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Keane and PiC's December 2009 Florida Trip Report, Part 2

Index

Christmastime!
Yes, I decorated my room for Christmas...
Who: Me (Keane). PiC (Partner In Crime). And a cast of thousands.
What: 2009 Winter Vacation.
Where: Florida. Kidani Village, Disney World; and Inn at the Beach, Venice Island.
When: Dec 2 through Dec 13.
Why: Because we *like* you. Em. Oh. You. Ess. Eee.

<disclaimer>

All disclaimers in Part 1 still applies...

All times (unless otherwise noted) are in central time until I get to Orlando...

</disclaimer>

December 2. Annd, they're off!

Out of the gate at 7:00am. 0 miles. 41 degrees. Leave home. Rush hour (a misnomer, it actually lasts about 3 or 4 hours) traffic isn't too bad, and once you're past the loop, traffic lightens up considerably. Traffic on the Skyway and Indiana Tollway is almost non-existent.

8:00am. Exit off of I-90, and enter the start of I-65. I'm on this sucker until Nashville...

9:16am. 116 miles. Around Brookston, IN, there's a new wind farm, and even unfinished Power Lines leading out of the area. There are hundreds of wind turbines, all turning at a healthy rate...

Brookston, IN
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11:11am. 241 miles. Rain. Crap.

Noon. 307 miles. Crossing the Ohio River into Kentucky. Still Raining.

Get to Clearmont, Kentucky, home of Jim Beam. They've remodeled the Visitors center, but still don't have factory tours. They have a new bourbon, introduced in April 2009. It's a Black Cherry 'infused' bourbon called 'Red Stag'. They have a tasting of it, and it's pretty good. It's made from White Label Jim Beam, but the good thing is, it doesn't taste like 4yo Jim Beam. I buy a bottle. It could be dangerous stuff, since it's so smooth, and too much of it will probably get you sicker than a dog, with a hangover to (hopefully) die for... Oh, it's still raining.

Barrel House at Jim Beam, Clearmont, KY
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2:36pm. 453 miles. Entered Tennessee. And it's still Raining. I don't mind rain, but rain all the time...sucks. Thank you, it had to be said.

I realize how much I missed being on the road. It's not the best in the rain, but there's something about getting in the car and hitting the strips of asphalt and concrete that criss-cross the country. I think it gives me a sense of freedom that I don't normally have. The scenery, the differences in season...all things noticed and filed away along with the other however many thousands of miles on the road.

Then too, sometimes the rain is quite hard, making passing semi-trucks a joy. Not.

Three accidents, two in the opposite direction, but all in Tennessee. I'm not slowed terribly by the incidents, but if people wouldn't gape...

3:50pm. 504.9 miles. End the day early in Nashville. The Mexican Restaurant on the property is highly recommended. The Fajita fixin's were tasteless with too much liquid, the tortillas were sub-par, the guacamole tastes like it came from a can. I'd give dinner a 'D'. Oh well, what do I expect for Mexican food in Tennessee. Problem is, I think dinner at McDonalds would have been better. Maybe.

My room also faces the highway, making the noise level a little high. It get's quieter as the night goes on...
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December 3. The First Annual Varsity RADP meet!

Single cup coffee maker in room. Ugh. Bad coffee. Well, maybe not bad coffee, but the problem with drinking really good coffee, is that normal coffee sometimes...sucks. Bed was comfortable, but the shower ran scalding every once in a while. I was so disappointed by the restaurant, that I pass on breakfast there.

7:15am CT. 505.1 miles, start day 2 of the road trip.

Go through the mountains in Southeastern Tennessee, and they look different with all the trees dormant for the winter. I wonder if the fall had a lot of color this year. So many previous times I've traveled this way, and all you can see is are green canopies of the Eastern forests.

9:19am, 625 miles. In Chattanooga, I'm about 20 minutes behind schedule. Well, it's a straight shot to Atlanta now, hopefully, I'll be able to make it on time.

Nickajack Lake, Tennessee River
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I get to the Atlanta area about 11:45, and have to stop for gas. If it doesn't make me late, I'll be cutting it close.

I get to the Varsity at almost exactly Noon. What timing.

Now, it's been said that I organized this meet. I didn't really. All I did was make an offhand remark that I keep seeing the Varsity off of I-75 as I pass through Atlanta, and suddenly, we're going to meet and have hot dogs.

Of course, I didn't even know if I was going to Disneyworld yet.

When my plans finally come together, I announce the date. That's all I did. These meets aren't planned, they just happen. :-)

I arrive within a couple of minutes of noon. and Rodney is waiting at the rear entrance. Good thing he recognized me, 'cause he looks nothing like his Usenet posts. :-) Michelle and Jay show up not much later. (They've met Rodney before, so that was easy.) We decide to get a table. Three tables, actually.

Lisa and Andy are there next, and we're wondering what Fizzie and her daughter Cat looks like, and within minutes, there's a mother and daughter with Disney stuff on. Yep! The last of the family shows up. ;-) It's a good time, with various subjects from wife swapping to teaching computer classes to a bunch of glassy-eyed brainstems.

Two Chili dogs, fries and a Diet Coke later (with the addition of a couple of Onion Rings and their Frosted Orange), I complete what will be the first of three sessions I'll have with Hot Dogs this trip. Mmmmm.... Now where did I put that Imodium?

We make sure we have pictures, and the official pictures are taken by Cat. Official. Like we come close to anything official...

The Varsity in Atlanta, GA
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We break up at 2:30 (ET), since I still have some driving to do, but we probably could have stayed and talked for another hour or two... Before we go, we are declared "Not Lame" by Cat.

Had I not had to drive, I would have broken out the scotch. "Not Lame" has *got* to be better than "Old Farts." At least I hope so.

2:20pm, 784 miles. Sun! Big round bright ball.

Oh, a warning. The Georgia State Police are using Dodge Chargers, in all different colors. You need to fear more than just Crown Vics...

I'm at Ashburn, GA, by 5pm, where I have reservations. I get in, settle down, and Lisa already has a trip report out. That's good, I really didn't want to have to write one that night. :-)

It was a fun day, but the funner days are coming up, starting tomorrow...
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Dec 4. Arrival!

The day starts by leaving the hotel at 6:00am, 903.6 miles. It's 45 degrees. It might be cold, but at least it didn't snow. LIKE IT DID IN CHICAGO! Hahahaha... But I digress.

7:38am. 1004.9 miles. Around Lake City, it starts to rain. Then it stops. Then it starts again, and doesn't stop. And it gets heavier. And then it gets lighter, but it becomes heavier again. Please don't tell me that of all the late year trips I've taken, this is going to be the first one that rains me out.

9:45am. 1134.0 miles. I turn onto the Florida Turnpike, which traditionally tells me I'm on the last leg to WDW. It might be pouring, but I'm baaaack! I might be flooded out, but I'm hoooome! A bad day at WDW is still better than a good day at work. (Yes, I know I'm perverting the quote.)

They've changed the gas stations in the rest areas on the turnpike to Shell stations. My gas of choice. Good move!

It's raining so hard by the time I'm past Turkey Point, that I opt out of experimental routes to the World, and get on I-4. The rain begins to lessen as I go through the Welcome signs, but it doesn't stop.

WDW Roads
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I get to Animal Kingdom Lodge (AKL) and they've moved the guard shack. I always wondered where that restricted road went the previous times I've been to AKL. It goes to Kidani! I get to the temp parking, and yes, it's still raining. I walk through the rain to registration, and there's some carolers singing Christmas tunes in the lobby, and I remark the CM that this is the first time I've been entertained checking in.

I pay for the room using two Disney Reward Cards and my Visa. Between the AP rate I have and the Disney Reward dollars, I'm paying $142/night (including all those pesky taxes) for a studio savanna view. I can't beat that with a stick.

They want to put me at the far reaches of Mongolia. I beg and plead for a room close to transportation, for the first time pulling the 'ended chemo a couple of months ago, and get fatigued easily' excuse. Well, it's true. I didn't lie. And they give me a better room. The problem is I go from having a room to not having a room. No problem, I have to pick up some tickets at Guest Services. Downtown Disney, here I come!

Walk back to the car (in the rain) then drive to DD (in the rain). I park in lot two, and wade through the puddles in the parking lot, and use the corridor between World of Disney and Legoland. It's a zoo, *and* it's raining.

I walk through WoD, then through Arribas Brothers to Guest Services. Get my tickets, and decided to walk around DD for a while. I get to the bathrooms by the old guest relations office, and when I come out, it's raining even harder. Another guest and I remark on the rain, but that's not going to make it stop. I won't melt. I don't think I will, anyway... The Wicked Witch of the West comes to mind...

I stop in at Once Upon a Toy, to see if they have Holiday Wishes and the parade music on CD. Nope. I stop outside the entrance, and if anything it's raining harder. I call PiC, have her check the radar plots. The rain isn't going to stop. Oh well, deal with it. Tuck the camera up into the armpit to keep it dry and walk out.

There isn't a line into Days of Christmas, so I go in. I decide to buy a couple of stockings (Eeyore, PiC's favorite, and Sorcerer Mickey), and a couple of strings of lights to decorate the room. In October, I had Lisa pick up a 2009 Christmas Mug (#5 in a series of 5), and they don't have any. The only thing they have is a generic Christmas mug. Well, I don't care. I already have mine.

Well, that's it. I'm wet, and decide to go back to Kidani, and wait around there for the room to get ready. Before I go, I pick up a couple of Wetzel Dogs for lunch. Mmmmm... My second encounter with a hot dog goes well.

Kidani Lobby / Downtown Disney
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I get back to Kidani, and find parking near the elevator in Timon I'm going to have to use, so I just sit in the car, eat a Wetzel dog with brown mustard, and read my book. My cell phone rings at 3:27pm. My room is ready.

Takes me three trips to get everything out of the car, including PiC's suitcase. She still doesn't think I'm serious about charging her $20 to transport her luggage to Orlando...

Since the rain is still falling heavily, I decide I'm going to stay in the room and decorate for Christmas, while swilling a little scotch. And a little Red Stag. After looking around, I decide the dresser/TV stand is the object of decoration. I pencil out a couple of options, and find it's dependent on the length of electrical cords, both on the lights and the power strip I have. I find an electrical outlet behind the dresser, accessible from the bottom shelf. If not for that, I'd have been in trouble. Turned out pretty good, if I don't say so myself. :-)

Animal Kingdom Lodge
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[I have since rehung the Mickey lights, but they just aren't the same without Animal Kingdom Lodge around 'em. PiC agrees.]

At 9:51, I hear fireworks, but I can't see where it's coming from. It's Illuminations, and I'm hearing the Christmas tag. You can see the high-aerial shells just to the left of ExE, but it's nothing more than a glow on the horizon.

I'm unconscious not much later...
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Sidenote - Animal Kingdom Lodge, Kidani Village, Part 1

This will have marked my 4th stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge (AKL), but AKL is much different now than it was when I was last here. What I used to know as AKL is now AKL - Jambo House. The new building I'm in is AKL - Kidani Village, a DVC resort with some rooms that they rent to people like me. At least I got decent AP rates.

My room is 7530 on the 5th floor, overlooking the Sunset Savanna, the shared savanna with Jambo House. The room layout is very similar to the Saratoga Springs studio I was in (in 2007), but in typical AKL dress with a *much* better view out the balcony.

Room 7530, Kidani Village, Animal Kingdom Lodge
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The room is laid out a little weird, or at least the bathroom is. The bathroom has a sink and a bathtub, but the commode is in a small room all by itself. It's about a 5'x5' room, with four bare walls, a door, a light, a fan and a toilet. Oh, there's also a sprinkler head, but I can't imagine what could catch on fire in here. (Yes, there's a joke here, but I'm not going there. Oh, there's a joke there too...)

So long as I have the command strips out, I put a picture of Yellowstone up on the wall, just at the right height to look at when you're...busy. (More proof why people shouldn't drink alone.)

Room 7530 interiors
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And I still can't get used to the angry toilets they have here. Every time you flush it, it sort of explodes. But I digress.

If you've stayed at Jambo House, then you'd be right at home with the interiors at Kidani. If you haven't stayed at a villa, the microwave, larger fridge and larger capacity coffee maker is welcome.

My PS3 recognized the TV as 1080i, via HDMI through the breakout box. The box also has VGA and standard video/stereo audio inputs. I'll have to remember to bring a VGA cable so I can put the pictures up on the TV from my laptop.

Room 7530 interiors
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If you want a little surprise, take a picture of the shields they have on the doors or in the elevators with a flash. The rugs too. They're really bright colors, obscured by the dim lighting.

Kidani Villiage, corridor interiors
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One of the plusses I appreciated at Kidani, was the under-building parking. (It's really ground level, the lobby is on Floor 2...) It protects your car from the sun and rain, and you can unload your car in dryness if it's raining outside. I think it works much better than the large outdoor lots at the other resorts.

Underground parking, Kidani Village
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You can come see Kidani, but there are fewer viewing areas than there are at Jambo. If I were coming for a visit and just see the resort, I'd come to Kidani first, then Jambo. The buses to the theme parks even work that way. (Kidani first, Jambo second. The bus to Downtown Disney is just the opposite.) I don't know, I'd describe the atrium at Kidani as 'Cozy', and Jambo's as 'Grand'. They are two different resorts with a common theme. More than Jambo House, Kidani has artifacts on every floor, and you can hunt around the entire resort for quotes painted on the walls...

(Note: There are more photos of Kidani Village later in this report. You can also read more about Animal Kingdom Lodge and Jambo House on my Animal Kingdom Lodge page.)
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End December 2009 Trip Report - Part 2.

Jump to: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 3a Part 4 Part 5 Part 6

Revisions:
  • 08/24/2012 - Updated to v3
  • 12/30/2012 - Update to v3.1
  • 08/31/2014 - Update to v3.2