Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Riding out a Hurricane (well, a tropical storm) at Walt Disney World

It was the summer of 2012. Tropical Storm Debby set her eye (hehe puns) on the American east coast, starting with the Floridian peninsula.

Lucky for us, it happened to be the same week my wife and I traveled down to Walt Disney World for our second wedding anniversary.

We arrived on Walt Disney World Resort property, checking into our room at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge (this was the same trip my wife almost killed a giraffe using a hair curler). Watching the news, we learned that the storm would be coming toward us from the gulf, intensifying as it moved east.

We settled ourselves in our room for a few minutes and decided to go have dinner at Wolfgang Puck's at Downtown Disney. As we wandered through a shop, my wife's brother texted to let us know that there were tornados in the area (her whole family was keeping abreast of the weather once they found out a tropical storm was headed our way). Realizing we were way too early for our reservation, we wandered down to the West Side and sat beneath the large white tent-like covering of the Cirque du Soleil building, taking selfies with our crummy digital camera while the rain poured down just outside the overhang.

When it was time for dinner, we jogged across the sidewalk (my wife in a dress and fancy sandals) to Wolfgang Puck's dining room for a delicious dinner of bacon-wrapped meatloaf and mashed potatoes (thinking about that meal is not helping my diet...grrr).

Overnight, the storm got closer and intensified. Many of the animals at the resort took shelter beneath the trees on the savannah. We decided to visit Epcot that day, as much of the Future World portion of the park is indoors. We had purchased some rain ponchos before leaving our home in Greensboro, and we donned these upon getting off the Disney bus for our entrance into the park. The first attraction we decided to experience was one of my personal favorites, Spaceship Earth (I go into a lot of depth in a scene-by-scene analysis of the attraction in Volume 2 of A Historical Tour of Walt Disney World. I've provided an excerpt of the chapter on Spaceship Earth here). As we stood in the switchback queue waiting to enter the base of the geodesic sphere, a gale of wind whipped beneath the ride building, catching my cheaply purchased Meijer poncho like a kite. The air swept down the thin plastic sleeves and tore the material apart, leaving my rain guard in tatters...fifteen minutes after putting it on for the first time.

It was then that I realized that if this trip was to be dominated by a tropical storm and I had no poncho, it was going to be a very wet trip.

After disembarking from our time travel vehicle, Andrea and I dodged rain drops (unsuccessfully) and headed over to the Seas with Nemo and Friends pavilion, taking a rather wet selfie in the clam mobile ride vehicle before entering the black-light and digital world of the titular clown fish and his titular friends.

The remaining days of our trip were spent in a similar fashion, moving quickly from one ride building to another, spending extra time in gift shops along with huddling masses of other guests. Eventually we realized that we were going to get wet no matter what and became those crazy people who ventured out into the rain, dancing in the puddles and getting soaked, only to become frigid when entering the next attraction's ice cold air conditioned environment. Miraculously, neither of us developed a cold on that trip. At one point, while waiting for Rock n' Roller Coaster to stop breaking down, I ended up standing beneath an overhang, the water dripping off the edge of the building and onto me. Needless to say, I got a nice blow dry at 60 miles per hour about an hour later!

The one great thing about enjoying Walt Disney World with our friend Debby is that she kept quite a few parkergoers away from the parks; we walked onto practically everything we wanted to experience, which is quite unheard of in late June. On the last day of our trip, during which we hung out at the Magic Kingdom, Debby said her goodbyes and headed out into the Atlantic, where she went the way of Tiki Room: Under New Management, fizzling out never to be heard from again. The crowds returned to the parks and we spent most of the day dodging yellow-jerseyed Brazilian tour groups and their four foot tall flags waving in the air above our heads.

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