Wednesday, August 27, 2008

MGM - The Day of the Ugly Pictures - '04 Disney Vacation

Chapter 7 - MGM Subzero Adventure


Ahhhhh, MGM Studios day. (There has been a name change since - it is now Disney Studios - MGM threatened a lawsuit - who knew?)

The park that I have most looked forward to visiting. The park that has all the attractions that I think Dr. D will enjoy. The park that is old Hollywood and can “make me a STAR…” (Perhaps I have seen 42nd Street one to many times.)

Well, I don’t want to go.

I want to take 2 doses of Robitussin, pull the covers over my head and be warm, quiet and still for 24 hours.

Dr. D reminds me we are on vacation. I HAVE to get up, get dressed, get on the bus, go to the park, walk around all day (and night) and have FUN!!! He punctuates this by walking out the door to go get breakfast. He also holds the door open for 3.2 seconds longer than he has to for effect.

An arctic wind blasts through the room.

This is what I’m feeling on the mood barometer.

I’m going to need an attitude adjustment. I add my Evil Queen ball cap to my wardrobe for the day. It is probably best for anyone who encounters me to have a visual warning.

It is cold (upper 30’s), but at least the sun is shining.

We pass through the front gates and it really is beautiful. I just have to stand and look for a minute. I have an affinity for Art Deco anything. We’ve been lucky enough to stay at the Waldorf Astoria and attend galas at Radio City Music Hall. Both are palaces devoted to Art Deco. Both are lovingly restored.

Both made me cry. (I’m a little overly dramatic and a little overly emotional, even on my best days…)

My best friend and I at Radio City

Dr. D puts his arm around me. I can tell he’s watching for a reaction – he knows I’m exhausted, sick and on drugs. And now there’s all this ART DECO!!

I want to live here! I’m too busy planning my move into a space above one of the shops to cry.

We stroll down the street. Well, at least we try to stroll down the street. Deanster has noticed my weakness and she has usurped all my tour guide power. She has a PLAN, but we need to HURRY! (Not a word in my vocabulary today!)

As we are walking through the large courtyard in front of Sorcerer Mickey’s Hat, I notice something on the ground in front of me. This is a very unusual site – there is NEVER anything on the ground that isn’t supposed to be there. Dr. D has often threatened to throw trash in the street just to time how fast it is disposed of by park personnel.

I have quietly discouraged this.

Upon closer inspection we discover it is a wallet. I look around for the candid camera. This can't be right. There isn’t anyone around me and no one seems to be concerned or looking for anything. I pick it up and Deanster joins me. (She has come to the back of our family convoy to see what the hold up is all about.) We open it up and can tell by the ID that it belongs to an international visitor. We check out his picture to see if he is standing around us somewhere. No such luck.

That would suck. You’re in a foreign country and you lose your wallet.

I’d have to be sedated.

I tell the family to hang here a bit and I’ll take it to lost and found. Someone directs me to Guest Services and I turn it in. Hopefully the guy was reunited with it with quickly. Isn’t it great how doing a little kindness for someone else can make you feel good. And I certainly needed all the “feel good” I could get.

As I was getting to where all the family was sitting, the characters made an appearance. I still hadn’t seen my childhood, absolute favorite.


I was feeling MUCH better. A hug from Tigger is the best medicine of all.

We admired Gromann’s Chinese Theatre and rode “The Great Movie Ride.”We loved the attention to detail here. Mini Maureen and I have always been old movie hounds. Watched many, many together growing up. Dr. D did a lot of his Master’s work in Film.

This is our kinda place.

Beloved Mary

The Duke

We all really enjoyed “Who Wants to Be A Millionaire.” (This attraction is gone now - makes us very sad) Got seated just before it started and once we figured out how everything worked, I made it to Number 2 and Dr. D made it to Number 8 on the top 10 board. (uh…I’m a little competitive, too!)

We visit “Walt Disney; One Man’s Dream.” Again, my family gets into the whole educational aspect of Disney. We are museum goers and this attraction really appealed to us. Thought the film was great, too.

Deanster has a pilgrimage to make at this park, too. Remember, she is a bit of an Ariel fan. (Well, really she is a Prince Eric fan, but figures if Eric has an available brother, the best way to get to meet him is through Ariel.) We see “Voyage of the Little Mermaid” which is good for all the bells and whistles effects, but really geared for the toddler set.

Lunch time is spent at the ABC Commissary. This certainly wasn’t my favorite, but I was thankful to be inside and warm. I was getting cranky again.

Dr. D passes me the Robitussin.

He says he figures if I’m sleepy, I’ll be more pleasant.

I tell him to recall the behavior we’ve noticed of children who need a nap.

He puts away the Robitussin and hands me a cough drop instead.

I decide that a little “alone time” would be beneficial for all involved so I send everyone else to Beauty and the Beast.

What I need is a little distraction. What I need is to go SHOPPING!!!! I’ve read that the shops will send your purchases back to your resort for you. What a convenience! (And what a partner in crime, Dr. D won’t see all the bags of stuff I purchase!) I was on a mission. I put on my best Blues’ Brother’s sun glasses and set off. I pick up some little gifts for friends and HAD THEM ALL SENT TO CORONADO SPRINGS.

Let’s see, do I choose a little apartment on Sunset or Hollywood Blvd?

I run by The Hollywood Brown Derby. Dr. D and I are scheduled to have lunch with an Imagineer on Friday and Dr. D is trying very hard to eat healthier. Because it is a special event, the menu we are served is different from their regular fare and I wanted to get an idea of what was on it. The Maitre d’ summons a chef (WOW) and she and I have a great conversation about the menu and all his options.

If I call the movers right now, my furniture could be here by Monday…

Crankies abated, I rendezvous with the family at The Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular.

Note to self – new MGM apartment must have unobstructed panorama of this sign. Look for listing on amenities noted as “hunkyview”.

I think it is one of my favorite live attractions. Now, to be fair, I have seen Raiders of the Lost Ark about a bazillion times, can debate the dark aspects of Temple of Doom with the best of them and have very strong opinions about Mr. Ford’s leading ladies in all three movies. (Now four!) I thought the whole concept here was just great. Audience participants, incredible sets, good actors, SFX’s. Just fun.

By now it’s getting late in the day. The sun is starting to go down, along with the temperature. Deanster has sustained us for a bit with hot chocolate, but baby, it’s cold outside.

Deanster doing her JAWA impersonation

We have a quick family conference – Big Cal and Mini Maureen decide to call it a day. The rest of us think we can last another 2 hours or so and visit the Osborn Family Lights and Fantasmic.

We wave bye-bye to the parents and gird our loins, which translated means, I pull out the polar fleece toboggan and lose any chance that I might look cute in any further pictures.


Chapter 7.1 - The Subzero MGM Adventure Continues.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Winter in the World Showcase - '04 Walt Disney World Showcase

Or “Freezing my butt off" in 7 different languages.

Chapter 6

Family Council -12/13/04

The Weather channel (which Mini Maureen and I have a direct uplink to at home – we lived in “Tornado Alley” in North Central Texas for way too long… it scarred us for life) has reported that a big COLD (read ARTIC) front is on its way.

This is not the first we have heard of this. It was forecast even before we left home. I encouraged the family to pack a little of everything including clothing that could be layered. We're prepared. We decide to go to EPCOT on Tuesday. More things to do inside.

Little has been said to this point about my Robitussin addiction and with good reason. I truly was feeling better, exhausted, but better. I was getting by with a dose before bed and one with breakfast. Couple that with some (sing it with me now) RiiiiccoLAAA cough drops during the day and Dr. D was beginning to think that I really didn’t have tuberculosis.

The weather had been so nice….

All this was about to change.


We hit EPCOT right at about 9:30 am. So did the jet stream.

If you could find a sunny spot, out of the wind, facing south, with your scarf around your head, it wasn’t too bad.

Characters were out in full force at the front. Deanster goes to Pinocchio. I see Gideon. Now for those of you not well versed in your Pinocchio, Gideon is the faithful sidekick to J. Worthington Foulfellow, a.k.a. Honest John. I always empathized with poor little Pinocchio. I would’ve gone with them, too. After all didn’t Honest John say “Come with us, we’ll make you a star!”?

Deanster says Gideon is creepy looking.

Hey diddle di dee, an actor’s life for me!

We work our way pretty quickly back to the World Showcase. We did stop to check out these guys (and gal) for a bit. They are called Kristos.


I think it is so cool for EPCOT to have all the different performing artists.

We take a left at the lake and start with Mexico. It’s still not quite 11 yet so Deanster and Mini check out some shops to get out of the wind. Dr. D is in heaven, having already shed his windbreaker. He loves the weather.

I should clarify that Dr. D lived several years in Wisconsin while attending UW at Madison (or UMAD as he refers to it.) He is part penguin. Has been known to stand outside in a snowstorm and eat ice cream.

I think he’s nuts.

I walk around our house, October through March, and occasionally in the summer months when he gets ahold of the thermostat, with a blanket wrapped around me. He calls me “Dances with Flannel.” I freeze about 90% of the time. Today is no different.

Big Cal and I are admiring the flora. Such an amazing array of plants. Next time I need to send him on one of the horticultural tours. I know he’d love it.

Deanster and Mini Mo motor by and we enter the pyramid.

Dr. D twitches….

“Feliz Na-vi-dad….”

Makes me laugh out loud.

We are some of the first to ride El Rio Del Tiempo. Mini Mo thinks this is cool – loves all things Aztec, Inca, etc. Since “It’s a Small World” is closed for refurbishment, I figure this ride is a good replacement.

Decide to grab some coffee in Norway. Dr. D begins a clandestine affair with one of the blonde, blue-eyed Cast Memeber lovelies in the bakery while Deanster and I ride Maelstrom and take pictures. Norway has become his FAVORITE country!!!

Germany is lovely. Tons of poinsettias.

Mini Maureen cheating by standing on the curb!

Our stomach clocks go off right about Italy. Dr. D and I decide to have lunch at Alfredo’s. Truthfully, I’m just looking for any port in the storm. I am COLD and my ears are beginning to hurt a bit from the wind. I can tell a case of the “crankies” are not too far behind if I don’t sit some place warm for a while and have some food.

We couldn’t have picked a better place. Cozy, warm, great food and a sweet, sweet waitress named Rosa Maria. Dr. D gets the Trittico di Pasta which is their sampler of Lasagna, Fettuccine Alfredo and Gnocchi Pomodoro and I get Spaghetti al Fiocco di Pomodoro Saraceno. Soooo good and perfectly “al dente.” We have a great little place by us at home that is run by an Italian family from Brooklyn. They have taught me the correct way to eat pasta and now I can hardly stand it if it is overcooked and mushy.

We get a Cast Member to take a picture of us in the lobby.

No Grumpy shirt today!

She is nearly 6 ft. tall, blond, blue-eyed and beautiful. ITALY is now Dr. D’s favorite country.

(Sadly, Alfredo's is now gone from Epcot - but here is a great website about the Italian section of Epcot, including pics of the restaurant. We mourn the loss of one of our favorite places to go into a food coma!)

As we are leaving, La Befana, the good witch who brings gifts to kiddos on the eve of Epiphany is storytelling. I’ve rarely seen kids sit that still. She was wonderful. Then we duck into a shop that has a mask maker – OMYWORD! Some of the most beautiful work I’ve ever seen. I will have one, one of these days.

We promised to meet the rest of the family in the UK at 2:30 for the “The British Invasion” concert.

We’ve dallied so long over lunch, it’s almost that time. We race through the US and France and find the parents already parked in a choice spot. Dr. D and I pull up some curb, when Deanster explodes out of a shop across the square and the hand signals start.

Camera in one hand, the other over her head making long, fluid “get your freezing butt over here now” gestures. I give Dr. D all travel paraphernalia and bolt.

I get about half way there and she mouths “MA – RY – POP – PINS!” She mouths it because there are very few people outside the shop that are aware of this news.

I hurdle a Japanese family.

I am the biggest Julie Andrews fan that ever lived.

Julie Andrews
Katharine Hepburn
Carol Burnett
Maureen O’Hara

My fantasy dinner party – girl’s night out – me and the other red heads.

I digress.

I want to be Mary Poppins. (I want to PLAY the Evil Queen, Maleficent and possibly Peter Pan, but I want to BE Mary Poppins.) Deanster knows this and lovingly has found her for me.
I’m tempted to ask her to say supercalifragilisticexpialidociuos backwards, but I don’t. (But I bet she could've.)

Pooh is also there, silly ole bear.

Notice we have our coats on inside the building

We walk outside and there is a 3 year old having a NUCLEAR melt down. Her mother is trying her best to calm her down. Deanster goes over and quietly tells the Mom that “Pooh is right inside.” The Mom looks at her and says is an incredulous voice “God must have sent you!”

Ah well, just spreading pixie dust however she can.

We listen to The Fab Four – WOW! All of us are singing along – what fun. Makes you just want to go out and get a bowl hair cut!

We all go back to France and catch "Impressions de France." Deanster tells Big Cal it’s a “200 degree airborne French travelogue set to classical music.” (She reads it out of the Passporter) I didn’t think I’d enjoy it that much, but it is very compelling and beautiful – you really feel like you are flying – Big C and Mini Maureen were still seated on their ECV’s and Big C kept trying to change course by moving his handle bars. I never realized scooters could fly!

We wander around France a bit and get to meet Aurora and Belle. Aurora starts to have a very serious talk with Dr. D about the Maleficent pin on his lanyard. He hastily explains that that particular lanyard belongs to me –so I get the lecture. (Thanks!)

I’m so impressed with these actors. They are so well versed in their characters and excellent in their improv skills. They are heroes to me, doing that job everyday (or whatever their shift is) and entertaining so many people, especially children. My hat goes off to them.

As we are walking out of France, MoRockin’ is performing in Morroco (get it?) and we go listen for a while. Dr. D and Big C are particularly intrigued by the belly dancer. I just kept thinking about how cold she must be.

Get to hear a bit of Off Kilter in Canada before we do a little of the Land and Living Seas Pavilions. It’s getting close to dinner time and we’re pooped. AND the temperature is steadily dropping. We ride SpaceShip Earth as a finale and then send the parents back to the buses.

Deanster has decided to stay solo and catch Illumniations and get some good night and fireworks shots.

Dr. D and I are meeting Wonder Boy at Wolfgang Pucks.

We shop for a bit and I get my black baseball cap with “Queen” embroidered on it and start for DownTown Disney.

We decide we’d like to see what the Saratoga Springs Resort looks like, so we hop a bus going there. We figure there should be a bus from there to DownTown Disney pretty quickly because it’s located so near by.

Boy, was I wrong. We sat in front of that Resort for 35 minutes in the freezing cold (temperature is now in the upper 30’s with winds of 15 – 20 mph) watching bus after bus go by. Well, at least Dr. D and I were out of the wind (mostly) and got to cuddle.

We finally get to Wolfgang Puck’s. I can’t begin to tell you how miserable I was (Dr. D was just mildly uncomfortable in his windbreaker.) We meet the guys, get seated and my tuberculosis reappears.

I impolitely drink everyone’s water at the table.

There was much laughter and great food. It is so nice to get to spend uninterrupted time with friends. Especially those you don’t get to see often.

"Uh-huh, I'm all choked up"

After we say our goodbyes, Dr. D and I start back towards the buses in a zigzag pattern. This isn’t difficult in that there is basically no one outside to get in our way. We run from one store front to another, warming up enough to brave the bitter cold for the next few feet. I’m trying to gauge just how long I’ll be able to wait outside for a bus before I come down with pneumonia. I figure about…mmmm…three minutes. And then I see it.

A yellow taxi.

Remember, we quite frequently vacation in Manhattan and I’m well versed in hand signals. There is however, only one cab.

Please, please God. Let us get that cab.

(You know I’m gonna run, don’t you….)

…Dr. D closes the door behind him and says “Coronado Springs, please.”

At this point I didn’t care where we went or how long it took us to get there. Just as long as the heater was working, I was doing just fine.

I tipped the cabbie $10 after Dr. D paid him. It was all I had. Good thing I didn’t have a $100. I just might have given it to him.

We stop at the gift shop and purchase Dr. D an honest-to-God coat to replace his windbreaker for the next day. It cost us $65 (which at Disney is a STEAL), but is a great quilted varsity jacket style. Even Doc thinks it has gotten chilly and is a good idea. I say another prayer of thanks that our room isn’t to far from the main building. I don’t become too much of a popsicle on the way there. Dr D. gets me settled, checked for frostbite and dosed with Robitussin. He then goes back to the Pepper Market for a Mug ‘o Coffee. Says he wants to break in his new coat. (I told you he was nuts!)

When he returns, he tells me of his encounter with the grounds crew.

Somewhere I saw that during the holidays Disney sets out over 40,000 poinsettias. I wouldn’t doubt it. They were all over our resort and the parks. And of course there are all the beautiful tropical plants and topiaries.

I had checked the weather channel when we got in and the temp was 34 degrees, with wind at 20 mph. (I don’t think we’re in Florida anymore, Toto.)

He said there was a mad dash happening outside to remove or cover all tender vegetation. Golf Carts whizzing by in all different directions. I’m sure that was happening all over Disney property.

We do a quick phone check to make sure Deanster hadn’t frozen to death. She was back safe and sound. I put head to pillow and slept the sleep of the drugged.


Chapter 7 - MGM and the day of the “ugly pictures.”

Thursday, August 21, 2008

With apologies to Rudyard Kipling - '04 WDW Vacation

Chapter 5.1

Remember where we are – Animal Kingdom, just off Safari…

We walk through the Pangani Forest Exploration trail and enjoy the flora and fauna, especially the Gorillas. While in the aviary my cell phone rings.


We have a wonderful friend who is one of the vocalists in the TARZAN ROCKS show. We’ve known him since he was 18 and fresh out of the high school for the performing arts. We’ve been able to follow his career from Six Flags over Texas to cruise lines to “Starlight Express” in Vegas to Disney. It’s been tremendous to watch him become the professional performer and incredible human being that he is…

I’m a little proud of him.

He’s doing the 3 o’clock show and will be at the park early so he and I can catch up a bit before we all see him in the show. Woo-hoo! I’m so excited.

We continue our stroll and turn a corner and there stands Baloo…(you know I’m gonna run don’t you.)

Jungle Book is one of my earliest Disney memories. Baloo is just so big and BLUE and cuddly. It makes me smile just to think about him. So I make a wild gyrating motion as I sprint towards Baloo. This should communicate to Doc and Deanster to get the cameras ready so they don’t miss capturing this VERY IMPORTANT moment.

Once I hip check a couple of smaller kids just to establish my place in line, I look around to find both scooters ABANDONED in the middle of the walkway. Pal Mickey, jackets, camera bags… all hanging out with a “free to a good home” look about them, and no one related to any of the above mentioned merchandise in site.

There is no sign of our parents.

I make the clenched teeth, tight necked, frowny “do something!” face at Deanster.

She makes the “what the heck do you want me to do? Take your picture or rescue our stuff and by the way, why am I in charge of the parents?!” face right back at me.

Isn’t it amazing the non-verbal communication one can have with a sibling?

We then locate Big Cal and Mini Mo.

I go into airport ground controller mode. Through a short series of hand signals, I position Dr. D at the scooters, get Deanster to snap some shots of Big C and Mini Maureen, just in time to get her back to me and Baloo.

I notice several parents moving their children slowly away from me.

I no doubt believe they think I have Turrets syndrome.

We ride out to Rafiki’s Conservation Station and back. Time for lunch. We decided on Flame Tree BBQ and were not disappointed. Found a lovely table by a fountain where we could see the lake and the construction on the new Mt. Everest attraction.

The party barge goes by playing "Felize Navidad." Dr. D twitches a little.

"What's up?"

"That's got to be the 147th time I've heard that song today," he replies.

Oh, great...that means now it's stuck in his head. This could be a problem of Pavlovian proportion. He claims his sister played "Rock A-Hula" from Blue Hawaii so much when they were young, that if he ever hears it again, he can't be responsible for his actions.

I make a mental note to keep him away The Polynesian Resort and Mexico in Epcot.

Deanster and the parents decide to go to the Maharajah Jungle Trek.

Dr. D checks out Chester and Hester’s Dino-Rama.

I go and sit by “Petrifries...from the McDon of Time” to wait for WONDER BOY. (McDonald's sponsors that section of the park!) Those french fries smelled sooooo good.

I’m really proud that I don’t make too much of a scene when I see him. (What that means is that I don't tackle him to the ground.) We have enough time to find a shady spot to laugh and talk in. He is so happy at Disney.

Does my heart good.

After a bit, he has to run to get ready for the show. I round up the family and we find the venue. WONDER BOY has arranged for us to sit in the VIP section which is center just behind the tech booth. I sit, video taping, with a big goofy grin on my face, watching him interact with the audience, using that fabulous voice and truly loving his job.

The show is great. Amazing stunts, great rockin' band and vocals – everything I expect from a Disney produced show.

And after seeing Tarzan, well, shall we just say “hubba, hubba!”

We get to chat just a bit more with Wonder Boy after the show and make plans to meet for dinner the next night. Deanster and parents want to see “Lion King’ so they head towards Camp Minnie-Mickey.

Dr. D and I take a side trip through the Dino-Rama. He thinks it is the cleverest thing he’s ever seen! Loves the “kitschy-ness” of it. Has to show it to me.

(Side note – for a current discussion of the values of kitsch go here)

It makes him laugh out loud.

Dr. D does not often laugh out loud. He’ll smile. He might let out with a quiet “ha” but a belly laugh is usually reserved for George Carlin or something inept that a Dallas Cowboy football player is apt to do.

He poses for pictures.

He makes funny faces.

It’s official. He’s been DISNEYFIED!!!!

We make it into Lion King just as the doors are closing. Lovely show – fabulous performers – visually stunning.

As we leave Big Cal say’s “What’s next?”

I explain that Animal Kingdom closes earlier than the other parks and we’ve pretty much done what we’d come to do. He looks slightly disappointed. I think about the old theatre saying “always leave them wanting more.”

We take our time going back to the gates. Shop a little. Just enjoy being together.

As we leave some of the Fab 5 (Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto) are at the front in all their holiday finery. Deanster has made it a personal mission to have her photo taken with Minnie. See, when she was 6, her entire birthday party was themed around Minnie, down to Deanster’s green and white plaid overalls with the Minnie face appliquéd on the bib. Mini Maureen even drew a huge Minnie face on a piece of poster board and the girls played “pin the nose” on Minnie. (I also get a lot of my creativity from my mother!)

Deanster and Minnie are reunited.

We bid a fond farwell to Animal Kingdom.

Definitely a wonderful way to start our park experience.

Evening is spent relaxing and gearing up for tomorrow ‘cause….

…thar’s a blue northern a'comin!

Next - Chapter 6 - Winter in the World Showcase

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Call of the Wild - '04 WDW Vacation

Chapter 5

6:30 AM – Phone rings… Stitch yells “GET MOVING!”

How crazy is that? We are on vacation, why are we getting up at this ungodly hour?

Why, because we want to…..


You know, it really is easier for us to get going earlier – have some leisurely getting ready time, enjoy our morning coffee, hot tea and breakfast du jour instead of flying out the door with our shirt tails hanging out.

This also gives Dr. D a chance to pull out the lap top and see what’s up in the ether world. His class has been able to access the dedicated web pages but assignments officially start today. Online classes are fabulous.

We are to meet the rest of the group at their room and be crossing the parking lot to the bus stop at 9 am.

I drink my hot tea and watch the sun come up over Lago Dorado.

looking from the Casitas towards the marina

I cannot begin to describe how peaceful the resort is. I realize that the week we are here is considered to be a lower attendance time and there are no major conventions in-house presently. I know there is great potential for this place to be absolutely packed and crazy, but at the moment we feel as if we have the place to ourselves. It is so QUIET. I understand there are a lot of people who do not prefer the Coronado Springs, but it has suited us beautifully and we would not hesitate to stay here again.

I pull out the battle plan for today and review. One of the things I promised myself as coordinator of this group was that I would always remember we were on VACATION. I would do the research, make some preliminary logistical decisions but always be open to the magic of the moment. Today would be the day to see if this would work.

Deanster was to instruct Big Cal and Mini Maureen in all things ECV. Big C had taken to his immediately. In fact, as I was gazing out my window around 7am, I see him zip (and I mean ZIP) by on his way to get morning coffee.

He has a big grin on his face.

Mini Maureen has used hers as a coat rack.

I was a bit concerned about our first encounter with Disney Transportation and the scooters. I knew that each bus was equipped to handle two ECV’s at a time. I hoped it would not be difficult or time consuming to load them. I didn’t want the parents to think it was bothersome to anyone to use them.

It was a little chilly, so we bundle up Mini Maureen with an extra scarf and set off to the bus stop. Very few people waiting. AK bus arrives and Deanster jumps into action. After a quick conversation with the Driver, amazing things begin to happen to the bus. It actually tips to the side and lowers a multi-jointed ramp. We are instructed to back the ECVs, one at a time onto the ramp. Mini Maureen decides that Deanster needs to be in charge of hers as that she hasn’t had a lot of practice going backwards yet (we hope she never does!) Truth be told, she hasn’t had a lot of practice going forwards yet. We are loaded and on our way in less than 8 minutes.

A big, big thank you to the Drivers of Disney Transportation. They did a lot to make our stay successful.

We unload and make our way to the gates. Have a last minute instruction session with group about how our room key is also our park tickets, etc. Have to stop and take a couple of pictures of the beautiful Christmas tree.

Animal Kingdom

Mini Mo and Big C on the ECVs (note Pal Mickey hitching a ride)

It has warmed up, so Deanster and I get a locker and store our jackets and we are set loose in Animal Kingdom.

We are animal people. Have always had multiple pets. Love going to zoos. I am glad that we decided to start here. We feel at home. Everything is so lush and beautiful.

Crowds are light and we just take our time on our way to the Kilamajaro Safari. Hang out at the tree of life. We are all amazed. Deanster has the big camera and lets the shutter fly.

Hope you brought some sunscreen for your head Dr. D!

We listen to a musical group on the way. Shop a bit. Very relaxing and wonderful. On to the Safari. Our first ride. Here we learn the in’s and out’s (and back and forth’s and back and forth’s) of queue travel, scooter navigation and protocol. I am just stunned at the accessibility and ease we have. Our party of 5 is always allowed to board together and is never rushed. This is truly a wonderful thing for us because of Dr. D’s balance issues and Big C’s hip problems. We are never made to feel “different” than any other park guest. I know that our group’s special needs are very small compared to others. This was our first foray in which accessibility demanded our attention. It will not, however, be our last and I am just thankful that it was with an organization that puts forth this kind of effort. I hope those with more serious issues are able to feel the same.

Big C and Dr. D’s comfort have been our big concern, however Deanster takes this opportunity to tell Mini Maureen that she is NOT to FALL DOWN under any circumstances. You see, Mini is sometimes (not often) prone to what I like to call “gravity gusts.” Once or twice a year (for as long as I can remember) she finds herself in much closer proximity to the ground than she was just moments before. We do not believe that there is any medical issues related to this – we just think she gets preoccupied (you know…shopping, reading, shopping, looking, shopping, shopping, shopping) and doesn’t look where she is going. Luckily, she has only injured herself badly once and we think this to be a fluke because there was a rather large pot hole involved. Normally these incidents occur on level ground with only one, maybe two obstacles in sight. (We trust she has some Tigger ancestry somewhere because of her bouncy nature.) Deanster is thinking that there will be plenty of distractions on this vacation and that her warning is warranted.

Mini Maureen is not amused.

We think it’s a riot.

I am happy to report that Mini Maureen did not have one gravity gust the entire trip.

The Safari is great. All the animals enjoying the temperate weather just as we were.

Deanster and Big C

Hakuna Matada


Chapter 5.1 - With Apologies to Rudyard Kipling

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Together at Last - '04 WDW Vacation

Chapter 4

Phone Rings

Wake up call from Mickey (and Stitch – “No Sleeping…GET MOVING!”)

We do get moving – Dr. D goes to Pepper Market to fill his UNLIMITED REFILL mug with coffee (which he thinks is a GLORIOUS thing) and bring back a little nosh. Deanster and I pack up just in case we have to vacate this particular room when we do the “check out – recheck in” hokey pokey today for our Dream Maker Package. (We had decided to come a day early just to get settled before the parents got there)

The Plan is to eat, get the room situation handled, meet Randy’s Mobility in the lobby at 9 to pick up Big Cal and Mini Maureen’s ECV’s (Electric Convenience Vehicle), take the rental car to the Car Care Center then take the shuttle back to Coronado Springs, where, hopefully the parents have arrived.

Head to lobby for the ECV’s.

Christmas Tree in Registration Area

Doc and me at the fountain

Ceiling above

The scooters arrive on time and are really cool. I had spoken to Randy on the phone and had made a big point of making sure that Big Cal’s could accommodate someone who is 6’5”. The last thing I wanted was for his first experience with one of these to be uncomfortable. Walking for any distance has become problematic for him. This really hacks him off. I thought that this would be a great chance to try one out and see if it would be something he might want to get for himself someday.

Big Cal’s is a bigger model than Mini Mo’s. Hooray! And they are red! Oooooh – sporty!

And what a service from Randy’s Mobility. Cheaper than getting them at the parks, you can rent them for your entire stay so you have them 24/7 (especially great for this particular resort – Coronado Springs is BIG!) and they have drop off and pick up service.

After a quick lesson in all things ECV, Deanster, Dr. D and I head back to park them in the room. Dr. D’s job is to walk point position and provide verbal cues as to when the resort’s stretch golf carts come barreling around a corner.

It goes something like this.

Deanster and I are chatting, driving and looking at the beautiful scenery. Dr. D is ahead of us.

Suddenly, he stops and does his best meerkat impersonation. Then he yells…

“HERE THEY COME…get over….get OVER”

A word about these golf carts…they are used as an internal transportation system. There are different kinds of carts – ones outfitted for Bellmen to carry luggage on, ones for groundskeepers and those for transporting guests.

I am quite positive that the Cast Memebers who are assigned to operate said golf carts are trained extensively…at the Richard Petty Driving Experience. Thankfully, Dr. D and I have knowledge of crossing streets and dodging taxis in large metropolitan areas.

It came in handy.

Besides, we are from Texas. NASCAR doesn’t scare us.


We get the ECV’s back to the room without either of us ending up in the beautiful Lago Dorado or roadkill under the wheels of a golf cart. I take this as a good sign.

Deanster calls front desk and is informed we are keeping the room that we are currently in. This is in some ways a relief – don’t have to move, store luggage and 2 ECV’s until other rooms are ready, but also a bit of a disappointment in that we had requested a king for Dr. D and I when Deanster moved in with the parents. Oh well, no biggie.

Back to lobby to do the paperwork thing for our package deal. Checked in with Cast Member Mike, who got us acclimated and educated. We found out he had his Ph.D. in education and he and Dr. D enjoyed chatting. Dr. Mike was working here for a few months on his way to being part of the college program.

Get the Pimp Mobile and set off to return it. Here is where Deanster announces her plan while hanging over the front seat between me and Dr. D.

“The parents are still 150 miles away. We will be RIGHT BY the Magic Kingdom when we drop off the car. Why don’t we just have the Alamo shuttle take us there and hang out on Main Street USA?”

She bats her eyelashes.

I had been suspicious of her bringing the camera bag. For some reason it had become essential that Deanster see the Castle up close and personal at the earliest possible moment.

Fine by us. Shuttle takes us to the transportation center to catch monorail. Dr. D looks impressed. His only other Disney experience was at Disney Land when he was 12. That was 1962. Things have changed a bit.

It’s a little elbow to elbow, but nothing major.

Deanster RUNS to the Castle.

I’m beginning to think it has become some sort of religious pilgrimage for her.

Dr. D and I get some coffee and hot tea at the Main Street Bakery. I was so excited to find hot tea! We people watch and stroll. Dr. D gets a big kick out of reading the names on the windows above the shops, honoring some of their legends.

Deanster returns and we wander back towards the entrance knowing that we have to get back to Coronado Springs pretty soon.

And then it happens…

Our first character encounter. And it’s CRUELLA!!!!!

I have a secret obsession with the villains.

My dream job would be to play the Evil Queen for a day at the Park. (Deanster says I’d be a natural – I laughed… then I pulled her hair.)

I have a BFA in Theater Performance and a specialty in Children’s theater and try to do at least one show a year that plays to or involves kids. I have always been a character actor, playing the mom or the crazy neighbor next door, etc. But my most FUN roles have been the characters that complicate things. Played the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland, Lucy in You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown, you know that kind of thing.

Now it’s my turn to run…

She puts her arms around us and purrs in that low Cruella voice “Everyone say… PUPPIES!”

(okay...where is her right leg?!?)

Deanster sees Aladdin, we get her pic with him, too. He said it had been a long time since a grown up red-head threw her arms around him. (Deanster hugged him tighter)

Cell phone rings.

Big Cal and Mini Mo have arrived at Resort. We say hang tight in the lobby and we’ll be there shortly.

We got back in less than 20 minutes. Love those Disney buses.

Bail out at the bus stop by lobby and are walking across porte corchere when we see Big Cal. Deanster and I become 5 and 10 years old respectively and run across 4 lanes of cars yelling “DADDY”

One of the Bellmen who looks to be around my dad’s age gets all verklempt and pats Big Cal on the back when we pass. “We always want to hear that, no matter how old they get, don’t we?” he says. Big Cal agrees.

We find Mini Mo in the lobby. Deanster has called whilst on the bus back to the resort to see if their room is ready. It is not. Big Cal has had bellmen (note the plural) unload giant Rubbermaid containers, et al and store. We pile into the F150 intent on exploring and a little lunch.

Decide to go to Grand Floridian. Deanster and Big Cal dump rest of us out and they wait to valet the truck. As we are walking towards lobby I think “Hmmm…that’s a familiar aroma.” Ah-ha! Roasting chestnuts – streets of NYC, open fire, Christmas…this is gonna be a great vacation. A very dapper gentleman dishes us up some and we snack until the other two join us. Big Cal is impressed that Valet is complimentary for those with handicapped tags. I am impressed at how well Disney is taking care of my parents.

The Grand Floridian is beautiful.

We have a quick lunch at the counter service there - The Gasparilla Grill. I hadn’t realized that there were video games actually IN the seating area, so it was pretty loud, but all in all a good experience.

We toured the lobby a bit...

Me and Doc in front of the Gingerbread House in GF Lobby

Big Cal and Mini Maureen in front of the Lobby Tree

...and then decided to take Big Cal on the Resort monorail loop. He, like Dr. D., thought that was pretty neat. I told Deanster that it was probably going to be his favorite ride of the entire trip.

Everybody is a little tuckered and our other room is ready so we high tail it back to Coronado Springs. Big Cal and Mini Mo have a primo corner, first floor room with a water view from the front window and a quiet pool view from the side. We bring the ECV’s and Deanster’s luggage down. Mini Mo is enjoying the décor (we think somewhere she has Native American ancestry because of her love of the Southwest). Deanster and Big Cal take the ECV’s on a spin around the resort. Everyone relaxes for a bit.

F150 provisions and luggage is delivered by lone bellman. It is his first day.

Poor, poor kid.

Dr. D and I plan to go over to the Boardwalk Resort, find some dinner somewhere and explore. Deanster and Mini Mo will drive over later and meet us. After driving from Texas to Florida the past few days, Big C is gonna hang out at the home resort.

The Doc and I go to the bus stop. First bus that rolls up is going to EPCOT. We figure, why not? We’ll go there and get a bus to the Boardwalk. Driver is so nice and we get to chatting. I tell him what we’re doing. He informs me that my plan is not the most expedient way and what to do next time. Then he say’s “Watch this.” (Mind you, Dr. D and I are the only two passengers on the bus). He changes his marquee from EPCOT to SPECIAL and takes us directly to the Boardwalk.

We FEEL special. We disembark; waving and thanking our coachman, gently wiping the pixie dust from our shoulders and enter the Boardwalk lobby.

Okay, I love this resort – feels so homey and comfy. And something about the seahorse chandelier in the lobby appeals to the Pisces in me.

We check out the restaurants and decide on Big River Grille and Brewing Works. We walk up behind a party of 10 who can’t decide if they all want to sit together, or separate, or put the kids at one table…yada, yada, yada. The host must have seen my eyes start to roll back into my head. Perhaps he thought I was about to have a hypoglycemic attack. Whatever it was, it worked. He handed off the logistical nightmare group to another host and took us (“party of 2, your table is ready”) right in.

I hugged him.

Me with my eyes rolled back in my head

I get quesadillas and Doc gets the Meatloaf special. We aren’t beer drinkers but Dr. D is somewhat of a Root Beer connoisseur, which is also brewed there. Very enjoyable. Our first evening just the two of us. Did I mention that we will be celebrating our 14th anniversary January 19th? We hold hands through dinner. (This is a great advantage to marrying a left handed person! We can both eat and hold hands at the same time. – I know, you’re getting a cavity just reading this! So, sue me.)

After dinner we find the girls. I can tell, however, that my group is winding down and ready to “go t’da house.”

Our "girls" picture in Boardwalk lobby.

“…one day, I mixed marshmallows with spit and made sauce”
Edith Ann

Tomorrow…. Our first park, Animal Kingdom!

And the first day on the scooters….

Next chapter - The Call of the Wild

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

3,2,1...we have ignition! '04 WDW Vacation

Chapter 3

Alarm goes off at
5:45 am.

Two dogs and The Dr. half open their eyes and look at me like I’m nuts. It’s Saturday – the world does not start until, at the absolute earliest, 9 am on Saturday.

But this isn’t any ordinary Saturday. It is the Saturday we go to Walt Disney World!!

I remind them all of this and blow my nose for punctuation.

They look dubious, especially the Jack Russell.

Max became part of the family in February, ’04 when he chose us by sitting in my front yard with no collar, a cocked head and a “you need me” kind of look on his face. He is a terrier through and through – and also has a tendency to have separation anxiety. Which is why we kennel him if we are going to be gone. Would hate for Pag to walk into the house and Max to have chewed through the leather sofas. He loves the vet where we go, and they have yet to call us and demand that we come and get him, so all is good.

I walk to the living room to find the cat sitting in an open suitcase.

She is not amused. She is a mixed Lavender Point Siamese. She is rarely amused.

She is also kinda purple…like a
Cheshire. She is very much MY cat. Siamese tend to be that way. Lilac tells me, rather loudly, that she is unhappy that we are leaving for such a significant amount of time and that as punishment she will be a total bother to Pag.

That is an exact quote.

6:02 am. Phone rings. I see by the caller ID it is the Deanster. Must be on her way, it’s her cell phone.

“Let me in,” says she in her tiniest, sleepiest, COLDEST voice.

“Where are you?”

“I’m in the driveway”

Seems she was up until 3 am getting orders finished for clients that needed photos for Christmas and packing, etc. She knew if she went to sleep she’d never get up on time, so she decided to run by the 24 Hour post office to mail some things (at 4 in the morning, in the rape and murder district of Dallas – did I mention that she should have been a character in “The Incredibles?” She could have been Invincible Girl) and then drove 40 minutes to my house and slept in her car until she saw a light go on.

I bundle her in and got things going. Dr. D was out the door at 7 to take Max to the kennel. (I distinctly saw Lilac blow him a raspberry as he was lead out the door.) I called Pag to make sure he was awake and on his way over and did a last minute check of all bags.

The Lab-spaniel mix

(who has disturbing tendencies towards cocker spanielism) has had her allergies flare up and I’ve had to get out her med’s for Pag to administer, but things were still going well.

We would be ready to leave for the airport at 8:00 am. I was sure of it.

8:10 – Pag squeals in on two wheels, takes one look at all the luggage and mutters something under his breath. I believe it is some primordial male code. Dr. D subconsciously picks up on it and they begin grunting in early morning pre-coffee vernacular while looking at Pag’s trunk like apes contemplating the monolith.

I should have thought about this – Pag’s trunk isn’t big enough and I hadn’t cleaned out the trunk of our Sedan.

Just a quick sidebar on what I envision a trunk’s function to be. 1.) a mobile closet and/or 2.) a mobile storage unit. And since the acquisition of the Miata and the subsequent diminished capacity of my own trunk space, I have usurped space in DH’s sedan.

I have the trunk cleaned out in record time, mainly due to the fact that everything is thrown into the garage (hopefully not in any configuration that will become a fire hazard, but hey, that’s why Pag is there.) and by 8:20 we are on our way.

Have printed our boarding passes so we can curbside check our luggage, hug the Pag goodbye and proceed upstairs to security.

Poor Dr. D – he fits some profile and gets pulled out of line or makes the machine go off 9 out of 10 times. We also travel with his CPAP, which is a breathing apparatus that he wears at night for his sleep apnea. It is a gift from above as far as snore control goes, however it does tend to freak security out. We carry the instructions with it so we can prove what it is.

I turn around and see Dr. D turning into the much maligned superhero “Naked Man.” He has on no shoes, has turned everything out of his pockets, taken off his belt, his glasses AND his wedding ring – and I am too far away to stop him if he begins to disrobe.

The cost of this trip – you don’t even want to know.

Seeing Dr. D breeze through security complete with small end zone celebration dance –

We hit McDonalds for coffee and small breakfast goodies and I take more Robitussin.
I blow my nose and cough as an added ploy for sympathy.

We board and get on our way on time and are told we’ll get in ahead of schedule. Fabulous.

Just as drinks are being served the turbulence starts – flight attendants hurry to finish and return to their seats. Captain tells us that he’ll change altitude and try to get us out of this REALLY choppy air. I know he did everything he could – we went up and down several times, but we pulled a Tigger all the way to Orlando.

Bouncy, Trouncy, Flouncy, Pouncy
Fun! Fun! Fun! Fun! Fun!

Now, I am not a particularly calm flyer, but I have discovered that Robitussin makes me just drowsy enough to not truly care about turbulence. Must remember this for future flights.

Arrive ahead of schedule, just as predicted. MCO airport is bustling, but not too bad. Festive decorations are up. We get our bags pretty quickly and head to Alamo. I read somewhere that you could rent a car quite inexpensively for a day and return it on Disney property. Looked into doing same thing in reverse for going home, but rates were much higher because of the start of Christmas week and could do car service for about the same price.*

Got checked in at Alamo and directed to parking garage. Deanster was now fully awake and excited to be there – she forged ahead with instructions to pick a car in the intermediate row that was NOT white. Dr. D and I are moseying along letting Deanster get ahead. We begin to notice the Deanster pick up her pace – there is another family headed with her to the intermediate row – AND THERE ARE ONLY TWO CARS LEFT.

One of them is white.

Deanster beats them to the other car and flings her body and luggage across the trunk.

This car is metallic gold.

Now to be fair, it is a MUTED metallic gold, but it is gold nonetheless. Deanster loads up, quite happy with having chosen what we have now dubbed “The Pimp Mobile.” Dr. D (his name is Dennis) now believes that he is the new rapper “P.Denny” with his all girl band.

We head to the Coronado Springs Resort with Big Cal’s carefully printed and very accurate GPS directions. Weather is great. Resort is beautiful. Room is where we requested it to be. All is right with the world.

We are starving so head to Pepper Market. Deanster and I split chicken fajitas and Dr. D. has a Chinese dish. Both are great. We jump back in the “Pimp Mobile” and head to Downtown Disney. Stroll around and marvel at the marketing that is Disney. We listen to a high school band that performs Christmas carols. We make mental notes as to what we might want to take back as gifts and souvenirs. Deanster gets hot chocolate at Ghiradelli’s. I just enjoy the night, hanging out with sis and hubby.

And then…(insert scary suspenseful minor chords here) we discover the pin trader.

Dr. D gets a certain look in his eye that worries me. He is by trade an historian, by nature a collector. These two things could be just the powder keg that sets off an obsession. We chat with Cast Memeber’s to get the skinny on how all this works. Dr. D is aloof…nonchalant, but I know he is absorbing every word. He's a secret superhero, remember.

I had thought that Deanster and I might enjoy pin trading. We were getting lanyards with our Dream Maker package. I had purchased about 15 pins in a lot off of ebay so that we had some to trade. Now I wished I had bought some for Dr. D. He was still noncommittal. But I had a feeling.

It begins to get chilly and we are exhausted, so back to the resort.

Big day tomorrow – Big Cal and Mini Maureen arrive.

And Deanster has a secret plan…

* this was in the days before the Disney Express Bus service!

Next chapter - Together at last!