Walt Disney World

"Spring Fling"

Orlando, Florida

April, 2004

Wednesday 21 April 2004

Day 2  

Good grief!

I awoke naturally, threw on some summer weight sweats, and headed out the door to do the Mug Pilgrimage.  Owing to my close proximity to the pool in the 50s section, the assault was immediate.  The blinding neon Duncan yo-yo in the distance.  Some nonsensical be-bop tune blaring relentlessly.  There were already kids screaming in the pools.  And tons of other pilgrims, in various stages of dress, some laden ridiculously with multiple mugs, all headed toward Mecca – Central Hall, where the coffee is.


Oh, God.  I didn’t dream it.  I’m in hell.  I’m at the Pop Century.  And there’s no Starbuck’s!


Inside the food court, the assault continued – “Shout!  Shout!  Let it all out!”  Half the coffee urns were empty, and the other half were rendered unapproachable by the throngs of pilgrims bearing Fugs (freakin’ ugly mugs).  There were handfuls of paper napkins and sugar packets scattered about, and the odor of burnt toast pervaded.  People are pigs.


Well, at least the bathroom back at the room was clean and pleasant, the shower head delivering very decent pressure and having many settings with which I could prep my arthritic self for the day’s workout in the parks.  However, it had taken me this long to discover that there was no hair dryer, and I hadn’t thought to bring mine.  There’s ALWAYS a hair dryer in the room at a Disney resort.  NOT.  Welcome to the wonderful world of  Value Resorts.  I called Housekeeping, afraid it would be the same story as the coffee pot, but they promised to bring one around sometime during the day.

The Tragedy of the eBag

And now it is time to tell the tragic tale of the eBag I had ordered several weeks prior.  See, now that I have a camera, I need a bigger bag with which to traverse the parks.  Traveling light with a small fanny pack and a water bottle on a sling wasn’t going to cut it any more.  So I poked around and got some advice from other stalwart Disney travelers (thanks, cardaway) and ordered a bag from the internet that was plenty roomy for the camera, and also had a mesh side pouch to hold the water.  I ordered it via Amazon, and it was delivered to my former address, because I didn’t realize until way too late that I had changed the billing address, but not the shipping address.  At the time that I left for this trip, the former landlady hadn’t seen it show up there, and I had to leave town without it.  So I wasn’t really happy with a zillion things to carry – the camera bag, the water bottle, the fanny pack…not happy at all, but hey, I got parks to conquer.


Whichever Bus Come Along First….

On the way to the bus stop, there were these flowering shrubs with incredibly sweet-smelling blooms on them.  I had no idea what they were, but I lingered on the path a bit, having found a sanctuary of relative peace in this madhouse.  There were also some trees that had egg-shaped white buds on them, about the size of an egg, too – didn’t take any pics, but after they opened I decided they were some form of magnolia.


They were power-washing the big POP sign as I headed toward the long lines at the bus stop.  This was a shock, as there aren’t usually quite this many people waiting for buses at the non-value resorts, leastways, not that I’ve ever seen..  Since I didn’t have a touring plan, my strategy was to just get on the first bus that came along, and go to whatever park for which it was destined.  I hung out a bit, watching for the next bus to pull in so I could read the marquee and then run to the right line.

Animal Kingdom it is!

I’d left the room at 10:05 am and arrived at the park at 10:45 am.  This was my first (but not destined to be my last) encounter with the loading of an ECV, followed by the boarding of 15-20 of the rider’s closest friends and relations, followed by the boarding of the rest of the people waiting in line, if they were lucky.  I’ve got me some opinions about the prevalence of these ECVs but I think I’ll keep them to myself for the time being, and kind of weigh out as I go along in this trip report whether or not I want to get flamed for writing down what I’m thinking…


A flock of 4 or five of the cutest little kidlets ever were on the bus that morning, and must have been staying in the 50s or 60s section, because they were obsessively singing the same two lines of the same song, over and over again –


“she wore an itsy bitsy teeny weeny

yellow polka dot bikini…

she wore an itsy bitsy teen weeny

yellow polka dot bikini…

she work an itsy bitsy teeny weeny….”


Their mamas looked very much alike, so I’m thinking the lot of them were cousins.  I listened to the moms talk about how much it had cost them to have their respective daughter’s hair wrapped and beaded (just one long braid with beads, mind you), and became nauseously appreciative that God in Her infinite wisdom had chosen to comply with my request all those years ago to spare me the arrival of any of Her little tax deductions. 


Also notable about this bus trip is that construction on the new Expedition Everest indoor roller coaster is visible from the road.

The Oasis, Discovery Island, Lunch, and The Pangani Trails

When at last the bus arrived at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, I spent a great deal of time at the Oasis and Discovery Island, becoming further acquainted with the new camera.  I discovered that shooting animals is really difficult.  They don’t stay still!  They run off behind a tree, or else blend in with surrounding foliage, and you can spend forever waiting for the shot to be right, only to have to delete it because it was too dark/overexposed/unfocused/a blur.  Also, sometimes when you look at the shot on the little preview screen, it can look ok, but then you get it home on the big computer screen and you realize it is too dark/overexposed/unfocused, etc.  The most time I spent on any one animal was on the otter.  He’s so darned quick, slipping in and out of the water, disappearing around a bend, and then reappearing in a totally different spot each time.  Plus, I just really, really like the otter!


Soon it was well past time for lunch, and I’m here to advise you not to get the Tusker House grilled salmon.  If humans were meant to consume that much sodium, we’d still be swimming in the primordial soup.  If you run into such a disappointment, I recommend carrot cake consolation.  Well, carrot is a vegetable, right?  And therefore a perfectly appropriate choice for lunch, right?


The peaceful smoking area, located just outside Africa and on the way to Asia, was the perfect place to sit and review what I’d captured during the morning hours.  It’s far enough off the beaten paths to be quiet, and nestled in a shady little patch of jungle.  I made some notes about what to re-shoot on a return visit, and then I was off to get a fast pass for Kilimanjaro Safari.  That being secured, it was off to Pangani to shoot some more wildlife.  If I’d thought that shooting the other, relatively sedate animals was difficult, well, I hadn’t taken into account that there’s one thing worse – birds!  I can’t tell you how many brilliantly colored blurs I deleted.  Pale violets, brilliant blues and yellows, all or most were duds.  Grrrr!

Evacuation from Rafiki’s Planet Watch

While waiting for the Fast Pass to mature, I took the train over to Rafiki’s Planet Watch and searched out hidden Mickeys in the big mural that wraps it’s way around the foyer and into the interactive exhibit area.  I found quite a few and a CM who was observing me photographing them stopped to speak with me about it.  I showed him the ones I’d captured thus far, and he helped me to locate a few more.


When it was time to leave, there was a huge line to get on the train, and I knew that there was something wrong.  People were a bit jumpy, wondering what was up.  There wasn’t a Cast Member in sight for some time.  In the meanwhile, the queue was entertained by a red-headed boy of about 12 who was having a complete and total nuclear meltdown.  He hurled both fowl language and actual punches at his father, who stood there taking it, speaking to the boy in a quiet voice.  The boy eventually worked himself up to such a fever pitch, he sprung a nose bleed.  The father sat him down on the ground and cradled him while stopping it up with some paper napkins that a kind woman on the line offered him.  The whole time, the kid just keeps on haranguing his father, berating him and cursing at him.  It was pretty clear that the child was genuinely suffering, perhaps emotionally disturbed.  The mother came through the line eventually (I guess she might have been in the ladies room), and the child turned his attention to her, berating her for not being there while his nose was bleeding.  She got this pressed look about her lips and started walking fast toward the front of the line.  Trailing behind her was the long-suffering father and the boy, still screaming, crying, and cursing at them, as though possessed.  No one in the line objected that they were line jumping.  I think everyone felt huge compassion for that poor family.


The line moved a little bit, and finally a CM came out to tell us that the train had broken down!  And also that the only other way out of Rafiki’s Planet Watch was by tram, but it could only take 60 people at a time.  At this point, I struck up a conversation with a couple I’d been standing with in the line.  Turns out she works in downtown Manhattan too, and both of us were a little freaked by the slowness of this evacuation plan, if one could call it that.  In particular, we wondered how fast Disney could move people out of this remote section of the park, which was only accessible by train (and apparently, a 60-person tram) in the event of a different kind of a disaster, such as a fire.  We wondered whether it would be better to go crashing through the jungle and take our chances on the savannah with lions and tigers and etc., rather than have a fire engulf us.


Finally, we got to the corral by the train station, only instead of getting on the train, we were herded 60 people at a time into a little holding pen off to the side.  There were LOTS of CMs there for crowd control.  They opened a little gate and we all followed the CMs on this path through the jungle.  We came into a clearing, where we had to cross the tracks right in front of the broken down train.  The CM engineers working on the train all stopped to say stuff to us like, “sorry” and “have a good time in the park” and stuff like that.  There was a tram waiting and we boarded it.  The tram driver started moving, and told us that he was going to have to make a complete turn-around, and to hang on because it is the most exciting part of the ride.  As we got going, he turned on some music, and it was “Stand By Me”, which was ironic, cause I think it was intended as some obscure reference to the train in that film.  People started singing the song, and the CM engineers waved as we took off through the jungle.  We stopped a few minutes later and there were more CMs shepherding us onto another path, which dumped out into the exit from Pangani.


I looked at my watch.  My FP time had already come up.  The exit from Rafiki took so long that I no longer had enough time to do both Kilimanjaro and the Maharaja trail before the park closed.  So I headed over to the Safari FP queue.

Kilimanjaro Safari

Not only do the animals not stand still, but now I’m in a moving vehicle.  So things are either a blur, or they are not centered in the photograph.  I know there has to be a setting on the camera to stop the auto focus from auto focusing, but I cannot find it.  It’s just grinding away, trying to please me, as the jeep lurches and the animals move about, unconcerned that I’m wearing out my battery.


I did manage to shoot the ostrich that held up traffic for a bit, and got some shots of some of the other animals, most notably elephants (didn’t find the new baby, drat) – elephants tend to stand relatively still, so they were easier targets than most.  Next time I do the Safari, I hope to be on more intimate terms with my camera and not have to fumble about with it so much at the expense of missing some great shots.

A “down” evening

Once the Safari was done, I photographed my way out of the park, stopping at both Discovery Island and the Oasis again, in case there were some animals out and about that I hadn’t caught earlier in the day.  The trip back to the Pop Century was 40 minutes, via Blizzard Beach, but I had a seat and could busy myself by reviewing, deleting, and re-ordering the pics on my flash card.  I stopped at the food court in Central Hall for a deli dinner, and caught one of my all time favorite pop tunes, “MMMbop” – I really love this song, but in terms of sticking in your brain like glue for days on end, it possibly rivals Small World!


I found my little nice-smelling spot again and hung out there a while – it was just at the bottom of the bowling pin staircase closest to my room – and now as I write this, I muse that on this trip, all little girls who are misbehaving to the point where their parents have to shout at them repeatedly are named Ashley.  I heard that name a lot on this trip, and it wasn’t the same kid all the time, either.  This one in particular was chasing a duck around in circles on a small expanse of lawn near the sweet-smelling spot.  What is it with kids and duckies?  And why is it that many parents have to repeat “no” more than once and their kids ignore them, and the parents end up just helplessly giving in?  Ashley happily chased the duck in circles, her parents looking on in exhaustion and frustration.


Finally, I went back to the room and read for pleasure (what a concept!) until 2:00 am.  The book was a novelization of the life of Mary Magdalene, and the conclusion was riveting.  I was starting to achieve a desperately-needed state of relaxation on this trip, following my own body clock, and I drifted off happily.


Back to Spring Fling April 2004