Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Grump is Moving......

Well, as I'm writing this, my lovely wife and I are waiting anxiously to get word that we can start moving into our wonderful new home that has been in the process of being built over the last 6 months.

It was anything but a smooth process.  The weather definitely didn't work in our favor.  Just like I seemed to have brought rain to Walt Disney World when we traveled there earlier this month, it seems we brought record breaking rain to Oklahoma when we moved here.

That rain just made it difficult to get the ball rolling on our house.

This is also the reason the final posts of my trip report were delayed and why there hasn't been any new content lately.  Catching up on work and dealing with house and move related stuff just seem to keep getting in the way.

I just wanted to let you, my loyal readers, know that more content will be forth coming.  I just need to get through the mire of drama that is the current chapter of this book of my life.  If all goes to plan, life will be back to normal on Monday, October 1 which also happens to correspond with EPCOT Center's 25th Birthday!

So in the meantime, while I'm unable to do so, make someone's day a Grumptastic one.

Technorati Tags: ,

Monday, September 17, 2007

Walt Disney World Day 09......All Good Things...

[ed.  I apologize for delay in the final installment of my trip report.  Life got in the way.  There is a price you pay for going on vacation.  It's called a pile of work waiting for you to get back.]

Well, it was hard to get up this morning knowing that in 24 hours I would be waking up in my own bed and having to go to work.

Even though we did a majority of the packing last night, we still had some to do this morning since we had stuff that couldn't be packed to their necessity in the morning (for example, toiletries).  We quickly got that done.  We also took pictures because we learned that if you get your luggage misplaced, you will be asked for a description of the bags and it's contents.

Our Packed Luggage As soon as I got my laptop packed, I realized that I forgot to write down my flight number for when we go to do the curb-side check-in for our flight home on Continental.

So, I unpacked the laptop and fired it up.  I paid the $9.95 fee to get on the Internet and got the necessary information.

We did one last check of the room to make sure we didn't leave anything behind and then headed to the bell station to check into our flight home and stow our carry-on bags because we aren't getting picked up to go to the airport until 3:15PM.

The check-in process was smooth and painless and we got all our bags properly tagged to their final destination.  As we learned from last year, it's a good idea to keep an eye on your bags and make sure all of the ones you are checking in are getting tagged and tagged for the correct destination.  When we stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge last year, we had two bags that accidentally didn't get tagged.  We quickly caught it and got it rectified.

PanchitoAfter getting checked in, we headed to the front desk.  I wanted a revised bill to reflect the $9.95 fee I just incurred for two minutes of Internet time.  After hearing my story, the lady behind the desk asked her supervisor for permission to reverse the charge.  Her supervisor (who was standing next to her) told her that she didn't have to ask for permission for those Donald Duckkind of things because she has been empowered by management to do what it takes to make guests stays memorable.

So, not expecting it, I got my charge reversed.  Yes, it was $9.95, but that is also the cost of a trading pin!

After getting that situation resolved, we walked over to The Springs bus stop to head back to EPCOT since it was still marked incomplete.

That was probably not a good idea, since we found that particular stop was quite populated.  

Once we got to EPCOT, we decided to go counter clockwise around the World Showcase since that was the side that needed our attention.  We hit the Mexican Pavilion first.  Since our previous trip, the attraction inside the giant Temple Jose Cariocawas refurbished to be themed around the Three Caballeros.  As some people have nicknamed the ride, "Finding Donald".  I must say that this ride has benefited from the new video pieces that were used to replace the dated films from the early 80's.  Now Donald, Panchito, and Jose Carioca are everywhere.  I know there are probably some people who don't like the introduction of animated characters to EPCOT, but in this case, I can say that I think it fits.  If someone was to ask me what do I think of when someone says Disney and Mexico, it is the Three Caballeros.

 Enchanted Rose with TrollAfter Mexico, it was off the scenic country of Norway, or as I used to call it as a kid...Norwegia.  I was outside taking a picture of the  waterfall that is part of the Maelstrom attraction when a nice Norwegian Cast Member asked if my wife and I would like our picture taken.  She was very careful with what she admittedly stated was a very expensive camera.  After our picture was taken it was onward toward the very dark and cold Maelstrom attraction.  This is a very simplistic ride, but it really gets the point across that there is a rich culture revolving around the sea and they have a lovely fantastical past where trolls and other woodsy creatures were believed in.

After Maelstrom, we did the unthinkable.  We stayed for the movie that they dump you into after you get off your boat.  We typically, as do most people, just cut through and move on.  This time my wife felt we should see what we were choosing to skip.  All I have to say is now that Canada has a nice new and modern movie, Norway needs to get off their butt and bring their movie into the 21st Century.  You know you when you have an old movie when you see a shot of a computer terminal and it has the tiny green monitor, the keyboard with the giant, chunky keys, and sports a 5.25" Floppy Drive.  People may stay if you modernize it and show off some of those great Norwegian Swim Suit models that they are famous for [ed. Honey, stop hitting me, it's just a joke].

After getting out of the movie which wasn't as painful as I remembered it being, we moved onto the shop.  It is just tradition to get your picture taken with the giant troll.  I unfortunately, was having a hard time getting a good exposure with the flash off, so I cheated and "green boxed" it.  [ed. Green Box is a photography slang term for using the auto feature.  It's called Green Box because it's typically the word "Auto" in a green box on your settings dial].

Before leaving Norway, I needed to get a picture of the giant castle in front of the pavilion.  I tried to get it the previous day, but I accidentally over-exposed it.  It took a few shots before I could get one I liked with a minimal amount of people in the way.

Enchated Rose with ChurroAfter Norway we had walked all the way to China before we realized that we were hungry.  My wife was very insistent yesterday that she wanted to eat in Mexico when we came back today.  So, despite my feet's lack of desire to backtrack, we did an about face and went back to Mexico. 

Since we had no table service credits left and had 2 counter service credits left for each of us, we decided to eat at the Cantina de San Angel.  We had read quite a few bad reviews of this place and I don't have the most agreeable digestive system, so I was really, really, really, really nervous about eating here.  The last thing I needed to discover was that the Mexican Pavilion was so accurately rendered that you even get Montezuma's Revenge here.  We both got the Wet Burrito with Churros as our dessert.  I must say that the food was muy delicioso (very delicious for our mono-lingual readers...haha).  This also marks the first time I have ever eaten a churro and I will definitely have to partake in this lovely deep fried bread and cinnamon delicacy.

After downing our food, it was back to China.  I find it much harder to get my feet to go after some rest.  I think they get the false impression that their task is done for the day.Grumpy with Temple Lion

We both decided that we really didn't want to see the CircleVision movie in the China Pavilion.  It's not that it isn't good, which it is, it's the fact that time is not our friend today.  So, my  wife just wanted to shop...naturally.  Before we ducked into the shops, I noticed that there  was a new exhibit here.  It's called the Tomb Warriors:  Guardian Spirits of Ancient China.  It was mainly dedicated to the huge tomb that was Lily Pad Pondfound in China that had an entire life-size army rendered in terra cotta.  It was interesting and it definitely fits into EPCOT's desire to be a place of learning.

After viewing the exhibit it was off to the stores in China.  I did my best to avert my wife's attention away from the Chinese purses.  She has been dead set on getting a purse from one of the pavilions here.  Granted, she was trying to get a smaller purse, but I still think she has enough.

After looking at all the cool pieces in the store, we called it quits and headed out.  But, we didn't make it far.  My wife has become obsessed with a new game she has invented for the parks.  It's called, "How many frogs can you spot in the lily pad pond".  We sat there for a good time Grumpy with Grumpylooking for giant frogs in the water.  I must say that my wife has an excellent eye because she spotted a good 5 or 6 and several of them I had to verify with my zoom lens on my camera.

After she got her fill of frog spotting it was off to the land of my forefathers....Germany.  It was here that I spotted Grumpy sitting quietly on a shelf.  We mainly just window shopped.  It was also at one of the stores that I saw a porcelain Scrooge McDuck piece but I couldn't swallow the $250 price tag.  It was really hard to turn down but with my expensive tastes in Disneyana, restraint must be held.

Wurzburg On our way out of Germany, we stopped at the Würzburg (aka Romantic Road).  I used to be quite into the model railroads when I was in Elementary and Junior High (yes, I'm that big of a geek, but the wife doesn't seem to mind), and this is just amazing considering they use living plants for scenery.

After, strolling through the Romantic Road, it was off to the land that is home to my most favorite food......pasta!

We took a spin through the shops here and took a few pictures.  By this point my feet were really hurting and time was running out for us.  So, I think my lack of enthusiasm and zest for shopping is starting to take a toll on the wife.  But, we still have Japan left.  As I said in a previous post, my wife really likes that shop in Japan.  It turns out that she has been eyeballing some bamboo placemats that are on sale here.  Unfortunately, I made a fatal husbandly mistake.  I told her that she could not get them, nor could she get the Japanese purse that she Enchanted Rose & Grumpy with Poseidon liked.

Now before my female readers rip me a new one, let me state my case.  We are currently in the process of building a custom home here in Oklahoma.  Well, most of the figures we have been getting related to the costs were very, very, very rough and we still didn't have a very accurate guesstimate on how much it was going to cost as a total.  At this time we are about 2 weeks from it being done and my fear was that we'd go crazy on vacation and find that we didn't have the money to cover our house closing (we are putting the 20% down to avoid PMI and escrow).  Yes, what she was wanting was not extremely expensive, but I viewed it as an unnecessary expense and something that you could get outside of Disney.

Needless to say, this caused a bit of tension between us and I tried real hard to smooth things over because I didn't want the end of our trip to be an argument.  Some talking it over seemed to make things better.  We are coming back in December, so there is a chance those items or something better will be available then.

After Japan, it was time to head back to the room, but we wanted to swing by Downtown Disney to do a quick drive by on some shops.  I wanted to see if there was a special $1 pin at the Pin Traders store there.  Plus, I wanted to see about getting a Beauty & the Beast snow globe they had at the World of Disney store.

Japanese Candy Maker Well, there wasn't a bus that ran from EPCOT to Downtown Disney, so we decided to take the Monorail to the TTC because we were sure there was a bus there.  When we got to the TTC and walked out to where the busses are, we found that there wasn't a bus to Downtown Disney from the TTC.

So, I went and asked someone at the Information desk and found that we needed to get to the Polynesian Resort and can catch a bus from there.  We could've walked, but we decided that the monorail was cooler and easier on the feet.  So we ran back to the monorail station and walked up the ramp to catch the monorail.  When we got to the top, we were told that we couldn't catch it from there because it was only the Magic Kingdom Express that picked up there.  So we had to go down the ramp and then go up the next.  We had always caught the monorail here, but I guess in the middle of the day, the only let you catch the monorail to resorts on the other side of the tracks.

After getting off the Monorail at the Polynesian we made our way out to the bus stop for the resort.  It didn't take long before the bus to Downtown Disney to show up.  We climbed on board and relaxed.

Well, it turned out they were doing concrete work on the Downtown Disney stops, so the only stop was the one at Pleasure Island.  So, we had to get off here and walk to Downtown Disney.

We quickly made it to the Pin Traders shop and found out that they did have a $1 pin, but they were sold out.  But, that didn't stop my wife from finding a pin that she wanted and we quickly paid for it.

Then, it was off to the Ghirardelli Chocolate shop in Downtown Disney.  Apparently, I still had a debt to pay to my wife for making her walk all the way to Downtown Disney to purchase our Annual Passes on our first day to find out that I didn't tell her to bring her photo ID.  My wife ended up finding some fudge that she wanted and we paid for it and went on our merry way. 

On our way out of Downtown Disney, we decided to blow the last of our Snack Credits at Goofy's Candy.  I didn't think you could actually pull that off, but sure enough, we did.  My wife picked out 4 items under $4 and we ended up with no snack credits when we were done.

Unfortunately, at this time, we ran out of time and needed to get back to meet our Quicksilver driver at 3:15PM.

We didn't have enough time to ride the water taxi so it was foot power for us.  We hauled some serious butt back to Saratoga Springs and got there right at 3:15PM.  But, as luck would have it, there was no driver there.  But, he wasn't that late.  He was there around 3:20PM.

We threw our bags in the back of the towncar and headed to the Orlando Airport. 

Security was busy, but I've seen worse.  But I have to say that the TSA agents must've slept through the day in class where they taught about spreading the Disney Magic.  I've met nicer drill sergeants.  They were yelling at passengers to empty their pockets and if they didn't they just kept yelling.  I swear I heard one say, "Hey tell that idiot to empty out his pockets in his cargo pants".  

I once again asked my wife if she made sure she got all liquids out of her bag and she said she did.  I'm an old hat at the security lines, so I had my shoes off and laptop out of its bag by the time I got to the conveyor belt.

We threw our bags on and walked through.  As my wife's bag was coming out, a TSA agent pulls it off the line and tells us to step to the side.  We had plenty of time so I wasn't worried about that, but I was worried about what contraband we had and how we were going to get it home.  I was sure it was the sticks on the giant lollypops that my wife bought at Goofy's Candy.

The TSA agent was much nicer than the others I have seen up to this point.  He was cracking jokes and being real nice.  He starts digging through my wife's bag and then pulls out a water bottle with about an inch of water at the bottom.  Apparently, my wife completely forgot it was in there and it must've been in there for awhile because I typically carried the water bottles.  The TSA agent joked with my wife about her not knowing it was in there, tossed it in the garbage and we were on our way.

As is habit, I checked the monitors to see if our gate was still the same.  Sure enough, it had changed and we made our way to the gate.  I plopped down in my seat while my wife went on a hunt for Dr. Pepper.  Sure enough, as rumor has hinted at, Orlando's airport has free Wi-fi.  I was able to play on the Internet for a bit while we waited to board.

We had no hiccups on the way home and we got into our house around midnight.

My wife quickly unpacked the bags, while I pried off my shoes and removed the band-aids.  The blisters were huge.  So I took pictures for posterity.....haha

I was going to post a picture of my blisters, but I will save you the horror........

Technorati Tags: ,

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Walt Disney World Day 08......Around the World in a Day

Well, it was decided the previous night that we were going to hit Disney's Hollywood Studios (aka MGM-Studios) this morning to try and get another one of those Yoda T-Shirts for my nephew Collin. His mother, Julie, told us that he needs a size 4T.

So, as of bed last night the plan was to go to follow that up with a trip to Animal Kingdom to go on a photographic safari and then go to EPCOT that evening because we had a 7:10PM ADR for the Rose and Crown in the United Kingdom Pavilion.

Also, this morning, my wife had a 8:00AM appointment at the Saratoga Springs Spa. She was excited to give this a try since the Unofficial Guide rated this the best spa on property. We did the couples massage last year as a part of our Platinum Magic Your Way package and she wanted to compare facilities (Grand Floridian vs. Saratoga Springs).

I slept in a bit and got up and prepared for our day while she was off getting a massage.

After she got back, she needed to shower to get all the oils they used off her skin. She was sure if she didn't take a shower, she'd burn to a crisp as if she was coated in vegetable oil.

We made our way out to the Grandstand Bus Stop and waited for the MGM bus. We didn't have to wait long and we were off.

Well, as we would have it, the bus driver was very informative, and that is how we found out that the Magic Kingdom had Extra Magic Hours this evening. At this point, we both looked at each other and had the same thought......We can hit all 4 parks today! So the plan was altered to include jotting over to the Magic Kingdom after IllumiNations and get in a some time and maybe do some more tripod photography. We have never been able to pull off the 4 parks feat before so we were excited to try.

Storm Troopers Outside Tatoonie TradersWe got off at MGM Studios and made our way though security and then walked as fast as we could to Star Traders to get to the Tatooine Traders shop to look for that shirt. I swear, it takes awhile to get numb to the pain in my feet, but once those blistered toes do get numb I can really fly.

We got to the shop and quickly found out that there were no toddler sizes. My wife called her sister to find out if Collin could get away with a child's small or if it would be too big. We were told unless she could find an Extra Small it wouldn't be worth buying it. So she grabbed a Cast Member to go look for her. Now we know that you cannot get a child's extra small in Disney world.

Hollywood Tower Hotel After that disappointment it was decided that since we were at the park we should try to get on Tower of Terror again if the lines are manageable. As we were making our way up the street toward the Hollywood Tower Hotel, we saw that the Beauty and the Beast Stage Show was letting out in front of us. We kicked it up a notch to try and get in front of as many of them as possible before the line for Tower of Terror ballooned up to unfavorable sizes.

We got lucky and were able to still pretty much walk right onto the elevator. I stowed my camera and we got on the ride. This ride was just as awesome as the other times we have ridden it. With the randomization that is built into the number of falls and how high you are dropped from, it's always a new and exciting ride.

After we survived the runaway elevator, it was decided that since we were going to the Animal Kingdom next, we needed to eat while we were still at Disney's Hollywood Studios. This decision was made because we have found the Counter Service choices at the Animal Kingdom to be severely lacking.

We decided that we'll just make it easy and get chicken strips at the same place we got them before near the Tower of Terror. They aren't the best chicken strips I ever had (I think Denny's makes some mean chicken strips), but it was better than the ABC Commissary.

After getting some food in our bellies, we went to the restroom and headed back out to the bus lot. You can catch a bus from Disney's Hollywood Studios to Animal Kingdom (a wonderful luxury).

Entrance to Animal Kingdom After a nice rest in the air conditioned bus, we got to the Animal Kingdom. Today's mission was to strictly do the animal walking trails and take lots of wildlife pictures. We couldn't leave this year and have it be two years in a row that we ignored these trails.

We grabbed a map to try and make sure we didn't skip any trails and systematically made our way through them. I must say that if you are looking to take pictures of ducks, you don't really have to look hard when you are here.Animal Carving on Tree of Life

The real fun came when we went into the Discovery Island trails. From here you get all kinds of perspectives of the Tree of Life and all the animal carvings. We spent a considerable amount of time walking around and looking everywhere to find the animal carvings and tried to get pictures of them all. From what I've read and heard, there are over 300 animals carved into the tree, and I can say with 100% assurance that I didn't get anywhere close to finding all of them.

Bat in Asia @ Animal Kingdom After getting done with the Tree of Life, we made our way to Asia to walk the Maharaja's Jungle Trek. This was rather disappointing because the heat of the day had all the cool animals in hiding. I got some pictures of the tigers at rest, but they were only visible from one area that was behind glass and over the years, the glass has gotten very foggy from many many hands and noses being pressed up against it. Maybe by shooting in a RAW photo format, I can do some post production work to make the colors a bit more vivid and downplay the fogginess of the image. We also went through an aviary and a couple other areas where animals were being kept, but they are not under any kind of human control so they are free to make themselves visible or not. On this day, mostly not.

After getting done with this trail, it was decided that ice cream was in order. So we Enchanted Rose Beating the Drums @ Animal Kingdomkept our eyes peels on our way to the trail in Africa. We found an ice cream joint across the street from where the African gymnasts perform. I got a swirl in a cup and my wife got a swirl in a waffle cone.

We sat down and watched some African performers as we ate our nice, cold soft serve ice cream.

Meerkat on Sentry Duty @ Animal Kingdom After our ice cream was done, we headed to the African trail. A good portion of this trail was closed for one reason or another. We did get some good giggles and entertainment at the meerkat area. I got a few good pictures of a meerkat on lookout. We also got a good close view of a hippo as he made his way by the glass that was separating him from us. The "research student" (cast member) who was stationed there told us that the hippo was much more active than earlier in the day.

We eventually wandered our way to the Ape enclosure. Unless you get here early in the day, you are going to be quite challenged to get close enough to take any pictures. This is a popular place, especially amongst children. They never seem to move. They just sit there and stare for what seems like hours.

I got a couple pictures, but they were not being very photogenic today. They seemed to like to stay behind smeared sections of the glass.

Waiting for the Bus @ Animal Kingdom This pretty much ended the trails for us. We decided to check and see if there were any pins that we wanted here so we could get the special limited edition $1 pin for Animal Kingdom. There weren't but there was some scrapbooking stuff that my wife found that could only be found at the Animal Kingdom. This info came to us from John Frost's wife, who we met earlier in the week. It turns out the place to get the scrapbooking stuff was also selling the $1 pin. So my wife was able to get her stuff and we got our $1 pin too! Awesome!

After this purchase it was off to the bus to go back to Saratoga Springs. The plan was to get a quick rest, shower and change clothes before hitting EPCOT and doing dinner and IllumiNations.

No sooner had we gotten on the bus, the skies opened up with a large rain storm.

We had to dash through the downpour to get back to our room from the Grandstand Bus Stop.

My wife decided to take a nap while I goofed around on the computer emptying my camera's flash cards and such. Meanwhile, it was still pouring outside.

When it finally came time to leave, we made sure we packed several plastic bags and ziploc bags to keep things dry and donned our rain coats. I took my tripod just in case the rain subsided.

We got lucky. By the time the bus came to pick us up and take us to EPCOT, the rain was pretty much reduced to a fine mist.

The Grump in front of Rose & Crown We had waited so long for the rains to subside that we didn't have any time to go exploring around EPCOT before our 7:10PM reservation at the Rose and Crown in the United Kingdom Pavilion. So, we headed straight there.

After all this rain, the humidity was stifling and it didn't seem to thin the crowds out much in the park.

We checked in with the hostess at the Rose and Crown and were pretty quickly sat down. We didn't get a window seat, but we were out of the way of general foot traffic. We had an awesome server named Ed who was very fun to talk to. He was quite taken aback when he found out that I used to play Rugby.

I ordered the Fish & Chips and my wife got the pot roast. This was the first day of a new menu at the Rose and Crown and Ed told us that everything on the menu was chosen based on diner's feedback.

Since we had burned all our Table Service credits on signature dining restaurants, this meal was not in the Dining Plan. Because of that, I just ate an entree while my wife had an entree and dessert.

After eating our dessert we found out that IllumiNations was at 9PM (as usual) Guinness Stout is Good For You!instead of the odd time of 8PM we were told by the bus driver this morning. So, we decided to kill the next hour by enjoying some fine alcoholic beverages. My wife had a Pinot Grigio and I had a Imperial Pint of Guinness Stout.

When it came time to close the check, Ed forgot we were paying and brought us a bill based on the Dining Plan. He said we were the only customers that evening that weren't dining on the plan and it threw him for a loop.

We got the bill taken care of and then he escorted us to an area on the lake-side patio to watch IllumiNations.

There were some nice young ladies there who looked about college aged or mid-20's and they were pretty interested in my camera setup with the tripod. They helped me clear out a space near the railing.

Illuminations From Rose & Crown patio Unfortunately, there was a table of Europeans behind us who weren't too happy that I was setting up shop in front of them. I made every effort to try and not obstruct their view and told my wife that I was concerned about it. She just said loudly that they shouldn't sit behind me when there were plenty of other tables near the railing. That just put a more sour look on their faces. You may be wondering why I just assumed they were Europeans. Well they had accents (first give away) and were wearing shorts with leather shoes and black socks. That, without the accents, is usually a dead give away that you "aren't from around here". IllumiNations from Rose & Crown Patio #2 Americans are all about their sneakers (trainers to our British folk) and white socks. I had a friend who lived in Australia who told me you could easily spot American tourists by their footwear. Only Americans wore athletic shoes outside of athletic activities.

Well, we had the best vantage point to date for viewing IllumiNations, but it wasn't the best for taking pictures. There was a lamp post in my line of sight and if I successfully aimed around it and pointed my lens too high, then I got the lamp bulbs in the shot.

So, a lot of my pictures have the fireworks in the top half of the shot and are definitely cropped badly like a bunch of family portraits where the people's heads are cut off.

We needed to get in front of as many people in the giant throng heading for the exit so we could get on the Monorail to the TTC to switch to a Monorail to the Magic Kingdom.

Remember, we needed to make it within the Extra Magic Hours so that we could say we went to all 4 parks today. Today Extra Magic Hours ended at the Magic Kingdom at 11PM and it was currently something like 9:30PM

At this point, the wife and I decided to try and navigate the crowd in a single-file formation rather than a side-by-side. We just "shot the gap" whenever we could and hauled butt to the main exit. This was real fun because my feet were beyond annoyed.

By the time we got to Mouse Gear, I told my wife there was no way I was going to be able to make it to the Magic Kingdom without wetting my pants. The rent was way overdue on the Guinness I had earlier.

We ducked into the restrooms near Space Ship Earth and I was refreshed for the haul to the Magic Kingdom.

We ran up to the top of the ramp for the Monorail station to find that the gate was closed and there was a small crowd there. I said that we should turn around and catch a bus but my wife said that we should keep our place in line. We were told that the Monorail was running a tad late.

After a short moment, they opened the gate and people started filling the little stalls the designated a monorail car waiting spot. It was at this point that we are told that the monorail is experiencing "technical difficulties" and was having to run at very slow speeds but it's on it's way. We found out later it had something to do with the doors but what we didn't know.

We ended up standing there for 30 or more minutes waiting for the monorail to show up. We were soaked in sweat because the humidity still hadn't broken.

Also, while we were standing there, some very young child took a back plunge onto the concrete and cracked her little head. The reverberations could be felt in the concrete and we were a good ways away. There was a cast member standing right next to the family when it happened and he hauled butt down the concourse like it was nobodies business so he could get a radio.

The parents said everything was fine, but my wife was concerned because she said in the Emergency Room and sound like we heard when that kids head hit the ground never is a good sound and the kid wasn't crying. She was also surprised to see that there was no apparent sign that an incident report was being filled out.

We finally got on the monorail and it was packed with tons of other people wanting to get to the Magic Kingdom. By this point, most people around us have heard about our quest to go to all 4 parks today. Most, thought we were nuts.

I can tell you one thing, those monorails aren't the nicest places to be when crowded and strollers are involved. The cars with the center bar in them make for really tight quarters especially when a two-seater stroller is crammed in there and we had two of them.

Once we got to the Magic Kingdom stop, my wife and I hauled butt to the security bag check. It was now 10:15PM. We had 45 minutes left! At the bag check, we had the coolest security guy. He asked me to not remove my backpack and to just turn my back toward him. He just unzipped everything and looked and rezipped it and sent me on my way.

We got our special magic after-hours bracelet and entered the park. We did it. We got our Annual Pass scanned on 4 parks in one day, but we needed to do something to make the trip count.

So, my wife stated that she wanted to ride Haunted Mansion again and I wanted some nighttime shots of it anyway.

Ghost Bride in Haunted Mansion We made our way to the Haunted Mansion and as I rounded the corner, my heart dropped. It wasn't illuminated. In fact, you could hardly see the building at all. But, it was still up and running. There was no line and we just walked right up to the door that leads you to the pre-show.

This time, I wasn't so keen on taking pictures, so I just sat back and enjoyed the ride. The newly refurbished Haunted Mansion just got better with each ride.

After getting off the Haunted Mansion, we decided we should just head back to the room. It was pretty much 11PM and they were going to kick us out soon anyway.

We probably should've waited a bit more because when we got to the bus stop, it was really, really packed. It was so packed that we didn't get on the first bus that showed up. We had to wait for the second. At least we were sitting.

We were crammed next to some standing girls who couldn't stop giggling and Cinderella's Castle making fun of other people around them. Plus, we had one of those bus drivers that work the closing shifts that thing they are entertaining. This one thought she was funny. But, her jokes made the Jungle Cruise Skippers sound like highly polished stand-up comedians.

We did eventually get to our Grandstand bus stop at Saratoga Springs and we kind of had to force our way off the bus since so many people were standing.

When we got back to the room, it was time to pack as much as we could and head to bed. Tomorrow will be the final cleanup day, and we have to head back to EPCOT.

I'll try to get the final day's report up as quickly as I can, but the price I had to pay for 9 days at Walt Disney World is that I had to go out of town on business the day after I got back from vacation. Plus, we are attempting to get our house finalized that we are having built so we can move in next week.

So, keep checking back, I might just surprise you with a post. After the big move, I hope to get back into my regular posting patterns.

So, in the meantime, remember you aren't living unless you are making each day the most Grumptastic day ever!

Technorati Tags: ,

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Walt Disney World Day 07.....What can I say? I'm a sucker for punishment.

The LandToday, we decided it would be our first of two days to try and finish up EPCOT. After the ordeal of the very rainy and wet Halloween Party of the previous night, we decided to sleep in again.

That meant that we didn't get to EPCOT until around 10:45AM. I wanted to get the Living with the Land attraction accomplished today since it had been down for refurbishment last year. It took a bit of a hike to get to The Land pavilion and when we got there we noticed that there was a 90 minute wait for Soarin' (at 11AM!). I was so glad that we had gotten Soarin' already accomplished the previous trip.

I always like the Living with the Land attraction. I especially like when you go intoTomato Tree the green houses and see all the experimental and non-traditional ways they are growing things. For example. the plants that are just hanging from the ceiling and getting sprayed with nutrient enriched water so that they don't need soil to live. Also, the pumpkins that are being grown in Mickey shaped containers so that they will eventually hold a permanent Mickey shape.

After this ride, it was decided that a trip to EPCOT wouldn't be complete without a visit to see Figment. So we took a walk over to the Imagination Institute to take a look at their Open House with Dr. Figment Nigel Channing. When we got to the ride vehicle one of the "scientists" noticed my birthday button and got everyone in the room to wish me a happy birthday. This is a good time to point of that if you don't like the risk of getting attention drawn to yourself, you might not want to pick up a birthday button.

This version of Journey into Imagination is no where as memorable as the initial version that opened with EPCOT, but for my wife, it's the only one she knows. She really likes it and will sing the catchy song through the entire attraction. I think I saw a few people giving us strange looks as I joined in with her on the song. It could've just been my horrible singing that got the attention.

After getting off the ride, we headed over to the "What if" labs at Imageworks and tried to do the photo thingie, but it is highly popular and I got tired of waiting on these huge groups of people to finish. No single photo booth had just one or two people at it. It was always small packs of people and they were slow, slow, slow.

After our run in with Figment we decided we'll go to the World Showcase and start trekking around the circle. But when we got to the bridge I accidentally reminded my wife that if we went through the International Gateway we were close to Beaches and Cream. So, that meant we were detouring to get some ice cream.Beaches and Cream Sundae

I have to admit that I like Beaches & Cream. We don't go for the Kitchen Sink,but we usually get an ice cream sundae. Since these sundaes weren't considered snacks on the Disney Dining Plan, I had to pay out-of-pocket for this mid-day snack. My wife got a two scoop sundae with Butter Pecan and Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream with Chocolate Syrup and I got two scoops of vanilla (yeah I'm that exciting) with the Chocolate Syrup.

After we were thoroughly stuffed with ice cream, it was time to head back to the World Showcase. I must say that if you have blisters on your feet, especially your little pinky toes, EPCOT is not your friend. Not only is there a lot of walking, but most of it isn't flat.

We made it back through the security at the International Gateway (which I might add was very sparsely populated). The first stop in the World Showcase was Canada.

Victoria Gardens @ Canada Pavilion We wanted to see the new Circlevision film that the Canadian Tourism Board produced for their EPCOT Pavilion. I had heard through various Internet outlets that Martin Short was the new host of the movie. I now his participation in the movie had a lot of people worried since many of the attactions he's been involved with before didn't fare well once they were introduced to the paying public. But, I went in with an open mind.

I have to admit that we both really liked the new movie. It definitely was better than the old movie. Plus, Martin Short's self-deprecating humor was nice and brought levity. I especially liked when he said that he needed help finding his way out of the movie because he had a FastPass to Soarin'. The imagary of Canada was phenomenal and I don't think any other type of film could've done it justice but the Circlevision.

After leaving Canada we were on our way to France. We decided that we needed to see the Impressions de France since we skipped this last year. This wasn't a Circlevision movie. That meant we had seats and that spelled trouble for me. I think I slept through the entire thing. My wife said that my head was bopping like a Grump Striking a Pose in Moroccobobblehead figure. I was glad to get out of there because I was fine as long as I continued to stay moving. If I stopped and didn't have something to occupy my mind (ie taking pictures), I fell asleep.

After leaving France, it was off to Morocco so my wife could do a little window shopping in the little stores and bazaars. I took a picture of a hidden Mickey that was painted into the mural of Agrabah in one of the stores in Morocco. Fortunately, there wasn't anything here that my wife really must have.

Japanese Drummer After leaving Morocco it was onto one of my most favorite countries from an architectural standpoint...Japan. My wife likes the store here and that meant we had to go in and look around. I liked the imported large action figures. I used to have a few of these when I lived in Singapore. I don't know where they are now, but I'm sure they are in a box somewhere. But, the smells of the incense in this store really caused my mind to do some flashbacks to the stores I was dragged into as a kid when we lived in Southeast Asia.

After leaving this store, we found that the drummers were performing outside. Being that my wife was on the drum line in high school we couldn't walk past this. So we stood there and watched a good portion of their show while I took some pictures.

After leaving Japan, it was on toward the American Pavilion. I totally forgot about the American Adventure film/stage show when we were here last year and wanted to make sure we got it in this time. We had 45 minutes until the next show but we were mere minutes away from the next Fife and Drum Corp performance so we parked our butts on the edge of the fountain and waited.

The Fife and Drum Corp Sure enough they showed up right on time and they were loud enough I'm sure you could hear them all the way over in Mexico. If you have any anti-American sentiments, you might want to avoid the Fife & Drum Corp performance. Not only do they ask everyone to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, but they also go through a medley of American patriotic songs. The host also says many pro-American things that might irritate someone who is non-American and doesn't necessarily view the United States in the way Walt Disney did as the place where dreams come true and anything is possible.

A Grump and his Pretzel After the Fife and Drum Corp were done with their performance, we hauled butt down to Germany to get a couple soft pretzels in our bellies before the next showing of the American Adventure. By golly, it was hot at this point and eating salted pretzels may have not been the best of decisions since we only had the two bottles of water with us.

We scarfed down our pretzels and hauled butt back to the American Pavilion just in time to get into the show building before the movie started.

The American Adventure This time, it was my wife who had a hard time staying awake. I had no problem since I was focused on trying to snap photos of the audio-animatronics figures on the stage. This go around, I put on my faster 50mm lens and gave it a try. I'm hoping that with some cropping, that I got some good shots.

After coming out of the American Pavilion it was decided that it was time to head back to Saratoga Springs. Since the American Pavilion is at the halfway point, we decided to just keep going around in the same direction we've been traveling so to see the other pavilions on our way out. I took some quick photos, of course.

Every Person Comes Out Tired We got to the bus stop and weren't as lucky this time to have the bus waiting for us. I took our standard, "Boy are we tired" photo that we like to take from this bus stop. Eventually the bus showed up and we climbed aboard our sweet air conditioned chariot home.

We got back to the resort and my wife took her daily nap while I goofed on the computer.

Tonight's dinner is at Narcoosee's and that means we need to once again get from our resort to the Grand Floridian. It was decided that we'll take a bus to the Magic Kingdom and then figure out which way to get from the Magic Kingdom to the Grand Floridian once we get there.

My Enchanted Rose on the Water Taxi It was decided that we'd take the water taxi from the Magic Kingdom to the Grand Floridian since the boat dock was right at Narcoosees and we didn't feel like walking all through the resort to get to the restaurant. Remember, I have some pretty nice blisters growing ever so larger on my feet.

This night was one of the only nights we made it to our restaurant in time for our ADR. That meant we didn't wait very long to get sat down. I tried to take some pictures of the Magic Kingdom from the outside patio while we waited for our pager to go off to tell us that our table was ready.A Grump at the Dinner Table

The Belle of the Ball Oddly enough, we got sat at the table right next to the one we sat at last year. We once again both ordered the surf and turf. That is a very sizeable lobster tail with a 6oz filet mignon. For appetizers I got the Caesar Salad and my wife got the crab cakes. For dessert, I got the chocolate cake and I cannot even remember what my wife got (shame on my). All said and done, we got a $200 dinner as part of the meal plan. For this trip we decided to burn all our Table Service Credits on Signature Dining Restaurants.

Before our dessert course, our waitress stalled so that we could go out on the deck and watch Wishes. I took out my tripod and setup for action. As I was setting up my tripod, I heard this loud banging on the window behind me. This old lady and her family were very angrily yelling (well at least it looked that way from the other side of the glass) and dramatically waving their arms ordering me to move. Well, yes I did a rude thing because I didn't even think that someone would want to watch Wishes from the comforts of their table. But, I could've been politely reminded of my faux pas not treated rudely back.

Wishes from Narcoosee's #1 So, I took a couple steps to the right and setup. I made the mistake of focusing and pointing my lens in the wrong direction. It quickly became apparent that the fireworks appeared in the sky in a different location than they appear in the sky from the vantage point provided from the California Grill atop the Contemporary Resort.

I quickly adjusted and started snapping away. I made aa lucky discovery with my camera this evening. Apparently, when in full manual mode, if I move past a 30 second exposure my camera goes into what is called a "bulb" mode. What that seems to mean is that as long as I have the button depressed, the shutter stays open. As soon as I let go, it closes. That allows me to Wishes from Narcoosee's #2 decide how long the shutter stays open and not try and predetermine. Why is this important. Well, you don't want to keep the shutter open to long or you just get a lot of bright light on the image. You also want to time when you open and close the shutter to good breaks in the firework action. It takes great timing. If you do it just right you can get some good pictures. Hold it open too long it looks bad.

After Wishes was over one of the people standing behind me told me they were watching the LCD screen of my camera and thinks I got some good pictures.

My wife and I headed back inside the restaurant and ate our dessert and then left.

We headed back to the boat dock to go back the way we came, but the boat captain told us that due to the overwhelming crowds leaving the park he cannot add more by dropping off people with his boat. So we had to go via the monorail. So, I hobbled my way across the resort to get to the Monorail station on the second floor of the main Grand Floridian resort building.

Before we left the boat dock we were talking with another person who was in the restaurant with us who was explaining that they couldn't get a room for this particular week at any Disney resort. She was having to stay off property and therefore was in a big hurry to get back to TTC before the last shuttle leaves for her off-site hotel.

A Grump at the Magic Kingdom Bus Stop When we got off the monorail at the Magic Kingdom, we found ourselves coming off the ramp into a sea of people. You really had to force your way through the crowd to get to the bus stop you wanted to be at.

After waiting for a few moments, we got a Saratoga Springs bus show up. This was standing room only (again). I am sure glad we are the first stop.

That is how this day ended. Lots of fun was had by all.

Stay tuned you never know what fun looms around the corner. Do my blisters finally pop? Do we finally arrive so late for an ADR that we lose our table? Do I finally score the perfect Tim Devine photo of Wishes? Enquiring minds want to know, but you have to keep reading.

At this point, I'm going to have to say that at the time of this writing, it is the night before the day we check out. So it may be a couple days before the next two days show up (Day 8 and 9). We don't get back in till really late on Monday night and I have a lot of work to catchup on Tuesday. But I promise you'll hear how this story ends.

So remember folks, only you can make someone's day grumptastic! Do you part to spread the love.

Technorati Tags: ,

Friday, September 14, 2007

Walt Disney World Day 06.....Mickey's Not So Scary But Very Wet Halloween Party

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party As I said in the first part of today's blog post, my wife and I were to meet Michael (Explore the Magic) and his family at the Magic Kingdom for the Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party. We made it to the park around 6PM and were faced with a sizeable crowd to get into the park.

Well, the sizeable crowd was to get through the bag check not necessarily the park. I am really starting to hate the bag checks because I have to open all these little pouches in my camera bag and after losing stuff in the past two trips I am now paranoid that something is going to fall out. Plus, you have the added pressure of all those other impatient people standing behind you in line and the security people aren't always the most nice and understanding people.

After making it through bag check it took no time to get our tickets fed through the machine and cross through the turnstile. Then we just stuck out our arms and got the wristbands that told Disney Cast members that we belonged in the after hours, hard ticket event.

I immediately called Michael to find out where he was, but I just got his voice-mail. I told my wife that he wasMaster Gracey's Grave either on a ride or had a hard time hearing his phone ring just like I do.

We decided that we'll make our way to the Haunted Mansion. I also took some pictures on the way over to Liberty Square, the home of the Haunted Mansion.

As we got into the line, we saw Michael and his family coming out of the Haunted Mansion. We got his attention and they decided they'll ride it again. We let the line pass us until we caught up with them. The line moved relatively quickly and we got into the Stretching Room before we really knew it. I must say that it was very humid outside at this time.

I have to say that positioning in the stretching room must make a difference because I noticed a considerable difference in the new audio effects in the stretching room today.

Once we got out of the stretching room and joined all the other people pouring out of the other stretching room (you know they have more than one don't you), we waited to get on our doom buggy. Well, nothing is simple with us. The ride broke down for a considerable amount of time and Michael's kids didn't like sitting still so much. They got a bit antsy. Eventually, the ride started up and we were quickly on our doom buggy. My wife rode with Michael's wife and daughter and I rode with Michael and his son. I knew that I wasn't going to have much luck taking pictures but for some reason I tried again anyway. This time the audio was not screwed up as we passed through the new staircase scene.

Welcome to Toontown All in all, I must say that I like this newly updated ride even more the second time through.

After getting off the Haunted Mansion it was decided that we'll be going to Toontown so that we can get pictures of the kids with Mickey and Minnie. My wife and I decided that we'll get pictures with them too.

We stopped quickly to take a picture of the sign into Toontown when it started sprinkling. Before we knew it, the sprinkling turned into pouring. It became every man, woman, and child for themselves. My wife ducked into the women's bathroom and I did the men's. That was the closest place with shelter for us to get our rain coats on. Plus, I needed to stow my camera to try and protect it from the rain.

A wet Grump After getting some wet weather gear on, we booked it to Minnie's house and regrouped with Michael and his clan. We were quickly informed that Mickey and Minnie would be in the location where you normally can line up to meet all the other characters and Princesses in Toontown. So, we hauled butt over there and get very wet in the process. Fortunately for my wife and I we had raincoats, but Michael and his wife did not. I don't think the rain bothered Michael much (until he was in air conditioning), but I could tell his wife wasn't have the most fun standing around getting wet and sitting in wet clothing.

After standing around for what seemed like hours, Michael's wife was able to find out that Minnie and Mickey were at the Judge's Tent outside Mickey's House. So, once again, we batted down the hatches and ran back through the ran to our next destination. This time, the Judges Tent. At this point, I found it too much of a pain to bag and unbag my camera. So, I'm running through the ran hunched over my camera shielding it from the rain like a running back does with a football.

Beauty and the Grump with Minnie and Mickey We made it to the Judges Tent and most of us were soaked to the bone. So, now we were standing in a well air conditioned space in wet clothes. I must say that my floppy hat that I bought shielded my face from the rain very well.

We stood in line for ages before we got to go back and meet with Minnie and Mickey. Michael gave his camera to his wife to take pictures of their kids while he took my camera and took pictures of me and my wife with Mickey and Minnie.

After getting our pictures taken, a Disney Cast member escorted us through some back stage hallways to dump us back to the store we started out in to avoid the rain. After waiting for about 30 minutes, Michael and his wife decided they were going to head to the Guest Relations department on Main Street and ask to see if the could get a refund. Enchanted and I decided that we were going to go to Cosmic Ray's and grab some food and hopefully ride out the storm.

For you see, we spent over $70 for the hard tickets and like everyone else, we were staying in the park until they kicked us out to get our money's worth.

Once we made our way into Cosmic Rays, Enchanted found us a table and I dropped off all my wet stuff (coat, camera bag, tripod bag, etc) so that I could order us some food. First, I stopped off at the restroom. After all that cold to warm and back action, my bladder shrunk to the size of a pea and was screaming at me.

Inside the restroom there were more people changing their clothes into something dry than were using the facilities for what they were designed.

After taking care of that little order of business, it was off to order our food. The guy in front of me was having trouble because the cash register wasn't registering any of this meal credits nor would it let him charge his meal to his room. I must say that considering everything that we were all going through, he handled it splendidly. Eventually, his room was charged for the meal and he went on his way.

The poor kid behind the register was a bit frazzled. I joked with him that he got a tad more business than he was expecting for this party.

After getting our food, I made our way back to Enchanted who was holding our table. When we were about half way through our food, Michael called to tell us that the Guest Relations people told them that the weather reports were saying that the rain was going to blow through and therefore they were still wanting to do the fireworks, but they'll be late. He informed me that they decided to stay and wanted to know where we were. I told him that we were still at Cosmic Rays and would keep an eye out for them.

HalloWishes Unfortunately, the overhead announcement said that the fireworks were soon and we still didn't see Michael nor his crew. So, we ended up heading out looking for a spot for ourselves. As soon as we parked ourselves in front of the Rose Garden my phone rang and it was Michael. Apparently, I was right in front of them. We met up with Michael on the path inside the Rose Garden and the location wasn't ideal but wasn't horrible either.

So, we setup the tripods and got ready. Michael's wife ended up buying some dry clothes and changed then she took the kids to get some candy and my wife went with them.

Just as Michael predicted, it started raining again because we had setup our tripods. So we ducked into the covered areas in the Rose Garden to ride out the rain. Unfortunately, the rain didn't stop before the fireworks started.

A nice Disney castmember was giving us advice on camera settings and I got a couple shots that might be good, but I had two things working against me:

  1. Rain on my lens
  2. The smoke wasn't blowing away which was creating a screen shielding the fireworks from our view

Villians Parade After the fireworks were over, we decided to find a place for viewing the parade. We got a space to setup our tripods, but cast members kept stepping in front of us. I'm sure they didn't do it on purpose, but I would figure all the flash bulbs going off in their eyes would've deterred them from standing where they were.

I hardly got any decent pictures of the parade. Our location was sub-prime and there was a bright spotlight right across the street from my camera and that was throwing off my exposures.

After the parade, we walked over to the front of the castle for the Villians Stage Show stage show. Michael and I setup a few paces back of the castle near the partner statue so that we could get some good composition of shots. I really liked the stage show and I tend to avoid them like the plague. The soundtrack was quite entertaining and the lighting effects were cool.

After the stage show, Michael and his family decided to head on home. They offered us a ride back but we decided to stay because my wife wanted to do some more shopping and I wanted to do some tripod pictures of the park.

Cinderella Castle with Partners Statue I ended up setting my tripod up in a few locations to take pictures of Cinderella's Castle and Tomorrowland. I think I got a couple good shots of the Castle framed with the Partner Statue in the shot.

After about 30-40 minutes taking pictures, we exited the park. Even after delaying our departure as much as we did, the line to get on our bus was still pretty long. Once we were on the bus, we ended up Welcome to Tomorrowland having to stand on the ride home. My wife and I were pretty amazed at the people who just ignored those people who should've been given their seat (i.e. pregnant women and older people). I can understand it, we were all tired and wet, but still, it was kind of rude. Maybe I learned all about that courteous behavior from all those years of taking public transportation.

Mainstreet Station Decorated for Party We did eventually get ourselves back to the resort. This is one of the awesome reasons you want to stay in the Grandstand section of Saratoga Springs. You are the first stop which means we didn't have to stay on that bus standing any longer than we had to.

That is how this day ended. Two very soaked people got an interesting evening with an friend and his family and maybe got a couple nice pictures to remember it with.

Remember folks, once you underwear is wet, there is nothing left but to have fun! So, keep it grumptastic and enjoy the ride.