The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

May 13, 2009

Disney World Trip Report, Part 6: Park Hopping for Dummies

Filed under: travel, Wanderings — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 8:10 pm

Note:  If you missed them, the previous installments of the Trip Report may be found here:

Part 1: Getting There is Half the Fun, Right? (Traveling to Orlando and fleeing from the snow and ice in Seattle)
Part 2: Now with Actual Disney in it! (The Hotel Room, and the beginning of day 1 in the Magic Kingdom)
Part 3: Just Another Day in Never Never Land (The rest of Day 1, in which dreams purportedly come true if you sing about them for long enough)
Part 4: It’s the FUTURE! (Sort of.) (Day 2 begins in Epcot, with a trip halfway around the world in 180 minutes)
Part 5: The Disney Version of Christmas (Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas party, and other Merry Things you have to wait in line for)

First of all I apologize for the lack of updates on my Blog in general for the last few days, and on my Disney World trip report for the last, oh, couple of months or so.  I’ve been dealing with a combination of various real life issues related to my employment situation (I should be returning to work a couple of weeks from now) and the usual writer’s block.  Of course on the trip report I’ve just been lazy, but that’s another story.  My goal with this thing is to get it finished before I take another trip to Disney World, and although at this point I haven’t got a clue when that would actually be (Once I return to work I’m not expecting to have any significant amount of vacation time available for a while) at the rate that I’m writing this thing it’s looking like it’ll be a toss-up which will happen first.

Anyway, when I left off on this trip report, I had just finished the second day in the parks,, which had been split between Epcot and the Magic Kingdom.  Tentatively I planned to spend the day hopping around the parks, but the only thing that I had on the agenda as a “must do” item for the day was the Spectromagic parade at the Magic Kingdom in the evening, since I had missed it on Monday, and this was the only other time on this trip that I would have a chance to watch it.   After spending basically all day in the parks yesterday without taking any significant breaks, I ultimately decided that I was going to try to take it a bit easier today, and not to rush everywhere (yeah, like that would ever happen.)  It is from there that the trip report will pick up after the jump.

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February 16, 2009

Disney World Trip Report – Part 4: It’s the Future! (Sort of.)

Filed under: Wanderings — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 9:21 pm

Note:  If you missed them, the previous installments of the Trip Report may be found here:

Part 1: Getting There is Half the Fun, Right? (Traveling to Orlando and fleeing from the snow and ice in Seattle)
Part 2: Now with Actual Disney in it! (The Hotel Room, and the beginning of day 1 in the Magic Kingdom)
Part 3: Just Another Day in Never Never Land (The rest of Day 1, in which dreams purportedly come true if you sing about them for long enough)

Also note that I am writing this trip report in installments on the DISBoards, and then compiling 2 or 3 parts of it at a time into the posts you see here, with added info to make this more suited for a more general audience than the audience of Disney junkies on that board.  If you don’t mind wading through a bunch of acronyms, you might be able to find new installments posted over there on the following thread before they’re on this Blog:

Fleeing From a Winter Wonderland – A First Timer’s Disney Christmas


When I last left off on my Disney World trip report, I had spent the first day of my trip in the Magic Kingdom, a wonderful magical place where parades come down the street every day, fireworks shoot through the air every night, and if you aren’t careful you could very well end up listening to the same blasted song over and over until your brain tries to crawl out of your head.  So what to do for an encore the next day?  Well, I can start by doing what I was supposed to do in the first place yesterday and go to Epcot.  Then in the afternoon and evening it would be time for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at the Magic Kingdom, a so-called “hard ticket” event in which the park closes at 7pm for the regular guests and admission is limited to those who purchase the separate tickets (although event ticket holders can get in after 3pm on their MVMCP tickets without the need to use a  regular ticket.  In addition to a (theoretically) smaller crowd in the park, there is also special entertainment, including a special Christmas parade and fireworks.  I’ll discuss this a bit more later on, but for the time being, find the next part of the trip report, complete with a bunch of images,  after the jump.

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January 24, 2009

Disney World Trip Report – Part 3: Just Another Day in Never Never Land

Filed under: travel, Wanderings — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 11:09 pm

Note:  In case you missed them, the first two parts of this trip report may be found here:

Given the fact that it’s been more than a month since I actually got home from this trip and with this particular installment I will be barely finishing off the first day of the four-day (and change) trip, I suspect that it’s ultimately going to end up taking a while to finish off this trip report.  I’m hoping to get this finished at some point before I actually end up going again.  Given how much stuff I missed on this trip (including missing an entire park) I’m pretty sure I will go again at some undetermined point in the future, and if I can spring for it staying closer to the parks so it doesn’t take 45 minutes on the buses to get there and back (I hear the Polynesian is a nice place, if a bit on the not-so-cheap side…)

When I last left off, I was spending the first day of the trip in the Magic Kingdom, where I was mostly wandering through the parking semi-aimlessly going on whatever rides looked interesting (and some that common sense would suggest I avoid like the plague, but that’s beside the point.)  I ended just after riding on Disney World’s version of Space Mountain for what would be the only time of the trip (and the only time before it gets a major overhaul that will take most of 2009 to complete.)  I will pick up from that point, after the jump.


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January 10, 2009

Disney World Trip Report – Part 2: Now With Actual Disney in it!

Filed under: travel, Wanderings — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 12:52 am

When I last left off on my trip report for my recent (well, not so much anymore) Disney World trip, I had somehow managed to get out of Seattle just after the weather got really bad and escaped from the snow and freezing cold…  Or so I thought (I don’t think I need to remind anyone how well THAT one turned out.)  Fortunately, the temperatures in Orlando were just a bit more to my liking, and Disney World was just around the corner (well OK, it was actually a 20 minute bus ride away, but that’s close enough, right?)  I had just made it to the hotel last time, and was about to check into my room, where a couple of surprised awaited…

This, plus much more (and yes, there’s acutal Disney content in this one) after the jump.

In case you missed it, the first part of the trip report can be found here:

Disney World Trip Report – Part 1:  Getting There is Half the Fun, Right?

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December 14, 2008

Zero to Sixty in Just Twelve Hours

Filed under: Wanderings — Tags: , , — Brian Lutz @ 10:30 pm

Technically, it’s actually 31 to 67 in twelve hours, but if you manage to throw a Celsius to Fahrenheit conversion in there somewhere, you can probably get away with calling it zero to sixty.  After a moderately harrowing day of travel, I made it to Disney World at about midnight local time, and I’m posting from my (shockingly huge) room at the Hilton right now. I have to figure that when the day starts off with a harrowing drive on roads with an inch of ice on them (fortunately it was only a shuttle ride from the airport hotel in SeaTac, and we had a driver who wasn’t a maniac) you have to figure that things can only get better. They eventually did, but not before the plane sat for an extra hour at the gate waiting to be deiced, which caused me to miss my connecting flight in Chicago. Fortunately, that’s the point where things started getting better, as I got quickly booked on the next flight into an exit row (the one with the extra legroom, as long as you don’t mind having to save everyone’s life if the plane goes down in flames) and even though it took a couple extra hours to get out of Chicago (I wonder if a “donation” to Friends of Blagojevich would have helped?) I made it here, and was greeted by 66-degree weather at 11pm, a freakishly large hotel room (just don’t ask about the view) and four days of Disney to look forward to.  Assuming, of course, that I don’t completely zonk out in the middle of the Haunted Mansion or something like that after the combination of sleep deprivation and three hours of jet lag has me trying to make it to rope drop at what my body would consider to be 5AM.

There will, of course, be plenty more later, but I don’t know how much posting I’ll be doing here over the next few days (I’d like to not run the bill up on my phone’s data tethering too much…)  I’ll save the bog industrial-strength trip reports for when I get back home.

December 12, 2008

Oh, the Weather Outside is Supposed to Get Frightful…

Filed under: Wanderings, Washington — Tags: , , — Brian Lutz @ 4:18 pm

…At least that’s what they keep telling us.  According to forecasts for the upcoming weekend, the Puget Sound area is due for one of those much vaunted arctic blasts we seem to get one or two of per year that serve mostly to drive the local news stations into their typical storm-reporting frenzy.  It sounds like the Pacific Coast and northern Puget Sound area are going to be the ones to get hit the hardest by this, but for some reason, it seems that anytime something happens in the so-called Puget Sound Convergence Zone, Redmond manages to get most of the effects of it, even though Redmond is just a bit to the south of where the zone is generally considered to be located.  The short version of this is that we could be in for some snow, and there’s a good chance that there will be icy roads on Sunday Morning…  Which happens to be precisely when I’m supposed to be flying out to Orlando.

Assuming that I can manage to actually get off the ground on Sunday, I should be able to dodge most of the really nasty stuff (the forecast is expecting the sub-freezing temperatures to stick around for days,) and the weather down in Orlando is looking just a little bit better than it is around here, with mid-to-upper 70s, and even an 80 or two) in the forecast and what should be clear weather for most of the week.  Apparently it does get fairly cold in the evenings down there though, so it looks like I will need to keep the jackets and pants handy, just in case.  Even the low temperatures look fairly tolerable though, and for the most part it looks like the weather there should be a whole heck of a lot better than the weather for the next week or so is going to be up here in Redmond.

In the meantime, I am still trying to plan out what I am going to do when I get there, and even though over on the DISBoards there are literally thousands of trip reports, theme park tips and all sorts of other stuff (apparently that board is where a bunch of the really experienced Disney junkies like to hang out, I have still only managed to put together a relatively vague  outline of what I will be doing while I am there.  And believe me, some of these people are downright obsessed with this stuff, taking trips there 2 or 3 times a year and writing these monster trip reports that seem to cover everything down to the tiniest detail.  In an effort to blend in with the locals, I have actually been putting together a pre-trip report over there as part of planning, but even that is nothing compared to some of the big 73-page threads going on over there covering planning, traveling, spending time at the parks, the hotels, the resorts, and all sorts of things. 

One thing that I have learned over the years is that for pretty much every subject you can think of, you can find an entire board full of people dedicated to that subject, often to the point of near obsession (I stopped reading the Price is RightI used to visit on occasion somewhere around the time that pretty much every thread started descending into angst-riddled drama over changes made in season 37.  I mean, this was total full-blown “the world is coming to an end” type drama.  You’d think Syd Vinnedge came over and personally kicked all their dogs or something.  Anyway, if you can get past the drama and generic angst that generally accompanies such things (fortunately, DISboards seems to be mostly free of such things,) resources like that can be surprisingly good resources for planning.  That doesn’t mean that I’ve actually managed to get any significant planning done yet, but at least I know where to go complain when I manage to get myself stuck for three hours on It’s a Small World.

I am definitely looking forward to this trip though.  While there’s something to be said for being able to bring your kids to the Happiest Place on Earth (or at least the Happiest Place in Florida, or the Happiest Place A Few Miles West of Downtown Orlando, or whatever the place is) and watch them enjoy the sense of wonder that come with the youthful ability to suspend disbelief, I’m sure there are plenty of people out there would love the chance to go on their own, free to roam without worrying about the kids getting sick (one thing I’ve learned from reading all the trip reports over there is that it seems to be impossible to take two or more kids to the place for more than a day without someone puking) or not being able to go ride the Tower of Terror or some other appropriately thrilling ride because the kids don’t want to go.  On the other hand, as a single guy traveling solo, it also means that there are some things I probably wouldn’t be able to get away with (I’m going to guess I should probably pass on all the princess stuff.) I suspect that I probably won’t get the chance to take a solo trip here again (if I ever figure out who I’m supposed to marry, that is,) so I might as well enjoy it while I still have the chance, but not so much that I don’t care to go any other way.

I also need to make sure that I’m not trying to run full tilt for four straight days while I’m there.  As I’ve discussed before, I have the tendency to overdo the whole vacation thing sometimes, and don’t bother taking any time to relax.  In retrospect, I really wish I had scheduled longer than 4 days to spend there (or at least had gotten myself a later flight out than 7:05 am on Friday) but if I was staying much longer than this, I would find myself beginning to run into some of the big crowds that come from the Christmas break.  I suppose that I’ve got to figure these things out somewhere along the line, so I’ll be able to plan a lot better the next time around.

Meanwhile, I apologize once again for the light Blogging here this week, and I suspect that Blogging will be light again next week while I’m at Disney World, since I will have limited access to Internet (I’ll pretty much have my phone, and maybe Internet access at the hotel if I feel like spring for $9,.95 a day for Internet access.)  I suspect that I should have plenty to say about the trip once I get back though, and after Christmas and New Years Day are done with, hopefully I’ll have some time to work on some of those projects I’ve been putting off for a while.  In the meantime, anyone got some Pixie Dust I can borrow?

December 3, 2008

I Hear They’ve Got a Mouse There or Something: My Disney World Pre-Trip Report

Filed under: Wanderings — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 8:07 pm

(Image source: themeparks.com)

About a week and a half from now, I will be on my way down to Orlando to spend a few days at Walt Disney World, and hopefully get a chance to enjoy a little bit of decent weather in the process (since lately it seems like there are two choices of weather available up here:  Partly cloudy and 53 degrees, or rainy and 47 degrees.)  I booked my plane ticket and hotel to get there a couple of weeks ago, and I just went over to the Disney Store up at Alderwood Mall today to get my park ticket.  Aside from arranging an airport shuttle to get to the hotel when I get there, I should be just about set now.  Since I’ve got to figure out something to do in order to pass the time until I actually leave (and try to make sure that I’m actually getting the trip planned out,) I decided that I would go ahead and put together a pre-trip report here. 

To people who know me,  the idea of me going and taking a vacation to Disney World might sound a bit… uncharacteristic.  After all, I haven’t ever really been a big fan of Disney stuff in general, and most of my recent vacations have been spent doing things like going to national parks (I was able to get to both the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone last year) and taking nice long drives down seldom traveled backroads, hitting every tourist trap along the way.  I’m far more likely to spend my vacations taking photos of abandoned gas stations in the middle of nowhere than I am to be relaxing on some beach somewhere.  For some reason, I just can’t relax when I’m on vacation.  I also generally travel solo when I’m on vacation.  Aside from the obvious reason of being chronically single, I also suspect that my idea of an interesting vacation would probably bore most people who would actually travel with me to tears.  So taking all that into consideration, why would I fly across the country to go see a mouse?  To be honest, I’m not entirely sure.  I suppose that I’ll probably figure it out once I get there though.  Mostly at this point it would be nice to actually take a vacation for once after ending up staying here and dogsitting every time someone else goes on a vacation.  I’m half tempted to get a couple of dogs of my own and drop them off at my parents’ house to take care of while I’m gone.

Another personality trait that I have which seems to come into effect mostly when I’m on vacation is that I seem to have some sort of mental timer that’s constantly reminding me that I’ve got only 63 hours of vacation time left, so I better make sure I’m using it.  This means that I tend to overdo things on occasion, and eventually end up hitting the proverbial wall at some point.  When I went to Disneyland back in early 2006, this meant that by the third day I was there, I got to the point where I didn’t really feel like doing a whole lot, and ended up sitting out a number of the rides everyone else went on.  I suspect the fact that it was raining for much of the day before didn’t help, since it made it difficult to find a place to sit down anywhere in the park.  On the other hand, the rain also made the lines a lot shorter on a lot of rides, so even if it does rain it’s not a big deal.  I also have a tendency to not be able to suspend disbelief in many cases, so this means that if I see something really interesting in one of the rides or shows, I’m more likely to find myself trying to figure out how they made the effects than I am to just admire it because it looks cool.  This tends to make places like Disneyland as much a museum to me as a theme park.  In some ways, this can be a blessing and a curse, and because of it people might think I look bored when I’m there.  In reality, I just have a slightly different definition of what’s entertaining than some people, but tend to think it’s not entirely necessary to scream your way down a roller coaster to find it fun.

As it stands right now, my plan is to take a morning flight to Orlando on Sunday the 14th, with an hour layover in Chicago along the way.  With about 7 hours on the planes, an hour in Chicago and 3 hours lost to tine zone changes, it’ll take pretty much all day to get there, and I should be getting in around 7:30pm that evening.  I’ll be spending four days there, then flying back on another early flight on Friday the 19th, with another hour layover in Dallas.  This time around, I’ll get the three hours back that I lost on the way down so I should get back in a bit earlier.  I will be staying at the Hilton at Downtown Disney, which from the info I’ve read is a nice place, and a bit quieter than some of the Disney-owned properties.  I had thought about flying back on Saturday, but the flights seem to be significantly more expensive since that starts to get into Holiday travel.

Beyond that, I pretty much don’t have anything definite planned at this point.  Since I’m going to be traveling solo, I suspect I’ll probably be eating mostly counter service, since I am a bit hesitant to make dining reservations for one.  I also have not been to Disney World before, and don’t really know what to expect yet for a lot of things.  I also haven’t been keeping up on my Disney lately, so I think I’m stuck somewhere back around Beauty and the Beast or so as far as being familiar with the movies (although I did see about half of Wall-E not too long ago.)  I suppose I should probably make some sort of attempt to catch up on the stuff before I go, just in case there’s some quiz to get in or something like that.  My mostly childless current existence doesn’t provide a whole lot of incentive to watch those types of movies, and  since I don’t really watch movies in the first place, I haven’t paid much attention to such things lately.  I suppose that if I can get most of the plot of a 2-hour movie out of a 5-minute theme park ride, it frees up time to do other things.  Of course, there’s the slight risk of getting It’s a Small Worldstuck in your head for the rest of eternity by doing that, but I don’t think that it’s actually driven anyone to insanity just yet.

Anyway, one way or another, I’m determined to enjoy this trip, so I should probably figure out a way to do so at some point before I go.  Since the hotel I’ll be staying at charges $10.95 per day for Wi-fi access and I’ll probably be tethering off my phone for an Internet connection while I’m there, I don’t expect that I’ll be doing too much Blogging from there until I get back.  I should also try to make sure I’m not seeing the place from behind the lens of my camera (another mistake I’ve made on vacations before,) but I do suspect that I’ll put together some sort of trip report, probably after I get back.  In the meantime, I should probably try to get at least some idea of what I’m going to be doing while I’m there…  Now what was the name of that mouse they’ve got there again?

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