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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Park Day: John & Kirk in WDW for January 2013 Marathon Weekend

Park Day: Day 2

The day after race day was to be a big park day for us. The plan was to go to Epcot in the morning, then switch to MK in the evening and enjoy the fireworks and the Castle light show. At 5:30 I was awakened by the sound of fireworks - the Full Marathon had started. I heard others staying at OKW mention how they were awakened in the same way on the day of the Half Marathon, and one woman said she could not get back to sleep because there were more fireworks every 5 minutes of so as each corral left. I expected the same and assumed that I would not fall back asleep, but I did fall asleep with no trouble. Still, we easily rose quite early since we had both gotten to bed pretty early the night before. I did hear the final corral leave, but that was the only one.

Kirk drove us to the Hospitality House. We had learned out lesson the morning before and planned to have breakfast at Good's, which opens at 7:00. Turns out they did not serve hot food until 7:30 anyway, which was not a problem as I usually have a light breakfast and Kirk is not much of a breakfast person anyway. For me the important thing is to have some fresh fruit (I had a banana as all the apples were waxed and I avoid waxed apples). I also has a cheese danish which tasted surprisingly fresh. Kirk just refilled his refillable cup with soda a couple of times.

We then we boarded the Epcot bus. On the bus I started chatting with a couple of women who has also run the half marathon. One of them told me that she had taken up running some years back but had to stop when she found that she needed a kidney transplant. She told me tat the kidney donor was a "live donor" - a man who had been an avid runner but had to stop running because of his knees. She said he was thrilled because she was "taking his kidney out for a run". These are the kinds of stories you hear from folks - like the man I ran in to who did the half and would have loved to do the full marathon but, because of a heart condition, his doctor would not let him - that really make you realize what a passion some have for the sport. And I can say that - sore feet and all - I am now one of them.

Anyway, as I was so busy chatting with other runners I was not paying attention to where we were going. Kirk broke in and said "Do you see where we are? We're at the Magic Kingdom!" Well, technically we were at the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC). Of course, it made perfect sense. Because of the marathon they were limiting buses going to Epcot, so they took us to the TTC to board a monorail. This turned out to be serendipitous because, once we got there, Kirk (who had heard me talk about the crowds at Epcot during the half marathon) suggested that perhaps we should rethink our plan and go to MK first. I wasn't crazy about the idea because we wanted to be back at MK for the fireworks and I wasn't crazy about the thought of going back and forth between Epcot and MK twice. Still, looking at the number of folks going to Epcot vs. MK, the logic of Kirk's plan soon won me over and we were off to MK.

The ferry was there and about to leave and Kirk and I have found that, if the ferry is there, it's the quickest way to MK, so we boarded. And it was immediately obvious that we were the only guests on the ferry. And I mean literally, not figuratively. The crew outnumbered us. That was pretty cool, having an entire ferry to ourselves. I wish I had asked one of the crew members to take a picture.

We got to the entrance of MK about 20 minutes before rope drop. We were at the entrance on the left side, right under the railroad underpass. The CM there made sure that everyone knew that our position was not a great one for watching the opening show - Kirk and I had both seen the show before so we were OK with that. The show started and we were able to listen, and I got a glimpse of the new "talking" Mickey which I pointed out to Kirk and is, I must say, quite cool. It came time for us to enter - and I was the second person through the turnstile which was pretty neat.

A quite empty Magic Kingdom

Our plan was to see some of our favorite attractions before having an early lunch. First we got a FP for PP (9:40), then we rode HM followed by PotC. From there we went to Tomorrowland and got a FP for SM (10:35), rode Buzz Lightyear's Spin (my score was awful, Kirk did much better), used our PP FPs and finally used our SM FPs.

We talked about going to Pecos Bill for lunch, but after our experience at Be Our Guest we decided to go back there instead. As it was a bit earlier the line was a bit shorter. This time we sat in the West Wing, and while Kirk ordered braised pork again I decided on the croque monsieur. Kirk said the the braised pork was just as good as the first time (although a bit fatty). The croque monsieur, basically a grilled cheese and ham sandwich, was OK but not nearly as good as the salad I had on our first trip. I would not recommend it - there are better things on the menu.

Gaston's Tavern next to Be Our Guest

After lunch we went to see the length of the line at Ariel's Grotto again. The sign said 20 minutes so I decided to go for it. Kirk took the opportunity to ride HM again. The wait ended up to be more like 15 minutes.

Me and Ariel
When I sat next to Ariel she looked at my half marathon t-shirt and we had the following exchange:
Ariel: Did you run yesterday?
Me: I did. Did you?
Ariel: (looking at her fins) Well...
Me: Well, at least I'm sure you could beat me swimming.
Ariel: I could swim a triathlon!

After my visit with Ariel I met up with Kirk and we headed out. While I was waiting I ran into a CM near the new Repunzel tower. I mentioned that I heard it was going to be a Repunzel meet and greet. She told me that was the rumor, but all that has been confirmed is a new rest room. Well, I guess that is necessary... On the way out we saw that the piano player next to Casey's on Main Street so we stopped to listen for a while. After that we went out and took the monorail to Epcot by way of the TTC.

Future rest room and rumored meet and greet

Once at Epcot we immediately went to Soarin' and got FPs (4:50). We then headed over to The Seas to see Turtle Talk with Crush. As we did not want to ride the Nemo we entered through the exit to Nemo to see Crush. This attraction uses similar technology to Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor where an improvisational performer manipulates a puppet that is immediately represented as a 3D animated image on the screen. The success of an individual show is dependent on the skill of the performer and his ability to interact with the audience. The performer for this show was quite good and it was very funny.

We then went over to check out the standby line for Test Track (TT), but at 70 minutes it was too long. Kirk wanted to check out Club Cool so we went there. We tried a few, there is one that has something of a watermelon flavor that I like, but they are all sugar sweetened and too sweet for my taste. Plus Kirk is diabetic so he didn't want to try too many. We headed over to Mexico and rode Grand Fiesta, then to Norway for Maelstrom. We could get another FP by this time so we got them for TT (5:30).

At this point we split up because Kirk wanted to stay in Futureworld (FW) and I wanted to go to World Showcase (WS). We agreed to meet up at Soarin' for out FP time. So I did a 90 minute tour of WS. I went to the right and worked counter-clockwise. I visited one of my favorite "hidden gems" in Canada - the waterfall on the way to the entrance of "O! Canada!". After that I saw that Off Kilter was playing so I listened to them for a while. In England I had a Guinness and watched the street performers. I walked by France and America and watched more street performers in Italy (doing a show I could not make heads or tails of - it appeared to be some sort of mock wedding). I went to the new Karamelle-Kuche where I bought two milk chocolate covered caramels with sea salt - one for now and one for later. Yeah, right, like that was going to work - I ate them both. Delicious! Finally I visited the tomb warriors display in China. As we had already visited Norway and Mexico I skipped those.

The waterfall in Canada
It was time for our Soarin' FPs so I headed back to FW to meet up with Kirk. We agreed to wait a little extra so we could get row 1. TIP: if you don't mind waiting an extra 10 minutes or so, row 1 is the way to go for Soarin'. OK, so Soarin' needs a new film. First, it should be switched over to digital projection. Second, it would be so cool if they had more than one file, For those of you who have experienced Soarin', picture this: The openeing is the same, with the clouds, and the same music. Then you break through the clouds and, for the first time, you know which one of the random films you are going to see. Wouldn't that be cool? 

So, after that we decided to have dinner so we went to what is, in my opinion, the best counter service at WDW (with the exception of Be Our Guest now) - Sunshine Seasons. Kirk had a potato soup which he said was quite good. He tried a taste of the spicy cashew chicken but didn't like it. I had tuna with noodles (I think I've gotten this every time I've been to Sunshine Seasons). As always it was very good, but in this case I got one bad piece of tuna. By bad I don't mean spoiled - it was gristly and pretty much inedible. Other than that a good meal.

We then headed over to TT to use our FPs. TT has gone through a complete remodel although the track layout has not changed. The new design is sleeker and more modern. The idea is that you are doing a "virtual" test of your car. In the pre-show area you "design" your car and then your design is pitted against other designs for performance - although this has no impact whatever on your ride experience. For the ride itself the new design is, again, sleeker and more modern. Less industrial feeling. I have to say I preferred the old design. I felt the old ride was more visceral and exciting. This new design feels sterile to me.

We then headed back to MK for the fireworks. We rode the monorail but in doing so noticed that - even when the monorail is right there ready to board (as this was) - the ferry is as fast if not faster. Once we arrive, as we wanted to have a good spot for viewing Celebrate the Magic!, we went up to the Main Street Railroad Station terrace and hung out there. There were no chairs left outside but plenty of space. We went inside the station to sit, then went back out as it got closer to showtime. Celebrate the Magic! is a show that utilizes lights strung up on the castle that allows images to be "projected" on the castle. It is amazing! The effects I enjoyed the most were those that best utilized the shape of the castle itself - like one where an artists paintbrush touched each tower turning it a different color. Our position for seeing the show was perfect - although I would have preferred being a bit closer.

After the show there is a bit of a break before the fireworks show so we made out way toward Liberty Square. We watched the fireworks - WISHES - from a pathway between Main Street and Liberty Square. Nobody does fireworks like Disney. They were amazing. After that we rode Haunted Mansion. I will say one thing about the recent changes to HM - other than that they are great. To me, the most effective change is also one of the simplest and is low-tech. Right after the M C Escher staircase room you enter a hallway with wallpaper that has "evil eyes" in the design. As you are entering the room the evil eyes appear looking at you in the darkness, then they ultimately blend into the wallpaper. I absolutely love this effect.

After HM we visited the new, slightly truncated, Country Bears Jamboree. I must say that cutting the show did not really hurt it, and I was glad to see that it did not seem to be about making it more "politically correct" - mama is still being urged to shoot Little Beuford. When we left the bears we noticed there was a second showing of Celebrate the Magic! and we agreed that, had we known, we would have watched it again. At this point - after 13 hours in the parks - I was feeling a bit the worse for wear. We had intended to stay until park closing (it was an Extra Hours night) but my old body was not up for it. Kirk wanted to stay so we parted ways. One thing I missed and wanted to see was the New Fantasyland at night. That would have to wait. On the way out I took a short cut through the restrooms that connect Adventureland to Frontierland, and there it was! The Dole Whip stand! I had not had a chance to get a Dole Whip and this was my last opportunity. Needless to say I gave in and had one - still one of my favorite Disney treats. 

Here is a tip if you're running the marathons. Wear your medal! I wore mine the rest of the day after the marathon and got lots of "congratulations". More important, it lead to conversations with other runners. On this day I thought it might be a bit much to wear it again - although I did wear the t-shirt I bought. Mistake! A lot of folks still asked me if I ran, but when you wear the medal they know you ran. If I ever do this again I will wear my medal until I leave. I even saw folks wearing them in the airport!

The OKW hot tub was calling my name again, land again I heeded the call. After a bus ride back to the resort I headed straight for that Jacuzzi. It was great. After that it was straight to bed. The next day was our last day at WDW - and as my flight was at 2:50 it would be a short one.

Here are shortcuts to all the entries in this blog:

Intro and Day 1
Day 2 and the Race
Day 3 in the Parks
Final Day 4

Here are some quick links to some of the more popular posts:

Europe trip 2012 including Santorini Greece, Athens and London
John & Kirk go to Williamsburg VA and Washington DC
Orlando 2010 including Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando
Adventures with my good friend Kirk including Walt Disney World, Vegas, Disneyland and more
A Daddy/Daughter jaunt to Walt Disney World in 1998
A trip to Southern California including Disneyland and Disney California Adventure in 2002
Middle School Rock Band trip to Walt Disney World  2010
Key West 2002
South East Florida 2012

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