The Odyssey

We … have … returned.

Disney, Disney, Disney.  It was great.  It was long.  It was tiring.

Day 1

IMG_1991We left Sunday, amidst a lot of wind.  And the wind blew all the way down.  It was like driving a shopping cart with a wobbly wheel, not knowing which way the van was going to shimmy as the wind blew. 

We got to our timeshare (Orange Lake in Orlando) and checked in, and it was a great place.  A two bedroom, with one bedroom having two double beds and the master having a queen.  Lots of space, nice kitchen, three TV’s, and no internet.  None.  No ‘have-to-pay’ internet, or even ‘browse-through-the-TV’ internet.  There was no internet available from our room.  Dial-up is always an option, but they charged for local calls so we’d have a toll on that, and with the amount of e-mail Teresa gets that would have been fairly expensive.  We were completely cutoff from our main communication / entertainment source.

Completely may be a bit harsh… we could drive up to the pool and pay to access the wireless there, but I wasn’t going to do that just to update my blog or play poker. 

I even had to go buy a RF modulator for the TV since all it had was a coax input so the boys could play the Wii. 

Turns out there wasn’t much time for the internet anyway.  I think they played the Wii the first 2-3 days and no more the rest of the trip.

Day 2, Epcot

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We started out at Epcot.  We really missed out on Epcot last year since our only experience with it was a dash around the rides during ‘Magical Hours’, when they open the parks only for Disney Resort guests.  This year we wanted to make sure we did Epcot thoroughly.  We set our alarm clocks in order to get there nice and early.

The boys enjoyed it because we had time for them to do all the interactive kiosks that Disney now has at the end of each ride.

Being a Monday the park wasn’t crowded at all.  The ride lines moved very well, and I don’t believe we used Fast-pass at all that day.  Everything was 20 minutes or less.

The boys’ favorite ride is probably Mission: Space, where you get sent to Mars in a rocket ship.  That ride takes me about to the edge of motion sickness, but then backs off at just the right times.  If I wasn’t told 42 times as I was entering the ride how I shouldn’t ride it if I got motion sick I probably wouldn’t notice it. 

I got over even that much about the 4th time we rode it, I guess.

The one ride we didn’t get to go on was Soarin’.  That was the one ride with a long line and we couldn’t Fast-pass it.  I forget what our evening plans were for Monday… I think we were going to go back and go to the pool or something, but we didn’t make it on that ride.

About lunch-time we figured we were hungry so went to the World Showcase.  Teresa and I got Moroccan food, and the boys ate some Japanese.  While we were there we made reservations for Thursday’s lunch.

IMG_2035When we were passing China we saw an acrobat show.  We were behind the performers so I told Teresa that we should go around front and sit on the ground to watch.  I didn’t know the ground was about 400 degrees.  We were basically sauteeing, I believe.  But it was a neat show.  It was still windy and it made the show that much more exciting.

 

After the Nemo ride there are aquariums you can go and watch all kinds of fish, rays, and sharks swimming around.  They even had some people swimming around, too.  I missed a couple photo opportunities that would have been awesome… divers swimming past Cameron and looking at him in the face.  I was enjoying the moment so much I completely forgot I had a camera.

Day 3, Timeshare Tour, Hollywood Studios

We had to set our alarm in order to get up and take a tour of the timeshare.  They gave us some neat goodies, like $50 to spend at their retail outlets and $20 cash, so it was worth our time.  Teresa later observed that there is something wrong with being on vacation and setting alarms.  I agreed with her.

IMG_2127 Around lunchtime we were able to make it to Hollywood Studios.  Hollywood Studios is a nice little park that doesn’t take a lot of time to see all of, but it has some great shows.  I wanted to hit the shows this year, since we didn’t last year.  That was a common theme.. what didn’t we do last year?  Let’s do it this year!  The car show was absolutely breathtaking.  I was taking pictures of it but then just wanted to enjoy the show so stopped.

The Indiana Jones show was very well done, and funny, too.  We had a good time.  The boys were worried at first that there was about 10 feet of stage that they couldn’t see from our down-front seats (not quite front row) and due to the above-average height of the people sitting in front of us.  As the sets changed and the stage grew larger and larger, they were quite happy to see they didn’t miss much.

We, of course, rode the Rock-n-Roll Rollercoaster several times.  Cameron was tall enough this year to be able to ride, and he was thrilled.  We also rode the Tower of Terror, too.

IMG_2168Our initial plan was to stay for the Fantasmic show, but we didn’t.  I don’t remember why we left.. perhaps we were tired already?  The plan was to come back another day, ride the rollercoasters some more and see the Fantasmic show.  Delayed gratification is torture to a child, and Tyler had trouble dealing with leaving and not riding the roller-coaster 42 more times, but we left. 

The boys promptly went home and had a sword fight in the back yard, taking turns getting wounded and hitting each other a little too hard with their swords (by accident, of course!).  I really think the reason we left was because we were tired.  But evidently when I say ‘we’ I mean Teresa and I.  We HAD gotten up at 7:30, or something ridiculous like that.

Day 4, Typhoon Lagoon, Nana and Pops

Disney’s water parks were also something we didn’t experience last year, so we added the water park option to our tickets this year.  Again, we wanted to get there fairly early since Teresa’s agenda included one item: Sit.  In order to sit you need a chair.  In order to get a chair in a water park you have to sneak in before they open.  Because you won’t get one after they open, that’s for sure!

Typhoon Lagoon was a lot of fun and the boys particularly enjoyed the big slides.

There’s one thing about big slides, though.  They’re high.  And when things are high that means that you have to climb stairs to get to them.  We went on the biggest slide 4 times in a row, I think.  The biggest slide at Typhoon Lagoon is the Humunga Cowabunga.  One site I saw said it’s a 214 foot plunge.  4 times in a row means we climbed almost 900 feet of stairs.  I just googled 900 feet, and that is the length of an aircraft carrier USS Intrepid.  I googled ‘900 feet climb’ and got a bunch of mountain climbing links.  Humonga Cowabunga is probably more fun than mountain climbing, though.

Going down that slide 4 times, though, I thought for sure my back was going to be bruised from skipping on the water at the bottom.  It was a bit sore the next day, but no visible bruising.  Still, it was great fun.

The last ride we went on was the Crush’n Gusher, a relatively new ‘water rollercoaster’.  It’s got three tracks, the Coconut Crusher, the Pineapple Plunger, and … I don’t remember the third.  You ride it in an inner-tube, which means it is quite possible that your butt hangs lower than the tube.  This is a mistake, because then the names of the different slides become all too accurate.  My first ride through demonstrated that.  Make sure your butt is high enough off the track.  And the pool you let out into is surprising shallow, and surprising rough-floored.  Just rolling off the tube isn’t suggested.

Despite those minor, slightly painful issues, it was still pretty fun.

I almost forgot to mention the wave pool!  It was awesome!  The wave pool resembles a lot of wave pools in that one side is rectangular and then it opens up into the beach.  But the size of these waves were incredible.  Prior to each wave there is a big WHOOSH sound, which makes everyone in the pool scream in terror.  Or maybe they’re screaming in delight, I don’t know.  It creates a wave every 90 seconds, and it is probably a 6-8 foot wave.  It isn’t a good thing to be distracted at the last minute before the wave hit, because it usually results in your nasal passages getting a chlorinated cleansing.  I remarked to the boys I thought the first one washed out half my brain, and they had great fun asking me the state of my brain the rest of the day.  We spent a lot of time in the wave pool.

IMG_2186A bout 4:15 we started getting ready to head back to the room since Nana and Pops were due to arrive around 5:30 or so.  Turns out they were already there, waiting for us to get back.  We ran back to the room, showed and dressed and headed out to Fulton’s Crab House.

Yum.  The boys loved their crab-legs.  Nana and Teresa got King Crab claws that looked scrumptious.  I got crab cakes that were good, and ate everyone else’s steak.  It was a great meal.

Day 5, Epcot

IMG_2230We had two goals in mind for Epcot this day.  Soarin’, and our 1pm Japanese lunch reservation.  And we didn’t set our alarms.  We got to the park around 10:30, did Spaceship Earth (always a requirement… I like that ride), and then Ellen Degeneres’ Energy ride, which was 45 minutes long.  I find Ellen very amusing.  The ride was very well done considering it lasted so long.  It was much better than Drew Carey’s 10-minute show at Hollywood Studios.  And I like Drew Carey, too.

At that point it was time to head to Japan for our lunch, so we hopped on the boat to go across the water to Morocco, and then over to Japan.

Lunch was delicious, but we had a rather tame chef considering it was a Japanese steak-house.  He made a volcano, and cut it up but didn’t catch anything in his hat or behind his back.  He could have at least tried… even if he can’t do it.  That would probably have been just as fun watching him try and miss.  I kept thinking something was missing and didn’t realize what it was until the chef across the way started in on the tricks.

IMG_2246 We saw a very cool drum and  piccolo show at the American Adventure, some great singers, and then the American Adventure show with all the scenes from American History.  I loved the show.  The boys didn’t complain about it, so that was a good thing, too.

Next stop was Germany, and some beer, then Italy and some shaved ice.  In Norway we rode the viking ships… and got some beer.  In Mexico Nana treated herself to a margarita… and, well, you get the idea.

Around dinner time we made it back to FutureWorld and rode a few rides before Nana and Teresa went to set up camp for the fireworks.  Yes, fireworks!  One of the big things we missed last year was staying at the parks late enough for fireworks!

IMG_2327 The guys went and rode the Test Track, but made it in time for the fireworks / laser show.  I was sitting on the ground with the camera on the railing in front of me, but I was unable to look at the screen and see what I was taking pictures of, so I just kind of randomly clicked the button every once in a while.  Most of the pictures are nothing special large by themselves, but they’re great ‘flavor’ shots.

After some shopping and Pops calling for an end to the shopping we staggered to the car and went back to collapse back at the room.

Day 6, Disney Quest, Hollywood Studios

IMG_2342 Another day where we didn’t set the alarm, and yet still were tired on our way to Disney Quest.  Disney Quest is Tyler’s dream come true.  An entire building full of video games that you don’t have to pay to play!

Cameron and I went on a 3D Pirates of the Caribbean game where you’re on a ship shooting other ships and taking their treasures.  Tyler didn’t want to waste time standing in line so he went off to play all the video games he could.  Later it took me a bit of time to track him down so that we could grab a bite to eat. 

Of all the Disney venues, this one was the most disappointing from a services standpoint.  One bathroom, with a single stall, and they couldn’t keep toilet paper in it.  The food was average, the lines for the attraction-type rides (virtual white-water rafting, the pirate ride, bumper-cars where you can shoot the others) were tremendous, and there was no way to enforce the time-limit on games.  Maybe we went at a bad time because there were several groups of kids from schools that all came in, and thus they had very limited chaperones.

IMG_2351IMG_2349  The animation ‘learn-to-draw’ Disney characters was quite cool, though.  The boys and Teresa took part in learning how to draw Goofy.  They both did excellent jobs, and we bought their pictures along with more ‘learn-to-draw’s.

IMG_2388 Then it was back to Hollywood Studio’s for more Rock-n-Rollercoaster, Tower of Terror, and the Fantasia firework show.  That was pretty cool, as they used fans of water to create movie-screens and played some of the memorable scenes from Disney movies right on the water.  This time I had nothing to anchor my camera (I need to take a tripod, but the thought of carrying it around all day just is not very exciting to me), so I didn’t even really bother trying to get too much of the fireworks.  I did manage this picture, which turned out alright.

Teresa and I ran the boys to the Star Wars store so they could get their blasters.  The clerk was repairing a light-saber that someone had brought back, and I remarked the she must be strong with the force.  After all, only Jedi’s can make light sabers.  The clerk laughed and Teresa groaned.  I don’t think the groan was so much at the quality of the humor, but that I was so willingly providing more evidence that I really am quite a geek.  With that, we said goodbye to Hollywood Studios.

Day 7, Blizzard Beach, Magic Kingdom

The boys and I headed to Blizzard Beach in the morning.  In order for the water park addition to the tickets to be ‘worth it’ you have to go to the water parks twice.  I think I remember figuring that out when we were purchasing the tickets.  The boys wanted to go, so I took them.  We went to the biggest slide first, and since it was Friday the lines almost instantly got long.  Tyler maintained his aversion to long lines, so after the first big slide we didn’t return.  We went on some smaller slides, and I called for reapplication of sunblock, and lunch.  We ate, re-applied and the boys said they just wanted to swim.  Just swim?  They could have done that in the pool!  We found an area with some floating foam ice-bergs and they played there for about 90 minutes before I called to them telling them it was time for more sunblock.  They were playing ‘king of the iceberg’ so were pushing and pulling each other (and other kids) on and off the iceberg, so I figured the sunblock was probably gone.  On the way back they decided they were done, and so we headed back in order to go to the Magic Kingdom.

It is unbelievable to me that it took us until the last full day of our vacation to make it to the Magic Kingdom.  Shocking!  But it did.  The plan was to come over for the afternoon and stay for the light parade.

IMG_2410 The boys and I got there first, just in time for the Dreams Come True Parade.  We bought some sodas, sat down watched the parade, and then Cameron pointed to the water-proof holder I was keeping my bank-card in, and it was empty.  Eek!  I quickly called and reported it lost/stolen, and we don’t see any unknown charges.  What a bummer on the last day, though.  Of course this also means all those auto-charges are going to fail and we’re going to have to figure out which ones are charged to that card.  I just went through this recently, too.

IMG_2441 We went straight to Space Mountain, and the lines, once again, were tremendous.  We got a fast-pass, and some food, and Cameron was about to fall asleep on the bench beside us while we decided what to do.  We rode the race-cars, but after that Cameron just didn’t want to go on.  Teresa decided to take him back, and Tyler, Nana, Pops and I continued on, with Tyler deciding where to go next.  Space Mountain, then off to the Haunted Mansion.  There was a show about to start that Nana wanted to see so Tyler and I went off to scout ride-times and the only ride that we weren’t able to determine was Splash Mountain, because it was temporarily closed.  We went back and caught the end of the show, hit Haunted Mansion and off to Thunder Mountain Railroad.

IMG_2470 Thunder Mountain Railroad is one of the few ‘coasters that Nana will ride, so that was next after the Haunted Mansion.  We had quite a wait on in the handicapped access line, as there were a couple groups in front of us.  Soon, though, we were let in.  The first attendant told us that after Nana got off we’d have to walk around to get her scooter.  There are 2 boarding platforms and the trains alternate so we’d not get off at the right platform that had her scooter.  Pops grumbled a bit about that and I was about to speak up to say that I’d get it when another older, wiser, attendant told us just not to bother getting off at the other platform.  That’s right… we get to go twice!

That excited me and Tyler, but I don’t think Nana was too thrilled with it.  She got her share of coasters, that’s for sure. 

IMG_2516 After that it was time to secure a decent sitting place for the light parade.  We sat under the Liberty Tree in Liberty Square.  That was pretty neat, since I hadn’t heard of the Liberty Tree until we watched Johnny Tremain with the boys when they did the Revolution for history.  Tyler thought it was pretty cool seeing the actual place that Walt Disney talked about during the end of the movie.  The SprectroMagic parade was pretty awesome.  It took me until halfway through the parade to notice them changing colors!  Some floats would approach us as all white, and then switch over to color in a wave.  That, along with the fiber-optic flowers and all kinds of glowy things and wild characters from Fantasia and other movies made it a pretty cool parade.

Day 8, Magic Kingdom, Amanda’s

Yes, we were still going.  We got up, somehow, Sunday morning and packed everything up.  Nana and Pops struck out for home and we .. headed…. gasp, gasp… back to the Magic Kingdom.  There were rides that Cameron, who was feeling a little better, and Tyler still wanted to go on.

First we went straight to Splash Mountain.  That’s the one Tyler wanted to go on the night before but I was just too tired to go along with it, as well as Nana and Pops.  I assured Teresa that the she wouldn’t get wet, despite all the signs saying that she MAY get wet.  I tried to hide one or two.  I didn’t remember getting wet last year, so surely if I didn’t remember it must be so.

Well, she got wet.  Thankfully some of her friends called shortly after and put her back into a semi-good mood… 🙂

 IMG_2561 After Splash Mountain we hit Thunder Mountain (again), Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, Tom Sawyer’s Island, and the Swiss Family Treehouse.  The Treehouse was the final straw, though, and we called an end to it.  Tyler was crushed, but once we got to the van and on the way he recovered.  Off to Amanda’s house.

I hearby vow to never ever again go to an amusement park in the morning and then drive for 8 hours afterwards.  Uggh that was horrible.  I was about to scream.  First off we didn’t think it would take so long to get there.  I thought that it would cut a couple hours off the trip!  It didn’t… it was about the same.

Day 9-ish, Amanda’s, NASA, Home.

We made it, though, and I worked from Amanda’s for a couple days while Teresa helped her clean a bit, spent some time at Tammy’s pool, and went on a field trip to the NASA Center in Columbus.  A dinner with Dean, Bradlee, and Kyle the next night and we headed home, with the pedal to the metal.  Got home last night about 11pm, just in time to stop and get milk and bread.IMG_2562

We drove through a spectacular storm, and so I had to deal with wind again.  The rain came down in torrents but we used Rain-X on our windshield so it was fairly easy and not-so-scary to drive through.  I hate when it rains harder than your wipers can clear, or truck mist covers your windshield and you just hope you’re still pointed the right direction when you get out of it.  Rain-X really keeps that from happening, so there was never a concern.

And now the only thing I can say … is Home, Sweet, Home.

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