The Spencer Family's July 1999 Trip

July 17th - 24th, 1999

Part 3

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 5, July 21st - Epcot, River Country, MGM Studios

Test Track CrashGoing back to our "Do the park that had EE the day before" strategy, we made Epcot our first park of the day.  We arrived at 9 am and were happy to see our APs were still working - the problem was fixed.  Our #1 objective was Test Track and we made a beeline over there.  The posted wait time was already an hour - bah! - so we jumped in the singles line and were on in less than 15 minutes - woo hoo!  We really like riding Test Track - the cars are cool and the high speed section outdoors is a rush!  We also like checking out the new cars after the ride - Brian really liked the red Camaro.

We decided to check out the new home theater demonstration in Innoventions West and were walking that way when we came across Goofy playing in the water with kids.  Goofy's skin did bore a remarkable resemblance to a light neoprene suit.  ;-)   We also came upon the JAMMitors, a talented percussion group that uses garbage cans and buckets for drums.  The home theater demo was interesting, but we're engineers so others may not agree.  However, nearly everyone watches TV so, if nothing else, one can get a serious case of home theater envy.  The demo begins with a standup preshow (most of which we missed) followed by a sit-down demo of flat panel high definition TV, mood lighting, and surround sound with an Armageddon movie clip.  For the final portion of the demo we moved to a mini theater that seated about 15-20 people.  I think the CM said they could be purchased for about $80,000 - ouch!  I can't recall what was shown but it again was a neat display of expensive technology.

Mexico DonaldWe wandered back over to the Innoventions East breezeway to see one of our favorite live acts at Epcot - Future Corps.  If you have any interest in music at all, we highly recommend you seek Future Corps out on your next WDW visit.  While we were in the area, we visited the Wonders of Life pavilion to cool off while the kids played with the hands-on displays.  Next up was lunch at one of our favorite Epcot restaurants, the San Angel Inn.  Unfortunately, the River of Time was drained (it was being rehabbed) so the atmosphere suffered somewhat.  Thankfully though, Mariachi Cobre was still there to play in the market area.  The San Angel Inn is one of the best, if not the best, themed restaurants in all of WDW in our opinion.  Time to order.  Susan and I both had the nachos de pollo, which was a big plate of tortilla chips topped with grilled chicken breast, cheese, jalapeno peppers and sour cream.  Yummy!  The kids had the chicken quesadillas with rice and a small bowl of ice cream.  Total for the meal was $36.45.  After shopping in the market area and saying hi to Donald, we moved on to the Norway pavilion.

At Norway we were able to walk right on to the Maelstrom ride - woo hoo!  We skipped the movie afterwards though and continued on to the China pavilion to see the Circlevision movie "Wonders of China".  While waiting for the movie we wandered around the "Land of Many Faces" exhibit, which featured pieces from many of the different ethnic peoples of China.  After the movie, we continued through the World Showcase, stopping at the Outpost to cool off in the mist area (it was once again in the mid 90's).  Unfortunately, our delay caused us to miss the Voices of Liberty at the American pavilion; however, we were still able to see and cool off in the American Adventure.  We wanted to get a Kaki Gori (shave ice) but the line was too long for the hot and impatient so we settled instead for Mickey ice cream bars at a nearby cart.  We timed our arrival at the UK pavilion to coincide with the next show of the World Showcase players.  If you have not taken the time to see them - what are you waiting for?  Do it!  You won't be sorry.  :-)

Our last thing to do at Epcot was to catch the Lord of the Dance show at the American Gardens Theater.  We arrived about 10 minutes before showtime and were able to walk right into the 4 pm show.  Other than being hotter than Hades, it was a fine show.  I've read some of the criticism on the newsgroup rec.arts.disney.parks about the violins and tap sounds being piped in but so what?  I've heard it live during a full length show and heard it taped - tapping is tapping.  :-)  The violin part was a bit of a disappointment but that was never a favorite part of the show for me anyway.  Considering the show is included in the admission of Epcot, I think it's a fine addition to the entertainment line-up.  After the Lord of the Dance, we made our way back to Fort Wilderness to rest in the air-conditioned comfort of our camper.  After cold-soaking and napping, the kids and I decided we wanted to go swimming so we hopped on our bikes and headed for River Country.  Susan wasn't ready to get up yet so she stayed behind to rest some more.  The kids and I had a ball.  We were only able to swim about an hour as RC closed at 7 pm but we almost had the whole park to ourselves.  We rode the slides over and over again before moving over to the pool to jump off of the "rocks".

RnRC CadillacAfter showers, we all drove over to MGM Studios to ride Rock 'N Roller Coaster (RnRC) and eat dinner.  Fun before food so we headed for RnRC first.  What a fun ride!  As you can see, the stretch limo is made to look like a vintage Cadillac and it seats riders side by side.  The ride begins with a rush as you're propelled from 0 to 60 in 2.8 seconds (1.4 G acceleration) and immediately go inverted.  All tolled, there are three inversions contained in the 3000 feet of track and by my watch it took about 82 seconds from "launch" to arrival in the unloading area.  It's quick but it's also a blast - at least for Susan and I.  Brian and Katie vowed to *never* ride it again (never didn't last too long in this particular case).

We had a quick dinner at Pizza Planet ($27.46) and then walked onto Star Tours and the Great Movie Ride.  We finished up the evening by getting Jelly Bellies at the candy shop on Sunset Blvd.

Day 6, July 22nd - MGM Studios
 Rock N Roller CoasterMGM Studios was the day after EE park so that's where we began the day, arriving just after 9 am.  During breakfast, Brian informed us that he had changed his mind about RnRC and that he wanted to ride it again.  Katie still wasn't so sure.  After checking the wait time board at the intersection of Hollywood and Sunset and seeing the posted wait time was only 10 minutes, we made RnRC our first destination.  This time we all came away with smiles on our faces and to celebrate our triumph we loaded up on RnRC merchandise afterwards.  The RnRC t-shirts are especially cool and we all ended up getting one by the end of the trip.  The kids also got "Backstage Passes" - laminated passes with their names on them complete with neck straps.

We moved on to the Animation Tour next.  Right off the bat we noticed that they'd changed things around since we'd last done the tour.  All of the pieces seemed to be there, they just shuffled around when you go where.  The Walter Cronkite/Robin Williams segment is still there along with the highlight film from the Classics - "Run Bambi, run!"  Bang!

QuasimodoWe finished just in time to scamper across the park to the Doug Live! show.  I tried taking some pictures but they all came out too fuzzy to use.  Doug has turned out to be a popular show and rightly so as its cast is very talented.  Don't miss this one thinking it's just a kids show.  After the show, we made our way to the Backlot Express - a counter service restaurant located next to the Star Tours attraction.  The Backlot has good burgers, grilled chicken sandwiches, hot dogs and a great condiment bar.  It also has a lot of seating inside, which is great especially when the weather is scorching hot.  Total for the meal was $22.85.

The best show on property was next up for us, that's right, the Hunchback of Notre Dame - a musical adventure.  Once again there were several new faces among the main characters but the show was still outstanding.  Disney is to be commended for continuing to find superb talent to replace cast members as they move on.  Matt the juggler was there for the preshow.  While still good I think Matt could stand to work in a few new jokes or tricks.

After filing out of the HoND show, we made our way over to the Backlot Tour but passed it by not wanting to wait the posted 20 minutes.  As we were walking up Mickey Avenue we came across Cast Member and RADP'er Wendy, who was working as a character handler.  After she escorted Genie safely behind a wall, she chatted with us about our vacation.  She also showed us where Disney is putting in a character greeting area on Mickey Avenue where the 101 Dalmatians merchandise area is/was.  Soon a cooled and refreshed Genie and Minnie came out so Wendy had to go back to work so we said our good-byes and moved down the street to Voyage of the Little Mermaid (VotLM).  The next show wasn't for 20 minutes so we decided it was a good time for ice cream...mmmmmm.  :-)

Tower of TerrorMermaid was good as always and being "under the sea" was *most* welcome given how hot it was outside.  By this time we'd done all the shows we'd planned to see so I asked the kids what they wanted to do - Rock 'N Roller Coaster! was their reply.  Sounded good to Susan and I.  We were able to ride RnRC after a 20 minute wait but it was well worth it.  The more we rode RnRC the more we liked it.  Susan and I decided to check the Tower of Terror (ToT) wait time and found it posted at 10 minutes - too good to pass up.  The kids went along planning to exit on the "chicken" elevator.  As it turned out, there was no wait at all.  We walked right into the library for the film clip and then right onto an elevator.  It seemed to us that RnRC, being the new thrill ride on the block, was taking away the crowds from ToT.

With black and ominous clouds overhead, we left the park and boarded the Friendship boat with plans to visit the Swan and Dolphin resorts, followed by dinner at the Cape May Cafe.  By the time we reached the Boardwalk the skies had opened up and it was pouring.  On our way over to the Yacht and Beach Club it began to lightning and blow really hard so our boat operator was told to hold at the Y&B until the storm blew over.  After about 15 minutes, things calmed down and we were able to continue to the Swan.  The Swan seemed to be the nicer of the two resorts but both were impressive.  The kids were intent on checking out the game rooms while Susan and I were more interested in checking out the restaurants.  We turned our search into a little game of sorts - see who could figure out the resort map first.  :-)

We again boarded the Friendship boat and made our way back to MGM Studios to pick up our Explorer and then drove to the Y&B resort for our 5:30 priority seating at Cape May.  It had been several years since we'd last eaten at Cape May so we were looking forward to it.  The meal is a buffet with soup and salad, plenty of seafood (clams, mussels, shrimp, baked fish) and other entrees (BBQ ribs, chicken, beef tips, spaghetti, etc.) and a killer dessert bar.  There's also a kids section with macaroni and cheese, hot dogs and chicken strips (as I recall).  The food was very good (the desserts were excellent) and we all left completely stuffed.  Total for the meal was $71.50.

Just as we arrived back at our camper it began to rain again.  Not feeling like slogging around with Mickey ponchos on we decided to stay "home" and watched Pocahontas II on the TV/VCR.

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