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 01/03/2001 - America, Finally & Mind Your Hats! Wednesday was Epcot day for Clan M. Epcot runs neck-n-neck with MK as our favorite park. We woke up at 7:00 AM and ate breakfast in our room. Before we took off for the park, we had one more thing to do. Right after we checked into WL we moved down the counter and signed up to be "Flag Family". Wednesday was open, so we snagged it. This was something we wanted to do for a number of reasons, not the least being that I am a Scoutmaster and Charles just started his first year as a Tiger Cub. We were told to report to the Guest Services desk at 8:30 AM and we rolled in right on time. CM Darlene was to be our escort for the flag raising. We took the elevator to the seventh floor where Darlene had us look over the railing down into the hotel lobby as she gave us a quick visual tour of the lodge. I was surprised that the only wooden components of the lodge are the totem poles. All the rest of the exposed "wood" is actually Gunnite. The same stuff used to line many swimming pools. It makes sense when you think about it, extensive use of wood would make WL a tinderbox in the event of a fire. We then ascended a staircase behind a door marked "Cast Members Only" and popped out into the lobby on a high balcony with more stairs that let up to Level 9 Ã‚Â½. There a door opened up to the roof access stairs. Up top had a fantastic view. Darlene pointed out that we could see every theme park from the roof. Visible was all of MK, Epcot's Spaceship Earth, MGM's Tower of Terror, and AK's Tree of Life. Only the Contemporary Resort has a higher vantagepoint, and only by a couple of floors. Darlene showed us the Disney way to raise the colors, which was a bit different than the "scout" method. You first attached both flag eyelets before you raise any of the flag. First we raised the U.S. Flag on the middle staff (educational moment: They're not "masts". You only raise flags on masts on boats!). Then we raised the Florida State flag on one side of the U.S. Flag, followed by a flag with the Disney logo on the other. Finally we had a boys vs. girls contest to raise matching WL flags on the outer two staffs. I'm happy to report the two scouts won easily. Darlene gave us a certificate commemorating the event and we headed back down. Darlene was great to work with. She complimented us on how well we did and commented that it was obvious I had run a few flags up and down a pole a couple of times beforehand. Diane heard that the flag raising at WL usually takes under 30 minutes. By the time we parted company, Darlene spent over 45 minutes with us. She also showed us the three hidden Mickeys in the WL fireplace chimney. We loaded up into the car and headed for Ecpot. We got there around 9:45 AM. Test Track was the Epcot highlight for Kristina and Charles last time, so that was the first order of business. By the time we got there the stand-by line was about 30 minutes. So we did what worked last time, I grabbed FastPasses for later and then Kristina, Charles, and I hopped in the singles line while Diane and Steven waited at the exit. We were in the "briefing room" in about 2 minutes. However, they didn't start the pre-show for about 8 minutes after we were let in. There was a family group of about 3 adults and 2 teenagers in with us that oozed bad vibes. The teen daughter started complaining that the show wasn't starting and then demonstrated that you could cause the briefing room entrance door to open by pushing outwards on it. She then did it a couple of times to the exit door and said "Let's blow off the video" and encouraged her family to follow her out of the room. They followed and the rest of us (about 6 people) stayed put. I smirked as they were "shooed" back inside by a CM and told to wait for the video. The mom then spent the next 3 minutes repeatedly leaning against the entrance door and popping them open to entertain herself while her family killed the time by interjecting gripes. Man, was I glad to get away from those people! The video rolled and we were in the Test Track cars in little time. It was just as fun as we remembered it. On the way out we ran into one of the lesser known Disney characters, "Lumpy" the crash test dummy, and got his autograph. Since we had FastPasses for early afternoon, Diane didn't baby swap with me. Next we spent some time shopping at one of Diane's favorite WDW stores; MouseGear. The opening of World Showcase was approaching so we moved to the back of Future World. As we did the Character Bus pulled up. We went nuts on autographs in 2000, so we mainly concentrated on bagging new ones. We spotted several ones we didn't have and added Daisy Duck, Mushu, and Alice. Our only real Epcot disappointment last year was that we didn't get to see The American Experience. We tried several times, but either our timing was off or it was closed due to technical problems. So we boarded one of the boats and headed to the American pavilion. We caught the first show and enjoyed it, except for Steven. He fussed a bit (there was no boat ride to entertain him) and then went to sleep. We took the kids to a teppan restaurant in Chicago last year and they got a kick out of it, so we made PS arrangements for lunch at Teppanyaki in Japan. At first we couldn't find it in the Japanese pavilion. We had to ask inside the department store for directions. What they don't tell you is that Teppanyaki is really part of the Yakitori House restaurant. Our lunch was delicious. Diane and I had the steak and shrimp while Kristina and Charles had the shrimp kids lunch. Steven slept through part of lunch, and then nibbled on the meal we ordered him after he awoke. When we got done with lunch we headed back to Test Track to use our FastPasses. Diane took the older two kids while Steven and I waited in the auto display area. Steven had lots of fun playing behind the wheel of a $40K Cadillac as we waited. Some time later Diane and the kids emerged, only to say the ride broke down as they were just leaving the loading area. They waited some time before the CM's told them the ride would be down for a while and asked them to exit. They since they actually were in a car when it broke down they received "go to the front of the line" cards. Next we crossed over to Journey Into Your Imagination. The line was very short and we got on in no time. The ride was fun. Kristina and Charles really like the upside-down room (Charles always snickers at the flushing toilet) and Steven didn't mind the darkness and loud train noise, as we feared he might. We then spent some time in the Image Works where the kids liked the "direct your own music" stations. I was on a personal mission this trip. Last year Epcot ate two of our kids' hats. I was determined that it would not happen again. Charles lost his (with Guest of Honor badge attached) at Image Works and Steven lost his (with his badge) within a couple hours of our departure. Disney has an efficient "lost and found" system... a little TOO efficient. I learned last year that lost items found by CMs are quickly whisked to a central location in each park and then, in short order, transferred to the central WDW "lost and found" HQ... or so Guest Relations told me. WDW central L&F ought to be called "The Black Hole". I know there are stories about how they have been able to produce the most obscure item and return it to its owner, often times mailed to them after they reach home. But I went to file a report for each hat (hey, there were nice hats and had GOH badges to boot!) and was told "You can file a report, but do you have any idea how many hats on average we find here each day???" True, but how many have large plastic badges with my kids' names on them? Needless to say, neither hat emerged again. So this time I was determined that no possession of ours would get quickly sucked into the "Black Hole" of WDW. From there we went to The Land. Diane pointed out we hadn't eaten any Mickey bars yet so we took a snack break and ordered some (I opted for a hot fudge sundae). Kristina really liked The Land last time and we even took the "Behind The Seeds" tour in 2000. So we did the boat ride, much to Steven's pleasure. He cried as we were near the front of the line and saw a boat depart without us. He spent a good deal of the ride peering over our back row seat into the water. As we left The Land we saw the stilt walkers come down the path. They stopped in front of The Land and put on a small show in front of us. We saw them briefly in 2000, but this time we stayed for the 5-minute performance. Spaceship Earth was next. Another Epcot "must". Kristina and Charles rode in their own car and Diane, Steven and I took another. Steven liked the ride, but was a little concerned when we started to go down backwards at the end of the ride. That's actually my favorite part. I find it the most relaxing part of Epcot. Watching those lights in the dark in a reclined position almost puts me to sleep every time. For supper we had PS arrangements for Cape May in the Beach Club next to Epcot. We squirted out of the International Gateway and made the 5 minute walk to the Beach Club. If you like seafood this buffet is for you. Diane and I ate lots of clam chowder, steamed clams, and peel-n-eat shrimp. The older kids had fried shrimp, corn on the cob (Kristina's favorite!). Steven ate chicken fingers and mac-n-cheese. Our waiter was great. Steven decided he was done rather quickly and wanted out of there. Our waiter, I can't remember his name, talked to Steven to entertain him and even spoon-fed him some mac-n-cheese. Needless to say, a nice tip was left. We had some time to kill before the Tapestry of Nations parade (ToN) started so we ducked into Canada to see the O Canada! film. This was another one we missed last year. It became apparent that we had played our WDW 2000 CD perhaps a bit too much when I looked over at Charles towards the end of the film and saw him singing along with the O Canada! lyrics. Not just the chorus, but the whole thing. How many almost-7 year olds can do that? We left Canada and moved to take up position for the ToN parade. ToN was one of the highlights of our last trip and were very happy to hear that they had officially extended it into 2001 and we'd get to see it again. Last time Steven positively "freaked out" (in the good sense) at ToN. He danced in his stroller, clapped, squealed, smiled, waved, you name it. Kristina and Charles learned how to get the puppets attention and got to shake they hands a lot. We moved to the gate between Morocco and Japan so we could "watch the parade twice" as one departed and the other arrived at the gate. The crowd wasn't bad at all. We took our seats about 10 minutes before it started and there was plenty of room. The lights dimmed and the music started. As it did, the hair stood up on the pack of my neck. ToN was as grand as we'd remembered it, though Steven was more subdued this time around. I think he mentally put the puppets in the category of "those big things that I'm not too sure about". As the ToN music faded, we swung around to face the water for Illuminations 2000 (2001?). I liked it the last time around, but wasn't "wild" about it. But after returning home last time I came to really like the musical score by listening to the Millenium CD. It seemed a lot better to me this time around as a result. Kristina and Charles love anything that explodes, it was "way cool" to them. Alas, poor Steven. He fell asleep right after ToN and slept through the fireworks. As we started to exit World Showcase, we remembered that Test Track was scheduled to remain one more hour. We knew the lines would be jammed, but we still had the "go to the front of the line" passes. So I took the sleeping Steven in the stroller and found a "quiet" area in the GM exhibit area while Diane and older two went for their ride. I baby swapped and the three of us went again. "We don't live here no more!" Finally, we headed back to the car and drove back to WL and arrived around 11 PM. I dropped Diane and the three kids off at the front door and parked the car. I walked solo back to our room and found Diane and three kids (one asleep, and two listing heavily) standing in the hall outside our room. Diane looked rather impatient. For a second I thought it was something I did, or didn't do. She said "My key won't work!" So I tried mine. It didn't work either. So we all trudged down to the lobby. The woman in line in front of me couldn't get her key to work either. So I thought perhaps they were having system problems with the electronic keys. When a desk CM was available I told her our name, problem, and my theory. She said there had been a couple of people down that evening with similar problems, so it was possible. She asked us our room number and I said "3002". She punched it into the terminal... and then got a puzzled look. She said "The system says there's no one in that room." She then punched up some more information and said "Hmmm, I show you in a different room! Please wait a minute, there's a note here that I need to get a manager." Oh, boy! This didn't sound good. All sorts of scenarios where whipping through my mind. A couple of minutes later the manager, Jimm, appeared. He apologized and informed us that our room had to be taken out of service for repairs and we were moved to another room. I thought he meant we would have to move our belongings to another room right then and there with a sleeping baby and two bushed kids and the clock approaching midnight. If so, he had better utter the phrase "concierge level" in the sentence telling us where our new room was located or I was going to get rather hot! But he said the hotel staff had already moved all of our stuff to our new room. At least we didn't have to pack and move at midnight. However the thought of the hotel staff moving our stuff was a little unsettling too. Jimm told me he needed to escort me to our "old room" so I could get my things out of the room safe. On the way up he explained that a couple of weeks earlier someone in a room a couple floors above the room had returned late at night, drunk, and tried to hang his wet clothes on the fire sprinkler. That set off the sprinkler and proceeded to trigger a nice little flood. Our room was apparently water damaged, though we didn't notice anything wrong. I asked on the way back if we could get some "consideration" for the hassle of the late night room shuffle. He said he'd knock X dollars off our bill, and I said "OK". I was afraid our new room would have a terrible view after the great lake view we had in 3002. But it was pretty nice. Fifth floor overlooking the pool. I decided the cash was better than the concierge level anyway. We were pleasantly surprised to find that the hotel staff had taken great care to relocate almost everything of ours in the exact same location. The only work Diane had to do was place a couple shopping bags of clothes back into the dresser.