Sunday, June 23, 2013

Day 18 - Metropolis, IL to Northwood, IA

"Keep Calm and Travel on"

Day 2 of driving home began by checking out of our Holiday Inn Express around 9 a.m. and making the short drive to downtown Metropolis to view the giant Superman statue.

After just seeing the new Superman movie, Joel and Mary were giddy with excitement over this tourist attraction.  Aptly named places like Thor's Gym and the Daily Planet were also part of the downtown area.  If the Superman Museum would've been open, we probably would have included that in today's activities, too.  Just as well, as the road home was beckoning.  A couple hours down the road the Gateway Arch to the West was a welcome and familiar sight as we knew we were on the downhill stretch of our trip.

We chose a great little coffee shop in Historic downtown Hannibal to grab a bite of lunch and get our caffeine fix for the day, and it was back on the road for the last six hours.  So far, traffic hasn't been too bad, the weather has certainly cooperated, and road construction has been minimal.  The family has decided, however, that when we do Disney again, they will slip a little something into my coffee and put me on a plane.  We made it home around 8 p.m. after 3,740 miles of driving, round trip.

The Seven Wonders of the World - Rohne Style--Wonder #7:  I wonder how my Grandpa Florian managed to stop at every historical marker along the way and still have time to spend once they reached their destination.  Additionally, I wonder how my cousin Beth takes two months at a time away from home to travel; and how does she get everything packed into her van and still have room for 8 people?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Day 17 - Florida to Illinois

Packed up and said goodbye to the Boardwalk resort, and strolled along the Boardwalk one last time to the bakery for some pastries before going to Downtown Disney to have one last Earl of Sandwich lunch with the family.

Bev, Beth, Pam, and kids will be doing the next phase of their Disney adventures in the form of camping, and we begin the long drive home.  My least favorite part of today's drive was the long trek through Georgia.  At one gas station stop, a college gal was going car door to car door selling books, while a man in a truck on one side of us was peddling his melons.  The man in the van on the other side of us was talking on a walkie talkie, and the clerk inside the store told me the charge for my scone and coffee was going to be $318!!!  I began to wonder if we were on TV--Lifestyles of the Insane in Georgia!  After a quick break for supper at a Cracker Barrel, we made our way to stop for the night about 11 hours from home in Metropolis, Illinois.

My favorite part of this leg of the trip was the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee.  With the sunset and some distant storm clouds creating some majestic colors, it was like a page right out of a vacation magazine.

Day 16 - Epcot

"The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing."  - Walt Disney.  

No buses, boats, monorails, or automobiles today as Boardwalk access to Epcot is on foot.  So this morning we got up and leisurely strolled to Epcot at 8:30 a.m.  We sent Chris on ahead to get fast passes for Soarin', but Test Track would  be our first ride stop.  The ride was new and improved since the last time we were there as a family in 2007.   There is a design studio to create your own simulated vehicle to test on the track.  Soarin' and Living with the Land were our next two rides.  Soarin' is one of Aunt Bev's favorite rides--one of mine, too.

Eating our way around the World Showcase was on the agenda for lunch.  Starting in the cobble-stoned streets of London at a quaint little pub where fish and chips were on the menu and then moving swiftly to the Tangierine Cafe of Morocco for Shwarma, you would think we would have had our fill...but we were just getting warmed up.  Next we walked to Japan, one of the most picturesque countries in the World Showcase with its towering blue-roofed pagoda surrounded by beautiful gardens and streams filled with colorful koi fish.  Five-year-old Brad loves sushi, so we all had a great excuse to try some California Rolls (cooked sushi) and pickled ginger at the Katsura Grill.  Ross and Mary became quite adept at using chopsticks to eat their rice.  A unique and astounding attraction in the Japan pavilion is watching the candy artist turn a ball of taffy-like candy in a matter of seconds into a dog on a stick or a taffy ball into a turtle on a stick complete with perfectly blended colors and happy painted-on faces.

At the Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie in France, pastry choices included croissants, eclairs, mousse, quiche, souffles, tarts, cheese platters, and sandwiches accompanied by...(said with a French accent) "but, of course"...French roast coffee.  The new Artisan Ice Cream and Sorbet shop also provided cool and creamy, rich dessert type choices for our party to sample before moving on.  The Kringla Bakeri og Kafe of Norway allowed Joel to get his lefse fix and sample some School bread (Skolebrod) that he recalls his great grandma Nygaard preparing many years ago.  A Norwegian club sandwich and parfait and I think our group had finally gotten its fill of eating around the world...for lunch, anyway.  No trip to the Norway pavilion is complete without posing by the giant troll found in the gift shop.

In Italy, the live street theatre singers of Naples grabbed Mary to dance with them and then recruited Beth to help them entertain the crowd.  I was afraid that they were going to ask Beth to sing, but luckily they just wanted to dress her up in Ohio colors and parade her around.  The Maelstrom ride in Norway and the Gran Fiesta Tour starring the Three Caballeros in Mexico were two of the rides we went on in the World Showcase before making our way back to Future World for another round of Test Track followed by Spaceship Earth and the Seas with Nemo and Friends.  The timing of the rain showers today coincided perfectly with our indoor play time at Mission Space Race; then it was back to Mexico where we dined on nachos, tacos, and Churros and watched the IllumiNations:  Reflections of Earth fireworks and light show.

The American Adventure in the United States pavilion combines audio-animatronics with images shown on a 72' rear projection screen for a 29 minute story of American history.  That ended up being my last attraction of the day, as I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer.  The miles of walking and intense heat and humidity had done me in...(the margarita I had during the fireworks show, I'm sure, didn't contribute at all to my sleepy state.)  The rest of the group closed down the park with the evening Extra Magic Hours going until 11 p.m.  A perfectly wonderful way to spend our last day at Disney.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Day 15 - Blizzard Beach Water Park and Other Fun

Monday, JUNE 17 - While I played at Blizzard Beach Water Park with Beth,  Pam, and their kids, the rest of my family went to see the new Superman movie at the theatre in Downtown Disney with another opportunity for an Earl of Sandwich meal.

Back at the resort, we fought the ducks and birds for our pizza dinner on the Boardwalk followed by the kitchen sink sundae at Beaches and Cream ice cream parlor over at the Beach and Yacht Club.

At 9 p.m., in the middle of another downpour, I met up with my classmate, Todd Ruopp, in the lounge in the Boardwalk hotel.  We had a nice visit and he brought Bruce along for me to meet as well.

The Seven Wonders of the World - Rohne Style--Wonder #6:  I wonder how our vacation flew by so fast--tomorrow is our last park day at Disney!!

Day 14 - Magic Kingdom

"I've wanted to do things; I wanted to build things, to get something going."  - Walt Disney

Sunday, JUNE 16 - We took a Disney bus from Boardwalk to Magic Kingdom today.  Magic Kingdom has something for everyone...beginning with the spectacular view of the iconic castle as you enter the park and ending with the castle light show and wishes fireworks display.  The Buzz Lightyear ride, Indy cars, Space Mountain, and Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor in Tomorrowland were the morning activities followed by lunch at Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe.

All 12 of us had special light green shirts today with Mike Wasowski of Monsters Inc. on them.  Beth had made each one complete with our names on the back.  Christopher's name is the only name out of our group with the letter "i" in his name--that's just one eye!!  You could spot our group from quite a distance.

Splash Mountain and Thunder Mountain in Frontierland followed lunch.  Country Bears Jamboree, Hall of Presidents, Haunted Mansion, Winnie-the-Pooh, Peter Pan, Mickey's Philharmagic, the Jungle Cruise, electric parade, and It's a Small World were all part of the afternoon and evening rides and attractions.  Dinner at the new Be Our Guest restaurant in Fantasyland was at 5:40 including special appearances by the master of the Castle himself, Beast, and the most outstanding gourmet cuisine I have tasted at the Parks.  The restaurant looks exactly like the ballroom in the scene from the Beauty and the Beast movie complete with a study and a west wing.

Ariel and Dumbo rides in Fantasyland, the latest addition to Magic Kingdom, were even new for Beth.  There is still much of Fantasyland under construction to be completed in 2014.  Photo ops were plentiful and Beth kept us on task coordinating our fast pass times with where we needed to be when.  The lightening threatened to delay or cancel the light and fireworks show, but magically, the rain and thunderstorms held off until just after the fireworks ended.  Quite a deluge ensued, and I was glad for our umbrellas and Mary's rain poncho.  Luckily Beth had ponchos for them as well--back at the hotel.  Beth, Andrew, Joel, Mary, and I were all that remained in the park after our supper as the rest headed back to the hotel.  Eventually, Joel and Mary and I succumbed to the heat, rain, and tired feet and legs and Beth and Andrew stayed to close down the park.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Day 13 - Typhoon Lagoon and Disney Quest

It started out today looking like it would rain the whole day, but except for a couple of showers it was a perfect day for the Typhoon Lagoon Water Park.  The lazy river and tide pool were my favorites in addition to sitting and relaxing under the cabana with the family.  Joel snorkeled with the sharks and Ross played a non-stop game of dodging Chris and Andrew through the many water adventures.

Mary, Joel, and I came back to the hotel to do some laundry and then venture out to Downtown Disney for shopping and some Disney Quest fun.  Disney Quest is Disney's answer to the techie lovers--a giant arcade and computer interactive facility with games and rides and several ways to be creative using your own imagination.

We met the rest of the family for Earl of Sandwich and Ghirardelli ice cream before coming back to relax and enjoy the Boardwalk activities.  A magician and a juggler were wowing the crowds while the fireworks from the Epcot illuminations show lit up the sky in the background.  Another great day at Disney!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Day 12 - Mary's 14th Birthday at Hollywood Studios

"Whatever we accomplish belongs to our entire group, a tribute to our combined effort."  - Walt Disney

Mary's golden birthday was of course spent at Hollywood Studios complete with dinner and a Mickey Mouse cake at the Sci-Fi Dine-In.  Park hours were 9am to 10pm, so we arrived at 8:30 and closed it down after enjoying the amazing Fantasmic light and special effects show at 10:30.

Mary and Joel and Ross ALL auditioned for the American Idol Experience.  Katrina, the casting director that Mary auditioned with, said she has great potential, and she is at the perfect age to start working with a vocal coach to get her breath control and projection developed.  While none of my family ended up on the Idol stage this time, they all enjoyed the auditioning experience and Mary is looking forward to returning one day and giving it another go.

Toy Story Mania is a favorite ride for all ages.  The line just to get a fast pass was longer than any other line when the park opens.  I think we ended up riding it four times throughout the course of the day--each time attempting to better our score from the time before as it is a 3D interactive video arcade type of ride.

Ross, Mary, Andrew, and Bev rode Tower of Terror; and Ross and Andrew enjoyed the Rockin' Roller Coaster a couple of times.  Other rides and attractions included the Great Movie Ride, Lights-Motor-Action, Pirates of the Caribbean, Star Tours, watching one of the American Idol Experience shows, and the Backlot Studio Tour.  We ate lunch at Pizza Planet and enjoyed the cool air conditioning of the ABC commissary while waiting for our fast pass ticket times.  All in all, best birthday ever for Mary!  The Seven Wonders of the World - Rohne Style--Wonder #5:  I wonder how I can possibly be old enough to have a 14 year old?