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and Disney World
By Roger W. Reini
3rd | 4th
| 5th | 6th | 7th
8th | 9th | 10th | 11th
| 12th | 13th
KFC Museum | Kennedy
Space Center | DW arrival
Magic Kingdom | Epcot | MGM
| Breakfast with Pooh
This is an account of my visit to the Kennedy Space Center
and Walt Disney World in August 2000. Accompanying
me on the Disney portion of my trip were my sister Sharon and her husband
Randy, daughters Candice and Heather, and son Brandon, who was still a baby.
Thursday August 3
It was shortly before 4 AM that I woke up, after getting
only four hours of sleep. I was
excited about the trip, and that kept me from going to sleep as early as I
would have liked -- almost like when I was a kid waiting for Santa Claus.
But my car was already packed, so I just had to make a bathroom stop
and pack a few last things. By
4:04 am, I was on the road. As
I rode down I-275 and then I-75, my radio was tuned to a trucker's radio
program on WWL New Orleans. It
used to air on WLAC Nashville as well, but no more.
When 6 AM rolled around, I was nearing Lima, Ohio, and Paul W. Smith
and WJR was on the radio, as it would have been were I getting ready for
work. But today was a vacation
day, and I was getting ready to eat at the Waffle House in Lima.
The Lima Waffle House used to be the closest one to
Detroit, but there is now one in Findlay.
So if I was really desperate for a Waffle House waffle, I could drive
a hundred miles to Findlay for one. Today,
I had a waffle, sausage patties and hash browns.
Then it was back to the freeway for more driving.
There was construction on I-75 through Dayton, so I took I-70 and
I-675 to avoid it, and probably Dayton rush hour as well.
I missed Cincinnati's rush hour, too.
It was a routine drive down I-75 past Lexington and all the way to
Corbin. There's a historic site
in Corbin: the Sanders Cafe, the birthplace of Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Col. Sanders used to operate a motel and cafe there, and that was
where he developed his original recipe of eleven herbs and spices.
But when I-75 opened, he sold the cafe and motel and went around the
country selling KFC franchises. Since
KFC is located around the country and around the world (I’ve eaten at a
KFC on Oxford Street in London), it looks like he made the right decision. The cafe has many historic items, but it also has a modern
KFC restaurant. I ate there,
and the chicken was very good. It
was better than the recent KFC I'd had back home.
A couple of locals wondered what I was doing taking pictures there,
but I paid them no mind.
It was back to I-75 for the drive south – past the
Kentucky border, through Knoxville and Chattanooga into Georgia.
I drove through Atlanta but got caught in the tail end of rush hour.
This was only right downtown, and it broke up by the time I passed
Turner Field, the home of the Braves. Farther
down, I drove right past Ford’s Atlanta Assembly plant, one of the homes
of the Taurus and Sable. I was
driving my Sable, but it had been built in Chicago. By
7 PM, I'd been on the road for 15 hours (including stops) and traveled some
770 miles, and I was on the other side of Atlanta, so it was time to stop
for the night. I stopped in
McDonough, some 30 miles south of town, and got a room at the Masters Inn.
With a AAA discount, it was $29 a night, but the room was
comfortable. The TV reception
was rather poor, though. I had
supper at the Subway sandwich restaurant in the hotel, and then I went back
to my room for some reading and TV watching.
Friday August 4
I fell asleep while watching the convention coverage; when
I woke up, C-Span was showing a repeat of Thursday's events.
But it was the middle of the night, so I turned off the TV and got
some more shuteye. I woke up
for good around 6, checked e-mail, packed, checked out, and hit the road at
7. Since I was south of
Atlanta, I didn't have to worry about rush hour traffic.
But I did have to worry about rain off and on throughout the drive.
Around 10 AM in Valdosta, the rain was coming down rather hard.
I had only had a Nutri-grain bar for breakfast, so I was getting
hungry. That made it a
convenient time to stop for lunch at the Steak and Shake restaurant in
Valdosta. And what did I have? The
Steak & Shake dinner, of course, though "steak" meant that it
was a steakburger. The side
dishes I selected were the same side dishes I always got, cottage cheese
topped with pineapple and an order of French fries.
This dinner was offered 24 hours a day, so it didn’t matter that I
was ordering it at a time when most people might still be ordering breakfast
Twenty minutes after I left the restaurant, I was in
Florida. This was my first time
in Florida; now I've been in every state in the South except North Carolina.
It was also the 32nd state I’d been in; only 18 more to
go. My first stop in Florida
was the tourist welcome center, where I picked up some literature, including
some Disney World flyers. Florida
may be the Sunshine State, but rain and clouds were what accompanied me most
of the way down I-75. A couple
of hours later, I was in Ocala, and I stopped at the Disney Information
Center. It was hard to miss the
Information Center; there were certainly enough billboards on I-75 promoting
the place. The billboards all
featured one of the Seven Dwarves. At
the center, several people were there buying tickets, but my tickets were
waiting for me at DW. I was
there to attempt to make a Priority Seating reservation for a character
meal. It was a bit of a gamble,
as one is advised to make those well in advance.
But I was able to make one for Thursday morning at 7:35 at the
Crystal Palace restaurant for all six of us.
The Crystal Palace features Winnie the Pooh and Tigger, so I figured
the kids should enjoy that, even Brandon.
With reservations in hand, I stopped at the gift shop and got a hat
and photo album for myself, a Timon beanie baby for Brandon, and autograph
books for the girls. I also
bought a box of Mickey-roni and cheese (the macaroni was shaped like Mickey
Mouse), thinking we would eat it there.
It turned out we didn’t; I would end up eating it at home.
Then it was time to head across the state on Florida's
Turnpike and the Bee Line Expressway, passing through Orlando and heading
for Titusville and the Kennedy Space Center.
I arrived at the hotel shortly after 4.
My room, number 237, faced the Indian River and the Cape.
I could see the huge Vehicle Assembly Building and what appeared to
be two gantries for shuttle launches. Unfortunately,
no shuttles were on the pads; the next launch was over a month away.
This would be an AWESOME location from which to view a launch!
It’d probably be an expensive one, too.
I had dinner in the hotel restaurant, which was decent as
far as hotel restaurants go. It
was also next door to the lounge, where a DJ was in full swing.
It wasn't difficult to hear the music coming through the walls. I had French onion soup, prime rib and stuffed shrimp for my
meal; it was OK, though the prime rib was pretty good.
Afterwards, I went for a short drive to a nearby shopping mall.
The mall had definitely seen better days; there were very few stores
inside. A Beall’s outlet
store, GNC, and Waldenbooks were all I can remember, other than anchors
Penney’s and Belk. However,
there was a Morrison's Cafeteria nearby; perhaps I'll eat there tomorrow, I
thought to myself. But there was no drugstore there, and I needed to go to one
to get a comb and some toothpaste. There
WAS a Walgreen’s close to the hotel, so I stopped there and got what I
needed. Back at the hotel, I
put TV Land on the TV and typed up some of this report. Then it was time for bed.
Saturday August 5
The hotel restaurant served breakfast, but I wanted to go
to the Village Inn in Titusville. It
was not far from the shopping mall; I’d driven past it last night.
I’d seen several Village Inns across the country, and I wondered if
they were related to the old Village Inn Pizza Parlor that used to be on
Nasa Road 1 in Webster. It
turned out that they weren’t that similar at all; this Village Inn was a
regular restaurant, on the order of Denny’s or Shoney’s.
I had a Santa Fe Skillet for breakfast, and it was good. It filled me up for the day’s adventure.
At 9, I went to the Kennedy Space Center.
It was an unexpectedly long drive from the main gate to the Visitor
Center, much longer than any drive within the Johnson Space Center down
home. I drove over some
drawbridges that reminded me of the old drawbridge (since replaced) between
Kemah and Seabrook. The Visitor
Center was very nice with lots of attractions – IMAX theaters, the Space
Store, Rocket Park, etc. I
toured the rocket park before my guided bus tour started.
This tour was an add-on to the regular tour.
It was the “Cape Canaveral Then and Now” tour, and it took us
onto the oldest part of the space center.
We were able to view the Air Force space museum and observe up-close
several historic launch pads. We
stood on the pad from which Alan Shepard and Gus Grissom were launched into
space on their Mercury missions. We
saw a historic lighthouse, and we spent some time at Pad 34, the site of the
Apollo 1 fire that killed Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee as well as the
site of the successful Apollo 7 launch.
The only thing remaining on the pad is the concrete launch pad
itself; the gantries were long gone. We
then passed by more historic sites and approached very close to Pad 39A,
which was being prepared for an upcoming shuttle launch.
This tour dropped us off at the Pad 39 viewing gantry, where we
joined the regular tour. From
the gantry, we could view the two pads, the Vehicle Assembly Building, the
road connecting the VAB to the pads, and enjoy a panoramic view of the whole
space center. Next came the Saturn V viewing building, which contained one
of the three remaining moon rockets. When
riding to the building, we passed by the main viewing areas for launches.
The Saturn V is a very impressive rocket – now there’s an
understatement! I had visited
the one down home several years ago, and now this one, so I’d now visited
two of the three existing rockets. Next
came the International Space Station building, which contained mockups of
several modules and a view of modules being prepped for launch.
Back at the visitor center, I saw the touring exhibit of
the recently recovered Liberty Bell 7, which had been lost at sea in 1961
and recovered in 1999. I viewed
the Astronaut Memorial, which was dedicated to those American astronauts
killed in the line of duty. I
visited the exhibits on early space exploration, which included the
equipment from the original Mercury mission control.
Due to time constraints, I did not see either of the IMAX movies, for
I’d already seen them. But
they were good enough to see again. I
spent some time in the gift shop and got a few gifts – a shirt for my baby
nephew Brandon, coffee mugs for my aunt and uncle, a calendar for myself,
and posters of the famous Earthrise photo from Apollo 8 for my sister and
myself. I planned to frame the
posters, attempting to recreate a treasured family picture.
Back in 1969, my father had received a copy of the picture and had
had it framed. It remained in our family until 1993, when movers lost it.
By this time, I was getting tired, and the skies were quite
threatening, so it was time to leave. I
had some difficulty finding my car in the parking lot; it turned out I was
looking one area away from where I should have been looking.
So I left just before 5 and went to the Walgreen’s, looking to
develop the roll of film I’d finished.
Unfortunately, I was told that they could not develop my film
(Seattle Filmworks). I’d have
to send it back to them, they said. I was VERY upset with this; film is film, I thought.
Later, I would learn that the Seattle Filmworks film used a
proprietary process that only they could use to develop the film.
I did not want to give them the pleasure, or my money; everything
that was on that roll was also on video, so I opened up the roll of film,
exposed it and threw it out. I
hadn’t had lunch, so I went back to Morrison’s Cafeteria for an early
supper. Afterwards, I went to
Wal-Mart for some bottled water and some poster frames.
It was a long day, and I was tired, so I went back to the hotel to
rest. I wouldn’t do anything
else except head out for a late night snack of Krystal burgers (the
South’s version of White Castle). While
I was out, I’d received a phone call from my sister: they were in Lake
City, Florida, for the night. They
had spent a week in Texas seeing relatives and friends and had set out for
Florida on Friday. I called her
back to figure out when we wanted to meet in Orlando tomorrow; we settled
for the 11-to-noon hour.
Sunday August 6
I woke up just before sunrise, and I took some pictures of
the sun coming up over the cape. The
Sunday paper was on the door, so I took it down (the paper, not the door)
and started to read it. I
noticed that one of my toes had developed a blister; this would be a
harbinger of bad things to come for my feet on this trip.
I had pancakes and sausage for breakfast at the hotel restaurant.
I finished reading the paper and started to pack up. A stray cat was hanging around my door, presumably looking
for a handout. I’d seen it
downstairs the last couple of days, hanging around the laundry area. At 9:45, I left Titusville and headed for Orlando.
The sounds of Dick Clark’s Rock Roll And Remember filled the car as
I drove across Florida on the Bee Line Expressway.
When I arrived at I-4 in Orlando, it was before 11, so I drove north
a short way. After stopping at
a 7-11 for an Orlando Sunday paper and a Slurpee, I drove back south towards
Disney World. I had little
difficulty finding the Disney Institute and checking in.
I got all of our tickets and made our arrangements.
As I was about to drive to our Treehouse Villa that would be home for
the next week, guess who should pull in but my sister Sharon and her family!
What lucky timing! They
followed me to our villa, number 439. Our
bellhop helped us unload our vehicles and bring everything inside.
Our villa was two stories in height, with the main floor on
the upper story. We had to
climb stairs and walk a short walkway to our front door, which had an image
of Mickey Mouse on it. Many of
the windows had pictures of Mickey on them, too.
The villa had two bedrooms upstairs and a bedroom downstairs as well
as a kitchenette; my bedroom was downstairs, reached by a spiral staircase.
We spent the next few hours getting unpacked and catching up on
things. They told me about
their vacation in Texas, and I told them about the cape.
They showed me some video of our old house in Texas, and I took out
gifts I had brought for them. Sharon
started a load of laundry, and then we went to the nearby Gooding’s store
to get some groceries for the week. Gooding’s
was an expensive store, helped by its proximity to Disney World, no doubt.
But we got what we thought we would need for the week; whatever we
didn’t use, we could take with us. When
we got back to the villa, we found that it didn’t have much usable pantry
space. So our kitchen table was
filled most of the week with the stuff that wouldn’t fit in the
refrigerator or the cabinets.
Later on, I took a drive around the area, wanting to
capture it on video. I went
past the main entranceway, which had a large arch and pictures of Mickey
Mouse and Donald Duck. Later,
we all took a walk from our villa to the Welcome Center at the institute,
which was some ways away. We
walked alongside a canal, and several boats of various kinds passed us by.
At the Dabblers gift shop, I turned in a roll of film (standard film,
this time; no more proprietary Seattle Filmworks film for me) for
developing. It would be ready
tomorrow after lunch, I was told.
We could have started visiting the parks today, as our
tickets became valid upon checking in.
Indeed, one of my nieces was really anxious to see Disney World (I
think she meant the Magic Kingdom). But
we decided to wait until tomorrow.
Monday August 7
I woke up around 6 and had cereal for breakfast.
Everyone else woke up shortly thereafter, and we got ready for our
visit to the Magic Kingdom. We
went to the bus stop before 7:30, but we had to wait some 15 to 20 minutes
for our bus to arrive. When it
did, it visited 7 other bus stops inside the institute before proceeding to
the Magic Kingdom. All told, it
was a 30-minute bus ride. After
entering the park, the first thing we saw was a statue of Goofy sitting
down. We stopped to take
pictures of us sitting with the statue.
We went down Main Street, stopped to take some pictures at the Hub
with the statues of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse and other famous
characters. But the main focus
in the pictures was Cinderella’s Castle, which seemed taller and narrower
to me than Sleeping Beauty’s Castle at Disneyland.
My younger niece Heather really wanted to ride Cinderella’s
Carousel, so that’s where we went first.
Both Heather and Candice rode with their father, while Sharon and I
stayed outside with the baby. Actually,
it was early enough in the day that they could get away with riding twice in
a row. Next came Dumbo. Randy and Candice rode that first, after which she wanted to
do it again and Heather wanted to ride too.
So I took Candice and Randy took Heather and we rode Dumbo for a
second time (they did, that is; it was my first time).
One thing the girls wanted to do was to meet as many
characters as possible, get their autographs, and get pictures with them.
Their first chance was to meet Ariel, the Little Mermaid, in her
grotto. Before getting in line
to see her, they played in the water fountains nearby and got a bit soaked.
Afterwards, we noticed it was getting quite hot, so we spent some
time buying hats. I already had
a hat, but the girls didn’t. Heather got a white visor, Candice got a red cap with Mickey
on the front (which she then proceeded to wear backwards for most of the
trip), and Randy got a white hat that was like a floppy sailor’s cap.
Our next stop was to be the Mad Tea Party, the famous whirling teacup
ride. However, we got
sidetracked by the chances to meet several more characters – Chip and
Dale, Susie Mouse (from Cinderella), and Tweedledee and Tweedledum
(from Alice in Wonderland). Now
there was a running joke in the family where Randy would call his daughters
Tweedledee and Tweedledum, and they would fight over who was Tweedledee, for
neither of them wanted to be Tweedledum.
While standing in line to meet the two zany twins, they took two
breaks, but they came back each time, and the girls were able to meet them.
When setting up for a picture, one of them messed up Candice’s
ponytail so that she looked like Cousin Itt from The Addams Family.
But it was all in good fun, and no harm was done.
By this time, it was midday, and we were getting hungry.
The teacups could wait until later, so we went back to our villa for
After lunch, I walked to the villa to mail some postcards
and a bill and to pick up my pictures.
Unfortunately, the pictures were not yet ready.
Around 3:30, we went back to the Magic Kingdom.
We rode the Disney World railroad around the park to Mickey’s
Toontown Fair, which gave us a shorter walk to the teacups. I rode with Heather, while Candice rode with her daddy.
The girls did OK, but we men got a little bit dizzy.
Next, we rode the Tomorrowland Indy Speedway.
It was a joint venture in each car.
At first, Candice was driving by herself, but she had a hard time
pushing the pedal all the way down. So
I worked the gas while she steered. The
cars were guided by a guide rail and could not do over 7 miles an hour,
which turned out to be a good thing, as Candice had a bit of a rough time
steering. But we survived. Heather
and Randy took turns driving in their car.
It was now getting close to supper.
I wanted to go home and have some of that barbecue they’d brought
from Texas, but they wanted to stay for the parade and fireworks.
So we parted company, and I went back to the villa.
I got my pictures and turned in another roll for developing.
Then I had supper, but instead of barbecue I made spaghetti. It was good.
I went to Downtown Disney West Side to check out the place. The Guitar Gallery there had only one guitar I was interested
in: a not-very-vintage Rickenbacker 330/12 Jetglo black 12-string guitar.
But the Virgin Megastore was more to my liking.
No, it wasn’t a store where you could buy virgins; it was a very
large CD, tape, video and book emporium (café, too) occupying a large
two-story building. As far as
the American versions of the store went, this seemed to be the largest;
however, I still prefer the London megastores, mainly because of the British
products available there but not here (including videos).
I did not leave empty-handed, as I found the CD version of the
Bangles’ Different Light album, which I’d had in LP form since it
first came out in ’86. It
would go in my car’s CD changer for the return trip home.
I checked out the other stores and attractions of the West Side –
Bongos Café, the House of Blues, the AMC movie theaters, DisneyQuest, etc.
– before heading back to the villa. Later,
Sharon and family returned from the Magic Kingdom, having had a wonderful
time seeing the Main Street Electrical Parade and the fireworks.
I had visited Disneyland for the first and so far only time
in March. When I toured the
Magic Kingdom today, I was comparing it to Disneyland’s Magic Kingdom.
At first glance, the parks were virtually identical, but there were
subtle differences. The most
noticeable difference was the centerpiece castle; Disneyland’s Sleeping
Beauty Castle is shorter and wider than Disney World’s Cinderella’s
Castle. Both had moats, but
Sleeping Beauty’s had a drawbridge. Disneyland’s
New Orleans Square was replaced by Disney World’s Liberty Square; It’s A
Small World was positioned differently in each park; Disneyland’s Toontown
was replaced by the similarly-themed Toontown Fair; and Disneyland’s
Matterhorn was absent from Disney World.
There were some attractions at Disneyland that were present at Disney
World, albeit at parks other than the Magic Kingdom.
Which is better? They
both have their strong points. I’d
recommend visiting both, if possible, a recommendation I’m sure with which
Disney executives would enthusiastically agree.
Tuesday August 8
I woke up around 7; Sharon and the baby were already up. He has a bad cough that comes and goes, requiring periodic
breathing treatments; it had flared up during the night.
As a result, we didn’t set off for Epcot until 10.
Epcot is much closer to the Disney Institute than is the Magic
Kingdom, so our bus ride was correspondingly shorter.
The first thing we noticed at Epcot is the first thing everybody
notices: the big dome that is Spaceship Earth.
This year, it’s graced by a large “2000” in celebration of the
new millennium. Spaceship Earth was quite crowded, so we decided to view the
exhibits in Innoventions. The
girls played on some computer-oriented exhibits, while I saw the Ultimate
Home Theater Experience (something of a sales pitch for HDTV and top-line
home theater products). We
heard a performance by the Jammitors (janitors who use their trash cans as
drums); it was rather loud, and the girls didn’t care for it that much.
We then visited the Ice Station Cool exhibit sponsored by Coca-Cola.
It was a cold trip through a simulated iceberg and into a room where
you could taste various Coke products around the world.
Our least favorite drink was the Italian drink Beverly, which was
very bitter. On the other hand,
I liked the German mixer Mezzo Mix, as it tasted almost like Coke.
Israel’s Kinley Lemon was OK.
Next, we took advantage of an opportunity to meet Goofy and Mickey
Mouse. It took us some time,
but we met them and got pictures with them.
Afterwards, the exit took us into the large Mouse Gear store, and we
took advantage of the opportunity to get a few things.
I picked up a copy of the new Buzz Lightyear DVD.
By this time, it was time to return to our villa for lunch.
Also, the baby needed another treatment.
We had barbecue for lunch, and it was good.
It came from Joe’s BBQ in Alvin, Texas, a longtime family favorite.
Since I knew Sharon and family were visiting Texas, I asked them to
bring some frozen chopped barbecue beef with them.
Afterwards, I walked back to the Welcome Center to pick up my next
set of pictures; while partway there, I got a lift from the neighbors in the
next-door villa in their golf cart. It
was a nice ride, especially in hot weather.
My pictures were ready, and I walked back.
The baby was fussing, so we decided not to return to Epcot that
night. As our supplies of
bottled water were running low, we decided we had to go to the store.
But we wouldn’t go to Gooding’s.
Instead, we found the closest Wal-Mart supercenter (on the John Young
Parkway in Orlando) and went there. In
addition to food and water, I also got some foot care products and some
inexpensive warm-weather clothing. The
food prices were definitely better than Gooding’s, but the checkers were
SLOW. After we got home, I set
up my laptop to watch the Buzz Lightyear DVD, but the sound from the
built-in speakers was too low for everyone to hear.
It wasn’t long before we gave up on it.
I then went and soaked my feet in the bathtub using Johnson’s Foot
Soap. My feet would give me
problems throughout the trip – blisters and sore heels, mainly.
What do I recall about our villa and its surroundings?
There were fallen pine needles everywhere; I hadn’t seen so many
pine needles on the ground since we were living at home in Texas.
Our backyard had a number of pine trees, and they dropped their
needles just like these did. There were lots of lizards running around outside; one night,
one got inside the villa, and Randy attempted to trap it and/or kill it.
The trapping was partially successful; we ended up cutting off its
tail, which flapped around on its own for what seemed like forever.
Eventually, we had to whap what was left of the lizard and dispose of
it. On a few occasions, we saw peacocks wandering around the
grounds. I made a remark that
peacocks shouldn’t be hanging around Disney World because they represented
the wrong network. This was a
reference to Disney’s ownership of ABC and the peacock serving as the
symbol of NBC.
Wednesday August 9
Today, we visited MGM Studios in the morning.
This was another Early Entry morning, so we got another early start.
Before entering the park, the girls had an unexpected opportunity to
meet and greet four characters: Gov. Ratcliff from Pocahontas, Rafiki from
The Lion King, Mu-shu from Mulan, and a Green Army Man from Toy Story.
Once inside, we went up “Hollywood Boulevard” (much cleaner than
the real one) and headed for the recreated Chinese Theater and The Great
Movie Ride. I took some video
of the various handprints from various stars while waiting to enter the
ride. Everyone was impressed with the ride, even the baby.
There were some moments where the girls covered their eyes, like when
we went through the Mummy’s Tomb. Next,
we went to see the live Beauty And the Beast production, which Heather
really wanted to see. The show was OK, I thought, but the girls enjoyed it.
It was time to head back to our villa for lunch (more barbecue).
As I was eating my lunch, the lights went out.
They’d gone out all over the villas, apparently.
This gave me a good opportunity to attempt to go and see Space
Cowboys at the AMC theaters at Downtown Disney.
I said “attempt to go” because I didn’t know how widespread the
power outage was. Fortunately,
the theaters were not affected. I bought my ticket, bypassed the concession stands ‘cause
I’d just had lunch, visited the facilities, and got to my seat during the
coming attractions. The movie
was fantastic, and not just because it hit close to home for me (my father
worked for NASA for over 30 years). Sure,
it may not have been all that realistic, but it worked for me.
After it finished, I went back to the villa. It turned out that the lights remained out for over two
hours, having come back on around 3. I
made a good decision by seeing a movie in a nice, air-conditioned theater.
In the early evening, we went back to Epcot.
The lines for Spaceship Earth had dwindled to near nothing, so we all
went on board. It was a very
impressive ride through time and the history of communications, from the
dawn of man to the creation of writing, from Greece to Rome, from the Dark
Ages to the Renaissance, from the Industrial Age to today to the near
future. Baby Brandon was
especially attracted by the two men at the telegraph; I suspect he heard the
high-pitched tones coming from the telegraph key.
The girls enjoyed the ride so much that they wanted to go again, and
we men obliged them. This time,
we left our video cameras with Sharon so that we could fully experience the
ride. It did make a difference, as my vision wasn’t being
affected by the display on my video camera.
After that, we started to make our way around World Showcase.
We went around counter-clockwise, starting with Canada.
We didn’t explore the pavilions in any depth, except for the
Millennium Showcase. I observed
that this “trip to Canada” was much easier than normal – no bridge, no
tunnel, no Customs, etc. As we went around the lagoon, we saw a French jazz
band and a Moroccan rock band called Morockin’ performing.
The girls were able to meet Aladdin, Jasmine and the Genie in
Morocco, and they also got to meet five of the Seven Dwarves in Germany
(they missed Happy and Sneezy). Brandon
also encountered Dopey, but he was scared by him and the other dwarves.
By the time we got to the African Trading Post, it was time
to find a spot for the Tapestry of Nations parade and Illuminations 2000. We found a spot near the German pavilion.
I was right along the water’s edge, which was good for
Illuminations but not that good for the parade.
Still, I was able to capture a lot of the parade on tape.
Illuminations was a very spectacular fireworks exhibition.
On a couple of occasions, some fireworks shells launched right in
front of us, startling us. I
kneeled on the ground for most of the show, as my feet were killing me.
When the show ended and we headed for the exits, our path ended up
taking us through the Mouse Gear store, which we did not appreciate.
Navigation, especially with a stroller, was very difficult.
But we found our way out of the store and out of the park.
It was a short bus ride home to our villa, where we had to get to
Thursday August 10
Today was the day that we were to have breakfast with Pooh
and friends. Last Friday, I’d
arranged for priority seating at the Crystal Palace restaurant at the Magic
Kingdom at 7:35 AM. It was very
early, but I had to take what I could get.
We were at the bus stop by 6:35 AM in order to make sure we caught
the first bus to the MK. We
didn’t have to be at the stop that early, for the bus didn’t come till
7. While we rode there, I was
hoping we weren’t going to be late and miss our seating time.
As we arrived at the park, there were lines of people waiting for it
to officially open for Early Entry. The
park opened, and we went inside, arriving at the restaurant right on time.
We didn’t have long to wait for our table, maybe five minutes at
the most. The restaurant was
nicely decorated inside, with the centerpiece featuring flower topiaries of
Pooh, Piglet, Tigger and Eeyore. Not
so coincidentally, those characters would be our hosts today.
And it didn’t take long for them to come around.
Pooh was the first to arrive. We
held off on getting our food until after Pooh had passed, on the advice of
our waiter. Pooh was very
friendly to everyone, happily posing for pictures with the girls and the
baby. I’m not sure what Brandon thought of it, though.
He was most familiar with the Pooh characters (he has a stuffed
talking Tigger at home and acquired a Baby Tigger at Epcot on Tuesday), and
of course the girls liked them too (their bathroom at home is decorated in a
Pooh motif), so we thought this would be the best place for a character
The food was served buffet-style in the center of the
restaurant. There were options
for hot foods and cold foods, as well as a children’s area.
I got some pancakes, potatoes, a small spoonful of scrambled eggs,
and a smattering of grits, not to mention a croissant and a muffin. Perhaps the grits should have gone in a bowl, as they started
to spread over my plate. The
girls got slices of breakfast pizza along with some other stuff.
While we were eating, Piglet and Eeyore came around.
Piglet used his own crayon to sign the girls’ autograph books.
When Eeyore came around, I even got into the act.
I was wearing an Eeyore baseball jersey, so I figured I should get a
picture with him – and I did. So
did Daddy Randy. Tigger did not
come around, as he was holding court near the buffet area.
He went for a visit to the little Tigger’s room, so we took our
time finishing our meals. We
finished, but still no Tigger. I
arranged to have the breakfasts handled as our flex features for our
vacation package; there was no difficulty with that.
But still Tigger was absent. So
we waited a few minutes for him to reappear, and there he was.
He signed the girls’ books and gave them a great big hug when I
took their picture. However,
Brandon didn’t particularly care for him.
When Tigger put up his paw, the baby pushed it away.
Tigger started to cry. But
he was OK with us; perhaps in a few years when he’s older, Brandon will
come back and enjoy meeting all of the characters.
After we left the restaurant, someone noted that Tigger had bad
Next stop: a return to Fantasyland and another spin on the
carousel. We all rode this
time; Daddy took baby Brandon and sat on one of the benches, while the rest
of us got on our horses. It was
still early enough in the day that we could ride twice in a row with no
problems. We then rode It’s A
Small World; everyone seemed to like it, but I thought the Disneyland
version was better. Then Mommy
and baby sat out while the rest of us waited to ride the new Pooh ride.
The girls enjoyed themselves, even though it did get a bit bouncy at
times. The exit took us out
through Pooh’s Thotful Spot, a store devoted to all things Winnie.
Next, we ventured over to Liberty Square.
The girls got personalized decorated parasols; we visited the
Christmas store there; and Randy and I caught a bit of the Diamond Horseshoe
Saloon show while waiting to buy drinks.
The show was kind of corny. We
then visited the Hall of Presidents and saw the presentation there, noting
that they’re going to have to update it in a few months when the new
President takes office. We
walked through Liberty Square and into Frontierland, stopping at a gift shop
to buy two toy drums for Brandon. He
had taken to drumming on the end tables at our villa, which were actually
Indian-style drums. The drums at the shop looked a little flimsy, so we bought
two of them to be safe. I
finished one roll of film and started another, but for some reason the film
spontaneously rewound after I’d only taken four pictures. We got splashed
at Splash Mountain, though we didn’t actually ride, and Randy bought some
ice cream sandwiches for the girls and for himself (the rest of us didn’t
It was getting close to time for another breathing
treatment for Brandon, so we left the park, but not before getting on the
monorail and riding around to the Grand Floridian resort.
We wanted to ride the monorail at least once while we were there.
To be honest, riding the monorail was much like riding a regular
rapid transit train (i.e., the Tube in London, the Metro in Washington,
etc.), though the monorail was quieter and the scenery was nicer. We passed by and/or through the Contemporary resort, the
Transportation and Ticket Center (packed with people waiting to board the
direct monorail to the Magic Kingdom), and the Polynesian resort before
arriving at the Grand Floridian. We
only saw a small portion of the hotel, as the gift shop where we had to pick
up our millennium pins (included in our vacation package) was very close to
the monorail station. But what
we saw was a very sumptuous resort, one that said, “This place is
expensive!” I wouldn’t mind
staying at a resort on the monorail in the future, although maybe not the
Grand Floridian. After looking
around in the shop for a while, we picked up our pins and took the monorail
back to the MK. Then it was
back to the buses for the Disney Institute and back home for lunch.
Randy was complaining of a sore throat, due perhaps to the
air conditioning vent blowing directly on him as he lay in bed.
I wanted to go out and develop my one-and-a-fraction rolls of film as
well as get a new keychain-sized Swiss Army Knife, so when he asked me to
get some medicine for him, I agreed. After
lunch, where we nearly finished the barbecue, I went to a K-Mart near the
Florida Mall and dropped off the film for developing and bought the
medicine. Then I went to the
mall and found a knife and a CD from Natalie MacMaster; I bought both of
them. By this time, my feet
were complaining again, so I went back to the K-Mart and picked up the
pictures. They’d all turned
out fine, even the one on the abbreviated roll.
Getting back to Disney World proved to be a chore, as I had to
contend with Orlando rush-hour traffic and some major rainstorms.
As I headed back to the institute, I passed a sign for Disney’s Pop
Century, wondering what it was. I’d
later learn it was a new resort being built.
We didn’t have anything suitable for supper in the villa,
so Sharon and I went back to Gooding’s for a few things.
I got some Buffalo wings for myself.
After supper, I went to the other side of Downtown Disney, meaning
the Marketplace. Not only did
it contain the world’s largest Disney store (called the World of Disney),
it also included several stores specializing in certain Disney themes. Team Mickey had athletic apparel, while Pooh Corner had all
things Pooh. I bought Brandon a
Pooh T-shirt there, and I picked up an Eeyore hat for myself.
The Art of Disney and its associated bookstore specialized in
collectible Disney art, including production cels used in various TV shows.
But the only thing I got there was a souvenir picture book of Disney
Friday August 11
There was only one park left for us to see, that being
Animal Kingdom. That park never
has early entry, so we didn’t need to get an early start – and we
didn’t. The strain of the trip may have begun to show on us, for
Candice was not acting her normal self.
But everyone still wanted to go to the park.
We left our villa around 9, but the bus took a while to arrive.
In what seemed like the longest bus ride during our time at Disney
World, we arrived at Animal Kingdom after 10, closer to 10:30.
Once we entered, we saw that three characters were holding forth:
King Louie and Baloo from The Jungle Book, and Terk from Tarzan.
The girls waited for Terk, but “he” left before they could meet
him. So we set off towards Africa and our destination, the
Kilimanjaro Safari ride. We
admired the Tree of Life from a distance, for it was quite easy to see the
larger carvings. We saw several
animals along the way. At one
of the gift shops, we noticed they were selling T-shirts that had a picture
of Pooh in safari gear nose-to-nose with a tiger and asking (in Spanish),
“Tigger, is that you?” I
had seen the same shirt in English at Pooh Corner last night.
Once we arrived in Africa, we got Fastpasses for the safari.
Sharon’s pass didn’t want to work, but the cast member there gave
her a Fastpass anyway. We sat
down in what little shade there was, and Sharon gave Brandon a bottle.
Our one and only Fastpass experience was a good one, for we
didn’t wait very long to board the ride.
We rode through all sorts of terrain and saw pelicans, hippos,
wildebeest and elephants. We
even saw some lions sunning themselves as well as a cheetah hanging out in
the shade. It was quite easy to
believe that you really were in the African savannah.
I was taking video in bits and pieces during the ride, as I was
nearing the end of the tape. No
doubt, the tape will have lots of bouncing and rocking!
After this ride, we took the nearby nature trail and saw the
gorillas. Daddy gorilla was there with two of his young’uns, and he
looked a bit ticked off at everyone watching him.
My feet were getting ticked off, too; I was regretting my decision to
wear new shoes down there. Also,
I thought that the park seemed hotter than the others.
We went to the Rainforest Café for lunch, as that was to
be the big splurge. However, I
was disenheartened by what appeared to be long lines for a table.
I didn’t want to wait, but they did.
So I ended up going back to the villa.
It turns out that they got a table after only a 10-minute wait.
Meanwhile, I got back to the bus stop, which was covered.
That was a very good thing, for not long after I got there, the skies
opened up and it started to rain hard.
I had an umbrella in my bag, though I didn’t need it then.
Many were caught unprepared and got soaked.
It took what seemed like forever to my sore feet for the bus to
arrive, and when it did, I got on and enjoyed my seat.
After arriving back at the villa, I found that the maids had not run
the dishwasher, something they had done every day prior. So I ran the dishwasher and made a chicken sandwich for
lunch. I turned on the Disney
Channel and watched most of Mulan, which I’d not seen before. It was OK. I
then hooked up my laptop to the phone line and checked my e-mail. While I was doing this, Sharon and family returned to the
villa. Candice was still
feeling out of sorts, so they didn’t return to the park.
It was the end of our park-going adventures. Now came time to pack and get ready to leave.
Nobody went out that night; I made spaghetti for supper, and everyone
else had what they wanted.
Saturday August 12
I was up around 7, and everyone else was up shortly
thereafter. We had breakfast
and packed up. The
non-perishable food that was left, we divided up between us.
Anything perishable, we tossed, except for a thing of ice cream in
the freezer. We left that for
the maids. I had an easier time
taking my suitcases and stuff to my car, as I could use the ground-level
door with the deadbolt set such that it wouldn’t close on me.
By 9:30, we were out of our villa and on our way to the Welcome
Center to check out. The
additional charges were small, and they were all mine, so I kept them on my
credit card. We then headed for
the Downtown Disney Marketplace.
We spent most of the time at the World of Disney.
Among the things they bought was a photo album that was identical to
the one I’d bought last week in Ocala at the DW Information Center.
As my watch had a leaky faceplate, I bought a Mickey Mouse watch as a
sometime replacement. My first thought was to get a large-dial watch, but the girls
thought I should get a small-dial Sorcerer Mickey watch.
Even baby Brandon nodded when I asked him if I should get that watch.
I also got some pins commemorating my stay there, along with some
pins that were going to be given as presents later on.
We then went to Pooh Corner and to the bookstore, where they got the
same souvenir book I had bought two days before.
Pooh Corner still had the “Tigger, is that you?” shirts, as well
as one I hadn’t seen before: “Lions,
Tiggers and Bears, oh my!” Now
it was 11 o’clock, and I was getting hungry.
The Rainforest Café didn’t look too busy, so I thought I’d try
it. This was where we said our
goodbyes, for they were ready to head back home.
So while they hit the road, I had chicken fried chicken at the café.
My dining companion was one of those animated elephants that
periodically “awaken” and put on a spectacle.
The food was OK, though I don’t know if I’d go there regularly. Afterwards, I decided it was time for me to hit the road,
too. After some slow going on
I-4, I got on the turnpike and gassed up the car.
It was shortly after noon when I really got going.
I had occasional rain and storms throughout my drive in
Florida. When I reached US 90
in Lake City, I took what I thought would be a short detour to drive through
the small town of Houston. About
the only thing this town had in common with its larger namesake (and my
birthplace) was that US 90 ran through it.
The weather would probably be about the same, too.
But Houston, Florida was a no-stoplight town.
I eventually returned to I-75 and got to Georgia around 3:20.
I had supper at a Steak & Shake restaurant around 4:30 and got
past Atlanta, stopping after dark at a Scottish Inn in Calhoun.
I’d gone some 500 miles today after getting a late start.
I saw no reason to push myself to make it home overnight. This room was inexpensive, and it was decent enough.
I turned on the TV and read my early copy of the Sunday paper from
Sunday August 13
I left around 7:20 in the morning and made it through
Tennessee without stopping once. What
the importance of that is, I don’t know.
In Kentucky, I had lunch at a Krystal restaurant and then got some
gasoline. South of Cincinnati, traffic on I-75 slowed to a dead crawl.
WLW radio announced that there was a bad accident involving two semi
trucks some 15 miles ahead. It
took me an hour and a half to move six miles.
I got off at the first possible exit and took the old Dixie Highway
past the accident area. As I
approached Cincinnati, I could see another traffic backup, so I got back on
the Dixie Highway and took a drive through downtown Covington, Kentucky.
I crossed the Ohio River, still seeing a backup on I-75.
On my right, I could see the new Paul Brown Stadium, the new home of
the Bengals. I found my way
back to the freeway, where the traffic jam had ceased and headed out of
town, stopping along the way for supper at Skyline Chili.
The place was absolutely dead; I was the only customer there.
Turned out that they started arriving en masse as I was leaving, for
I was eating much earlier than the neighborhood norm.
I got back on I-75 and had mostly smooth driving the rest of the way.
At 8:42 PM, I had arrived home.
Back to Travels
©2000 R. W. Reini.
All rights reserved.
Written by Roger Reini
Revised April 20, 2008