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.