So, as many of you are quite aware of, on September 27th, I depart to Orlando, Florida for a little adventure. Obviously, I’m very excited. Like a 6 year old on Christmas Eve. There are so many reasons why this particular trip means so much to me.
Disneyland, 1973, age 4…………
As a child, my family used to go to either Disneyland in Anaheim, California, or to Walt Disney World, in Orlando, Florida. Religiously. My parents loved the Land/World of the Mouse just as much as I did. I recall, mainly from photos, my sister, Debbie, going with us a few times, before she went off to college. But thereafter, it was my mom, dad, and myself taking a two or three day journey to either side of the country, either during Spring Break or Summer Vacation. On one trip, we went to both. Yep. Got to Disneyland, and found out the Haunted Mansion, our family favorite ride, was closed. Bummer. After two days, dad said, Ok, let’s go to Disney World. So, during the energy crisis of 1977, (or whenever, I just know the energy crisis was during that trip,) we drove all the way across the southern US, from California to Florida. In about 3 days. Straight. No motels. Mom and Dad took shifts driving. We were road warriors. But we got to ride the Haunted Mansion, darnit!
Some times our trips included excursions to other parts of the country, too. Like driving through Colorado and Wyoming, stopping at Yellowstone, then through Montana to Washington State, down the coast through Oregon and California, driving through the Redwood Forrest, onward to Anaheim. Or through New Mexico and Arizona, stopping at Carlsbad Caverns and the Grand Canyon. Or up through the Midwest states to Ohio, (where my dad was from), then up to Niagra Falls in New York/Canada, and then down the East coast to Orlando. However, most of our trips were to Orlando, by the Gulf states route, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, then of course, Florida. I’ve been to just about everything that makes America – America. I’ve been to every state in the country, except Alaska and Hawaii. My parents have been to Hawaii. Someday I will venture to those places, as well.
It’s been 26 years since I’ve been to Disney World. It was my Senior year, Spring Break of 1987. I was just one month shy of 18. Even as an eighteen year old, I could completely give in to the Disney magic. My parents probably didn’t think I was, but I was sold out to it. I felt equally at home on Space Mountain and It’s A Small World, or Spaceship Earth, or Journey into The Imagination. I loved it all. The previous year, my junior year, the high school band went to Disney World. With only a day and a half, we were kind of rushed. And when you get in a small group of adrenaline buzzed teens, you’re kind of pulled in all directions. It was fun still, but not the same experience I had with my folks. Spring Break that same year my folks and I went to Disneyland, to change it up a bit. We had been to Disney World for the past three years. One of the dual coast years for me.
EPCOT 1985, age 15 Not completely given in to the Disney magic in this pic………..
In those days, at Disney World, there was no Disney Hollywood Studios, (originally called Disney-MGM Studios, it was being built.) Animal Kingdom was still a glimmer in some imagineer’s eye. Nor were the water parks Typhoon Lagoon, or Blizzard Beach in existence. ( There was a small water park called River country, which is now closed and stands in ruins.) The Grand Floridian, Disney’s flagship hotel, was just a skeleton of scaffolding and cranes, as I recall riding by on the monorail. The Swan and Dolphin Hotels were also being constructed. Eighty-five percent of the now 27 hotels had not yet been built. Downtown Disney existed in a different form, not near the shopping entertaining district it is today. The ESPN Sports Complex was also in its early phases, and The Richard Petty Driving Experience had yet to be conceived, as well. Fort Wilderness Campgrounds were there, and The Disney Inn (now Shades of Green), and its golf courses were there. But the overall mousetropolis that is Disney World today was only in its adolescent years.
At eighteen, I started college and got a job. Vacation time for the job was non existent. If I had chosen to take a vacation, when I had returned, I probably would not have a job. So for the next few years, Disney was a non-existent idea. Then the busy-ness of life took over, and any hope for a special vacation got put on a back burner. It wasn’t until around 2000 before I even had any notion of trying to take a trip to Florida. By that time, mom had passed away, and dad’s health was such that in his mind, Disney World was out of the question. I tried organizing trips with a few friends once or twice. But when the reality hit them that this was not going to be in the price range of a trip to Six Flags, they balked.
I say all of that to say this…I have a lot of catching up to do! I’ll miss the older attractions that are no longer there, ( like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride,) but will welcome the new favorites, like Splash Mountain, (hardly “new”) and the expanded Fantasy Land. Plus the two parks I haven’t even stepped into yet. And don’t forget Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure at Universal Orlando. And The Wizzarding World of Harry Potter! Half of my friends at Wall Mart want to stowaway in my luggage so they can go to Wizzarding World!
(On a side note, one of the reasons for my recent weight loss efforts is a practical one. The main attraction at Wizzarding World, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, is a wild ride in which you are seated in a bench that’s placed on a huge animatronic arm that moves on a track, and can also move in all directions. A safety harness is placed over you, and it must tighten to three clicks, or supposedly they won’t let you ride. How true this is, I don’t know, but I read an article of a heavy set fellow who only made it to one click, so he vowed he would return to ride again after he lost the pounds. That was his motivation for his weight loss journey. I decided I would beat them to the punch. I’m going for three clicks, first time around, baby!)
I have a lot of fond memories of Disney, but this photo takes the cake:
This was back in the day when Mickey’s appearances were RARE. Especially walking down Main Street USA upon park opening. We were in the right place at the right time. Now days, the characters have meet and greet locations throughout all four parks. It’s a bit easier to get your pic with the Big Cheese.
I’m gonna wrap this post up, but stay tuned for follow ups. I’m planning on blogging every night on the trip, even just a few short sentences and a few pics. One last thing. I will be staying with a good friend, who lives in Orlando. And I believe that subject requires a post to itself. So stay tuned till next time…