After eight months of putting $50 in a Disney lunch box per week, my wife and I were finally ready for the big trip. Nicole had been planning this trip since we started saving, and had been planning it even sooner in her head. We would be going to Disney World for six days, and after spending a single day at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Islands of Adventure, we would regrettably pack our things and return home.
We started saving in April and by the end of summer we had our hotel reserved, tickets bought, dinner reservations, and a timed schedule of when to go on rides. This was Disney World after all, not some theme park joke like Knott's Berry Farm. Disney wasn't just a theme park; it was an experience. If a person did not heed to the strict ride plans given out by The Unofficial Guide to Disney World, they were to expect an additional two hours of waiting to their day. You don't mess around with the crowds there. Took too long to eat your cornbread at Liberty Tree Tavern? Congratulations, the line at Thunder Mountain Railroad is now three hours long.
It was with this in mind that Nikki had planned everything to the minute. I'm sure somewhere in a folder somewhere inside her Disney World notebook there was a pee schedule.
Our trip was to be right in the middle of the two biggest American traveling holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas. According to some data analysts that live inside Splash Mountain and have subsequently gone insane from listening to "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" nonstop, this was the time of the year that saw the smallest crowds in Disney. In theory, as this was in Florida, the weather would hover around the upper sixties to lower seventies. You can't plan a more perfect vacation which is why the weather suddenly decided to invade the American east coast with a cold snap. Our vacation was spent with many layers of socks, hoodies, sweaters, Mickey Mouse long johns, and a Goofy crotch heater (not really, but I'm waiting for Disney to make one).
Monday morning we woke at eight in the morning which is an ungodly hour for me because I like waking up when most people take their lunch breaks (the perks of working evening shifts). Nicole is racing through the house, packing away sweaters and blankets. It was very fun to watch her do this. By 9am, we were set. Suitcases in the car, bags of snacks and food in the backseat, and the very important notebook with schedules, reservation confirmation print-outs, maps, and guides on how to exit a moving vehicle in case of a Godzilla attack in my lap. We were ready. Or almost. Nicole put in the mix Disney mp3 CD she made. It had over 100 songs on it.
Five hours to go.
Okay, I'm acting like the grumpy husband who doesn't want to be seen passing cars with his wife bouncing up and down in the driver's seat, singing "Nobody has a swell cleft in his chin like Gaston!," but the truth is I actually like it. I probably did sing along with some of the songs. And the closer we got to Orlando, "Disney hyperventilating" occurs, and you can only cure it with more singing. This is a scientific fact.
In Lake Buena Vista, where our hotel is, is some of the most gaudy stores and restaurants in existence. There were second-hand Disney retail stores with giant sculpted wizards and mermaids hanging out of the roof. There was a Cici's Pizza with a waterfall. It was like walking into a daycare center for giants. Nothing was subtle. I think about that crying Indian commercial, and maybe he was lamenting less about litter and more about golf stores that emphasize the fact that they sell golf equipment by erecting a golf ball the size of a small house onto the front of its facade. Luckily, our hotel was not flashy and conveniently shared the parking lot with a Chinese take-out place.
Our first Disney experience would be a dinner show at the Hoop-De-Doo Musical Revue around 8. Seeing as how we arrived at our hotel around 4, we spent our valuable time watching "Ghost Whisperer." It's a show about Jennifer Love-Hewitt crying a lot.
We give ourselves a reasonable hour to get to the show. After all, according to the map, we weren't that far at all from Disney World. But somehow, between seeing the big welcome sign for Disney and Frontierland, we got lost. We ended up at a barrier, then a dead end, until finally we were leaving Disney World. With half an hour to go, we start panicking. We turn around and finally find Frontierland, a giant campground that is reasonably deserted, given the fact that it's almost thirty degrees outside. We parked and boarded a bus that would take us to the revue. On the way, I got really excited about seeing a wild deer in the camp.
Now to interrupt for a second, I must give you readers a little insight on me. I don't like being the center of attention. At least, not usually. If it's my birthday at Hooters, okay, but usually no. So Nicole had wanted to get us a table near the front. I italicize because that's what we intended. Near, but not close. So when we go inside the massive theater patterned with logs, antlers, and red curtains, we are directed to our table that, to my horror, is not close to the stage. It's practically on the stage. I sat down and my toes hit the stage.
"The horror," I thought. "The horror."
When the music started, the cast ran out, greeting tables and such. One of the cast members greeted us and my wife luckily told him it was our anniversary. Our first anniversary! This was cause for a celebration. I felt a spotlight come on and suddenly we're told to dance.
It was a bit like this
Okay, that may have been a bit overdramatic. It probably lasted no more than a minute, but I'm not good at dancing and lots of people watching me doesn't aid my footloose rhythm.
The food was good though. They brought ribs, fried chicken, beans, mashed potatoes out all in buckets. Imagine! A bucket of ribs. And it's for me.
"Well," I thought. "Maybe I won't kill these people with my psycho mind powers. Perhaps I'll give this a shot."
It was a little cold inside and I was worried the show would be corny and bad, like Van Helsing. GeeeeeZUS! But no, it was more like 1966 Batman.
I was called out by a showgirl that I was looking up her skirt, but her crotch was eye level so I hardly see how that was my fault. But it was all in fun. I took away a great quote from the show that I will use when I become a dad. (The quote is "Well, call me butter 'cuz I'm on a roll!" Classic.) There was audience participation, which added to the hilarity. And at the end, they handed out washboards to play on with our spoons.
Mental note: never give kids metal washboards and spoons at the same time.
We left the revue and Frontierland with the metal ringing still in our ears, only to find that we somehow ended up right behind Space Mountain. Maintenance people stared at us. We hoped we would be able to figure out how to get inside Disney World by tomorrow.