October 19, 2002
We Make it to Florida

Yesterday was scheduled to be one of the shorter drives on our itinerary, so we noodled around a lot and took scenic routes when they were offered. Unfortunately, this made for a longer drive than we were really up for, and we didn't make it as far as Tallahassee (though we are beyond Pensacola). The good news is that because we're about halfway between the two cities (and not on the outskirts of either), we were able to get a great hotel room for fairly cheap. This is the second Hampton Inn we've stayed in, and though neither had Internet access, they were both very clean and very comfortable.

As soon as I'm done writing this, we're going to load up the car and head for Lakeland, where Al's cousin Marcus lives. Hopefully we'll get a chance to have dinner with him and his mother tonight; tomorrow we're planning on playing a round of golf together. On Monday morning we'll get up early and drive the 45 minutes to the Magic Kingdom, and Monday night we'll stay at Disney's All Star Sports Resort. It's Disney's version of a budget hotel, but I stayed there in 1999 and really liked it. Lots of whimsy.

We've also booked a "priority seating" (Disney's version of a reservation) for the Clambake Buffet at the Cape May Cafe in Disney's Beach Club Resort for Monday night. We stayed at the adjacent Yacht Club Resort last September and ate the Clambake Buffet twice; the food is good, if not spectacular, but they have an amazing ambrosia on the salad bar, and the atmosphere is really fun. We thought about going to Artist Point, the Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired, Northwest-cuisine-serving restaurant at the Wilderness Lodge that was by far the best eating experience we had last September, but I didn't want to ruin the memory I have of that meal by having a second that didn't live up to the first. Maybe next time we stay at Disney for more than one day.

Photos from Day 11

Posted by Lori at 07:52 AM | Permalink
A Bed of Roses

We made it to our lovely hotel, the Jameson Inn, at about 5:15pm this evening and were greeted by the informal and friendly girl at the front desk. She gave us a room with a fridge at our request; it's quite nice, and would make a good bedroom suite in a house. Its only drawback is lack of high-speed Internet access, which means that this entry and the ones that follow likely won't be posted until we arrive home in Mountain View.

After dropping off our bags in the room, we called Al's cousin Marcus, who manages the Wedgewood Golf and Country Club about a mile or two from the hotel. He invited us to drop by and say hello, which we did. We caught his mom, Mrs. Shin, on the way out and gave her a hug, then continued up to the pro shop to see what Marcus was up to. A wedding on the first tee was about to start, so we got to see the the bride having a pre-ceremony cigarette, the course staff moving the getaway golf cart into place, and the groomsmen (wearing what looked like umpires' uniforms, complete with black baseball caps) lining up.

We then stood in the doorway of the pro shop, which overlooks the first tee, and watched the ceremony itself. It was over rather quickly (was ours that fast, too?), and I wished I had my camera on me as the bride and groom sped toward us in the golf cart, being chased by three young boys in white shirts and suit pants. My favorite part of the wedding was the bagpiper who played before, during the processional, and after the ceremony. He was great.

After agreeing on a tee time for Sunday with Marcus, we left to find a GAP and a grocery store. One of my goals on the honeymoon has been to buy some new clothes; while I have a full closet in Truckee and a half-full one in Mountain View, the lineup of items that actually fit is meager. I need to do some shopping and some weeding.

I took us the wrong way on US98 (mainly because I hadn't noticed an obvious mall on the way in on 98, and thus figured that it had to be south of our current location), so we drove around for about 15 or 20 minutes looking for the mall and admiring the local neon. Once again I ardently wished I had my cameras (both film and digital), because the signage was unique. We passed the First Baptist Church, housed in what appeared to be an abandoned Sears department store (a fact that was seemingly confirmed by the large sign that announced:

First Baptist Church
at the Mall

We also saw an old-style Arby's with a very photogenic sign, and a new one on us: the Hooters Inn, next to the Hooters Restaurant. (I wonder if this is the Hooters where, as Marcus told us, the bride and groom from the golf course had met.)

We finally found Lakeland Center, tucked behind a wall of chain restaurants, and discovered a GAP inside it. Though it didn't have any more flop-V-necked shirts or the striped socks that I should have bought zillions of when we were in Santa Fe, I did buy another couple long-sleeved, midweight men's shirts. They're really comfortable, and they fit better than the women's long-sleeved GAP shirts often do (I have broad shoulders and long arms, which apparently aren't typical among women, or at least among women who shop at the GAP). Anyway, we continued on to the Wal-Mart Supercenter for water and donuts and to the Publix for a microwave meal, and then headed back to the hotel.

When we opened the door, Al noticed three roses and some baby's breath on the sink counter (which is to the left as you come in the door) and said, "someone left us flowers." I think both of our mind's jumped to the Oreo Incident—did I mention this before? At the Hampton Inn in Dallas, we each went to the room separately for different things on the afternoon of our arrival day and noticed that there was a bottle of water and a pack of Oreos on the hope chest/luggage rack. Each of us assumed the other had put it there, but when we compared notes later that evening, neither of us could account for it. We didn't know if it was intended as a gift from the front desk, or if it was left by someone who'd entered the wrong room and didn't figure it until after he'd set down his Oreos. We thought it was weird, but nothing was taken, so we just shrugged and smiled over it.

Anyway, back to the roses in our room at the Jameson: As we got farther into the room, it was clear that these roses hadn't been left by accident: there were more in the recliner next to the bed, on top of the TV, on the desk, and on my nightstand. As we found each bunch, we remarked to each other that this was definitely weirder than the Oreo Incident. On Al's nightstand was an amazing bottle of champagne and a rose in the ice bucket, but no note. We suspected Marcus to be behind it, but we didn't know for sure.

It was only after we realized that the bed was covered with rose petals—and I'd photographed the scene—that Al located a note from Marcus under the roses on my side of the bed. This find lessened the weirdness factor, and let us instead see it as a romantic gesture rather than another Oreo Incident. Very sweet.

Photos from Day 12

Posted by Lori at 06:56 PM | Permalink
October 20, 2002
Sleepiness Sets In

We've been SO LAZY this morning. I think it's partly because we stayed up late watching Game 1 of the World Series followed by the episode of the Sopranos that we'd missed earlier in the week, and partly because we've been driving/traveling so much. It was nice to sleep in and then stay in bed watching SpongeBob and HGTV this morning.

Now we're up and showered, and we're about to go out to the Best Buy we noticed on US98 last night. We haven't used the microwave or the CD player that we bought in Santa Fe (we either ate out, got room service, or found rooms that already had microwaves in the remaining hotels on our route, and we ended up listening to the radio or reading each other stories from USA Today instead of playing CDs as we drove), so we're going to return them. We still do need a microwave at home, so we'll buy one when we get back to Mountain View.

After Best Buy we're going over to the golf course to meet Marcus for a 2:30 round. Hopefully it's not too hot out; we got a little taste of the Florida heat yesterday, our first since we started our trip. Until Florida, the weather had been remarkably cool and dry, even in Dallas and New Orleans.

Posted by Lori at 09:33 AM | Permalink

Glad we slept in this morning, because today's been a long day, and we need to get up early tomorrow to drive to Disney World. We played nine holes of golf with Marcus; he's basically a scratch golfer from the blue tees, while I tend to score in nine holes what he usually scores in 18 (if I have a good day). He played from the white tees with Al (which actually seemed to throw him a little), but after hitting four shots to his one on the first hole and losing my ball in a swampy area off the second tee, I picked up on both (or rather, I picked up on the first, and didn't drop on the second).

After it was obvious that I'd given up on the second hole (and as Al was lining up his second shot), Marcus drove over to my cart and said out of the corner of his mouth, "you're supposed to be playing golf." Me: "I know, but I'm sucking right now." Marcus: "So? Drop a ball and hit it!" He was right, I know, but it was insanely hot and humid, and I was trying to preserve my humor for a good shot off the tee. Whacking at the ball four times for every one of Al's and Marcus' just would have frustrated me, and I was trying to stay frustration-free.

I finally got a good one off the third tee and finished with a 6, not bad for me on a par 4. I played most of the holes after that. Marcus left us after the ninth but encouraged us to continue without him onto the back nine; it's apparently quieter and without houses and condos lining the fairway. We played 10 together, and Al finished 11; I picked up after hitting two really crappy shots in a row (a real one and a mulligan) off the tee that left me still miles away from the green on a par 3. That snuffed my hopes of posting a score for the back nine at least, and Al agreed that he was hot and tired, so we returned to the clubhouse.

There we found Mrs. Shin, who said that she'd bought steaks and would cook dinner for us. Al told her I was a vegetarian, she quizzed me about what I would eat (fish is OK with me, actually, but I usually say I'm a vegetarian so that I'm guaranteed to get something edible), and we agreed that there would certainly be something for me to eat.

We went inside and sat with Marcus and Mrs. Shin in the clubhouse bar for a bit; the locals were very rowdy—one guy came over and politely and matter-of-factly said to Marcus that if the guy sitting next to him put him in a headlock one more time, he'd be going through a wall, and another was arguing at the top of his lungs to anyone who would listen that a double eagle was obviously 4 under, not 3, no matter what the USGA said—but we managed to get in a bit of conversation anyway. We then agreed to meet Marcus back at the course at about 7:45 to follow him to his house for dinner, and went back to the hotel to shower.

This is getting to be a long story, so I'll jump ahead to dinner and say that it was great—Mrs. Shin cooked for us, which we understood to be a special happening, as promised. She served potatoes and onions, steamed rice, salad, kim chee, avocado, pepper jack cheese along with steak for herself and the guys and fried shrimp for me. It was delicious, and much appreciated; it was so neat to have a home-cooked meal at all, and especially on the road, when we'd been eating out so much.

We watched some of Game 2 of the World Series, chatted, and saw pictures of Marcus' sister Becky and her 15 month-old daughter, as well as some of a party that included Al's parents. I'm so glad I got a chance to meet Marcus and see Mrs. Shin again (I'd met her at Al's brother's wedding in New York last year). I'd never want to live in Lakeland (nor in Florida at all, I'd say), but I'm really happy that we included it in our itinerary.

Posted by Lori at 08:58 PM | Permalink
October 21, 2002
A Day at Disney

We just had a fabulous day at Disney World. Al even got into the Disney spirit this time, which was a surprising development. :) We got up relatively early, shared a waffle in the lobby of the Jameson Inn (yes, they had make-your-own waffles, and they were delicious), and hit the road for Lake Buena Vista. We went straight to the Magic Kingdom, since our hotel check-in time wasn't until 4pm; we figured we'd do the one day, one park thing until 2 or 3pm, and then head over to our hotel.

That's exactly what we ended up doing. I've been to the Magic Kingdom a zillion times, so I let Al choose the agenda. I figured he'd pick some of my favorites anyway. He did: we went first to Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin, skipped Space Mountain (for perhaps the first time since I got the courage to ride it), then walked through Fantasyland and got on It's a Small World. Me: "Are you SURE you want to ride this?" Al, after getting about halfway through the singing doll display: "This isn't what I thought it was." Interestingly, I think they toned down the "it's a small world, after all..." music; you could barely hear the lyrics this time through, and I remember them being blaringly loud when I last rode this strange anachronism as a kid.

Next we went to the Haunted Mansion: not scary at all, but a sentimental favorite. We stopped for a Powerade, a water, and a hotdog (for Al) in Liberty Square, and then visited the Hall of Presidents. I didn't fall asleep this time (as I did when I visited with Sandy, back when Bill Clinton was our leader), so I got to appreciate the audioanimatronic presidents in their full glory. They really are impressive. The history lesson that preceded speeches by George W. Bush and Abe Lincoln was not, however; somehow it managed to leap from the Civil War to NASA in a single bound. Anyway, I'm glad I got to see the prezes, the great seal of the U.S., and the memorabilia in the lobby.

We sat in the shade next to the shooting gallery in Frontierland for a bit and ate a pretzel, and then I agreed to go on Splash Mountain. I wanted to do it last, since you get wet, but Al reminded me that the ride broke down last time we were at Disney, and he didn't want to risk that happening again. We seized our chance and got a fastpass that allowed us to return at 12:40, poked around in the Pirates of the Caribbean gift shop to kill time, and then at 12:40pm sped past other waiting guests to the front of the line. We got in the very back of our log and immediately got wet butts as soon as we sat down.

I began to get nervous that the 50 ft. drop might be even more scary than I remembered it from my trip with Sandy as we floated off through the Song of the South intro. As we passed the bottom of the hill two jets of water spurted out, and I got drenched. The woman in front of me reminded me that getting wet was the least of my worries. This was confirmed when we encountered the two warm-up drops, which very nearly scared the pants off me. By the time the big hill loomed, I was shaking... and wishing I could get off. Consequently, the photo that Disney snapped of us as we started down the drop is particularly hilarious, with me gritting my teeth and squeezing my eyes shut. We bought a copy for posterity (and the scrapbook); if I can scan it at home, I'll post a copy.

After our positive experience with the fastpass on Splash Mountain, we obtained one for the adjacent Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and then took the Disney Railroad loop around the park. When we returned it was time to go on Thunder Mountain, so again we zipped to the front of the line and boarded a car. I love that ride; it's not at all scary, and it's the only roller coaster I really get to yell, "whee!" and "yiiiiiiiiiiii!" on. (All others I either can't get on at all, or if I can, I can only make a "euhhhhhhhhh" sound through gritted teeth on.) After an exhilarating loop around the track, we pulled into the station, and I saw people standing on our right, waiting to get in the car. I motioned to Al to get off on the left, where there were no people. As soon as we did, the attendant started yelling at us that we were supposed to go the other way. We couldn't, because the people who'd been waiting were now in our seats, and the only way to cross over was to step on them. She said, "oh well, never mind. You'll have to ride again."

We looked at each other, and Al said, "good job, honey!" We agreed that even when I'm wrong, I'm right. ;D We got to ride again, and though the second trip wasn't as fun as the first, it satisfied us. It was 2pm, and we were pretty much done for the day. We stopped at a shop on Main Street to buy a gift for Henry, Al's—now our!—three-month-old nephew, and some golf balls, and then drove back to our hotel. We were able to check in and go to our room, in Touchdown! building 10, right away. Disney's All-Star Resort is the budget hotel of the lot, but it still gives you the full-on Disney experience. There are three swimming pools at each All-Star hotel, and we were determined to try at least one of them, given that we had two hours until dinner and it was 85° out.

In the end, we tried two; we went first to the diamond-shaped pool in front of the baseball buildings, which featured a Goofy fountain on the pitcher's mound and "bases" at the corners. After fooling around there for about 20 minutes, we grabbed our stuff and walked over to the main swimming pool, which was much bigger. We jumped around and gave each other rides and generally alarmed the lifeguards for another 30 minutes, and then we went back to the room to shower for dinner. Although I prefer Disney World when the weather is a bit cooler, the heat made swimming not only feasible but enjoyable, and it was a key part of our fun.

Dinner was the Clambake Buffet at the Cape May Cafe in the Beach Club Resort. Sadly, the ambrosia had disappeared from the salad bar, and the vegetarian lasagna was also gone, but the mussels were much better than last time, and I thoroughly stuffed myself. We again said to ourselves that although the food ranks at about a 5.5 or a 6, the atmosphere is really fun, and we'd come again.

After dinner we walked over to the gift shop in the adjoining Yacht Club to look at golf shirts; there was one with Grumpy on it that looked great on me, but it didn't come in (men's) small, and the medium was way too big. I had to settle for a Grumpy golf hat, which also suits me pretty well. On the way out of the shop, I noticed a Christmas ornament that had a bride & groom Mickey and Minnie on it, and said to Al that we should see if they had any other Mickey bride & groom stuff. He said he needed to use the restroom, so I went and asked a clerk. She led me to the back of the store, where they had two sets of figurines, a photo frame, a plate, and a snow globe. The snow globe was the most enchanting: the water-filled glass ball contained Mickey and Minnie figures dancing in their wedding attire, and it was supported by a wedding cake pedestal. Tipping it upside down caused silver glitter to dance with Mickey and Minnie... and revealed a $60 price tag, two to three times the price of the other wedding memorabilia. I was torn. It seemed way too expensive, but it was very nice, and Al collects snow globes. I looked again at the photo frame and the plate.

When Al returned to the shop, I led him back to the display and pointed out the options. He immediately turned to the snow globe and said, "is it a music box as well?" I said I didn't think so, but he turned it upside down, and we saw a silver knob next to the price tag. I turned it, and Someday My Prince Will Come started to play. I looked at Al, smiled, and started to cry. Yep, we'd be buying the snow globe. We arranged to have it shipped back to our house in Mountain View, since it was heavy and would be a pain to carry in our suitcases.

After walking back to the car, we drove around the Epcot Resorts Blvd. loop and pulled into the lot for the Boardwalk. We walked up and down the wooden expanse for a while, got a photo postcard of us at a photo booth, watched some of the live ESPN Monday Night Football Pre-Game Show at the ESPNZone, and poked in the shops. By the time we were done our feet were tired, so we headed back to our room at All-Star Sports, where we are now, preparing to pack for the trip home. Yay, what a fantastic day!

Posted by Lori at 07:18 PM | Permalink