Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Turning 40 Where Dreams Come True

Around Mother's Day, my mother and I were talking about Disney and how, when she goes with my aunt, they always do the same things. Aunt loves the Magic Kingdom, so they pretty much always just go there (not that there's anything wrong with MK, it's my favorite too!). She was lamenting that it would be great to have a trip where she never once stepped foot in MK, and could instead have fun an the other three parks!

Over the next few months, this discussion came up again and again and I told her that we would love to take her to Disney for a day and show her how we do the parks. We had extra tickets we could share, so we planned to do a day, the day after Labor Day, when crowds would be lower.

A few weeks before it was time to go, she messaged me on Facebook and told me that she found a great deal on a room at Pop Century, and that she'd be glad to pay for a room for us, so that we could stay for two days, instead of one! Score!

So, with that in mind, I began planning an awesome two-day extravaganza that didn't include the Magic Kingdom or even the Mono-rail! FastPass+es were made, meal reservations were made, I was ON it!

We were up before the sun on Tuesday (and after running a 5k yesterday!) and we headed directly to Pop Century to meet mom and check in. Since we got there at 8am, there obviously weren't any rooms ready, but they would text us when they were. We hopped on the bus and made our way to Animal Kingdom to get in line for Flight of Passage, the new ride in Pandora: The World of Avatar (P:WoA).

Mom was a little put off by how crowded it was for this ride, but was in good spirits as we queued up at 9:03am.

We look like we're close, but we're soooooooooooooooo far...
The line wound all the way to the bridge that leads to Africa, before returning back to P:WoA and the actual queue line for the ride. (Josh at EasyWDW has a great blog post about this that shows in more detail how the line moves).

The line was so long that it crossed over walkways, and cast members had to corral us with ropes and let passers-by go! Also at this point, I realized that I'd missed our first FastPass+. Not a big deal, I was able to reschedule it for later!

We were now in the "official" queue around 10:30am
I dunno know what this is, but it's cool lookin'
Disney people always want to put money places! And, um, I hope they don't want that gift card back...
Finally, at 11:07am, we were on our numbers and we took our flight. It was as amazing as I remember, although, sadly, I lost my sunglasses!

I'm #2! I'm #2!
In all the trips we've taken to The World, I've never lost a pair until now!  I had put them on top of my visor, and during a break in the ride, I took the visor off because it was getting in my way... the sunglasses must have fallen off at that point. I didn't realize they were gone until I was almost to the exit door downstairs. I could have called Lost and Found for them later, but they were cheap $10 sunglasses from JCP. I was fine with losing them (and The Kiddo let me use hers for the rest of the day).

Once we left P:WoA, we were all ready for lunch. Mom only eats yogurt for breakfast, and all we'd had were donuts, so we trekked over to Restaurantosaurus for some Picky Eater food.

The Kiddo got nuggets, Mom and Hubby each got a burger, and I got a Kid's Meal cheeseburger, that was served in a bucket!

Because we'd gotten there early, we were also able to score the BEST seat in the place; the Airstream Booth!

A thing of Disney Legend, envied by all on the DISBoards and internet chatrooms. I have officially made it as a Disney Ultimate Fan!

🎶 It's the end of the world as we know it! And I feel fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiine! 🎶
All joking aside, it's actually a great table; it's really spacious and because of the surround, it's really quiet.

Once our meal was done, our next FastPass+ was for Finding Nemo. Is this a great use of a FP+? Not really. But Mom isn't a roller-coaster rider (I'm the only one), and she'd mentioned many times how she wanted to see some of the shows that Disney offered. Hubby and the Kiddo think Finding Nemo is a boring show, but they knew that this was a trip for Mom, so they went along with it.

After we found Nemo, we headed over to Festival of the Lion King. I'm the only one - out of the three of us - who has seen this. Mom saw it once and was looking forward to seeing it again. I saw it on the day I did Disney alone, after the Kiddo went to MegaCon a few years ago, so I was eager to share it with them, especially because the Kiddo is a rabid Lion King fan.

They were both impressed with the show, but I was impressed with the seats we got!

Hey, I'm in a tree
Like a true performer, he caught my lens all show long!
Insert Culture Club Reference Here
He can light the candles on my cake!
Ooooh, artsy
I'm so happy to be an extra!
Raise your hand if you're a badass Mofo!
Having spent the majority of the day at Animal Kingdom, it was time to make our way over to the Boardwalk for some sweets!

We stopped by the Boardwalk Bakery, where I got a cheese croissant and we all split a Creamsicle cupcake. Mom asked the cashier at the bakery if they had any sort of picks for my birthday (picks are the little plastic things you usually find on cupcakes). The poor cashier had no idea what she meant, but they were able to find a box of candles, so I stuck two candles in my danish.

I liked the danish, but the cupcake was not very good. I think I'll stick to my cheesecake brownies!

I wanted to keep the box, but I was already weighed down by my sand pail from lunch
(We never actually lit the candles)
Orange Creamsicle Cupcake (Yellow cake, marshmallow top, crispy pearls, orange cream filling) - it was meh
I'll just wait for a Publix cake, thanks
Next up, we took a Friendship Boat over to Epcot and took mom on Test Track. This is one ride that she always wanted to get Aunt on, but Aunt is a very... hesitant... person. She didn't think she would like riding the ride.

Mom, however, really liked it!

Despite looking indifferent, she was enjoying it!
We also took her on Soarin', which she loved, before we hoofed it to the back of the park for dinner at Via Napoli. She absolutely loved the pizza, and I think she's a new fan of the place.

We didn't stick around for Illuminations, because Mom's not a huge fireworks person, so it was time to catch the bus back to the hotel for the night. We'd been texted hours before what room was ours, so we were able to go directly to the car and grab our bags, then conk out in the rooms.

It's a crappy photo, but I love it because that's how they spent most of the day; just walking and chatting!
Pop Century recently began a revamp of all of their rooms, swapping out the double-beds for queen beds, and removing old carpet and the like. We stayed at Pop Century for our very first trip (way back in 2010), and though it was nice then, it's so much better now!

Queen bed and Queen Murphy bed (when closed it's a table with two chairs to go with it)
Kitchenette-ette? Fridge and coffeemaker; also luggage rack and ice bucket, and chairs for the table
Big TV and sideboard/dresser
Wednesday morning, we had reservations at Trail's End for breakfast. My plan was to take a bus over to the Magic Kingdom (the closest she'd get the whole time!) and then boat over to Ft. Wilderness. Unfortunately, I should have done a bit more research... boats don't begin running until 45 minutes after the park opens!

So, we headed over to the Bus Loop to pick up a bus to Wilderness Lodge (the CMs said it would be easiest to take a bus to Wilderness Lodge, and then boat over to Fort Wilderness from there). Once we got to the Loop, however, a Fort Wilderness bus had just pulled up to drop off their park-goers, so we hopped on and got a great personal bus ride over to FW. He was very chatty, talking about the impending storm (Hurricane Irma, more on that in a bit...), and he seemed almost sad when we got off the bus!

A second bus brought us to Trail's End Buffeteria, only a little bit late, and we were soon settling down to a delicious breakfast. 

Sausage, Bacon, Biscuits & Gravy, Breakfast Potatoes, Tots, Donut Hole, Pulled Pork, Mickey Pancake and Eggs - whew!
While noshing on tasty bacon, sausage, eggs, tater tots and my new love - biscuits and gravy - we also spent much of the meal talking about Irma. Before Labor Day, the storm was estimated to head south in the Gulf of Mexico and not be much of a bother to Florida.
NOAA prediction as of August 30th at 11am
A few days later, it changed dramatically, heading for South Florida. I think we all assumed it would be ashore around the Keys.

NOAA prediction as of September 3rd at 5pm
Then on Monday morning (while I was still meandering around Jacksonville), the cone changed again, and it was going to miss Florida completely, but go right through Puerto Rico.

NOAA Prediction as of September 4th at 11am (less than 24 hours later)
Seriously, she couldn't make up her mind!

Crap, crap, crap, crap, crap, crap, crap, crap!
But then, on the morning we were eating our tasty bacon (seriously, go eat breakfast there!), the direction shifted AGAIN!

Now it was forecast to come straight up the center of Florida!  When we saw this, we started thinking, hmmmm, perhaps we should take this a little bit more seriously?

NOAA prediction as of September 6 at 8am
Nah. We finished our bacon and hopped the boat to Wilderness Lodge.

Get out of my shot!
We showed off our favorite resort to Mom as we walked through and headed to the Bus Loop to make our way to Hollywood Studios, the third park she never gets a chance to go to!

Once there, our first stop was Toy Story Midway Mania. Hubby and the Kiddo rode together, so I was able to ride with Mom. She did terrible and ended up winning a cat.
I, of course, got a beaver.

Both of us have bad vision - I think it shows!
As we walked down the extended exit ramp, we saw a lot of people jammed at the doors and I realized... it's raining. Not a huge rain, but enough that we kind of pulled back in to the exit area and tried to decide what to do next.

It's soooooooooooooooooooooooo long!
In the end, we were all feeling a little antsy about the impending storm (especially Mom, who lives on the Gulf coast of Florida), so we decided to cut our losses and head back to the hotel.

Kiddo, Lazy and Mom
Hubby, Kiddo, Lazy
Once at the hotel, we said our goodbyes and parted ways. We took a pit stop at Wawa (as always) and hit the road. At this point, it was about 2:00.

Traffic seemed a bit heavy for a Wednesday, but we didn't think anything of it until we got past the Okahumpka Turnpike Service Plaza (about 70 miles from home). Once we were past there, traffic got slower and slower until finally, it just stopped.

This is our view on the Turnpike at 2:50pm
And this is the view behind us... there's a lot of traffic
At this point, we had no idea what was going on. We were thinking there was an accident or some other sort of tie-up up ahead and just continued to chill. We weren't in a rush. But we knew....

Yeah, there was some reason - an unusual reason - for this slow down. It's not every day that there is hardly any traffic coming the other direction when you're on the interstate.

I mean really? There's only three cars going South!
We kept creep, creep, creeping along at 5 miles an hour, for more than an hour. Hubby and I began trying to "guess" what the problem was, and where it was on the road (I guessed there was an accident where I-75 and the Turnpike merge together; I was wrong).

When we got to where I thought the problem was, there was no problem, so we had to rethink about what the problem might be.

The storm!  Duh!

Holy shit! Are all these people coming NORTH because of Irma?! Where do they think they're gonna go?

After more than an hour of this stop and go traffic, I made the decision to cut our losses and get off at State Road 200 in Ocala and take back-roads home. There were even back-ups when we got off the interstate!

We got off the Interstate around 3:50... to more traffic on State Road 200
There was a huge line for gas at the BP right off the freeway. Luckily, we're all Floridians and we know how to handle this shit - they were pulling over to the side of the road to wait in line, trying not to impede the flow of traffic too much.

I'd guess 4 lanes, 4 pumps each lane - 16 total pumps and still this backed up!

We got on US-441 and headed north, and soon the road was wide open.

Our view of 441 at 4:15pm
Because our Less-Than-2-Hour trip turned into an Over-4-Hour Trip, we decided to grab some dinner on the way home. Coming up 441, we could slip in to the new Publix they just opened up near campus.

Bad. Idea.

In case you don't know, I live in a college town. This Publix is the closest grocery store to all the major dorms and apartment complexes. Many of these children (yeah, I said it) have never had to deal with a hurricane, if they moved from out-of-state (or out of country!), and many more haven't had to deal with one in so long, that they were very young when the Summer of Hell happened to Florida in 2004. And if they ever have had to deal with a hurricane, chances are their parents were there to deal with the logistics of getting water, making an emergency kit, etc. Basically, I'm in a town of Hurricane Newbies, and it showed!

Parking was hell - there were scooters everywhere, parked willie-nillie. People were trying to put bottled water in bike baskets. This was a huge mistake. But, we kept on.

Inside, you would have thought zombies were coming! All of the water was pretty much gone, as was the bread and most of the pre-made food from the deli. We each grabbed a pre-made sandwich and a soda and got the heck out of there.  I was ready to GO HOME!

What a birthday, huh?

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Deja Vu - RunJax Labor Day 5k

Click on the Pic to Sign Up for This Year's Race!

This race is pretty much an exact repeat of the Celebration Run in July, so I'm not going to post too much. 

I got hubby to work around 5:15 and had an uneventful drive. I got there just before 7am and scored a spot in front of Stonewood Grill (closer than where I parked in July).

Start Line is past these cars

I headed across to packet pick up and came back to the car. When I took the shirt out of my bag, I kind of side-eyed it; was this really a female-cut shirt? It had a crew neck (rather than a V-neck).  I tried to spy on any women in the parking lot who was wearing their shirt, and after about 10 minutes, I ascertained that yeah, the chick shirt got a crew neck, too. Yay (I don't like crew neck).

I gathered up all my stuff, then popped open the Pepsi I brought with me and headed over to the start line. 

Again, they played the Whitney National Anthem (really, guys, 1st Place Sports uses it for pretty much every. single. race...), and then, after a quick start line selfie, we were off. 

Humidity + Cold Camera = Soft Filter Focus!

Following the same course as the Celebration run, I hit Mile One. 

Yep, that's a crappy pace

I passed on the water stop - I still had some ice water in my Nathan.

Water Station

Then Mile 2.

Mile 2

At the second water stop, I took a cup of water so that I could soak my cooling towel. I poured the remaining water on my head - it was HOT already!

Mile 3 and the finish is right around the corner!
Mile 3!
Go left!
I did it! I finished! My official time was 51:59, giving me a pace of 16:43. I was 53rd in my brand new age group (now Female 40-44), and I beat 56 people, coming in 830th overall. 

Action shot!

I took a quick finish line selfie, then grabbed some water, as well as some crackers and electrolyte popsicles.
They have great medals for such small races!
Purified is icky! Spring water rocks!
None of the vendor tents had anything good, so I meandered up front to wait for awards and the raffle.

Seen in the window of the running store
Out of all the times that the winners had during the awards, only ONE person was slower than me... and she was over 80!

After that, I changed clothes at a local CVS, purchasing some Milk Duds and a soda for the Pee Fee™ then went to Daily's for some gas and a car wash.

Next, I went over to Orange Park Mall. I scored some good clearance at JCP before hitting up Chick-fil-A for lunch.

After the mall, I went over to Party City for some celebratory birthday stuff - I picked up a "40th Birthday" ribbon pin for my trip to Disney tomorrow, as well as some candy. I checked out Dollar Tree to see if they had anything fun for the trip, but didn't find anything cool.I picked up a fun picture frame at Old Time Pottery, as well as some Halloween decor for my office, then picked up a snack at the gas station and headed home. I got some packin' to do for Disney tomorrow!