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This was 2018…

So, what a year it’s been. My family and I have seen more change this year than ever before. In April of this year we started our trek south to central Florida. There have been so many ups and downs throughout the year, but I wouldn’t change anything.

It’s been a great change of climate! I do not miss the snow! And as of yet, I’m not tired of the heat. The hardest part? Missing our friends and family. However, there are just so many things to see and do around central Florida — and not just Disneyworld and Universal. I’ve had so much good food — and put on a little weight in the process. Here’s a sampling of some of the sights we’ve seen, some of things we’ve experienced, and maybe a few familiar faces from 2018:

(There might be a picture or two of some food in there too!)

Vacation

It’s all a blur

Time glides by with constant movement, not unlike a stream; for neither can a stream stay its course, nor can the fleeting hour.

–Ovid

I know I’m not the definitive source on the subject and I’m sure there are some -ologists out there that may be able to explain why this is, but time spent while on vacation just seems to go by in the blink of an eye.  I find it difficult to believe that the same rules of “you’ve-got-24-hours-in-this-day” apply while I’m enjoying myself.  When you get home it just kind of all runs together…

Now, let’s see… Was that Monday or Tuesday that we went to Downtown Disney.  Tuesday? Oh, okay.  Then what did we do Monday?

Even now I have to refer to timestamps on pictures to separate the events in my mind. It’s strange…

But at any rate, we’re all home now.  If the bold sentence above didn’t give it all away, my family and I just got back from Walt Disney World.  If you’ve read anything else posted on my website (like stuff here, here, and even here) then you probably know I have a thing for central Florida, Disney World in particular.  I don’t want to take every vacation there.  (The beach is nice too.)  But I do like to visit frequently.

I started out this trip keeping a sort of “travel diary” like I did in 2007, our last full-on family trip to Disney.  But this time that approach didn’t work.  We had ten travelers this time.  Tina’s brother brought his family down too.  And between the six excited kids and four excited adults, time was a precious commodity.  No time to spend tweeting or Facebooking, if that’s a word.  (My status update was “is at the mall for a haircut” for two weeks.  Loooong haircut…) And by the end of each day I was so wore out with all the walking and park hopping (and extreme heat!) that I didn’t feeling like writing a daily recap.  Oh, it started out good.  I have an entry for “Day One…”  Not much after that.

Well, where to begin? To start I should probably mention that we didn’t hit the Disney parks straight away.  We spent the night in Daytona Beach just down the street from the speedway.  So Monday morning we got up and hit the beach.  Very nice weather! It was cool to be able to just drive the car right on the beach and park.  We got a few good hours of swimming and wading in before heading to Lake Buena Vista.  So it was almost like two vacations in one.

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Daytona Beach

After our first family trip to Disney World we had decided that future visits to the “Happiest Place on Earth™” would include staying on Disney property in one of the resorts.  We have stayed on site two previous times.  Once at the All-Star Movies Resort (in 2002) and once at the All-Star Music Resort (in 2007).  For something different, this time we chose the Caribbean Beach Resort as our destination.  It’s so nice to be able to arrive in central Florida and just park the car and leave it.  Let Disney do the driving for you.  After checking in, we took a little tour of our new home.  Very nice place.

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Caribbean Beach Resort

Our park hopping began on Tuesday with a trip to Epcot.  We got to ride Mission: SPACE together as a family, each with our own responsibility as crew member.  Then the kids got to try their hand at being a mission specialist in the Advanced Training Lab in the multiplayer game Mission: SPACE Race.  Later in the week, we went back and had the chance to be astronauts.  Our team (Team Triton) won!

I love the interactive attractions at Disney.  Turtle Talk with Crush and the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor are incredibly entertaining.  It’s so amazing to see those animated characters talk to you in real time.  Cool stuff!

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Turtle Talk with Crush

Oh, and one of the best ways to keep kids motivated on your trip to Epcot’s World Showcase is to pick up a World Showcase “Passport” when you arrive.  Kids can get their passport “stamped” and signed at each country they visit.  They can also create a colorful mask in any country and take that with them from country to country.  Our kids got to see their names written in several different languages.

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Epcot Passports

One last tip for kids (and adults): the new Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure is a blast! The kids are recruited as special agents who must defeat some crazy villains and save the day.  The kids get a neat high-tech “Kimmunicator” that looks like your average flip phone from 2005.  But the screens come to life sending kids on miniature adventures throughout one World Showcase country.  Keep your eyes peeled for the unexpected… I won’t ruin it for you, but the best climax comes in Mexico.  I’ll just say it was a very cool way to prevent a missile launch!

The girl agents play Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure

I think this post has lasted long enough… Gosh.  I’m only two days into the vacation and have written a short story.  More to come in the next post.

Travel

A little taste of Central Florida

I just got back Saturday from a week of classes in Orlando, Florida.  I had a nice time down there, but with all the theme parks and all the family “stuff” there is to do, it was hard to be there without the rest of the family.

To start off with… It’s really funny looking at all the excited families queuing up at the Pittsburgh airport.  The kids are hyped up! The parents are smiling! They can’t wait for the enormously “yuge” (thanks, Donald!) amount of entertainment that awaits them over the next several days! Yay! 🙂

Then… contrast that with what you see getting off the plane right now: Those returning from their trip to Walt Disney World… Tired.  Sunburned.  Carrying large, over-stuffed bags of obligatory souvenirs… Ugh.  “I can’t believe there were that many people there.  I mean 60 minutes just to ride ‘it’s a small world?’ I mean come on! And the prices! Geesh!” I think these people are glad to be home.  It’s either that, or Jim Gaffigan just entered my brain.

But that doesn’t stop people from going.  Not Jim Gaffigan.  I mean the experience.  The experience doesn’t stop anyone from going.  And of course after a few weeks of reflection they’ll realize what a wonderful time they all had.  And they’ll just have to do it again next year.  But that first moment when they step off the airplane coming home—that’s priceless!

But let’s rewind back to day one.  You know, when you have all that energy? I was actually able to arrive in Central Florida early enough on Sunday to try to squeeze something in.  I went to Universal Studios shortly after we (my coworker and I) got checked in to the hotel.

The Simpsons Ride at Universal Studios I was able to ride the long-awaited “Simpson’s Ride” (Krustyland) at USF.  And, with my apologies to Universal for my opinion in a previous posting, the ride was actually very good.  I still miss BTTF: The Ride, and was happy to see that the DeLorean and the Jules Verne Train featured in the movie still have a home at USF.

But I have to admit that The Simpsons Ride was entertaining, so much so that I rode it twice.

It wasn’t terribly packed that day.  I don’t know if it was the threat of weather, or maybe Sunday is just the chosen travel day, but it was relatively calm that day.  Maybe 10-15 minutes wait time for most rides, and 40 minutes for the Simpsons.  That’s pretty light.

And that brings me to a couple of things about Central Florida in general.  One: The weather is usually quite predictable, with one major downpour rain shower occurring almost every day.  And, two, I don’t mind driving down there, even though I don’t know exactly where I’m going, because everybody else seems to not know exactly where they’re going either.  And that makes my driving normal by comparison.  See? It’s all relative…Hard Rock Cafe, Orlando

Just a couple of other things to note about this trip… My colleague and I ate at the  Hard Rock Cafe on Wednesday night.  I didn’t realize this at the time, but that particular HRC is the biggest one in the world.  Good food, loud music.  Busy place.

And on Friday night I went for a stroll at Downtown Disney.  And I ate a hot-fudge sundae from the second-most Magical Place on Earth, the Ghirardelli Soda Fountain & Chocolate Shop, while watching a couple of elderly ladies from Fort Myers, Florida get down to Beyoncè’s Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)—definitely one of the funniest things I’d seen in a while.  You have to just get the visual on that.

And then, Saturday, it was time to come home.  But to be honest, even as much as I enjoy Orlando, I was ready.  Sitting at the airport, getting ready to board the plane for the trip home, I got to hear one of the funniest things I’ve heard in a while.  I happened to sit next to the pilot and the rest of the crew in the waiting area.  As they were discussing why the pilot of the plane currently at the gate had not pushed back yet, our pilot decided he needed some answers of his own.  In ending his conversation with the rest of his crew he said, “Well, I’m going to go find out where our plane is.”  Now, how can the pilot not know where his plane is? Did he forget where he parked it? Maybe the valet service delivered it to the wrong gate.  I don’t know.

Now I don’t feel so bad about forgetting where I parked my car after leaving it for a week at Pittsburgh airport…