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December 2008 Trip Report, Part 1 of 5


Epcot in December
Lights of Winter, Christmas in Epcot...


I am writing most of this after a week of exhaustion, mind-input overload, and picking up some virus that started with a sore throat, then made my nose start running and am at a coughing stage. It also makes my mind go idle. Let me know if anything doesn't make sense... :-)


Much of what is here is fact, mostly fact, or could be complete figments of my imagination remembered as fact. That's my story, and I'm stickin' to it.

You'll also probably note as you read this, that it doesn't appear that I had a plan. Actually, there was one. Tuesday night was a MVMCP. I wanted to be in DHS one night for the Osborn Lights, and Epcot on two nights. Which nights didn't matter. End of plan. Simple, no?

I don't really plan my Disney Trips. My trips out West are planned to the day on a ridged schedule, since you sometimes have to make reservations months in advance; but it's a different game here. You have to plan the dates you're going to be at WDW at least a couple of months in advance, but once you're there, it's not like Epcot is going to be closed that week. For the most part, the plan for the next day is the question "What do you want to do tomorrow?" the night before.

I will have a plan what I want to do in any particular park, but for the most part, those plans could be done any day in any park. You just block out sections of your trip for planned events like the Christmas Party.

Oh, and if looks like sarcasm, it probably is.


Friday, December 12, 2008. Day 1

4:30am. That's when I left home. I got to work about 5:00am, and did some final checks on the equipment I oversee. It's 20 degrees outside, with a wind chill of -1.

I'm on the road by 5:30, and by 6:00 I'm in Indiana heading south.

I no longer need a map, I-65 South to Nashville, I-24 East to Chattanooga, then I-75 to the Florida Turnpike.

You really can't win, since no matter what time you leave Chicago, you're bound to hit rush hour in Indianapolis, Nashville, Louisville or Atlanta. This time, was Friday evening Rush Hour in Atlanta. As I'm tooling along at 10mph, I make reservations for a room 30 miles south of Atlanta, and use Choice Privilege points to get the room free. (I had to use 10,000 points before the end of December 2008 or lose them anyway...)

There's a lot of people who don't think driving is the way to get anywhere, but I'm not one of them. To me, life is the highway, seeing life in America from urban to rural and everything in between. Some of it might be boring, some might be frustrating, but it's life. It's places where people live and work, no matter who or where you are. People who hate their lives, and people who just enjoy life no matter what it bring them, and all those in between.

I get to reflect on the road. That house where there's nothing left but a few boards and windows, the roof's caved in it's long since abandoned. Who were they? Were they farmers who just build a new house someplace else and left this one to rot, or were they one of those families that just couldn't exist farming, and left for the city?

There are stories out west, of couples who just grew too old to live alone, and just abandoned their houses and homesteads for someone else, to live with their sons and daughters in their twilight years. One story tells of a woman who's last act in the house was to sweep it out, to welcome it's new owners, who ever it might be... Was that house one of them?

But I'm not out west, I'm in the crowded East, and I'm going to Disney World. Being on the road does give me time to reflect, but it's also a time to look forward to the next few days. Tomorrow will be the worst weather I'm going to encounter during my trip. It'll only be in the 60's. That's only what, 60 degrees more that what it'll be back home?

The day ends in McDonough, Georgia. I'm either having a moment of Deja Vu, or I've been here before on one of my trips down to Disney World.

I check in around 6:30pm local time, or 5:30 central time. 12 hours in the car, 767 miles. I'll let you do the math. It was dark when I got in the car, it was dark when I stopped for the night. A day in the life on the road.

Saturday, December 13. Day 2

I'm out of the hotel at 5:30am, just about on schedule. As I check the car out, a hear a voice asking if that's a Chicago City sticker. I look up, and there's a guy on the second floor drinking a cup of coffee having a smoke, in a White Sox sweatshirt. "Yep", I answer, and it turns out he's from Chicago himself, heading down to Florida. it's a small world after all...

It was 30 disappointing degrees when I leave the hotel, but at least it's not snowing. Considering it had snowed a couple of days before in Louisiana, I should be thankful for that... :-) I promise myself if it's above 60 degrees when I get to Orlando, that I'm going to be in shorts.

I'm passed Macon before it gets light, and I'm surprised to see so much construction. Up North, construction has stopped for the winter. I guess things are different down here.

I'm soon in the I-75 South Georgia/North Florida Tourist Corridor, where everything from pecans to theme parks and peaches to surfboards are advertised, from Tampa to Cocoa Beach. I miss the Disney signs, ever since the Disney outlet in Ocala closed. Another casualty to the Internet, I guess.

I finally get to the Florida Turnpike, the final leg of the journey. Going South on the Turnpike is always the place that tells me that I'm back. I'm baaaack! Back to a place I can shut off my brain, someplace I can sit back, relax and let someone else take care of my problems back home. I get out my SunPass and stick it up on the Windshield. Yes I own a SunPass. Doesn't everyone?

I check the temperature. My car says it's 59. By the time I'm at the Turkey Lake Rest Area, it's 62 degrees, and the shorts come out. Ever try changing clothes in a car? Nye impossible. (No, I wasn't driving. I'm not that stupid. Well, I wasn't that stupid today.)

But in an act of sheer stupidity, I realized that morning I forget my tripods. Well, I've always said that that's why they make Walmarts and Best Buys, so I'd suck it up and be true to my word. I connect to Turkey Lake Rest Area's wireless, and look up the Best Buy store locator. There's one on Osceola Parkway, just outside of Disney World! So I stay on the turnpike to Osceola Parkway, and voila, there it is. The internet may be the downfall of modern civilization, but boy, it sure comes in handy sometimes. :-) (No, I won't tell you about the tripod, other than it sucks. I wanted my Slik and monopods all week...)

After stopping at Best Buy, I make my way into the World. It's interesting coming into the World via the Osceola Parkway, and wonder if it isn't a better way of getting there. I've always found the ride down I-4...tedious, and going to the World via the backdoor might be a better way to go.

I check the time, and it's 1:00pm. There's that general RADP 13 meet at 1:30. Could I make it to ASMu, check in, catch a bus to Epcot and walk all the way to the International Gateway before 1:30? Heck no. So instead, I turn toward the Epcot resorts and make my way to the Boardwalk, lie to the guard and tell him I'm meeting some guys for lunch, and take the boat to Epcot. I get to the International Gateway at exactly 1:30.

Boardwalk Pictures
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I get in line to do my voucher exchange for my AP, and the line's too long, so I wander over to the bunch of old people standing around, and find Jack. (No, as in Jack the person, not Jack the nothing.)

I've actually never done anything like this before. I suppose before I get into the details, I should provide the details...

I never planned to be here for this meet. What I really wanted was to come back to the World for Christmas again. I hadn't been to WDW in 14 months, and decided it was time. My usual travelling partner (PiC) said she couldn't go. (Too busy at work, she said. What a lousy excuse.)

So what I did instead, was set up a week down in Florida with an old friend of mine that I've known for over 20 years. Maybe 25 years. I gave him a call and we agreed to a week. He'd just gotten divorced, and hadn't been to the parks in a couple of years. (His name is Bruce, who'll probably show up later in this trip report.)

Annual pass rates were announced, and after some coordination, I make reservations for four nights at Port Orleans French Quarter, a resort I'd never been to. (Well, I've stayed at Riverside, but let's face it, it's a completely different theme. For those unaware, up until a few years ago, Riverside and French Quarter used to be known as Dixie Landings and Port Orleans, two separate resorts.) Then, it turned out, Bruce could show up a day earlier after dropping off his kids.

Done deal. I started looking around for a resort for the day before. I then looked up radp.org, and found the general meet on Saturday. So instead of just booking the day before my other reservations, I booked *two* days before. The cheapest place I could find was All Star Music.

Now, I've said I'd never stay at the All Star resorts again, unless I had no other choice. On the other hand, it was some $150-$200 cheaper than a moderate, and in a weak moment, I booked it. (No AP rates during that weekend.) And I'd pay for it. (<-- pun)

We also planned two days in Universal Orlando. I had Bruce make the reservations, since being a Florida Resident, could book the on-site hotels at literally 50% of the price I could. Nothing like those front-of-line passes...

So the plan was to get there on Saturday and maybe meet up with some of the RADP personalities I've written at for the past year. I really didn't think I'd get there in time for the 1:30 general meet, but could easily meet them later in the evening.

But there I was.

Jack started introducing me to a lot of the regulars. Interesting to meet those people you've only typed at before. And the Paragon challenge? It took me about 5 seconds. ("See that person sitting on the bench? That's the Mighty Paragon!")

I needed to meet this person, so I walked up and introduced myself. Paragon: "You type taller on the net." Me: "Thinner too." Above conversation paraphrased. So much for first impressions. :-)

And guess what? There were no axe murderers. Well, at least you couldn't *identify* any axe murderers. They're always the last you suspect after all.

I met Jenny, and was glad to find out that the Penske truck getting the ticket on the Florida Turnpike wasn't her.

Met Laura Gilbreath too. That morning at the hotel, I had logged in to check my mail, and saw she already had her blog for the day up, posted at 12:40am, and 13 hours later I'm saying hello.

And did you know BigBrian is only 4 feet tall and weighs 70 pounds? He's got a cool postcard that'll go into my postcard collection. (And no, BigBrian is not 4 feet tall and doesn't weigh 70 pounds.)

Also met Julie(ImKiwi10), as well as a few others...who names escape me. Well, I admit to the fact that my memory and matching them to faces is terrible... :-) If I met you, point it out to me.

The only disappointment was CEO Boom didn't show up. I looked for the fedora, Boom.

RADP 13 Group Meet, International Gateway, Epcot
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All-Star Music Resort

After the meet, everyone's going to go to the Norway Movie meet, but I'm dead tired, and I still need to check in. So I get back to the Boardwalk, and of course, make the wrong turn out of the parking lot.

I eventually end up at Downtown Disney, where I know I shouldn't be, but want to go at some point anyway. A bunch of us drive around the cones that are blocking Lot 1, and find a place to park, since there's plenty of parking in lot 1... I've got two goals here. One, is to exchange my MVMCP ticket will call, and to get to Days of Christmas for my 2008 and 2009 mugs. The place is *amazingly* crowded. I get to Days of Christmas, and there's a 20 minute line to get in. Say what? I decide to go to DD the first thing tomorrow.

I finally find All Star Music (repeat after me...It's an Animal Kingdom resort, it's an Animal Kingdom resort), check in (with no wait at all) get my keycards, and turn around. A Mears bus has just arrived, and there are 20 people now in line. What timing.

I finally find the room, which is one room short of being the furthest room from the busses and the lobby. It is also among the furthest from any parking area. That's what I get for booking All-stars. Never again...

The room has no coffee maker or 'fridge, so I call housekeeping and request them. I'm told that they have no coffee maker, but they have a fridge. I go back out to the car to pick up a couple more things, and get back to the room. My message light is flashing. It's housekeeping, saying they have no coffee maker, but they do have a fridge. Hmmmm.... I call them back, to make sure they really *do* know I want a fridge, and 45 minutes later housekeeping shows up with a fridge *and* a coffee maker. She gets a bigger tip.

There are a lot of windows decorated, one complete with Christmas lights. Others with towel animals or stuffed animals. I'll have to remember that.

I'm pretty much dead by this time, so dinner consists of a cheeseburger and fries at the food court. It's sustenance. That's the most I can say about it. I try to stay awake as long as I can, and fail at some point, but I couldn't tell you when...

All-Star Music Room Interiors
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End December 2008 Trip Report - Part 1 of 5.

Jump to: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5

  • 08/22/2012 - Updated to v3
  • 12/30/2012 - Update to v3.1
  • 08/31/2014 - Update to v3.2