Thanks for joining us. We'll have the laptop and digital camera with us, and we intend to try to update this web page every night (or morning) and share some of our vacation with you.
We'll be visiting Walt Disney World with our family this time - my parents, my brother Gary and his fiancee Sia, and Lee's brother Wayne. It's been almost 15 years since my parents' last trip, and about 8 years for Sia, but Gary and Wayne have never been before, and we're looking forward to showing them around.
Lee and I are DVC members, and we'll all be staying in a 2 bedroom Vacation Home at Old Key West - Lee and I get the master bedroom, of course! :-)
Wednesday, December 9, Fly to Orlando, Downtown Disney
Gary picked us up *early* and took us to the airport. Our plane left on time, and even arrived in Dallas a bit early. The Dallas airport had some beautifully decorated Christmas trees (though the Pepsi tree was a little strange).
We landed a little early in Orlando, our bags were among the first off (and that *never* happens), there was no line at National, and we were on the road less than 1/2 hour after landing! We stopped at Goodings (the world's most expensive grocery store) to pick up a few groceries - mostly breakfast food - before driving to Old Key West. When we walked into the lobby, one of the CMs said "Are you Laura?" When I nodded in amazement she said, "And you must be Lee!?" I said, "Hmmm...something tells me my parents are here!" She laughed and said yes, and that she'd even seen our wedding picture. Hazel finished checking us in (we left room keys for Gary and Sia, in case we were gone when they arrived), and headed off to our room...hoping that Mom and Dad, since they had shown up first, hadn't taken over the Master Bedroom. :-)
They hadn't, and after dumping our stuff we decided to head over to the West Side to find something for dinner. It was very uncrowded - even less so than it had been the first time we were here back in January! We walked right in and got a table at Wolfgang Puck's. The food is pretty good, but as it was when we were here before, the service was slow and the restaurant is very noisy.
After dinner we browsed some of the other shops (about had to pry Dad away from the headphones in the Virgin Megastore :-) ), and went up to the Marketplace where I needed to do some shopping in the Christmas Shoppe. While we were waiting in a VERY slow line, Mom and Dad went outside to wait - and ran into Gary and Sia! They had arrived, and had gotten on a bus intending to go to Olivia's (the restaurant at Old Key West), but instead ended up at the Marketplace. They headed off to eat, and the rest of us went back to OKW, though we waited up for them (we were still on west coast time, after all, so it was still EARLY...)
Thursday, December 10, Blizzard Beach, Epcot
Dad got up fairly early and went off to find the driving range, but the rest of us, still with that timezone thing going on, got a later start. Still, we had breakfast and Gary, Sia, Lee and I managed to get on the road to Blizzard Beach a little after 10:00 - Mom and Dad were going to Epcot, and we made arrangements to meet them later.
It was a GREAT day for the water park - the weather was pretty warm but not hot, and there wasn't much of a wait for anything. Our favorite was Teamboat Springs - the family raft ride. Lee thought it would be pretty tame and boring, but it was great - we were going waaaaay high up on the sides of the trough, and getting thrown all over the raft. (Yeah, you're supposed to hold on, but that's no fun. :-) ) The CMs at the top were having a lot of fun splashing the guests as they got in the raft.
Gary, Sia and Lee did Summit Plummet twice - I did it once a few years ago, and that was enough. I had fun watching them shoot down, though - they say you reach 55 miles per hour. We did the Double Dipper slide, which had a HUGE line - it was ok, but not worth the wait. They time you as you come down, and I had the shortest time - 6.61 seconds. A 35 minute wait for a 7 second ride. Ugh. We all had a great time riding the "Runoff Rapids" tube rides - the enclosed tube is still my favorite. Our calves really got a work-out going up all the stairs. Poor Gary had knee surgery about 3 months ago to repair torn cartilage and his knee didn't like the stairs very much, but he toughed it out and still had a good time.
While walking back to the lockers to get our stuff I must have stepped on a bee or a wasp because all of a sudden the bottom of my foot started hurting, and it bothered me the rest of the day...between Dad (foot surgery) Gary, and me, just call us the "Gimping Gilbreaths". :-) It was the slowest anyone had seen me walk in a LONG time - I hope the rest of them enjoyed it while they had the chance. :-)
After going back to OKW and showering we headed off to Epcot to meet Mom and Dad at 4:00. They'd been there all day and hadn't gotten out of Future World yet! They'd been enjoying themselves, though.
Gary wanted to see O Canada so we went there first, then had a beaver tail (one of my favorite Epcot treats!) and watched Off Kilter. Their bagpipe player, Jamie wasn't with them, though - they were still good but it just wasn't the same without him. Someone told me that he's joined another group. :-(
Lee left to go pick up Wayne at the airport, and the rest of us had dinner at the little Yakitori place in Japan, then caught a little bit of the Candlelight Processional before watching the American Adventure. We walked (or limped, as the case may be) around the rest of World Showcase, and Mom and Dad tried out the Sweet Pretzel in the Kringla Bakery in Norway. We should have stayed there to watch Illuminations, but Mom and Dad's car was parked closer to the entrance to Epcot, so we thought we'd watch it down by the entrance to World Showcase. It was a LOT more crowded down there, but we found an ok spot.
The rest of them left to go to the grocery store, and I went back to the International Gate where I was supposed to meet Wayne and Lee - we had hoped that they would be able to get Wayne in the back gate without a ticket to watch Illuminations. But as it turns out they had discontinued that practice a couple of weeks ago. :-( After the show they were able to get in and they walked around a little bit before meeting me. As I was hugging Wayne, one of my fellow RADPers, Bill Hamilton (aka Matson), came up behind and said "I thought that was Lee I saw!" So I hugged him, too. :-) For any of you that might have been walking by, I wasn't just hugging random good-looking men as they walked by...I really *did* know them all. (Hmm...though hugging them at random doesn't actually sound like such a bad idea... ;-) )
Back home to Old Key West, where we crashed once the grocery shoppers got home. Gary actually bought all the ingredients to make chocolate chip cookies! (Well, we DO have a fully equipped kitchen, after all.)
Friday December 11, Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot
We got everyone up and going by about 10:00, and we were off to the Magic Kingdom. All of the Christmas decorations are really pretty, and the park wasn't too crowded. We weren't planning to spend too much time there, but we wanted to ride the new Buzz Lightyear ride, and we did that first. Not too much of a wait, and it's a cute ride. Gary had the high score, and I think I had the low score...I obviously need more practice. :-)
Gary and Sia headed off to do their own thing, and the rest of us rode Space Mountain (the one at Disneyland is way better), Timekeeper, and Big Thunder Mountain. Unfortunately we didn't have time to ride my favorite, Splash Mountain.
The 5 of us took the monorail back to the TTC and drove to Animal Kingdom, and grabbed a quick lunch at Pizzafari. The hot Italian Deli sandwich is quite good. After that we hustled over to Countdown to Extinction to meet two fellow RADPers, Judy Lewandowski (judylew) and Bill (Matson) again. Judy had never been on CtX before, so Bill and I made sure she got the right hand seat in the front row. What are friends for, right? :-) Just as we were nearing the climactic moment the ride stopped completely, and we sat in total darkness for a couple of minutes as our vehicle rocked gently...but then we started moving again. It was a fun ride, and Judy enjoyed it.
Bill told us we needed to see one of AK's Christmas decorations, and showed us how the dinosaurs dress up for Christmas. :-)
Bill left at that point, but we took Judy to see Festival of the Lion King (that's *Lion* King, not *Loin* King, for all you Beadzillians out there - and you know who you are. ;-) ), which is really good. We had great seats in the Lion Section (roaring is SO much easier than grunting or trumpeting or bleating (or whatever sound they try to tell you a giraffe makes).
Judy headed off for MGM Studios, and the rest of us watched It's Tough to Be a Bug. Lee and I knew to lean forward to avoid being stung, but the other three really jumped - they all enjoyed it, though.
We went back to the Kilimanjaro Safari, and passed Gary and Sia, who had just done it. The CMs told us to hurry, because it was about to close, but we made it, and got on the next to last Safari vehicle. We saw 15 different animals, including the hippos, rhinos, AND two cheetahs and both the male and female lions! That was really neat. We didn't see any elephants, though, which is unusual...but it was so late that I think they had probably headed to their enclosures for the night already.
Time to head off to another park...Epcot again, because we wanted to see the tree lighting and the Candlelight Processional that night. Lee had seen just a little bit of the tree lighting the night before when he was on his way to pick up Wayne and thought it looked interesting. We had a pretty good spot for seeing the tree and the Lights of Winter arch, though we couldn't see the stage - we could hear just fine, though. The ceremony starts with the Voices of Liberty coming out and singing a few songs, and then some of the Holiday visitors join them - like Pere Noel from France, Julenissen from Norway, the Monkey King from China, Canada's Santa Claus, etc. And then they light the archway and then the tree. It was really interesting to see it - and we ALWAYS enjoy hearing the Voices of Liberty sing.
We thought we'd see about having dinner at San Angel Inn in Mexico, but found out we wouldn't be able to get a table until 9:00, so we went over to the San Angel Cantina instead. That was quite good, and it was a beautiful warm night to sit outside.
After dinner we walked up to get a spot in line for the 8:00 Candlelight Processional - we were about 45 minutes early. The line was pretty long already, and got a LOT longer after we got in it. We got in and got a seat, though - but we were about 5 rows from the back, so I think there were people who didn't get in. The show was awesome, as always, and everyone really enjoyed it - Dad is trying to figure out how many times he can see it again on this trip. :-) Cindy Williams was the narrator, James McDaniel had been scheduled, but evidently must have cancelled.
We walked back out to the Beach Club, which is where we had parked, and enjoyed seeing the Christmas tree and train set up in their lobby. When we got back we found Sia and Gary were already there, and Gary was making chocolate chip cookies...yum!!!!
Saturday, December 12, Studios, RADP Meet, Magic Kingdom, Pleasure Island
The big RADP meet is today - woo hoo!!!!
Mom, Dad, Wayne, Lee and I went to Disney/MGM Studios first - and the first thing we did was Tower of Terror - almost no wait. Mom decided to sit it out, though. Wayne and Dad wanted to go again, so we did - even less of a line the second time, and Lee got to sit in the seatbelt seat. He said it was great, and we had a really cool photo, so Wayne got it.
We went back to see The Hunchback of Notre Dame, another great show. Matt the Juggler entertained us before hand - he's still really good. The show has a very different cast from when we saw it last in May - all of the principles were new to us. (We're convinced that the last Quasimodo we saw is performing out at Disneyland these days.)
We got right in to see Muppets 3D after that, which is always a lot of fun. Then I needed to leave to go to the RADP meet. Lee stayed with my Mom and Dad and his brother at the studios while I headed off to the meet. They had lunch at the Commisary and then did the Indy stunt show, the Magic of Disney Animation tour and The Making of Armageddon. This was our first time to see the newly revamped animation tour. The old elements are still there (in a slightly different order and different locations), but there is also a new video that includes interviews with animators and a more active role for the guest animator than just answering questions. The Making of Armageddon is new and seems to have taken the place of the old special effects tour. This new one walks you through some of the production areas while you watch short videos about the music and special effects for the film (but doesn't talk about the production areas you are walking through, which is strange). Then you go to a movie theater and watch a longer "making of" film about Armageddon.
I caught a bus over to the TTC, and had NO problem finding all my fellow RADPers. Jim Freeman had made pennants to show the way, but even without them it would have been pretty obvious where the rather large group was gathering. There was somewhere around 100 people there - it was so great meeting people I only knew from the newsgroup or from the chat room, and putting faces and voices to names. And of course it was wonderful to meet again the people I already knew from other meets! I tried to make the rounds and say hello to everyone I "knew"...I hope I didn't miss anyone.
Here's the group photo - it's a rather large file, so I haven't actually put it in the trip report.
And here's the photo again, where each person is numbered, and we are attempting to figure out who's who. Please visit the link, and help us out if you can!
Here's a page of photo links from the meet.
I got to finally meet my bouncing buddy Roo (Steve) and his wife Nikki - they brought me "snowballs" from Ohio. :-) (Roo and I are infamous for having impromptu snowball fights in the chat room - there's *always* snow in the chat room. :-) )
After a while a Disney photographer got us all organized for the group photo...and just as he had us in position for the picture, the ferry boat arrived, and all the people getting off were between the photographer and the group! So we had to wait a little longer until they went by. But we finally got the photos taken, and then things started to break up a little bit.
The Beadzillians, led by Jan and Alison, were *quite* active - fortunately Jan deemed Tigger "beadable". ;-) Tigger is quite proud of his beads.
Julian invited me to go to Epcot and try to ride Test Track with him, so we caught the monorail...unfortunately when we got there the line was 3 hours, and I just didn't have time, since I was supposed to meet the rest of my family. But I really appreciated the invitation!
I made my way back to Old Key West, and Lee and the gang showed up after their day at the Studios - they had a good time, but still didn't see everything.
We all rested up and Lee and I worked on this trip report, then drove to Magic Kingdom about 8:00. By the time we actually caught the monorail over there from the TTC and got inside the gates, the 8:00 Spectromagic Parade had ended, and Main Street was just jammed. The CMs were trying to direct traffic, but there were still a lot of people trying to both get in and out. We had intended to head over to Splash Mountain, but couldn't get over to that side, so we got on the bridge to Tomorrowland, and decided to wait and watch the fireworks from there. Tinkerbell flew *right* over our heads!
We still wanted to head over to Frontierland, but the area around the hub was still very congested, so we took the LONG way - back through Tomorrowland and around through Fantasyland. It is a testament to how crowded it was that we voluntarily *chose* to go through Fantasyland (aka Stroller Hell) rather than through the Hub. :-)
Splash Mountain was advertised as a 30 minute wait, but we got on in about 15 minutes...woo hoo! Mom, Dad and Wayne had never been on it before, and they all really enjoyed it.
It was now about 10 minutes until the start of Spectromagic, and there was lots of available space up in Frontierland - we got to stand right on the line just in front of the shooting arcade. The parade was fun as always - and since we were right in front we even got some character interaction - the Queen of Hearts noticed Dad standing with his arms crossed and stood in front of him and emulated him, and Mary Poppins shook Mom's hand and thanked her for coming. It was a lot easier getting out of the park than it had been earlier!
Wayne, Lee and I headed back to the car via the monorail, and Mom and Dad took the bus back to OKW. The monorail line looked pretty long, but it moved *very* fast - we were on a monorail in less than 5 minutes. We drove over to Downtown Disney and actually found a parking space pretty quickly, and went over to the Adventurer's Club on Pleasure Island.
The Mask Room was full of RADPers...there must have been 30-40 people there. I think a lot of alcohol had been consumed by the time we arrived. :-) Tourist Mickey was there, in Rob's clutches...er...tender care, and he seemed to be having a good time. After a while Hathaway Brown came in to tell us about the various masks, and received enthusiastic response from the crowd.
Lee and Wayne went to one of the shows in the library, and Samantha Sterling asked if there were any of the Disney Internet geeks there. Some people raised their hands, and she told them that they really needed to get a life. :-)
We said goodbye about 1:00 and went back to OKW...a long day, but a fun day.
Go to Part 2
Go to Part 3
Go to Part 4
Go to Tigger's Christmas Capers
Text and photographs copyright © 1998, by Laura Gilbreath and Lee Zimmerman. Feel free to link to this document, but you may not redistribute it in any form without the express written consent of the copyright holder.Laura Gilbreath, email: lgil at lgil dot net
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