Day 3: Soarin' Over EPCOT

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Waking up early in the morning, I head to the shower while GM and Uncle C take a morning walk around SSR. They cover just about every corner of the resort, through Grandstand, the Treehouses, Carousel and back through the Paddocks.

The rest of us get up more slowly and enjoy breakfast in the room. Today's mission is to head to EPCOT for a bit of FutureWorld and the countries. Cuz will be using his scooter for the day which means we have to do a two bus load. By the time everyone is read for the parks it's near noon. I'm worried about the delay between busses so suggest an alternate. Cuz & I go by bus and GM takes his scooter and Aunt & Uncle C by van. If we leave about the same time we should arrive pretty quickly.

Sure enough it works and we meet up just before baggage check. The thermometer is reading mid-90's and it is scorching hot. By the time we make it past the memorial obelisks everyone's perspiring. So I take them to Spaceship Earth first.

Around the back for the wheelchair entrance (it's a short wait outside too) and in we go. This is becoming one of my "must do's" ever since they installed the wheelchair transfer vehicle. The boarding process is much like Haunted mansion. CMs take your name and party size then have you wait at the exit. When the transfer car makes it to the exit they stop the ride, let you board and take your chair off the unloading tarmac. GM & I take the transfer vehicle and put Cuz and his folks in the car up front. Uncle C rides in a row alone and I find myself wishing I'd put GM with him. I make a mental note to do that on future 4 person vehicle rides. GM loves spending time with me but being with his big brother is something he's dreamed of forever.

From there we head over to the Land pavilion.

But when we get to the elevator Disney's poor accessibility rears it's ugly head. There's a long line of wheelchairs and scooters waiting for the single elevator. The line stretches up past the Garden Grill check-in desk and into the exit platform. But there's one of those maintenance carts strategically placed to the side, keeping escalator walkers from inadvertantly stepping into the chaos. And at the front is a custodial CM organizing the line of wheelies and playing elevator doorman. She quickly gets us onto the elevator clearing a 40 minute mess in 10 minutes. I stop to thank CM Evelyn Ingram from Orlando. She tells us this wasn't part of her duties but she saw the mess and jumped in to help straighten it out. That's the kind of initiative and helpfulness I've come to expect in Disney, especially when it's directed toward those of us with special needs. So I make a note to myself of her name and location with intentions of reporting her efforts to Guest Services later. (I do remember that task as we exit the park and am told her supervisor would be getting an e-mail with my report and thanks. I hope she has a nice little star in her corporate employee file now.) If nothing else, CM Evelyn proved to our Disney newbies that the title "cast member" is more than just an ordinary job.

Downstairs at last we head straight to the Living with the Land boat ride. This is one of my cuz' favorites. He is a landscaper, after all. But more importantly, he still fancies that 9 lb lemon tree. (Imagine all the iced tea he could season?) And the tree is in full bloom with a dozen 9 lb lemons just a few weeks away from ripening.

From there, we steer our newbies into the line for Soarin'... their first "thrill ride" of the trip. We're not quite sure how they'll take to it, especially Aunt C. We tell her it's very safe and gentle. She's not a fan of heights but she's still trusting our lead.

At the loading bay, I ask if we can ride up front. We're given a spot on the top right row. No feet above us but a little too off to the side for my liking. Still great seats for Aunt & Uncle C. The lights dim and up, up, up we go into the clouds descending over California.

When our feet touched ground again and we'd exited to the hallway, we ask Aunt C what she thought of her first thrill ride. Was she nervous? Had we turned her off rides?

She exclaimed, "That was fun. I felt like I was flying!" then spread her arms like wings to demonstrate. I swear, she turned into a little girl in that moment. All my life, I have never known my aunt to be "girlish". Disney pixie dust at work again... Sorry, I should say "at PLAY again".

Next stop Club Cool for a sampling of ice cold exotic beverages around the world. My new favorite is Israel's lemon soda, while GM and Uncle C have a liking for Costa Rica's strawberry Fanta. But Aunt C and Cuz have a bonafide passion for Italy's bitter Beverly. Yes, the drink that people usually spit out in surprise and disgust, this my cuz and aunt can gulp with glee.

All refreshed, and the sun a bit cooler now that it's after 4pm, we make our way to the countries.

I stop to get a few snacks from the South American kiosks en route to Mexico. Beef empanadas are my new favorite this year. Aunt & Uncle C enjoy a few delicacies themselves but they're not quite sure how this F&W fest thing works. I discover they are not snackers but more sit-down dinner eaters.

The sun is still a bit too hot, so we head into Mexico to take in the boat ride. I'm afraid all the Donald Duck theming (I so miss the original Rio Tel Tempo ride) will turn my guests off. "Characters and kiddie rides" I can hear their description of Disney as Jose and Pedro jump from frame to frame chasing Donald. And when you get to that bartering scene and Donald is busy kissing all the pretty girls I look over at my aunt and cringe. Oh what must she be thinking.

Get off the ride and before I can explain how the ride used to be, she's parroting a Donald Duck voice back to my cousin. They both love Donald! And Three Caballeros is a longtime favorite of my uncles. What? They like characters and kiddie rides? Are you kidding me?!

Next stop came Poland to sample the peirogies and raspberry wine chiller (my fav). Uncle C is not so impressed. He declares his periogies are much better. Well we are a Polish family and some harder to please than others. GM and I both love the stew as well: boiled beef, potatoes and cabbage. Mmmm good.

I admit I'm a bit disappointed Aunt and Uncle C are being so hard on the F&W offerings. They refuse to sample the drinks and aren't wowwed by the food. This is one of GM and my favorite events of the year. We bought that little wristlet gift card so we could eat and drink around the world and back again. And next up is China where they have the Plum Wine I love so much.

Norway is here and Cuz wants his folks to go try Maelstrom. It's a low boat ride, hard for me to board, so I opt to send them on without me. I figure I could use a little time to go indulge on some Plum Wine and pot stickers. And it saves Cuz from having to lift me in and out of a boat. We separate and plan to meet in China.

A stop at the China kiosk and I pick up an order of pot stickers and Plum Wine Cooler, juggling the lot as I make my way to Lotus Blossom Cafe for a seat. The cooler is a bit disappointing. It's made with a large amount of ice, green tea, just a tiny bit of wine (so small I couldn't believe any came out of the bottle) and has this funky lemony aftertaste. Definitely not worth the $6 price. But as I watch a young couple sit down beside me, I notice the lady has a full glass of what looks like plum wine. I ask her where she got that. In the Lotus Blossom, of course. Oh my, so that's where my wine is.

I ask them if they wouldn't mind watching my table for a moment while I go get some wine for myself. When I return I have a chance to talk to my newfound friends. They are visiting from jacksonville where the fella is in town managing a production of Sesame Street. We talk kids, work and the joy of drinking around the world.

Not long after my friends depart, rain begins to fall. I grab my things and race inside to the tables under cover. GM calls me and leads the group to me. They made good time at Maelstrom. 40 minutes to wait and ride? There's enough time for us all to stop and get a drink and snack. GM indulges in ginger ice cream and the others get coffee and tea. I treat myself to another glass of plum wine. (Along the way I learn a tip. if you're ever a guide for a group, a little drink helps keep the frustration down. Just don't overdo it or else you'll become the source of frustration.)

The next hour is spent bypassing most of the F&W booths. Uncle C wants to see and photograph all the countries before it gets dark. We get as far as America before Aunt C declares she's hungry. With all these food choices around her to snack at, they prefer to sit down in the American Cafe and get a salad. It's their style, Cuz tells me. And the band playing at the pavilion gives Uncle C a headache. He's not a fan of rock, even motown. These are not the NYE partiers, I note. Okaaay. Now I'm wishing we had kept that ADR I had reserved at Rose & Crown for that day. But in my exuberance for F&W I just didn't think anyone would have the time or stomach for a full table service meal. I'll know better the next trip.

Dinner finished (and they were quite happy with their salads and sandwich wraps), it's already getting dark outside. My thinking is to get them to the front of World Showcase in one of the designated wheelchair spots so they could see. We get to Morroco and Cuz stops to show his parents around. He loves the architecture here and just has to show it off. Ok, that means GM and I can indulge in some Moroccan-style tacos while we wait. (Neither one of us got more than drinks in American pavilion. Instead we downed New Zealand and Italian delicacies.) The band comes out and as soon as they hit their first loud note, I'm certain that will chase Uncle C out. He hates loud music like this.

But when I turn around I spot Cuz watching his parents in the audience for Mo-Rocks. Turns out they love the bellydancer. I never thought I'd see this, and neither does my cuz.

By the time we finish with Morocco it is dark and well after 8pm. It's time to go find that fireworks spot. On a whim I decide to pick up a glass of meade from Ireland and spanakopita from Greece. I send GM on ahead with the group and tell them to go ahead into the wheelchair spot. After all Cuz and GM have scooters today so I can just sit behind them. But when I find them they are not in the wheelchair spot. GM got lost and the ended up behind the crowd between the shops at WS. I try to redirect them to the correct spot but they have settled in. They're fine, they tell me. They can see just fine. Of course, I'm sitting lower than them and my water level view is of several dozen behinds.

Call me selfish, call me impatient, but I figure the best thing I can do is split off and find a decent spot for myself to watch. It's already time for fireworks. The crowd in front of the wheelchair spot is a dozen people thick. I find myself retreating to my fall back Future World spot (aka "Rose Hill"). It seems insane but from this spot you can see all the high fireworks and even the ball but without a thousand people around you. Sure the music is off in the distance and you don't get the full laser light show effect but if it's a choice between "butt view" and "distant lonely but pretty hill view" I'll take the latter.

From my spot I can peacefully watch as the EPCOT exodus begins and a full moon rises over Mousegears.

When it clears I make my way back to my group. They are talking about the fireworks again. Both Aunt and Uncle C claim they had the best view anywhere. (I know better of course, but then I plan to bring them back again and make sure we have premo seats.)

The exodus home for us is split in two teams. Cuz takes the bus home and I opt to ride with the folks. Good thing too since GM handed me his car keys earlier that day and remembers it after he gets to the parking lot. I hav a little fun with him though.

See en route to the car I remember my plan to report the fine service from custodian CM Evelyn. I split off to visit Guest Services and make my report, sending the folks on ahead to the van. It doesn't take me nearly as long as I feared. I catch up to them as they are helping some other ladies find their car in the lot. A bit of Tinkerbelle in me, I sneak up on them and trail them like a shadow. When my Aunt turns back to see me I whisper to her to keep my presence secret. I want to see how long before GM realizes I'm here. She taps Uncle C on the shoulder and whispers the joke to him. By the time GM gets to the van he's realized he has no keys and starts wondering if I decided to go on the bus after all. Oh dear what will they do? Aunt and Uncle C are laughing their butts off, especially when I magically disappear from behind them and appear behind the van instead. Yes folks, I successfully turned them into kids again, this time enjoying a harmless prank on GM. Disney has that affect on people and I am known to be a little devil at times.

Ride home and by the time we turn in it's near midnight. This is the third night of our trip and I've yet to get to bed before 11. Aunt and Uncle C are tired but still raring to go. Must be something in the water. We'll see how much stamina they have. Tomorrow is an early call for Uncle C, GM and I... the Day of the Tours.