We had a very nice trip. The main piece of advice I can give people is if you want to see Disney World without waiting in line, go when Florida’s already been hit by a hurricane (or two), and another one is threatening (err – nothing against the people who’ve lost their homes). Our bible for the week was The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2005, and while it was invaluable, we were able to throw the complex plans to ride every ride away after the first day.

Pictures here.


Epcot day. We got a cab, went to Dulles for our first flight on Ted. Uneventful flight, really no different than flying United. Got into Orlando right on time, picked up our luggage, and caught a cab ($45 flat rate). We were staying at Disney’s Beach Club Villas (using the time share exchange), and checked in and were in the room by 4PM. When we checked in, we bought a 5 day Park Hopper Plus ticket. What that meant was for 5 days, when we went into one of the four Disney Theme Parks, we could go to any other park (hop) during that day. The “plus” part was two admissions each for the 2 water parks, or Pleasure Island, Disney’s “adult” nightspot.

Anyway, at 4PM we decided to go to Epcot, since we were within walking distance (the Beach Club was on a manmade lake that flowed into the World Showcase at Epcot, and the closest resort to Epcot). We decided to check out some of the rides, and went straight to Test Track (a coaster like car ride) because we had read it was really fun, and the lines might be long, so we wanted to check it out first. We walked in – and there was a five minute wait. This phenomenon repeated itself throughout the day, and for the remainder of the time we were there, the longest we waited was 25 minutes. We took in the Living Seas (fancy aquarium), Living With The Land (greenhouse boat ride) and The Circle Of Life (film) before we headed over to the English part of the World Showcase. We had priority seating (reservations) at the Rose and Crown, Epcot’s version of an English pub. I had the lamb & barley soup and the bangers & mash (although I substituted Yorkshire pudding for the mash), and an enormous plastic glass of Boddington’s beer (I think it was 2 pints). We were there because Jill had read it was a good place to see Epcot’s fireworks, so we had a long dinner until the show at 9PM. We went to bed to get an early start on the next day.


Disney/MGM Studios day. From the Beach Club dock, we took a boat that went there. We got in, made a beeline for the Tower Of Terror. I was kind of surprised Jill was interested in it, because she didn’t seem as interested in free fall rides. But we went, and she really enjoyed it. Next was the Aerosmith Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster, Disney’s best coaster, but not too much different than Space Mountain. We slowed down by taking in Sounds Dangerous (sound fx film with Drew Carey), then got in just in time for the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular. That was my favorite thing there, as evidenced by then number of pictures I took. Next was Star Tours (Star Wars motion simulator), which Jill didn’t like because of the bucking. I was a little disappointed that it was exactly like the one out in Disneyland I’d ridden 17 years previously. We kept going through the Muppets 3D film, before we took a break and Jill got a coffee.

We got on the Backlot tour (kinda fun but long for just two stunts), then got on the Great Movie Ride (animatronic recreation of movie scenes) just in time to beat a downpour. We split a footlong hot dog while we decided there weren’t anymore rides or shows we wanted. We took the boat back to the room, then took a bus to Downtown Disney (outdoor mall). Jill went shopping, while I took a 20 minute walk to a real grocery store (the one at the resort charged us nearly $8 for a half gallon of milk and a liter of Diet Coke). I filled my backpack, then met up with Jill at the bus stop. We decided to not go out, and had some of the groceries I’d bought – Caesar salad, burritos, and ice cream.


Magic Kingdom day. Most of the groceries I’d obtained were breakfast food, and we ate them every day but today, as we explored Jill’s previously unknown (to me) obsession with Piglet and the rest of Pooh’s friends. We went to the character breakfast at the Crystal Palace, where the food was pretty good, and Jill had her picture taken with Pooh, Eeyore, Tigger, and Piglet (she was cross because she missed him the first time through, and we had to wait for him).

Next, we toured the Magic Kingdom in a clockwise pattern (my friend Oran had advised against it, but there were no lines, so it didn’t matter). Pirates of the Caribbean, Big Thunder Mountain, and Splash Mountain right in a row, took about 30 minutes. Then onto the Haunted Mansion, Peter Pan’s Flight (nicely done), and Mickey’s Philharmagic (3D film, really starring Donald Duck). And of course the Adventures of Winnie Pooh, where I never could get a clear or well lit picture.

Finally, we got to Tomorrowland. While Space Mountain used to be my favorite ride at the Magic Kingdom, I have a new love – Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, where it’s like a giant videogame you ride through and shoot things. It was one of only two rides we rode twice all week.

After we finished all the attractions we wanted in the Magic Kingdom, we hopped the monorail to Epcot and rode the rest of the rides we hadn’t yet done. Jill decided Mission:Space (another motion simulator) wasn’t for her, but I enjoyed it. Ellen’s Energy Adventure (featuring Ellen Degeneres and a lot of dinosaurs) was fun, Spaceship Earth was pretty lame, and Honey I Shrunk The Audience and Journey Into Imagination (both unexpectedly starring Eric Idle) were good.

We went back to the room and changed before returning to Epcot, this time to Germany for their buffet dinner. I had a lot of sausage, sauerkraut, and schnitzel, and a hefeweizen to drink. They also had Oktoberfest Musikanten (a German band) come out for a short set.

Later on, we relaxed in the whirlpool spa at the Villas.

Book of the day: The Golden Compassby Philip Pullman, part 1 of His Dark Materials trilogy.


Our rain day. After it was apparent the week before that Ivan wasn’t going to hit, only maybe brush, we were thinking it would pass by Tuesday, which became Wednesday by the time we bought tickets Sunday, so it was our rest day. We slept in, and discovered the previous night’s forecast was correct: scattered showers only. So we ended up going to the enormous pool between the Beach Club and Yacht Club called Stormalong Bay. It was fun, especially the two story slide you had to cross the sidewalk and climb up the mast of the pirate ship to ride.

We went back to the room to read after we finished roasting, then crossed the lake to the Boardwalk. We ate at the Big River Grille, the only brewpub at Disney. We both had the 6 beer sampler, and split a rack of ribs for dinner. I really enjoyed their hefeweizen and had a full glass of that as well.

Books of the day: The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman, parts 2 & 3 of His Dark Materials trilogy. Nice fantasy coming of age series – typically recommended to Harry Potter fans looking for something similar, and I can see why. Jill and I are going to have a discussion group with some friends for it in a couple months.


Universal Studios Florida day, or the only day we spent off Disney. We had breakfast, then got a cab over for $15 (we didn’t see the need to rent a car for one trip besides the airport). We went straight to the Mummy, which wasn’t open yet (technical difficulties). Earthquake wasn’t open yet either (it opened late), so we rode Jaws first – cheesy but fun, and you didn’t get very wet. Next we rode Men In Black, another shooting ride like Buzz Lightyear, but with more spinning and sudden stopping, then straight into Back To The Future. It was rougher than Star Tours, but Jill said it was her favorite at Universal. We did E.T. (ok), then onto my favorite theater show of the week, Terminator 2:3D. I had watched the making of as a featurette on the T2 DVD, and was psyched to see how they blended a 3D film and a live stage show. It did not disappoint, and even Jill was surprised she like it.

Next we went back to the Mummy, which was now open. This was the longest we waited, about 25 minutes. It was worth it – it’s like Space Mountain: the next generation. Earthquake was exactly as I remembered it from California, and Twister was something of a letdown (especially since the preshow has you expecting a lot more). Shrek 4D was fun, and so was Jimmy Neutron. Jill’s favorite show was Extreme Ghostbusters, where Beetlejuice shows up and makes them imitate a multitude of musical acts.

We were hungry, and faced with a plethora of chain restaurants, chose the Hard Rock Cafe over Margaritaville. Jill hadn’t been to either, and the Hard Rock was the biggest in the world. They had a truly impressive display of memorabilia, including rooms devoted to the Beatles and Elvis. We both had decent burgers.

Book of the day: First half of Song of Susannah by Stephen King, part 6 of the Dark Tower series.


Animal Kingdom day. One of the nice things about staying at a Disney resort is each day one of the resorts opens an hour early for resort guests only, and today it was the Animal Kingdom. We took advantage of it to get to the Kilimanjaro Safaris early while the line was short and the animals were awake. And most of them were awake, with the exception of the lion. We save the River Rapids for last, and went to ride the Dinosaur. There was a 20 minute wait, so we got a Fastpass (for timed entry later), the first and last time we used it. In the meantime, we watched It’s Tough To Be A Bug with a terrified audience of children (I think you should be at least 5 to watch it), then Jill rode the Primeval Whirl (I was done with spinning rides), then we rode Dinosaur (a motion simulators with animatronic dinosaurs jumping out at you) – I thought it was ok while Jill found it scary.

We went to ride the Kali River Rapids, but it was closed for repairs. We took the Maharajah Jungle Trek nearby, saw tigers, bats, and dragons, oh my. When we finished, we saw that the River Rapids had opened and joined the flood of people. After about 10 minutes, they announced that they were still having problems and would have to close indefinitely. We decided to stick it out, and our patience was rewarded after another 10 minutes passed and the line was reopened, and we quickly got to the front. Fun ride, and I was glad for the poncho to protect my sneakers from the drenching water.

We took the bus back. We went to Epcot for lunch. We went to France, but didn’t like the menu. We had to decide between Norway and Mexico, and went with Norway. They had a hot and cold buffet, most of the food was very good (I discovered I’m not a fan of pickled herring). We hit shops in England and France next, got trapped inside of the English shops because of rain (seems appropriate).

That night we went to Downtown Disney. Jill had some more shopping to do, and I wanted to check out the Virgin Megastore there, did my shopping. Later, we met up at Pleasure Island in the middle. They had a selection of nightclubs, the only one I really wanted to go to was the Adventurers Club, the one with a Disney feel. They gather everyone there downstairs for some improv bits, then hustle you in back for a pretty funny show. Afterwards we debated going to the comedy club, but went to the Rainforest Cafe for a late dinner instead.

Book of the day: Second half of Song of Susannah by Stephen King. Good read but cliffhangers a plenty, glad the last book in the series, The Dark Tower, comes out tomorrow. BTW, nice review in the Post.


Water park day. We read our book, consulted with other guests, and decided to go to Blizzard Beach instead of Typhoon Lagoon. The theme of Blizzard Beach was a ski resort that had melted, and it was a lot of fun. The biggest shocker was the Summit Plummit, the tallest and fastest slide in the US. Jill compared the landing to getting an Atomic Wedgie, and I thought it was like getting spanked really hard. Not sure riding it first was the best idea. The other rides were great, especially Teamboat Springs, which we took twice. The floating tube ride was good, and the Run Off Rapids tube ride had some nice curves and turns.

Back at the hotel, we stopped by the pool one more time, then went up to the room. We figured out we should have reapplied sunscreen, as we both go some sunburn. We changed and went to the Boardwalk again, this time to eat at Spoodles, a Spanish influenced restaurant. I had 3 tapas – mussels in a butter broth, lamb skewers, and a four cheese flatbread. I also had a strawberry daiquiri like drink with amaretto.

We went down to use the whirlpool spa one more time before we left.

Book of the day: First half of American Gods by Neil Gaiman, the new author’s preferred edition (think director’s cut).


Up and out of the room. The cab this time was metered, cost $42. Got to the airport with plenty of time, time enough for Jill to get another book. I liked the fact we flew out of gate 42 (as I was reading Gaiman – he’s not DNA, but did write Don’t Panic: Douglas Adams & the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Flight was fine, got home to a nice musty house, and the news that we had missed all the rain (and tornadoes), but the temperature would hit the 40s. I watched the Skins lose to the Giants while Jill went shopping. For dinner, we had some of Jill’s mom’s leftover galumpkes, then went to Safeway to restock on food. Not really ready to rejoin the real world, but I guess we gotta.

Book of the day: Second half of American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Still a great read. Supposedly over 40 pages of new material that did not appear in the original edition – I’m curious as to what was added.

Flat & another wedding

My car’s been acting funny all week. It was being driven by various family members last week, and when I got it back last Sunday, Jill’s stepdad told me I should check the tire pressure. I meant to, but didn’t get to it ’til yesterday, the front ones were low. I headed to Bethesda this morning for myo, and it’s still wonky. I figured out that every time the front wheels completed a rotation, the steering wheel would twitch. While it was annoying at 30MPH, at 65MPH on the Beltway it was very disturbing. Still, I wanted to go, so I did.

I didn’t have a good feeling on the way back, so I jumped off on Georgetown Pike as soon as I could. I turned down a road that turned into Baron Cameron, and about a mile down, I heard a pop and immediately pulled over. Sure enough, it was flat. I tried to inflate it – no go. Of course I was missing the handle to the jack that turns it, so I was using my vise grip pliers to turn the jack. Got the tire off and the spare on, then looked at the tire. It looked like something had come from the inside (tireburster?). No idea why – once I got on the road, the steering wheel twitches had ceased.

Got home just in time to change. Tim Cannon’s wedding was out in Leesburg, and we had a couple errands to run on the way. The wedding was at Rose Hill Manor, a place that we had considered but rejected because they required you to use their approved caterers, the cheapest of which was $45 a plate. Plus it would have been a tight squeeze for the number of guests we invited.

Debbie and Tim only had less than 50, though, and it was great. A string section was playing as we came in, then came the groomsmen in kilts (Tim had embraced his Scottish heritage). A nice ceremony, then a ton of food. They had a huge table of cheeses and fruits, and passed around appetizers. Then they had a big sitdown dinner – salad and bread, followed by a salmon and steak course. The CD went over well, Mr. Cannon seemed to enjoy it. It was good seeing all of the Cannons as well as Tim’s friend Anand (Anand, Tim, Chris and I used to play epic sessions of Magic:The Gathering). We were so full of food, we took slice of cake with us to have later (hmm, it is later…). My only complaint: the DJ cranked the music so loud you could hardly hear conversations.

A nice night, and now I’ve finished packing for tomorrow. Ivan looks to be headed further west, so we might just get rain on Tuesday. I’ve got my fingers and toes crossed. I thought I might get to some wedding pictures, but they’ll have to wait for our return.

Mad Russians and Englishmen on Parade

So we’ll be in Orlando Tuesday for Ivan. The storm track doesn’t look too bad, but I was rattled by the lady from Club Intrawest calling to make sure we were still coming. “They’re not planning on evacuationng, are they?” I say. “Not yet” replies she. Reassuring, I tell ya.

Chris and Jess stayed last night – they were in Rehobeth the previous two nights. I finished his dad’s CD, and I grilled steaks while Jill made salad, then we watched “Johnny English”. Silly, of course, but still some funny parts. John Malkovich is wonderful as usual. We watched Doctor Who and the Curse of Fatal Death right before it, and I think I prefer Rowan Atkinson in a smarter role.


Somewhat busy day. Got up, had a phone interview (went well, have a follow up tomorrow). Went to Centerville, returned the flower pedestal, dropped off used books at McKay’s, picked up prescriptions, got massage.

My big project yesterday and today is converting a record to a CD. The record in question was recorded by Harold Cannon in the ’50s. Harold is the father of Chris and Tim Cannon. Chris was my best man, and Tim is his brother – we grew up together. Chris thought it would be fun to play his dad’s LP at Tim’s wedding Saturday, and I agreed to convert it. It’s been a bear though – the cover art took several hours yesterday to look right, and the conversion today took about 5 hours (not including time to download a new version of my audio editing suite, and of course it needed a newer version of DirectX). I just finished the first CD – when Chris and Jess come tomorrow, I’ll see if they like it.

Pretty wet out today and tonight – it was really bad when I dropped off the flower pedestal, and it knocked out satellite reception around 10 (it rarely does). Upon reflection, it should have gone out earlier, so we didn’t finish watching “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”. Yeesh, did they just flush a great concept down the drain. I knew “From Hell”, another of Alan Moore’s works couldn’t have been that great because they’d need 12-15 hours to keep all the information, but LXG was just terrible – a waste of Connery.

The latest Orlando forecast looks ok, right now looks like Ivan’s scheduled to skim up the gulf coast of Florida. I’m going to hope it’s a good thing we’re going up next week, not this week as originally planned.

Wedding weekend

Friday night we had the rehearsal dinner, which went well. Almost everyone had the prime rib, which was excellent. I finished the music for the wedding and got to bed by 3AM.

The day of I got up around 10AM; Jill and family were off getting their hair done. I called Chris and got ready while he came over. We ran some errands (I needed tux shoes, we needed ice and water for photos), then we had a last meal at Popeye’s. We changed when we got back, then headed out. We got to the Atrium a little before 2PM, and Jill and the bridesmaids changed into dresses while the rest of us hung out. Then we went outside and started pictures. Jill was gorgeous, of course. We went inside for a short break after the bridal party and family pictures, then Jill and I (and Robin holding her train) walked down to the gazebo on the lake to take pictures. By the time we were done, it was 3:45.

I had some water, and we waited for a couple stragglers, but got started almost on time. Everyone went out as planned, and the ceremony went off without a hitch (I guess there was one hitch -us). We headed in afterwards, and waited for Jill to get her bustle up, then headed in. We were famished, and hit the beer and appetizers as Todd started. I messed up and brought only the tape from the last Getaway Car show, so I rewinded 35 minutes and taped over the last half – didn’t really have a choice.

After Todd finished, he introduced us all and we chowed down on the food from Tortilla Factory. Happily, we got a lot a compliments on the food, and it was good. So good in fact, that we didn’t need any of the tupperware we’d brought to take leftovers home, the only food left was some chimichangas and cupcakes. Speaking of cake, the groom’s cake (carrot cake from Costco) went so fast, I’m not sure everyone got some. After the cake cutting (and I thought we were cutting a cupcake until we got up there), we had our dances, then finished our food and circulated around. I remember the whole night, but I was just exhausted by the time 8:30 rolled around. We helped pack up, then Dad drove us to the Doubletree hotel in the ’41 Caddy (we took some pictures in it earlier).

Mad props to our friend Melissa Broudy, who volunteered for wedding coordinator and we kept running around all day. She doesn’t do it professionally, so check out her travel stories site.

The sugar and caffeine must have kicked in, because we stayed up another 3 hours at the hotel bar with people that were staying there, and Jill got to hear some interesting stories from my fraternity brothers.

In the morning, we went down for the breakfast buffet, then said our goodbyes. Jill and I ran some errands (dropping film and tuxes off), then hung out and talked with her friend Johanna through the early evening while her sister and family went to Udvar-Hazy. Eventually I said goodnight to catch up on the newspapers (made it through Saturday).

Monday it was just Melissa and family, and we hung with them for a while before we went down to Herndon’s Town Green for the Labor Day Jazz and Wine Fest with our friends Stuart and Janice around 1:30PM. We tried a bunch of wine, and Jill bought four bottles of her favorites. It was threatening all day, but the rain didn’t start until the music stopped. We picked up some pizzas from Sylvana’s, then went back to Stuart and Janice’s house to eat and drink some more. A school night for everyone but me, so we came home by 10. It was trash night, and we filled both barrels full (we usually only put out one bag a week). We were tuckered out when we were done, and Jill went off to bed. I watched a cool “Charlie Rose”, interviewing Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman and Frank Darabont about the making of “Shawshank Redemption” (10th anniversary DVD comes out this month, one of the best movies from the ’90s), then read the Sunday paper.

Wedding music

Our processional music was Pachelbel’s Canon, but the Trans-Siberian Orchestra version with some cool choral parts. Of course I had to edit out the Christmas lyrics, but it was still long enough.

Todd’s set was chosen all by me (he asked). The only one he wouldn’t do by himself was “Broken Oar”, so I made that the first song on the first CD played. Todd’s still playing with emmet swimming, and has a new band Quitter UK.

One night, about a month ago, Jill and I went through all the CDs picking out songs. Slowly I ripped about half the songs, and last week decided to see how much I had. It was 6 and a half hours worth of music. I got a little more selective with the music after that, but when I was done, still had 10 hours of music. First we chose the songs from that list for the wedding favor CD, and burned 64 copies. Then I winnowed the list down to 4 hours (3 80 minute CDs), tossing out some of the songs that were on the wedding favor CD. Disc 1 was for dinner, so I put music that would be unfamiliar to most people on there. I got it down to 81 minutes, then trimmed the songs to make them all fit. Discs 2&3 were the dances, then a selection of popular songs. We ran out of time, so we didn’t get to them all, but here’s the list.

01. Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons:Autumn I: Allegro
02. Pachelbel’s Canon (TSO version)

Todd Watts
01. Listen To The River
02. Waiting In Vain
03. South Bristol, ME
04. Lose Yourself
05. Boones Farm Wine
06. Angel Of The Morning
07. Stealing From The Joneses
08. Guru
09. Wish You Were Here
10. Off Key Choir
11. Coming Home
12. Arlington
13. Sunblock

Reception Disc 1
01. emmet swimming – Broken Oar
02. Tori Amos – A Sorta Fairytale
03. Corrs – Breathless
04. Extreme – Hole Hearted
05. Darkness – I Believe In A Thing Called Love
06. eddie from ohio – Woman Of Faith
07. Four Way Street – Several Thousand
08. John Mayer – Comfortable
09. Pat McGee Band – Beautiful Ways
10. Jayhawks – Blue
11. Girlyman – Postcards From Mexico
12. Matt Nathanson – Answering Machine
13. Dar Williams – Are You Out There
14. Fountains Of Wayne – Stacy’s Mom
15. Angie Aparo – Hush
16. Getaway Car – All Time Low
17. Carbon Leaf – Boxer
18. Counting Crows – Murder Of One
19. Da Vinci’s Notebook – Another Irish Drinking Song
20. Drivin N Cryin – Straight To Hell

Reception Disc 2
01. Mary Chapin Carpenter – Grow Old With Me
02. Matt Munroe – Sunrise, Sunset
03. Beatles – In My Life
04. Brian Setzer – Jump Jive An’ Wail
05. Beach Boys – Good Vibrations
06. Aretha Franklin – Respect
07. Blues Traveler – Run-around
08. Aerosmith – Sweet Emotion
09. Don McLean – American Pie
10. Fleetwood Mac – Landslide
11. Peter Gabriel – In Your Eyes
12. Harry Belafonte – Jump In Line
13. Dave Matthews Band – Two Step
14. Grateful Dead – Ripple
15. Queen – Somebody To Love
16. Beatles – Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
17. AC/DC – You Shook Me All Night Long
18. Bon Jovi – Livin On A Prayer
19. Cars – You Might Think

Reception Disc 3
01. Billy Joel – Piano Man
02. 10,000 Maniacs – Because The Night
03. Barenaked Ladies – Old Apartment
04. Celine Dion – Because You Loved Me
05. Dave Matthews Band – Space Between
06. Eric Clapton – Wonderful Tonight
07. Fleetwood Mac – Never Going Back Again
08. Shania Twain – Forever And For Always
09. Indigo Girls – Closer To Fine
10. Jay-Z – Izzo
11. Sir Mix-A-Lot – Baby Got Back
12. “Weird Al” Yankovic – All About The Pentiums
13. Village People – Y.M.C.A.
14. Cyndi Lauper – Girls Just Wanna Have Fun
15. Sarah McLachlan – Sweet Surrender
16. Traveling Wilburys – Handle With Care
17. Alanis Morissette – Everything
18. Norah Jones – Come Away With Me
19. Queen – Love Of My Life

Acute tonsilitis

Is what Robin (Jill’s other sister) was diagnosed with at 1AM last night. Yes, it’s been that kind of day. She’s fine, just hopped up on antibiotics and the good kind of Tylenol.

We had the rehearsal at noon today which went fine, just got back from the dinner, and now I’ve got to finish the wedding music. Sleep is for losers, or those who for some insane reason get things done on schedule.


When I went to get my massage today, my therapist told me I looked exhausted. I told her I was, and I’d only been up for three hours. More running around today; we got the marriage license, got a hair appoinment for me for tomorrow (and Jill and fam on Saturday), picked up cameras etc. at Party City, and the groom’s cake (and tp – I can’t believe how much tp we’ve gone through) at Costco.

Now to do more favors before we meet Jill’s dad and grandmother for dinner.