By now, we’ve figured out some things when it comes to Walt Disney World. In fact, we consider ourselves to be moderate Disney experts – not quite as invested as Disney Vacation Club members, not nearly as knowledgeable as the annual pass holders, but faithful, once-a-year folk who know what’s what in the world of Walt. However, our confidence in our know-how and know-it-all was seriously diminished this year as we embarked on a whole new adventure with some of the freakiest Disney freaks out there – the RunDisney people. For those who don’t know, Disney does it all, including an entire program of events geared towards runners that includes Marathon Weekend (January), the Princess Half Marathon (February), the Expedition Everest Challenge (May), the Wine and Dine Half Marathon (September), and new this year, the Tower of Terror Run (October). And Disneyland has its own calendar of events as well, including the Tinkerbell Half Marathon and the Disneyland Half Marathon. This was our first year to do any RunDisney event, so we were newbies. We had no idea what we were doing when it came to the race expo, the transportation for marathon weekend, or the actual races themselves, so it was a whole new learning experience for us. We were there last year when the Princess Half Marathon was taking place, but this year, instead of just bemoaning the traffic jams that resulted, we were helping to CAUSE the traffic jams. A whole new perspective!
(Oh, and I totally kid when I say that the people who do RunDisney events are freaks. Because it’s completely normal, in the world of Disney fans, mind you, to wake up at 3am to catch a bus so you can run by Disney’s water treatment plant. “Oh, wow, the smell! Are we in Animal Kingdom already?!” That may be raw sewage you’re running by, but it’s raw sewage from Walt Disney World!)
All that said, we were in a whole new world, thanks to RunDisney and all of the new events we were able to enjoy. And like all Disney fanaticism, once we got in, we got in deeper than we had anticipated. Even as I joke about how crazy these people are, you know I’m already trying to figure out a way that we can get to Disneyland in September to run the half marathon and get our “Coast to Coast” medal. They get you once, they get you for a lifetime, I’m afraid. Just like with the regular theme park attendance, you just can’t help yourself.
Now that I’ve written all about running and how tired the mere thought of doing marathon weekend with those huge crowds all over again makes me, let’s recap Day One. Which, ironically enough begins with this…
We were tired before we even left for this vacation.
The night before we left for Walt Disney World, we had church. While that normally wouldn’t have been a big deal, this particular evening at church concluded with a finance committee meeting. Knowing that Wes was coming after the new year, the committee waited to settle and vote on a budget for 2012 until he was here, so at the first opportunity possible, they needed to meet and get some details decided. The meeting fell on Wednesday night, and because it was drizzling when we left home to go to church, I suggested that we all go together in the car so that Wes wouldn’t be driving his motorcycle in the rain. The girls and I would wait in his office until the meeting was over, then we’d all go home and get a good night’s sleep.
In actuality, the meeting lasted a long, long time, and the girls fell asleep in the car on the way home, hours past their bedtime. I lugged them both up the stairs and into their beds, then stayed up another hour packing up the last of our stuff. Three short hours later, we woke up to get ready to go. “Did you even manage to fall asleep?!,” I asked Wes. His reply? “Mhhmm.” (I’ll take that as a NO.)
The girls were even worse, but they quickly got over their sleep-deprived grumpiness when Mr. Chuck showed up at the front door to take us to the airport. Mr. Chuck was on the search committee that called Wes, and when we came in view of a call, he picked us up from the airport with a bag full of donuts for the girls. So, as you can imagine, Ana and Emma love Mr. Chuck. They were super excited and chatty as we arrived at the airport, as we went through security, as we ate a quick breakfast, and as we flew to Florida. The trip went by so quickly. Can I just say how awesome it is to live in a place where it takes only ONE flight to get to Florida?!
We arrived in Orlando right around lunch time. As they do every year, the girls freaked out over the Disney store in the airport, and as I do every year, I managed to pull them away by telling them that there was plenty more where that came from. We got them downstairs and to the Magical Express line in record time, and just as we were finding our place in the Pop Century line, we were marched onto the bus that was waiting to take us to the resort. Awesome!
We passed through the front gates to much cheering (mainly from me and Wes) and drove right by the Art of Animation resort, which is still under construction. Rumor has it that there will be princess-themed rooms, so it’s probably a good guess that the next time we find ourselves at WDW, we’ll be staying there. (Provided we go again sometime before the girls are teenagers and have outgrown the princess stage.) Next door was the Pop Century resort, which the girls recognized instantly from the pictures we had looked at online, and we hopped out of the bus and bee-bopped our way to the front desk. (This was a bit of a theme at Pop Century. You were either doing the Hustle, the Twist, or any number of cheesy dances all during your stay. Even the cast members got into it. And they even managed to get Ana to dance with them in the middle of the food court one day!)
This was our first time to stay at Pop Century, and we loved it. The décor in the reception area was awesome – especially the eighties cabinet, which held the exact same model of Apple computer that my parents had when I was little. Too bad my parents sold theirs at a garage sale for $5 because Disney would have probably paid them a whole lot more to display it! (Actually, I don’t know what they sold it for. No matter what it was, though, they probably could have gotten more for it. Who knew?!)
Speaking of Disney and money, the more you spend the better the deal (ha!), and while Wes was checking in, they told him that for just a tiny fee, they could upgrade him to another day in the parks, which meant that we could go to the Magic Kingdom THAT NIGHT. We hadn’t planned on this, but when I heard that it was a possibility, I was all for it. Seeing as how he was exhausted, Wes wasn’t sure this was a great idea… but I knew Sandi would agree with me, so I patiently waited, knowing that she would arrive later that afternoon. Ahem.
While we waited for Wes’s parents’ flight and bus to come in, we headed over to ESPN’s Wide World of Sports to pick up our race packets. The complex had transformed into the RunDisney Expo for marathon weekend, but we couldn’t tell you how that was different from any other time since we had never been there. What we could tell you, though, was that it was PACKED. Oh. My. Word. Wes and I have been to Disneyland during spring break, so we know what a crazy, frenzied, Disney crowd looks like, but this was a crazy, frenzied, Disney RUNNING crowd. It was a whole new level of nuttiness. Welcome to RunDisney, Faulks! It was completely bananas! Fit people loaded up with carbs galloping around everywhere! We had three separate races (the 5K, the kids’ race, the marathon) and six people (Wes, Jim, Sandi, Ana, Emma, me) to check in, so we were all over the place right with them. After getting crushed and rushed and moved and grooved all over that building, we decided that this would be our last venture into the Expo, so we went ahead and bought our running souvenirs before we left, loading ourselves down with the race bags, the shopping bags, and, oh yeah, Ana and Emma, who were bored out of their minds. “Is this where Mickey is?,” Emma kept asking. Nope, Mickey was smart enough to stay far away from that high energy crowd.
From there, we went back to the hotel, dumped all of our stuff, and let the girls play on the playground until Coach and Nana texted us that they were on the bus. We let Emma continue to stuff rocks in her pants (because that’s the logical thing to do when there’s gravel at a playground, right?) until their bus pulled up to the hotel. They checked in, and Sandi, who apparently agreed that going to Magic Kingdom an extra day was worth Disney’s tiny fee, upgraded to another day (yes!), so we very quickly made our way to the BEST park in all of Walt Disney World. (Don’t even try to argue with me on this. It’s the best!)
You know, it normally takes my breath away to walk down Main Street and get that first look at Cinderella Castle. The wonder was even more amplified this time around because it was still decorated for Christmas. It was all so beautiful that we stopped immediately for pictures…
… and now, for a tangent. Every year we’ve gone to Walt Disney World, I’ve gotten the Photo Pass. What is the Photo Pass? Photographers all over the four parks are waiting at character spots, particularly scenic points, the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, and, well, everywhere in between just waiting to take pictures of your vacation for you. They give you a card, which other photographers can add more photos to (or you can just pick up more cards), and at the end of your vacation, you can enter all the card numbers online, view your pictures, buy your pictures, make gifts out of your pictures, or (like I always do) just buy the CD with copyright privileges for all of them. We’ve always been so pleased with Photo Pass, so this year, we gifted Jim and Sandi with the service before even getting to the parks, and Wes pre-paid for me to be able to do a photo book on the site. He didn’t know then that I would be here now, without a clue as to where any of my scrapbooking supplies are (probably still packed in a box somewhere), but as it turns out, it was a great idea for this year especially. Less than a week after we returned home, we had all the Photo Pass shots loaded onto our computers, and my book was ordered and ready to ship. What a great deal! (And because we ordered it BEFORE we took the vacation, we got the whole thing at half price. Awesome!)
So. You can see why I all but tackled a Photo Pass photographer every time we saw one in the parks. It was already paid for, and it was up to us to make it great. I think we ended up with 354 pictures, y’all. I am SERIOUS about the Photo Pass.
After we took our first round of pictures in front of the castle, we headed to Adventureland to eat at the Tortuga Tavern… only to find that it was closed. This is a running theme with me and Tortuga Tavern (it is NEVER open when I’m there!), and I’m now officially making it my goal to eat there before I die. Our next option was Pecos Bill Café, but because Ana nearly hyperventilated at the thought of eating a hamburger, we went on to the next option, Columbia Harbor House. Which was a bummer for Coach but a win for Jenn. Fish and chips… mmm…
We got Fast Passes for Big Thunder Mountain, then made our way to Fantasyland, where we rode It’s a Small World. This is always a big hit with the girls. Afterwards, Emma rode Dumbo with Coach, Ana rode the carousel with Nana, and we all started making our way back to Frontierland to ride Big Thunder. We were told once we got there, though, that the ride was closed for the night due to a malfunction. Boo! At almost the exact same moment this happened, Wes got a call from our realtor, who told us that there was a leak in our house in Duncan. BOO! You know, this was just bound to happen on the first day of our vacation, y’all. We let the girls play on the Laughing Place playground under Splash Mountain while Wes finished his call. This actually turned out to be good news, as it gave the realtor a reason to call us and give us an update about how often our house was/is being shown. Still praying that it would sell soon! (Oh, and that leak got taken care of in no time at all, thanks to our awesome plumber who we, yes, still have on speed dial.)
Since it was getting late and we had an early morning ahead of us, we all decided to head back to the hotel for the night. It had been a WONDERFUL first day, and we had a full week left ahead of us. We love Walt Disney World!