The Northwest pilots who were using a laptop and flew a jet 150 miles past where they were supposed to land could be fired. I would like to suggest that while the pilots should have their licenses revoked and not be allowed to fly, they should not be fired. Have them work in customer service instead. Dealing with frustrated and angry customers would be sweet justice.
Conor going down the slide in Cozumel.
A fellow cruise ship passenger on a shore excursion in Cozumel.
He also had "commie" tattooed across his belly.
A gorilla seen on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail.
Kilimanjaro Safari Baobab tree.
Disney Hollywood Studios
Conor and Emma with a Green Army Man.
From the performance of The Lion King in Disney's Animal Kingdom.
The kids and I went to Disney World during their fall break. This time we stayed at the Beach Club Resort. Although I had just booked a standard room, we were given an upgrade to a club level room.
The pool shared by the Beach & Yacht Club Resorts.
The slide for the pool begins in the ship.
Conor has been busy traveling. First a band trip to St. Louis and then a trip with his 8th grade class to Washington D.C.
It rained all day Tuesday but on Wednesday we had perfect weather for a trip to Egmont Key. The captain of the ferry we took did an excellent job of attracting dolphins which played in the wake of the boat.
We arrived in the 'Sunshine State" yesterday. I still haven't seen any sunshine.
Within three hours of our arrival someone was telling me about how the weather was unusually cool and wet. That is probably the single most common thing I hear on my vacations. I end droughts and cool hot weather. Clone me and we won't have to worry about global warming.
On the upside, I am building a nice collection of sweatshirts from what are usually warm places.
Google map directions from my city to London. Step #20 is going to be a bit rough.
When we checked into the Wilderness Lodge I asked if we could be the Flag Family. This is the family/group who goes to the roof of the resort and helps raise the flags - US flag, resort flag, and Disney flags. It's a very popular request but we lucked out, last Friday (our last full day at WDW) was open.
We met Cast Member Stan in the lobby and took the elevator to the 7th floor. This let us get a sneak peak at the concierge floor. Then we climbed 60-something stairs to the roof.
The view from there was incredible. We had a good view of Space Mountain and Cinderella Castle since the Magic Kingdom was the closest park but we could also see the high points of a couple of the other parks- Expedition Everest in Animal Kingdom and Tower of Terror in Disney MGM Studios.
We took turns raising the flags (and gawking at the view). It was a very special way to begin the last day of our stay.
Nemo & Friends Ride (Epcot) - You get to this ride through the entrance that used to be the main entrance for The Seas pavilion. (Now the entrance to the pavilion is on the left of the front of the building - the old exit.) We didn't have to wait in line long for this ride but from the space they allowed, you can tell that Disney expects this to be a popular ride.
The ride has all the characters from Finding Nemo and will keep the younger kids entertained without boring the older kids and adults.
Expedition Everest (Animal Kingdom) - I used to hate roller coasters (except for Big Thunder Mountain for some reason) but on this trip I felt bad that my oldest son didn't have anyone who would ride them with him. So, on this vacation I went on Space Mountain, Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith, and Expedition Everest. I didn't feel the sense of panic that I used to whenever I thought about riding a roller coaster. Maybe I've mellowed or maybe even roller coasters seemed relaxing compared to staying behind and listening to my younger children bicker about, well, everything.
I loved Expedition Everest so much I asked for the front seats on my second ride. The ride experienced some kind of problem and was shut down right after we rode it or I would have gotten in line again.
Mission: Space (Epcot) - We rode the green ticket (milder) ride first and then the orange ticket ride a few times. My younger son loved this ride...so much so that my older son and I began to get tired of it. I thought the warnings about motion sickness before the ride were overstated but I don't know that I would want to try it just after eating either.
We had breakfast with Stitch at the Polynesian Resort ('Ohana's Best Friends Breakfast with Lilo & Stitch) on Tuesday morning. Mickey and Pluto were there too but Stitch is one of our favorite characters. Unfortunately I think he may also be Conor's role model at times.
Breakfast included scrambled eggs, biscuits, Mickey waffles, bacon, sausage, and fried potatoes. During the breakfast, the kids were able to join the characters in a parade around the restaurant. Emma was the only one of our group who did this.
This is a view of the waterfall in the lobby of the resort.
The kids spent most of the rest of the day at Disney Quest in Downtown Disney.
I stayed there long enough to build and ride a virtual rollercoaster then I went back to the hotel for a nap. We had already done three full days of park touring plus one waterpark so I was ready for some rest.
We went to Mickey's Halloween Party on Monday night. Conor was a pirate (actually, an undead pirate) and Emma was Pocahontas.
We rode rides with very little wait time, saw the parade and fireworks, trick-or-treated for candy and danced with Stitch.
We arrived in Orlando on Friday and have been staying at the Wilderness Lodge. When we got here, Cast Members (Disney employees) greeted us with "Welcome home!". That's just silly. I can tell it's not home, the beds get made every day, my kids are willing to get up before noon on non-school days, and I don't have to cook any meals (or clean up afterwards).
Just as I predicted in the comments here, the weather is cooling off. "Unseasonably cool" with "record low temeratures for the day"...I don't know what it is about me and vacations but these seem to be the phrases I here on every single trip I take.
Gotta go, we're having breakfast with Stitch at the Poly. I'll post more trip reports and photos later.
Our original plans for Friday were to have breakfast, check out of the hotel and go to the Museum of Science and Industry before leaving for home. We did the first two but our museum visit was delayed because it was closed until 1:00 for the Bush press conference.
I had found out earlier that morning that he would be at the museum but hadn't realized the whole place would be shut down. Considering the security check and wanding we went through to get into the restaurant, I should have figured that there was no way they would want to go through all that with the number of visitors the museum gets, especially with an announced presidential visit. But I had asked the hotel concierge if he knew of any problems in visiting the museum that morning - he didn't even know that Bush was going to be there. I also mentioned that we were going to a police officer outside of the restaurant. Neither said anything about it being closed until the afternoon.
So, we had one failed first attempt to visit followed by a couple of hours
getting lost driving around Chicago. I would have been content to head home but I had promised that we would go there before we left so we waited. We were able to get in (to wait in line until it opened) when we returned at about 12:30.
This is part of a sign near the U-boat exhibit. I took a picture of it as a reminder that there was a time when designating information as classified really meant something.
People understood that war was, well, war. The ship that captured U-505 was part of Hunter-Killer Task Groups. A similar group now would probably be called "Protective Dolphin Pod" or something equally vague and, most importantly, PC.
The tour's interesting but I couldn't stop thinking about the Twilight Zone episode "Judgment Night" during it.
I created two mental lists during our trip: interesting places and interesting people. Until our surprise breakfast with the president the person at the top of my "people" list was a man standing on a corner of Michigan Avenue. He had a sign and a megaphone (which wasn't loud enough to completely overcome the street noise). He claimed to be a former Russian (Soviet?) soldier and was warning us that Putin is trying to bring Communism back to Russia.
In the subcategory of "sidewalk presentations" he ranks well above the anti-Bush protesters (about seven of them) across from the Museum of Science and Industry on clarity and presentation of his message. The protesters message was a bit confusing. They seemed to be in support of science but, judging from the signs, not very strong on facts. They were saved the disgrace of a last place finish in this category by a man who was reciting strings of obscenities.
One of the nicest people that we met was also while we were out walking. We had stepped out of the way of other pedestrians to check our map book when a woman stopped to ask if we were lost. (I'm never lost, I know where I am and where I'm going, it's just the "how" that can sometimes be a problem.) She gave us directions on the quickest way back to our hotel and took the time to chat with us a bit and make some suggestions of places that we might want to visit.
Before we left Chicago this morning we went to Lou Mitchell's for breakfast. As soon as we got out of the taxi I knew this was going to be a very special breakfast. It wasn't the diner's reputation for good food that got me excited, it was seeing the men in suits with curly wires coming out of their ears.
I had heard on the news this morning that the president was also in Chicago, what I didn't know until we arrived was that he was coming to the same restaurant for breakfast. When President Bush came in he stopped to say hello and shake hands with every person in the restaurant. I think what I said to him went something like, "a buh buh buh, uh, nice to meet you too." I'm sure the grin on my face was equally idiotic. Not one of my better moments.
We were asked not to take photographs inside so the best I have to offer is a photo of the president's limo.
This year, the 50th Anniversary of the Interstate Highway System will kick off a record Fourth of July holiday weekend. AAA estimates that 40.7 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home this holiday, a 1.2 percent increase from the 40.2 million who traveled last year. Of those travelers, about 85 percent will travel by car on our national interstate and local road way system this weekend.
I'm not going to be one of the weekend/holiday travelers but I will be taking a trip after the 4th. I'm taking the kids to Chicago to see the King Tut exhibit at the Field Museum. I wasn't able to see it the last time (1977) it was in the U.S. and I didn't want to miss it this time.
We'll only be staying a couple of nights and we plan on visiting the Field Museum on the morning of the day after we arrive. That leaves the late afternoon/evening of our arrival day and the afternoon and evening of the second day open. I've been reading books and checking Websites to find things to do but would appreciate any suggestions for things to do with kids (10, 13, and 17).
Restaurant suggestions would also help. I would like to take them to a nice restaurant, the kind the guidebooks call "fine dining". I figure the chances of them acting civilized are better when they're in an unfamiliar city than at a good restaurant at home. (Their manners are usually pretty good but they are kids and a little unfamiliarity might move "pretty good" up to "a pleasure to dine with".)
I'm expecting that meal to be pricey so I'm also looking for good but inexpensive places for breakfasts, lunches, and one other dinner.
I was able to check our bags and get our boarding passes at the hotel. (And found out that one of the nice young men working there has a grandmother who lives in the same neighborhood in which I grew up.) Checking the bags was a good thing. I had already discovered on the trip down that my laptop, which seems light enough when I carry it around home, feels as though it doubles in weight when I have to carry it through airports, so I didn't want to be carrying my suitcase also.
We arrived in plenty of time, dropped off the rental car, and went through security with no delays. Our flight to Orlando had been straight through but we had a stop in Atlanta on the way home. Everything was fine until we got to Atlanta. First our flight was delayed because of mechanical problems. Then we had to go to another concourse so we could take a different plane. The people at the gate told us that it would still be delayed and that they would keep us updated. The airline employees at the gate told us that the delay was now due to having to wait for the crew. That was the last they said about it until the plane was ready for boarding almost two hours after the scheduled time for our flight.
As soon as we (finally!!) boarded, the flight crew told us that the delay hadn't been caused by them regardless of what the people at the gate had told us. I wasn't sure how I was supposed to take that information, go back in to the gate and accuse them of lying to us? (A better choice might be just to avoid any flights to/from Atlanta in the future.) As far as I was concerned, the cause of the delay was the problems with the first plane and all I cared about at that point was getting home safely.
Even with delays, it's still better than a long car trip. If we drove, I would be too tempted to pull over at the first "are we there yet?" and tell the kids sure, we're here, now get out. It's not like I would abandon them just anywhere. I expect them to be asking if we're there by the time we reach the entrance to our subdivision.
We arrived home (obviously, since I've posted since then) and spent the rest of the day resting (one of us spent more than one day recovering and is now thinking a nap right now isn't such a bad idea). The weather here was cold and icy. It's warmed up some since then but the predicted high temperature today (55 degrees) isn't even as high as the low for today in Orlando (61 degrees). I'm ready to go back to Florida. I would be happy to move there but my husband says he likes living someplace that has seasons. For some reason, telling him that Florida has seasons - hurricane season and repair season - doesn't help persuade him any. Go figure. He says it's the hurricanes he wants to avoid but I think it's really the possibility of having to do repair work.
In many ways this was the best day of our trip. We went back to EPCOT for some of the best rides and attractions that (I think) WDW has to offer. The daytime temperature got up to around 80 degrees (finally, my kind of weather!). And last, but certainly not least, I finally was able to drive to the park and back to the hotel without getting lost on the way.
I would be wiling to have an RFID chip implanted in my body if there were signs that would give me personalized messages - Mary Beth, take the next exit! No worries, Mary Beth, you're on the right road. Hey, MB, you missed your turn!Sure GPS might be cheaper and easier but does it give me the chance to see my name in lights?
While at EPCOT, we rode Soarin' (twice). We used FastPass both times. We would have ridden again but by the time our second ride was over the FastPass time about 7:00 that evening and I wasn't sure we would be there that long. I wanted to ride Soarin' as soon as I read about it before leaving home. The kids weren't too sure about it at first but enjoyed it so much that it was their idea to ride again.
We were among the first group in to see Turtle Talk with Crush that day. Conor and Emma both had questions they wanted to ask but Crush and the cast member with the microphone only seemed to be picking younger children to ask questions. I can understand why they might do this, young kids are more liekly to ask funny questions and ones that don't require 100+ frame-by-frame viewings of Finding Nemo to answer.
We tried several Coca-Cola produced soft drinks from around the world at Club Cool. Kinley Lemon from Israel was pretty good. I didn't try Beverly from Italy but the kids did. They don't recommend it. (I think the exact quotation is, "Oh, yuck!")
While waiting for our second Soarin' ride we had lunch at the Garden Grill in The Land. The food there was very good (and all you can eat, including dessert). We also got to meet some more characters including Mickey, Pluto, Chip, and Dale.
In the afternoon we visited the World Showcase in EPCCOT and did some shopping. After that we went back to Downtown Disney for a bit and then back to the hotel for some swimming. (Kids only this time, it was early evening and the temperature was cooling down too much for me.) We stayed at Port Orleans Riverside so we also had access to the Port Orleans French Quarter pool and the kids wanted to visit it. We took the boat over because, really, the only thing more pleasant than a cool evening swim is the same followed by a chilly boat ride back to the hotel. I was wearing a jacket and still felt cold. It didn't seem to bother Conor and Emma much. Sometimes I wonder if they weren't switched at birth and some cold weather-loving mother is wondering why her children get chilled when the temperature drops below the mid-70s.
This was also the day that the kids discovered Disney pins. I, of course, abstained from all that. (Ignore the clanking of my lanyard and don't check my eBay bids since I've been home.) I didn't tell them about pin collecting and hoped we could make the trip without them discovering it on their own. No such luck. I guess I should be glad that they didn't discover the pins on the first day since they found at least one that they "just have to have" at almost every store and kiosk we visited.
You can see a couple of pictures of the kids with some characters we met at lunch and some from the Lego store in Downtown Disney here.
On Thursday we went to the Magic Kingdom. Some pictures from that day are here.
We picked this day to visit the Magic Kingdom because it was the day that Trevor's band was to perform.
Before I go on, a little back story here: Trevor had lost his cell phone and I had hurried to have it replaced (thank goodness I had the insurance on it) before we left so that he would be able to call me and let me know when they arrived and what time the band was marching. We had also discussed meeting up sometime for lunch.
I hadn't heard from him on Wednesday, the day they were supposed to arrive. I left him a couple of voicemails but still hadn't heard from him. He finally answered the phone on Thursday. I asked where they were staying. The information from the school only said "All Star Resort". (All Star Music, All Star Movie, or All Star Sports?) I assumed the Music one was the most likely for a band trip, but still wanted some confirmation. He didn't know. He didn't know what time they were marching. They were getting ready to get on a ride and he cut the call short saying he would call me later. I didn't hear from him again until the bus was almost back in town.
Even though Trevor didn't tell us when they were marching, we still figured out the time and place to be to see the band. (He is still learning how unwise it is to not call his momma when he should. I forgive much faster than I forget.*)
*If and when Alzheimer's sets in and not a minute before.
We spent the earlier part of the day riding rides and meeting some Disney characters. The first ride we went on was Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin. I remember our scores but am not going to post them. There are limits on how much I'm willing to embarass myself here. Let's just say that Conor and Emma both pwned me.
We also rode Thunder Mountain Railroad, one of my favorites. We rode several other rides, not including Splash Mountain, another one of my favorites because the kids don't like the "big drop" at the end. To me, that's the only good part of the ride. Without that, it might as well be It's a Small World (only with less annoying music). And, yes, we did ride the Small World ride too. (I have two excuses for that, pick your favorite: 1. I think riding it is a requirement for all Disney visitors. 2. It was in the evening after we had returned from a rest break where I had, again, been exposed to the perky lady and I wasn't in my right mind...or perhaps, less rational than normal would be more accurate.)
After the band performance and the SpectroMagic parade we rode a couple more rides and then watched the fireworks. The fireworks show was very good but don't watch it from the park if you like to have your personal space extend more than 3" from your body. After it ends, everyone is trying to leave the park at the same time and it gets
oppressively close very snug.
On Wednesday we went to Animal Kingdom. We rode the Kilimanjaro Safaris ride twice. Some of the pictures I took are here. We didn't do much else there, the kids kept wanting to go back to the hotel and go swimming. We could have stayed home and gone to the YMCA for that.
After swimming for a while we went to the Whispering Canyon Cafe at the Wilderness Lodge for a late lunch. I had their pork barbecue sandwich which was very good. The kids enjoyed the "bottomless" milkshakes.
In the evening we rode the Sassagoula Steamboat Company boat from the hotel to Downtown Disney. The kids bought some candy from one store and lots of Legos from the Lego store. (Buy Danish!)
Inside and outside the Lego store are several Lego sculptures. I took pictures of them on another visit to Downtown Disney and will post some of them later.
One section of the Lego store has bins of various types of Legos - small to large, a variety of colors, and lots of the little extra pieces like wheels, windows, car seats, flowers, leaves, and even picket fences. You can select the ones you want and put them in a container (a small container is about $7 and a larger one is about $13). Conor and Emma each bought a container of Legos and after our boat ride back to the hotel spent some time building, um, something.
We also watched the perky lady talk about Disney some more. I read a book and tried to ignore it.
Trevor, my oldest son, is in his school's marching band. They were traveling to Walt Disney World to march before the parade in the Magic Kingdom. I decided to take Conor and Emma (my husband had to work so he couldn't go) to see the band march and spend a few days at Disney World.
We left home on Valentine's Day and the flight down to Orlando was (thankfully) uneventful. Our plane was small, one seat one one side and two on the other. This way Conor had a seat by himself and Emma and I sat together. If only I could have kept them separated like that throughout the whole trip!
I'm an only child so this whole brother and sister thing is strange to me but you would think that by now (Conor is 12 and Emma is 9, Trevor who was traveling with the marching band is 17) I would be used to how they can be getting along like best friends one minute and acting as though World War III just broke out the next.
It was late afternoon by the time we had rented a car and got settled in the hotel. We decided to go to EPCOT because it had some new attractions that I wanted to see. I was hoping the lines wouldn't be too long at that time of day, but no luck there. We still got to play a video game and send an email postcard (with a photo that I find embarassing but I'm posting it anyway in the extended entry) from Innoventions. We also visited The Living Seas and looked at the (huge) aquarium there.
After that we went back to the hotel for dinner at Boatwrights, played some games in the arcade, did some shopping in the store and went back to our room. We spent the rest of the evening watching TV. The kids picked the channel we watched - a show about the attractions at Disney World. It was interesting the first time... but they watched it over and over again throughout our time there. It featured a very perky woman. I still haven't recovered from the exposure to so much perkiness.
IBM added the message to the postcard. We don't have any fish to feed. With three cats any fish we might get probably wouldn't last long no matter how secure the aquarium was.
We had a great time in Disney World. We went on safari in Animal Kingdom, rode Soarin' (twice), talked with Crush, met several Disney characters, rode some other rides, saw several attractions and walked (and walked, and walked....).
As busy as we were there, the trip home was even more tiring. Our flight home was delayed. If I had been by myself this would have just been annoying, with two kids it was exhausting.
We came home to a light dusting of snow and temperatures below freezing. I shouldn't have complained about evening temperatures in the 50s in Orlando. That now seems almost balmy by comparison.
I'll post more pictures, more comments, and less complaining later. Right now, I'm just...
Tomorrow the kids and I will be leaving for Walt Disney World. I want to thank VW Bug for being kind enough to answer my questions when I was trying to decide which hotel to make reservations for and for her post about Turtle Talk with Crush. That attraction has now been added to our "must see" list.)
I've been watching the weather in Orlando so I would have an idea of what type of clothes to pack. All through January it looked wonderful. It looked just as good at the beginning of February but recently I've been seeing "Severe alert!" due to freeze warnings.
Now, if there is one unifying theme to all of my vacations it's that whenever I get to where I'm going, the one comment I hear the most is, "This is really unusual weather we're having." I would like to believe that it's just a freaky coincidence that my vacations always coincide with the coldest/wetest/whatever weather that is the most unusual for the season and location. Logically, I know that my being there doesn't change the weather but I'm half tempted to visit Death Valley in the middle of summer just to see if it will rain for a week straight.
The good news is that the weather is supposed to warm up in Orlando with highs in the 70s and the lows only in the 50s. I am hopeful right now but given my track record, I won't be surprised if the forecast is suddenly revised around mid-afternoon tomorrow.