Florida & Disney World 2000

Great Britain

Great Britain
and Finland



Travelogue: Florida
and Disney World
August 2000

By Roger W. Reini

By date:

3rd | 4th | 5th | 6th | 7th
8th | 9th | 10th | 11th | 12th | 13th

By event:

KFC Museum | Kennedy Space Center | DW arrival
Magic Kingdom | Epcot | MGM | Breakfast with Pooh
Animal Kingdom

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 foods.

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 lunch.

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 sleep early.


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 meal.

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 breath.

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 want any).

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 World.


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 Atlanta.


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 page

©2000 R. W. Reini.    All rights reserved.

Written by Roger Reini
Revised April 20, 2008