first trim. We hoped people would be distracted by the parade and there wouldn't be a line at the barber shop. We walked up the right hand sidewalk as the parade finished and cut across after it ended to the left hand alley. It worked. The place was empty. Michal was the barber who took Steven. We explained it was his first cut. Michal took a couple of minutes and talked to Steven as he stood in front of the chair. Diane assumed she'd have to hold him in the chair. But Michal produced a strip of Mickey stickers and motioned to him that Steven could have them if he sat in barber's chair. Steven jumped at the offer. He spent most of the haircut plastering Mickey stickers all over the front of himself while Michal snipped away. He saved most of the clippings for Mom, gave Steven the customary "1st Haircut" mouse ears, and a certificate. We agreed that we couldn't play favorites and also let Kristina and Charles have a turn too. So Michal gave them cuts next while Steven wanted desperately back up into that chair. Michal treated the older kids to a shower of pixie dust in their hair to top things off. By the time we got done, there was a nice line waiting for the two chairs. For our first trip we got to WDW late and the whole family (except Steven) tossed and turned with excitement all night in anticipation of heading to the parks. This time it was much better going to the parks on the first day there. That "park fix" needs to be heeded. We next headed to Pirates of the Caribbean. It was the first test of Steven's reaction to MK amusements. Last time he was eight months old. He slept through a lot, nursed through a lot, and was perfectly content to sit in a stroller all day. Not this time. Preferred to walk a lot ("Thank you very much!") and had some problems adjusting to the concept of ride queues. "Mom and Dad, why wait? There's plenty of room down here between peoples' legs. I can see the boat from here! I'll just go ahead and you can catch up!" We had 5:15 priority seating at Liberty Tree Tavern. It was one of the few character meals we didn't do last time around. There was one thing we were curious to see... Steven's reaction to the Disney characters. Last time at 8 months old he thought they were just fine. Juvenile problems with large furry animals at amusement parks run in my family. My sister almost had to be sedated after encounters with Baloo and Pluto when she was 6! My parents still have the wonderful blackmail photos from the incident. At the time I did what any natural older brother would have done... doubled over in laughter! In the waiting area Steven had a bad case of "happy feet" and we decided to let him wander. He was all over the place, until he spotted Dale about 20 feet away. He was entranced. He really studied the overgrown chipmunk for some time. Our name was shortly called and we sat down to a great family style meal of marinated flank steak, smoked ham, turkey, yeast rolls, mashed potatoes, and such. After only eating some doughnuts in the hotel room in Indy at 5 AM, a quick lunch at the BK Lounge, this "real food" really hit the spot. Then it happened. Dale (or was it Chip?) came up to our table. The older kids had their pens and papers ready for the autographs. As Dale moved towards Steven he shrieked and leaned as far towards Diane as the highchair would permit. I, upholding family tradition, took photos of the whole event. Dale beat a hasty retreat after all attempts to convince Steven that he wasn't a child-killing rodent failed. As if that wasn't traumatic enough, a short time later Minnie showed up. Unfortunately for her, before we could warn her she approached from Steven's backside and appeared to him out of nowhere over his shoulder. Absolute terror, and more blackmail photos, were the result. Lest you think we're horrible parents, we never thrust him at characters for effect, and spent the rest of our time at WDW trying to convince Steven that "they were our friends!" After dinner, we stepped outside less than 30 minutes before the start of the Main Street Electrical Parade (MSEP). The ropes were up and there was plenty of front row seating available so we grabbed some concrete. It was great. We had better seats this time than the previous two times we'd seen MSEP. The kids loved it, Steven included... expect for when Pinocchio and Geppetto came down the rope line and tried to shake his hand. Steven, sitting in his stroller, started to hold out his hand and then did a "Oh, no! It's one of THEM!!!", arched his back and flopped backwards into the security of back of the stroller. After MSEP we decided to hit Fantasyland figuring that the crowd would be headed to the front side of Cindy's castle in preparation for the "Fantasy in the Sky" fireworks. We pretty much walked on Winnie the Pooh's Adventure and then did It's A Small World. Small World was on our hit list because it was in rehab the last time we visited and the kids had never seen it. It was one of their highlights of the day. It was quickly apparent that Steven LOVES boat rides based on his reaction. He "sang" along with the orb headed occupants of the ride. We exited Small World minutes before the fireworks. We went through the castle and tried for a good view out front. However the path was blocked by people about 50 feet out front. We were right under Tinkerbell for her flight, but soon realized we couldn't see the fireworks. I motioned for a retreat back under the castle and there was plenty of viewing space on the backside. So we watched the show from there. Actually I liked the view of the fireworks better back there. You are a lot closer. After the park closed we took the boat back to WL and started to settle in. The kids had their PJ's on and Charles was almost passed out from the long day when I heard music outside. After a few seconds I said "Kids, come here!" We opened the curtains and slider and went out on the porch to watch the Electrical Water Pageant just off the shore from WL. After that we all crashed. It was an excellent day, especially considering how it started.