The next morning I got myself into a bit of trouble. Despite going to bed at 2:45, I was wide awake just before 7 am. I sat in bed, and tried to get back to sleep. After about 10 minutes, I realized this wasn’t going to happen, so I went to get my phone, to screw around on it until Sarah woke up. Of course, since various electronics chargers occupy nearly every outlet in the room, my phone was plugged in on the floor right next to Sarah. And, of course, as I went to get it in the dark room, I tripped over something, making a nice amount of noise, and waking Sarah. She didn’t have much of a reaction, and fell right back asleep.
I fired up the phone, not quite sure what I’d do, knowing what I really wanted to do was go outside and take photos. Playing with the phone wouldn’t happen, as it didn’t have signal in our room. After a few minutes moving around trying to obtain signal, I decided to head to my computer to look through photos. Again, I tripped over something, which woke Sarah. This time she mumbled about me going back to sleep. Nonsense, I thought, as I was wide awake, and itching to start the day.
After spending about 5 minutes looking through photos from the previous day, I decided I could probably quietly assemble some camera gear and discretely head out to do some shooting. How does the saying go, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”? Well, this went awry and then some. I made a great deal of noise (apparently) getting my camera battery from the charger, and grabbing a pair of socks from the suitcase, causing Sarah to wake again, this time with some degree of frustration. We “agreed” that I should try to get some more sleep, so I headed back to bed.
About 5 minutes of sitting in bed gazing at the ceiling, I resolved myself to get up without waking her. She woke up like 15 seconds later. This time, I informed her that I couldn’t sleep, and she responded that she wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep either, so we both got up. Her to get ready, me to go play around and take photos.
If there’s ever one benefit of traveling with a woman with long hair, it’s that you have plenty of time in the morning to take photos as her hair dries. This is really only advantageous the few days a year we’re at Disneyland or Walt Disney World, but it’s still nice.
Already an expert on the grounds due to my late-night walk the previous evening (early morning?), I headed straight over to Old Port Royale.
After taking a few photos inside Old Port Royale, I grabbed a refillable mug there, and sat down and enjoyed a Coke. After finishing the first, I refilled the mug and headed out to do some more shooting.
I took a few more photos with both my D7000 and my infrared converted D70 (carrying the two cameras and my mug of coke proved a difficult proposition), before I headed to the Custom House. I had to head here again not to check in on my Spaceship Earth photo, but because an eBay seller had dropped off costumes for us at the resort the previous Sunday (talk about great service, right?!). At this point, I was really regretting not taking the extra 5 minutes to get these the night before when we checked-in, but what can I say, when I want to get to the park, I want to get to the park.
The seller had emailed me a photo of a luggage receipt, leading me to believe he had dropped the costumes off with Bell Services rather than the front desk. So I asked Bell Services. Unfortunately, showing them my photo of the luggage tag on my cell phone did little good (I would have assumed there was some sort of numbering system for inventory-monitoring purposes) and I had no clue what kind of packages (bags, boxes, space-age pod storage devices) the costumes were inside. Unfortunately, Bell Services could not locate the costumes. The Cast Member helping me was polite, and he then went to check the front desk package storage room. Nothing there, either. After a total of about 20 minutes of searching, I was still minus two costumes, and really needing to get back to our room to get ready.
When I got back to the room, I think Sarah could sense my frustration. She called Bell Services, who said they’d call back. When they did, I spoke with them, and they again couldn’t find the packages. Finally, I emailed the eBay seller, and he quickly responded describing the packages. Garment bags! I called Bell Services back and described the garment bags, and they quickly found the costumes. Bell Services was too busy to deliver the costumes, so I informed them that I’d pick them up that afternoon. I was really relieved that they found the things. For a while, I was getting nervous that the seller had accidentally delivered them to the Beach Club or another similarly named resort.
Once I got that sorted out, I hopped in the shower and got ready. I was still done getting ready before Sarah. That’s after walking to Old Port Royale while taking photos along the way, sitting down inside for a Coke, walking from Old Port Royale to the Custom House while taking photos along the way, waiting there for 20 minutes, walking back to our room, and then dealing with the costume situation (besides the initial call, which Sarah made). Yep, when it comes to getting ready for things, being a man is definitely nice!
While at the bus stop, we searched the internet to see if there was any indication that there would be a preview day for Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival. I thought this was typically done based on things I’d read online, but I wasn’t entirely sure. Since I could find nothing to corroborate my inclination, we headed instead to Magic Kingdom, because it would be one of our few chances on this trip to enjoy the attractions in that park.
We arrived at the Magic Kingdom and it suddenly felt decidedly like fall.Walking on Main Street for the first time was just as magical as it always is, and hearing the Trolley Show and seeing the Main Street, USA vehicles really gave the place a lively atmosphere. As much as I enjoy first seeing the Castle at night, bathed in various colors as if were a beacon of light at the end of a tranquil Main Street, I’m beginning to think Main Street’s best atmosphere is during these early morning hours when the performers and vehicles are out, and Cast Members line the sidewalk, greeting Guests as they enter. There’s something to be said for Main Street when its alive with this energy, versus the peaceful feel to the place at night.
We weren’t really in a hurry, so we wandered over by Crystal Palace, snapped a few photos, then headed for the Adventureland bridge. Walking past Aloha Isle always puts a smile on my face (it puts an even bigger smile on my face if we stop and get Dole Whips, but that is not a nutritious meal for the early morning, apparently!) and I love hearing the “dun dun dun” sounds of the Leaki Tikis.
It was still relatively early, so we figured we could do the ole grab a ‘FastPass for Splash Mountain and do standby for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad’ trick (trick is probably a poor word choice as I’m pretty sure a lot of people do this). Unfortunately, both had 30 minute plus waits, so we just grabbed a FastPass for Big Thunder and headed for Liberty Square. Sarah was a little hungry, and wanted to eat at Columbia Harbour House as soon as it opened. Since it didn’t open for over thirty minutes, I thought it was a bit unreasonable for us to wait outside.
Instead, we headed for Haunted Mansion. The posted wait exceeded thirty minutes, which normally means that we would skip it, but I commented to Sarah that it didn’t appear to be a thirty minute wait. It wasn’t even close. The interactive (or “scenic” as the Cast Members were calling it) queue had a long wait, but we walked onto the attraction. The new queue is mildly entertaining, but I’m not waiting 25 or more extra minutes to see it.
After Haunted Mansion, we still had time before Columbia Harbour House opened (Sarah, again, wanted to just wait for it to open), so we did it’s a small world. Little did we know this would be our only time experiencing it’s a small world this trip! It has become a Fantasyland staple for us when we’re trying to avoid crowds or kill time before a FastPass. I suspect that the next time we ride it’s a small world, at Disneyland in November, the holiday version will ruin all other versions for us. We already far prefer Disneyland’s version to Walt Disney World’s, but I think adding Christmas, our favorite holiday by far, might be a real game-changer. Sort of like seeing Fantasmic at Disneyland. Once you watch it there, you never want to see Pocahontasmic at Walt Disney World again!
When we exited it’s a small world, it was just a touch after 11 am, so we headed towards Columbia Harbour House. I joked that we should do Peter Pan’s Flight via standby before lunch, but this joke was not well-received. Note to self: don’t joke about things like 90 minute standby lines when you have a ‘starving’ wife on your hands!
We’ve recently come to appreciate Columbia Harbour House more than in the past, but I was shocked by the line in that lace–and the incredibly slow service. Sarah waited in line for 20 minutes (giving me permission to run around and take photos, isn’t she sweet?) before she finally received our food. We decided to eat a light meal because there was still the possibility that we’d hear news that Food & Wine Festival had opened for a preview day. Based on what we saw at Epcot the previous evening, everything should have been ready to go that day. A light meal for us meant splitting an entree, and since she was the one waiting in line, I let her decide what to get. I strongly hinted that the Lobster Roll.
She got the Fish and Shrimp basket instead, as she saw the Lobster Roll, and said it didn’t look too appealing. I figured I’d just try the Lobster Roll on a subsequent trip. No big deal, especially since I didn’t wait in line for 20 minutes. Columbia Harbour House proved it wasn’t just a fluke that we enjoyed the meal we had the last time we were there, as the Fish and Shrimp basket was quite good. Not overly breaded and not too greasy. Unlike at many fast food style restaurants, the shrimp were actually shrimp, not just highly breaded ocean “stuff.”
After lunch our Big Thunder Mountain Railroad FastPasses were ready, so we headed over to Frontierland. Big Thunder is always fun, and this ride was no different. Although I did notice the boulders that used to move towards the ride vehicle during the final lift were still broken, and looked quite bad. Not quite as bad as the black tarp covering them in May, but I think it’s inexcusable that these rocks would have such a duct-tape solution for so many months. I completely understand if Disney doesn’t want to schedule a long refurbishment during the summer months to make the boulders move, but at least create an overnight solution that doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb. That’s just bad show.
Following Big Thunder, we decided to finally head to our favorite land, Tomorrowland. How we had been in the park for a few hours by this point without stepping foot in Tomorrowland was beyond me. I had an inclination that terrorists were to blame, and we know whose fault that makes it…
We went to Tomorrowland by way of the hub, which meant stopping to snap some photos of the wonderful Halloween decorations. Although I have no actual proof of this, I think the Halloween decorations this year were far better than they were in 2009, when we last visited during Halloween. My foundation for this is that the decorations this year look cooler than they do in my Fall 2009 photos. The problem with that is that I didn’t photograph all of the decorations (and I certainly don’t remember them all), and these same decorations might have existed then, and I just didn’t photograph them. This is often how my memory of things at Walt Disney World operates. I don’t so much remember things as I do remember seeing recurrent themes in my photos. This isn’t because my vacation is lived through the viewfinder, but because I view these photos hundreds to thousands of time each for years after the trip, whereas the moment during the trip only happens once, and it’s stuck at that moment in time. Luckily I do remember most things. If I didn’t, I’d be convinced that Spaceship Earth is the only structure in Future World, and the Leave a Legacy tombstones didn’t exist (as I try to shoot around them in my photos).
In this case, I’m pretty sure the decorations have been enhanced since 2009. It seems like there were more fall leaves, more random pumpkins sitting around in places other than Main Street, and just more fall colors throughout the park than before. I could be totally wrong, but that’s a rarity!
After capturing the photos in the hub, we headed off towards Tomorrowland. Right as we walked under the Gateway of Tomorrow (the name I’ve coined for the entrance-archway that leads to the Avenue of the Planets–pass it on), I heard that wonderful Tomorrowland 2003 background loop. Ahhh, it was good to be back home!
First stop…do I really even have to type it? Of course our first stop was on the TTA. This is an attraction that we’ve come to experience more and more during the day. Although I still mourn the loss of the old, sleek, “NOW APPROACHING” voice that was axed in 2009, I’ve come to tolerate the new “kiddie” narration. I suppose block out is a more appropriate term than tolerate. Everyone has their own little complaint about seemingly insignificant things that have negatively impacted attractions. Things the rest of the world, and definitely things the general public, doesn’t care about or notice. Well, this is that for me. At least I can recognize that most other people probably don’t care. If anyone has a good audio-only ride-through of the old TTA without too much ambiant noise, please let me know!
After the TTA, we surveyed the lay of the land, to determine what we’d do next. It was a gorgeously cloudy day, Astro Orbiter had a relatively short wait, and we hadn’t experienced it at Walt Disney World in over three years. Yeah, it was time to give it a second chance.
Consider yourself advised to skip this paragraph, as it devolves into some serious nerd-talk. I’ve long paused when I write the word “Orbiter” because in the back of my mind, I think it’s spelled by Disney as “Orbitor.” However, Orbitor gives me a spellcheck error, so then I think that can’t be correct. Last time we were at Disneyland I double-checked the sign, and saw it’s definitely Orbitor. After the trip, I happened across the attraction’s page on the Walt Disney World website, and it was definitely spelled Orbiter. I cross-checked a few other sites, and come to find out, the spelling is different on each coast! I asked some experts in the field as to why the spelling was this was, and no one had a real answer. Someone suggested something to do with Eisner’s nephew (or something like that), but I think that might just be an instance of blaming Eisner for anything that is wrong with, or doesn’t make sense about, Disney (I’m more inclined to blame Pressler for the Disneyland misspelling). Perhaps it’s a difference in local dialects? Perhaps there is some deep backstory nuance that explains it away? Perhaps the alien-dinosaurs in Disneyland are to blame?! I guess we’ll never truly know why the spelling difference exists.
There was a reason why hadn’t ridden Astro Orbiter in three years. Sarah is afraid to ride it. I tweeted this out, and I think, based upon responses, that people assumed I was being sarcastic. While it’s always a safe bet to assume I’m being sarcastic when in doubt, in this case, I was being completely serious.
It’s really unfortunate that Sarah is afraid of the attraction (and it makes her nauseous), because the views the Walt Disney World version offers are impressive. I was so caught up in taking photos and craning my head around to look at the park that it felt like the ride was over in an instant. I hoped that we’d go back to experience it at night later in the trip, but I knew that was a bit unlikely.
After Astro Orbiter, we wandered around Tomorrowland for a bit, soaking up the ambiance and recovering from the wild ride aboard the scary spaceships! Finally, we headed over the Buzz Lightyear’s Spaceranger Spin.
As many of you probably know, I love Buzz Lightyear’s Spaceranger Spin. I am especially keen on anything that affords me the opportunity to win at something, and I usually can beat Sarah at Spaceranger Spin. If I lose, it’s because I had a defective gun. I seem to get a defective gun a little less than 50% of the time.
As we queued up for Spaceranger Spin, our friend Cody (renowned photographer and triplets owner) approached us from behind for the sneak attack. We talked with him as we waited in line, when he dropped a bomb on us: Food & Wine Festival had opened about an hour earlier for a preview day. We expected the crowds to swell over the weekend since it was the first weekend, the weekend of Wine & Dine marathon, and the 40th anniversary, so we figured it would be wise to visit on that relatively slow Thursday.
So, after Spaceranger Spin, we made our way towards the Magic Kingdom’s exit, and did exactly that. We started by all taking the monorail to the Ticket and Transportation Center. Monorail rides on days with big puffy clouds are especially nice and relaxing, and really make for great photos. It may just be a form of transportation, but for me, the monorail is an attraction unto itself.
Once we got to the TTC, we realized Cody had driven there, and we had to decide between riding with him and taking the monorail to Epcot. Figuring riding with him would be faster, and time was of the essence on this day because we only had a few hours of park time until we had to get ready for the Disney Parks Blog’s Ticket or Meet-Up event, we elected to ride with him.
Of course, when assuming the ride would be faster, we forgot about the tram ride to the parking lot, and parking at Epcot’s lot. These steps took quite a while, and reaffirmed my position that I have no desire to rent a car myself at Walt Disney World anytime soon. While it may be faster on some mornings, Disney transportation is generally more convenient, especially late at night. Moreover, even inefficient Disney transportation is more convenient than a rental car when heading to the Magic Kingdom.
When we did arrive at Epcot, we headed directly for the World Showcase, and immediately began pondering our snack options at the country kiosks…
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