Sunday, June 12, 2016

Day 4 - Mother Daughter Disney Adventure

Day 4 - Epcot - In Which We Travel the World
Thursday, June 2, 2016

After our extra tiring day the day before, we decided to take it easy on our last park day. We didn't want to skip it all together, but neither did we want to try to pack too much into it. So we threw most of the plans out the window (bye-bye fast passes) and just played it by ear. Originally, our plan was to get pictures with whoever was at the Character Spot, ride Spaceship Earth and maybe Soarin', and then head over to the World Showcase, starting with lunch at the Rose and Crown Pub in the United Kingdom, and then wandering the countries. 

Instead, we took our time, sleeping in a bit, and upon arrival at the park (this time I got selected for the random metal detector screening), getting a few pics with the big "golf ball" that is Spaceship Earth. We actually did arrive in time to make our Character Spot fast pass, but we decided we'd rather explore the countries before it got too hot, so we headed straight to the World Showcase, deciding to start on the Mexico side to make our way around to lunch.

Norway
We were walking through Mexico when I remembered that all the stuff in World Showcase didn't open until 11, so we had some time to kill. We found a table under a roof next to the bakery in Norway, and sat down for a while. A lovely duck literally walked right up to us, and looked at us like "ok are you going to feed me?" We had no food, so she waddled away to beg from somebody else. We heard the bell ring and the announcement that the bakery was open, so we decided we should probably give up our table to people who actually had food. We got up, took a few pictures of the Stave Church and then moved on.


China
We wandered back into the China Pavilion and into one of the shops. Mom decided she wanted a bamboo fan to go with the one my Dad got her when he was in China in the 70's and the one his Dad had brought back from the war (WWII). So we browsed through, looking at all the neat stuff. And then finally at the back of the shop, we found the fans. She found the one she wanted, and after making her purchase, we went and sat down on a bench to figure out what to do next. 

We were at the exit to the theater, and thought about seeing the Reflections of China movie, but we weren't sure. But as we walked to the entrance of the Pavilion and the entrance to the theater, we decided to go ahead and watch the film.  I am so glad we did. It was amazing - China is a beautiful country, with some spectacular scenery. 

Germany
With visions of China in our heads, we headed off to the next country. Seeing as how much of our ancestry is German, we went in the shops in Germany to look around. Mom found some magnets that she wanted and some mustard for Dad.  I teased her, asking if she planned to buy something in every country we shopped in. The answer was yes, she was. (and I think she did.)

Italy
We sat down on a bench in Italy when we heard horns and drums, and saw some guys with flags marching in. And once again, we had randomly stumbled upon something cool, the flag waving act called "Sbandieratori Di Sansepolcro" (which, according to wdwinfo.com,"brings [a] 500-year tradition to Epcot. They use hand-painted flags, period costumes and live music to entertain the crowd with their choreographed flag-throwing.")  

Japan
After a quick potty stop at the American Pavilion, we went to Japan. We thought about doing the "Pick-A-Pearl" but it was crowded and we didn't have a lot of time before our lunch reservation. So we just wandered around in the shop. We found some cool stuff for my brother (he's a big fan of Japanese anime).

Soon we realized that we needed to head toward lunch, so we breezed through Morocco and France (where my favorite princess was greeting a line of guests; but alas, I didn't get to meet provincial Belle (in her blue dress) this time around), and headed to the United Kingdom.

United Kingdom
We checked in for our 1:25 reservation at the Rose & Crown Pub. I had been telling Mom for months how good the fish & chips were, and for the first time on our trip, I was actually hungry. But the piece of fish I got was huge, and no matter how good it was (and it was) or hungry I might have been, there was no way I was going to finish it. So I ate what I could (so did Mom, she got the same thing), and we ordered dessert. I fell in love with the Mickey sprinkles on my trifle and Mom just liked the look of her Banofee Tart, so we did the foodie thing, and took pictures.


 After lunch, we considered waiting for a pic with Alice, Mom's favorite character when she was small (she had an Alice in Wonderland watch, which was mentioned several times over the course of the week), but decided not to. We looked around in the shops, where, again, Mom bought some stuff. I fell in love with a tartan scarf, but didn't love the price tag, so it remained for someone else.We got some pics of the lagoon with the "ball" in the background and headed for the next country.


Canada
Our trip to Disney coincided with my Dad's annual fishing trip to the Canadian Wilderness, so we went to Canada too, at least for a few minutes, just to say we were there at the same time Dad was.

The Land and The Sea
And then we were done with the World Showcase and we headed back toward Future World. We rode Living with the Land and thought about riding the Nemo ride at the Seas, but ended up skipping it (poor Nemo got no love from us this trip).

Our Disney Adventure Is Nearing the End
We went back to our resort, had dinner at the food court (I had pizza; Mom had a salad), and then starting packing up our suitcases. We had to go home the next day.

Our amazing adventure was over - We stayed in an amazing resort (thank you Disney magic and pixie dust); we visited all 4 parks; we had fun, made memories, and dreamed about future trips with the rest of the family. All in all, I'd say the trip was a success.  

I'm so glad i was able to share the Disney experience with Mom. It was something I'll never forget. I hope that she enjoyed it as much as I did.





Day 3 - Mother Daughter Disney Adventure

Day 3 - Animal Kingdom - In which we take a walk on the wild side
Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Our third Disney day started early - I had made a reservation for breakfast at the Tusker House in Animal Kingdom. It's a character restaurant, meaning you get a visit by characters while you're eating. I wasn't sure exactly who would be there, but I figured it was a good chance to meet at least a few of the classics, Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and/or Goofy. We headed off at about 8 to catch the bus for our 8:40 reservation. 

We arrived at the park at about 8:15 and were greeted by a line waiting to get in. However, they were waiting for the park opening; since we had a reservation, we got to skip the wait and head on in. We went through bag check and were headed for the band readers, when Mom was pulled aside to go through the metal detector. Waiting in line for one of the parks (I think it was Magic Kingdom, but don't really remember), we talked about the metal detectors and wondered if the random selection really was random; I was pretty sure it was, but then joked* that maybe they'd pick one of us because we looked innocent and harmless. And maybe that's true, because they did pick one of us.
(* Security is no joke, and we were both happy to do whatever they asked in the name of safety for us and for our fellow park goers. You never who might be out to do harm, you never know where. As I write this, the country and Orlando are reeling from a mass shooting at a nightclub in downtown Orlando. I've heard that Disney is now making everyone (or at least a lot more people than before), go through the extra step of the metal detectors.) 

A Breakfast Full of Character

After getting through with no incident, we headed back to Africa for our breakfast. We were going to stop at the Tree of Life for a pic, but there weren't any photographers out yet, so we went on by and entered Africa. We signed in for breakfast and were soon taken into the restaurant and told that Mickey, Daisy, Goofy and Donald would be joining us.

We got our food from the buffet and got back to our table to see Daisy, Mickey and Goofy making their way around. Turns out Donald had been by when we were at the buffet. We ate, got pictures, and played around with each in turn, and were soon ready to continue our day. 



Our waitress asked us if we had missed Donald, and we said yes. She said she'd get him to come to us so we wouldn't miss out. We waited near the door, and sure enough, Donald came out to see us.

Venturing into the Wilds of Africa (and a bit of Asia, too)
Now it was time to go on the Kilimanjaro Safari. I warned Mom that it was going to be a bumpy ride but she didn't care - she wanted to see the animals. Luckily we got in the front row of the truck and it wasn't as bumpy as my previous experiences. We were also on the end of the row, so we had a good view. We saw all the animals we wanted, except for the elephants; apparently they were sleeping in. 

After the safari (which we both thoroughly enjoyed), we headed for the Festival of the Lion King - always a fun, awesome show. The Tumble Monkeys never fail to disappoint. Neither do the singers or dancers. I told myself that this time (I've seen the show twice before), I was actually going to watch it instead of taking pictures and watching through the camera lens/phone screen. So no pics, but a little bit of a lesson - look up from the screen; make memories with your eyes and brain instead of just the camera - you think you're documenting the experience, but there's so much more that you miss out on by not looking up or looking with your eyes and really experiencing the occasion. 

We left the theater and headed for the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail to see the gorillas and hippos and whatever else we could see. It was another hot day, but there was shade on the path, so it wasn't too bad and we enjoyed the stroll and seeing the animals. 

We had a fast pass for the Finding Nemo musical in Asia but were having too much fun exploring and didn't want to have to rush, so we skipped it and instead headed to the Maharaja Jungle Trek to see those animals too. 

Fly By

By now it was hot and we were ready to go rest for the afternoon. But when we saw a stand with frozen lemonade, we had to stop and get some. We sat down to enjoy it when all of a sudden, a burst of color went flying by. Once again, purely by chance, we had perfect timing to see something cool. This time it was Winged Encounter, a flock of macaws that randomly fly through the park.

After that, we did a little bit of shopping in a cool little shop and then we went back to the resort for a relaxing afternoon. We considered going to the pool, but decided against it. We took a little nap instead, resting up for our planned trip to Disney Springs that evening.

Awe Struck by Curtains
After our rest, we were talking about something, not entirely sure what. The sheer curtains on the balcony door were closed and I was looking at them but not really seeing them. But then I did. I was in the middle of a sentence when I had a total "Squirrel!!!" moment.

 I let out an "Oh! My! Gosh! There's Lion King characters in the curtains!!" What at first looked like flowers and random designs in the lace were in fact Nala, Simba, Rafiki, and company. Disney had Disney-field the room after all. So fun (and where can I find those curtains? They'd look awesome in my living room.)

Disney Springs
After a bit, I had the bright idea that we needed to beat the crowds and head over to Disney Springs sooner than we'd originally planned. We wanted to do a bit of shopping and get some dinner, so off we went. The bus let us out in the new section, so I was a little confused about how to get where we wanted to go (The World of Disney and Earl of Sandwich). After going into the Vera Bradley store and dreaming over a few of the newer patterns, we began the search for the stores we wanted.

I wasn't sure, but thought we needed to go to the right; the app indicated that too, but when we checked the directory, it looked like we had to go left. So we did, but soon realized that it wasn't the right way.  Map readers we are not. We asked somebody and finally got headed in the right direction. It was another hot day, and there wasn't a lot of shade to be found, and we weren't thrilled about the extra walking. But eventually we made it to familiar ground and I knew where to go. We made it World of Disney and, thankful for the air conditioning, wandered around a bit, browsing.Then we got serious and starting looking for what we came for. We found it, checked out, and decided we wanted to get our dinner to go so we could get back to the room to rest. We went to the Earl of Sandwich and got salads and then headed for the Marketplace bus stop. We were tired, hot, and just wanted to sit down. 

Are we ever going to make it back?
But, it was not to be. The bus stop was closed and we had to go back through the complex to the stop where we got off. So not fun. We trudged our way back, stopping to sit several times, and finally made it back. And then we find that where we actually got our bus was at the far end of the line. Groan... It was almost a "let's get in the closest line and go wherever it goes just to get off our feet and out of the heat" situation. But we persevered and made it to the correct line, and after a bit of a wait (I'm sure it seemed longer than it really was), we were on our way back to our room.

We put our salads in the fridge so they could cool back down and decided we neither one wanted to walk any more that day. So we didn't. We put on our pajamas and settled in for the night. We eventually ate the salads (and they were very good - very fresh and tasty, even after the long walk/bus ride), and went to bed to try to recover for our Epcot adventure the next day.

Next up - Day 4 at Epcot

Friday, June 10, 2016

Day 2 - Mother-Daughter Disney Adventure

Day 2 - the Magic Kingdom. In Which We Did a Little Bit of Everything.
Tuesday, May 31, 2016

This was it. The day Mom got to see Disney. Yeah, she technically saw it the day before when we drove under the big sign, when we got to the resort, and when we got to Hollywood Studios. But this was the day when she first got to see the Castle - the image, the symbol, the icon, that in my mind, makes Disney Disney. There's just something about seeing it in person... I can't put it into words, but other Disney fans know what I mean.

I didn't want this trip to be about rushing around, so we took our time getting ready in the morning, and headed out to catch the bus around 9:30. As usual for the Magic Kingdom, there were a lot of people heading there so the bus stop was crowded. We took a seat on a bench to wait for the next bus. We weren't in a hurry and didn't want to be all crowded or have to stand. Not long after the first full bus left, another came along and we began our adventure.

Upon arrival at the park, we joined the swarm of people heading toward bag check and the entrance. I think Mom panicked a bit when she saw all the people. I promised her it would thin out a bit once we actually got in the park. (Not sure she believed me.) We got through the line, only having a bit of trouble when Mom's magic band didn't turn the lights green (she didn't quite get her band in the right place), but a little twist of her wrist to get the Mickey heads to touch, and we were on our way.

As we came out from under the train station, I noticed a short line off on one of the side streets to the right. Knowing that was where I had met Mary Poppins on a previous trip, I figured there was a character there, and I was right. Daisy Duck was hanging out, so we headed over for our first Magic Kingdom character interaction. We got hugs, instructions to take off our sunglasses, and posed for some pictures, and then headed off to Main Street.

The First Glimpse
As we turned the corner of the little side street, I had recollections of the Princess Half Marathons and the other times I've come around that corner and looked down Main Street. Gives me shivers every time. At each step, I asked Mom, are you ready? are you ready? And then we were there. On Main Street. I wish I had thought to take a pic of Mom's face, but you'll just have to imagine the "Wow! That's so cool!" look she had.

Although, looking back, I'm not sure if the look of wonder was for the castle or for the big, beautiful draft horse pulling the trolley for the Trolley Show that was just ending. Which was a distinct possibility, considering Mom's love for horses. We attempted to get a Photo Pass pic with the horse/trolley and the castle, but we were too late. The horse had other plans, so we had to settle for just the castle.

Off to the Jungle
After taking a few pics of the castle and the bronze character statues (why have I never noticed them before?? Proof that no matter how many times you go to Disney, you always find something new to see), we headed off to Adventureland for our Jungle Cruise.

I warned Mom ahead of time that we'd be subject to a bunch of corny, bad jokes, but again, I'm not sure she entirely believed me. But, since it's all part of the Jungle Cruise experience, our skipper did not disappoint. His headhunter jokes at the end by Trader Sam (or whatever his name is) were particularly groan worthy (and we got extra, because we had to wait a bit to get to the dock).

A Little Bit of Pineapple Heaven
After our cruise, we went straight for Aloha Isle for the yummiest snack in the World - a Dole Whip. I feel kind of bad; I didn't even offer Mom a choice - I just ordered 2 floats. (I will admit, I'm still a bit disappointed that you can't get the vanilla with the pineapple juice anymore.) We headed through the tunnel/shortcut, bathroom corridor into Frontierland to find some shade to enjoy our pineapple-y goodness. Unfortunately, I was still feeling a bit on the yucky side, so I didn't finish mine, but Mom enjoyed every last drop of hers.

I noticed Woody and Jessie were holding a meet and greet near the Shooting Gallery (instead of back by Splash Mountain), but there was a long line in the sun, and it was too hot to stand in it. So we wandered back around to the hub so Mom could have her first experience of walking through the castle.

Second Star to the Right
We had a fast pass for Peter Pan's Flight, so that's where we headed next. After a short wait in line, we boarded our Jolly Roger and were off to Neverland. We can fly! We can fly! We can fly! Mom was fairly quiet on the ride; I think it's because she was trying to take it all in. Peter Pan was a movie from her childhood, so she was reminiscing a bit, I imagine. Something she did quite a bit of on this visit.

We had some time to kill before our Small World fast pass, but weren't really in the mood to wait in lines. (It was miserable hot.) Even the Philharmagic line was too long; I know it moves fast because it's a big theater, but Mom wasn't too keen on the 3-D factor, so we skipped it.

All Aboard
So we decided to ride the train. It was fairly shady, we could sit down, there was a bit of a breeze, we could visit a good bit of the park without having to walk, we didn't have to get off until we were ready to, and there was hardly any line. It was a win all around. As we traveled through Frontierland (twice), we noticed the ridiculously long line for Splash Mountain; people must have really wanted to get wet to wait for that long (although, I can't say I blame them - it was really hot.)

Making Progress - Sort of
We got off the train after 2 laps around the park and headed back through Fantasy Land toward Small World (seriously considering walking through the kids' splash area by Dumbo, but decided squishy wet shoes weren't worth it, no matter how hot it might be).

We got to the ride to find it was down for an undetermined amount of time. So we went to sit down in the shade at the Tangled/Rapunzel's Tower area to figure out a new plan and have a drink. We had caved and bought one of the misting spray fans from the vendor in the middle of the street; best purchase of the day to help us cool down a smidge. I had a frogg togg cooling towel too, which also helped some, but with the temperature in the 90's, there wasn't much relief.

We stopped for some pics by Eric's castle. And then headed to Tomorrowland for my next beat the heat idea, the People Mover. But it had a long line, so that didn't pan out either. Then I remembered the Carousel of Progress - indoors, dark, cool, long enough to let us rest a bit, and best of all, no line.

There's A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow
And we had another ride/attraction that Mom really enjoyed. The scene were the house just got electricity and had cords running every which way reminded her (and me) of her grandmother's house in Pennsylvania - when it was wired for electricity, the wires were outside the walls, running along the baseboards and ceilings. They were that way throughout her childhood and mine as well. (We both wonder if they still are or if the house has been rewired.) There was more reminiscing as the carousel turned and brought more memories to mind for her. Good stuff.

And with the tune to "there's a great big beautiful tomorrow" echoing through our heads, we took the less crowded, "back way" back into Fantasy Land. We were trying to figure out what to use our Small World fast pass on when we realized it was back up and running. So that's what we did.

It's a World of Laughter
In line in front of us was an adorable family - the little boy had an awesome Buzz Lightyear backpack and the little girl was singing. She sang the whole ride.  And me being me, I did too. Come on now, you know you do too.  "It's a world of laughter, a world of tears / It's a world of hopes and a world of fears / There's much that we share that it's time were aware / It's a small world after all. / It's a small world after all / It's a small world after all / It's a small world after all /
It's a small, small world."

And now that it's in your head (you're welcome), we journey onward to the poor provincial town where a Beauty fell in love with a Beast.

Try the Grey Stuff, It's Delicious
(according to the dishes, anyway. We didn't try any)

We had a 4:15 dinner reservation at Be Our Guest, so that was our next stop. We had a little bit of time before we could check in so we sat on the wall near the entrance and watched the people for a bit. We also watched the Seven Dwarf's Mine Train stop several times when it reached a certain spot. Somebody told us it was supposed to stop there, but I don't remember it stopping any of the times I've ridden it.

We got checked in and headed down to courtyard to wait for the Master's invitation to enter the castle. They announced our name right after another family, and then promptly entered the castle without us. There was a bit of confusion, but we eventually got to go in.

I had been waiting all day to get some French Onion Soup. I knew, from experience in February, that (a) it's really good and (b) it was something I could eat even on my queasy stomach.  (A little note for Dining Plan people - Be Our Guest is not one of the places that allows you to substitute an appetizer for your dessert.) I had my soup and ordered the chicken, which was also very good, but I took most of it to go since I didn't want to risk getting sick.

At about 5:00 we heard some majestic music playing, and the Beast came walking through the dining room, heading toward his library, where he would greet his guests. We were done eating by that time, so we boxed up our leftovers, took our dessert to go, and headed out. We took a little tour of the castle first, because being the rule-breakers we are, we just had to see the forbidden West Wing and the rose.

On our way out, we stopped off for a little visit with the Master.

Move It! Shake It!
By this point, we were tired, hot and ready to go back to the resort. But we had a few stops to make first. We wanted to check out the shopping in the Emporium and the jewelry store (remember that watch Mom fell in love with at Hollywood Studios?) But as we came back through the castle and the hub, we heard music and saw some floats heading in. We were just in time to see the Move It! Shake It! Parade.  

We took some pics, danced a bit, and then headed for Uptown Jewelry so Mom could buy that watch. We were in and out of there pretty fast - she knew what she wanted and went for it.

We left the store to head across the street to the Emporium, but we had to wait for the parade again before we could get there. We browsed around a bit, but didn't find exactly what we were looking for (a grown-up Ariel t-shirt and a Jessie baby outfit), so we ended up not buying anything.

The Wheels on the Bus
Our day in the Magic Kingdom over, was over so we found our bus. We were joined at the back of the bus by a fun little family - one couple from England, one who lived in Italy. I'm guessing the women were sisters. However they were related, they had two adorable, delightful little girls. Polly and Emily, who are 6 and almost 4, kept us entertained the whole ride back to the lodge. They sang, they showed us their autograph books, they showed us their souvenirs, and they sang some more (including a very original version of "The Wheels on the Bus," with little Polly making up verses as she went along). I love hearing the sophisticated sounding British accent in little girl voices - so cute and unexpected. It was just a bus ride, but I think it was one of the highlights of the week.

Sorry for the Inconvenience?
We got back to the room and found a note under the door, apologizing for the inconvenience of having our plans changed. Considering we were enjoying an awesome trip and staying in a resort that, under normal circumstances, we would only be able to dream about, I don't think they had anything to apologize for. But it's Disney, and that's what they do.

And that was our day. Hot, but fun. Simply magical. 

(and, if you're keeping track, I did eventually eat my dinner)

Next up - Day 3 and Animal Kingdom...

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Day 1, Part 2 - Mother Daughter Disney Adventure

Day 1 Continues - Hollywood Studios, In Which We Go To The Movies

After our nap and solving the luggage mystery, we headed off to Hollywood Studios. It was late afternoon, and there weren't many people on the bus. We were sitting across from a family of 5. The littlest look tired and Mom commented that he was fading fast. She was right; it wasn't long before he was asleep. As the ride continued, the middle one started nodding off as well. I whispered, "and another one bites the dust." There was a bump in the road and his head, which had been fairly upright, landed on his mom's shoulder. She asked " is he out too?" To which we replied, "yep, for a few minutes now." She just laughed, shook her head. This was (my) Mom's first lesson in how tiring Disney can be.

What A Bunch of Characters
Soon we were at the park. We went through bag check and headed toward the entry, when I realized there were characters hanging out over by the sign -  Mulan, Gepetto, Robin Hood, the Evil Queen from Snow White, and Aladdin. So I grabbed Mom and dragged her over to the line for pics.  Mulan was on my list of characters to meet, and since the line was short, we were meeting her.

We were greeted with a " Hello Princess," and had a fun little conversation. She warned us to keep eye out for any Huns and to let her know if we saw any. We got a few pics and moved on. I should have asked her how Mushu and Crickee were, but didn't think of it until after.

Next up was Gepetto; I've heard he is kind of rare to meet, so I jumped at the chance. He bowed, kissed our hands, and posed for pics.

It was hot, there wasn't much shade, and the lines were long, so we skipped the other three characters and headed off to go into the park. But first, we stopped for a few pics by the sign (if you know my Mom, and have ever looked at our family vacation pics, you know she has a thing for pictures by signs).

Mom's First Ride
As we entered the park, we stopped for more pics with the Chinese Theater in the background (I miss the Sorceror's Hat) and discussed our plan of action. We were too late for the Storm Trooper march, so that was out. I checked wait times, and decided we needed to do the Great Movie Ride. I knew Mom would enjoy it, and the wait was only 25 minutes. I did check for a fast pass+, but the next available time was 25 minutes away. We'd be waiting either way, so into the stand-by line we went.

As expected, she loved the ride and seeing all the scenes from all the movies. First Disney ride was a success. We came out of the ride right at the end of the Star Wars show, so we got to see some Storm Troopers, Chewbacca, and Kylo Ren walking by. It was too quick for pictures, but was still cool to see.

A Blast From The Past, and Some Food, Too
It was hot and muggy, and I still wasn't feeling well, so we searched for some air conditioning. We went in the store at the end of Star Tours (Tatooine Traders) but it was small and crowded, so we didn't stay long. We had a 7:05 dinner reservation at the Sci Fi Dine In Theater, so we didn't want to wander too far way. We were started to feel the early wake up, and were trying to conserve our energy. It was early, but since we were close to the restaurant, we decided to see if we could get in to eat.

They told us they were pretty booked up, but would check us in anyway. They said we might not get a table until our reservation time, but that was fine with us, since the waiting area was inside in the air conditioning. I don't think we waited 5 minutes before they called us back.

We sat in the back row of one of the car tables and settled in to watch the silly sci-fi film shorts and previews (some of which Mom thinks she saw at the drive-in theater in Punxsy with her cousins when they were kids). We tested out the theory of ordering something that wasn't really on the menu and asked for regular BLTs instead of the fancy ones on the menu ( we got them). I ate a few fries and the bacon off my sandwich, but was afraid to eat more because I didn't want to get sick.

And We Call It A Night
While we were eating we made the decision to skip the Star Wars fireworks and just head back to our room to go to bed. I really wanted to see them, but also really didn't want to fight the crowds and busy busses that we were sure to encounter after. It was disappointing, but with the way I was feeling, and as tired as Mom was, it was the right decision.

We left the restaurant (at our original reservation time) and headed toward the park exit. We did some window shopping on the way out, and Mom fell in love with a Mickey Mouse watch. But she didn't buy it then.  At that point we just wanted the bus and bed.

When we got back to the room, we were greeted by the happy sight of our suitcases, so we were in our pajamas and settled in for the night in no time. We had to rest up for our trip to the Magic Kingdom the next day. 

(And for the record, I did eventually get hungry and eat the leftover chicken nuggets and fries.)

Next up - Day 2 and the Magic Kingdom...





Day 1 - Mother-Daughter Disney Adventure

It seems this blog has become a race diary, chronicaling my running and race efforts. But for the next few posts, it's going to take a detour and become a trip diary. A place where I share the adventure and magic of my Mom's first trip to Disney World. It's more for us to be able to look back and remember all the little things that time may remove from our memories, but if the cyber-space public gets some enjoyment out of it, well, that's great too.

Day 1 - Travel and Arrival, In Which We Get Delayed But The Pixie Dust Makes Up For It
Our Disney adventure began not so bright and early on the morning of Monday, May 30, when our alarms woke us up at 3:30am so we could beat the security lines at the Pittsburgh Airport. We had heard horror stories about how security lines at airports were long and slow causing people to miss flights, so we decided we wanted to get to the airport early so we wouldn't have to stress about the possibility of missing our flight. But, being a nervous flier, I was stressed anyway; and that kind of nervousness and stress makes me queasy. After being sick in the airport parking lot, I decided I didn't want to be the grown up any more and said I was giving that job back to Mom. She told me to wait until we got to Disney to turn in my grown up hat because, as the trip planner and holder of all the details, I had to stay in charge at least until then.

With a resigned sigh, I got us through security (with little or no wait, despite all the rumors and news stories) and to our gate with plenty of time to spare. We people-watched until it was time to get on the plane, amusing ourselves watching two out of three adorable triplets run around (#3 was asleep in the stroller). And then it was boarding time. We were in the first boarding group so got on the plane fairly early and found our seats, Mom by the window, me in the middle, empty seat on the aisle. And then we waited for take-off.

The Delay
And take-off didn't come. Instead, we get an announcement that there was a problem with the plane's computer system and we were waiting for maintenance to come and take a look at it. Wonderful. Thankfully we had some good flight attendants who told corny jokes and kept us all entertained while we waited. And crossword puzzles - we did a couple of those too. Finally, about an hour later than we were supposed to be, we were in the air and on the way. We were going to DISNEY!!!

There was nothing remarkable about the flight itself, and soon we were landing in Orlando, and wandering the airport to find the Magical Express to take us to Disney. Mom was a little concerned about not picking up our luggage, but I told her Disney Magic would make it appear in our room and we didn't have to worry about it ( or did we?)

The Pixie Dust
We arrived at the Magical Express lines and were just about to check in when my phone rang. I checked to see who it was, thinking I would just ignore it and call whoever it was back. But when I saw it was a Florida number, I stepped out of line and answered, in case it was Disney about some problem with our trip.

It was Disney, but it wasn't a problem. The cast member explained that sometimes they give guests staying at their resorts an upgrade to a higher level resort, and they wanted to know if we'd be interested in staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge instead of Caribbean Beach. Umm, is the sky blue?  It didn't take me long to jump on the opportunity.

So off to Animal Kingdom Lodge - Jambo House we went. 

As awesome as the upgrade was, it had my stress level rising again. Worry about our luggage making it to the right place, how our plans would be affected by the change in location, and fear of the unknown were all making me nervous again. I just wasn't quite sure what to expect. But we got checked in and found our room. And were very pleasantly surprised. 

And The Pixie Dust Continues
With the upgrade, I didn't really expect to be given the best room available, or a room with a view. I figured we look out our window onto a parking lot or a roof top or something. But nope, they had given us a savanna view, and we had a balcony. We looked out to see an ostrich, a giraffe, some zebras, and a bunch of other animals. So freaking cool.



After taking a few pics of the room and the view, I commented that there wasn't a lot in the room to make it Disney. It was very nice and fit the African theme, but here wasn't anything that jumped out and said "this is a room in a Disney resort." But after a trip to the bathroom, I was all excited because I'd found some hidden Mickeys on the shower curtain and in the tiles on the wall. I was happy - there was a bit of Disney in the room after all. Little did I know there was more, if you only knew where to look. (More on that later.)

Since we hadn't eaten and it was after lunchtime, we decided to find the resort's food court to grab a bite to eat. I was still feeling nervous and sick, and didn't really want anything. But we decided to split a chicken nugget meal. Much to Mom's dismay, I didn't eat much, but saved my half for later. The food court, decorated like a jungle or rain forest, was smaller than I expected and was busy and loud, so we didn't stay long. We headed back to our room to rest a bit.

Has Anybody Seen Our Luggage?
When we got back to the room, our luggage wasn't there yet. I wasn't all that concerned, because I know it can take a few hours. While we waited, and since we'd had an early morning and some stressful times, we both crashed out and took a little nap.  We had dinner plans at Hollywood Studios and wanted to not be dead tired when we got there. And I think Mom wanted to wait for our suitcases to show up.

Which didn't happen. I knew it could take up to 4 hours, but it had been that long and our bags still hadn't shown up. So, thinking maybe the luggage handlers didn't get the upgrade memo, I called bell services.  Bingo - our bags had gone to Caribbean Beach. But the lovely guy I talked to said they'd get it straightened out and the bags would be transferred to the correct room within an hour.

With that little problem solved, we decided to head off to Hollywood Studios and Mom's first Disney park visit.

The adventure continues... Stay tuned.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Race Report - Pittsburgh Half Marathon

Nothing like waiting 3 weeks to write a recap of a race. Specific memories are fuzzy but the highlights  still stand out:
1) It rained.
 2) I was slow.
3) I had friends "stalking" me.
 4) I finished.

I'm always nervous before a race (especially a half) but the thought of running 13.1 miles and being on the course for 2.5++ hours in the rain had me questioning whether I really wanted to do this race. Compound that with training that didn't go as well as it should have/needed to, and I was feeling particularly doubtful about my chances. 

I knew I had specific points I had to get to by a certain time or I ran the risk of getting swept and riding to the finish in a bus. I'm slow, and am almost always somewhere towards the back of the pack. But this was the first race where I actually thought getting swept was a very real possibility. My friends were all supportive and full of encouraging words, such as "come on, you know you can walk that minimum pace. You've so got this" when I voiced my doubts of finishing multiple times over the weekend. I was full of responses that started something like "yeah, I know I can, BUT..."

The first few miles were downright miserable - it was cold; it was raining; my socks were feeling really weird. But I was able to stay pretty consistent with my pace - right where I wanted to be.  But then I started to think, and when I think in a race it's usually not a good thing. I don't think happy positive thoughts; nope, I start dwelling on the bad. And since running is very much a mental sport, it all goes downhill from there (and not the good, literal downhill.)

I started thinking it was too hard, my feet hurt, there's hills coming and I can't do hills. So I essentially gave up. I was still putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward, but I had no fight, no drive, to do anything more than the bare minimum. 

The one positive thing keeping me going was my own personal group of stalkers. They were out there, popping up at various points of the course, to ring their cowbells, hold their signs, and yell and cheer me on. They were very good at it. I often heard them before I saw them. Having your own spectators, where you don't have to rely on the "go random stranger" signs or pretend the signs for others with the same name are for you, is pretty awesome.

And that was the race. I started in the rain, I put one foot in front of the other, I got high fives and cheers from friends, and most importantly, I finished.

Race Stats
Pittsburgh Half Marathon
Sunday, May 1, 2016
Finish Time: 3:07:49 (Garmin); 3:08:20 (official)
Place: 13,244 of 14,132 overall; 7,928 of 8,597 women; 837 of 917 age group

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Race Report - Disney Princess Half Marathon

We could call this one "the Princess Half that almost didn't happen".  Not because I didn't get registered in time; not because the weather messed up travel plans. Nope, none of those things went wrong - I was online as soon as registration opened, and got in just fine; the weather was fairly decent, and travel was a breeze.  No, this time my body was the traitor.  Pre-race stress, a certain time of the month, a migraine, and a possible stomach bug all came together to make me think that I wasn't going to be able to run. 

The night before the race, I felt like my head was going to explode, and I couldn't eat without throwing up. I was not exactly in prime race condition. At all.  But going to bed early and sleeping with a heating pad on my head eased the headache enough that by our 2:00am alarm, I was feeling halfway human. And pre-Disney race excitement was pulling me through - It was time finally time to wear my Buzz costume!

My original plan for the day had been to go to  my corral and run by myself, with a goal to finish in about 3 hours. But the way I was feeling, I didn't want to be by myself, so I stayed with Becca. I needed her to pull me through.

I was feeling ok as long as I was moving around, but unfortunately, Disney races have a lot of hurrying up to wait. We rush to the bus at 3:00am to make it to the start area with plenty of time, and then sit around and wait until it's time to go to the corrals. Normally, this isn't an issue, but this time, the longer we waited, the worse I felt. When it was time to drop off our bag to go to the corral, I didn't want to take off my sweatshirt. I knew as the race progressed I wouldn't need it, but I was feeling a particular attachment to it for some reason. But I took it off and gave it to Becca to put in the bag so we could head out.  I remember saying "I don't want to do this" but don't know if I was referring to leaving the sweatshirt or the race. It became clear that I meant I didn't want to do the race when I had to stop to be sick in a trash can by the port-a-potties. I was close to giving up and telling Becca to go without me, but I pulled myself together and we headed to the corral, discussing silly distracting things to keep my mind off of how I was feeling (have you ever noticed how you don't often see runners wearing the same shoes as another runner? Check it out some time - there really is an amazing variety of running shoes out there.)

And after some more time sitting around in the corral, it was finally time to start. I no longer had a plan, other than to put one foot in front of the other until I reached the finish line. The first mile or so, we followed the beeps on my watch, running 2 minutes, walking 1. But I soon felt like we were starting too fast and hard and I would  use up what little strength I had way too early. So instead of starting strong and finishing slow, I decided we'd switch our strategy so we were starting slow and finishing strong - or as Becca so helpfully pointed out, we might end up starting slow and finishing slower - and we started walking.

We walked until we got to the Magic Kingdom and then started running a bit here and there. We ran (as much as we could, considering the crowd) down Main Street and towards the castle, making the turn toward Tomorrowland. And there was Buzz. One of my goals for the race was to (finally) get a race picture with Buzz (especially important this year, since I was him). So we stopped:
     
And then continued on with the race, running through the castle (always a highlight), noticing that the Kristoff on the balcony actually looked just like Kristoff (from Frozen). The next few miles were a blur and I don't have much specific memory of them - I was putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward. But at some point, I started to feel better - strength was back, tummy was settled - it was all good. Right around the time I started feeling better, Becca was starting to struggle.  But we were running 1:1 intervals along the boring back stretch back to Epcot (where we usually just walk).  The billboard with Flik appeared sooner than we expected it to; the hill with the Green Army Man wasn't quite the struggle it had been in prior years (we even managed to run because the army man was threatening to make anybody walking do push-ups, and as hard as running might have felt at that point, push-ups would've been impossible.) It really wasn't until mile 11 that we found and hit the dreaded wall (further into the race than we usually feel it).  So my start slow, finish strong plan actually sort-of worked. We were fairly strong until almost the end. But even in the end, when each step hurt, when the last miles seemed extra long, we pulled each other through. We crossed that finish line. Together. A team. And I couldn't have done it without her.

Race Stats
Disney  Princess Half Marathon
Sunday, February 21, 2016
Finish Time: 3:31:06 (garmin); 3:42:27 (official) (we stopped for pics, to stretch, etc. and my garmin auto-pauses)
Place: 17,589 of 20,126 overall; 15,731 of 18,090 women; 1,953 of 2,240 age group

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Race Report - Winter Series 2015-16

Race 1: 5k - Dec. 13, 2015
December was an odd month - it was hot. Race day was around 70 degrees. Not what you'd expect from a race called the "Winter Series." I was not feeling all that confident, as you can see from my Instagram post pre-race:

I had set a rather optimistic goal for the race, and sitting in the car, I was convinced I was nuts; convinced there was no way I could even come close. I could restate what's in the pic, but I'll just let you read it there instead. So with those thoughts in my head, I headed for the start line to give it a good try. 

And actually managed to finish in within my goal range.

Race Stats
Winter Series 5k
Sunday, December 13, 2015
Finish time: 34:06 (Garmin); 34:36 (official)
Place: 295 of 378 overall; 145 of 209 women; 28 of 53 age group

Race 2: 8k - Jan. 10, 2016
This race was as cold as the 5k was hot. Cold, windy, spitting snow - it was pretty miserable. Since I was in the middle of Princess Half training, I had the bright idea to run a few miles before the race so I could have a total of 8 miles for the day.  which gave me a heads up to the conditions I would face during the race - cold on the way out with the wind at your back; frigid after the turn around with biting wind blowing right in your face.  Nice.  And I had left my good, warm running jacket at home, because I didn't think it was cold enough. Ha! (It most definitely was.) So in the interest of staying halfway warm, I elected to run in my hoodie (the purple one earned at this race series 3 years ago).

Again, I had an ambitious goal that I didn't think I'd be able to reach, but I was going to try. And was on track to do it, until the turn around into the wind.  Then it all kind of fell apart, but that's ok.  I ran, I finished. It's all good.

Race Stats
Winter Series 8k
Sunday, January 10, 2016
Finish time: 57:07 (Garmin); 57:34 (official)
Place: 233 of 302 overall; 111 of 161 women; 19 of 39 age group

Race 3: 10k - Feb. 7, 2016
Since weather seems to be a theme for this post, I have to mention that this particular race day was warm, sunny, and practically perfect. Again, it was long run day, I needed double digits in preparation for Princess, so I had a few miles (4) to do before the race. Because it was such a nice day, and I was feeling good, it was a struggle to keep my pre-race miles slow enough. So I went into the race hoping I hadn't used up all my good feeling and energy.

It was all going well - feeling good and running my 2 minute intervals fast(-ish) and strong - until mile 6, when I started to struggle and slow down more than I wanted. Considering  mile 6 was actually mile 10, I'm not surprised. Actually, I'm kind of surprised I didn't start feeling tired sooner. ( Another one of those "hey, I really am stronger than I think" moments.) I finished outside my goal, but I was close, and I know I ran strong. So, again, it's all good.


Race Stats
Winter Series 10k
Sunday, February 7, 2016
Finish time: 1:11:11 (Garmin)
Place: 232 of 300 overall; 118 of 166 women; 22 of 38 age group
(Note - my official time was 22 seconds slower, but I like the repeating ones, so I'm sticking with the Garmin time for this one 😋)

Overall Series Stats
2015-16 Winter Series
Finish time: 2:43:44
Place: 188 of 241 overall; 94 of 131 women; 15 of 30 age group