Wednesday, March 21

Expedition Everest

accommodate - u'kâmu`deyt (v) make fit for, or change to suit a new purpose

In Walt Disney World, it’s what they do.

On our honeymoon in 1999, I was introduced to the scooter rental. After minor knee surgery that should have healed quicker, our trip would have been a bit less fun without those wheels. (Tip of the hat to Laura for the suggestion and the wedding gift of Disney Bucks that covered it) And a bonus! At the Mouse, a wheelchair or scooter would go to a separate line. This avoided an hour wait in line sometimes which was waaaay cool, but I worried about dirty looks. When I was more mobile and in other amusement parks I found it rough to go through a line, get to a ride I couldn’t navigate, discover there’s no easy way to go back, and contend with those dirty looks. Holding up other folks while Bobby helped me balance or pick up my brace was less than optimal – and embarrassing. I came to appreciate Disney’s special boarding areas for water rides most. The balance thing again. The raft guys just let me “go again” if it wasn’t crowded to save time getting me in and out.

In 2001 we visited Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure in Anaheim. As Bobby said,” They don’t know how to do Disney here”. But Disneyland is an old park. It wasn’t built to handle the number of rental strollers, wheelchairs and scooters they rent much less the one I brought with me. Heck, people on foot were complaining about the narrow passageways and stairs. But they’re a classic; they do the best they can. However, California Adventure opened just 4 months before our trip. Repeatedly employees told us all attraction lines are accessible - there are no special lines - wheelchairs go in the same lines as everybody else -only to find out there were stairs, there was a separate line around the corner and I had to back my scooter down the hill. Through the people. We weren’t popular. Sheesh! Some of those ‘cast members’ should never have passed the audition. I guess the expanded opportunity for actors in Southern California has diluted the talent pool. But I digress.

Our next trip in 2003 took us back to Orlando and our love affair with the Mouse. By then I had my own scooter, of necessity and never had to wonder if the battery was fully charged. And the room, ahhhh the room. Disney introduced me to roll-in showers the first trip. Every time we go I want to put in my change of address.

This trip was different.

Oh, the Mouse hasn’t gone down hill. I have. Increased weakness on my right side has made it tougher to navigate stepping down into or over the side of the attractions I love to see. Even with my Bobby there to look me in the eye and convince me I am safe, there are a lot I just can’t maneuver in anymore. On our last trip to an amusement park in the fall, I got my brace stuck in a roller coaster. It wasn’t pretty.

Before embarking on our Disney trip I had little time, but managed to check out the accessible section of their website. Wow! What a lot of information. I weeded through it and gleaned a page of pertinent info to print – adding it to my handy vacation packet. Two things had caught my eye. One of them was in today’s destination - Animal Kingdom.

Expedition Everest

With angst I approached their new roller coaster Expetition Everest. I sidled up to the cast member in front and asked him if there was a seat I could try out before I got in the line. Suuuuuure! Go right along that wall and Melissa will help you. Sure enough Melissa was there alongside one of the cars for the ride on the ground. She explained: You can ride your scooter right up to the top. After your ride, one of the cast members will take it to the exit for you. She answered all my questions. There would be 11 seconds to board. No, I wouldn’t have to step down into it. Yes, the bar moves if you put your hand on it. Yes, Bobby can go in first then help me get my foot over the . . . Oh, would you like to open the door on the side instead and walk in?

::blink blink::

She stepped to the rear of the car and pulled hard on a latch. See, now both of you can just walk in.

::blink blink::

I sat in that car and cried. I was trying to make her understand what she was giving me. Melissa comforted me as I tried to express the years of frustration as my roller coaster riding days diminished. For once I was gaining mobility but the emotion just kept leaking out my eyes. She excused herself for just a moment and came back with a pad and pen, asking my name and address. I hesitated, but gave it – surely my information was safe with this goddess of rollercoasters. She then handed me a special pass to ride Expedition Everest at any time of day and skip all lines. Better than a Fast Pass! I told her no, save that for the kids with cancer and - Nope you’re special.

I cried some more while Bobby kept saying,” You’re going on a roller coaster, Boo”. The three of us talked for a while until I stopped shaking. Then we were off to Expedition Everest with a promise to scream her name from the top so she could hear us before we disappeared into the mountain.

Melissa Rocks!

I had boarded with ease and was yelling that with Bobby as the coaster inched up the outside of the mountain. The kids in front of us joined in.

Melissa Rocks!

Our ride had begun but was short lived. Something was wrong with the track and the ride had stopped. The track lurched with a terrible screech of metal. Suddenly! The shadow of the creature itself danced on the wall of the cave. As our train began to move backward into the darkness, I could see the mangled track where the Yeti had ripped it from the mountain. Now what? Hanging vertical like a bat waiting for the sun to go down, I knew what was coming.

It was sweet.

In total darkness we plummeted twisting and writhing within the bowels of the Himalayas. Strobe lights flashed in the night to capture the horrified expressions on our faces (available in the gift shop for $18). Because the whole thing takes place inside the mountain I have no idea if we were upside down or inside out but IT. WAS. GRAND. Then the sky opened up and the Yeti reached down for us, howling and swinging from more twisted tracks. I knew we were doomed.

I was crying and shaking with laughter when we pulled into the station, but managed to get out and hobble over to Trey who was waiting with my scooter. My whole body tingled - heart thumping, ears buzzing, wild eyes leaking, YEAH! Oh, yeah. I could barely turn the key. When we got down to the gift shop, Melissa was there. I held her like a kindred spirit thanking her for her part in the explosion in my heart. Finally I let her go.

The rest of Animal Kingdom was nice.

We rode Expedition Everest 7 times, the last time as it's final two guests. The cast members had become our friends and although Melissa had gone home, Trey presented us with a small card signed by everyone declaring it a certified magical moment. It and the picture of us on that first horrifying drop (priceless at $18) are framed and I look at it daily to remember the exhilaration of screaming into the face of that giant animatronic Yeti.

It was after the extended hours and we were the last to leave the park . I turned to say goodbye to my Everest.

accommodate - u'kâmu`deyt (v) make fit for, or change to suit a new purpose

In Walt Disney World, it’s what they do.

Tuesday, March 20

The Mouse

Where do I start? We stayed at Disney All Star Movies Resort. It was less expensive than just about any other hotel off the Disney property at $89 per night. Go figure. When we pulled up I could see there were several different sections. 101 Dalmatians. Fantasia. Toy Story. And please no – The Mighty Ducks. Guess where we stayed? The room was basic, no frills, but 'ya couldn't beat the price. Our weather was grey the first day, but when we left I remembered to take some pictures outside our hotel room. I worried about those hockey masks.

We decided to see two Kingdoms this time. First was Epcot.

In the World Showcase I picked up two new canes in China. Now this may not seem like a big deal, but they’re great. Buying and transporting canes while you’re walking about is, well, cumbersome. But The Mouse delivers your stuff to your hotel so you can enjoy the rest of your Disney day. Way cool. Lunch was in Mexico in the middle of a cactus garden. Such unusual shapes . It was interesting to see the local birds navigating the thorns to hunt for bugs and stray crumbs. Like all food areas in Disney, our restaurant was a hangout for the local birds. We even saw a large bird apartment complex full of Purple Martins (yes Martins). They are natural predators for mosquitoes and other pests.

In Morocco, Canada and England there was excellent music to enjoy while we took a break. The Canadian band played Celtic Rock complete with bagpipes. Bobby and I caught the whole show and they were quite good. England’s group was called The British Invasion. The word Invasion was very small and the font was the same as The Beatles. They had the clothes, the haircuts, and were pretty good in the sound department. In other performing arts, France brought us a talented street actor. His Comedia was very reminiscent of Harpo Marx. He used a whistle to punctuate his gestures which I remember Harpo doing – as well as my friend Mark Jaster. Very effective and funny. He had excellent control over the audience - especially the 9 year old who was his unwitting accomplice. The entire crowd was into the performance as he pranced about gesturing and demanding the kid catch is ball from over there. No over THERE!

Last time we were here, Test Track kept breaking down. We finally made it this time and had such a good time. We had picked up Fast Passes earlier. It's a sort of appointment to come back later and get in a shorter line - but spreads the biggest crush lines out. Before we knew it we were off to the obstacle course and the final speed test. Wheee! I can’t praise Disney enough for their progress in accessible amusement parks and other hospitality standards. They had a test car for me to practice getting in an out. More about that later.

This year our one night of fine dining was at L’Originale Alfredo di Roma Ristorante in Italy. I believe the waiter was truly pleased when I ordered the lamb. It’s so easy to order pasta. When I’m given an opportunity to taste another type of dish in a more upscale restaurant, I relish it. The lamb was like a nice handspun yarn as opposed to the sturdy acrylic I use for charity work. Tasty. We both ordered dessert, a rare indulgence for us. Chocolate Mouse for Bobby and Tiramisu for me. They were almost to pretty to eat. Almost.

That night Bobby and I watched the fireworks on a bridge over a canal in Italy.

It was like stepping back in time.

Saturday, March 17

Southern Belle

Ahhhhh. Spring vacation.

It was sleeting when we left home and headed south. Sleeting! Charleston, South Carolina was our first real stop and it was still rather cold there. But it was clear and sunny, there were rhododendrons blooming and we were off to explore. We like the quick city tours to get us started so it was off to the Visitor’s Center. There we discovered large signs proclaiming their regrets that most tours were unable to accommodate accessible needs. The one tour bus that had a wheelchair lift was out of commission. Waaah!

So off we went. Bobby loves bridges, especially suspension and we headed out to cross the New Cooper River Bridge. I thought it looked just like Bunker Hill Bridge in Boston, but Bobby said nooooo. All bridges are not created equal. I bowed to his superior bridginess.

There was a small park on the far shore called Patriots Point. There we saw an aircraft carrier and I got some nice bird portraits of Great and Snowy Egrets for my collection. We also happened on the wonderful folks from Blue Bell Creamery who were giving away free samples of ice cream to celebrate their 100 year anniversary. It’s a shame they didn’t get a warmer day for their promotion, but they’re a different spots all year. They even had a moon bounce in the shape of a giant tub of ice cream. In the cold, on the water, with the wind whipping about us we walked up for a cup of the best vanilla ice cream you can eat with a broken wooden spoon. It was deep frozen and fresh – unlike anything I’ve ever had from the grocery store. I ate it in the car with my gloves on and the heat on. Decadent.

We then drove around Charleston a bit, peeking at the old architecture and settled at Waterfront Park. It’s a lush spot with a giant Pineapple Fountain, the surrounding gardens and a pier. There are long pavilions on the dock with porch swings broad enough for five or six suspended on creaking anchor chains. We spent a lot of time there checking out the sights and photographing everything from birds to boats to benches. Yes, I noticed the armrests of the park benches had a bird motif in cast iron. That kind of functional art fascinates me.

After a fine meal at Southend Brewery & Smokehouse circa.1880 we took a strolling/rolling tour of the neighboring area snapping more pictures and noting interesting building features. It’s fun when he’ll notice one thing while I see something else nearby. We did that until the cobblestones rattled my brains.

Our best find was, of all things this R2D2 mailbox from the USPS.

Friday, March 16


So. Bobby came home from work and says to me,” Wanna go to Disney World?” Three days later we’re on the road.

We always leave the night before. You see, if we wait until morning, we won’t get out until three in the afternoon because we’re piddling around with laundry, checking one more thing on the computer or worse yet constructing my famous vacation printout booklet. Page-by-page it takes us through any predetermined destinations with maps and pertinent info. On the front page is a list of our hotels, complete with confirmation#, phone#, type of bed/accessible shower, person I spoke with at the property, Room# (if assigned). I’ve dealt with enough fouled up reservations when it comes to accessible rooms to know what I need for ammunition. Staying in an accessible room takes the three P’s. Planning. Patience. Persistence. Bobby usually just sits quietly and lets me do my thing. I have learned the right way to handle things to get what I need. At times we get a better or free room. Sometimes it is at another property. It does pay to stick with the same chain and join their rewards club. We stayed three nights free this trip because of nights slept in the fall. My Silver Elite (woo hoo) status actually helped three situations on this trip when our room was “given away” prior to 6PM.

The most memorable was Bud. I thought he was going to pee himself covering up his mistake. He changed his story three times. Two people in wheelchairs are already in the rooms with roll-in showers. I have my confirmation number xxx for a King bed accessible room with a roll in shower, can you see it where you are? Well someone requested one roll in shower but they want adjoining rooms with it. I’m a Silver Elite member. Find me a Marriott property with a roll in shower and call me back. We’re about an hour away from Charleston yet. (Five minutes later) I just caught the housekeeper coming out of the room (5:30PM,) the other folks hadn’t actually checked into it yet. Your room is ready. Yeah. Right. Still, when we got there Bud recommended a lovely local restaurant and gave us a discount coupon.

Our second snafu got us free water with our cookie (usually for the Gold Club) and even though we were using our points for the room, our points were still credited to our account. Sweet.

Third up was an upgrade to a better hotel. The clerk saw my guaranteed reservation and quickly said he could find me another room - without my asking. What a guy.

I think I'm on some kind of list now.

Sunday, March 11

It's Here!

Yesterday this was in our garden.

Yupper, Spring is here. The first crocus has finally come up. Had to get the camera for this one. I gotta get some Snow Crocus. They would always peek out in February. I can remember one year they bloomed on Valentines Day. I always called Grandmom when I saw the first one. She loved her garden and gave me all of the bulbs and bushes at my first house. I moved some here but I believe Grandmoms have finally all been eaten by some neighboring squirrels. (Surely not my baby squirrels). I think all of her 13 children, 26 grandchildren and plenty of other family have plants from her. The dark lilac I have is a direct descendant of the one in her yard. I still think of her and miss her so much at times like this. When Bobby and I got to the WH&G show, the fragrance was overwhelming. I sat there with my eyes closed and felt like a succubus. The flowers. The trees. The mulch. The dirt. The Koi in the pond. Yup. One of the displays had a display with Koi about 18 - 24". Beautiful.

Oh yeah. I'm done with the snow and ready for Spring.

Today we got more.

Last week Bobby showed me a sale at Ollies and we took a road trip. I picked up some pretty purple chenille by Lion Brand dirt cheap. It’s so soft. I get so cold sometimes watching TV and knitting but a blanket over my legs doesn’t help the arthritis in my neck. It’s hard to adjust a shawl with my right arm and I think a wrap that stays put when I get up to pee is perfect. I'm looking at shrug patterns. I need to swatch the chenille to be sure it doesn’t break since Holly Anne warned me some discount house yarns are notorious for that. I can take it back for store credit within 30 days. It's so lush, I hope it's okay.

I almost finished my Knit for Kids sweater Thursday. It's on a circular needle to carry the weight of the sweater and keep me from dropping a needle (besides I didn't have the required size but did have a nice set of interchangeable circs when I started it many moons ago). At K1P2 I almost blew it though. I realized I had joined my ends. D'uh... too much knitting in the round lately?

tink, tink, tink.

The good news is I am almost done. 6 more rows ought to do it. Add a little seaming on the shoulders and voila! Sweater according to pattern. Now that I know how to crochet I’m dying to try it as an edge and this sweater is the perfect project I think. One of the sleeves has a few missed k stitches at the end of a p row.

Wednesday, March 7

Am I good or what?

I am just getting soooooo good at that HTML stuff.

Observe my new Finished Projects picture link at left.

Dang it.

For a change I didn't want to see the snow today. I was going to a knit/crochet group on Cedar Lane. The 10:30 start time came and went and the flakes are still falling, if slowly. I just don't trust my footing anymore. Floundering on the frozen cement in the snow is one thing. Explaining why I can't feel the knitting needles sticking out of my thigh is another. Noooo thanks. The group will meet twice a month so I will try again in two weeks. We will knit items for The Claudia Mayer Cancer Resource and Image Center, Project Linus, and the neonatal intensive care at Ho Co. It said to just bring needles or hooks so they must have yarn. Maybe I'll sit and crank something out here. I've got some more cotton in my stash and could try a preemie hat on my own.

Why not?

Friday, March 2

Spell Check

I don't often read Yarn Harlot, but someone mentioned her at knitting last night so I visited her blog today. Someone persecuted her for what they felt were spelling errors. I feel compelled to reproduce here the comment I just left on her site.

I am not a faithful reader yet for the first time feel I must comment. Poor spelling sucks. In this day of IM-speak when spell check is so readily available, I don't get it. I’m not perfect, but I went to Catholic school and can identify British (kick-Canadian) spelling. That said, I find your writing style very easy to read.
Egad! Berating someone who might (even remotely) have a problem with spelling also sucks. I use a good computer spell and grammar check to compensate for a cognitive deficit. If I choose to use a colloquialism I can do so. And, if I wish - I can ignore incorrect grammar, decide on foreign spelling, and leave in my weird dashes (or parentheses for that matter). I wanna sound like me.

Besides, Sister Carolla would haunt me if I didn't at least edit.

Oh, and thanks for the swell knitting stuff too.

For my own purposes, I left something out. My verbal skills have gone to Hellena Handbasket. I stammer to find the right words and often find myself saying something two to three minutes after a topic has changed. My brain just can't keep up. I get lost in my own sentences. It's so unlike the outspoken, brazen master of improv who belted songs with abandon to adoring fans for 13 years. People who haven't known me forever have a very different grasp of who I am. This is why I enjoy writing here. It sounds like me. Spell check and editing are my friends.

But I digress.

Went to K1P2 last night and showed off Rainbow. Geez I'm proud of it. I absolutely babbled and left it on all evening like a new mother who won't pass the baby around. In other news - I seem to have forgotten how to do the half-double crochet. :-0 I took Jessica's scarf last night, figuring back and forth, back and forth - piece 'o cake right? aaaaack! When will I learn I can only knit, knit, knit while I'm there? I ripped out 5-6 rows twice. Tonight I have to start a swatch with some junk yarn to get the stitches to match. I think I figured it out though, it involves going into just the back vs. both loops of the stitch. Ahhhh. Takes me back to remembering how to knit after I learned how to purl. Wish me luck.