I said a couple of years ago – after my first Thanksgiving trip to Disney World that I would never go back when it was hot. Going to Florida for “fun” when it’s 95% humidity and 97 degrees in the shade is just beyond ridiculous. There’s not much fun getting sunburned and sweating like Josh Duggar during a Girl Scout sleepover. I much prefer long sleeves and jeans weather in central Florida. But over Memorial Day I broke that resolution and returned to the sun and heat. The timing was just right: it was a long weekend for one thing, and Disney discounted several hotels. So months ago when the deal came open, the wife and I booked a weekend trip and planned to stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.
The day before the trip, I read that this Memorial Day was supposed to be one of the busiest travel days in the previous 10 years, due to a falsely propped-up economy and low gas prices. Great. It made me almost want to drop a large weight on my ankle, because my Thanksgiving I-95 driving experience had made me want to turn around and come home, and completely ruined the trip to the point all I could think about the whole time was leaving.
Traffic this trip was surprisingly light. We left about 4pm and hit I-95, anticipating being at WDW by 11:00pm. The first thing that happened, of course, was my daughter started complaining about her phone being dead. What is it with kids? She steals every iPhone cord I have in the house. I buy them by the gross, and they’re always going missing, yet her roadway entertainment (in the form of her phone and iPad) are ALWAYS on the verge of dying. If I knew I was going on an 8 hour road trip, I’d charge my crap the night before. So here we are thirty minutes into an 8 hour trip, and her stuff is dead, and the power outlet in the car isn’t working.
Our first gas stop is in Santee, SC, and I go into the store that sells fishing rods, live bait, canned jams and jellies, and finally find the one pack of micro blade fuses and replace the one that will supply power and happiness to my child’s life. Problem solved. 7 easy hours later we’re checking into the most awesome hotel I’ve stayed at on a Disney trip. Of course, a few hours of the trip were driving at night. That was more terrifying than anything Disney has to offer, since I’m currently having a neurological issue that makes driving at night a bit of a challenge and requires all of my concentration.
First, we normally stay in the “Disney Ghetto” known as All Star Sports or Pop Century. They aren’t bad hotels, but they’re the cheapest things on property where you don’t have to bring your room with you (i.e. a camper or a tent), and thus attract a lot of the crowds that would want or need the cheapest things on property. You get lots of parents with large families, tour groups from foreign countries, tour groups from this country, school chorus groups with not enough chaperones to go around, and rambunctious drunks.
The Animal Kingdom lodge is a “deluxe” resort, one of the top tier places on property. Other deluxe resorts include Fort Wilderness Lodge, the Polynesian, The Contemporary, and the Grand Floridian (the last three which circle the lake south of the Magic Kingdom and have monorail service). So this was a big upgrade for us. I have to say I’m a little spoiled. Interior hallways are nice, much like moving up from a Comfort Inn to a DoubleTree resort. The restaurants were better, even though we didn’t eat there, and they even had guys that would come to your room with a luggage cart and help move your suitcases. At Pop Century, you’re kind of on your own.
Owing to the fact that it was going to be 90 degrees in the shade, I elected to go a lot lighter than usual. I have a nice big SLR camera that I take some places, and its cushioned camera bag backpack that I put snacks and water and a raincoat into. This trip – I ditched it for my new Deuter day pack, which has no cushions and is made of lightweight nylon instead of heavy fabric, and took a pocket camera, small water bottle, raincoat, and a few snacks. It was a big weight off the back and worked pretty well.This was also my first trip with the FitBit.
The first day we got up and went to Epcot. I like EPCOT, but it’s in serious need of an upgrade. First of all, the middle section (past the big golf ball ride) used to be called “Innoventions”. It was an area dedicated to education and new technology. I remember being young and walking through displays of jet engines and rockets, and using computers to create virtual roller coaster rides (big stuff in the early 80s), make the computers speak, use light pens to draw, and all sorts of other cool stuff.
Innoventions has been gutted and turned into restaurants, gift shops, and “character spots”, long lines where you stand and wait to get your picture taken with Donald, Daisy and Pluto. The spirit of “the community of tomorrow” is gone. Now there’s just some shops with a Starbucks outside. But the back part of EPCOT is still fun, seven countries are represented, and wandering through there is always nice. One of my goals was to dispel a rumor I had heard that the America Pavilion had actually started selling moonshine. EPCOT is a more adult park, and as such all the countries have local forms of booze, and I have said for the past several years that America really needed to ditch the beer crap and sell the drink than made this country what it is.
Well, they do. And I was glad to see that my state was represented. America Pavilion sells Firefly Moonshine, distilled right here in South Carolina. Go Palmetto State! It’s not some watered down fake WalMart moonshine either which is just a malted beverage like a strong beer. No, I bought a jar of 100 proof Blackberry Flavored moonshine. Of course, they wouldn’t just give it to me. They had to send it to the front of the park and I had to carry it out to the car. So after lunch, thats what I did.
A side note here: We ALWAYS drive to the parks. Yes, Disney offers bus transportation, but the buses are like any other bus. They run on their own schedule, they get crowded, they take a while to get where they are going, and you suffer at the whims of the driver and the bus stops. So I walked to the front of the park, grabbed my hooch, and stashed the ‘shine in the car, protectively wrapped in its bubble wrap and tissue paper, to enjoy at a later time. The remainder of the day went well, except the wife’s feet finally gave out on her around what I guessed was mile 10 of the day, and we left around 8 to go back to the hotel and take it easy. We rested a bit before going, and people watched on the bench outside of the Japan area.
People watching at Disney is always fun, and we noticed a new trend: Ass Cheek Shorts. If you thought Yoga Pants were bad enough, the new trend is even more revealing. Its now the thing to cut the back of jean shorts all the way to the bottom of the pockets, so when girls walk, the bottom of the ass cheek is a clearly visible fold of skin. Unfortunately I was using my pocket camera, which is way more obvious than my SLR, and I didn’t get any informative shots for you to enjoy and chuckle at.
Butt trust me, the trend is there. Of course, when we got back to the room I had to get some ice and open the jar for some adult beverage. An ounce of South Carolina Stumphole over ice was very, very good, and I was soon asleep. 16.7 miles or so walked today. Disney is rough!
The following day we enjoyed the Magic Kingdom, which to most people is what they think of when you say “I’m going to Disney World”. They think Dumbo and Space Mountain and Prince Charming’s castle. We slept in a little while longer, but still got there around 9 and rode a few rides. By 11 it was time for Casey’s hot dogs. I had a BBQ dog, which was a giant hot dog bun with a pile of BBQ on top. Excellent stuff, and since I REALLY wanted Pecos Bills, it was a worthy compromise. More Ass Cheek Shorts to go around, and plenty of rude foreigners.
I’m not racist, I’m xenophobic. I don’t think I’m superior to foreigners or that we should keep other races or peoples down. Jesus, people, try to have some courtesy and respect others, and if you can’t understand English well enough to abide by the rules, learn the language or stay the heck home. We watched foreigners cut lines (okay, technically it wasn’t out and out cutting, but you’re still not allowed to have a person hold your place in line, then have the other five of your duck under ropes and push past people in line to get to be with your group), we were pushed out of the way at the last minute at parades, and we even had some guy try and put his children directly in front of my wife on top of the trash can she had been standing by for twenty minutes waiting on the fireworks. I gave him a look and told him “no” in a way that could be understood in any language, and it helped that a cast member told him “hey you moron you can’t stand a two year old on a trash can, they’ll fall”, or words to that effect.
After the evening parade and fireworks, my wife left to return to the room, and my daughter and I figured we would go ride Space Mountain, since we hadn’t go to do that yet. We went to ride with everyone else in the park, and it took over an hour to get through the line. We were stuck there with six obnoxious kids from a middle school chorus group, and their uncaring chaperone. The Chaperone got picked by the load guy as a single rider, and left us alone with the six kids who got more irritating by the minute. After a worthwhile ride around Space Mountain, we were exhausted and headed back to the hotel. We did ten miles according to FitBit, putting our total for the weekend at 27 miles. We walked a marathon at Disney in a weekend!
As much as I dreaded the ride down, the ride back was a bigger fear. People go south at varying times, but everyone has to work Tuesday, so we would all be heading back together. We drove over to the Port Orleans resort before coming home, and took a riverboat to Downtown Disney so the wife and daughter could buy stuff at the BASIN store, sort of a fancy Bath and Body Works.
BASIN charges like crazy for shipping, so it was easier to shop there at the place. I really enjoyed the boat ride back, and we hit the interstate. The drive from Disney World to I-95 was pretty hectic, but afterwards it smoothed out and was an easy 7 hours home. Unfortunately, the Air Conditioning on the car quit on the way home for a little while. I had it checked before the trip because it was acting up, and Honda couldn’t find anything wrong. It would randomly quit working and come back on, on it’s own schedule. After having replaced the Evaporator Coil and several other parts when the car was 3 years old (a good faith repair of $300, instead of the $1800 they were planning to charge me), we decided to go ahead and trade the damn thing on a newer car before it totally crapped out. Car shopping is even more fun than a busy trip to Florida in the Summer, so that’s another post.