Friday November 22, 2013


This trip got off to an odd start.  The dogs and I boarded the motor home at 6:45 a.m. and took off with the car in tow.  Carol followed along behind in our other car.  The dogs were very confused!


Carol’s father is having surgery on December 10th and she will fly north that day to be home while he recovers.  She dropped the car off at the Syracuse New York airport and then joined me and the dogs in the motor home for the rest of the trip.


We arrived at the border at 7:15 and there was no line at all.  Carol drove directly in to the Nexus line to try out her brand new “Trusted-Traveler” ID card.  We both applied and passed all the FBI and RCMP security checks so we can be “fast-tracked” at the border.  Carol’s card arrived on Wednesday but mine has not shown up yet.  Her card worked like a charm – she only answered two questions – “Where are you going?” and “When will you be back?”   I went through a regular line in the RV with no wait at all.  Quick and painless as well, by 7:20 we were southbound on I-81.

It was a dismal drizzly day but we made good time in light traffic.  We arrived at the airport at 8:45 and after Carol parked the car we stopped for a tiny bit of gas.  I added $60.00 worth – just enough to get us to the FlyingJ truck stop in northern Pennsylvania.


The misty rain continued all morning.  Fortunately the rain didn’t slow us down – unfortunately it really messed up Carol’s sparking-clean car!

By 11:00 we had crossed the Pennsylvania State Line and pulled into the truck stop.  Carol walked the dogs while I fueled up.  This time it was a complete fill-up - $193.00.  It stings when I fill it up, but the US price I paid today equals 85.6¢ per liter, much better than the $1.239 we currently pay at home.


We pulled off in a rest area for a quick sandwich and were back on the road in no time.  The dogs had already settled into their travel routine.  Blue laid on the couch facing the rear of the coach – he doesn’t like to face forward and he won’t relax if we try to turn him around.  Zak stretches out on the floor at Carol’s feet and sleeps the trip away.  He occasionally rolls over on his back to have his belly rubbed, but other than that he sleeps!

We pulled into the campground at 2:15 and by 2:35 the tow car was unhooked, we were plugged into electrical power, the slide rooms were extended and the stabilizer jacks were down.  What to do now?  Hey . . . why don’t we go shopping.  I grabbed my book and off we went.  On our way to the stores we stopped at a nearby motel and booked a room for Carol's parents when they join us on a Disney trip next February.  They're getting pretty excited about their "road trip" - now it's only 80 days away.


I read in the car while she scoured the nearby Christmas Tree Shop.  Before long I moved on and read outside JC Penny and then wrapped up my retail therapy by reading outside the Target store.  It was a nice rest!


Carol fed and walked the dogs before we struck out for dinner.  We were heading to Macaroni Grill to meet friends Mike and Ann who live across the river in Camp Hill.  Wow, traffic was a mess.  The ramp we use to enter I-83 just a few blocks from the campground was the scene of a nasty accident.  One car, with most of the front end missing, was blocking part of the road we were on and the other car was standing up on the driver’s side, blocking the ramp we needed.  We had to detour and barely made it to the restaurant on time.  We had a leisurely two-hour dinner and enjoyed catching up with Mike and Ann.  As we left they gave us a nice little parting gift, a box full of Ann’s home-made sticky buns!  Yum!


Carol decided to humor me – she suggested that I stop at Harbor Freight Tools to see if they had anything I needed.  Seems that she had an ulterior motive though . . . just seconds after we entered the tool store she told me she was heading to the Dollar Store next door.


We were back with the dogs by 9:00 and I hooked up the tow car while Carol took the dogs out.  We settled in with the puppies for the night.


Tomorrow is a long day behind the wheel, we will travel 451 miles on our way to Statesville North Carolina.

Saturday November 23, 2013


It was another early morning.  We were both awake at 5:30 so we had a leisurely pot of coffee and I tossed back a bowl of cereal before we pulled up stakes.  We were on the road by 6:45, crossed the Susquehanna River on Interstate 83 and merged back onto I-81 before 7:00 a.m.  Traffic was light and the sky was clear and sunny - a very nice change after such a dreary day yesterday. 


Driving was mostly a pleasure today.  Well, it was a pleasure for me . . . for Carol – not so much.  I really enjoy travelling in this big beast but Carol merely tolerates it because there’s a wonderful campground at the end of the trip.  We both really enjoy spending time at Fort Wilderness.

This is the day where we spend most of our travel time in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley with rows and rows of mountains on either side.  The states roll past quickly; within the span of a single hour we pass from Pennsylvania into Maryland, then West Virginia and finally Virginia – all within an hour.  We arrived in Virginia at 8:30 and stopped at the FlyingJ truck stop for fuel and more coffee!  We savored some of Ann’s delicious sticky buns with the coffee.  Thanks again, they’re great!

We pulled off at about 10:00 at a rest area to walk the dogs and stretch our legs.  We were back on the road in just a few minutes and ate up more miles on our southbound journey. 


Lunch time soon rolled around so we pulled off at a rest area – dang – it was full.  There wasn’t a single parking spot we could fit into.  We headed back out on the interstate and tried again at the next rest area, about 25 miles further down the road.  Carol fired up the on-board generator so she could use the microwave to nuke the leftovers from her dinner at Macaroni Grill the night before.  I commented that it must have been good because I very seldom see her eat leftovers.  I was very surprised last night when she asked for a box.  Her chicken cacciatore was excellent.  The dish cost about $17.99 and it was enough to fill her up last night and then give us both a delicious and filling lunch today.  Dessert?  Sticky buns of course!


After lunch we walked the dogs again and were back on the road by 1:00 p.m. with only 120 miles to go.  We were making great time but there was one little drawback.  We were approaching that big hill that Carol hates.  I just love the view and today was perfect for it, a clear sky and sunshine!  Carol sees it differently though – for her it’s no pleasure trip.  Today she was a bit more relaxed though . . . we got all the way down and she didn’t scold me once about my speed.  Not once!  That’s never happened before!

Zak is a veteran traveler.  He just stretches out on his little mattress at Carol’s feet and sleeps the entire trip away! 

Blue – well, he’s a bit more like Carol – he does his best to tolerate travel in the RV.

We reached the bottom of the 7 mile hill and entered North Carolina at 2:00 p.m. and arrived at our campground in Statesville at 3:00 p.m.  We have a nice, level campsite, long enough to accommodate us with the tow car connected and we’re well away from the highway.  It’s very quiet and we should sleep well tonight!

We took the dogs to the off-leash pet area in the campground and Zak nosed around the perimeter sniffing everything while Blue ran and ran chasing his ball.  He’s always full of energy and he really needed the exercise.  Carol needed some groceries so we fed the dogs a bit before their normal 5:00 dinner time and hopped in the car.  First stop was K-Mart where I read while she picked up a few items.  Next stop was the grocery store next door . . . I read some more.  We decided to try the Chinese Buffet restaurant nestled between the K-Mart and the grocery store.  Here’s a tip for you . . . if you stop at a restaurant right beside a K-Mart and they offer an all-you-can-eat buffet for $7.99 you should not expect gourmet fare!  It was edible and adequate, it filled the void, but it was no treat.


We both took a quick lap through J.R.s – it’s almost a “must-do” for us when we’re in Statesville.  J.R.’s is a huge clearance centre and there’s always a lot of junk but sometimes a good bargain.  You never know what you’ll find.  Tonight was a bust – nothing interesting!


We were back with the dogs by 8:00 and enjoyed a quiet evening.

Sunday November 24, 2013


Carol was up again at 5:30 . . . but I slept in . . . until 5:40.  Rats!


We were slow to get moving and pulled out of the campground at 7:00 a.m.

Carol picked up her camera as we rolled along and snapped a few pictures including this one of me behind the wheel.  Check out the little monitor to my right.  That’s the display from the “back-up camera” which looks out over the rear of the coach.  That camera gives us our only look at the car we tow.  The car simply doesn’t show up in the mirrors.

Here’s a closer look at the view from the rear camera.  It’s a bit fuzzy but you can see the car, the bikes hanging off the rear ladder and the “car-guard” which is essentially a tough vinyl fabric which stretches over the tow bar to protect the car from stone chips and any other road debris.  I check that monitor every few minutes to make sure our little Ford Focus is still tailgating us!

By 7:55 we had covered the last 50 miles in North Carolina and crossed the state line into South Carolina.  Once again we had a sunny sky and virtually no traffic early on Sunday morning.  We took Interstate 77 through Charlotte and stopped at the FlyingJ truck stop in Rock Hill to top up on both gasoline and propane.  The propane feeds the furnace which keeps us warm at night and also operates the refrigerator during the day when we are not plugged into conventional electric power.


 Soon we were back on I-77 which skirts around the south-east edge of Columbia, the state capital, and ends at Interstate 26. 

We followed I-26 east for 85 miles, stopped in the middle at a rest area to walk the dogs, and merged onto southbound I-95 at 10:50.

We made a quick stop at Walterboro South Carolina and booked a motel room for Carol’s parents in February then returned to the highway.  We had a sandwich lunch in a rest area before we crossed the Georgia state line at 12:55.  This was when Carol decided that she would change our minds.  Since we were making good time, why not carry on to St. Augustine Florida rather than spend the night in Brunswick Georgia.  Sounded good to me!

We got back on I-95 and by about 2:25 we had covered the 90 miles to Brunswick where we pulled off to take advantage of a handy truck-wash just off the highway.  For $64.00 they thoroughly wash both the motor home and the car, then rinse both off with RainX so they stay shiny for days.  Both vehicles really needed the wash after that drizzly start we had on Friday.  Hopefully we can avoid any more rain until we get settled at Fort Wilderness tomorrow!

We carried on southbound and crossed the Florida state line at 3:10.  Naturally we had to stop at the Florida Welcome Centre to “wet our beaks” with some Florida orange juice.

They have a new machine which lets you take a picture like this one and e-mail it home.  Cute!

We dashed the last leg down I-95 through the heart of downtown Jacksonville.  Thankfully traffic was very light on Sunday - the highway in the southern part of the city is still under construction and we bounced and rocked quite a bit.  I don’t want to do that in heavy traffic!  We will be sure to take the eastern beltway the next time we pass through; it will be a Thursday in February.


We pulled off in St. Augustine at 4:30.  Naturally Carol had to visit the Character Outlet store so I waited in the RV with the dogs.  Surprise!  She wasn’t long.  We arrived at our campground just a few miles north of the city at 5:15 and were all checked in by 5:30.  We have a nice “pull-through” site so I could drive right in without unhooking the car first.  Bonus!


There was a strong onshore wind and huge breakers crashing on the beach.  No romp on the beach for the dogs today!


We were all hooked up by 6:00 p.m. – the holding tanks were dumped and flushed, the car was unhitched, the dogs were fed and walked and it was time for dinner.


We had a very nice dinner at Red Lobster then stopped quickly at Walgreens where Carol picked up a few small items and a quart of milk.  We were back with the puppies shortly after 8:00 and settled in for a quiet night.  Bed time will come early after a long day on the road.  A long day on the road and the gentle roar of that crashing surf in the background have made us very sleepy.


Good news – we’re only 130 miles from out final destination.  Yippee!

Monday November 25, 2013


Once again we were both awake well before dawn.  Today we laid there, listening to the soothing sound of the surf crashing on the nearby Atlantic beach.  Alas, it wasn’t soothing enough to put us back to sleep so we got up and wasted some time while we waited to pull up stakes and head to Walt Disney World. 


There was no sense rushing into heavy Orlando rush-hour traffic so we relaxed over a pot of hot coffee.

Carol took the dogs for a nice long walk (Zak actually had a short walk but Blue went the full distance) and took some early morning pictures of the Atlantic surf while I dumped our holding tanks and disconnected the RV for our final two-hour dash to Orlando.

We were on the road by 7:45 and pulled into the nearby FlyingJ Truck Stop for our final fill-up . . . the gasoline tank is ready to start the trip home in a few weeks and the propane tank is topped up, just in case we need the furnace during our stay.  We were back on the road in no time and by 9:15 we left I-95 behind as we turned west on I-4, the final leg of our four-day journey.

Soon some very familiar sights loomed, the dogs weren’t terribly excited – but we were!

There was no line as we pulled up to the Fort Wilderness gate.  After a quick “Welcome Home” we were waved through to the drive-thru check-in area.  Our favourite site wasn’t available, but one nearby was.  Bonus – it was clean and available right away so before anyone could say, “Howdy Folks” we were backing the RV into site 705 . . . our home for the next couple of weeks.  Aaaahhh!  We had landed in paradise by 11:00 a.m.

Now the tough part – we pulled all the Christmas decorations out of the storage bays under the motor home and began setting up.  It’s a big job!  I put lights, inflatables and other things together while Carol planned out where they were going to go, and put them in place.  When I had it all put together she was still strategizing so I hauled down the bicycles which were hanging on the back of the RV.


At about 1:00 p.m. we paused for a quick sandwich.  We enjoyed the Florida weather and ate outside on the picnic table, then got back at the decorating.  The Mickey lamp post, plenty of Disney inflatables, Mickey rope-lights, flags, illuminated palm trees, wreaths, etc.  We brought a cornucopia of Disney décor and found a home for almost all of it.

We finished the exterior at 4:00 p.m. – I relaxed as Carol vacuumed the RV and fed the dogs.  I’m sure glad I’m a man . . . it seems like a woman’s work is never done!

By about 5:20 we had washed up and hopped on our bikes heading toward the Settlement.  We had a 5:50 reservation for dinner at Trail’s End Buffet but they were able to seat us a bit early – good thing!  By 5:50 the restaurant was crazy-busy.  We were both pooped after a busy afternoon so we took our time and enjoyed a leisurely meal.  Trail’s End is one of the best values in all of Disney . . . we really enjoy the food and the service there.

We rode back to our campsite where Carol hopped in the car and headed to Downtown Disney . . . there was a newly released Vinylmation she just had to have!  I stayed home with the dogs . . . they were just as pooped as I was after a hectic day!


Carol was back (with her new goodies) by 8:00 p.m. and started decorating the dash and windshield of the RV.  It’s Christmas here at Fort Wilderness so that makes it extremely difficult to over-decorate . . . but we try!


By 9:00 p.m. she had achieved the perfect balance of tasteful and tacky.  Most of the people going past on the horse-drawn carriages gave it two thumbs up!

This week (US Thanksgiving) promises to be very busy at Walt Disney World so we will take it slow and easy.  Tomorrow morning we plan to head to the Magic Kingdom for a few hours then spend a leisurely afternoon with the dogs before dinner at the Magic Kingdom’s new Be Our Guest Restaurant!

Tuesday November 26, 2013


A funny thing happened on the way to bed last night!  Carol chuckled and said, “I must be really tired; I just took one of Zak’s pills instead of my own.”  Poor old Zak has arthritis and he takes gabapenten to treat it.  We both had a good chuckle.


The rain started at 5:00 a.m. and Blue arrived on the bed at 5:00:01 – he was there to protect us – or that was his story!  We got up at about 6:30, fiddled on the computer for a while and drank a pot of coffee.  We were sitting outside under the awning, sipping coffee and watching the gentle rain, when Carol said, “Those pills of Zak’s work very well.  My knees feel great!”  More chuckles!


The rain is forecast to last all morning and then change to thunderstorms this afternoon.  Change in plans – Carol suggested that we shop this morning and then come back home for the afternoon so Blue can protect us from the thunder - yeah . . .  right! – he’s not much of a guard dog!


We walked the dogs and were in the car and on our way by 9:15, heading toward the new Theme Park Connection store.  They have moved from Winter Garden to a new location just off Orange Blossom Trail near the Florida Mall.  Carol spotted a Dollar Tree along the way and I joined her for a quick wander up and down a few aisles.  Nothing she needed at the Dollar Store so she walked to the WalMart next door.  I pulled the car up near the WalMart exit and read as I waited for her.  She came out empty handed again.  WOW!


The new Theme Park Connection store is much nicer, there is more space and the inventory is much better organized.  Carol bought a thimble . . . yes, a thimble.  We drove 20 miles and she bought a thimble.  The things I do to keep her happy!  Sheesh!


We headed back toward Walt Disney World and pulled into the Outlet Mall on Vineland.  Carol dashed off to check out the Disney Character Outlet and I spent some more quality time in the car with my book.  This time she returned with a full bag from the outlet store, but she also had another bag.  She had found a Sketcher’s Store and bought me two pairs of the shoes I like.  What a great girl . . . I think I’ll keep her.

It was lunch time so we headed to Downtown Disney hoping to have lunch at Earl of Sandwich.  The parking lot was just loaded and people in cars were waiting in every row for spaces to open up.  We have never seen the lot so busy.  We got very lucky, a car just ahead of us started backing out and we were able to pull right in.  It was very close to Earl’s too – bonus!  After a delicious lunch Carol scoured the pin store and we headed back to spend the afternoon at Fort Wilderness.

We let the dogs out for a few minutes and then hopped on our bikes for a ride around some of the camping loops. 

We had an ice cream bar at the Settlement Trading Post and I headed back to the RV to have a nap with the dogs.  Carol rode to the Meadows Trading Post to nose around.

The dogs had an early dinner and after walking them Carol and I hopped aboard a boat to the Magic Kingdom.

We had a 5:50 dinner reservation at Be Our Guest.  Would you believe that we walked straight up the middle of Main Street to The Hub?  That’s exactly what happened.  We didn’t set foot in a single store – but when we turned left to go around Cinderella Castle into Fantasyland Carol said, “We’re a bit early, let’s check out the Christmas Store.”  So of course we did!


We checked in a bit early for dinner and stood on the bridge taking pictures while we waited for our pager to start flashing.

It started vibrating and flashing within two minutes and off we went for dinner.  We really like this new restaurant; they do a terrific job with both lunch and dinner and tonight was no exception.

After dinner we wandered off through Liberty Square into Frontierland.  Carol checked out the pin store at Frontier Mercantile and made a good vinylmation trade while she was there.  Then we carried on to Adventureland to ride the Jungle Cruise which now has a special Christmas theme – they call it the Jingle Cruise.  They’ve renamed the boats with a yuletide theme and added a few corny Christmas jokes to the gag line.  It’s a nice seasonal change.  We’ll try to ride it again in daylight before we head home.

By 8:00 p.m. we were heading toward the exit.  Naturally the shops were beckoning to Carol so she shopped her way from one end of the Emporium to the other while I sat on a park bench in front of City Hall catching up on my people watching.


We caught a boat and by 8:30 we were back at Fort Wilderness with a pair of happy dogs.

Wednesday November 27, 2013


Carol was up far too early again, but I slept until 6:30.  We lingered over a pot of coffee and spent some time with the dogs before heading out to Hollywood Studios for the morning.

We got to the park at opening time, 9:00 a.m. and took a leisurely stroll down Sunset Boulevard.  Carol wandered over to Tower of Terror and picked up FastPasses while I went to Rock ‘N Roller Coaster and used the single rider line for a quick spin with Aerosmith.

After my coaster ride we looked at the standby line for Tower of Terror, it said 20 minutes so we hopped in line.  After 5 minutes the line hadn’t moved so we bailed out.  As we walked past the sign on our way out it read 45 minutes . . . that was well after our FastPass time.

We found a table at Starring Rolls where we had coffee and split a delicious cherry turnover then returned to the Tower of Terror in time for our FastPass.

Carol didn’t feel like riding Star Tours so I rode alone while she took some pictures.

The next stop on our morning agenda was Toy Story Midway Mania.  We arrived in the area a few minutes before our appointed time so we sat soaking up some sun for about 10 minutes then joined the FastPass entry line. 

What a terrific ride, we both really enjoy all the 3D midway games . . . even though we’ve ridden many times it still brings out the competitive side in both of us.

Carol has been anxious to see a new Animation Cel which is being released next week so we wandered over to the Animation Courtyard and had a nice chat with Ink & Paint Artist David Rippberger.  The cel looks great so Carol will be there on Saturday when they go on sale!


It was time to think about heading back to let the dogs out but first it was lunch time!  We meandered over to Echo Lake and enjoyed a delicious sausage on a bun at Min & Bill’s Dockside Diner.  Yum!

We were back home with the dogs by 1:15.  Blue was overdue for a trip to the dog park so off we went.  He ran and ran chasing his ball.  After about 20 minutes there was no more run left in him so we headed for home.

Carol hopped in the car and headed off to the grocery store to pick up a few necessities while I laid down for a nap with the dogs.  I didn’t really want to, but the puppies insisted . . .

The dogs were all fed and walked by 5:00 p.m. so Carol and I rode our bikes to the Fort Wilderness Marina and caught a boat to the Magic Kingdom.  The temperature was plummeting; it had dropped at least 20 degrees since 2:00 p.m.  We had both traded our shorts for jeans and were wearing jackets.  Even with extra clothing it was still too cool to sit out on the bow of the boat, where we normally prefer to ride.  Tonight we were happy to huddle up inside!


Carol activated her Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom Key Card so she could pick up a fresh packet of spell cards (another thing she collects) then we slowly made our way up Main Street enjoying the Christmas décor.

We checked in about 15 minutes early for our 6:20 dinner reservation at the Plaza Restaurant and we were delighted to be seated almost immediately.  We don’t often eat at the Plaza but we always enjoy the meal there when we do.  We shared a very tasty potato and chicken soup then Carol had a Philly Cheese Steak sandwich and I had a Reuben.


Warmed up and filled up we hit the road again.

We passed the Crystal Palace and through Liberty Square on our way to Frontierland where we enjoyed the Country Bear Jamboree.

Country Bear Jamboree is a classic old toe-tapping show!

Next on our agenda was Pirates of the Caribbean so we made our way to Adventureland where the posted wait time said 15 minutes.  We walked into the line, took a look and said, “I don’t think so!”  It looked to be more like a 90 minute wait, so we turned back and made a slow retreat to the park exit.

By this time it was so cold that they had shut down the Splash Mountain ride, so we were very relieved when we saw our boat pulling in as we approached the dock.  It was jammed with people heading to Fort Wilderness for the Hoop-Dee-Doo dinner show and the big crowd meant we had a warm ride.

We were back with the dogs by 8:30.


Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and all the parks will be bursting at the seams.  We have three FastPass+ for Magic Kingdom rides tomorrow which we plan to use and then quickly get back home.  Life is too short to battle those crowds.  We’ll end the day with a nice Thanksgiving dinner at the Trail’s End Restaurant.

Thursday November 28, 2013


It was 6:45 a.m. when I noticed a change in Carol’s breathing.  I no longer heard that gentle rumble that tells me she is sleeping . . . so I rolled over, gave her a big hug and wished her Happy Thanksgiving!  It turned out that she was neither awake nor particularly thankful!


By 8:45 she had forgiven me, we had finished a pot of coffee, walked the dogs and started our journey to the Magic Kingdom.  It was a chilly morning, about 40 degrees so we rode inside the boat again.  We docked at our destination just after 9:00 a.m.  We knew it would be a very busy day in all of the parks so we didn’t plan to stay long.

As we ambled our way up Main Street toward The Hub Carol stopped to activate her Sorcerer’s Key Card while I took a few pictures.

The first of our three FastPass+’s was for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad so we headed that way, pausing briefly in Liberty Square so Carol could pick up a packet of Sorcerer Cards behind the Christmas Store.

We walked along the boardwalk beside the Rivers of America as we made our way through Frontierland.

Carol popped into Frontier Mercantile for a quick Vinylmation trade and we arrived at Big Thunder just in time to use our FastPass+.  Good thing we had one; the park didn’t seem to be all that busy but the standby time was 60 minutes.  Yikes!

Our next stop was supposed to be The Haunted Mansion but it was too early for our FastPass+ – what to do?  We headed to Fantasyland to have a hot chocolate and share a sticky bun at Gaston’s.  Fantasyland was insanely busy and it was only 10:15.  I lurked outside and grabbed the first table which came open while Carol spent about 20 minutes in line waiting for our cocoa and sticky bun.  Ouch – it was painfully slow.

We sat soaking up some warming sunshine as we sipped our cocoa.  The warmth felt good!  We watched Gaston hamming it up with a PhotoPass photographer for a few minutes.

We made our way back to The Haunted Mansion where we used our FastPass+ and quickly boarded a doom buggy to join the 999 Happy Haunts.  Holy Cow – another 60 minute Standby Line!

Our last ride of the day was Peter Pan.  Once again we were thankful to bypass the Standby Line – we didn’t notice the wait time, but it had to be over an hour.

It was lunch time so we stopped at Casey’s for a yummy hot dog.  As we approached the exit we detoured to the Candy Cane Garden and took a few pictures while Santa was off having his lunch.

We left the park at 12:45 and were delighted to see that our boat was waiting as we approached the dock.

After docking at the Fort Wilderness Marina we rode our bikes to nearby Tri-Circle-D Ranch to see some of the horses.

This is Jacob; some days you can see Merida riding Jacob in the Main Street Parade.

The dogs were pleased to see us when we arrived home at about 1:30.  We took them both for a walk along the dog trail behind the 800 loop.  We even let Blue off his lead for a few minutes and tossed the ball for him.  (Don’t tell anyone!)


It had warmed up to about 65 degrees so we sat outside with the dogs for a while enjoying some sunshine . . . but soon we were yawning.  We all laid down for a well earned nap.  Aaahh!


Carol fed the dogs at about 4:45 and we took them for a nice long walk along the nearby dog trail before heading out for dinner.  We had a 6:00 p.m. reservation for Trail’s End Buffet.  Very convenient that one of the special Thanksgiving Dinner menus was right here in the campground!

We rode our bikes over to Pioneer Hall and checked in at the restaurant.  We were seated right on time and had an excellent meal.  They had some of the usual buffet fare including fried chicken, ribs and salmon but for Thanksgiving they had added seafood bisque, vegetable soup, smoked ham, smoked turkey, cornbread stuffing, mashed potatoes, giblet gravy, candied yams, butternut squash, green beans & carrots, cranberries, pumpkin pie and chocolate chip cookies.  It was excellent . . . we both ate too much!

After dinner we walked our bikes over to the Settlement Trading Post for a look around.  Carol found a pin trading board so she traded a couple of pins before we rode our bikes home to crash for the evening.  We were home by 8:00 p.m. and settled in for a quiet night with the dogs.

Friday November 29, 2013


I woke at 6:45 a.m. and Carol was gone.  Soon I heard the sound of dogs chomping kibble and I knew that her day had once again started much too early!


Skies were sunny and the temperature was forecast to reach about 70 degrees.  Today we wanted an early start at Animal Kingdom so I had a bowl of cereal and showered while Carol walked the dogs.  We were in the car and on our way by 8:30 and arrived at the park before 9:00.  We were surprised to see line, then realized that the gates had opened at 8:00 a.m.

Just inside the gate Carol spotted DeVine performing in a different location.  She was just down the right hand trail past the entrance; we normally see her on the trail between Africa and Asia.

On our way to Harambe Village, we noticed a Cast Member down the trail on the right just before the bridge into Africa.  She was feeding the saddle billed storks so we stopped and watched for a few minutes.  Cast Members really seem to enjoy telling guests about the animals and it is too bad more people don’t take time to stop and get to know a bit more about the many magnificent creatures in the park.  Everyone is so intent on rushing off to the next thrill ride that they miss the many little side trails.  Each trail has interesting animals or a story to tell.  The animals are a big part of the enjoyment Carol and I get from Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Our next stop was Kilimanjaro Safaris; we had a FastPass+ and we like to ride this attraction early, while it is still cool.  Today we had an excellent ride, lots of animals and a great view of the cheetahs and the lions!  Our safari driver was Cody and he did an outstanding job!

Our next stop was Expedition Everest where we rode the very front car. 

This is Carol’s favourite roller coaster . . . but she can only ride it once.  She offered to wait while I went through the single rider line, but I was chilly after the first ride so we carried on.

We stopped at Yak & Yeti for a snack – their egg rolls are terrific!


Carol traded a few pins and vinylmations as we made our way toward the exit.  There were swarms of people entering the park as we left at 11:30 – it will be a busy day at all the parks.  We were home with the puppies before noon.

After letting the dogs romp outside for a while Carol and I hopped on our bikes and scouted a few camping loops, looking for pairs of campsites which would work for us when we return with her parents in February.

Soon I was yawning and decided that Blue and I should have a nap.  He agreed!

The dogs had an early dinner again and after they were walked Carol and I drove over to The Polynesian Resort for dinner at Kona Café.  We planned to tour all three of the monorail resorts to check out the Christmas décor.


We wandered the lobby snapping a few pictures.  The combination of the Polynesian theming covered in holly and ivy was quite interesting!

Hey, look - it's a pin board!

We both enjoyed dinner at Kona.  Each of us had potstickers as our appetizer; I followed them with a nice sesame scallop dish while Carol had chicken wings.  We ended our dinner with a special order, the wonderful bread pudding served next door at ‘Ohana.  We were stuffed!

We boarded the monorail and rode to the first stop, the Grand Floridian Resort.  A live orchestra was playing from a second floor balcony as we checked out the giant Christmas Tree which towered in the lobby.


The gingerbread house was huge . . . so big that three people were working inside, selling cookies and Christmas themed snacks.

We boarded the monorail again and continued our circuit of the monorail resorts with a stop at The Contemporary Resort.  The feature in the lobby display was a 17’ Christmas Tree made entirely of gingerbread.  Here is the recipe they used!

Carol posed with some Toy Soldiers!


A choir was singing carols in the lobby.


We boarded a very crowded monorail for our return to the Polynesian Resort where our car was parked.  We were back home with the dogs by 8:30.

Saturday November 30, 2013


I slept late today . . . until 7:00 a.m.  Carol was still in bed so I took the dogs out to do their business.  She was up by 7:15 to feed them and we lazed for a while.  By 9:00 a.m. we had fed and walked the dogs, had our showers and I had dumped and flushed the RV’s holding tanks.  It was time to go out and play so we pointed the car toward EPCOT.

Carol had booked FastPass+’s for Spaceship Earth and Maelstrom.

When we entered the park at 9:30, about 20 minutes before our FastPass time, there was no line at Spaceship Earth so we hopped in the standby line and took a trip back in time.

Carol had to investigate the Art of Disney Store where artist Greg McCullough was to appear later in the day.  There were two of his prints she really liked  . . . she was having trouble deciding between the two of them so she deferred the decision until later in the day.

Carol picked up a Passport for “Holidays Around The World”, an annual festival where the nations around the World Showcase Lagoon feature festive food and drink and use live actors to explain the nation’s holiday traditions.

We walked slowly around World Showcase, starting with Mexico, taking pictures and reading about each nation’s customs.

We arrived at Norway shortly before the time for our FastPass so we visited the Stavkirke (Stave Church) which is currently featuring stories and pictures from the new Disney movie Frozen.  Very interesting!

We boarded the Maelstrom ride and dodged the trolls as we learned a bit about Norway and her people.

Then we stopped in the bakery and sampled some Norse treats.  Carol had a Berry Cream Puff and I had School Bread.  Delicious!

Carol stopped in Germany for some tasty caramel corn from the Wurther's shop.  We savoured the snack while we watched the model trains which were all decorated for Christmas.

In Italy we saw one of the live performers explaining Italian Christmas traditions – she was La Befana, who delivers Christmas gifts to children.

It was after noon when La Befana finished her presentation . . . time for us to make our way to Downtown Disney for a bite of lunch on our way back to the campground. 

We walked to Morocco and caught the Friendship boat to Canada then headed directly to the exit.

The sky was dark and menacing as we left the parking lot, then it began to rain lightly.  We decided to pass on Downtown Disney and went straight back to the campground to close windows and calm the dogs.  The rain had stopped and the sky was clearing by the time we arrived back at Fort Wilderness at 1:00 p.m.

Holy Cow – look at that!  All six drive-thru check-in lanes were open and there were six or seven RV’s lined up behind each gate.  There were about 30 rigs all waiting to register . . . we’ve never seen it so busy!


The dogs were happy to see us; we let them out for a walk and then had a sandwich in the RV.  We sat outside enjoying the sunshine for a while and then puttered on our computers before laying down for a short nap.

I stayed home with Zak while Carol took Blue out for a walk; our rental golf cart was delivered just as she returned.  Blue was very excited to see the cart, he knows that it means a trip to the off-leash dog park!  We loaded both the boys on the cart, grabbed a tennis ball and off we went!  Blue had a good run while Zak sniffed his way around the fenced compound.  It was just the exercise they both needed!

By 4:45 the dogs were fed and Carol and I were once again on our way to EPCOT.  We had a 5:50 dinner reservation at Teppan Edo in Japan. 

It is hibachi-style dining; eight people sit around three sides of a table while the chef stands on the remaining side, cooking your dinner before your eyes.  The chefs put on a very entertaining show and the food is delicious.  We really enjoy eating at Teppan Edo, it’s a restaurant we seldom miss.

We had one remaining FastPass – this time it was Soarin’ so we caught that boat again, Morocco to Canada and walked through the rose garden on our way to Future World and The Land Pavilion.  This is another ride which I enjoy more than Carol and she humored me again tonight when I asked for row B1 . . . we had to wait about 5 minutes for the next ride.  Carol was anxious to get to the Art of Disney Store and buy her print, but she bit her tongue all the time we waited to board our hang-glider!

Soon we were at the Art of Disney Store.  I waited outside while she mulled which one to buy.  I expected that she would pick the Main Street Trolley but she surprised me when she came out with a seasonal “Happy Holidays” print signed by the artist Greg McCullough.


We were home at 9:15 and sat in the motor home with the dogs until about 10:15 when all the fireworks were over.  Then we drove the golf cart to The Meadows where we enjoyed a soothing soak in the hot tub.  Aaahhh!  That’s nice!


Lights-out came quickly after our soak!

Sunday December 1, 2013


We had a slow start today.  I took the dogs out at 7:00 a.m. then fed them . . . Carol slept until 7:30 – she was finally able to sleep past 6:00.  We had no park plans so it was a quiet morning.  Carol did a load of laundry while I babysat the dogs and tossed the ball for them.

We had some errands to run so we left Fort Wilderness at 11:30.  Traffic was backed up from the park exit all the way to the four-way stop about 1/3 mile.  There were 400 campsites checking out today and all those exiting RV’s made a real traffic tie-up.

We went to Downtown Disney for lunch at Earl of Sandwich then I toured a few of the stores with Carol.  I was done shopping long before she was so I waited in the car with my book.  I have learned to never leave home without it!

After she returned we headed to the nearby Winn-Dixie grocery store where she picked up some supplies.  We were back with the dogs by 2:00 enjoyed a few more relaxing hours.

The dogs had another early dinner and by 4:45 Carol and I were on our way to Hollywood Studios.  The sun was just setting as we arrived.

Carol had set up FastPass+’s for Rock ‘N Roller Coaster but she had no interest in riding so I took a high speed spin with Aerosmith while she did some browsing on Sunset Boulevard.  Next stop was The Tower of Terror.  Carol laughed all through the ride – the man beside her was giggling insanely and it must have been infectious.  Before long I was laughing at Carol!

We stopped for a bite of dinner at Studios Catering.  Carol enjoyed her Buffalo Chicken Sandwich and my Pressed Turkey Club was very tasty.  We seldom think to eat there, but the food is very good, I think we’ll be back!


By the time dinner was over it was time for our final FastPass at Toy Story Midway Mania.  We both fought the good fight . . . but our scores stunk!  Mine stunk slightly more than Carol’s – she beat me!  I’ll get her next time!

The highlight of our day was The Osborne Spectacle of Dancing Lights.  Over 5 million lights adorn two streets in the Hollywood Backlot area and they are sequenced to dance in time with music.  It is an amazing sight!  Very festive . . . it even snowed!  All the southern children were running around catching the snowflakes and eating them . . . to us northerners, they tasted a bit soapy!  Yuk!

We capped off our night with a Carrot Cake Cookie from The Writer’s Stop and then headed home to be with the dogs before all the fireworks started.  They were happy to see us when we pulled in at 9:15.

Monday December 2, 2013


This is my Polynesian day!  It got off to a great start with breakfast at Kona Café.  Just a few days ago we had dinner at Kona and I said to Carol, “You know, it’s been years since I’ve had Tonga Toast.”  As soon as we got back home she got busy and made a reservation then surprised me with the details once all the arrangements were made.  Sometimes she’s just too good to me!

We left home about 8:20 and were at the Polynesian a bit early for our 8:50 reservation.  We were seated promptly and had a delicious breakfast.  Carol had French toast with bacon and I had my favourite – Tonga Toast.  This tasty breakfast treat is made using two slices of Texas toast with banana slices between them.  They are dipped like French toast, then deep fried before being dredged in cinnamon and brown sugar.  Yum!  I call this 9,000 calorie treat a breakfast delight – my doctor calls it gluttonous excess!  Of course he’s right, but every few years I need to indulge myself!

After breakfast we boarded the monorail to the Magic Kingdom.

We headed directly up Main Street – no shopping! 

We had a FastPass+ for The Jingle Cruise and we were anxious to see it in the daylight. 


Our Skipper aboard the Sleigh Ride Sadie was Taylor and she did an excellent job!

Next on our agenda was Peter Pan’s Flight.  There is always a huge line for this classic old ride and we were happy to have FastPass+’s.

We had some time to kill before we could use out FastPasses at Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin . . . what to do?  Hey, it’s my Polynesian day, why not have a Pineapple Float? 

Off we went to Adventureland where Carol picked up a Citrus Swirl at The Sunshine Tree Terrace and I got my favourite, a Pineapple Float at Aloha Isle.  Yum!

As we started toward Tomorrowland and Buzz Lightyear the Dapper Dans walked past on their way to Main Street.  We stalked followed them and I watched their set while Carol activated her Sorcerer’s Key Card and picked up a packet of spell cards.

Over in Tomorrowland we used up our final FastPass+’s at Buzz Lightyear. 

Carol had a bad ray gun . . . either it was shooting wonky-eyed or she was.  Half way through the ride she gave up on the gun, pulled out her camera and snapped some pictures.  A few turned out very well.



After a spin around Tomorrowland on the WEDWay People Mover (you youngsters know it as the TTA) it was time to head back to the dogs so we caught a launch to the Polynesian and boarded our car for the return trip to the campground.

Zak and Blue were happy to see us when we pulled in at 1:00 p.m.   We soon loaded them on the golf cart and took them to the off-leash dog park for a romp.  There were no other dogs there so Blue had plenty of room to run.  He was exhausted on the ride home!


Carol took a ride on her bicycle and visited the horse barns while Blue, Zak and I had a short nap.  We had a quiet afternoon with the puppies before heading off at 4:45 for the third and final leg of my Polynesian day – dinner at ‘Ohana.

We spotted five deer on the way to the Polynesian Resort. 

This one was the most photogenic!

We checked in a few minutes early for our 5:20 dinner reservation and barely had time to enjoy the sights and scents of the lobby when our pager went off.  We had a nice quiet window seat and enjoyed an excellent meal. 

‘Ohana is one of our Disney favourites and it never disappoints.  After a big breakfast we skipped lunch so we could enjoy ‘Ohana to the max – and we did.

We were home with the dogs by 7:00 and decided to do some “looping”.  This a term Fort Wilderness campers use when they hop on bicycles of golf carts and tour the camping loops to see the sights.  Tonight we wanted to do some advance scouting for the “Lights and Dogs Tour” which takes place Wednesday evening.  About 40 friends from the Disney fan site are coming by to join Carol and I and our friends John & Erin.  The four of us will give them a walking tour of the campground to see all the Christmas décor which the campers put up at their campsites.


Here’s some of what we saw while we were “looping”.

Pretty impressive isn’t it!  Know what’s even more impressive?  All of those pictures above came from one campsite.  That’s right – one single campsite!


After all the fireworks were over Carol and I took the golf cart off to the hot tub for a leisurely soak to end our Polynesian day.

Tuesday December 3, 2013


Today we got off to a quicker start.  We were both up by 7:00 and after a pot of coffee and a bowl of cereal it was time to head to Animal Kingdom.


We arrived at 9:00 and spotted DeVine again, just inside the entrance on the right hand trail toward the Tree of Life . . . must be her new favourite spot!  We stopped at the Oasis and spent some time in front of the Tree of Life where Carol got some good pictures of a vulture, a stork, a crowned crane and a kangaroo.


We headed back to Africa and boarded our safari ride at the Harambe Wildlife Preserve.  Our driver was Stan, Stan the Safari Man and we had a very good tour.  The animals were out in force; the giraffes blocked the road for a few minutes, the cheetahs were walking about and the lions were on the prowl!

We scurried over to Asia for another high speed ride through the Himalayas.  Front row again!  Yikes – it’s fun!


As we left Anandapur on our way back to Harambe we bumped into a friend.   Linda, from Georgia, was waiting for her husband Bruce whoHeH was hurtling through yeti country!  We chatted with Linda for a few minutes before carrying on.  We have spent eight days at the parks and this was the first time we’ve bumped into someone we know . . . that’s very unusual – we have a lot of Disney friends and we’re always bumping into someone.

 We had another FastPass for Kilimanjaro Safaris but when we got back to Harambe even the FastPass line was long so Carol gave the passes to some thankful strangers and we detoured to Rafiki’s Planet Watch.  We hadn’t been to this area in a few years and had an interesting time.  We had a close up and personal few minutes with a red-tailed hawk and then watched a spur-wing goose recover from anesthetic after surgery.  Not something you see every day!

It was 11:30 when we left Rafiki’s Planet Watch, time to think about heading home to the puppies.  We stopped at Pizzafari but the menu didn’t appeal to us so we carried on to Flame Tree BBQ.  Big mistake!  It took forever to get served.  I waited and grabbed the first available table while Carol got the food.  By the time she arrived at the table we could have driven back to the campground, made a sandwich and then walked the dogs.  It was atrociously slow!


It was 1:00 p.m. when we pulled back into Fort Wilderness.  Our friends John and Erin were scheduled to arrive today so Carol texted them as we made our way home.  They were running a bit late so we walked the dogs then went to meet them in the 300 loop.  Once we said a quick hello we got out of their way so they could get themselves set up.  We had a quiet afternoon (nap).


By 4:20 the dogs had been fed and walked and we were in the car headed to EPCOT.  We had a 5:20 dinner reservation at Rose & Crown, a package deal which included guaranteed seating for the 8:15 p.m. presentation of the Candlelight Processional.  We checked in for dinner at 5:00 and waited about 20 minutes to be seated.  We had a wonderful waterside table . . . at least it was wonderful until the sun went down.


Carol noticed that our friend Beci from Washington had posted a tweet saying she was at EPCOT and she was right next door in France.  Carol replied saying, “If you walk past the Rose & Crown be sure to wave.”  Within just a few minutes Beci arrived at our table and we had a nice visit.  As we sat chatting Beci pointed up and said, “That must be the rocket launch.”  Sure enough there was a huge plume of smoke in the eastern sky.  The SpaceX rocket had finally launched, successfully carrying a satellite into orbit.  It was a spectacular sight!

Beci had to run off to meet her Mouse Fan Travel team and soon our dinner arrived.  The sun was setting and the light bulb on a nearby lamp post had burned out - our table had become very dim and romantic.  In fact it was so romantic that we couldn’t see what we were eating.  I mistakenly ate some of the paper which lined the bottom of my fish and chips.  It was a terrific meal but it would have been better if we had been able to see it.


After dinner we made our way around the World Showcase Lagoon to Japan where we joined the line for preferred seating at the America Gardens Amphitheatre.  Within a few minutes we were joined in line by our friends Margaret and Tom from Georgia and Frannie and Glen from New Jersey.  We whiled away our time in line, catching up on each other’s lives.  As we yakked away in the line some other friends, Sandra and Dave from Maryland, popped in to say hello.  They had seen the earlier presentation of the Candlelight Processional and had just left the theatre.


The Candlelight Processional has become a tradition for us.  If we are at Disney during the holiday season we never miss it.  The Christmas story is told in song and in narrative by a symphony orchestra, a 300 voice choir and a narrator.  It’s very moving!  Tonight’s guest narrator was Neil Patrick Harris who we saw two years ago.  He did a superb job!

The processional ended at 9:00 p.m. and we hurried to the exit – the 9:30 fireworks show “Illuminations” was just beginning as we pulled out of the parking lot and it had just ended when we pulled into the campground.


The dogs were happy to see us . . . Blue doesn’t like fireworks!

Wednesday December 4, 2013


Today was the first of several very busy days we are going to have before our trip is over.  Our many playmates from the Disney fan web site are arriving for four days of meets and get-togethers, an event we call Tag-O-Mania.  We always have a great time when we get together and this year there are over 70 people registered for the various events.


Through an odd turn of events we also had six FastPass+’s booked on our wristbands.  Busy! Busy! Busy!

We were up at 7:00 a.m. and hit the ground running.  Feed and walk the dogs, shower, bowl of cereal . . . it was a whirlwind of activity before we hit the Fort Wilderness dock at about 8:45.  For the very first time this trip we had to wait, about 15 minutes, for a boat.  But soon it rounded Discovery Island, tied up and we walked aboard for our voyage to the Magic Kingdom.

As we approached Cinderella Castle we noticed that it was open and people were walking through.  We don’t seem to get that opportunity too often . . . so in we went. 

Carol stood in the middle, waiting for an opening in the non-stop human traffic and snapping pictures of those amazing mosaic tile murals.  I stood back people-watching.  I was really surprised how many folks didn’t even notice that awesome display of art.  At least three hundred people walked through while Carol was snapping away and not more than a dozen of them noticed the murals.  Even as they had to dodge around Carol, who was standing there with her camera aimed, they failed to see the beauty around them.  Such a shame!

Our next stop was Peter Pan’s Flight where we enjoyed a magical ride from downtown London to Skull Island and won a battle with Captain Hook and his comical cutthroat pirates.


We crossed the park to Tomorrowland where we helped Buzz Lightyear defeat the evil Emperor Zurg.  This time Carol had a better Astro-Blaster ray gun and we both racked up much better scores!  I’m sure Buzz appreciated our help!

We walked to Mickey’s Storybook Circus and rode the train around the park to Frontierland.

We approached Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at 10:45, a bit before our FastPass time and stood a few minutes waiting . . . there was a line at the FastPass.   Dang!  We decided to skip Big Thunder and head to Pecos Bills for an early lunch.


Our last ride of the day was at Pirates of the Caribbean.  As we boarded I didn’t hear any announcement about flash photography . . . and naturally we were surrounded by idiots!  Cameras were flashing all through the ride, blinding everyone anywhere near the photographers.  The photos will not turn out since the flash will not light anything that far away, but the morons keep on flashing away.  It really ruins the ride!  I hope they soon resume the announcements and stop, or at least slow, the flash pictures.

We left the Magic Kingdom at about 12:30 and headed home to the dogs.  We spent some time getting ready for our Tagrel friends who would be arriving at Fort Wilderness later in the day.  After the dogs were walked I hopped in the car and headed off to the grocery store for a few items while Carol spiffed-up the RV.

Soon it was time for the Tag-O-Maniacs to congregate.  It began with an early dinner at Trail’s End Buffet organized by our friend Will from Maryland.  About 30 of us met on the porch at Trail’s End and mingled for about a half hour before dinner.

We handed out some terrific lanyards, hand made for the event by Pam from Indiana, name tag holders and mini-flashlights which Will brought and name tags which Carol and I printed up.  After our half-hour gab-fest we moved into the restaurant for dinner where the chatter continued for another hour.  Great fun!

After dinner we moved outside and waited while a few more friends arrived for the Fort Wilderness Lights and Dogs Tour.  This is an event Carol and I, along with fellow campers John & Erin from New Jersey, have coordinated a few times before.  We had 42 guests as we wandered around the camping loops enjoying all the Christmas decorations.  It was a great time!


The grand finale was when we entered the 700 loop and gathered in front of site 707 to see Dave’s castle show.  Dave, the Castle Guy, and his wife Dee arrived Sunday and have been working three solid days to get the castle show set up.  Alas, he had trouble with a new piece of hardware and couldn’t join us for dinner.  While we ate he was back working frantically to get the show up and running for us.  He hooked up his laptop to the electronic controller and used his editing software to give us the only show of the evening . . . our group and the lucky family in the horse-drawn sleigh who came along at just the right time!  Wow!  Thanks so much Dave.  It was the highlight of our night!

We all wandered across the street to our campsite where Zak and Blue entertained everyone.


We sat and chatted for a while before folks began drifting back to their various hotels and resorts.  What a wonderful evening and a great kick off for Tag-O-Mania!

Thursday December 5, 2013


This morning we took it easy. Very easy!


We slept in until after 7:00, sipped coffee and loafed after a busy day on Wednesday.  I think our regular routine of “Theme Park every morning” had caught up to us so we took a morning off to enjoy the serenity of Fort Wilderness.  Well, it was really me who enjoyed the quiet beauty of “the Fort” while Carol drove off to enjoy the vibrant heartbeat of Downtown Disney.


I relaxed in a lawn chair under the awning for a while, the dogs at my side and my book in my hand.  Then Blue started to poke me with his nose.  Once he had my attention he’d walk over and look at the tennis balls on a nearby table.  Wonder what he wants?  I loaded both puppies on the golf cart and took them to the dog park where Blue ran and ran while Zak did his customary perimeter check.  He sniffed the entire fence surrounding the off-leash park.  Once he was certain that all was secure he curled up under a picnic table for a nap.


Our friends Al and Jane from Kansas City Missouri pulled in at about 11:00 a.m. and backed their RV, Alf, into site 706 directly across the street from us.  Their new puppy Boo came over to meet Zak and Blue.  Three tails were wagging!


I was back in my chair reading when Carol arrived home at noon.  She had finished her shopping for our friends at home.  They always send her down with a “wish list” of pins and vinylmations – those lists were now fulfilled.  Naturally she found a few things for herself as the shopped!


We loafed with the dogs all afternoon.  Aahhh!  Life is good!

All too soon it was time to end the reverie and join our friends for some more fun, this time at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.  By 4:45 the dogs were all taken care of and we boarded the boat to The Magic Kingdom.  After a quick stop at the gate to pick up our party wristbands we headed to the Fire Hall to get the special Sorcerer Card only available at the party.  Ooops – there was a huge line!  We made a U-turn and headed to the kiosk behind the Christmas store.  No line there so Carol had her treasured cards in no time!

It was dinner time so we thought we’d try our luck at a few table-service restaurants.  We didn’t really expect to get in, but it was worth a try!  Liberty Tree Tavern?  Nope, sorry – we’re full all night!  Plaza Restaurant?  Nope, sorry – we’re closing in 20 minutes. 

Off we went to Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café.  No problem there.  I had a burger and Carol had chicken nuggets.  We had just started eating and listening to Sonny Eclipse when Carol spotted some of our group across the restaurant. 

We packed up our food and moved to a table beside SusanL, Bookwood, Oneanne, Topaz & Lynner5996 where we yakked all through our meal.

The others headed off to ride the WEDWay People Mover through Tomorrowland but Carol was in “Pin Mode” so we headed directly to Frontierland where she joined the huge line at Frontier Mercantile.  There were some very special Christmas Party pins and she had to have them!  I found a comfy rocking chair and did some people watching.  Where was my book when I needed it?

After about 20 minutes Carol came out of the store with her treasures.  Some of the pins were already sold out when she arrived at the cashier but she managed to snag the last “Passholder Pin” in the store along with two nice party pins.


Next stop was Haunted Mansion where we enjoyed a very good ride.  The line was short and there were no flashing cameras.  Hooray!

By the time we were finished with the 999 Happy Haunts it was time to meet our pals for the Christmas Parade.  We all lined up in front of The Hall of Presidents.  We were lucky to be near RaySharpton and his blinged-out ECV.  The lighted Mickey wreaths on his scooter got a lot of attention from the performers in the parade and many of them came over to talk with him.  It gave us some terrific photo-ops.

After the parade we moved to the walkway between Liberty Square and The Hub to watch the Celebrate The Magic castle show.  It’s a great spot to experience this awesome show which is projected onto Cinderella Castle.

Carol and I had planned to sneak out quickly right after the castle show, before the Wishes fireworks show in order to avoid the crowds and congestion on Main Street.  But first we had to stop at Sleepy Hollow to pick up a Minnie mousse which is served in a cute little mug shaped like Minnie Mouse.  Instead of mousse Carol got it with soft-serve ice-cream.  They heaped the ice-cream up about 6” above the top of the mug and it was funny watching her try to eat it without making a mess.  She failed miserably in her efforts to be dainty!


By the time she had licked the huge serving down to a transportable size the fireworks had begun and we were trapped . . . so we stayed and enjoyed them to the end then made a slow exit through the Emporium and caught a boat back home.


We were back with the dogs by 10:30 and hit the sack early.  Tomorrow we will have an early start; we need to be at Hollywood Studios by 8:30.  Ouch!

Friday December 6, 2013


We were both up and dashing around by 7:00 a.m. doing our best to make it to Hollywood Studios early.  Our Internet connection was down . . . that helped us make it on time!


We were in the car and on the road by 8:10 and we parked and made it through the bag-check area right on time.

Some of the group were waiting and we joined them for some more chatter.

Our contingent grew steadily and at 9:00, when the park opened we made a bee-line for Toy Story Midway Mania where 23 of us rode as a group.

This remains the most popular ride in Walt Disney World . . . even though we went directly there as soon as possible we had to wait in line 70 minutes.  The time passes quickly when you are in a group of friends, so it didn’t seem like any time at all!

After our arms were worn out from all those midway games we decided to take a rest – we strolled to Starring Rolls where we chatted for another half hour over coffee and pastries.  The plan had been to carry on to Tower of Terror and Rock ‘N Rollercoaster and ride them as a group . . . but the line for each was over an hour.  About half the group headed to Star Tours where the wait was only 10 minutes.

Carol and I, along with several others in our group went to The Great Movie Ride to join the Reunion group who are also celebrating at Walt Disney World this weekend.  We know quite a few people who were registered for the Reunion activities so we headed over to say hello and ride “The Great Rocky Horror Movie Ride” with them.  It was great fun.  We saw some folks we haven’t seen in a few years and renewed some old acquaintances.  Then came the ride!  It was great!  There were about 150 of us and we were broken down into smaller groups to fill individual cars.  We bypassed the regular entrance and were led in through the exit to board our cars.  About half of the people in each car had a printed script and as the cast member driving the car worked through their normal narration we responded in unison with some hilarious comments.


Example:  As we entered the Mary Poppins scene featuring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke the Cast Member asked, “Does anyone know what movie this is?”  We all responded in unison, “Jaws”

Example:  We entered the seedy 1930’s Chicago back alley scene and the Cast Member said, “Hold onto those wallets and purses folks.  This doesn’t look like a very good neighbourhood.”  We all responded in unison, “Sesame Street has really gone downhill.”

Example:  In the Indiana Jones scene Mugsy said, “Snakes! Why did it hafta be snakes?”  We all responded in unison, “It’s the spiders’ day off.”


The cast member tried valiantly but she just couldn’t hold it together, she had a few giggling fits . . . I think she enjoyed it as much as we did.

After the ride we mingled for a few more minutes before heading to Min & Bill’s Dockside Diner for lunch.  I had the Italian sausage in a bun and Carol tried the frankfurter in a pretzel bun for the first and last time.  It was swimming in mustard.  She managed to get about a third of it down before giving up.  She shared mine . . . so we both ended up full but not overfilled.  So take note – the Italian sausage in a bun is great – the frankfurter in a pretzel bun, not so much!

We were home with the dogs by 1:15 and I started working on fixing our internet connection.  I rebooted and rebooted our little Virgin Mobile MiFi device – I reset it to factory settings twice . . . I muttered a bit . . . I might even have used a few bad words because in the middle of it all Carol hopped in the car and went to WalMart.


Finally, in frustration, I set the thing aside, loaded the dogs onto the golf cart and took them to the dog park.  Zak sniffed and Blue ran.  Once the dogs were tired and I was calm, we went back home.  I tucked them back in the RV and loaded the computer, MiFi device and Skype phone onto the golf cart for a trip to the Settlement.  I sat at a picnic table on the porch at Trail’s End Buffet and hooked into the Disney WiFi network, then used the Skype phone to call Virgin Mobile.  They had my connection reset and working fine in less than five minutes.  Why didn’t I do that in the first place?


Carol had just arrived home when I pulled in on the golf cart and we quickly caught up on e-mails.


By 5:15 the dogs were fed and walked.  Carol and I struck out for dinner and ended up at Sweet Tomatoes in the Crossroads Plaza.  They have a great salad bar, nice breads and soups, etc.  It’s a nice change of pace from Disney, a bit of ”lighter” fare.


We decided to do some “looping” – riding around the camping loops looking at Christmas decorations – so we invited our friends Al & Jane to come along with us.  The four of us spent almost two hours circling the campground seeing the sights.  There were several spots which were so large and interesting that we had to park and walk around the displays.  There is a lot more to see than there was just two nights ago when we had the Lights and Dogs Tour.


We were back home by 10:00 p.m. and settled in for the evening.

Saturday December 7, 2013


It was a lazy morning.  We had nowhere to be until 10:00 a.m. and we took advantage of it.  We loafed around the campsite until 9:15 when we began our drive to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.


There was a very short line at the entry gate and we were in the theme park by 9:40 so Carol headed to the Villains store to trade some vinylmations.


As we approached the Animation Gallery Carol spotted Benjamin.  He is a member of the Customer Service team who troubleshoots problems with FastPass+’s.  Yesterday he was part of the team which broke us up into groups at the Great Movie ride.  He answered a few questions about the Magic Bands and the FastPass+ program for us and then asked, “Do you need a FastPass for any rides hare at Hollywood Studios today?”  “No,” we replied, “we’re just here to buy an animation cel and then we’re heading home.”  “Are you sure?” he asked.  “No, we’re good!”  “Are you really sure?” he insisted.  “Well, we could ride Toy Story!” so Benjamin gave us a pair of FastPasses good for any ride at any time.  Bonus!  Thanks Benjamin!

We entered the Animation Gallery at 9:50 – this was the real purpose of our trip.  There was a new animation cel being released today and the cel artists were there signing.  We are not often at the parks when an event like this occurs so Carol didn’t want to miss it.  She bought a “three-way” that is the cel with a cloisonné pin and signed post card nicely matted in a frame, you also get the Certificate of Authenticity. Once you have made your purchase then you can visit with the artist who will sign another post card for you and the certificate if you want. It’s a very special treat to get the hand signed cards!

Carol dashed back to the car to drop off her cel and when she returned we took another magical ride through Toy Story Midway Mania.

We were home with the puppies by 11:30 and had a sandwich for lunch before Carol took off again.  There was a big pin trading meet in the food court at Coronado Springs Resort.  I spent a quiet afternoon with the dogs.

We rode the golf cart to the dog park, the dogs have learned to enjoy their cart rides!

It was a warm afternoon and it wasn’t long before Blue’s tongue was hanging out.  We rode around a few loops checking out the decorations and the fancy golf carts, and then returned home.  The dogs curled up for a rest while I sat outside with my book.

Carol arrived at 4:00 – very satisfied with her trades.  She picked up one  vinylmation she was looking for and about seven pins she had on her wants list.  It was a successful day!


She quickly fed the dogs and we took them for a walk before heading out to the Polynesian Resort for our 5:05 dinner at ‘Ohana.  We have never been disappointed there and tonight carried on that tradition.  We were seated promptly, a window table, the service and the food were both top notch!

Lipoa, the Hawaiian lady who sings and plays the ukulele, even came around and gave us each a lei.  It was a very nice dinner!  After dinner Carol re-gifted those leis to a couple of very young princesses who really appreciated them.

We boarded the monorail and rode to The Magic Kingdom.  The place was packed!  It didn’t look too bad in Town Square but as we walked up Main Street it got worse and worse.  Carol activated her Sorcerer card at Uptown Jewellers and we fought through the crowds to the kiosk behind the Christmas store where she picked up a packet of spell cards.

We had a 7:15 FastPass+ for Pirates of the Caribbean and a 7:40 FastPass+ for the Haunted Mansion so after Carol traded a vinylmation at Frontier Mercantile we made our way to the Pirates ride.  We swiped our Magic Bands 12 minutes early and they gave us a green light.  Interesting . . . the automated system let us in very early!  We were seated in the front row and we enjoyed a few wet splashes during our photo-flash-free ride!

Since the Pirate ride let us in early we fought through the crowds to the Haunted Mansion and swiped 6 minutes early.  Ooops – this time the light was blue – we could not enter.  The Cast Member was great though, she asked us a riddle.  If we could answer it we could ride early.  We gave her several answers, all wrong . . . so she gave us the correct answer and waved us through.  Another flash-free ride.  Oh yes, the riddle – What does a ghost have for dinner?  Boo-sghetti and meatballs.  Groan!

Carol had hoped to see the Main Street Electrical Parade . . . but the crowds were just too dense.  It was still more than an hour until parade time and Main Street was lined five deep with people waiting to see it.  Yikes!


We headed to the exit.  It was almost impossible to walk down Main Street so we jostled our way through the crowd in the Emporium and caught a boat to The Polynesian Resort where the car was parked.  We were home with the dogs at 8:30.

As we entered the campground we noticed a huge group of wildly decorated golf carts by the entry to the camping area, near the hook-up and unhook lanes.  We hopped in our golf cart and went back to investigate.  Wow . . . they were fantastic!


We asked one of the participants what it was all about.  Was it an official Disney event or a Disney sanctioned event?  Apparently it’s sanctioned by Disney who set up pylons to denote the assembly area for this annual golf cart parade which is performed by families from the Lighthouse Christian School of Pompano Beach, FL  It just keeps getting bigger and bigger each year.  Last year the school had 40 families here, this year there are 80 families.  Their parade is always the first weekend of December on Saturday night.  If you’re in the area, drop over to see it.  Had we known it was happening we would have skipped the Magic Kingdom and hung out at “the Fort”.

When we got back from checking out the golf carts our friends John and Erin from New Jersey were next door watching Dave’s amazing castle.  They dropped in for a visit, along with their dogs, Ricco, Dakota and Elphie.  We yakked until about 10:00 p.m. but when everyone yawned simultaneously we decided to call it a night.  Sleep ensued!

Sunday December 8, 2013


Once again we hit the ground running!  We had to be at Animal Kingdom for opening time!  It was a flurry – feed and walk the dogs, shower, a quick piece of toast and go!  No time to post yesterday’s activities to the trip report – sorry folks!


We arrived at Disney’s Animal Kingdom at about 8:45 a.m., cleared the bag-check area and waited near the final entry gate for the rest of our Taginator friends to arrive.  When they opened the gates just before 9:00 none of our playmates were in sight so we marched back through the Oasis, across Discovery Island and into Asia where we waited in Anandapur, just in front of Expedition Everest.

Everyone else came along very quickly behind us . . . and we stood chatting until 9:15 to allow time for any stragglers to arrive.  Then we joined the standby line – it was a walk-on.  We proceeded directly through the queue with no time to see the many Himalayan artifacts on display.  By 9:17 our group of 18 was in our boarding position.  We had a terrific ride!

After we had a few seconds to collect our wits and put our hair back in place we made our way down the trail behind the Tree of Life to Africa where we met a few more of our pals before joining the standby queue for Kilimanjaro Safaris.  A few of our party were in ECV’s (scooters) so all 22 of us were waved into the “handicap” loading area so we could ride together.  Bonus.

It was a great ride, our best so far this trip.  Our driver Joseph put his own special twist on the normal narrative and the animals were plentiful.  When we hit the savannah there was a huge tower of giraffe.  That’s what a group of giraffe is called – a tower.  There was even a five-month old baby giraffe.  They blocked the road as we were passing and one approached very close to our truck before we were able to get moving again.  They actually followed us for about a hundred yards as we left.  It was great!

The lions put on a wonderful show as well.  The male was stretched out sleeping on top of one of the rocks and a female was in a cleft of rocks keeping a close eye on some nearby zebras.  Wow – what a sight!

We finished up the safari at about 10:25 – too late to make the 10:30 performance at the Festival of the Lion King.  What to do now?  How about “It’s Tough To Be A Bug”?  We all made our way to the Tree of Life, put on our bug glasses and sat together in the very back of the theatre while Flik and Hopper led the 3D show for us.


Our last stop with our buddies was at Flame Tree BBQ where we enjoyed a nice group lunch.  Good-byes are always tough, but after eating we made our way around the tables bidding farewell.  Lots of hugs and handshakes before we struck out for home.

We were back with our happy puppies by 1:00 p.m.  After giving the pups a few minutes to stretch, Carol rode her bike to the swimming pool where she basked in the sun for an hour or so.  I uploaded the previous days exciting episode of our trip report and then loaded the dogs onto the golf cart and chauffeured them to the dog park for some exercise.  Carol had just arrived home and was hanging up her wet bathing suit and towel when we pulled in.


Blue and I laid down for a short nap and soon the other two joined us.  Aahhh . . . that feels good!


By 5:15 the “dog chores” were all up to date; Carol and I headed to EPCOT.  We had Faspass+’s for Living With The Land and Soarin’ scheduled before the very special Illuminations Dessert Party organized by our friends at


We arrived at EPCOT at 5:30 and headed directly to The Land.  It turned out that we didn’t need the passes – there was no one in line.  When I say that I don’t mean the line was short.  I mean there was not a soul in it – no one!  We had a front row seat.  It was dusk so the greenhouses looked a bit different in the subdued lighting . . . a nice twist but a challenge at times to take pictures.

Next was Soarin’ – we walked across the pavilion, directly to the FastPass entry, swiped and got a green light one minute before our appointed time.  As we approached the load area Carol asked if we could wait for row B1 . . . they waved us right in, there were exactly two unfilled seats in that row.  Bonus – no waiting!


We had a bite to eat at Sunshine Seasons, the food court in The Land pavilion and then walked through the rose garden to World Showcase.  We stopped in Canada to watch the “O Canada” movie in the CircleVision theatre.  As we sat in the waiting area before the movie another couple came along and sat beside us.  The man asked, “Do you know what this movie is about?”  “Yes,” I said, “it’s all about the country I live in.”  “Oh, what country’s that?” he asked.  GAWRSH!

After our cross country tour of Canada I had hoped to see the movie in France, but there wasn’t time.  We wandered over toward Italy where we were meeting at 8:45 to check in for the AllEars Dessert Party.  We joined friends John and Sue from Cleveland Ohio and Ray from Atlanta who were already waiting.  Carol noticed Al and Jane from Kansas City Missouri sitting nearby so they joined our happy little group just as John and Erin came along too.  Soon more and more folks filled the piazza area as Mouse Fan Travel reps passed out wristbands for our special seating area.


Several members of Team AllEars were passing out packets of AllEars Trading Cards.  Naturally there was a frenzy of trading so our wait time passed very quickly.


AllEars Founder Deb Wills couldn’t be there because of a family emergency so at 9:00 Deb Koma, the Chief Editor at stood in for her and thanked everyone for supporting AllEars.  There were about 100 of us and the dessert party was a fund-raiser for Deb Wills Breast Cancer campaign.  We raised $5,100 that night!  Great!

Disney cast members escorted us to the prime viewing location in front of Italy where tables and chairs were waiting.  There was a lavish buffet of fruit, chocolate for dipping the fruit, cheeses, crackers, plenty of sweet desserts and hot and cold beverages.

We settled into a table along the side of World Showcase Lagoon with a plate full of goodies and soon the show started.  What a wonderful experience!

But wait – there’s more!  After Illuminations was over the Mouse Fan Travel reps asked us to wait a few minutes while the crowd dispersed.  The park was closed and Cast Members led us through an empty park, through “back-stage” areas to the rear of The Land pavilion where we entered through a back door.  We went directly to Soarin’ where our group had a solo ride.  No one else around . . .


Carol and I hung back with the organizers and didn’t take the ride.  We had been asked to help out by shooting some video as the riders exited Soarin’ and met the evening’s “special guest”.  Minnie Mouse showed up in full aviator attire and met everyone as they exited the ride.  Our friend Barrie, a professional photographer, was there taking everyone’s picture as they posed with Minnie.  Sweet!  Wow – what a wonderful evening.

It was after 11:00 when Carol and I wandered through a totally deserted park on our way back to the parking lot.  What a nice photo opportunity.  Carol said, “I feel like one of the Kingdom Keepers."

We were home with the pups at 11:40 and fell into bed exhausted!

Monday December 9, 2013


After a late Sunday night we had a laid back Monday morning.  No rushing around . . . plenty of coffee, a scrap of toast and a shower.  We were in the golf cart and on our way by 9:30.  The boat was pulling into the marina as we arrived; we were on Main Street USA by 10:00 a.m. 

Carol stopped at the FastPass+ kiosk to change a few passes while I snapped a few pictures.  She activated her Sorcerer card and picked up a packet of spell cards before we headed in the direction of the Jingle Cruise.

Naturally our walk took us past Frontier Mercantile . . . you can probably guess what happened.  Yup, I found a rocking chair while she traded some vinylmations.  It must have been a good session – it took so long that I finally went looking for her.  She assured me she was fine, she was just enjoying the trading . . . so I returned to my chair. 

She came out about five minutes later and we carried on to Adventureland for another spin on the Jingle Cruise.  This time we rode Vixen Val.

Lunch time was approaching . . . Carol had made an online FastPass reservation at Be Our Guest for 11:25 so we did a very slow stroll from Adventureland, through Frontierland to Fantasyland.  Try as we may to walk slow, we still arrived ten minutes early . . . so we sat on a stone wall nearby and waited.  It was becoming brutally hot but there was a gentle breeze blowing.

At 11:25 we checked in and were at our table on no time.  We both had our favourites, a turkey sandwich for me and a roast beef sandwich for Carol.  Yum!  The lunch at Be Our Guest is terrific!

The last item on our morning agenda was Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin.  We arrived in Tomorrowland 10 minutes early for our FastPass+ so we took a trip around Tomorrowland on the WEDWay People Mover while we waited.  We disembarked just in time for our 12:35 FastPass. 

This time I got the bum Astro-Blaster.  Carol whupped me . . . it was 140,300 to 51,300 and it would have been much worse if I hadn’t gotten lucky and scored about 40,000 in the last five seconds of the ride!  Ouch . . . it stings to lose!

By the time we emerged from Buzz it was very hot and very sticky.  We headed for the exit without even stopping to shop.  Yup, you read that correctly, Carol was too tired and hot to shop.


We were back home with the dogs by 1:30.  I hopped in the car for a quick run to a nearby Walgreens store and when I returned we loaded Zak and Blue onto the golf cart for a trip to the dog park.  After being cooped up in the RV all morning Blue needed to run!


Naturally we all had a short nap, and then I spent a bit of time uploading another installment of our online trip report.

By 5:30 the dogs were fed and walked.  We met up with our friends (and temporary next-door neighbors) Al and Jane and headed off to Trail’s End Buffet for dinner.  We had a nice time chatting with them over some good food and headed to the exit a bit after 7:00.  As we walked out the door a lady waved and said, “Hi, I’m Candy from Oregon and I read your blogs.”  Candy signed our online guest book after our trip last February and we spent a few enjoyable minutes chatting before she went into Trail’s End for dinner.


We returned to the RV where we yakked with Al and Jane a little while longer.  They said good night at about 7:45 and before long Carol and I decided to hop on the golf cart and go “looping”.  The puppies came with us on the golf cart as we toured the camping loops checking out all the Christmas décor.

As we circled around the campground we discovered that Blue is part Grinch . . . and all this time we thought he was a purebred Sheltie!  There is a very popular Christmas inflatable, it’s a camper trailer and every few seconds the door pops open and Santa Claus pokes his head out.  Blue saw one for the first time and every time Santa popped out Blue let out a deep rolling growl.  We drove on and soon encountered another one.  It was exactly the same when we stopped – Santa popped out and Blue growled.  Yup, there’s definitely some Grinch in that dog!


This tour of the campground was Carol’s last hurrah . . . she’s flying home tomorrow.  Sigh – it’s always hard to leave this place!


When we pulled back into the campsite there were visitors here.  Brenda, her husband Dave and a friend, Peggy, had dropped by to see the campground.  We had met this trio on the AllEars cruise in 2012.  Before long I had them loaded on the golf cart and we headed off to see some sights.  We stopped at a few of the more elaborate campsites and they took quite a few pictures.  All three raved about the campground before they headed off home about 10:00 a.m.


Carol has a long travel day on Tuesday so “lights out” came early.

Tuesday December 10, 2013


Today we enjoyed a very slow start.  Carol was flying home and she wanted to spend some quality time with the dogs.  Yup . . . the dogs!


We lazed around until 10:00 a.m. when we hopped in the car and headed out to the airport.  I dropped her off at the Jet Blue departure area at about 10:30, well ahead of her 12:15 flight time.  I hauled her bag out of the trunk, put it on the curb . . . guess what?  No tip!


Just kidding, a hug and kiss later I hopped in the car and she waved forlornly as I drove away.


I headed home and started packing things up.  All the Christmas decorations had to come down.  I pulled the plug on the inflatables and packed them up, pulled up the rope lights, wiped and coiled them.  Next came the Mickey Lamp and the Mickey rope lights.  The bicycles were hung on the back of the coach, the patio mat was swept and stowed.  I finished 90% of the work required to “break camp.”


Our normal routine is for me to knock things down and Carol then puts them away.  She spent quite a bit of time this morning telling me where everything was supposed to go.  With any luck I may have gotten a few things in the right spot . . . or maybe not!


By 3:00 p.m. I was all done.  Everything was packed, folded, stuffed and stowed away.  I was stiff and sore but it was time to stretch the dogs; they had been cooped up inside all day.  We took a golf cart ride to the dog park and they had good run.  Then it was nap time! 


By 5:00 p.m. Blue was nosing me . . . it was his dinner time.  I fed them and walked them . . . they kept looking around, “Where is my momma?”


It was my dinner time too so I hopped in the car and headed out to the Orlando Ale House on Route 535.  It’s a nice sports bar and I had a good meal, chicken fingers and fries.  I rewarded myself for a hard day’s work with a couple of Newcastle Brown Ales.


Carol’s flight was delayed about 20 minutes but she was home by the time I finished dinner.  We Skyped for a few minutes . . . there was no snow when she landed at Syracuse and she drove through a bit of snow around Watertown but we have no snow at home.  Her father’s surgery was postponed until next Tuesday but he’s first on the list that day.


I was achy and sore after all that packing up so I went to the hot tub for a soothing soak and a cooling dip in the pool.  It felt great.


I got home just as the fireworks started.  Zak didn’t even wake up but Blue was delighted to see me!

Wednesday December 11, 2013


I woke up with a nose in my face.  Blue was hungry.  When I looked at the alarm clock it was 8:00 a.m. – I haven’t slept that late in a very long time!  Once the dogs were all taken care of I had a coffee or three and pondered what I should do today?  I had nowhere to go, nothing to do and all day to get it done!  I really felt lost; my vacation planner and tour guide had flown home and I felt like a ship without a rudder.

Carol had booked me a few FastPass+’s at the Magic Kingdom in the evening so I thought I might go there later . . . then I decided to go in the morning too.  By 9:45 I was aboard a boat and on my way.  It was strictly a walking tour . . . no rides.  Well, almost no rides!

I snapped a few pictures at Town Square. 

The Main Street Jolly Trolley was performing and I knew Carol would want a picture of the horse.  She has to photograph the horse every time.

I boarded the train for a Great Circle Ride.

I had planned to go all the way around but changed my plan and detrained in Fantasyland.

I snapped pictures as I made my way to Tomorrowland where I did a Buzz Lightyear photo tour. 

I didn’t touch the Astro-Blaster – I just took pictures.  I ended up with a few good flicks and a perfect score of zero.

Next on my ad hoc agenda was a trip around Tomorrowland on the WEDWay Peoplemover.

I headed toward Casey’s for lunch and stopped briefly for the Castle forecourt show.  I managed to catch the fireworks in a picture.  Bonus!

After a satisfying Casey’s hot dog I made my way to the exit and caught the boat back to Fort Wilderness.  I felt very guilty as I passed the Fire Hall.  I didn’t pick up any Sorcerer cards for Carol – she hadn’t left me her key card to activate.  Yes, you’re right, it was all her fault – but I felt guilty nonetheless.


Back at the campsite I let the dogs out then did a few more chores that had to be done before I pull out in the morning.  I took down the awning lights and packed them away, retracted the awning and got the tow bar all set to hook the car up.  Then it was nap time . . . the dogs and I stretched out for a very well earned siesta.

By 5:30 the dogs had been fed and walked so I headed back to the Magic Kingdom for my last hurrah!  The boat dropped me off at 5:50 . . . the park was packed . . . jammed.

I was armed with some FastPasses so I headed off to Tomorrowland to use the first one at Buzz Lightyear. 

As I approached the ride I stopped to pick up two more FastPasses, one with my Annual Pass and the other with my Key To The World Card.  I stood for a moment near the FastPass entry and soon spotted two ladies who were looking at the long line, looking at the sign which announced a 40 minute wait and looking frustrated.  I gave them the two passes – it was like I had given them a million dollars . . . they were very excited and thankful!

I hopped into the FastPass queue and soon I was shooting away at those Z’s.  In the morning I recorded a perfect zero and in the evening I maxed out the counter at 999,999 – my best score ever.

How did I do it?  Easy peasy . . . the ride broke down just after they snapped my picture so I just kept on firing at Zurg.  Soon the score was topped out so I stopped shooting Z’s and started shooting pictures. 

Have you ever seen this Hidden Mickey?  When they snap your picture he’s behind you, over your left shoulder.

I left Tomorrowland and headed toward Adventureland.  The Hub was packed full of people, shoulder to shoulder.  They were just lighting the castle . . . I could not make it through until the lighting ceremony was over.


I finally made it to Pecos Bill’s where I had a taco salad for dinner.  Yum!

After dinner it was time for my FastPass+ at the Haunted Mansion.  After some quality time with the 999 Happy Haunts it was time to get out of Dodge.


Main Street was so crowded that they were diverting traffic through the Emporium . . . ouch – even the store was shoulder to shoulder. 


The Christmas season is very busy at Walt Disney World – it’s time to go home!

More guilt as I passed the Fire Hall.

The dogs were delighted to see me when I got back home at 8:00 p.m.


One observation after my solo day at Disney – this place is much more magical when your Princess is here to share it with you.  Zak and Blue agree!

Thursday December 12, 2013


I set my internal alarm clock for 6:30 a.m.  I woke and glanced at the real alarm clock, it read 6:00 so I rolled over and dozed for a few short minutes.  Ouch – next time I glanced it read 7:00  . . . time to get moving.  I still had some work to do and I was meeting Al & Jane for breakfast at 8:00.  The dogs were quickly fed and walked, I splashed around in the shower, tossed on some clothes and headed outside.  I dumped and flushed the holding tanks, disconnected the water, electric and cable TV and all the other stuff I always do.


Then I went inside . . . I really miss that lady who always makes the bed, puts away the coffee pot, the toaster and all that other stuff we travel with.  Sheesh . . . I even had to push the buttons to retract the stabilizing jacks and the sliding rooms . . . all by myself.  Carol had left me with some very clear and precise written instructions – where to find my passport, the receipts for the stuff I have to claim at Canada Customs, all the dog’s medical papers . . . this is stuff I rely on her for . . . and I think I got it all done.  One final review of her checklist – The pull-out pantry trays locked? CHECK!  The bedroom door locked? CHECK!  I was good to go . . . and only five minutes late!


Al, Jane and I rode the golf cart to Trail’s End Buffet where we enjoyed a nice meal.  My eyes were bigger than my appetite . . . I usually end my breakfast there with a Mickey waffle but today I had no room.


Jane drove the golf cart back to the campsite and dropped Al and I off.  I hopped in the RV, Al drove our tow car and Jane followed along in the golf cart.  We convoyed out to the hook-up area near the park entrance, over ½ mile from the campsite.  It’s a special lane where you stop to connect your car to the back of the motor home.  Once I had the car connected Al checked that the lights were working properly and then we said our goodbyes.  They went back to their RV in the golf cart while I harnessed the dogs, hooked them into the seat belts and made them all safe and secure for the trip.  I pulled out at 9:05 a.m. – pretty much on schedule.

Traffic was heavy on I-4 through downtown Orlando but moved steadily at about 50 mph.  Once I was east of the city it thinned out considerably and when I turned onto I-95 northbound it was lighter still.


At 11:00 I pulled off into the FlyingJ Truck Stop at St. Augustine to stretch my legs and give the dogs a walk.  I picked up a coffee and we were back on the road in no time.

Next stop was at 1:15 in Brunswick Georgia where I filled up with gas; once again it was a FlyingJ Truck Stop.  They have special lanes set aside for RV’s and there’s always plenty of room to maneuver.  The dogs had another walk . . . Zak is a seasoned traveler but Blue is still nervous about “doing his business” in a noisy truck stop . . . we got the job done though!


Carol had also given me some verbal instructions.  We are not allowed to take fruit across the border.  There was one apple sitting on the kitchen counter and she said, “If you don’t eat that apple be sure to throw it out before the border.”  After a big breakfast that apple served quite well as my lunch – I ate it on the fly.

Traffic in South Carolina was quite light and we continued to make good time.  I had covered 361 miles and pulled into the New Green Acres Campground at Walterboro at 3:50. 

By 4:00 I had registered and we were parked in our site for the night.  This time I took the dogs out for a good walk, then came back to set up the RV for our stay.  By 4:30 all was ship-shape and I gave Carol a call to let her know her dogs were OK.

I drove with my window open most of the day and the temperature started to cool later in the afternoon.  It was in the 50’s as I played with the pups in short sleeves.


I tossed the ball for Blue for a while as Zak sniffed around, then fed them and headed out to find my own dinner.  Ooops!  When I got to the car I turned back, opened the RV and grabbed my jacket . . . it was cooling down fast!


It was fast food tonight, a burger at Wendy’s.  Holy cow!  Look at that!  Gas is only $3.15 a gallon . . . I filled up the car on the way home.  I was back with the dogs by 7:15 and settled in for a quiet night of reading and TV.  It was 44 degrees when I got home and the forecast low here is 31 degrees.  The furnace will keep us toasty warm!


Tomorrow is a slightly shorter driving day, it’s 320 miles to Wytheville, in the mountains of Virginia, so the dogs will have some time to enjoy the dog park there . . . if it isn’t covered in snow!

Friday December 13, 2013


I was up at 6:30 a.m. and took the dogs out . . . there was frost on the ground!  What the heck’s with that?  I fed the dogs and then took them out one more time before I unhooked the utilities.  Yesterday I was sweating while I unhooked; today I was shivering.  I had to come back inside and have a hot shower to warm up.  Yikes!


We pulled out at 7:20 and by 7:30 I was seated at the Cracker Barrel Restaurant across the road.  Breakfast was good and the service was quick.  I was only there 30 minutes but that gave me enough time to send a text message to Carol and wake her up!  Ooops!

Traffic was light and we moved along steadily. 

At 10:15 I pulled into the FlyingJ Truck Stop at Rock Hill South Carolina.  The dogs and I had a leg stretch, I picked up a coffee and we got back underway.

Zak was in his harness and tethered on the floor in front of the passenger seat where Carol normally rides.

He dozed the day away but woke up once in a while wondering where his Momma’s feet were. 

Blue is more of a nervous traveler.  He’s also harnessed and we loop one of the seatbelts on the couch through the harness.  He likes to face backward rather than see where we are going!

By 12:30 we were on I-77 just south of Statesville North Carolina where I pulled into a rest area.  After walking the dogs I had a quick sandwich for lunch.

It wasn’t long before that big hill appeared.  Do you see those mountains in the background?  Those are the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and the dogs and I climbed over them in the RV.  This is the part of the trip Carol just hates.  (She also doesn’t like me taking pictures while I’m driving – so don’t tell her you saw these).

The ascent was uneventful . . . except when these two trucks roared by, one on each side of me.

I topped up the gas tank at the Wytheville FlyingJ and pulled into the KOA Campground, just down the road, at 2:30.  The first priority was to winterize the RV.  The night before I had checked the weather forecast for my next stop, Harrisburg Pennsylvania - they were calling for 4” of snow.  There is no sign of snow here so I decided to go for it. 


I let the dogs out for a few minutes and then gave Carol a call to let her know the dogs were OK.  She mentioned a big storm coming in . . . I hadn’t heard anything about it, but I decided to stay here, winterize and take my chances tomorrow.  Once I’m winterized there’s no real need to stop in Harrisburg, if I can press on a little further before the heavy snow sets in – so much the better.  I would like to make it to the FlyingJ at New Milford Pennsylvania tomorrow night . . . but we’ll see how it goes!

So I got at the winterizing; it’s a pretty simple process and only takes about a half hour.  I gave the two waste holding tanks their final drain and flush, isolated and drained the water heater tank, drained the fresh water tank and finally drained all the plumbing pipes and pumped them full of non-toxic anti-freeze. 


I was all done at 4:00 . . . so I took the dogs out and gave them a really good run.  Blue was panting when we came inside for dinner.  I turned on The Weather Channel while they were eating . . . Yikes!  That storm looks nasty.  I’m going to set the alarm and get on the road early tomorrow!


At 5:30 I hopped in the car and drove a few miles into the City of Wytheville.  I stopped at the Red Roof Inn and booked a room for Carol’s parents when they travel with us in February, then made my way to the Peking Restaurant.  A bowl of wonton soup, an egg roll and a combination plate of fried rice and chicken chow mien was more than I could eat.  I have a box of Chinese food to nuke for lunch tomorrow!


I was back with the dogs shortly after 7:00, hooked the car back up and checked the lights . . . I’m almost all set to roll out in the morning.  All that’s left is to unplug the electric power and disconnect the cable TV.


After a quiet night with the dogs I’ll be hitting the sack early so I can get a quick start and try to stay ahead of this storm they are calling Electra.

Saturday December 14, 2013


I wanted to be certain that I got an early start today so I set the bedroom alarm clock for 5:30 a.m.  Naturally this was the time when my internal alarm clock worked perfectly.  I woke at 5:25, shut off the alarm and got ready to pull out.  Once the dogs were walked and fed and the RV utilities were unhooked it was time for my shower . . . since there’s no running water in the RV I had to go to the campground’s bathhouse.  Now that’s roughing it.


We pulled out of the campground at 6:20 and by 6:30 I was ordering my breakfast at a Denny’s Restaurant just down the road.  Service was quick; I was in and out of the restaurant in 20 minutes.  We were northbound on I-81 before 7:00.

Roads were bare and dry and traffic was very light on a Saturday morning.  There was no trace of snow, but roadside signs were flashing a winter storm advisory and urging everyone to slow down.

I saw several snowplows parked on access ramps beside the freeway, their lights flashing and the crew waiting for “snowmageddon” to arrive.  This guy was cruising the highway looking for some snow to push around!

For a few minutes I wondered whether they had called in the army to help deal with all the snow . . .


After about an hour I began to see trace amounts of snow in the most shaded parts of the forest alongside the highway, but there was no trace of snow anywhere the sun had shone in the past week.


Skies were quite overcast and the stunning views in the Shenandoah Valley, that normally impress me, were just not to be seen today.


At around 9:30 I pulled over in a rest area at Staunton Virginia.  There was about an inch of snow in a shaded area of the dog walk so that’s where I took the boys.  Zak rolled in it and Blue ate some snow before they settled down and did their chores.

We rolled on down the road, making good time, and pulled into the FlyingJ Truck Stop near Winchester Virginia at 11:15.  I had enough gasoline to take me to my planned stop but I topped it up just to be safe, then filled the propane tank to be sure we would be warm tonight and when we head back this way in about six weeks.  Once all that was done I found a parking spot, walked the dogs and had lunch.  I fired up the on-board generator so I could use the microwave to nuke yesterday’s leftover Chinese food.  Yum!


We were northbound again by 12:15 and made quick time as we passed through West Virginia and Maryland and into Pennsylvania.  At 2:00 we passed Harrisburg Pennsylvania,  my original planned stop . . . the roads were clear and there was no trace of snow so we carried on.  The dogs were relaxed . . . at least this guy was!

All went well until about 3:00 p.m. when all of a sudden everything changed . . . for the worse!  There is a stretch of the highway, about 40 or 50 miles long, mostly high-altitude plateau in coal mining country.  It’s south from Hazleton Pennsylvania.  It the roads are going to be bad, that’s where it will happen.  It’s colder at those altitudes, the wind howls and it snow’s - a lot. 


Today it was as if someone had thrown a switch; conditions suddenly went from good to very bad.  The road was snow covered in spots, slushy in spots and even icy in a few places.  Everyone slowed down . . . well, most people did.  Those that didn’t were asking for trouble and a few found it . . . here is one of three tractor-trailers I saw in the ditch.  After snapping this one I put the camera down for good and kept two hands on the wheel.



Blue was his normal, fretful self but Zak was calm.  He had the utmost confidence in my ability to get us through this!

Carol and I have hit rough weather in this area before, but not like this!  I’m glad she wasn’t here today . . . she wouldn’t have been a happy camper!


Then suddenly I drove out of it; the snow stopped and roads were clear again.  It seemed like it took forever but it was only a bit more than an hour . . . a grueling hour!


Traffic resumed normal speed and we passed Scranton at about after 4:20 p.m. It started to snow lightly but the snow got heavier and heavier the further I went.  By the time I had covered the 35 miles from Scranton to the FlyingJ Truck Stop near New Milford it was coming down hard.  There was about 6” of that fluffy white crap on the ground!  We pulled in at 5:00 p.m. and I was surprised to find only two other RV’s here.  I had been worried that I might not find a spot that late in the day . . . but it seems all the clever people stayed home!


We waited for a few minutes while a snowplow cleared a bit of the RV parking area for us, then I parked and got the dogs out for a walk.  Brrrr!  It’s very cold and the wind is howling.


The dogs were fed a few hours early this morning and 5:00 is their normal dinner time.  I expect that they were quite hungry, so I fed them as soon as we got back from their walk and I called Carol on Skype while they ate.


When Carol was up-to-date with dog news and I was up-to-date with home news we said goodbye.


We are about 4 – 4 ½ hours from home if the roads are clear, but we have everything we need to ride out the storm here if necessary.  We’ll be snug and warm in the motor home and the FlyingJ has rest rooms, showers and a restaurant.


By 8:00 p.m. the plow was going again, about another 3” had fallen since we pulled in.  That’s 1” per hour . . . I wonder what I’ll see when I look out in the morning?


The puppies and I are dog-tired after a stressful afternoon so it will be an early night for us!

Sunday December 15, 2013


After going to bed before 10:00 p.m. I expected to be awake very early . . . when I first checked the clock it was reading 6:00 a.m. so I rolled over and went back to sleep.  It had been the quietest night ever at a truck stop.  The bad weather kept everyone off the road so there was no traffic and no noise . . . we all slept very well!  I had planned to sleep until about 7:00 but Blue had different ideas.  He was poking me at 6:20 so I got up and let them out. 


After the dogs were walked, fed and walked again I headed into the Denny’s Restaurant at the FlyingJ for breakfast.  I spoke with a few truckers who had driven down from the north and they reported that the roads were OK . . . plowed and mostly bare.  I decided to give it a try so after breakfast I called Carol to let her know I was on the way.  She said she’d do her best to have our snowy driveway clean by the time I arrived.

I gassed up for the last time and was on the highway by 8:20.  Just as the truckers said, the roads were fine, traffic was very light and we made great time.  By 10:30 we were at Syracuse and I pulled over at a plaza in Mattydale to give the dogs a stretch. 

The Weather Channel had forecast between 12 and 18 inches of snow for Syracuse.  There was no more than 6 or 8 inches on the ground.  I think winter storm Electra may have gotten lost on her way to Syracuse.

The further north I went, the clearer the sky became until just a few miles from the border there were large blue patches in the west.  It was fleeting though . . . when I crossed the border at 12:10 it was gloomy again.  The Canada Customs agent asked a few very basic questions before waving me through . . . I was through in less than a minute.


Once I hit the freeway I called Carol on my cell phone (no roaming charges now that I’m home) to tell her the dogs and I were in Canada and we’d see her in about 25 minutes!

I was wrong . . . just a few minutes later I encountered the worst road conditions and the heaviest traffic yet!  The last 10 miles of my trip, on highway 401 was snowpacked, often icy and traffic crept and crawled at an average of about 30 kph (that’s about 19 mph).  That 25 minute drive took an hour.

I pulled up in front of a clean driveway at 1:15.  Carol gave the dogs a big hug; I got a slightly smaller hug . . . Sigh!  She was happy to see us all but not so happy to see her car!

She had a pot of hot soup on the stove so we had a quick lunch and then began the job of unpacking the beast.  I unhooked that filthy car and pulled some snowy bikes off the rack.  Everything was gritty from the salt and sand – Yuck!


Carol worked away inside, stripping the bed, cleaning out the fridge, the pantry, the cupboards, the closets and the medicine cabinets.  Yikes there was a lot of stuff in there.  Once I finished with the car and the bikes, I washed up and began lugging the stuff Carol had assembled into the house . . . back and forth . . . back and forth.  Carol wiped everything down and vacuumed, then we both tackled the “basement”, the storage compartments under the RV.  They were full of Christmas decorations, and so was the trunk of the car. 


We were all done by 3:00 p.m.  Zak, Blue and I went off for a well earned nap.  Carol started the laundry . . . she may be at it for days!


Tomorrow the RV goes to a truck wash and the car goes to a car wash . . . they’re both very grimy! 


They've got to be shined up for our next trip starting in about eight weeks!