Monday, April 18, 2016

The Dark Side does Not Have Cookies - Inaugural Walt Disney World Star Wars 1/2 Marathon Weekend 2016 Volunteering Report

This weekend was the Inaugural Star Wars 1/2 Marathon race weekend at Disney World. Disneyland gets The Light Side (the good guys), while Disney World gets The Dark Side (the bad guys).  Our friend B is a dork like we are (though we aren't really SW geeks as much as we are Marvel geeks), and as a surprise to him, I was able to sign him up to come volunteer with us (he recently volunteered at the Special Olympics a few months ago).

B came to our house around 9am and once the car was packed up, we headed off to get donuts ($8). B had also never been to Daylight Donuts (he loved them!)

A bit down Main Street, B heard a noise from the back of the car, so we pulled over to discover a flat tire on his side of the car. We limped our way to a nearby office building and parked near the road.

Yeah, that tire is GONE!  So glad that it happened here and now, and not while on the Interstate going 80mph!

I called Triple A to come out and help us change the tire (sadly, I'm not comfortable doing it, neither Hubby nor the Kiddo know how to do it, and B isn't in good enough shape to do it).  While waiting, we unpacked the trunk and put all the luggage in the backseat, so that we could get to the spare tire.

B talking to the AAA guy
It took about 45 minutes for him to get there, but once he got there, it was fixed quickly. B mentioned that you can't drive more than 50 miles (and 50mph) on a doughnut tire, so I joked that I guess I had to go to Sam's Club to get a new tire (used to get them from there for my old Chevy Malibu).  The AAA guy said I should go to the Tire Outlet up the road (close to work).  I put my trust in the AAA man!

Tiny donut tire
I left the three of them at a nearby park (2 minute walk away) and went over to the tire store.  They're rough around the edges, and they don't win any beauty awards, but after about 1/2 hour, I had a new-to-me tire with a 30-day warranty for $50.

Heading towards the park across the street
Back at the park, I picked up the family and we were back on the road by 10:15, and yes, I sped the majority of the way to WDW - our shift starts at 1pm, and we are cutting it close!

Hubby (the Trunk Organizational Master) repacking the trunk after getting our "new" tire
We made it to the Gate by 12:15 or so and passed this jackass.  There are signs at all Disney Gates (seriously, lots of signs) that say "Do Not Stop" because of stupid idiots like this who stand in the road to get pictures of the damn Disney Gate! Get the fuck out of the road!

I should have swerved to scare the hell out of him...
Luckily, I didn't hit him (so no need to wash my car) and also luckily, we arrived with some time to spare, so we were able to grab lunch beforehand, though the sammiches were the yucky "healthy" ones.

Parking was horrendous - we had to be WAY out here!
We need to go to the building in the middle of the shot
Oh boy, stairs!
We made it!
Coffee and hot chocolate as a reward
All of us were assigned Bib pickup, which is my least favorite spot at the Expo. Sorry, but there's too much that can go wrong there.  At bib pickup you have to check their ID, take their waiver, make sure the waiver is signed, give them the correct bib, give them the bag check sticker that has their bib number on it, have them sign the book to prove you gave them their stuff and give them any comemorative items (such as pins) that they may have purchased.  I'm just not detail-oriented enough for Bib pickup. The only upside for me is that you have a little table to put your stuff on that the public can't see (you don't get that at gEAR bags).

B and the Kiddo ended up at the same table, while Hubby and I were at different tables (but within touching distance).

Action Shot of B and the Kiddo
Not Much Action shot of Hubby working
Sitting Pretty Action Shot of me working
New Costume Regulations
New Costume Regulations (second side)
Programs, Bibs, Challenge bracelets, sign-off binder
Me, the Hubby and Necie (Team Leader)
View from the upper level
After a few hours of working (and starving from the sad lunch), I went upstairs and grabbed a Wetzel's Pretzel and Diet Coke (Volunteer Deal). They aren't nor never will be a Hot Sam pretzel, but they're not bad.  I should get cheese with them sometime, just to see if it's any good.

Wetzel's Pretzel and Large Diet Coke = $3.19
Around 5pm, the Hubby and I took our dinner break together. I learned that the green boxes are the "healthy" lunches and the black boxes are the tasty lunches. Unfortunately, the only tasty lunch they had was PB&J.

Green Box = Healthy choices         Black Box = Tasty choices
Healthy lunches usually have some sort of cold-cut sandwich on healthy bread, some pasta salad, a Clif bar and maybe some Craisins or something equally icky.

My box had two Uncrustables, chips, a cookie and a Go-Go Squeez.  Other boxes have had ham or turkey sandwiches, with the same sides.

Freshly-baked cookie, Go-Go Squeez, Lay's, two Uncrustables
After our dinner, B and the Kiddo had already had their dinner, and our shifts were over soon after that.

Since we were all still hungry, we headed to TGI Friday's ($70) on West Irlo for dinner. It was hard to eat; I wasn't sure what was wrong, but all day, my upper front left tooth had been hurting. If I bit on it, or put any pressure on it in any way, it hurt like hell! Never in my life had I had any pain like that.  Of couse, if I was at home, I'd go to the dentist - but I'm stuck 150 miles away. Glad I always carry pain reliever in my purse!  I used it a lot this weekend.

Friday's Shrimp (Ranch for my fries; Mayo for my shrimp since they don't have tartar sauce)
We stayed at the Red Lion Hotel again. This time we had to get 2 queens since there were four of us.  The kiddo slept with me, and B slept with Hubby.  It's gonna be a long weekend...

I really wish hotel rooms would give more than one nightstand
We were up early on Saturday for the 10k, and of course we stopped at WaWa for breakfast/snackage ($14). Another new experience for B. He fell in love with WaWa just like we did.

After getting a bit lost, we found the Volunteer tent way at the far side of the Pre-Race area.  We checked in, were given shirts (no jackets, since it was supposed to be hot this weekend) and some runDisney snack boxes (no Pick 5 Snacks type deal this time).

Horrible shot of the pre-race area (those 'screens' are photo backdrops)
Waiting in line at the Volunteer Check-In Tent
We were bussed to the finish line at Epcot to set up bottles (yay, not cups) of water and PowerAde.

On the bus to the finish line (creeper in the back)
The area had tables in the middle of the road, plus tables along the sides of the area. We decided to take over the front part of the middle tables and we made it look awesome.  We decided that the front two tables (that would be seen by the majority of the runners) should be RED, since this was The Dark Side race (and the bad guy's lightsaber was red).   We had to unpack cases of PowerAde and stack them on the tables, then put extra cases under hte table for later restocking.

Another badly out-of-focus shot, this time of the finisher chute
Setting up PowerAde
Finished PowerAde/Water tables (those red bottles are so pretty)
Gettin' artsy
Once our area was done, we moved back and helped others who were moving slower. There always seems to be a group of volunteers who are assholes, or don't seem to care about being there and this time was no exception. We just avoided them altogether and helped other people.

Once the entire area was stocked up, we were allowed to chill out, have a snack, wander around, which is always my favorite part. I checked out the Inaugural 10k medals, had a snack, and played on my phone.

This is the same box that runners will get after the race
Solitare, while waiting for runners to finish
Exept for that one bottle, we made sure that all bottles faced forward
Eventually, runners began coming in, so I put away my camera and busted my ass to keep those tables full!

An entire team of Stormtroopers!
It didn't take long for the red to disappear; red is always the favorite flavor of any sugary drink, and since it was at the front, it went even quicker.  Blue was the next to go, and then finally yellow was all that remained (yellow is given out on-course, so by the end of a race, no one wants yellow).

The middle tables were completely empty 2/3 into the race, so I pulled out what I call The Disney Voice™ and began directing runners to find PowerAde "On your right... and further down." Once The Disney Voice™ comes out, it makes people think I'm actually a cast member, and I began getting lots of questions from runners. Where is this, when is that, blah blah blah. I could answer most of them, but I had to get some runDisney guys for few of them.

Balloon Ladies, racing with Death Star balloons
Not a whole lot left at this point
We were completely wiped out by the time the last finishers came in, but that's the sign of a good volunteer. We made our way back to our bus, returned to check out of our shift and drove back to our hotel. 

After an hour or so of chill-out time at the hotel, we (some of us) changed our clothes and we all went to Epcot. 

Hello Beautiful
We took B on Test Track, who loved it of course!

Yay! Test Track (with a FastPass+)
B and the Hubby creating their cars
Best Buds
Awww, we've gotten faster than this before!
Then we grabbed an early dinner at Electric Umbrella ($53). My teeth hurting more today, so I thought that nuggets would be easy to eat.

I don't know why EU gets so much hate. It is what it is, and it's good
Chicken Breast Nuggets with Fries, and Cup for Water

It wasn't the best meal - my tooth was really hurting by this time, and I only ate because I needed food. I wished I'd not spent $10 on food I didn't really taste.

After dinner, the three of them went back to Test Track while I wandered around and photographed the hell out of the Flower & Garden Festival.  Don't worry, I won't post all 700 photos I took!

Imagination Pavillion with "backwards" Waterfall
Chinese Dancer Topiaries
Artsy flowers near Imagination Pavilion
Dancing and Jumping Fountains near Imagination Pavilion
Dancing Fountain near Imagination Pavilion
Bambi, Thumper and Flower near Canada Pavilion
Little Cottage at Canada Pavilion
Little Cottage with Flowers at Canada Pavilion
Waterfall near Le Cellier at Canada Pavilion
Macro Sunflowers
Bo Bice!  I voted for him on American Idol. Nice to see him still getting work
Ahoy, matey! It be sunset on the Seven Seas Lagoon
I see you, Spaceship Earth
Ana and Elsa in Norway
Spaceship Palm Trees
Creeper Spaceship Earth
I caught up with them near the Art of Disney and we all headed to the car via the Tram.  We had another early day tomorrow!

My dogs are barkin'!
B and the Hubby (B is tired!)
Emo teenager
 Sunday morning, after packing up, we checked out of the hotel, hit up WaWa for breakfast ($14) and headed to the volunteer tent to check in.  I got another shirt, as well as another runDisney box for snackage... and safety vests.  Um?  Okay.

We were bused to our water-stop, and on the way there we were given the run-down by the team leaders.  One TL was PowerAde and one TL was water; and they were married to each other, so they worked really well as a team in and of themselves!

B and the Kiddo were set up with PowerAde - B got to sit down, since he has issues.

Hubby and I were on water duty.  I grabbed a table and began unwrapping liters of water while Hubby started setting up cups. Eventually his cups got near my bottles and he began bossing me around, telling me how to do things, so I snapped right back at him. I got here first, I was trying to get the damn water out without having to set it on the wet ground... sigh... I'm sure the other volunteers were glad we were at a far away table; we get loud when we argue.  He blamed my grumpiness on my sore mouth, but honestly, I think I was grumpier from having to spend the weekend locked in a hotel room with so many people.  I'm pretty introverted, so that degree of "togetherness" exceeded my comfort zone.

Whatever it was, we both shut up and just did our job. Once done, we moved to help other tables.

Each table has about 600+ cups on it
Runners will be coming toward us from the far section of the photo
It sure would have been nice to have a jacket, though. It was chilly that morning, and I didn't bring a jacket with me (I thought it'd be warmer, like yesterday). Many volunteers were saying the same thing (that they wanted a jacket).

Our table was the last table on the runner's right, and it was a great spot because a little bit up the road was a DJ playing an awesome Imperial March mix.  He'd play a few club songs (I recall a club mix of "Honey, I'm Good") and then the March. Then a few normal songs, then the March again. It was really great. It helped pump up the volunteers (and eventually the runners) and helped me forget about my stupid tooth for a while).

Looking further along the course from our table; DJ set up by the bright lights
The Team Leaders were very smart in how they handled the water stop, and would have every other table hand out water. This was to ensure that there would be enough tables left with water, and so there wouldn't be two tables down at the end with all the water by the end of the race. Smart!

Taking a break, letting B and the Hubby hand out water (The Kiddo is much further upstream)
The end is near - I see balloon ladies
After all the runners had passed, we literally flipped tables on their sides. This allowed the water to drain out of the cups, and made it easier for the sweeper trucks to pick them up.

Tip all the cups onto the street
Once tables were flipped, they were folded and put in the truck; cups were swept into the middle of the road
A swarm of Street Sweepers
Gobble gobble nom nom nom
What cups?
After the army of street-sweepers sucked up the water cups, we were able to get back on the bus and return to the volunteer tent. We checked out, hit the WaWa and made our way back to Wildwood where we took B to the Russel Stover Outlet (did he love it? Can you guess?) then back home.

Once B left, I took a deep breath and thanked the Lord for getting me though a weekend full of togetherness. I'm going to bed!