Thursday, February 5, 2009

Disney World and Tampa, Florida

We are in the midst of our Disney escapade. Only Thom has been to Disney World before, and that was over 20 years ago. It’s really a new adventure for all of us. The boys used to say that everyone they knew had been to Disney at least once…when could we go? So here we are for two full weeks at the happiest place on Earth.
We’re camping at Disney’s Fort Wilderness, which is a first-rate campground. It’s huge, with 3 different bus routes just within the campground. From what we can see, it’s close to capacity but extremely quiet. Not many children and young families are here, yet it’s a favorite destination for retirees. Many people camp here for 3 months, and Thom even met a couple who’s here for six months! They set up their yards, complete with Disney character lights and signs marking their families’ names and site numbers.
We bought 9-day park passes….. can you imagine 9 days of Disney?! So far we’ve logged two full days, to include the Magic Kingdom and the Animal Kingdom. Disney is awesome. It’s not just the big things like Space Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the Everest roller coaster that make it great. It’s more subtle things like spotting a robotic recycling container which looks identical to a trash can. The boys spotted it at Animal Kingdom as it zipped around talking with people. The trash can asked Sam where he’s from. When Sam answered, “Alaska,” the recycler replied, “Psst, I have a little secret. Tell your parents that Disneyland in California is a lot closer!” The boys loved it. Then as we were walking to Asia in the same park, we spotted a Disney entertainer camouflaged as a walking tree along one of the paths. She was marvelous, and posed for a hundred pictures.
Robby is working on his Family Life merit badge for Boy Scouts, and one of the requirements is to plan a family event. So he researched all the parks, and is our official guide. He has the map, briefs us as to where we’re going, and runs ahead to get fast passes for the big rides. This cuts down on the time we spend standing in lines.

Weather has been chilly, with lows in the 20’s and highs in the 40’s. We’ve been heading south for months in search of warm weather….where is it?? Luckily, the forecast predicts weather in the 70’s next week. Our first day at Disney was a soaker; fortunately we had our rain coats and the lines weren’t long anywhere. A little damp weather never slows down these Alaskans!

We were delighted to discover that our Alaskan friends, the Siers Family, are here. John and Susan called us the night we arrived. Their son Chance is Sam’s best buddy. So they joined us at our campsite for dinner, and Sam was in shock to see Chance all the way here from Alaska! He just stood there looking at Chance. Later on, Sam said he thought it was a boy from the campground, and he didn’t know it was Chance. Soon, they were running all around. We went to a marshmallow roast hosted by Chip N Dale, along with a sing-along cowboy. The guy called on John, and couldn’t believe he was from Alaska!

Chance celebrated his 7th birthday today, and Sam was able to spend the day with Chance and his family at The Magic Kingdom.

Next, Julia and Matt are flying in from California with their children Alex (12), and Sophia (9) on Sunday. They’re treating us to a week at their timeshare! Wow, a real hotel. We’re all so excited to see them. They traveled up to Alaska to visit us in the summer of ’07. They earned their “happy campers’ rank” as we toured all the way down to Homer with two pop-up trailers. Now we’ll spend a week together at Disney.
Another family we can’t wait to catch up with is the Hoselton’s from Delta Junction, Alaska! Roger, Tammy, Parker, and Jackson are arriving next week to escape the winter cold. Tammy home schools the two boys using the Calvert curriculum (same as ours). She influenced us in a very positive way as we made the big decisions regarding home schooling. They also took care of three of our boys last May when Ben underwent eye surgery in Anchorage. Roger is the talented songwriter, guitarist, and vocalist who many of you know or have heard sing in Thom’s retirement slide show. We’ll be sure and bring the guitar next week when we get together around the pool.
Tomorrow we’ll be visiting with Anne and Jim Clifford, friends from FL who I’ve known since my single days back in Southern Calif. We’re meeting at Disney’s Polynesian Resort so the boys can swim.
I should also mention amidst this fun and socializing that our boys have accomplished two full days of school since we arrived Feb 1. I wasn’t sure if this would be possible, but as it turns out, the breaks are good. Will awoke today with a stiff neck and could hardly stand up. Too many rides on the roller coaster? It could just be from a bad night’s sleep on the air mattress. Anyway, I was happy to lay low for a day since my legs were aching from all the walking. The boys are all now past the halfway point with school for the year!
Before we arrived in Orlando, we enjoyed a few days at McDill Air Force Base near Tampa. It was the weekend of the Super Bowl, so all campsites were booked. That’s OK. We “dry camped” which means no hook-ups. We had a good supply of our own water, and the campground provided showers and laundry.

We really enjoyed catching up with Chris, Sue, and Justin Miller who live at McDill. Thom and Chris attended the fellowship program at Univ of Texas at Austin together about 4 years ago. They had us over for a delicious teriyaki chicken dinner, complete with chocolate-dipped strawberries that Sue and Justin prepared! They have four precious puppies which our boys adored and played with the whole time. Even when the pups were exhausted from playing, Sam continued to check on them napping. He wants a dog so badly.
We also stopped by Paul Ostrowski’s home for a valuable visit. Paul and Thom worked together about 12 years ago, and Paul is now a Colonel in acquisitions at McDill. He built an incredible home in Tampa, which he designed with eye-catching archways and refinished antique furniture. The kitchen is a dream, and to top it off, he added a built-in pool and hot tub in the back yard. The boys went for a quick dip and now want a house with a swimming pool. Thom and Paul discussed the world of work, and opportunities currently available. We hadn’t considered Tampa, but we’re open to all possibilities. Thom truly enjoyed working with the soldiers as an acquisition officer, meeting their ever-changing needs. This might be just the right job for him.
Since we were in the Tampa area, we drove through the downtown area as well as Ybor City the day before Super Bowl Sunday. It was crazy! There were definitely more Steelers fans and jerseys, compared with the Cardinals. We went rollerblading along Tampa Bay, enjoying the beautiful sun and gorgeous homes.
Just north of Tampa is where we camped a bit earlier. The KOA campground had a small heated pool that the boys enjoyed daily. This was a good stop for school. They completed Test 80 for Calvert, which is exactly the halfway point…yeah! We had a chance to visit with Frank Riley, Wendy’s Dad. Wendy is our sister-in-law up in New York and she put us in touch with her Dad. Frank brought us fresh lemons and grapefruit from his own yard. The boys squeezed them for lots of lemonade and fresh grapefruit juice.
We’ll be here in Orlando until Feb 15th. Then we’ll make our way to Florida’s Atlantic coast, near Cocoa. Thom’s parents will fly in for 5 days to visit. I’m sure looking forward to Louise’s help as a teacher! She’s great with the boys. We may even get a chance to see the shuttle launch from Cape Canaveral.


The Galloway Clan said...

Hi Joan
I hope you survive the "Magical World of Disney" We were just there the first 2 weeks of January. We met Tim there for his 2 week R&R. We had tickets for 5 days and only made 4. We also went to Kennedy Space Center and Sea World two days. We have a timeshare at Westgate Lakes... what timeshare are you staying at? Something really fun that you might want to check into is going to a "BLUE MAN GROUP" Show.... Its amazing, crowd interacting, funny, drumming on pipes... We got some pretty cheap tickets at the shades of green and the show is over in Universal Studios... Also could you email me the Siers contact info... I would love to reconnect... Have fun!!!
Kari Galloway

Busy Mom Of Four said...

I finally updated my blog & thought I would go & get caught up on everyone else's blogs...HOLY COW...I haven't read yours in a month...I had a LOT of reading to do...LOVE reading your journal though!! I have been enjoying hearing of all your adventures! Enjoy Disney...we went summer '07...6 months pregnant with Sam! We did Disney for 10 days & Sea World 1 day. We had a BLAST! Say "hi" to the Hoseltons from me!

Erin said...

Hi cousins !
This is Erin Writing to you. i am so glad that you are having fun catch you later!


Lisa Bruggink-Weis said...

Dearest Joan, I've been thinking about you! I just finished a truly wonderful book and I want to send my special friends a copy...but I realized I have no address for you. It made me wonder where IN THE WORLD you might be these days and I opened up your blog and read up on your latest adventures. I love the last long update you wrote on the fact that the travel bug is waning and maybe it's time to look to settle somewhere. You are a lovely writer, very honest and clear. I know the right opportunity will come along for Thom and that you'll find the perfect home with rooms with private closets for all the boys and their 'stuff'. I kind of suspect you wouldn't mind a closet of your own by now, am I right?
Frits and I send you lots of love and a special hug for each and every one of your boys. Fargo misses them too.
When you finally get your new address (exciting to think about!) let me know and I'll send you the book as a housewarming present.If you need some good reading before that you might want to seek it out yourself and I'll send you something else later on. The book is called 'The Middle Place' by Kelly Corrigan...really moving.
I love you and think of you often.You and Thom are giving the boys a precious once-in-a-lifetime experience, they are so blessed to be Besches...