For anyone reading this in the year 2013, this is just a personal travelogue for a vacation my family took to Disney World in June 2012. I was inspired by my entry for the same trip in 2004 that is helpful for keeping certain memories alive that might otherwise fall by the wayside. I may go into too much detail here but just keep in mind that it is meant for my own purposes only. I'm keeping it public because I don't think anyone sees my entries anyway, and I don't want to have to log in to remember that this is here (this is my second time logging into LiveJournal in nearly a decade). So, if you're reading this, I hope you enjoy my incoherent ramblings.
Oddly enough, I don't really remember which days go with which and where we were on certain days, so instead of this being a chronological recap, it's probably just going to be categorical for the most part. Probably a mixture. I dunno, who cares?
We left later in the day to start our journey. We had plans to stay over in Ozark and sleep on the way to Orlando. This isn't necessary for us since it's a half a day's drive from where we live, but with 3 children (and one unborn child) tagging along, it made things a little easier. The trip to Ozark was pretty basic, we've driven it a hundred times before. We stopped at a Burger King near Prattville (I think it was this one: 32.460067,-86.422407). I thought it might be the same one we ate at with Morgan and Jonathon many moons ago while taking them to their moms. (It was around '96 because I remember them having Hunchback of Notre Dame toys). Anyway, the only real drama occurred when we got a bit lost in Montgomery at night. Anyone from 'Bama knows that this can be bad news. We got redirected through some unsavory neighborhoods but finally got on the right track after stopping at a gas station to ask for directions. I remember I got to see an abandoned mall that I had always heard about on the way, so it wasn't a total waste of time. I remember listening to that What's Up? 90's greatest hits CD on the way down. Good times. Anyway, we finally got to the ironically named Quality Inn in Ozark (31.449726, -85.661561). Our room was on the backside of the hotel next to an expanse of forest, which allowed for an immeasurable amount of bugs to occupy our room by the time we checked in. It was an okay room though. We got there late at night. I remember the lobby being really dimly lit to give the illusion of class. Anyway, that night we got to watch Alabama Softball win the national title. That was an almost perfect start to the trip. Here we were, in the middle of nowhere, at some strange hotel, watching our softball team reach the pinnacle (first of many, hopefully). It's one of the joys of traveling that I've always appreciated. I remember logging into Facebook and seeing the expressions of joy, and Ross making a 'Bama national title joke on there that was humorous. Then: sleep.
TRIP DOWN Pt. 2:
Anyway, needless to say my brother and I were up till about 2:00AM watching that game (I think it was rain delayed), so the next morning we were rather pooped. We all got up and headed to the free breakfast. It was sufficient... muffins, some eggs, my brothers and I hitting up the waffle maker. Cereal. Yogurt. We talked to some of the other hotel guests about things I can't remember. Shoulda made this entry last year. Anyway, after breakfast we headed back to the room to get ready to head to Orlando. One of our 'neighbors' was praying with this other fellow. They seemed to be loaded up to the brim with a U-Haul, full truck, etc. I guess they were moving somewhere. I wonder where they are now. My brother pulled up some funny Muppets sketches on his Mac just for the hell of it (with that Bluegrass band... "To Morrow?" and "You don't want my Love" or whatever they are called. I'm not looking it up). Afterwards, we loaded up and hit the road. We stopped at this awesome rest stop on the Alabama-Florida border (30.994744,-85.408507). In the lobby of that rest stop, it almost looked like a library packed with tourist brochures. They served free orange juice there. Welcome to freaking Florida. We took a few nice pictures, used the restroom, and hit the road. We reached the Interstate and headed East. We stopped at this Taco Bell outside of Tallahassee. I think it was this one (30.327157,-82.964634). Afterwards we stopped at some rest stop. I can't determine for sure which one, but it might have been this one (30°26'40.58" N 83°43'59.97" W) From that point, it was straight on to Orlando. I remember the ride down through Gainesville in 2004 feeling like traveling to another universe from rural Alabama. Swanky gas station, funny tawlkin peeeeepow, but I've been to many more places since then, so it wasn't such a culture shock this time. We tried to show Jackson Florida's football stadium, but it wasn't visible from the road like I had thought. I thought I saw Ian (a guy I know that attends UF) on the side of the interstate, but he doesn't have a car so I don't know why he'd be on the interstate. We stopped at this shady looking BP station next to a definitely shady night club (29.497272,-82.293081). Good times!
ARRIVAL AT DISNEY:
We got to Disney in late afternoon. We accidentally detoured into the Animal Kingdom parking lot while trying to get to our resort (All-Star Sports). No worries. Anyway we got there and started the checking in process. There was a little controversy as we were trying to pay with money orders or something. While the more adult folks were doing that, I took the time to check out the lobby of the resort.
ALL-STAR SPORTS RESORT:
It is very similar to All-Star Music which we stayed at in 2004. Sports star photos lining the walls, same type gift shop, arcade, food court, etc. When we first arrived there, we thought about eating at the food court, but had to deliberate after seeing the prices. We ultimately decided to eat at the McDonald's down the road (see below). Anyway, I'll talk about the resort here since I'm not sure when what happened when. We stayed in the Surf building, which is pretty cool since it is by the pool. Our room had a picture of Goofy surfing in it, which was rad. We don't spend a lot of time in the hotel room since that's not our priority at WDW, but it was a nice little room. We had adjacent rooms so it was kind of cool to go back and forth between when I was bored with what was happening in a certain room. We watched a shit load of Food Network there. Both rooms were tuned to it on a regular basis. The kids alternated between staying in our room, and I remember when Marshall stayed with us he was oddly obsessed with Sweet Genius. There was some Punky Brewster type girl contestant on there that I fell in love with for the night. One guy on Sweet Genius reacted to every surprise ingredient like it was an epic disaster. I need to find those episodes. We watched a lot of Chopped as well I think. I'm getting really nostalgic just thinking about all this, but it's more to do with the fact that it was something that we bonded over while we were there. Anyway, as I said we were in the Surf building on the backside. It was convenient not just for being close to the pool but also because there's a giant shark tail in front of it, so it is hard to get lost on the resort. The pools are awesome as well. We didn't have anything planned the first night, so we just hung by the main pool and they had a movie playing (Finding Nemo I think?). There were a group of girls there that looked like the UF softball team, and I think one of them yelled at me that she was gonna "tear me up all night long". Not sure how to interpret that. We also tried out the other pool that was shaped like a baseball field, with stands and everything. Kind of strange. I remember staring at one of the sports pennants on the side of the building (there's one for every team) while in the baseball pool and trying to figure out which team it was. I finally realized it was Milwaukee's. The tennis building is funny just for its centerpiece, which is Donald getting upset with Huey, Dewey, and Lewey because they are about to hit a basketball to him to something. I also was able to walk around to see the Crimson Tide pennant on one of the buildings. anyway, the only other notable thing for All-Star Sports is the gift shop, which is pretty basic, but loaded. I remember it just like I was in there yesterday. I picked up a souvenir of some Disney music from the parks, which is not one of my most prized possessions.
It's a pretty big McDonald's that I have been to before. I remember the effeminate man at the counter taking our order. Reminded me to Fred Schneider. It's an interesting setup there because the McDonald's is designed to handle a massive influx of people, but we were the only family in there. The point-of-sale thing is on this little podium. Weird. Anyway, I ordered a Big Angus or whatever its called and we all sat down on a counter to eat. I remember some discussion about sauces or whatever because McD's has a hundred of them now and they wanted to try them all. Anyway, we ate and went back to the hotel with dreams of the magical experiences to come or some jazz.
Again, things are gonna get categorical here because I don't remember the days when we did certain things.
Magic Kingdom is a place that gets smaller the older that you get. I think part of it is because I went to school at a large campus, and walking distances don't mean much to me anymore. Anyway, we saw the opening ceremony for the park for the first time. Afterwards, we did the standard thing of going around the part in a clockwise motion. Hit Adventureland. One thing you have to realize is that your experience of the ride can be totally different depending on who your tour guide is. This is especially true for the Jungle Cruise. One time we road it was this old man, and the second time it was this young fellow who was much more entertaining. We also hit up the Swiss Family Treehouse, always a treat. Had ice cream near there. Kids rode the magic carpets. Rocked the Enchanted Tiki Room. I suggested that we sit on the outside of the "circle" so we could see everything. Not sure if this was a great decision, because it wasn't as immersive, but whatever. Went over and hit Pirates of the Carribean. There's an awesome gift shop outside of Pirates that has an assortment of Pirates-related things that are pretty cool. My mom surprised me later with a pirate Mickey from there. I considered buying On Stranger Tides there, but figured that I could get it online for cheaper (I ended up ordering it on Amazon while we were at the resort, as a sort of "future souvenir." Side note: I found out that the Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs DVD was released while I was at the resort, a most awesome other future souvenir since it is somewhat related to Disney). Anyway, I plundered through the plastic crap but didn't buy anything. I remember trying to find a restroom there that was impossible to find. It was supposed to be around the back of the gift shop but we could never find it. Or it was out of order. Or maybe I did find it and just don't remember. Anyway, we spent a little time lounging about there as well. I remember a live bird parking itself by us while we were sitting, and Clint making a funny joke about the bird looking fake. We tried to eat at Pecos Bill one day, but the kitchen had exploded or something so we had to head over the Columbia Harbour House (more on that later). We also spent some time checking out their Jack Sparrow look-alike guy. He was pretty convincing. Anyway, next was Frontierland. Clint was terrified of riding anything there because of his fear of heights. Splash Mountain was obviously out of the question, but we conned him into riding Big Thunder Mountain, which was hilarious. I told him they could probably hear his screams for miles around. Anyway, the non-pregnant and non-anxious among us rode Splash Mountain, which was good times. That queue line is always brutal. I remember in the cue we were in front of this Irish or Scottish family who were upset at waiting for so long. When we got close to boarding, they yelled at my nephews "Don't let them stop ya, lads!" Fun. We ended up riding it with them. Awesome. My second spiritual family. We stopped at the Splash Mountain gift shop on the way out, and got to see our picture from the plunge. I was able to bring myself to make a few funny faces. I wish I had bought a copy of one of them, but whatever. I saw a picture there of the cast members riding the plunge, and they all had a "What are you gonna do?" pose on, was quite inspirational. We stopped at the restroom next to the queue on the way out, it was funny how I had a flashback to my dad and us stopping at that same restroom in 2004. He unfortunately couldn't come with us this time because of work, but I had certain moments where I thought of him. Anyway, we headed to Liberty Square, where we had lunch at the aforementioned Columbia Harbour House. We actually ate there twice on separate days. The first time I had the hummus sandwich but it wasn't any good. My mom gave me part of her tuna. The second time I ate some fried chicken fingers I think. The restaurant itself is pretty neat, kind of like an old-time colonial building. There are two floors which I explored a lot during my time there. It was packed the first time we ate there but not so much the second time. Anyway, we split from there and headed to Haunted Mansion, where I complained about the hummus sandwich to my brother and his wife. I remember on the Haunted Mansion, they stopped the ride while our buggy was on an incline, which was quite comfortable in hindsight. Not much special happened from this point outside of the rides, we made the rounds to Hall of Presidents, It's a Small World, Philharmagic, we saw the Little Mermaid show here I think, watched the kids ride the teacups, checked out some princess shop. But then, we took in my favorite area: Tomorrowland. We rode the cars and ate lunch at Cosmic Rays (again, twice on two separate days). I think I had the ribs the first day but a burger the second. Rode Space Mountain and the Carousel of Progress. Stopped at yet another restroom that reminded me of my dad. My brother noticed a massive wound on my foot and offered a band-aid. We checked out the Monsters Inc. Laugh-In, where they tried to get this poor Spanish speaking lady to participate in the show, after she kept insisting that she couldn't speak English. Awkward. She was three seats down from me so my social anxiety is keeping me from ever seeing that show again. Also rode Stitch's Great Escape which was poo-poo. Finally, we took in the fireworks show and headed back to the resort. I remember I took a special trip to see Tomorrowland and night, because I had remembered it being pretty inspiring back in the day.
We spent one day at Epcot which was pretty fun. I think the only day where the weather was perfect the whole time there. On our way in, our bus driver yelled at some people crossing in front of his bus at the entrance. Funny stuff. We took in all the normal things, Test Track was shut down for renovations so no go there. I rode Soarin' for the first time. We went there early to get fastpasses and I still wasn't able to ride it until the afternoon. After we got the fastpasses for Soarin, we booked it over to Spaceship Earth to ride. One time when we rode it (I believe the second time), there was a drunk girl on the ride screaming "The war is over!" at the newspaper scene. Quite humorous. I was in a trance because of the Judy Dench narration the whole time. The exit for Spaceship Earth is pretty cool. This whole Siemens sponsored area. We spent about 30 minutes hanging around there. I remember Clint and Mollie playing some game that they had there that was this interactive game. I remember it looking like crochet but what would I know (or remember) We also rode The Living Seas with Nemo and Friends. Interesting queue line, though the ride was a little disappointing. My favorite part of Epcot this time was probably the Land, where we had lunch. I got this seared Salmon with cold noodles that was quite refreshing after eating junk food the whole time we were there. My brother and I had to eat off in a corner by ourselves because the court was so packed. Around that time we also saw the Lion King short film about the environment, which made me think of when we saw it in 2004 with my pop. We also rode Living with the Land which is a personal favorite of mine. We rode Soarin right after lunch I believe. I remember there being some Ukrainian (?) blonde-headed cast member there who was screaming at guests like some it was a boot camp when they broke the rules of the queue line. Quite humorous. Anyway, we conned Clint again into getting onto this ride. Unfortunately, he chickened out before they raised us up. I remember looking to the right and seeing him book towards the exit door. I'll give that a LOL. We also rode Mission to Mars and Ellen's Energy Adventure or whatever its called. We also headed over to Journey into Imagination which was CRAP. Why can't they find something good to do with Figment? We also checked out Captain EO, which I was glad we saw. I would have much rather seen Honey We Shrunk the Audience but what can you do since it is not there anymore. We also stopped at a restroom that I remember us going to in 2004. Not much else to speak of as far as Future World goes. I wanted to check out Innovations, but we were only really able to walk through it. We got some ice cream before heading toward World Showcase.
We didn't do much diddling around World Showcase, basically just walked around it. We got held up in Mexico cause everyone had to use the restroom. My brother and I rode the Three Cabeneros or whatever it is. I much prefer the old ride that was there. Then we sort of just... walked around. We rode the boat ride in Norway. We weren't able to watch any of the films or anything, but with only one day for Epcot, some stuff has to be cut. I remember it was getting around dinner time and we stopped for a second in France to deliberate. We were sitting on this fountain or something, and Jackson says "Why don't we eat there?". He was pointing at the very expensive French restaurant there. I told him we are eating there if he is buying. Smiley face. We also walked around to Canada and England. By this time, we couldn't see anything in World Showcase even if we tried since everything "closes" at 7 except restaurants. We did get to check out the shops in England which is cool because that was my favorite part of World Showcase in 2004. Unfortunately, the Beatles cover band is long gone and there isn't as much of a Beatles theme, but no bother. I can't really remember for sure where we ended up eating. I think it was Electric Umbrella. Anyway, we took in Illuminations on the south side of the Lake. Good end to the day.
DISNEY'S HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS:
I don't have a whole lot to say about this park this time. We hit all the major attractions that we could. On Star Tours, Marshall was the spy, which was fun. Unfortunately, a hearty rainstorm hit halfway through the day and a lot ended up being cancelled, we only got the see the first half of the Indiana Jones show. And Fantasmic was cancelled, which was awful because that was my favorite part of 2004. On the plus side, I rode Rockin' Rollercoaster and Tower of Terror for the first time. And, we got to see Muppet Vision 3D. While everyone else was in line to get a picture with Sorcerer Mickey, I decided to walk around the general area and check out some things. They have a viewing area where you can watch people animate. It was kind of fascinating, it must be horrible to sit there and have people watch you draw. I was kind of more interested in their general work area... what CD's they had on hand, etc. Anyway, I also saw a poster for Wreck-It-Ralph, which at that time I knew nothing about, but once it was released became on of my favorite movies of that year. We ate lunch at Pizza Planet, which was interesting. Not good food, but I liked walking around and checking out the arcade games. We also rode the Backlot Tour, which didn't seem to have as much stuff this time. After everyone else watched the Beauty and the Beast show (we went on Tower of Terror at the same time), we ate dinner in this outdoor area near Fantasmic. I ate a pretty large plate of ribs and chicken. After that, the rain hit hard and we decided to leave a bit earlier than planned.
Halfway through the trip, we decided to take a day off from the parks just to swim at the resort and just relax. We decided to go to Downtown Disney as well that night. We decided to eat at Planet Hollywood, but didn't realize that our bus dropped us off at the opposite end of the park from it. We ended up discovering weird areas in Downtown Disney, like this out of the way little corridor behind the shops. Anyway, we made our way over to that end and ate. We were on the second floor I think in this little circular booth. Everyone was nice, I think they were training our waiter. The manager came over and talked to us a bit. I ordered a New York Strip which was surprisingly good. I then walked around and looked at some of the movie props. I remember seeing Forest Gump's Alabama helmet, which was pretty exciting for me. We then went walking around the shops. We went into this little candy and treats store (Candy Cauldron I think?) where I got to hear a British person refer to a cookie as a 'biscuit'. Life goal attained. We then went around to the T-Rex restaurant. I checked out the gift shop there while everyone else went into the Lego store. I walked around in there a bit as well, before we all got hopelessly separated. We reconvened at World of Disney which is pretty damn huge. I ended up getting one of my take-home souvenirs there: A DVD about the making of the Magic Kingdom. It was getting dark by that time. I seem to remember some concert or something or other taking place outside of world of Disney. We also went over to Little Miss Mix and Match or whatever its called for Mollie. I decided to walk around a little by myself. There was this little Christmas shop next to our bus pick-up that I checked out. Fun. We left there and headed back to our room. I decided to take a detour to All-Star Sports' gift shop to get that music CD that I mentioned. After that, I think we all had a late night swim which was nice.
Like Hollywood Studios, there's not much to say about this one. We saw the Lion King show, went over to see Dinosaur, and rode the Primeval Whirl. Saw a lost drunk gentleman between Africa and Asia. Ate lunch at Flame Tree. I had ribs. Checked out the Finding Nemo musical which was AWESOME. Rode the Safari. Rode Expedition Everest (Marshall decided not to ride at the last minute), Kali River Rapids. We finished by eating at Rainforest Cafe in late afternoon. I had steak. Again. Our waiter reminded me of Kevin Murphy/Greg Gaston. He was talking to us about how bad the weather had been (by this time it was raining like crazy again) and how it had never rained this much the whole time he had been in Florida. We walked around the gift shop, then went back to the room. We probably swam again that night, but I think they closed the pool because of lightening.
MAGIC KINGDOM con't:
After Animal Kingdom, we spent another day at Magic Kingdom, they details of which are mixed in above. I think the second day we decided to take the boat over the lake to get to the entrance, which wasn't totally fun since it took so long. It felt like the last boat out of Saudi Arabia or something with everyone trying to get on. I will mention that last moments of our trip: we decided to stay and watch the fireworks again. Well, most of us did. We were hanging out in the train station building (where there are a lot of weird old timey dime movie things and other old novelty games to mess around with). Seating was at a premium, with some of us sitting on the floor. Clint and the kids decided to go back to the room, while my brother, mom, sister-in-law, and I decided to stay and watch the fireworks. While making our last melancholic walk out of the park, we were talking about the next time we stay we might be able to do more since we might all be gainfully employed (which is true now for the most part, my little brother's still in med school). I said "We might be able to stay there" while pointing at the Contemporary Resort. Until next time I suppose.
Our trip back the next day was rather uneventful. We left the resort and headed north on the interstate. We listened to my new Disney Parks music CD for part of the way. We stopped at a KFC but I can't remember which one. I think it was near the exit where you get off the interstate to go north towards Dothan. It was probably this one: 30.727994,-85.184868. Afterwards, we got some gas at the Murphy Oil next door. From there, we drove north through Montgomery. We decided to basically straight shoot this whole trip without sleeping over. We stopped at the Walmart in Calera to eat dinner at their Subway (33.146409,-86.751376). It was here while looking around at the decor at this Subway (pictures of Tomatoes, stuff like that) where I hatched a harebrained scheme to open a pizza restaurant in Florence since we don't really have a good one that is not a chain. It was going to be in the strip mall next to Rice Box and have funny sayings from the owners on the wall. It was getting late so I was getting a bit crazy. I can't remember why but my brother and his family decided to go ahead and head back to Colbert County without us since they know the way. We ended up leaving this Walmart soon after. As a funny aside, I live about 10 miles from this WM now, so it might be an interesting place to go back to. Maybe this weekend. Anyway, I watched some episodes of Star Trek: TNG on the way back to pass the time. I think the Best of Both Worlds episodes. Then, we got back to Cherokee and that's that.
It's been fun recapping this. So many good memories, and glad that they are now preserved.