Wednesday, October 25, 2006
2006 10 24- 5:30pm- A swarm of bees just invaded! I stepped out in the yard to try to soak up a bit of sun and get warm, and I heard this incredible buzzing sound as if the air itself were vibrating. I looked over and there was like a 30 foot diameter cloud of swarming insects in my yard. In the sun, they showed as white spots moving rapidly in the air. I went in to grab my camera and when I got back out, the cloud had made its way over to my shed. They stayed there, and some landed near the base and started working their way in through any available crack or gap while the rest continued the swirling flight about the area. Have no idea what kind. Do you?
"About those bees ... Now I am probably being paranoid here watching too much Animal Planet but you don't think they could be the Africanized bees do you? (Killer Bees). It's curious how they came in a swarm like that unless someone nearby has hives that were disturbed? I don't know it just seemed odd the way you described them coming. At any rate be careful especially when you have to de-bee your shed. You really don't need to have a swarm of pissed off bees taking on after you!"
Me paranoid too! I was thinking the same thing... except, then I realized they were NOT coming after me, even when I was close. There have been some linemen working the area this week cutting down all sorts of trees and brush and I am thinking they destroyed a nest somewhere and this is a hive looking for a new home.
Last night after dark (and COLD!!!! 40!!!) I hit the crack with the remains of a can of hornet spray (that I keep in the shed!!!) and this morning I found a few dozen dead outside the crack. Not sure if it killed them all- well, actually, I know at least one survived as he was buzzing around me when I went to look... Appreciate the concern! Buzzzzzzzzzzzzz!!!! It really was an amazing sound experience!
"We have had problems in years past with yellow jackets in the ground. Those things are nasty. More than once my kids have been attracted by them and the thing is, their hives aren't noticeable until you are right on top of it and by then they are so enraged they swarm! We had a huge nest that we discovered two years ago that was about six feet long under ground (this we discovered because the ground literally "gave way" in that spot due to all the bees activity). We went through several cans of spray before we finally decided to set it afire! Even then it took three burns to get the whole nest destroyed and the bees gone." ~Christine
I don't blame you for killing the bees: they can be very destructive. It's just that they are dying off from a mite and we really need them for pollination." ~Mary
"Many years ago, I watched a friend take care of some hornets or something with a nest in the ground. He poured about a gallon of diesel down the hole, taped an M-80 to a broom stick, lit it, and shoved it down the hole. In the explosion, the flames went up about four feet and took long enough to burn out that all the neighbors could come out and stare. There were a few confused hornets looking for their nest, but it was gone." ~Laura
"We had some yellow jackets in a rotting stump..We sprayed it at night, which is what you are supposed to do, and we had an amazing structure inside. Look at the posts and tiers." ~Olivia
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
The Masked Man:
HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE HALLOWEEN
see photos at
a visit to
Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party
On Tuesday, October 10th, 2006, I went down to the Magic Kingdom for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, MNSSHP. I was out of place for the fireworks so missed the whole “front of the castle” thing, but, I rode some Scary and some Not So Scary rides, including the fantastic new Pirates ride; got shots of the parade; collected lots of candy; recruited at least one new member for the internet fan list; and even put together a costume.
Costumes! There were lots of costumes, and a couple of truly exceptional ones. The only people who looked out of place were those who had done nothing, clothing-wise, for the night’s festivities- just looked like people at the wrong address. Most everyone, regardless of age, had at least some article of note, even if only a decorative hat or T-shirt; and many went so far beyond that, to the fully tailored custom made outfit that made it hard to differentiate them from Official Characters. Of course, there were plenty of the off-the-shelf variety too, and that is fine, but when you see the real Tinkerbell or the real Snow White or Alice, walking around, well, that is rather striking.
The highlights were a triple from Tennessee as Snow White, The Huntsman, and the Evil Queen- just fantastic. And many girls, both young and old, as Tink. Surprisingly, many girls-again of all ages- as Captain Jack Sparrow. Many boys of all ages too went that way, but a surprising showing among the females.There were also many little ones as Stitch, the very nice store-bought costume; and there was one whole family of Incredibles. Adorable. They were in front of me at one of my parade viewings, and the little one was really getting into the parade, and at times, was more entertaining. He was waving his arms about as excited babies do, and kept trying to waddle out to meet the characters- Mom had a good grip on the back of his pants and needed it: stretched that waistband they did.
But, let us move through the day in an orderly fashion…
I had earlier confirmed that the ticket for the evening’s Halloween party allowed one to enter the park at 4pm, so I planned my day accordingly. I arrived at the Magic Kingdom (MK) parking lot at about 3:30, and with the cool nights of the recent days, I put on three T-shirts to be prepared. I put my costume materials in the “locker” under the seat of my ECV, loaded my thermos with Pepsi and ice, and headed on over to the Ferry- much easier to do the ferry when on an ECV as opposed to the Monorail, where one time, they forgot to bring up the ramp to let me off.
As I came to the entrance at the Ticket and Transportation Center (TTC), I spotted three people garnering quite a bit of attention, and once the group around them cleared, I saw why: they were magnificently costumed as Snow White, the Huntsman, and the Evil Queen. These were beautifully made outfits, and at first there was some confusion as to whether they actually worked for Disney or not. They were good enough to pass as such, but it turns out they were simply more guests there for the evening’s festivities, down from Tennessee. I asked and they posed for a picture. I think they were a little hesitant to be bothered with me, for at this point, I was not in costume, planning to don it only at 7pm, the official start of the evening. Or maybe they were simply anxious to get to the ferry.
I then made my way down to the ferry dock, where about another 2 dozen people were waiting, some in costume, some with only a special hat, some with nothing. I shot a couple of kids who paused in their gladiatorial combat long enough for the shot and then I spotted a perfectly marvelous Alice, who again, had what was clearly a finely tailored outfit and looked the part. With her mother’s permission, as with all shots of kids, I took the shot.
The ferry arrived and we all moved on, anxious to get on over to the Magic Kingdom. Due to the low western sun, there was some great lighting to take some shots from a location I had seldom used- the middle of the Seven Seas Lagoon. Space Mountain has long been one of my elusive targets for the shot, and this one is pretty close to it. I also got good shots of The Contemporary, the Grand Floridian, and coming into the dock at the other side, Main Street Station and the Castle. Four very good shots.
Through security and then through the turnstile and get the special wristband applied and the special bag for Trick or Treating later that night. I stuck the bag in my locker and headed on in. As I came around Town Square, they were blowing retreat for the Colors and I had to pause as the band marched across the street.
I continued on down Main Street, thinking only of getting to the newly renovated Pirates of the Caribbean attraction. But as I made my way down Main Street, and again keep in mind that the clear sky and time of day was making for fantastic lighting, I was struck by just how beautiful the castle looked even over the expected disappointment of knowing the special decorations for the 50th Anniversary Celebration were gone. Unlike some previous decorations, those had really added to the castle- worked in harmony with it- and I expected their absence would be sorely noted, but the castle is just so elegantly designed and realized that even without any special “frosting” it stands quite well on its own. I was re-impressed enough to even take time for the “Castle shot”. (And actually, thinking about it, that is the first time I have done that shot. Have done the “Statue and Castle” shot, but not the Main Street Castle shot- Oh wait. I tell a lie- I did it with my Navy buddies on my first visit way back in February ‘73.)
The photographer CM took the shot for me and then we chatted a bit about the “missing” decorations and she was willing to accept the big mirror being gone- hadn’t liked it anyway- but wished they had left the golden spirals about the towers, even without the characters (which is what I thought should have been kept.)
I headed over to Adventureland intending to check out the new Pirates of the Caribbean which I hadn’t seen since its “johhnyfication”, but the line was too long and I couldn’t drive my ECV in and couldn’t stand that long, so passed on by thinking it would be easier accessed after the main crowds were removed at 7.
Given that it was rather crowded this day, and that it has special handicapped loading access, I decided to take a cruise on the Jungle Cruise, not a particular favorite, but a nice way to pass some time while waiting for the official start of the night. While I was waiting for my turn, I spotted a group of young ones disembarking, all dressed up, three as pirates, though two are hidden in the shot. When my turn came, I was loaded first and ended up right next to the driver, which had no particular benefit, other than being able to hear clearly every line of his spiel. He did go off the usual script, but added no particular gems. I did get a few shots that I hadn’t before and I was pleased with those.
After the Jungle Cruise, I again checked out Pirates of the Caribbean, still quite crowded, and, as it was now approaching 7, I went into the men’s room next to it and got into costume. I had stopped at Wal-Mart on the journey down intending to buy a cowboy hat and toy gun and holster and just go as Black Bart to challenge Woody, but the hat I liked came with a mask so I brought that along. And Wal-Mart doesn’t sell toy guns. (Guess you have to settle for a real gun?) Had also bought a mascara pencil- or whatever that is- to make a mustache- all the bad guys have a mustache, and was wearing a beautiful black western shirt given me a few years back and my black dress pants, and black patent leather shoes and my black “Woody” socks. (No one noticed.) I intended to simply be a masked bad guy, but despite the dress shirt and lack of cape everyone immediately identified me as Zorro. I did a bit of verbal sparring with a few other costumed guests, in character- hey ladies. how about I mow those grass skirts and see what grows? (remember, I was a bad guy.)- and wandered about before again checking Pirates, and as it was now free and clear, I headed in. It was virtually walk on.
Pirates of the Caribbean was recently renovated with some new effects and new characters added to more align it with the blockbuster movie that it inspired. The first of the new effects is at the very beginning of the ride, and it actually made me gasp. Right in the path of the river is a waterfall with a ghostly face intoning the familiar warning, “dead men tell no tales…” And then you go right through this. Gasp.From there on in, the ride is more or less the same as always, except that certain anonymous characters have been replaced by a couple we know, and the dialog has been slightly modified to fit the story of the movie. Despite the improvements though, they still tend to have that pile up at the end of the ride, which really is not okay. However, overall, for all intents and purposes, it is a new ride, or a completely revitalized one, and quite wonderfully done. And that dog still hasn’t moved.
I headed over to Big Thunder Mountain, which has handicapped loading on the exit side. As I was waiting for the back row, the CM on the exit platform pulled a family aside and asked them to wait while he sent the current train off. They were a bit confused, clearly having no idea way they had been pulled aside, and I asked them if they were waiting for a handicapped rider. They said no, and I laughed, thinking I had just witnessed someone being pulled out for one of the Dream prizes. I told them, “Don’t worry: it’s good.” Well, it wasn’t a dream prize but it was good. Apparently the CM had been concerned that he had worried the little girl when loading them so was going to give them another run. Their worry vanished and they started talking about how Disney was so special.
After my run on Big Thunder, I decided to check out my favorite, Splash Mountain, and though the sign said 40 minutes, a CM told me that there was no wait. I had my doubts, but went over, and lo and behold, it was virtually walk on. Maybe it was too cool for the masses to risk getting wet? Anyway, I enjoyed a wonderful run as always.
By the time I came out of that it was dark out, very dark, and still quite crowded. People were long since lining up for the parade, and being under orders to shoot it, I checked the time, but seeing it was still about 45 minutes away, I made my way carefully in the dark over towards Haunted Mansion, not something I do that often, but a tip of the hat to the night’s celebration.
As I made my way down the street of Frontierland, I saw a photo op with Jesse outside the saloon, so pulled up and got a shot with her- mainly just to make Alan jealous.
Then onto Haunted Mansion, ten minutes through that, then out to find a spot to watch the parade. I learned that I had already missed the run of the Headless Horseman, but was still in plenty of time for the parade itself. I grabbed a spot near the bridge that leads out of Frontierland to the front of the castle. I was very fortunate in that a family was sitting on the ground at the ropes and I could pull my ECV in right behind them, so had a clear unobstructed view. It also turned out to be rather entertaining as they had a baby- standing/walking type- that was just so excited by it all and kept trying to waddle out to greet the characters. They also assisted getting my candy bag filled when the near-constant candy distributors came racing down the line, tending, being bent over, to only hit those in the front row. They grabbed my bag and shoved it into the flow. After the parade they agreed to pose for me- the entire family costumed as The Incredibles.
After this first run of the Boo to You Parade, I headed over towards the other side of the park, passing behind the castle, taking note of a dancing area, and the Pooh Playground, where 20,000 Leagues used to be, and where Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs were just finishing up a rare photo posing session. I continued on down to Mickey’s Toon Town, passing right into the Trick or Treating line that started there and ran the entire length of the path that runs from the back side of Toon Town to the side of Space Mountain. There were, as best I can recall, about four or five actual distribution points along the way, with each manned by costumed Cast Members. There were also several spots for posing with characters. I bypassed the lines for those. On the lawn to each side of the path, decorative cut-outs of the cards and rose bushes from Alice in Wonderland added to the atmosphere and Space Mountain was lit with varying colored lights, much as the castle often is each night.
Emerging next to Space Mountain, I decided to do… Space Mountain. I was very pleased when the CM at the entrance waved me through on my little ECV (usually have to walk the long ramp in) and was met at the other end by another CM who guided me directly to a ride vehicle. There were no lines.After I got off, the same CM who loaded me was there waiting with my ECV and I asked him if I could go back in for another run. He said yes, and showed me the way, which I already knew from a multi-run several years earlier at Mickey’s Christmas Party. I rode the other side the second run, and went back for a third. As I was taking my seat for the third run, a mother and daughter behind me in the loading order asked with a bit of trepidation if it was that scary. The little girl asked repeatedly, “Is it as steep as the drop on Splash?” They were so busy trying to ask their questions again and again, that they didn’t pause long enough to hear my answers. Knowing I could leave at any moment, and having sized them up a bit, I looked at both of them and then pointed at the little girl and spoke to her: “You are going to love it.” And then pointing to her Mom, continued, “…but she is going to cry.”
This lightened both of them up and as I pulled away, I called out to Mom, “If you get scared, just look at the sky. Trust me.”
When I finished my run, I sat on the couch at the end (isn’t that interesting that they have couches at the end of this ride- as if expecting that some people will need to sit down for a moment after riding…) and waited for them, knowing they were in the train behind me. They came off with ear to ear grins and calling out how great it was- and Mom bragged, “I only had to look at the ceiling once.”
As I headed out the long exit, I saw a man dressed as the Scarecrow, fairly simple but effective, and he greeted me noting that he had seen me getting on. We had run across each other earlier and I had complimented him on his outfit. When I emerged at the other end, I noticed he was joined by his wife and child, another of the many Cap’n Jacks of the night and I asked them to pose.
I was heading over to Buzz Lightyear when I saw… Buzz Lightyear. I couldn’t resist this opportunity, so stopped for a shot with the preeminent Space Ranger.
Then I heard that unmistakable noise and with a sudden wave of disappointment realized I had forgotten, and was out of place for, the fireworks show. It was too late to get over to Main Street so I found the best viewing I could and shot what I could.
I then did Buzz, and got a bad ride vehicle. It wouldn’t hold in place and kept twisting around to balance the load (me) to gravity, so I had to constantly play with the rotation joystick while I was shooting and that is the only reason my score was so low…
After Buzz, I crossed over and stopped in to see Experiment 626 starring in Stitch’s Great Escape. I like that show. And so much better than what it replaced. I was also thrilled later in the evening to notice a giant Stitch balloon figure atop the building.
Then I went over to the circle in front of the castle to get ready for the second run of the parade, again having missed the run of the Headless Horseman. I entered the roped off handicapped viewing area and again there was a family sitting on the ground in front of me- they were with the man in the wheelchair next to me- and the CM told them they would have to move to let me in, but I told them to stay put. They were fine and I had a clear view. I was also at the very end with an open space left as a walkway beside me, so had a very good shooting position. I chatted with these folks while waiting for the parade, which paid off. Turns out the young “Scully” in front of me either didn’t or couldn’t eat chocolate, so along with his and his mom’s helping get my bag filled, they went through Scully’s bag and pulled out all his chocolate and gave it to me. The young Scully seemed very pleased to be able to give candy to someone, which was kinda neat. I in turn, not being able to see too well, gave them my bag and told them to have at it. They went through and found some things they liked and we wrapped up our trade with everyone happy.
One segment that I was particularly struck by was the dancing gravediggers preceding the float of the Haunted Mansion. They had a whole routine, dancing with their shovels, reminiscent of the dancing chimney sweeps on the roof in Mary Poppins. One of the moves had them swinging around with their shovels pressed against the pavement creating a brilliant shower of sparks. The shovels were also used to bang against the ground and create rhythms as in Stomp, or Blue Man Group. A very entertaining presentation.
After the parade, I scooted about a bit, and then came back to the front of the castle as a show was starting featuring the Disney Villains, claiming this night as theirs, and led by The Evil Queen. I was surprised to find my self thinking, as Cruella entered the stage, that she must feel put upon at not having top billing over these other wanna-be’s… then realized what I was thinking. This is a cartoon character. Damn Disney. Makes it so believable.
After the show, I headed back over to Tomorrowland and decided to take a spin on Astro Orbiter. It was just looking so pretty. I took the elevator up and waited my turn, enjoying the view, and the colorful decorations and lights. It was nearing midnight and things were slowing down. In fact, a maintenance man was there hanging around, clearly waiting for the last run to get on with whatever work it was he was there for. As I started the spin and moved up in the sky, and remember one is starting up a bit to begin with, I noticed that this is a scary ride. It spins very fast. In fact, too fast. That is what gets me on this one. It is spinning too fast for a little can stuck on the end of a skinny metal arm up three stories above the ground. So all you scardey-cats- this is the one you can be scared of.
And that indeed was the end of the night, the rides now closed, the masses making their way to the front of the park. Knowing what a madhouse it was at the exit and onto the transportation back to the parking lot, I wandered around, did some shooting, looked at things, just enjoying the place instead of rushing forward to wait in the mob. As I was sitting in front of the ice cream store on the corner of Main Street having a smoke and shooting the street in its colored lights and ghostly images running across the fronts of the buildings, someone came up behind me to read my banner (my wonderful MouseForLess banner made for me by Wendy of the UK). She asked for whom I was the “official photographer” and I told her about the MFL group. She declared that it was one of her companions that I should be talking to. I then joined the group, four witches, evil queens, whatever, and we chatted for quite a while, and only when the security guards were starting to hang about, did we start out. (The security guards start at the back of the park at closing, and stay behind the last people to leave an area, no pressure, but making sure no one goes back deeper into the park.) We stopped on the now deserted Main Street to grab a shot of the ladies and then headed out independently.
I barely missed the ferry but the next one came very quickly, and I was on it and headed back to the TTC and parking. I was back at my van and checked the time, surprised to see it was 1:30.
When I got home, I dumped my bag to check out my booty.
Friday, October 06, 2006
HINDES BETTER KETCHUP...
Note: Blogger is totally incompetent, unable after a year to show any dependability in holding the format that is actually typed into the post, or upload images, or even respond to "help". I shall be looking for another venue to move my blog to. Meanwhile, the text below brings you up to date and the imagery is in a couple of albums at http://community.webshots.com/user/ejud2001
October 6 2006- It’s been quite a while since I have done any blogging: I have been busy on a large project and not been particularly motivated to write and post, but yesterday I had a bit of a treat that has inspired me to make a note of it, so I figured I ought to do some catch-up.
Yesterday’s happy event: in the afternoon, I received a phone call from the Copyright Office. I was napping, so the first part went to the machine: “I am calling regarding your book, Pursuing Art in American Woodcarving. The Library of Congress called over and they want you to send another copy of the color edition for their collection. There is a lot of good research in here.”
I picked up at about that point…
Of course, the color edition costs me a fortune, but it’s for my beloved LOC! So, help me out- go take a look at my books
and buy one!
And in one other current event, when I got up today, I headed out to see the new movie, Departed. Everyone is in it, Martin Scorsese directing- and why??? No point to it at all! The story got lost, if there ever was one! Great acting, but to no point! Many more problems with it, but I have no desire to completely destroy it, just wondering what happened: a lot of wasted talent. Go rent Casino or Goodfellas instead of wasting time and money on this one.
Picking up where I last ended off, back at the beginning of August, the next adventure was one that came to me as a total surprise. One of the players from Anything Goes sent me an invitation to a Vineyard Party. First, I had no idea what a Vineyard Party was; and second, when I found out, I was surprised to learn that there were vineyards in Florida: it just never occurred to me! But, indeed, there are, and there is wine produced in Florida!
This takes us back to August 19th, and despite the drizzling rain all day, I headed out for the 4pm start. I was one of few that showed, though I don’t know how many were actually invited, and I don’t know how many might have broken down on the several miles of rough dirt hard-pack that made up the last miles of the journey. I know it did take its toll on my poor old van, and the brakes haven’t been quite right since. Deep into the untouched natural growth, I suddenly emerged into a beautiful landscaped yard with a large raised home. I parked and joined the few people who were there, mainly family, Mary, the actress, her parents and sisters, and one or two others.
As time went on, more people arrived, so that by the time we actually hit the vineyard, we had about a dozen people with little plastic pails learning how to pick grapes, but more importantly, which ones to pick. David, the male lead in the play, was the star here too, grabbing a 5-gallon bucket and filling it twice. I was working on my second small pail when time was called. It seems we were not there to clear the vines, but only to fill the washing vat, and that didn’t take more than 30 to 45 minutes.
I watched as the grapes were dumped into the water filled washing tub, then moved into the crusher- no bare-footed girls stomping here- and then into the fermenting tank, where they would sit for a certain period of time.
Meanwhile there was wine from previous vintages on the table, along with a couple of pitchers of San Gria that was most excellent, better than what I had in Spain a long time ago, and a vast array of food choices. We all sat around stuffing ourselves and chatting for the next hour or two.
After dinner, I got a tour of the house, and discovered some art work, a couple of paintings by Mary’s mother and a particularly nice fish carving by her father, which further led to a journey outside to see another much larger fish he was working on.
Outside was also a boat he was building, using thin sheets of marine plywood held together only loosely with nylon ties through small holes, and then the joints filled and the whole covered with fiberglass. (If I had seen this before I built my high top, it would have been an entirely different process I used!) It was huge and flat-bottomed, fit for the fishing tours
he runs on the shallow rivers and streams all along the coast in our area. Later in the evening, we all gave a hand to haul it out in the yard and flip it over so he could do the fiberglass on the bottom side. That about wrapped things up and our numbers dwindled until all were gone.
A few days later, August 21st, we had some fascinating skies over my area. I took several shots- was doing side-by-sides trying to get the whole view, but this photo shows it the best. It stretched from horizon to horizon. A friend wrote, “Awesome roll cloud, dude! Those are pretty rare. Looks like it was completely detached. That’s the mark of a classic roll cloud.”
Most of my time in August was spent building a high top for my van. The major challenge in this was that it is a sliding door van, and the mechanism for that goes well into the roofline. As I was building this primarily for increased carrying capacity, not occupation, that wasn’t really a showstopper, but it did create some interesting challenges.
My next adventure was the inaugural trip of the newly modified van to a “meet” at DownTown Disney of the MouseForLess (MFL) Internet group members who could attend. This one was very special, as Wendy of the UK and her husband Alan were going to be there! It was about the largest meet we have ever had, and it was great fun, running from about 1 until 5:30, with various people arriving and departing throughout. Wendy had made very special nametags for everyone, and various other gifts were exchanged and lots of stories. Wendy had a couple of treats for me from Disneyland Paris and Porta Ventura, a Universal theme park in Spain, where she and Alan had gone, Alan to support his local football team! Another couple from California was visiting The World after having come east to take a cruise on the Disney Cruise line. A few delightful children were running about and all in all, it was just a great time!
After the meet, Wendy and Alan invited me to join them for dinner and we ended up over at Animal Kingdom Lodge and after touring that and the savannah behind it for a bit, we ended up at the restaurant, Boma, where in addition to great food with great friends, I was delighted with another treat as the dessert chef learned of my gluten intolerance and created several special desserts just for me including a decorated plate: I got some of the Disney Magic! After a long drawn out dinner, and joyous conversation, we again went out back and lounged about in a seating area overlooking the savannah, until the late hour demanded we call it to an end.
Back home, I spent most of my time for the next few weeks working the interior details of the new high top, particularly the trim where I had cut through the existing roof.
My next adventure came in September, when I was invited to join another MFL friend and her family at Animal Kingdom (AK) for the day. I so looked forward to this on so many levels! I had been exchanging e-mails and postcards with this family for about a year and had developed a fondness for them, so it would be wonderful to meet them in real life (IRL) and spend some “Disney time” with them; and it would give me a chance to ride the newly opened Expedition Everest!
Wednesday and Thursday 27 and 28 September 2006.
Since we wanted to be at the Animal Kingdom at 9 for the opening, I offered to pick them up in my van at Pop Century where they were staying. This meant I had to be there at 8, and since I usually don't get up till about noon, I decided to go down the night before and sleep over to make it on time. I also had to buy a ticket, so this would give me a chance to do that the day before at DownTown Disney (DTD).
On the drive down I was testing my new camera mount I had built on my dash. Thus I was prepared to finally get a good shot of Citrus Tower, one of the earliest of the Florida Tourist attractions, which I pass on every trip to Kissimmee and Orlando.
I arrived at DTD, and needing to save my scooter batteries for the next day, I walked to Guest Services to buy my ticket. I also inquired about being able to change the date on a ticket to MNSSHP (Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party). I was told that as long as the desired date was available, I could do so. This was good news as the ticket I had was for the Friday two days hence, and I did not really want to go on a Friday, the most crowded of days. From there to McDonald's for a chicken Caesar salad, one of the few things there I can eat, which I also enjoy, and I sat down outside so I could listen to the Disney soundtrack that plays throughout DTD. The Silly Song from Snow White was playing as I took my seat in the warm sunshine.
After casually finishing, I roamed the World of Disney store then went outside and did some shooting. The sun was low in the western sky by this time and gave really good lighting for The Lego Dragon and some of the buildings. By the time I finished, it was approaching 7 o’clock so I headed over to the AMC 24 Theater and was just in time for the newly released Flyboys. This was good: not very deep, but some great photography, and the flying scenes were terrific! Either there was a bit of CG work, or these pilots are crazier than I imagined! Whichever way it was, my desire to fly a bi-plane only grew; a seed planted originally by an earlier Disney movie with Bruce Willis, featuring a red bi-plane, The Kid. After it let out, I switched screens to see the new Jet Li movie and that too was very good, much more than the simple martial arts movie it was being promoted as, more a man versus himself story very well told. It is actually a Chinese film with English subtitles, but after a while I didn’t even notice that. Then off to find a place to park the van and hit the sack.
The next morning I headed to Pop Century to pick up my friends, Robin, Walter, son Tucker, and Robin’s Dad, Ken, arriving only about 4 minutes late. Walter spotted me and waved and we all loaded in without too much trouble. We headed over to Animal Kingdom, unloaded and headed in, stopping first for a shot in front of the new symbol of this year’s theme, Where Dreams Come True. I only noticed when reworking the photos that there be characters in silhouette running along it.
We waited only a few minutes, the gates opened and we headed in. As we crossed the bridge approaching the Tree of Life, the new mountain in the Disney range could be seen to the east. Ahead, Goofy, Minnie, and Pluto were atop a platform above the crowd, welcoming people as they waited for the ropes to drop to open the rest of the park. I didn't hear any of it, as we were a bit late getting there, and were shooting the obligatory family shot in front of the Tree of Life.
We ran into Baloo, and he messed about with Ken a bit. We had a bit of discussion, and decided to start with the safari, so headed over there and got right on. Surprisingly, the animal sightings were rather sparse this morning: no hippos, no rhinos, and no elephants. The main savannah was populated, but most of the other areas were empty to our view, except for the various birds- the birds are always there! At one point on the savannah, a great thing happened, a giraffe crossed right in front of us, which forced the vehicle to stop, and gave a great photo op! An animal approaching within ten feet of the ride vehicle is the only thing that will make it stop.
We exited the safari and headed across to the other side of the park to face the challenge of Expedition Everest. We arrived to find what looked like a line outside, but it was suddenly gone and we discovered that there was virtually no wait. Between the five of us, four of us rode in various combinations and Walter and I each rode three times, shooting as we went. I shot stills the first run and movies on the second and third.
It is one heck of a ride! Doesn't feel very roller-coaster-y, more like Test Trak on steroids! Very fast... The views from the top are wonderful: you can see the whole World at the peak- where you come to an unplanned stop upon discovering that the tracks on which we ride have been ripped and twisted into useless wreckage! Suddenly, we are moving backwards down into the black interior of the mountain itself. Our speed rapidly increases, but it is pitch black inside the mountain and I can see no inkling of the track configuration. There is a moment of airtime and that tickle feeling in your stomach when you are doing negative G's... Then we slow to a stop inside the mountain, and there is an area of light, a glimpse of a shadow... something big... moving... tracks being ripped apart... And we are off again, shooting out into the blinding sun and straight down the side of the mountain! The track circles around twice as we speed faster and faster, increasing to a rate that seems more than the vehicle or the tracks can handle, faster than I think anything can actually go, then we shoot back up steeply into the mountain and the dark and suddenly, there is something there- only a glimpse, but I think I saw... well… I can't be sure... it was all so fast… And then we are moving again, out of the mountain and back to base. Very fast, very smooth, very intense!
The next thing that we wanted was to see the Lion King show, but checking the schedule, we found that it was starting at that very minute on the other side of the park. We also were starting to feel a bit hungry, so we headed over that way, planning to eat before the next show. On the way, Walter went off down a trail looking for something and quickly returned saying that wasn't it, but this reminded me of an area down that path and I took us all down there for a special view of Mount Everest.
We headed over and ate at the food place just on the African side of the bridge and Robin used one of her food plan credits for my meal- but did claim my dessert (knowing I couldn't eat it anyway.) At one point, she was sitting with three different kinds of cake in front of her, and I wasn't quick enough to get that shot! Tucker had the mac and cheese; Robin, Walter and I had the chicken; Ken had the fish. We were all pleased with the food. One of the good things at Disney or any of the Central Florida theme parks is that in general you can always expect good quality food.
After eating, we headed down the path for the Lion King show and were seated immediately. We didn't have to wait long for the start and the show was wonderful as always. It is a celebration in dance and music, the music coming from the movie, The Lion King, which had such an incredible soundtrack. I actually got to see more of the show this time, as I pretty much gave up trying to shoot it as the lighting is so horrible for photography, but Walter's camera shot it beautifully! I actually couldn't believe how good his shots were!
Leaving the show, we wandered on up towards the central Discovery Island and deciding to see Its Tough to be a Bug, the 3D show inside the Tree of Life, I led us on the back path which has the added attraction of seeing some neat animals including a big ol' tortoise, guestimated to be about 90 years old, then on into the show, bugs in your face and under your butt, and all the other delights of entering the world of the little nasties.
Our next stop was to be either Dinosaur or Kali, and since we were closer to Dinoland, I guided us there. Dinosaur is Robin’s favorite ride, and again, in various combinations, we rode it a few times. Then we hit Dino-Rama and Tucker, Walter and I did Primeval Whirl, and we got the best spin ever: the timing on our spin was perfectly in time with every corner we hit so each corner added to our spin. We were really pulling some heavy lateral G's! A great ride! We were offered a ride through, but once at that intensity proved to be enough!
Then we headed over to Kali.
At some point in here, Robin went over and dropped her empty water bottle in a recycling bin, as opposed to a trashcan, and when I looked around for her, I saw her talking with one of the Cast Members (CM) on trash detail. When she returned, she proudly showed off the special lapel pin she had been awarded for recycling, “Environmentality Hero”, featuring Jiminy Cricket! Later we conspired to give me a chance to get one, hanging onto a recyclable bottle until we could see someone on trash detail, and we did, but no luck. Then as we entered Kali, Robin gave me her pin, explaining that she didn’t really do pins- only had a few special ones. I pointed out that this one was very special, being an award: non-purchasable! But she insisted and I happily, if a bit reluctantly, accepted.
As we got to the end of the long entrance queue of Kali, we were pulled over to a special area for handicapped loading- this was the first time I had seen anything like this- they have a special area where a boat is actually pulled out of the main flow into a separate area so the regular flow of boats is not interrupted! We loaded in, and seeing Robin on the side opposite the rest of us, I told her to come over so we would have the maximum imbalance for the best ride. Tucker asked me to sit beside him, and we were right in the middle of the others. This is a pretty mild water ride with only one significant drop and soaking opportunity, just a pleasant ride through the rain forest and then that one drop and splash. If you aren't the one who gets dumped on, it is all fun and relaxing.
Tucker and I got the dump!
Wham! In an instant, both of us were soaked in such totality that the concept of ever being dry again was simply unrealistic. I was in my regular clothes: I wasn't expecting to do this- when I do the water rides at Islands of Adventure (IOA), I carry a special set of clothing for it: bathing suit, an extra T-shirt and water shoes! Tucker and I came out of Kali soaked, and nothing to be done about it! I took off my shirt and wrung it out, and stood as I drove my ECV back up the exit, finding it too uncomfortable to sit in my soaking wet pants. Once out, I went into a nearby restroom and got a big bundle of paper toweling and made soaker pads for me and Tucker. That helped! We headed back across the park, over to safari to catch a last ride on that as it was approaching closing, all of us deciding to bypass another trip on Everest as we passed, though it was looking so pretty in the light of the low western sun.
As we passed the drums in Africa- and with virtually no one else in sight- Tucker and I moved over to them and did some banging, matching rhythms with each other and playing around for several minutes. It was great fun!
We did in fact ride the last safari of the day and having a load of people who had all ridden before, the CM went off-script and gave us some inside info including the location of a hidden Mickey! As we left the safari, we found that we were among the last people in the park and slowly made our way to the exit. I stopped to grab another shot of Everest from the main bridge, now lit by that low western sun, and then guided us through a hidden path near the front animal area, across a suspension bridge, and then we were out and over to my van where we said our good-byes.
Exhausted from the long day, the intensity of Everest, and the walking of the evening before, I decided to head home instead of staying over as originally planned. It had been great day with friends and I was well satisfied with this trip! As I headed out, I stopped to get a shot of Everest as seen from the parking lot, a shot I had spotted but missed on the way in that morning, and then headed on up the highway and home.