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Friday, June 8, 2012

Adventures with Kirk - 2002 - Day 3

Day 3 - Saturday, October 19, 2002

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-upWhen Kirk and I first planned this trip Disney had cancelled the "Surprise Morning" Early Entry (EE) program. By the time we went, however, it had been reinstated, albeit in a somewhat altered format. It used to be that EE was never offered at Animal Kingdom (AK) because that park always opened early. That is not true anymore, with AK opening the same time as the other parks, so it was added to the EE rotation. As a result, the EE days for specific parks had changed. This really only meant two things for us.
First, since Sunday was now the EE day for the Magic Kingdom (MK), we would either need to change the day we would visit that park or we would need to put up with the EE crowds on Sunday. We didn't want to do MK on Friday because we wanted to see Fantasmic! and, as we had dinner reservations for Saturday night, Friday would be our only chance. We didn't want to do MK on Saturday because, EE or no EE, we thought the MK would still be most crowded on Saturday because of the fireworks. So, we stuck with MK on Sunday because - along with the reasons stated - my flight time meant we would be able to stay until almost closing anyway.
That said, we still had on opportunity here - our plan was to do Epcot on Saturday. Still, this was EE day at MGM so we figured - what the heck - we could go to MGM for EE and get in a quick ride or two on TZToT and RnRC. So, we set the alarm for extra early and were out of the room at 7:45.
We took the bus and arrived at MGM just after the park opened at 8:00. We knew we wanted to go on TZToT and RnRC, but Kirk wanted to do TZToT twice while I wanted to do RnRC twice. I actually like TZToT better; the up-and-down motion of the ride's finale had gotten to my stomach just a bit the day before. Nothing major, but enough to make me not want to ride it twice in succession. So, we picked up a FP at RnRC, but only for me. The FP for TZToT was not yet open - or so we thought. We rode TZToT then checked the FP distribution again and realized it was open. The time display had been covered over because the mechanism was not working and had been displaying the wrong time - something we had noticed the day before. So, Kirk got a TZToT FP, and the time on both tickets was the same.
We headed over to RnRC and rode that. We then went to the ABC Commissary for breakfast. After breakfast we headed back down Sunset Blvd. for one last ride on TZToT for Kirk and RnRC for me.

The tower awaits...

The beginning of one of the nicest walks in WDW
We left MGM and headed for Epcot. We had already decided that we would walk to Epcot from MGM. That walk - along the waterway, past either The Boardwalk or The Yacht Club & Beach Club (YC/BC) and to the International Gateway - is one of the most pleasant in WDW. On top of that, it was another gorgeous morning - upper 70's and not a cloud in the sky. I requested that we walk by YC/BC because I wanted to take a look at the newly constructed Disney Vacation Club (DVC) Beach Club Villas. The Villas look very nice - they are very well integrated with the rest of the resort - and the next time we go to WDW as a family we just might try to stay there.
We arrived at Epcot and entered through the International Gateway. It was almost 11:00 - opening time for the World Showcase (WS) - and people were lined up at the WS entrances to get in. Still, the WS wasn't open yet so it was pretty much empty. I really love walking through that section of WS before opening; it's so rare to see it without any crowds.

Looking forward to this one...

Neither of us remembered seeing a black monorail... pretty cool...
We noticed some booths set up for selling food and drink and realized that we had come during the Epcot Food & Wine festival. Even thought WS was just about to open, we wanted to go to Future World (FW) first. We cut through Mouse Gear and headed to our first stop - Test Track (TT) for FP tickets. After we picked up our FPs I pointed out the Mission Space building to Kirk. The building is nearly done and the construction wall had been lowered enough to where you can now get a good look at it. I still haven't heard any confirmation of what the ride itself is going to be, but I have my fingers crossed that it uses the same ride technology as Soarin' Over California at Disney's California Adventure. There was a sign urging guests to visit the Mission Space preview center at Innoventions East, and we made a mental note to visit.
TT FPs in hand, we headed over to Spaceship Earth so we could put some a change of clothes we brought with us in lockers. We had reservations at California Grill that evening so we needed somewhat nicer clothes. After putting our stuff in the locker we toyed with the idea of riding SE, but the line was long and we knew it would be shorter later. Instead, we headed over to Innoventions East. We looked around a bit and found the Mission Space preview center, but it was very disappointing with nothing much really about the ride itself.
We then stopped in at The Wonders of Life pavilion so we could see Cranium Commandos (CC). We missed CC on our last trip and I told Kirk - who had never seen the show - that it was a "must see". Our timing was perfect and we got in about 2 minutes before the pre-show.
After our stint with Buzzy we contemplated Ellen's Energy Adventure but we both agreed that it was something we could easily skip. Instead we had lunch at the Electric Umbrella. After lunch we saw Honey I Shrunk the Audience - another show Kirk had never seen. After getting shrunk we went back to SE, this time to a more reasonable line. One thing I love about SE is that - although it has been updated - it's one of the few FW rides that date back to the opening of Epcot. After SE we used our FP tickets at Test Track. On most days TT is the only attraction at Epcot that you really need a FP ticket for - and you really need it. The line can be huge. Maelstrom would probably also be a good one to use FP for, but it was a moot point for us as Maelstrom (or Nordstrom, as Kirk and I had taken to calling it) was closed that day.
As is the norm with TT, there was about a 10 or 15 minute wait even with FP. As we were preparing to board our car I noticed little red yellow & green flags that are occasionally attached to the cars. I assume they are some kind of warning system about a particular car's condition, but I'm not sure.
Anyway, the ride was uneventful (or as uneventful as a TT ride can be) until we got to the big banking turn at the end. Just as we were coming out of the turn and were about to accelerate into the straightaway, our car slammed on the brakes and skidded to a halt with smoke rising from underneath it. There we sat, with the big digital speedometer in the distance scowling at us with its numbers reading "0.00". All of the passengers in the car agreed that there was something clearly wrong with it.
Then, after a few minutes, a little troll of a man cam out of the building and was heading toward us. He took his time ambling toward us. I was convinced that he would let us out of our car and lead us back to the building, and I assume the other riders were thinking the same thing. Instead he went to the back of the car, popped the hood, and re-started the engine. Immediately we were off again. Obviously there was nothing wrong with our car - the smoke must have come from the tires skidding.
As I'm writing this I have a thought - why did I not take any pictures during this little adventure? I surely should have. I guess it's from being in the habit of not taking pictures on rides - although this was outside so it clearly would have been OK. Anyway, when we arrived in the unloading area the CM in attendance ushered us directly to another car. I don't know why I wasn't expecting this, but I wasn't. I noticed that they did not put anyone in the car we had been in - although I did not notice whether they put one of those flags on it. The girl who was sitting next to me - who had come on using the single rider line - yelled and waved at her friend to wait for her. (According to this young lady, BTW, the single rider line is a great way to avoid the lone lines at TT.) We were off again, this time with no unscheduled stops - but I think we did collectively hold our breath as we came out of that banking turn.
With a ride and 7/8 of TT under our belt, we crossed over to the World Showcase (WS). When it comes to just walking around, WS is my favorite park at WDW. There is so much to look at and the details are amazing. As a result of the Food & Wine Festival (I assume), WS was a bit more crowded than any of the other parks. Still, it was manageable. Upon entering WS we turned left and went clockwise, hitting Mexico first. While there we rode El Rio Del Tiempo. Each time I go on this cute little ride I like it more - especially the finale.
After leaving Mexico I saw a Food & Wine booth with an offering I could not pass up - gravlax - which I ordered with a Scandinavian wine. It was delicious. Kirk would later mention over hearing someone say of the festival "We came here by accident last year, this year we came on purpose." I understand the sentiment. The only thing I'd like to know is if the lines are shorter on weekdays. All the food and drink offerings looked tempting, and I'm sure I would have tried more, but the lines were daunting. I could see coming to WDW during the festival and avoiding Epcot on weekends, if that helps.
We continued to make our way around WS. When we got to The American Adventure (AA), Kirk mentioned that he had never seen the show. With that we went in. I was expecting the acapella group to be singing, but instead it was a trio that performed country western music. We only caught about a minute of their act, but they seemed to be very good. We were then ushered into the huge theater where we could enjoy the air conditioning.
Upon leaving the AA Theater I called WDW Dine to confirm our California Grill reservation time - as I thought it was for 8:00. We continued working our way clockwise, stopping at Morocco. When we got to the England pavilion I checked to see if they had a Rose & crown T-shirt. You see, I have a R&C shirt, and it's one of my favorites. I actually bought two, and when I bought the second I was told that it had been discontinued. So, I went in to see if they had a new one. Sure enough they did. I like my current one much more, but the new one was pretty cool as well. I would have bought one, but they didn't have it in my size. The CM at R&C suggested I try to buy one online.
The Canada pavilion was closed so we kept going. The gift stores at the entrance to WS used to have among the best selections of T-shirts at WDW, but not any more I'm afraid. It was mostly toys. There were some clothes, but nothing that was my taste.
We decided to head back to Mexico to have a drink at the San Angel Cantina. I wanted a margarita, but Kirk wanted a Ringas beer, so he headed over to Norway to get one. By the time he got back I had my drink and was sitting at one of the outdoor tables. We sat at the Cantina for about an hour enjoying the warm evening. We then decided it was time to leave for our dinner reservation.

The black monorail pulls in to the station

Dinner at thetop of the World
We headed back to SE to retrieve our change of clothes from the locker. We then caught the monorail to the Transportation & Ticket Center (TTC.)
At the TTC we transferred to the resorts monorail. After our monorail came in a service engineer came by and opened service doors on each of the cars of the train and started inspecting something - we couldn't figure out what. It was kind of cool to see the underpinnings of the trains, but it also delayed us by about 20 minutes. Finally we hopped on and rode it to the Contemporary Resort (Cont). When we got off Kirk suggested we go downstairs to the convention facilities where we would found a large, deserted men's room. We changed for dinner and were about to see if we could find a place to stow our clothes when we realized that it was already time for our reservation. So, instead we headed straight up to The California Grill (CG.)
Once we arrived at the restaurant we asked if there was anyplace to put our bags and they told us to jus leave them behind the host station. We were told that there would be a bit of a wait before we were seated, so we had drinks in the bar (martini for me and a beer for Kirk.) There was a girl there who looked to be about the same age as my oldest daughter. She was dressed in a fancy dress and wore glasses. She was moving back and forth between a man who I assumed was her father and the rest of their party - seemingly in an attempt to get everyone's drink order. I couldn't help but comment to the man who I confirmed was indeed, her dad what a charming daughter he had. I guess I was missing my own kids.
Before we had finished our drinks we were seated at our table - right next to the window with a great view of the Magic Kingdom. As we were looking over the menus the lights dimmed and the show began. We had to move over and lean in a bit to see the fireworks, but we still had a great view. The MK fireworks are, of course, spectacular. Interestingly, having just seen the fireworks at Disneyland (several times) a few months earlier, I think the DL fireworks are better. Perhaps it was our proximity, but I think there was a bigger "wow" factor at DL.
After the fireworks our waiter came over to take our order - and I joked that since the fireworks were over we were going to leave. But we didn't. Kirk ordered a steak and I had sashimi. Normally I would never order something like sashimi at WDW, but I had heard that the food in the better restaurants had improved markedly since they changed the way they buy food for them, and when a waiter walked by with a plate of sashimi it looked real good. Well, I have to say it was very good. Not the best sashimi I've had, but very good regardless. Kirk gave me a taste of his steak and that was very good as well. I had mentioned to the staff that it was Kirk's birthday, but they didn't do anything about it. I think that's one of those things where you have to remind them. Still, we ordered dessert as well - I don't recall what we had but I do remember enjoying it. Not that this is any surprise, but I would highly recommend the CG experience to anyone on a trip to WDW.
We went back to the host station to retrieve our bags, and left. We went down to the Cont bus stations and, after a wait of a few minutes, boarded a bus to Downtown Disney. At DD we transferred to an All Stars bus. One thing I'll say about taking the bus around WDW late at night, you realize how easy it could be to get stuck somewhere in the middle of nowhere and how hard it would be to get anywhere after the busses stop running. I noticed a few people sitting, waiting for busses at what looked to be pretty deserted bus stops. Anyway, we arrived back at our room and were asleep by about 12:30.

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