It was a warm and clear night nearing midnight. Stars littered the skies and an almost full moon illuminated the landscape. I was driving the Ark as it effortlessly glided down the smooth and straight highway of I-10 just outside of Tallahassee. Traffic was almost non-existent. We had the road to ourselves. An audio book from the Jesse Stone series written by my favorite author, Robert B. Parker, was playing on my phone as it glowed on the dashboard. In my mirror I could see Sharon and Nora snuggled together on the bed at the rear of the ark, their faces lit up by the LCD TV as they watched Alice in Wonderland. They both had slight smiles on their faces. Jack and Jinjer also lay on the bed sound asleep. All was calm. I was in my happy place. We were on our way home from a week at Disney, and a week at Sharon’s Sister’s house where her other sister, mother and father were also visiting. While it had been a great time, it felt great to be headed back home with Christmas just around the corner.

Our trip started with a 12 hour trek from our home in Pensacola down to Port Charlotte, still amazing to me how we can be traveling for that long in the same state. Beginning at 4 am that morning and arriving around 5pm that evening, it was an uneventful journey (which is good for us).

The first week was spent with her family. I did work most of the time but got a chance to hang out and relax here and there making it nice. Nora got to bond with her family, and they with her. Time went by quickly and we were packed, and heading to Disney!

Our friend Trish had reserved a condo in Orlando using her Timeshare system and we stayed there with her. We arrived around dinner time. Sharon and I had a certificate for food at a local Indian restaurant, the Taste of Punjab. Why is it, so many Indian restaurants and food sound sexually creepy. My fiend Eric’s always talks about his favorite Indian dish being Fahjina Tandoori, which seems odd.

The first morning Trish had gotten sucked into going to a presentation to try and get her to upgrade her membership in lieu of obtaining cheaper Disney tickets. It did work, and we all saved a little. However we did suffer a setback from it as we did not get to the Magic Kingdom parking lot until 11:00 that day. We started out behind the 8 ball and never got into rhythm.

The first blunder was right after we walked out off the shuttle from the parking lot. Their were 2 ways to get to the Magic Kingdom from the parking lot. A monorail, which it seemed we were being shuffled away from, and a “riverboat”, which is what we chose as we were just walking like lemmings with the crowd. The wait was over an hour to get on the boat and disembark at the gates of Magic Kingdom. All the while in line we saw people casually walking to the monorail, getting on and taking off. We were not happy, but it was the start of the day so we tried to keep a positive attitude.

What really struck Sharon and I was the size of the crowd. It seemed like a lot more people this time of year than their normally was. Then after calculating when were here in the past we realized we had always come a week later after Thanksgiving break. Oh oh, another costly error.

Being veterans of the park we did not come in with a game plan or do any research. We would just wing it. Yet another mistake. We had immediately headed back to the new Fantasyland people had told us about, that just recently opened. We saw the new Dumbo ride and chose to get in line as it looked like a short line. Little did we know, although had we researched we would have known, that the line went into a tent shaped building that was full of people in line! Sharon and Trish spent almost an hour in there before giving up and coming out. It was now around 1:00, we had ridden no rides yet, not even in line now for one, no Fastasses, and we were starving! And a symptom of hunger is irritability, which combined with the circumstances, was at a very high level. Disney was by beating us up already.

So we opted to find food. On the way we did get a Fastpass for the Barnstormer roller coaster. We then got into a rather long line and waited to order. Luckily for Sharon and Nora who are both vegetarians, the place we chose had veggie burgers. Surprisingly the food we got was pretty good and we all got a chance to recharge to make a push. However the clock was still running, it was now almost 2:00!

Thanks to efficient gathering of some Fastpasses and getting organized on where to go, we managed to hit several key rides. But we nowhere near hit everything we wanted to. I would say we only saw half of what we had wanted to see. It was all a blur and I can hardly even recall what rides we did do. I do remember Nora having a blast on the teacups with Sharon, and all I could see was the top of her head, and occassionally when the teacup was at just the right angle, I could caught a glimpse of Nora belly laughing! The day was somewhat saved when Nora got to meet several princesses and get her photo taken with them, and her book signed.

Nora is obsessed with her Disney princess movies, and REALLY wanted to see princesses. Finally, we had hit the jackpot. Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Repunzel, were all at one place and we had a Fastpass in our hands to get to the front of the line. Nora, dressed in her Snow White dress, was so excited that she could barely crack a smile or let alone even breath. She was taking it all in with eyes wide open. When it was her turn she was so nervous she had trouble just taking a step forward. But with some coaxing and prodding she made her way to them. She mumbled and waved to them. They were very sweet. Each princess got down to her level and made her feel comfortable with them. And whenever Nora would twirl for each princess to show them her dress, they in turn would twirl as well. It just seemed like a natural princess reaction, when someone twirls, you twirl with them :) She emerged from the building in star struck stupor.

We decided to accept the loss and just relax and get in line along the street for a spot to see the lighted parade. Nora got a real kick out of seeing all the floats with the Disney characters and princesses, especially Snow White! I had so hoped to get a picture of Nora with her Snow White dress on, actually with Snow White. But that was not in the cards today. We did still have 2 more days at Disney parks so there was still hope.

I do have a regret that I missed out on something I wanted to photograph. Cinderella’s galls slipper, the most famous lost shoe of all time. I had forgotten all about looking for it, and then I saw it on the front of Cinderella’s float in the lighted parade sitting atop a red satin pillow. I could not get my camera out in time to capture it. That bothered me the rest of the evening.

The fireworks show and the Cinderella Castle light show was pretty spectacular and advise anyone who goes to the Magic Kingdom to stay and see it. Really is amazing what they do.

The trek back to the parking lot felt somewhat like a defeat march. We were physically, emotionally and mentally drained. Magic Kingdom had kicked our asses. We did learn a lesson and that is we need to get going early and have a game plan going into the next park.

On the way home we were so hungry and decided the best place to stop would be a Chinese restaurant and order takeout. One of the best things about Chinese food is the fortune cookies, and they gave us several. One of the fortunes read…

“If you chase 2 rabbits, both will escape…at Disney”

Fairly sure that is what happened to us that day. We were determined to do better on Day 2, to be continued…