Catch up with parts one-four of my Disney Adventures here.
Let me just start this section of my story off by saying that the Disney Express Transportation is fantastic. As Greg and I traveled alone to Animal Kingdom it became very clear that we were going to see a part of Disney World that we had never seen before. What a sight it was, too: I’m talking cars and trucks and parking lots all around. Concrete everywhere you looked and quiet roads with hardly any traffic. Of course, it didn’t matter to me how many parking lots we were looking at—I was just happy as could be about the fact that I didn’t have to walk across the park again just to get to the bus. We sat in our air-conditioned ride and lived the life that only paying extra money could get us.
Before we knew it, we were driving past what seemed like miles of fence line (and thousands of trees) to the back of Animal Kingdom. And by the back of the park, I mean back behind the new Pandora and right up next to where the Lion King show was performed every day. A young cast member escorted us off the bus and across to the street to another cast member who got us in towards the back entrance. Then we were escorted again until we met another cast member who took us inside the park and eventually let us off to our own devices. It totally felt like that long shot in the movie Goodfellas when Henry and Karen are led through the back of the club, down the hallway, into the kitchen and to the row just in front of the club stage. They were lucky enough to get a table, though. We were just let loose into a crowd that was enjoying a drum number by some very exuberant African performers. Which, as I think about it, was probably even better than getting a table.
We were pretty much right at the front of the Kilimanjaro Safaris, but neither of us really wanted to take that ride again. I suggested going back to It’s Tough to Be a Bug and Greg decided that he’d rather just go back to our hotel or stay and have a beer. I deferred in favor of the beer (even though I don’t much care for it) since I knew my time with Bug would be coming soon. We couldn’t find any places to sit so we stood around some tall tables at a nearby bar and enjoyed the ambiance. Life was pretty darn great.
However, after many hours of walking back and forth on my achy feet (and about 19,000 steps on my step tracker), I decided that I definitely needed somewhere to rest. We started off toward Expedition Everest when we found the most perfect spot to sit down. Right before you get to a show called Flights of Wonder there is a cart across the walkway next to a tiny food cart where there are about seven tables with unobstructed views of the Tree of Life. And there was no one sitting there! I grabbed Greg’s arm and tried to pull him to the table, but I had no arm strength left in me (as if I ever did) and he easily escaped my clutches to get in line for his beer. Priorities. I got it. I had my own. So, I ditched the hubby and got a prime seat up against the railing. A place for my soul and my feet (and not necessarily in that order).
I was so exhausted, both emotionally and physically, I fairly melted into my chair. The sun was beginning to set, the tree was beginning to be lit by various lights, and Greg was still otherwise engaged—which meant I had a whole two minutes to myself in my most very special place in the world. I couldn’t think of anything that could ever bring me down from my moment…
Do you ever have those times in your life when you wish you wouldn’t have thought a certain thought or said a certain thing because you knew that you would be jinxing yourself? No sooner had I settled in for a long winter’s nap than my joy started to evaporate into thin air. A grandma and grandpa with their three grandkids took the table next to me and immediately starting fighting with each other. Then birds started showing up (and I really don’t like the birds) looking for food. I didn’t try to shoo them away because I didn’t want to lose any toes but the kids had no such problems. They started chasing the birds around and more often than not kept chasing them under my table. Then the hubby shows up with two beers (I guess we weren’t going anywhere anytime soon) and I start to get an itchy feeling around my ankles. Yep, the mosquitoes got me. It seemed that all of mosquitoes that weren’t supposed to exist at Disney happened to be available to dine on my ankles at that exact moment. I let out a big sigh, tried to think of ways to keep myself from losing it on a bunch of little people, and did the only thing I could think of—take it out on Greg.
Okay, in this particular moment I didn’t take it out on him too much. In the grand scheme of things, I was still at Disney and I was without my own child. Whatever those grandparents were going through was their own problem and I really could just let it go. I snapped at Greg a little about the beer and then turned around and shut up. The family next to us finally left and Greg and I were alone again in our own little corner of Disney World. After a few minutes of naming off every animal we could find hidden on the tree (and also one very cool Yoda) I began itching again. Only this time it was to get moving and back on track before I atrophied into my chair.
Now, both of us were ready to take on Expedition Everest again but the Disney World app was telling us it was a forty-minute line. I wasn’t about to give up my Rivers of Light fastpass so we decided to pass and find something else to do. And see, this is where my memory gets tricky. I think that this was the point that we decided to watch Flights of Wonder for the very first time in our (not so) young lives. It could be that we saw the show earlier in the day then I’m placing it in this story now, or my memory could be completely correct. I don’t know. Either way, we decided to the see the show and funnily enough (don’t you remember when I said I don’t like the birds?) we ended up having a really good time.
I don’t care who you are or where you’re from—animals that can act are the most awesome things ever! We saw emotion! We saw exasperation! We saw cunning and trickery! We saw poop (although I think the audience was lucky none got on them)! And we saw (up close and personal, I might add) the beauty of the birds highlighted in the show. When the trainers started letting the birds fly six inches over the heads of everyone in the audience I knew that I was not going to be just left alone with no bird contact (like I was hoping for every second of the show) and I was right. Somehow boy genius and I had picked a spot right in the flight path of a very (yes, I’ll admit it) cute bird. Was it an owl? Could be. Was it a hawk? Probably? I have no idea. It was big and it was starting to fly right for my face.
Deep down inside I knew that I wasn’t going to get stabbed in the eye by a very sharp bird beak, but by the expression on my face it was obvious that I was terrified I was about to be brought down in front of hundreds of Disney visitors. The trainer let the bird go and before I even knew what was happening it was over me, past me and nicely ensconced in the corner with someone I can only assume was a young, impressionable intern of some sort. I had lived. And for that I will be eternally grateful. The show finally finished and we began to make our way over to Asia where new activities awaited us. We swam through the throng of people heading to the stage to take pictures with the birds and I gladly left them all behind.
As it started to get darker and darker, I began to feel a little sad that we had decided not to try for Expedition Everest again. Neither of us had ever been on the ride at night and it was a big bucket list item, but we really didn’t want to wait in such a long line when we were so tired. We had missed it on our previous visit because of a terrible lightning storm and were sad that we had to come to the decision that we did. But it didn’t keep us from enjoying other things around the park.
We eventually wandered over to the Kali River Rapids and watched people get terrorized by the observers (more like participants) shooting water at them while they were strapped to their rafts. They might have made it through the ride unscathed, but there were some very devious people intent on making sure that they were good and wet before they did anything else at the park that night. I laughed, and then I cringed as I realized that it was soon going to be full on dark and all of those people were bound to be pretty darned miserable once they got off the ride. Oh well. I felt bad but I wasn’t going to be the one wet and that was what truly mattered. (And ain’t I just a peach?)
There was still about a half an hour before it was time to sit down for the Rivers of Light show, so we decided to ride on Dinosaur one last time. I have no real reasoning behind my decision other than it was something to do and it only had a five-minute wait. Ding! Ding! Ding! We had a winner. I had to stand through the excruciating intro movie again (the things I do to waste time) but the ride was just as fun, loud, and spine crunching as ever. But then it was over and it was time to go catch the new show.
Now, I may not be a connoisseur of beer, but I know my ice cream and it was definitely time for a Mickey bar. I found a small cart with very few customers and spent so much time in line that I thought we were going to miss the beginning of the show. I don’t know why I always seem to find the longest line anywhere I go, but I do. It’s a gift. I fairly threw my money at the cast member, grabbed my treat and ran (okay, hobbled) my way to the fastpass entrance for Rivers of Light. Oh, and I ate my ice cream at the same time. I am a multi-tasker after all. Plus, it was going to melt if I waited until I sat down to eat it. We all know it’s true…
The roped off sections that we had seen earlier in the day were gone and the theatre was fairly packed. We hurried as fast as we could to the fastpass entrance and scanned our magic bands at the tap point. Apparently, we were at the wrong entrance and (a fairly frustrated) cast member shooed us down to someone else about 100 feet down the way. We tried to use our magic bands again but the mojo had been wasted at the previous entrance. I didn’t have time (or patience) to finesse my way past the Disney guards and fairly pushed my way past while explaining what happened at the same time. Greg was much more diplomatic (as per usual) and softened our entry a bit. The cast member pointed us to the area were to sit in and we got ready for the show.
My first impression was that we were packed in there tighter than sardines. I got to know my neighbors really, really, really well. I don’t have the personality that allows me to just talk to people at random (unlike others that can’t seem to help themselves, ahem, Greg) but when my knees are digging into their back and I can smell the food they’re eating, I had no choice but to make first contact. The couple in front of us were so knowledgeable of all things Disney that I was sure that they were Liners. In fact, that was actually my opening volley, “Are you guys Liners?” They looked at me like I was a bit crazy (as some of you that don’t know what Liners are probably looking right now) and let me know gently that they had no idea of the gibberish I was raining down on them. I explained that I was part of a group of Disney loving people dedicated to making Disney vacations as stress free and line free as possible and they seemed to be into it. We talked for a while until we became distracted by the art that was beginning to form in front of us.
The trees outlining the opposite side of the lake began to glow and the shadows of various animals began to walk upon them. Giant lotus flowers floated slowly (very slowly) across the lake towards us and the Tree of Life changed colors in the distance. Soft music began to play and several different boats revealed themselves under the stars.
We waited and waited and waited for the show to begin, but they seemed to be intent on taking their sweet time. I yawned a couple of times (I admit it) and wondered when I was going to be able to get out of there because my back was beginning to hurt. Finally, the show began and a beautifully constructed program began to unfold. Water and beautiful colors. Animals and pageantry. It was breathtaking. I was so glad that we had decided to grab the fastpasses. I was really loving the vibe of the whole thing.
But then it felt as if it was never going to end. Everything was still beautiful and inspiring but the day was beginning to take its toll and I was wishing for nothing more than to go back to the hotel and go to sleep. I even began to think about sneaking out and leaving the show early. Even Greg looked at me and indicated that he wanted to get out. It’s just that we were stuck. I mean, really stuck. Basically, in the middle of the section in the middle of the row stuck. We couldn’t stand up and ruin someone else’s experience. We sucked it up and made it through to the very in. I think we deserved a medal.
Soon, one of the strongest of my personality traits began to rear its ugly head. I am nothing if not impatient. I could not understand why it was taking so long for me to be able to make my escape. I was in no mental state to realize that thousands of us were being unleashed upon the darkened park at the same time. I just wanted them to all get the heck out of my way. We finally wiggled and jiggled our way through and began the long hike back to the buses. I hop/limped my way past large families and straggling children hoping to make it to the bus line before the rest of the planet. Greg led me through every conceivable crack in the crowd and we made our way to the front in good time. We didn’t have time to watch dancers or buy things—we had to get home so that we could recharge for the next day.
The line to our resort was long but not terribly so and we collapsed onto the concrete to wait for our bus to arrive. And suddenly in a situation that had never happened to us before, the bus materialized within one minute of planting of our bottoms onto the ground. I just took it as pay back for having to wait so long to get my darn Mickey bar. Not only did we get a bus, but we actually got a seat as well! Angels started to sing, I promise you.
We found ourselves face to face from a nice young couple that were also on vacation without their kids and we laughed and yawned our way back to the Caribbean. Greg and I decided to hop off at the other bus stop we thought was fairly close to our room (it wasn’t) and we moved like extras from The Walking Dead across the parking lot to where we were supposed to be. I was too tired to be angry, but I did have a fairly good buzz of irritation going on. I guess that was just about as good a time as any to accidentally try to get into the wrong room in the wrong group of buildings. Oops. Luckily, no one was home and we didn’t get in trouble.
After milling around for an extra five minutes my feet didn’t have (exactly 26,000 steps later) we finally made it back to our wonderful home away from home. I wanted nothing more than to crawl into bed next to my practically still clothed husband but I knew my day wasn’t quite over yet. In the interest of not taking too much time in the morning getting ready, I knew I had to get my shower in that night. I dragged myself in, got my business done and then burrowed into the bed. Ahhh. Sleep was finally upon me. Nothing could keep me from falling deep into the place where the most important thing was my own comfort and healing.
Nothing, that is, except for the realization that I had forgotten to set the alarm for the next day. Darn it!
Read part six here.
photo: ©DRB 2017