31 January 2007

Disney Day 4

Tuesday 23 Jan 2007

The kids were very excited this day to continue our adventure. Perhaps this is why they were up and at 'em well before 6:00 AM in the morning. While working my way out of a milkshake induced coma and wondering why Shelley had all these children, I manged to contain the kids and their enthusiasm until nearly 7:00. Oma and Opa joined us for a pancake breakfast, then went back to their RV where I assume they went back to sleep.

We saddled up ol' Cart 444 and tooled our way to the bus stop, just in time to catch the Epcot bus. As an aside, on our previous two trips to Disney we were very disappointed by the the transportation service. I don't know if they've made improvements or if we've just been lucky, but on this trip I don't think we've had to wait more than 5 minutes for a bus, boat, or monorail.

Anyway, we went back to Epcot since on our first visit there we'd only managed to see a fraction of what we wanted to. Even though only two days had passed, we returned to Epcot older and wiser, and so this time rented a stroller. This was easily the best $18 we spent on the whole trip (the second best being the $18 we spent on 4 bananas at the Fort Wilderness Trading Post - just kidding, the bananas had some brown spots and could have been a bit sweeter).

We strollered back to Soarin', where Ella was still too short. She and I found a Kidcot Fun Stop while Shelley and Alex went on Soarin'. They had a surprise awaiting them in the queue. This year Disney is doing the Year of a Million Dreams where they award prizes such things as free vacations, a night in Cinderella's castle or a Dream Fast Pass which gets you on all the rides without waiting. Shelley and Alex were lucky enough to win 2 of the million dreams in the form of Dream Mouse Ears. What makes these special is that they cannot be bought, only won. OK, so not as good as a $20K Disney Vacation Club property or a trip to all the Disney parks around the world, but still fun to win.

With our ears donned, it was off to Mission Space for Alex and me while the ladies hit another Kidcot station. Shelley and Alex then rode Test Track (Alex did not mind the speed, but did mind being made hot and cold) while Ella and ate a yummy soft pretzel.

We wheeled our way to World Showcase, blew through Mexico, blew past China and Norway, and landed in Germany. Here we enjoyed lunch at the Bier Garten which consisted of brats and hot dogs and some delicious German beer (Lowenbrau for me and some weis beer for the Frau.)
It was in the German toy store that we then discovered the World Showcase version of the Kidcot Fun Stops. These stations allowed the kinder to create a mask in one country, then collect charms and stamps for it in all the other countries. These masks were brilliant since they gave the kids a reason to keep on going. While they were coloring their masks, I discovered a Spaten and Shelley discovered a Becks Dark, which were also brilliant since they gave us a reason to keep on going.

World Showcase also turned out to be a great place to collect autographs. Some of the best were Donald Duck, Goofy, Minnie Mouse, Jasmine, Aladin, Genie, Aurora, Belle, and Pooh. You can see the requisite photos of all these and more at zooomr. I'll share one here just to prove the Duck Brown was actually on this trip:

After seeing all that we wanted to see in Epcot, it was back to Fort Wilderness for a swim. This we did not because it was particularly warm, but because you should not miss a chance to swim outside in January.

Tuesday night dinner was hot dogs and marshmallows at the campfire where we were entertained by some campfire song singing lady, Chip and Dale, and a cartoon. The Fort Wilderness campfire was one of the few things I remembered from 1977, and not much has changed in the last 30 years. This is a good thing, and was a great way to end a (dare I say it?) magical day.

Chip AhoyChip Ahoy Hosted on Zooomr

30 January 2007

Disney Day 3

Monday 22 Jan 2007

Monday was Animal Kingdom day. We started off with the safari, which Shelley and I agreed was the best we'd ever seen it. I just don't know how those Disney Imagineers make those animals look so realistic. We then took a trek on the Pangani Exploration Trail, which was nice. We'd already seen enough wonders on this trip however, that the kids hardly broke stride to check out the gorillas along the way.

It was then on to Camp Minnie Mickey where the kids got to meet and greet The Mouse himself.

There was not enough time to queue for Minnie, Donald, or Goofy before the Festival of the Lion King began. The music, gymnastics, and fire tossing captivated Alex, but somehow made Ella hungry. We then learned in the Tree of Life that it is Tough To Be a Bug. We also learned that being sprayed with a foul smell is just as offensive in the Animal Kingdom as it was in Epcot.

By this point, the kids were falling apart. A pretzel and some popcorn rejuvenated them enough to tackle the Bone Yard. This is a dinosaur themed playground complete with places to get wet and a large sand/pebble pit where kids can dig up dinosaur bones while collecting stones in the hair and underwear. We'd spent what felt like an age in the Bone Yard when the rain started, and that was enough of an excuse to go back to the campground.

We ate lunch at the Trails End restaurant at Fort Wilderness which was an all you can eat buffet, including chocolate pudding. I love me the pudding. Long before I was hungry again it was time to take the boat to Wilderness Lodge where Oma and Opa had made us all dinner reservations at The Whispering Canyon.

The Whispering Canyon is adjacent to the impressive lobby of the lodge, and even by Disney standards, it is a restaurant with flair. This is never more apparent than when you ask your waitress for some ketchup.

You might think that this would have been the highlight of this meal. Or perhaps you would guess it was the wooden "pony express" ride all the kids took around the room. Either guess would be wrong. The actual highlight was the All You Care To Enjoy milkshakes. If you ask me, this is an innovation that is long past due. I very much enjoyed my first milkshake. I less enthusiastically enjoyed my second milkshake. When asked if I would enjoy a third milkshake, my mind and my stomach said "no-no" but my mouth said "Would I? Of course I would!" Stupid mouth. It took some doing, but I managed to adhere to my no milkshake left behind policy.

29 January 2007

Disney Day 2

Sunday 21 January 2007

The first night in the cabin was a bit rough, as first nights in new places often are. Even so, we set out fairly early Sunday morning to see what the new day would bring. The first stop was the RV for breakfast and hot chocolate with Oma and Opa. We then took the boat and two monorails to Epcot.

The first ride we wanted to go on was Soarin'. The height requirement for Soarin' is 40". The height of Ella in her low-heeled brown shoes is 39.75". She was denied entry. Bad news for Ella, and she was disappointed.

tooShorttooShort Hosted on Zooomr

Ella's misfortune was good news for me and Alex though since they gave us an immediate Fast Pass to make up for enforcing their rules. This allowed us to walk right on and bypass the 30 minute wait. Soarin' is a great ride, and would be among Alex's favorite activities of the week.

After rejoining the ladies, we rode Living With the Land. This was highlighted by the method in which they grow pumpkins. Instead of growing them on the ground like normal people would, they instead grow them suspended in the air, like my brother did.

Perhaps it was the Soarin disappointment, the sheer size of Epcot, or the residual exhaustion from the trip thus far, but we were quickly running out of steam. We managed to Journey Into Imagination with Figment (Ella loved it - Alex was offended when Figment turned into a skunk and sprayed us) and Nemo (better than the old Living Seas if for no other reason you get to sit down instead of having to ride the "elevator") before we needed to leave.

epcotBawlepcotBawl Hosted on Zooomr

It was back to the cabin then for lunch, naps, showers, and baths. This was almost enough to recharge our batteries for our evening plans at Downtown Disney. This is quite the destination for those seeking a giant toy store or an even bigger store selling every piece of Disney merchandise imaginable. It is not the place however to find thick soled sneakers for a 3 year old girl.

The main reason we went to Downtown Disney was to meet our friends, the Bankeys, for dinner. In real life they live three doors down from us, but since they happened to be in Orlando at the same time we were, we were compelled to meet them for dinner at the Rainforest Cafe, which like the Bankeys, can also be found in Maryland. The best things about dinner were the light up drink glasses, the fake rainstorms, and the fake gorillas sitting behind us.

buzznUsbuzznUs Hosted on Zooomr

28 January 2007

Duck Brown Goes To Disney - Day 1

Saturday 20 January 2007
We realized a few months ago that if we wanted to take the kids to Disney World during the off-season without taking them out of school, this winter would be our last chance. After months of saving, planning, and preparation, the day was finally upon us.

Leaving home only 8 minutes after our planned departure time (which is a record) got us to our gate at Dulles airport in plenty of time. The only misstep was that Ella wore the wrong shoes. The brown shoes she put on were less comfortable than the sneakers she left behind, but more importantly, they were less thickly heeled. Later I'll reveal why this is important.

The flight was remarkably unremarkable, especially for Ella who chose to sleep for half the trip. We arrived in Orlando around 1:00 PM and made our way to meet the Disney Magical Express. The best part of this service is that we were able to check our bags at Dulles and not have to deal with them again until they (magically?) showed up in our room.

The magic bus took took us to our resort - Fort Wilderness. This would mark my fourth stay at the Fort, and I was very curious as to what this time would bring since the last three times were each marked by significant events:

  • 1977: My first trip to Disney
  • 1992: The Spring Break that changed history
  • 1993: The "Storm of the Century" caused us to bug out a day early.

We checked in and made our way to our cabin. Now, I am big fan of tent camping, but there is also something to be said for camping in a climate-controlled building with a kitchen, a bathroom, and a separate bedroom. After getting settled, we walked to the Bike Barn and rented a golf cart. I'm not sure if this is what people do when camping in the actual wilderness, but hey, we're on vacation, and besides, it is fun.

We tooled over to the 700 loop and met up with my parents, hence forth referred to as Oma and Opa. Since they are knocking on 70, they are required by federal law to spend time each winter in the sunshine state. They'd trailered their RV from Pennsylvania to Florida over the previous few days and we were excited to be able to share this vacation with them. I was also excited that they had already parked the RV, so my help was not required.

After saying our hellos and spilling some of their food, we carted to the marina where we caught the boat to the Magic Kingdom. I'm no sailor, but I have to say that boating to the Magic Kingdom is much nicer than taking a bus, and not just because it is faster.

Once in the Kingdom, our first ride was the train since outside of a Zeppelin, we'd already taken every other form of transportation this day. The park was surprisingly crowded for January, but we managed to ride:

  • Haunted Mansion: Alex said this was too scary, but Ella did not think so
  • Cinderella's Carousel: Of all the carousels we've been on, this was one of them.
  • Dumbo: (girls) Ella was thrilled to drive the pink Dumbo all by herself. What is it about this ride?
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad: (guys) It was a little scary, but Alex was brave and had a great time.

We met back up at Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe in Frontierland which was disappointing food-wise, but happened to be along the route of the Spectra Magic parade. This was fairly decent as parades go, and we got to see a who's who of characters. After the parade all that was left to do was buy some cotton candy and ride the boat back to the Fort. It had been a good first day.




11 January 2007

New Year's Eve Eve Party

Click here for photos

Back in 1992, my fine friends Dave and Kristi thought it would be fun to get together and welcome in the new year. On that fateful night, I remember Dave saying , "How likely do you think it is that 14 years from now we'll still be doing this, but in Maryland, with a bunch of new people, and a bunch of kids?" to which I replied "I also imagine that we will arrive in flying cars and play video games that we control with our bodies." Kristi did not say anything because she was out in the front yard banging on pots and pans for reasons I still don't understand.

So who knew we'd be so wrong about the flying cars? How about it, science? At least we got everything else right.

The fun started on the 29th with the arrival at our house of Kristi and Dave and their orchestra. Before I knew what happened Janine and Hugh, Marci and Rob, and Eric and Stacy also arrived, along with their respective orchestras. There were nuggets and waffle fries (thanks, Jen), pulled pork, lasagna and who knows what else. Somewhere around then Wendy and Russ arrived sans orchestra, not counting the child in Wendy's belly.

Not long after the food was gone, we turned on the Wii, and that is when things start to get fuzzy. Time passed and everyone went to bed - 20 people here and 2.5 people at a nearby hotel.

Saturday morning brought more chaos and Sue. It also brought some babysitters who allowed us to escape from the children. We went to downtown Fred City where we met up with Gretchen, Mike, and the forthcoming Lutz at Brewer's Alley.

Back home then to save the babysitters, as we went once more into the chaos. Again, more stuff happened, more Wii was played, and some Catch Phrase and we had our New Year's Eve Eve party. There was also some singing that I have to mention because it was Shelley's favorite part. My favorite part was the bacon which you will hear about in the next paragraph.

The morning of the 31st was, you guessed it, chaotic. Some people were leaving, some were staying, and I was making the last of the apple wood smoked bacon, left over from Christmas. Some people had already had enough fun. Bags in hand they went on their way. By the time things had settled down, there were 7 adults and 7 children remaining. Eventually we found ourselves at TGI Friday's for dinner, after which we saw Charlotte's Web. All the talk of killing Wilbur reminded me of that delicious bacon. Talk about some pig!

After the movie we said farewell to the McWettsone Four, and returned to the house for the lowest key New Year's Eve party in at least a year. Everyone else left the next morning, and so ended the festivities. The road to a friend is not long, especially when the uncanny likeness of that friend exists as a Mii to grace my TV screen when ever they want.

Thanks to all for a great time!

Click here for photos

10 January 2007

Merry Christmas in Maryland

This was our fourth Christmas in Maryland, and I think we are starting to get the hang of it. To me, Christmas is a time of family traditions, and we managed to keep most of the old ones and start a new one.

Traditions Kept

  • Wake up Christmas morning in our own beds
  • Brew-pub dinner on Christmas Eve
  • Watching It's A Wonderful Life while assembling presents

New Traditions

  • Lobster Tail Dinner Christmas Night

Traditions Lost

  • Drive-by gawking of crazy decorated house in Point of Rocks

My folks came down Christmas Eve, and were able to watch Alex sing as part of the kid's choir:

saidTheCowsaidTheCow Hosted on Zooomr

They then took us to the "Skinny French Fry" restaurant (aka Brewer's Alley) for dinner, where Ella was being Ella:

ohEllaohElla Hosted on Zooomr

Christmas morning brought the chaos you'd expect, along with some delicious apple-wood smoked bacon. It was well worth however long it took off my life. Once it was gone and the presents were all opened, Oma and Opa hit the road back to PA.

The second round of presents arrived with Grammy and Grandad who managed to pack enough gifts into their Forrester to do Santa proud. They were rewarded with the joy of family and a surf and turf dinner courtesy of Omaha and Opaha Steaks.

05 January 2007


sleighridesleighride Hosted on Zooomr

December 22, 2006 - Adamstown, MD
Residents of the Green Hill Manor subdivision breathed a sigh of releif when the days rain lasted far enough into the evening hours to keep attendees of the Roth's (nearly) Annual Caroling Party indoors for the duration.

Though invitees included many people of all persuasions (soprano, alto, tenor, and bass) who possess strong singing skills, there were also some who could not make this claim. Even more dangerously, some attendees, after enjoying too many holiday spirits thought themselves in the former group while more accurately being in the latter.

Despite being confined to staying indoors (or perhaps because of this), most guests seemed to have a good time.