Thursday, 10 November 2011

Disneyworld Trip – March 2011

Disneyworld Trip – March 2011

Hello, faithful readers, and welcome to Return of Vacation Blog 2: Electric Boogaloo, as Tracey and I head back to Orlando for a visit to Disney, AND experience the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter land at Universal Studios' Islands of Adventure. FINALLY I get to taste Butterbeer.

Is it just me, or is that weird? Butterbeer? I mean, I like butter, and I like beer, but they just don't seem to go together. What's next, peanut butter and chocolate??? Oh, the humanity.


Wednesday, March 9th

6:00 PM - Well this is unprecidented, a blog entry two days BEFORE the vacation begins? What could possibly be of interest at this point? HOW ABOUT A REALLY SORE THROAT?!?!?!? Oh this is not a good way to begin the vacation!! Going to sleep in a bit tomorrow morning and hope that the rest makes it go away.

Thursday, March 10th

7:00 AM - Nope. It's worse, so I'm off to the clinic, just to make sure it's not something that antibiotics can help. The Doctor tells me it is not, it's a viral infection, and I'll basically just have to put up with it for 7-10 days. Fan-freaking-tastic. He does reassure me by mentioning that the heat and humidity in Florida should make it feel a little better.

5:00 PM - Home from work and I am completely EXHAUSTED. This is what scares me about the trip; I can certainly put up with a sore throat, but if it's accompanied by this kind of fatigue, combined with the humidity of Florida, it's going to be tough.

7:30 PM - I'm packed and am going to bed. I'm sure all I need is a really good night's sleep. I'm watching the Coyotes/Flames game but am not expecting to make it through. It's 1-0 Phoenix after 2 periods, Ilya Bryzgalov has been brilliant as the Flames have played a great game. I fall asleep around that point, only to be awakened 7-8 times by calls of "OH WHAT A SAVE BY BRYZGALOV" or "BRYZGALOV IS PUTTING ON A CLINIC".....and I guess it was a pretty good clinic as the Flames don't get one by him all game. Thankfully the Ilya show ends and I'm able to stay asleep.....c'mon, let's sleep through the night.....

Friday March 11th

2:30 AM - PFFT. 2:30 AM is NOT sleeping through the night. I try to go back to sleep but no luck. Damn this sore throat.

5:00 AM - I drag myself out of bed and start to get ready for work. Tracey tells me about the Earthquake in Japan, so I turn on CNN for a while and notice they are saying that at least 60 people died. Considering the devestation we are seeing, something tells me that number is going to go up quite a bit. Hope I'm wrong but it seems like 60 would be a pretty good result considering....

2:30 PM - Tracey picks me up from work and we're off! Through the border in no time (love NEXUS!!!) and we stop at Tulalip to hit Walmart for some medicine and assorted supplies for the trip. We have dinner at Olive Garden. They have a special, Pear and Gorgonzola Ravioli. Pear and Gorgonzola? What a bizzare combination. What's next, peanut butter and chocolate? Sheesh.

7:00 PM - We arrive at our hotel, the Red Lion Inn. We got an awesome price on this place; $207 for the night and 14 days parking. It would have cost us much more than that to park at the Airport! The parking rates at SeaTac are absolutely absurd.

Saturday March 12th

7:45 AM - We're awake and ready to head to the airport. Our flight leaves at 11:50 so we have lots of time for breakfast first. I've checked online and both our flights today are "on time" at this point so that's a good start. This isn't going to be a great day for me.....not crazy about flying in the first place, and flying when I feel this crappy is going to be a challenge. Oh well, it's worth it.

9:00 AM - Ready to head to the airport and when I go down to put the car into the long term parking that I paid for a month ago, I'm told it's full. They overbooked the parking. They allow me to park the car right outside the hotel at no extra charge (gee thanks)....I guess the only real difference is that it's not secure parking, but it's 20 feet from the booth that has someone in it 24/7 so I guess that's pretty secure. If something happens to my car while I'm away, there is going to be trouble.

10:45 AM - Sitting at the airport after having breakfast and I notice a couple at the table to my right taking pictures of their food. I can understand that if it's a beautiful meal in a fancy restaurant, but the guy is eating a Whopper for chrissake. I imagine it looks like every other Whopper. I shouldn't mock them, I'm sure they are winning. Duh. Maybe the Whopper has tiger blood on it. THAT would be picture-worthy.

That WILL be the last Charlie Sheen reference in this blog. I mean, I HAD to do one, right??? You would have all lost respect for me if I didn't.

1:50 PM - We land in San Francisco. I've noticed something unusual....I'm pretty much deaf at this point. OK now I know it's not that strange to have your ears plug on a flight, but I've never experienced anything like THIS. I can't hear a damn thing. Tracey is 2 feet away from me and I swear she's just moving her mouth and not actually saying anything. Hopefully this goes away quickly.....

2:20 PM - We start to board, at the same gate, and onto the same plane, we got off 40 minutes ago. One of my ears got SLIGHTLY better while I was off the plane but not much. Wow this is quite a sensation. Every time I say something I feel like I am yelling, and there is a very loud echo in my head, but Tracey says I am whispering and she can't hear me. Bliss for her.

11:25 PM - We land in Orlando! Flight was really smooth, and it went fast due to a couple of books I was reading. I read "A Lion's Tale" by Chris Jericho. If any of you are, or ever have been, the slightest interested in the world of Professional Wrestling, this is an absolute MUST READ. Fascinating stories of Jericho's early days in the business and some really interesting behind the scenes info on the chaos that was the Eric Bischoff-led WCW during the Monday Night Wars. It's also very, very funny. After I finished that, I got through the first 100 pages of "Searching for Bobby Orr" by Stephen Brunt. So far, I'd also highly recommend this one.

11:50 PM - We have our rental car and arrive at Summer Bay Resort. It looks absolutely gorgeous, of course it's dark so we can't see a ton right now, but I'm sure we are going to be very happy here! Our room is fantastic and we have a view of a large water fountain right out our back window. We head off to Wal-Mart to pick up some groceries for the week and we come across this monstrosity:



That is a lifetime supply of cheese puffs, all for the bargain basement price of $6!!! Tough to resist, but we manage.

Time for bed, with the hour we lose for Daylight Savings it's actually 3:27 AM now, and tomorrow will be our first day at the Magic Kingdom so we don't want to sleep THAT late. That might be kinda tough but we'll see :-)

Sunday March 13th

11:45 AM - Much later than I wanted to sleep but I can't say I am surprised. My throat feels a little better, but still has a long way to go, so I obviously needed the rest. Tracey is actually up before me, which is probably the first time since the Nixon administration that has happened. My ears are STILL not completely unplugged, but they are a little better and Tracey can hear me now. Too bad for her. We have a little breakfast and get ready to head over to the Magic Kingdom.

2:00 PM - We pull into the parking lot and there is a tram waiting to take us to the Magic Kingdom. After the tram drops us at the Ticket & Transportation Centre, we pick up our tickets, hop onto a Monorail and we're at the gates in minutes. The weather today is outstanding. It's hot, but not overly hot, and the humidity seems to be almost non-existant today. I could not possibly have asked for a better day with my throat still bothering me. We head straight for the Engemoen-traditional Disney opener, Pirates of the Caribbean, stopping on the way to enjoy a fruity Dole Whip float, and get to POTC to find that there is a 35 minute wait. It's busy today but not outrageously so. After POTC, we grab a fastpass for Big Thunder Mountain and decided to do a little shopping.

6:50 PM - After hitting It's A Small World and Big Thunder Mountain, we head over to the Liberty Town Tavern for our dinner reservations. This place rocks. The food isn't anything complicated....they start you out with some salad and incredible buns, then the real party begins. Ham, strips of beef, turkey, mac & cheese, mashed potatoes and gravy....comfort food.....and they keep bringing it to you until you tell them to stop...but they sure know how to do it! Tracey and I both remarked that it was possibly the best ham we'd ever eaten. The dinner was finished off with apple crisp and ice cream and it was all absolutely scrumtrelescent. We love this place so much that we have reservations to come back here next Monday.

8:00 PM - After dinner we decide to head out, doing some shopping down Main Street, taking a ton of pictures, and driving back to the resort. Two of the four pools at the resort are open 24 hours so we are going to check one of them out. Nice to be sitting in a heated pool at 10PM sipping a frosty beverage! Here's a funny story that you hockey fans will find amusing. As we're in the pool, a young girl (14? 15?) comes into the pool area, wearing a Carolina Hurricanes T-shirt. OK so that's odd in itself, this may be the first person I've ever seen wearing such a shirt, anywhere.....to see it in Orlando is especially odd, particularly on a young female. It got more bizarre when she turned around to show that the shirt had a name and number. 14. Adams.

KEVYN ADAMS????? Really? This guy gets a T-shirt, and someone bought it? This guy played 540 NHL games and scored a whopping 59 goals. Tracey is convinced she must be his niece and she must be right. Gotta be some sort of relative, that's just too random. Next I'm half expecting to see someone walk in with a Zdenek Blatny (HOLY BIZARRO REFERENCE, BATMAN!!) shirt.

11:30 PM - Back in the room, checking Email and updating the blog, and then off to bed. Tomorrow will be a big deal, and we are planning to be up early. Hogwart's beckons!!

Monday March 14th

6:30 AM - Well I wasn't planning to be up THAT early but whatever.....as long as I'm up I guess I might as well get out of bed and make some pancakes for breakfast. The park opens at 9 and we want to be there as early as we can to lessen the lines we are expecting for the Harry Potter world.

9:00 AM - We get there just as the park is opening. It's already a zoo and it's a long walk to the park, and then a longggggggggg walk from the park gates to the Harry Potter area. Luckily for us, Tracey and I can walk a lot faster than anyone with little kids :-) Still, by the time we get there......

9:40 AM - The Harry Potter world is at capacity. FOURTY MINUTES after the park opens and the entire land is full. We have to go and get a "return time ticket" (like a Fastpass I guess) so we can come back around 11:10. I go on the Jurassic Park river ride while Tracey watches as she doesn't want to get wet. I end up in, literally, the middle seat in the entire boat and barely get a drop of water on me. The weather today is beautiful again, hot but tolerable, and very little humidity.

10:30 AM - We head back towards The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and find out that the land is no longer full so we go in before our return ticket time. We purchased the "Express Pass" for today ($50 each!!!) so we get to jump the line of almost every attraction once, but they do not work on the signature attraction in the Harry Potter castle, which is currently advertising a wait time of 110 minutes. After about 20 minutes of waiting in line while a bunch of kids with cancer are ushered ahead of us (kids with cancer get all the breaks ;-) ), a guy tells us we can go into the "single rider" line which will take us much less time. We do that and probably get on the ride in another 15 minutes. It's a VERY good decision because you can't see the other people on the ride with you so it really doesn't matter if your friends are on the same ride with you or not. This ride is FANTASTIC. It's part virtual reality, part thrill ride, all VERY EXCITING!!! All the major characters show up, you are involved in a Quiddich match, get attacked by spiders and dementors, and you are tossed around as if you were really on an enchanted bench. Very well done.

Next we head to the Flight of the Hippogriff, which is a roller coaster that lasts about 30 seconds, and I'm not joking. In fact, I might actually be overstating the length of the ride. We head down Diagon Alley where all the shops are and there are huge lineups to get into Olivander's Wand Shop, so we decide we'll do that next time. We line up and get a couple of Butterbeer. It's really good, but I cannot possibly describe it. It's not butter and it's certainly not beer. I've heard someone describe it as butterscotch, but it didn't taste like that to me. Very odd and unique, but refreshing. I bought a chocolate frog, which came with a Helga Hufflepuff card, and Tracey got some fudge. We also took on the dueling dragons coaster. We chose the Chinese Firetail (you can also ride a Hungarian Horntail) and it was the most extreme roller coaster I have ever been on to this point in my life. You go up, down, sideways, upside down, sideways while upside down, upside down while sideways, and pass within EIGHTEEN INCHES of the other dragon on three occasions. OMFG. After getting off this coaster we both literally had trouble walking straight. Must have been the butterbeer.

We've done all we can in TWWOHP for now and decide to make sure we make good use of our Express passes. We're hungry so we grab a couple hot dogs and they it's time for SPIDER MAN, baby!! Definitely one of the best rides ever and this experience is just like the last time we were here: Spectacular!! The Express pass works it's magic again, as we bolt past the posted 90 minute wait and are in line no more than 10 minutes. Next it's off to The Hulk Coaster, which has a posted wait of ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY MINUTES!!! WTF?!?!? That's like, let me do the math here, three hours. THREE HOURS FOR A ROLLER COASTER?!?!?! I wouldn't wait three hours to punch the ACTUAL Hulk in the nuts. Thankfully the Express pass is worth it's money again, as our actual wait is closer to 15 minutes at most. Remember when I said that the Chinese Horntail was the most extreme coaster I'd ever been on? Well it held that distinction for about an hour. HOLY CRAP. I had to spend most of the ride holding my sunglasses onto my face so they wouldn't fall off, and I've NEVER had to do that on any coaster before. They may not have fallen off, but just the feeling that they MIGHT was enough to make me put my hand over my face. This coaster is INSANE. Fun, fun, fun!!!

1:30 PM - Enough for today, we are going to head back to the resort and hit the pool. This was a very fun day. When the Harry Potter world opened, I'd read a couple of online reviews that were negative...well, maybe not negative, just guarded. The reviewers said that while TWWOHP was fun and had been well thought out, it was missing something. Magic. Pretty ironic to be missing magic in a land based on a boy wizard. Apparently JK Rowlings was long in negotiations with Disney to put this in a Disney park, and the reviewers felt that Disney would have added the magic that Universal missed. I have to concur. We still have some things in the Harry Potter world to see but at this point although I would still give it an enthusiastic recommendation, it just isn't Disney.

2:00 PM - We get back to the resort and Tracey goes to change into her bathing suit. I sit down on the couch for a minute.

5:20 PM - Well that was more than a minute. Tracey obviously needed a nap too as she's STILL asleep.

6:00 PM - Tracey is up and we're off to Applebees for dinner. It's a brand new restaurant, open less than 2 weeks, and they are advertising "Happy Hour", 2 for 1 drinks. Every day, all day. How is that "Happy Hour"? Anyway, who cares? We get 7 drinks, a trio of appetizers and 2 entrees for $80, including a nice tip. Cha-ching. The service wasn't great, our waiter was very friendly but he was definitely as new as the restaurant, and the food took a while, but we weren't in a hurry so no big deal. Hell if they kept serving us 2 for 1 drinks they could have held our food until tomorrow and we wouldn't have complained. Oh yeah, Tracey got ID'd. Clearly the waiter, in addition to being new, had a vision problem. OMG I'm going to pay for THAT comment.

8:00 PM - We're off to go skinny dipping with a bunch of other guests. No, of course we aren't skinny dipping, but Kevin requested more "sex and violence" in the blog so I am trying to keep the readers happy.

10:30 PM - Back from the pool and it's bedtime. Tomorrow is a "resort day", we have no scheduled plans until dinner, so we are going to take it easy.

Tuesday March 15th

12:30 PM - Well THAT is the definition of "sleeping in"...although it's not quite as good as it seems. I've added a bitch of a cough to my sore throat and that kept us both awake most of the night so even though we're getting up after noon, neither of us is particularly rested.

1:50 PM - There is something freeing about eating breakfast at nearly 2 in the afternoon.

2:30 PM - Off to the pool. The weather today is nice but there are some wandering clouds so we lose the sun from time to time. Still, no complaints, it's 80 degrees and mostly sunny. Could be worse, considering it's still technically winter.

7:00 PM - After a couple more naps and some puttering around, we are headed back to the Magic Kingdom for dinner at Cinderella's Castle!! This is awesome, it's the only dinner you have to book (and pay for) 6 months in advance in order to get in. Last time we were here, we were visited by Cinderella's Fairy Godmother and some rats who did a little song and dance, so that's what I was expecting here. The dinner was terrific and we were eating here again mainly for the food, not so much for the song and dance. Well, we were in for a pleasant treat, as instead of the Fairy Godmother, we got Jasmine, Belle, Ariel and Aurora! Pictures with Princesses certainly trumps a song from a couple of rodents! They were awesome as usual, especially Ariel who took extra time chatting with everyone. After she left our table she went to a table a few feet away, but surprisingly she came back to our table, tapped Tracey on the shoulder and said something to her....Tracey didn't hear what she said, but it became obvious a couple of minutes later when the guy at the table next to us pulled out a ring and proposed to his girlfriend! Seriously, could you imagine a better place to do that? In Cinderella's castle, surrounded by Princesses? What a nice touch and a fantastic topper on a great evening. After dinner we headed into the park to hit a couple of rides, including Space Mountain, and Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters. Tracey was already making excuses about how she was going to lose because her hand hurt. WAAAAAAAAAAA. She ended up with around 50,000 points, which is a pretty good score! YAY for Tracey! My score was around the same, if by "around the same" you actually mean "around triple the same amount".

12:30 AM - We decide it's time to head back to the resort and get some sleep. We are back to the Magic Kingdom tomorrow, we have dinner reservations at a character buffet, but we are going to sleep in and get to the park when we get there.

Wednesday March 16th

11:53 AM - I wake up and stumble to the bathroom. Stumble?? Where did that come from? I'm suddenly dizzy. Well sure, exactly WHAT ELSE can happen on this trip? It seems to subside in 5-10 minutes but that will be something to watch out for.

It's another GORGEOUS day and we're headed back to the Magic Kingdom. First, off to the store to restock on medicine as I've run out and my throat is not feeling any better at all.

2:00 PM - We arrive at the Magic Kingdom only to find that the entire population of Orlando is already there. WTF??? It's WEDNESDAY for chrissake, don't some of these kids need to be in school, learning how to say "would you like fries with that?" so they can earn $4.50 an hour??? What is this country coming to anyway????

2:45 PM - Already 110 minute wait for Splash Mountain. We could get a Fastpass to return at 10:00. Jesus, a Fastpass over SEVEN hours in advance? SO, since we aren't going to be doing any big rides today, we do a few smaller attractions (including the "Mickey's Philharmagic" show which is great!), a little shopping, and kill some time until dinner. We notice that they are heavily advertising the "new Fantasyland", which opens in 2012, and features a lot of exciting looking new rides:

Under the Sea with the Little Mermaid (likely the same as the ride opening at California Adventure later in 2011)

Seven Dwarves Mine Ride

Some sort of Circus attraction

"Be Our Guest" Dinner...this looks like dinner in the Beauty and the Beast castle!

8:00 PM - Dinner at the Crystal Palace, with Pooh and Friends. It's a good buffet dinner, nothing particularly spectacular, but the food is good.

In an effort to make Kevin happy with more sex in the blog, here is a picture of two of the biggest asses you will EVER see:


And who doesn't love a good Pooh?





After dinner we are tired and decide to head home. We get caught as the Main Street Electrical Parade is just starting so we have to wait until that passes us before we can get out. It looks very cool, we are going to catch it in full next week.

9:45 PM - We get out of the park and get stuck in bumper to bumper traffic, almost the entire way home. WTF?!?!?!? Wednesday at 10 PM must be party time in Orlando. NO sign of any accident or traffic incident, just a hell of a lot of people in my way.


Thursday March 17th


11:50 AM - Well, the good news is that my sore throat is about 75% better. The bad news is that the cough is about 400 times worse. I pretty much sound like I'm about to hack up a lung. Or kidney. Or both. I'm going to be "Mr. Popular" on the rides with the kids and their parents today. Oh well, let's face it, I probably got this from a kid, or from someone with kids, so it's payback time, baby!!!!

1:00 PM - Off to Epcot today. We changed our plans because I got very little sleep last night and if I can't make it through a full day, this is the park where we'll miss the least. I'm still sleeping on the sofa bed so that Tracey can try to get some sleep; we tried to sleep in the same bed one night which resulted in HER sleeping on the sofa bed, so that didn't work out well. My wife, wonderful as she is, is a "bed princess", everything needs to be just right for her to sleep, so a soft bed is not her friend. I sleep much easier so it works better if I suffer, er, sleep on the sofa bed.

2:00 PM - We arrive at Epcot, looking forward to what might be a short day; last time we were here, this was by FAR our least favorite park. So much so, in fact, that Tracey didn't even want to come back here, and she bitched a bit when I put it on our itinerary. I checked out the website and saw quite a few things that looked interesting that we didn't do last time so I thought it was worth a shot. In fairness, the reason we didn't have much fun here last trip was more weather-related than anything else. Between the crazy heat and humidity and the fact that we got rained on every 15 minutes, we didn't stay very long and we missed a ton of stuff. Right after we entered the park today, we got pictures with a couple characters you don't see very often:



Stitch

Daisy Duck

The best ride in this park is Soarin' (called Soarin' Over California at California Adventure) and I tell Tracey that I am NOT leaving the park until I've been on that ride. It's really my only "MUST DO" of the day. As we start to head in that direction, we see a sign that says the wait is currenly 150 minutes. Oh, and Fastpasses are SOLD OUT FOR THE DAY. Hmm. Suddenly "MUST DO" just became "SCREW THAT". We grab a little lunch and head to the "World Showcase" section, where the lands of individual countries reside. It didn't take us long to find the formula for having a better time at Epcot: Liquor. Oh yes, as Tracey put it, "everything is more fun with wine". We go into Aux Vins De France (after running into Aurora, another nice photo op) and, for $20 (each), get to embark on a "World Showcase Wine Walk", tasting 6 wines from 3 different countries. From France, we try:
Georges Duboeuf Pouilly Fuisse (Chardonney) - Very sharp and refreshing

Chateau Tour de Segur (Bordeaux) - Light, peppery

We also taste a Pinot Noir (very delicate, not as good as the ones we usually have at home) and an excellent champagne.
Now that we're sufficiently liquored up, we check out a movie about France (seemed very outdated and kind of ordinary), and then headed up the road to the next area, Morocco. Oh, we noticed that Belle and The Beast were outside taking pictures but they closed the lineup before we had a chance to get in it. Too bad, it's rare to get a chance at a picture with Beast.

In Morocco, we get into line to get pictures with Jasmine and Aladdin. I remark to Aladdin that I ALMOST wore that EXACT outfit this morning. Boy that would have been embarrassing.


Next up is the Italy area and two more wine samples:
Castelo Banfi San Angelo Pinot Grigio (not bad, very subtle)

Rosa Regale (Sparkling Red, so awesome we bought a bottle!)

Next door was Germany. The final two wine tastings:
Valckenberg Madonna Liebfraumilch (tasty, sweet and light)

Valckenberg Madonna Spatlese (even sweeter, nice)

We went into a German candy shop and found the kinds of things you would find in a lot of these types of shops, except that apparently in Germany they put caramel on EVERYTHING. Chocolate covered strawberries. Covered in caramel. Chocolate covered marshmallows. Covered in caramel. Hunks of caramel....covered in caramel....you get the idea. I think I would like Germany. :-)
Another photo op, as Snow White is hanging around the German area (anyone know Snow White was German??)

Next we head to the Norway area. Tracey finds a random worker and hands him her ID, just to see if they could pronounce our last name. They have no trouble, no surprise there, apparently it's a very common name in Norway. We get a Fastpass for a little boat ride they have, thank goodness because it wasn't that exciting and the stand-by wait was almost an hour.
Next up we head to Mexico, where we go on another little boat ride through Mexico, accompanied by the Three Caballeros (Donald Duck and a couple characters I don't know), and then decide to have dinner in an authentic Mexican restaurant. Tracey is very excited as she loves authentic Mexican cuisine. I'm pretty indifferent to it. Not suprisingly, she loves her meal and I'm pretty indifferent to mine. Oh well, it was fine, just not totally my thing.

9:00 PM - We are just done dinner and the park is closing so we head out of the park. So much for it being a "short day". We had a GREAT day!! I finally get Tracey to admit that I was right in scheduling Epcot on our itinerary :-)

9:30 PM - We stop at the grocery store in our resort to pick up a couple things and Tracey tries to pay with her credit card, only to find that she doesn't have it. Oops. We used it to pay for dinner and left it behind in the restaurant. We try to call them but they are closed. We call Mastercard and have them suspend the card and we'll try to get it back tomorrow. If the restaurant can't find it we'll have to cancel it and deal with it when we get home. No huge deal, but it could be a bit of an inconvenience if we have to go back to Epcot to get it. I guess we'll deal with that tomorrow. We are heading to Universal Studios tomorrow, and we're planning to be up early to get to the park before the lineups hit.

Friday March 18th

12:45 PM - Not my idea of "up early", but unfortunately the cough got the better of me and I probably didn't fall asleep until around 4. Since it would be a painful day of crowds and lineups to go to Universal Studios at this point, we decided to have a leisurely breakfast (er, lunch) and then go the Outlet Mall and do a little shopping.

6:00 PM - After spending the rough equivilent of the damage from the BP oil spill, we are heading home with our goodies in tow.

7:00 PM - We stop for some Mexican food that is a little more up my alley, El Taco Del Bell-o. Now THAT's what Mexican food should taste like :-)

7:30 PM - It's still gorgeous and hot and we're off to the pool!!!

9:00 PM - Back from the pool and going to TRY to get a good sleep so we can get an early start tomorrow. First, we have to pack, as we are moving from this unit into a 2-bedroom unit tomorrow morning (FINALLY I get off the damn sofa bed!!!). Also looking forward to switching showers. This one is OK, but once you turn it on it gets kind of weird. You can turn it in either direction to turn it off, but if you turn it one way, it only goes MOSTLY off. You know, kind of like how Westley was only MOSTLY dead when Fezzik and Inigo took him to Miracle Max.

If all goes well, we're off to the Animal Kingdom tomorrow!

Saturday March 19th

8:15 AM - Up and packed and ready to move into our new suite. There is one available right now so we move in; it's even in the same building we were already in, so we just have to move up a couple of floors. OMFG is it ever gorgeous! The old one was awesome, this one is even better. It's like upgrading from a mansion to a palace! HUGE soaker tub which has Tracey all atingle.

9:30 AM - We arrive at the Animal Kingdom. It's another GORGEOUS day. Ho-hum, 80 and not a cloud in the sky. And NO humidity. Tracey and I both remark that this is more like California weather than anything we experienced the last time we were in Florida.

We head right to the biggest ride in the park, Expedition Everest, and get on after a short wait. After that we buy a couple of parkas so we don't get competely drenched and go on the Kali River Rapids. Tracey gets pretty wet EVEN WITH THE PARKA! I get as wet as I was willing to get.....the parka worked perfectly. After that we start to hit the trails, and get some great animal pictures.

1:00 PM - We're done everything we wanted to do here, so we decide to head to Downtown Disney and have some lunch and do some shopping. We eat at the Rainforest Cafe and pick up a few more souvenirs (because we haven't bought enough ALREADY) before heading back to the resort.

4:30 PM - Back at the resort and off to the pool. Another beautiful evening for a little pool and hot tub time, aided by a frosty beveridge or two.

7:00 PM - Back in the room, just chillin'. Watching a rather stupid program all about the "dumbest drunk people". They have "top 20 boozers and losers" countdown. There is a drunk guy trying to cross a highway in the middle of traffic. He darts out right in front of a taxi who, not surprisingly, sends him about 100 feet in the air and crashing down on his face. Two suprising facts here: One, the guy lived. Two, this was only number TWO on the countdown. Number one was a chowderhead who got so drunk he let his friends (non-professionals) wax all the hair off his body. You've seen the scene with Steve Carell in "the 40-year old Virgin"? OK now imagine that in his butt crack. Sweet jesus.

10:00 PM - Off to bed. Feeling much better today, the throat is about 90% better and the cough subsided a little bit too. I discovered a new formula last night:

Advil + Tylenol + Robitussin + Sleeping Pills > Cough

In the absence of liquor, nothing like knocking yourself out with over-medication.....

Sunday March 20th

11:00 AM - Nice sleep-in today. Nothing exciting planned until dinner at one of the resorts this evening.

11:45 AM - Tracey wakes up and announces that now SHE is sick. F'N fantastic. I don't think she is as sick as I was, YET, hopefully she doesn't get that bad. She has some breakfast and immediately goes back to bed to try to sleep it away.

12:30 PM - The weather is not perfect today. There are (GASP) a few clouds in the sky. I am tempted to write a strongly worded letter but am not sure who to send it to.

5:30 PM - We're off to the Swan Resort where we are having a BBQ buffet dinner at the Garden Grove restaurant. The food is fantastic, and the restaurant is very nice. We get greeted by a couple characters that you don't see everyday, Pluto and Goofy.

After dinner we head to the Fantasia Gardens Mini-Golf. We decide to play the "Gardens" course, which is pretty awesome. Some highlights:

Pretty sure the ball isn't supposed to be in the trees.



After missing a particularly short putt, Dean reacts rather poorly.




After fishing the club out of the lake, Dean goes looking for his ball (which, it turned out, wasn't in there):


Tracey, celebrating her first hole in one:


The 11th hole, featuring one of Dean's favorite things, dancing whores:



After one of his FOUR aces, Dean does his best Chi-Chi Rodriquez impression:




Oh, and the Highlight of the Night doesn't even have anything to do with us, it goes to the oldest daughter of the Hippie couple playing in front of us. How do we know they were Hippies? They named their youngest daughter "Meadow" and the oldest one "Eternity". They named her well, because I will remember her outfit for an Eternity:



Sweet Jesus. I was tempted to hit her upside the head with my putter to try to knock some fashion sense into her. Look at those leggings. Maybe she was auditioning for the part of one of the Dancing Whores from hole #11. And yes, that is a cocktail on the ground behind her. Who gets DRUNK at mini-golf?????

Lots of fun at mini-golf. Dean ends up with a sparkling score of -14. Probably a world record. Guinness is getting back to us.

After one shot where Tracey just missed an Ace, I told her I would "give you that 2 incher", to which she replied, "that's what I'm used to from you". Ouch.

10:15 PM - We get home just in time for me to turn on the computer and watch the last 7 minutes of the Flames/Ducks game, where I get to see just another example of the complete ineptitude of NHL referees, who completely hand the Ducks 2 points. They should have just kicked the puck into Calgary's net themselves and saved us all the embarrassment of watching that fiasco. I thought Brent Sutter was going to spontaniously combust on the bench.

All in all, another terrific day. Tracey's throat is starting to get worse so we're really hoping that it settles down for tomorrow, we are sleeping in but have another big day planned!


Monday, March 21st


11:30 AM - Another nice restful sleep in! Off to the Magic Kingdom today, we have reservations at the Liberty Tree Tavern again. In my mind I am already on my third piece of ham. Also going to try to catch the evening parade and fireworks show after dinner.

11:45 AM - Tracey gets up, has breakfast, and promptly goes back to sleep. Again. She's still not feeling well but isn't feeling any worse which is a good sign.

1:56 PM - Sitting on the balcony at our resort, overlooking a lake and a pool, with a can of Diet Cherry Coke in hand and my computer at the ready. I'm not sure how much better it gets than this. Another gorgeous day, the temperature is....wait for it.....80 and sunny. There are a couple clouds in the sky but not enough to cause any problems. It's a bit windy today but that just makes for a nice cooling breeze. Still no humidity to speak of. We've been SO lucky with the weather so far. Tracey thinks this is the most humid day we've had and she might be right, but it's still nothing compared to our last trip

3:30 PM - We arrive at the Magic Kingdom. It's the least busy we've seen so far this trip. We have a great dinner, eating so much we both come pretty close to a food coma. We also catch the Main Street Electrical Parade, but the spot we pick for the fireworks isn't any good, the fireworks come right behind a tree, so we'll catch those another night. We manage to knock off all the other rides that we had missed so far, including Splash Mountain which normally has a 100+ minute line. Staying late here has it's advantages.

11:45 PM - We head back to the resort after another terrific day!! We'll be back here one more time this week to catch the fireworks and finish our shopping.

Tuesday, March 22nd

11:45 AM - Tracey had a rough night of coughing so we slept in later than we had intended today. We're up and getting ready to hit Disney's Hollywood Studios.

1:30 PM - We are off!

2:00 PM - We arrive at Disney's Hollywood Studios. There are four significant rides here: Toy Story Midway Mania, Aerosmith's Rock N Roller Coaster, Star Tours and the Hollywood Tower of Terror. We already knew that Star Tours is down as they are putting in a new film and changing it over to 3-D. When we get into the park, we notice that Toy Story has 110 minute wait and all the Fastpasses are already sold out, so it looks like we might be down to two.

3:00 PM - We are watching their Pixar parade, with all the main Pixar characters. Good parade!

3:30 PM - We hop into the 80 minute lineup for the Aerosmith coaster. We already got Fastpasses for Tower of Terror and they start at 4:40 so the timing works pretty good. I decide to test out their ride times so I start the timer on my phone.

4:35 PM - 65 minutes later, we are right at the front of the ride.

4:37 PM - HOLY SHIT. I had forgotten how awesome this ride was. Sharp turns, corkscrews, loops, and FAST FAST FAST, all in the dark. AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

4:40 PM - Off to the Tower of Terror, which is right next door. Another very fun ride, this one is a little more elaborate than it's Disneyland cousin, and I admit this ride is the one that scares me the most. Probably the only ride that actually "scares" me, in fact. Always love this one.

5:00 PM - We go into an exhibit chronicling the life of Walt Disney. Very interesting. Always forget that this man was actually dead 3 years before I was even born. What a visionary he was.

5:15 PM - We've done what we wanted to today and we're both a little tired. Today is the hottest day of the trip so far, it's gone north of 90, and the humidity is up there too. We're going to grab a quick bite for dinner and head back to the resort. I hear a pool and a frosty beveridge calling my name.

7:00 PM - Currently sitting by the pool, frosty beveridge in hand. Someone walks by with a drink that looks too good to pass up. Tracey goes to ask her what it is, and immediately heads to the bar to get us a couple. The concoction is called a "frozen Mudslide". I'm calling it "Get-in-my-Belly".

Oh, I finally found a problem with this resort. The quality of the cherries they serve with their cocktails is substandard. Here comes another strongly worded letter.

9:00 PM - Back to the room to finish off the bottle of sparkling red wine that we bought from Epcot a few days ago. MMMMMMMMMMMMMMM.

11:29 PM - Watching Conan, who is as funny as ever. Last night I watched a bit of George Lopez, who follows Conan. Worst. Monologue. Ever. Not only was it not funny, it actually had the (I assume) unintended consequence of making me angry. That's how unfunny it was. Apparently any chowderhead can get a show. I guess I should have already known that, since Jay Leno has had a show for years.

Wednesday, March 23rd

11:45 AM - Another nice sleep in, although I didn't actually get to sleep until after 4AM so I guess it's not really that out of line.

12:44 PM - Tracey finally gets up; she's still not feeling well, so again she has some breakfast and goes back to bed. We were planning on going to Universal today but we'll scrap those plans so she can get some rest. We have Cirque du Soleil tickets for tonight so we'll relax today and head out for a nice dinner and show later tonight.

2:30 PM - Going to let Tracey sleep for a while. Heading down to the pool to catch some rays and finally finish reading my book.

4:45 PM - Another GORGEOUS day at the pool. Back in the room, and I wake Tracey up. If she sleeps much longer she will never be able to get to sleep tonight. Besides, I'm going to want some dinner at some point today.

I finally finished reading "Searching for Bobby Orr". A must read for any hockey fan.

7:00 PM - We arrive at Downtown Disney for dinner before the show. We hit the House of Blues. Dinner is good, although I overdo it on seafood (Prawn appetizer, Salmon main with shrimp and crab). Hopefully I don't pay for that later.

8:30 PM - We get into the Cirque "big top", which isn't as big inside as it appears to be outside. We have awesome seats, centre stage, row 8. There are only 8 rows in our section so there is nobody behind us to kick our seats or generally annoy us.

8:50 PM - As usual, the show starts before the show actually starts. Two clowns come out in the aisle directly behind us, carrying a platform that contains a bunch of colourful boxes. They stop RIGHT BEHIND US. Hmm, if this turns into audience participation, as it often does, we're likely to be in the show.

It doesn't take them long before they spill something in Tracey's hair (not really), and as an apology, the dumber of the clowns gives her a box. And then another, and another, and another, until she can't balance them anymore and they fall over backwards onto the clowns. The smarter of the two clowns apologizes (all without actually saying a word) and starts to collect the boxes that are still stitting on Tracey's lap. When he goes to grab the last box, my lovely wife won't give it to him. LOL. Instead she hands him her empty champagne glass and insists he go and get her another glass of champage in exchange for the box!! He tries to barter with her, grabbing a bottle of water from another audience member, and then a beer, but she is steadfast and insists on champagne. So he goes and gets her some champagne!!! Well at least she got an extra glass of champagne out of the situation!! :-)

9:00 PM - The show starts and it's brilliant. It contains the usual assortment of Cirque performers: tightrope walkers, acrobats, gymnasts, clowns (more than just the two mentioned above), lots of performers risking their health and lives for their art. They also featured the most amazing juggler I have ever seen. All of this was fantastic, but the entire show was completely stolen by four little asian girls. Yes, you read that right, four little girls, I'd guess their ages were between 6-8, stole the ENTIRE show. They came out with ropes and pieces of wood that looked like a thread spool, and they proceeded to use the ropes to toss the spools around. They tossed them to themselves and to each other, and then they started doing it while dancing and then while doing gymnastic routines, tossing them up high in the air, doing flips or rolls, and catching the spool with the ropes before it hit the ground. If that wasn't enough, they started jumping ON EACH OTHER'S SHOULDERS. Not one spool hit the ground, even when it was CLEAR that they had missed one....nope, out of nowhere one of the other girls caught the thing and you knew that was their intent all along. Absolutely stunning, and there is no way anything I can write in this blog could do it justice. Despite the fact that they were on stage for only 8-10 minutes (plus a couple very short cameos later in the show), they were among the last to come out for their bow, and the audience went ballistic. All the performers got very enthusiastic reactions from the crowd, but those little girls were the stars of the show and everyone knew it.

11:00 PM - Back at the resort and headed to bed. I'm extra tired tonight and we are getting up early to hit SeaWorld and their water park, Aquatica, tomorrow. Hoping that Tracey gets some sleep but I'm sure it will be tough for her since she slept so late.

Thursday, March 24th

4:00 AM - Uh-oh. This is not what I meant by "up early". Apparently some of that seafood last night is not agreeing with me beause I feel like I'm going to be sick.

8:30 AM - Tracey is up and in the shower, getting ready to go, and I have to tell her that I can't possibly go. I haven't been sick, but it's RIGHT THERE and I feel terrible. I have been awake since 4, basically just lying there praying that my stomach would settle.

1:00 PM - I've been laying here, basically motionless, for 9 hours. I still feel awful but haven't been sick yet although it still feels like it's coming any second. I must be feeling slightly better though as I finally fall asleep.

3:00 PM - I'm awake again and I decide to get up and go sit outside on the balcony and update the blog. I feel like someone who's been sick all night, without actually having been sick. I have no energy, my stomach hurts, my knees are weak and the though of food, any food, is repulsing. Tracey has just gone to the pool to try to get some enjoyment out of the day. This sucks.

11:00 PM - Well today's blog entry was really exciting for you. Sleep and more sleep. Hopefully I'm feeling better tomorrow...

Friday, March 25th

11:30 AM - Up and feeling a little better. Going to have some waffles for breakfast, the first food I've consumed in about 40 hours. The stomach feels settled. I think we're going to give SeaWorld another shot today. Tonight we have to pack as it's our last night here. We still have a big day planned for tomorrow (back to Harry Potter!!) as our flight leaves in the evening, but we have to check out of the resort in the morning.

1:30 PM - We arrive at Aquatica. FUN! I've never been to a water park like this, it's quite cool. Since we only have a few hours to see what we can here, and at SeaWorld, we quickly rush onto as many waterslides as we can, and spend some time cruising down a lazy river. Next time we come we'll plan for more time here. Interesting how a water park seems to remove the inhibitions of people who really, really should not be seen in bikinis. My eyes hurt.

3:30 PM - We arrive at SeaWorld, just across the street, and grab a bite to eat. My stomach is feeling close to 100% now. I have a ham sandwich and add on about 49 cents worth of potato salad, for which they charge me $2.79. We see some penguins, sharks, dolphins and sea lions, and that's about it. My energy level has gone down close to 0 so it's time to head back to the resort and pack.

7:30 PM - I convince Tracey we should go spend one more nice evening at the pool, where I am typing this blog, while enjoying another frosty beveridge. This resort is really awesome and we will plan to stay here on our next trip to Orlando.

8:40 PM - Back in the room, time to prepare for tomorrow's departure. I'd be more than happy to help but Tracey has informed me the only thing she wants me to do is "stay the Hell out of my way!". Message received.

Saturday, March 26th

7:30 AM - Up, packed and ready to go. We check out and head back to Islands of Adventure to try to finish off everything we had missed in the Harry Potter land. Let's face it, this is why we are here. If not for my wife being a Harry Potter-phile as she is, we'd probably be in California right now. Today's visit was definitely a waste of time; the "castle tour" was no different than what you see while waiting in line for the big ride that we went on last time we were here. We also waited in line for about an hour to get into Olivander's Wand shop which turned into a 2 minute show that was really only interesting for the one kid who got "chosen" to have a wand selected to him. After the show, you can go buy a replica wand for $30 if you like!!! I did get to finish trying out the beveridges: Pumpkin juice (which is, ironically, made mostly from pumpin juice) which was good but VERY sweet, and the frozen variety of Butterbeer, which I thought tasted basically exactly like the non-frozen variety. Tracey, however, thought the frozen one was better.

11:30 AM - After another ride or two we are done here and off to the Magic Kingdom for one more time before heading to the airport. We hit a couple minor attractions (we had another go at the Buzz Lightyear ride, which always ends in pouting. Tracey pouts because I clobber her, and I pout because I don't beat her by enough!!), have a bite to eat and buy a couple more souvenirs before saying "goodbye" to the park for this trip. I can't imagine anywhere that would have been a more appropriate place to finish off our vacation.

5:00 PM - We arrive at the airport and drop off the rental car. We couldn't fill up the car with gas as there was not ONE SINGLE GAS STATION between the Magic Kingdom and the airport! How is that even possible?? Anyway, they were going to try to charge us a ridiculous premium for the gas but I put up a huge fight and refused to pay it, so we ended up paying the same as if we had pre-paid for it. Next time I'll remember to do that and save the hassle.

5:15 PM - The hits just keep on coming. Tracey's bag is 62 pounds, so it costs us $90 EXTRA to check the damn thing. A total of $140 for the privledge of getting our bags home with us. Nice.

7:00 PM - It gets better and better. Flight is delayed. Unless our connection in Atlanta is also delayed, we will miss the flight and be stuck in beautiful Atlanta for the evening. Fantastic.

10:15 PM - We land in Atlanta, have missed our flight to Seattle, and are basically told to bend over and like it, as Delta won't do a damn thing to help us except to offer us a discount on a hotel. Since, by the time all this gets sorted out, it's almost midnight and our flight to Cincinnati tomorrow (yes, that's right, they can't even get us on a direct flight for chrissake!!!!!) boards around 6:30 AM, there is little point in taking a taxi to their fleabag motel, so we decide to find somewhere to get something to eat and stay the night in the airport. I would have bet everything I own that I would never, ever, ever be sleeping in the Atlanta International Airport. There is just NO reason to be here. I tried everything I could to get out of this god forsaken city but the stupid girl behind the counter couldn't figure out that we wanted to go ANYWHERE West and get to Seattle from there! You are telling me there wasn't a single flight to Vegas, or LA, or San Jose, San Francisco? Reno? How about Des Moines, Iowa? Boise, Idaho? Salt Lake City? How about SOMEWHERE in North or South Dakota?!?!??!!? Nope, she couldn't figure it out, so we are stuck here in this idiotic city, which is only 1.5 hours from where we started this trip, to sleep in an airport and STILL have one hell of a long day ahead of us tomorrow. It's 1:25 AM while I am writing this, we should have already landed in Seattle and been halfway home. What a totally shitty end to what was, up to this point, a nearly perfect trip.

Sunday, March 27th

9:37 AM - How lucky you are, my loyal readers! Bonus coverage! We now sit in Cincinnati, after a lovely night of zero sleep at the Atlanta airport, enjoying a lovely breakfast of Sausage McMuffins. Finally Delta paid for something, giving us a whopping $6 meal voucher, because WE ARE NOW STUCK IN FUCKING CINCINNATI!!!!! Plane was suppose to leave a few minutes ago but is not here yet, now scheduled to depart in a few hours but I'll believe that when I see it. Maintenance problems with the plane, which really adds to my confidence, and the plane is (so we are told) just leaving wherever-the-Hell-it-is on its way here. I notice she didn't announce where the plane is. "Ladies and gentlemen, your plane has just left Berlin.......". Someone please shoot me if I ever suggest taking another Delta flight.

11:30 AM - Still here. Flight delayed, now scheduled to leave around 1:45. Of course, the plane is still sitting on the tarmac in Fort Myers, Florida, as I guess the "minor" mechanical delays weren't that minor.

1:15 PM - Plane still in Fort Myers, no other planes available anywhere near here, so flight has now been cancelled. Shoot me now.

2:30 PM - No way to get to Seattle tonight, so our options are to stay in Cincinnati tonight and try stand by on the direct flight to Seattle in the morning or fly to Minneapolis and stay overnight there. Will get home faster if we stay here, but ONLY if we actually get on the stand by flight. We'd have a better chance of finding a 3-legged ballerina than getting on that stand by flight, so we're going to Minneapolis, which will get us to Seattle in the early afternoon tomorrow (assuming that flight actually happens of course).

8:45 PM - Now in Minneapolis (I think it's 8:45, I've lost track of time zones but at this point I don't care), and I'm now going to sleep for the first time in about 40 hours. If I don't get home tomorrow, I'm going to murder someone. Pretty good bet they will be wearing a Delta uniform.

Monday, March 28th

10:00 AM - At the airport and waiting for flight to Seattle. I am taking bets on where our luggage ends up:

Atlanta: 5-1

Orlando: 11-1

Cincinnati: 12-1

Minnepolis: 15-1

Seattle: 90-1

Anywhere else: 22-1

12:15 PM - The fact that the airplane has wi-fi is the only positive of this trip. I am actually working since tomorrow is a payroll day and I have to process the entire payroll by tomorrow or nobody gets paid on Friday. If that happens, I'll give everyone the Delta customer service number. Currently about an hour from landing in Seattle as I write this. I'm reminded of Planes, Trains and Automobiles:

Neil Page: "Please, have mercy. I've been wearing the same underwear since Tuesday!
Del Griffiths: "I can vouch for that".

Since all our toiletries and clothes are in the luggage that was checked, we had to buy what we needed to get by (Delta did give us a "travel kit" and pay for our meals tonight). Fun, fun, fun. Note to self, next trip make sure some clothes and essentials are in the carry on luggage....

1:25 PM - We land, on time. Finally something went right on this trip home.

1:45 PM - Our bags arrive. Well, that's not true, our BAG arrives. Tracey's bag is here but it is damaged. Mine is nowhere to be found. The hits just keep on coming.

To be fair, this time, Delta is going to try to arrange to have my bag to me tonight, and they have offered us $250 to replace Tracey's bag, so at least they took care of that situation.....assuming my bag, and the cheque, do actually arrive.

3:00 PM - Driving home and Tracey, who started to feel lousy on the plane, is now feeling like she is going to be sick. She pulls over and projectile vomits all over the side of the highway. This happens three more times before she settles down. I'm blaming Delta for this, too.

4:50 PM - We are home. No issues at the border and the drive was without incident. Finally it's over. A brilliant trip which unfortunately finished with a nightmare while trying to get home, but all in all, a great vacation. Thanks to all for reading, hope you enjoyed it.

Engemoen OUT.

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