Sunday, March 26 - Animal Kingdom, Epcot, RADP Meet
We were actually up an hour before we were supposed to meet Walt and Barb, so we went for a walk (I was still feeling way stuffed from dinner the night before). It was a beautiful morning.
This was Walt and Barb's first ever visit to Animal Kingdom, but even though we were there by about 9:00 the park was already getting pretty crowded - not a good sign. We did our usual morning routine of getting Safari Fastpasses and then eating at Tusker House. Our safari was great - our driver was Donovan from South Africa. And he was a *very* enthusiastic driver - I think he *tried* to make it as bumpy as he could. :-) We were impressed - driving through one of the "mud holes" he actually made the tires spin. I think we saw just about every animal that is on the savannah except for the zebra and the okapi. Including the lions! Although all we could see of the male lion was his leg sticking up in the air. :-)
We went over and got in line for Tarzan Rocks - got pretty good seats where we could see everything. We didn't have the really impressive Tarzan, but this one was still quite acceptable. :-) After the show we fought our way through the crowds to get Fastpasses for Countdown to Extinction - it took almost 10 minutes to get the Fastpasses! Then we fought our way through the crowds to Asia and got Fastpasses for Kali Rapids. Our Fastpass times for both attractions were still about 45 minutes away, so we saw the Flights of Wonder bird show. The young skinny Guano Joe was performing this time - he's a lot better than the older guy we saw in December.
Kali Rapids was next. I had brought my poncho - good thing, because Lee and I were on the wet side of the raft, though we didn't get dumped on as badly as the two people sitting next to us. Barb and Walt stayed fairly dry.
The crowds were even worse by now - Animal Kingdom was more crowded than I have ever seen it, and with the relatively narrow paths, it does not handle crowds very well. (On the bridge that goes across the water towards Dinoland, they had actually put masking tape on the pavement trying to get inbound traffic to stay right and outbound traffic to stay left, just to try to ease some of the congestion.)
When we got back over to Countdown to Extinction, the *Fastpass* line was out the door, past the fountain, and almost to the Dino Institute gate! We discovered the ride had been shut down for a while. Walt went off to get something to eat but the rest of us stuck it out - we probably had to wait about 30 minutes.
By then we were all hungry and tired of fighting the crowds, but we knew that any place to eat in AK was going to be mobbed, so we went back to Old Key West and had a late lunch at Olivia's. We'd never eaten there before but it was quite good. Lee and I split a piece of excellent chocolate chip pecan pie for dessert. Though it was more like tollhouse pie with pecans than it was like pecan pie with chocolate.
After resting for a while we headed off to Epcot for the evening, parking at the Beach Club this time.
We rode Journey into Your Imagination, which was redone last year. It's ok, but I liked the old one better. Though I do enjoy all the pre-show snippets with Eric Idle (aka Dr. Nigel Channing, Head of the Imagination Institute). We've never had to wait in line long enough to see all of those. :-)
At 7:00 we were at Trapper Bob's "cabin" in front of Canada, which is where they sell beaver tails, and is where we were supposed to meet up with the Komas (don't they all look happy in this picture? ;-) ), the Spencers, and Kenny (the Cottrell? :-) ). They were all late. :-) Actually, by the time Deb K. arrived (Alex and Brian were already there, but were too shy to come talk to us I guess...I didn't realize we were that scary!), the rest of us had already eaten our beaver tails. (Lee and I went for the regular cinnamon-sugar one this time...YUM-my!)
By 7:45 there was still no sign of The Cottrell..er...Kenny, and the rest of us planned to see Tapestry of Nations together, so we walked up to the same place Lee and I had watched it from on Wednesday night - in front of the Japanese Temple. Not exactly a quiet spot, because the Taiko drummers were performing. But there was room for all of us to sit down along the planter, and the drummers finished up before the procession started.
The Tapestry of Nations procession was fun to watch - Alex Koma was persuaded to go out and dance with one of the performers - he was grinning ear to ear! - and after that both Alex and Katie Spencer were right at the edge of the route where they received quite a bit of attention from the puppeteers.
I think I still prefer seeing the parade during the day, though - the colors are so much more vivid than they are at night.
Lee and I were singing our own words to the parade music - "The Millennium Walk" - our version goes something like this:
Spend more, spend more money
Buy more t-shirts, buy more pins
We take Visa, AMEX
MasterCard but not Discover.
Partway through the parade I recognized The Cottrell passing by us - his excuse is that he thought we were meeting at *8:00* and not 7:00. Uh huh. :-) But he figured if he wandered around World Showcase he would eventually find us.
After the parade, Kenny and I engaged in "massive pin-trading" as I think Deb put it in her trip report - he had pins that he'd gotten for me in Florida, and I had pins that I'd gotten for him at Disneyland. It was really dark, and very hard to see them! I think Kenny identified some of the ones he'd brought for me by touch - I had those I'd brought for him in a bag. :-)
We all watched Illuminations 2000: Reflections of Earth from the same spot - not as good as some other places that I've seen it from, but it was still pretty decent.
Here's the group photo:
Back row, left to right: Brian Spencer, Lee, Katie, Susan, and Jeff Spencer, Deb Koma
Front row: Laura, Tigger, and The Cottrell :-)
And another picture from the meet - a rose between two thorns. :-)
Walt took this one of Lee and Katie, and called it "Dancing with the Devil"- note the red eyes. :-)
We all headed out after that - we were giving Deb a ride back to her hotel (Alex and Brian were tired and went back after Tapestry). We said goodbye to Kenny at the bridge, since he was parked in the main Epcot lot, said goodbye to the Spencers in the Beach Club lot, and goodbye to Deb in front of her townhouse at Disney Institute (after Lee tried to get us all killed by driving on the wrong side of the road :-) ).
Back to Old Key West and time to crash! :-)
Monday, March 27 - Animal Kingdom, Studios, Artist Point
This is what I get for not writing the trip report until several weeks later...the details are getting pretty hazy. Though maybe some of you think that's a GOOD thing. :-)
Our objective for the morning was to see some of the things at Animal Kingdom we'd missed on Sunday, and then go to Blizzard Beach or the Studios. At Animal Kingdom we went straight to the Maharajah Jungle Trek, and had it practically all to ourselves - it was great. Walt and Barb have visited parts of Indonesia, and Barb was especially interested in the fruit bats. We saw a couple of them do some flying. And we learned something interesting about tapirs, but I don't remember what it was. Guess it wasn't *that* interesting. :-)
There were two tigers out that were being quite entertaining - they were stalking and pouncing on each other, and having a good time. It's just like watching our cats - especially Taj and Lia - only these cats are a WHOLE lot bigger!!!
We had breakfast at Tusker House again, and walked over to the Tree of
Life to get a closer look at some of the "carvings" and at some of
the animal enclosures there (like the capybara - world's largest
rodent. You know, now that I think about it...it looks a lot like
the ROUS from The Princess Bride...hmm.)
Anyway...Lee had an unfortunate coffee incident - he was trying to place Tigger up high for a photo op, and forgot he was still holding his coffee cup, and coffee spilled all over his shirt and vest. Oops. We waited while he went to clean up, but during that time the overcast weather turned nasty and it started to rain. We headed out and met Lee along the way and went to Festival of the Lion King. That's what we'd planned to do next anyway - we just got there a little earlier. :-) We were in the giraffe section. This is always a great show, and by the time it was over, so was the rain!
We went to the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, but the crowds had
picked up considerably by this time, and we didn't linger very long
anywhere. Unfortunately there weren't many gorillas out - the big
silverback was the only one we saw.
On our way out of the park we stood in front of the Tree of Life for a while just to see how many different animals we could spot - it's pretty amazing.
It was about 11:30 by this time and AK was getting really crowded again so we left - but rather than going to Blizzard Beach we decided to go to the Studios instead, since Walt had hever been there. When we drove by Blizzard Beach it looked like it was pretty crowded.
Minor rant: It was Spring Break, but from Friday-Monday only one of the
main water parks was open each day - Blizzard Beach was closed Friday
and Saturday and Typhoon Lagoon was closed Sunday and Monday. VERY
poor scheduling on Disney's part - whatever park was open filled up
quickly so they were turning people away and not even allowing them to
park in the lot!
Ok, back to the trip report. Where was I? Oh, yes, the Studios. Well, as there are no pictures from our afternoon at the Studios, you get more Animal Kingdom flower pictures instead. :-)
At the Studios we got Fastpasses for Tower of Terror and Rock N' Roller Coaster, but we still had a couple of hours before that. We went to the ABC Commissary for lunch. The building was absolutely FREEZING, but fortunately there were tables outside. I had the Quesadilla Club, which I thought was pretty good until I found a dead aphid on one of the lettuce leaves. Ewwww. (Yeah, I should've taken it back and complained, but it really wasn't worth the effort. I'm sure I've eaten things that are a lot worse.)
After lunch we saw MuppetVision 3D - always a fun show. I could actually see most of the 3D effects this time - depending on where we are in the theatre I often have trouble with them, and see two images rather than one. The images also work better for me earlier in the film than they do towards the end - I don't know, maybe my brain gets tired of being fooled.
We got in line for the Animation Tour (I can't remember the last time I've had to stand in such a huge line for the Animation Tour!), and just barely made it onto the next tour. (Good thing because otherwise we'd have had to bail out in order to make our Fastpass times.) We all had to split up in the first theatre, because every seat was full.
The animator we saw was very interesting - a much better speaker than most of them. He used his time to talk about the animation process, instead of answering the same stupid questions that you usually seem to hear. Most of the animators were at lunch, so when we got to the part of the tour that overlooks their work area there wasn't very much to see.
But we learned that the upcoming film that's set in the Inca civilization is now called "The Emperor's New Groove" rather than "Kingdom in the Sun". Hmm...I think I like the old title better.
Lunch should be somewhat settled by now...time for Tower of Terror! :-) Half of the ride was down because of some problem in one of the shafts, so the standby line wasn't accepting anyone, but the Fastpass line was moving well - I think it was less than 15 minutes before we were on the elevator. Walt and Barb hadn't been on this ride before but I think they enjoyed it. Rock N' Roller Coaster was next - again with our Fastpasses we only waited in line 10 minutes or so. It's a great ride, but I wish it was a little longer! :-)
Next stop was the Backlot Theatre for the Hunchback of Notre Dame - we saw all of Matt the Juggler's pre-show this time. We saw quite a different cast at this performance, with a different Quasimodo, Esmeralda, and gargoyles. Quasi's voice wasn't that good, but I really liked this Esmeralda - she had a much better voice than the one we have been watching for the last year+, though she wasn't as good a dancer. There was some problem with costuming - the actor who plays Hugo (or is it Victor? You know..."the fat stupid one with the big mouth") also plays the Archdeacon, but in both of his appearances as the Archdeacon he wasn't wearing his tonsure wig. It looked a little odd.
It was getting a little late in the afternoon, but Walt and Barb were in commando mode and wanted to do the "Backstage Pass" tour. Lee and I hadn't done this in a while, and it's changed quite a bit. It still starts out in the 101 Dalmatians Creature Shop, but then it moves to the Home Improvement sets, and the blue screen demonstration is from that show. The guy they selected was wearing a "Binford Tools" t-shirt - I think that definitely improved his odds of being chosen. :-)
The other soundstages we viewed had sets from Mortal Kombat, then an empty soundstage, and then the set for a new children's show called "Dooley and Friends" that is coming to PBS in April. They had finished shooting for the day, though. The last stage still had the 101 Dalmatians sets, props, and costumes in it, with the exception of the car, which had been removed so they could use it for the filming of 102 Dalmatians.
It was after 5:00 and we had priority seating at Artist Point at 7:20 so we called it a day and headed back to Old Key West - though we looked at some more SUVs as we were walking back to the van. :-)
We had a very nice dinner at Artist Point, though the service was just ok. Our server didn't seem to be that busy, but was not as attentive as we would have liked.
We usually order the "Northwest Sampler" appetizer, which has an interesting variety of items, but this time everything just sounded weird, so we went with the smoked salmon to share, and ordered salads or soup individually. Barb, Lee and I all had the signature Cedar Plank Salmon, and Walt had the Buffalo Steak. It was all very good. Walt and Barb split the Berry Cobbler for dessert, and Lee ordered the Apple Tart - I had a few bites of that.
After dinner we walked around the hotel grounds for a little while - it was a very nice evening. Then back to Old Key West...we actually had to pack and leave the next day! :-(
Tuesday, March 28 - Epcot, Blizzard Beach, Airport
After we'd all done our packing and loaded our bags in the van we headed to Epcot - we parked in the main lot for the first and only time this trip! :-) We had breakfast at the Fountainview - I got to have one last cinnamon-pecan croissant. :-) The fountain wasn't dancing, though, even though it didn't seem that windy. Too bad - it's a nice accompaniment to breakfast!
We went over to the Wonders of Life pavilion where the other 3 rode Body Wars - not my favorite, especially not right after breakfast. I did the MetLife Lifestyle Assessment thing while I was waiting - I'm disgustingly healthy. :-)
We all went and learned how to be Cranium Commandos - that's a really cute show.
We'd intended to visit Ice Station Cool so that Walt could find out for himself if Beverly was really as vile as we claimed, but the entrance was temporarily closed. Kristos (the "Friendly Alien Visitors", and NOT the "Mutant Alien Invaders", as Lee calls them ;-) ), were just starting their show, so we watched part of that...it's painful just watching them. Their joints must be made of rubber. We did notice that they have new costumes - sort of an iridescent green-blue rather than the black ones they used to have - I hope those are at least a little cooler!
By then Ice Station Cool had re-opened, and Walt and Barb both had to try Beverly. Walt's comment was something along the lines that it really does reset your taste buds. Well, yes...burning them away will do that, I suppose. :-) I STILL haven't tried the stuff - everyone tells me that it's awful, and I believe them. I really don't need to experience it for myself.
It was around 10:30 by then, and the park was getting more crowded. We never did ride Spaceship Earth because we always seemed to be at the front of Epcot in the morning when the line was long. I'm sorry we missed it - I was hoping to see my friend Bill who works there. Next time, I guess!
We made it to Blizzard Beach about 11:00 - LOTS of cars in the parking lot already. We got a locker and put all our clothes and towels in it, figuring we didn't need to try to find a lounge chair because we were never planning to lounge! We needed to leave the park by 1:15 or so to get to the airport.
I had my water shoes on and was very happy to have them - it was not a particularly warm day (I wish it had been a few degrees warmer!), but the shoes really helped protect my feet and kept me from slipping. They don't interfere on anything except the two big slides, and on those they make you take them off and hold them as you slide down.
Teamboat Springs, the "Family Raft Ride" was where we went first. The line was about 15 minutes long. It was great fun, though they have changed the loading procedure since we were there in December 1998. It used to be that the Cast Members pushed you off (and usually gave you a spin to start out), but now there's a moving platform that dumps you onto some rollers and off you go. (Going over the rollers doesn't feel very good!) But that means no spin - I don't think we got the height up on the sides that we did when we were last here with Gary and Sia. But it was still a fun ride, and we did it again - the wait was a little longer the second time. The waits for the two big slides were MUCH longer, though - we could see the ends of the line from where we were. They were both at least 30 minutes.
From there we went over to the back of the park to the Runoff Rapids Tube slides. We had to wait at the bottom for 5-10 minutes to get our tubes, but at least that meant that we didn't have much of a wait once we finally got to the top. (The water parks are definitely a good workout on the calf muscles, with all those steps!) The enclosed tube is my favorite - Walt and I did that one twice, Barb did it the first time, and did one of the others the next time. Lee did the outside ones.
We had just enough time to float about 1/3 of the way around the park in the Lazy River (back to the locker area) and then changed clothes. The picture they'd taken of us at the bottom of Teamboat Springs wasn't ready yet, but they took Barb's address and mailed them to her - we were glad to have it because it's the only picture we have of the 4 of us on this trip!
We stopped to fill up the gas tank on our way out, and then went back to the airport...sigh. We were running a little late, but at least we didn't have much of a line at check-in like we did in December at the Delta counter! Still, our plane was already boarding, and we didn't have much of a chance to stop for food on the way. I got a Pecan Cinnabon, and Lee ate part of that, but that was it for "lunch", other than the pretzels we got on the plane.
Short connection in Houston again, but Lee had time to get a personal pizza. "Dinner" on the flight to San Diego was a chicken sandwich, chips, and a cookie. The sandwich was actually quite good, but not much of a dinner. We had a nice flight, and arrived in San Diego about 7:00, pretty much on time. And no one stole my suitcase this time. :-) My brother picked us up and dropped us off at home.
So that was our trip!
Some Final Comments
Now, if we could just combine the late March weather with the early December crowds... :-)
Tigger's Exquisite Escapades
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Text and photographs copyright © 2000 by Laura Gilbreath. All rights reserved.
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Last updated 4/28/00