Category: Spring09

Day 3: Morning at Odds, Evening a Celebrity

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By , April 29, 2009 2:55 pm

Day 3: Morning at Odds, Evening a Celebrity
Wednesday, June 29, 2009

Ah, another lazy afternoon on the balcony and a chance to catch up with the ol’ travel blog. Did you miss us?

So where were we? Yes, Wednesday morning. I woke up around 5am and for once was able to drag myself out of bed before my brain realized what it was doing. (Always the best way to get up.) This morning my body was making the rules as my troublesome back decided to start cramping in the night. So I went out to the balcony to take some meds and watch the daw break over the resort lake. Everything was stiill. Not even the birds seemed up yet and certainly none of the usual resort activity (kids splashing in the water, adults chattering, the odd workman running his leaf blower). It was early, perhaps too early.

The sun rose, but unfortunately it appeared on the other side of our building. But with it came the ducks waddling about looking for food and the early signs of movement as the resort staff got guest ready for another day: dropping off morning newspapers, clearing the sidewalks, bringing around fresh towels & linens. GM was still sound asleep by 7am so I decided to take another pain pill (that cramp in my back just would not let go) and reacquaint myself with my bed for an hour.

An hour turned into 3, before I knew it, and GM was hollering my name trying to get me to get up. On the first day here, he’d answered the call from the sales staff and setup a preview tour of Marriott’s latest offering: Lake Shores. He likes doing the tour to see what’s out there and collect the incentive gift they offer ($75 in Disney Dollars). Sincce I’ve discovered the wonderful world of resales and DVC, I’m done with the whole Marriott tour thing, but it’s GM’s turn to drag me somewhere.

So I drag myself out of bed again (much harder with two back relaxant pills in my system) and off we go to the Marriott Sales Center on I-Drive. Along the way, I decide to change up our itinerary for the trip and switch our afternoon tea at Grand Floridian that afternoon with Friday’s late dinner at 50’s Primetime Cafe. The phone call to Disney Dining takes exactly the same time as it does to reach the Sales Center.

There we get a little Continental breakfast and meet with a nice sales guide who remembers “Grandpa Mohawk” from past years. I tell him straight up we are looking for information rather than a sale right now. We have plenty of Marriott weeks already but it would be nice to see what other Orlando resort Marriott has planned.

He takes us through the mockup model of the two-bedroom unit they have created in the Sales Center. It’s an elegant design that reminds me a bit of Animal Kingdom and Bay Lake Towers with just bit more oriental feel in the decor. GM loves the open floor design of flowing foyer to kitchen to dining/living and second bed & bath areas. They even have a faux mockup of the exterior view througgh the balcony windows. I guess they’ve been taking DVC tours too.

Lakeshore Resort will be over by the JW Marriott hotel and is billed as a “small, exclusive resort for discerning customers”. In other words, it’s mmade for those who think nothing of spending $600-$900 a night on a plain jane hotel room. The style is Tuscanny Modern and from the virtual reality walk-thrus you get the feel of a it’s Mediterranean motiff. A dozen buildings line a small bubbling lake with the pro-golf course on the other side. The newest spin for thhis marriott resort is tiers: 1, 2 and 3 will get you an option of bedrooms and townhouses. Plus you get all the amenities of the nearby hotels as well.

I ask the business questions: cost and availability. Here’s where GM and I differ in our evaluation of the presentation. I’m finding Marriott sales to be much more high pressure these last couple years. The salesman quotes the pre-construction prices in the $26k – $36k range but there’s a deal for existing members: 25% off until May 31. The salesman insists the deal lasts only until we leave his presence and has a little waiver paper for us to sign. But the e-mail at home and online tells us we have till the end of the month, no matter what. I don’t like it when salesmen try to force you into making a decision at the moment. It’s a surefire way to lose my sale. Especially when I started the interview saying we weren’t ready to buy anything. But GM is more tolerant.

We learn Lakeshore is due to open in 2011, so I make a mental note to try an Interval International trade-in then. It looks like a gorgeous resort with accommadtions that could fit a dozen people, lots of landscaped walking paths along the lake, and a zero-entry pool. And in my experience, finding availability at Marriott resorts when we travel is ridiculously easy on II.

We leave around 11am and GM is happy. He even thanks me for coming along, but I remind him it’s only fair. I’ve dragged him through even Disney walk-thrus these last couple years. My only sorrow is that I forgot to bring my camera with me and didn’t snap any pics of that model room. I hope to find pictures online.

We drive back via Central Florida Parkway and discover our favorite sortcut route is now free of construction. So when we park at Cypress Harbour, I call dibs on the van (time for me to get some independence back) and GM sets about switching the steering controls over. I use a special EMC Aevite electronic system. It’s a little 5″ wheel that electronically turns the vehicle’s wheel. A very neat setup that allows you to switch between regular and EMC driving with an adjustment knob on the column. But when GM switches it over, my EMC system starts beeping at me and flashing an angry little error message “Drive 0 Mismatched”.

We’ve never had that one before. So GM switches it back and tries again. We restart the van, backup and pull in straight, switch it again. Same error. Finally I whip out my cell and call my equipment modifying company back home. Maybe they know what that error message is. The mechanics have us go through the same procedures of switching, restarting, moving, and back again. Nothing works. Finally even they give up and recommend I take the van to the nearest dealer they have to me: Tampa. That would mean an extra day out of our trip and I’d reallly only be driving a couple days before we had to switch back. (When we change resorts GM has to drive because there’s no room for him to sit with the luggage and scooter in the back.) So I decide to just let it go, hoping that this just means God wants me to relax and give up a bit of control this trip. I can be chauffered for a change, I figure. Just as long, (I silently pray), as there are no more emergency trips to the ER following an ambulance.

It’s perfect pool weather for GM, so he decides to head out for another dip and I go out to my balcony to catch up on e-mail and blogging. The first hour goes very smoothly, glancing up between sentences at the lake for inspiration, and listening to the sound of birds and people at play. But then I try posting my daily blogging masterpiece and find I can no longer log into this site. A text message to my web hoster and one to a friend who happens to be online and I realize it is only a problem on my end. Seems the hotel router has blocked me.

I spend the next couple hours trying to troubleshoot, invent workarounds and generally get more and more frustrated with my technology. By tthe time GM comes back all sunny and wet from the pool, I’m cursing up a blue streak at anything with circuit boards. That includes my fancy, never-break-down easily switchable driiving controls. It seems God is really trying to put me in my place. I’ll probably be without electricity by nightfall.

At last I give up, get dressed and abandon my 21st century blogging experience for a little fun at MGM. We arrive just after the 3pm parade and it is hot and sunny. Just the perfect weather for an ice cold drink. My nerves could use a little soothing anyway so we find our way through the Streets of America where Mulch & Sweat are playing and the crowd from the Car Stunt Show just let out. There’s a line at the Backlot Bar so we have to wait a few extra minutes for my ice-cold Stoplight Margeurita and GM’s cold beer. While we wait, we talk about all the things we missed from our last trip here over New Year’s. The giant Christmas Tree is down outside and there’s not a string of light on the NY Streets. The park has been redone for summer crowds and to us looks plain.

I wonder how many people never get to see the World in all it’s holiday glamour, but instead only through the haze of summer heat and crowds.

By the time we get our drinks, the park schedule says we have 5 minutes to get back to the Sorcerer’s Hat before the last showing of High School Musical 3: Senior Year street show. Here’s something I bet Disney marketers didn’t expect. The two crowds who love HSM most are preteens and seniors (who love musicals). GM is anxious to see the show and compare it to the other two. He says he likes the excitement of the performers the best and they do jump around and dance a lot. Of all three movies, I think the third had the best dance routines.

Next up comes the ssecond to last showing of the American Idol Experience. Now neither GM nor I are AI viewers at home. He loathes anything that can be termed “reality TV” and I can’t get past the fact that it’s “Star Search in primetime”. But the attraction is new and we have a rule about trying everything Disney has at least once. So we head in, sit in the back row with all the other wheelies and watch the stage come alive with lights, sound and a very engaging preshow host who doubles as the friendliest of the 3 panel judges.

The three contestants to appear consist of:

A SC mom of five singing “Hot Stuff”

A music teacher from NY singing “This Moment”

And a perky French dancer singing “I Will Survive”

They do the show up right, with all what I’d imagine sitting in the studio audience in LA to be like. The audience is encouraged to talk back, yell, scream even heckle a judge or two. And the contestant pre-interview includes a few clips from adoring fans on the big screens to give them a boost of confidence.

Singer 1 gets the loudest applause for her motherhood (raising 5 little ones is a job deserving of an award in itself), but her voice has a good Pat Benatar edge. Unfortunately she handles herself a bit too much like someone leaving a church picnic rather than a hard-edged rocker.

Singer 2 has her husband in the audience and wins favor for her career of teaching kids music. Or as one judge calls it “teaching kids music is like teaching controlled screaaming”. She belts out the signature AI tune and has a lovely little flourish to her high notes I love.

Singer 3 has all the moves, dancing and strutting about the stage while she does her Josephine Baker version of a disco favorite. She becomes the judges’ fast favorite, though I think she did better on the soft intro than the strong upbeat crescendo.

The audience votes via a lighted keypad in the armrest. It’s on a chain for us wheelies. And we along with the contestants are teased and taunted by the show host (another Ryan, not Seacrest) with the reveal of the winner. It turns out Singer 3 has the most votes and is sent on to the finale show that night. The show ends with the familiar pop & circumstance of the LA version and the audience is ushered out murmurring about their choices.

GM and I get off to the side by the fence and debate our choices. Seems neither of us picked the winner. He chose 1 for her video replay and I had my heart set on 2. But before we can get too deep into our analyses of vocal qualities, there’s an “Excuse me.”

I turn and there’s a young lady with camera in hand as GM for a photo. She has a friend with her so I offer to take both their pictures with him. Next thing I realize a small line forms of other young ladies with their cameras in hand. Seems all of them had seen GM sitting up there in that back row and became instant fans. (Hmm, no wonder our choices didn’t win AI. Maybe they weren’t watching until the fnal performance. The power of the purple mohawk.)

So here I am spending the next 10-15 minutes taking pictures, vetting the line and answering questions. All I need is a walkie talkie and one of those white & yellow printed shirts the character handlers have. GM is having a ball. It can be bad for his ego: 77 years old and have adoring female fans?

Everyone is very nice and all have fun with it. In truth, I find it much easier to forget my technical woes when I can help others enjoy the moment. Here are a few pics I snapped for our collection.

Still we can’t have GM’s ego getting too big so I challenge him to a game of Toy Story Mania. This is my favorite attraction these days and I still have to make up for loosing Buzz the other day. Their busy today so have both wheelchair cars in service. The 5 person wheelie wait is kept to a minimal 20 minutes (that’s in addition to the regular queue wait outside BTW). GM tries to get me to divulge my strategy for always beating him at this game, but I’m not telling. I may be helpful but I’m not that selfless.

We load up in our car, GM boarding first and me parking my chair beside him. He complains that he has to pull the air cannon string like everyone else and I get a little button to press. He asks if I can hold the button down all the time. He’s trying to weedle my secret strategy out of him. Tricky little bugger, ain’t he?

He has been getting as we play so I decide on the fly to adjust my strategy a bit. I’d tell you what I did but I know GM is reading and I’m still not that selfless (nice try Dad!). Anyway, as we wind our way through ball throwing, ring tossing, dart throwing and plate smashing, he manages to improve his score by 30,000 points. Of course, I improve my score by 40k so walk away the winner. GM moans in pure 10 yr old fashion: “Again?”. I remind him we have another week for more rematches.

By the time we leave Pixar Lane, there’s a crowd gathering outside American Idol again. Seems it’s the 7pm finale show and in addition to the studio audience inside they are playing the show on the jumbotron outside. GM and I pull up our scooters under the shade of a flowering tree, munch a couple oranges and watch the 7 finalists of the day sing their tunes. The “Old Time Rock-n-Roll” dad is my favorite though he looks like he’s hurt something several times throughout the song. The French contestant does her “I Will Survive” routine and actually improves on the vocals. But again I favor that show’s contestant number 2 for her vocal range. And again, the audience inside goes for the contestant with the zippiest pop rock sortof song. She walks away with a golden pass to head-of-the-line status at the nearest AI audition in her state.

The sun goes down, the breeze turns cold and it’s time for our late dinner at 50’s Primetime Cafe. This is one of my favorites because they are the only restaurant that still serves southern fried chicken. Even Whispering Canyon abandoned that in favor of the gooier oven roasted chicken. GM sets the table and promptly loses himself in watching the TV screen behind my head. Just like a man, eh? I bide my time twittering a bit then pondering where we’ll eat on NYE this year. Better to imagine that than worry about my technical things that won’t work at home.

Our dinner of fried chicken and stuffed peppers finishes up with s’mores and leftovers. Night has fallen then and instead of going to Fantasmic we decide to just call it a night. This week is about getting our travel groove back, not burning both ends.

When we get back to our villa, however, there’s a message on the phone. Seems the emergency medicine package from my sister has arrived a day earlier. So we stp over at the Front Desk and pick itt up. Seems they’ve been curious about what was inside the special delivery. See my sister grabbed the best-sized box she could find. It turned out to be the celebration M&Ms my brother and his family custom-made for GM’s birthday this year. So inside this white box with colorful M&M decorations was actually a boring set of pill bottles, blood pressure cuff and heating pad. GM looks but there was no room inside for one of the Ravens’-colored purple M&M’s with his picture on front. Oh well. At least the BP cuff shows GM has been none the worse for wear forgetting his meds for a day. Now we can really just sit back and relax. (I’ll try to be just be happy being chaffeured.)

Tomorrow: The Long Meander: Donald vs. Goofy, Swan vs. Dolphin, More Northeast Disney Transplants, and When Penmanship Counts

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