The cast of characters, from left to right:
Cousin Denise, BFF Patti, Al's sister Ginny, Cousin Bill, Al, friends Jimmy and Judy, and Al's sister Susie, who, being different, is the only one in front of the sculpture. Absent from the picture that morning were cousins Fred and Kathie, and myself. One day we had a visit from our friends Dan and Jonell as well (who spent time with us here last year).
We always have a great time, going on rides, watching shows, and, of course, going out to dinner! Doesn't it seem as if the older you get, more social occasions revolve around food?? Some restaurants are tradition for us. The first night we always go to the restaurant at Fort Wilderness campground, The Trail's End. It is a buffet, and actually one of the better deals for your dinner-dining budget here in the World. We go the breakfast each trip over at The Polynesian Hotel, at The Kona Cafe, where we have picture-taking fun each year.
Cousin Bill makes sure he has a photo op with each group of cousins, as well as a table of complete strangers! So far, he has always found a table willing to play along with him. It sure has family members not traveling with us scratching their heads, wondering who those folks are :-).
I will say, planning a trip to Disney is getting more and more complicated. The more popular restaurants need to be reserved 180 days in advance, although we've had some luck at short-notice reservations at times. That's mainly due to the fact that many of our favorite spots to eat are off the beaten path, and we do tend to eat at off-peak times sometimes. Plus, many of the table service restaurants are getting darn expensive! We've learned to eat out for a late lunch, then just have a simple meal for dinner back at the campground. We also eat most breakfasts at the campsite, and this year I brought my own water bottle into the parks, partly to make sure I stay hydrated and partly to save money. Really, a bottle of water costs $2.50, so if you buy only one per day, that's $30.00 over the 12 days!
There's also the matter of rides now. Many of the rides are so popular that the wait times to ride them can be obnoxiously long. You can now actually reserve times to go on up to three rides a day, 60 days in advance, if you are staying at a Disney property. The downside to this is that you have to try and figure out WHICH park you want to go to and each particular day, and what TIME you think you want to go on that ride. It's nice to get out of a long wait line, but it really takes away the spontaneity of each day. I haven't decided if I truly like it or not. I am so grateful to Al for taking the time to plan out the schedule for each day, coordinating restaurant reservations with ride reservations, and keeping us all together as much as possible. The 60 day mark comes right at peak season at Amazon, and I can barely keep my mind together just for regular daily functioning, never mind coordinating all that :-).
The nice part of having so many days at Disney is that we are able to spend at least two days in each park, enabling a slower, more relaxed pace. Being Disney veterans of many, many years, we have our favorite rides and shows that we always like to see, and we always try and see any new attractions that have opened over the past year. My favorite this year was in EPCOT, at the Imagination pavilion. The former attraction, Captain EO, was retired, and a brand new 3D movie called Pixar Shorts was brought into the theatre. The animation was wonderful, and I highly recommend going to see it if you headed that way.
A new adventure this year was a trip off-property, to the World of Chocolate on International Drive. I had seen a Groupon for 1/2 price admission, so I thought it would be interesting. The museum was very interesting, with a tour guide telling us the history of chocolate, starting with the first liquid version that the Pre-Columbian Mexicans used to drink. The taste was very bitter, not at all what everyone was expecting! At the end of the tour, you exited into the gift shop and cafe, where there was a myriad of chocolate delectables to choose from.
Of course, we selected a small box of chocolates to take home, and devoured the most delicious triple chocolate mousse right there in the cafe. I would go back there just for that!
It was a wonderful time, and came to an end too soon, as we said our fond farewells to everyone. We are already planning next year's trip, which we are actually cutting down to 8 nights. We are finding we are getting more and more busy each winter, and, let's face it, Disney is getting pretty pricey. I still love it, but I do feel as if they are really starting to push the envelope with how expensive everything is. We may even, *gasp!* start investigating other areas to have our reunion. Time will tell.
Back home, we've been getting down to business. We had some maintenance to do on the fifth wheel, and stayed at the Escapees campground in Bushnell for a few nights to accomplish these tasks. We really wanted to give it a good cleaning inside and outside. While Al worked on some outside projects, I cleaned and sorted, finishing with a good scrubbing of the wood floors, then moving the furniture off the carpets and cleaning the carpets with a cleaning machine we rented from Publix for the day. It did a really good job. We also had ourselves weighed (the rig, that is) while there, and were quite pleased to find we are well within our limits, and the trailer itself is about 1400 lbs. under the GVWR. The insurance adjuster had come out to inspect the blow-out damage to the sidewall, and approved the estimate for the repair. I was thrilled to death that once the parts were ordered from Grand Design, the repair shop (Register RV in Brooksville) had them in-hand in a week, and we are scheduled next week for the work to be done. I will have to say, I am extraordinarily pleased with the customer service we have received from Grand Design, and so far Register RV has been head-and-shoulders above Lazydays. We haven't had to wait two hours just to speak with a service representative, they have been on top of the work order, and always return a phone call.
We are currently in the middle of entertaining visitors from New York. My brother and his fiancee arrived last week and stayed for several days. It was very nice getting to know Dottie, and we will be heading back to Long Island in October for the wedding. We currently have our good friend and Al's golfing buddy Ed here for the next week, and yes, there is a lot of golf going on! After Ed leaves, we have a few things on schedule, with Al needed some Mohs surgery on a spot of basal cell on his forehead. We also plan on a day at EPCOT for the Flower and Garden Festival, and March 17 we leave for a week with the trailer for a visit to Curry Hammock State Park in the Florida Keys.
Our departure date from Florida is set for April 5, and we will be visiting several spots along the coast before heading out west. At this time we have the following plans set in place:
4/5 - 4/8: St. Augustine, FL
4/8 - 4/12: Savannah, GA
4/12 - 4/16: Charleston, SC
4/16 - 4/20: Asheville NC
4/20 - 4/27: Kentucky Horse Park, Lexington, KY
4/27 - 4/29: Lithia Springs COE, IL
5/4 - 5/9: Custer State Park, SD
5/10 - 5/13: Cody, WY
Arriving to the ranch around 5/14.
That should bring everyone up-to-date with our activities and plans at this time! We hope the winter is being kind to everyone, and I will have more to post after our trip to the Keys :-).