Friday, October 06, 2006

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
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.

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