Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Day 3 in Orlando - Let's Have A Pool Day!

Our two days and one night at Disneyworld are now behind us and we're all "Disneyed" out!  We had talked about maybe going to LEGOLAND on Saturday, but in the end decided that a day lazing around the pool at the resort sounded so much better.

The kids slept in well past 7:30 AM on Saturday morning which was a blessing!  I was up and dressed and ready for them as I had been every other morning, but this morning I was happy that they'd slept in.  Eventually they wandered out of their bedroom and into the living room looking sleepy-eyed and groggy.  Jeremy and Christina showed up more than an hour later which meant they slept in a bit, too.

Today it's to the pool!!  By 10:30 we had the kids in their swimsuits and were heading toward the fabulous pool complex at the resort, a short walk away.  We parked ourselves with absolutely no intentions of leaving until the kids had had enough! 

We ordered drinks, had lunch poolside, and just generally enjoyed the decadence of not having to do a single thing but enjoy the perfect weather and watch the kids having fun in the splash pool.

The down-time gave me time to reflect on the last two days and to relive memories of the time I was at Disneyworld with my son for the first time, many years ago.  How much the park has changed!  How much hasn't changed!  How the crowds are now so much bigger!  How, while entry into the park has become so expensive, the food and souvenirs once in the park are still quite reasonably priced.  How differently each of the kids reacted to the experience, and how different the experiences were between Trevor's and his dad's when he was his age. 

At last the kids were showing signs that they'd had enough, confirmed by their willingness to leave the pool when told we were going back to the apartment.  No fussing, no complaints from them.  Christina had a 1:00 PM massage scheduled at the spa, so Jeremy and I took the kids back, got Mimi in for a nap, and Trevor set up with movies and quiet busy-time activities for the next couple of hours.

Our trip is nearing an end.  Only one more dinner together Saturday night, then start packing things up for our departure the next morning. 


Sunday morning came too quickly!  As Jeremy and I packed the car, Christina took the kids to the pool one last time.  I checked out of my timeshare and Jeremy and I walked over to the resort pool one last time.  The kids swam, I sipped a Starbucks cappuccino, then the family headed to the hotel room one last time to change out of swimsuits and to check out of the hotel, before having lunch at the hotel's food court before heading to the airport.  They fly home, I begin my two-day drive home, stopping at their house on the second day to drop off their luggage and the car seat before I continue on toward my home. 

Oh, and that double stroller?  It was left outside the Lost-and-Found department of the hotel, where hopefully it will find a new owner.

All the Disneyworld trip photos can be seen here:  Disneyworld Trip

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Disneyworld Day 2 - Back to the Fun!

Friday morning and the kids barely slept in!  Mimi peeked out at around 7:00 AM, followed shortly by Trevor.  I was surprised to see her up so early, considering how exhausted and totally delirious she was the night before.  But little kids bounce back a lot more quickly than their adults do, that's for sure! 

I made them breakfast and had them parked in front of the movie Cinderella on the Disney channel when their dad showed up.   We lazed about and waited for their mom to show up then piled into the car and headed back over to Disneyworld.  We were getting to be old pro's at negotiating the parking, trams, and Monorail, this being our third time there in little more than 24 hours.  We again walked to the monorail station to avoid what surely would have been a long wait to get onto one of the parking trams...no doubt it would take waiting through two tram arrival-departures before we'd be able to board one with the stroller in tow.

Back into the park, we made a beeline down Main Street toward Adventureland.  I found the Starbucks on Main Street, bought my morning "fix" and then caught up with the family at the Swiss Family Robinson Tree House just as Trevor and his dad were exiting the attraction.  Trevor wanted to do it again and he found a willing partner in me.  Up we went, up the winding stairs, through the different levels - bedroom, parlor, kitchen, dining room, and, at the very tiptop, the study with desk and hammocks.  Very cool! 

Everyone wanted to do Pirates of the Caribbean again.  Afterward, we decided to have an early lunch again, since that seemed to work out so well the day before, crowd-wise.  This time we ate Mexican, getting burritos and quesadillas all 'round.

This was just the little respite we needed before moving on to the next big adventure:  The old-fashioned train ride over to Fantasyland where I waited while the rest of them rode the Barnstormer kid-sized rollercoaster. 

Then another spin on the carousel was in order before we all headed over to Tomorrowland and Space Mountain.  

Mimi is too small to do this ride so she and I bought ice cream and found a shady bench to wait.  We had a wonderful little rest, at one point taking a little stroll around Tomorrowland and then finding a restroom before returning to our shady little spot to wait. 


Wondering if Mimi would take a nap in the stroller, we decided to separate after doing the Muriel little mermaid ride, with Christina and Mimi taking a long walk, heading toward Main Street, and Jeremy, Trevor and I continuing toward Adventureland and more rides. 

We did the Haunted Mansion, my absolute favorite ride.  Trevor very matter-of-factly stated that he found it scary.  It was fun to learn this, because it meant he was old enough to understand the difference between scary-terrifying and scary-fun! 

We wanted to ride Thunder Mountain but it was temporarily closed for technical problems earlier in the day, but we didn't return even though we were close to it at this point.  Instead, Jeremy  had gotten a Pre-pass for a repeat ride on Space Mountain, so we headed back over there and went nearly to the head of the line.  At the last minute, Trevor suddenly had a little "melt-down" so he and I were led to a waiting area where the cars unload, and waited for his dad to do the ride and return to us. 

Our day was pretty much winding down.  We knew that the kids had just about had enough, so headed over to Main Street to find Christina and Mimi.  She had one last thing she wanted to do at one of the shops on Main Street:

Personalized Mickey Mouse ears for the family!

Then one last photo with Goofy:

...and we headed for "home," a carful of happy but tired people!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Disneyworld - Day 1 and Excitement Abounds

I'm not sure who's more excited....me or the kids!  To once again see the first-time excitement in little faces is a dream come true for me.  I have such fond and vivid memories of the first time my son visited Disneyworld at the age of 5 1/2.   For grins, we re-enacted that day in a photo:

Such a cute little 5 year old, now a tall, handsome 37 year old!

Waiting for the Monorail

The "getting into the park" portion of the morning seemed a little more tedious than I remembered, made much more so by the large crush of folks.  Many more visitors than 32 years ago, that's for sure!  Having the double stroller with us was a godsend, but added to the tedium of boarding the parking lot trams as well as the monorail cars.  But Jeremy muscled through it and we were finally at the gate to the park by 9:30 AM or so, after arriving at the parking lot at exactly 9:00 AM.  We found it faster to walk from the parking lot to the Monorail station than to wait in the huge crowd of folks waiting to get onto the next tram.

The square at the top of Main Street has changed significantly since we visited the park many years ago.  They've redeveloped the square in such a way to accommodate photo- and autograph-taking of select Disney characters as guests first enter the park.  It meant for large jams of folks and long lines waiting their turn.  Minnie Mouse and Pluto were the characters-of-the-moment so we stood in line to get Trevor's photo with Pluto. 

Then it was on toward the castle at the other end of Main Street. 

We spent much of this first day in Fantasyland, letting the kids ride the carousel, the Dumbo ride, It's A Small World, and a few more of the classics before the kids started to show their exhaustion.

We ate lunch at Pinocchio's - pizza - then, after doing the Peter Pan ride, decided to start heading back to the resort for some downtime.  We still had Mickey's party tonight and it would be a very long day for the kids - and the adults!

As we were leaving the park, Mimi's favorite AristoCat, Marie, was in the square, so we got a photo.   She was beyond excited!  Mimi had dressed up as Marie for Halloween and  was so excited to tell the real Marie this news!

We headed back to the resort to let Mimi take a nap, and to recharge before we headed back over to the park for Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party that evening.  Jeremy and I made a quick run to the grocery store to buy some beer and a few toiletries and snacks while the rest of the family had some naps/quiet time.  We had pizza for a quick dinner then piled back in the car.


The park was magically transformed!  Only those with special Mickey's Party passes were allowed in after 7 PM.  Main Street USA was beautiful!  And so was the Castle!  It shimmered in the dark, appearing to be draped in ice!  Gorgeous!

Christina was happy to stake her spot along the parade route and just people-watch while Trevor, Jeremy, Mimi, and I headed off to find the hot cocoa and cookies, and to do some of the rides that we knew would have long lines the next day.  We did the Jungle Cruise, Country Bear Jamboree - which Mimi absolutely adored - and Aladdin's Magic Carpet Ride. 

With perfect timing, we found Christina on Main Street, where she had staked out the perfect viewing spot, and only had a few minutes to wait before the parade started.  Like magic, it began to "snow" on Main Street, adding totally to the wonder and beauty of this spectacle.

"Snowing" on Main Street USA
Waiting for the parade to start

The parade was spectacular!  Every Disney character represented, plenty of Christmas music...it was even scented!  Aromas wafted from the floats as they passed by:  Cinnamon, cocoa, bayberry, freshly baked cookies....

Mickey and Minnie


The parade over, it was time to move down Main Street toward the Castle, where the light show and fireworks would begin in just a few minutes...

The light-show set to music was unbelievably gorgeous!  It played against the castle backdrop and covered a variety of Disney story lines and characters.  Then the fireworks show began and wowed all of us!  At one point, Tinkerbell came flying out of the castle and passed overhead.  The effect was magical!

We stayed at the park for a while, letting the crowds thin out and to avoid the crush for the monorail and parking trams, and headed back to Adventureland to ride The Pirates of the Caribbean.  Mimi balked at heading into the cave-like entrance, so she and Christina waited outside while Jeremy, Trevor, and I embarked on the debauchery and villainy with the pirates.  Trevor loved it!

By the time we left the park it was close to 10:30 PM and we had two very tired kids on our hands. Trevor immediately fell asleep in his car seat.  Mimi chattered like a little magpie all the way back to the resort.  She was clearly beyond tired and had moved into the delirium of exhaustion.

Tomorrow would be another long day at Disneyland and all of us adults agreed that we needn't get too early a start...let the kids sleep in as long as they needed before heading back over there. 

What a fantastic day!!  All of the photos can be seen here:  Disneyworld Trip


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Disneyworld....The "Getting There" Part

It seems like only yesterday I was driving across I-10 to Florida.  Oh, wait!  It was pretty much only yesterday!  I don't mind....my quick trip over to Cedar Key to see good friends Kevin and Deb Healey along with a few dozen other riding friends was well-worth it.

Mimi learns we're
going to Disneyland!
Now it's back across I-10 again Saturday morning, this time to spend a week in the Orlando area, some of it with friends for a lunch get-together, most of it with family. 

I made a quick stop en-route to Orlando at my son's house to pick up a car seat, their double stroller, and all of their luggage.  This works out perfectly!  It will greatly ease their trek through the airports a couple of days later.  I arrived in time for lunch and stayed a couple of hours visiting over lunch, where I made the announcement to the grandkids that we were all going to Disneyworld.  They  knew they were going on a trip on an airplane but didn't yet know the destination.  My son saved that announcement for me to make over lunch.  Awesome!  They were excited!

Entryway to my timeshare
I continued on, stopping for the night in Crestview FL, using ChoiceHotels points for my room at the Comfort Inn, and continued on to Orlando Sunday morning.  Sabal Palms Vacation Club timeshare, on the grounds of the fabulous Marriott World Resort, is my destination.   I've stayed here before and it's the perfect place to call home for a week.  Beautiful, spacious two-bedroom, two-bath apartment with full kitchen.  Full use of the resort amenities and just a mile away from the grounds of the Disney parks gateway, 7 miles to the Disneyworld parking lot.  It's also a straight shot to the airport 16 miles away, so will be easy to pick up the rest of the family on Wednesday and drop them off at the end of the trip.  The grandkids and I will stay here, while my son and daughter-in-law will enjoy the privacy of their own room at the Marriott Hotel, an easy walk away from my timeshare.
Our groceries...

Monday morning I headed to the nearby Publix to shop for groceries for the week.  But not before walking over to the hotel for a Starbucks cappuccino.  Life is good! 


I have quite a few friends living in Florida, many of whom live within an easy drive or motorcycle ride from the greater Orlando area.  So whenever I come to Florida, I call a lunch get-together and am always pleased with the number of folks who join us.  Many of these friends are retired, so a weekday lunch get-together is always welcome. 

I posted a Tuesday lunch on the MTF forum and many folks responded.  We all met at Cherry Pocket on Lake Pierce for a wonderful visit and outdoor lunch in beautiful weather. 


Tomorrow - Wednesday - the family arrives by plane and we'll have several days to play together!  We have Disneyworld 2-day passes for everyone, passes to Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party Thursday night, and hopefully will get lots of pool time in at the resort's fabulous pool complex!


I picked the family up at the airport a little before noon on Wednesday and after feeding them lunch, and letting Mimi take a nap, we all headed over to the pool for the afternoon.  First the big pool, and then we moved over to the wonderfully child-appropriate Splash Pool.  The kids loved it!

Tomorrow:  Disneyworld!!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Resilience of the Human Spirit

This past weekend was one of closure and renewal of hope.  It was a reaffirmation of the strength of the human will, the resilience of the human spirit.


The horrific news came to me in December 2012 while I was in Tucson to run a half marathon the next day, forgoing my annual trek to join friends in Florida.  A good friend and his wife, on their way to that annual Florida get-together, were in a terrible accident, the violence of it engulfing their vehicle in flames, the force of impact amputating my friend's left leg above the knee and severely crushing his wife's left leg. 

This is bad enough news on its own. Their injuries were very severe in anybody's book.  But you see, my good friend is also an avid marathoner.  This made the news all the more horrible to me as a fellow runner.   Suddenly I was filled with regret.  Regret that I never agreed to run a race with him, despite his repeated invitations for me to join him.

I salved that regret by running my next five half marathons in his name, raising money through pledges.  My comfort was in the bandana that I created and wore for each of those races, lovingly folding the still sweat-dampened kerchief into an envelope after each race and mailing it to him with a photo of my finisher's medal.  This is for you, my dear friend.  I ran this race and you were with me every step of the way.

Last weekend, a year after that accident, we all gathered again for this annual event, including my injured friend and his wife.  It was a celebration of their survival and a way to put closure to that chapter of their lives.  And it was a closure for all of us who love them dearly as friends.  Seeing them alive and recovering, as vibrant as ever is wonderfully healing for the mind and soul.

Throughout the weekend, I was continuously reminded of how resilient the human spirit truly is.  My friend repeatedly talked about his life moving forward.  He realizes his life as he knew it prior to the accident is now over and now he's starting a new life. Simply put and well-stated. Regrouping, adapting, overcoming.

As this good friend always has in the past, he regaled us over lunch and dinner with wonderful stories, stories about his friends...all of us.  How he met us, fun and funny incidents that occurred in his travels that involved one or more of us. 

On our last evening together, he told us of a wonderful incident, one that happened during his recovery.  He was on an elevator at the medical center, wearing his new prosthesis but still relying heavily on a cane to walk.  When the door opened at his floor, a man was standing there with a cane, waiting to get on.  Upon seeing my friend with only one leg, he commented as he boarded the elevator, "Suddenly my sciatica isn't so bad after all."

"I wept because I had no shoes; then I met a man who had no feet."

Sunset on Cedar Key, December 2013

Monday, December 2, 2013

Christmas Games

Nothing encourages me to take a motorcycle out for a ride more than a "tagging" game.  There are always a few of them going on at the same time, it's just a matter of getting out there and participating.

Here's how they work.  One type of tagging game is to simply go out and find something similar to what the previous tagger has posted. So for example, if that person posts a photo of a fruit stand, then the next person goes out and finds a fruit stand, takes a photo of it with his/her motorcycle and posts it along with a photo of a new tag.  The new tag can be anything:  A photo of a church or a statue or a particular type of bridge...just some interesting along the roadside.  That's one type of tagging game.

The other type of tagging game is sort of like a scavenger hunt.  They've become quite popular in the last couple of years and don't require riding to a specific destination somewhere else in the country in order to participate.  A self-designated "rally master" sets up the rules of the game and provides a list of the items/destinations to be tagged and then provides a time frame in which to participate, usually several months, but sometimes a shorter time window.  The rider with the most tags and therefore the most points is the winner.. 

A friend of mine posted a Christmas-themed tagging game last night.  There's a list of 25 or 30 specific items and there's a "rally flag" that we are to print out and include with each photo.  We have until December 31 to capture as many of the photo tags as possible.  Use of a flag prevents folks from searching through their photo archives and posting a photo that they'd gotten prior to the start of the game.  They're lots of fun and provide an excuse to get the bike out for a little ride.
Rally flag

So this morning I printed out the rules, the list of tag items, and the "rally flag."  Perusing the list of items, I identified a number of them that I can get right here in my neighborhood. 

I went out for a brisk walk this morning, partly to get back into it after taking two weeks off from my last half marathon.  But also to scout the neighborhood for photo ops for the tagging game. 

In addition to the list of tags, there will be bonus items announced weekly.  The very first bonus, announced late last night, is to create a video...worth 20 points.  So as soon as I got back from my walk, I set the camera up, got the required props and produced a little video of me singing Jingle Bells while sitting on my bike.  What I won't do to get my first bonus points!

One item on the list - a menorah - will be an easy tag.  A house in my neighborhood always has a menorah and a dreidel in the front yard every Hanukah season.  But I kept my eye out for other items as well.  The list is rich with inflatable lawn ornaments and lighted trees.  But I was disappointed in how few houses have been decorated so far for the holidays.  I know of one house that has a bonanza of inflated lawn ornaments but they've not been installed yet.  I'll have to wait for those.

Menorah and a dreidel

Another item on the list is a sign for a Christmas concert or play.  So after getting the menorah photo, I rode around to the entrance of our neighborhood where the events sign is located, hoping that it listed the Christmas concert that our CountryPlace Singers always put on.  But alas, the sign says "Christmas Party" instead.  I took the photo anyway and went back home and took a photo of the announcement in our neighborhood newsletter, which says "Christmas performance by the CountryPlace Singers."

All fun!  Now to wait for the inflatables to start springing up on folks' lawns.