"" Writer's Wanderings: February 2018

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Fort Lonesome--Lonesome But No Fort

Back in March of 2008 we found Fort Lonesome, Florida, on a side trip we took after spending a few days at the Indians spring training camp when it was in Winterhaven. It didn't take long for my mind to kick into gear and begin to map out a storyline for a novel. What I came up with though would be put aside for other projects--until now.

I did some looking into the history of Fort Lonesome which has never been or had a fort there. The name came from a problem with a Mediterranean fruit fly outbreak in 1929. An inspection station was located there to check on all the fruit coming from the south. Now even today Fort Lonesome is in the middle of nowhere. One of the inspectors, obviously feeling a bit lonely, hung a sign out that said "Fort Lonesome." The name stuck.

Fort Lonesome became a "boom" town for a short time when a sawmill established its business there. Two grocery stores actually opened (there is only a convenient-type grocery there now). The boom didn't last long. The sawmill burned down and with it the hopes of any growth for the town.

The information came from a site that lists ghosts towns. I guess if you don't have a housing boom, you are considered a ghost town. The ghosts of the past will plague my characters though as their story unfolds set in the out-of-the-way town of Fort Lonesome.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Got the T-shirt And The Novel Idea!

[Almost ten years ago we made the trip I describe below. It was the catalyst for the novel I am now working on. I still have the T-shirt.]

Recently we made the trip to Florida to see grandkids and catch a couple Indians' spring training games. While in the area, there was an extra stop I wanted to make. About a half hour out of our way was a small area know as Fort Lonesome. There has never been a town there to my knowledge, certainly not a fort, and the most I could find when I researched it was that it had two grocery stores--one of which has since met the wrecking ball.

In my internet search I also discovered that it was considered a ghost town. Well, now isn't that just the juice a novelist needs for some ideas? We arrived mid-morning at the Fort Lonesome Grocery--the only building in sight other than a shed on one corner of the intersection. A couple of large trucks were parked in the gravel lot when we pulled in with our rental car.

Walking inside the store was like walking into a movie scene out of the 50s--the one where the unsuspecting tourists make a stop at the wrong place. We stuck out like sore thumbs. With a half-dozen truckers (all standing with drinks and sandwiches in hand ready to checkout) as an audience, I asked the lady behind the counter if she knew anything about this place being a ghost town. Her answer: "We got live people here and we got dead people here. . .and that's all."

I bought the T-shirt anyway.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Not a SAHG

[Rounding out the grandparenting week of posts with this story from a few years ago. Talk about creative solutions!]
   The other day I heard a woman describe herself as a Stay At Home Grandmother. She cared for her grandchildren while their mother helped to make ends meet in this economy where two incomes are almost an essential to survival. While her job description brought a smile to my face, it also reminded me of a lady who has solved this problem for her grandchildren in a unique and selfless way.

            We call the hotel we use in the city where some of our grandchildren live our “home away from home.” Since several other family members, my mother-in-law included, live there as well we can move freely from our “home base” and visit without feeling obligated to stay longer in one place than another. On one occasion, we were checking in to our hotel and a glimmer of recognition spread across my husband’s face as the lady behind the counter took his credit card information.

            “Blythe Ann?”

            “Yes,” she answered. “How are you?”

            Blythe Ann was the daughter of the pastor from the church where Bob grew up. We hadn’t seen her in quite a while so it was time to catch up a bit. When we told her we were there to visit our grandchildren and shared the obligatory information on number, ages, sex, and where the grandkids lived, she smiled and said, “Well, I’m here because of my grandchildren too.”

            I thought that a strange remark but then she explained. Her son and daughter-in-law had gone over their finances and determined that there was a need for two incomes. They looked into day care for the little ones and decided it wasn’t a financial option since the fees would eat up most of what Mom could earn. They turned to Grandma.

            To their surprise, Grandma said no. She hated to see her grandchildren separated from their mother in those young years. And equally, she disliked the idea of her daughter-in-law missing the opportunity to see her children reach the milestones in their young lives that pass so quickly. She did have an answer to their dilemma however.

            Blythe Ann proposed that she get a part time job and give the check to her son and daughter-in-law. There would be no need to pay day care and the children would not miss their mother’s care and love during the day. It also allowed Blythe Ann to be Grandma—not another parent or caretaker to her grandchildren.

            There was another little perk to her gift as well.

            “I really enjoy my job,” she told us. “It gets me out of the house and among people again. I’m having a great time.”

            While not all of us have this kind of opportunity to give to our children and grandchildren, I thought it was an idea worth sharing. Call it a creative solution for the modern-day world of grandparenting.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Is Grandpa Still Dead?

[As I post this article from a few years ago, the mass shooting in a Florida school is still fresh. So much more difficult to understand than the passing of someone who has led a full life. May God give peace to those who grieve.]

The finality of death is a difficult concept for any of us to understand and especially so to a youngster. When her great grandpa died, Danielle, age 3, understood most of what her mommy told her but it was hard for her to believe that this gentle man who loved her would not be around to give her a hug again—at least not on this side of heaven.

 "I can't imagine how difficult it would be to explain death to a child if you didn't believe in Jesus or Heaven,” said Danielle’s mommy, Lori. “Through a sad event, we were able to share with our kids the joy of Heaven and God's promise for those who love him.”

As grandmothers, we may be called upon to help our grandchildren deal with the loss of a loved one. “Grandparents can be tremendous role models for accepting the trials and triumphs of life,” says Brenda Nixon, a recognized expert in early childhood parenting and author of Parenting Power in the Early Years. “Show your grandkids that grief and pain cannot be avoided as a part of living, in fact they need to see your rollercoaster of tears and smiles. This teaches them to grow up accepting the emotions to respect their own reactions.”

Here are a few things we can do to help our grandchildren through the stages of grief:
·       First, be truthful. Let them know why you are sad. “Grandpa died.” You can then go on to explain that when people die there is a part of them that goes to heaven to be with Jesus. My son is fond of using food in his explanations of spiritual things. He uses an egg to explain how God can be Father, Son and Holy Spirit and still be one. In explaining to Danielle about Great Grandpa dying, he used a banana. The inside part was gone but the peel remained.
·       Encourage children to express their feelings. They will experience a range of emotions as well—guilt, anger, confusion—all a part of the grieving process. Let them talk about it.
·       Recall fond memories. Talk about the loving, fun and/or funny things you remember about the person. Let the children add theirs and affirm their recalling of the events. Remember, it’s their version, their cherished memory.
·       Remember that children will react differently according to their age. “Young children often think death is temporary,” says Nixon, “and it isn't until the age of 11 years that they're able to comprehend its finality.” While preschoolers may think that Grandpa will wake up again (resurrection aside), elementary age children may want more detailed explanations of death and dying and teens may react in ways that seem silly or be withdrawn as a means of coping with such strong emotions.

When teachable moments arise, use them to prepare your grandchildren just as you did your children. Our soon-to-be four year old granddaughter was fascinated with the fact that I have a “little” brother like she does. Hers is only seven months old. Mine is fifty-five. But she suddenly realized that if I have a brother, I must have a mother.

“Where is you mommy?” she asked.

“My mommy lives in heaven,” I answered.


“Because she got very, very, very, old and died. Then she went to live with Jesus in heaven.”

“Oh, why?”

The conversation continued for a bit, each response countered by “why?” That’s what soon-to-be four year olds do. But when the time comes, perhaps she will understand that this Grandma is happily with Jesus in heaven and, although she will miss me, I will be still be in her life as a cherished memory because we love each other so very much.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

A Praying Grandmother

[This was written quite some time ago. It was neat to read how some of the prayers have been answered since then. And grandchildren added. More on my prayer list. More joy in my life.]

My friend, Trish Berg, author of Rattled, Surviving Your Baby’s First Year Without Losing Your Cool (Multnomah Books, 2008), says in her book that the only place she often finds to do her devotional reading and praying is the bathroom. She’s the busy mom of four young children including a teenager now. I can relate to that. It seemed with five kids at home, there was never any private time for me to set aside for spending some time with God. Now there is just me and hubby. Guess what? There still doesn’t seem to be uninterrupted time.

With this new phase of life comes a new perspective on prayer time. While my children were growing up, I was growing up along with them. I learned how much better life could be if sprinkled with prayer. Now as a grandmother, I realize that I can be one of the greatest helps to my grandchildren if I am more dedicated to remembering them and their parents in prayer.

Those young moms and dads are juggling their time between jobs, parenting, and lots of other distractions that often keep their prayer times minimal. Maybe it is a little leftover guilt on my part but I’m thinking that a praying grandmother just might help to make life a little easier, a littler richer, a little more peaceful, joyous, enriched if I spend time remembering my children and grandchildren each day in prayer.

Here’s a couple of suggestions to help you find that time to ask God for his blessings on your family:

·       Pick your best time of the day. Are you sharper in the morning, afternoon, or evening? I do best with prayer time in the morning. Right after breakfast when I’ve had my cup of coffee and am finally awake.
·       Remember that you don’t need to relegate prayer to only once a day and at the same time every day. If you experience a personal relationship with Jesus, you know that you can talk with Him any time, any place.
·       Try praying in the laundry room as you’re putting in a load of clothes. Or maybe while you are doing the dishes. I don’t think God minds you multi-tasking. We talk with each other as we do chores. Why not with God as well?
·       Include your grandchildren in some prayer time when they visit with you. As they grow older they will learn to appreciate that they have a grandmother who prays for them.

What to pray for? That depends upon the individual needs of each. For grandkids, certainly health, growth both spiritually and physically and those little milestones in their lives that become bigger as the years go by. Right now I’m praying for Annalise to catch on to her potty training and Tyler to make good choices during his school days in the first grade. Caleb needs protection from being too curious and Danielle could use a little more confidence. Kotomi could use help with learning patience and TJ with learning two languages (Japanese and English) and their little baby sister, Emiko, well, she needs God’s touch as she grows. Then there is the little one developing that needs prayer for a healthy entrance into this world.  

Pray that moms and dads will have patience, will make time to be good parents, will be kind and will be good guides for their children in this world. You know your children and you know where they may need extra prayer as parents. And even if you aren’t sure, God knows. Just ask him to supply their needs. And know that with those prayers, you are making a difference in all of their lives.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Grandma's Journal

[This is a story from when I wrote a column on grandparenting. Lots more things have been added to these fond memories including the more recent conversations my granddaughter had with each fish she caught. "Sorry, fishy. Here's a little bait to take on your way." And back into the water it would go.]

Do you keep a journal? Journaling is one of those things that I toy with now and then. I used to be a diary-keeper when I was a teen and young adult but life got busy with five kids and I fell out of the habit. Now, with all the writing I do I find that I have a kaleidoscopic journal that is in colorful pieces here and there. I keep a blog and journal on many of my trips—especially if it is to an interesting place like China.

Here and there in my writing I am influenced by my grandchildren. Usually it is because they have provided a good laugh. Case in point: One night we got a 1-800-Grandma call from our oldest grandson, Tyler. It went something like this:

"Tee-hee. Grandma? Can you come and give my Daddy a spanking? Tee-hee-hee."

"A spanking? Why? What's Daddy doing?"

"Well, he's your son and he keeps teasing me."

"Yes, he's my son, but what's he doing?"

"He flipped me with his sock. And it smelled, Grandma! Tee-hee-hee."

"Tyler, is this a 1-800-Grandma call?"

"A what?"

"Never mind. But if your Daddy needs a spanking, you better call 1-800-Grandpa."

Guess I still subscribe to the just-wait-until-your-father-gets-home threat. Tee-hee-hee.

And then there was the time when Kotomi, who was about four, walked up to Cinderella at the Disney World Castle and asked, “So, where’s the prince?”

I could go on but then I’d just be taking advantage of your listening ear—or make that reading eye. The point is that these are precious memories worth noting somewhere because along the way, they are often forgotten and too soon these little people will be grown up with little people of their own. What fun to be able to share the memories of their young lives with each other and their parents who may not have the time to write it down. And what a precious treasure for the future generations.

Journals come in all sizes, shapes, and price-points. When I was younger, I used a diary with the lock that had a one-key-fit-all to open it. Then I advanced to a seventy-nine cent spiral notebook when I figured out anyone could get into the locked diary.

Whatever type of journal you may choose, a clothbound fancy parchment-papered book with a raffia ribbon or a spiral notebook, put it in a place where you will see it often and remember to record those warm fuzzy moments with grands. And even if they aren’t so fuzzy, it may help you to see them in a different light. A journal is a map of a journey. Not necessarily where you are going but where you have been. It’s nice to look back once in a while.

Friday, February 16, 2018


Growing up in a family that was fanatic about fishing, I had a fishing rod in my hands as soon as I could hold one. It has stuck with me even though I don't get to fish as often as I did growing up. I married a guy who doesn't mind fishing as long as someone baits his hook and takes the fish off.

Some of my grandchildren though have inherited the fishing gene and I do get to indulge in the sport on occasion. Some of our Florida grandkids enjoy fishing so this past couple of weeks I've gotten to sit with them and drop a line in.

From the dock at the condo complex, there's not a whole lot to catch that has much size to it. Grunts, the occasional snapper, maybe a small barracuda and even a needle fish. I always tell people we're catching appetizers. Although they are too small to keep, they are still fun to hook and reel in.

Shark fishing (excluding hammerheads) is legal in Florida and one night a friend invited our grandson to bring a couple of fish heads and fish for shark with him. Both the friend and the grandson were ecstatic when he hooked into a sand shark about 35 inches long and reeled it in. A couple of pictures and it was released.

One morning though I had quite a time with a small needle fish. I had caught a good sized one a few days before but this one just kept swimming up on top of the water. He would follow my bobber as I reeled my line in and nip at it. Then as if he knew it, he would hustle after the line as I brought up whatever might be left over of my bait on the hook. If I hung the bait over his head, he would swim in circles waiting for it like a puppy dog waiting for a treat. Yes, I was teasing the wildlife.

When we were done fishing, I tossed in what was left of my bait and he was rewarded for his patience.

It's okay, fishy. I'll have the hook
out in a minute.
Oh, about the question of fishing. I was fishing. My grandkids were catching. They certainly had me beat by numbers.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Great Keys Hurricane

While Irma tore into the Keys with a fury, she in no way came close to the devastation and loss of life incurred in the Great Hurricane of 1935. The hurricane was unnamed. Hurricanes did not receive names until the 1940s. It earned its title as the Great Hurricane due to its Category 5 designation with winds that reached near 200 MPH and a storm surge of 18-20 feet.

At the time the fastest way in and out of the Keys was by rail, ferry or boat. A railway ran from the mainland to Key West. A large group of World War I veterans were encamped in the area working on various government projects. When it was finally determined that the hurricane would hit the area, a train was sent to try to evacuate the workers but unfortunately it arrived at the wrong time and was derailed by the surge. It was reported that 269 of the veterans perished.

All in all over 400 died in the storm that hit in the night on Labor Day weekend. Tourists as well as residents were swept away in the wind and surge as buildings and landscape around them were torn apart. It must have been really frightening.

The railway was gone. The track and much of its supporting facilities were damaged so badly that there was no way Flagler could afford to repair it all.

The town of Tavenier was completely destroyed. Islamorada devastated.

But the Keys are strong. Over the years they came back. Thankfully as years went on hurricane predictions became more accurate and evacuation procedures in place have saved lives.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Keys Post Irma

A foot of sea grass carpeted the floor of the Snappers dining room
after Irma destroyed the windows and let the water in.
The hurricane season of 2017 devastated many. Texas. Florida. Puerto Rico. Several Caribbean islands. While we had heard reports of the damage in the keys, we didn't know quite what to expect when we arrived in early January. It was three months post Irma. How much would be recovered? How much lost?

Beginning restoration of the Turtle Club at Snappers.
While Key Largo where we rent a condo was touched by Irma, it was not as devastating as the swipe Irma took through Islamorada and Marathon to the south of us. The condo complex where we stay had not been severely damaged. The condo buildings were intact. The only structure sustaining damage was one of the boat storage units that lost its metal roof. A lot of the landscape had changed though. There were obvious spots where trees were missing and leaves were stripped from other trees and bushes.

Along the Overseas Highway there were still large piles of debris, mostly of large tree bottoms with huge roots but also couches, tires, pieces of wooden structures, etc. Some of which we would learn was being carted to the area from other places and dumped.

Snappers' temporary kitchen.
The saddest things we learned were of the hotels and restaurants that were still closed and needing repair. Along with the "No Dumping" signs were signs warning of the illegality of unlicensed contractors. We would also hear of the shortage of contractors and crews. They were stretched thin which made progress slow.

Our favorite restaurant, Snappers, was featured in a CNN story just before and after the hurricane hit. According to reports the restaurant was flooded with four feet of surge and battered by waves as high as ten feet. It sits right on the ocean side where the category 4 hurricane came ashore. The outdoor bar area known as the Turtle Club was completely wiped away.

An aerial shot of Snappers before Irma.
The restaurant was one of the first to begin serving the area again but did so by cooking on outdoor grills at what they could restore quickly of the bar just outside the main building. The restaurant itself  was a mess and its kitchen destroyed. The owner said he was mainly trying to provide a place of respite for the few who were just returning to their homes.

Eventually Snappers put their cook in a food truck and began serving from an "Irmageddon" menu. There is no dishwasher so everything is served on disposable wear. Tables are still set up on the outdoor boardwalk area and patrons are supporting the owners efforts. Still it is difficult as they cannot serve as many as before so staff has been reduced.

Carmelitano used to play from a floating platform dockside.
That is the case with many of the jobs in the area. The reduction in hotel space because of closings reduces the number of people coming to the keys which of course leads to a reduction in staff.

If there is one thing the Keys are though it's resilient and things will begin to take shape and hopefully be even better than before. Meanwhile, we will eat our Sunday brunch and Snappers and enjoy the music of Frank Carmelitano and the weather and the food that is still amazingly good despite the small portable kitchen it comes from.

Monday, February 12, 2018

A Dose Of Disney - Animal Kingdom

If you read my blog often you know how much I love zoos. Animal Kingdom is like a big zoo but the main attraction now seems to be the Avatar ride. It's new and its reputation has grown. Early on we began trying to figure out how to fit it into our day but as Touring.com indicated there was never a wait time less than two hours. And Fastpasses--gobbled up long ago.

Still my husband and son would not be denied. So when we got through the gate as the park opened the two hustled off to the Avatar ride. By the time they got there the line wait was already two and a half hours. The rest of us set off for the safari ride which used to be the big ride in AK.

The kids were duly impressed with the safari ride although it was a lot bumpier than I remember. Some of the animals came up really close to the jeep we were in. This ride is very much like the real safari we were on except that the more dangerous animals are in exhibits that have a large "moat" to keep them away from the jeeps full of people although from the jeep you can't tell that anything separates you from those lions sunning themselves.

We enjoyed It's Tough To Be A Bug on a Fastpass. The 3-D is fun as are all the other effects that are tossed in. I think even our 12 y/o was impressed.

Throughout the morning the guys kept us updated on their progress in line. As they got nearer, there was a lot to see of the Pandora landscape--none of which Bob would recognize since he hadn't seen the movie.

I ended up at the petting zoo with two of the kids while the older ones went on the Primeval Whirl. When we were done petting goats (the sheep couldn't be coaxed out into the petting area) we explored the nature center there and got to meet Rafiki.

It was nearing noon and there was a nice quiet area near the Petting Zoo with tables and benches. Since the two Avatar guys were just off the ride, I suggested we all meet there for lunch. It took a while to gather together but it was a nice lunch and everyone really enjoyed the Subways.

We mostly explored Dinoland, played in the playground area, dug for bones, and rode the Primeval Whirl once or twice again as well as the Triceratop Spin (a lot like the Dumbo ride). We had a Fastpass for the Dinosaur ride and four people got to ride twice since Bob had gotten the eight passes and not everyone could go.

Dinner was at the Rainforest Restaurant which is really not in the park but just outside it. You have to be sure you have your passes with you to reenter although there is no security to go through a second time. I think we all enjoyed our meals. I know I enjoyed my fish and chips. The kids loved seeing it storm inside a few times and watched the animals come alive.

After dinner Bob had Fastpasses for Expedition Everest. During dinner our 12 y/o grandson explained in detail, twice,  every twist and turn and backwards movement. He'd experienced the whole ride over and over on YouTube. He still didn't convince me. The ones who didn't ride a second time came with me and we found seats for the Rivers of Light show.

It was a little difficult for them to find us but they did and we were all together as the program started. I think we all enjoyed it as much as we had the Epcot fireworks even though there were no fireworks. Fountains of colorful water danced from large floating lotus flowers and several lighted floats that were animals weaved between them. The music was soothing and beautiful and the tower of flames toward the end added a little more excitement.

As we filed out, Bob was reminded that he'd promised ice cream bars since we didn't want to fill up on desserts before the roller coaster ride on Everest. We got the bars and began a leisurely walk toward the entrance of the park and our car. Mom and Dad decided to take the kids into one of the souvenir shops and let them pick out a souvenir. They were ecstatic! It was a big decision and took a while but Bob and I sat outside and enjoyed the night, the gentle breeze and reminisced about the day.

Oh, the Avatar ride? He said he wouldn't wait three hours again to ride it but it was interesting.

Friday, February 09, 2018

A Dose Of Disney - Hollywood Studios

If it were not for the Star Wars themed areas of Hollywood Studios I would have preferred to pass this park up. We had too many Star Wars fans in the group--even the 3 y/o who wanted to meet Darth Vader. So we included this one in our plans. Once we had the three day passes, it was only $20 to add the fourth park.

The first must-ride on the list was the Rock N Roller roller coaster. It's a favorite of my husband's. It takes off quickly accelerating from 0 to 57 mph in 2.8 minutes. The girls all decided they didn't want to ride it. So while we waited for the rest of the group, we walked over to the Animation Courtyard and slipped into the Voyage of the Little Mermaid. It was a stage production that featured large puppets manipulated by puppeteers dressed all in black. It took a few moments for me to realize that. Everyone was excited when we it began raining on us as we "dove" under the sea.

Once out of the Mermaid show, we walked back to the roller coaster but found that they were still waiting to ride. We stood for a few minutes watching the Tower Of Terror and decided it wasn't for us. I rode it once in the past and that was enough. The long hair of the girl in front of me was straight up as we dropped not once but twice. No thanks.

Most of the things around us on Sunset Boulevard were shops and snack places. As we explored over the rest of the day that seemed to be what the majority of the park was. I had been eyeing the large soft Mickey pretzels for two days and I thought this would be a good time to get one. It was large enough to split with the three girls. I went to the stand and ordered one. The girl at the cash register handed me a pretzel and packet of cheese and as I was paying for it, the man behind her reached in the case and pulled out another--"for the little princesses." Amazing generosity. We thoroughly enjoyed our treat.

As we headed off to the Star Wars ride, we stopped to wait for a group of Stormtroopers to pass by. Our youngest and I found a spot to sit on some high chairs at an outdoor snack place across from the Star Wars ride to wait. We were treated to a training session of the young Jedis. It held her attention and really wowed her when lo and behold, Darth Vader entered from a cave in the wall. Boy was she going to have a story to tell.

We did several other rides but were not going to wait for some of the more popular. We did get a Fastpass to Beauty and the Beast which was a nice production but didn't thrill our 12 y/o grandson. Later we got into see the Indiana Jones stunt show. His response to that: "Sure beats Beauty and the Beast."

Dinner was at Mama Melrose and was delicious. The kids had special dinners and were delighted to have a Spaghetti Cupcake for dessert. The icing was piped to look like spaghetti and the sauce was strawberry. The meatball? Chocolate, of course!

The evening program, Fantasmic, was not much different than what we'd seen a few years ago. The original was quite entertaining with dancing brooms and happy characters but over the years they have changed it from Mickey's imagination dream to his nightmare staring all the villains from their movies. It gets dark and intense for the little ones and I don't find it as charming as the original.

Bob had heard from someone that the Star Wars Gallactica fireworks were not to be missed so after Fantasmic was done, we hustled to find a spot in front of the replica Chinese Grauman Theater. Our little one was falling asleep in Mom's arms so she and I opted to find a park bench nearby where she could sit and hold her. We could still see some of the program which was pretty much a promo for Star Wars movies projected on the theater. The only exciting part was at one point where several fireworks fired from the ground like fountains around the assembled crowd. I don't think any of us were terribly impressed.

There are several more rides being built in Hollywood which may make it a bit more interesting. The kids were not impressed with the street venues as actors portrayed various people from Hollywood Studios. That was a bit more adult and usually over their heads.

Star Wars, Stormtroopers and Darth Vader all checked off the list, we headed back to the house with a stop at Subway for the next day's sandwiches.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

A Dose Of Disney - Epcot

Our second day started out bright and early again. The entrance to Epcot went a little smoother as we were falling into a routine. Those without bags went one way and those with another, and had them checked by security.

"Looks like good stuff in there," the security person said.

"Only the best--peanut butter and jelly," I answered and he chuckled.

Our plan was to head to The Land first and ride Soarin' which is a popular ride, usually with a long wait. But all plans were laid aside as we passed the character set where you could meet Mickey, Goofy and Minnie. The line was very short and we knew it would grow. Grandpa sighed. I reassured him it would all work out in the end.

And it did. Soarin' did not have a terribly long line and while the older ones did that, the 3 y/o and I watched a movie about saving our natural world. Afterwards we all rode the boat through The Land and enjoyed the innovations that always seem to be changing.

Talking to Crush and seeing the sights with Nemo are a couple of favorites. I still cannot figure out how Crush sees and reacts and carries on a conversation as if he were real. Magic.

Of course a visit to Epcot isn't complete without a ride on the Test Track and now, with three young girls, a visit to Norway where the new ride Frozen has opened and you can meet the two sisters from the film. The character visit took a while but the guys filled the time with a ride in the nearby Mexican pavilion. The Frozen ride was quite a long wait for all of us and our young one especially. She was getting tired. Eventually we made it to the ride and enjoyed it.

There were other things to see and explore and among them was one of the places our grandson had researched and wanted to see. It's called Club Cool and is near the Imagination ride. Sponsored by Coca Cola, it is full of Coke merchandise as well as several fountains of drinks from around the world that you can sample for free. Needless to say, the floor was a bit sticky with kids excitedly sampling as much as Mom and Dad would let them.

The only dinner reservation Bob could find in Epcot was at the Chinese restaurant, Nine Dragons and was at 4:15. While it seemed a bit early by the time we were all settled and served, it was dinner time. The kids enjoyed the white rice and pot stickers but I don't think the adults enjoyed their meals as much. Our fried rice was bland and had a lot of chicken that didn't seem to have any flavor.

After dinner we strolled around a bit waiting on the evening fireworks show. My daughter-in-law and I went to a stand to get some coffee and the kids followed us. When the fellow in the stand saw four kids, he asked if they could have ice cream. I figured he would give them each a small sample. He actually gave them each a cup full of soft serve. We thought he might be trying to empty his machine to close up shop. Still, it was a nice gesture and we appreciated it.

Norway-That's real grass on the roof.
Ice cream consumed, we moved on around the lake and found the Fastpass entrance where we would go to watch the fireworks. There is a large area roped off where those who are able to get a Fastpass can watch the festivities. It was great. It sloped gently so it was a little easier to see over heads if you stayed at the very top of the hill. (We didn't get there soon enough to get a front row spot.)

I think we all agreed that the Epcot fireworks were much more spectacular than the Magic Kingdom had been. All, that is except the one in the stroller who actually slept through the whole noisy show. Well, we figured she would have a head start on the rest of us for the next day.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

A Dose Of Disney - The Magic Kingdom

Backpacks full of sandwiches, snacks, and small water bottles, we made it out to the van and onto the road only a few minutes past our planned time of departure. We didn't want to be too late this first day in case there was any problem in getting our tickets validated.

The kids could hardly contain themselves as we drove to Disney World and when they caught the first glimpse of the huge welcome-to-Disney signs they went crazy with excitement.

We were able to park close enough to the transportation center to walk and then get our tickets validated. The plastic cards from AAA were replaced with Disney cards. The process didn't take nearly as long as going through the security check for our bags. Security is not only looking for weapons, they are also on the lookout for selfie sticks which are banned. There is a list of things that are not allowed into the park on the Disney website.

Next step was to catch a ride from the transportation area to the Magic Kingdom theme park. There are two favorite choices--the ferry or the monorail. We chose the monorail and reminisced about the ride our kids took when they were young.

Once at the Magic Kingdom entrance we used our "magic" cards to enter. Disney still uses a fingerprint validation along with the card. We warned the kids to try to remember which finger they used. The system works a lot better than it used to. We planned our first day for the Magic Kingdom because it is iconic Disney and the place the kids first think of when you mention Disney World. It was a good choice.

While the rides didn't begin until nine, we were still able to enter around 8:30 and begin our plan for the day. It didn't take long though for us to change it up. You can't let a three year old pass up one of the rides she most wants to do. While the rest of the group went on to the Seven Dwarfs ride, I rode Dumbo with her.

The day went pretty smoothly and I believe we rode all of the rides that were priorities. We missed a few favorites of ours because lines were just too long and there was not enough time in the day. The afternoon parade was still a great break in the day but it was disappointing to know that there was no evening light parade.

A highlight (other than watching the 3 y/o grin ear to ear on the Carousel) was our dinner at the Liberty Tavern. It is one price per person and a set menu. The meal is served family style and there was more than enough to go around, including dessert. We were out of the chaos of the people traffic in the park and didn't feel rushed to finish.

The evening was capped with the fireworks show at the castle. The fireworks were good but I thought projecting the characters and videos on the castle was a bit unimaginative--and, well, ugly. Tinkerbelle still slides down the wire through the center of the main street area and as she does the trees light up as if she's spread fairy dust. Now that was magical.

Monday, February 05, 2018

A Dose Of Disney - The Plans

Two of our Florida grandkids had never been to Disney World and the other two were so little they couldn't remember much. What better reason to plan a visit to Disney? We started planning a little before Christmas by making a reservation for a house near the park where all eight of us could stay together. We had done that in the past when we took all our kids and grandkids to the park and it worked out well and was a lot more economical than staying in the park even at one of the low end resorts.

The problem for planning came in the purchase of tickets however. I knew from experience that Disney always ran a special for Florida residents in January that was even less that the usual resident ticket and so we waited to purchase our tickets until the first week in January. Tickets were available for purchase through AAA and that allowed us to get the ticket numbers we needed to make any reservations and Fastpasses. (A Fastpass is a scheduled time for you to get in line and bypass the longer line of standbys. It doesn't guarantee you won't have a line but you won't wait as long. You are allowed three/day.) While we got a great deal on four days for our six Florida residents our out-of-state tickets were twice as much. I guess that meant we needed to have twice as much fun.

Our master planner, Grandpa, began by subscribing to TouringPlans.com for $14.95. The subscription is good for a year and gives you projections on crowds in each park for a given date, touring plans to use your time most efficiently and at the park, wait times in line. We asked each child to tell us their top three attractions they absolutely needed to ride and used that to begin planning each day at the individual parks.

There is a park hopper ticket that costs a little more and allows you to visit more than one park in a day. The only reason I could see you doing that is if you tried to optimize your chances of riding some of the more popular rides in the parks and could go from one to the other either early in the morning or late in the evening to catch a shorter line. No matter how we tried to schedule the new Avatar ride, the wait was never less than two hours. Fastpasses are impossible to get unless you apply for them 30-60 days out from the day of your visit. We were just two week ahead of our visit.

Dinner reservations were a bit tricky as well. We ended up with only two that were actually at a dinner hour. The other two were at 3:30 and 4:15. Those are also gobbled up 30-60 days out.

Bob finished the plans and emailed them to the kids for their approval. A week later, plans transferred to phones, a van rented that could seat all eight of us and still hold all the luggage, we drove the four hours north to the house we had rented for the week. The adventure was about to begin.

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Cruising The Caribbean - The Holidays At Sea

Spending the holidays on a cruise is not for everyone but we enjoy it once in a while. There was no stress decorating or last minute shopping for things for dinner or to wrap and put under a tree. We do take lights with us though that Bob strings around the mirror in the room and/or the window if we have one. (We bought LEDs so they don't get hot.) And we have a door decoration that we hang on our stateroom door (hung with the sticky putty that doesn't leave a mark).

Our two weeks aboard the Neiuw Amsterdam was spent cruising the Eastern and Western Caribbean. Christmas Eve day we spent enjoying the sunshine and water at HAL's private island, Half Moon Cay. Christmas Day was spent at sea but we enjoyed a special dinner and of course the caroling and activities that surrounded the arrival of Santa.

We didn't quite make it to the midnight service on Christmas Eve. We were really tired and had enjoyed the performances of several choirs made up of crew members and considered that our "midnight" celebration. Christmas morning offered another opportunity for attending church service and we enjoyed it much more being awake.

Several highlights along the way were watching the welcoming committee at Cozumel in their colorful costumes. Later in the evening on the open back deck a mariachi band performed for us.

The sail-in to San Juan, Puerto Rico is always spectacular. The ship sails past the old fort, San Felipe and gives you a fantastic view of the fort as you enter the port of Old San Juan. The ship docks right by the old town and there is a great opportunity to explore the area without having to go too far. We didn't do much exploring this time but did try to see if we could figure out things that may have been damaged by the hurricanes. Where our ship was, everything seemed to be okay but we knew that not that far away many were still suffering the effects of the storm. Hopefully the ships being there were adding some relief to the economy.

In Jamaica Bob had booked us a day pass at a resort not far from where our ship docked in Montego Bay. It was a nice day off the ship and enjoying the small beach area at the resort. It also included a buffet lunch. It wasn't the kind of place I'd want to spend a lot of time but for a day, it was nice.

By the end of the cruise decorations were disappearing, being stored away for another year. The good news was that except for two strings of lights and a small door decoration, we didn't have anything else to pack up.

It was time to move on to Key Largo but it was a bit of a cool reception. The cold front that was freezing out the north and much of the south had arrived. It would be a while before we could shed sweaters and long sleeves.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...