I have been riding motorcycles since 1979 and regardless of the laws, I have always worn a helmet when I ride. I started with a used Kawasaki 400 in college (that was all I could afford) but soon graduated to a used Harley Sportster soon after I was married. I kept that bike for about a year before moving up again to a used Harley Low Rider. Once we had kids I knew I wanted to get something bigger so that the kids could ride one at a time with me on some of the poker runs etc that I did with the Harley Owners Group and some of the local dealerships, local fundraisers etc. I ended up selling the Low Rider to make a partial down payment on the house we had bought in Downers Grove, and gave myself three years to save for a used Harley Ultra Glide, the rolling couch as some people call it. The Ultra has a raised seat in the back so when the kids were old enough they could see
When I ride alone, I usually wear a half helmet as I like to hear what is going on around me and don’t want my ears to be covered, but when I ride with the kids, especially when it is cold, I want to be able to communicate easily with them so I wear a full faceless helmet. The Ultra is intercom capable so I just needed to get a set of integrated headphones to put in my helmet and in the kids helmet.
So now the reason for the paint job. I wanted the rider behind me to be able to look at something other than a big white ball if they wanted to so I put a lot of thought into what I would put back there. One night I was having a conversation with a friend about our DVC (Disney Vacation Club) membership, all the times we have visited Disney World and why I enjoy Disney so much. He asked if think about it all the time and I said “It is always kind of in the back of my head”. Boom!! There it was. The perfect idea for my helmet. What could be better than Mickey climbing out of the back of my head, where he always seems to be. Within a week I had the design worked out and the painting done.
Sadly this helmet has been on the shelf for many years as I have gone back to my half helmet since I ride alone most of the time (the kids are big enough for their own bikes now should they choose) and I sold the Ultra to prepare for college tuition. I share a bike now with my younger brother when I get the chance, but have vowed to get another as soon as they are out of college and those bills have been paid.
I felt surprisingly good for just one day after the race. I usually feel the pain in my knees on days two and three but today I could easily get out of bet without a nurses aide. We decided to take it easy and sleep in so we did not get moving until about 9am (that is sleeping in at Disney). We had a light day planned in the parks, then a big dinner and show lined up for the evening.
Matt’s legs were bothering him so we let him sleep in a bit longer and we headed over to the Magic Kingdom. Mom and Dad had not been on Pirates’ or the Haunted Mansion since they were refurbished, so we made sure to hit those and a few more attractions. By the way, the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor is a hidden gem. I would not have done it had the lines been longer but I am glad we did. Very funny.
We met Matt at Epcot at about 2pm and the lines where very short again so we were able to do all the attractions that everyone wanted. We then decided to eat/drink around the world. That is where you have a drink and or food at every country in world showcase. We went from left to right (Mexico to Canada) and had a sample in each country. We only did one small item among the four of us because we did not want to fill up before the big dinner tonight.
One other thing that we got to do was a semi private photo op. I say semi private because it is open to Disney VISA members only. It takes place every day from 1:30 – 4 in Inventions West and features a surprise guest or two. Today it was Minnie and Goofy, so we were able to get a bunch of photos with them with either our camera or the photo pass photographer that was present. We also received a free 5×7 of our choice from all the photos taken. After the photo shoot we headed back to the Beach Club.
Our hotel was just across the lake from Disney’s Boardwalk resort, very close to where our dinner was scheduled. If you plan on visiting Disney World I would suggest taking advantage of what they call and ADR (Advance Dining Reservation). You are allowed to book up to 180 days in advance (as of this article), and you can book for your length of stay up to 10 days. We used ADR’s for all our reservations including tonight’s dinner at Kouzzina. Kouzzina is Cat Cora’s new restaurant which recently replace Spoodle’s on the boardwalk. My daughter is a big fan (as am I) of the Food Network and Cat is the first female Iron Chef on the show of the same name.
The menu was a wonderful Mediterranean/Greek mix with a nice selection of lamb, fish, pasta and steaks. We all tried something different and were no disappointed although my fast food son was a bit perplexed when I tried to explain what a béchamel was (his pasta was topped with cinnamon roasted lamb meat sauce, béchamel and cheeses). If you like Ouzo, the Ouzo-tini kicks butt.
We left happy and stuffed and made our way back to the hotel to get some blankets. I had a special night outside planned for the four of us so we need a few extra layers to keep the cold out. Every night Epcot has a fireworks/light/music show called Illuminations. If you know when you are going to be down there you can try to book an Illuminations cruise. I say try, because there are only 5 available each night (actually four on Mondays as Nippon travel has a standing reservation every Monday for members of their tour groups). You can book 90 days in advance by calling (407) WDW-PLAY (407-939-7529), but be sure to call early. The phone open at 8AM EST so start calling a few minutes before that. I have been lucky to book twice and got the last boat each time. My first cruise was cancelled because of lightening (sorry Lorie), so this was my first actual time on the boat.
The boat is a 21 foot pontoon that fits up to 10 people for a flat rate, so if you have some friends along with you you can spread the cost a bit. They provide some drinks (non-alcoholic) and snacks and you are able to order food, even dinners to ring on the boat. The only think you can’t do is bring your own food.
We were lucky enough to get Michael Scibetta as our captain that evening. If you are a hardcore fan or Disney, you probably know about the WDW Radio Podcast and have heard Michael on the show. He was the one driving Breathless II in the video ‘Catching You Breathless’.
Michael takes you around the lake for a short cruise before parking just under the bridge that separates France from England in Epcot. From there we had a front row seat for the Illuminations show and Michael was kind enough to give my parents his version of the events that were unfolding during the show. If you are lucky enough to book one of the boats, I highly recommend contacting Michael to see if you can schedule him to be your captain that night.
We had brought extra blankets to keep out the cold but I was so wrapped up in the experience that I didn’t really notice it anyway. The family really enjoyed the show and the cruise and I was grateful that I was able to share it with them.
What a great day!! The first full day I have had a chance to spend with just my son, in a long time. Started pretty early this morning, awakened by the alarm at 4:30am. Got up, let the dog out for some quick relief, gave Matt his first wake up call and hit the shower. Cab showed up at 5:45 to transport us to O’Hare for the ‘semi’ early flight.
I was expecting a rough time in the security line, but was surprised that at 6:15 am there were very few cattle at that hour. By 7 am though, all three security checkpoints in terminal 1 were packed. Glad we chose to get there early. They were doing random pat downs after you went thru the metal detectors and this was the first time I was asked to take off my pull over sweater with a 1/4 zipper.
When it came time to begin boarding the plane, they were again doing random pat downs, right at the gate. We managed to avoid both touchy feely situations. It will be interesting to see how Orlando handles the ‘heightened’ security on the return trip.
We arrived on time (thank you United) into MCO (Orlando International Airport) with a full flight of anxious kids and excited adults like me. We opted to take the Disney Magical Express as our transportation to the new Bay Lake Towers. The magical express is a nice way to get from the airport to Disney World if you plan on staying on property. As long as you reserve prior to your trip, you don’t even have to handle your bags once you get to Orlando. Disney picks up your bags for you from baggage claim and delivers them to your room. The downside is your bags can take up to 3 hours to get to your room after you have left the airport, so pack what you need for that day, in a carry on.
A noticeable change from last year is that if you do book ahead of time and receive your travel plans booklet in the mail before you leave, all you need to do is go right to the line that puts you one the correct bus. Previously, all guests had to get in a line to check in and revalidate all your information, then get in the queue line. Now you only need to get in the check in line if you forgot your passes or never received them or never booked ahead of time. Nice change as it rewards those who plan ahead. That’s me!!
We have been DVC members since the late 90’s and wanted to try out this new DVC property for the first part of our marathon trip ( we will be moving over to the Beach Club Villas once I get mom and dad down here on Friday.
Bay Lake Towers is a nice complement to the Contemporary and is connected by a walkway bridge on the 5th floor. All entrances to Bay Lake are controlled by key cards, so only guests of that property can gain entrance.
We checked in and headed up to the room for a look see before we ventured into the park. They put us on the 6th floor with a Magic Kingdom view (a requested upgrade) and the view did not disappoint. There are 16 floors to the tower and a room higher than ours would have gotten you a little more of downward view ‘into’ the Magic Kingdom, but I think the 4th floor or up gives you a wonderful view of the Castle and Space Mountain, especially at night.
We walked over to the Magic Kingdom (you can take the Monorail or the walkway to get there) to see how busy things were. Not surprisingly because of the season and the weather, it was not too busy. Kind of strange seeing people in full winter gear in Florida. They must not be from the Midwest as I was tempted to go with shorts and a t-shirt. The most popular attractions like Pirates, Haunted Mansion etc were only 20-30 minutes wait times so we were able to hit all the ones we wanted in only a few hours, with a couple of snack stops throw in.
By 5pm we had been up for 12 hours and we were starting to feel a bit slow so we decided to exit the park, walk back to the hotel and grab a drink before dinner. The 16th floor has a private DVC lounge called the Top of the World. Matt is a big fan of the virgin Pina Colada which is supplied to Disney by Oasis so he grabbed one and I had a XXX with a funky color changing ice cube (shaped plastic with LED’s inside). Cute and festive to add to our good mood. In the evening, the lounge has a viewing deck where you can watch the fireworks from the Magic Kingdom and they pipe in the soundtrack so it is as if you are in the park watching the fireworks. The viewing angle is different so instead of seeing all the fireworks lined up with the castle (assuming you are watching from somewhere on main street) you see the castle on the left and space mountain on the right, with the some of the bursts going off just to the right of the castle and the majority going off right over space mountain.
Grabbed a quick dinner at the Wave in the Contemporary. The decor was very nice but the food was only so-so. There are some fabulous restaurants throughout the World so maybe it was just an off night for them (the cold may be messing with their karma). We decided to watch the fireworks from our balcony this time and catch them up in the lounge tomorrow night. If you watch them from your room, you can tune to channel 20 on the TV and get the same soundtrack that they have upstairs and in the Magic Kingdom. Nice touch.
Early to bed tonight so we stay on schedule for the upcoming races. We have to get up at 4:30 on Friday morning and Sunday morning for the 5K and Marathon. Tomorrow.. packet pickup.