When we last left our heroes, they were fast asleep in room 720 of the All Star Movies resort. Not having their 11 month old (Eric) with them, Chris and Sheri were enjoying their second night of uninterrupted sleep in nearly a year. There was no wake-up call…no set time to be anywhere…nothing but relaxing and a little shopping.
Sheri's cell phone? I hop out of bed, noticing that it's still quite dark outside, fumble through her purse (never a good idea), and look to see who it is. Some number from back home that we don't know. I didn't answer it, for if I did, I would probably be welcomed back home with a restraining order against me from the idiot who called. As I head back to bed, I take a look at the time: 3:30.
Mush is not a happy camper.
I get back to sleep eventually in hopes of making it to 8 am...
...and we're up before 7.
I hit the bathroom and wonder why the military doesn't consider using the technology in these rocket toilets for warfare. You don't kill the enemy…you just launch sewage water at them from a mile away at 300 miles an hour and humiliate them until their will to fight is broken.
In the shower…then it's the kid's turn in the shower. While he plays in the water, I get dressed and look over the itinerary: Bus to AK, bus to AKL, eat at Mara, bus to DTD, shop, bus to ASMO, rest, play around at hotel, then eventually head over to WL for dinner at WCC. Great plan, right? We head out to the bus stops just as an AK bus pulls away. The timing check is foreboding disaster today.
We wait about 15 minutes and catch the bus to AK. While en route, Sheri's Mother calls to see how things are going. It was snowing in Illinois and had a temperature of 3 above 0. MUAHAHAHAHAAA. She also wanted to pass along the phone number of Sheri's first cousin. Brittany did the college thing at WDW for a while and, while she's back living in central Illinois, she had a boyfriend that worked at the AS Sports food court and was down to see him. We promised we'd try to call sometime today to see if we can meet up with her.
We hit AK and see the peak of Expedition Everest…it even looks awesome from the bus stop! About 8 minutes later, we're on another bus to the Animal Kingdom Lodge.
We get there in no time and enter the atrium. I've seen pictures before, but this place is cool! We take a couple of pictures and look around a bit before heading over to the Mara for breakfast. We find Mara, and it looks like the All Star Movies food court but with a little different theming. While we decide what to eat, Sheri and I both comment that the environment of the deluxe hotel we are currently standing in is vastly different from the environment of the All Stars Value hotel that we are staying at. While it is definitely more beautiful and aesthetic, a lot of the people don't seem as happy here at AKL. I heard a lot of grumbling about what I considered to be minute details...dare I say I felt there to be a snob factor here. It wasn't just the parents - some of the children were already mimicking the actions of their parents at a very early age. Not all gave off this feeling, mind you...but enough for both Sheri and me to notice.
I responded the only way I could...I started talking like Thurston Howell III from Gilligan's Island and describing the reunion I was to have that evening with my fellow Harvard Law alums as we dined on hasenpfeffer and sipped a fine double-malt scotch (in a somewhat quiet voice so only Sheri could really understand what I was saying).
We decided what we wanted to eat, and Sheri and Aaron headed outside to look for a table. I got in line and listened to some of the families attempting to converse with each other. I got the food and looked for Sheri and Aaron. Sheri kind of had a look on her face, and I immediately wondered what I did wrong this time. Apparently they found a table and Aaron was heading towards one of the seats when a young kid runs over and stakes the table out for his family. Sheri guessed that he kid didn't see them just about there, but she and Aaron had to settle to look for another table.
It wasn't my fault at least. That's all that's going through my mind.
Now, AKL doesn't use straws...I found out the hard way after looking for them for about 5 minutes in the condiments/napkins area. This did not bode well for Aaron, who had never drank out of a milk carton without a straw. At least we had almost finished eating when the milk spilled. I went back in for more napkins and fought off another family trying to get our table just so I could clean it up for them.
Breakfast taken care of, we walk outside around the pool (nearly lost Aaron...there is a place with several trails and shrubs near the pool). He sees the playground, and we commit our first crime and use the AKL playground without actually staying on it. I started talking a la Thurston Howell again in the hopes that everyone would think we were staying here (wifey nearly slapped me). We let him play with the other kids for a few minutes and then drag him away before the SS came to get us.
We then head back inside and look around some more. By the windows out back, there were three rocking chairs and three of us. I ask someone to take a photo of us in the chairs:
I have to show this one too...it was just too cute to omit:
Do another potty break before heading out to the bus stops for DTD. For those who haven't seen the layout to AKL the bus stops are quite a ways away from the main entrance. Keep this in mind.
Timing check. We are walking down to the busses when the DTD bus just leaves. 0 for 2 so far...oh well, right?
Aaron and I go play hide-and-seek and tag while we wait for the bus. Some of the parents there seemed surprised that I would actually be having fun with my kid on vacation. Aaron must have had too much fun, however, because he went behind the bench and got real quiet.
Many parents know that action as "I'm filling my drawers and don't want to be disturbed."
I grab the wipes and a new pull-up and assume that the bus will come about 20 seconds after we leave the area. Just in case, I sneak into an area of the AKL where nobody was and nobody could see unless they were really nosy and change him in about 30 seconds.
Proud of myself at the turnaround time, I head back to the bus-stop only to see the bus there and the driver talking to my wife. With Aaron in my arms, I to them at a pretty good clip. Aaron is giggling, and I feign a heart attack as I approach the bus. The driver said that she refused to get on without me.
All together now...AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW
I said that was very sweet.
Then the driver followed up and said it was because I had all the credit cards.
We're on our way to DTD, and the bus driver is one of those who gives a full tour as he goes. One of the best ones he said was that the Walt Disney World area actually has a mayor...it's a government within a government ... pause ... Disney tells Florida what to do, and Florida listens.
I'm going to be getting a lot of mileage with that smiley today.
We get to Downtown Disney's Marketplace and, I restrain Aaron from the fountains in the sidewalk. We hit the Christmas store, and it hits us back. Seems like everyone else had the same idea as us.
Another math question for y'all: Busy + Stroller + Small Aisles + Mush Isn't Much of a Shopper = Mush is pissed.
We fight our way out and ask them to toss our son out too, and Wifey hits the scrapbooking store. She gets the Disney Dollars card (still has around $40 after using it to buy Pal Mickey) and gets some awesome deals (Hell, even I was impressed at all that she got). Aaron and I don't do scrapping, so I entertain him at the entrance to the Rainforest Cafe. He has fun trying to get pennies in the crocodile's mouth.
We then are starting to get a little hungry, and the Earl of Sandwich was next on the itinerary. We look over the menu and notice that, while the line was huge, it was moving really fast, so we split up (Sheri takes Aaron outside and I get in line for the food). I saw a Western Illinois University shirt in the line, so I talked to him for a sec (their current President was one of my phone-a-friends for Millionaire)...found out he was the tennis coach for WIU.
I bring the food out, and Aaron devours half of his pizza sandwich in two bites (at least it's not chicken blobs). I had the Scudetto (awesome), and Sheri had the Original. We call Brittany (her cousin...re-read the beginning if you're not keeping up *cough* Tony). Her beau had to go to work at 4, so she said she'd call if she was going to head over to Movies.
That done, we head over to the Toy Store and make a bee-line for the Mr. Potato Head area. I've read a bunch about it, and we wanted to see if it lived up to its hype.
It did. Though I was still not in the greatest of moods, there were some really cute accessories/body parts that were unique. For those who don't know about this, for around $19, you get a box that you can fill with as many parts as you want to. We already had a Potato Head at home and had Darth Tator wrapped for Aaron's birthday, so we didn't need a 3rd Potato. I asked to see if we had to have a Potato Head in the box or if it was okay to just put parts in. Just parts was okay .
We head out and snap a pic of Aaron with his superhero:
On to World of Disney. That store is flippin' huge! It's also flippin' busy! We saw only a few rooms of it. Aaron was nearing his limit and was starting to fall asleep when:
We're going on a trip in our favorite rocket ship. ZOOOOOOMMINNGGG THRROUUGHH THE SKIESSSS...Little Einsteins
Is it me or is that theme song just addicting?
Climb aboard. Get ready to explore. THERE'S SO MUUUUUCCCCHHH TO FIND...Little Einsteins
Aaron (and nearly every other kid in the store) is fixated on the huge tv screen in one of the rooms at the promo for the Little Einsteins DVD.
We're going on a mission. Start the countdown. 5....4....3..2..1
I start singing with them.
Everyone to Rocket. Rev it up now....vvrroooOOOOMMMMMMMMM
Sheri is staring at me like I'm a lunatic.
In my defense, at least 30% of the adults in that room were doing the same thing! I challenge all of you to hear that theme song and not have it in your head for the rest of the day! The kids that actually sing that...WOW...they're young but they harmonize really well in some parts of the song.
Aaron falls asleep in the stroller, while I hum the theme a few more times. I have a certificate for a free pin from Birnbaum's Official Guide. I figure out where to go, and a few minutes later, I have my first Disney pin (okay...second pin...a friend gave me a Millionaire pin from MGM after my date with Regis in 2001).
Aaron's out for the count, and I'm getting a bit tired myself. We decide to bypass Legoland and head back to the hotel for the rest that is already taking place. We get on the bus and sit down. There is a family across the aisle with one of the most talkative (but cutest) 4-year old girls I have ever seen. Standing next to them was a woman who could have easily been Miss Texas. I was trying not to drool too much, but it was no avail. The family with the girl had just come back from a Disney cruise, and I talk to them about how it was. Sheri is digging her nails into my leg because she knows exactly what I'm doing. Our ten-year anniversary is about 18 months out, and we have all but agreed to do WDW for it. I'm trying to convince her to do a cruise, too (the land/sea package), but she's really concerned about sea-sickness/motion-sickness. Neither of us have been on a cruise, but I'm starting the propaganda phase early . We still have time, but it may just be a land excursion (I'm not done yet, though).
We get back to Movies, and Aaron's wide awake. Does he rest at all? Nope! Do Mommy and Daddy get any rest? Nope! At least he got a good 45 minute nap at DTD. Well, we're all awake and doing well, so let's head out. We're gonna change the plans...eat at Whispering Canyon, tour the resorts a bit, and then hit Epcot for Illuminations. We head to the bus stop and I get this happy feeling in my pocket.
My phone was vibrating.
It was Brittany. She comes over to the food court, and we talk with her for a while. Aaron is totally psycho now because he's at WDW and knows someone there. Sheri and Aaron make a few pressed pennies while talking to Brit. Eventually we part ways and head out to the busses. The original plan was to take the MK bus and then boat to WL. The Epcot bus gets here first, and it's empty, so we hop on that one and decide to transfer there instead (we'll get the boat ride in later). On the bus ride from Epcot to Wilderness Lodge (in case you didn't know what WL was), Aaron falls asleep..
We get to WL and stop to take a few pictures.
Hmmm...too dark. So I spoke unto thee and said "LET THERE BE LIGHT". And there was light, and it was good.
It's amazing what digital cameras can do...we just switched to the night shot for the second pic.
Now, we're here for a couple of reasons. First, we want to eat some good food and see what I have been told is an awesome atrium. Second, I'm delivering Robin's report from earlier this year to Bobby. Well...not the whole report...part of the chapter where they meet Bobby and Nikki gets her ring (I'm on a budget and can't afford all the paper needed to print out the ENTIRE report...geez).
We're at WL about 45 minutes before our ADR, so we look around some and get a few pics. I look over to Whispering Canyon and don't see a Tigger hat (what I gathered to be Bobby's trademark). Bummer...I guess we'll have to drop off the report. I stop by the hostess table and ask if Bobby was by chance working that night. He was, and I asked if we could request his section. They let me know that it may take a bit longer (no prob...we were still 20 minutes early for our ADR). Besides, I have something to give him.
They looked at me the same way Sheri looked at me as I sang the Little Einstein's theme. I played on. Yep...Bobby has a stalker!
I hope they realized I was joking. They give me the pager, and I give it to Aaron, who has to go potty, so he gives it to Sheri, and I take him potty. Of course the pager goes off as soon as we enter the men's room. (bad timing karma yet again).
We are seated and THERE HE IS!!! The famous Bobby the Kid. He introduces himself, and I scare him by asking about what happened to Tigger! He mentions that someone else started wearing a frog on his/her hat, and a bruhaha ensued as to what was considered appropriate dress. Tigger was axed, apparently.
Now...how in the hell did I know about Tigger if this was my first time eating here? I contemplate doing a "This is Your Life" segment, but I was worried they would think I actually WAS stalking him. I then tell him that I know the Dunlap family and the Costello family via the internet and that he made such an impact on Robin's crew that she wrote about it and wanted him to know how much he was appreciated.
I gave him the chapter, and he was speechless. He actually started reading it at the table. I mentioned that it was 17 pages long and he put it under his arm. My guess is that he read a little bit of it every time he went behind the walls.
Oh yeah...we're eating here too. He introduces himself to Aaron and asks Aaron if he had any girlfriends. We tell him about last night with Cinderella and Jasmine, and Bobby comments that he is really handsome. Another server, Lelani, walks by just as I rip off my glasses and act all suave, stating that he gets his looks from his father. Lelani then says "Oh really...is his father here?"
Sheri and Bobby both about fell on the floor laughing.
While I licked my wounds, Bobby tries to get a drink order from Aaron. He goes through about 30 different drinks, and Aaron is just fixated on every word he is saying. Bobby starts throwing in stuff like liver pate and pig's feet, and Aaron keeps nodding his head like he understands exactly what he's saying and believes every single word.
I decide to have a beer and ask what they have for a selection. He starts going through the list, and I start acting just like Aaron...serious look on my face...nodding my head and saying "uh-huh" after every selection. He cracked up after a few seconds, and I decided on a Mich Ultra. He then asks where we were from, and we told him central Illinois...Bloomington to be exact. Apparently he likes to keep track of this.
A few minutes later, he walks by and throws a handful of napkins behind him right over Sheri's head. Aaron doesn't quite know what to think. He then comes back with our drinks. He stands behind Aaron and tells him to look at the picture on the wall. As Aaron does that, he drops about 20 straws right over Aaron's head and into his lap. That got Aaron giggling!
I told Sheri about the Zurg (Bennet) tradition of bussing his tables. With Aaron, however, we would not be able to do it. Mr. the Kid stops by with something, and we let him know that he got off the hook this one time regarding us bussing his tables. He went out of character and started reminiscing a little bit. He said that the rest of the waitstaff always wondered how he got his tables to bus for him, and he got embarrassed trying to explain why. Note to Bennet, Kimball, Robin, and anyone else seeing Bobby...keep up the tradition of bussing.
Another couple is seated where we would have bussed. A couple of minutes later:
I turn around, and just as loud as he was:
WE HAVE SOME MORE INDIANA FOLKS HERE.
The folks at the table he was at now get into the game:
The table between the two of us shouting now speaks up:
I reply with AWESOME, BUT WE'RE FROM BLOOMINGTON, ILLINOIS!
Oops...wrong state. "Sorry about that," he says to the Indy table.
The Indianapolis table fires back that the woman there lived in Decatur for several years.
The food came out, and it was just about as awesome as it was the previous night at CRT. During the meal, a band started playing Christmas music in the lobby of the Lodge, so the servers were told to tone it down while they played. I must have mentioned earlier in the meal that Aaron's birthday was tomorrow (the 19th), but Bobby moved it to tonight. He screamed for everyone's attention and promptly got scolded for hollaring during the special music. "It's not like anyone is listening to them anyway"...that got him a good laugh from several tables. He rounded up several "princesses" and gathered them around the table near Aaron.
He then tells Aaron to cover his ears while he talked to the girls. The funny part is that Aaron started covering his ears when they started singing "Happy Birthday" to him.
Aaron also did the requisite pony trot and got his wooden nickel.
As we left (we left him an extra $10 on top of the included dining plan tip), I told him I had a stupid question to ask. He, of course, replied that there are no stupid questions, to which I replied that I was a college economics professor and have therefore heard plenty of stupid questions. Anyway, I asked him how to get to the boat launch. He gave the directions. We shook hands, and our Bobby experience was over.
Okay, despite the bad timing karma, the meal went really well.
Once the meal was over, it was all downhill.
Someone spilled a drink in/on our stroller, so our coats/sweatshirts, etc. were all wet. It was a cool evening, too (yes, Debbie, I actually was cold down there for a brief amount of time). We curse under our breaths and head out to the MK boat to catch the monorail. Like clockwork, Aaron falls asleep before the ferry arrives at Ft. Wilderness. Awww...and we are riding the monorail too for the first time!
Okay, change of plans (YET AGAIN!). Sheri and I decided to skip Epcot and tour the monorail resorts...Aaron would think all that was boring anyway. We go through the Contemporary, and Sheri presses a few pennies. Over to the Polynesian. I'm going to stay at the Poly some day...mark my words. More pennies sacrificed themselves for Sheri. Then the Grand Floridian. We saw the huge gingerbread house in there as well as the mega-tree. We didn't feel the "uppity" factor at the Poly or Wilderness Lodge. The Contemporary and the Grand Floridian, however...whoah. While looking around at the GF, I realized that very few folks had mouse-ears on or Disney clothing on or anything of the sort. Compare that to the All Stars, and 70-80% of the folks are running around with a Goofy hat or Mike W's (Monster's Inc.) hat or something along those lines. I'd definitely like to stay at the Grand Floridian sometime, but I am finding myself perfectly content with the value resort. Sheri agrees.
Aaron wakes up while at the GF, so we get a gingerbread man to split. We sat down on one of the sofas in the lobby and were scared to spill any crumbs for fear of immediate death.
MVMCP was going on that night, and Wishes was just ending, so the line for the monorail was really long (FYI the monorails don't run during fireworks). We hop on the monorail to head back to Magic Kingdom to take the bus back to Movies. The audio of the monorail as you enter "Stitch Kingdom" (according to Experiment 626) cracked me up.
We take the bus and talk with some folks returning from the Christmas party...they all said it was jammed.
We get off at All Star Sports to see if we could talk to Brittany's boyfriend for a couple of minutes, but he was on his lunch. Since Aaron was awake, we walked back to Movies via Sports and Music.
Back at our hotel room, we know tomorrow is going to be a huge day...Aaron's birthday! Today was supposed to be a slow day, and it was not as relaxing as I had hoped. Hopefully tomorrow would be a little better.
We'll see what the first bus stop tells us.