April 13, 2009

I was late getting to bed last night, my Sunday night TV shows were running late so it was close to midnight when I finally turned the light out. As usual, on the night before leaving on a trip, I laid awake thinking about what I had packed, what did I forget and what did I still had to do in the morning. The last thing I heard was the clock chime at 12:30 a.m. before falling asleep. It was a good sleep for about 4 ½ hours, and then I heard “Is Santa Claus here yet?” Gary was wide-awake so that meant that the dogs and me should be awake as well! He was the first to hit the shower so while I got myself and the dogs ready he make a quick trip over to Tim Horton’s for coffee, that at least made up a little for the early wake up call.


We were on the road at 5:57 a.m. and crossing the 1000 Island International Bridge and clearing customs by 6:30 a.m., just in time to see the most beautiful sunrise. As we crossed the bridge the sky to the east was brilliant shades of orange and pink with the islands silhouetted against the horizon, it was quite breathe taking.


We had no problem at customs and there was no traffic so we were ahead of schedule. We decided to make a quick stop at the Wal-Mart in Syracuse for a few supplies; there were very few people in the store yet so that went quickly too. Our next stop for gas in New Milford, PA and then a rest area to walk the dogs. All this before noon!


We arrived at Harrisburg East Campground in Harrisburg, PA in good time, Gary got everything hooked up while I walked the dogs. When we had everything set up we hopped in the car and headed off to Hershey for some chocolate and then a trip to the Disney Store. After that we went back to Harrisburg and picked up a few things at the Target and the Christmas Tree Shop. We had dinner at our usual stop, Chili’s and then back to the RV to feed the dogs and give them another walk before dark. We plan to watch a bit of TV and go to bed early.

April 14, 2009

We were up around 6 a.m., it had rained all night and the skies were still very overcast. We didn’t rush this morning; we drank coffee and spent some time on the computer. We pulled out of the campground shortly after 7 a.m. It was a cloudy, rainy, foggy drive. As we got further south the weather didn’t change but the color of the trees and grass did. It kept getting greener and greener, the low-lying shrubs and bushes were all in leaf and the trees had a hue of green from the buds starting to open. There were lots of daffodils and other various flowers booming. All along the roadside were trees that were covered in a deep pink blossom, also lots of flowering crab apple and cherry trees. We stopped for lunch at a Cracker Barrel even though it wasn’t Wednesday (Chicken Pot Pie day). The ride today would have been quite beautiful if the sun had been shining.

When we got to the KOA Campground in Wytheville, VA at 3 p.m., it was pouring rain. Since the rain was coming down too hard to even take the dogs out there was nothing to do but have a nap, so that is what we did. We woke up about 4:30 p.m. and it was clearing off so we took the dogs to the doggie park that they have at this KOA. They had a good run and then back to the RV so we could go to dinner. We went to our usual spot, a Chinese restaurant that makes the best egg rolls and won ton soup. After dinner we went straight back to the camp, the sky was dark with clouds and looking very ominous. After watching a bit of TV we will have an early night again.

April 15, 2009

This was going to be a short day for us, only about 180 miles, so we could have slept in a bit - but we were up at 6 a.m. It was still quite overcast and not very warm when we got on the road about 7:15 a.m. We continued our drive down I-81 until it ended! This was the first time we had driven the whole length of the interstate. We stopped for a quick coffee at a McDonalds and just kept on going until we landed at the campground. We checked into the River Plantation Campground, Sevierville, TN about 11:30 a.m. We have a great site, it backs onto a small river, there is lots of grass around us for the dogs and plenty of space for Zak to chase a ball.

Gary made a new friend at the Tennessee Welcome Centre

As soon as we got set up we decided to drive around and see what we could see. This place just blew my mind; I was expecting a rustic, sleepy town at the foothills of the Smokies – NOT! It reminds me of Clifton Hill at Niagara Falls with a bit of Las Vegas (not the hotel part) and a whole lot of tourists towns rolled into one. We drove through Sevierville and Pigeon Forge, there is nothing other than a sign that indicates you have gone from one town to the next. Then we drove the 5 miles into Gatlinburg, turned around and drove back.

We did stop at a few shops, one being a huge Christmas store and then a couple of shops in the Outlet Mall, including a Disney Store. After I checked out the Lennox outlet store we went back to the campground. Gary had a short nap and I got caught up on the computer. 

Our campsite at River Plantation Campground, Sevierville, TN

In front of the Christmas Store

We went for dinner at the Wood Grill Buffet; it was a dinner package that you got when you bought tickets for the Tennessee Shindig. After dinner we went to the shindig, it was a high-energy trip through the history of music from the 50’s on. The performers were very good, we both enjoyed the show.

When it ended at 9:30 we dragged ourselves back to the camp, we were both tired and ready for bed. Tomorrow we explore the park.

The finale at the Tennessee Shindig

April 16, 2009

I had planned to sleep in this morning but was wide awake about 6 a.m. so I decided rather than listen to Gary snore and Zoë cluck I would get up. Gary wasn’t too far behind me.  We figured since it was a nice sunny day for a change we had better not waste it. We went to a Flap Jack house for breakfast; I have never seen so many pancake places in one spot before. The food was good, although I didn’t have the pancakes I sampled Gary’s. After we finished eating we did a bit of running around, Gary to home Depot, me to Kroeger’s. 

Finally - blue skies!

Then we picked the dogs up from the motorhome and headed into The Great Smokey Mountains National Park.  The sun was shining and the scenery was beautiful!  We spent the entire afternoon circling the area known as “Cade’s Cove”.  This area was settled in the 1820’s and a farming community of about 700 people was rolled into the National Park about 100 years later.  Many of the original settlers cabins still existed in the 1920’s and they, along with three churches and a gristmill, were preserved as part of the park project.  A one-lane road weaves it’s way around an 11 mile course through Cade’s Cove and takes you past all of these historic structures which are open for viewing.  The water-powered gristmill is still producing corn meal every day.

We were frustrated for the first hour of our tour, when the only wildlife we saw was a Canada goose, but then we started picking out a few deer in the forest.  Before long our count of deer was past a couple of dozen, so we quit counting.

We saw dozens of white-tail deer

The dogs were a big hit everywhere we went!

I think the dogs enjoyed the day as much as Gary and I did; at least they weren’t cooped up in the RV all day!

Trilliums - the official flower on Ontario - our home Province!

The scenery was just breathtaking!

We got back to the camp at about 5:00 p.m. and fed the dogs before heading over to Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Co. in Gatlinburg for dinner.  We enjoyed a dinner at Bubba Gump’s in New Orleans about 5 years ago and as soon as we saw the restaurant in Gatlinburg we knew we just had to go!  Once again it was great!

Mountain  streams and swirling rapids everywhere you look!

By the time we were finished dinner it was 8:30 so we missed the 8:00 music show we had hoped to see in Pigeon Forge . . . maybe we can squeeze it in tomorrow night after our day at Dollywood!

April 17, 2009

Hooray – today I slept in until 7:30 a.m.

Heading to the Tram

We got up and walked the dogs, showered and headed off to get to Dollywood for the 10:00 a.m. park opening.  Zak and Zoë came with us and spent the day at Doggywood, the best dog-gone kennel in the Smokey Mountains!

The kennel

One of the "doggy cottages"

The “dog cottages” are really cute; each one is uniquely decorated.

One of the gymnasts in the Imaginé show

More of the cast in Imaginé

As we arrived the Celebrity Theatre was just opening for the 10:30 show named “Imaginé” It is a high energy “Cirque-style” show featuring some amazing acrobats and gymnasts.  We wandered through the Dolly Parton Museum and past her former tour bus (she just bought a new $2.7 million coach to replace the old $750,000 coach).  Gary and I would like to have toured the coach, but the line was simply too long to wait for.  We’ll have to see it next time we are here.  

The Jennifer Rowland Band from Cape Breton, Canada

From there we visited a few shops and then picked up a corn dog and fries near the Back Porch Theatre.  The Festival of Nations celebration currently under way features entertainers from many countries and we saw the Jennifer Rowland Band from Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada.  It was a stirring show featuring “down home” fiddle music and step dancing. 

Our conductor

The Dollywood chapel

After the show we headed back to Doggywood and walked the dogs before heading back to the park for a train ride.  We picked up some homemade peanut butter favored ice cream (YUM) on our way to the train and Gary managed to drip it all over his shirt while we waited.  The train is pulled by an authentic old coal-fired steam engine and takes you on a 20 minute ride through the park and up a hill past old settlers cabins, moonshine stills, bears and other artifacts of day to day life in the Smokey Mountains.


After the train ride we stopped in the Heartsong Theatre where Dolly Parton appears in a film and explains how her songs portray her experiences growing up in the Pigeon Forge area.  Then we were off to Craftsman’s Valley where a wide variety of artisans demonstrate their crafts.  We saw wagon makers, potters, glass blowers, grist millers, candy makers, sand casters, candle-makers, leather workers, etc.

A working grist mill

If you visit Dollywood, do not forget that it is in the Smokey Mountains and is built on the side of one of those mountains.  There is a lot of climbing.  By 4:00 p.m. our legs were beginning to protest!  We headed back to the kennel and gave the dogs another break before heading back to the park.  This time we climbed up to the Dreamland Forest area, stopping in a few shops along the way.


We had a nice buffet dinner at Aunt Granny’s and then did some shopping at the Emporium before picking up the dogs and heading back to the camp.

We were home and settled by 7:00 p.m.  Gary started packing up a few things getting ready for an early departure tomorrow.  I fed a pair of hungry dogs . . . their dinner was over an hour late and they are not very patient!


We were both tired after a busy day, so it will be a bit of TV and an early night to bed.  It’s a long driving day tomorrow and we want to get an early start.

Dollywood is a great little park, it is more than a one-day destination.  We spent the entire day and did not ride a single ride.  We will simply have to come back in a year or two and spend a few more days at the park.  Hopefully we can schedule it in June so we can enjoy the National Park when those hillsides covered with wild rhododendrons are in bloom.

On the way out of the park

April 18, 2009

On days like today I think Murphy was an optimist, you know the Murphy I am talking about….the guy who said, "If anything can go wrong it will . . . and it will go wrong at the worst possible time!"

We were up nice and early this morning, we wanted to get on the road since it was going to be a long day. We had 420 miles to cover to get to Savannah GA. When we got the car hooked up we did the usual testing of the lights, the turn signals worked fine, the running lights were on but NO brake lights! Gary pulled every fuse he could find and everything looked OK. The problem was we didn’t know which fuse was for the brake lights, we had the manual and it identified every fuse except the brake lights. So we waited until 8 o’clock to phone a local RV repair service. The guy referred us to a service place just up the road so off we went. Two hours later it was fixed, we now know that the fuse for the brake lights is well hidden under the console, behind the steering wheel, in a place only a contortionist can reach.  If Gary ever got in there, we'd have to take the RV apart to get him out!

Today was also the day that Zak decided that he NEEDED to stop at nearly every rest stop, poor little guy! We also had to keep an eye on the clock so that at noon we could find a WiFi signal so that we could register for Magic Meets. Of course the exit we chose to pull off at didn’t have a single signal . . . so we kept going until we found an exit with plenty of hotels. We finally got logged on and made our payment . . . so we will be at Magic Meets in August.

It seemed like forever until we got to I-95, it was around 4 o’clock, but we brightened up as soon as we saw our first palm tree. It’s official, we are in the south! We still had a two hour drive ahead of us but we knew we would be happy in the morning that we had decided to go the extra 100 miles, it will mean that we get to St. Augustine that much earlier in the morning and give us a full day to enjoy the beach.

It's a pretty campground - egrets roost in the trees each night.

There are also swans and several varieties of geese.

We arrive at the KOA about 6 p.m., got set up and walked the dogs. It had been a long day for them and it was past their suppertime, Zoë was not happy. After the dogs had been tended to we made a sandwich and settled in for the night.

April 19, 2009

Always a welcome sight!

It was a great day – nothing fell off the motorhome, everything worked!

We were up by 6:30 a.m. and on the road before 8:00.  The drive was uneventful and we crossed into Florida at 10:00 a.m.  It is always so nice to see that “Welcome to Florida” sign!

Almost a full canopy of oak trees.

I picked up some great bargains at the Disney Character Outlet Store in St. Augustine (some more Christmas shopping done) and Gary picked up a few items he needed at Camping World.  Then it was off to the campground.

We pulled into North Beach Camp Resort at noon and were all set up by 1:00.  We just love this resort, it stretches from the Atlantic in the front to the Inland Waterway in the rear.  It is very dense with vegetation, lots of oak trees and Spanish Moss.  Many of the campsites are “canopied” by oak trees.

After a quick sandwich we headed to the beach.  The surf was high and we had to pay close attention to Zak to keep him out of the water.  He chased his ball until there was no chase left in him!

Waiting for the ball to be thrown!

Zoe just loves the wind on the beach!

Craft sale at the pier.

We hopped in the car and went to a craft sale at Vilano Beach; we had seen it from the bridge on the way to the campground.  This gave the dogs time to dry and when we got back to camp we gave them both a good brushing to get the sand out of their coats.

After a short nap we spent some time at the computers getting caught up and then it was off to “Aunt Kate’s”, a new restaurant at the rear of the campground.  Dinner there was terrific!  We’ll definitely be going back to Aunt Kate’s!


Back at the RV, we watched a little TV before heading to the hot tub for a relaxing soak before bed.  

Ooops . . . the hot tub is not hot!  Scratch that idea . . . back to the TV.


All in all, it was just another wasted day in paradise!


Tomorrow it will be up and at ‘em early!  We’re off to Walt Disney World and we’d like to be checking in by noon!

They built the restaurant around the old oak trees!

April 20, 2009


I made the mistake of mentioning to Gary that I wanted to get to Walt Disney World early today!  He started talking to me at 6:01 a.m. and then he took the dogs out for a walk.  I know that once he’s ready to go there’s no sense trying to sleep . . . so I got up too.


We were on the road by 8:30 and stopped along the way to top up the gasoline and propane.  By 11:00 we were on Interstate 4 and by noon the Disney signs were beginning to appear.

We pulled into Fort Wilderness at 12:15 and the guard at the gate welcomed us home. We were surprised to see no one in line.  We were quickly checked in and assigned site #304, it wasn’t ready yet so we pulled into the parking lot and unhooked the car. We loaded the dogs into the car and drove down to the loop to check out the site. Neither one of us liked it, it was too open and the pad was very small. Then we drove through loop 700 to see what was vacant. This was the loop that I had requested, we were in this loop for the first time in December and really loved it. It used to be a preferred loop but has just been refurbished so it is now rated as a premium loop. I said to Gary, "Just drop me off at the Outpost and I’ll see what I can do."  We really wanted the 700 loop.


I went into the Outpost with my list of sites that would be nice to live in for 2 weeks and walked up to the Cast Member.  I started with my tale of woe about the fact that site 304 just wasn’t configured for our unit (actually not a untruth), then went on about how the 700 was a preferred loop when I booked and now it was a premium loop, and how we really loved it the last time we were there. The Cast Member asked if I wanted to upgrade and I asked her, "Heck, how much?" She said usually five or ten dollars a night, so I said, "What’s available?"  She phoned the site assignment controllers and came back with site #723, I said OK, but then thought for a minute and looked at my list and wondered why I hadn’t written that site down. Then I remembered, it was very barren and low lying, so I quickly said, "Is there anything else?"  She asked to look at my list, looked in her computer, told me two of them definitely were not available, and phoned the commander in chief of site assignments again. She hung up and said, "I have 706 available."  I was thrilled, I practically yelled, "I’ll take it!"  Then I sheepishly asked, "How much more would we owe you?"  She smiled and said, "They didn’t add anything on to the bill."


The site was ready so we got the RV, and went directly to the site to get hooked up. It is a great site, lots of room, right beside the path that leads to the dog walk and a newly paved pad that is huge. The old train track that was used years ago is right behind us. Life is good!

My excitement builds when I start to see these signs!

We're getting closer to home!

Gary started setting up and I walked the dogs.  It was quite hot so I turned on the AC and then made some sandwiches.  We had lunch on the new picnic tables that are on the premium sites. It started to rain but it felt good.


We had brought a cable modem from home hoping that we could use if for the internet connection but found out it didn’t work so I hopped in the car and went to the Outpost to pick up the cable kit, I also picked up our owners locker.


We hooked up all the cables and still couldn’t get internet, it seems that we always have problems, maybe it’s trying to tell us something! Get off the computer, go to the parks! Anyways, Gary walked to the comfort station to phone, they said he needed to call while he was at the computer.  He told them he couldn't do that, roaming charges would kill him.  They said too bad. (Not very Disney-like) He came back to the RV, got in the car, went to the Outpost, got a new cable kit, found a Cast Member who said they would come if it didn’t work, it didn’t work, Cast Member (Jason - the manager at the Outpost) came with his cell phone, he called, he fiddled with cables for an hour, it still didn’t work.  Jason told us someone would come tomorrow.

By now it was almost 6 p.m., I was hungry and tired so we just left everything and went to our 5 p.m. Advanced Dining Reservation at the Trails End Buffet.   I had phoned to let them know we would be late, so they had held the reservation for us, We had an excellent meal, I think it was the best we have ever had there. Afetr dinner I caught the boat over to the Contemporary to check out the pin shop and Gary went back to the RV to finish getting the lights set up.


It was just after 8 p.m. when I got back, we grabbed our laptops and went up to the Outpost to check our mail. Jason had told us that he would reverse the charges for us until we had 24 hours availability. After we got caught up on the latest cyber-news we drove back to the RV and got changed into our swimsuits.


We rode our bikes to the pool.  Wow, did they ever do a great job with the refurbish! The pool looks awesome, great landscaping, lots of new furniture and of course the new slide. The best part is they now have a hot tub and did that ever feel good after the long day. We then rode our bikes back to the RV and settled in for the night. It’s a good place to be even without internet.

Site 706, our home for the next two weeks.

April 21, 2009


Once again we had planned on sleeping in but it just wasn’t going to happen. We were up at 6:30 a.m. and ready to start our day. OMG – how do you start the day without internet? Well, we drank coffee and I wrote the Trip Report. Gary walked the dogs. Then he packed up his laptop and jumped in the car. He went to the Outpost to get his mail, and then he had a list of items to pick up at the Home Depot. I stayed back with the dogs enjoying the peace and quiet of the campground and to be on hand in case the service people showed up to fix the Internet connection.

The sun was shining and the birds were singing. I watched a pair of cardinals flitting around the campsite; it was very relaxing to just enjoy nature for a few hours. I spent a few minutes feeding my friends, a pair of ducks that dropped by for a visit.


The internet was fixed before Gary got back so I checked a few things and then puttered around the RV. It was so nice not to have to pack up to be on the road.

A friendly pair of mallards

The flowers at Downtown Disney are great this year!

When Gary got back he took a few minutes to check his email then we hopped in the car and went to Downtown Disney.


We wondered through a few shops and then decided we were both hungry so we got in line at the Earl of Sandwich. I really enjoy the food there even though I always have the same thing, the “Original”, Gary does try different sandwiches each time and hasn’t found one he doesn’t like yet. After our sandwich we started to walk over to the World of Disney store but we were drawn into Ghirardelli’s for an ice cream. After the ice cream we continued our stroll through the stores and decided that we should go back for a swim.

By the time we got back to the RV the decision to swim had changed into taking a nap. The dogs thought that was a good idea too.

We left the campsite about 5:30 p.m. and walked down to the dock were we boarded the boat to the Contemporary and then took the monorail to the Polynesian. We had a leisurely dinner at ‘Ohana, the waitress apologized for making us wait a few times but they usually rush you in there so it was nice to just sit and enjoy. The food was excellent.

When we finished dinner we got on the monorail and headed over to the Magic Kingdom, it was 8 p.m. on our second day at WDW and we were finally setting foot in a park!

Two days at WDW and this our first park visit!

Do you see me in there?

The flowers at the entrance were beautiful and it is always so magical when you take those first steps under the arches of the train station and exit on Main Street. We walked up Main Street and over to Tomorrowland, we road Buzz two times and Gary beat me both times.

It was almost time for Spectromagic so we started over towards Main Street, it was very crowded so we just made our way to Casey’s and found a table. Gary went to get us a cold drink and had just sat down when we heard our friend Amy announce her arrival. Amy was there celebrating her birthday with Sharon, John and Brian. We all hugged and then sat down to chat, we actually talked through the whole parade, we had lots to catch up on since we last saw each other at MouseFest.

When Wishes started we all walked over to Main Street to watch. After it was over we decided to let the crowd disperse before trying to get out of the park, so we talked for another half and hour then made our way towards the exit.

It was a great day and near midnight when we got back to the campsite.

Frogman, FLSharon, GroupHugJohn, AmyMouse & Gary

April 22, 2009

Wow – it’s Earth Day and the 11th Anniversary of the opening of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. We were up at 6:45 a.m. and at Animal Kingdom in time for the park opening.

Earth Day activities were scattered around the park

Following rope drop we stopped at the first Earth Day exhibit, a stand just inside the gate where they gave everyone a post card.  There were stations throughout the park where you could play games or complete activities with an environmental theme and win “Earth” buttons. Over the course of the morning Gary and I made our way around the park and collected all the buttons.

Our first stop was at Kilimanjaro Safaris, but the line was already long so we picked up a FastPass and walked over to Expedition Everest. The line was only 15 minutes so we got in line and rode in the front seat. WOW! I prefer the back on most coasters, but the front is definitely better on this one!


We picked up some FastPasses before we left Expedition Everest and then headed back to the Safari. The first part of the ride was disappointing, not too many animals, but then it picked up. The giraffes were all pretty much together and the elephants were all frolicking in the mud. The lioness was sitting right up on top of the rock, but the male was just barely visible.

I won't let Gary drive!

I love the mother's expression here!

After the safari ride we caught the train to Rafiki’s Conservation Station to complete our button quest and then headed to Yak & Yeti for an egg roll before we left the park. It was time to get back to the dogs.

Once again, Disney did a great job in engaging guests in some fun environmental games.

Back at the camp we spent a little time with the dogs before we headed to the pool for the afternoon. We both took a few turns on the new slide and Gary spent a few more minutes in the hot tub. It was just too hot for me to even consider getting into a 104-degree tub!

Not a cloud in the sky . . .

The new slide is great fun.

And the hot tub is long overdue!

By 5:00 we had had enough sun and headed back to walk the dogs. Then we were off to dinner and some shopping. We made our first stop at Chick-Fil-A. We don’t have any of these franchises in Canada. We both enjoyed a chicken sandwich, but it’s not somewhere we will rush back to.

We made stops at WalMart, Mitzie’s Collectibles and Publix before heading back to Fort Wilderness about 9:15.

Our home away from home.

April 23, 2009

Today I was determined to get to Disney’s Hollywood Studios for rope drop at 9:00 a.m. and ride Toy Story Midway Mania a few times.  We were up before 7:00 and Gary walked the dogs, we had our showers and hit the road about 8:40.  Today all the traffic lights were green and we made it in time.  I raced ahead and picked up FastPasses while Gary got in line.  We stood in line for the first ride, when we finished it was not yet time for our FastPasses so we wandered over to the Animation Studio store to look at the new Animation cel – Donald’s Prime Time.  

Unfortunately the store didn’t open until 10:00, so we went over to the Voyage of the Little Mermaid and watched the show.  By the time it was over the Animation Store was open, so we saw the new cel.  I had been planning on buying the framed cel with pin, but once I saw the three-way (cel, pin and postcard signed by the artists) I had to make a decision, it didn’t take long to decide that I wanted the three-way.


We went back to Toy Story Mania and rode for the second time. My arm was getting sore from all the rapid-fire action in the ride.  I picked up another pair of FastPasses when we were finished, the time was 3:30.  We planned to leave the park at about noon to get back to the dogs, so I would give them away to someone on the way out of the park.  As we were getting ready to leave I made a stop at the ladies room, I noticed some papers on the floor, I leaned over and picked up four Toy Story Mania FastPasses for 12:10.  WOW!  Someone was going to be disappointed, but it wasn’t me!


Since we had about and hour to wait we stopped at Starring Rolls and had cinnamon buns and a cold drink, then Gary went to the single rider line for Rock ‘n Roller Coaster while I browsed some shops on Sunset Boulevard.  He was quickly back; there were over 200 people in the singles line and he didn’t want to wait that long.

Waiting to see the new Animation Cel

Another perfect day - not a cloud in the sky!

We rode The Great Movie Ride and then took a long walk around the block, past the Backlot Tour on our way to Toy Story Mania.  We had to wait just a few minutes for our FastPass time and then we rode twice in quick succession.  My arm felt like it was going to fall off!  I could not have done it again!  I picked up another pair of FastPasses – for 8:10 p.m.  On the way out of the park I managed to spot two separate newlywed couples and gave them each a pair of passes for Toy Story.  They were happy to get them, I know they were sure surprised!

We were back to the RV by 1:15.  We walked the dogs, had a sandwich and a short nap.  Gary washed the bikes and puttered around outside for a while and soon it was time to head to Downtown Disney for dinner at Raglan Road.  It was our second time at this Irish Pub, and we enjoyed it once again.

Back home with the dogs

Characters in Flight

Our "Scallop Forest"

I did a quick bit of shopping, I had promised to pick up some pins for a few friends back home, and Gary waited in a shady spot.  We were back to the camp by 8:00 and settled in for the night, we were both too tired to even go to the pool for a swim and hot tub.

April 24, 2009

This was a relatively slow day.  Gary had hired a crew to wash and wax the motorhome and they were arriving at 9:30 so we took a very leisurely start in the morning.  Gary carried a huge basket of laundry over to the comfort station and I started three loads.  The detailing crew showed up promptly at 9:30 and washed both the RV and the car.  They went off to wash four other RV’s and promised to return later. After finishing the laundry, walking the dogs, catching up on e-mails and drinking a pot of coffee, we went for a drive.  Naturally we ended up at the Character Outlet Store on Vineland Avenue where I found a good selection of bargains.


We were back at the camp by 1:00 and barbecued some hot dogs for lunch.  After lunch I went to the pool for a swim while Gary stayed with the dogs so they wouldn’t be too frightened by the noise from the detailing crew.  (Read between the lines – Gary had a nap!)


I came back from the pool and stopped at the comfort station for a shower.  While I was in the shower Gary sent a text message – the detailers weren’t there yet and he was coming for a quick swim.  So naturally we missed each other.  When he came back to the motorhome at 3:00 I was sitting waiting outside.  Within a few minutes the crew showed up to wax the car and RV.  There were four men in the crew, all with power buffers, so it was relatively quick work.  When they left at 4:30 both the car and the motorhome looked great!  Gary is convinced we’ll get better gas mileage on the way home . . . the RV is so slippery it will cut through the wind better!  ;-)

Pretty as a postcard!

We rode our bikes down to the dock and hopped on the boat about 5:00 and headed to the Magic Kingdom.  Strategy was – 1) it’s Grad Night at Hollywood Studios, so all the kids will be there 2) it’s Extra Magic Hours at EPCOT, so everyone else will be there.  WRONG!  The crowd was huge!

We made our way up Main Street through the Emporium and then went straight to Pirates of the Caribbean.  It was almost a walk-on.  As we exited Pirates we turned toward Pecos Bill’s where we each had a burger for dinner.  We just love the fixin’s bar there!


We moved on to Splash Mountain where the sign said 30 minutes but by the looks of the line it was more like 60 minutes.  We stood in line for 5 minutes and hadn’t moved so we jumped out of the queue and headed to Big Thunder Mountain.  Ouch – the sign said 30 minutes but the line once again looked like 60 minutes.

Give us the key!

The finale!

 Country Bear Jamboree was just about ready to enter as we walked by so I did some quick browsing in the pin store while Gary waited, and then we caught the bear show. 


We walked over to Haunted Mansion where the sign said 20 minutes . . . you guessed it . . . the line looked like 60 minutes.  This is the first year Grad Night has been at Hollywood Studios rather than the Magic Kingdom and it seemed like they had forgotten to tell the kids!


When we walked past PhilharMagic there was no line so we walked right in!  We sat in the third row, middle of the house, I think you get the best 3D perspective from there!


What to do now?  How about a Dole Whip for dessert?  Great idea!  I had a Citrus Swirl (orange) and Gary had a Pineapple Float.  We sat and watched the world parade by as we enjoyed our dessert, and then made our way toward the exit. 


We left the park about 9:00 and once back at the campground I went to the Trading Post to browse while Gary picked up a cold drink at Crockett’s Tavern, then we walked back to the end of the dock to watch the Water Pageant.  The water parade has been pretty much unchanged since 1971 and it’s a great way to wind up the day!

April 25, 2009

Those of you who have been paying attention when reading previous posts will remember that the reason we come to Walt Disney World in April is to enjoy the EPCOT Flower & Garden Festival.  On our sixth day in Walt’s magical realm we finally made it to EPCOT.  We got to the park about 9:30 and immediately wondered why we had waited so long.  The topiaries are GLORIOUS!

Of course I had to stop for some pins!

We spent the entire morning walking around Future World; we didn’t even make it to World Showcase.  The only ride we took was the new Nemo ride at the Living Sea pavilion.  I just love how they have combined animated characters with the live fish in the aquarium.  Those Imagineers are really something!

Minnie's butterfly garden was great!

And the fairy garden was pretty cool too!

We picked up a FastPass for Soarin’ and at 11:45 we stopped at Electric Umbrella for a quick bite of lunch.  Then we headed out of the park to return to the campground.  It was getting hot, and we needed to get back to let the dogs out.  We rode Spaceship Earth on our way out then Gary decided that he just had to have a picture of me sitting in front of Cinderella’s carriage with the monorail in the background.  As we stood near the carriage, waiting for the monorail to approach, what do we hear but, “Look, it’s Carol and Gary!”  Gary turned around and started waving his arms and screaming at the top of his lungs.  It was Jill and Carolyn, who many of us know as “the screamers”.  If you have been to MagicMeets or on the Deb and Steve Cruise, you will never forget Jill and Carolyn.

We screamed at each other for several minutes and then when things calmed down they introduced their tour guides, two young men named Mike and Michael.  They described how they met Mike and Michael during the taping of Disney’s Christmas Parade last year.  We visited for a few minutes, then Jill and Carolyn made their way into EPCOT while we headed back to the camp.

By 5:00 we were headed back to EPCOT where we walked around World Showcase and made it to China in time for our 6:00 p.m. dinner at Nine Dragons.   We always enjoy dinner there, I had the sweet and sour pork, Gary had the sesame chicken.

After dinner we walked as far as Japan before doubling back to the America Gardens for a Flower Power Concert.  Gary is stuck in the 60’s and he always enjoys the old geezers playing in this series, but I normally don’t.  Tonight was an exception – Harold Melvin and the BlueNotes (If you don’t know me by now, you will never ever know me at all) They were great.  The entire America Gardens crowd was swaying, clapping or dancing.  It was over too soon.

We walked directly over to The Land and used our FastPass to ride Soarin’.  By the time the ride was over, the park was closed.  Bummer – I had hoped to get an ice cream cone at the Fountainview Café. . . but they were closed.


So we went directly back to Fort Wilderness, too tired to even go down to the hot tub.

April 26, 2009

Today was a different sort of day for me; I had nothing planned.  That’s right, not even an ADR! Poor Gary, he didn’t know what he was supposed to do! We started off slow, drinking coffee and playing around on the computer. Then I decided I wanted to bike around a few of the loops in the campground and write down sites that I would like so that when we check in I have an idea of what we have been assigned. We rode all through the 300 loop, then on to the 1600 loop and the 1800 loop, we finished off at the 800 loop. There are some lovely sites out there and then there are some not so nice.


By the time we got done with that little exercise we were both quite hot so we stopped by the pool for a swim. I hadn’t planned on staying there long but it was so relaxing we decided to stay and have lunch. We split a sandwich and a cold drink then went to relax in the hot tub. After the hot tub we went in the pool to cool down. It was such a beautiful day but we had both had enough sun so we went back to the RV.


It was about 1 p.m. and getting pretty warm so we turned the A/C on and decided to have a short nap. The dogs were happy to see us and joined us for the nap. When we got up we thought about going to the Magic Kingdom but it was really hot by then and a little too early to leave the dogs if we wanted to stay for the evening, so we drove over to the Winn Dixie and picked up a few things we needed. When we got back we took the dogs for a walk and then after I fed them we rode our bikes down to the dock to catch the boat to the Magic Kingdom.

Our timing was right and we got to walk through Cinderella Castle

The Kingdom was open until midnight, then had Extra Magic Hours so it would not close until 3 a.m., we both laughed that we would be lucky if we made it until 10 p.m.  The park wasn’t too crowded which was a nice change. We went directly to Casey’s and had a hotdog and then went to the Ice Cream Parlor for dessert. We sat outside along the plaza and enjoyed our ice cream while watching the people go by. When we were done we noticed that the castle was open, it is usually roped off for the stage shows, so we walked through the arches and enjoyed looking at the mosaic-tiled story of Cinderella. 

From the castle looking down Main Street

Cinderella tries on the slipper.

We got a fast pass for Peter Pan and then rode It’s A Small World, from there we walked over to the Haunted Mansion, it was a walk on. We then walked through Frontierland and over to Splash Mountain. I love this ride but I hate getting wet, I asked for a back seat thinking I had a better chance of staying dry – wrong! Gary could not have been wetter if I tied him up and took a hose to him!  I wasn’t quite so bad, but I was wet too.

Inside Sir Mickey's shop.

The sun shining on Cinderella's Royal Table.

Cinderella Castle at dusk.

From there we went over to Big Thunder Mountain but the wait time was 50 minutes so we decided to pass on that one. We just started walking and ended up at the Monsters Inc. Comedy Floor, we hadn’t seen it in a while so in we went, it is such a fun show, I’m glad we saw it. After that we went on Buzz and Gary beat me again.


It was almost time for our FastPass for Peter Pan so we sauntered over to Fantasyland and arrived just at 9:30 p.m. This ride is old and short but still one of my favorites.


Wishes was about to start so we decided we would make our way down Main Street and maybe catch the fireworks from the boat, but we got side tracked at Casey’s again! Just a quick snack, then off to the boat. The fireworks were over by the time the boat came in but we did get to see the Electric Water Pageant go by, so that was nice. We got back to the RV about 11 p.m., it turned out to be a busy day for a day with nothing planned.

I love the way they light the castle!

April 27, 2009

This was another day with nothing planned – the only thing on the agenda was dinner at Spoodles, on Disney’s Boardwalk, at 6:00 p.m.  We spent a leisurely few hours getting started, caught up on some internet stuff, drank a pot of coffee, and headed out to EPCOT at about 10:00 a.m.


Our only objective was to walk around the rest of World Showcase, we missed Canada, England, France and Morocco the last time there.  On our way back to World Showcase we made a short detour into Innoventions West and the Velcro theatre.  I hoped to pick up another glove for the Velcro frog who lives on the headliner of my car.  The mission was a success, we got another glove, and an entire new frog.  Now my froggie has a mate!  

The flowers are gorgeous!

On we went to our first stop, Canada, where we watched the circlevision show.  We really enjoy this show since it was updated.  We have been to most of the places featured in the movie . . . it makes us feel at home, and proud of our homeland!  

Timon ad Pumbaa Flower, Bambi, zakerdog and Thumper
Aladdin Watch for trolls in Norway.

From there we wandered through the gardens of England to France where we poked our heads into the pastry shop.  I had a craving for a snack but it was too busy so we carried on through Morocco and eventually stopped at the funnel cake booth, near the America Gardens Theatre, where we enjoyed some fried ice cream.


We continued our slow stroll and ended up at Cantina de San Angel.  We had never eaten there so we thought it was time to give it a try.  Gary had nachos and I had quesadillas.  It was OK, but there are so many choices that we like better that it will probably be a while before we’re back there again.  We shared our table with a pair of mallards and their two children.  That was fun!  

Momma Mallard and the babies.

Outside Spoodles!

We made our way out of the park and drove back to the camp where I promptly fell fast asleep.  It wasn’t a nap . . . I was down for the count!  I woke with a migraine this morning and felt a bit off all day.  The sleep did the trick, and by 5:00 we were on our way to Disney’s Boardwalk for dinner at Spoodles.  Once again it was our first time and we loved it.  We shared a four cheese flatbread appetizer and I had beef kabobs while Gary had linguini with shrimp.  Everything was great and we had no room left for dessert.  Too bad Spoodles is closing!  We would certainly eat there again.  

After dinner we strolled along the boardwalk for a while and enjoyed a magic show before heading back home.  We sat out beside the motorhome, tossing the ball for Zak for a while and then rode our bikes to the pool for a swim and a soak in the hot tub before bed.

A street performer on the boardwalk.

April 28, 2009

Today we sprang out of bed at the crack of 7:30 and once again eased ourselves into the day.  Since we’re sleeping in a bit I guess we’re now really in “holiday mode”. 

We were on our way to Animal Kingdom by about 9:30.  Once we entered the park we went directly to Camp Minnie-Mickey and caught the 10:00 a.m. performance of Festival of the Lion King.  This is a great show and we hadn’t seen it in a few years.  As we left the theatre I said to Gary, “Why is it that we don’t watch this show every time we come?”  Maybe in the future we will.

Festival of the Lion King

African Porcupines

African porcupine

We headed to Harambe for the Kilimanjaro Safari Ride, but the line was 60 minutes long, so we grabbed a FastPass before walking toward Expedition Everest.  As we passed the Yak & Yeti restaurant the egg rolls were calling to me, so we picked up a couple at the take out counter for a snack.  They were terrific, as usual.


At Everest we hopped in the singles line to avoid the 40-minute wait and we were riding within 10 minutes.  After our high-speed encounter with the Yeti we walked all the way around Discovery Island on our way back to Harambe for the safari ride.  We stopped to pick up ice cream cones at the shop near the gate into Africa and sat down the side trail in the new picnic area to enjoy them. 


When we were almost finished a cast member, James, came along with a tray of food for the African Porcupines.  We followed him a few steps down the trail to the porcupine corral.  The four porcupines, Dad, Mom and two kids, were all visible sleeping in a shaded cleft in the rock at the back of their corral.  James explained that this was normal behavior; they are nocturnal animals.  He told us that they use audible signals to let them know it’s feeding time.  With that he held up his hand with a clicker in it and made four loud clicks.  All four of the animals began to stir and James began to toss their lunch into the corral.  They had cut up carrots, apples, sweet potatoes, corn on the cob and a grain-based bar similar to a dog biscuit.  We always try to walk down some of the side trails around the tree of life.  Most people walk right by these little paths and they miss out on some very interesting animal encounters.

A hungry giraffe

Another giraffe

It was now noon, time for our Kilimanjaro Safari FastPass so we moved on.  We thought we might see fewer animals this late on a hot day, but that was not the case.  We saw all the usual animals and the giraffes and lions were out in plain sight.  

Papa lion - is it Simba?

Simba and Nala?

A gorilla in the stream

As we exited the safari ride we stopped, as we usually do, to see if the gorillas are visible.  This time there were two of them, and one was sitting right out in the little stream keeping cool.  By 1:00 we were heading out of the park and back to camp. 

We loaded the dogs up in the car and took them down to the Fort Wilderness sign for a photo shoot!  The dogs weren’t really into this; nor was I, but Gary really seemed to get a kick out of it.


We had a sandwich for lunch and relaxed for a few hours. I thought about going to the pool for a swim but decided a nap was a better idea.

Zak & Zoe

By 5:00 we were thinking about heading to Downtown Disney to check out the new Characters in Flight attraction and have a bite of dinner.  I had been following our friend Masayo’s activities on Facebook and I knew that she was back at the Saratoga Springs Resort.  We gave her a call on Skype to see if she wanted to join us.  We picked Masayo up at 6:00 p.m. and off we went.  It was good  to see her again.

The winds were too strong for us to fly.

Masayo and I do the Chicken Dance.

The winds were a bit too strong for the Characters in Flight balloon to lift off, so we will have to wait to try this new ride.  Hopefully we can get around to it soon.


We strolled back through Pleasure Island on our way to Marketplace and stopped to enjoy some street performers along the way.  The first thing you know Masayo and I are doing the chicken dance, joining a conga line, doing the limbo and the electric slide.  Once we managed to extricate ourselves from this street circus we visited a few shops and then joined the line at Wolfgang Puck’s Express.  Our pizza there was great, and we enjoyed a quiet time to visit with Masayo. 

In the new Trend Store

Waiting for dinner at Wolfgang Puck's Express

After dinner we dropped in to the Art of Disney Store where Masayo introduced us to her friend Pam, a cast member in the store.  We dropped Masayo off at her resort at 9:30 and hurried to the Character Outlet Store.  I was getting low on trader pins and needed to restock.


We made it back to the camp shortly after 10:00 and settled in for the night; tired after another full day!

April 29, 2009

We’re getting into the groove now – up at 7:15, take it easy for a few hours with the dogs a then get underway.  By 9:30 we were on our way to Magic Kingdom.  Our first stop was the Jungle Cruise.  Our skipper from Syracuse, NY mumbled his way through the script like a bus depot announcer, but fortunately we know all the corny jokes by heart and enjoyed the ride.  Those who had never been there before must have wondered what he was trying to tell them!

On the Jungle Cruise

Yikes - I don't want to eat with the crew!

We walked over to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, picked up a FastPass and then got in the standby line for a 30-minute wait.  After the first ride we had to wait 15 minutes and then we used our FastPasses to ride again but the CM didn’t take the passes so I was able to give them to a young couple when we got off the ride.

Big Thunder Mountain

It was 11:30, time to head to Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café for our lunch . . . we had arranged to meet Daddio (David) and his wife Cathy from London, Ontario for lunch at 11:45.  The Canadian Connection met outside Ray’s and we yakked over lunch and well past, it was 1:30 before we broke up.  It was time to get back to the dogs.

The rose garden.

Cinderella Castle as seen from Cosmic Ray's

We were on the boat back to the campground when I received a text message from Amymouse.  She wondered what we had planned for the evening.  I asked if she would like to join us for dinner at Tusker House and she said, “You bet!”

Heading back to Fort Wilderness with the Train Station and Cinderella Castle in the background.

So after a bit of time with the dogs we hopped in the car at 4:00 and headed to Animal Kingdom.  As we entered the park we overheard that it was “Extra Magic Hours” and the park would be open from 5:00 until 8:00 just for Disney Resort guests.  BONUS!


Amy arrived about 5:20 (Disney bus connection trouble) and we had a delightful dinner.  Amy seems so happy to finally be living in Florida . . . she’s even more bubbly than before.  Our sweet Kentucky girl is in heaven in Florida.

After dinner we walked over to Kilimanjaro Safaris and were delighted to see that it was a walk-on.  No line whatsoever!  Our driver, Clarissa, was wonderful.  We saw so many animals, and since there were no trucks pushing us forward she could stop and allow us time for some great photos.  And the animals co-operated too.  One of the hippos got out of the water and walked around, the cheetah stood up on the rock in the foreground of his enclosure, the male lion roared to summon the female and then he stood up on the rock and posed.  It was just amazing.

A dancing elephant!

The cheetah

The lion roared for us!

WOW . . . what a ride!

As we were getting off the truck I said, “Wow, that was great, do you want to ride again?” and our driver Clarissa heard it.  She said, “Hold on a second.”  She grabbed the radio and called ahead to the guy loading the trucks and said “I’m bringing three through again in the front row.”  Then she told us to hop back on.  We had a short guided tour of the backstage area and then went around again.  The animals were still out and we had yet another great safari.  If you ever get the chance for Extra Magic Hours at Animal Kingdom, do not miss the safari ride!  And if you find that your driver’s name is Clarissa you are in for a double treat!

Evening sun on the Tree of Life

After the safari ride we walked over to Expedition Everest.  It was a walk-on too.  The three of us rode and one ride was enough for me.  Gary and Amy wanted one more ride, so I waited.  About the same time my world stopped spinning, they appeared after their second ride and we headed toward the exit.  It was almost closing time.


Amy came back to the campground with us and spent some quality time with Zak and Zoë.  When she saw our campsite she remarked, “Oh, I walked past here the other night with John and Sharon when we went to see the water parade.”


We drove Amy home about 9:30. Wow, what a great location.  She can sit on her balcony and watch the Wishes fireworks show at the Magic Kingdom.  When she told us that earlier I thought, “Yeah, and we can see it from the beach at the campground too!”  But at Amy’s place you can’t ‘not see’ it.  It fills the sky! 


Gary and I were back with the dogs by 10:00 and resting up for a busy Thursday!

April 30, 2009

Our lives will be very busy for the next few days, so we took a very relaxing start to the day.  After some time with the dogs and a pot of coffee, we took the dogs and walked all around the 500 loop.  I am continuing to make a list of sites that we would prefer . . . to help us when we are checking in.


The trek warmed us up, so we rode our bikes down to the pool for a swim.  It was extremely quiet, no more than a half dozen people at the pool.  It was almost like having it all to ourselves.  A quick swim cooled us down and we headed to EPCOT to join some friends for lunch. 

Ahhhh . . . that feels good! Our group for lunch.

By 1:00 p.m. we were all assembled outside the Nine Dragons restaurant in the China pavilion. There were six of us, Masayo and Mamoru from Japan, Linda Mac from Orlando, Barrie Brewer from Oregon along with Gary and I.  We had a terrific lunch and the chatter carried on until almost 3:00.  By the time we left the restaurant the weather was HOT, HOT, HOT!

Linda, me and Barrie Mamoru, Masayo and Gary

Gary and I walked to the park exit with Linda Mac, snapping pictures along the way.  We said our good-byes and returned to the camp.  I did some laundry while Gary entertained the dogs (they all had a nap!)


At 5:30 we headed to Downtown Disney where I spent some time trading pins and Gary read his book.  Gary left and drove over to Saratoga Springs to pick up Mamoru and Masayo and shortly after 7:00 p.m. we all had dinner at Earl of Sandwich.


At 8:30 we met the WDW Celebrations gang at Fantasia Gardens for our mini-golf game.  Gary and I have never played mini-golf at Walt Disney World and Mamoru and Masayo assured us they had never played mini-golf anywhere.


Fantasia Gardens has two courses, “The Fairways” and “The Gardens”.  The WDW Celebrations group decided to play The Fairways.  We were paired up with Mamoru and Masayo.  We all went to take a look at The Fairways and we all said, “No way!”  It was a full golf course, with sand traps, rough, hills, trees, all the normal obstacles and it appeared to be about 7,000 yards long.  You have to play the entire course with only a putter.


Gary and I asked, “Where is the windmill?  Where is the shipwreck?” and the Cast Members said, “They are on The Gardens course.  “OK – that’s where we’re going to play!”  So the four of us bailed out on the WDW Celebrations group and played our own game.  We flailed away at the ball, kicked it, cursed it, lost a few balls, and had a great time.  When all was said and done, the big winner was Masayo with a score of 48.  Wait a minute . . . she has never played before . . .

All ready for mini golf

We tried to explain the concept of “sandbagging” to Masayo, but of course it doesn’t translate into Japanese!  We walked over to The Fairways course and backtracked to the 7th hole where most of the WDW Celebrations core team were looking in the deep rough for lost balls . . . we said our goodnights!


We dropped Mamoru and Masayo off at Saratoga Springs, went back to the camp and immediately crashed!

May 1, 2009

We hit the ground running.  Gary woke up at 6:00 a.m. when the coffee maker started and was off the showers before the alarm clock went off.  Gary just had time to open his birthday present and card and then by 7:00 we had Zak and Zoë loaded in the car.  We were on our way to Hollywood Studios for the Studios 20 Celebration organized by Adam Roth and his team from WDW Celebrations.  I went directly to the kennel and got the dogs checked in while Gary went to the Will Call booth to pick up his birthday package.  Since we are annual pass holders, I instructed him to get the $75.00 gift card.  Gary’s a big Goofy fan, so I immediately swapped him the gift card for a Goofy antenna topper.

Once inside the gate we found the WDW Celebrations team waiting for the 8:00 a.m. rope drop ceremony to open the park.  Today it was a little bit different, one of the park executives came and spoke for a few minutes about significance of the day and the history of the park, and then we were admitted.  By 8:00 there were 125 people in our Studios 20 group and we all made our way to the Premiere Theatre in the Streets of America.  Three senior imagineers took turns walking us through the planning, construction and the history of the Studios park.  The slides showed us conceptual drawings, miniature planning models and the site in various phases of construction.  There were slides which showed the original Hollywood buildings on which most of the Studios buildings are based, and the replica buildings in the park were shown for comparison.  The personal insights and experiences the imagineers added brought the whole session to life.  These are people who get paid to dream really big dreams, and then make those dreams come true.  I just love listening to these guys . . . and before we knew it the session was over.  90 minutes had flown by in a mere flash!

A Disney executive at the rope drop ceremony

Our group waiting at San Francisco Street, near the Premiere Theatre Wasting time on the Streets of America

On the scavenger hunt

We picked up instruction sheets for the Scavenger Hunt as soon as we exited the theatre.  Gary started the scavenger hunt by completing all the tasks on Commissary Row and a few on the Streets of America while I went to the kennel to walk the dogs.  By 11:00 I was back and the two of us spent the next 3 ½ hours scouring the park to find answers to the 69 questions and the 4 tie-breaker questions.  Wow – what a chore!  It was very hot and we were exhausted by the time it was finished . . . but it was fun!  Have you ever noticed the red, white and blue oil drum full of itching powder?  Did you know that those packing crates stacked up in front of Min and Bill’s Dockside Diner (where you get frozen lemonade) are addressed to characters from 5 classic MGM films?

After the scavenger hunt Gary and I both spent a half hour walking the dogs and then went back into the park.  I spent a few minutes shopping in one of the Hollywood Boulevard shops and Gary went out and waited on a bench behind the shop.  As he sat there a cast member, Heather, noticed his birthday pin and wished him a happy birthday.  By the time I got there they were chatting away.  Heather pointed out the door on the back of the building housing the shop, and the for rent sign in the upper window.  These replicate Walt Disney’s first office in Hollywood, which was a walk-up over a real estate office.  Before she was done, Heather pulled out a pad and wrote us up a gift certificate for a free frozen lemonade for each of us.  Thanks Heather!

Presenting Lou with a cheque for the Dream Team

We won!

We rejoined the WDW Celebrations group at 4:15 in front of the Chinese Theatre as the group presented a donation to Lou Mongello’s Dream Team.  Lou’s charity supports the Make a Wish Foundation to help needy children share the Disney Magic and it always feels good to know that we are helping in a small way.


Then came the big announcement . . . the winners of the scavenger hunt.  There were prizes, donated by Lou Mongello, for the top four teams.  They started by announcing the fourth place team, with 66 of 69 answered correctly . . . it was “The Canadian Cruisers” . . . YEAH – WE WON!  First place went to our Tagrel.com friend Nancy (Kathleena)  The prize was a copy of Lou’s Disney Trivia calendar and a copy of his Main Street USA CD for each of us.  Since Gary already has a copy of the calendar, we re-gifted both of them.  We don’t need two copies of the CD, so we gave one of them away as well.

We made dinner reservations for the Hollywood Brown Derby for Gary’s birthday dinner and by the time the prizes were all presented we headed directly to the Brown Derby.  We were seated very quickly and enjoyed a wonderful dinner, as usual.  I had roast chicken with roasted potatoes, mushrooms and onions while Gary had his usual, Cobb salad.  For dessert we each had grapefruit cake.  It is just wonderful!  The dessert plates were specially decorated for the 20th anniversary of the park too!  When the check arrived Gary received another birthday gift.  Some friends who had also had dinner at the Brown Derby had helped pay for our dinner.  Thanks so much you two!

Dinner at the Hollywood Brown Derby

Gary's birthday cake! The house specialty - grapefruit cake

After sitting for a leisurely dinner we had some difficulty getting motivated again, but we headed over to Toy Story Mania.  I had picked up a pair of FastPasses on one of our dashes past the ride earlier in the day so we thought we’d ride on our own before we joined the WDW Celebrations group for a group ride at 6:45.  As we entered the ride the Cast Member didn’t take our FastPasses, so we could ride again!  Bonus!  Unfortunately, our ride malfunctioned the first time through and we missed one of the four target ranges altogether.  They sent us right back around for a second ride.  WOW – after two rides we knew that there were no more rides left in our “shootin’ arms”.  We saw the WDW Celebrations group assembling outside for the group ride and we joined them for a minute to say goodbye.  As we left the area we bumped into Amymouse and gave her the two FastPasses.  She quickly disappeared with a huge smile on her face!


We picked up the dogs from the kennel and headed out to the athletic field behind the Reedy Creek Fire Station near Downtown Disney.  The Relay for Life was underway and we joined our Tag friend Robin there.  Zak and Zoë even walked part of a lap with Robin.  

With Robin at the Relay for Life Gorgeous dogs at the Disney Horticulture tent.

After about an hour there we knew we had run completely out of steam, so we headed back to camp.  We managed to propel our bikes to the pool where we rinsed the days grime away and then had a soak in the hot tub.


We were back at the motorhome and tucked in bed by 11:00 resting up for another big day on Saturday.

May 2, 2009

Beci and the dogs

We were up by 7:00 a.m. today and on our way to Hollywood Studios by 9:15.  As we entered the park with Zak and Zoë we ran into Beci Mahnken from MouseFan Travel.  We took a few pictures of Beci with the dogs and then took them off to check in at the kennel.  

20th Anniversary cupcakes at Starring Rolls

We had a quick bite of breakfast at Starring Rolls and then met the WDW Celebrations team outside the new American Idol Experience attraction for our reserved seating at the 11:00 performance. And we were escorted into our third row seats at about 10:45.  The pre-show introduction is quite interesting.  They tape video clips in the assembly hall outside the theatre and then incorporate these into the show.  

The American Idol Exdperience stage

There are three performers selected based on auditions before the show and each of them sings one number in front of the audience.  There are three judges who provide feedback and at the end the audience votes, using keypads in the seats, to select the winner.  I was glad to have the opportunity to go with the group since I knew it was probably the only way to get Gary in the door.  He is not a fan of the TV show!  But even he was impressed.  All three contestants could sing and it was more than just a karaoke routine.  The set and the staging were excellent.  Gary reluctantly acknowledged that he might go back again!

The hostess with three contestants No . . . not this trip!

When we left the theatre we all headed to Back Lot Express where we had a group lunch.  After lunch Gary and I went and spent some time with the dogs before returning to meet the group at 2:15 for a group photo.  After the photo we all filed into the Back Lot Tour show.  The five volunteers for the Pearl Harbor scene were all from our group and they hammed it up pretty well.  I managed to get the wet seat at Catastrophe Canyon, and in the heat it actually felt good!  After the Back Lot Tour I left the group and went back to the dogs while Gary had a cold drink and waited for the History Walk to begin at 3:30.  

Our 5 volunteers

Soaked at the water tank. A torpedo hit!

The WDW Celebrations team led two groups around the park and stopped at about six different locations to talk about the buildings and attractions visible from the location.  They talked about how the buildings or attractions had been conceived, designed, built and often how they had transformed over the last 20 years.

The History Walk

Janice's screechy voice got more and more annoying as we waited for dinner.

We had made dinner reservations at 50’s Prime Time for 5:20 and seven of us, Mamoru (Sparky), Masayo, Linda Mac, Mary, Beci, Gary and I, were seated promptly at 5:20.  Unfortunately that was all that was prompt.  Our drinks had barely arrived when Beci had to rush off to a 6:00 meeting.  By 6:15 we began to worry about getting to Tower of Terror in time for the 6:45 group ride.  Our server, Janice, screeched, “I don’t know where it is!” when we asked about our food, but she made no move to go to the kitchen to check.  The more time that passed, the more annoying Janice’s screeching became.  We asked about our food again at 6:30 and the response was the same, a shrill, “I don’t know where it is!”  

Suddenly the food appeared; someone else served it to us.  It’s times like these when we find Disney’s policy of adding an 18% gratuity to groups very unreasonable.  Gary and I normally enjoy the bread pudding at 50’s Prime Time, but we were now too agitated by the whole experience and would not have enjoyed it at all.  Gary and I have agreed that our last two experiences at the restaurant have been poor and we will give it a rest for a few years!  


Hooray!  We can still make Toy Story Mania!

By the time we had finished dinner and paid the bill, it was too late for Masayo and Mamoru to make the group ride at Tower of Terror, so I gave them the two FastPasses we had for Toy Story Mania (we were far too pooped to ride by this time) and they hurried off to get there before park closing at 7:00.  

Zak & Zoe's prison! 

We said our goodbyes to Linda and Mary and headed to the kennel to “spring” Zak and Zoë from jail.   We headed straight back to the campground for a swim and a long soak in the hot tub.  By 9:30 we were settled in the motorhome for the night.  I finally had time to catch up on a few e-mails and post a few days of trip reports.  Then it was off to bed early, these busy days have worn us both out!

May 3, 2009

We had a very leisurely start today.  We loafed around until after 9:00 a.m. and then we each wandered over to the comfort station for a much needed shower.  We left at about 10:30 for EPCOT and meandered our way to the Living Seas pavilion.  We rode the Nemo ride and then went to the Coral Seas to check in for the PassPorter 10th Anniversary Party in the Living Seas VIP Lounge.

The EPCOT grounds are just beautiful!

The 10th Anniversary cake.  (Chocolate love cake - YUM!)

The party was great!  Gary and I don’t participate much in the PassPorter community, but we do know quite a few folks who do, and we thought that since we would be at WDW when the party was scheduled . . . why not go?  We’re glad we did.  We had a chance to spend some quiet time visiting with our friends Mary, Brian, Laura and Beci.  Brian’s sister Michelle didn’t quite know what to make of all the Disney geeks, but she took home a couple of PassPorter guides, so perhaps she’s on the path to enlightenment!  

It was great to be at a function in the VIP Lounge.  We had been there as part of a back stage tour several years ago, but it’s so much better when it’s full of people.


After the party we headed directly back to the camp and began packing things up.  We’re heading home tomorrow and somehow it always seems so sad to pack all the stuff away.  Why is it that it is so much fun to set up the campsite . . . and so sad to break it all down?


We had most things packed away by 4:00; then we took a bit of time to rest and cool down before we headed off for a swim and a soak in the hot tub.  By 6:00 p.m. we were on the boat to the Magic Kingdom.  We always end a trip to Walt Disney World in the Magic Kingdom; it’s our tradition!


We tried to get a “walk-in” at the Plaza Restaurant, but they were fully booked, so we grabbed a bite at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café and sat inside so we could see and hear the Sonny Eclipse Show.  It’s been several years since we’ve seen Sonny . . . and his show hasn’t changed a bit!


After dinner we caught the train at Mickey’s Toontown Fair and rode all the way around the park, getting back off at Mickey’s Toontown.  We walked over to The Haunted Mansion and had a ride, then headed to Main Street for an ice cream.  WOW . . . what a line-up.  We decided we didn’t need an ice cream that badly, so we said our goodbyes to Mickey, headed out of the park and caught the boat back to the campground.


We had  ice cream in the motorhome before bed and hit the hay early.

Mary, Brian, Laura, Michelle and Gary

May 4, 2009

We were up at 6:30 and put the final touches to packing-up, had a shower and headed off to the Trail’s End Buffet.  The Trail’s End breakfast has become a tradition on our last day . . . it’s a “must-do” before we leave Fort Wilderness.


We were on the road by 9:30 a.m. and made good time.  We made a quick stop in a rest area just south of Jacksonville just before noon, took the dogs for a walk, then got right back on the road.  We tried a different route through Jacksonville this time.  I-95 in Jacksonville has been under construction forever and it can get a little “hairy” in the motorhome.  We have taken the 295 (a western bypass) before, but it adds too many miles to the trip.  Today we took 9A (an eastern bypass) and it was great.  Only 1.5 miles longer than I-95 with less traffic and only a little bit of construction.  It probably saved us 20 minutes and countless gray hairs.


We stopped for gas at Brunswick, GA at about 2:00 and kept right on truckin’!  Lunch was a snack of cheese and crackers, I handed them to Gary as he drove.  We pulled into the campground here at Walterboro, SC at 4:00 and while Gary was in registering us, the skies opened up.  It poured rain . . . really poured!  Lots of thunder and lightning and sheets of rain!


We like this campground because of the large pull-through campsites and the tall pine trees.  It’s just a great place to walk the dogs – normally.  Tonight is a little different.  The rain had made everything sticky – leaves, sand and pine needles.  It all sticks to the dogs, so they won’t see much walking tonight.


Gary got absolutely saturated in the couple of minutes it took to connect to water and electricity so he waited for a lull before he unhooked the car.  We went to the nearby Cracker Barrel for dinner and then went to WalMart for a few things we needed.  The thunder, lightning and rain continued all the time we were out so we hurried back to our frightened dogs.  By the time we got back to the RV there were severe weather warnings on the television.  Gary joked to me, “Here we are in the tornado capital of the world, living in a mobile home!”  I was not amused!


We spent the evening watching TV and got to bed early.

May 5, 2009

It was a gray day.  We were up at 7:00 a.m. and after Gary had a bowl of cereal he unhooked us.  We were on the road by 8:00.  The weather co-operated, the rain held off while he unhooked and then began to fall as soon as we started.  It rained off and on all day.


There was a lull in the rain about 10:00 so we stopped at Rotten Ronnie’s for coffee and then at about 11:30 the rain let up again so we stopped at a rest area to walk the dogs.


It never rained hard enough to make us pull over and stop, but it was hard enough to slow us down several times.  The good thing about the rain was that it washed away all the bugs from the windshield and the front of the motorhome.  We ran through a few large clouds of bugs yesterday.


We made another quick rest area stop about 1:00 and had a sandwich.  It was raining too hard to take the dogs out, so we got right back on the road when we finished lunch.


If you have driven I-77 from Mount Airy, NC to Fancy Gap, VA you know how pretty the climb is in that area.  In a 5-mile stretch of the Interstate you climb 3,000 feet and there are some breathtaking vistas on your right hand side.  Unfortunately it couldn’t be seen today.  Rain, low hanging clouds and dense fog blocked the view.


We noticed the temperature falling slowly all day as we came north.  Yesterday we had the air conditioning going all day but today we traveled without it.  This morning in South Carolina it was warm and sticky but comfortable.  Tonight in Virginia it’s cool and damp.  The low is forecast to be 52 degrees . . . quite a bit lower than the humid 80’s and 90’s we’ve become used to!


We also noticed how green everything is.  When we passed through this area on our way south, about a month ago, the fruit trees were in blossom and the buds had just opened on most trees.  Today it is lush; everything is vivid green. The dogwoods are in glorious bloom.  We sure hope it’s like this at home . . . it should be!


We gassed up for tomorrow’s drive at the Wytheville, Virginia Flying J truck stop and pulled into the Wytheville KOA at 3:00.  We waited a few minutes for a break in the rain and then hooked up the RV and walked the dogs.


I did a few loads of laundry while Gary rested for a while.  A day behind the wheel tires him out and a quick nap restores him.  I am usually tired after navigating  . . . I am constantly telling him, “You’re in the wrong lane.” or, “You’re going too fast.” or,  “Pay attention to what you’re doing.”  Navigating is a very difficult job, fortunately I have Sadie, our GPS, to help me. 


At about 6:00 we went off to our favourite Chinese restaurant for dinner and then did a quick bit of shopping.  We were back to the RV by 7:30 and settled in for the evening.


P.S. – Rotten Ronnie’s is what we call McDonalds

May 6, 2009

Wednesday was another grey day. We got on the road by 8:00 and spent the day traveling north through the beautiful Shenandoah Valley . . . but just like on our southbound trip, it was cloudy with rain and fog, so we didn't see a thing. It was Chicken Pot Pie day at Cracker Barrel - so that's where we had lunch! Yum!

We got to Harrisburg, PA at about 4:30 and it was pouring rain, so we waited a bit to do our hook-ups. After a quick dinner at Chili's and some shopping at the nearby Christmas Tree Shop we settled in for a quiet night of TV. There were flood warnings for the Harrisburg area and it rained all night (I had to tell Gary about it- he could sleep through a hurricane!)

May 7, 2009

The rain had stopped by the time we got up this morning so we quickly un-hooked and got underway.  We were on the road by 7:45. We stopped along the way for a quick breakfast at Rotten Ronnie's and by 1:00 we pulled into Syracuse, NY where we stopped for lunch. It was grey all day, but no significant rain. A few times the sun even managed to peek through for a few seconds.

We hit the Canadian border at about 3:15 and as usual they scanned us with the big truck mounted X-ray machine they use for transport trucks. It's a bit of a pain - we have to get out and take Zak & Zoë with us while they drive alongside the motorhome and the car we tow. The truck they use has a big boom which stretches up and over the RV and has the X-ray "sending unit" on he other side. Usually once they finish the scan they just wave us through, but this time we had to open the trunk of the car. They were quite interested in the acrylic globes we bought to make Mickey Mouse lamps. When Gary explained what he used them for, they rolled their eyes and waved us right through.

We were home by 4:15 and began the big job of unpacking. Ouch!

I don't understand why it is that the four day drive on the way to WDW is such a great adventure, yet the four day drive home is such a drag! Hmmmm?

It was a great trip though, good to see so many friends there and good to be a part of the "Studios 20" event organized by WDW Celebrations.