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Friday, June 8, 2012

Adventures with Kirk - 2001 - Day 1

This is a re-print of an original post to the ThompsonFamilyWeb site about a trip I took with my friend Kirk to Walt Disney World in December 2001. It is completely unaltered from my original post.

Kirk Intro

2001 Part 1
2001 Part 2
2001 Part 3

2002 Part 1
2002 Part 2
2002 Part 3
2002 Part 4


2005 Catch-up

2005 Catch-upDay 1 - Saturday, December 8 2001
My flight was scheduled to leave La Guardia at 6:00 on Saturday morning. After September 11th, of course everyone knows that you need to leave extra time to board your plane. Still, I figured that, since my flight was among the first to leave, it shouldn't be too bad. I scheduled the car service to pick me up at 4:00 AM. Funny thing, I scheduled a car service to both take me to the airport and pick me up, and spent more on car service ($150 going out, $120 coming back) than I did on airplane tickets ($130 each way). Still, there was no traffic and I got to the airport before 5:00. The only issue I had boarding the plane was that I had to check a bag I was planning on carrying on because they wouldn't let me take my keys on the plane with me. It seems I had a small pocketknife on my keychain (DOH!) I didn't want to throw it away because of its sentimental value (it was given to me by my late father-in-law.) Otherwise, the flight was non-eventful and we arrived on schedule at 8:50 AM.

As I mentioned in part 1, Kirk and I had exchanged photos. I remember thinking that I never would have recognized him. Of course he's a lot older, but I also noticed that he had grown to take after his father a lot more than I would have thought. Also, he was very thin as a kid and had become heavier as an adult (haven't we all?) I knew essentially what to expect - he was about 5'7" with dirty blonde (almost brown) hair that he had grown out quite long. But then, when I came off the plane and was headed to the public area and saw him there waiting for me, I had no doubt. There was Kirk, exactly as I had remembered him.
We greeted each other and headed down to the baggage claim, all the time going on about how good it was to be back together and how cool it was that we were able to track each other down.

Before this trip I was a little worried that, since our lives had gone off in pretty different directions, we wouldn't have much in common or (worse) that we wouldn't get along. Well, within 5 minutes I knew that I had nothing to worry about. Old friends are old friends and we still have that bond. If nothing, we certainly have enough shared memories to sustain us through a long weekend. In addition, we both share a love of Disney parks. I realized pretty much right away that we were in for a fun, nostalgic and laid-back weekend. I just relaxed and went with it, 
and I could tell that Kirk was doing the same.

After getting my bags we got into Kirk's van (he drove his company van - he runs a family owned pet supply business) and we were off. We were both hungry, but decided to wait until we got to WDW before having breakfast. Now, something that has always amazed me is how easy it is to get lost going from the Orlando Airport to WDW. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that we were having too much fun gabbing away, but we did end up heading off toward God Knows Where, FL. It certainly wasn't a big deal - in fact we got a good laugh out of it (Kirk made me promise to leave it out of my trip report - I lied.) Anyway, we got back on the right track and headed out toward the World.

I suggested that we check into the Boardwalk before anything else as we could check our bags and - with any luck - we might even get our room. Again we made a wrong turn - my fault this time. I missed the "Epcot Resort Area" offramp and instead directed Kirk to the "Epcot" entrance. Again, we turned around and finally arrived at our destination: The Boardwalk Villas.
We are DVC members and The Boardwalk is our home resort, yet this was only my second visit to the resort. My first was during our family trip in March of 2000. The Boardwalk is really a beautiful resort. The lobby is gorgeous. Since this was the holiday season, the lobby was decorated with big trees and bunting with lots of glass ornaments. While we waited for an opening at the check-in desk I was chatting with a hotel Cast Member (CM) about the decorations. She pointed out that there were several glass ornaments in the shape of a pickle, which was considered good luck. I told here that we have a similar ornament among our collection at home, and that I never knew it was supposed to be good luck.
Our turn came at the registration desk. The CM at the desk told us that our room was ready, and that it had a pool view (almost identical to the view from our previous trip.) I told him that we were hoping for a boardwalk view. He hunted around and told me that a room would be available later with a view of the courtyard that faces the boardwalk. I knew the area he spoke of, and we decided that since the view wasn't all that great, and since we wouldn't be spending that much time in the room anyway, we may as well take the room that was available. As we walked to the room we passed Luna Park Pool. Kirk pointed out what a cool pool it was and how he really wanted to take a swim in it.

We got to the room and dropped off our stuff. Kirk had brought an ice chest full of bottled water with him and went back to the van to retrieve it. When he came out he also produced a bag full of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Heath bars and Jolly Ranchers - all childhood favorites of ours. (Funny little side story here. I had been having trouble with my cell phone, which would make phone calls on it's own. It seems that, at this time, it called my house without my knowing it. When I got home my wife told me of getting a phone call and hearing us discuss Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. She said we sounded like a couple of nine-year-olds.) We stood on the balcony for a few minutes enjoying the view of the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and Luna Park. Kirk said he really wanted to take a swim in that pool.

It was now about 11:00 and we were both very hungry. I suggested we head down to the Boardwalk Bakery. We walked past Luna Park on the way to the bakery. "Wow", said Kirk. "That sure is a cool pool. I'd really like to take a swim in it". Once at the Boardwalk Bakery and faced with all those delicious sticky buns, doughnuts and pastries, we both decided on... breakfast burritos. I also got some coffee as I hadn't had any that day and I just knew a caffeine headache was eminent. The total was about $10.00.

It was time to decide what to do first. "You know", Kirk said, "That pool sure looks inviting."
A tiny little spark of a thought was forming in my brain. "Hmmmm..." I thought to myself, "maybe Kirk would like to go swimming."

"Well", I said, "If we want to take a swim, now is the time to do it." With that, we decided the first thing on our list would be a swim in Luna Park Pool.

We went back to the room, changed into our swimming suits and headed for the pool. Now, one of the standout points of Luna Park is the "Kiester Coaster" - a roller coaster themed water slide. Of any slide in any pool at any Disney resort, this is my favorite. And that includes Stormalong Bay. Well, let me tell you, one of my favorite mental images that I was left with from this trip was that of Kirk, flailing and spread-eagle, shooting out of the mouth of that diabolical clown's mouth (who I call, as any Stephen King fans will understand, Pennywise.) We hadn't even been at WDW for more than a few hours, and already we were reverting to the 10 and 11 year-old kids who used to run around Disneyland (DL) like we owned the place.

After our swim we finally decided it was time to visit our first park. Now, Kirk and I had discussed and given a lot of thought to the question "Which park first?" Since most of our history together was at DL, and since the Magic Kingdom (MK) had many of the rides that we remembered so fondly from our youth, that park seemed like the natural choice. However, as I wrote in the earlier section, when we went to DL we would arrive at opening and stay until closing. We wanted to do the same at MK. So, we decided that we should visit MK on Sunday, our one full day at the World. Besides, Sunday is traditionally the best day to visit MK as far as crowds go. Kirk told me of going to MK on his 40th Birthday, which was on a Thursday, and how surprised he was with the crowds. I explained how the traffic patterns at WDW are different that DL, and how, in fact, Thursday is one of the busier days at MK.

So MK was out. Kirk didn't want to visit Disney's Animal Kingdom (AK) on this trip because he had never been there and wanted to visit it for the first time with his wife Angela, an animal lover. We had already decided that Disney/MGM Studios (MGM) would wait until Monday, our last day. So that left Epcot. And, How convenient! It's just a short walk away. Off we went toward Epcot.

The weather was gorgeous - blue skies with puffy white clouds and quite warm for December - even by Orlando standards. The weather was predicted to be a bit cooler and I made the mistake of only bringing jeans - no shorts. Oh, well. At least it wasn't too hot.

One thing Kirk and I both had found amazing, considering all the times we went to DL together, was that neither of us had a single picture of the two of us - or either of us for that matter - while at the park. "We usually went by ourselves", Kirk pointed out, "and we never took cameras." In fact, neither of us had any pictures of us together at all. So, once we got to Epcot and entered through the International Gateway, the first order of business was to have our picture taken right at the entrance to the park.

The next thing we did was to head over to test Track (TT) and get FastPass tickets (FP). While passing the England Pavilion along the way I saw these great lunch boxes with the artwork from Beatles albums on them that I thought my kids would love (they love the Beatles.) I made a mental note to get them later. After that we were faced with the next big question: "What should be our first ride of the trip?" Now, Epcot does not have any attractions that existed at DL when we were kids, so there was nothing of sentimental value. Instead, we just headed back to the World Showcase (WS) and went to the first pavilion we came to: Mexico. While there we rode El Rio Del Tiempo (ERDT).

After Mexico we headed to Norway. One thing Kirk really wanted to do was to get a Ringnes beer at the Norway Pavilion, so we went there next. We decided to ride Maelstrom first, and yes, we did stay for the movie. I had not been on Maelstrom since my first visit to WDW in 1993, and my reaction was much like what I had for ERDT. The first time I was quite disappointed, but this second time around I enjoyed it more. I still think it's awfully short, but an enjoyable diversion. After the ride we went to Restaurant Akershus, figuring on killing two birds with one stone (lunch as well as Ringnes beer.) The restaurant had a holiday menu that really didn't appeal to either of us, however, so we settled for a beer from the beer cart. I went back and forth a few times on whether I should get a large glass (don't recall the size, but it was BIG), and my "what the heck, I'm in WDW" attitude (as well as the beer cart CM gently questioning my manhood by suggesting any Norwegian would get the large) won out in the end. We both got the large glasses.

We strolled over to the China Pavilion to finish our beers when we were hit with the only rain worth mentioning that would happen on this trip. It lasted about ten minutes, and we spent the time standing under the eaves of the Temple drinking our beer. It wasn't exactly torture.

After the rain let up we headed for the Germany Pavilion, which looked particularly festive for the holidays. We stopped by the American Adventure with the intention of watching the show, but the timing was wrong and it was after 4:00 so we were getting hungry. Kirk and I agreed that it was hard to go wrong with Italian, so we headed to the Italy Pavilion and Ristorante Alfredo. We both decided to have the house specialty Fettuccini Alfredo. In my trip report from our trip to DL in April of 2000 I wrote that Avalon Cove, which was then (and sadly is not anymore) run by Wolfgang Puck, had the best food of any Disney Park restaurant I had ever eaten at. Alfredo is right up there. Now, Fettuccini Alfredo is a very simple dish, so it's the quality and freshness of the ingredients that make the difference. The ingredients used by Alfredo are obviously top-notch. The total was $52 after tip.

When we left Alfredo, the Tapestry of Nations parade (TON) had started. I think TON is perhaps the best Disney parade ever, but neither of us was really in the mood to watch, so we just caught the beginning then headed back toward Future World (FW). I had learned in our recent DL trip that the end time on your FP ticket didn't really matter - as long as the beginning time had come and gone, you could use the ticket. It was time to see if this would work at WDW as well. The end time on our TT FP had expired, and we were going to attempt to use them. We got in line and... no problem. This is an important thing to remember while making the most of your FP. One thing we would do while in the TT queue that would continue through the trip - we didn't rush through. We would let people go by that wanted to. Kirk and I both liked looking at, and commenting on, some of the interesting things you can see in some of the better queue areas (and TT's is among the best.) We enjoyed TT even though it broke down for a short time just before we boarded. But then, as I told Kirk, I think it's broken down for at least a few minutes every time I've ridden it.

We went to Innoventions and looked around for a bit, when I suggested we should go to Cranium Commandos and Honey I Shrunk the Audience. A CM at Innoventions, however, informed us that all of FW with the exception of TT and Spaceship Earth (SE) closed at 7:00 - not 8:00 as we had thought. Oh well. We rode on SE, a favorite of mine that Kirk told me he'd never been on. We then headed back to WS, enjoying the Christmas decorations now all lit up, along the way. We went to the Cantina San Angel at the Mexico Pavilion and had one of their awesome Margaritas. After that we decided to take the boat to the other side of the lake. For some reason I thought it dropped you right in front of the France Pavilion, but it actually drops you off at Germany. We could have walked in much less time. It was still a nice boat ride.

We walked back around to the England Pavilion where I picked up the lunch boxes I saw earlier. I got "Help!" for Nat (her favorite Beatles song) and "Yellow Submarine" for Charlotte (her favorite Beatles song.) We then walked back out the International Gateway. A boat had just left so we walked. For those interested, we actually beat the boat to the Boardwalk. While we were walking back I suggested that ice cream sundaes were in order. Kirk agreed. I suggested Beaches & Cream, but we had both had a long day and weren't sure if we'd feel like walking around Crescent Lake to get back to The Boardwalk. So, we went to Seashore Sweets instead. Well, let me tell you, we were not exactly suffering. As many good things as I've heard about the sundaes at Beaches & Cream, I can say that the ones at Seashore Sweets were awesome. We both had hot fudge sundaes with Cookies & Cream and Toffee ice cream. Absolutely killer.

Continuing with the theme of decadence, after the sundaes I suggested that we have a drink on the veranda in front of The Boardwalk. I had cognac and Kirk had a beer, while we relived the events of the day. Afterward we retired to our room and were both out like a light.

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