Last Day at Disney (Friday)

As our week long Disney trip drew to its close, we were both glad to have had the experience and also glad to be done.  For me it was wonderful to remember how to be a kid again.  I never thought I would have so much fun.  By the end of the week I was singing and dancing through my days.

kim-and-matt-at-castleFriday was our Magic Kingdom day.  Both Matt and I had been there when we were young children so this was a revisit to childhood.  It was great.  We opted to go in a little later because we wanted to stay in the park to see the fireworks.

Main Street was in its usual busy state.  After a stop to admire the iconic castle it was off to tomorrowland for a space mountain fast pass.  When I was a kid I chickened out of riding space mountain.  Not this time – I was determined to see this through.  We had a bunch of time to kill before our 2:30 time so we went to see Laugh Floor.  That was a well done comedic interactive show featuring the Monstesmall-worldrs Inc characters.

Since we had more time to kill we thought it would be a good idea to revisit It’s A Small World.  While I know this is a staple of Disney, I think it is time to revamp the ride.  It was slow, crowded and somewhat annoying.  Not as great as I remember or maybe it is just the other stuff is better.  At least we passed the time to the fast pass time.

So back to Space Mountain, we bspace-mtreezed past the long lines of standby riders.  The beginning of the ride is way back in the building.  Glimpses of the glow in the dark coaster cars only give us a guess at the ride.  The cars are single seat three in a car and two cars hooked together.

It was a good ride, but this one too has been surpassed by newer coasters throughout the other parks.  It was hurky jerky and reminded me of the old Mouse Trap ride at Lakeside Amusement Park back in the late 70’s.  I am glad that I can now add it to my list of conquered coasters.

kim-on-trainWe utilized the WDW railroad to move us to the other side of the park.  What a great civilized way to get across the Magic Kingdom.  It is so much nicer than fighting the masses.  It was relaxing and tranquil.

Once in fronterland, we grabbed a fast pass for Briar Patch – Log Fume Ride.  Then from there we enjoyed the Country Bear Jamboree, Liberty Belle Paddle Boat, Swiss Family Robinson Tree House, Pirates of the Caribbean, and a few other things along the way.  Oh yes, another overpriced and uninspired meal. 

Then to the Briar Patch and Splash Mountain, a briar-patchsurprisingly fun ride.  Cartoonish but very well done.  I still maintain, it doesn’t matter much what the theme is but just work within the theme.  This ride is executed very well.  A few surprise drops and very wet right off the bat.  We were both drenched.  And then came the really big drop, the 5 story one.  whoo wee!  That was fun.  All set within the Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear – song of the south story.  Nicely done.  This was a great surprise.

As we exited the ride we realized that it was sunset and we were wet.  yuck but hey we were at Disney so who cares.  We wondered around a bit and found a great spot for the fireworks show Wishes.  I had seen the show earlier in the week and was blown away.   I was anxious to see how Matt reacted.  He was just as amazed as I was and for me the second time was just as good.  I can’t say enough wonderful things about this extremely well choreographed show.  The words and songs are moving and reminded me about hope and wishes.  The fireworks complimented the theme perfectly.  Now I am only going to expect more from the next fireworks show I see.

After Wishes, instead of joining the mass of crowds to leave the park we snuck in a few more rides.  Glad we didn’t miss the Buzz Light Year ride – shootn’ up the evil zorg.  Another surprise ride with a fun interactive twist. 

My advice, soak up as much as you can and enjoy laughing and being a kid again.  We did!wishes2

Disney – Matt’s Epcot Day (Thursday)

As Matt and I are making our way home, I want to bring you up to speed on our final days at Disney.  On Thursday Matt was able to finally join in on the fun.  We went to Epcot for the day and I don’t think he was disappointed.  First we headed over to Soarin to grab our fast pass.  Since we had a little time to kill, we headed for a few other rides and shows, one was the Disney’s Lion King themed The Circle of Life: An Environmental Fable.  It seems completely hypocritical to me that Disney would tell a story so blatantly similar to their own story of real estate development and then call it bad.  No one has dumped more concrete and asphalt into the Florida swamp than Disney.  Now really! 

OK off my soapbox.  That is a post for a different time and blog. We made it back to Soarin’ – what a fun ride this is.  It is gentle and yet extremely exhilarating.  The hanging chairs tilt and move in coordination with the super sized screen.  This time I tried to notice the smells – the pine forest and the orange groves.  This is a great ride for the meek as it really doesn’t go aseasonsnywhere.  It feels like you do but you are only lifted off the floor a few feet and put back exactly where you start.  Everyone talks about this ride.  Grab your fast pass early in the day as this one really fills up. 

One side note, the restaurant adjacent to Soarin’ on the first level is called Seasons.  This is surprisingly one of my favorite walk up counter service restaurants in the park.  I had a chicken Caesar salad twice there and both times it was outstanding.  I think I like it because it has several stations for different types of foods and the lines are somewhat short.

After the Land Pavilion we went over to the Seas Building.  Rode the clam shell, cute kids ride and walked through the aquarium.  Then we went to the interactive show with Crush.  That was fun.  I recommend that one.  We couldn’t stop saying DUUUUDE all day.

Then it was across Epcot to Mission Space and Test Track.  I had been on both of these earlier in the week and knew Matt was going to enjoy them.  Grabbed the fast pass for mission space and then went over to Test Track.  I still think the single rider line is the way to go on this one.  If you aren’t set on sitting in the same row or car even as your companion, give it a try.  You will be on the ride in no time at all.  Matt wished the ride had lasted longer – it was a fun one.

ms-beforeMission Space time rolled around pretty quickly and off we went.  I rode this one a few days prior and did the green mission, the less intense one.  So for this one Matt agreed that we should go for it and do the orange one.  WOW – there is a big difference.  There is a centrifuge creating the g force pressures.  That blast off is wild!  I couldn’t lift my legs and the pressure on my chest was intense.  I think my head is still swimmy from it.  Then it was into deep sleep and then the landing on Mars.  Quite the adventure, even if the ride does leave you stranded on Mars!  Everyone on the team did an excellent job and we made it to our landing AOK, at least Ims-after thought so anyway.  After the ride was over I noticed Matt wasn’t doing too well.  He was sweaty and about to lose it.  I am happy to report that he maintained himself and all projectiles, but he was struggling for quite a while.  We sipped a soda and had a nice sit in the shade while he recovered.  I think the pictures will speak for themselves.  I was fine, ready for the next thrill.  Bring it on.

So for something on the milder side we ventured into the International Showcase.  Mexico, Norway, China, Italy, Morocco, Japan, and France, it was all fun.  Matt is great to travel with cause he gets me to do the things I would normally by pass.  China was a treat – beautiful gardens, 360 degree theater of the county’s beautiful scenery, and in-chinainteresting museum type displays.  Thanks to the two very nice people that were generous enough to snap these pictures of us – here and at Mission Space.  It is nice to have some shots of both of us that aren’t at arm’s length.  Kindness of strangers strikes again.

After all the countries Matt finally understood why I was so exhausted every afternoon and we headed back to the room to rest a bit and freshen up for dinner.  He fell asleep on the boat ride to the Dolphin.

After a brief rest, we went over to the boardwalk for dinner.  It was OK but like most everything in Disney waaay overpriced for the meal.  I was floored by the food prices throughout the parks and at the hotel. 

Then it was back into Epcot for one last ride – the Spaceship Earth.  The iconic Buckminster Fuller’s sphere housrs this revamped ride.  It is a great journey through time.  We walked right in with no wait just before the fireworks show at 9pm.

On the way back to the lake for the show, I tried to stop at a bathroom.  for only the second time during Disney, I couldn’t find a bathroom.  When I did find it the line was so long and only two stalls – seriously.  This is the bathroom between ohCanada and the end of the bridge to the spaceship earth sphere.  Try to avoid this one – most other facilities are completely adequate.

The fireworks show was OK; however, I strongly recommend Magic Kingdom’s Wishes more though.  I think I had been spoiled by the latter one. 

We really enjoyed the boat ride home.  Those are a nice gentle way of getting back to the hotel.  Walking would have been quicker but at that time of the night after a full day, it was just nice to sit and get dropped off.

dolphin-from-boardwalk1

Disney Day 4 (Wednesday)

Getting caught up on the past days….

Wednesday was Matt’s last day of the conference.  It closed around 3pm and then we ventured into Downtown Disney for the 6pm Cirque du Soleil.  In Orlando they offer the La Nouba.  We had both been waiting for this show during the week, as this was the only event Matt was willing to plan.  We rode the Disney transportation along with some other Solidworks folks and their families.  It is nice to know that the other guys have real lives too.

The show was fantasic. circ The time just flew by.  I wish I had photos to show you but once you enter the building the cameras are shut off.  So here is the approach. 

There were clowns tightrope and trapeze artists, bike stunts, silk artists and so much more.  I think the show stealer’s were these little Chinese girls with the Diabolos – kinda like a top and a string.  But what they could do with those little wooden looking diabolos was amazing.  They all looked so cool too. 

All the costumes were exagurated and colorful.  There were so many different characters that interacted throughout the performance.  If you go expect to be completely engulfed in beauty, wonder and delight.  We both highly recommend it.

lego-dogsAfter the show we wondered through Downtown Disney with dinner at Bongos and visits in a few very crowded shops (recession? what recession? doesn’t seem to be one here).  We even mingled a bit around the LEGO store.

After the Downtwon Disney we made it back to the Dolphin and just wanted to get a little ice cream.  After a few more Solidworks meet and greets. Eventually we made it to the ice cream and called it a night.

Disney Day 3

 

Today was a bit different than the last few, and could not have come at a better time.  I have worn myself down to a nub the last few days.  I met Karen, a very dear friend from high school.  We haven’t seen each other for many many years but have reconnected over on Facebook.  It is so wonderful to have friends that you can immediately reconnect with again and tell all your troubles to.  So we had a lot of catching up to do to get through all the happiness, sadness, joys and triumphs of the last 20 or so years. 

 

mickeyAfter a very nice lunch at Downtown Disney’s House of Blues, Karen had to go be a great Mom again and I was off to the next adventure.  I decided to stay close and head over to the Hollywood Studios and check out the Rock N Roller Coaster featuring Aerosmith.  I took the water taxi for a smooth and different ride under the road and right to the front door.  After circling the park a while, I found the roller coaster I had been seeking.  I was tickled to find a single rider line option again.  In about 3 minutes I found myself in the “briefing rocknroller-coasterroom”.  Aerosmith gets the crowd going and we get the ride started.  The final queuing lines to the ride are dimly lit and much like the dingy inside of a parking garage, make that an old parking garage.  A bit scummy and dingy painted CMU with chain link fencing separations.

 

Rounding the corner a limoesque coaster car stops in front of the waiting riders.  We all pull down the restraints and off we go.  0 to 60mph really really fast.  It first takes your breathe away then it is into the first big loop.  It is dark and I think I am upside down.  Cool.  More twists turn and drops with only black lit signs marking the way.  Turns, corkscrews and another possible sideways maybe upside down not sure, but it is fun!  I laughed the whole way through it.  Enjoyed it so much I rode again, and again.  I will drag Matt over for that one.

 

Disney Day 2 (Monday)

everest-expIs today Monday?  I have forgotten all sense of time.  🙂 

Today I took advantage of the extra morning hours and got the day going at the Animal Kingdom.  Since two of the most popular rides are in this park, I headed first for the roller coaster – the Expedition Everest.  Once again I took complete advantage of the single rider line and found myself in a seat within 5 minutes.  This ride did not disappoint.  Very Very VERY fast forwards and backwards, steep drops and cold blasts in the dark, and the infamous Yeti.  At times, I wasn’t sure if I was upside down or right side up.  I was even a little dizzy as I exited.  Don’t miss this excellent ride on one of Disney’s newest coasters.

On the way over to the other side of the park I happened upon the Birds of Prey show.  I stopped and glad that I did.  Amazing fly overs by many different birds.  The only complaint about the show was the overly save the world and by recycling message that was a bit much even for a sustainably minded soul like myself.  I would have liked to have known why, not just the message.

I had a big lunch at the Tusker House near the Safari.  It was pricey but I filled up on yummy ethnic fooelephantsds.  I even took a cookie for an afternoon snack.

After lunch I cashed in on my fast pass that I had picked up earlier for the Safari ride.  It was very well done.  You get to go after poachers and see all sorts of unpredictable wild life up close.  I would highly recommend this one as well.  The staging of this ride and the entire Animal Kingdom for that matter is amazing.

coke2Which brings me to a point I have been thinking about since I got here.  At the Animal Kingdom the theme is so well carried out that it is easy to forget that it isn’t real.  The staging and authenticity are accurate and purposeful.  For example, the graffiti ads are for Coke on a place that sells Coke.  The overhead electricelectric lines are crazy and look as if they will fall to the ground any moment.  This is reinforced by blips in the power service (lights) through out the day.  These small touches are all characteristic of good design which I appreciate.

Meanwhile, back at the Swan and Dolphin hotels, the icons decorate both inside and out.  It is not clear to me what Michael Graves was trying to say about either a swan or a dolphin.  Why does the Dolphin have its triangle top and the Swan a curve?  Ok maybe I get the curve and teh graceful swan but a triangle?  Why are the icons only applied and not part of the design.  To me these are no more than iconic gestures.  These are questions that are not clear to me.  The hotels are nice enough but design challenged in my book.

Disney Day 1 (Sunday)

epcot1I started out today with breakfast on the Boardwalk and a boat ride to Epcot.  It would have been just as quick to walk but I wanted to conserve my energy and I like the boats.  This put me in the back side of Epcot early this morning and I just followed the small crowd to the Land exhibits. 

 

 

The one thing that everyone said was not to miss Soarin, so I grabbed my fast pass ticket first for noonish.  That gave me time to tour the Living with the Land Boat Ride.  It was interesting and nice to be sitting again.  The ride took us through 3 different eco systems and attempted to give sustainable forecasts for the future of these areas. kim-in-greenhouseAnd then afterwards I went of the “behind the seeds” tour.  I thoroughly enjoyed that as well.  Our guide, Steven, was a student intern on loan from Colorado State.  There were many things to see and learn on our hour plus walking tour.  We saw not only hydroponics but airponics too.  There were space saving growing techniques that produce large quantities in small footprints.   Because of the A-frame, 700 of these cabbage plants fit into acabbage-a-frame space normally only suited for 150 plants. Then there were the fish and alligators, bananas and other tropical plants.  If you have an interest in eating grown food or growing food I would recommend this tour.

 

After the tour it was time for me to take flight on Soarin.  Wow!  It was intense and very cool.  As my friends all said – Do not miss this one.  With the fast pass, my wait time was only about 15 minutes.

 

I also ate at the restaurant right outside Soarin, called Seasons.  There were lots of choices, reasonable (finally) and relatively quick.  I had a Chicken Caesar Salad that was top notch.

 

After that I went to the other side of Epcot for the afternoon and rode both Test Track and Mission Space.  Test Track was exhilarating, fast and fun!  Here is what may be the best tip of the day….. use the single rider line for Test Track, even if you are with a small group.  You may not end up sitting together but it won’t matter anyway.  There is too much going on to talk and it goes fast.  It saved me a ton of time.

mission-spaceMission Space was fun as well, I did the green mission.  It is the less intense one.  I might try the orange high intensity if Matt goes back with me.  It was a cool blast off and landing on Mars.

I spent more time in Epcot and could have spent even more.  I am sure I will go back there before the week is over.  After a long boat ride back to the Dolphin I rested in the room feeling a bit whipped. 

I did gather myself and head out to the Magic Kingdom for the fireworks show – Wishes.  That is undoubtedly the best fireworks I have seen, ever.  Just beautiful, magical even.disney-wishes-fireworks

Disney Finally

car-washMatt is off schmoozing this evening and I am get acclimated to the surroundings. 

First the getting here.  Today was a very nice day to be in Florida.  Warm sunshine all day.  We left Starke this morning after a quick breakfast and car wash.

We passed through this one little town called Waldo, on Rt. 301 that announced its notoriety as a speed trap town with a billboard at the edge of town.  We respectfully drove the ticketposted 45mph.  Some non-believers quickly saw the light.

Then on to Aunt Melva’s.  We had a great seafood lunch and very nice visit with Matt’s family.

From the Ocala area, we turned on the Verizon Navigator and headed down the Florida toll roads and through the orange groves to Disney.  I am sure that there is a front door to Disney, but we didn’t use it.  We came in a very pecdolphin-entranceuliar way and we very happy to see our first mouse eared road sign.  The Verizon Navigator took us the shortest way and did get us to the property.  The roads in and around Disney are dizzying.  You can see where you want to go but you just can’t get there. 

We turned off the navigator once we got to the Disney property thinking the signs would get us where we wanted to go.  That eventually worked itself out.  At one point we were at the car entrance to Epcot and I explained to the attendant that we were lost and trying to get to the Dolphin.  She said in a very perky voice said “you aren’t lost, you are here”  and then proceeded to give complicated directions that didndolphin-lobby1‘t make much sense.  We left her booth  – two lefts and follow signs…. hey that was a u-turn.  What the….  I still contend that we were lost.

Checking in was seamless.  We got into our room and settled in.  It is a spacious room with a view over the Florida landscape.  Probably a bit peachier than my taste but cheerful and home for the next week.  I will talk more about the iconic architecture of Michael Graves in the days to come.

I ventured over to dolphin-from-boardwalkthe Boardwalk by boat and walked back to the hotel.  The areas are well connected with walkways that keep you engaged in your surroundings.  Easy walking.

Tonight I am resting up and figuring out what to start with tomorrow.  Epcot is looking like the most likely candidate but we will see in the morning.  And as they say here… “Have a Magical Day!”