April 30, 2008

EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow)

We got to EPCOT an hour or so after it opened. The relaxed mornings would result in less tired vacationers, but in the end we weren't able to see everything at EPCOT. However, thanks to super-low attendance we were able to enjoy our favorite attractions multiple times. Super low attendance. This was Value Season!

Our hotel wasn't very far from EPCOT so it didn't take us long to drive over. As for driving, we could've used Disney's free transportation system - the bus - but it was much quicker to take our own wheels. And because of the aforementioned low attendance, traffic wasn't an issue.

I loved Disney's roads. There's an entire road system within WDW. Serious infrastructure is another thing that fascinates me about WDW. Directions to the parks were marked clearly on Disney's own purple, red, and yellow road signs. Too often we found these signs did not give directions far enough in advance to make lane changes. Again, good thing there wasn't a lot of traffic!

Interesting factoid: Gasoline prices inside Disney were cheaper than outside Disney.

During the planning phase of this vacation, we decided that taking our car to the parks would give us more flexibility because we planned to come back to the hotel for lunch and a rest. Day 4 EPCOT was the only day we actually did this.

During Value Season, the parks close earlier so rather than take a break in the middle of the day, we stayed at the parks and left a bit before closing time. This day we decided to tour Future World (the part with the big ball) with a midday break for lunch back at the hotel.

Stroller: check. And away we go!

It was hard to get my bearings at first and I could feel my party's eyes staring at me - all ten of them - waiting for direction. Remember, I was the Compass, the Rudder. But it had been sixteen years after all and I had not done my map study homework or devised a touring plan.

Spaceship Earth, aka The Ball, was closed for construction during our visit so we had to maneuver to the left of it around the construction barriers. We came out in the middle of the Innoventions hub and stopped to look at the leader board. Placed here and there in Future World are these electronic boards that list the rides and their wait times. Brilliant!

What to ride first...?

I was excited about two things in particular this day. (1) Going to the GE pavilion to ride Horizons and (2) going to the Wonders of Life pavilion to ride Body Wars. I had told FM#2 that Body Wars was like Star Tours in MGM so he was excited, too.

When I was gainfully employed, my job involved programming control (SCADA) systems for the pipeline. We used GE Fanuc equipment. As GE customers, Texaco employees received GE Executive Club cards that allowed us to get GE's travel discount when scheduling Disney vacations and access to the Executive Club at GE's Horizons pavilion.

Flash back sixteen years ago when CB and I were at EPCOT. We walked up to GE's pavilion and went around the outside to a door that read, "GE Executive Club." The hostess took us to an elevator which emptied out in the lounge area at the top of the pavilion. You could relax on comfy couches, enjoy ice cream. You could also control a camera that was mounted to the top of the pavilion and view a significant panorama of WDW.

When we went back downstairs, the hostess escorted us through a couple of doors and into what might be called a pre-boarding area. We stepped into the car, or Omnimover, that was moving along the conveyor. We were on the ride! No waiting in line! The car went through automatic doors where everyone else was standing in a long line waiting to board. Nice!

Check out this Omnimover I found for sale online.

The GE ride was my kind of attraction. It involved robots doing housework, holograms, and the fresh crisp smell of oranges. Nothing like involving all of the senses!

I remember one portion of the ride took us through space or a night sky. As far up and down and to the sides as I could see was starry sky. I even leaned over the front of our vehicle and could see more stars. I love that.

Flash forward sixteen years and the GE pavilion is no more. GE discontinued their sponsorship and the building was demolished to make room for Mission: SPACE.

As for Wonders of Life and its Body Wars ride, it was closed when MetLife did not renew its sponsorship. Bummer. The pavilion was cordoned off with barriers this trip and sat empty and alone.

Add to the closings - General Motors World of Motion pavilion. It was repurposed into Test Track. You might remember the round shape of the original building as your car speeds around the outside of it. Upgrade!

Back to the present: as we stared at the leader board we found Soarin's wait time was already long so we opted to Fast Pass it. Obviously, people make a mad dash to the more popular rides. A 'long' wait time for us was 30 minutes or more. Why wait when you can Fast Pass? We were really getting spoiled by these low crowds.

We cut straight through the Innoventions hub which used to be called Communicore. Sixteen years ago CB and I went into one of the Communicore buildings first thing in the morning to schedule our dinner in Germany. We talked on a phone to a woman we could see on the computer screen - and we thought that was real fancy!

Needless to say, things have come a long way! Making a dinner reservation the day of the dinner? That's just taking chances. Nowadays folks call months ahead to make reservations. And they can be made online, too. Garsh! That's fancy!

We crossed to the polar opposite side of the park to ascend to Living with the Land pavilion, home of Soarin', to get our Fast Passes. What were they thinking? To get into this building you have to scale a seriously steep hill. Hey, it's steep when you're hot and tired.

Once inside you have to go to the ground floor via stairs or escalator to get to Soarin', Living with the Land, and the restaurant. Guess which is quicker? Yes, so I trotted downstairs to the Fast Pass machines; fed our tickets in; got the Fast Passes and dashed back upstairs. Whew!

I was in high gear at this point because we were wasting precious time. We had been in the park quite a while and had yet to ride anything! My people did not like the pace I was keeping. They were lagging behind.

It's hard to remember what we rode and in what order because we criss-crossed the park a few times. See what happens when I don't prepare?

I think we started out with Mission: SPACE. Again, my Space Ranger was all googly about riding this. FM#3 wasn't tall enough to ride this one and MawMaw heard about the dizzy factor so they sat this one out. CB and FM#1 chose the Orange Team which was more intense and me and my Space Cowboy went with the Green Team.

We walked right on. No wait.

Of course, the Cast Members were all decked out in space mission outfits. Gary Sinise briefed us on our mission from overhead monitors and we were given multiple chances to exit the ride if we had changed our mind. Then we were moved into a hallway and lined up in groups of four. What number you were standing on determined your role in the mission: Commander, Pilot, Navigator, Engineer.

As they announce what position you will be, a light shines down on you. Depending on your role, there are certain things you'll have to do during the flight. So pay attention! I think they even gave us another chance to get off at this point. They're really serious about this space stuff.

Then we boarded. We walked through a doorway into this small compartment.

I am not claustrophobic. I am not claustrophobic.

Stowed loose items below and pulled this big huge roller coaster-like harness down over ourselves. (The kind of harness that should've been on the Tower of Terror!) I think there was a barf bag, too.

I will not get motion sick. I will not get motion sick.

The door closed. Countdown began.

4-3-2-1. Earth below us. Drifting. Falling. Oooh, I don't like that song either.

But Mission: SPACE was cooool! The virtual effects Disney creates along with the storyline is most excellent. Each person has a video screen in front of them that shows what your 'shuttle' is apparently doing.

The video showed the shuttle tilting back to lock onto the liftoff tower and this simulator moved in such a way that it felt like that was exactly what we were doing! Then when the shuttle took off it really felt like we had the force of gravity pushing against us. How do they do that?

And again, looking at my little astronaut, he was totally into it! He took his role very seriously and we landed safely.

Funny thing about this ride is that going into it, everything is about the illusion. When you get off of the ride, for some reason Disney chose to expose the illusion. We exited the simulator on the side opposite of which we entered and were in what looked like a warehouse. Strange choice. Why didn't they continue the illlusion?

We then went on to ride Nemo so FM#3 could have some fun, too. There was a bit of a wait, but we liked watching the robotic birds on the rocks outside. My wee one loved it. It was just his speed. Where's Nemo?

We hung out quite a while in The Seas Pavilion. We got our picture taken with the shark from Nemo and watched a diving demonstration.

When going through Innoventions we spied the EPCOT Character Spot and decided FM#3 would enjoy that. He really wanted to see Donald Duck, but Donald wasn't at this character event. However, once he spied Mickey Mouse through the window he couldn't wait to get inside.

We waited in line for at least 45 minutes, maybe more. This was our longest wait at EPCOT - getting pictures taken with Disney characters. Go figure. I was amazed at the number of autograph hounds in the crowd. Yes, those seeking autographs from fully-costumed four-fingered mute Disney characters.

While we stood in line, CB decided to get Fast Passes for Test Track. It was still fairly early in the day and we heard that Fast Passes for certain rides like Soarin' and Test Track can run out by midday. So he zipped over to the attraction and, while he was there, discovered they had a Single Rider line. The wait was short; he had the time; so he decided to 'test' out the ride for us.

The Single Rider line is available on some rides. They use it to fill single empty seats. So if you're riding alone or don't mind splitting up your party, go Single Rider! It could mean the difference between an hour wait and a 5-10 minute wait.

As we inched closer to the front of the line, FM#3 started getting really excited. When it was his turn he yelled out, "Mickey Mouse!" and literally took a running leap into the mouse's arms! Mickey welcomed him heartily. He pulled back to look at him and went in for another hug. My mom and I couldn't believe this kid! It was like he and Mickey were old friends and hadn't seen each other in forever! A lot of kids are scared by these big characters when they see them up close as opposed to their TV screen, but FM#3 put on quite a show. The other folks standing around got a kick out of watching him, too.

He saw Mickey, Goofy, Chip 'n Dale (the Chipmix), Minnie, and he even danced with Pluto. Get down with your bad self! Even Pluto is surprised at his moves!

After all that excitement we decided to head back to the hotel for lunch and a nap.

April 29, 2008

MGM Part 2

It was a very pretty drive to Wilderness Lodge. Nice to get away from the theme park atmosphere for a while and in the heat of the day.

We arrived at Wilderness Lodge. Wow! That place was huge! The restaurant was to our left. It was elevated from the main floor and ran practically the whole length of the lodge. We were seated almost right away.

When I made our dining reservations, the girl told me Whispering Canyons was a great choice, super fun and interactive. We would have a great time! She said to be sure and have one of the children ask for a spoon and ketchup.

As I looked over our table that afternoon, there were at least 12 assorted spoons scattered from one end to the other. And we were to ask for more? Okay, I'll give it a go.

I told my eldest to ask our waiter for a spoon to which the other adults at the table started to question my sanity because there were already SO MANY DARNED SPOONS ON THE TABLE!!! I tried not to give it away and insisted he grab the waiter. More resistance. So I asked the waiter for a spoon myself.

What funny thing would happen? What would he bring me? This is so exciting, isn't it?

He brought me just what I asked for. A spoon. Isn't that hilarious?

I had spied a boy at the back of the restaurant marching around his table with a giant fork. You know those big wooden ones that hung in many a kitchen back in the 70's? That kind of giant fork. I suspected our waiter was supposed to bring us a giant spoon. Was he seriously off his game or was it because an adult asked and not a child (as the reservation girl instructed)?

Lesson #4: Children, do as your mother tells you. Husbands, go along with your wife.

As the kids finished up their dirt and worms dessert, the waiter entered into some sort of routine involving bird calls and even though he talked way too fast to completely understand, his routine involved some disturbing rant about his mother-in-law and then he kicked over a chair.

I kid you not.

We just stared at each other, paid the bill, and went out to enjoy Wilderness Lodge's lobby. Which was beautiful! Everything about it screamed "LODGE!" Light fixtures, totem poles, log railings. There was even a "hot spring" that bubbled right up into the lobby. The boys thought this was really neat, especially the "steam" that rose from the water.

We even contemplated staying at Wilderness Lodge in the future. They have villas there, too!

Now, back to MGM! Where we headed straight to the back for the Lights Motors Action Extreme Stunt Show. This was a full-throttle adrenaline rush for the boys. They loved it! Lots of tire squealing and car exhaust fumes.

By the time this show was over, evening was closing in. We ventured over to the Backlot Tour. In addition to the wall of water, fire, and explosions that this ride includes, the boys got to see prop vehicles from Star Wars and the bone cages from Pirates of the Caribbean.

It was getting late and we were starting to slow down so we meandered back to the front of the park. On the way we saw the Power Rangers; the boys played in the rain which was an umbrella that rained water from underneath (Singin' In The Rain); and we got pictures with Herbie from Love Bug.

It wasn't quite 5:30pm, but we made our way to the front of the park for the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular! It was the same show they did 16 years ago. But still good. Action, fighting, explosions, gun fire. What more could a boy want?

Unusual for us, we arrived at Indy's show early. Way early. I hate waiting. CB took advantage of this void of time to get our wristbands for Extra Magic Hours.

Lesson #5: Two things are needed for Extra Magic Hours. (1) Your body and (2) your room card. For every wristband issued, there must be a body and an accompanying room card. That way they know you're a Disney resort guest and Extra Magic Hours are only for resort guests.

Wristbands are only given out at certain locations within the park. When CB got there, he only had his room card. The rest of ours were back in the room! And all of our bodies were sitting at Indiana Jones. Neither was where they needed to be! What to do?

After the show we trekked back to the front of the park to Guest Relations to have them check that we were resort guests and issue our wristbands. We were a little bothered by this lack of communication -- how could we not know this? Maybe if I paid a little more attention to Stacey and her Top 7. Or The Unofficial Guide should've alerted me to this. But the Cast Members at Guest Relations were so nice and it was air-conditioned!

At this point, FM#2 wanted desperately to ride Star Wars again and this time he wanted to ride it with MawMaw! Maybe FM#3 was asleep or maybe he needed a snack, but CB stayed behind with him and the four of us ran across the park to Star Tours.

It was dark by now and I think everyone had migrated to the other side of the park to see Fantasmic because we walked right onto Star Tours. This is good because there's no waiting, but it also prevents you from noticing the details of the scene they've created in the queue. The part that puts you in the frame of mind for embarking on a space ride! But we were still okay with jumping right on!

MawMaw loved that ride and FM#2 was thrilled to share it with her!

Now it was time for the Tower of Terror!

Throughout the day FM#1 kept asking me if I was going to ride the Tower of Terror. Quite frankly, I just didn't know. I'd figure it out when it was staring me in the face.

After we rode Star Tours, we met up with CB who took off to test the Tower by himself. We needed him to test it out and report back to those of us who were skeptical.

As we waited for him, hoards of people streamed out of Fantasmic for what must've been 15-20 minutes.

Finally, CB came off the ride with a huge smile on his face. He said it was fantastic and that we just had to ride it.

Well, there it was. Staring me in the face.

FM#1 would only ride it if I would. Great.

I really didn't want to. Let's face it. Freefalling isn't my favorite. I don't even like the song by Tom Petty. But I knew I had to ride it. I didn't want to regret NOT riding it and we were only going to be at this park for one day. So off we went.

I was extremely nervous. I kept checking my pulse which, I should probably say now, has been an ongoing concern. It tends to be high.

Aren't these the kinds of things that keep you from getting on rides like this?

Aren't these the kinds of rides that people have had heart attacks on?

Yet here I was. Too late to turn back. The things we do for our children.

The first room you go in is fairly small. It reminded me of the elevator at the Haunted Mansion. It is here that you watch a short clip hosted by what I suppose was a Rod Serling impersonator.

You exit to the boiler room which doubles as a queue. Much pulse checking here.

Once we reached the "I'm next" point, CB told me to sit on the back row - less scary there. So the somber Cast Member put us on the appropriate number for the back row. The elevator doors opened and the rows of theatre style seats stared at me.

I guess I'm really doing this. There's no turning back nowWas this a smart thing to do? We'll see.....

I moved toward the back of the elevator all the way to the right. I buckled myself in and grew instantly concerned that there was no shoulder harness. I expected some shoulder harnessing here!

Why is there no harness?! All I have are these lousy straps to hang onto?!

This was not going to be good.

Once the elevator started to move, it snaked through hallways, past scenes as the story was told. Extreme apprehension and anxiety filled my body as I didn't know when the doors would open and we'd plummet to the bottom of this ding-dang tower.

When the scary part of this ride starts, there is no mistaking it. Thankfully. I don't like surprises like that. Metal doors open and you enter into utter darkness. You know it's about to start. Brace yourself.

Honestly, the dropping wasn't my favorite, but in short bursts isn't too bad. Screaming helps.  Seriously, go for it. Scream your head off.  It'll make for a great attraction photo.

And when you're catapulted back up the shaft you feel like you're floating which is totally wicked cool awesome!  You vascillate between AHHH, ahhh, AHHH, ahhh.

At some point the doors open and you're looking out over the park. I couldn't tell you much about this, folks, because my eyes were closed almost the entire time! I opened them once and darned if we weren't overlooking the whole bloomin' park!

Oh no! I'm afraid of heights. I'm gonna puke! Quick, close your eyes again!

The last drop is the biggest and about the time I was ready for it to stop dropping, we dropped even more. But it was over and I DID IT! FM#1 and I were very proud of ourselves. What a relief and a surge of adrenaline at the same time!

We bought our picture on this ride. All of our expressions are priceless.

Will I ride it again?

The Magic 8 Ball says, "Ask again later."

After all the lead-up and anticipation and excitement of having conquered the Tower, we were starving! We stopped at the counter-service restaurant, Rosie's All American Cafe, and had dinner outside. FM#1 spied a Hidden Mickey there.

We visited a shop on Hollywood Boulevard and drug our weary happy bodies home to rest up for a second day.

April 28, 2008

Back to our regularly scheduled programming

We got up early, but not as early as I wanted. I wanted to be there when the park opened. My hoving lusband needed to sleep in a bit. He was on vacation after all.

Everybody was up and excited and wearing their Color of the Day: Maroon. MawMaw had to go with white as she didn't have anything maroon. But we let that slide since she prepared a yummy breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast to fuel us up for MGM.

Everybody got sunscreened and we were ready for the Tower of Terror. Star Wars. Indiana Jones. Muppets 3-D. And a few lessons learned.

We drove our own car. Disney's bus transportation was an option, but The Unofficial Guide referred to wait times at bus stops one too many times for me. Sure the buses drop you off right up front, but I figured driving our car would make up for wait times and any other stops the bus might make. Besides, we couldn't miss the tram ride!

Once again on MGM property, we found ourselves parking in the front lot. Where were the crowds? Not here!

Although we didn't need to take the tram to the front, the tram is one of my own personal Top 7 Must Sees at Disney World and I didn't want my companions to miss it either. Nothing like the smell of diesel exhaust in the morning!

 At the entrance we needed to do two things, one right after the other. First, have our bags checked by security. Second, make it through the ticket turnstiles. This is easier said than done.

Prior to leaving on this trip, MawMaw and I discussed the different ways we might carry our belongings through the parks. Whatever we chose had to hold numerous necessities, it couldn't be cumbersome, and our hands had to be free.

I looked online for a backpack purse, but decided against it because I'd have to take it off when I got on a ride and I wouldn't be able to get into it without taking it off. I considered a messenger bag, but my sister said that would get in the way. MawMaw and I decided on fanny packs. I found a lovely model in black and MawMaw borrowed a camo one from Mark and D'Anna.

We had also purchased rain ponchos at Target. Blue for the adults and yellow for the youngsters. We'd need something to carry these in, too. We owned several nylon drawstring backpacks courtesy of CB's employer and these would fill the bill nicely. Nylon would be perfect for storing wet ponchos and the backpack would keep hands free.

Now I can not go any further without detailing our fine fanny packs. These weren't your average butt bags, folks. Nope. They were serious tourist waist pouches. They held sunglasses, maps, camera, a couple of diapers, wipes, extra shorts in case FM#3 leaked, hand sanitizer (MawMaw's), snacks, i.d.'s - the list goes on. Folks, they even had a cup holder and loops for an umbrella.

Oh yeah, we were sexy.

 Told ya! And it made a nice arm rest, too.

It took us a few times of manuevering through the Bag Check/Turnstile routine to get good at it. The first attempt was a little crazy. All bags had to be opened and placed on the table for inspection. I took off my fanny pack, unzipped it, and got past security. Now to get the tickets out, zip the fanny pack up so all the numerous necessities don't spill out and block traffic, distribute tickets, feed them through the card reader, get each child's finger scanned as he goes through the turnstile, and collect tickets to be safely stowed.....good grief!.....somewhere!

The first time through was utter chaos. We'd need to get better at this.

Lesson #1: have tickets out and ready before approaching the entrance gate.

With the madness behind us, we veered right and headed for Oscar's Service Station, home of the stroller rentals. While CB handled that, the FM's spotted a souvenir shop just inside where they tried on goofy hats. And by that, I mean, Goofy hats. Where souvenir shops are concerned, my boys are like moths to a flame.

 CB got the Length of Stay stroller rental so FM#3's super cool stroller cost a mere $8/day. Now I must say a lot of people prefer to bring their own stroller. I can understand the reasoning, especially if you have a very young child. Babies can't lay down in Disney strollers. Disney strollers must be returned before exiting the park and a stroller would surely come in handy while trudging to your car at the end of a long day. There are no stroller rentals at the resorts and I'll bet it would be nice to have one when you have a considerable hike to your resort pool.

We decided to rent because we didn't want to pack a stroller nor did we want the hassle of loading and unloading a stroller into the car, onto the tram, etc. Besides, FM#3 is a trooper. He could walk if we needed him to, and if not, he's light as a feather.

I give two ears-up for Disney strollers because:

1. They were easy to push. The back wheels were big, like those on a jogging stroller, allowing for easier pushing and a comfortable ride -- important for the amount of ground you'll cover.

2. They were made of molded plastic - no padded fabric seats. It had a nylon cover that extended down the sides which helped to block the sun. Plastic and nylon is crucial when you encounter those afternoon Florida rainshowers. If the stroller gets wet, just wipe it dry. A cloth stroller would be soaked if you didn't remember to cover it.

3. It was equipped with a brake that you could operate easily with your foot.

4. Disney provides you will a big card on which to write your name and place in the plastic pouch on the back of the stroller. This helps you identify yours easily amid the sea of look-alikes.

5. There's even a cargo net on the back and, if memory serves me, a cup holder.

6. The stroller was shaped so your child's legs were out in front, not bent like when they sit in a regular stroller. I think this is a more comfortable position and a comfortable child is more likely to stay in the stroller.

FM#3 was in his chariot, we got maps and a showtime schedule, and headed directly for Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular only to find the first show didn't start until 11:30am. What do we do until then? If we go forth into the park to do other things, we get farther and farther away from Indy. Then to have to turn around and trek all the way back to the front? Ugh. But we had no choice.

Lesson #2: Show times will greatly influence your park routes.

I must pause here and say that something was developing. My crew had looked to me to tell them where to go next. I was unprepared. CB had ridiculed me about touring plans - which rides to ride and when. So I didn't plan.

Now everyone was looking to me. "Where do we go now?" they implored. Although I did not plan on being in charge, I took the bull (and the map) by the horns. Some would grow to regret this.

Onward! To Sounds Dangerous with Drew Carey. This attraction is almost completely in the dark. The Dark. Pitch Black. We were unsure as to how FM#3 would handle this, but with the sound coming from the headphones to hold his attention and the light from Daddy's cell phone, he did just fine. I think I might be a Foley Operator when I grow up.

Opposite Sounds Dangerous was a restaurant, the Backlot Express. The smell of food wafted across. This wasn't bacon and eggs I smelled. It was the grilled goodness of burgers. And people were already eating. I saw a couple of people slurping on huge ice cream cones. At 9:00am!

Already sweating, we headed to Star Tours. FM#2 was ultra-excited about this. He had been looking forward to the Star Wars ride ever since I told him about it. This kid is a Star Wars nut! He's watched all six episodes countless times and he is quite adept at using a light saber. Outside the ride was a full-size AT-AT which totally sent him into orbit.

 MawMaw kept FM#3 outside. In we went. Hardly any line. Both boys loved that it was just like Star Wars! Just like the inside of a Star Destroyer! Complete with droids. R2-D2 and C3PO! During the ride I looked at FM#2 who kept saying, "This is soooo cooool!" You could've peeled him off the ceiling.

Then he really got revved up in the gift shop. Moths to a flame. Courtesy of MawMaw, FM#3 got a Star Wars transformer, FM#2 got an X-wing big enough for his action figures, and FM#1 got a patch.

One of the perks of being a Disney resort guest is the ability to have your packages sent back to your hotel. So we wouldn't have to lug them around all day, we did just that. While checking out, we learned the gifts would not arrive at our hotel until after 4:30pm - the next day! It was too late to turn back. We had already filled out the paperwork on one of the gifts and the machine was in motion.

Somehow we pried all three boys out of the gift shop and posed for pictures on the speeder bike.

Lesson #3: Do not have packages sent back to your hotel. Eager children who are excited about the souvenirs they bought will want them as soon as they get back to the room. Even if it is midnight.

We explained this to the boys. We were especially worried about FM#2 as Star Wars is his thing. He understood. What a trooper. And now the anticipation would build for the next afternoon when he could get his X-wing!

I think at this point we wound our way back to Indiana Jones. Everyone else had the same idea because a Cast Member told us it was Standing Room Only. While we were deciding amongst ourselves whether to stay or not, she offered to put our names on a list for VIP seating at the 5:30pm show. We went with that.

"Where to now?" they asked. Back to the map. And more backtracking.

Follow me! Let's go, people! Move it! Move it! Did I hear someone complain about how fast I'm walking?
My executive decision was to see Muppet Vision 3-D. As we were waiting for everyone to take a bathroom break, we saw two Disney characters, a boy and girl, go skipping hand in hand through the crowd. They are what Disney calls "face characters" because their faces are exposed. However, since these characters are known in their animated form, it was hard to recognize them. FM#1 figured it out -- Kim Possible and Ron Stoppable.

As for Muppets 3-D, Disney has the BEST 3-D I've ever seen! FM#3 kept reaching out to grab the little bird character. "Gimme hug!"

Making our way to The Great Movie Ride we spied Scully from Monsters Inc. FM#1 & 2 thought this ride was "so cool". They especially liked that a gangster girl carjacked us. They still talk about it. It was pretty fun, I must say.

FM#3 liked it, too, except for the part of the ride that pays tribute to Alien. The alien falling out of fog from overhead scared the bejeepers out of him. Blood curdling scream!!!

If memory serves me correctly, we had to leave the park for lunch about this time. I scheduled lunch at the Whispering Canyon restaurant at Wilderness Lodge.

Again, I was called upon for my map skills. I got this covered.

April 1, 2008

In the name of all that rocks, let's hit it, dude!

It didn't take the kids any time at all to turn on the TV and find the cartoons. However, they discovered that, very wisely, Disney does not broadcast Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, or other competitors. It's all Disney, baby!

There was also a channel that broadcast this spunky girl going from park to park riding rides, having a rip roaring, good time at Disney World. It was on a continuous loop so it played over and over and over on the same channel.

I couldn't remember the name of it so I Googled it - Top Seven channel. Most of the comments were my sentiments exactly, like this one:

The Top Seven channel features a goofy woman named Stacy giving you a quickly moving tour of theme park highlights. I love love love Stacy. She is simultaneously fun, annoying, energetic, crazy, weird, wild, and completely compelling. I'm completely addicted and watch her at least a dozen times each trip.

Strangely enough, my boys were addicted, too! The Top Seven channel was their favorite. At first it was, "I'm going to ride that!" Then it became, "We rode that!" The older two would stand right in front of the television many a morning while getting ready and wait for their favorite parts. "Hey, Mom! Watch this! Remember that?" It was such fun to watch them and Stacy is annoyingly addictive.

I couldn't get the original video to work, but this is a 9 minute montage. Take a peek...

Triple Mountain Whammy. Wham! Wham! Wham!

Enough lounging, we soon decided to load everyone back in the car and go get MawMaw's Annual Pass. Friendly Cast Members told us MGM's Guest Relations would be the best choice since the parking lot is fairly close to the entrance.

Indeed. We parked only a few rows back. Didn't even need to take the tram.

By the time we got there it was dark. We could see spotlights casting beams into the sky. This was a sight we would see every night and look upon with delightful familiarity. I think because it meant something exciting was happening somewhere.

We got the Annual Pass and headed back to the car. The boys were so excited about the next day. Their anticipation was at a particularly elevated level since the next day we were scheduled for MGM! (A few months after we left, the name was changed to Disney's Hollywood Studios.)

Exiting the parking lot, we decided to hit the grocery store for a few necessities. The closest was Goodings just outside Disney property to the east. We drove past Downtown Disney, snaked through the non-Disney hotels on Hotel Plaza Boulevard, and exited Disney property crossing over Apopka-Vineland Road into the Crossroads shopping center.

Our grocery list consisted of milk, oj, soda, cheese, cereal, bread, eggs, and butter. You know, the basics. Due to their captive audience, the prices were steep, but you pay for convenience. We paid over $5 for a half gallon of orange juice and over $3 for store brand cereal. We were aghast at the prices, but CB didn't flinch.

Although fully stocked with food, we weren't particularly keen on cooking dinner back at OKW and since we were visibly road-weary, we weren't suitably dressed for a sit-down restaurant. After circling Crossroads' offerings we settled on Taco Bell. Our order totalled $17. I chuckled and announced in my airline pilot voice that this would be our cheapest meal the entire week!

The next day would be MGM! Since Rockin' Roller Coaster was closed during our visit, CB was focused on the Tower of Terror.

"I don't know if I'm going to ride that," said FM#1.

My sentiments exactly.