Deciding we needed an adventure, tickets were bought, an RV was rented, camp sites were reserved, bags were packed, and AJ, Erin, Maya, Ben, Bill, and I set out for Disney World in Orlando, Florida. The odyssey began promptly at 6:25 a.m. on Saturday, July 8, and ended on July 15 at 10:15 p.m. I could bore you for days with a retelling of the trip in glorious detail, which I will do in the scrapbook to come, but I decided a shorter version here would probably be better. At least I will try to make it shorter…
But where to start? So many memories are associated with this trip. The majority of the trip was driven on I-10 which was traffic-laden like all interstate highways are. I enjoyed driving through Houston and seeing the San Jacinto Monument in the distance. We saw sugarcane fields in Louisiana, sandy beaches and old Victorian homes on the scenic drive in Mississippi, where we did venture off I-10. Into Alabama and Florida the highway was a corridor of green, nothing but tall trees to our right and nothing but tall trees to our left in the median of the divided highway. And for one of us used to flat open landscapes in West Texas, claustrophobia made a brief appearance!
We ended day one camping at Fontainbleau State Park in Louisiana, and camped on day two at Grayton Beach in Florida. On day three there was no doubt we had reached Disney World because mouse ears decorated everything.
We stayed in the Disney RV Wilderness campground, which was huge and lovely, and we realized after we parked that renting a golf cart was pretty much a necessity. And naturally they had plenty on hand for us to do just that. Ours was number 4418; I saw them numbered from 102 to 4450, so I figure they probably had no less than 5,000 carts to meet customer needs.
After we parked and were settled in, we rode a Disney-supplied boat across the lake to the Magic Kingdom, which was a nice ride in itself.
We had time to buy mouse ears for Maya (in retrospect, I wish I had gotten a pair myself) and ride Aladdin’s Magic Carpet ride and walk through the Swiss Family Robinson’s tree house before squeezing into the crowd which had been gathering for probably a couple of hours already to watch the new fireworks display. And it was spectacular! Not only was it a fireworks display extraordinaire but also a light show projected onto Cinderella’s castle, complete with music and Disney characters projected on the castle and lights that made the castle change color and do all sorts of things. Tinkerbell also flew off from the highest tower and that drew a cheer from the crowd.
This is how the castle looked before the fireworks/light show.
And here are some shots during the show.
The next day we rode the Disney bus from the RV park to Epcot, which was fine, but we later learned we could have taken the monorail from the Magic Kingdom to Epcot and wished we had done that. The best thing we did at Epcot was the Soarin’ ride, a virtual reality ride that flew us over Everest, Kilimanjaro, one of the ice caps and polar bears, Niagara Falls, I think, and several other places that I really enjoyed. We made a couple of other rides, toured the aquarium, lost interest, and went back to the Magic Kingdom.
We did the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, which was fun, and watched the fireworks again, which was still wonderful, and called it a night.
And it was back to the Magic Kingdom again on day five! We hit Tomorrowland first and rode the infamous Space Mountain. I have always heard about Space Mountain and how popular it is. Well, it is popular; the line was long and the ride was like nothing else I have ever done, but to tell you the truth, it was probably everyone’s least favorite ride of the whole trip. It was all in the dark, very fast, full of hard jerks and turns, and well, just scary and unpleasant instead of fun. I suppose you will want to see for yourself and ride it anyway, but we didn’t like it. And thank goodness we had a Fast Pass for it; if we had waited in line forever to ride it only to be so disappointed, we would have been some unhappy campers.
And speaking of Fast Passes, if you are not familiar with them, let me tell you that if you aren’t willing to fork over whatever they cost, don’t even bother going. Fast Passes allow you to breeze past all the hot, grumpy people waiting in the regular line-sometimes for hours, literally-and get on the ride without having to wait. I don’t know what they cost because Bill made all the arrangements for the trip, and I am sure there is more than one package to choose from, but whatever they cost, they are worth it. Of course, if everyone buys them, then they won’t be so fast! But I think the price keeps that from happening. And besides, once you commit to go to Disney World, or Disneyland, or Universal Studios, or wherever, you have already signed away a boatload of money. No reason to stop now. Fast Passes help you enjoy the trip.
Space Orbiter was much more our speed than Space Mountain, and it was fun.
We left for Fantasyland and had fun on the Mad Tea Party ride, which I remember from my childhood trip to Disneyland way back last century when it was all new and shiny. “How many in your tea party?” the girl asked brightly as she directed us in our tea cups.
We hit the carrousel and all the little kids-well, their parents- grabbed the big horses, and I had to settle for a medium-sized one.
Maya, Erin, and I went to meet the princesses.
We also rode on Peter Pan’s Flight, another ride I remember from long ago, and I enjoyed that again. I think it was about the time we got out of that ride that the rain hit. Not a hard rain, but enough to get you wet and make a mess on the pavement. We were told it rains every afternoon there, and naturally, they have parkas and umbrellas handy to sell you, just in case. But by this time, the kids were about ready for a break, so we headed back to the RV. Bill and I went back later and rode the monorail just to get an overview of the whole Disney complex-and because we just wanted to ride a monorail!
Day six was devoted to the Animal Kingdom, which, by and large, I think we all enjoyed the most. For one thing, it was not as loud, seemed to be moving at a slower pace, was shadier and cooler, and had several rides we all enjoyed. We first took the Kilimanjaro Safari, which drove us through a winding road to see African animals in natural habitat. We also enjoyed seeing some of the park’s gorillas after the ride. Looming above it all was this man-made Tree of Life with carved images on its trunk of many kinds of life. We wound up in Asia and rode Expedition Everest, a fun roller-coaster ride. This one we didn’t have a Fast Pass for and had to use the regular line, which this time wasn’t too bad because the line wandered back and forth in areas filled with old mountaineering equipment and framed newspaper stories and information, so we had something to read and look at as we made our way to the roller coaster. I think it might have taken about 20 minutes to get through this line since it was early in the day, so we were lucky. Besides being just enough of a scary roller coaster, this one careened through a pretty setting as they had the track go up and down snowy mountains planted with appropriate trees and plants. We also had an encounter with the abominable snowman, which was silly but fun.
We had a bite to eat in the Asia section when it rained again and our Fast Pass for the Avatar ride in the Pandora section was scheduled for 6 pm, so we went back to the RV to wait out the rain and went back later for the ride, another virtual reality experience based on the movie Avatar, which had us each riding on the back of a banshee from the movie. That ride was fun, too, but we didn’t spend much time in Pandora, instead going to Dinoland USA where Ben rode another roller coaster type-ride, and we enjoyed looking around before heading back to the RV.
When we checked into the park we were all given our Magic Bands, computerized bracelets if you will, that were programed with our identification, Fast Passes, and other information dealing with our stay. The bracelets had to be read by a Mickey Mouse reader to get in the gates, onto the rides, in the comfort stations-the bathrooms, showers, laundry room- and when we wanted to buy something and charge it to our credit card on file. Back at the RV comfort station I worked and worked to get a picture of the reader when it lights up to read the bracelet. No easy task, as the light stays on for a nanosecond. I finally got this:
Day seven was the first leg of the drive home which included a brief stop at Cocoa Beach and the Ron Jon Surf Shop that we kept seeing advertised on billboards, a brief stop at the Kennedy Space Center, and eating at a Waffle House. Being the first to see a Waffle House sign had become a driving game because we found one at every exit on the interstate, save maybe one or two exits. So nothing would do but that we eat at one somewhere before we got home. We picked this one in Florida before stopping for the night at Destin Beach.
Day 8, the last leg of the trip. AJ and Erin were up early so they could spend a little time in the water at Destin Beach because they had heard so much about it. Then we took off only to be detained and sent on detours by two wrecks and rain. But we did make our way back to Texas and Kyle. it was a long day.
Note all those cars lined up ahead of us on this detour.
Eight days, five states, three Disney parks, two beaches; memories to last a lifetime.