Monday, May 7, 2012

Beasties, Legos, and Explosions. . .

Thursday was another morning at the resort's bus stop.  This time, waiting for a bus that would take us to Disney's Animal Kingdom.  The plan was to spend the morning watching exotic animals, observing the wonders of obscure places of the world, and gazing at the magnificence that is the Tree of Life.  Of course we couldn't miss out on Expedition Everest while we were there.

We waited through what seemed like a lot of busses until ours finally came.  Then it was what became the normal bus frenzy with getting the stroller folded and all our baggage together.

The entry to the park was adorned with beautiful pam trees and flowering tree/vine plants with fuchsia flowers that popped against the brown and green backdrop.  We meandered through the jungle-like atmosphere, crossing the lake, and ending up in Asia.  Dad went to get get the Fastpasses for me and Tommy for Expedition Everest while the rest of us watched a woman holding a baby bear--not real, of course, but the puppet's movements made it appear so.  Bug certainly liked it.

We also paused for a Photopass opportunity--me and Tommy with Expedition Everest  in the background.  The woman had us do a pose like "grrrr", but Tommy didn't really get into it.

Bug & Daddy waiting for the Safari

We headed to the Kilimanjaro Safari then.  I was pretty excited for this, though I can't say how the others felt.  But for me, this was probably the closest I'll ever get to a real African safari, so I was really looking forward to it.  The wait wasn't too hateful, and it was shaded with a nice breeze before we entered the safari "office."  We walked over a bridge that the safari busses went under, and Bug got excited.  Just before entering the line for the next bus, we encountered "No Poaching" signs.

Mom gave me her camera for this one while Tom ran mine.  He was supposed to be taking pictures of  all of us on the bus, but his lens was pointing out most of the time.  No biggie.  I was excited to be able to use Mom's new camera, though, and I had fun with it.

Kilimanjaro Safari Bus
As we headed out, our safari guide welcomed us to our two-week safari through the African plains.  She was very animated, and was in "radio contact" with some form of "authority."  We saw rhinos and pelicans, crocodiles and hippos.  There was an elusive antelope of some sort well- camouflaged in the trees.  We passed over a bridge that was in desperate need of repair and bounced through water holes.  All sorts of animals lay by the side of the road, just chillin' in the Spring sunshine.

I was excited about the giraffes.  A group of them huddled under a grove of trees, stripping the leaves from the high branches.  One came out to take a sip from the watering hole which looked like an old, hollowed-out tree stump.  There were two different kinds of giraffe, and while I could easily point out the differences, I can not recall the names.

Bowling for Buzzards!
The elephants were the best, though.  As anyone who knows me at all will tell you, I have an deep affinity for these large beasts that goes back generations.  The elephants on the safari were so active, running around and interacting with each other.  We saw three calves, two of which were playing together.  On baby was "bowling for buzzards" as Pumba and Timone do in The Lion King.  So cute.

The lions, being the cats they are, were all sleeping.  We could only see one from our safari bus.  But then we got to chase "poachers" and help rescue a baby elephant that had been kidnapped from her herd.  Not to worry.  The poachers were scared off, their camp abandoned, and the elephant rescued by the authorities. The detour did cut our two-week safari short, though.  Disney did a great job with Kilimanjaro.  It really felt authentic.

Tom was in charge of navigating through Animal Kingdom.  He successfully got us from the Kilimanjaro Safari to Expedition Everest with time to spare.  Tommy and I waited a few minutes, until we just couldn't wait any more.  We entered the Fastpass lane and zoomed to the front, anxious to ride the mining train.

I didn't tell Tommy what to expect on this ride.  I wanted him to be surprised.  Consider that your warning.  If you want to be surprised, don't read this part.  We climbed on the old mining train, somewhere in the middle, which--eh--I guess was okay.  I prefer the back, but on this wacky coaster, it doesn't really matter.  It was a peaceful ride at first.  Scenic, if a bit quick for gazing at the world around us.  But not roller coaster quick.  We went through the cold, dark interior of the mountain.  There was evidence of the Yeti in the landscape, but no sign of the actual beast.

Then the track in front of us curled into the air, ripped apart by some monster.  The Yeti?  Our train stopped.  We were given just enough time to wonder "what now?" before we shot backward.  Back the way we came, rocketing through the pitch-black depths of Mt. Everest, twisting through sharp turns up into the peak of the mountain.  There we stopped again.  We sat in the cold and watched the shadow of the Yeti tearing up more tracks as its roar echoed around the cavern.  Then we were moving again, but forward.  Tearing down the track, through the twisting darkness before exiting the mountain down a long, steep hill, and turning back into the station.

Green Wing Macaw
From the ground, spectators have no idea what goes on inside the mountain.  From their perspective the train goes up the hill forward and comes out forward.  There is no indication that the train reverses.

Animal Kingdom Lightpost
My one gripe about this ride is this:  Where was the Yeti that was supposed to "attack" us before we left the mountain?  Watching a show about Animal Kingdom, they talked about a huge animatronics Yeti that pops out at the end of the ride.  It is supposed to hang over the train and roar at the riders as they barely escape the clutches of its claws.  The show said it is one of the most sophisticated animatronics robots in the world.  I was really looking forward to the shock and terror of it, especially for Tommy, but I was disappointed.  The only Yeti we encountered was the aforementioned shadow.

Pile of Rhinos Totem

Our captain led us unerringly to the Flame Tree Barbecue for lunch where we had yummy pulled pork sandwiches.  We ate with Mallard ducks and American white ibises begging food at our feet.  This was very distracting to Bug.
Bamboo Lightpost

Heading out of the park, we stopped at DinoLand U.S.A. so Bug could ride the TriceraTop Spin.  After waiting in line for a short 15 minutes, during which Bug was playing with a little boy behind us, we were put in the queue for the next spin.  As we stood on our assigned number, my little man started whining that he didn't want to ride.  He was fully crying by the time I picked him up and carried him out, telling the attendant we were leaving the line.

As it turned out, he needed a change. . . badly.  Mom helped me, and together we were able to get him cleaned up and changed--shorts, too--in no time.  He was much happier afterward, and we went home for our afternoon nap.

We had reservations at T-Rex for dinner.  That meant waiting for a bus to Downtown Disney.  We were in the middle of the waiting area, with a large group of people to one end, when a bus heading to Downtown Disney pulled in.  It pulled all the way to the end, right in front of the big group.  They all got up.  I got a little irritated.  We were the first ones waiting and the only ones with a stroller and small child, but not one of those people were going to be considerate and allow us in front of them.  But while they were crowding around the door, another bus pulled in. . . and it was going to Downtown Disney, too.  We hurried to the second bus, rushed to get the stroller folded, and climbed on board.

The driver of this bus was chatty.  He wanted everyone to sing, but he didn't even know all the words or put them in the right order.  Then he was asking trivia questions about Walt Disney World.  One thing that stuck with me was when Disney acquired MGM, now Disney's Hollywood Studios, the saying was "Mickey's Got your Money."

We got off at the first stop in Downtown Disney, but we should have waited for the third-ish stop.  It just meant more walking, but it wasn't a big problem.  Except that we were running a bit late.  No worries, though, as we made it to T-Rex just in time.  Dad gave our name while I parked the stroller.  We waited in a special line for about 30 seconds, then went in to be seated.

First impression:  WHOA.  A life-sized dinosaur greeted us at the entry, tooth-lined jaws open.  To the left was a ginormous octopus reaching it's long tentacles out over the bar area designed to be "under the prehistoric sea."  We sat by a wooly mammoth with a pterodactyl perched above on a rocky wall.  The "ice cave" was next to us, entertaining with its glowing color changes every few minutes.  Every 20 minutes there was a meteor shower, and the animals would get "worked up" while the "sky" above lit up with meteors of all sizes.  It was loud, too.  You had to raise your voice to be heard, so normal conversation wasn't exactly possible.  Bug wasn't thrilled with the noise level or the animatronic beasties, but he did eat his food, which was something.

In the Ice Cave

Tom and Tommy got some sort of sugar-filled frozen drink that came in a huge cup reminiscent of a hurricane, but shaped like a dino bone.  Bug kept mooching Daddy's.  Mom and I got fruity-deliscious alcoholic beverages of some sort, complete with a souvenir glass.  The food was good, though not memorable.

On the way out, we stopped in the gift shop.  They have a "Build-a-Dino Workshop" there, and Grandmom wanted Bug to do one.  Bug, however, wanted nothing of it.  It was neat to watch the stuffing part, but he's not really into dinosaurs.

We walked through Downtown Disney a little further, crossing the bridge next to Planet Hollywood and stopping to take some pictures of the huge hot-air balloon.  The balloon doesn't seem to have a name, though you can board it's oversized basket and go up.

Buzz, Woody & RC Lego Sculpture
Dragon from Sleeping Beauty

We turned around then.  Next stop, LEGO Imagination Center.  The boys were in heaven in this store. There were life-sized depictions of Buzz Lightyear and Woody inside, with Snow White and the dwarfs, Prince Phillip and the dragon, and some others outside.  All built out of Legos.  Extraordinary.  Some of the sets they had for sale couldn't be bought just anywhere.  Tommy marveled at some Star Wars ship.  Bug thrilled when he saw the gang from Radiator Springs.  He also liked the display for the "Friends" collection, which is girly, but has many different elements that are true-to-life.
Bug & Grandmom with Lego Buzz
Tommy and the Sea Serpent 

When we introduced Bug to the Buzz Lightyear statue, he wasn't sure about it.  But when I showed him that it was made out of Legos, he was instantly attracted.  He loved looking at all the displays.  And he cried when it was time to leave the store.  In fact, after exiting the store next to the Imagination Center, Bug promptly took Daddy's hand and dragged him back into the store, telling him he had to go see.

Snow White & Dopey

We should have spent more time there, but we felt rushed.  The boys should have gotten to make something at one of the many stations.  Tommy could have designed a set of figures to take home with him.  We could have picked our own colors for a generic bucket of blocks.  Bug could have gotten a small set of Duplos to take home.  The options were endless, but we felt rushed.

Look Grandpop!  Radiator Springs Legos!
Tommy and the Star Wars Ship
We stopped at the Ghiradelli Soda Fountain & Chocolate Shop, but didn't get anything.  The chocolate was the same stuff you can buy anywhere else, and it seemed like everything else was overpriced soda or ice cream.  But then again, we were feeling rushed.

We stopped in Once Upon a Toy on our way out.  Tom wanted to get Bug a Buzz Lightyear toy, but he hadn't found what he was looking for.  He didn't find it there either.

Our next stop was to be Epcot again to see IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth, but Tom wasn't feeling up to it.  The discovery that we couldn't catch a bus from Downtown Disney to Epcot was a bit frustrating.  We decided to go back to the hotel and catch the bus from there.  Then a cast member told us the quickest way to Epcot from there was to catch the bus to the Old Key West Resort.  So we left Tom to wait for the Contemporary bus and headed to Old Key West.  (He later told me that when we left, and he was preparing to sit down, a group of obnoxious French women pushed in and took his seat.)

At Old Key West we waited for at least 20 minutes before I had to take Bug into the store to get him some juice.  We were standing in line behind a person who appeared to be grocery shopping, with a cashier who was moving in slow motion, when Mom came in and said the bus was there.  Of course.  I left the juice on the counter and left.

Epcot was packing it in for the show, but we managed to get a spot on the crest of a small hill.  We could see pretty well until, after the show started, people started pushing in front of us.  We had a short kid and I was holding a toddler, but people were so ignorant and selfish that they didn't care.  Still, all was going well. . .

Until. . .

I turned to see--what looked to me like--my mother pushing at some guy's face.  He was a full head taller than her with a kid on his shoulders.  My first thought and words:  "Mom!  What the Hell?"  While Dad went to try to calm her down, I grabbed a gawking Tommy and steered him to watch the fireworks show.  When another man stepped forward to diffuse whatever the situation was, I heard Mom say, "That's my husband!"

Mom calmed down and left the man alone, but she was still puffing.  "I hate this place," she said.  "I'm never coming back here again."

But we watched the rest of the show, which was spectacular at points, if a little too extravagant and pointless at others.  The Inferno Barge has massive explosions of propane that can reach up to 60 feet high.  Impressive, but very bright and very hot.  Even from our faraway perch, we could feel the heat.  Bug was not impressed.  The laser effects were stunning.  At one part they created the effect of the Aurora Borealis.

When it was over we debated about whether to hit Test Track, but because Tom wasn't with us we didn't.  Bug was also tired and thirsty, and he was refusing everything we offered him to drink.  We waited out the exiting crowd, then headed for home at a leisurely pace, stopping by the topiary of The Sorcerer's Apprentice to take a few pictures and get more organized.  We could have gotten another Photopass picture with the topiary, but Mom didn't want to be in it.

The monorail took us home, and during the ride, I got the story of what happened during the show.  Here it is:
An older girl (or young woman) pushed in front of Tommy so he couldn't see.  Dad had him move over to where he could see, but then he felt someone else pushing him to get in front too.  He pushed back.  Then someone pushed him harder.  It seems the person Dad had pushed was a kid, and the kid's father got a little perturbed that the kid was pushed.  So Mom went to his defense.  As I said, this man was a full head taller than her, but she was right up in his face defending her man.  
The guy did come back a little later and apologize to Dad for his behavior.  It was just a misunderstanding in an already confusing situation.
At home, we found Tom laying in the recliner, his foot propped up. Evidently, someone had stepped on his heel in Downtown Disney.  It was his bad foot, the one broken when his transmission exploded four years ago, so even a minor thing can lead to acute pain.

When we related our Epcot adventure to him, he said it was a good thing he wasn't there.  But in his time alone, he had gone out and gotten some gifts.  For Bug, two packs of posable Toy Story toys--read Gumby-ish.  For me a Mickey Mouse wine glass that looks like it will hold half a bottle of wine.

We went to bed that night, ready for the flight home the next day.

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