Lauri and Laura's Disney Vacation

February 5-9, 2004
Part 1

In February each year I meet a group of ladies that I know from the Internet at Walt Disney World (and not a one of them is an axe murderer! :-) ), and it's become tradition for my friend Lauri, with whom I drove cross country two years ago, to join me there. Last year was the first time she'd really spent much time at Disney World in quite a while, and she didn't really know what she wanted to do, so we did "Laura's Favorites". This year it was her turn and we did Lauri's favorites. Fortunately for the most part we really enjoy the same things. :-)

I tried something a little different on this trip...Lee gave me a Palm Pilot for Christmas, and so instead of bringing books to read I had only e-books on my Palm - which lightened my luggage considerably! I also carried the Palm with me and took trip notes while we were waiting for various things, plus did some trip report writing during the evenings in the room as well as on the airplane. The only thing I didn't take into consideration is that the Palm is an "approved electronic device" according to the airlines, so I can't use it during the beginning and end of the flight...which means I didn't have anything to read except the airline magazine. Hmmm...I guess I'm going to have to bring along at least *one* book in the future. :-)

Thursday, February 5

The usual way-too-early departure. Southwest had just that day started doing Internet check-in, so at about 1:00 am, since I was in that "I'm-leaving-today-and-don't-want-to-oversleep" mode and I was awake every two hours I got up and got my A boarding group pass...I think I was the first check-in. :-) Once I boarded the plane I was able to get a window seat for the flight - it's actually nice because it's a direct flight from San Diego to Orlando with one short stop in New Orleans. There are a lot of things I like about Southwest Airlines, but I really hate the cattlecar "Open Seating" thing...I wish they would do assigned seats like everyone else!

Anyway...we arrived 10 minutes early, and I eventually managed to hook up with Lauri, who arrived from LA about 15 minutes after I did. The volume on my cell phone is very low for some reason, and if there's any background noise (not that there ever would be in someplace like, oh, say, an *airport*) I can't hear anything.

I'd gotten a very good rate on the Internet for a Budget rental car - only $86 including taxes and fees for 4 days. And even though I'd booked an economy car, we got a very nice Ford Taurus. The lady at the counter was a little pushy about an upgrade, pre-buying the gas and the insurance, but I managed to decline all of the above. Hmm...maybe she really pushed the upgrade because that's all she had to give me anyways? :-)

We made it to the Boardwalk by about 5:00. When I'd made my DVC reservation (a studio) I was told there were no Boardwalk view rooms available, so I was supposed to have a pool or garden view. So, other than non-smoking, I didn't make any other kind of room request. The woman who checked us in asked if we had any room requests, and with that in mind, I said no, except that I'd prefer not to be on the ground floor. She had trouble printing our room keys, but finally got that to work and gave us our room number - 5007. I knew that meant waaaay at the end of the hallway, and as we got closer, I had the feeling we'd be in the same room Lee and I had several years ago, when he was so unnerved by the malevolent Swan glaring at us from atop the neighboring hotel. :-) So I was very pleasantly surprised when it turned out our room was on the *other* side of the hall, with a wonderful view of the Boardwalk and Epcot! It figures...the first time in the last 6 trips that I *haven't* requested a Boardwalk view, and I get one. :-)

I actually kind of like those rooms at the end of the hallways...they are a lot quieter just because there aren't so many people passing by your room, and one of my pet peeves is people who yell at each other in the hallways. It does make for a long walk from the elevator, though.

After we'd settled in a bit we went down to the Big River Grille for dinner. It was a beautiful evening - very pleasant to be there was a 30 minute wait for an outside table. We ate inside and had a nice dinner - I had their Chicken Cashew salad, which is one of my favorites. Lauri had one of their burgers, and she said it was very good. Neither of us drinks beer, though, so the specialty of the house is lost on us. :-)

Back in our room we watched the fireworks from Illuminations from our balcony (what a great room!!!), opened the door to the balcony and generally enjoyed the balmy evening. Lauri got her computer out since she needed to do some work on her web site (, and I went down to the Spoodles pizza window - some of the ladies who wee there for the weekend were meeting there so that the new arrivals could have some pizza and beer for dinner.

Since I'd had dinner I got a brownie from the Boardwalk Bakery - I really like their brownies. They are very chocolatey and moist and chewy. I saw Mary and Cathy in the Spoodles line, and most of the rest of the gals had pulled up several of the outside tables and were sitting there...Andrea, Di, Meli, Dotti, Gloria, Nancy, and Jenn. It was great to see everyone again, though there were still a few who had not yet arrived. Eventually I went back up to the room and we went to bed.

Friday, February 6 - Animal Kingdom, Epcot

We began our morning at the Animal Kingdom - it was a beautiful day - warm and sunny (it ended up being a record high of 85 that day but it wasn't very humid, so it was really terrific!). While we waited for our Safari Fastpass window to roll around we walked the Pangani Forest Trail. There were lots of animals enjoying the weather, too...though the meerkats were acting oddly. There were several of them over on the far right side of their enclosure running up and down the hill, and then they'd stand on their hind legs against the wall and look up at something that had obviously grabbed their attention. We never figured out what they were looking at...though maybe it was one of those "Made you look!" games they were playing with the tourists. :-)

We saw a lot of different animals on our safari, though our driver didn't add much to the experience. She wasn't very talkative at all...we got stopped twice because of some problem up ahead, but rather than talk to us or ask if we had questions she just sat there silently. Lauri pointed out that the only time her voice inflection ever changed she said: "Oh look! An elephant!" like she truly WAS surprised...

In the spirit of last year's "Animal Ass Tour", we got a few "backside views" this year, too. :-)

(This picture courtesy of Deb Koma. :-) )

Around Discovery Island we saw one of the guinea fowl...and just like the ones we saw last year, he was trying to peck at Lauri's toes! I've never seen the guinea fowl except when I'm with her...and she evidently has this strange power over them. The Guinea Fowl Whisperer? :-)

We had to go into the Maharajah Jungle Trek to see the tigers...but first we got to see the Komodo dragon actually moving! He'd taken some time to "stop and smell the flowers", but then he moved up into his usual place on his big heated rock. He moves surprisingly fast for something that big.

The tigers were all sleeping, but one of them was posing very nicely in front of a window. Lauri got a picture of her just as she gave a HUGE, what big teeth you have!!!

Saw this very pretty bird in the aviary...I have no idea what it is, but it was pretty. :-)

We said goodbye to Animal Kingdom and went over to Epcot, where we had Priority Seating for a late lunch at Le Cellier. We arrived just in time to catch Off Kilter's set at 1:30 - they performed for almost half an hour! It was a rather unenthusiastic crowd, though. :-(

This is the first time I've had lunch at Le Cellier and the first time that I *haven't* had to wait at least 15 minutes to be seated...we'll have to try lunch there more often! :-) The restaurant wasn't full at all. There were several new sandwiches that had just been added to the menu a couple weeks before. We both had the Vancouver Chicken Teriyaki sandwich, which was very good, and was served with a yummy noodle veggie salad. And breadsticks, of course!!! I had to introduce Lauri to the pretzel breadsticks...and she agrees that they are really good. We split a moosehead - a *chocolate* moosehead, that is - for dessert. :-)

American Vybe performs "Fever"
Then it was time for the American Vybe marathon. :-) Lauri likes them as much as I do. In the first set we heard Steppin' Out with my Baby and a Fascinating Rhythm/I've Got Rhythm medley that was new to me, as well as Minnie the Moocher and God Bless America. We had about 35 minutes until their next set, so we actually *watched* The American Adventure. :-) And I didn't even sleep through any of it! They need to update the film clips at the end again, though...that must have last been done in 1993 or so?

In their second set one of the Vybe singers noticed someone sitting in the balcony who looked familiar, and introduced "Tony Bennett" to the rest of us. :-) The guy did look a lot like him. We heard 525,600 Minutes (one of Lauri's faves), Sing (It Don't Mean a Thing if it Ain't Got that Swing ), Fever (though I've yet to hear anyone sing it as well as Stephanie, an original member of the group), and a new version of Lean on Me - normally this is one of their opening numbers, but they performed it a little differently as a closing number.

Continuing our Epcot entertainment tour, we caught a little bit of "Mo'Rockin" in Morocco. Then it was time for Vybe's final set of the day.

At the end of the previous set Lauri heard them say that their last set would be outside by the fountain...that seemed strange to me but sure enough, at 5:00 they came out and performed under the overhang just outside the door. The acoustics weren't as good as inside, but weren't too bad. We heard Shoo Fly, the "Rhythm" medley again, and Flip, Flop, Fly. In the latter, just about every member of the group did an improvisational verse, generally based on someone in the audience. It was a lot of fun.

Le Mime Roland searches for another victim
Over in France Le Mime Roland was performing - he makes balloon hats/swords, etc, for kids - who always seem to upstage him. The last little boy he made a Bozo nose for...but the kid started crying as he stomped back to his parents, because he wanted a hat like the other kids. So the mime motioned him back and made him a sword...and he started crying again, threw himself on the ground and started up, walked several more feet, threw himself on the ground *again* and kicked some was very funny, but his parents, rather than chastising him for his bad behavior, were laughing and pointed him back to the mime again...who this time made him a hat. He was still crying a little (I suppose this time it was the wrong color), but at least didn't throw another tantrum. The mime actually handled the whole thing very well, but I suppose he's seen it all.

Stained glass window in the
character greeting area in France
After we wandered around a little we went over to the United Kingdom to see British Invasion's last show. Sometimes I think they sound more like the Beatles than the Beatles. :-) I wonder if they get tired of singing the same things over and over, since there hasn't been any new Beatles music in years!

Dotti and Lauri
After a quick stop back in the room we went over to the Beach Club Villas for a Wine and Cheese party that Andrea and Di were hosting. It was fun to see almost everyone - I think DebK was the only person who didn't make it.

We hadn't had dinner because we'd had a late lunch, so we got a couple of sandwiches at the Boardwalk Bakery around 10:00.

Other Links

Part 2
Tigger's February Frolic
Back to Laura and Lee's Vacation page

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Text and photographs copyright © 2004 by Laura Gilbreath. All rights reserved.