Travel has been crazy the last few months (writing this while sitting in a seat on a flight from MSP to PHX), and I don’t see it getting too much better. My training has definitely suffered as it is had to find time to get even a small run in. The body and mind are willing but the location is not always able. I know I can try harder to make that happen and I need to do that soon, as the Dark Side Half in Disneyworld in April is going to be painful.
I had hoped to finally get my sub 2 hour PR but I don’t think that is possible now. Running is not something you can catch up in quickly like catching up on email or even sleep. If you don’t put the mile in, you don’t get the results. You can’t do 11 tomorrow if you got 5 in two days ago but missed your 6 yesterday. That would not only be painful but also foolish for your body.
The focus not is planning for runs during travel, even if it means inclement weather locations like Minnesota this week. I have never had good luck with my lungs and running in cold weather, it always end up in a hacking cough and sickness. Perhaps I need to look into a nationwide chain of fitness centers like LifeTime, or even check on day passes if the weather is bad and my hotel does not have facilities. I have some homework to do.
I have been traveling quite a bit with my new job which involves lots of planning. We don’t have a travel planner or anyone at our organization that handles that function so it is up to me to juggle schedules with all the clients. Now this is fine with me because there are no errors in scheduling because of lost emails or missed phone calls, and if a client has to reschedule I can pull up the calendar and immediately make the change to the next available opening.
So this week I was looking to reserve a car for my sons Sports Management Banquet in Slippery Rock, PA. Lately I have been renting with Enterprise because they consistently have the lowest price and are at just about every airport I fly into. This time however, Hertz had a better price for the same location and duration. I will usually reserve the subcompact if I am by myself then get an upgrade at the counter since I rent so much (dinner for one Mr.Durden?). So I went through the usual selection and saw the were a few incremental upgrades, like going from a subcompact to a compact for 95 cents more per day (take it). Compact to Standard for $3.00 more total (take it). Full Size for $7.00 more total (take it). But then the next jump was ridiculous and had to be a mistake. Upgrade to a premium for ‘less’ than $1322.00. That’s a very expensive upgrade.
At that point I had to back out to see what the daily rate was for that car and it was over $900 per day. Must run on rainbows and single barrel bourbon! I am tempted to call Hertz just to see if anyone noticed that rate and why it could be so high, but I am sure someone keyed it in wrong.
I had a similar experience down in Orlando about 15 years ago on one of our trips to Disney World before they had the Magical Express. I was looking at prices for rental cars and usually use Hertz at MCO because they have the gold service where the car is waiting for you and jut just put your bags in it and go. During my research I found a minivan (which I swore never to buy) that was available for $22.00 per day. Now, $22.00 per day for any car during peak season is awesome, but for a minivan it is incredible. Minivans are usually close to $100.00 per day in some locations during low season.
When I returned the car after our week there, the attendant printed out my receipt and had to do a double take. She said, ‘wow this is really cheap for a minivan’. I just smiled and said yes it is.
Funny how we make such a delineation of our being from year to year. After all it is just another day in just another month in just another year in our life. Perhaps it is because everyone else is pausing to think about what they want to accomplish next year, and what they did not get to do this past year. Right now, everyone is looking forward to next year.
I think a better plan is to have a plan for the next few years and continually work and refine that plan as situations arise that are either beneficial to you achieving those goals or detrimental.
We had a few things happen in my household this year that helped us move closer to some goals and a few things that were setbacks. Some items we can control like choices and determination, but some things like health and for some of you, mother nature, can come out of nowhere and set you back a few months if not years.
Regardless of what hits us, we need to keep moving forward and not let these things stop us. One of the keys to progress I believe is having a strong support system. If you are having trouble achieving your goals or are getting discouraged, talk to someone close to you. If you don’t have anyone close to you, well that is another issue that you need to work on as mentors or trusted advisors can help you in many ways.
I left a company this year and took a position at a new one (to be detailed in a later post). This new company has clear goals and has forced me (for the better) to reexamine where I want to go moving forward.
For now I have one short term goal in 2013 and that has to do with why I started this blog 3 years ago. I will again be running on Disney Marathon Weekend but this time doing the half by myself. I have a goal of a sub 2 hour half, which will be a bit difficult as the previously mentioned health setbacks and all the traveling I have been doing for the hew job, has made training difficult.
I will try my best (that’s all we can really do when it comes down to it) to achieve that first goal, and then continue on with the rest to continue being the kind of person I want to be.
I have been meaning to write this review for a long time now and was finally kicked in the butt by a recent conversation I had with my race partner. Turns out, Disney will not be repeating the relay next year or even in years to come. This is unfortunate as I had a fantastic time, reconnected with some old friends and made a new friend all in a few glorious days.
The 2012 Disney Marathon weekend was the first time (and sounds like the last) that the Run Disney program allowed a team of two to compete in the full marathon as a relay. The race was divided evenly between the two runners so each of us had a chance to run a full 13.1 across the 26.2 course that the full marathoners would run. The only choice a team would need to make was, who would run the first leg and who would run the second. I had one more choice: who would I run with.
When I first heard about the relay I immediately decided I wanted to do it but I would need to find a running partner. I took to the Disney message forums, of which there are many specifically for Disney runners.and after many weeks of looking and asking, finally paired up with a fantastic woman Charrissa, from Connecticut. She and her husband are avid Disney fans and runners and like me, she likes the half as a preferred distance. We exchanged messages for a few weeks before finally speaking on the phone to finalize our team name (Keep Moving Forward), our travel plans and our meet up logistics.
My wife Lorie and I had plans to go down to Orlando on Saturday, the day before the race with our good friends the Demskis who I have know for over 30 years and we were going to say into the next week post race to enjoy the parks. Charrissa would be getting there on Friday and leaving out early Monday to head back home. She was coming down solo as her husband and she had just been down for the Wine and Dine Half so he was not able to get off work again.
We had the first flight out from Chicago so there were no delays and we were in Orlando, on the Magical Express and at the Brach Club Villas before noon on Saturday. I called Charrissa and we agreed to meet up at 3 over at the Big River Brew pub on the boardwalk, which is just across the lake from our resort. It was a bit strange meeting your running partner for the first time less than 24 hours before you were going to run together, but we were all excited to meet her for the first time. We were just finishing up lunch outside on the boardwalk when she walked up. We had a meet up and discussed the logistics for tomorrows race.
We had decided ahead of time that she would run the first leg, as she had never run through the Magic Kingdom before (I have on the Full and Half Marathons that I have done there in the past) and that would give me a chance to run the second leg which passes right by our resort with just under 2 miles to go. There, hopefully, Lorie, Rick and Yvonne would be standing by with an cold beverage for me, or at least an encouraging hug. With everything planned out, we were ready for Sundays race.
Both Charrissa and I need to be at the Epcot parking lot by 5am for the walk to the starting corals, which means that even though I would be starting my leg about 2 hours after hers I still needed to get to the main starting area at the same time as her. We decided to meet under the orange and white strip tents in the queue area where she was waiting with some other Disney forum runners she had raced with before. The main area were we all gather is very well marked with various colored roof tents (the little 10ft wide ones with no sides) and some larger tents for medial, bag drop-off and paid admission prerace eats and drinks. The layout makes it very easy to plan your meet ups both pre and post race.
Charrissa made her was to the starting corals which is about a 15 to 20 minutes walk from the main queuing area, and I made my way to the relay bus corral ( yes they had us in a little fenced in area like little excited ponies) for my ride over to the Magic Kingdom parking lot. My ride took about 15 minutes and I arrived at my waiting area by 5:30, about 15 minutes before the first wave was to start back at Epcot. It was a bit chilly out there in the open and Disney had provided ‘butt warmers’ for us to sit on as part of our race packet. I decided to forgo the warmer and instead had procured an extra large hoodie just for this purpose, so i just pulled that down over my legs and sat on part of it like my own little tent. Many racers will bring a piece of clothing to this event an plan on leaving it behind when they start their run, which I also did . Disney collects the garments, washes them and then distributes them to local charities.
I had about a two hour wait as Charrissa’s estimated finish time was 1:50 so I alternated a little rest and some roaming around taking in the various events that I could see from my lot. This being a Chip and Dale themed relay, the two boys them selves made an appearance in our lot and posed for photos with anyone who wanted to participate. I could also see a row of classic cars to the left of our lot and could hear the classic rock the DJ was playing along that stretch of the course. At the front of our lot was a stage with a giant view screen and the transition area where we would ‘hand off’ to the second runner, We had our own DJ to keep us motivated during the wait and the jumbo screen was showing live shots of the runners from the starting gun all the way through the Magic Kingdom.
From this are I was able to see the elites run by to our left as the ran towards the Magic Kingdom, and to our right as they came out. I had never been able to see them so far out ahead by themselves so this was a pretty special moment. I noticed that many of the runners did not even see them going by but I had been looking forward to seeing this and started watching about 10 minutes before I estimated they would come by.
I believe one of the reason they are not going to do the relay again was complaints form the second leg runners who had to wait around for the first leg runners. I was fortunate that Charrissa was a sub 2 hour runner so my wait was really pretty good ( I tend to enjoy any time I have down in Disney even if I am sitting around waiting for something), but I can see how the second leg runners who had a 3 plus hour first leg runner would be getting a bit antsy by the tie they showed up. The only way to get around this, in my opinion would be to have the team do a true estimate of their first leg partner and get over to the MK parking lot 1 hour before that estimated time. But that would mean the second leg runners would need to get to the TTC (Ticket and Transportation Center by the Magic Kingdom) directly instead of going over to Epcot as a starting point. So, Disney would need to provide busses from the hotels to two different locations and a monorail from Epcot not just to Epcot which would probably be too confusing at 4 am. Or perhaps if they at least provided a warm tent with a few characters and maybe a little food, that could make the wait a bit more bearable for the second runners.
The other thing that would have been nice would be to have your first leg partners name show up on the jumbo screen wen they were within 5 minutes or arriving at the exchange point. That would be easy enough to do as we were all wearing D-Tags on our shoes for timing and they knew who the first leg runners were. They would just need an extra strike pad 1/2 mile or so out to make this happen.
I started looking for Charrissa at about the 1:40 mark and saw her coming up on the shoot at 1:45. She was right on the mark and actually PR’d the race (way to go Charissa!) I pushed and excused myself through the other waiting second leggers and stepped out into exchange area. If I had been thinking ahead I would have given Charissa an acorn to carry for a hand off as there was nothing provided for the exchange. It was more of me flagging her down doing a quick hug and congratulations and then I was on my way.
It was still before 8 am when I took off so the weather was a perfect sub 60 degrees. I wont bore you with a mile by mile account but I did do better than I expected. I had been training for a 2 hour half like Charrissa, and was right on track for most of 2011, but I ended up getting a chest infection that prevented me from running for three months.which pretty much wiped out all my hard work. I had estimated that I would fining in about 2:40 and ended up doing a 2:25 which is OK considering my retraining window.
I mentioned earlier that our resort, the Beach Club Villas, was just under two miles from the finish, right along the running route. We try to stay there every year during the race so I can run by the family on my way to the finish. I pass right in front of the resort before entering the back entrance of Epcot for the final mile around the countries, past the big golf ball and exit out to the finish line in the parking lot near where we started.
I was really looking forward to seeing my wife, Rick and Yvonne at this late point in the race for a little moral boost. They did not disappoint me. As I approached their cheering section Lorie jumped out and gave me a hug, to which the lady next to her said ‘eeeewww, how can you hug him when he’s all sweaty like that?’. Lady we have been married for 25 years and she has seen me a lot worse. I was able to get a quick hug from Yvonne and Rick as well then I pushed on to the finish.
One of my favorite parts of the Disney marathon, which I wrote about here also, is the full on live gospel choir they have about 300 yards from the finish. Just when you feel like you can’t go any more you get a nice boost that helps me quicken my step towards the finish line.
Charrissa and I had planned on meeting under the same orange and white test post race so I got my knees wrapped in ice, stood for my post race photo, grabbed a banana and PowerAde and headed over to meet the group. Everyone was all smiles despite the obvious pain some of us were in (things obviously hurt a little more as we get older) and we all recounted our high points and low points of the race. I stuck around for a little while then we exchanged hugs and discussed when we would talk next to exchange photos etc. I made my way, slowly, to the bus for my ride back to the hotel. There were a few finishers near me on the bus, who had just run for the first time here and were wondering how they would feel over the next few days. I suggested that they should step out sideways on Disney transportation for the rest of their stay. What I mean by that is instead of walking straight down the stairs to exit a bus (going up does not really hurt too much), you stand at the top of the stairs then turn either left or right so you hip is facing the stairs. You then take your steps down that way which put less stress on your knees. Believe me it works and you can easily tell who the runners are when they exist any transportation.Back to the hotel for a much needed shower and a race debrief with my friends.
Once again, I had an awesome race experience here at Disney (thanks Charrissa)and I look forward to next year. A special thanks to Rick and Yvonne, for sharing the experience with us.I hope we can do it again in the future. We had talked about not coming down for 2013 as we will be going to Disney Hawaii for our 25th anniversary, but I have such a good time and it gives me something to train/look forward to for the next year, that I think I need to do it again. When does sign up start for 2013?
Today there was an article in the Sunday Chicago Tribune about visiting Disney World. I felt compelled to write a few comments to the editor based on the comment that one of the benefits of staying at a Disney property was the free use of transportation. While this is true, it is not only available to those who pay to stay on property. Any guest to the parks has free use of all Disney transportation including the bus system, the Monorail and the boats. Once you have parked at one of the lots for one of the parks, you can use any of the transportation that will get you to other parks, hotels, water parks, Downtown Disney/West End etc.
Parking for the theme parks is not free if you arrive by car, but the cost of you parking at a Disney hotel is not really free either if you have arrived by car, as you have paid to stay at that hotel.
So if you did drive to a park, spend a little time exploring the rest of Walt Disney World via their hassle free transportation system.
It has been over 25 years since I last visited Disneyland. It was a trip I took with my soon to be wife as a day trip when we were in Palm Springs. I was excited to see how things have changed and looked forward to sharing the experience with my daughter before she went off to college. She has been to Disneyworld quite a few times since she was 2, but this would be her first ever visit to Disney on the left coast.
We spent some time planning the trip as I always like to do so that we would be sure to fit all the activities into a quick weekend, including a trip to the beach and an Angels game (I wanted to check another Major League stadium off my list). We decided we would do the ball game the Friday night we arrived, visit the parks on Saturday and go to Huntington Beach on Sunday before we drove to the airport.
We took an early flight to LA from Chicago and arrived at before noon. I had gotten a good price on an Advantage rental car from www.autoslash.com, so we took the shuttle over form the airport to pick up the car. A word of advice if you are renting from the. Their location is a good 10 – 15 minutes away from the airport, dropped in the middle of an industrial neighborhood so make sure you make note of the address and put it in your GPS if you have one. It is NOT easy to find on the return and my Google maps took us to the wrong place (similar address the first time). We secured the vehicle, a KIA soul, or toaster as some call it, which Jenna was not too thrilled about, but I enjoy driving something different when I have the chance, even if it look weird. Weird is good.
I had reservation at the Sheraton with a high floor facing the Disney parks and we were not disappointed with the floor to ceiling windows with gave us a great view of the fireworks each night. What we were disappointed with was the amount of time if took to get into the room. It ended up taking more two hours to get into our room, but luckily I had suggested to Jenna that we grab out suits, stow the baggage and head to the pool instead of waiting around in the lobby. We went up to the pool, it is on a deck in the center of the U shaped hotel, and got some California sun and a drink while we waited.
After about 90 minutes our German/Irish skin exposed to some color, we headed back down to the lobby to try to check in. Still not ready so we grabbed a coffee in the lobby Starbucks and waited another 20. We finally checked into the corner room facing the parks and although we had a view of the Cinderella castle the hotel is far enough away that the castle is only about an inch tall in the distance. We were not here for the view so it was no big deal but just be aware that you do pay a premium for park view and now with the addition of Cars land, you are looking at the back of Radiator Springs which is just a view of a bunch of rust colored girders.
We got cleaned up and drove about 2 miles down the road to Angels stadium for the ball game. I had not purchased tickets ahead of time so there was a brisk line of people buying same day seats. The stadium is now part of the Disneyland half marathon so you get to run into and out of the stadium if you decide to run that particular race. It was a perfect night for a game and we enjoyed some of the local ballpark fare ( some Rudy’s Steak sliders and a strawberry shake) for dinner and walked all around the park before heading back to the hotel. The Angels ending up winning in extra innings.
The next morning we were up early so we could be at the park for rope drop. Early AM is not Jenna’s favorite time of the day so I appreciated her indulging me on this trip. We planned on Disneyland first to hit the classics and then California Adventure in the afternoon to see some of the new rides, some of which we had experienced already in Florida.
I made my first mistake early which I have done once before in Disneyworld. I got on a motion ride first thing, with no food in my stomach. I have a pretty wimpy dizzy factor when it comes to motion rides so I need to be careful. I hate to say no to the kids but there are just some things I can never do, like Mission Space in Disneyworld, and sometimes not even Expedition Everest. This morning we decided to do Space Mountain first as there was no line out of the gate and The Matterhorn was closed for renovation (sad face).
The California version of Space Mountain ‘seemed’ to be darker and faster than the Florida version, plus it is two seats wide instead of a single. It took me about 1 minute before I was dizzy and trying to keep from throwing up what little I had in my stomach from the night before. We exited the ride and I had to sit down for a minute to stop the spinning before we walked a few yards to the Nemo submarines.
Jenna was too young to remember the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea subs at Disneyworld so she was excited to try this one and enjoyed the effects of the Finding Nemo characters projected into the water outside the sub windows. I enjoyed the subs in Florida so this brought back some good memories.
Next was a ride you can only do in Disneyland now as they closed the one in Florida; Mr Toad’s Wild Ride. This was another one that she really does not remember as it has been closed for a while. The joke in our family is that the ride was closed because of my wife. On one of our trips to Disneyworld. Lorie was on the ride with Matt while I was sitting outside with Jenna. The ride stopped as they sometimes do for various reasons, so they were both stuck inside the non moving ride while the doors between rooms continued to open and close with the music still playing. The recording to stay in your cars played occasionally as they waited for a good 10 minutes for the ride to start. Lorie is a bit claustrophobic and Matt was getting a bit upset himself, so Lorie decided to get out of the car with him and try to find the exit. That is a Mickey No No. As soon as they got out of the car and headed for one of the doors, the ride started up, but it was too late to get back into their original car. They had to press up against wall, wait for a door to open then rush into the next room avoiding the passing cars. The repeated this process until they found the exit and walked out to some very surprised cast members. She received a scolding and was on her way. The next year we visited the park the ride was closed. Thanks Lorie.
After Mr. Toad, we headed for my two favorites; the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean. They were both as awesome as I remember, except for the insertion of the movie characters in the Pirates attraction. It was nice to share them with her for her first rides on the classics. I had always wanted to eat at the Blue Bayou restaurant which you see when you first get in the boats for the Pirates attraction so we had made a reservation for that evening. I will come to find later that the kitchen that serves this restaurant also servers the private Club 33 which you can see from any of the outside tables at Blue Bayou.
We spent the rest of the day hopping back and fourth between the two parks trying things we had not done before and comparing rides we had experienced in Florida like Soarin’. As the lines started to get longer we were able to do less and less rides so we just walked around and did some people watching until dinner.
One of the areas we went to was the animation exhibit where we me a new friend. I really like the fact that Disney has the cast members put their home town on their name tags. I always look for towns I know and have even seen a cast member from Downers Grove where we live. This time as we were entering the animation area, I noticed the gentleman (Disney Dan as he calls himself) was from Niles, IL. I struck up a conversation with him and we talked for a good 30 minutes about what brought him out here, what different jobs he has done over the years and how he landed with Disney. Turns out he is a member of Club 33 and offered to get us in for dinner there. Now this is no simple feat as it is a private club, and I felt bad turning him down as I had wanted to eat a Blue Bayou for more than 30 years. He made me promise to take him up on it next time I am here, with advanced notice. I agreed and was happy to have made a new friend. We have kept in contact and I plan on getting out there soon to take him up on it.
We headed off to Blue Bayou and had just an outstanding meal. as we were dining I noticed a set of stairs and a terrace up and to our left where may of the wait staff were going with trays of food. I asked our waiter what that was and that is when I found out that our kitchen also served Club 33. I now have that to look forward to next time I/we visit.
After our fantastic dinner, we crossed over to California adventure where they had set up a Tron Legacy area that was open only in the evenings. They had a Flynn’s arcade were we spent some time playing some of the classic arcade cabinet games, like Zaxxon, Frogger and Robotron.
Just outside the arcade in the court yard they had created a large dace area and bar like Zeus’ club in the movie. They had cast members dressed as Tron characters including Zeus with his cane and had thumping music and light shows. I grabbed an adult beverage with a light up ice cube, Jenna had something soft and we enjoyed watching everyone do their best ‘ You Got Served’ dance moves. A nice way to end the evening before our walk back to the hotel.
The next morning we checked out, got in the car and headed for Huntington Beach so Jenna could see the Pacific and the beach scene. We lucked out and there was a HUGE pro surf competition, so the whole town and beach was packed with every shape, size and color of humanity. We wandered around the beach and pier before we grabbed some lunch at one of the little sidewalk cafes. Jenna grabbed some souvenirs for her friends and we were off to the airport for our flight home.
Although it was a quick three days, we packed a lot in and I had a fantastic time with Jen. It took me a long time to get around to writing this post, but the upside it it gives me time to go through the whole weekend again, which is why I am typing this with a big smile on my face.
The first of Disney’s NextGen services, as they will call them, will allow you to reserve ride times for the most popular attractions, secure seating for shows, make restaurant reservations and pre-book other experiences before you even leave your house. http://goo.gl/CFC7n
All in all it was a successful and very enjoyable Marathon trip this year. I always enjoy my time with Matt and this year we did many attractions that we had never done together or done at all, so that made the trip special as well. He seemed to enjoy the time away very much and he had the added bonus of not have to get up and run the race this year. When it is just the two of us we can make decisions pretty quickly about where to go, what to see, what to eat, when to get up, etc. I always like having my wife and daughter with us but things can be a lot more streamlined when only two opinions are involved. I’m not sure who is coming down with me next year, but it may just be a two person event again.
As for the race, I learned a few things this year. First, I need to loose a few pounds. I was hovering around 199 at the time of the race, which is not huge, but I could definitely feel the extra weight on my knees by the time I crossed the finish line. I have been under 200 for going on 15 years now but my ideal weight would be around 180 so I have set a goal of 185 by the end of February. I would actually like to get down to 175 but I will probably put on 5 pounds or so of muscle with the weight program.
I plan on doing some calorie counting, which I have never done before and will enlist the help of the ‘MyFitnessPal’ application on my Android phone. I checked into a few apps including Calorie Counter from FatSecret (terrible name), but I liked the interface and more accurate barcode scanner of My Fitness Pal. I will do a review of my progress in the coming weeks.
The second thing I learned was I am not very good at pacing. I had planned on running with the Clif Bar pace group to hit my 2:15 goal and had stopped at their booth at the expo to meet then and confirm that there would be a group in my corral. They said there was and to look for the girl holding the stick with balloons and the 2:15 sign. I was all psyched to run with them since I was going solo this year, but when I got to the ‘C’ corral, there was no pace group. I spotted a two hour group in the ‘B’ corral but nothing in my area. So long story short, I went out way to fast and went off the pace at about mile 8. I know I can’t depend on others all the time so I need to get better at pacing myself and knowing how my body is doing even without a watch.
Speaking of a watch, my Garmin ForeRunner 305 was pretty much useless this year, which was a bit disappointing. I wanted to compare my three times (D-TAG which clips to your shoe, Runkeeper on my phone and the Garmin), but only the DTAG and my phone were accurate. The Garmin was telling me I had gone a mile when I still had about 100 yards to go. This my be my excuse to try the 310XT or to look for something completely different. I love RunKeeper, but the phone can be a bit heavy to lug around sometimes.
As painful as those races are, I can’t want to go down in 2012 and try for a new PR with whoever I can get to run with me. It was only about 3 hours after this years run that I decided I wanted to do it again next year. So if you are interested in joining me in the Magic Kingdom next year, leave me a comment and lets plan to race together.
Today is the saddest day of all and a very hard day for me. I find it difficult to be in Disney World and not go into the parks even if we just go in to people watch and take in the atmosphere. Matt and I decided not to burn a full days pass since there were a few outside the parks things that we wanted to do anyway and we could probably fill the time before we need to leave for the airport.
We checked out of Bay Lake Towers, stored our bags and took a bus to Downtown Disney to get something for Lorie and Jenna. The are has change quite a bit form last year an Pleasure Island is a shell of what it was when it first opened. I only saw 2 clubs and could not tell if they were even open since the bars did not open till after 7pm normally. The whole island is just restaurants and a few shops and quite a bit of demolition and construction going on. The West Side is pretty much the same with the swapping out of a few stores for some more current ones. One big store that is gone is the Virgin Megastore which took up a huge two story warehouse. In its place is a ‘Build an RC Car Shop’ which did not even take up all of the first floor of the previous tenant. It is kind of a Build a Bear for boys. Build a basic car then trick out out with customizations and drain the credit card.
We did a bit of shopping for about and hour before taking another bus from Downtown Disney over to the Animal Kingdom Lodge villas to see the DVC rooms. We have never stayed there so we wanted to see if it was something we might consider in the future. The rooms were nice, very similar to the other DVC studio and one bedroom accommodations, except for the African inspired furnishings. The property was appealing as a novelty, but I still don’t like the fact that it is so far removed from everything else. If you stay there to see the animals outside your balcony, that is nice, but after about an hour of that I have seen what I need to see and want to move on, so I don’t think we will be staying there anytime soon.
While on property, Matt and I had a nice lunch at Sanaa where we split a burger and had a nice salad sampler, just enough food to hold us over for the rest of our last day. We grabbed our final bus from Animal Kingdom Lodge to the Magic Kingdom then had a short walk back to Bay Lake Towers to catch our Magical Express to the airport. We still had about an hour to kill so Matt suggested we go to the rec center and play some shuffleboard to pass the time. This was another first for Matt and it only took him one game to catch on. I took the first match and he took the second. He was a avid watcher of curling during the Olympics so he knew the basic premise of what to do and caught on very fast. He now has the skills to become a hustler when he retires to warm climates.
The Magical Express arrived right on time and got us to MCO about 1.75 hours before the flight to Charlotte. I checked on my Droid and both our flights ( to Charlotte and to ORD) were clear of weather all the way through. We boarded on time and settled into 2A and 2C for the first leg of the flight. I was a bit disappointed that we did not get a meal on the US Air flight but they did double up on the drinks and it was very smooth ride all the way.
We landed in Charlotte and grabbed some fast food chicken ( I took all the skin off mine and ignored the biscuit as next week starts my calorie counting test, which I will outline in a later post) and I passed the 1.5 hour layover time by catching up on some of my kindle books and my pursued new high scores on a few of his handheld games.
We boarded the flight to ORD and settled into our same two seats for the last leg home. On the flight from MCO, I had put the Thumper stuffed animal that I got for Jenna on the large arm rest space between Matt and myself, and it ‘rode’ there for most of the flight. I placed him in the same spot when we boarded and as I looked up I noticed we had the same flight crew from the previous flight even though it was a different plane. The flight attendant said ’Are you following us?’, in reference to the same two guys in the same two seats with the same rabbit between us, on a different airplane. I said ‘Yes, and I am hoping you are taking us someplace warm tomorrow. Where are we off to next?’
This flight was equally smooth and in no time we were landing in Chicago. As we pulled off the runway I called my wife who was waiting at the Oasis and told her to head on over to pick us up. As most of you know, ORD and MDW are VERY strict about waiting at the curb to pick up arriving passengers. They will make you circle endlessly or have you park way over in the cell phone lot, which is OK. Lorie prefers to wait at the O’Hare Oasis since she can get there early if need be and have some coffee, use the free Wi-Fi and just wait for our call. The timing works out well because by the time we get to the gate, deplane, and walk all the way out to terminal 1 she is just about there.
I will have some reflections about the race in my next post, but for now, home again, glad to be here, but already planning the next trip.