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Keane's September/October 2011, "Now, For Something Completely Different" Trip Report (Part 8 of 8)

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Magic Kingdom
Let The Memories Begin!
General Info:
Who: Me, Keane. Author, planner, survivor...
     Mom, aka "Miss Marie". Mobility impaired. First time WDW guest. Sorta.
     Jenny. No BYPT this time. 5K participant and fellow survivor.
     Karen. My GPS. (A Garmin nuvi 1390)
What: A trip to Disney World with Mom
Where: Walt Disney World, Saratoga Springs Resort
Why: Because all the stars aligned, and it's something I thought would be nice to do before the world ends on December 21, 2012
When: September 27 to October 3, 2011

<Disclaimers>
All Disclaimers from Part 1 still apply.
Thank you.
</Disclaimers>


Day 7. October 3. On the road home, Day 1.

It's always sad to leave WDW, but it's even sadder when you have to get someone to the airport by 7am the morning after a Halloween party, then go back and finish packing. sigh. I once again thank Jenny for the help, then kick her out of the car. We plan on meeting up tomorrow.

It's something like three trips with everything out to the car, and we're off. Karen takes me some weird way North to the turnpike, and we pass all of Disney's receiving docks and warehouses. Wow. It takes a little longer, but has interesting scenery. There are a good number of housing developments around here, just miles from the Mouse. I wonder if they'd be here if it wasn't for Disney's 45 year-old purchase. Still, I-4 to the turnpike would have been much faster.

We stop near Gainesville for breakfast at a Cracker Barrel. At least I have breakfast, Mom can't resist the chicken livers. I can. But I digress...

The cotton fields through Georgia are white and will probably be harvested soon. We stop at Ellis Brother's Pecans, one of the four or five Very Large Nut Companies down in Southern Georgia. I pick up a couple of varieties of pecans. They have a pecan tree out in front of the store, with pecans still in their fruit on the tree. I pick a couple.

I call Lisa about 1:30. We were thinking about getting together for dinner. I'm not going to make Atlanta, much less Marietta. I'll probably be through Marietta early, maybe we can do breakfast. We'll have to play everything by ear.

We stop for the night in Locust Grove, GA, about 30 miles South of Atlanta. It's 4:30pm, and if we continue we'll hit rush hour traffic. Besides, the Party last night is wearing on me. We're staying at a pretty nice Comfort Suites. I can't get connecting rooms, but our rooms are right next to each other, on the fourth floor right outside the elevator. I scribble cryptic notes into my laptop for this trip report. I actually turn on the TV, and catch about 15 minutes of the Travel Channel before I decide it's stupid to stay up.

Mileage: 406
Moving time: 5:39
Moving avg: 72
Stopped: 29:40
Overall avg: 66
Total time: 6:08

Day 8. October 4. On the road home, Day 2.

I want to leave by 5am, and we do. The plan today is to meet Jenny in Lexington at the National Drive. (http://www.nationaldrive.net)

As we approach Atlanta, I hear there's an accident that just occurred on I-75 by the South I-85 split. We go around a curve in the dark, and there's a wall of flashing blue lights, and the only the left lane is getting through. Right before the accident, is an entrance to the HOV lane, and I get in it, and am passed the accident in a couple of minutes. As we drive on, they later close the entire expressway to clean up the mess, and there's a long delay on both I-75 and I-85. Whew. I'm glad we got started when we did.

I blow through Marietta at 6am. Earliest I can call Lisa is 6:30, so we won't meet for breakfast. :-)

We stop at yet another Cracker Barrel for breakfast, at about 7:10am. The last Cracker Barrel we stopped at opened at 7am, so I figure it's a safe bet. The one we stopped at opened at 6. Close enough.

I call Lisa about 9:30 to apologize for missing breakfast. She asks how the trip went, and gives me the DVC sales pitch. sigh.

I get a call from Jenny, and she won't be on the road until Noon, won't get to Lexington until about 5:00. Then she has to unload, so we won't be able to get together until dinner. Mom and I are scheduled to be in Lexington at Noon. We agree it's probably better to get Miss Marie home, and I tell Karen to take us there.

At first, I think Karen screws me by routing me through Louisville instead of Cincinnati, but it turns out the distances are virtually identical.

We need to waste some time, so we stop at a Wendy's for dinner (Mom wanted a frosty -- Chocolate), and get fuel for the last time this trip. We still hit Chicago at 6pm, and are stuck in some stop-and-go traffic for a few miles. Welcome home. We arrive home at 6:24pm. 2563.4 miles. Another trip is over. sigh.

Mileage: 806
Moving time: 11:49
Moving avg: 68
Stopped: 46:55
Overall avg: 64
Total time: 12:36

On the road home, Tennessee
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Final Thoughts

As I said, it was a pretty successful trip. Mom did much better than I ever thought she would, most of that because of the scooter. She "will never forget the trip" and enjoyed herself and would do it again. Stars would have to align again, but now that I know most of the pitfalls of such a trip, things would go more smoothly. After all, for Mom, it's getting out, eating at the different venues and seeing new things.

Doing this trip without help would have been impossible, and it's impossible to thank Jenny enough for the help. (Though I think I have some computer work coming up soon, and designing a couple of web pages, and doing it with my legs crossed.) She is so patient (at least compared to me) and polite it's almost sickening. Many thanks, Jenny. You're the hero of this trip.

(On the other hand, in the past three trips, she has stayed at a Deluxe, a Moderate, and now a Deluxe Villa. We'll see how spoiled she got when she has to stay at a value FOR MORE THAN A NIGHT!)

Much thanks has got to go out to Laura, too.

Let's talk about what I paid for the room. At the rate I rented points from Laura, all six days came to just under $2K. The same room at Annual Pass rates (including taxes) would have come to just under $3K. This doesn't include the $70 in internet access fees I saved as a faux DVC member. :-)

Having the full kitchen and the extra room was a real plus. The bedroom doors are on opposite sides of the main room, so one bedroom is pretty isolated from the other. The room was perfect for our needs.

The savings of renting DVC points over AP rates, pretty much paid for all my other fixed expenses. Gas/tolls, MYW pass, scooter, etc., with enough left over to cover a lot of the food. For three.

Thanks, Laura! Miss Marie thanks you too! :-)

Thanks to Sandi for the scooter recommendation. Apple scooter couldn't have been easier to deal with. The scooter worked flawlessly. Just a few operator problems.

And thanks to Lisa and Andy, for dinner and introducing Mom to the Disney insane. HAhahahaha...

I can't forget PiC, who fed the cat and took in packages and mail. I'm sure Figaro would thank her too, if he wasn't a cat. And we all know cats are evil...

And of course a BIG thanks to all the helpful cast we ran into during the trip. From the bus drivers, to the CM's that would see Mom coming and open a door, to Mickey himself helping Mom stand for a picture, the staff at Disney was outstanding and if Mom remembers anything, it was the level of service that we received.

All the CM's we dealt with were wonderful. From making sure we got close tables at the buffets, to keeping her occupied while I had to do something, like check-in or getting the scooter. For instance, at Boma they noticed Mom had a walker and changed our table to one closest to the food counters. (Also got the best server at Boma ever, cast member/server Jeff.)

Well done, all of you.

This concludes my 17th trip to the World, I believe, and this was the most different trip I've taken. So long as I could get the help I did this time, I'd probably take her there again. Her anxiety level of being in crowds on the scooter pretty much decreased every day we were there, and if I planned another trip, she might actually believe me, and try things like staying up later at night.

I guess the final question is "Why?" That *is* a good question.

My Dad died 10 years ago last month. One of the things that bothered me about my Dad, was by the time he had the time to travel, he never did, then was pretty much bound to Chicago with medical problems until his death.

So, I had the time, I had the help, and it's been a long time since Mom's been as alert as she is now. Of the dozens of trips I've taken around the country, maybe it's time Mom came along on one. Her choice? Disney World. I could do that!

And so that's what we did, and I hope you enjoyed coming along for the ride!

End Keane's September/October 2011, "Now For Something Completely Different" Trip Report.


Things I learned about taking Mom to WDW, the short version

In General:
Unless the mobility impaired person is a good scooter driver and a WDW veteran, you will need help. My successful trip would have been an unmitigated disaster if Jenny wasn't there to help. The worst part, is the height difference between the impaired and un-impaired, which hinders communication.

I also cannot fathom a newbie taking a mobility impaired person. There has to be at least one person, if not two who knows the Disney "system" of transportation, park entry, and general layout of the parks.

As soon as she's getting off the ECV, get her cane ready. There's a reason she's on an ECV.

Instead of pretending she can back up the scooter, back it up for her. Stand directly in front of the scooter, and slowly pull and release the movement lever, just to make sure the scooter is really going to move backwards, and back up both the scooter and Mom. The most common place you will do this is in elevators; at the resort, at attractions such as American Adventure, and the get to the ground floor at The Land. You may also be doing this at attractions where you have to back in or back out the scooter from the seating area, such as in Monsters, Inc or Country Bears, where there is no point in transferring to a seat, since the scooter's seat is more comfortable...

I almost never mention curbs and steps, but one of the things you have to pay attention to are curbs and steps. There is a real danger of overturning a scooter if you try to drive up or down a curb, or worse steps. You always have to be aware of those things, since the person in the scooter may not be looking, ESPECIALLY if you're leading the scooter. The two parks you have to be especially aware in is Magic Kingdom and Disney's Hollywood Studios.

The most important feature of all, was to teach Mom that if something is going wrong, LET GO OF THE CONTROLS! The scooter will come to a stop almost immediately.

We had a "deluxe" 4-wheel model, which is supposed to have a 14-mile range. Only once (after two days without a charge) did the battery meter even budge off of full.

Bus transport:
To a park - Flag the bus driver to make sure he/she knows you want to load. Mom gets off ECV, I drive onto bus. Check back wheels to make sure it's on the ramp, and hit the gas. If the bus is empty, pull past the scooter area, and if you're lucky, you'll back right in. Same rules as parallel parking your car, sorta. Sometimes, it's more convenient to just to physically lift and move the scooter over. While belting in the scooter, Jenny helps mom on bus.

This is more difficult when you encounter a bus that does a full scooter lift, rather than extending a ramp. Get on the bus before the driver does the stair/life conversion, but you do have to recognize the bus has a lift rather than a inclined ramp.

On return to the resort, inform the driver which stop you're getting off at. (There is generally a handicap waiting area at the theme park bus stops, so the driver will know if you have to load a scooter. Don't crowd the load area, guests will be exiting the rear door. And before you move up to the load area, make sure there isn't another wheelchair/scooter unloading.) When the bus comes to your resort bus stop, release all the belts. When the driver had the ramp down, Jenny helped Mom off the bus, then I drove the scooter off the bus. Make sure the rear wheels are clear before turning.

At the parks:
Jenny takes the bags and goes through bag check, while I take mom through bagless check, and into the park. We meet someplace close to the map stand.

Mom sometimes has a problem with directions. It is much easier for her to follow a target than follow directions. So I lead by some 5-10 feet, Jenny stays with mom with more specific directions, and the ability to talk with mom about anything without me being there to defend myself. But I digress.

Of course the most important lesson I had to teach her after that was not to run over the person in front of her. Usually, yours truly. You learn to walk with a tick in your neck continually making sure they're still behind you.

More than leading her, I find that if I'm belligerent (and it only works 80% of the time) I can "cut" a swath through the guests that Mom can use to get the scooter through. For the most part (and we're probably talking 80% again) if people are waken from their Disney trance (sight-seeing, phone texting, map reading, etc.), people are generally courteous and will go out of their way to avoid the scooter. The other 20%... well, I had one apologetic wife tell me, "He always has to be in a hurry!" as hubby dragged two kids in front of the scooter.

I learned early to have Mom and Jenny stop about 20 yards from the attraction or restaurant to find out how to enter with an ECV. She can transfer, but not walk any long distances. Many times you have your own entrance. Other times, you queue through the normal line. It's different every time. Go into The Seas through the gift shop.

There are bathrooms all over the parks. We would go to the least crowded one if Mom had to use one.

Above all, be patient. You've probably already witnessed the stupid things that other guests do on your previous trips, now you're just the target of them.

As always, comments and questions welcome...

Thanks for reading! 'Cause that's all I'm writing!

Keane
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End September 2011 Trip Report - Part 8 of 8.

Jump to: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8

Revisions:
  • 10/21/2011 - Page Added
  • 08/25/2012 - Updated to v3
  • 12/30/2012 - Update to v3.1
  • 09/01/2014 - Update to v3.2