grandson mason

grandson mason

grandson jaxson

grandson jaxson

Thursday, December 31, 2009

11-31DEC09 - Houma, LA (fl & ms; happy holidays!!!)

On our return from Disney World, FL, we decided to slow down and take three days to get back to Houma, LA, to be with the kids for the Holidays. Enroute we stopped in Pensacola, FL, where we had an excellent seafood dinner at Peg Leg Pete’s. We also stopped in Biloxi, MS, for two days where the gambling gods where very kind to Corrie.

After once again setting up camp in Rebecca & Raymond’s driveway, we spent the remaining shopping days before Xmas taking care of last minute preparations and not doing much else. We had several dinners/BBQs with our son Joe, who even spent the night before Xmas at the house so we could attack our gifts first thing in the morning. This year Dan was the last one up on Christmas morning, but once everyone assembled in the living room, it was time to find out who had been naughty and who had been nice? Luckily no lumps of coal were received and everyone pretty much got what they wanted.

The hit of the day was Rebecca & Raymond’s new Wii game! It is hilarious to watch some of the players’ bodily actions as they bend, twist & gyrate in response to what is occurring on the screen. The funniest was watching Dan “beat-up” on Rebecca during Wii Boxing. It is amazing how tired and sore you can get standing in place and just moving a Wii controller around! Even the supposedly in shape young’ns were quickly gasping for breath.

And as always, there was one or two gifts where – “some assembly required”. This year it was a computer desk that had twenty pages of instructions and required 35 steps! Joe & Dan started the assembly, which soon became a group effort involving everyone except Corrie. The assembly was finally accomplished with no bloodshed, no broken parts, and only a handful of pieces left over.
After working up big appetites on the Wii it was time for the big meal that Corrie had been working on for two days. By this time we had been joined by Frank Garcia, a co-worker of Raymond’s, who has joined in past years for Thanksgiving and/or Xmas. As always it was an excellent meal, followed by slumping exhausted on the couch to recover. Meanwhile the young men decided to kill each other playing the latest version of “Call of Duty” in the true holiday spirit. For a very humorous holiday spirit check out the latest Benny Grunch song & video - "Santa & His Reindeer Got Their Modular Home", at the below internet link:

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

03-10DEC09 - Disney World, FL (via quincy, fl)

On 03DEC we decided to drive to Disney World outside of Orlando, FL; with an overnight stop in Quincy, FL. We decided to do this to partake of Disney’s 2009 program recognizing military men and women. As part of the Disney recognition Dan got a five day pass to all Disney parks for free, and Corrie got a five day pass for a deeply discounted price.

We arrived on Friday evening and decided to camp at Disney’s Fort Wilderness RV park. The daily price is much more than other RV parks, but you are located right on Disney World with free access to their fantastic transportation system (busses, monorails, and various boats); and you get free parking everywhere should you decide to drive. It was immediately obvious to us that many RV’ers make it a yearly point to be at Disney World during Xmas. The holiday light displays and inflatable characters (Mickey, Goofy, Pooh, etc) that some of the RV’ers put up make you wonder where they store all this stuff? In addition many people have golf carts (or rent them from Disney) and go to great lengths to decorate them in the holiday spirit.

Saturday night, 05DEC, we headed to Downtown Disney. In Dan’s opinion everything at the Disney property is geared to insure that you do not leave their property and spend the most money possible while there. The “Downtown” area is a prime example of this; the Disney people realized that many people were going elsewhere at night for entertainment and they created Downtown Disney to try and keep you on the Disney property. Even allowing street performers; and non-Disney companies on the property, like the AMC movie chain, House of Blues, Planet Hollywood, Hasbro & Lego toys, and even McDonalds! Another example of their attempt to surround you with all things Disney, is the cable system in the Disney hotels and the RV park. Half the channels are 100% Disney content; 25% of the other channels are devoted to ABC & ESPN, both owned by Disney; and the few (and we mean - few) remaining channels get you the usual CBS, NBC, PBS, Hispanic and religious stations. And should you not want to leave the RV park at night, they have nightly marshmallow roasts with Chip & Dale (marshmallow sticks - $.75, and marshmallows - $4.00 a bag).

Sunday morning we caught the boat from the RV park to the Magic Kingdom. Unfortunately ABC (remember they are a Disney company) was filming portions of “Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Parade” in preparation for showing Xmas week. So all of Main Street was blocked off, and other portions of the Park would be closed off-and-on to facilitate filming. We did manage to overcome the road blocks and enjoy the Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion (one of our favorites), Monsters Inc Laugh Floor (very funny), Mickey’s 3D PhilharMagic (very good), Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, etc. Corrie refused to ride "It’s a Small World", because she was afraid the song would get stuck permanently in her brain. After lunch Corrie headed back to the RV, leaving Dan to tour The Hall of Presidents and ride the few coasters by himself.

One big change we noticed from our previous Disney visits, is an explosion of strollers (also for rent from Disney) & kids not walking. Unfortunately these strollers are not just used for toddlers or infants; but in some cases, kids up to 8, 9 & 10 who should be walking.  It appears to Dan’s unscientific survey that Grumpy the Dwarf is the most popular Disney character for T-shirts? We are not sure if this is a result of the current economic downturn; but his face clearly was more visible over Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pooh, Donald, etc. Also, even though the movie hadn't even opened yet, there was a steamboat on the lake that had all the new characters from "The Princess and the Frog" performing the new songs from the movie; and naturally you could buy brand new related merchandise in the Disney shops!

On the morning of the 7th we headed to Animal Kingdom; to us this is just a “big zoo” based on the wildlife of Asia and Africa, but a pretty good zoo. Dan did enjoy Expedition Everest (coaster), and got drenched on the Kali River Rapids. Corrie really liked the Kali River Rapids because she could stand on an overpass and push a button to fire a water cannon at Dan as he passed by. We also saw what we felt was the best of the animated 3D shows, “It’s Tough to be a Bug 3D”; which also employs “smell-a-vision”. Corrie really loved the cockroaches running under her seat at the end!!! There was also a recreation of a 1950/60s dinosaur roadside attraction. It was for younger children, but it was cute to walk through and reminded Dan of those attractions his dad would drive past as the Ryan kids asked - Can we stop? We also enjoyed viewing the animals from an open air safari vehicle at “Kilimanjaro Safari”; and the trained bird show at “Flights of Wonder”. Since we didn’t see much more of interest left to do, we quit early and decided to go to Epcot later that night.

After dinner we headed to Epcot to view “IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth”. While we waited for the show, Dan rode the rides Mission Space, GM Test Track, and Spaceship Earth. Finally it was time for the big event “IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth”. This was a fantastic light, laser, firework & dancing fountain show at night set to musical score. Definitely not to be missed if you ever have an opportunity to see it.

The next day, Tuesday, 08DEC, we did not go to any of the four Disney theme parks and just rested up because that night we were going back to Magic Kingdom for “Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Parade” and special fireworks show. This is a special parade and fireworks for the holidays, during select nights in November and December. You have to have special tickets (ie more money) and everyone else is kicked out of the park at 7PM. Even though special tickets were needed, the park was still wall-to-wall people and strollers.

As part of your special admittance you can get special “holiday treats” throughout the park (can you say sugar cookies and cocoa?). And there are special stage shows throughout the park, we caught “A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas Story” with Buzz Lightyear & Mike W. Standing in the back of a sea of people we did catch glimpses of “Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade”, followed by “Holiday Wishes – Celebrate the Spirit of the Season” fireworks spectacular. Both events were very beautiful, but the crush of people and strollers was more than we could endure and we wouldn’t recommend spending the money to attend. Especially because Disney has their “standard” Mickey parade and nightly fireworks as part of the normal daily admission.

 Wednesday morning we headed back to Epcot. First we visited the attractions we couldn’t visit during our night time visit: Ellen DeGeneres’ Energy Adventure, The Seas with Nemo & Friends, Turtle Talk with Crush (very funny DUDE!), Honey I Shrunk the Audience 3D (so so), and Soarin' (excellent). We then headed to the part of the park called “World Showcase”. This area contains eleven “Pavilions” showcasing the architecture, food, art, culture, etc, from 11 countries: Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, USA, Japan, Morocco, France, UK, & Canada. Kinda like a mini World’s Fair, but done with the Disney Imagineering flair. To maintain the atmosphere all the employees are from the countries represented, and there are cultural performances on outdoor stages throughout the day. Dan thought the best one was four buskers from the UK performing a hilarious rendition of "A Christmas Carol" in less than fifteen minutes (hint - the ghost of Marley is a famous dead Rastifarian reggae star in their version). Also, because of the holiday seasons there were costumed figures describing the Xmas traditions in there countries (if they had one).

Thursday morning, 10DEC, we headed to the last remaining Disney World Theme Park of the four left for us to visit, Disney’s Hollywood Studios. As you may be able to guess from the name, this attraction offers behind the scenes glimpses of Hollywood style action and is centered more on live action shows rather than amusement park rides. But Dan was able to ride two of the supposedly better thrill rides, Twilight Zone Tower Terror (so so), Rock & Roller Coaster (you better like loud Aerosmith music), and the classic Star Tours (based on Star Wars). We also checked out The Great Movie Ride, Muppet Vision 3D, Journey into Narnia, and the museum dedicated to Walt Disney. Unfortunately, it was raining pretty hard off-and-on, so by early afternoon we decided to head back to the RV and dry out.

 Friday morning after being almost totally immersed in the Disney culture for six days and developing severe cases of musophobia, we unplugged the RV and starting heading back to Houma, LA, for Xmas with the kids.

Trivia – What is an E-ticket? Who is Steamboat Willie? Here is shortest trivia question ever – Y?