Florida May-Jun 2005
Destination: Orlando, FL
Dates: May 27 - June 4, 2005
People: Mark, Sarah, Luke, Dave, Karen, & Lisa
- 5-28 Driving day
- 5-29 Daytona Beach
- 5-30 Disney's Magic Kingdom
- 5-31 Disney's Animal Kingdom
- 6-1 Disney's EPCOT
- 6-2 Sea World Orlando
- 6-3 Driving day
- 6-4 Back home to Chester
FRIDAY MAY 27
Left the apartment just after 4pm. We both got off work early to hit the road and we're glad we did. Since it was Memorial Day weekend the traffic heading out of town was much worse than normal. At the southernmost toll booth of I-355 we hit the backup. We were in wall to wall traffic until a mile or two south of Weber Road on I-55. The rest of the way along 55 went pretty smoothly. We made a big stop-off in Bloomington to get food for us and Luke, and also picked up some MRI records from Sarah's hospital there. From Bloomington on we had some beautiful views of the sunset. It was a good evening for pictures. We departed I-55 onto SR-4. And did some boring night driving down the state highway to Chester. Got into Chester around 11:20pm and did some quick unpacking of the car and feeding of Luke.
SATURDAY MAY 28
This was a short night for us. Only made it to bed around 12:30 or so and woke up again at 2:30 to start getting the car ready. The morning drive has been going by pretty quickly so far at least. It was really foggy along the road heading out of Chester. We made it into Kentucky past 5 in the morning and sunrise was already happening. Everyone was pretty hungry already and we made a stop at a Waffle House in Calvert City, KY, just off the expressway. From there the traveling went pretty quickly. People were taking naps off and on. Mark and Dave switched up driving every 100 miles or so. Lunch was taken at a Steak-n-Shake somewhere in Tennessee. We made it to Atlanta mid-afternoon while a Braves/Phillies game was going on. We passed Turner Field while the game was being played. We made it to Valdosta Georgia around supper time. We got checked into the hotel pretty easily. It was a Holiday Inn. After unpacking the car into our rooms we walked over to the Fazoli's next door and had a big meal. Luke was fussy through part of it but we had a bottle for him so he could eat too. Went back to the room, looked at the nice pool and considered swimming but rather called it a night. Mark played on the wireless internet they had there for a while and then all went to sleep.
SUNDAY MAY 29
We meant to be on the road by 7:30am this morning but Mark and Sarah slept through the alarm and instead woke up around 7:30a. We did get out of Valdosta around 8:15 or so. We made a quick trip down to Ocala where we were intending to go to church. We found three different churches in Ocala, but only two had 11am services which is what we targeted. We ended up choosing Our Reedemer Lutheran and it turned out to be a wonderful choice.
They had a beautiful looking building from the outside and friendly greeters at the doors to welcome us. We even lucked out and found they were doing a rare occasion of using TLH Matins for order of worship. It seemed they normally did something a little more contemporary. The people were very friendly there.
We did a quick lunch at Burger King in Ocala after church and then made our way to Daytona Beach. The drive through Ocala National Forest on our way east was nice. We made it to Daytona in good time. However, once we got off I-95 and took US-92 into town we hit some major traffic. The bridge heading out to the beaches was all backed up and we sat in a line of cars until we got down to Atlantic avenue. We ended up driving south of Dayona Beach a bit to Daytona Beach Shores and finally found some parking and a great beach there.
We all got lotioned up to beat the sun and headed down to the shores. We kept Luke in his stroller for protection. We got Luke in his swimsuit for the time and took him out into the waters right away. Luke loved the ocean water and the waves. We let him splash and sit in the waves for about 25 minutes till we took him back to the stroller to keep him out of the sun.
Mark, Sarah, Lisa, and Dave enjoyed playing out in the waves for awhile after that. It was a great day for the beach and a pleasant beach to spend time at. We were there until around 6:30p or so. Then we headed out and started the drive to Orlando. We navigated down to Orlando and through town to the southwest to the Disney area at Lake Buena Vista. We took Epcot Center Dr. into the Disney village and found our resort, Shades of Green, without too much trouble.
We got all settled in at Shades of Green and found it was past 9pm already. We headed out to the west end of the resort to a bar and grill named Evergreens for dinner. They had some good food out there and it was located next to their Mickey shaped pool. One memorable moment was after Luke 'filled' his diaper and Sarah was looking for any takers to change it. After Mark and Lisa shyed away she looked at her dad who promptly pointed at his "grandpa" t-shirt and said "that's not my job anymore". Mark chuckled and said to Sarah "I guess that trumps it." After dinner we all made the walk back to our rooms and got ready for our trip to the Magic Kingdom on Monday.
MONDAY MAY 30 - Magic Kingdom
This morning we were up early and ready to head to the Magic Kingdom. We got breakfast at the express café at the hotel and caught an 8:30 hotel bus shuttle to the Ticket and Transportation Center of Walt Disney World. From there we hopped on the monorail to the Magic Kingdom park and were off on a nice scenic ride.
We got to the park just as they were finishing there opening ceremony presentation for the park with singing and dancing at the main entrance. After getting a riding scooter for Karen we made it into the park. First thing we ran into Chip and Dale in the entrance plaza to Main Street USA. We also saw Mickey and Minnie in a crowd of people as well as Goofy. We got pictures with Chip and Dale.
We strolled down Main Street USA and headed straight for Cinderella's castle. We caught the crowning of Cinderella as princess show which is a part of Walt Disney World's 50th anniversary celebration.
We went into Adventureland where Dave and Lisa walked through the Swiss Family Treehouse. Then we headed for The Magic Carpets of Aladdin where we nearly got wet by the spitting camel. Mark, Luke, Lisa, and Sarah all rode the magic carpets. Luke enjoyed his first ride. Next was the Jungle Cruise which everybone but Karen went on. This was a nice long ride in a riverboat with some good sights to see. After that one was the Pirates of the Caribbean. All but Sarah and Luke went through on the first ride. Mark went with Sarah on a second round so she could see the ride. It was as Mark remembered it from last time. A few of the parts of the ride were parodied in the movie which had come out already.
By this time it was nearly lunch time already and we were hungry and Luke needed food so we headed into Pecos Bills Café and got some burgers and fries. From there we headed over to Splash Mountain where we got a fastpass to come back later and ride it. It was hot and sunny today so everyone at the park was looking forward to the water ride.
In the meantime we made our way over to the Haunted Mansion. Mark, Sarah and Dave went in while Lisa and Karen stayed outside with Luke in the shade. The Mansion wasn't at all scary but they had some neat effects inside with disappearing ghosts sitting and dancing in a ballroom.
After the Mansion we ventured over to Fantasyland where we rode Cinderella's Golden Carousel. Mark, Luke, Sarah and Lisa got onto the carousel. Luke enjoyed the ride. After the Carousel we headed over to the Mad Tea Party ride where we ride the tea cups. Mark, Sarah, Lisa, and Karen squeezed into one tea cup and had a great ride of strong spinning. After the tea cups we walked back over to Splash Mountain for our appointed fast pass time. Even the fastpass line there was 20 minutes long or so, but the wait was worth it. The ride takes you through a series of episodes with Brer Rabbit and his friends building up the mountain to the hill at the end. We didn't get soaked but we got wet enough to feel good in the heat for a bit.
After Splash Mountain we headed back through Fantasyland and got fastpass tickets for The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh ride. We continued on in to Tomorrowland and found a table and chairs to cool off at in Cosmic Ray's Starlight Café. Cosmic Ray was some sort of an alien mix animatronic character like you'd expect to see at Chucky Cheese. We got some drinks while we cooled in there.
Finally our Winnie the Pooh fastpass time came up and we headed back over there. Mark, Sarah, and Luke went in first and the ride was very nice. We sat in a car and it takes you on a storybook journey real briefly through some of Pooh's classic tales. Even bounces you up and down a bit like Tigger at points and simulates riding through the blustery day tail. Luke enjoyed it. After we finished our trip we gave Luke to Dave and Karen and they and Lisa went on through the ride. Mark and Sarah went and got Luke some animal flashcards in the giftstore while they waited.
After finishing with the Pooh ride we headed back down to the center of Tomorrowland. We checked out the ride times for the main attractions and then settled for Fast-passing Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin. After that we left Dave taking care of Luke in his stroller and the rest of us hopped on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority. At first it just looks like an 'El' type ride that goes in a circle around Tomorrowland, and it does. But it was rather entertaining actually to head in and out of some of the attractions including Space Mountain.
Our time came up for Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin. Mark and Sarah loved this one and it was possibly the favorite of the day. You sit in a car and go through room to room with Buzz Lightyear themed targets and you fire a laser at them racking up points. The competition was fierce but somehow Sarah ended up racking up the most points. After finishing the Lightyear ride we got a Fast-pass for the long line at Stitch's Great Escape and then decided to walk on back up to Fantasyland in hopes ot touring Cinderella's castle.
On the way up Sarah stopped at the main rose garden near the castle and took several pictures. The rest went on ahead to the castle and Sarah soon caught up. We found out there is no tour of the inside of the castle but you do just walk through from back to front. We got some pictures, looked in a few nearby gift shops and then decided on doing some dinner. We had dinner at Pinnochio's Village Haus. Where we sat we could see the entrance for "It's a Small World" and after eating decided to give that classic ride a try. It had a short line and the ride was fine. Not one of Mark's favorites but it had some impressive decoration.
Finally our time came for Stitch's Great Escape. We made the walk back down to Tomorrowland and waited in the short line to get in. They take you through a room or two talking about training and stuff and then seat everyone in a circular room with seating and a large container in the middle similar to the confinement seen in the Lilo & Stitch movie for Stitch on the initial spaceship. From there there is a drama of Stitch escaping and hiding in and around the audience and also includes the release of a foul smelling gas. Was a decent attraction.
That would be the last ride we embarked on. From there Mark & Sarah tried to get on the Space Mountain line and Dave, Karen, and Lisa took Luke to save a seat for the lights parade. Mark & Sarah quickly gave up on the Space Mountain line as it was near 45 minutes and not leaving enough time for the parade. They headed back to Main Streat USA and joined the others for the lights parade. It got dark pretty quickly and the parade began. Floats streamed by with all the favorite characters lit up with tons of lights on each flight. The weather threatened some rain and the parade quickened pace and may have even been cut short. That was the day. We took the quick monorail ride back to the Transportation center and caught a bus to the hotel. A good day at the Magic Kingdom
TUESDAY MAY 31 - Animal Kingdom
This day began with what looked to be a very long day. First thing, it was raining hard when we left our hotel on the bus for Animal Kingodm. Second, the hotel told us the wrong bus and the wrong opening time for Animal Kingdom and so we were nearly dropped off at MGM Studios. We convinced the driver to take us to Animal Kingodm but sure enough it wasn't open yet. We finally got the bus thing fixed and showed up an hour later when the park opened. It was still raining and we stopped at the entrance shop and bought some overpriced ponchos. It was a trick to keep ourselves covered with poncho and umbrella and keep Luke's stroller covered.
From the entrance we spent the early morning walking to the Discovery Island, seeing some animals, and then watching the It's Tough to be a Bug show. Then we walked out to the Kilimanjaro Safaris ride where the live savannah animals were at. It was drizzling and raining all morning. The ride was great early morning. Most of the animals were out and we got good pictures. The ride was on these huge bus like vehicles with the sides open. The drivers went really fast and it had a drama of chasing poachers at the end. The drama was annoying but the animals were great. After the Safaris we walked along the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail. We saw some closeups of gorillas and an underwater hippo viewing area. The trail was nice and the rain was a slow consistent drizzle. After the trail it was indeed lunch time. Luke was already asleep at this point. We went the Tusker House Restaurant for lunch.
After lunch the rain had stopped for the day and things were clearing up and drying out. From there we walked down to the Festival of the Lion King show. This show was definitely a highlight. There was good music, dancers, acrobatics and the like. I took plenty of good video of this show. After the show we did some meet and greet with characters like Chip & Dale, Goofy, and Donald. We then headed over to DinoLand U.S.A. There we saw Lucky the first walking animatronic dinosaur. We walked past the Bonyard attraction, saw the Dino-Sue replica of the "Sue" T-Rex skeleton at the Field Museum in Chicago. We then road the rollercoaster called "Dinosaur", Mark, Lisa, & Sarah did. It was a ride taking you back in time to pick up a dinosaur from the movie Dinosaur. You sit in a car and get jerked around and do some hills. It goes quickly at the end when you try to escape a meteor show. After that we put Luke on the TriceraTop Spin ride and he enjoyed going around on that. Mark, Lisa, and Sarah rode the Primeval Whirl rollercoaster. It was a fun one but tame compared to a Great America-type coaster. Lisa liked it enough she and Sarah rode it again. Sarah, Lisa, and Karen played some Fossil Fun Games after that and we left DinoLand U.S.A. walking under a huge Brachiosaurus.
On our way up to Asia we walked past the construction site of a future exhibit to be named Expedition Everest. It seems to be a rollercoaster built within a mountain looking like Everest. Is supposed to be done in 2006, to bad we won't be there for it. In Asia we rode the Kali River Rapids, a water ride that got us all pretty well drenched. Karen stayed off of it and watched Luke. After the Rapids we walked around the Maharajah Jungle Trek. We got some beautiful views of the bengal tigers in there. They had a wonderful exhibit. Some some tapirs and other animals as well.
After the Jungle Trek we began to wrap our day up. We had at the Pizzafari. We rode the Kilimanjaro Safaris one more time and we also waited in line long enough to meet Mickey and Minnie for once and get pictures with them. At the end we did some quick gift shopping and that was our day at the Animal Kingdom. On our way out our directions for where to find our bus were poor and mixed up. We ended up missing the first run of our bus, (after finally learning where to find it which was halfway down the parking lot, a good distance from all the other pickups) and we waited a good hour for our bus to come back again.
WEDNESDAY JUNE 1 - EPCOT
We began our day at EPCOT by riding the monorail into the park. The monorail did a nice loop around spaceship earth globe and then parked us at the main entrance. The weather was gloomy at first but no major rain like yesterday. Our first exhibit was Spaceship Earth. It was a ride through the large globe at EPCOT's entrance. It followed the evolution of technology on the earth. The tram ride took us uphill to the very top of the globe and then back down. Good ride. Our second exhibit was Living Seas. This was one of the few exhibits I remembered from my very first visit to EPCOT. We saw the manta rays and several underwater aquariums. After we exited here the rain started to pick up off and on.
We next went into the building called "The Land". We took a boat ride in there that took us through some hydroponics and special growing areas where they would grow plants without soil. Interesting stuff. It was in this building that we did one of the most impressive rides on the whole trip called 'Soarin'. On this ride they would load people up into seats with their feet dangling and they would hoist everyone in their seats up in front of a big screen so that 50+ people would be vertically spaced in front of the screen. Then the screen started with various images that would give you the impression you were flying over the places on the screen. They even inserted various smells into the room that would correspond with what was on screen. It was very impressive.
We spent our afternoon walking around the World Showcase. We had lunch in Mexico and had some good nachos. We went past Norway and then saw one of the parades coming by with the Disney characters on it. From there we passed China, Germany, and Italy. We stopped in some shops in Germany that had similar items as the places we saw in the real Germany a year ago. We went past the American Adventure and then to Japan where we went in some more shops. We finished the circle past Morocco, France, the United Kingdom, and Canada. We hurried through the last few as our day was disappearing quickly.
We went back to the front of the park and did some shopping in the center square by SpaceShip Earth. Inside the Innoventions Center we walked around some of the exhibits and saw the Pastics Works exhibition. We tried to head over to the Universe of Energy and Wonders of Life attractions but both were closed that day. So we decided to wait in line for the Test Track attraction. This was a long line but well worth the wait. The ride took you through the assembly line as if you were actually on a test car going through the tests. After doing some start/stop and turning maneuvers inside, the track led you outside where you cruised on a track around the building at speeds of 50mph+. After this ride we went into Mission: Space and got in line for that attraction. This was a space simulator that put you and three others in small capsule next to each other. The ride then simulates blasting into space and sets you spinning around the room in the capsule to similuate heavy G activity. It tries to further simulate zero-G but eventually it just nearly gives everybody motion sickness.
This led us to the end of our day. The weather in the latter part of the day was much better than the morning. We hopped on the monorail and headed back to the transportation center where we got a bus back to our hotel.
THURSDAY JUNE 2 - Sea World
Our day at Sea World began much like the other days in this week, with rain. We had Luke's stroller all bundled up with ponchos and an umbrella to keep him dry. When we got into the park we saw that the "Clyde & Seamore Take Pirate Island" show was about to start so we rushed on over there. It was a great show with the sea lions and a little sea otter. We got several pictures and some video of the show. I had remembered seeing that show at my previous visit to Sea World. From there we backtracked over to the Penguin Encounter. They were simulating antarctic winter there for the penguins so the room was like twilight. We tried taking pictures but they didn't turn out well. After the Penguins we headed up to the rollercoast named "Kraken". It was a great coaster, Mark, Sarah and Lisa all went on it. We had to convince Lisa to do it but she was glad she did afterwards. The coaster did several loops and even went underground at 2 points. Had good speed and great thrill, rivaled some of the best coasters I've been on.
From there we went up to the Pacific Point Preserve. The sea lions outside there were barking like crazy. Luke even enjoyed this attraction. Sarah and Lisa each got to feed the sea lions by buying one of the little feeding dishes. It had a random assortment of fish parts and squid pieces. Next, we went over to the Whale & Dolphin Theatre to see the show entitled "Blue Horizons." It was a great show with a nice assortment of animals including some tropical birds. For lunch we ate at the Smoky Creek Grill which had some oustanding barbecue. I got a sample plate of barbecue chicken, beef, and pork. It was very filling.
From here we went past Turtle Point and checked out the sea turtles. We also saw some pelicans and took their pictures. Next we went down to the Stingray Lagoon and fed the stingrays and petted them a few times. After that was Dolphin Cove where we watched the dolphins for a bit from topside. Then went to their underwater viewing area where they had glass around you from three sides and you got great views of the dolphins swimming. Following this we saw the alligators and the manatees and then headed over to the Jewels of the Sea aquarium. It was really warm at this point so Mark, Sarah, and Lisa went on the Journey to Atlantis ride which ended with a big hill sending you down to the water. The water got the riders wet but also got the spectators off to the side wet. So after the ride we went over to the spectator area and got a few more splashes.
Afterwards we walked on over to the Shark Encounter. This was a neat walk through the underwater shark viewing areas as well as other fish and sea creatures. From the Shark encounter we started making our way to the Shamu Stadium where our showtime was coming close. The Shamu show was good as always. We sat up close to the front in the splash area but didn't get all that wet. After the show we went through the Wild Arctic area where we saw beluga whales and two polar bears walking around in their small enclosure. It was nice as always to see the polar bears but they didn't appear to be all that happy. One of our favorite things of the day took place after the polar bear exhibit. We were sitting at a bench trying to figure out our next stop and we let Luke play with the Sea World map and he started to try to eat it. He was crumpling it with his hands and trying to shove a large portion of it in his mouth. That was our last attraction of the day and we did some shopping and took some pictures on the way out.
FRIDAY June 3
Left the hotel around 8:45 this morning to head down to US-192. We were meeting Pastor David Meyer and his wife Vivian at a Denny's there. Pastor Meyer was the Kern's pastor while in the Philippines. He is now stationed in Florida. Breakfast was nice talking with Pastor Meyer and we ate there until about 10:30am. Then we hit the road on US-192 again and took that to US-27 north. Then up to the Florida turnpike which we took to I-75.
We moved pretty well along I-75. We made a quick stop at Burger King in Adel, Georgia for lunch, but nobody ate much after our big breakfast. Past Adel we hit some very bad rain showers. Visibility was very small and a lot of traffic was slowing and some even pulling over. We had some car troubles of our own. The electric system gave out all of a sudden with the power steering and some of the braking going with it. Luckily we had an exit that came up quickly with a gas station and a mechanic right at the end of the exit. We waited about 15 minutes for a mechanic to look at the minivan and they found a belt had come loose inside. It had taken too much water from the back of the hood where the drainage wasn't working properly. The mechanic fixed it up and to our delight had us back on the road without any further delay.
Not too many miles past that there was a major accident which happened ahead of us no more than a few minutes. Seemed as though a van or a truck lost control and hit one another and two big semis following hit each other, possibly while trying to play avoidance. Traffic was slowed around the wreckage but it did appear as though no one was seriously injured. The heavy rain and the accident were enough to get all cars on the road to slow after that.
The rain finally stopped sometime before we hit Macon and we moved through there quickly and made it to Atlanta with no trouble. Traffic was medium in Atlanta as we were passing through at about 5:30pm on a Friday afternoon. We finally stopped for supper around Cartersville at a Wendy's, somewhere north of Atlanta.
The rest of the drive went by easily. We stopped on the west end of Chattanooga at a Days Inn for the night. They had a really small swimming pool which we tried. Mark and Lisa got all the way in and Mark was helping Luke get a few splashes in the pool. We didn't get him in his bathing suit but he did get his legs in for a few splashes.
SATURDAY June 4
We got up and ready to leave around 7am eastern time. We fed Luke and packed the car. Ate breakfast in the motel lobby and we were on the road by 7:50 eastern time. Mark and Dave traded driving a little but Dave did most of the driving. The trips through Tennessee and Kentucky flew by and we were in Illinois before we knew it. We stopped for lunch in Marion, IL as we got off I-57. Had a nice lunch at Steak-N-Shake. From there we made the quick trip through Carbondale along SR-13 and then up SR-3. We got to the house in Chester just before 2pm.
We spent about 45 minutes in Chester moving things back to the Buick. We got some nice pictures in the driveway and then in the yard across the street with the Mississippi River in the background. We were on the road for home just a while before 3pm. The drive back to Chicago went pretty easily. We stopped just past Springfield for a Taco Bell dinner. Got home around 9pm or so and unpacked the car.