Day 2: Saturday Around the World (Bumps but No Bruises)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

This was to be our scheduled arrival day way back a year ago when I planned the trip. Instead, we're waking up in Disney's Boardwalk. The sky is lighter but still no sun. It's rainy and cold outside. No worries we have breakfast planned for 9:30am. A nice, leisurely start to our day.

Uh, what time did you say it was? 9:15am?! But, but, I just woke up. And we have to get out bags downstairs to Bell Services. I need my shower? Did our ponchos ever dry out from yesterday's deluge? Hasn't anybody called us yet? Where are my brothers? Still at the Swan? Why are you just standing there, get out of my way! I need to take a shower!

The phone rings. It's Bro2. They're just getting themselves together too. Kids have been up for hours playing Nintendo DS. Parents are still trying to get that caffeine injection into their blood streams. There's no way, no how any of us are leaving our rooms before 10am. Oh well, we didn't really need breakfast, did we?

Bro2 plans to come over as soon as they're ready and help us take the luggage downstairs. My idea since we haven't really seen each other. I confess I do have ulterior motives. Since we're here a day early and we're smack dab in the backyard of 2 parks, I was hoping at least one of my brothers would tag along with us today. Well you can lead a horse to water but...

At 11am, GM and I are showered, dressed and still waiting for Bro2. Mousekeeping is knocking on the door. We really need to get out of this lovely room before we're thrown out. Ok, tag team approach. GM drives his scooter down the hall to the elevator and leaves me with one set of bags. Then he walks bag to retrieve his second bag. Tag team down the elevator and I wait with his scooter and luggage while he goes upstairs to get the last bag. Turn around and there's Bro2 leading Blondie and their 4 little ducklings. I say that because each one of them is pulling a suitcase and travel bag. (I offer to send their bags over to SSR with ours but Blondie is not so keen on that. She doesn't trust Disney's Bell Services yet, but that's another story.)

"Ah so there you are," I say to my brother. "What took you so long?"

Teen K answers, "They [meaning her parents] insisted we ride the ferry even though we could have walked here in 5 minutes! It takes forever to ride the ferry." Translation, this kid's already started in on her teen 'tude pointing out everything her parents do wrong. next few years are gonna be fun in that household.

Well no matter, at least they are here. GM arrives and we all walk the 30 feet to the lobby, our bags toted by the boys (Giggles & Stitch). Everyone loves the gingerbread display. The kids snatch up my cameras to take pictures and I introduce Stitch to the world of "Hidden Mickey's". He counts about 8 of them on the display, then promptly goes off looking for more.

The rain has finally stopped and the sun is just peaking outside. So what are we all going to do today? Where's Bro1?

Oh they left for Seaworld and grocery shopping.

Ok, I ask trying to keep the sigh out of my voice, so anyone want to tag team with GM and I at the parks? No. Bro2 says they are headed over to SSR and Downtown Disney. Blondie wants to hang out for the day. Yup leading horses to water is not as easy as it sounds. Ok, we're in Disney together, have some patience and the togetherness will come. Then take a deep breath and remember to grab that family photo I wanted to do. I thought it'd be nice to have a picture for each family with Grandpa.

We have a before and after photo. The "before" is spoiled with the funniest little life ad-lib you experience. Get 7 people lined up before a beautiful yet crowded background and just as you snap the picture, a little girl dodges in front. Or rather tries to dodge in front. She's held back by her mom who sees the setup and manages to grab her by the hoody of her sweater. Nothing like kid tricks to lighten tension and make you laugh.


Bro2 Fam with gate crasher

Bro2 After

Ok then, GM and I are headed down to the bakery to get drink refills and a snack. Then we'll probably go to EPCOT and see some of the narrators. Bro2 asks for the easiest route to SSR's check-in. Remember they're still dragging bags with them. Bus to Downtown Disney doesn't run as regularly mid-day and you still have to walk almost a mile to check-in. Oh I know, why don't you take the ferry to MGM (sorry DHS) and take a park bus back to SSR. Get off at the Springs stop and it's the shortest route. "Cool," says Bro2. TeenK rolls her eyes. You just know she's thinking "Not another ferry ride."

We split up in the lobby and expect we'll see each other later that night.

Later lasts until about 10 minutes. I leave GM at the Bakery and just manage to glimpse Bro2's family lined up at the ferry dock. I sneak over to take one of those candid shots. What I hear is their newbie conversation of all the sights to be had. Blondie remembers coming here once, years ago. They stayed at the Dolphin for a conference one summer. Bro2 points out the resort across the lake, and that way is toward EPCOT, there's the ESPN Zone and oh there's Aunt B with her funny feather hat. I guess GM and I are part of the official guidebook sights now.

I wave goodbye to them and GM finds me. Off we go to EPCOT with cups of hot chocolate in hand. The rain has cleared so much there's actual blue sky in spots. I hear the Christmas Parade taping has been cancelled for the day. Maybe we should sneak over there and get GM's signature haircut. But as soon as we cross the gates at International Gateway, GM has a problem. His scooter is squeaking like a rusty tin can.

On the hill up to England it cuts out. Did you charge it last night? Yes.

It's alright, press the reset button and you're good to go. We roll into England looking for narrators and festivities. GM's scooter squeaks again. Ok, maybe we'll just roll out to Canada.

Stop to meet Father Christmas outside Canada. Drink hot chocolate and eat a snack. The sun is so bright now, we need sunglasses.

Start up your engines and let's roll over to Magic Kingdom's barber shop. 10 feet and GM's scooter is squeaking so loud the ghosts at Haunted Mansion would be afraid. As soon as we round the corner to the tree, it stops cold. Try the reset. Ok, it works. Maybe we'll just take the scooter to the gates at Main Street then walk in to the Barber Shop. We roll past the tree and get depressed at how undecorated the walkway is without Lights of Winter (that lighted canopy). Curse Disney's penny pinching Grinch.

Approach the Gospel stage and GM's scooter croaks again. The loud speakers sound, The next show begins in 5 minutes. This is the show we watched on YouTube and GM likened it to needles in the eye. This time we are in hell. Please work reset, please work.

Ok, ok, stroke it a bit and the scooter rolls again. We manage 100 feet toward the entrance, right in the middle of the aptly nicknamed memorial when GM dies it's last death. No amount of pressing buttons, key wriggles or stroking will get Humpty Dumpty working again. Oh dear now we're really stuck. Fortunately, 2 minutes in and a PhotoPass fellow comes straight over to offer assistance. GM and he push it over to the scooter rental place.

Eugene the Scooter guy takes over. We can't just leave the scooter there all day. I guess we won't be doing any parks ourselves either. Ok, we just need to get out to a bus. We'll check in at SSR and I'll call the scooter rental company to get a replacement for the trip. Of course that bus stop is at the farthest end. Eugene offers to help us roll the scooter out to the bus then waits with us for the next one. He's so sweet and excited. Helping us out to the bus is his idea of a job break.

Bus comes and we're on our way to SSR. We get off at the Springs then push the scooter over to the nearest power outlet and plug it in. It'll do until we can get help from some of our family (where were those helpful boys from earlier?). Check-in at the desk and find we are in Grandstand right next to the first bus stop. Phone beeps. It's a text from my sister. She's getting on the plane in Baltimore. It's snowing up there today, but the flight's on time. See you in a few hours!

Phone rings. It's Bro2. They're in their room, same building opposite end of the floor from us. Cool. Dad's scooter died, where are your helpful boys?

Next thing I know we're all in Artist's Palette having lunch and saying hi to old friends. I get in the door and there's Gina (my cousin's lemon lady). Step to the right and there's Kristin the manager. Oh and working the kitchen is Maria. After the 5th "hello, how have you beens" my nephew Stitch asks me, "Do you like know everyone here?" Pretty much, I tell him. One of the perks of being a regular is that you make lots of friends. And our Saratoga friends are just as eager to meet our family.

We take up a long table in the center and chow down for our meal. Teen K extols with more ferry stories. It took "forever" to get a bus, she says. And of course mom made them drag their luggage. Her parents are so cruel, aren't they?

So, what are we going to do today? Scooter rental guys (AA Rentals) bring over the replacement in an hour. I notice there's jewelry-making in Community Hall. Princess Lollipop loves that idea. Bro2 wants to check out the model rooms.

GM ends up leading a posse of helpful boys (Giggles & Stitch) to retrieve his broken scooter and get the replacement back to our room. I take the second posse over to Community Hall in hopes Sundee is working today.

Pop my head in the door and it's just about empty. all decorated for Christmas but not a soul around. Peak into the front office and who's there by the counter...? "SUNDEE!" I exclaim so happy to find her. She turns, lights up and gleefully shouts back my name! That's not enough either. She runs out of the office and comes right over to give me the biggest, warmest bear hug ever. Gosh I love this woman. No one could ever make me feel so welcomed anywhere.

I introduce her to Bro2, Blondie, Princess Lollipop and curmudgeonly Teen K. She welcomes them all, making mental notes to count them among her friends. Tells them she's so pleased to finally meet them but is especially pleased to see me again. Another hug. Yup, if Saratoga ever lost her I'd be crushed.

Mention Lollipop came to make bracelets and in two shakes Sundee has us all (even Bro2) setup at a table knee-deep in beads and strings. We intended to just drop off Lollipop while we went to see models but it's too much fun and Sundee too enticing to just skip out. So the 5 of us ended up making bracelets and keychains for every kid in the group.

Sundee peppers my brother with questions of our plans. Just hearing we have 17 in our group this time is mindboggling to our friends. Sundee asks him if he realizes what a cool sister he has. He says he's "getting the idea". Yup, I do love Sundee. There's only one thing about her that gets my craw. I'm sad to say she's a Steelers fan. I know, horrible for us Ravens fans, but there it is. Of course all we need now is Giggles to come over (despite all training and bribery Giggles, Bro2's eldest son, has made himself a Steelers fan too).

Speaking of, where is GM's posse? Cell phone rings. OK, he's got the scooter and stowed the other one. Are we still doing beads? Yes, and there's a Wii tournament in half an hour. Well then he'll be right over with the boys.

I remember the model rooms belatedly and manage to sneak out with Bro2, Blondie & Teen K while Lollipop is making her 5th bracelet and GM challenges Stitch & Giggles to a grudge checkers match. (They had played online a couple weeks before and GM lost to Stitch's "British Square" trap.)

Bro2 has also lost his DVC Member card so we head over to the Preview Center to get him a new one. While there we learn they've discontinued the open houses of the model rooms, preferring to send people over to AKV & BLT directly. But a helpful CM offers to take us over there anyway. So we enter by the back and see Bay Lake's rooms. Teen K really likes this styling. Bro2 likes the fireworks displays in the windows. I try my best to answer questions about points and what we have. Then onto AKV's rooms which Dad really likes. And in the front is the model house of the new SSR Treehouses.

Our CM tells us it's the most expensive dollhouse-sized model she's ever seen. It cost them $60,000 to build. Eek! Bro2 really likes the treehouses. It would be perfect for his family. I make a note of how I figured to use our points in future. We'll be alternating a 1bedroom and 2bedroom every October and December. The 2bedroom would include a weekend and have an open door policy to anyone who wants to come with us.

Phone rings. It's Bro1. He's returning with a car full of groceries, wife and tired kids, has to get the car back to the rental company in 10 minutes and can someone help him get to the closest spot to their room? Oh and check us in please. (For those watching at home, my plan this trip was to NOT get overly involved with each family's daily plans. They had the room and could check-in, move in, all according to their own plans. Now I'm kicking myself for not getting the keys earlier.)

Teen K volunteers to join me on the mad dash to help Bro1 (her godfather, coincidentally... but to her probably just another "wacky I coulda-done-better adult") while Bro2 & Blondie finish up and collect their kids at Community Hall. Teen K and I race off to the Front Desk to grab keys first. Luckily there's no line. Bro1's room is just down the hall from us. Use cell and direct him to Grandstand by road.

Race over to Grandstand and wait. Oh, there's his car, says Teen K as she waves frantically. We get them over to the nearest spot when the great unloading begins. Bro1 asks for the luggage carts. No, SSR doesn't have them at the buildings. Well that's silly, he says. Yes, and we agreed with him 3 years ago on our first stay but we're used to it now.

Every kid grabs a back, including lil' ChooChoo and MiniMe. Load up the back of my chair with their extra bags, take one in my hand, make sure we have all the groceries. Um, how many groceries do you have? We're only here 3 days, in a studio. Oh, you got beer. Well then that's ok.

No sooner does Bro1 drop his family at the curb then he's off again. Back to the Dolphin to drop off the rental car. OK, Teen K help SIL Red get settled in her room with the kids. They've had a busy day. They went to Seaworld for a few hours, then out to lunch. So where's everyone else?

Remember that Grudge Checkers Match? Well it's turned it the Grudge Match of the Century, last over an hour and pitting GM against both his grandsons Giggles & Stitch. Stitch tries all his best moves including the British Square but GM outwits him. By the time they finish and everyone's at their rooms it's getting dark. Blondie has reservations at Boma's for her family. She invites us along, but Sis should be here soon. Look at the time. Hey, she should have landed almost 2 hours ago. Where is she?

Get on the computer and check her flight. It's been delayed. By 3 HOURS!

Phone rings. It's sis. They just landed. Turns out their plane did board on schedule but they sat on the runway at BWI waiting to take off for 3 BLOODY HOURS! Oh dear. That settles it for me. No, sorry we can't go to Boma's. I need to be here for sis when she arrives. They just ogt off the plan in Orlando so will be here in 40 minutes.

Get changed for dinner amd I find her at the Carriage House, her boys none the worse for wear watching Mickey cartoons on the little TV. Sis and Blues BIL are tired and full of stories. Sis reminds me I and GM were supposed to be on that same flight. She's glad I wasn't. Her youngest, the one who insisted they drive instead of fly, held up on. But she was miffed that Southwest didn't even comp her one beer  while she waited on the plane for 3 hours.

GM and I take sis to dinner. Nothing fancy, just chef specials at Artist's Palette. Bro1 returns and he and Red bring the kids up for dessert and bonding time. Our friend Jim is working tonight and visits a bit. I steal his pens, he steals them back. We have a whole routine going. Sis finds out we skipped going out to Boma's just so we could be there for her. She says nothing but hugs me. It's good to feel special sometimes.

We get a bottle of champagne and polish it off in our rooms. Bro2 returns from Boma's and finds us just hanging out. His boys are rooming with GM & I this trip so "hanging out" turns into Giggles showing off the video project he just aced for his social studies class. It's all about mummies and really good. The champagne's not bad either.

Mostly it just feels good to be in Disney with our family. And Disney came through on the room assignements too. GM & I are closest to the bus stop. Down the hall are Sis and Bro1. On the same floor across the building is Bro2.

We all have our refillable mugs now and somewhere in the midst of late night champagne, video, hanging out silliness the kids come up with the most perfect prank idea. Bro1 has sat out the night's festivities so they elect him the morning coffee runner. They write out a menu of orders, get everyone to sign it and get a tray ready to leave at his door the next day. Early the next day. Really early.

That's my family for ya.

Onto Day 3: The Christmas Party