Wednesday, I woke up around 9:30 or 10, and spent a half-hour or so getting ready to go. I breakfasted on part of my leftover shrimp alfredo, and was just getting a few last things together before calling my parents, when my parents called me.
Today, my brother and his family wanted to go to Magic Kingdom. My father planned to go as well, while my mother was going to stay at the hotel. Since I'd take 30-45 minutes to get to their resort, my brother's family planned to go on ahead to the park. I would drive to the resort and pick up my father, and we'd go to the park together. Once we were there, we'd call my brother and link up.
At about 11AM, I arrived at the resort, and spent a few minutes talking to my parents and saying goodbye to my mother, since this was the last day I'd be seeing them. I figured on leaving the park at 4PM and heading directly back to koogrr's house, so I wouldn't see her again this trip.
I drove while my father navigated (he planned to ride back in my brother's rental van). We made it to the park without much difficulty, although with some marveling on my part at the sheer size of the Disney World area. You drive in on a long highway surrounded by forests, with occasional exits that lead off to various theme parks, none of which are in any way visible from the highway.
Once in the parking lot for Magic Kingdom, we called my brother. They'd just arrived inside the park, and had decided to get something to eat at a restaurant. "They don't have tables for more than six. Do you want us to get a table for two for you?" my brother asked.
I looked at my father. "Whatever you want to do," he said to me, amiable.
I considered that I was only going to be at Magic Kingdom for a few hours, and wasn't especially keen to spend one of them in a restaurant. "No, thank you. I'll wander the park with Daddy."
We caught the shuttle from the parking lot to the ticket gate, and there my father discovered that the pass he'd bought seven years ago was, indeed, still good for five tickets (for himself) at the any of the theme parks built before '98. He offered to pay for my ticket ($64.36 again) but I waved him off. Had I been going to parks every day for the last three, it would've been a little troublesome, but I didn't mind paying for one ticket.
Once through the gate, we could see the Magic Kingdom ... although we weren't actually there yet. "You can take the tram or the ferry," a cast member announced. "They take about the same time, so pick whichever you prefer."
I bounced a little as we headed towards them, not having picked one yet. "I'm going to Magic Kingdom with my Dad-dy!" I said, in sing-song fashion.
My father smiled at me. "I will let you pick, since I always let the children pick. And I don't care which one."
I gave this due consideration. "I wanna take the ferry! I've never been on a ferry. Well, not at a theme park, anyway."
"Actually, we took the ferry the last time we were here," Daddy said, as we walked to the ferry.
"Oh. Then I just don't remember being on the ferry at a theme park. And I do remember being on a monorail, so I still want to take the ferry. Besides, I can always take the monorail back out."
The ferry took several minutes to cross the lake, which, as it happened, was entirely man-made. As it docked at last, the pilot announced, "Please stand clear of stairs while docking. When disembarking, please hold the hand of any young children with you."
We stood up. Daddy, carefully and deliberately, took my hand. I grinned. At the bottom of the stairs below us, a young girl was jumping up and down, facing her father's side while hanging onto her father's hand with both of her own.
I turned to face my father, putting my other hand around his, and jumped up and down in like fashion. "I'm at Magic Kingdom with my Dad-dy!"
We were given maps as we went through yet another gate, and finally entered the park itself. My father looked at the map and tried to figure out where the restaurant the others were at was. "It should be nearby -- they said it was right at the gate. So we can stop by and see how lunch is going."
I think EverQuest must've taken tips from Magic Kingdom on map design, because just as with EQ, the maps we were looking at never seemed to quite match the surroundings we were faced with. I saw many people carrying ice cream cones and other sweets, and thought that the ice cream looked good. But first, we located the restaurant, and wandered into it in search of the others.
They'd just been seated and hadn't even ordered yet. We arranged that they'd call us when they were done, and we'd meet over at the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. After seeing the movie, I was rather curious about the ride -- although I didn't remember being impressed by it (or any Magic Kingdom rides except maybe Space Mountain) the last time I was here. But the whole family was also interested in the Pirates ride, so my father and I would wait to do that with them.
This settled, Daddy and I headed back to the street. "What do you want to do first?" my father asked.
"Well, first I want to see if I can't talk my Daddy into buying me ice cream! at Magic Kingdom! Will you, please, can we get ice cream?"
We kept an eye out as we headed along the row of shops, looking for the source of the ice cream cones we'd see on the streets. A block or two down the row, we found it. And my father -- yes, the man who's driven crazy when people have root beer floats with their dinner -- not only bought me an ice cream sundae for lunch, but he got himself an ice cream cone, too. "Your mother is never going to believe this," he said, as we left.
It was, incidentally, the most inefficiently run ice cream shop I've ever been to. They had one set of people taking orders, another at a counter delivering them, and still more further back preparing them. Yet, despite having three different people involved in the process of serving each customer, they managed to serve customers rather less quickly than a typical shop with just one guy doing everything. The middle layer of people was particularly useless, since all they did was carry ice cream from the rear counter to the forward counter, and get confused about whose order they had. You could've gotten the same effect with one less layer of people by simply moving the rear counter forward, the way every other ice cream shop I've been in does it. Amusing in its way, especially since the way the building had been constructed was forcing them to either use the inefficient multiple-layer process, or rip out counters and redesign the infrastructure to allow for fewer employees.
As we ate our ice cream, I decided that I wanted to go on a ride. The map showed a "Flying Carpet" ride. "That looks good, let's head that way." Halfway there, I noticed the trademark Disney castle wasn't far out of our way. "Is there anything in that castle?" I asked my father
"I don't know."
"Let's find out!"
"I thought you wanted to go on this ride ... ?"
"We can do that afterwards. We're here now. And mostly I just want to act like a kid and do silly things with my Daddy! Like looking at a castle!"
He grinned, and we went to look at the castle. It's called "Cinderella's Palace". You could walk through it, like a tunnel, and there was a big Cinderella mural in tiles on the walls inside, as well as a gift shop on one side. On the other, there was a line for what proved to be a restaurant. There was also a stairwell to one of the turrets, labeled "Exit only", but it wasn't clear what it was an exit from. Shrugging, we continued on towards "Adventureland". The first attraction I saw in Adventureland was "Robinson Crusoe's Tree House". Continuing my theme of "go with whatever catches your eye", I said "Let's go through that!"
The Tree House isn't a ride. You know how theme parks have tried to make the lines for rides more interesting by lining them with thematic exhibits? The Tree House like a really well-done one of those, only without the ride when you get to the end of it. Daddy and I had fun with it anyway, trying to track where the water being hauled up in small buckets by the giant water wheel was going. (Answer: The wheel hauled it to the very top, where it dumped into a narrow wooden channel that wound its way down and around the tree until it reached large barrels in the kitchen. The barrels were, obviously, full, so it flowed somewhere else from them, but I don't remember where.)
By the time we finished with that, the others had finished eating. We all headed off to meet at the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, which wasn't far off.