Day 1 With the Senior Newbies

Sunday, October 4, 2009

After a week of getting reacquainted with our home away from home, it's time to welcome our guests. First we must do the resort shuffle which involves packing up the van again, leaving our Marriott apartment and driving the long 8 miles south to Disney Saratoga Springs. Remembering how last year's Fall trip went awry we decide to skip our regular side-trip to church. We hope the Good Lord forgives us our superstition but we have a mission this week and it doesn't involve hospitals or broken legs. Besides, we can always skip out next Sunday and attend mass. Surely there's an exception for travellers in the Catechism, right?

We get to Saratoga by 11am, after the morning checkouts and before the afternoon check-ins. While GM drops off the groceries in Bell Services (meeting a very bubbly new employee named Jill, transplant from MI who's just so doggone happy to be someplace warm), I head over to the Carriage House where there are a dozen CMs and pretty much no line. We're told our room is in the Springs but they can't tell me the room number until Housekeeping has released it. They offer to text me when it's ready. (No more little card with a number to call.) This makes my 5th or 6th visit to the Springs section so I know the layout of rooms well. A bit of a wink wink conversation with the CM who swears she cannot reveal the room number upon pain of death and I figure out the exact room number anyway. It's the same place we stayed with my sister's family 2 years ago.

No worries about getting into the room yet. We just move our van over to that lot, then put on our bathing suits for a nice dip in the pool before the guests arrive. No sooner do we finish with the check-in then my phone rings. It's Cuz 626.1! They have arrived in Orlando and are on their way to Magical Express. I figure we have an hour left to ourselves. Time to hurry up a bit.

Park that van, say hi to Sundee at Community Hall, ask the lifeguards to setup the pool lift for me, get a refill drink with my Disney mug and jump into that bathing suit in the bathroom. SSR has one of the loveliest accessible restrooms on property. In the hallway between Carriage House and Artist's Palette, right by the DVC kiosk are two very roomy public restrooms. You can tell the boys and girls apart just by looking at the floors. Girls have pink tiles and boys have blue. The accessible stall is located in the back, around the corner and is big enough to be a room all to itself. You get a sink, several rolls of hotel quality toilet paper (come on ladies, you know how much better that is than the tissue thin cheap stuff in McD's) and a serenade of soft classical music. It's the perfect place to have a few minutes privacy to yourself to regroup. I manage about 2 before (one leg in my bathing suit, mind you) I hear my name called. Actually my childhood nickname reserved for grandmothers, mothers and aunts who can apparently fly from MCO to SSR in a heartbeat. It's Aunt C!

Damn, they made good time.

Get myself together (wearing a t-shirt over my suit for modesty sake) and out I come to greet our guests. Aunt C is dressed in her usual lady's attire of long skirt and sweater. Back home is a mild 60's, but down here it's reaching 90. She noticed but is welcoming the sunshine and warmth. Uncle C. and Cuz await us outside with GM talking about their flight and the quick and painless journey from MCO. Under my advisement, they've handed off their bags to Magical Express so come with just the bags on their arms (purse for Aunt C and the ever-present camera for Uncle C).

None of us has eating in hours so the refill drink turns into lunch at Artist's Palette. Uncle & Aunt C get their own Disney mugs and we take a table by the window. Along the way we meet up with some of our old friends at AP (Esther, Marie, Gina, etc.) and it becomes apparent to Aunt & Uncle C that this is truly a home for us. The "us" including Cuz 626 who is sure to reacquaint himself with CM Gina, his lemon dealer. The man has an addiction to sweet iced tea with fresh lemon. Lunch consists of salads, flatbreads, soup and my favorite chicken and chips. For Aunt & Uncle C it also includes an orientation of their first ever Disney resort and the plan for the week.

As a refresher here, GM & I have been trying to get Aunt & Uncle C to join us in Disney for about 3 years. They aren't big travelers and have had this idea that Disney is all characters and kiddie rides, aka Six Flags. Our mission this trip is dispell that foolishness.

First up we explain the theme of this particular resort. It's called Saratoga Springs because it's modeled after a NY Victorian artist & racing community. It's the "health resort" of Disney, I tell them. Lots and lots of walkways around lakes, golf courses and woods. Aunt C perks up when she hears we usually spend our mornings taking long walks. She decrees this is something she wants all of us to do, including my part-vampire cousin. Our room isn't ready yet but when I passed by (after parking the van) I had seen housekeeping working on it. It should be ready soon. So we decide to split up a bit. Cuz will take his parents on a quick little walk of the Springs and GM & I will hit the pool.

I was just in the middle of hopping on the pool lift for the jacuzzi when our guests decided to observe. This is one of the reasons I keep returning to Disney, I tell them. Just to use the hot tub and the most accessible pools almost anywhere. Unfortunately, it is also reaching 92 degrees so I don't have the stamina for a long hot tub dip. Instead, GM and I do a few laps around the pool while the guests go explore.

An hour or so later, I get out to check my cell phone. No text messages from Housekeeping yet, but I am able to look up the Ravens score. It's not good. Patriots are soundly trouncing us.

Now where did our guests get to? GM naps on a chaise while I go in search of. No sign at Community Hall, none in Artist's Palette, not at the bus stop or along the walkways. But when I pass by the door to our soon-to-be assigned room I hear voices within. Check with a swipe of my key and inside I find them. They sought refuge from the heat and on a whim chanced the door. We haven't officially been assigned the room yet but it's clear Housekeeping has come, gone and now the supervisors are busy releasing the buildings. It's 4pm anyway so we decide to just settle in. Cuz and Uncle C. help me unload the van, enough to get all the bags inside. Aunt C. takes a nap and I leave Cuz to setup the electronics (wireless router, media player, etc.) while I head back to the pool for one last dip in the jacuzzi.

Originally we had dinner scheduled at Turf Club for 5pm, but when our lunch and settling in lasted so long I popped back there to change the time. Now we have one more hour to ourselves before we must dress for dinner at 7pm.

By 5:30pm, the sun has burned off most of its heat. The pool and jacuzzi are quite enjoyable now. I could stay in them for hours, but guests await. GM remark how good things are going so far. We were worried these folks would be full of complaints. It is way too hot for October. The resort buildings are very spread out. And the 2bedroom villa is smaller than what we just left at Marriott. But instead, Aunt & Uncle C seem happy and excited. We remind ourselves what Cuz told us to expect from his parents. Early mornings, activities until mid afternoon then early evenings at the resort. There's a lot GM, Cuz and I want to show our newbies, but I caution not overdo it. We don't want to overload our newbies with Coomando Touring. This trip will be nice and easy. Very relaxing.

On that note, GM and I drag ourselves away from the pool and back to the room to dress for dinner at the resort. I figure Day 1's objectives are just to get our newbies to Florida and show them the little corner of the world that is SSR. At most, I figure we can go for an after-meal walk around Congress Park before putting our Seniors to bed by 9-10pm.

Back at the room, Cuz and his parents are all settled in. We find Aunt and Uncle C sitting on the veranda, feet propped up and enjoying the view from their tiny garden. We have the dedicated two-bedroom facing the parking lot by the bus stop. Not the greatest of views but very close to the resort's heart. Aunt & Uncle C think it's a slice of heaven?!

By the time we get over to Turf Club it's twilight. The night air is balmy in a good way so we sit outside on the veranda. Our view is of the resort ferries, West Side and the giant yellow helium balloon of Characters In Flight. I've brought along a map of the resort to show Uncle C all those meandering walking paths I mentioned earlier. Our guests are full of questions.

What is that white tent over there? Cirque de Soleil

How long will that be in town? It's permanent. Good show, very acrobatic.

But that's a big tent. No, it's a concrete building made to look like a tent. Disney is themed, remember?

For dinner we try the crab cake appetizers. Uncle C. takes one bite and declares they aren't up to Maryland's finest. No Old Bay. (Note to non-Marylander chefs. if you're going to make crab anything you MUST use Old Bay Seasoning. Cooking crab meat without is just criminal. Like having pancakes without syrup.) But the rest of the meal is a rousing success. GM opts for the lamb chops, Cuz goes for a Angus Chuck burger, Uncle C. goes for salmon and I dive into some sirloin steak. To my disappointment, chocolate lava cake does not appear on the dessert menu. Instead I opt for some berry cheesecake while everyone else packs up leftovers for the fridge.

It's past 9 by the time we get up to leave. I want to lead the group on a walk around Congress Park but Aunt & Uncle C ask to make a trip to Walmart. I had thought it would be a midnight run with Cuz and I. Aunt & Uncle C are particular about their morning cereal choices. So the lot of us pile in the van and head to Walmart on Turkey Lake Rd.

I should note that GM have been very disciplined this trip. We picked up milk our first day in town and still have nearly a full gallon in the fridge. We've been stuck with too many groceries and leftovers before so know not to overbuy. But newbies will be newbies.

At Walmart we split up into two teams: GM and Seniors get food, while Cuz & I get those other hardware incidentals we wish we had. The ADA bathrooms at SSR are great for accessibility but are sorely lacking in shelf space. I figure if I get one of those cheapie rolling plastic drawer carts (like you use in dorms) I can add storage to the bathroom. A cart costs me $7 but allows me to store my unmentionables, my toiletries and have a shelf for magazines. Aunt and Uncle C come back with their favorite cereal, a bunch of bananas, a six-pack of Dr. Pepper and a large package of yogurt along with a 7lb bag of apples. Well at least it wasn't like that first trip I took with my siblings some 11 years ago. That was 5 adults grocery shopping, all hungry and all forgetting we were in All Star studios with only one tiny dorm fridge between us. Here's a tip. Never grocery shop hungry. We ended up with so many gallons of milk, juice, soda and potato chips that trip we were begging strangers to take our leftovers.

By the time we got back, it was near midnight. Time for bed.