Thursday, November 13, 2008

Ex-Tiger Mason named pitching coach for Beach Bums | The Detroit News |

Ex-Tiger Mason named pitching coach for Beach Bums | The Detroit News |

This is kind of neat to have a Tiger connection with the Beach Bums. Not that I didn't already enjoy a nice summer evening lounging on the outfield berm at Wuerfel Park.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Florida Trip Journal

The following is a journal of our recent trip to Florida.

Friday, October 17, 2008
Pack the car and drive to Romulus, MI to spend the night. Romulus is about a 3-1/2 hour drive from Cadillac where we live. We parked at an off-airport facility and our hotel stay gave us 8 days of free parking at the lot. Since we would be gone for 10 days, only paying for 2 days was a good trade off. We live in Cadillac, so why didn't we fly from Traverse City or Grand Rapids? Because tickets from Detroit (DTW) were $125 each and tickets from Traverse City or Grand Rapids were ~$350 each. We ended up saving about $800 by driving a little farther.

Saturday, October 18, 2008
Up and at 'em! Well, actually we all slept in a bit. Our flight wasn't until 12:30 p.m. and the shuttle ride to the airport was only about 10 minutes long. The flight from Detroit to Atlanta was uneventful but a bit bumpy. We had a 3 hour layover in Atlanta. Never again. In the future I will strive to schedule any Atlanta layovers to be about 90 minutes. Keeping 2 little kids occupied in that chaos was not fun. The flight from Atlanta to Orlando was delayed about 20 minutes as a couple of irate passengers had to be removed from the plane for a talk with the sheriff. Once they were off, the crew could shut the door and we were off. The crew apologized profusely for the delay and the rest of the flight was uneventful. We arrived in Orlando around 8:30-ish in the evening, grabbed our bags (they all made it- yay!), grabbed our rental car and headed off into the Orlando night. Wow was it muggy compared to Michigan. LOL. We got checked in at our hotel in Kissimmee and everyone went to bed. About 2 or 3 the next morning the air conditioning in our room went out and was making a loud screeching noise. Ick. Good thing it had cooled off some outside. We shut off the a/c and went back to sleep.

Sunday, October 19, 2008
First thing in the morning my wife heads to the hotel office lets them know the a/c broke and gets us a new room. The staff was apologetic and very nice about the whole thing. No problem at all. Once we get everything moved to the new room, we head off for breakfast at Bob Evans and a day at Animal Kingdom. Our intention was not to spend the entire day at Animal Kingdom. We wanted to get our girls (ages 6 and 2) back to the hotel by around 4 p.m. for naps and swimming. We still needed to do some grocery shopping too. We arrived at Animal Kingdom at about 9:30 a.m. and stayed until about 3:30 p.m. We spent most of our time in the Africa section and wrapped up our day with Finding Nemo - the Musical. We loved the musical. I can't wait to see it again someday. Sunday evening we went to Target on US 192 in Kissimmee to grab some supplies for the week. We needed to stock up on breakfast cereal, snacks, lunch stuff, bottled water, etc.

Greetings from Animal Kingdom!

Monday, October 20, 2008
We were up early, wolfed down our bowls of cereal and headed to Magic Kingdom. We got there just as the gates were opening. We spent almost the entire morning and early afternoon in Fantasy Land. Our little girls wanted to do everything: Small World, Peter Pan, Dumbo, Winnie the Pooh, etc. We gave it our best shot. Went back to our hotel in the mid-afternoon for a nap and snacks. We returned around 5-ish and made a bee-line for Pirates of the Caribbean and then my wife and 6 year old hit Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Meanwhile the 2 year old and I killed some time in the playground under the Frontierland train station. I swear that was her favorite place in the whole park. We stayed for the Spectromagic parade and the fireworks over the castle. It took us about 2 hours to get out of the park and back to our car after the fireworks.

The castle at night while we were killing time to let the crowd dissipate.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008
This was a day to sleep in. We got up late, packed up the car and headed over to Melbourne. It was about a 45 minute drive from our hotel. We found a nice spot on the beach to have a picnic and let the kids play in the surf a little. The waves were running about 10-15 feet, so we kept them away from the breaking waves and just had them play in the foamy bits. Later in the afternoon we drove up A1A through Cocoa Beach and hopped on the Beeline (528) to head back to Orlando. We had a most relaxing day just listening to the waves, watching surfers and looking for shells. The weather couldn't have been better. Sunshine, blue sky and mid-80's.

Mmmm, the beach was nice.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008
After devouring our bowls of cereal we jumped in the car and headed up I-drive for a day at Sea World. At the time (and I think they still are) they were running a promotion where if we bought our tickets online we could purchase adult tickets for the child price and get 2 days for the price of 1. Pretty cool. We went to the dolphin show first. Very cool and highly recommended. We also went to the "Believe" killer whale show later in the day. That was pretty good as well. I think I enjoyed the dolphin show more though. Late in the day we stopped off to watch the pearl divers at work. My daughter ended up getting a pearl with her souvenir money. That will be way more meaningful to her than another stuffed animal. For her birthday, her grandma is going to mount the pearl in a necklace.

The dolphin show was awesome!

Thursday, October 23, 2008
Back to the Magic Kingdom today. I'll admit we were dragging a little this morning. We didn't get in the park until about 10:00 a.m. It didn't matter as we found the lines for the things we wanted to do were still pretty short until afternoon. The kids got to meet Mickey and Minnie in Mickey's Toontown Fair. That alone made it a successful day. Since we were shopping on Main Street at 3:00-ish, we ended up with a nice view of the parade. For dinner we headed over to Ft. Wilderness for the buffet at the Trails End restaurant. Yum! They had fantastic spareribs. The weather was cloudy and threatening to rain all day, but the rain held off until after we left in the evening.

Friday, October 24, 2008
It rained on and off all day. This was the day we were supposed to go to the Shamu Rocks dinner. My wife gave Sea World a call right away in the morning and got it rescheduled to Saturday. So, we were left with what to do? We decided to hit Epcot. It wasn't in our original plan but it seemed that Epcot had the best chance of doing things mainly inside all day. It turned out to be a good decision as the kids had fun doing the Kidcot activities. My 6 year old daughter got to meet Mulan in the China pavillion and both girls met Tigger and Eyore in the UK pavillion. We did get rained on a few times, but the rain was gentle and warm. After afternoon naps back at the hotel we returned for dinner and the fireworks show. Dinner was in The Land attraction. For walk-up service, it was pretty good. I think the highlight of the girls' day was the Talking with Crush attraction.

Our 6 year old with Nemo and friends.

Saturday, October 25, 2008
The rain went away, the sky cleared and we had a marvelous day at Sea World. The girls got to go trick or treating and meet all sorts of interesting characters. In the afternoon we went to the seal and otter show. The mime before the show was pretty entertaining. The show itself was good and ended up with some improv humor as the seals were not cooperating. The highlight of the day was the Shamu Rocks dinner buffet and then the Shamu Rocks show that evening. We got reserved seating for the show with the dinner. During the dinner the staff let the killer whales come into the pool next to the dining area. It was pretty neat to just watch the killer whales hang out and relax. We went through the Wild Arctic attraction in the afternoon. Wow! That was probably one of the neatest things we did at Sea World.

The Shamu Rocks show really rocked!

Sunday, October 26, 2008
One of the things we wanted to do was take our 2 year old to feed the Giraffes at Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa. We have a membership at the Toledo Zoo and one of the benefits is admission to zoos that are members of the same association. Well, we went, she fed the giraffes and I'm glad we didn't have to pay full price for admission. The zoo in Toledo is much nicer. At Lowry Park a person feels like they are being nickel and dimed to death. Sheesh. Pay admission and then pay for everything else too. We had a nice time, but upon reflection I would have chosen to do something different. Like go to the beach again. A nice bonus was that on the way back to Orlando we stopped in Lakeland to take some pictures of the Detroit Tigers (my favorite baseball team) spring training facility. Nothing was happening, but it was fun just to see it.

Those giraffes were hungry!

This was a nice bonus! Being a Tiger fan I was pretty excited to just see the stadium.

Monday, October 27, 2008
The goal for this day was to go back to Magic Kingdom and let the kids pick their favorites to repeat as well as hit a few new things. Surprisingly, both girls voted to repeat the Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger spin thing. We thought it might be a little scary for them. They loved it. My 6 year old chose to ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad for the 3rd time! She's not real daring, but she loved it. Both girls also voted for Pirates of the Caribbean to make it 3 times in one trip. They just laughed and laughed all the way through it. They thought the lady chasing the pirate with a broom was hilarious. In the morning my 6 year old daughter became a pin trader. She bought a set of Tinkerbell pins with a lanyard, asked about the trading and she was off. By the end of the day she had one Tinkerbell pin left and all sorts of really cool other ones. She is a natural pin trader.

Late in the afternoon we went over to Downtown Disney. One of our goals was to visit the Lego store and boy did we. I swear we spent at least 3 hours there. Dinner would turn out to be at the T-Rex Cafe. We had read that it just opened in October so we were eager to check it out. We went at 5:15 p.m. and walked right in. No waiting. By the time we left at about 7:00 p.m. the wait was well over an hour. Very cool atmosphere. Kids that are into dinosaurs will love the place. Something to not miss is letting the kids dig for fossils in the sand by the gift store. Food was ok. The decor was definitely the star of the show, not the menu.

Dinner at the T-Rex Cafe is somewhat interactive.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008
What's to say? We packed up, checked out and left. All the flights were uneventful. The drive back to Cadillac was a little long and we were all pretty tired. Back to reality. Dang it. The good thing is we started planning next year's adventure on the drive back (Smokey Mountains Nat'l Park) and we started talking about our next Disney adventure (in 2011). For our next Disney adventure we are thinking of driving down, taking our camper and staying at Ft. Wilderness for at least part of the time. When we reflected on parking in a remote lot at the aiport, we came to the conclusion that it worked out really well because 1) We got 8 days free with our hotel stay and 2) The shuttles were quick and convenient. We grabbed our luggage, jumped on a shuttle and 10 minutes later we were in our car.

Just to sum the whole thing up, these were some of the highlights and reflections from the trip:

  1. We will avoid having to fly through Atlanta in the future. If we have to, we'll try to keep the time between flights to something reasonable while still allowing for delays. Next time we fly to Orlando, we will most likely take a direct flight. Delta, Northwest, Southwest and ATA all have direct flights to Orlando from Detroit. Even if we end up paying a little more for the direct flight it will be worth it to not have to navigate Atlanta with kids.
  2. For us, being able to devote 10 days to our trip was a plus. It gave us flexibility in case we had a washout day. Next time we'll devote 10-14 days as well. We realize this isn't possible or practical for everyone. It's just what works best for us.
  3. Water. Drink lots of water. Doing all that walking in the Florida sun I was drinking 1.5 - 2 liters of water per day. Getting dehydrated would be no fun at all.
  4. Sunscreen. Use lots. The Florida sun is strong. Bullfrog SPF 36+ was great. We used the gel which dries almost instantly and leaves no greasy residue. No one got a sunburn. In fact, we hardly even tanned.
  5. For us, building days into our schedule where we planned relaxing activities worked great. It allowed everyone to recharge and process what we'd done so far.
  6. We loved the Shamu Rocks dinner and show afterward. We'll probably do it again someday.
  7. The buffet at the Trails End restaurant was wonderful. It's perfect for families with kids. Especially kids that don't like to order and then wait for their dinner.
  8. Getting a nap in the afternoon some days was awesome. I felt so refreshed even after just a 20-30 minute snooze out of the sun in the air conditioning.