Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Disney World Pics Of The Day--Day 7

Those of you who have been following our Disney World journey will have noted that there was no day 6. That is because on the sixth day, Kat rested. Actually, we switched our plans and decided to spend that day at Magic Kingdom, and we found that any blogging we did would end up being mostly a laundry list of comparisons between the Land and the World. We didn't think a California/Florida theme-off would make for particularly interesting reading, so we decided to get a good night's sleep instead. Today, however, we headed back to the Animal Kingdom. The two days we spent there have turned out to be the most photographic and wonderful days of our vacation. (Although, the days at Epcot made it a pretty close contest.) Once again, we'll head straight into the photos and tell you what we saw.

It's the end of our trip, so we really needed to catch some Zzz's. (No groaning allowed.)

Cute little baby elephants at play--of course, little is a relative term.

These acrobats were amazing. They just exuded energy. We saw the same troupe at Disney's California Adventure several years ago, and I don't think these guys have aged a day. It must be all that exercise!!

Here's a Black and White Colobus Monkey. These guys have no opposable thumbs, and use their tails--which can be up to three feet long--to swing from branch to branch.

Check out these chompers. This is a Nile Crocodile, which has 1,200 psi of jaw-crunching capacity. We thought it best to stay out of his way, and suggest you do the same.

The big guy's an Okapi. The little guy is a Yellow-backed Dyker. That about sums up our total Okapi-Dyker knowledge fund. Aren't you impressed?

"Now where did I lay those eggs?"

"Mmmm, those eggs were delicious."
(Trivia moment: Our trusty guide informed us that the open mouth of a hippo is not a yawn, but a sign of aggression.)

These cute tender animals are ring-tailed lemurs.

"I just love that Tiki Room, don't you?"
(Actually, we did really enjoy the Tiki Room. They've updated the show recently, which it desperately needed, and updated the sound as well. I swore twenty years ago that I'd never go in again, but I'm glad I changed my mind.)

"How come cows get cuds and antelope don't? I want a cud. What is a cud, anyway? Oh, wait a minute!! Wikipedia says antelope do have a cud, and it's a good thing too--otherwise we couldn't digest all that grass we eat. Well, okay then--I better get chewing."

"Rhino-schmino. I'm HIP!"

"Sure, I look tender and juicy, but you're gonna have to make it past the horns."

Warthog self-esteem: "My mom thinks I'm cute."

(If you want a better caption you're going to have to come up with it yourself. We're getting rummy.)

This is the first in a series of gorilla shots. We've entitled this one "King of the Planet of the Apes." This big guy--all 550 pounds of him--is the dominant male in the troop of bachelor gorillas that all live together at Animal Kingdom. They have a very definite pecking order, and when we were there we saw some really interesting behavior, including chest beating and blanket stealing. (They have enough blankets to go around, but all of them want the blue blanket for some reason, and the boss man here made a big show of parading around with the coveted blue treasure.
Here he is again with the blue blanky. We call this one "Linus." If you look closely at the side of his head, you'll see a wound he received last week when one of the slightly smaller males decided to challenge him. The guide we talked to said the fight didn't get horribly heated, because, really, all these guys have to fight over is blankets, but if they introduced a female into the mix things would get both dangerous and interesting. Needless to say, they are not planning on bringing in a female anytime soon.

This is the oldest bachelor in the pad. He's about 25. He may look aggressive here, but he's only having a really big yawn. He's the smallest gorilla in the mix, at only about 425 pounds (poor little thing) and he doesn't like to get too involved with the more aggressive younger males. He stayed off to the side the whole time we watched, and occasionally gave a "please don't hurt me" cower.

Here's our champion again, triumphantly toting the blue blanky. We had to throw in this picture just so you could see how much arm he has. Astounding aren't they?

Here's our last photo. This is a golden-breasted starling. We decided to put this picture at the end because we wanted to end our trip journal with a cute little birdy instead of a big mean gorilla.

We did other things throughout the day besides finding photo ops. We went on rides. (The Dinosaur one is great, but the Safari is the best.) We saw a parade. (We couldn't help but see the parade. We were trying to get back to the safari ride, and had to wait for the parade to pass by before we could cross the street. We were a captive audience.) We took a train to the veterinary station and saw a tortoise get a checkup. All of these were diverting, interesting, and educational. If we had to pick the best non-animal-related amusement of the day, however, it would have to be Finding Nemo The Musical. Loads of fun, and very creative in its production techniques. The only thing we both thought was a little weak about the show was that some of the songs seemed a little contrived, mostly when they tried to convey in words something that got conveyed in longer, more visual and less expository ways in the original movie, but that was our only less-than-flattering critique. Other than that small quibble, it was fine family fun, and an excellent way to pass forty minutes of our precious Animal Kingdom time.

Well, that about wraps things up from Florida. Tomorrow we'll be heading home. We have a few hours to fill before our shuttle picks us up, and we hope to spend them taking pictures (shocking, I know) on the Boardwalk near Epcot. There were some beautiful hotels that we only got to glimpse the other evening and we'd love to see them in the daytime, and snap a few final pics. If we get any good ones, I'll probably post them after we get back home--and get some rest--we've got a long flight ahead of us. We've been primed for the trip home by the restaurant where we ate dinner tonight. We ate at Artist Point, in the Wilderness Lodge. It's a stunning, lakeside hotel, modelled after one of the lodges you would find in Yellowstone National Park, or other points West. It got us in the mood to see our beautiful Pacific Northwest again, and since it's been so cold here for most of our visit (it barely made it above 50 degrees yesterday, and we actually had to buy me gloves), we're already focused on getting back on the ski slopes. I'm looking forward to checking in on the rest of the world, too, and seeing what I missed while we've been playing here in Orlando. I hope you enjoyed our photographic adventure together. Ked and I certainly did. See you in a couple days.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Disney World Pics Of The Day--Day 5

Today was absolutely fabulous! We went to Disney's Animal Kingdom and can't even begin to tell you how wonderful it was. (Actually, I could tell you, but I doubt you have an hour to spend reading my raptures.) So, I'm just going to let today's pictures show you a little of what we saw...

Hyacinth Macaws

African Rhythms

A nice place to call home

Gators, or is it crocodiles? How about "big reptiles with really scary teeth?" Works for me!

We don't know the official name of this little guy. We just know he's pretty (or she's pretty. We don't know that either. Aren't we just a wealth of information?)


It was very clearly dinner time in the tiger zone. Tigers are naturally solitary creatures, but these tolerate each other because they are well fed. We could tell when the three tigers that share this habitat all started pacing around together over by a couple of low archways that they all had the same thing on their minds--digestibles!!

Although this fellow too must remain nameless, because we didn't take good enough notes, we can say with authority that he's cute, and really, isn't that all that matters?

Judge G

According to the kind and informative Disney employee, this is a Gernook Antelope. The spelling is phonetic, since even our Disney guide couldn't be certain of the proper sequence of letters. I'd look it up, but it's late, and I'm tired, and I think it would be good for you to take some initiative toward your own spelling and vocabulary education. For added incentive, you can come back and correct my spelling if you'd like. I'll give you a gold star in the comments section and bonus points on the spelling test for the extra effort.

This was just a pretty birdhouse that stood in a very beautiful little aviary. Disney is so very good at the details.

Tiger basking in the sun--These "ruins" make for a pretty classy napping spot, don't you think?

Storky and Hutch

"Hear me roar!!"

"Let's see. I'll start with the endive salad with raspberry vinaigrette, and then I'd like the roast duck with mango salsa. If you don't have any fresh duck, I'll just chew on this bit of palm leaf, but I'd really like some fresh ground pepper."

Local color

"Let's have a conversation."

Gee Mom, the water's so blue."


Sometimes God works in Technicolor.

These were just a few of the wonders we saw today. We're definitely going back tomorrow. There was a lot we missed, and a lot we couldn't capture with our cameras, but we sure had fun trying to see and record it all. We're really hoping for tomorrow to be another day like today. Everything we did was a delight, from the Safari ride and the walking tours, to our "journey back in time" to see dinosaurs, to our terrifying encounter with the Yeti on "Expedition Everest." Oh, I almost forgot!! One of the high points of the day was our dinner at Boma--an African buffet at the Animal Kingdom Lodge that a friend suggested we try. The food was amazing, and unique, and much of it was new to us. If you've read the Meow before, you know that food really isn't my thing, but I actually had a second plate from this delicious buffet, and that's saying a lot!! One extra cool bit of Disney magic--when I asked if there was a cookbook, the waiter had to say no, but he had me write Ked's email address and the recipes I wanted from dinner down on a paper that Boma provides for guests, and the restaurant is going to email us the recipes. Now that's what I call service!! If you ever make it to Boma, we highly recommend the Fufu.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Disney World Pics Of The Day--Day 4

Ah, the movies. Who doesn’t love ‘em? Ked and I do. We have a whole collection at home of classic and not-so-classic films that we have watched over and over again. We have the same taste, too, which is a good thing, because our taste doesn’t necessarily match up with the rest of the world, and without each other we would be alone in our quirkiness. With some of our favorites we can quote entire sections verbatim, and certain phrases from these oft-seen gems have eased their way into our everyday conversation at points both appropriate and completely out of left field. If one of us says, “And Joe, I want those catalogues,” the other is sure to respond with, “Well then, please order them.” (Joe Versus the Volcano—one of the most underrated films ever.) It doesn’t matter that not another soul on the planet would understand what triggered the quotation. Nine times out of ten both our minds will have gone there at the same time, so the responding phrase is automatic.

Because we love movies, you’d think that one of the parts of our Florida adventure we’d like the best would be the day we just spent at Disney-MGM Studios. We would possibly have thought so too if it weren’t for the couple times that we have gone to the Universal Studios Theme Park in California and had it just fall flat for us. There were a few things we really enjoyed. The Backdraft tour and the Jurassic Park rides were both a lot of fun. The Water World show was really entertaining, and the Terminator was, well, the Terminator, but the rest of what we saw left us underwhelmed, to put it politely. While we love movies, what we really love are the tales they tell, and the places they take us in our minds, not the glamour of the business, or the mystique of the people who tell those tales. We’ve never cared who was dating whom, or what star was seen at what restaurant, or what they wore, or what they drove. We’ve never been impressed with the limousines and fancy clothes, and awards shows. We do admire the skill it takes to make films, though, and so we thought it was worth heading to the park today to catch a glimpse of how that’s done. This was still Disney, after all, so we thought maybe the magic would make the Studio experience a little more to our taste than the one at Universal.

Unfortunately, we found it to be pretty much the same experience as the times we spent on the other studio tours. There were some high points, but a lot of Ho Hum, and we ended up leaving rather early, without the desire to go back and have another go at anything we had already done once. We didn’t take too many pictures, either. We just didn’t get inspired. With a few exceptions, the things in the brochure didn’t live up to their promise, so we didn’t bother recording them. The best part of the day was that it finally got warm, and our streak of days gone without standing in any long lines continues unabated. It's not as much as we would have liked, but you gotta focus on the positive (eventually anyway.) We’re heading to the Animal Kingdom tomorrow, and I suspect it will be more to our liking. Oh, I almost forgot; the day did hold a fun surprise or two. As a highlight to our time at the Studio, we were walking along minding our own business when the Disney magic sparked a little--we got chosen as Disney's "family of the hour" (or something like that), and got pins declaring us "Honorary Citizens" and free buckets of popcorn!!

I'll tell you about a couple of the more memorable bits of the day. One of the first things we did today was head off on the backlot tour. It had a few interesting moments, but one in particular was (we’re pretty sure) probably unintentional. On the tour, they take you into a staging area where they recreate some of the action from the movie Pearl Harbor. It was amusing enough, but what really made us chuckle was the MC. This kid clearly has acting aspirations beyond the Disney backlot tour. We were sure that after his shift he was probably heading off to audition for a role in the next teen TV melodrama. We pictured him as the selfish and arrogant football jerk, “Rock Tenderheart,” who is transformed into a good guy by the love of the really-beautiful-but-considered-ugly-for-the-sake-of-television girl, “Sarah Plain and Sexy.” That provided us with as much amusement as most of the rest of the tour. They sailed by the detail stuff about how movies are made, and spent a lot of time pointing out “this is the car so-and-so drove in such-and-such movie.” We got to see some explosions, flooding and fire. Yawn. Moving on. Here's what we found...

One of the more fun parts of the day was the stunt driving demonstration, called Lights, Motors, Action! First thing we noticed—it was LOUD. There was lots of spinning, revving, jumping, and occasionally burning and driving backwards. The thing that made this fun, though, was that they stopped after each set of stunts and showed how they did it. For example, there was an awful lot of driving backwards very fast—stuff that would get normal humans killed rather quickly. So, we thought, “Wow, those stunt guys are amazing.” However, what was really happening was a little more “sleight of hand” than “incredible skill and daring.” Turns out the car that looks like it’s going backwards has its innards reversed, so that backward is actually forward to the stunt driver. Pretty sneaky, huh? They also explained that on some of their cars there is a second set of gears. A car that has four gears going forward has a little trick handle that can be flipped to engage the four gears the car also has for going in reverse—which explains how “Tom Cruise” can do things the rest of us would find Impossible. There’s lots of other stuff we learned from the show, like how the cars in the stunt show had motorcycle engines instead of car engines, carry only twenty minutes worth of gas for fire safety, and have water pumps sending liquid through the drivers’ clothing to keep them cool as they’re working. They never did explain, though, why random things kept bursting into flame for no reason. I guess they want to keep some of the mystery alive, eh?

I just can't resist a really bad old sci fi flick. The worse, the better. So, naturally, I was drawn to the Sci-fi Dine-In Theater. Would you like some tentacles with your fries?

The inside of the restaurant was row after row of fifties-looking cars, complete with TV trays and old sci fi movie clips on the big screen.

We were looking forward to the "Journey Into Narnia: Creating The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe." It was billed as a "15-minute walking tour." We pictured ourselves walking through sets and costume departments, makeup rooms and editing rooms, learning about how they put the movie together. Imagine our disappointment when the "walking tour" turned out to be "Walk into a fake forest. Stand there and watch an extended trailer for the movie. Walk out. The end." Okay, to be fair, we walked by a few display items, like the White Witch's costume and sleigh, but "a walking tour" it wasn't. Gripe. Grumble. Whine. That's almost as bad as weather reporters promising snow and not delivering. There are just certain things civilised people shouldn't do.

The stage shows of Disney movies are almost always good--and very colorful!!

Of course, after seeing the Sci-fi Dine-In Theater, we couldn't help wondering what Beauty and the Beast would look like with a few alien elements thrown in. What can I say. We left the park early and had "play-time" on our hands.

Doesn't Kedley look cute? However, if you look closely, you'll see that the temperature is in the seventies and he's still wearing his jacket. He actually unzipped it, though, so clearly we're having a heat wave!!

Well, that's it for today--I know this one was a long one. Kind of sad that I have the most to say on the day we have had the least fun, but it's only because I didn't drag myself back to the hotel late in the evening, all tired and fuzzy, not because I want to complain. We're still having a ball, and, on the very positive side, we'll probably get a really good night's sleep. "So we got that going for us, ...." (anyone?)

Friday, January 26, 2007

Disney World Pics Of The Day--Day 3

We were totally geekin' out today, and it was SO MUCH FUN!! We got to explore all the cool sciency hands-on learning type stuff that Disney does so well. We got to learn about carbon nanotubes, and nanomagnets, and solar energy, and atom assemblers, and how plastic bottles are basically made of polyester, and how, after we drink their contents, they are often turned into fabric, including that polar fleece that the fashion-and-comfort-conscious are wearing so much in Oregon right now. (As I've noted in my previous Disney posts, that's what we've been needing to wear in Florida too, but today, the weather took a turn for the better. It actually got up to 68 and we had to break out the sunglasses. Whoo-hoo!) If you'd been here with us, you'd have gotten to design your own robot, learn the history of silly-putty, learn how excitons are going to triple the capacity of solar cells, and how carbon nanotubes coated in folic acid will bond with folic acid receptors in cancer cells so that doctors can KILL the little mutants. Doesn't that sound like fun?

So, here are our pics of the day. If you think there are too many of me, that's Kedley's fault. He controlled the picture selection, which is why there are so many of me and all the ones of him are "hammy." It is also why there's a picture of fire, and another of food.

Carbon nanotubes? Wheeeeee!!

Hangin' with Jimminy.

How do you like Ked's new "Do?"

We got to play with fun, expensive toys. Again, need I say, wheeeee!?!

First, they let us design our own robots, which was cool. Then, they let us race the robots we designed, in a computer simulation. Ked kicked butt! Then, things got a little tricky. They actually wanted us to build the thing. You can see how well that went. We decided our luggage was already too full anyway.

After the robot-building came the "Mission To Mars." Like the intrepid, but cautious, explorers that we are, we opted for the less intense "green" level mission training. That went pretty well. We both survived, and didn't crash or throw up on anything. Then, Ked got a little cocky. He decided to up the "thrill level" and move on to the more advanced "orange level" training, where they throw in G-forces and spinning. The photo tells you how well that set with him. We had fast passes to move on from there to the Test Track for some more high-speed action, but after Kedley calculated the odds of revisiting his lunch, we decided to take on something tamer.

One of the tamer, but interesting things we did was the Circle-Vision movie about China. Really neat. There are continuous screens all the way around the room, showing film from cameras mounted on the exteriors of helicopters and airplanes, providing a panoramic view of Chinese landscapes and city scenes. It made us want to go there. Outside the theater, they had a display of replicas of the terra cotta soldiers that stand guard in the tombs of dead emperors. Lucky soldiers-- not only do they get to stand guard forever--they even get terra cotta horsies to play with.

We were both getting pretty tired by the end of the day. So what did I do? I found a comfy bench, and I made it mine.

We went to a fancy restaurant for dinner and requested a seat at the counter, so we could watch the chefs at work. This was one of the highlights of the day, especially for Ked. It combined two of his favorite things: fire and food.

Doesn't this pretty much speak for itself?

We ended the evening with a lovely stroll down the Boardwalk, followed by fireworks. Ked got to see fire; I got to see fireworks. So far, the vacation's going great. See ya tomorrow.

Update: Weirdness alert. Blogger apparently eliminated one of the photos, so it looked like I was all excited to get to play with mannequins. There are a number of things wrong with that. Fixed now.