Monday, November 20, 2006

Satiating the Mouse: Prelude and Day 1, Epcot

After the UserNet conference in Dallas, I took a few vacation days and met up with the wife, kid, and Kevin at Walt Disney World.

The timing worked out well, and we caught up with each other at the Orlando airport, hopped on the Magical Express, and after a bit of a wait in line, checked into Disney's Pop Century Resort. I'd left Dallas at 5:00 AM (CST), and the other three had left SeaTac at 11:30 PM (PST), so it was time for a noontime (EST) nap as we waited for our luggage to arrive (well, not me -- I watched the end of the Battlestar Galactica disc 1 (miniseries) while they slept).

At around 2:30, our luggage showed up (sooner than I expected), and other than the baggage handlers breaking the foil on my electric razor, everything went smoothly. Our plan for the day: hit Epcot, which closes at midnight for resort customers ("Extra Magic Hours"). We had dinner reservations at the Biergarten for 5:35.

I should mention here that we'd signed up for the Disney Dining Plan, which for $38 per person per day gives you one table service meal (entree, beverage, appetizer, and desert), one counter service meal (entree, beverage, and desert), and one snack (almost any snack or drink) each day. It's an outstanding deal -- if you ever go to WDW, do it. We felt bad about all the food we ended up throwing away after gorging ourselves all week. I gained four pounds in spite of all the walking.

Day 1: Epcot

We first stopped at the gift shop to pick up a Pal Mickey, a stuffed Mickey Mouse with an infrared receiver in his nose, theoretically giving him the ability to give you tips and advice on what to see in different parts of the World, and will point you to shorter lines and alert you to upcoming parades.

Pal Mickey is the Wesley Crusher of the Disney empire. Sometimes, rarely, he gave useful information. More often, he'd just say something annoying and blatently obvious. By day three, "Shut up, Mickey" was the most common phrase on our lips. By day four, we turned him off. On the last day, we left him in the hotel.

Our first ride was Spaceship Earth, a doom buggies type ride that shows the history of communication while spiraling inside of the big Epcot golf ball. The classroom of the future depicted in that ride was eerily like River Tam's in Serenity; I expected the animatronic teacher to jab a blade into the student's head. No such luck. It's a nice educational exibit, though, which shows how we got from cave paintings to the series of tubes that we have today.

Surprisingly, Krys wanted to ride Mission: Space. It's strange, what she'll ride and what she won't. Splash Mountain, no way. Tower of Terror, willing to try it once. Rock-n-Roller Coaster, let's do it again. We got fastpasses for Mission: Space, wandered over to Test Track, didn't want to wait, then slowly shopped our way towards Germany, riding Mexico's Rio del Tiempo and Norway's troll-infested Maelstrom. We watched a pair of Chinese acrobats balance plates (and each other) on their heads, then on to dinner at the Biergarten Restaurant, a German buffet.

I had a liter of Beck's Dark. Kevin had, I believe, a liter of Dinkel Acker Dark. We staggered out quite full and quite happy. Kim, who has been to restaurants in the real Germany, was pleased with its authenticity.

Test Track was no longer handing out fastpasses, so we went on Mission: Space. It's divided into two options: the "light" green ride, and the more intense "orange" ride. We chose orange. The more intense ride is, I beleve, the first ride to come with barf bags, standard. In our full, tipsy state, this was going to be fun.

Surprisingly, it seemed hardly intense at all. Why?

"Drink up," said Ford, "you've got three pints to get through."

"Three pints?" said Arthur. "At lunchtime?"

The man next to ford grinned and nodded happily. Ford ignored him. He said, "Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so."

"Very deep," said Arthur, "you should send that in to the Reader's Digest. They've got a page for people like you."

"Drink up."

"Why three pints all of a sudden?"

"Muscle relaxant, you'll need it."

"Muscle relaxant?"

"Muscle relaxant.
"If you’ve never been through a matter transference before, you’ve probably lost some salt and protein. The beer should have cushioned your system a bit."

It was a fun ride, but not aneurysm inducing. We then looped through the rest of the international areas, expecting to hit Test Track after the crowds died down. We failed, however, to pick up our Extra Magic Hours bracelets, which would have meant trudging back to the main gate, then back to test track. We were tired, so it was day over instead.

We bus back to the hotel, and to sleep. We didn't set the alarm clock -- the Magic Kingdom opens the next day at 9, and knowing me, I'll be up and bouncing at 6:00 ready to go, irritating the heck out of Kim, Krys, and Kevin.

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