Rich’s Birthday Celebration
Who: Rich and Kathy
When: August 7-15, 2004
What: Rich’s Birthday Week
Where: Walt Disney World
We like to make at least a week out of our birthday celebrations, starting with the weekend before the birthday and going through the weekend following. Actually, we loosely consider all of July and August our celebration months, with Kathy’s birthday in July and Rich’s birthday and our wedding anniversary both in August.
Saturday, August 7
To kick off birthday week, we attend the matinee performance of of the Broadway musical, Chicago. Tampa is the first city in this phase of the tour and this is the last day of the Tampa performances. We both love the movie Chicago and Chicago is Kathy’s all-time favorite Broadway musical because of the song and dance performances. She loves Bob Fosse’s productions and we have the Chicago DVD and the soundtrack CD, which Kathy has practically worn out. In fact, this musical was the inspiration for her second novel, Lies! Camera! Action!, which is currently being considered by several Literary Agents.
So, when Rich suggests we see Chicago, Kathy is ecstatic. Tampa Bay’s Center for Performing Arts is a wonderful facility and we thoroughly enjoy the performances, played more for comedy in the stage performance than in the movie.
Sunday, August 8
August is a rainy month in Florida and we’re having above normal rainfall this year. But we do manage to take a dip in the pool in late afternoon in-between rainstorms.
Monday, August 9
Unfortunately, it is back to work for Rich but he is taking his actual birthday (Wednesday) off and we are heading for Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom where we plan to visit Tomorrowland and Fantasyland, the 2 lands we skipped on Kathy’s birthday trip. Carousel of Progress is reported to be up and running in Tomorrowland and this is one of our favorites, with Rich riding this for the first time at the 1964 New York World’s Fair and Kathy in Disneyland. We’ll then monorail over to Epcot for lunch in one of our favorite restaurants, Le Cellier Steakhouse, in World Showcase.
Tuesday, August 10
Rich comes home with a sore back and Kathy has hurt hers while out grocery shopping so we change into our swimsuits after work and head for the community spa. This is when we start planning one for our own backyard. After soaking our sore muscles under the jets, we cool off in the pool. While it would be nice to have our own backyard pool, this is a really nice large, resort-style pool and a small backyard pool would not be as enjoyable. These lots are awfully small these days. We go to bed early hoping to be all healed by morning.
Wednesday, August 11
Today is Rich’s birthday and after the cats all wish Rich a great, big “Happy Birthday,” we get up, shower, dress, gulp down a quick cup of coffee and head for the road. The drive is, thankfully, uneventful and we arrive at the TTC (Transportation and Ticket Center), take the tram to the gate where we need to make a choice on how to get into the Magic Kingdom: by ferry boat or monorail. Since the MK at DW is completely cut off from the parking lot, there is an extra step before you arrive in the park, unlike Disneyland where you would just park and walk or tram up to the ticket window (a parking garage has placed the old parking lot). We choose to ferry over since we’re happier any time we’re on water. We also notice that the ferry dock is located right next to the Polynesian Hotel so we may stay there on a future overnight visit. We wait behind the chain while the ferry docks and Pluto disembarks and walks up to Rich and gives him a “High 5.” Rich’s day is getting off to a good start.
It is a pleasant ride over on the ferry and as soon as we disembark and enter with our Annual Pass, we head for the Town Hall to get a “Today Is My Birthday” pin for Rich. Several CMs (Cast Members) wish Rich a “Happy Birthday” throughout the day. Although Florida schools have started already, the rest of the country seems to be vacationing at Walt Disney World. It is also quite hot today. Our recent days have been cooler due to the rains we have been having but today has clear blue skies and is hot! We slather on our Coppertone from the miniature tube we carry in our fanny pack and don”t really reapply the rest of the day. But with our Florida base tan, that is all we need. Even though we spend hours in the hot, Florida sun, we do not burn at all. That’s pretty good for Kathy’s fair complexion. But once she has a base tan, she is good to go. And Rich just gets browner and browner.
We’re a bit hungry for some breakfast so we make our usual stop at Main Street Bakery and grab our favorite cherry and cheese danishes and a bottle of water. We eat and walk and share the water as we head for Tomorrowland, anxious to get started on rides since we arrived a little later than opening and it’s getting crowded already. Also, our time is somewhat limited since we have Priority Seating (PS) at Le Cellier in Epcot, which is a 7-mile monorail ride away.
Today we plan to focus on Tomorrowland. We head for Buzz Lightyear, not a new ride for WDW but a first for us. We get a Fast Pass so we can return later at a set time and not have to wait in line. TimeKeeper is also open. We have never ridden this ride either and it is only open seasonally. We also notice that Carousel of Progress is open so we head for that next. This is definitely a museum piece but it is fun to experience for old times’ sake.
We head back to Timekeeper. It is similar to the CircleVision in Disneyland except that it has a theme of time travel. We are time travelers who have landed at the Paris Scientific Exposition in 1900. After meeting HG Wells and Jules Verne, we end up taking Jules Verne on the journey of his lifetime. In the end, we all come to the conclusion that nothing is impossible, that your dreams can come true. That’s the message that inspires us to love Disney so.
It is now time for our Fast Pass for Buzz Lightyear. Rich doesn’t think he will enjoy this ride, mostly because Kathy always outshoots him in the Shooting Gallery in Frontierland but he is a Space Ranger Pro. This is his game. His points far outnumber Kathy’s.
This is the first time we’ve spent this much time in Tomorrowland at WDW and we’re really enjoying ourselves. Next, we ride the TTA (Tomorrowland Transit Authority). This ride takes you through and around other attractions in Tomorrowland. It’s quite relaxing and enjoyable.
We have just enough time to see Mickey’s Philharmagic in Fantasyland. We saw this 3-D show for the first time last fall and we are anxious to see it again. It is a delightful show and never seems long enough. Our favorite is still when Simba the Lion is singing, “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King.” He reminds us of our Skipper, who also couldn’t wait to be king when he was just a kitten and Queen Ginger was still reining.
It is really hot by now and there’s a lot of walking involved but, miraculously, Rich’s back is all better. He attributes the pain to work stress and WDW has a way of healing those kinds of pains away. We walk back through Main Street and head for the Express Monorail back to the TTC. You cannot go straight to Epcot, you must change monorails to the TTC. The express monorail is the slowest in history. Must be the driver’s first day. He inches up his speed with sporadic breaking just in case he loses all control and gets up to the normal speed.
We finally reach the TTD and change monorials headed for Epcot. This time we get a seat and the miles go by quickly. But, after circling throughout Epcot, the monorail heads back out to the station, which is located outside of the park. So, then we have to present our belongings to the security guard (again) and use our AP (again) to get through the gate. We really wish they had a monorail station located between Future World and World Showcase. Many times guests monorail over to the World Showcase for a meal and it would be much more convenient if you didn’t have to reenter the gates and walk through FW to get to WS. Oh well. Besides the heat and tired feet, we are also running late for our PS. We walk as quickly as we can through Future World and arrive at Le Cellier Steakhouse in the Canada Pavilion of World Showcase.
Thankfully, we are only 7 minutes late and they are able to seat us right away. The dark, wine cellar-like atmosphere is very refreshing and the journey to get here is quite worth the effort. The food is even better. This is the best place for lunch on WDW property.
The waitress brings us each a glass of ice water and the famous tasty warm breadsticks. Rich’s favorite? The pretzel breadstick. Last time we each had a bowl of their equally-famous cheese soup. This time, we decide to share the Oven Roasted Mussels—vine-ripe tomatoes and fennel accompanied by a kalamata olive crouton. The kalamata olive crouton was especially delicious. Rich loves mussels but prefers the Mussels soaked in Chardonnay sauce at the Flying Fish. After offering Rich a sip of her Washington State Chateau St. Michelle Chardonnay, Rich agrees that Chardonnay is the missing ingredient.
For his entree, Rich orders the 10 oz. New York Strip Steak—roasted garlic, mache, and roasted Yukon potatoes, caramelized Vidalia onions and finished with veal demi glace and Kathy orders the Sauteed Shrimp Pasta with Smoked Salmon—Vidalia onions, asparagus, and spinach, topped with a fennel emulsion
Le Cellier does steak especially well but the shrimp and salmon pasta is equally delicious. For dessert, Rich shares his Maple Creme Brulee and Iniskillin Ice Wine with Kathy. Rich also prefers the more generous serving of the Ice Wine at Flying Fish. Guess we’ll have to make a return trip to the Flying Fish in October. But since it is only open for dinner, Le Cellier is a wonderful choice for a birthday lunch.
Nourished and refreshed, we are ready to make the monorail trip back to the TTC to pick up our car and head back home. But, first we do some birthday shopping at Mouse Gear as we pass back through Future World. Rich picks out a pair of Tigger shorts and T-shirt and we also get another set of our favorite Mickey coasters and 2 outdoor plates to match our outdoor wine glass.
It has been another busy fun-filled day at WDW and one we will remember for years to come, especially since this is the first time Rich has ever spent his birthday at Disney. But summer birthday celebrations at Disney are challenging and in the future, we think we might not venture out to the parks during the hot and crowded summer. We’re really looking forward to our favorite time of year and event at WDW: the Food & Wine Festival in October/November.
This evening we continue the birthday celebration with cards for Rich, cake and ice cream.
Thursday, August 12
With news of Hurricane Charley poised to hit the Gulf Coast sometime tomorrow (first hurricane on Gulf Coast in over 40 years—waiting for us, I guess), we get our Hurricane Preparedness Kit together. Rich makes a quick stop at lunch to pick up additional supplies. We will move all patio furniture inside. Since we do not live in the Evacuation or Flood areas, we’re expecting mostly rain and winds. We’re probably more nervous than anything since we have not experienced this before, although we did experience similar high winds/rain during our short stay in Ohio.
Rich forgot to turn off the house alarm before going out to get the paper this morning and the alarm went off. Within seconds, the security company called us so guess our alarm system is working. The cats are freaked out even before the storm hits. All is quiet before the storm. It is sunny and clear, 10 am, Eastern Daylight Time.
Friday, August 13
How nice of Charley to show up for Rich’s birthday week. Here’s hoping Hurricane Charley loses his energy and calms down before hitting land. In the meantime, we are prepared to go without power over the weekend, have extra water for us and the cats and canned food. We will pack a bag and get the cat carriers ready just in case we have to evacuate. Evacuation isn’t likely. That’s one reason during our househunting expeditions, we made the decision to buy inland, rather than closer to the Gulf. Somehow those “Evacuation Route” signs everywhere were a bit nervewracking. And no wonder. Just heard that our old county, Pinellas County, is partially being evacuated. We had originally planned to stay in our apartment in Pinellas County until the year lease was up and then move into a new home. But when this home became available so quickly, we went for it. Talk about providential!
The Culligan man shows up to install our water softener and he is so skittish, it takes him 3 hours and he informs us that he has lived in Florida all his life and that our big sliders will shatter and we should be boarding up all of our windows. This only elevates our anxiety level. We walk the neighborhood and notice that most neighbors are not boarding up. It is a little late anyway to run down to Lowe’s to get plywood and an electric drill and make any attempt to board our windows. We walk throughout the house and put away all loose articles and anything we don’t want to get damaged in case the windows do shatter and get the cat carriers ready in case we need to secure the cats. But we’re wondering if by the time the windows shatter, will the roof blow off anyway? Our home is built to the latest code and even beyond code so we’re not sure we really need to board the windows.
Tampa Bay lucks out. Hurricane Charley hit south, just north of Ft. Myers in Port Charlotte. We barely get anything: a little wind and some sprinkles. One of the lightest storms we’ve seen in Florida.
Saturday, August 14
Charley heads for Orlando, the one place we thought was safe in Florida. Charley loses wind speed and is only a level 1 Hurricane when it passes through Orlando. We also notice that most of the devastation is done to mobile homes or old buildings. We’ll need to do more homework about boarding the windows and get the necessary tools, if necessary. We rearrange house back to normal, patio furniture out on Lanai, front porch, walkway lights, etc.
Sunday, August 15
Birthday Week concludes by attending a morning church service and then relaxing the rest of the day. The past few days have been quite stressful.