Saturday November 26, 2011

I had really expected that we would leave Friday evening and get a few hours of the drive behind us, but we both had a busy day Friday and when the evening rolled around we were pooped.  So we decided to stay home and rest before getting an early start.

My feet hit the floor at 5:00 a.m.  After a quick shower I hopped in the car and dashed off to Tim Horton’s where I picked up our breakfast.  Carol had the dogs all fed and ready when I returned so we tossed down our breakfast goodies and hopped in the big beast!

We pulled away from home at 6:00 and were at the border within 30 minutes.  We’ve never seen it so light at the border.  There were three lanes open and only one car in sight.  Which of the two empty gates do we choose?  What a nice treat!  The US Customs Officer was great . . . “Where are you going?  How long will you be away?  Do you own the car you’re towing?  Have a good day.”  We were through in less than a minute.  Wish it could be like that every time!

Traffic was light and we loped along at a steady 63 mph.  We stopped to gas up just south of Syracuse, NY and Carol walked the dogs while I pumped the gas. 

By 11:15 we were at Wilkes-Barre, PA where we pulled off for another break.  I babysat the dogs while Carol popped into Wegman’s to pick up a few groceries.  She really likes the Wegman’s chain of stores.  Once her shopping was done we pulled down the street to Cracker Barrel for lunch.

We were back on the road by 1:00 and continued to make good time in light traffic and good weather.  We pulled into Harrisburg East Campground at about 2:45 and quickly set up for the evening.  Carol walked the dogs while I unhooked the car and did the water and electrical hook-ups.  Then she ran out the slides and got us “all comfy”.  The dogs were happy to be settled.  Zak is an old veteran camper but the drive is not his favourite part of the camping experience.  Blue is still not too sure about the whole thing!

Before long we loaded the dogs in the car and headed out to the nearby Harbor Freight Tools store.  They are having a three day “Black Friday” sale and we picked up some great bargains, most will be stocking stuffers for our sons.

Carol fed the dogs a little early today; it had been quite a while since their 5:00 a.m. breakfast and they were hungry!  Blue lets you know when he’s hungry!

At about 5:30 some friends arrived.  Brian and Laura live in the Harrisburg area and we have met them at several Disney Fan functions.  We yakked for a while in the motor home and then headed to Chili's for dinner.  We shared plenty of stories and had some laughs while we ate.  As we were heading out Brian mentioned that they were heading off to the world’s best grocery store – Wegman’s.  That brought another round of laughter . . . it’s Carol’s favourite too!

We stopped at the nearby Christmas Tree Shop where Carol picked up a few items and then headed back to the campground.  By 9:00 we were settled in for a night of TV.  Our day had started early and we were pooped.  Lights out came early . . . Carol tottered off to bed at 9:55 but I was a night owl.  I stayed up until 10:00 p.m..

Sunday November 27, 2011

The coffee maker woke us up at 6:00 a.m.  We puttered at the computers for a few minutes and I had a bowl of cereal before disconnecting the RV and getting ready to pull out.  Carol took Zak and Blue for a romp and we were off.  We pulled out of Harrisburg at 7:30.

The skies were clear and traffic was light for the first few hours and we made good time.  Soon Pennsylvania was behind us, then Maryland and West Virginia too!  So far so good!

We pulled off at the FlyingJ Truck Stop at Winchester in northern Virginia for a quick refuel and got back on the freeway at 10:00.  Ouch . . . traffic had picked up.  Thanksgiving weekend and everyone is heading home.  We slowed from our normal 63 mph to about 50 mph and soon it was bumper to bumper, stop and go.  Traffic would clear for a few minutes and we would get up to about 50 and then it bunched up again and ground to a halt.  Soon an overhead electronic sign told of an accident 10 miles ahead . . . the left lane was closed.  It took about an hour to cover those 10 miles – and we never did see the accident.

At one point while we were stopped I asked Carol to take the wheel while I went back to tinkle.  I hopped out of the driver’s seat and she hopped in.  No sooner had I settled down on the throne when the RV started moving.  It was the first time Carol has driven the new rig on the highway.  After my chore was done I headed back to take the wheel but Carol said, “I’m OK driving for a while, why don’t you rest.”  So I did; I sat in the passenger’s chair and played with the GPS, looked some stuff up on the internet and enjoyed some of the scenery.  I never tire of the scenery in the Shenandoah Valley.

Carol drove for about 40 minutes, most of it creep and crawl, but occasionally we sped up to normal highway speeds.  At one point she got up to a blistering 61 mph in a 70 zone.  I was sorely tempted to nag, “Do you know you’re going 61 miles per hour? - Slow down! - You’re scaring me! - You should be in that lane over there. - Keep your eyes on the road.”  Of course, I learned long ago that it is not wise to bite the hand that feeds you, so I held my tongue.

At 12:30 a rest area loomed into sight so Carol pulled in.  After she took the dogs for a walk we had a quick sandwich for lunch and got back on the road.  I was back behind the wheel.  That’s when Carol told me how much she disliked driving the new rig.  The winds were blustery today and they do buffet the big machine around a bit!  Her arms were tired from fighting the wheel and the winds.  She didn’t like driving it and may never do so again!  Dang!  Why did I hold my tongue . . . I may never get the opportunity again!

The traffic continued that way all afternoon, stop and go, bumper to bumper with the occasional little open area which gave you a false sense of hope!  The volume of traffic extended our driving day by 90 minutes or more.  At one point I was feathering the brakes to slow down as traffic slowed ahead when I heard a screech of tires and a loud dull thump behind us.  I looked in the driver’s side mirror in time to see a shower of glass and metal just behind us and to our left as two cars bounced their way down into the median.  It was so close that I instinctively turned to look in our back-up camera to be sure our tow car was still attached.  Sure enough, the Saturn and the two bikes were still with us.  We drove on undeterred, but someone’s Thanksgiving weekend ended badly!

Finally our exit came into view and we pulled off at Wytheville, Virginia for the night.  We topped off the gas tank at FlyingJ and were settling in at the KOA campground by 3:30.  The dogs were desperately in need of a romp so Carol took them to the doggie park while I set up the motor home.  They had a good run!  Long overdue!

By 5:00 Zak and Blue had been fed and Carol announced that it was time to shop.  Imagine . . . 5:00 in the afternoon and the lady had not yet been shopping!  We headed directly to K-Mart.  I tramped around the store with her for about 25 minutes then went and waited in the car while she finished up.  She quit just shortly before her Visa card melted down and by 6:15 we were on our way to the Peking Restaurant.

We discovered this restaurant about five years ago when we first stopped at Wytheville.  It was so good that we have stopped here on almost every trip south and we never eat anywhere else.  Tonight we didn’t order our normal sesame chicken dish.  We each ordered a different combination platter.  I enjoyed mine but Carol was disappointed with hers.  Looks like we’ll be back to sesame chicken next time. 

By 7:30 we were back with the dogs, had the car re-hitched and settled in for a night of television.  I grabbed my e-reader and went to bed at 9:35 and struggled to keep my eyes open until 9:55.  Once I had beaten Carol’s time the previous night I surrendered to the sandman.  She followed sometime later, I have no idea when!

Monday November 28, 2011

Today we woke at 6:00, once again to the aroma of coffee brewing.  We took our time and enjoyed a lazy start to the day.  We didn’t hit the road until 7:30.  Ooops – we were late!

Wow, what a treat, there was a misty drizzle but traffic was light and moved steadily.  Much better than on Sunday!  This was the kind of traffic we like!

After just a few miles on I-81 we turned onto I-77 and soon approached that incredible descent from Virginia into North Carolina.  It’s seven miles of steep grade with breathtaking views . . . but not today.  Today it was seven miles of steep grade in dense fog.  Very exciting . . . I slowed down to about 50 mph and Carol was white-knuckled all the way down.  Once we got to the bottom and she started breathing again she said, “That was better than going down at 70 mph like you usually do.”   “Wait a minute,” I asked, “you mean it’s better to be totally blind and going 50 mph than to be in complete control going 70?”  She responded with a quick “Yup”.   Women . . . I guess we are not intended to understand them!

The fog cleared at the bottom of the mountain and we drove the rest of the day under cloudy skies with constant drizzle and occasional heavy showers.  We pulled into JR’s at Statesville, NC at 9:30.  If you haven’t been to JR’s you really need to stop in sometime.  It’s a huge discount store and the billboards line the highway for about 100 miles in all directions . . . all touting the marvels of JR’s.  You never know what you are going to find but there will be bargains.

Today we were searching for denim jeans.  They normally carry the jumbo size I need but the last two times we stopped they were out of stock.  Today they had some so I bought four pairs.  If you work in the clothing industry and you hear about a sudden denim shortage you will understand how it happened – my four pairs of jeans.

We were back on the road by 10:15 and continued to make good time.  We slowed down only twice, each time to take a look at a truck laying on its side in the median.  We had a look at the bottom of the first truck and the top of the second – always nice to have a little variety!

At about noon we pulled off at a rest area, between Charlotte and Columbia, and walked the dogs before having a quick sandwich for lunch.  Soon we left I-77 and travelled south east on I-26.    We only travel about 53 miles on I-26 so it wasn’t long before we turned south on I-95 and at 2:30 we pulled into New Green Acres Campground at Walterboro, SC where we set up for the night.  Naturally it was raining, a heavy drizzle, while I set up, so I got soaked.  But we have plenty of dry clothes aboard the rig so I was soon dry and toasty warm.  About the same time I finished the connections the rain stopped . . . isn’t that always the way?  We sat in the RV for a while with all the windows open enjoying the 72 degree temperature.  Ahhhh – the fresh air is nice! 

Then Carol fed the dogs and we took them for a walk and threw the balls for them.  They were happy to have the exercise after being harnessed into the seatbelts on the couch all day.

What’s next you ask?  Correct!  My dear soul mate had not shopped since 10:00 this morning so off we scurried to Walgreens.  She picked up a singing, dancing Santa Mickey, an inflatable Mickey and some other interesting Christmas stuff!  Next stop was Zaxby’s, a chicken chain.  We have looked at Zaxby’s a few times and never gone so tonight we were determined to skip our normal dinner at Ruby Tuesday and give Zaxby’s a try.  It was OK, but we both agreed it was not a “do-over”.

We were back to the campground by 7:00 and Carol quickly got out the singing, dancing Santa Mickey and terrorized the dogs with him.  Blue just loves animated toys, but Zak is totally indifferent.

Tomorrow we have a shorter day, only 244 miles to St. Augustine.  The weather forecast is for partly cloudy skies and we hope to take Blue for his first afternoon at the beach while at St. Augustine.  Let’s all cross our fingers for no rain!

Tuesday November 29, 2011

It rained all night.  The forecast was for a half inch of rain overnight and I’m certain we had that much, if not more.  The rain really drums on the roof of the motor home.  It’s not like being in a tent, but it can get loud.  If you are the same generation as Carol and I, cast your mind back, through that pharmaceutical fog, and recall the drum solos from Wipeout and In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.  That’s what rain sounds like in a motor home.  At one point we had the TV volume turned up full and we still had trouble following the dialogue.  Carol dealt with it by moving closer to the TV.  I dealt with it by picking up my e-reader and tuning out the TV.

The good news was that the drumming acted like “white noise” and blocked out all the other noise.  We both slept very well!

When we woke this morning the rain had stopped and the smell of Tim Horton was wafting through the RV.  No, not the hockey player smell . . . that would be bad!  It was the smell of freshly brewed Tim Horton’s coffee and that’s a good thing!  We loitered over computers and coffee for a while and I had a bowl of cereal for breakfast.  Then I hopped in the shower while Carol took the dogs for a walk.

This was the first time I had connected the sewer hose since we left home, so I dumped and rinsed the holding tanks and then disconnected us.  Carol was busily battening things down inside.

We pulled out of Walterboro at 7:40 and were soon southbound again on I-95. 

Before long we crossed the state line into Georgia.  From this point on the freeway runs within a few miles of the ocean and we crossed lots of tidal basins, rivers and salt marshes.  Carol always keeps a sharp eye out for gators and manatees.  No sightings today, but we did see three armadillos (live ones) along the road.

By 9:45 we were at Brunswick in southern Georgia where we pulled off at the FlyingJ truck stop.  Carol walked the dogs while I gassed up, then she picked up coffees which we drank as we carried on down the road.  Just after leaving the truck stop traffic slowed and we passed an accident scene.  They were busy over on the northbound side of the highway.  A truck hauling a container-load of oranges had overturned.  There was no sign of the truck, it must have already been towed away, but the container was totally mangled and they were using a large front-end loader to clean up all the spilled and crushed oranges.  Yuk!  What a sticky mess that is going to be!

Along the way we listened to some more of an audio-book we had started yesterday, Big Bad Wolf by James Patterson.  It helps pass the time.  Soon the Florida state line came and of course we had to stop at the Florida Welcome Centre for a taste of orange juice.  It’s a tradition.

From there it was a quick hop to our destination, St. Augustine.  Yes, I know what you’re thinking, “Here it is almost noon and Carol has not been shopping yet.”  There was a remedy for that though, we pulled into the Outlet Mall at St. Augustine and off she went to the Disney Character Outlet Store there.  Naturally she found some bargains!  We had a quick bite in the food court and were on our way again.  By 1:30 we were pulling into our camp site at North Beach Camp Resort.  Soon we were all hooked up and settled.

Finally it was time to take Zak and Blue to the beach.  The breeze was offshore but there was still a good surf rolling in.  Zak just loves the beach.  He used to be an avid swimmer but now that he’s a “senior” he takes it a little easier.  He still chases the ball but he doesn’t take it and run out into the surf with it.  One wave soaked Carol and nearly bowled Zak over.  It surprised them both.  Blue didn’t really know what to make of it.  He would chase the ball toward the shore but when a wave surged in he would quickly run to higher ground.  He did plenty of running and had a good workout but he didn’t get his feet wet.  Maybe we’ll have to take him back another time and see if he’s a bit braver when the ocean is calmer and quieter.

Once the dogs had been entertained it was time to entertain Carol.  We loaded Zak and Blue into the car and went in search of a Walgreen’s.  Yup . . . more shopping!Carol was desperate to find an inflatable Eeyore Christmas decoration.  The Wallgreen’s in Walterboro had been sold out of them.  Success; we found one at the first store we looked in.  On our way back to the campground we ran the car through a car wash; it gets pretty grubby when you tow it in the rain.  We were back at the RV and feeding the dogs by 5:00.  Another short walk for the dogs and then Carol and I went out in search of dinner.

Carol had asked the ladies in the campground office where the local folks go for seafood . . . that usually gets good results for us.  And tonight was no exception.  They recommended a place called O’Steens; it was great.  We had just sat down when the couple at the next table said, “Don’t waste too much time with the menu.  Just order the shrimp.”  We took their advice and it was great!  A terrific meal, we’ll be going back to O’Steens!

The old historic part of the city is all decorated for Christmas so we drove around for a few minutes enjoying the lights.  It looks so odd to us, seeing Christmas lights on palm trees and seeing grand old southern oak trees draped with lights and Spanish Moss.  Very pretty!

After soaking up our fill of the “Old Town” area we crossed the bridge to Vilano Beach and back to the campground.  We were back to the dogs and settled in for the night by 7:15.

Tomorrow is a very short drive, only 129 miles to Fort Wilderness.

Wednesday November 30, 2011

We both slept well at this pretty campground.  We like it here because of the nice beach and the densely foliated campsites.  They are almost totally canopied by oak trees.  Normally we can sleep with the windows open and hear the soothing sound of the surf on the nearby beach as we sleep.  Not so last night though!  It was cold.  Even for Canadians it was cold!  We had hoped to go to the hot tub but we skipped that and once again had to turn on the furnace.

The only disadvantage to this campground is that our Virgin Internet stick won’t pick up a signal here.  It worked every inch of the way down, through mountains and valleys, but there is a dead spot two miles north of St. Augustine.  So this morning we could not play on the internet like we usually do.  What to do with all that time?  Carol said, “Let’s go to the beach and watch the sunrise.”  Hmmm . . . we have hundreds of pictures of Pacific Ocean sunsets but not a single picture of an Atlantic Ocean sunrise.  So we grabbed the dogs and the cameras and off we went.  The sky was clear but there was a low cloud bank on the horizon.  The dogs romped and chased tennis balls while we waited for the sun.  Brrrrr!  It was cold!  Soon the sun started to break over the clouds.  It was glorious!

Soon we were back in the motor home finishing up our pot of Timmie’s finest!  I had a bowl of cereal and then started disconnecting while Carol secured everything inside.  We pulled out of the campground at 8:30.

Our trip took about an hour on I-95 and then another hour on I-4.  Then we exited and made our way across Disney property to Fort Wilderness, our home for the next two weeks.  We pulled up to the drive-through check-in at about 10:45. 

None of the three sites we requested were available and they had us slotted into a site we really didn’t want.  The cast member who checked us in was great; she got on the phone, rearranged a few other reservations and got us moved into site #714.  It’s terrific, we like it here.  The site wasn’t ready so we drove over to the overflow parking lot, unhooked the tow car and went for a drive.  The folks in site 714 were just pulling out so we turned around and headed to Downtown Disney.  Carol dashed over to The Earl of Sandwich and picked up a pair of sandwiches to go.  We ate them back in the RV and before we were done a text message arrived – our site was ready.


Within a half hour we were backed in and situated.  I hooked up the power and then spent a few minutes washing the dust and road grime off the motor home.  Once it was shiny and clean I did the rest of the hook ups and then started helping Carol with the decorations.  She did most of the work; my right knee is still pretty “poopy”.  We worked away until 5:00 in the afternoon before calling it quits for the day.  We’re 90% finished but we both just ran out of steam.  We washed up, put on some less stinky shirts and headed back to Downtown Disney.  Our first stop was at Guest Relations, we needed to buy new Annual Passes, a new Tables in Wonderland card and to pick up our Christmas Party tickets.


As soon as we stepped into line at Guest Relations the lady in front of us turned and said, “I really need to say Hi to you.  I won’t call you zakerdog and Cruiser though; I’ll just call you Zak and Blue’s parents!”  Her name is Alexa or Electa, something like that and she is from Salem, MA  She discovered our favourite  Disney fan site,, a few months ago and has been lurking there ever since.  Alexa/Electa – if you’re reading this, please say hello through the thread on Tagrel.  What a small world!


Soon we had our passes and tickets and we headed directly to Wolfgang Puck’s Express for some of their great pizza.  Well, not exactly directly . . . Carol dragged me through the pin shop first!  Then we had pizza – Yum!  Next came the Christmas Store and the Art of Disney Store – the lady has to shop you know!


We were back to the RV and the dogs by 8:30.  What a busy day!  There are still a few things to do tomorrow but we’re almost all set up!  It feels sooo good to be back here!

Thursday December 1, 2011


We both crawled out of bed aching today.  It was a slow day.  We lingered over a pot of coffee and enjoyed some quiet time before starting our day.  My first chore was to take our bikes off the rack at the rear of the RV and stow away all the car towing gear. 

At about 10:00 Carol kicked me out!  She wanted to finish the fine tuning of the decorations and she didn’t want me underfoot.  I took the car out and gassed it up, then vacuumed out all the beach sand the dogs had deposited.  I drove around looking for a few small parts I needed for the motor home.  By the time I got back at noon she had all the decorating finished.  It looks great.

We made a sandwich for lunch and then went off shopping.  Carol picked up a few groceries at Publix and I went to the nearby Walgreen’s looking for more Christmas inflatables.  No luck for me . . . they were sold out.


We were back with the dogs by 3:00 p.m. and Carol fed them a bit early so we could get away to the Magic Kingdom.  We caught the boat at 5:00 and once we landed at the Kingdom we made our way down Main Street USA.  The park was very busy.  People were already lined up along the street waiting for the 7:00 p.m. Main Street Electrical Parade.  We were both hungry so we meandered back to Columbia Harbor House for dinner.  Even when the park is crowded Columbia is usually peaceful and quiet.  It’s a great spot to go when things are hectic.


After dinner we walked over to the Haunted Mansion and boarded a Doom Buggy for a lap through the mansion and around the graveyard.  The grand finale of today’s ride was when Ezra yanked his beard off and stuck it on Carol!  Funny!

It was almost parade time so we scurried over to Liberty Square and found a spot across from the Hall of Presidents.  The Electrical Parade is one of our favorites, we really enjoy it.

When the parade was over we headed toward the Crystal Palace and found a spot to watch a show we had not yet seen.  The Magic, the Memories and You is a show which is projected on Cinderella Castle.  Wow!  It’s hard to believe they can change the appearance of the castle with nothing but illumination.  At one point the castle becomes a rocket ship and it really appears to be lifting off.  It’s amazing!

We decided to skip the Wishes fireworks show so we shopped our way through the Emporium on our way to the exit.  The fireworks were underway as we boarded the boat for our return to the campground.  We stopped briefly at the Settlement Trading Post and then wandered through a few camping loops admiring the Christmas décor.  Wow . . . there are some great displays!  I’ll try to post a few night pictures later in the trip.  For now you’ll have to be satisfied with a few shots of our campsite.

We were back home by 9:30.

Friday December 2, 2011


We both slept in.  I woke as Carol was taking the dogs out at 6:45.  Aaahhh – life is good!  We loafed and loitered until about 8:15 when we hopped in the car and headed to Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  We thought a few friends might be there for a RADP group meet so we headed for the designated meeting location. 


Sure enough before too long Jack Marshall of Team AllEars arrived and within a few minutes Karen (Jellyrolls on joined the group too.  We stood and yakked for a few minutes and then the group, about 28 of us, headed to the Kilimanjaro Safari entrance. 


Karen joined Carol and I as we headed down the wheelchair accessible ramp.  The line moved quickly and soon we were boarding the safari truck.  We got the very last row which allows you to turn and get some photos behind the truck but it’s also very very bumpy!  So we rocked and rolled through Africa snapping pictures.  Our guide was good and the animals were plentiful; we got some good shots.

After the safari we made a wrong turn at the exit and wound up walking the Pangani Trail.  Once again some good pictures!

We made our way over to Asia to ride Expedition Everest and happened to spot DeVine on the way.

We scored the last row on Expedition Everest.  We think it’s the best spot to ride.  After Everest we stopped for a picture and then said our goodbyes to Karen.  She had a lunch reservation at Kona Café to rush off to and it was time for us to head back to the RV and the dogs.  Of course we can’t walk past Yak & Yeti without having an egg roll.  Today we added some fried rice and it became lunch.

We stopped at Island Mercantile to pick up our free Annual Passholder calendars and of course Carol traded a few pins as we left the park.  We were back with the dogs by 1:00 p.m.  We answered a few phone messages and e-mails and then took the dogs to the off-leash dog park.  Blue likes it there; he can run and romp with dogs who have a bit more energy than old Zak does!  It was comical to watch him romp and play with a seven-month old Pomeranian . . . the fur that Blue sheds in a week would make a couple of seven-month old Pomeranians!


After their tongues were both hanging out we headed back to the motorhome where we allowed the dogs some quiet time.  (We napped!)


Carol fed the boys a bit early again so we could get away in time for our 5:10 dinner reservation at ‘Ohana.

Dinner was terrific as usual.  Naturally we ate too much; we always tell friends to save room for dessert because they’re going to want to eat it all . . . but then we never follow our own advice.




By 6:30 we were finished dinner and heading back to the campground.  I know what you’re thinking, “But what about the shopping?  Carol has to shop!”  Soon the dreaded words rolled off her lips . . . “Would you mind running me over to Downtown Disney for a few minutes?”  I was prepared, my e-reader was in the back seat so I said, “Yes dear, you know I would do anything for you.”  So she shopped and I read; we both won.

We were back to the RV with the dogs by 8:30.  There’s plenty of activity, an endless stream of golf carts drive past every night admiring the Christmas décor.  Disney has added a few extra wagons to their fleet.  There are now seven smaller horse-drawn wagons and one large horse-drawn hay wagon hauling people around the campground to view the lights.  About every five minutes we hear the clop-clop-clop of another horse.  This sure is a magical place at Christmas.

Saturday December 3, 2011


We’re starting to settle in . . . we slept until 6:45 again.  It was another slow start to the day, coffee and Internet.  Then we both had a shower (separately) and spent a few minutes torturing the dogs. 

Soon we were on our way to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

We arrived at about 9:15 and went directly to Toy Story Midway Mania.  The park had been open about 20 minutes by the time we approached the ride and the FastPass Distribution time was already at 5:10 to 6:10.  It’s still a very popular attraction!  Our scores are not improving much, we were both beavers again today but I suppose that’s appropriate for Canadians.

We wandered out past the Backlot Tour and Carol popped into a few shops before we walked through the Streets of America.  There was no crowd there during the day and we are sure looking forward to our special evening there as part of the AllEars December to Remember celebration!  It will be special to see the Osborne Spectacle of Dancing Lights with only a few other folks around.

We stopped into The Writer's Stop where Carol picked up a Carrot Cake cookie.  We had never tried one before – YUM!  It won’t be the last.


On our way across to the Animation Gallery we stopped to watch a new “streetmosphere” show in front of the BAH (big hat).  The “Citizens of Hollywood” put on a variety show, it was quite entertaining.  One of the lead characters even had a hidden Mickey in her hair!

Carol admired a few things in the Animation store and had a preview of the new Animation Cel she is going to buy next Saturday.  She traded a few Vinylmations as we shopped our way down Sunset Boulevard and then along Hollywood Boulevard.  Before leaving the park we stopped at Min & Bill's Dockside Diner for a quick bite of lunch.  We had never eaten there before so we checked out the menu and decided to split an Italian Sausage Sandwich.  It was gooood!  They take a long bun and cut off one end.  Then a machine pulls out the core, making a hole they fill up with grilled peppers and onions and of course the Italian Sausage.  As we left the park Carol said, “Next time we’re not splitting one of those, I’m having my own.”

As we passed down Hollywood Boulevard heading toward the parking lot she pulled me into a store and pointed out the bracelet she wants for Christmas.  This is unusual, normally she just buys the stuff and hands me the bill, saying, “This is my Christmas gift from you.”  This gives me some element of choice . . . or does it?


We were back with the dogs by 12:30.  After giving the dogs a treat and getting them settled down from the excitement they display every time we return I took Blue to the dog park while Carol stayed back with Zak.  I rode my PPK Chariot (scooter) over and Blue ran along beside me on his leash.  He had a good run at the park and then had a good run on the way back home.

We sat outside for a while enjoying the great weather and then I had a restful time with the dogs (nap) while Carol did a load of laundry.  Later I rode my bike around a few of the camping loops and got back just as Carol was giving the dogs another early dinner.  We walked them along the pet walk area behind the 800 loop and by 5:00 p.m. we were heading off to EPCOT.  We had a 5:45 dinner reservation at Nine Dragons as part of our Candlelight Processional package.  We hadn’t had dinner there for a number of years.  We really enjoyed it . . . all but the dessert.  We had pot stickers and egg rolls for appetizers and then we both ordered the honey sesame chicken.  For dessert we both opted for red rice pudding.  The server warned that it was not like North American rice pudding but we decided to give it a go anyway.  Mistake!  Carol quit after just a taste.  I had a bit more than that before giving up.  It was more like a thick soup than a pudding, very sweet and served cold.  If there was rice in it I sure couldn’t find it.  Overall it was a very good meal; we just won’t be having the pudding again.

Shortly after 7:00 we began making our way to America Gardens to line up for the Processional.  We stopped briefly in Germany and Carol bought some highly addictive Werther’s Caramel Corn.  It was fresh out of the pot and still warm.  M-M-M-Good!

My handy-dandy PPK Chariot worked to our advantage.  We were directed to the queue where all the other wheelchairs and scooters were lined up.  We were among the first group to enter for the 8:15 performance and we ended up about 12 rows back and centre of the house.  Great seats!  It’s a terrific show, the Christmas story portrayed in word and song.  Music is provided by a 50 piece orchestra.  Disney’s professional “Voices of Liberty” singing group is augmented by a choir comprised of Disney cast members and further enhanced by a number of “guest choirs” from high schools across the country.  There are several hundred voices; it is a very impressive performance.  The narrator was Geena Davis and she did an outstanding job.

If you haven't seen the Candlelight Processional before here's a video which shows you a portion of a show.

It's not the show we saw, but you can see how impressive it is.  Click on the arrow to watch.

The Processional ended shortly after 9:00 and we quickly made our way toward the exit.  The nightly Illuminations fireworks show was beginning as we left the park.  We were back home with the puppies by 9:45.

Sunday December 4, 2011


It was a “do nothing” morning.  We drank coffee and played on the Internet until about 8:30 a.m. then headed over to Trail’s End for breakfast.  As always we ate too much, but it’s sooo good!


Some very good friends from home had called a few days ago and let us know they were coming to see us and we were expecting them at about noon.  So we decided to skip the parks for today and spend a leisurely and relaxing day at The Fort.

At about 11:00 Carol said, “Can you drive me over to the Beach Club?  I want to pick up a D23 magazine.”  So we hopped in the car and struck out.  We quickly turned around and came back!  Traffic was horribly backed up in the campground.  We hadn’t made it halfway to the exit when progress ground to a halt.  There had to be about a hundred RVs in line ahead of us trying to get out.  After a quick U-turn we were back to our campsite.  We’ve never seen that kind of tie-up in the campground.


So we chilled with the dogs for a while, sat out and enjoyed the perfect weather. 

By 12:30 Dave and Christine pulled in.  They backed into the campsite right next to us and in no time they were all set up for their two night stay.  We sat at our site and enjoyed an adult beverage and some cheese and crackers.  Dave had never been to Disney and Christine was last here in the 80’s.  Carol asked what they wanted to do and they both chimed in, “You tell us, you’re the expert.”  Soon we decided that if they only have one park day it had to be at EPCOT so Carol got busy and got us a dinner reservation at Chefs de France.

We biked and scootered over to the stables and ended up at the dock where we boarded the launch to Wilderness Lodge and walked around the hotel.  Then we caught the launch for a short trip to the Contemporary Resort Hotel.  At the Contemporary we boarded the monorail and took a ride around the resort loop pointing out the sights you can see from the monorail.  Then we caught the launch back to the campground.  It was time to feed the dogs and take them for a walk.

By 6:00 we were all in the golf cart and we stopped to admire a few Christmas decorations before heading to Trail's End for our 6:15 dinner reservation.  We enjoyed a very leisurely dinner and after about two hours of food and chatter we jumped crawled back on the golf cart to do some “looping”.  We drove through a number of the camping loops admiring all the Christmas décor.  Some of the sites are truly spectacular.


We wound the evening up by heading to the beach, cocktails in hand, where we watched the special Christmas Party version of the Wishes fireworks show which was quickly followed by the Electric Water Pageant.


We were back to the campsite 10:00 p.m. – exhausted after a leisurely and relaxing day.  How the heck does that work?

Monday December 5, 2011 

We went commando at EPCOT today.  No, no, not like that . . . we had our knickers on!  Commando is a word Disney fans use to describe a high speed day at the parks.  You “commando the park” by rushing from one attraction to the next, trying to pack as much as you can into your day.  Since Dave and Christine only had one day that’s what we did.


Our day started normally at 6:45 with coffee, Internet and a bowl of cereal.  At 8:00 a.m. we loaded up Zak and Blue and took them to the nearby Best Friends kennel for their day at the spa.  They shared a suite which had a raised bed and a private outdoor patio.  The ultimate in canine luxury!

We were back to the campsite at 8:45 and let Dave & Chris know we were ready to roll!  Christine was on the phone dealing with some “system issues” at home so the three of us sat twiddling our thumbs and drumming our fingers until she and the help desk were able to get things working.  By 9:30 we were all set.  The four of us wedged ourselves into our little Saturn Ion and away we went.

Once we arrived at the park a little WD40 and some elbow grease got us all extracted from the car.  Dave bought their tickets and we headed through the gate.  First stop – Spaceship Earth.  We had boarded our time machine and were on the incline just past the camera when the ride stopped.  We sat for about 10 minutes while a pre-recorded voice told us again and again that we were stopped.  The steep grade was making our heads feel pretty heavy by the time we got rolling again and the ride ran at half speed for most of the rest of our ride.  Our “first timer” guests were still able to enjoy the ride, but it did drag on . . . and we had a schedule to keep . .  . we were already falling behind!


Next stop was Soarin’ -  I scootered ahead to get down the elevator while the rest took the stairs.  There was a long line for the elevator and while I was waiting, the elevator door opened and en elderly lady on a scooter emerged at full speed.  She careened across the elevator foyer in a sweeping curve and had to be going 20 mph when she crashed into the side of a huge vending machine which etched custom ID tags.  There was a workman in the process of restocking the ID tags.  The impact swung the open door shut and it gave him a good crack on the head.  Then the ID tag machine slid into the penny crushing machine and knocked over the little boy who was smashing a coin in it.  That’s one of the wonderful things about Disney . . . there’s free entertainment everywhere you look!


Fortunately no one was hurt, but naturally the crash created a huge traffic jam at the elevator so I abandoned my scooter and fled the scene using the stairs.  Soon we were loaded up on our glider and Soarin’ over California.  It’s a great ride!  We have seen it so many times that we sometimes lose a bit of that sense of wonder, so it’s nice to ride it with first-timers and see their reactions.  They loved it.

We boarded the boat at Living With the Land and toured the greenhouses.  Many people bypass this ride but it’s one we enjoy and we ride it often.  Next stop – the Nemo ride at the Living Seas.  We are still amazed at the technology which puts the animated characters from the Finding Nemo movie into the aquarium with the live fish.


We crossed over to the other side of Future World and traveled back in time with Ellen DeGeneres in the World of Energy Pavilion.  Once again Ellen beat “Stupid Judy” in the Jeopardy game.  Dave and I headed toward Mission Space while the girls found a park bench in the sun.  The Jam-itors were just beginning a performance as we passed so we stopped to watch them for a few minutes and then carried on.  I asked Dave, “Do you want the full ride or the less intense version?”  He said, “Bring it on!”  So we grabbed our orange cards and were soon in our capsule.  He really enjoyed it, and of course I always do.  We found the faint-hearted maidens relaxing on their bench and they announced that we were going to have lunch.  I checked my watch – Holy crap – it was 1:30.  Time had flown!

After a bite at the Electric Umbrella we headed toward Test Track.  Dave and Christine are car buffs, he has a collection of antique cars and she has two classic Corvettes.  They really enjoyed their spin around the Test Track! 

That was all we had planned to see in Future World so we made our way to World Showcase.  First stop - Canada where we watched the circle-vision show.  I told them, “Keep a sharp eye on the film, you might see your cottage.”  Their cottage is on a back-bay of the St. Lawrence River beside that big bridge in the film.  The movie looks directly into the entry to their bay but is about 10 degrees short of letting you see the cottage.  Close enough though, they were beaming!


As we approached England we heard the new band “The British Revolution” playing.  We listened for a few minutes, then the girls left to tour the British shops.  Dave and I went over to the Rose & Crown where we bought a beer and headed back for more music.  The band was good, they played old 60’s tunes from a number of British Invasion groups and finished their set with a rousing version of “Who are you?” by The Who.  The girls came back during the finale and we carried on toward France. 



We spent the afternoon touring the countries in order, movie at France, walk through Morocco, watched the drummers at Japan.  Then we were off to Italy where Christine and Carol wandered through the shops while Dave and I sat and watched some street performers.  Next came Germany where we walked through the shops.  The girls never seem to tire of shopping.  I don’t understand . . . they don’t buy very much, but they have to touch it all!


Time was nearing for the 5:15 performance of “The American Adventure” at the US Pavilion so we backtracked.  As we passed the America Gardens Theatre the orchestra we playing the prelude for the Candlelight Processional and the choirs were processing in so we stopped for a few minutes to watch.   Then we entered the theatre to see almost 300 years of American history portrayed in a 30 minute show.  When we left the theatre the massed choir and orchestra were into the finale of the Candlelight Processional, the Halleluiah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah.  We stopped to watch the end and then scurried back to France just in time for our 6:00 p.m. dinner reservation.


Dinner was wonderful.  We relaxed and spent an hour and a half chatting while we enjoyed drinks and good food.


By 7:45 we were on the move again.  We watched the movie in China, rode the Maelstrom in Norway and ended our world tour at Mexico with the Grand Fiesta Tour.  Wow . . . we got it all done!  Everything that was on our game plan was done!

We headed over toward Showcase Plaza and found a spot to get a good view of Illuminations which would allow us to escape the park quickly once it was over.  Once again it was nice to experience this spectacle with a first-timer.  We tend to take it for granted but Dave and Christine were blown away, like we were the first few times we saw it.  We sometimes need to be reminded how awesome this stuff really is!


We scooted and scootered out to the parking lot and once again shoe-horned ourselves into the Saturn.  We were back home in no time.  Dave and Christine came over for a nightcap while Carol went to the kennel to pick up the puppies.  She was soon back; Zak and Blue were sure happy to be home!  We yakked and yawned for a while and called it a night before 11:00 p.m.  We were all exhausted.  As we Canadians say, it was “Lights out, flood the rink.”

Tuesday December 6, 2011

It was a do-nothing day; a glorious do-nothing day.  We were bushed after running the “Newbies at EPCOT Marathon” yesterday so we decided early that today would be nothing but R & R.  I know what you’re thinking, “But Gary, what about the shopping?”  Yes, of course she went shopping, but other than that we didn’t do much.  We followed our normal morning routine and then at about 9:15 Carol said, “I’m going to the Meadow Trading Post to see if they have any license plates in stock.”  She bought the very last one a few days ago and desperately wants another.  No luck, they haven’t restocked – but she did buy a Fort Wilderness t-shirt.


While she was gone I kept busy writing about yesterday’s activities and uploading them to our web site.  We have some friends at home who get quite persnickety if the report isn’t there when they wake up in the morning.  Apparently the morning coffee just doesn’t taste as good without some vicarious Disney fun to go with it!

When Carol got back we loaded Zak and Blue on the golf cart and took them off to the doggie park.  Blue was a little shy today and didn’t want to play, there were some big dogs there and he seemed a bit spooked.  Zak spent all his time sniffing around the edge of the park catching up on all the canine news.



Once the dogs were exercised we dropped them off at the RV, donned our bathing suits and headed to the pool.  We spent about two hours, soaking in the hot tub then the pool, hot tub again then the pool again.  Between soaks we had a light lunch at the poolside snack bar and followed it with a Mickey bar for dessert.

The sandman was bashing me (no nap for two whole days) so I laid down for a nap with Blue.  Carol and Zak went off to the dog park to visit with our friends John and Erin from New Jersey along with their dogs Elfie, Ricco and Daytona.  They arrived on Sunday.  When she came back I got up and headed off to gas up the car.  She laid down for a nap, so Blue had a very restful afternoon – two naps.


Carol fed the dogs at 5:00 and we took them for a walk before heading out for dinner.  A Canadian friend  had recommended Carrabbas, a spot they often go to when they winter in Florida.  Today was our day to try it and we agree with her, it’s great.  We’ll definitely be returning to Carrabbas.


Then it was time for more shopping.  I waited in the car while Carol checked out the Disney Character Outlet .  She bought a few pins and vinylmations to use as traders.  Next stop was Winn-Dixie.  I dropped Carol off and went to the nearby ABC Liquor Store to pick up my groceries then waited for her outside the Winn-Dixie.  She popped into another Walgreen’s looking for a particular Disney inflatable Christmas decoration but no luck.  We’ll keep trying!

By 8:45 we were back home and decided to do some “looping”.  The dogs came with us as we drove the golf cart all around the campground looking at the spectacular decorations.  Our last stop was at the most amazing site of all, our neighbour “The Castle Guy”.  He’s three campsites away.  His display, a six foot replica of Cinderella Castle, looks quite ordinary during the day but when he turns it on at night it’s absolutely spectacular.  I can’t possibly explain to you in words how beautiful it is so I will take a video and post a link when I can.  For now, just believe me, it’s astounding.  All of the horse-drawn wagons stop at The Castle Guy’s site to watch a bit of his awesome show.

We were done looping by about 9:30 and once again put on our trunks and headed off to soak in the hot tub.  Minor snag . . . about half way home the headlight on the golf cart dimmed.  Then it began to slow down . . . then it stopped.  I guess the battery didn’t get a full charge last night.  Fortunately the cart pushes fairly easily.  Carol said, “Your knee is all poopy so you steer and I’ll push.”  Away we went, me steering, her pushing and no lights.  This worked well until the buses, cars and golf carts started passing us.  They saw this great big oaf being pushed in a golf cart by his dainty little wife.  Not good for my ego.  So we traded positions, she steered while I pushed and poopy-hopped along beside.  We were home by 10:30 and I double checked to make sure it was charging OK before heading in for the night.  Snoring ensued!

Wednesday December 7, 2011

We had a perfect day.  Up at 7:00 a.m. with nothing to do! 


We relaxed in our usual way until 9:30 when our friends Al and Jane from Missouri came by.  We joined them on a trek to Disney’s Property Control outlet.  This is where Disney disposes of old or surplus inventory at super discount prices.  You never know what you’ll find at Property Control so it’s always an adventure.  Jane filled up a shopping cart and Carol filled a small basket with treasures.  She picked up a sweater and some pins.  As Al and I were standing idly, waiting for the shoppers to get tired, I was accosted by another shopper.  It was our pal Beci from  Her sidekick Annette was with her; it was great to see them both.  Small world!

We were back to the RV by 11:00 and sat out with the dogs enjoying a marvelous sunny day.  At about 11:30 Carol said, “I’m hungry and you’re taking me to the Earl of Sandwich.”  I didn’t argue, we gave the dogs a treat and hit the road.  Along the way we snapped a few pictures of the decorations.

This is a miniature version of the Magic Kingdom

It has the train, monorail, Cinderella Castle - it's wonderful

Minnie's bubble bath

Hilda plays Disney movies every night on her inflatable movie screen

She had the BLT and I had the All-American.  Yum!  Naturally she had to shop, so she scoured a few stores and the Pin Station while I sat in the car with my e-book.  Soon she was done and arrived at the car with no bag.  Wow!  No bag!

We were home before 2:00 and had a nap.  Aaaaahhh! 

At 3:15 we headed off, with the dogs, to the doggie park to give them a run.  There were no other dogs there and Blue had a good run.  We had a gator spotting!  Along the bank of the creek behind the dog park was a four-footer and we didn’t have the camera.  He sat still for about five minutes while we took a few pictures with Carol’s phone and then he swam away.

As we were putting the dogs leads on and getting ready to go our friend John from New Jersey called.  He had just landed in Orlando and was on his way.  He is staying with us in the RV tonight and checking into his hotel tomorrow.  The minute John’s plane landed the clouds came, the temperature dropped 30 degrees, the winds picked up and the rain came.  He must have dragged the weather here from New Jersey.


We waited back at the RV and soon he pulled in.  He had just settled when his daughter Lizzie called.  She’s a chef at the Swan Resort and was joining us for the Christmas Party.  We took the golf cart to the overflow parking lot and picked her up.  It was dusk and some of the lights were on so we took the long way home to see a few of the displays.

By 6:00 p.m. we were on the boat heading to the Magic Kingdom.  It was windy and brisk.  Very brisk.  The park was all decked out for Christmas and holiday music was playing, it’s a wonderful time to visit the Kingdom.

We were all hungry so we trucked over to Tomorrowland for a bite at Pecos Bills.  As we left Carol walked through the pin store as we headed toward the Haunted Mansion.  John and Lizzie saw the new entry queue for the first time and played with all the interactive toys.  At the end of the ride John and Lizzie had their heads swapped by a ghost!  For the rest of the night I had trouble telling them apart!


We took a spin at Pirates of the Caribbean and when we finished the parade was just starting.  We watched for a few minutes from Adventureland and then moved to a spot in Frontierland where we had a better view. 

After the parade passed it was almost time for “The Magic, The Memories and You” show at the castle so we headed to the hub for a good viewing point.  Wow!  What a show.


We stayed put after the show and five minutes later the Wishes fireworks show started.  We had a great spot, and excellent perspective for both shows.  After the fireworks we were quite chilly so we walked over to the Noodle Station for hot chocolate and cookies. 

Carol and Lizzie wanted to ride Space Mountain but by the time we had our cocoa and warmed up it was only 20 minutes to parade time.  We headed back to the hub and picked out our spot to see the parade again.  This time we had a better location and were able to get some pictures.

After the parade we were chilled again and decided it was time to head out; but to avoid the crowd we went to Buzz Lightyear and saved the universe one more time.  The crowds had dissipated as we made our way to the exit and we were soon on the boat back to Fort Wilderness.  We landed at about 12:15.


Carol walked the dogs as John and I drove Lizzie out to her car, then we had a short nip of scotch to take the chill off before bed.  We yawned as we looked at a few of the day’s pictures and soon headed to bed.

Thursday December 8, 2011


I awoke at 6:30 a.m. to the sound of boat whistles and chattering teeth.  The whistles were from the Magic Kingdom boats; the chattering teeth were John’s.  The temperature dropped to about 44 degrees last night and Carol had the thermostat set at 45.  At one time during the night Carol woke up feeling cold but it was too chilly for her to get out of bed to reset the thermostat so she rolled over and went back to sleep.  John of course didn’t know where the thermostat was and I haven’t been allowed to touch a thermostat since Carol began some life-changes in 1999.  So we all woke up feeling the effects of hypothermia.


Some Tim Horton’s coffee got our blood flowing again and John was soon able to uncurl from his fetal position.  At 8:30 we headed to the Trail’s End Buffet for a hearty breakfast. 

After breakfast John headed off to check in at All-Star Sports.  Carol went to the grocery store to buy some buns for our dinner tonight and I took the dogs for a walk.  Soon Carol called to tell me John was waiting in the Fort Wilderness parking lot.  I drove out in the golf cart and hopped in his car.  I took him to property control for some shopping.  He nosed around more than he shopped.  Men just aren’t very good at shopping, that’s why we leave it to the fairer sex!


We were back to the campsite by 11:30 and within minutes Tom from New York called.  He’s John’s room-mate this trip and he was in the parking lot.  We picked him up, returned to the campsite, yakked for a while and soon we all crammed into the little Saturn.  Our destination was the Contemporary Resort where the first AllEars meet was held. 

AllEars founder Deb Wills welcomed us all and introduced Disney historian Jim Korkis.  Jim spent an hour talking about the history and lore of the Carousel of Progress. 

He began with Walt Disney’s dream of the exhibit he imagined for General Electric and told us how that transformed into the GE exhibit at the 1964 New York Worlds Fair.  Then he walked through the evolutions the exhibit has gone through at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World.  Jim is an amazing speaker.  He stood for an hour and spoke with no notes.  He was mesmerizing; he really knows how to hold the audiences attention.

We broke at about 2:30 and caught the monorail to the Magic Kingdom.  The plan was to reconvene at the Carousel of Progress at 3:45 and ride as a group.  So Carol and I, John and Masayo from Japan left the Contemporary together and rode the monorail to the Magic Kingdom.  As we entered the park the 3:00 parade was just beginning so we stopped in Town Square and watched it.  There was a very light crowd in that area and we had a good vantage point.

After the parade we headed to Tomorrowland and took a spin on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority.  We exited the TTA just as the group was assembling for a group photo so we hopped in.  Linda Lou and Barrie were the photographers.

Soon we all filed in . . . we filled one entire pod of the attraction.  There were hardly any empty seats.  At every transition from scene to scene we all sang the song, “There’s a great big beautiful tomorrow . . . “   It was great fun!  When the ride was over we stood outside the exit and talked for a while with friends.  Some we hadn’t seen for several years and it was a real pleasure to see them again.  Our pal Robin surprised us with a gift, it was an old Fort Wilderness bolo tie with the original Musket Mickey on the bolo.  It is no longer issued to cast members since it is no longer politically correct for Mickey to have a musket.  We are just thrilled to have one, thanks Robin!

All too soon we had to leave to return to The Fort.  We had to get ready for the “Fort Wilderness Holiday Lights” walking tour scheduled for 6:30.  John, Tom and I walked (and scootered) back to the Contemporary and hopped in the car while Carol, Erin and Masayo and Robin took the boat back.  Robin had a dinner meet to go to so she left the ladies at the Settlement bus depot. Once we had all returned to the campsite Carol put out some buns, cold cuts, cheese and condiments and we enjoyed a light dinner.  It was a bit rushed but we still had time for some banter and laughter.


By 6:15 we were at the Settlement area where our group was to convene beside the Trail’s End Buffet before our walking tour.  There were over 50 people waiting when we arrived.   Our friend Erin from New Jersey is a member of Team AllEars and she was the chief organizer of the walking tour.  Carol, John and I, along with her husband John, helped out by distributing glow-sticks, some of those highly coveted AllEars Trading Cards and raffle tickets.  Erin gave a presentation on the history of Fort Wilderness while we waited for any stragglers to arrive and then off we went through some of the camping loops.  There were about 120 of us.  Erin’s husband John and I drove our golf carts and gave a lift to those who weren’t able to walk the distance we would be covering.


We heard some very rewarding comments such as:

“I’ve never been to the campground before, this is just amazing.”

“I read your Halloween blog on AllEars so we came over and rode the bus around the campground, it was wonderful!  Thanks so much for writing it”

“I read your trip reports all the time; will I be able to meet Zak and Blue?”

People were just blown away by the decorations they saw.  We tried our best to keep the group together but of course some wanted to linger longer at some of the more elaborate displays so we ended up quite spread out by the end.  The group ended up at the Fort Wilderness dock which gives a good view of the Wishes fireworks show at Magic Kingdom.  Erin made a few raffle ticket draws and gave out prizes and soon the crowd dispersed to make their way home.


We all returned to our RV where Carol and I, Tom from New York, Masayo from Japan, Erin and the two Johns from New Jersey yakked over a steamy pot of coffee.  Erin gave Carol a spiffy custom-made messenger bag with the Fort Wilderness logo embroidered on it as a “thank you” for helping with the walk.  Thanks Erin!

 Masayo spent some time teaching the dogs Japanese.  Blue found it all very exhausting!

The group broke up at about 10:30.  I drove John, Tom and Masayo out to the parking lot to their cars and then went back to start on the day’s trip report.  I wasn’t able to complete it, my eyes were clanging shut.  I decided it could wait until morning.  I said “Sayonara” to the dogs and tottered off to bed!

Friday December 9, 2011


Once again we woke to the aroma of Timmie’s finest coffee.  Carol mentioned that our coffee stash is getting low . . . hope we don’t have to leave early because of a coffee crisis!


By 9:00 we were showered and ready for the day; the dogs were fed and walked and we headed the car toward Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  We were early for the 10:30 AllEars at Rosie’s All-American Café so Carol shopped her way up Hollywood Boulevard.  In one of the shops we met Georgie and her husband Joe who had been on the Alaska cruise with us last May.  We chatted with them for a few minutes before carrying on.  Carol sent a text to John, he replied that he and Tom were at Starring Rolls so we met them there.  Carol enjoyed a rather messy cherry turnover before we made our way down Sunset Boulevard to Rosie’s.

There was quite a group assembled at 9:55.  We stood around and chatted with a number of folks we hadn’t seen in a while.  We never lack for things to talk about.  Soon Deb got things underway; members of Team AllEars were handing out baseball caps, lip balm, trading cards and raffle tickets while Deb welcomed us.  Then she drew tickets for some prizes.  It was a very light agenda; today was more about mingling than anything else and that’s just what we did.  Carol was busy trading those coveted AllEars cards!  She has almost completed her set.

At 11:45 John, Tom, Carol and I headed off to Pixar Place and rode Toy Story Midway Mania.  Carol whupped me!  None of us had ridden the newly revamped Star Tours ride so we headed in that direction.  We were sidetracked briefly at the Great Movie Ride.  Our driver/host was really into his role.  He was highly animated and enthusiastic.  I suspect he drinks a lot of coffee.

We rode Star Tours and we all agreed it was terrific, much improved over the previous version.  Carol always suffered a bit after riding it so we seldom stopped there.  I think we’ll be riding regularly now.  Our first ride was so good that John, Tom and I rode again while Carol wandered off in search of the Great Potty Ride.  After the second tour in outer space we headed off to Min & Bill’s Dockside Diner for one of those tasty sausage in a bun Sandwiches.  Yum!


At 1:25 Carol and I headed to the parking lot and back to the campground to walk the dogs (code for “have a nap”).

Zak and Blue had an early dinner again today and after walking them we headed back to Disney Hollywood Studios.  We have been looking forward to the AllEars Dessert Party followed by a private viewing of the Osborne Spectacle of Dancing lights.  Our first stop was Mama Melrose Restaurant where we met up with John and Tom again at 5:45 p.m.  Dinner was terrific; we all ordered different dishes and no one was disappointed.

After dinner Carol and Tom went off to the big hat to look at Mickey Ear hats while John and I rode Star Tours one more time.  We had a different sequence again, the best one so far!


We met up with Tom and Carol at the hat and made our way to the Animation Building for the dessert party.  We spent about an hour and a half chatting and enjoying the dessert tables.  Mickey and Minnie were there posing for photos with everyone.  It was a pleasant time to mix and mingle before we were ushered over to the Streets of America for our private time with the Osborne Lights. 

WOW!  This area is usually choked with 5,000 to 10,000 people each evening.  Tonight there were fewer than 150 of us.  It was amazingly quiet and private . . . except for the rousing music and the garish lights that is!

What an amazing photo opportunity!  We had about 30 minutes to wander and snap pictures before we were escorted out of the park.  We were back to the campground shortly after 10:30 and lights out soon followed.

Saturday December 10, 2011


Ouch – it was an early day!  Ouch – it was a long day!  But it was a good day!  We had set the alarm for 6:30 a.m. to be sure we were up in time but we both woke early and we were up by 6:15.  After tending to the dogs and enjoying a cup of coffee we went in separate directions.  John and Erin picked me up at 7:30 and we headed to Animal Kingdom for the AllEars photowalk led by Barrie Brewer and Scott Thomas.  We were there in good time for the 8:00 a.m. opening.  Ooops . . . no Extra Magic Hours today, the park opens at 9:00.  So we had a coffee and spent some time socializing before the park opened.



Carol drove over to Disney’s Hollywood Studios to pick up the new animation cel being released today.  She was there at the 9:00 a.m. rope drop and went directly to the Animation Gallery Store.  There was no one else there – no line.  The artists weren’t arriving until 10:00 a.m. and she decided not to wait.  She bought her three-way cel and then checked the BAH (Big A$$ed Hat) for new pins before returning to the car and driving back to the Fort.


Meanwhile, back at Animal Kingdom we had all picked up a FastPass for Kilimanjaro Safaris and started our walking tour through the Pangani Trail.  The objective was to take picture, lots and lots of pictures.  The animals co-operated and I took plenty of shots.


After our Pangani hike we reassembled near the FastPass entrance to Kilimanjaro Safaris and soon entered the attraction.  We found, to our dismay, that we could not drop the four scooters in the stroller area as we planned.  The four scooter riders had to go through the handicapped entrance while the other 60 or 70 members of our group boarded other trucks.  It was a shame that we couldn’t ride with our friends.  Soon our ride was underway and we were bouncing through Africa snapping pictures of the wildlife.  The animals co-operated but the driver didn’t.  Almost every time I had a shot line up he hit the gas and off we bounced.  I got a few good shots and plenty of blurry ones!  The cheetahs were out close to the road; I framed a great close-up shot and as I pressed the shutter release – ker-bounce!  Dang!

By 11:15 our safari was over and John and I raced back to Fort Wilderness.  He had to let his dogs out and I had to meet Carol and head to Kidani Village.  We were supposed to be there by 12:00 noon and I was late!



AllEars was hosting an open-house at one of the luxury suites in Kidani Villiage and Deb had asked Carol to run a pin trading board during the event.  We took along a cork board and easel and Deb Wills provided some wonderful pins.  We scrambled to get set up and were just pushing the last pin into the cork board as the guests started to arrive at 1:00 p.m.  There were three groups of guests, they came for one-hour visits; the 1:00 p.m. group was replaced by some fresh faces at 2:00 p.m. and then the last group arrived at 3:00 p.m.   There were avid pin traders, occasional pin traders and some folks who had never traded before.  We even had one visitor who made her first pin trade ever!


When time permitted we took turns touring the suite.  It was magnificent; three bedrooms, and two baths.  Two bedrooms and a loft/lounge upstairs with one bedroom and the kitchen, living room and dining room downstairs.  The two-story windows provide an impressive vista of the savannah below.  There were giraffe, zebra, ankole cattle, wildebeest, crowned cranes and a variety of other animals roaming the savannah.  Wow!  The AllEars team were busy, they kept the tables stocked with delicious goodies and there were special tours available as well.  Jack Spence led tours around the property pointing out items and details of interest while Steve Barrett led Hidden Mickey seekers on tours to locate the hidden icons.  Erin operated an AllEars Trading Card table in the upstairs lounge.  It was just a wonderful afternoon enjoyed by hundreds of AllEars fans.


Kris makes her first pin trade!

A convenient scratching post!

When the event ended at 4:00 we quickly removed the pins from the board, packed everything up and headed back to the campground.  We wanted to spend some time with Zak and Blue before heading off to our 6:30 dinner at Sanaa, the highly rated dining room at Kidani Village.  Soon the dogs were fed and walked and by 6:00 we were back at Kidani.  Carol and I were having a drink in the lounge when John and Tom joined us.  Soon the other John, along with Erin and Masayo joined us and off we went for dinner.  This was our first time at Sanaa which serves a fusion of African and Indian cuisine.  It was great.  We’ll be going back to Sanaa.  Masayo had to dash off immediately after dinner to join another group at Universal Studios but the remaining six of us decided to share desserts.  There were six desserts on the menu and the waiter thought we were joking when we asked for one of each, but that’s what we wanted.  We sampled and tasted them all and they were all delicious.  It was only 8:45 when we finished so we debated what to do next and suddenly John said, “You have scotch, let’s go to your place!”  Sounded good to me, so off we went.  We yakked in the RV and savored a fine highland beverage for a few minutes and then wandered down to the beach.  We watched the 9:45 Electric Water Pageant which was quickly followed by the 10:00 p.m. Wishes fireworks show.  Magnificent!


We went back to the RV, sat and yawned at each other for a while and the gang all headed home by about 10:30.  What a great day!


I sat for a few minutes trying to write a bit about the day for this trip report but sleep quickly overtook me.  Sorry Scott and Judy, but this one will be late too!  Off to bed I went!

Sunday December 11, 2011


It was a more leisurely start today; Blue woke us up at 7:00 a.m.   Carol took the dogs out and then fed them while I finished up the update on the trip report.  Once Carol had proofread the day’s entry it was all set to go.  She does her best to keep my hyperbole and embellishment under control.  I never lie about things but I do like to add some drama occasionally.

By 9:00 a.m. the report was uploaded, the dogs were fed and walked, we were both showered and ready to go.  We left shortly after 9:00 on our way to EPCOT to see and hear Don “Ducky” Williams at the Odyssey Building.  It was a private function arranged by AllEars for about 150 of us.  It was very entertaining.  Ducky has been an Illustrator at Walt Disney World for 32 years and the story of how he landed his dream job is a real adventure.  It’s a story of dedication and determination which had us all laughing and cheering.  While Ducky told his story he drew 21 Disney characters and then concluded his presentation by raffling them all off to lucky members of our group.  Alas, we weren’t lucky today, but it was a delight to see and hear Ducky again.

JohnnyBlack directs traffic!

A Japanese bear had a bit too much sake . . .

We had a light lunch in the Odyssey Building and then I headed back to the campground to spend some time with the dogs (you know what that means) while Carol headed to France to participate in the “Around the World Chocolate Challenge” with Masayo.  It’s not that I drew the short straw, but I don’t like chocolate and she does.  Since I value my life I deferred and let her go on the chocolate trek. 

Carol teamed up with Masayo, John and Tom, each team was given a list of questions based on the chocolate found in three different countries.  The countries were divided into groups of three.  Her group lucked out, they drew a sheet that covered Canada, UK and Japan. Between her and Masayo they were able to answer all the questions without even visiting the countries!  Helps to have a Canadian and a Japanese team member, the guys just stood back and watched.

After the Chocolate trek Carol, John, Tom and Barrie headed over to France to watch the movie.  Since there was a 15 minute wait they decided to find a table and chairs inside the pavilion and have a rest.  John disappeared for a few minutes and returned with a box of pastries from the French Bakery. Everyone grabbed a fork and the pastries were soon gone.  That took  more than the 15 minutes so they decided to walk over to The Land.  Barrie and Tom rode Soarin’ while John and Carol sat on a bench and people watched.  They also watched as the big dark clouds started rolling in.  When Barrie and Tom came out of the Land they headed over to Spaceship Earth, by the time they exited it was pouring rain.  They made their way over to Le Cellier ducking into buildings along the way to try and keep dry.

The dogs were happy to see me and we had some quality time together (nudge, nudge, wink, wink).  The drumming of rain on the roof woke us at 3:15 but I managed to get them out for a walk between the showers.  I fed them at 4:30 and then took them for a nice walk behind the 800 loop; thunder was rumbling in the distance but we stayed dry.  Then it was time for me to head back to EPCOT and join Carol and a couple friends for dinner at Canada’s Le Cellier Steakhouse.  It’s one of our favourite restaurants.  There was drizzle as I entered the park and scootered back to Canada.  Carol, John and Tom were waiting when I wheeled in at about 5:45 a bit early for our 6:05 reservation. 


Carol checked us in and was informed that they were running about 30 minutes late.  We all sheltered from the rain which was steady by now and we were quite surprised when that called us in right on time!  Dinner was great; the steaks were all done just right and our server was bubbly, energetic and efficient.  John wanted to take her home as a pet but we didn’t think Cathy would understand!  This was Tom’s first time at Le Cellier and he really enjoyed it!

The rain had stopped when we emerged from the restaurant at 7:30 so we took a leisurely walk over to the American Adventure Pavilion where our group was assembling for our dessert party.  This was the grand finale of the AllEars “December to Remember” event.  The party was scheduled to be held in the private outdoor viewing area in front of Italy where we would have an excellent view of the Illuminations fireworks show.  Because of the menacing weather they moved the dessert party indoors to a nice lounge area on the second floor of the American Pavilion.  We had all checked in, gotten our wristbands and were queued up for our 8:45 entry when the skies opened up.  It poured!  Fortunately for most they opened the doors a bit early and everyone ran for the stairs and up to the second floor.  Less fortunately for some, the chairs could only go one or two at a time in the elevator.  I was seventh in line but Ray Sharpton, who was wearing a poncho, let me cut in front of him.  Thanks Ray!  By the time I got into the elevator I was drenched.  My hair was hanging in my eyes and my clothing was soaked, but it sure was nice to be there with friends!  There were about 100 of us.  We were even able to see the Candlelight Processional through the window.  It was impressive even though we couldn’t’ hear it!


We enjoyed a hot coffee, grazed at the dessert tables and chatted with friends and acquaintances while I dripped dry.  A few minutes before the 9:30 Illuminations show a guide led those who wanted to see the show outside to the private viewing area at Italy.  About half of us stayed behind to guard the desserts (LOL) and watched the show through the second story windows.


About 15 minutes after Illuminations we were told there was some “special magic” for us.  We were led outside in the closed and empty park where we met up with the group who watched from outside.  A pair of Disney guides led us through the deserted park to Soarin’ where we marched right in for a private ride.  Wow, how nice to be escorted in like royalty!


After the ride we stood in the foyer at Soarin’ saying our goodbyes to people we may not see for another year or more then made our way to the parking lot.  We were back at the campground at midnight.  Carol took some happy dogs out to do their business and we all fell into bed.  It was a great day but we were exhausted!  Tomorrow will be a slow and quiet day as we “unwind” from the last few days activities.  A special thanks to Deb Wills and everyone at Team AllEars for arranging such a wonderful event for us and all of our Disney playmates!

Monday December 12, 2011


This morning was very leisurely, I heard the coffee pot brewing but rolled over and dozed a bit more.  Blue woke us at 7:02 and reminded us it was breakfast time.  We puttered for a few hours; I updated the trip report and Carol prowled the Internet and walked Zak and Blue. 

She came back and told me, “Dave the Castle Guy is packing up to go home.”  Dang!  I had hoped to shoot a video of his castle tonight.  I headed down and spent a few minutes talking to him.  He pointed me to a video he made of last year’s show.  Here’s the daylight picture of the castle which I posted last week and below is the video -  Watch it to the end . . . it's spectacular!


Dave’s fist exposure to Fort Wilderness Christmas décor was when he camped here in December 2007.  He was simply blown away by the decorations he saw and when he went home he got straight to work.  Nine months later his castle was ready and he unveiled it at Fort Wilderness in December 2008.  He has refined it a bit each year since.  It is awesome and Dave is a great host.  Every sleigh ride and hay ride pauses for a few minutes to watch Dave’s show and he is almost always there to greet them.  Every child gets a glow stick and this year Dave has given out over 400 of them.  He is packing the display up today so he can have it set back up at his Titusville Florida home by Thursday.



Click on the arrow above to see a video of Dave's amazing castle!


John arrived at about 10:00 a.m.  His room mate Tom left this morning so poor Johnny is homeless.  We have taken him in until he flies home tomorrow.  We sat and talked for over an hour, reliving some of our experiences over the last few days, and a few incidents from some older adventures too!  Before long it was time to head off for lunch. 


We had arranged to meet Beci for an 11:45 lunch at the Captain’s Grille in the Yacht Club Resort.  None of us had eaten there before.  We had just been there a minute or two when we spotted Beci and were quickly seated in the restaurant.  We haven’t really had any time with Beci, she has been so busy coordinating simultaneous events for several Disney fan groups.  It keeps her very busy and I think she enjoyed a relatively quiet hour of relaxing with us.

Christmas Village and train at the Yacht Club Resort

Soon Beci had to rush off to another meeting and of course Carol had not been shopping yet.  John was driving so he took us to Downtown Disney.  I waited in the car while the two of them went to D Street.  They were back sooner than I expected and we decided to stop at Property Control check their inventory one last time before we leave.  There was a Baskin Robbins store not too far out of our way so we stopped for an ice cream and then wandered the aisles of the tacky tourist shop next door.  There was nothing terribly exciting at Property Control so we were back at Fort Wilderness by 3:00 p.m.


I had a short nap and Carol had a shorter one.  John set up his laptop and updated a few things then went outside where he sat in a lawn chair and soaked in some peace and tranquility.  John left at about 5:30; he was meeting his daughter Lizzie and her boyfriend for dinner at Boma.  Carol and I soon headed off to Sweet Tomatoes for dinner.  I really enjoy the lighter fare there, soup and fresh salad.


On our way back into the campground we stopped at the Meadows Trading Post where Carol picked up a Fort Wilderness bumper sticker and Christmas ornament.  We were back to the dogs by 8:00.  Santa had dropped by while we were gone, actually it was two Santas.  The doggie Santa had dropped off cookies for Zak and Blue and the people Santa had dropped off a package of Starbucks coffee for Carol and I.  Thanks to both Santas; sorry we missed you!


John arrived back at 10:00 and we took a spin around in the golf cart taking pictures of some of the decorations.  We were back by 11:15; John got some great shots and graciously shared them with me.  Here are a few samples; these are straight from his camera, there's been no enhancement.  The man is a magician!

Soon we were off to bed, pooped after a relaxed day!

Tuesday December 13, 2011

This morning I heard boat whistles but no chattering teeth.  We had been warm and comfy all night.  We enjoyed a pot of coffee and then headed to the dock where we boarded a boat to the Magic Kingdom.

We arrived just in time for rope drop at 9:00 a.m.  It’s been quite a while since we’ve seen the characters in the opening ceremony.  It’s good fun!


John and I wandered up Main Street taking pictures while Carol stopped at City Hall and bought some of the new Disney Dollars.  She joined us in the Bakery where we sat for a few minutes and had breakfast.  John and I each had the ham, egg and cheese on a croissant.  They were great!  Carol had a cherry danish and enjoyed it too.

Our next stop was Tomorrowland where we took a spin on Buzz Lightyear.  The ride stopped in the photo room while we were almost directly in front of Zurg.  Carol and John took advantage of the delay by snapping some pictures. Carol spotted a hidden Mickey we had never seen before.  It’s behind you when they snap your picture.

Next stop was the Tomorrowland Transit Authority.  We had the entire train of cars to ourselves; there was almost no one around and no lines.  We wandered toward Fantasyland and looked over the fence at the construction and then carried on to Snow White’s Scary Adventure.  After the Snow White ride we stopped at PhilharMagic, our favourite 3D movie and then rode Peter Pan.  We all really enjoy the old classic rides.

As we approached the Haunted Mansion John got a text message from Barrie, she and Masayo had finished breakfast at Kona Café and were on their way to meet us.  We carried on and rode, as we exited there were Barrie and Masayo.  John turned around and rode again with them while Carol and I waited.  The five of us carried on and rode Jungle Cruise and then Pirates of the Caribbean.  You can move quickly when the crowds are light!

John had to leave the campground by 1:30 to catch his flight home and the time had come to head toward the exit.  We stopped at Casey’s for a quick hot dog . . . it wasn’t so quick.  The service was horrible and it took about 15 minutes to get a simple hot dog.  We finished our hot dog and carried on down Main Street, pausing a few minutes to listen to the Dapper Dans.  Then it was quickly out of the park to the boat.  We watched our boat sail away as we approached the dock.  Dang . . . and we were in a hurry too!  As we waited for the next boat to arrive we were entertained by three cast members who arrived with coils of rope.  They were replacing the ropes between the posts in the queuing line.  It was hilarious; Curly, Larry and Moe could not have done it better!  The rope doesn’t fit here too long, let’s try over there, nope, too short.  I’ll give it to Larry – of course Larry tries it in exactly the same places – nope still doesn’t fit.  I’ll give it to Moe . . . Meanwhile Curly is trying some different ropes . . . you get the picture.  We actually started to give them a tongue in cheek play-by-play description as they worked.  By the time they gave up on the ropes about a third of the posts were connected.  The only thing which could have made it funnier would have been one of them falling in the water.


We chuckled the entire ten minutes until the next boat arrived and away we went.  We arrived at the RV about 1:40 and John put of some warmer clothes, gathered his things and drove off to the airport after we said our goodbyes.

Carol and I spent the rest of the afternoon tearing down and packing away all the Christmas decorations.  It’s almost time to go home and we wanted to get it done while things are dry.  It’s not nearly as much fun taking it down as it is putting it up . . . and it’s doubly depressing since it means we’ll soon be leaving.


We finished packing things away just before 5:00 and rested for a few minutes before heading to the Polynesian Resort for our 5:45 reservation at Kona Café.  There was almost no line for ‘Ohana check-in so Carol tried to get us a table.  No such luck, the couple in front of her got the last table.  So we went to Kona and really enjoyed our meal.  On our way back home Carol ran into the shop at the Beach Club looking for the latest D23 magazine.  No luck there either.  She’ll have to keep looking.


Back at the camp site we spent a few minutes with the dogs before hopping on the golf cart and heading to the hot tub.  Aaahhhh!  The soak was very soothing.  After easing our aches and pains we took the cart on a tour of some of the camping loops.  There are more and more decorations appearing every day!


We were back home by 9:45 and settled in for some TV and an early night to bed.

Wednesday December 14, 2011


Our last day at Disney!  At 5:30 Blue let out a howl!  Something must have startled him and then he startled us!  But the little guy must have felt a bit guilty so he let us sleep until 7:30.


We went in separate directions this morning.  After breakfast in the RV I went looking for car repairs and Carol went to the Magic Kingdom.  Last night when I was rolling down the power window in the Saturn it went click click click BANG, fell out of sight and would not close.  We may hit rain, ice and snow on the trip home so I don’t want to tow it with an open window.  Off I went to Kissimmee to find Able Auto Glass who I had found on the Internet.  They were about 15 miles away on the eastern side of Kissimmee.  I found the street they were on (one block long) and I drove the length of the street several times looking for their sign.  There were no businesses at all, just homes.  Then I saw one of those tiny little mail delivery truck go past the end of the street.  I raced over to the next block and caught the mailman.  He said, “Oh yeah, that’s house number 1005.  He works out of his garage.”  Uh-oh!  Not a good sign.  So I go back to 1005 and the garage is closed, no sign of life.  Uh-oh!  Not a good sign.  I rand the bell on the house and a man came around the side of the house.  Sure enough, he was Able Auto Glass.  He runs a mobile business; he goes to the job site.  I was actually quite lucky to find him home.  He backed his truck out of the garage and I pulled the Saturn in.  He was done in about 30 minutes.  He didn’t have the part to repair the window and I didn’t have time to wait until one arrived so he got the window closed where it will stay until we get home.  He charged me a mere $20.00 and I was happily on my way!


Meanwhile, Carol boarded the boat shortly after I left and spent the morning at the Magic Kingdom. 

She visited Exposition Hall and had a picture taken with Mickey then scoured the shops on Main Street.  She took pictures all along the way.  It was a bright sunny morning with a glorious blue sky and she got some great shots.  She turned right at The Hub and wandered over past the Teacups and then through Fantasyland.  She poked around the new entry to Winnie the Pooh’s ride and played with the interactive features but didn’t take time to ride the attraction.  Her trek took her on through Liberty Square, Frontierland and Adventureland.  Her bum knee was sore so she headed for the exit and boarded the boat back to Fort Wilderness at 11:30.  She arrived back at the campsite just minutes after I had pulled in.

We took a few minutes to pack away some more things in the basement of the RV (that’s what we call the big hatches underneath), hang the bikes on the bike rack, dump our holding tanks and retract the patio awning.  We’re now pretty much ready to pull out tomorrow, just unhook the utilities and drive off!


At 1:00 p.m. we headed off to Downtown Disney for lunch at the Earl of Sandwich.  Great as always!  Back at the campground we made a quick change and headed to the pool and hot tub for a soothing soak.  Carol basked in the sun while I read my book and at about 3:30 we headed back for some quality time with the dogs (nudge, nudge, wink, wink). 

At about 4:30 we loaded the puppies on the golf cart and took them to the doggie park.  Blue had a good run today.  John and Erin were there with their three dogs, Rico, Elfie and Daytona.  Blue must have run 10 miles chasing his ball.

For our last dinner we drove the golf cart over to Trail’s End Buffet here in the campground.  It’s one of Disney’s undiscovered gems.  A terrific all-you-can-eat buffet with fried chicken, ribs, pork loin, broiled salmon, pasta, a baked potato bar  along with plenty of sides, salads and desserts.  It’s all delicious and it’s only $22.99 a person.

After dinner we spent some more time “looping”, driving around looking at all the Christmas decorations.  There are new people arriving every day and more and more decorations al the time.  The decorations should hit their peak about Sunday, just as we’re arriving home!


We were back at the campsite before 8:00 and Carol took a load of whites over to the laundry in the nearby comfort station while I wrote a bit about our days activities.  Bed will come early tonight; we have a big day ahead tomorrow.

Thursday December 15, 2011


Blue “woofed” us awake at 5:30 a.m. again.  The man in the next campsite is commuting to work in Tampa and Carol suspects that Blue may be hearing him leave.  In any case, we both immediately “shushed” Blue, making a lot more noise than he had.


We were up by 7:00 and had a shower then a bite of toast.  I unhooked the utilities and we pulled out of the campsite.  Carol followed me in the car to the special “hook-up” lane near the exit and we hitched the car to the back of the RV.  We left Fort Wilderness at 8:30.


It’s always a bittersweet feeling to leave the Fort.  As much as we are looking forward to getting home and enjoying Christmas with family and friends, we just hate to leave.  Carol has a list of things we didn’t get done, we were just so busy having fun with friends that there wasn’t time to do it all.  Guess we’ll have to come back!


Skies were clear and traffic was light.  Aside from about 10 minutes of stop-and-go congestion as we drove on I-4 through downtown Orlando at 9:00 a.m. there were no tie-ups or slowdowns.  We didn’t see a single accident all day.  By 9:45 we left I-4 and headed north on I-95 making good time.  We pulled off briefly near St. Augustine so the driver could stretch his legs and were soon underway again.


We crossed the Florida/Georgia State Line just before noon and stopped to walk the dogs and have a Cracker Barrel lunch just south of Brunswick GA.   We gassed up at FlyingJ and were back on the road by 1:30.


Once again traffic was light and the miles rolled by.  We crossed into South Carolina at about 2:45 and pulled off at exit 53 an hour later.


New Green Acres is pretty much always our first stop on the way home.  It’s very easy to get into from the highway and equally easy to get out of and back on the highway in the morning.  The campsites are all “pull-throughs” and are all very spacious.  Tall pines shade all of the grassed sites.  It’s quite pretty.

Carol refused to take any pictures all day and she gets really cranky when I take one while I’m driving so I made sure to take the camera when I checked in at Green Acres.  Here is a picture of the campground mascot, Arnold Ziffle.  Everyone sing along with me:


Green Acres is the place for me.

Farm livin' is the life for me.

Land spreadin' out so far and wide

Keep Manhattan, just give me that countryside.


New York is where I'd rather stay.

I get allergic smelling hay.

I just adore a penthouse view.

Dah-ling I love you but give me Park Avenue.


...The chores.

...The stores.

...Fresh air.

...Times Square


You are my wife.

Good bye, city life.

Green Acres we are there.

 We were hooked up and settled at New Green Acres Campground by 4:00 and we were napping by 4:30.  Blue woke us up at 5:30 p.m. . . . “Ahem, I believe it’s time the dogs were fed,” he woofed!  When the puppies had been fed and walked we headed out for dinner.  Ruby Tuesday is just across the Interstate from us and I really enjoy the salad bar there.  Carol had ribs and I had a seafood trio.


We were back from dinner at 7:30; I re-hitched the car and we settled in for an evening of TV.  Tomorrow we cover 323 miles to our planned stop in Wytheville Virginia.

Friday December 16, 2011


We slept until 7:00 a.m.  We both savored a cup of coffee then Carol fed and walked the dogs while I had a bite of toast.  She raised the jacks, ran in the slides and battened down the interior of the RV while I disconnected the utilities.  We pulled out of the campsite at 8:07 and were northbound on I-95 by 8:10.


Skies were clear and bright and traffic was light.  We made good time.  We soon left I-95 and took I-26 northwest for about an hour to Columbia South Carolina.  At Columbia we turned on to I-77 northbound and made a short stop at a rest area to walk the dogs and the Dad.

We crossed into North Carolina at 11:11 a.m. under cloudy skies with occasional drizzle.  Soon we were into the heartland of NASCAR.  The area around Lake Norman, Mooresville and Statesville is like Mecca for NASCAR fans.  There is a racing Hall of Fame and many of the NASCAR teams have their garages and machine shops there.  Many of the drivers and mechanics live along the shores of beautiful Lake Norman.  At noon we pulled off at Mooresville for a bite of lunch.  Big mistake!  Traffic was thick and barely moving.  We crept along in bumper to bumper traffic for about a mile and didn’t see a restaurant we could get the big rig turned around in so I pulled into a shopping mall, turned around and headed back to the highway.

We continued north on I-77 for a few miles and pulled off at a rest area to make a sandwich for lunch.  Carol put all the fixin’s on the table and said, “Dang, the buns are stale and the bread’s frozen.”  “No problem,” I replied, “I’ll turn on the generator and we can toast the bread.”  So I turned on the generator – Ooops, no power.  There’s a circuit breaker on the “genny” so I went out to reset it.  Problem, we are parked beside a 10” curb.  When I raise the hatch for the “genny” the clearance is so tight I would have to lie on my back to remove the cover and trip the reset switch.  My poopy knees won’t allow that so I nixed the toaster plan.  Carol put the fixin’s all away and we hit the highway again.  A few miles north we pulled off at Troutman and find a Wendy’s right beside a truck stop.  Ooops – nothing is going right today!  If we park at the truck stop we’re blocking access to the diesel pumps – Oh, look, across the road is a Lowes directly behind a McDonalds.  We pulled into the Lowes lot and parked as close to Rotten Ronnie’s as we could get.  After sampling some of Ronnie’s finest cuisine (not our favourite) we wandered over to Lowes.  Carol has been looking for a lighted banner to replace the burnt out one we usually hang over our garage door.  No luck, they have nothing like it.

It was drizzling when we went into Lowes; it was raining steadily when we left.  It rained all afternoon.  Within an hour we crossed into Virginia and began that big climb up the seven-mile incline into the Blue Ridge Mountains.  There are some amazing views as you climb the slope but today, for the third time in a row, the weather impaired our view.

That seven-mile hill . . .

The view from that seven-mile hill . . .

We reached our destination, the KOA campground at Wytheville Virginia at 2:45 and were all set up by 3:15.  The rain eased up enough that we got the dogs out for a brief walk and then we settled in for a well earned nap.


Carol fed the dogs and took them out in the rain to do their business.  By 5:45 we were in the car and off to dinner.  We stopped at Appleby’s where Carol had three-cheese penne with chicken and I had a nice oriental salad with chicken.  After dinner Carol picked up a few groceries to take home with us while I waited in the car with my e-reader.  We were back to the campground by 7:30 and settled in for a night of TV with the dogs.  It’s still raining!  Yuck!

Saturday December 17, 2011


We got off to a quick start today.  Blue arrived on the bed at 6:50 to request his breakfast.  After a quick bite of toast and a shower we were ready.  We pulled out of the campground at 8:00 and were northbound on I-81 by 8:10.  The rain had stopped overnight, the roads were dry and the skies were clear.  We made good time.  We made one quick stop (for the driver’s sake) at Staunton Virginia and were quickly back on the road.

We spent most of the day travelling through the beautiful Shenandoah Valley.  Unfortunately, all the leaves are down and it looks pretty drab this time of year.  It doesn’t help that we have travelled up and down this stretch of highway so many times . . . there really isn’t much new for us to see.  Carol really gets frustrated on the way home; she just wants to get there!  I did my best to keep her amused today; I pointed out plenty of interesting points of interest along the way.  Unfortunately none of them even registered on her give-a-crap-ometer.

She played on the laptop, following Facebook and keeping up with her friends.  Once in a while she would read a magazine for a few minutes and occasionally she dozed off.

She did complete one big project in the morning.  She logged in to her online database of Disney pins, then moved the laptop from the table in front of her chair and put it on the dash.  She spread her new pins on the table and checked them against the database of pins she already has.  The duplicates went into her bag of “trader pins”.  This big project took well over an hour.

At 12:15 we left Virginia behind and entered West Virginia where we stopped at the Welcome Centre for lunch.  Carol walked the dogs and I reset the circuit breaker on the generator.  Voila – the genny started cranking out power and we were able to use the toaster for our sandwiches.  We were in and out of the Welcome Centre quickly and soon put West Virginia in the rear view mirror as we entered Maryland.  After a mere twelve miles in Maryland we crossed the Mason Dixon Line into Pennsylvania at 1:15 p.m.


We pulled into our home for the night, Harrisburg East Campground, in light snow flurries, at 3:00 and I got right to work winterizing the RV.  The first step was to dump and thoroughly rinse the holding tanks.  I waited while Carol cleaned the shower, sinks and toilet and then I drained the water heater and the fresh water holding tank.  The last step was to fill all the water lines with special non-toxic anti-freeze.  The winterizing was done by 4:00 and I went to the comfort station to clean up . . . no more washing in the RV!


Carol was busy cleaning and vacuuming the motor home so I took the dogs out and gave them a nice long run as they chased the ball.  By 4:30 I was playing at the computer and warming up while Carol fed the dogs.

I know what’s probably going through your mind, “Hmmm, Carol hasn’t done any shopping and Gary hasn’t had a nap.  I wonder what happens next!”  We went shopping.  I tramped around Target with her and then I waited in the car while she scoured the aisles at J.C. Penney.  No nap for me today!


After the shopping was done we drove back across the Susquehanna River to Mechanicsburg and had dinner at Carrabbas Italian Grille.  We really enjoyed it when we ate there in Florida and it was just as good tonight.  The place was jammed when we arrived and the hostess told there would be a 40 minute wait, unless we wanted to sit on stools overlooking the grill.  We agreed . . . and it was very interesting.  Those folks in the kitchen really hustle!  It entertained us as we waited for our meal and we had a greater appreciation of how it’s prepared when it arrived.  It was great!


We were back to the campground by 8:00 and settled in for a quiet evening with the dogs.  Tomorrow is our longest driving day, 382 miles, and we will finally be home!

Sunday December 18, 2011


There was nothing on TV last night and we had no nap so we hit the hay early.  It was lights-out at 10:00 p.m.  So things got a bit turned around this morning.  We woke Blue up at 6:00 a.m.  Carol had to manually turn on the coffee pot which normally acts as Blue’s alarm clock.


We enjoyed a cup of coffee and then we scurried to get underway.  It took a bit longer of course, since we were winterized and had no running water.  We had to head to the comfort station for our showers and other ablutions.   The disconnect was quick, just unplug the electric cable and we were away. 


We pulled out at 7:25 and resumed our northbound trek on I-81.  There was a dusting of snow but the roads were clear, skies were bright and Sunday morning traffic was very light.  We made excellent time.  At 9:30 we pulled off at Clark’s Landing, a quick relief and coffee stop for the driver, and soon got back on the road. 


We were planning to fuel up at the FlyingJ Truck Stop at New Milford PA but the tank was getting frighteningly low before we got there.  I estimated that we would make it there with about 5 gallons to spare, but with the mountainous terrain we were crossing the margin for error was high.  I knew that if we did run out I could simply un-hook the car and go get some gas, but there would be an “I told you so!” of epic proportions.  It would probably knock the Golden Anchor Bed & Breakfast into second place.  It was potentially a mistake I could be hearing about for decades . . . so I stopped 40 miles short of the FlyingJ and put in 15 gallons.   We made it to the FlyingJ at 10:30 and filled up both gasoline and propane.  Turns out we would have had about 4 gallons of gas to spare, but better to be safe than sorry.  I sure don’t need another “I told you so!”


We continued to make good progress in light traffic and crossed the Pennsylvania/New York state line at 11:11 a.m.  Our next stop was Cicero NY where we had a quick bite of lunch at Panero Breads.  I waited in the RV with the dogs while Carol went in to WalMart and picked up a 22 pound Butterball turkey for $1.17 per pound.  That’s a real bargain compared to Canadian prices.


We pulled up to the Canadian border at 3:30 and there were only about 10 cars in line ahead of us.  The Customs Officer asked about three questions and said, “Have a good day!”  We pulled up in front of our home at 4:00 p.m. and had the RV fully unpacked by 4:45.


Aahhh . . . it’s nice to be home – but why does it have to be so cold?  Brrrr!


Here's a little video which shows what Christmas is like at Walt Disney World.

Click on the arrow to watch the video.

For the statisticians in the crowd, on our southbound trip we drove:

  1.   28.5 miles in our home Province of Ontario

  2. 183.9 miles in New York

  3. 244.9 miles in Pennsylvania

  4.   12.0 miles in Maryland

  5.   26.0 miles in West Virginia

  6. 285.3 miles in Virginia

  7. 105.7 miles in North Carolina

  8. 236.1 miles in South Carolina

  9. 112.2 miles in Georgia

  10. 203.8 miles in Florida

Just reverse that to see our trip home.  We covered a total of 2,886 miles.