Written : 05/03/04

I guess I can say a lot for myself. Iíve been to Disney World twice before I reached the 18th year of my life. Itís a lot more than most people can say about the same topic, even if there are a few whoíve been there more. Other than that, though, I havenít really accomplished much. But this isnít about how Iíve done nothing noteworthy with my life up until now, itís about my second trip to Disney World. So I guess Iíd better start on THAT then.

It all started way back in January, when I caught wind that my aunt and uncle (who had taken me on my first visit to the Disney World) were going to take my brothers there in April, since they hadnít been on the first trip. My parent were feeling bad for me, so they decided that theyíd spring to send me if I saved a couple hundred bucks and pitched in. With an offer like that, there was no way to refuse. Only I had no steady income, so I was lucky to have a nice little nest egg saved away. But that wasnít enough, and I still owe my parents a little coinage. Nothing big though, Iíll just work it off like one of those cartoon characters who forgets their wallet when they go to a restaurant and has to clean dishes to pay the bill.

So about a month later we went over to their house, where my bros were informed of the good news. Only there was a surprise twist for everyone. Instead of my aunt and uncle taking the four of us, they were just going to let my parents go instead! So now the whole family (except meÖ how did that happen?) gets a free trip to Orlando, Florida to bask in the sun and experience the wonder that is Disney World. I guess thereís something to be said for having siblings. Rich ones anyway.

Fast forward two months. We spend the whole weekend doing a whole bunch of random crap, and completely neglect the fact that we need to prepare to go on vacation for a week. So Monday rolls around and we start toying with the idea of packing. Tuesday comes, and everyone is packing all evening and night. I carefully pack more than enough clothes to last me the week, not adding in the washing machine factor. My suitcase is almost stuffed, and this will become a key factor near the end, so remember that. Nobody really gets any sleep, and before anyone realizes it, itís three oí clock Wednesday morning, and we have to be at the airport by 4:30

Weíre totally packed, sure we have everything, and are waiting for our rides. Both sets of my grandparents came to take us to the airport since there are so many of us and so much luggage to go along. Now, itís about 3:15, and my parents expect that weíre barely going to make it. Problem is, they forgot to factor in the lack of traffic in the middle of the night. So Iím perfectly confident that weíll be on time. It might have been my keen intuition, it might have been the lack of sleep, but I wasnít nearly as in a rush as everyone else. So I took a picture of myself just before I stepped out the door. And because I was the main photographer, this is one of the very few pictures with me in it.

UghÖ My neck seems to have rolled horribly. Oh well. Itís not like thatís how it is all the time. Keeping on track, I hopped in the van and popped on my shades. My grandpa remarked that I was too early to be taking flash pictures, and nobody commented on the sunglasses at night thing, because thatís the kind of thing I do. My family knows me well enough to not bother asking questions when I do something strange. So as I so cockily predicted, we made it to the airport with ample time to spare. Enough time, in fact, to enjoy a Tim Hortonís coffee. Well, the coffee drinkers did, that is. Me, I just complained that we had to wait half an hour. And it was only going to get worse from there.

We unpacked all the stuffs and moved them inside. After waiting in line for a good half hour, we waved bye bye to the grandparents and moved on the customs. Now Iím pretty sure that all those people who claim that customs is really harsh are all exaggerating, if just a little bit. All I had to do was put all my crap in a bucket so they could scan it. Then we sat around and waited for the plane to get ready. This took another half hour at least. Finally, we were aboard the plane. And waiting. Again. Only a short wait this time, and after the captain gave the OK, I busied myself in my GameBoy for the flight.

There were two major problems with this flight. One, was that my brothers had never been on a plane before, so they got dibbs on the window seats. It doesnít seem like a big deal, but watching out the window of a plane is strangely entrancing. Secondly, due to the stupid part of the population who have allergies (or was it idiots who choked on them? Iím not sure), I received no airplane peanuts. Instead, I was offered a granola bar and orange juice, which I grudgingly accepted, cause Iíd had no breakfast. The granola bar was so-so, but whatever kind of orange juice theyíre serving, it must be squeezed from the oranges of Eden, cause it was the best freaking OJ Iíd ever tasted. After 45 minutes or so of playing Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, the captain said to turn off electronics and we landed.

Our first stop was the Minneapolis airport, where we would transfer onto our flight to Orlando. Since we had 2 whole hours to waste, we stopped in at one of the local McDonaldíses. Iíve gotten tired of hotcakes over the years, so I did something completely out of character and got míself a McGriddle. Now Iíve read the review on X-E, and I know you can see yourself getting unhealthier as you eat it, but I wanted one, dagnabbit. I tried the eggs and bacon variety, and for someone who doesnít like eggs, I thought it was pretty damn good. Also noteworthy was a sign for the McRib, which instantly reminded me of the ďRibwichĒ episode of the Simpsons. And if you think a whole paragraph about an airport McDonaldís is bad, just you wait. Thereís a big surprise in the near future.

After that, we wandered the monstrously huge airport in hopes that weíd make it to our gate before takeoff. Yes, the Minneapolis airport is that huge. We did make it, and with a good hour to spare too. Fortunately for us, I have a special ability that lets me figure out where I need to go by reading signs that tell me which way to go. So we sat down, I played more Castlevania while listening to some sweet OC Remix tunes, and the time ticked by. It was getting boring, so we formed two groups; one which would sit and wait due to laziness, and one which would adventure in search of cool stuff to look at and/or buy. Surprisingly, I was in the latter.

So we walked down one hall, and then realized that there was nothing interesting to be seen in an airport other than the excess of ďThe Daily NewsĒ stores and went back to sit down. On the way back, I was distracted by a vending machine that had on display two types of bagged potato product: Potato Skins and Fritos. Now Iíve heard of Fritos, and they might be from the same guys who make Lays, and that was even more mind boggling, because there were Lays in the machine as well. I had no change on me, so I wasnít able to find out. I guess itíll be a mystery to me forever. As for the Potato Skins, I donít know whatís going on there, but the bag says ďT.G.I. FridayísĒ, so Iíll just assume the worst.

Eventually we got on the plane and started to fly away. This time, I got the window seat, as evidenced by the picture above. If youíve never seen the top of clouds, there you go. Look remarkably like the bottoms of clouds, donít they? Anywho, this flight was going to be about three hours long. It was a good thing that I brought a lot of stuff to do. I popped on the olí headphones and booted up the GameBoy Advance SP. Things were good until I got to Death (still playing AoS, of course). Now he wasnít much of a pain in Normal mode, but on Hard, he gives you quite a bit of trouble. So that got annoying and I gave up.

The ďflight attendantĒ came around eventually, and offered not a granola bar, but a bag of pretzels. These were a bit closer to peanuts, but still not the same. It would have been okay had they been good pretzels, but Iíll let you in on a little secret: airline pretzels suck. And thatís all there is to it. The OJ was the same as on the prior flight, and I enjoyed it muchly. Now you may be wondering why exactly I took a picture of my ďlunchĒ. Well, on the first trip to Disney World, I took several pictures of my food, and it had turned into a running in-joke with my family. So of course, before I left, I was reminded on several occasions to take pictures of my food. Sadly, this is one of only two I remembered to snap.

After I had become bored with Castlevania, I moved onto MegaMan Battle Network 2, and did a little bit of NetBattling with my brother. See, there are these secret battle chips hidden in the game, and the only way to get them is to play against a friend. And of course, to make it a bit harder, they show up randomly. Thatís the bad part. We played over 100 battles and only managed to get four out of ten of these secret chips. BN3 had the same problem, but there was only one secret chip per version. And Iím delighted to hear that BN4 supposedly has none of these horrible things. On the upside, that did waste about an hour and a half, so it wasted a good amount of time.

Now Iím convinced that we were riding in some sort of Transformer, mostly because itís a funny thought, but also because the winds kept changing shape. Now I know that they do that for a reason, but itís a lot funnier if I pretend that I donít. Just look at this shot compared to that other wing shot and tell me that there is no huge difference. ÖAh, this is really a waste. Itís not nearly as funny in writing as it is in person.

After the lengthy GameBoy session, we cleared the bunch of clouds, and I watched the scenery go by as we slowly got closer to our destination. There are a lot of things that you can see from up in the sky, and one of those just happened to be a building shaped like and S! And not just any S at that. Specifically, it is shaped much like the S in the Metroid symbol. I thought this to be odd and worthy of writing about, so I took a picture of it and circled it in red because without the circle itís kinda hard to see. Take it as you will, but I think that itís some sort of conspiracy. Conspiracy of what? I donít know, thatís why itís a conspiracy.

After a short nap and some more window-watching, the plane finally arrived. We got out and were astounded by what we had to travel to get to our baggage. See, the Orlando Airport is divided into two buildings; one where you board and get off the planes, and one where you enter/leave the place, pick up your rental vehicle, and deposit/claim baggage. These buildings are amply far away from each other, and to travel between them, you get to ride a monorail. And itís not just any monorail. It looks like it came straight out of some futuristic movie or something. Thatís about it. If you failed to be impressed, you need to see it to get the full effect. Really cool monorail.

So we rode that, picked up our luggage, and went to pick up our vehicle. Only problem was, out of all the vehicle rental dealies, we got the one with the longest line. Talk about getting the shaft. So after about another half hour, we were finally on our way to our hotel.

This in itself proved to be an even bigger problem. Something had gone askew and neither my mom nor dad could figure out where we were supposed to go, even though they had two maps, one specifically printed off the internet to tell us where to go. After weíd finally collected our bearings and figured out where we were (this took almost an hour), we scanned the map to find out where our hotel was. Now there were two possibilities; either our hotel was to only one not on the map, or we were headed somewhere that didnít actually exist. To our relief, we found the place after driving all over town all day. And what a town it was. There was so much crap there that you could be there a month and not see everything. As I was already aware, the same would apply to Disney World itself.

This is where we stayed, the Marriott Residence Inn. It was a nice place, and it seemed to be relatively new as well. Trust me when I say that this picture doesnít show even half the place. The place had everything I could ask for; free breakfast buffet, an arcade room, full cable TV, and an internet-ready PC. I know I didnít make any posts during the trip despite having the tools to do so, and I can justify that. Every time I went to try to get on the PC, there were some stupid teenage girls IMing it up, even though there was a framed sign right next to the thing that said, and I quote ďFor business purposes only. No chatting, please.Ē As useful as it is, I hate instant messaging. It just causes me to have less access to computers. Scratch that, I hate kids who use computers only for chatting, as they are most likely morons who know little more than how to use their P2P and IM programs, and donít deserve to be allowed to use computers.

Here are the pictures of the room that we stayed in, which is actually five rooms. One main room, with kitchen and lounge areas, two bedrooms, and two bathrooms. This is quite possibly the fanciest place Iíve ever stayed, so I was impressed to say the least. I, of course, stayed on the couch-bed. I always choose the couch-bed over one of the real beds. Why? I canít explain it, but I prefer the humbleness of it all. Oh, and there were three TVs, one in each main room, so everyone could watch what they wanted all weekend. My brothersí was seemingly stuck on MTV, because I donít think it ever changed. My parents did their thing, with the reality crap, and me, well I was captivated by al lot of the fancy American channels.

For most of the week, my tube was set to the Cartoon Network or the WB, and changing only to watch a little hockey and Big Daddy, which, if you havenít seen it, is a great movie. For the first couple days though, it was set to this one channel which was constantly looping this one promo for Disney World about the seven best attractions there. Now why would I watch this channel endlessly when I have trouble making it through a half-hour sitcom? Simple answer there: hot host. Seriously. Itís not exactly the most dignified reason, but itís the only reason I watched the thing even once.

Ooh! Hereís a good one. Check that out! Itís a silver and green fire hydrant, and not some kind of prop either. All of the hydrants were these funky colours. Maybe itís just me, but Iím always amazed by fire hydrants painted colours different than red and black/yellow. The red hydrant is the stereotype, and stuff like that is always constant. Why do places change the world-known colours? Itís just crazy, thatís what it is.

By the time we were ready to get a move on, it was already seven or later, so we didnít have a whole lot of time to adventure, but there were two must-see stops on out short first-day tour of Orlando. The first we had previously seen on the food channel: the worldís biggest McDonaldís. I told you it was only going to get worse. And it gets even worse than that, too. This place was HUGE. Iím sure everyoneís been to a Chuck-E-Cheese sometime in their life. Well this place was at least twice as big. It had 2 floors, tons of games, play areas, and decorations, and the most shocking part was that along side the regular McDís fare was real food. Gourmet crap, pizza, real sandwiches, seafood, salads, and even a dessert bar with waffle cones! This place had EVERYTHING.

In fact, it was so big that Iím going to write a full article about it. It was probably the most amazing thing Iíve ever seen, and I was ready to go home afterwards. It was like a whole vacation spot in itself. Let me say this, if you ever go to the States for a trip and you donít know where to go, head straight to Orlando and check this place out. It will absolutely blow your mind. But enough gabbing on about how great the place was, I was damn hungry by that time. I usually have an equal of four meals a day, and I had had less than one during this whole day, so I needed a big meal. Four double cheeseburgers with super-sized fries and drink hit the spot in a way I didnít think McDonaldís could. The only repercussions were that the pipes were blocked up for three or four days afterwards.

On the way out, I picked up a cone of the ice cream variety and we started out to our second location: the legendary 24-hour Wal-Mart. And we were lucky that it was open 24 hours, cause it was at least nine by the time we left. Finding it wasnít too much trouble, since we got some advice from some friendly locals and were on our way in no time.

As you can see, we did get there, even though everyone who we told about it said weíd not have enough time to make it there. Oh we made it there alright, and at least two other times during the week as well. Weíre just one of those families who will eat at McDonaldís twice in a day and find time to visit Wal-Mart three times while on a weeklong vacation to Disney World. Now is when you get to feel a lot better about your own family, unless they would do the same.

But this Wal-Mart wasnít only just open 24 hours a day, it was also a Super Wal-Mart. It was huge in comparaison to any other Wal-Mart Iíd ever seen, even that one Bizzarro Wal-Mart (That was on a completely different adventure. I fell asleep while in the van on a trip to hockey one day, and woke up to enter a Wal-Mart that was the exact opposite of the local store.). So of course, it had a hell of a lot more crap in it, but it also had an entire grocery store in it. The only thing wrong with it was that the electronics section was shamefully small and poorly stocked. It was less than half the size or my local Wal-Martís electronics section, and just slightly bigger than most Electronics Boutiques (That Iíve seen, anyway).

After stocking up on root beer, juice, foreign cereals, and various other foodstuffs, we left the giant store and headed home for the night. All in all, it had been quite a day, and it was still only the first of eight. We all knew that it was going to be a very busy and fun week, and they we had plenty of walking and a lot more waiting ahead of us. At least the weather down in Florida is a lot better than it is up here in crusty old Winnipeg. And the scenery too, the grass was a brilliant shade of green, the palm trees were everywhere, and most notably, there were eye-catching monuments of buildings everywhere. Among the most notable of those buildings were an upside-down museum thing, a huge inversed metal pyramid (the Hard Rock Vault), and one big freaking shoe on top of a closed-down sporting goods store.

After we got home, I ate some more, watched a little TV, audited my pictures and went to sleep after a rousing round of Ms. Pac-Man. So ends my tale for now, but be sure to tune in for part two of this extraordinary adventure, where we make our first stop at the Magic Kingdom, visit Wal-Mart for the second time, and discover a giant outlet mall where dreams come true.

~Ryan
E-Mail: Tuominenator[at]gmail[dot]com

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