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March 5, 2009

Disney Princess Half Marathon

This Sunday, March 8, I will be running the Inaugural Disney Princess Half Marathon. This will be my third "inaugural" Disney race - I also did the first Disneyland half marathon and the first Tower of Terror 13K. You only get one chance to do the first one!

Though men can enter, this race is really aimed at women. It also allows women to enter in two-person teams - Mother-daughter, sisters, friends, or co-ed. My friend Pam and I have entered as "The Evil Twins." We plan to have fun with that, though we're not twins, and neither of us is evil (well, she is. ;-) )

The course goes from the Epcot parking area to Magic Kingdom, down Main Street and through the castle, and back to Epcot. The race literature says it's a "new course" - but it sure looks like the normal half marathon course to me. Guess we'll see on Sunday!

Sunday morning at 1:00 a.m. is when the Daylight Saving Time change occurs - and originally Disney planned to start this race at 6:00 a.m. - which would really be 5:00 a.m. Fortunately they saw the light (or the dark, more likely) and decided to change the race time to 7:00 a.m. - which is still really 6:00 a.m. Or 3:00 a.m. to those of us just arrived from the west coast...

We spoke to one of the race organizers about this race back in October, and he told us it's really a re-branding of the Minnie Half Marathon, which used to take place in May. I don't know how many people are registered, but I doubt it's more than 10,000, and I think it's less than that. I'll know better when we pick up our registration packets on Friday. As usual, Disney has a very generous time limit - we have 3.5 hours to finish.

I would expect there to be a few Disney Princess characters along the course - but I hope they will give us a few Disney Princes, too! And maybe some other surprises.

You know, of course, that I will have a lot more to say about it after running the race on Sunday.

March 7, 2009

Princess Half Marathon Weekend - Day 1

Thanks to all of you who have written wishing us good luck in the race! We need it!

So, today is Friday. Yesterday was a travel day for Pam and me, and also for my husband Lee - he was in Charleston on business so flew from there instead of from San Diego with me.

We're staying in a one bedroom at the Boardwalk. When I walked in the bedroom last night I noticed something seemed odd...it took a while before I realized the *both* lamps that area supposed to be on the bedside tables were missing! Huh??? Why would someone take both lamps? We were having quite a lighting crisis - the bulb in the lamp in the living room was also out. Called Engineering and they said they'd take care of it - though they seemed confused by the idea that the actual *lamps* were missing.

Pam and I had dinner at ESPN Club, and after Lee arrived bout 9:00 we went to Big River Grille with him. He had dinner and we had dessert. (The Chocolate Confusion cake - it was just ok.)

When we got back to the room the light bulb had been replaced but the lamps were still missing. So I called again, and the person tried to tell me that there should be lights on the headboard. Uh no, sorry - there should be actual lamps. So they said they'd take care of it. No one showed up last night, but when we got back to the room this afternoon we had lamps again - they were powered on, I guess to prove that they worked!

Another issue with our room was the Internet - plugged the cable into the wall and got no signal. But if you plugged the cable into the modem itself it worked. Called Network Services and they said they'd take care of it - which they did. The lamp thing still strikes us as really odd, though!

So today was Day 1 of "Show Pam all the new stuff at Disney World". She hasn't been in the parks (running through Epcot and MK during the 2006 Half Marathon doesn't count) in over 4 years.

After breakfast at the Boardwalk Bakery we went to Animal Kingdom. It was an absolutely beautiful day here, by the way - I'm sure all those of you who are surrounded by snow are going to go green when you hear it was sunny and 80 today. Pam was loving it - she's from New Jersey, so she was dealing with 9" of snow earlier this week.

We got Fastpasses for Expedition Everest, and were just in time to catch the 10:00 showing of Finding Nemo - the Musical. Both of which are new to Pam. The Nemo show was not full at all - even arriving just a few minutes before it started we were able to find seats in the lower section over on the right side, so we had great viewing of the puppeteers.

Lee didn't care for this show too much when we first saw it, but he enjoyed it a lot this time - he said that being so much closer made a big difference. He liked it so well that he got the CD of the music. Pam has never seen the movie, but she enjoyed the show anyway. I liked it better than the first time, but I still think Crush needs a better song. The guy who played him was really good, though.

Time for our Expedition Everest Fastpasses by then. I think this ride has one of the most efficient Fastpass systems of any of them, and we were on the train maybe 2 minutes after we got in line - if that. I think it got a thumb's up from Pam, though she banged her head against the headrest.

When we walked by the siamangs they were putting on quite a "musical" show - there were three way high up in one of the towers, and two of them were really whooping it up - the AK version of the Hoop-de-do Revue, maybe? And then we got to see them traverse the rope lines back to the main temple building. Very cool.

The park was not too crowded today. After we got Fastpasses for the Safari we went back to Asia for the Flights of Wonder show. While we were waiting, I saw Jeanine walking by - she is also from California, and has written some Disneyland blog entries that you may have read (Blue Sky Cellar and Sleeping Beauty Castle). We were both surprised to see each other. We chatted for a few minutes and then she went on while we went into the Flights of Wonder theater.

Pam had seen this show, but it had been a while. Several of the birds were misbehaving a little bit, which is quite unusual, but I always find it rather amusing. I thought the raven was going to really take off with the dollar bill, though. :-) They had Pogo, the crazy parrot in the show again - he was still fun to watch.

It still wasn't quite time for our Safari Fastpasses so we went onto the Pangani Trail. At the okapi overlook we found a Cast Member who called them "Giraffes of the Forest" - I'd never heard that term before.

We were just approaching the savanna overlook when Lee said that he missed the gerenuks, which we hadn't seen in quite a while - but guess what, there were two gerenuks laying there in the grass. They got up and wandered away shortly thereafter, so our timing was good.

We saw several of the gorillas - the big silverback was laying right up against the glass watching all the of the silly people. :-)

It was time to use our Safari Fastpasses. The jeeps were a little backed up for some reason, but it wasn't too long before we got on. We had a pretty decent safari, though the driver didn't really have a lot to say - she skipped a lot of the spiel. Didn't talk about the baobob tree at all, or say anything about the word "reticulata" (Latin for "net-like" on the reticulated giraffes. We got to see one of the baby elephants - this was a pretty small one, so maybe it's the newest one?

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We had lunch at Flame Tree - Pam and I had the BBQ chicken salad, and Lee had the St. Louis ribs, and then headed out of the park. It was still an absolutely beautiful day!

Next stop was Wide World of Sports and the "Fit for a Princess Expo", where we had to go to pick up our bib numbers and t-shirts, etc. And do a little shopping, of course. :-) We are registered as a team "The Evil Twins", so in addition to picking up our regular bib numbers we had to pick up our team bibs also - these go on the back of our shirts. I guess that way everyone we pass (ha!) will know who is passing them. :-) We'd been wearing our matching "I'm the Evil Twin" shirts all day, and got a lot of comments from people about that - "How can you both be the Evil Twin", "Who's really the Evil Twin", stuff like that. We coordinated our wardrobes before we came down. :-)

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Before I go on, for those who don't know I should explain that Pam and I are not really twins, except in spirit, though we look like sisters. But we say we are twins separated at birth - by different parents, different years, and different coasts. :-)

The Expo seemed to be pretty well-staffed and organized. Race numbers only go up to 8000, so the race capacity is about what I was expecting - my guess was 7500 - 8000. The place they had the long line was for pickup of tickets to the "Happily Ever After" party at the Studios on Sunday night - there must have been 50 people line and only a couple of volunteers handling that. So I'm glad we didn't have to do that!

It was about 4:00 by then and we went back to the room for a while - and discovered that yes, we had lamps again!!! They'd fixed the internet connection, too. We relaxed for a little while before heading into Epcot for the evening. Which was Part 2 of "Show Pam all the new stuff at Disney World". And actually the largest part, since there's lots more that's new at Epcot than at the other parks.

But I'm going to have to write more about that later!

March 8, 2009

Princess Half Marathon Weekend - Days 1-2

(I didn't have time to finish all of Day 2's activities, I'm going to pick up where I left off from Friday, and then talk about today, Saturday.)

So, when we left our intrepid band on Friday evening, they were headed into Epcot for dinner, IllumiNations, and Extra Magic Hours.

On the Epcot schedule we'd seen the mention of the new Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure. Since this was new to all of us, and we thought it sounded interesting, we went to the Team Possible Recruitment Center near the UK pavilion to see if they were still recruiting. They were, and we got a ticket that told us to be at the Italy pavilion at 6:30. That was about 25 minutes away, and since we could hear British Invasion playing nearby, we went over and watched them for a while.

The band was wearing their Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band outfits - wow. Those are bright. We had time to listen to several songs (including When I'm 64, which they dedicated to anyone celebrating an anniversary) before we had to head off to Italy to begin our super-secret mission.

At the cart we checked in with the Team Possible agent, who told us we were going on one of her favorite missions, in Germany. She gave us a Kimmunicator (a cell phone) and a few more instructions, but the bulk of what we needed to know was provided on the phone itself.

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This was really great fun - I'd read somewhat mixed reviews of the Kim Possible adventures on the internet, but we enjoyed ourselves. Lee says I'm not allowed to spoil it for others, so for now I'll just say that the Imagineers have put things in here that will appeal to kids and adults. The best part is that in the pavilions you get to make certain things happen - which will totally amaze other guests, who have no idea who is doing it. And some of the effects you are allowed to do over again, so that's fun.

Once you've completed a mission you have the option to do others - we were given a choice between Mexico, Norway and Japan and chose Norway for a second adventure. By then it was getting dark, so some of the effects were hard to see. And we also ran into several other Kim Possible teams in Norway, so we were on top of each other a little bit. That one was ok, but not as good as the one in Germany - the special effects we could create were not as noticeable. We chose to return our Kimmunicator at that point - they have drop boxes at the end points of each mission.

It was time for dinner, and we went to one of our favorites - Tangierine Cafe in Morocco. It was about as busy as I've ever seen it - we had to wait in line to order, and then almost didn't find an empty table. Pam and I each had the Falafel Wrap (without consulting each other we keep ordering the same things - see why we call ourselves twins?), and Lee had the Lamb Shawarma platter. All delicious, as always!

The park was closing at 8:00 and not 9:00, so IllumiNations was at 8:00. We barely had time to get to a spot near that red gate thing in Japan (Tori gate?) before it started. The flame barge is still not working, and that looked rather odd. But we enjoyed the show.

First stop on the "New Things" tour was O Canada. I was a little surprised that the Cast Members didn't check our resort ids, but it's not like it was really that full. We enjoyed it.

Next up was The Seas with Nemo and Friends, where they DID check our resort ids (though only needed one per party) before we entered that seemingly endless queue for the Clam-mobiles. I heard the starfish at the end say something different this time - something like how she liked that song (Big Blue World) but not when she had to hear it over and over and over again. I wonder how many other things she says - before I've only heard her counting the people going by.

We also saw Turtle Talk with Crush - Pam had seen the version of this they have at DCA when she came to California last summer. Dude! It's totally awesome!

By the way, it cooled off a lot yesterday evening - 80 during the day but already down in the 60s by 7:00, so we were in long pants and light jackets.

Spaceship Earth has changed fairly recently, so that was our next stop. Pam was surprised to hear Judi Dench narrating (and she recognized her voice right away - that's why she is the Cultured Twin). Don't ask me what's going on with my head in the picture - Pam says it's a horn because I'm evil. :-)

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Mission Space was also new to Pam, but we opted for the Green Team. (Since none of us wanted to actually *look* green after the ride!) Lee chose not to ride, but Pam and I successfully completed our training, though the motion simulators bother her and she had to close her eyes for part of it. She says that's a ride that she never has to do again. :-)

Last ride of the night was "it's a small mexico"...I mean, the Gran Fiesta Tour. It was getting close to 11:00 (when the park was closing), so we had the boat all to ourselves. And I've never heard it so quiet in the Mexico pavilion - it was very nice!

Lee wanted some dessert, but since it was so late, almost nothing was still open at Epcot, like the coffee and pastry carts, and we were pretty sure the Boardwalk Bakery would be closed by the time we got back there. But when we walked by the UK, their shop was still open, and I suggested to Lee that he get some chocolate. He went in and had fun flirting with the two young ladies working in the shop, and asking what their favorites were. We ended up with a Flake bar, and Galaxy bar, and Aero bar, a Twirl bar and some clotted cream fudge. We sampled most of them when we got back to the room.

Twirl bar got a thumbs up, and I liked the Galaxy bar (even though I'm not really into milk chocolate, it was still nice and smooth). The Flake bar just had a weird texture - it WAS flaky, and good chocolate shouldn't be flaky, in my book. The fudge wasn't chocolate at all - it was more like caramel but with the consistency of fudge. It was very good, though.

And so ended our first full day - now perhaps you see why I didn't finish yesterday's blog entry until today! :-)

So this morning was another bright and sunny day. We went over to the Studios, planning to get a Fastpass for Toy Story Mania, and see the Lights Motors Action stunt show. But you know what they say about the best-laid plans...we did not realize that it was a Magic Morning at the Studios, so when we arrived at 9:00 they had already been open to resort guests for an hour. Our Toy Story Mania fastpasses were for 12:20! And the first stunt show wasn't until 1:20.

We had breakfast at Starring Rolls - they have completely rearranged it since the last time we were there - and it's really a disaster. The wraparound layout is just awful, and the line got held up for minutes at a time with people waiting to toast their bagels (the toasting station is in the line, and not away from it!) and get the hot beverage orders. Lee and I got cinnamon rolls and drinks out of the refrigerated case just so we didn't have to stand in line to get bagels (even untoasted) and hot beverages.

There was no place to sit when we got outside, so we sat on a bench with our trays on our laps. After a few minutes a very nice woman came up and said they were leaving, and asked if we would like their table! So very thoughtful of her!

We went to the Prince Caspian exhibit - Pam had never seen the movie, but the nice thing about the show is that they show you enough movie clips that you've seen most of the movie by the time the show ends.

After that we decided to go to Magic Kingdom - the Studios was just too crowded and all the standby lines were long, and there really wasn't anything else we wanted to do between then and 12:20 (our Fastpass time).

You can't actually take a bus to Magic Kingdom - we had to go to the TTC and then take a ferry or monorail. We lucked out in that the bus was just getting ready to leave when we got there. We decided to take the ferry just so we could try a different mode of Disney transportation.

After we got Fastpasses for Space Mountain we went to the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor Comedy Club - new for Pam. It was a fun show - Pam says that Roz is her new favorite character. She *is* somewhat evil, after all. :-) And then we went to Stitch's Great Escape, also new to Pam. I know to hold my breath for the whole chili dog thing, fortunately. :-)

Today's matching t-shirts say "Property of WDW Commando Task Force". On the back, they say "Carpe Disney". :-)

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Crowds had really picked up in the Magic Kingdom. But after all, it IS Saturday, a notoriously busy day. We noticed that El Pirata y El Perico, a restaurant in Adventureland, was open - we'd never eaten there because it always seems to be closed when we're here. It's pretty basic (and not very good) Mexican food - they only have ground beef and not chicken. Pam and I had the vegetarian tacos (with black beans) and Lee had the taco salad. One interesting thing - the entrees only come with the tortillas and the beef or bean filling - for the rest you go to the toppings bar, where you can pile on as much lettuce, tomato, cheese, onion, and salsa as you want.

The corn tortilla shells for the tacos were pretty awful - obviously pre-cooked and just pulled out of a box. The flour tortilla shell on Lee's taco salad was freshly fried, though, and it was pretty good.

Haunted Mansion had a 20 minute standby posted (and it looked longer) so we bypassed it and went to Philharmagic. We were able to get into the next show, so had about a 10-minute wait. That show was full - I've never seen that before. Pam enjoyed it - she liked the 3-D graphics and the music.

We tried Haunted Mansion again but it was up to a 30-minute wait, so we went to use our Space Mountain Fastpasses. Wow, that is a looooong queue - and the standby side of it was full. Lee noticed that Space Mountain is darker inside than it used to be - it's been a long time since we have ridden it during the day instead of at night.

What to do after that? It was about 2:15 and there was really nothing more we wanted to do at Magic Kingdom, so we decided to take the monorail and bus back to the Studios and use our Toy Story Mania Fastpasses. On our way out of the park we thought about getting ice cream, but decided we'd get it back at the Boardwalk after we went to to the Studios.

We again lucked out with Disney transportation - the monorail arrived right as we got to the top of the ramp, and the bus to the Studios was about ready to leave the bus stop.

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But when we arrived back at Toy Story Mania they told us it was down with technical issues, and they hoped to have it running again "soon". Ok...Plan C. Let's get ice cream here while we wait.

There was a very long line at Dinosaur Gertie's, but I remembered that they had ice cream sundaes and milk shakes at Prime Time - and thought maybe we could order those at the Tune-In Lounge. There were three seats at the bar, and we asked John the bartender if we could do that, and he said sure, and brought us menus - including the dessert menu on the Viewmaster. :-) Lee got a root beer float, I had a hot fudge sundae, and Pam had a hot fudge sundae with chocolate ice cream. And we had a lot of fun chatting with John as he worked. It was really a nice break for us - we were able to sit down for a while (staying off our feet the day before a race is a good thing!), and have something sweet in a fun atmosphere.

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After we'd indulged our sweet teeth we checked the Information board at Hollywood and Sunset - nope, Toy Story was still down. Lee noticed that a Beauty and the Beast show was starting in about 15 minutes, so we went there. Yet another excuse to sit for about 45 minutes! :-) The show was good, though this particular Gaston needed a lot of padding to give him much in the way of muscles...

Toy Story was up and running again after the show ended - yay! Of course the Fastpass return line was longer than usual because it had been down, but we were still on in about 20 minutes. Pam had done the ride in California, but not in Florida. She and I rode together. We were able to trip the "Easter Eggs" for the balloons and the robot, and I got the fox on the hen house a couple of times, which I'd never done before.

We walked back to the Boardwalk and relaxed for a while, before going over to Picabu at the Dolphin for our pre-race dinner. They didn't have any pasta except lasagna, unfortunately. Pam had that, and I had the rotisserie chicken, and Lee had the pot roast, which he said was quite good.

So now Pam and I are getting our stuff together for the race tomorrow - we'll both be happy to have it over with. Though by the time many of you read this we will already be finished, one way or another!

March 9, 2009

Princess Half Marathon Weekend - Race Day

We did it!!!! And actually we did a lot better than we were expecting to do. 2:42:49, and that includes a lot of stops for photos with characters.

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The weather was just about perfect by my standards - it was ~56 at the start, and it was about 68 when we finished. Not too humid and there was a nice cool breeze. I had worn a sweatshirt and a head band, but I think I had both of those off by about mile 4.

It was a very well-run race - which of course is what we expect from Disney. They really did a great job of having characters throughout the course after it got light - from mile 5 on there was at least one character photo op - and sometimes more. That really helped to break things up since we stopped for every one.

The medal is just gorgeous - that's certainly something that Disney does really well. This one has lots of rhinestones and a synthetic heart-shaped amethyst - it's really sparkly and pretty.

It was very nice that Disney changed the start time to 7:00 rather than 6:00 - it meant a lot less running in the dark for us - it was starting to get light by 20-30 minutes into the race.

We got up a little before 5:00 (having set all our clocks one hour ahead the night before, since this was the day of the Daylight Saving Time change), and left the room about 5:30. Lee was nice and volunteered to get up with us and drive us there, and then come back and pick us up later. We had no problems getting to Epcot, but once there the traffic going through the entrance was backed up, because they had 6 lanes merging down to 2. That took a long time to get through - I think we finally parked about 6:30 and by then they were already walking people back to the start line. We didn't have a lot of time in the pre-race areas - hit the porta-potties and said goodbye to Lee.

The walk to the starting area was pretty long - close to a mile, I think! It was a bit chilly but not too cold, fortunately. I had a sweatshirt and a headband, and I was ok. Pam was wearing long pants and had on a long-sleeved pullover in addition to her short-sleeved shirt and a headband of her own, and she was ok. In addition to our regular number bibs in front, we were wearing our "The Evil Twins" team bibs on our backs. In the registration process we were asked who our favorite princess was (Belle, Aurora, Cinderella or Snow White) and we got different colored bibs depending on what we chose. I had a blue Cinderella bib and Pam had a gold Belle bib.

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There were three start corrals - we were in the last one, but we moved as far forward as we could, so were maybe 1/3 of the way from the front of it. But back where we were there were no speakers, and we couldn't see the start line at all, so we really had no idea what was going on. There was a big push forward when the Wheelchairs went out at 6:55, and then we started moving a little after 7:00.

We were disappointed in the start - there were no fireworks and of course we couldn't see or hear anything. It took us almost 15 minutes to cross the starting line, and there were still a couple thousand people behind us! The Fairy Godmother and a lady-in-waiting type woman that I didn't recognize were at the start line cheering us on.

And we were off! As usual, going was pretty slow in the beginning with so many people going so many different paces and trying to sort themselves out. It was nice that Disney changed the start time from 6:00 to 7:00 - it started getting light 15-20 minutes after the race started.Apparently all of the mile marker signs had some special features - the one I heard the announcer say was that there was a hidden mickey on each. Each one was different, and featured characters from one of the Disney "Princess" movies.

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By Mile 2 we had a lot of daylight, and were well on our way towards Magic Kingdom.In several places along the road, there were signs (sponsored by the Sharpie company) with Princess Trivia questions - first a question, and then a little beyond was the answer. Something to do between Miles 2 and 3!

There were several different groups entertaining us from miles 1-5 - a very nice chamber orchestra group playing classical music, a guitar group, an oriental drum group, and several DJs. We had Powerade and water stops just about every mile, and they were well-staffed with wonderful volunteers, just like always. It's easy to take that for granted, but they are terrific and we couldn't do it without them!

Between Mile 4 and 5 we went by the Magic Kingdom parking lot and through the TTC (Ticket and Transportation Center), and under the waterway that connects the 7 Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake - there was a very nice banner there.

And then came the really fun part - running in Magic Kingdom! We ran down Main Street and through Tomorrowland into Fantasyland. I was surprised that there were no characters until we got just behind the castle, and there we found Snow White and her Prince, and several Ladies-in-Waiting. And something else I'm not used to seeing - *lines* to take pictures with the characters! Disney handled it pretty well - they generally had two different people available to take pictures, and one would take the camera from the next group while the other was taking a picture, so they kept things moving along.As we ran through the castle we started yelling "woooooooo", and got a bunch of other runners doing it, too. :-) Nice echo in there.

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Not long after the Mile 6 mark we crossed the train tracks (one of the trains and its engineers were there to greet us) and went backstage. There were several character opportunities there - Chip and Dale, all dressed up in tuxes, and Donald and Daisy also in evening wear - Donald had an especially dapper top hat. Pluto was back there, also.

After we turned onto Grand Floridian Way we got another sequence of Princess Trivia
signs - like this one: Who are the Disney Princesses?

Well? Can you name them all? I'll give you a hint, Disney says there are 8.

And here's the answer:

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Since we ARE the Evil Twins, we were very happy to see our heroine, Maleficent, after Mile 7. (And very happy to hit Mile 7 since that meant we were over halfway - woo hoo!!!) I pointed out the Evil Twin bibs on our backs - though she didn't seem very impressed, and told us to "Run along, girls", after we had our photo taken. :-)

Next were Aurora and Prince Philip - I have to say it was nice to see the Princes in addition to the Princesses!

The longest photo line we saw all day was for Belle, the Beast, Wendy, and Peter Pan. We waited at least 5 minutes there. We didn't make very good time in that Mile 7-Mile 8 stretch because there were so many characters. Not that I'm complaining about that - it was nice to have the excuse to stop, and wonderful to see so many of them!

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Just after Mile 8 were Pocahontas and John Smith, with a very nice backdrop. The characters were all so gracious about posing with all of us sweaty runners.

Though I didn't take any pictures of them, we saw quite a few runners who were wearing some really nice costumes. For a while we were running behind a group which had a Cinderella, a Belle, and a Tinker Bell. And we saw an Ariel that actually had a mermaid's tail sticking out behind her! There were some very nice Snow White, Jasmine, and Auroras, too. And lots of women wearing tutus and tiaras. We saw a few wearing those tall pointy Princess hats - those seemed like they would be very difficult to run in, though!

Aladdin and Jasmine were out just after Mile 9, and after we'd posed with them, Abu came out from somewhere, too.

No characters between miles 10 and 11, and we were starting to get pretty tired, but by then we only had two miles left, so we kept running. (And I'd just like to point out that it was *Pam*, who had been telling me all weekend that I was going to have to drag her along the last few miles that kept on running, even when I would've been happy to stop and walk for a while! That's why *she's* the Evil Twin!)

We crossed the next-to-last overpass (they got steeper every time!) and found Alice in Wonderland and the Mad Hatter. And just before the last overpass were Tinker Bell and one of her Pixie pals - though I don't know her name.

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Just after the last overpass was the Mile 12 sign. Yay!!! Only a little over a mile to go! Not long after that we ran backstage into Epcot, and came back into Epcot um...I think it was between the Art of Disney shop and the restrooms. (Pam says yes.) Just after the fountain we found Stitch and the Queen of Hearts.

We ran to the end of the walkway that connects Future World and World Showcase, and then made a U-turn back towards Spaceship Earth. Only about 1/2 mile to go! I know I was ready to be done by then.

Backstage again between Innoventions and the restrooms, and then a little ways further to the Mile 13 sign.

We started to sprint the last tenth of a mile ("sprint" being a relative term at that point!), but just a few feet before the finish line were Mickey and Minnie, so I made Pam stop and pose for a picture with them. She hated me for that. :-) And then we ran across the finish line together!

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2:42:49 - woo hoo!!! I really expected it to take us at least 3 hours. We finished in just under 3 hours of elapsed time - but remember we had that 15 minute delay in crossing the start line.

We got our timing chips cut off and got our bright shiny medals, and got drinks and a little something to eat. And then went out to the Family Reunion area to meet Lee - but he wasn't there quite yet. Once he arrived he took a few photos of us and then we walked back to the car - that sure seemed like a loooong walk - our legs were tired! But overall we were so happy with the race and how we did - it was a great experience and I'm really glad I nagged Pam enough to talk her into doing it with me. She did just great and it was wonderful to be able to share this experience with her.

In the Team competition we finished 24th out of 51 "Open" teams, so that was pretty good!

March 12, 2009

Princess Half Marathon - The Rest of the Weekend

I'm back home now, but thought I'd finish writing about the rest of the trip.

So, when we left our heroines they had just completed running the Inaugural Disney's Princess Half Marathon. We pick up our story after they have returned to the Boardwalk and showered.

Breakfast (a bagel) had been hours before, and since it was almost noon we were really ready for some real food. I visited the Menus pages on AllEars looking at the menus of the various restaurants in the Boardwalk area (yes, we do refer to the site ourselves!), and we decided that The Fountain at the Dolphin sounded good.

We were able to walk right in and sit in a booth - we chose the booth because it had seats that were more padded than the chairs! :-) I'd made Pam wear her medal (and I was wearing mine) and our server noticed them and congratulated us - and he was very good about keeping our drink glasses filled.

When we were looking at the menus, one item that had really intrigued us about the Fountain's menu was something called "Griddled Fladen Breads". (Pronounced flaw-den.) Pam ordered the Spicy Chicken Fladen and Lee ordered the Albacore Tuna and Cheddar Melt. It was interesting - Pam's came folded over and sliced into triangles like a quesadilla, while Lee's was served open-faced like a flat bread pizza. The Spicy Chicken one was the favorite, though the albacore was good, too.

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I had a cup of the roasted tomato soup with croutons, and a turkey burger. Both were quite tasty - though at that point even cardboard might have been tasty. :-) Although the Fountain also has a very nice selection of milkshakes, ice cream, sundaes, etc. we skipped those. We were able to use our DVC member card to get a 20% discount, so that was nice.

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Pam and I were tired (gee, I wonder why?) and just wanted to relax so we headed back to the Boardwalk and Lee went into Epcot to wander around. Pam and I went to the hot tub at the quiet pool and put our feet in front of the jets - ahhhhhhhhh....foot massage. We went back to the room and planned to nap but I couldn't sleep - I was tired but not sleepy. That happened to me after the marathon, too. So I worked on my race day blog entry instead.

Lee came back about 4:30 - he'd had a nice afternoon in Epcot wandering around, watching the Voices of Liberty, drinking a beer, and people watching.

We had dinner reservations at Jiko, so we left for Animal Kingdom Lodge a little after 5:00. They've gotten strict about checking people in again at the resort entrance - I told them we had reservations at Jiko and they actually checked the list to make sure.

At Jiko we were seated after a short wait - they put us in the Wine Room. It's a little quieter, but rather out of the way. We were the first seating of the night, so it's not like the main part of the restaurant was full! But they were seating several other parties in there, too.

We shared a couple of appetizers - the Barbecue Chicken Flatbread and the Curried Samosas. The restaurant has a new chef de cuisine since we ate there in October, and I thought the barbecue sauce had more of a kick to it.

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The menu hasn't really changed very much since our last visit, though. Pam and I, of course, were thinking about the same two entrees - she eventually ordered the Maize-Crusted Halibut and I ordered the Chermoula Tanglewood Chicken.

I had the halibut in October and it was great - and it was wonderful this time, too. Pam shared, and we all got to enjoy it. It was served with "Vegetables of the Moment", which seemed to be a mix of lima beans, pea pods, spinach and slices of something that looked like onion but didn't taste like it.

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The chicken was fine - it was moist and flavorful, but the thing that had most intrigued me about it was the Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes that came with it. I couldn't taste any goat cheese, though. It was also served with some micro greens. It was fine, but I probably wouldn't get it again.

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Lee ordered the Pan-Seared Scallops - with Butternut Squash Gratin, Apple Slaw, and Apple Vinaigrette. He enjoyed that, and the apple slaw was quite good.

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We decided to pass on dessert, since what we really wanted was ice cream, and we had several choices for that back at the Boardwalk - Seashore Sweets, Beaches and Cream, or the Fountain.

It was 7:00, but thanks to the time change it was still very light outside, so we went out to the Uzima Savanna overlook to see if there were any animals. We got a special bucking giraffe show. :-) There was a giraffe eating from one of the feeders, while one of the Ankole cows came up behind it, moving closer, and closer. The giraffe apparently thought those big horns were getting TOO close, because suddenly it turned and started bucking and charging toward the cow. The cow quickly moved away and the giraffe went back to eating...and the cow started moving closer again. :-) Eventually the giraffe finished and moved away, and the cow was able to move in and start grazing on whatever the giraffe had dropped.

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We saw five other giraffes out there, too, in addition to more Ankole cattle, some impala, and a nyala in the distance. Fun to see them.

After we returned to the Boardwalk Pam went to the room while Lee and I went in search of dessert. I obviously had not logged nearly enough miles that day, because what I really wanted was gelato from The MarketPlace in the Beach Club - which is completely on the opposite side of Crescent Lake. We walked over there and I got my scoop of chocolate gelato. This has got to be one of the bargains at WDW - it was a VERY generous scoop, and was only $2.55! And it's *so* good.

Lee had his heart set on a milkshake, so we went to Beaches and Cream next. The server started to give me a bad time about bringing ice cream into Beaches and Cream until I told her it was gelato - and then she understood. :-) We walked the rest of the way around Crescent Lake and back to our room - my gelato lasted just that long. :-)

Finished up my race day blog and went to bed - we were all looking forward to a better night's sleep than we had the night before, now that the race was over.

Monday morning we had to get up and pack. Unfortunately Pam had started feeling unwell the night before with a cold or allergies, and she was really feeling rotten that morning. :-( She got some cold remedies in the Screen Door General Store, and we left her sleeping in the room while Lee and I went off to have breakfast at Picabu.

That was a pleasant surprise - I had their bacon, egg, and cheese ciabatta sandwich and it was really quite good. The egg and cheese were cooked like an omelet, and then served on a nice soft ciabatta roll (not tough and chewy like they usually are) with slices of bacon on top. It also came with lyonnaise potatoes.

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Lee had the quiche (spinach and onion, I think?) which also came with potatoes, and that was also good. And we again got our 20% DVC discount.

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It was getting close to check-out time (11:00) by the time we got back to the room. Pam really didn't feel up to going anywhere, so after we put our bags in the car she went to the quiet pool to nap on one of the lounges while Lee and I went into Epcot for a while. We wandered around Future World first and saw the Jammitors.

And we also admired a lot of the topiaries and plantings that are already in place for the Flower and Garden Festival. It seemed awfully early for that, but I hadn't realized that it was starting so early this year - March 18.

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We wandered around World Showcase clockwise - saw a lot of people with their "Kimmunicators" who were enjoying the Kim Possible Adventures. There were more families with kids this time. In Germany I was able to get a better photo of the final effect we had for our adventure than I did at night on Friday.

By the time we'd gotten back around to the International Gateway it was time to leave the park and head home. We collected Pam at the pool, where I think she'd been able to sleep a little, and headed off to the airport, where we said goodbye to Pam just before we boarded our flight. It was great to see her, and wonderful to be able to run with her, I'm just sorry that she ended up feeling so poorly at the end. :-(

Our flights were uneventful and we were at home about 8:15.

March 27, 2009

Grand Californian Villas Hard Hat Tour

On Thursday I had the opportunity to take a "Sneak Peek Hard Hat Tour" of the DVC Grand Californian Villas. These villas are still under construction - they are scheduled to open late this fall - November according to some of the literature we were given.

Our tour began with a continental breakfast and an overview of the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) program from DVC Sales Director Mike Brunson. Lee and I have been DVC members since 1996, so the program itself is quite familiar to me. (Since AllEars has a very comprehensive DVC page, I won't cover it here - see the AllEars Disney Vacation Club page for all of the details.)

Some things I learned about the Grand Californian Villas (GCV):

It is the smallest DVC resort to date - a total of only 50 units. There are 48 two-bedroom units (most of which can be split into a one bedroom and a studio) and two Grand Villas.

It will be the 10th Disney Vacation Club property to open.

The Grand Villas will sleep 12 and are two stories high.

Our next stop was the DVC Models, which are located near the Wonder Tower of the Disneyland Hotel. I had seen these last year, but at that point they were not quite ready for the public and we were not allowed to take photos.

What can I say - the rooms are gorgeous. They have models of a Studio and a One-Bedroom unit. The rooms are decorated in the Arts & Crafts style like the rest of the Grand Californian, so there's lots of wood, granite counter tops, stained-glass lamps, etc. We started our tour in the Studio, since it just gets better from there. Yeah, staying in a Studio is a pretty tough assignment. :-)

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We moved next door into the One-Bedroom unit. These units have a design that is a little different from most of the other DVC resorts - the major difference is that there is a second bathroom. Which would make it a lot easier if there's 4-5 people staying in it. These units also accommodate 5 people instead of 4 - there's a Murphy bed built into the bottom of the entertainment unit. Very tricksy! :-) The dining room table has a built-in bench seat, so it takes up a little less room that way.

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For the hard hat tour we moved into the construction site itself. We were not allowed to take any photographs, so that's why all you'll see are photos taken from outside.

First we had to put on hard hats - they were white and said "VISITOR" on them.

Our two guides were Leah Jason, the Walt Disney Imagineering Construction Supervisor, and Bruce Campbell, the Senior Superintendent, who works for CWD - the building contractor.

We started on the very bottom floor, which is actually the valet parking garage. Since space is at a premium, they put the parking garage below the new part of the hotel. There are two parking levels and about 300 spaces.

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From there we went up the freight elevator to the third floor. The rooms in that section are all standard guest rooms - the new wing of the Grand Californian adds about 200 new guest rooms in addition to the 50 DVC units. Most of these rooms had drywall on the walls, and the tile in the tub area was done. But no plumbing or any other fixtures yet.

There are going to be "bridges" to tie the new part of the building to the existing part on the second through sixth floors. On the first floor will be a covered walkway. To me that description sounded quite similar to the way that Wilderness Lodge and Villas at Wilderness Lodge are connected.

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There will be three passenger elevators.

From there we went up to the 5th floor and into one of the Grand Villas. We were on the second floor of it, where there is a balcony that overlooks the living area below, and also what will be a two-story window overlooking Paradise Bay in Disney's California Adventure. Wow. That is going to be a wonderful view - and it should be a prime view for the new World of Color show that starts next year.

We went across the building to the other Grand Villa - this one will overlook the new pool area. This new Mariposa pool and spa are located on what used to be the wedding lawn. There will be a walkway connecting it to the existing pool area.

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This floor was a lot less finished - the interior walls were still open and not yet covered with drywall. I found it It very confusing being in a building that really had no identifying features and all of those open walls. Good thing we had expert guidance! :-)

Bruce told us that there are 250 workers on-site per day. And he's worked for Disney before - he was part of the team that built the Tower of Terror attraction.

Our final stop was the Observation Deck on the sixth (top) floor. This area also overlooks Disney's California Adventure. The area will have a trellis type of cover and its own set of restrooms - apparently it will be available for booking special events.

We went back down the freight elevator and turned in our hard hats before leaving the site. Thank you to Leah and Bruce for taking us on the tour - it was very interesting to see the construction in progress.

I'm glad that there is finally going to be a DVC resort in California, but it's so small that I'm not sure I'll ever get the chance to stay there. Since we don't live that far away, we don't stay overnight very often - and when we do I don't make reservations 7 months in advance, which is probably what it's going to take to be able to book a stay. Up until now we've been able to use our points to book a hotel room at the Grand Californian, but once the DVC resort opens we will no longer be able to do that - though we will still be able to book stays at the Disneyland Hotel and the Paradise Pier.

March 29, 2009

Celebrate! A Street Party Opens at Disneyland

Lee and I saw the opening performance of the new "parade": Celebrate! A Street Party at Disneyland on Friday afternoon.

According to Disney: "A cast of dancers, DJs and Disney characters invite guests to join the celebration as they take to the street for a high-energy street party featuring lively music, colorful costumes, confetti and streamers. Guests will join in twist dancing, a conga line and all the colorful fun of a celebration on Main Street, U.S.A., or at "it's a small world" mall."

From the Entertainment Times Guide: "Everyone's invited to join Mickey Mouse and his pals at Disneyland's biggest most exciting dance party ever! We'll be pumpin' up the streets and celebrating you!"

We watched the parade from the terraced area near "it's a small world" - got there an hour early and already there was no street viewing available! The parade has "Celebration Zones", and the Disneyland Cast Members clearly mark those off with ropes, and inform those who are waiting outside the area that they are not in one of the zones, in case they want to move.

The parade begins with a group of dancers, the women in sequined dresses and the men looking like 1920s college boys.

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There are four floats topped with character balloons (Donald, Mickey, Minnie and Goofy) with three stage floats in between. The stage floats each have a miked DJ whose job is to get the crowd into it. There's also a group of characters riding on each stage.

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Once the parade reaches the Celebration Zone and stops, everyone goes into action. The drums on each character balloon float are part stage, part prop closet, and part costume trunk.

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The party starts as the DJ asks people what they are celebrating - birthday, anniversary, just married - or just a spring day.

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The first of the costume changes begins as the men don sequined jackets and the women put on sequined hats. The characters and dancers dance and swing to "Jump With My Baby Tonight", "I Wanna Be Like You", and "Jump, Jive and Wail".

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Then it's time to rock to "I Love Rock and Roll" and "Do You Wanna Dance". Guests are invited to come out and do "The Twist".

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And here come the stiltwalkers!

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Time for a little salsa to "Cup of Life" as the vests and skirts come out of the costume trunk.

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Guests are again invited out to join the "World's Largest Conga Line" with the characters, to the "Latin-ized" versions of Disney tunes like "In the Tiki Room", "Never Had a Friend Like Me" and "Under the Sea".

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Bicycle chariots suddenly appear and the characters climb aboard and are taken for a wild ride to the music of "You Can't Stop the Beat".

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On the balloon floats confetti-decorated "Air Dancers" come out of the drums on each corner.

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As the song ends the confetti launchers go off, sending streamers and Mickey head-shaped confetti into the air.

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The concluding dance number is the original "Celebrate You", which continues as the characters climb back on to the stages and the parade begins to move off.

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I timed it - the parade started at 3:30, and by 3:34 all of the floats were in place and it had come to a stop. The performance is about 12 minutes long - at 3:47 the parade had started to move on.

There are lots of Disney and Disney*Pixar characters in the parade - including some that aren't quite as common, like Mary Poppins and Bert, and a rather shapely chipmunk that we did not recognize, but I have since learned is Clarice, Chip and Dale's would-be girlfriend.

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One thing that Lee noticed - the signs at the top of the stage floats change depending on what is going on.

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This parade is more in the Block Party Bash vein, where the floats themselves are very minimal, and the main attraction is the three performance stops. There are three performance zones: Small World Promenade, Central Plaza (aka the Hub) and Main Street U.S.A. If you aren't in one of the performance zones, then you better not blink because it goes by really fast. Cast Members put up ropes to define the performance zones, and they inform those who are NOT in the zones that they might want to move.

I have to say that I was pretty underwhelmed by it. While I enjoyed the performers' energy (they could teach the Energizer Bunny a thing or two!), but the "Street Party" aspect really didn't do much for me. There's not a lot to the parade itself, so it relies on audience participation to give it much substance. I'm not one of those people who wants to go out and dance on the parade route, nor does it really entertain me to watch other people do so.

The floats themselves are not much to speak of - quite honestly to me they look like they were done on the cheap, especially the balloon characters on top. There's no where near the level of detail and visual interest that there was with the old Walt Disney's Parade of Dreams floats - no animatronics or really anything technical beyond the rather cheesy blow-up air streamers and confetti shooters. In that respect it's an extremely disappointing follow-up to the Parade of Dreams.

Since Lee was with me and doesn't totally agree, he asked to add his own opinion as a "qualified person with an opposing point of view". Lee says he thinks that the whole point was to have the floats not be the focus of attention and that he doesn't think they seem at all cheap - they are nicely themed mobile three-story miniature dance halls with scrolling signs, sound systems, confetti launchers and stage lights (which I'm sure are more impressive after dark). In some ways, it's unfair to even call this a parade...or to compare it to other parades. It really is a mobile dance party and he thinks it does that very well. It is fair to ask if folks would prefer a mobile dance party or a real parade.

Let me say that I have the utmost respect for the performers, though - they were holding nothing back, and since we saw the first performance stop, we really wondered how they were going to get through two more!

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About March 2009

This page contains all entries posted to Salute to All Things Disney but Mostly Disneyland in March 2009. They are listed from oldest to newest.

February 2009 is the previous archive.

April 2009 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.