Day 14: Drive from Ohio to Ontario
Meijer (Maumee OH, 3:08pm, pronounced /ˈmaɪ.ər/). Our usual grocery-shopping-in-the-States before driving across the border. $234.80. The same candy bars we got for our “up to $5 snack credit" at Disney are being sold here for 82¢.
Kroger (Roseville MI, 4:21pm). Try to get some lunch here, but their to-go section isn’t all that great. $22.11 for a submarine sandwich for Wifey and some more groceries we forgot to get at Meijer.
Tim Horton’s (Roseville MI, 4:26pm). In same shopping plaza as Kroger. $8.26 for turkey sandwich on ciabbata (for Kid #2) and cinnamin-raisin bagel + cream cheese (for me).
Some convenience store (Dundee MI; no receipt). We get off the highway for Tim Horton’s, but no one wants a washroom. There is a Walgreens next door, and Wifey remembers that she hasn’t played the lottery yet on this trip, but the Walgreens has no lottery display. We head the other way down the street, since there is a Kroger’s sign pointing that way, but we can’t find it. Finally stop in at a convenience store. $1 for a scratch-off ticket that wins $1, so it was a “free” play. $1 for a PowerBall ticket that doesn’t win.
Blue Water Bridge (Port Huron MI – Sarnia ON). Toll = $3.00. The border guard seems to know a whole lot about Wilmot ON, considering that he’s never been there. He asks about the Blue Moon Hotel (which is mainly a restaurant now; I've never been inside).
Tim Horton’s (Strathroy ON, 6:28pm). Washrooms.
$2.39 for a blueberry muffin and a Boston cream doughnut. Kid #2 uses a
gift card to get another pretzel bagel.
Here in the Southwest Ontario countryside, the leaves are turning. It is much cooler than in Florida.
Our house (8:00pm). We’re home! Trip complete with no major
Our house is much more dimly lit than anything at Disney, giving it a surreal feeling: this is where we *used* to live, a long time ago — but it was only two weeks!
Disney World 2015, day 15: Dog kennel
Wag ’N’ Train. $299.17 for two weeks at the kennel (using the $50 off coupon we got as a raffle prize on orientation day). The dog has apparently lost 5% of his body weight and is now trim and more able to use his arthritic leg. The bathroom scale says all other family members are within 1% of their pre-vacation weights, despite the running-a-marathon-in-a-sauna feeling of Disney World in September.
Disney World 2015, day 17: UPS / High Holiday
Our house (2:05pm). The boxes from Florida arrive. Although there was no import duty when going to the States, the Canadian UPS wants $188.77 for their “brokerage” services, thus doubling the shipping cost and making it totally unworthwhile to use UPS instead of Allegiant. The delivery driver refers to his own employer as “pirates” and suggests that I call UPS headquarters and complain.
Our house. It’s Erev Yom Kippur. Kid #2 makes the dinner. Our fast is uneventful.
Landscape of Flavors (10:06am). Kid #2 goes by himself to the food court to exchange all remaining food credits for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. The cashier remembers him as the guy with the 10 rolls of Oreos, but is resistant to allowing him to convert the dinner-credits, so he just gets 13 Reese’s with the remaining snack-credits.
Our room. Disney housekeepers are one of the lowest classes in a very class-conscious company. We have heard that they often don't get to keep things left behind for them by guests, unless a note specifically states that the housekeeper is the intended recipient. So Wifey writes a note listing our unopened leftover foods and beverages and stating that Venette should get them. She specifically mentions the bottle of wine, that we never got around to drinking because Disney World is just so exhausting. I hope Venette gets to keep that wine. Yesterday, when she came to clean, Wifey slipped her a $20 bill, to ensure that she would get *something*.
Landscape of Flavors (11:20am). After we check out, Wifey goes back to the food court while the rest of us wait in the car. She engages in an activity that some people online call “pixie dusting” (but don’t Google that, it means many other things). She finds six people who are not on the dining plan and buys lunch for them to use up our remaining credits. They are shocked, amazed, and happy with their luck. It is probably a more enjoyable activity than eating all those candy bars.
Alamo Rent-a-Car (12:33pm). Very quick! The attendant scans the car’s ID tag, records the mileage and gas, then I’m on my way. $40.17 for the return-with-empty-tank feature. I drove 557 miles and used up almost the entire tank.
Orlando-Sanford Airport TSA screening. They seem annoyed that we have so many carry-on bags, but we get through it. No pat-downs for me!
Some little café (at Sanford Airport). The attendant wants $3.21 for a bottle of Coke, that cost $2 in Toledo! But the café is conveniently located next to the waiting area for our flight, so I pay it.
Allegient Airlines flight 794 (Sanford FL – Swanton OH). Flight takes off 15 minutes late (3:20pm) because of a “discrepancy” in the cargo manifest. Uneventful flight; no cougher. Laptop use: write up my notes for day 10.
Toledo Express Airport parking (6:10pm). $91 for 11 days of parking.
Staybridge Suites. Check-in. They didn’t screw up this time, so we don’t get a free upgrade and have to make do with the two-room suite (living room with fold-out couch, bedroom with king-size bed; the bathroom is off the bedroom so the kids have to keep coming in).
Barney’s Convenient Mart (Maumee OH, 7:34pm). On my way to pick up Chinese food for dinner, I pass by a gas station. It’s cheap, so I put in 10 gallons for $23.99 to prepare for tomorrow’s drive home.
Fiona’s Happy Rose (Toledo OH, 7:42pm). $29.75 for Chinese take-out. It’s pretty good. Kid #1 gets American-style sweet-and-sour chicken without the sauce, replacing the Yak & Yeti meal that she was supposed to have on day 5 (and then couldn’t have on day 11). Canadian Chinese restaurants use a different recipe.
Our room. Kid #1’s attempts to avoid getting sick on this vacation have *mostly* worked, but she seems to be coming down with something now.
UPS store (Celebration FL, 11:09am). $5.89 for a 12×12×20 box
to contain additional stuff to be sent home that does not fit in the
18×18×18 box that we sent down here. This is our estimated amount of
additional space needed (in cubic inches), based on a variety of “test
packs” of the old box with various combinations of the items to send
Celebration is an unincorporated city (pop. 7,427) which started life as a Disney company town where they sold timeshares. It has since been disowned and is now a mostly-separate entity (Disney still provides electricity and telephone services.) My understanding is that the UPS store does not pay rent to Disney, but it’s hard to tell.
Landscape of Flavors (11:30am). Skim milk (it’s a “snack”) for Kid #2’s breakfast cereal in our room.
Our room. Final pack of the two boxes.
UPS store (2:45pm). $187.83 to mail both boxes back to
Canada. Kid #2 carries the old box (all clothing), which is 46 lbs and
awkward; some of the clothing is packed into Vacu-Seal bags and is very
dense, while other bits of clothing are just thrown in loosely. I carry the
new box, which is 30 lbs. I tell UPS that half the new box is new souvenirs
and snacks, half Canadian-origin stuff, while the old box is entirely
Canadian-origin material. Estimated shipping time is four business
It’s hard to tell for sure, but I think that the old box (which is overweight) would have cost $95 to have Allegiant fly it up with us, while the new box would have cost $45. So in total we paid about $48 extra to avoid the checked-baggage hassle and to get $1000 of insurance on the box of clothes.
Epcot. Our last day at the parks. This second visit to Epcot
was planned for day 9 but had to be postponed. The original plan for today
had us visiting the the Magic Kingdom yet again, but we’ve been there, done
that, got the fridge magnet.
Attractions visited today: Club Cool, a ferry, Tangierine Café (Wifey and Kid #1, lunch 4:17pm), Katsura Grill (Kid #2 and I, lunch 4:20pm), Karamell-Küche (take-home, 5:14pm), another ferry, Gran Fiesta Tour, ImageWorks (just Wifey, take-home 6:43pm), Northwest Mercantile (except Wifey, souvenirs), Journey into Imagination, and Soarin (Kid #1 and I). We had hoped to go on Spaceship Earth again, but are just too tired. There is a cast member at Living with the Land who confirms that it is scheduled to reopen tomorrow, and we have unused park tickets, but the effort required seems excessive (get back here for just one ride, then make our plane flight).
Club Cool used to be Ice Station Cool which had a dirty-and-wet igloo you walked through to get to the Coke-branded tasting station. Now you just walk into the station. I try the pineapple soda, which is as good as I remember, and also the guarana soda which does not sit well in my stomach — maybe I drank it too fast. Guarana is often used in energy drinks.
The first ferry takes us to the Moroccan pavillion. It has a female pilot (who is actually in control of the boat, which is not on a track) and a male “captain” (who just reads his lines to the passengers).
At Katsura Grill, I note that the waitstaff are all Japanese nationals as expected. But the cookstaff (actually making the Japanese food) are all Black Americans. Is Japan trying to show off how racist it is, or is this just Florida (which remains part of the Confederate South)? Anyway, the food isn’t great. My dessert is strawberry+adzuki ice cream, which tastes halfway between a fruit and a bean.
Karamell-Küche is obviously sponsored by Werther’s caramel company of Berlin (although they also offer some fresh-baked stuff). Wifey spends a snack-credit on a bag of caramels to take home.
We take a second ferry from Germany towards Mexico (the park layout does not match the geography of the Earth). We have to wait at the dock for a shift-change. I note that both old and new crews consist of a female pilot and a male “captain”, so I guess these roles specify required genders for the cast members.
The Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros is awful. What it looks like to me is that Mexico stopped sponsoring the pavillion, so Disney took vengeance upon them by replacing El Rio Del Tiempo (which was basically an ad for the Mexico Tourist Board) with a ride in which Donald Duck makes fun of Mexican stereotypes. Let this be a lesson to you all: this is what will happen to your country if you ever stop giving the benjamins to DisneyCorp!
At ImageWorks, Wifey gets another box of mints to use up a snack credit.
It’s a long walk to the Canada pavillion, so Wifey sits on a bench at the Showcase Plaza. At Northwest Mercantile Trading Post, Kid #1 thinks the selection of products is much like any tourist trap back home; she buys a Mickey-in-Canada pin for $9.54 (says Disney in their final-accounting email; missing receipt). Kid #2 uses a penny-squishing machine for 50¢ (plus 1¢ for the penny). The machine embosses an image of the Epcot Canada pavillion, but on the other side you can clearly see that the penny had been minted in Canada in 1968. “It’s Canadian on both sides,” he says. We generally think of Kid #2 as the most “normal” member of our family, but is it normal to decide that the best use for your 47-year-old penny, no longer legal tender in its country of origin, is to squish it into a souvenir?
The cast member who is staffing the Trading Post wears a nametag that says she is from Etobicoke ON, so I ask her if the ‘k’ is pronounced. “No, it is /ɛ.ˈtoʊ.bɨ.ˌkoʊ/,” she says, clearly annoyed with the number of mispronunciations she hears. It turns out that this is her second stint at Disney World; for her first stint they gave her a nametag that said “Brampton ON” (where she lives) but this time they are making her wear Etobicoke (where she was born). Kid #1 says it’s a good thing that our 15-year-old nametags don’t give our places of origin, because we moved to Canada after getting them. The cast member says she saw someone wearing one of these old nametags at a D23 event. I tell her that, of the 65,000 cast members at Disney World, she is the first one we’ve run into who has *ever* seen one of these things before. (I am fairly sure that neither of my children has any idea what D23 is, nor have they ever been to Brampton, nor gotten off the highway when they were passing through what used to be Etobicoke, which was dissolved in 1998 and amalgamated into Toronto.) Anyway, a pleasant enough conversation with a homie.
Journey into Imagination stars Eric Idle. There is a picture of Robin Williams on the wall, but he has no lines.
At Soarin, I note that the dark splotch does not seem to be in a specific place on the screen, but depends on where I am looking. Perhaps it is actually a blind spot in my eye and not a defect in the ride?
Everything Pop (at Disney’s Pop Century Resort, dinner 8:45pm). I haven’t been too pleased with our own resort’s food, so we try the Pop Century resort down the street, but things keep going wrong. I try to go through the automated entry-lane for the parking lot, but my credential is rejected (apparently this resort restricts the automated entry just for guests staying at Pop Century, not for all current guests like elsewhere). I have to back up and go through the staffed entry; the cast member’s handheld reader makes a happy noise when scanning my wristband, so he lets me in. I try to get a tuna sandwich, but the line I select does not move — everyone is getting create-your-own salad. Finally I get the sandwich and go to a checkout line, but it does not move — the cashier is having an extended conversation in Spanish with some other guests. When she finally gets to me, she wants to have an extended conversation in English, but my family is sitting on a bench outside the food court so I just wish she’d hurry up. By the time I finally get the food back to our room, I don’t feel like eating it, so it sits in the fridge until tomorrow morning.
Ink and Paint (9:08pm). Wifey pays $23.27 for a scarf, plus $2.12 for an Animal Conservation button.
Landscape of Flavors (dinner, 9:15pm). Create-your-own pasta for Wifey and the kids.
Our room. Kid #2 refuses day 5 of ear drops. In his opinion,
“day 1” should have been the day when the medication was prescribed, which
was skipped because I didn’t buy the stuff until the next day. He doesn’t
see the need to add a “day 6” to make up for that.
As an American parent, I can *insist* that my minor child take prescribed medications that I paid lots of money for. But Canadians over 16 years old have bodily autonomy and cannot be forced by their parents to accept medical treatments, so I throw the bottle of ear drops in the garbage bin. It did whatever it did for him; we’ll never know what would have happened if he hadn’t taken it; obviously it has been doing nothing for his viral cold.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom. This has always been my
least-favorite park. It is so fake! There’s plenty of trees, but the
biggest one (and emblem of the park) is actually a giant piece of concrete
that’s been *decorated* to look like a tree. The park is full of
carefully-arranged moats covered by carefully-arranged plantings, to make it
look like the “wild” animals have much more “freedom” of movement than they
actually get. It is accredited by
the Association of Zoos and Aquariums,
but it isn’t really a “zoo” so much as it is a “curated zoo-like
experience”. You need large numbers of “scare quotes” when talking about
Attractions visited today: Dinosaur, Dino Institute Shop (souvenir, 12:48pm), Restaurantosaurus (no purchase), TriceraTop Spin (kids only), Yak & Yeti Cafe (lunch, 1:43pm), Mombasa Marketplace (take-home, 3:19pm; souvenir, 3:20pm), Expedition Everest (Kid #1 and I), Kilimanjaro Safaris, and Tamu Tamu (snack, 4:33pm). We had hoped to do It’s Tough to Be a Bug and Flights of Wonder which had been postponed from day 5, but there’s just not enough time, as this park closes at 5pm.
In the past, I have always avoided the Dinosaur ride, so this is my first time. The opening video has this “doctor” who tells us that she will ”literally” send us back to the time of the dinosaurs. IMNSHO, the actress they chose has no idea how to portray a doctorate-holder and their script-writer has no idea how PhD’s actually talk; my family thinks I am being too hard on them. Anyway, the back-story goes swiftly downhill from there: why should the wayward male “doctor” send the audience back to the extremely dangerous moment of the meteor impact, when he can just as easily redeem himself in the eyes of the female “doctor” by “accidentally” sending the time machine back without any passengers? You see what I mean about the extensive need for “scare quotes” at this park. The ride is track-based and has too many swishy-swashy movements for my taste. The animatronic dinos that you ride past seem okay.
At the Dino Institute Shop, Kid #2 buys a chunk of amethyst for his rock collection. $5.28.
In Wifey’s original plan, today’s lunch was supposed to be at Restaurantosaurus (which is a themed McDonald’s) because it is near Dinosaur. But that plan had us eating at Yak & Yeti on day 5, which didn’t happen, so the revised plan says we should eat there today. Yet still we end up sitting down at Restaurantosaurus because it is near Dinosaur and we have to make family decisions while studying the park map.
This is the first visit in 20 years that does not include any entry into The Boneyard. But our kids are just too old for a giant sandbox.
The TriceraTop Spin ride is in an enclosed kiddie area. You have to go right to enter the area, not left towards the ride’s own entrance which is not directly accessible. I try to tell the kids that, but they just keep walking left. So I let them go. Eventually they turn back and enter on the right, only to discover that there actually is a left entrance that is usable. Wifey and I sit on a bench like oldsters.
The last time we were here, the “hidden” seating area behind Yak & Yeti was deserted. This time it is literally packed; we cannot find a seat anywhere. They have stopped carrying American-style sauceless sweet-and-sour chicken, which Kid #1 had been looking forward to for months. The nearby Indian dance music is extremely loud and we have to just stand there and listen to it because we cannot find a place to sit; this all puts Kid #1 into a pre-meltdown mood. Eventually a cast member takes pity on us and finds us a free table (or just points out that a table has suddenly become free). The food is disappointing when we are finally able to eat it.
At Mombasa Marketplace, Wifey gets two boxes of animal crackers to use up snack credits. Kid #2 pays $5.28 for a slice of agate to add to his collection.
Wifey was supposed to do Finding Nemo — the Musical when the rest of us did Expedition Everest. But this is prevented by the need to rejigger our FastPass™ times (which we have had to do EVERY SINGLE DAY because SOMETHING always comes up). Also, Kid #2 sees the big drop that the Expedition Everest roller coaster makes and decides not to go on it, so he and Wifey just sit while Kid #1 and I ride.
Expedition Everest is *excellent*! The ride is very smooth with no bone-rattling. The broken-off tracks are probably very scary to people who didn’t read the warning that this coaster sometimes goes backwards. The various loops have an “extreme” feeling to them without actually being very extreme. A perfect example of why Disney makes the best roller coasters in the world.
On Kilimanjaro Safaris, Wifey takes many animal photos with her digital camera, while Kid #1 takes some using her smartphone. As we are exiting from the ride, it begins to rain. We put on our rain ponchos (mine comes from a dollar store and is decorated with a maple-leaf motif). Our feet get soaked, but it is a warm rain.
At Tamu Tamu, Wifey finally(!) gets her Dole Whip® (although it is called “pineapple softserve” at this park). Kid #1 shares it with her, while Kid #2 and I get thoroughly soaked because there is no place to escape from the (thankfully-warm) rain. Then we all get soaked on the long walk back to the park entrance.
Golden Corral (Celebration FL, 7:46pm). Kid #1 was not looking forward to eating here, after our lunch experience in New York with this chain. But the food here is just as good as I remember. Only $63.28 for a lovely family dinner. Now *that’s* what I’m talking about! This buffet requires payment on entry, so it seems the tip needs to be in cash. I give the waitress $6 and conveniently get some US money out of my wallet.
Landscape of Flavors (10:35pm). Convert six dinner-credits into 18 snack credits and buy Nutter-Butters, Nilla Wafers, 10 rolls of Oreos, and 4 chocolate-coated Rice Krispy treats with Disney characters on their packages. Also get a bottle of Coke (for me to drink during our last morning in the room) and a package of peanut M&M’s (for me to eat on the homeward plane flight). Kid #2 carries the bag of loot.
Ink and Paint (10:54pm). Convert 18 dinner-credits
into 2 bags of pretzels, 3 bags of nuts, 10 apple pies, 25 Snickers bars,
and 14 Kit Kats. Kid #2 helps with the math. I get confused and think I
have converted too many credits, but a cast member gets the bright idea of
printing out the current status of our dining plan, showing that we have
plenty of remaining credits of both kinds (because this store doesn’t have
the Reese’s cups that we were also planning to buy, so we bought less than
The store manager thanks me repeatedly for my business and asks me to sign a copy of the receipt showing that I bought over $100 worth of candy from him; no previous use of the dining plan has required a signature. It occurs to me that I have traded snack credits that are “worth” up to $5 for candy bars that are selling for $2 — but the bars are much easier to carry home with us than the $5 snacks that are freshly-made and perishable. Perhaps one unit of DisneyCorp pays another unit of DisneyCorp $5 per snack credit, no matter how little the snack cost? This would explain the manager’s glee.
Our room. Wifey and I try various combinations of packing the UPS box and the various backpacks and suitcases, trying to decide how in the world we are going to get all this candy home without having it turn into a chocolatey mess. The kids wisely stay in the other room of our suite.
Our room. Day 4 dose 1 of Kid #2’s ear drops.
Landscape of Flavors (12:12pm). Lunch.
Ink and Paint (12:45pm). Single-dose DayQuil for $2.45. Kid #2 is coughing. Also, get a sandwich-cutter for $6.34 that makes white-bread sandwiches look like Mickey Mouse’s head. Our kids are too old for such foolishness (and have never attended public school), but we can buy it anyway!
Ink and Paint (12:57pm). Two Entenmann’s Apple Pies. Obviously there is no way we can eat up all the “snack” credits during this vacation, so we have to start accumulating snacks that will travel well so we can bring the excess food home.
Our room. To prepare for today, Wifey spent months making
herself a Minnie Mouse costume. Part of the costume consists of old shoes
to which she laboriously applied many coats of yellow paint. But the shoes
feel tight and today’s schedule includes massive quantities of walking and
Wifey’s knee is already feeling gimpy from previous days’ exertions, so she
decides to be prudent and not wear the special shoes that she worked so hard
Wifey insists that I wear a Haunted Mansion T-shirt. Kid #2 does not dress up at all.
Kid #1 wears her Dr. Who outfit. She also has a Winnie the Pooh fursuit (open-face) that we didn’t bring because obviously it would be too hot for Florida. But even the tweed jacket for her Who suit seems like too much for the 90° weather, so she leaves that item in our room.
Kid #1 also brought her Winnie the Pooh doll, but it spends the entire trip in her backpack and no pictures are taken of it at the park, where we had bought it as childless newlyweds in hopes of someday having a baby to give it to. Well, after a year of fertility treatments, we got our wish! Considering how many years Pooh spent as her go-everywhere favorite doll, it is in remarkably good shape.
Magic Kingdom Park (3:40pm – 12:00am). It’s Mickey’s
Not-So-Scary Halloween Party!
Regular park hours run until 7pm, while special party tickets are for 4pm to midnight. They have started to accept special tickets but then the revelers are being held in a pen until the stroke of 4. Since we have excess park tickets because of our skipped days, we decide to “waste” them by entering the park 20 minutes before everyone else in our class. The ticket collectors find this hard to believe, but they let us do it. It feels so luxurious to engage in such “conspicuous consumption”; we are spending an entire day’s ticket just to get 20 minutes of extra park time! But there is nothing else we can do with these nonrefundable nontransferable tickets. Maybe for our next trip (if there ever is a next trip), we’ll buy park tickets for only half of the hotel days.
Attractions visited today: Various trick-or-treat spots, Main Street USA photo spot (photo, 3:48pm), Confectionary (take-home, 3:57pm), Crystal Palace (dinner, missing receipt), The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Big Top Souvenir (take-home, 8:56pm; actual souvenir, 8:58pm), Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor, Astro Orbiter (Kid #1 and I), Tomorrowland Transit Authority, Haunted Mansion, “Monsters’ Dance Party”, “Happy Hallowishes”, a popcorn cart (snack and souvenir, 10:47pm), Big Thunder Mountain (kids only), Aloha Isle (snack, 11:05pm), and Mickey’s “Boo-to-you” Parade (kids and parents on opposite sides).
At the Main Street USA photo spot, Wifey wants a family photo with Cinderella’s Castle as the backdrop. I suggest taking two photos with three people each, then stitching the digital photos together back home, but it seems unlikely that this would work well. A pair of other park guests who are walking by offer to take our family photo for us. Yay! So now we need a photo frame.
At Confectionary, we get 3 additional boxes of shortbread cookies imported from Scotland and shaped like Mickey’s head. Paying customers would be forking out over a dollar each for small ordinary cookies — but for “free” we’ll take them!
Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor. This is totally different. You see animated characters on a big screen, but clearly there are live comics working behind the scenes at this show who are making up jokes on the fly. Periodically they shine lights and cameras on individual audience members and put these live video feeds on a big screen with funny captions below them. Only a small minority of audience members get this treatment. They point the camera at me with the notation, “What do you get when you cross a human with a chia pet?” Presumably this refers to my beard, which is a different color from my scalp hair. Unfortunately I am unable to think of a funny dance to do while the camera is on me.
The Crystal Palace buffet costs $202.88 for dinner (actual money, not on our meal plan; can’t find receipt so price taken from the final-accounting email sent by Disney after our trip is over). The food isn’t worth quite that much, but this restaurant includes meet-and-greets with various Winnie the Pooh characters. Wifey takes photos of our kids with Eeyore, Piglet, Tigger, and Pooh; she tries to get them to strike the same poses as on previous trips, but this is physically impossible because the character fursuits are the same size but our kids are now much bigger.
At The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh exit shop, we find out that Winnie The Pooh® brand honey is no longer offered, so we can’t buy it, so Wifey can’t check off this item in her giant list of “Things to do at Disney World” formed during the two years of planning. Oh well.
At Big Top Souvenir, Wifey gets two containers of cheese goldfish and a bag of pretzels. We have way more dinner-credits than we can use, so she trades one dinner for these three snacks. Big Top is one of the few in-park stores that offers this conversion feature, which is usually done at the hotel food courts. Wifey is so focused on the snacks that I have to remind her to get a fridge magnet for our collection! I say, “If this is the ‘trip of a lifetime’, shouldn’t we buy a fridge magnet?” This probably sounds rather silly to the store staff. Anyway, I select a small picture frame surrounded by “Walt Disney World 2015” with both magnet and kickstand features — only $10.60!
The Monsters’ Dance Party is very loud and has bright lights; guests dance along with cast members who are wearing fursuits. Wifey and Kid #1 join in, while Kid #2 and I sit it out.
Astro Orbiter is a kiddie ride. Kid #1 and I share a vehicle, which was fine ten years ago but quite cramped now.
As we exit from Haunted Mansion, the “Happy Hallowishes” fireworks display starts up, so we sit to watch. At one point, half the visible sky is filled with exploding fireworks! We’ve never seen anything like it.
At the popcorn stand, Wifey uses a snack credit for bottled water (another luxury, since water fountains are available but bottled water is cold and we might as well use the snack credits). She gets a souvenir bucket of popcorn for $6.00 (popcorn is a snack, but souvenir buckets aren’t; Kid #1 eats the popcorn). On one of our previous trips we got souvenir buckets which the kids then used in their sandbox at home — but they are too old for that now.
At the trick-or-treat spots, cast members give out handfuls of fun-size candy which are not as impressive as the full-size candy bars we can get with our snack credits. At one spot, the cast member greets me and Kid #2 by name (since we are wearing our 15-year-old nametags). She greets Wifey as “Minnie” due to her costume. I don’t remember what she called Kid #1, but it wasn’t “Dr. Who”. I remark to Kid #1 that Minnie Mouse is a Disney property but Dr. Who is a BBC property, which may explain why the cast member couldn’t refer to it. On at least two other occasions today, some other guest we passed by uttered the passphrase “bow ties are cool” which is a Dr. Who reference, but Kid #1 didn’t hear them or couldn’t think of a reply.
At Aloha Isle, I get pineapple juice, which is tasty but isn’t Dole Whip® which is one of the fond-memory foods that Wifey had wanted to eat on this vacation. But here we are on day 10 and she still hasn’t had any, because we’re never near the Aloha Isle when she’s hungry. There are definitely some downsides to this eat-all-the-time dining plan; also the excessive heat is suppressing our appetites. Anyway, Wifey shares some of my pineapple juice while we watch the parade, thinking that the kids are enjoying themselves on Big Thunder Mountain.
Meanwhile, the stand-by line for Big Thunder is unexpectedly long, so our children get in only one ride and don’t feel like standing in line again, but the parade route cuts off the Big Thunder/Splash Mountain area of the park, so the kids just stand there and watch the parade, then rejoin us after crossing the street becomes possible.
The “Boo-to-you” Parade is supposed to be one of Disney’s best. Ho hum. I guess we’re just not parade people. This is the first parade in 25 years that we actually sat and watched instead of avoiding at all costs. It is probably also the last.
Our room. I apply five drops of ofloxacin to Kid #2’s
ear. This is day 4, dose 2.
My wife and I will probably never again visit the Magic Kingdom for as long as we live. Our kids are all grown up now and the expected delay until grandchildren arrive is greater than our remaining life expectancy (although you never know). I has a sad. In fact, I have a sad repeatedly over the next several days. I think my first visit to the park was in 1972; Wifey’s first visit was later that decade. We just don’t have the money to bop down here without a good reason such as a grandchild or a hefty inheritance.
Our room. Day 3, dose 1 for Kid #2’s ear drops. He feels yucky: coughing, sneezing, sniffling. I’ve got clogged sinuses as well. Wifey isn’t feeling 100%. Only Kid #1 (the germophobe) seems to be okay. So it looks like we’ll have to skip another day at the park.
Epcot. Attractions visited today: none. Today was supposed to be our visit to the back half (“World Showcase”).
Art of Animation laundry room (near Big Blue Pool,
12:15pm, 1:00pm, 2:00pm). The laundry machines are no longer
coin-operated. Instead, you swipe your credit card at a central console and
press a button to indicate which machine gets the money, then go to the
machine and select a cycle, then go back to the central console to press
“OK”. Also there is a
cute website that you
can use to monitor your load from the comfort of your hotel room.
The cute website is just a Flash app that only updates once per minute, so it really shouldn’t need to eat up 90% of available CPU time on my laptop for its very simple two-step animations of cartoon washers and dryers (the ones in use are shown as vibrating).
The heat index is over 100°F today (yet again) and I have to walk across the resort complex to the laundry room. On my first trip, I bring only the clothes we will wear during the remainder of the vacation. I put them into the washer, but it’s only ⅓ full. So take them out and carry them back to our room through the searing heat. Get *all* the dirty clothes we have and carry them across the resort through the searing heat of Central Florida in September. The washer is now barely full.
My credit card is charged $1.00 for a box of dryer sheets (I pressed the wrong button), then another $1.00 for box of soap (what I actually wanted). I think each of these is good for two loads, but none of the laundry-room signs actually says that. The high-efficiency washing machines warn that you must not use more than 2tbsp of soap but there are no measuring spoons anywhere. The soap box says “1.9oz”, which *might* mean that it contains four tablespoons. I eye out half a box of soap, pay $2.00 to start the washer, then leave the other half of the box near the soap vending machine. Then walk back to our room through the searing heat.
Then back through the searing heat to move the clothes to a dryer and pay $2.00 to dry them. Use one dryer sheet (since I have it) and put the box with the other dryer sheet next to my leftover soap that no one has taken yet. Then back through the searing heat to our room.
An hour later, back through the searing heat to collect the clothes — but they are not dry yet! So another $2.00. At the central console I allocate the money to dryer #16, but then at the dryer I accidentally press the button to start dryer #15. Somehow this causes the money to be allocated to the machine above the one that the clothes are in, so I transfer them. My leftover soap and dryer sheet are now gone, so I don’t have to worry about whether I should use the other sheet (at home we generally don’t use such products). Back to the room through the searing heat.
Another hour. Searing heat. Clothes are dry and hot. Stuff them into the trash bag I brought them in — of course they are now fluffier so they barely fit in the bag. Walk back to the room, carrying the bag of clothes through the searing heat (which isn’t doing my stuffy nose any good). Wifey packs the clothes we won’t need into the UPS box for shipment back to Canada.
Ink and paint (12:56pm). Wifey had asked me to choose a replacement antenna-topper for our car. We need something to make our blue Chrysler Voyager stand out in parking lots from all the other copies of this popular model. The current topper used to be “Glitter Mickey” but he lost an ear and his glitter eventually fell off, so we want something bright. The “Mike Wazowski” is big and fluorescent green, the “Mickey wearing a rain poncho” has high-constrast black and yellow, while the ”Rainbow” is… pretty and gay. At the gift shop, I note that Wazowski is heavy; our current topper makes the car antenna bend a lot at highway speeds, so I don’t want anything heavier. Which of the others should I buy? The toppers are $5.95 each or two for $8.00, so I buy BOTH OF THEM!!! (*cue the Cookie Monster noises*) Back at our room, Wifey is surprised at my sudden attack of spendthrift. I suggest that we install rain-poncho Mickey (who looks like he’s wearing a dress) on our car in Ohio, then perhaps switch to the rainbow after crossing the border and exiting from the homophobic USA, where it is no longer permissible to say “I just like rainbows”.
Landscape of Flavors (5:20pm). Fruit cup for Kid #1. Snack-credit.
Our room. Wifey doesn’t feel like doing anything today for
the second night of Rosh Hashanah. My childhood upbringing was in American
Conservative Judaism, which celebrates two days for major holidays, but our
own family practice is more like Reform or Humanistic Judaism which
generally celebrates only one. But at home we usually eat two special
Some people may be offended by how we practice our religion. How can we go on amusement rides during the Ten Days of Repentance? Perhaps what we need to atone for is not the things we have done, but the things we did not do because we were afraid to try anything new. It has always been easier for us to justify field trips that were “educational” than those that would have been “fun”.
My father (ז״ל) would not be pleased by the poor Jewish education I have provided to my children. Mistakes were made, but they cannot be corrected now because the kids are grown. It the job of the children to review the ancestral ways passed down to them and to prune the ones that no longer make sense — and it is to be expected that the parents will be displeased by some of those pruning decisions. I almost never speak Hebrew, so my children have never seen much point in learning it. Kid #2 almost never associates with other Jews, even though his gem collection (which includes a diamond) is a stereotypically Jewish hobby.
Intermission (at All-Star Music Resort, dinner 7:13pm).
The plan is for Kid #2 and Wifey to stay in the hotel room while Kid #1 and
I go fetch some food. (I have to go because Kid #1 hasn’t taken her
road-test exam yet.) Wifey looks around online and finds a menu for
All-Star Movies Resort that says they serve cheesesteak subs, which are not
available in our resort’s food court. All-Star Movies also offers salmon,
which Kid #1 likes but is not available in our own food court. Kid #2
selects chicken nuggets and french fries.
We drive to the food court for All-Star Movies Resort, but they no longer offer cheesesteak subs. A cast member suggests that maybe the adjacent All-Star Music Resort still has them, so we drive over there — but no go. Attempts to contact Wifey via the TracFone are unsuccessful (later we find out that she detected the incoming call too late and was unable to access the voicemail). So we decide to just buy food for Kid #1 and Kid #2 for now. Salmon and chicken nuggets in take-out containers.
Landscape of Flavors (dinner, 8:04pm). Get two “create your own pasta” entrées for Wifey and myself to eat.
Our room. Day 2, dose 1 for Kid #2’s ear drops. Wait around for Wifey’s college friend, whom we haven’t seen since our previous trip to Disney World ten years ago.
Our room (12:30pm). Friend arrives. We spend quite some time in our hotel room with her, catching up on typical old-person topics (who died, who has grandkids, etc.) My children are polite and make it seem like they actually care about such things.
Landscape of Flavors (lunch, 2:00pm). We give the friend one of our plenitude of food credits; as of May 2015 it is now permitted to buy food for people who are not on the plan. We all have lunch together, then split up by gender.
|Wifey, Kid #1, and the friend|
Big Blue Pool (inside Art of Animation Resort). Hang out at the swimming pool for more conversation.
|Kid #2 and I|
Pixel Play Arcade (inside Art of Animation Resort). Our accommodation includes a coupon for 100 play-points at the arcade, but both of the machines that are supposed to convert the coupon to an access card say they are “empty”. There is no cast member at the arcade today (it’s Sunday), so we go to the concierge desk; they give us a card with 250 points *and* return the unused coupon. What a great deal, eh? But the games are not much fun and half the games we select are “free play” anyway, so we use very few of the play-points before losing interest. One of the less-uninteresting games is Fruit Ninja, which Kid #2 recognizes as a game that was originally written for the iPad and has been retrofitted for the larger screen of an arcade game. (Back in my day, the arcade was the initial target-market and then games were retrofitted for personal computers).
Our room. Use our computers with the hotel Wi-Fi. This is more fun than the arcade.
Our room. The womenfolk return to the room for more conversation. The friend leaves around 5:30pm, so she got a five-hour visit for which she drove 2½ hours each way. Then my family has more computer fun while we wait for it to get darker.
Our room. It’s Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of Jewish year 5776. This is at least the third time in the last 25 years that we have celebrated it in a hotel room. Wifey’s original plan was to eat dinner in the room with rotisserie chicken from a grocery store, an apple, and Winnie the Pooh® brand honey. But we didn’t get around to buying the chicken or the honey and I forgot to pick up an apple at the hotel food court. In our room fridge there is a leftover fruit cup that includes three slices of apple (desserts are included in the dinner food-credits, but the Disney dinners are too much food for us). So we look up the Rosh Hashanah blessings on the Internet and say them while eating the apple slices (Wifey and I share one slice). Wifey brought along a single birthday candle from Canada, so we stick it in a leftover-dessert cupcake, light it on fire (oh noes! An open flame in a hotel room!), and wish the world a happy birthday. Then we blow out the candle and divide up the cupcake. Happy New Year!
Disney Transport (Lake Buena Vista FL). We take a bus to Downtown Disney, which is in the middle of being rethemed as “Disney Springs” so many of the parking lots are closed for reconstruction. Hey, it’s another ride!
Wolfgang Puck’s Express (Downtown Disney, 7:18pm). I
wasn’t too impressed with Chef Puck when we ate at
one of his cafeterias
in Boston. This one is considerably upscale from that, but still there is
much to complain about. My chicken soup tastes sweet. My brownie tastes
like gooey sugar syrup with chocolate flavor (but other family members enjoy
theirs). The receipt makes it look like we paid $74.87 for family dinner,
but actually the cost was covered by our dining plan. Bottled juice is
available, but only fountain drinks are on the plan, unlike at
Disney-branded restaurants. The cashier keeps asking us to list our “meals”
first (eventually we figure out that she means “entrées”).
After dinner, we split up by gender again.
|Kid #2 and I|
Sassagoula Steamboat Co. Take a ferry across Lake Buena Vista to Downtown Disney’s “West Side”. The captain says the name of the ferry company, as if it were an attraction, and the name is displayed on the dock but doesn’t appear on the Downtown Disney map, so I’m calling it a ”group” (like the popcorn carts) rather than an “attraction” (with name shown here in purple). Walt Disney Corp. owns everything in sight, so the distinction is sort of arbitrary. The Sassagoula River flows into Lake Buena Vista.
DisneyQuest (8:15pm). We have a coupon for a day’s admission
to this five-story building full of arcades, restaurants, and a few rides.
We just go on the rides and are done in an hour. Attractions visited today:
Invasion ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter, Buzz Lightyear’s
AstroBlaster, Aladdin’s Magic Carpet Ride, and Pirates of
the Caribbean Battle for Buccaneer Gold.
DisneyQuest is scheduled to be closed next year, so this is our only chance to go on these rides. AstroBlaster is the main one that I would want to go on again. It’s sort of like bumper-cars but for two-man crews. I steered (which was difficult) while Kid #2 loaded the “cannon” and lobbed “asteroids” at the other vehicles. When hit, a vehicle would spin around and then return to the control of its occupants. Fun!
Sassagoula Steamboat Co. Ferry back to the “Marketplace” side of Downtown Disney.
Disney Transport. Bus back to our resort. The bus driver asks the men to give up their seats for women and children, who must surely be tired from all their shopping. No one moves. Kid #2 (who is nearly a man) and I try to get some standing females to take our seats, but none of them will accept the offer. “Don’t be silly,” says one. “I’m a teacher and I stand all day.” So we sit back down. “The bus driver was making a joke,” I tell her.
|Wifey and Kid #1|
Mickey’s Pantry (8:00pm). Two packages of shortbread cookies, paid for with snack-credits.
Goofy’s Candy Co. (8:15pm). A box of animal crackers and a bag of plain M&Ms, to use up two more snack-credits.
Little Miss Matched (8:22pm). $9.94 for three deliberately-mismatched but color-coördinated socks, to be given to a homeschooler girl we know who likes to wear that sort of thing.
World of Disney (9:07pm). $8.47 for a silicone pancake mold shaped like Mickey’s head. Also, a box of mints that we’ll give to some homeschooling friends (snack credit).
Ghiradelli (9:17pm). Shared hot fudge brownie sundae for $11.66. The receipt comes with a “10% off” coupon, but there are no Ghiradelli stores in Canada. Perhaps we can use it in Boston.
Tren-D (9:39pm). $6.34 for a Minnie Mouse rhinestone headband, to be given to yet another homeschooler girl we know.
Disney Transport. Ride the bus back to Art of Animation Resort.
Our room. The guys return only shortly before the gals, even though we did less stuff, because of our additional travel time on the ferry. Also, day 2 dose 2 goes into Kid #2’s ear.
Walmart (via telephone). They want $118 for the small bottle of ofloxacin!
CentraCare (Lake Buena Vista FL, via telephone). They haven’t restocked on ofloxacin since yesterday. They say that their price is not based on insurance, but on their “actual cost” as a nonprofit organization. They give me the number of the next-closest CentraCare.
CentraCare (Orange Lake FL, via telephone). They have the ofloxacin for $27, but they cannot sell it to me unless Kid #2 is seen by one of their own doctors; a doctor from another office of the same company is not good enough! “We’re not a pharmacy,” they say, but I suspect the problem is that there are only extremely limited situations in which they are allowed to sell drugs without the 300% markup that is otherwise required in the US in order to support the Medical-Industrial Complex. Pet360.com sells otic ofloxacin for $29; they get away with that by claiming it’s only for dogs+cats.
TD/Allianz (via telephone). It’s Saturday. The telephone number they told me to use for “claim in progress” is not staffed on weekends.
Walgreens (Orlando FL, 11:22am). A different Walgreens, just over the city line from Lake Buena Vista, so out of Disney’s clutches. $115.54 for ofloxacin plus some cotton balls that the doctor told us to use with it (only available in bags of 100, which is 10 times the number we actually need). The pharmacist helpfully points out the part of the receipt that I am supposed to submit to my insurance company and tries to reassure me that the cost will definitely be reimbursed (but he didn’t ask who my insurer is, so how would he know?).
Our room. Five drops in the kid’s ear. They feel “weird”. The main reason why Kid #2 needs to take this stuff is because the insurance contract says they won’t cover problems caused by failure to take prescribed medications and these drops were prescribed.
Magic Kingdom Park. This time we take the tram and it’s only
about 35 minutes from our room to the entrance booths.
Attractions visited today: Walt Disney World Railroad, Barnstormer (not Wifey), Dumbo, Under the Sea – Little Mermaid, Be Our Guest (lunch, 2:07pm), It’s a Small World (Wifey and Kid #2), Peter Pan, a popcorn cart (snack, 4:45pm), Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe (snack, 5:05pm), Mickey’s PhilharMagic (Wifey & Kid #1), Tomorrowland Speedway (not Wifey), 7 Dwarfs Mine Train (not Wifey), Mad Tea Party (not Wifey), and Emporium (just Wifey, souvenirs 5:25pm).
While Wifey & Kid #1 do PhilharMagic again, Kid #2 and I try to go on the Mad Tea Party ride, but it closes down (possibly due to the rain) just as we arrive. Later, Kid #1 joins us for another try and we are successful.
It is interesting to go on Tomorrowland Speedway with my two children, both of whom now possess student-driver licenses. Kid #1 remembers the last time we were here, when she was 11 and was told she could not drive because she was too short. So this time, Kid #1 and Kid #2 each drive their own cars while I act as passenger for Kid #2, who has not begun his driver-training yet so this is his first time “behind the wheel” as it were. Unfortunately, the car has almost no steering control (perhaps due to rain?) and is very frustrating to operate. After the ride, Kid #1 reassures her brother that real cars are much easier to steer.
At the “popcorn” cart, we get Mickey Mouse ice cream bars (only 3 of them because Kid #2 is not feeling well). They are Nestlé-branded but the chocolate is quite dark and unlike Nestlé’s usual crap. It’s great that we can finally try these things without worrying about whether they’re actually worth $4.25 each, because they’re considered “snacks” and are covered by our dining plan.
At Cosmic Ray’s, where we sit to eat the ice cream, I buy some bottled water for Wifey using an additional snack credit — because we have so many of them!
At the Emporium, Wifey buys a Minnie Mouse tote bag ($26.58) for her college roommate/bridesmaid, who will be visiting us tomorrow. She also buys Mickey Mouse earrings ($8.47) for herself.
The Knife (Lake Buena Vista FL, 9:10pm). Argentinian
steakhouse buffet. They try to be impressive, but I think Golden Corral is
better. $160.37 for dinner, which seems overpriced.
We had planned to eat here because we had heard of the rivalry between Argentina and Brazil, each of which sends large quantities of teenagers to Disneyworld at certain times of the year (supposedly they taunt each other in the parks). I guess I was expecting something more “authentic” that would appeal to actual Argentinians on vacation in Florida. But this restaurant entices with odor what it fails to deliver on taste.
The restaurant claims to be in Orlando FL, but Google suggests they are actualy just inside the city limits of Lake Buena Vista (hence paying rent to Disney). When presenting the bill, the waiter asks me to show him my Disney employee ID so I can get the corporate discount. I am wearing a Disney “Guest of Honor” nametag from 15 years ago; this product is no longer sold and many Disney cast members have asked me about it on this trip. My badge is red (as is Kid #2’s); this meant “male” back in the day — Wifey and Kid #1 have blue badges. One cast member told me that Disney corporate bigwigs wear red badges now. Oddly enough, no one ever asks about my 20+ year old Goofy hat; the same design is still sold today and mine doesn’t look that old because I haven’t used it much.
Our room. Five more drops in the kid’s ear.
TD/Allianz Insurance (via telephone; 10:15am - 10:45am). Kid #2 still can’t hear much with his right ear, so I call the insurance company to find out which clinic around here will work with them. They call Lake Buena Vista CentraCare, confirm that it is willing to direct-bill them, and then fax over a pre-authorization form for us. The insurance company says that the clinic is expecting us and we should proceed there immediately.
CentraCare (Lake Buena Vista FL, 11:00am - 2:30pm). They
received the fax and are expecting us, but still there are hours of
waiting during which people who arrive after us are seen first; later I
learn that you are supposed to go to their website and make an
“appointment” (even though it is an urgent-care clinic) in order to obtain a
“significantly” reduced wait-time.
Of course, the first thing to do is fill out medical-history forms. The most bizarrely-American item on the forms is the requirement that the patient must identify his “race” and whether he is “hispanic”. Kid #2 has no idea what his race is (the concept is not much used in Canada). I tell him that I generally say my race is either “White” or “Other” (because “Jewish” used to be a separate race, but was combined with “White” in the 1930s for political reasons; when I hear “White race” I think of what Sarah Palin calls “real Americans”, who are not my people and have no common ancestry with me in the last 1,000 years); Kid #2 writes ”White” on the form. There is another Canadian seeking medical care at the clinic, who loudly complains about the absurdity of the race question. “Everyone’s the same in Canada,” she says. I elect not to mention to her the situation of the Québécois (or the Aboriginals, for that matter — Canada gives them special ID cards which exempt them from sales tax, but that really doesn’t compensate them for the crap they put up with).
A person’s declared race is of little medical value. For example, about 10% of black people have G6PD deficiency which causes certain drugs to be unsuitable for them, but most Blacks don’t have this problem and some Whites do (especially Jews and other Mediterranean people). Anyway, there is absolutely no medical reason to ask for the race of the guarantor who will be paying for the service! But yes, the form wants to know my race, too. I think this is because of US government regulations requiring medical practitioners to collect such data and which obligate them, for patients who refuse to participate in this inanity, to use their own prejudices to guess which race the person providing the money seems to be a member of.
Another bizarrely-American feature of this medical clinic is the inspirational quote that is painted on the wall over the restroom doors. It says something like, “Faith in Christ improves wellness of mind, body, and spirit”. Later I learn that CentraCare is part of Florida Hospital, which is owned by Adventist Health System, which is an arm of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
The city of Lake Buena Vista is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Walt Disney Corporation, so Florida Hospital must be paying them rent in order to run a business here. While we were waiting, someone came in claiming to be a Disney employee; he was refused treatment and was told that he must go to DisneyCorp’s own medical facilities. Lake Buena Vista is basically the implementation of Walt’s EPCOT concept for the corporatist ”city of tomorrow“, where your citizenship class determines which medical facilities you may use. (In Ontario, anyone can be treated anywhere, although you’ll usually get quicker service in a clinic than at an emergency room and more personalized service if you set up a continuing relationship with a physician’s private practice.)
* * * * *
Eventually a doctor examines Kid #2 for (just about) two minutes. Based on her bedside manner, I think she is a pediatrician. Kid #2 is 17 years old, which now makes him an ”adult” as far as Canadian healthcare is concerned, but in the American system he is still a “child” and must be seen by a kid-doctor rather than an ear-doctor. She says his earwax is impacted, prescribes an irrigation of both ear canals using diluted H₂O₂, announces that the clinic will provide this service, then leaves. After some more waiting, a nurse(?) comes in and performs the procedure, which is effective in restoring Kid #2’s hearing. Then more waiting. Then the doctor returns for another few minutes to examine the cleaned ear canals. The right one is red, so she prescribes ofloxacin drops twice a day for five days. More waiting. An orderly(?) announces that the clinic will sell us this medication for $27. I agree to pay. More waiting. The orderly comes back to say that this particular CentraCare clinic is out of stock on that medication; he gives me an ℞ scrip and suggests I drive down the street to Walgreens to get the drug.
And then, a wondrous thing happens: we are let out of the building without having to pay anything! Thank you, TD Canada Trust bank, for selling us this foreign-travel health insurance that ACTUALLY WORKS! The insurance cost $80 for two weeks’ coverage of four people; Allianz said on the phone that the estimated cost of an exam for “ear infection” is about $250.
Landscape of Flavors (1:50pm). Meanwhile, back at the hotel, Wifey and Kid #1 eat lunch in the cafeteria.
Walgreens pharmacy (Lake Buena Vista FL, 2:35pm - 2:45pm). The pharmacist says that the drug costs $113! I don’t know why the price is so different, nor whether Allianz would reimburse me so much. The antibiotic treatment doesn’t seem so important now that the canal is clean, so I decide to put this problem off until tomorrow.
Art of Animation parking lot (2:55pm). Our first FastPass™ of the day is scheduled for 3:55pm (already rejiggered from 2:50pm because there’s no way we can make that), so the plan is for Wifey and Kid #1 to take the bus to Epcot if we don’t get back to the hotel by 2:55pm. The bus shows up at the same time we do, so the womenfolk skip the bus and hitch a ride in our rental car to the amusement park.
Epcot®. The Experimental Prototype City of Tomorrow, brought
to you by various corporate sponsors who control which facts each ride may
present. Attractions visited today:
Electric Umbrella (lunch, 3:34pm; snack, 4:11pm),
Ellen’s Energy Adventure,
Mission: SPACE (except Wifey),
Test Track (except Wifey),
The Seas with Nemo & Friends,
Sunshine Seasons (dinner, 7:56pm),
Soarin (Kid #1 & I),
The Circle of Life (Wifey & Kid #2).
Kid #2 and I catch up on lunch at the Electric Umbrella, since we didn’t have time after the medical stuff. I get a bottle of water for Wifey to use up another snack credit.
Spaceship Earth is now sponsored by Siemens instead of AT&T; the dioramas have been completely redone to emphasize “communication technology” instead of “connecting people across the world”.
Ellen’s Energy Adventure has not been redone in 20 years (perhaps because Exxon stopped sponsoring it in 2004); it is now quite dated. Bill Nye has aged considerably since this presentation was recorded. He is the co-star with Ms. DeGeneres and his career is currently doing very well (with multiple honorary doctorates received in recent years), so why doesn’t he get billing? The emphasis on compact fluorescent lightbulbs and wind power as “the future” now seems ridiculous.
The Seas is a new ride. It is similar to It’s a Small World, except with an undersea theme rather than toys/Christmas, and is sponsored by Disney’s Finding Nemo rather than Mattel.
Of the restaurants on our dining plan, Sunshine Seasons seems to have the best selection so far. My dinner is tuna salad on a croissant, strawberry shortcake, and orange juice (my throat is scratchy).
Soarin is new. It is a motion-simulator ride in front of an iMAX-type giant movie screen, where you pretend to be flying with the birds. On our way out of this ride, I remark to Kid #1 that there was a dirt-spot on the screen that was visible when a pale color was displayed there; some random other park guest walking by says, “Oh, you noticed that, too?”
The park is open an extra two hours tonight, for Disney resort guests only, but we are too tired to utilize this feature and go back to our hotel at the regular closing time. Six hours of amusement is enough! Wifey’s schedule had called for us to visit Club Cool, Journey Into Imagination, Turtle Talk, and Innoventions, but we decide to put those off until our next visit to Epcot later in this vacation.
Our room. Kid #2’s ear is a little better than yesterday, so we decide not to find out whether our “Foreign travel medical insurance” actually works. The USA is a nasty country to get sick in — they let uninsured people die in the gutter of treatable illnesses — so we’d rather not try our luck with the foreign insurance unless truly necessary.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Attractions visited today: none.
Instead, this is an unscheduled rest day.
Poor Wifey! She created schedules for each day of the vacation and snipped four sets of 11 pieces of paper so each family member could have the day’s script in their pocket — and not once so far has a day actually gone exactly as planned! We were supposed to do It’s Tough to Be a Bug, Kilimanjaro Safari, Flights of Wonder, Yak & Yeti (lunch), Expedition Everest, Triceratops Spin, Primeval Whirl, and Dinosaur; then proceed to Boma for dinner.
Our room. We didn’t actually go anywhere during the previous paragraph, but that’s okay. We like just sitting around using our computers! So today at the hotel is pretty much like most days at our house, except that Wifey refuses to get a laptop and (of course) left her desktop at home, so she and I have to alternate on my computer while the kids each use their own equipment.
Landscape of Flavors (3:55pm). Get a brownie to use up a “snack credit” from our free dining plan.
Our room. More computer fun!
Boma (inside Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, 6:50pm). $194.36 for an upscale African-themed buffet. It’s very good, but costs more than twice as much as we usually spend on dinner. This restaurant is on a different dining plan than ours, so we actually have to pay for this food.
Zawadi (inside Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge,
7:10pm). Gift shop. Get a bag of pretzels to use up another “snack
credit”. It will be a gift to a 15-yo kid in our homeschooling group who
has sworn off refined sugar. Also, it has no chocolate so hopefully will
survive a trip to Canada through 90°F temperatures.
Kid #2 spends $5.28 on a souvenir rock (missing receipt). Kid #1 spends $8.47 on a Mickey pin (missing receipt).
[My HOTTEST DAY *EVER* at Disney World! 97°F *before* factoring in humidity! Ontario, Ohio, Florida — doesn’t make a difference, it’s been over 90 every day of this trip. And Hollywood Studios is the hottest of the parks because its many tall buildings and excessive quantities of asphalt create an “urban canyon” effect.]
Ink and Paint (inside Art of Animation Resort, 9:55am). $12.40 for Imodium and Benadryl at the gift shop, for Wifey and Kid #1. The cashier expresses her condolances.
Our room. My family is out of shape and yesterday involved much more walking than our usual, and in very high temperatures. So we start our day late and end early, which once again requires rejiggering all our FastPass™ appointment times.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Attractions visited
today: The Great Movie Ride, Star Tours, Muppet★Vision
3D, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, ABC Commissary (lunch,
2:56pm), Toy Story Midway Mania, and Twilight Zone Tower of
Terror (only Kid #2 and I).
Midway Mania is new. Unlike most Disney rides, it has no storyline; you just shoot at virtual targets while wearing 3D glasses and sitting in a rotating vehicle that’s moving along a serpentine track. Kid #2 gets the most points in our vehicle.
Our children are too old to enjoy the Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground, so Wifey takes a photo of them standing on either side of a giant ant. Some other kid decided to sit on top of the ant during the photo, so I guess we’ll have to try out our PhotoShop skills when we get home. I take a photo of Kid #1 going down a giant leaf-slide because we have a photo of her doing that back in 2001.
Kid #1 used to like Tower of Terror, but she decided to skip it for this trip. Kid #2 has never been on it, so I take him. He doesn’t like being yanked violently downward in total darkness with nothing to hold on to but a seatbelt, so we ride only once even though the standby line is short.
At the ABC Commissary, they are showing America’s Funniest Home Videos from 1994, so the children having pratfalls in the videos are now all grown up. ABC had required video submitters to relinquish all rights without any compensation except for each show’s winner, so when Disney bought ABC in 1996 they gained the legal right to display these videos for the amusement of park guests, even if the people in the videos hate Disney and would never have agreed to having their pratfalls (some of them painful) commoditized like this. As Billy Joel sang, “I’ll get put in the back, in the discount rack, like another can of beans”.
Wifey has never seen the “Fantasmic” fireworks/laser show. But it doesn’t start until 30 minutes after the park closes, and it’s very hot and we just want to get out of here. So she still hasn’t seen it, and this is our only scheduled day at Hollywood Studios.
Landscape of Flavors (8:17pm). Dinner at our resort. Kid #2 announces that his pizza is not sitting well in his stomach, so I tell him he can just go back to our room. Wifey then quickly finishes up her dinner and walks after him to check whether her 17-year-old son made it back to our building or is retching in the bushes someplace (actually his stomach settled down after he left the cafeteria). Kid #1 and I finish our dinners and then rejoin the others in our room.
Our room. Kid #2’s right ear still doesn’t hear well. I give him a pseudoephedrine tablet, but it doesn’t help. We decide that we are trying too hard on this vacation and need to take the day off tomorrow, which is forecast to be (surprise!) yet another scorcher.
[Today begins with the discovery that I cannot find my keyring (none of the keys are in use here in Florida) and ends with the discovery of the keyring in the “receipts” pouch of my suitcase, where it should have been all along (and presumably actually *was* there all along, despite my inability to find it).]
W. Osceola Parkway. $1 in tolls, which Google did not mention in their driving directions. It is an unattended tollbooth that accepts only coins. Thankfully we had brought enough leftover US coinage with us from Canada to be permitted off this highway. (Presumably, if we hadn’t, the only other option would be to pay whatever Alamo feels like charging for the scofflaw fine from the tollbooth’s video camera.)
Walmart (Kissimmee FL, 12:15pm). Buy two TracFone® cellular
telephones, so we can split up at the theme parks. We have to buy
disposable phones because Wifey’s fliphone offers only Canadian service and
has no SIM card to swap out, while Kid #1’s smartphone is locked to a
Canadian vendor and is too difficult/expensive to unlock for use with an
American SIM card. Each TracFone costs $9.84, but then the cheapest
airtime for them is $24.94 for 200 minutes usable within 150 days. Total
with 7% tax = $74.43 for a pair of phones that should still be usable during
our next trip to Massachusetts.
The Walmart salesclerk performs the initial phone activation for us, which takes about ten minutes per phone. The second phone has a slight scratch on the screen, so she insists on exchanging it for a third phone, which requires waiting for authorization to cancel an activation, which takes even more time. But the phones are small and thin and functional, and offer a cute “echoing” effect when you have one of them call the other while holding them next to each other.
Walmart (12:48pm). $62.05 for foods we wish to have in the room (because the resort’s free food is *so* far away in the adjacent building, and doesn’t offer things like canned tuna and Cheerios).
Walmart parking lot. I remember having my own keys when getting the key-fob for the rental car, so perhaps I left them in one of the other cars we tried out in the lot? The rental-car paperwork has no local phone-contact number, so I call Alamo’s national number and spend some time on hold, but don’t get through to anyone before the family starts to get overheated in the car. (It’s yet another 90°F day.)
Our room (1:45pm). The box we had shipped via UPS finally arrives! We had paid $114.76 to have it arrive here before we left Canada and greet us upon arrival, but it was delayed at Customs. We unpack our Walmart groceries but there is no time to unpack the UPS box from Canada. The trip to Walmart took so much longer than expected that now we need to rearrange our FastPass™ appointment times at the park. This requires use of the MyDisneyExperience app, which is installed only on Kid #1’s smartphone.
Magic Kingdom Park (2:45pm). Being the oldest part of the
Walt Disney World complex, the Magic Kingdom is one of the few things
around here whose name doesn’t begin with “Disney’s” or some variation on
that. (Construction for Walt Disney World began almost 50 years ago;
in the meantime it has become unfashionable to use apostrophes in business
names.) Because we are arriving so late, many people have already left for
the day, so we are able to find an empty parking space up by the
Transportation & Ticket Center so we can skip the tram and actually walk
in to the monorail station. It takes an *HOUR* to get from our hotel to
Main Street USA, even though we never leave the sprawling Disney
property (which covers 43 square miles).
Attractions visited today: Walt Disney Railroad, Enchanted Tiki Room, Jungle Cruise, Splash Mountain (except Wifey), Big Thunder Mountain (except Wifey), Country Bear Jamboree (except me), Pecos Bill’s (lunch, 2:59pm), Hall of Presidents (Wifey only), Haunted Mansion, Columbia Harbor House (dinner, 8:14pm), Mickey’s PhilHarmagic, It’s a Small World (Wifey only), and Peter Pan’s Flight.
There were no out-of-pocket expenses at the park. It seems Disney has finally gotten the hang of what the phrase “all-inclusive resort” is supposed to mean. I’m not sure why they decided to hand out receipts showing “$0.00” as the price for dining-plan purchases — shouldn’t they list their regular price and then a giant discount at the bottom to cancel it all out? That’s how it looks at the register.
Kid #2 doesn’t like travel and has been mopey for the entire trip so far. But Big Thunder Mountain brings a smile to his face! He also likes getting soaked in the front seat of Splash Mountain. We go on both of those rides twice each, once via FastPass™ and once via the stand-by lines.
Landscape of Flavors (11:01pm). Snack for Wifey.
Our room. Kid #2 takes a shower. He gets some water in his right ear (or was it Splash Mountain?). Now he can’t hear anything in that ear. I give him ibuprofen, but it doesn’t help.
Staybridge Suites (10:49am). We did place the “Do Not
Disturb” sign on the door. Standard check-out is 11am, plus we asked for
late-checkout at noon. So why is Housekeeping knocking on our door? “They
told me you were out” says the housekeeper. We’ve had similar problems at
other hotels, which are run by early birds who believe that only lip-service
should be given to night owls.
Months ago we pre-paid $177.84 for this one-night stay. Final bill is $200.07 because apparently they forgot to include the 7% state tax and 7% city tax (although the 3% county tax was included?). I find it hard to believe that they just couldn’t figure out how to make their computers pre-calculate the bill properly, so perhaps this is greed masquarading as incompetance.
Barnes & Noble Bookstores (Maumee OH, 3:13pm). In the same “Fallen Timbers Mall” as the hotel. Pay $47.06 for three paperback “classics” for Kid #2 to read during his last year of homeschool (before matriculating to the chef school that has already accepted him a year in advance), plus two books for Wifey to read on the plane. Really, we’re just killing time from our late-checkout at 12pm until our 3:30 drive to the airport. But this is just too boring, so we leave early. Then we run into a poorly-marked detour. Good thing that Kid #1 has a smartphone with built-in GPS, pre-downloaded maps for Ohio, and software for on-the-fly route recalculation!
Toledo Express Airport TSA screening station (Swanton OH). As usual for this airport (according to Yelp), there is no line at the screening station — but one immediately forms behind us! I get patted down repeatedly because of little bits of stuff (such as a quarter buried deep in a pocket). The guy doing the pat-downs is clearly annoyed with having to do so many of them on me, but he maintains a polite demeanor at all times, as Yelp had predicted (“surprisingly-polite TSA agents”). Maybe they’re glad to have a job at a smaller airport?
Subway (at Toledo airport; 4:50pm). Four subs for $29.50.
Toledo Express Airport vending (5:00pm). I pay $2.00 for 20oz of Dr. Pepper (the American version, which tastes much stronger than the Canadian).
Allegiant Airlines flight 795 (Swanton OH, 5:50pm –
Sanford FL, 8:00pm). Took off five minutes early, arrived ten minutes
early. Unexpectedly, our row of seats is frontmost (the online diagram had
implied that there would be another row in front of us) so our family’s
collection of laptops needs to be stored in overhead bins during take-off
and landing. The seats do not offer 120 VAC power (or any power) and my
battery is getting elderly, so I don’t use my laptop much.
Despite all the complaints online about how Allegiant nickles-and-dimes you to death, we complete the flight without incurring any additional charges (in part because we had brought along our own food and drink, which the airline explicitly allows).
The guy sitting next to me coughs all the way through the flight. My wife and children are on the other side of the aisle. Kid #1 is nearest to me (hence two seats plus an aisle from the cougher); she wears a mask over her mouth and nose. The rest of us brave the germs. Hopefully the airplane’s generally vertical top-down airflow should keep the cougher’s germs to himself. According to Wikipedia, a rhinovirus infection will show symptoms within four days 95% of the time, so after day 6 of this trip we can stop worrying.
Orlando-Sanford International Airport (Sanford FL). This airport is quite a bit larger than Toledo, although still much smaller than the main airport in Orlando proper. From the plane we walk down an extra-long jetway, then down a remarkably long corridor with fire-doors every few feet, on and on, until finally we arrive at the departure waiting area for “Gate 6”. Then the usual long corridor to the TSA screening area; I am disappointed to see a dozen X-ray machines, rather than the 2 in Toledo, which suggests that the trip home will not be quite as nice as getting here. Then the usual long walk to the baggage-claim area (we did not check any bags), then outside and repeatedly crossing streets full of traffic to get to the rental car area.
Alamo Rent-A-Car (at Sanford Airport, 8:30pm). Alamo is the
cheapest — for a reason! It is much further away from the plane
terminal than all the other rental companies, requiring large quantities of
additional walking. The desk clerk was very aggressive in his upselling,
trying to suggest some nefarious reason why the credit-card company told me
to decline all insurance when renting a car with their card. Eventually I
got him to admit that Florida requires $10,000 liability insurance, which is
included in the basic rental — but of course no sensible person would
go driving with less than a million in insurance — for $40/day extra,
which would double the total cost for the rental! I suspect it would be
rather difficult for someone to sue me for a million bucks for scaring their
horse with my motorcar, considering that I don’t even live in this country.
Eventually I got the clerk to let me have the car, with only a
return-with-empty-tank upgrade but otherwise as pre-ordered. Sheesh! Maybe
I should try a different car company when/if I ever fly again.
The car is a new Chrysler 200. This is a problem. The user-interface for cars changed about five years ago; now they have a “Start” button, like Microsoft Windows, instead of a keyed ignition. We spend some time in the parking lot, trying to figure out how to operate the thing. Once again I feel like Rip Van Winkle, waking up in the 21ˢᵗ century to realize that some technology arrived a long time ago and changed everyone else’s life but did not impact mine. I used to be “with it”, but now I’m an “oldster”.
FL-417: the Central Florida GreeneWay. About $5 in highway tolls.
Disney’s Art of Animation Resort (Lake Buena Vista FL). It’s late at night on Labor Day, but there is a massive line at check-in! It used to be that Disney was deserted this time of year, but then they started including free food and advertising it heavily. We receive wristbands which allow our every movement to be tracked as we move around the parks; they also act as room keys, park tickets, credit cards, etc.
Landscape of Flavors (inside Art of Animation’s main
building, 10:10pm). We proceed to the cafeteria to collect our free
refillable soda-pop mugs (supposedly a $19 value) and a few snacks. Our
dining plan gets us two free meals and a free snack for every night of our
stay, but there’s no way we can eat that much.
Before the trip, Wifey had watched the online message boards, waiting for the free-food announcement. On the big day, she stayed up late, but no announcement. Next morning she got up early, then spent 1½ hours on hold in order to get one of the few free-food slots allocated to the Art of Animation resort. Success! But how much was it really worth? We decide to keep track of our food receipts so we can calculate how much value our family obtained from her effort.
Our room (in building “Lion King 10” at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort). We’re finally here! After only two years of wondering whether it would ever happen.
September 6, 2015. The big day is finally here! This trip has been
planned for over two years now, since soon after my
and we started trying to decide what to do with the inheritance. Well,
after almost two years the lawyers finally ran out of excuses and let go of
I had wanted to fly on Allegiant Airlines because they land at Sanford FL, which is a much smaller airport than Orlando so the TSA agents are less nasty. But Allegiant decided not to fly out of Niagara Falls NY during September, so we bought tickets for departure from Toledo OH instead. Getting to that airport requires driving through the state of Michigan, which we’ve never visited before.
Wag ’N’ Train (Kitchener ON, 9:30am). Drop off the dog. The kennel we used for previous trips has gone out of business, so we had to select a new one. Earlier this year we went for an orientation day, then a ”test” day to see whether dog and new kennel would get along.
Shell (Wilmot ON, 10:00am). Fill the gas tank ($70.66), plus last-minute stuff at our house.
Tim Horton’s (Strathroy ON, 11:30am). After a pleasant drive
through the Ontario countryside, we stop here to use the washrooms. I buy
some chicken soup ($3.35), while Kid #2 uses a gift card to buy a giant
Our selected route has very few official rest areas, so Kid #1 used the Tim Horton’s website which has a continent-wide map of all their locations. Besides this Tim’s and the duty-free shop at the border, we have pre-decided to stop at the Tim’s in Roseville MI and Dundee MI if the border-crossing is quick, or in Lenox MI and Ypsilanti MI if we have to sit in line at the border.
Blue Water Bridge (Sarnia ON – Port Huron MI, 12:30pm). Toll = $3.50. Use the washrooms at the Duty Free shop. Only a 3-minute wait at the border! The border guard thinks our trip plan is bizarre, but he lets us pass after I tell him that the point is to fly from a small airport to a small airport. He works at a low-volume bridge (the big volume crosses at Windsor–Detroit), so maybe he agrees that smaller is better.
Tim Horton’s (Roseville MI, 2:00pm). Washrooms. Can’t
decide what to buy, so don’t buy anything. We have plenty of snacks in the
car, so really no need for a purchase except to thank them for their public
You would think that a city named “Roseville” would be fairly small (pop. 47,000). You would think that a street named “Gratiot Ave.” and lined with wall-to-wall businesses would not be a 6-lane divided highway, plus additional U-turn and right-turn lanes. You would be wrong. Thankfully, after our experience in Massachusetts, Kid #1 got herself a smartphone and downloaded OpenStreetMaps.org so we could figure out these things. Getting from highway I-94 to Tim Horton’s and back unavoidably involves two occasions of entering Gratiot Ave. on the right and then veering across all lanes of traffic to get to a U-turn lane, then veering across all lanes of traffic to exit on the right.
Tim Horton’s (Dundee MI, 3:00pm). Washrooms again. Hey, it breaks up the tedium of driving! Still can’t find any raspberry-jam doughnuts. What is wrong with these American Timmies???
Staybridge Suites (Maumee OH, 3:30pm). Check-in. The room
assigned to us had not been cleaned, so we get a free upgrade to a
three-room suite (doored room with separate beds for each kid, a living
room/kitchen, and a doored room with king-size bed for the parents).
The name for this city is pronounced /mɔːˈmiː/ (maw-MEE); we had expected either /ˈmɑːmiː/ (“Mommy”) or /ˈmɔːmiː/ (MAW-mee). Originally, it was an Algonquian word with the same meaning as “Miami” and “Illinois”: all these words refer to a group of Native Americans who lived in (what is now) Indiana and were forcibly relocated to Oklahoma.
Carrabba’s (Maumee OH, 7:10pm). Dinner costs $84.77. Because of the movie Shrek 2, I can no longer think of this restaurant chain without being reminded of a certain Dashboard Confessional song.
- OMG IT'S SO HOT!!!
- I am old. The 21st century is a strange place.
- Disney's corporatist hegemony creates a class-bound society in which racism and fun are used to hypnotize the proletariat and blah blah blah.
- This trip is basically my retirement party as a breeder. My offspring are all grown up now (despite the anecdotes I tell in this travelogue).
- The SEARING HEAT it BURNS!!!
- The best-laid schemes of mice and men can be depended on to gang aft agley (that's Scottish, you know).
- Living in Canada makes me feel superior to those poor Yanks who don't realize how bad they have it.
- Some amusement rides are enjoyable.