Typically, I like having a countdown for an upcoming trip; this adds to the excitement. Things were so absolutely busy with the boys’ sports and other functions, coupled with real-world job and volunteer issues keeping us busy and stressed out, that we didn’t really have a countdown at all. It seemed like we rolled over to each other in bed, looked at each other, and casually mentioned that our vacation was starting the next morning.
We NEEDED this trip like you couldn’t believe.
September 10th rolled around, and we had everything ready. Since we were heading down to Florida the day before, we decided to take advantage of it and have a bit of fun at Disney World. I was able to snag a great car rental rate (with taxes and fees, renting at Orlando International Airport and returning it at Port Canaveral, it was around $36). I was also able to find a really good rate for a resort that I haven’t yet stayed at (Disney’s Boardwalk Inn), so we booked a room at the Boardwalk.
FastPass+ and dining reservations were made, and MagicBands were ordered. Our passports had arrived, bags were packed, clients were all up-to-date, logistics for the kids/cat were all set…yeah, we were ready.
Oh, the things I do for research.
We polled the boys about 374 times to make sure they had everything they needed as they were heading to friends’ places for a night (they had school the next day). After the 7th time we asked, they assured us that they had everything (we still polled them the remaining 367 times). After we dropped them off at school, we went back home and waited.
I HATE WAITING!!!!!
I like taking the first flight out and getting to our destination as soon as possible. This wasn’t going to work this time because of school. To placate my A.D.D./O.C.D. tendencies, I worked a bit until it was time to leave. The cat sensed that we were never coming back and bit me multiple times (anyone want a cat?). We quadruple-checked everything, packed everything we were taking into the van, and headed out for our ten-minute drive to the airpoWAAAAIIIITTT!! Wifey wanted a selfie first (grrr).
FINALLY, we were on our way to the airport. Free parking was found (no money in the middle of the Monopoly board, though), and the first thing that told me that we’re on vacation occurred: I put my car keys in my carry-on instead of in my pocket.
Yeah, it’s a minor thing, but I still get giddy when I put the keys away.
I took a picture of where the car was located (in case I forgot when we got back)...
The checked bags got sent away, and we headed to the TSA checkpoint with our Passports for the first time ever. I was half-expecting that we forgot to do something with the Passports and that the TSA agent would laugh at us when we presented them, telling us that we’re morons for not registering the passports online or calling them in for verification. We made it through easily, even without a comment on how crazy my last name is! I did, however, forget to take off my belt when I went through the scanner, so I had a TSA agent get to second base with me…since I forgot my belt, I almost expected him to steal third (he didn’t).
After verifying that all was good, I met back up with Sheri, who also got some action with a pat-down. We grabbed a seat and waited for the flight, which came in early. This was good…hopefully we could depart early and then arrive in Atlanta early enough for us to have a chance at flying standby on a flight that would get us into Orlando over an hour earlier (remember, we were going into one of the parks tonight…Epcot was the plan).
We departed on time.
It was an uneventful flight. We landed, checked the earlier flight (which was already starting to board), and decided to just take our time and make our scheduled flight. We subwayed to the terminal we needed to be at and decided to grab a bite to eat at Chick-A-fil (yeah, it’s Chick-fil-A, but I made a mistake about 250 years ago and said “Chick-A-Fil” to wifey, and she still reminds me of my gaffe…every…time…we…see…a…flippin’…Chick…A…Fi…I MEAN CHICK-FIL-A!!!)
Food eaten, we chilled for a while, and I made the mistake of checking my e-mail while on vacation; I already made the mistake at the Bloomington Airport and had to deal with a volunteer position where I had to make an executive decision on a funding/budgetary concern on the fly. The Atlanta e-mail crisis, though...ugh. Our school district had to deal with an unanticipated mold problem, and they have done an awesome job trying to work around it while one building was cleared out. The decision was made to make a change to the schedule and not have school on the following Monday (the day we get back). This decision made perfect sense; however, when you’ve got logistics set up with the assumption that the kids will have school on Monday and you’re about 700 miles away and about to board a plane, you tend to go into overdrive and start thinking up alternative scenarios to recover the logistics that just got completely torpedoed. We were already dealing with baseball changes that were occurring on the fly, thanks to the weather and to schedule additions. The school thing…argh (note to Dave…it was the right decision to make…it just had my heart rate hit around 220, which was probably where my blood pressure top number was approaching LOL).
I made a phone call and got voice mail. Attempted phone call #2 and got the answering machine. The third time was a charm, and I broke the news to my Mother-in-law, who was one of the primary logicians in our plan. Luckily, I get along well with my Mother-in-Law, and, as she’s now connected to the internet, I will only say good things about her from here on out (Hi Cindy!). She said that they’ll figure it out and that we shouldn’t worry about it.
Okay…all we needed then was for this Boeing 757 to adhere to the laws of physics and aerodynamics, and we would be in Disney World by 6:45…enough time to use the FastPass we set up for Test Track. Even if we were slightly delayed, we’d still have until 7:45 pm to make it.
For those not used to my writing style, that last paragraph is known as foreshadowing. Everyone knows that something had to happen, right?
We departed on time and were heading out to the active runway (the gate was at the west end, and the winds had us departing from the east to the west). After the longish taxi, I noticed that, as we were heading to runway 27R, the second engine hadn’t been lit yet and that we were turning left near the international terminal instead of turning right to take the active.
That’s when the captain came on the intercom and informed us that they had blocked departures from the south side of the airfield due to weather. Ops was working on a new route, which meant that we would likely have a longer route (just as the Captain said, “this new route will add about 20 minutes to our original flight”). Immediately, I hearkened back to my online flying days (yeah, don’t ask). Typically, we’d fly to Valdosta, GA and enter the LEESE2 or PIGLT4 arrival into MCO. With the storm south of the airfield and us departing to the west, I figured we’d depart and make a long turn north, then east, and we’d have to join a new arrival, like the CWRLD4. After about ten minutes, we started rolling west and then snuck through the ramps; we were going to depart on the north side. Luckily, they snuck us in the queue and were only third in line rather than 238th in line. We blasted off and headed west for quite a while…and then we turned left (south). Were we going to come in over the Gulf and take the southwest arrival route in (COSTR3, for you aviation geeks)?
Nope. We played chicken with a number of cells that were popping up. I think I know how those in the shuttles felt during the asteroid collision avoidance scene in Armageddon. We were banking left and right all over the place. We ended up coming back north after that long detour south and came in over Valdosta. Long story short: we were going to be landing quite a bit later than expected. I looked at Sheri and, in my best Tom Hanks (Apollo 13 Hanks), I said, “We just lost Test Track.”
Luckily, we did land from the North, so that cut the taxiing time by a lot. This was going to be a new experience for us; this was the first time we have ever landed in Orlando and not taken Magical Express to Disney World. We still did the same routine, though…we got off the plane and skipped the bathrooms; we went straight for the tram to the terminal and made a beeline for the escalator down. Off the escalator and…..whhooooaaaahhhhh…turn off the autopilot…we had to get our checked bags. We headed left and made use of the (very quiet) facilities before grabbing the bags, which came out soon afterward.
Our instincts had us heading down the escalator and heading to the folks with the big white hands, but we instead had to force ourselves to head outside and over to the parking garage where the Budget FastBreak kiosk was. We were first in line; all I had to do was show my ID, and we were heading to our car in less than a minute. After we loaded up, we grabbed our Garmin and fired it up…and it never synced. Sheri was getting a little concerned, but she forgot that she married a massively anal retentive guy who researches the heck out of everything and had already Google mapped the route no fewer than 8 times. I looked at her and said, “All I need to do is get on Jeff Fuqua and hop on 417…trust me”. She looked at me with this weird expression on her face (I see it at least 4-5 times a day), like “How the Hell do you know that??!!” She finally gave up on the Garmin, grabbed her phone, and turned on Waze. Boom…Fuqua to 417.
She didn’t appreciate the dance I did while driving.
Since we saved quite a bit on the car rental and were running late, we decided to turn on the I-Pass for the car and just blow through the toll booths. Waze was trying to get us to stay on 417 and take Osceola in. Hell no! I mapped out (8 times…Google mapped) hopping on 536 and coming in Epcot Center Drive. Sheri questioned her decision to marry me as well as my decision to ignore the Waze, especially since we have never been on 417 before. “Trust me”, I said. She gave me an “okay”, but I think she secretly started looking up AAA’s or the Boardwalk’s number to call for directions.
We got on 536, and Sheri started praying. I ignored the signs telling me to take I-4. Sheri just looked down at her phone (Waze was giving up on me, too). We saw the “Welcome to Walt Disney World” sign. Sheri wept with joy.
One turn onto Buena Vista Drive…one turn onto Epcot Resorts Boulevard, and Boo-yah…welcome to the Boardwalk!
We pulled in, checked in with at the security gate, and received our parking pass. Once the gate was opened, we headed straight for the main entrance (we’re late…get outta da way, youz guyz! Boardwalk…Jersey…get it?) and didn’t even give the valet/bellhops a chance to help us with our bags. We had the trunk empty and were walking up went we received our first “Welcome Home, Mr. and Mrs. Mushrush!”
I love hearing that…waaaiiiiiit a minute…we didn’t tell you our name yet…how in the…??? (yes, I know how, but I still love seeing the Disney Magic going on here). Sheri thought that was a nice touch.
The cast member who welcomed us home guided us to an open check-in slot, and all was done in a couple of minutes. Sheri’s jaw dropped at the lobby and willingly let me park the car while she stayed behind to watch the bags. I pahked the cah (that’s my Jersey accent, in honor of the Boardwalk) and found Sheri, who was busy taking pics around the lobby:
We headed over to the Inn side of the resort and finally saw the Belle Vue Lounge, site of the (in)famous 2007 Braless Girl incident at the Moose Meet.
There are pics out there of the incident (including an absolutely hilarious one of Tink trying to maintain eye contact with this unknown woman), but I just can't get myself to post them. If you weren’t there…don’t ask. We were fortunate to have missed that one as we hadn’t arrived yet for the Moose Meet.
We marveled at the theming of the hallways and then held our collective breath as Sheri tried using her MagicBand for the first time. It worked! We opened up the door, and it was my turn to have a jaw-drop moment…absolutely beautiful!
(The next installment can be viewed HERE)