The Spencer Family's July 1999 Trip

July 17th - 24th, 1999

Part 2

Background:  For those that haven't read any of our previous trip reports, the participants are myself, Jeff (39), a NASA aerospace engineer, Susan (38), also a NASA aerospace engineer, and our two kids Brian (11) and Katie (9).  We're premium annual passholders and even though we live in north Alabama, we still find a way to make 3 or 4 trips a year to WDW.  One reason we're able to do that is we are the proud owners of a Coleman popup camper which we pull down to WDW with us on every trip.  We always stay on Disney property at the Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground, typically at a discounted rate of about $34/day.  Over the years we've come to love visiting Fort Wilderness - to the point where it almost seems like our home away from home.  When we first started camping there several years ago we found there was little information about Fort Wilderness on the Internet.  Deciding to rectify that situation, the family began researching other sources, asking questions around the campground and taking pictures.  That effort culminated in the Fort Wilderness Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), which we faithfully try to keep up to date.  We couldn't do it alone though.  Luckily we don't have to as there are many other Fort Wilderness fans out there that are constantly sending me updates.

Day 3, July 19th - Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom

Space Mountain DogWe decided to do something we had not done in a long time - Early Entry (EE).  We've pretty much sworn off EE in lieu of an alternate touring strategy - doing the park that was the EE park the day before.  We decided to try EE again for one reason - the heat!  It was getting so HOT so early in the mornings that we thought we'd take advantage of the cooler morning temperatures.  Our strategy began running afoul right off the bat as the 7:20 am boat from the Fort Wilderness marina to the MK was late, making us 15 minutes late for park opening.  Problems continued as the turnstile absolutely refused to accept my annual pass (AP).  No amount of coaxing or cussing by me had any effect.  The cast member on duty took my pass and told me it had not expired - duh! - and proceeded to try it a few times herself - still nothing but the big red 'X' - ACCESS DENIED!  After producing a picture ID I was finally allowed to enter.  We made our way to Tomorrowland with our sights set on Space Mountain - well three fourths of our sights - Brian took one of our two-way radios and veered off towards Astro Orbiter.  We noticed that Disney was hard at work installing the Fastpass system on Space but it was not yet in operation.  We were able to ride after only a 5 minute wait.  Brian linked back up with us and we all headed over to Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin (walk on).  It was so much fun we turned right around and did it again.  :-)

CastleEarly Entry was fast running out so we moved on to Fantasyland stopping to ride the Teacups.  We've pretty much got it made now as Brian and Katie ride together leaving Susan and I to S-L-O-W-L-Y spin in our own cup.  We intended to ride the new Pooh ride next but scoffed at the 20 minute wait.  Continuing on we rode Snow White after a brief wait and then rode Peter Pan twice with no wait.  Fire Mr. Smee!  What a great ride.  :-)

It was now after 9 am so regular park guests had begun streaming into the park and it was already HOT!  We walked to Frontierland and did Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (BTMRR) next after a 10 minute wait.  We almost skipped the ride as the queue was already out to the cast member who wields the all-important measuring stick but he assured us the wait really was only 10 minutes.  Sweating bullets, drinking the last of our 24 ounce bottle of homemade Zephrhills pink lemonade and spritzing ourselves with our Squeeze Breeze we slogged on and finally reached the shade of the BTMRR building - ahhhhh!  Once we did it was easy to see why the line was only 10 minutes - the queue was a straight shot to the trains below - they were using the minimum amount of queue in the shade.  What's up with that?  Doesn't Disney realize it's hot out in the sun?  Hmmm...

Barber ShopThe line for Splash Mountain had already grown to 40 minutes so we bypassed it.  The kids shot up a few bucks worth of targets at the Frontierland Shooting Gallery before we made our way to Adventureland.  We all were dying for a Dole Whip so we made our way to Aloha Isle first only to find it closed.  Closed?  It's 90+ degrees and the Dole Whip place is closed?  Go figure.  OK, no Dole Whip, so how about a citrus swirl?  Yummy.  We all do a 180 turn and march expectantly and droolingly (made that one up) to the Sunshine Tree Terrace.  It's closed!  AHHHHHHHH!  It's a conspiracy!  We use the last of our energy to drag our wilting bodies to the cool confines of Pirates of the Caribbean.  Momentarily re-energized we devise a plan to make a dash to the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor on Main Street - surely they are open.  We *have* to have some type of frozen concoction!  We synchronize our watches, tighten up our fanny packs, double knot our shoes (can't have an untied shoe string while one is dashing) and we're off!  We arrive at the door, turn the knob and IT'S LOCKED!  They're not open yet!  Is this one of those weird Disney World dreams/nightmares or what?  I slap myself - OUCH!  No, it's real.  :-)  We ducked into the Main Street shops to cool off, passing the Main Street Barber Shop along the way.  I stopped in at Guest Services to fill out Guest Comment forms on the queue situation at BTMRR and the strange lack of frozen confectioneries on sunny 90+ degree mornings and then we were off to the Grand Floridian (GF) for lunch.

One has two choices for transportation from the MK to the GF, the small boat which makes the MK - GF - Poly loop and the resort monorail.  The former is by far the quicker and that was our choice.  We made our way to the Grand Floridian Cafe, a restaurant Susan and I had visited last summer when we didn't have the kids along.  The GFC is a nice place to pop in for lunch when visiting the MK - it's rarely crowded, it's easily accessible and the food is good.  Susan had the chicken caesar salad, I, the reuben sandwich, Katie, the kid's pasta and Brian, the kid's steak.  The food was very good and the service was excellent.  Total for the meal was $52.50.

Having gotten up early for EE and now having full stomachs we were all pretty sleepy.  We made our way back to the camper where we all crashed and burned.  I did take pictures of the sleeping tribe but fear of bodily injury and retribution kept me from scanning them in.  :-)

SafariAfter naps, we drove to the Animal Kingdom to meet up with fellow RADP'ers Mac and Jack, whose daughter is a Kilimanjaro Safari driver.  Is that cool or what?  Once again I had problems with my AP at the turnstile and this time Susan had problems too.  The cast member on duty reset our biometrics so we got through.  After linking up with Mac and Jack we were joined by their daughter Kaitlyn who escorted us up to the loading platform.  Soon, Kaitlyn came roaring up in her truck and we climbed aboard.  Brian, never the shy one, asked if he could ride up front and Kaitlyn let him!  He was smiling so big I thought he was going to break his mouth.  :-)

We've been on the Safari ride at least a dozen times and I have to say Kaitlyn was by far the best driver we've ever had.  I'm not just saying that either.  She did and said things that I'd never seen nor heard on any Safari before.  We've been on Safaris where it's obvious that the Thompson gazelle over there is the same one the driver had seen 20 times already that day - Kaitlyn made it seem like it was the first time and she was excited.  To top it off she included her "helper" Brian seemlessly into the script.  Bravo Kaitlyn!  Afterwards, we said our goodbyes to Mac and Jack, who were later going to Victoria and Albert's  for a special dinner to celebrate their anniversary.

We walked through the Pangani Trail, seeing the hippos right up by the glass viewing station, then several gorillas including the silver back farther down the trail.  We moved on to Asia and did Kali River Rapids (20 minute wait) to get wet and cool off.  Afterwards, we left the Animal Kingdom and drove to Beaches and Cream at the Beach Club for dinner.  Susan and I split a double cheeseburger and fries, Katie had their chicken noodle soup and I have no idea what Brian had.  I *do* know that we had Milky Way cake for dessert, which is the primary reason we came in the first place.  :-)  Total for the meal was $33.35.  The kids and I finished off the day with a swim at the main pool at Fort Wilderness (Susan did the laundry).  Regarding our EE experience, based on how tired we felt all day and the fact that the "advantage" of EE is pretty much duplicated by going to the park that was the EE park the day before, we decided we'd skip EE from now on.

Day 3, July 20th - Blizzard Beach, Disney's West Side, Downtown Disney
My primary goal for today was to do Summit Plummet.  To do that without waiting in a long line meant getting to Blizzard Beach (BB) early, which we did, arriving just after the 9 am opening.  Not to worry about cool temperatures in the morning - we heard on the radio during the drive over that it was already 84 degrees F.  This time my AP worked OK in the turnstile but Susan was again rejected - ACCESS DENIED.  The cast member overrode the system and let her pass.  After stowing our valuables in a locker and finding two lounge chairs to leave our towels, I was off to Summit Plummet and the kids and Susan went to the big pool.  There were only a few folks in front of me when I got to the top so my wait was only about 5 minutes.  I got to look down the steep drop - and boy is it steep! - while I waited for the person in front of me to climb out of the slide at the bottom.  One - two - three - GO!  Woo hoo! what a slide!

I met up with the rest of the family and we were off to Teamboat Springs, the way-cool family raft ride.  This is a must do for any BB guests in my opinion.  We had so much fun we turned right around and did it again.  We also did the Snow Stormer slides, Runoff Rapids tube slides and Cross Country Creek.  The kids spent a good deal of time in the Ski Patrol kids area playing with other kids on the "icebergs".  We had a great time and left at about 2:45 pm to return to Fort Wilderness for showers and rest before our planned visit to Disney's Westside and Downtown Disney.

We were having so many problems with our passes that we decided to stop by Epcot Guest Services on our way to Disney's Westside to get them to redo our passes.  This accomplished, we tried them out at the Epcot turnstiles and found everything working perfectly.  Yes!  Susan and the kids had never been to the Westside so we spent time browsing through the different shops and stores.  We walked all the way to Downtown Disney and visited the Lego Store and World of Disney.  Brian, the Lego fan, coaxed a new Star Wars lego out of Susan, I think Katie ended up with jewelry.  Our next stop was dinner at Bonfamille's in the Port Orleans resort.  We enjoy trying a few new restaurants each trip and this dinner fell into that category.  We started out with a crawfish appetizer, which was tasty and then followed that with jambalaya for Susan, the marinated pork tenderloin for me, chicken fingers for Brian and pasta for Katie.  I thought the pork was OK, but nothing special.  The cajun spices were pretty tame.  Susan said the jambalaya was OK too but would have been too crunchy for me.  I like my vegetables soft.  :-)  The service was excellent however and the atmosphere was good.  Total for the meal was $59.  Overall, we gave Bonfamille's a good rating but we won't be going out of our way to get back there.

Our plan was to finish off the evening at MGM Studios but just as we pulled into the parking lot it began to pour down rain.  We waited a few minutes but there was no sign of it letting up.  Instead, we returned to the camper for a relaxing evening watching Mulan with a dessert of chocolate doughnuts from the Meadow Trading Post.  :-)

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