I’m Going To Disney World, Part 1

Well, hey hey – it’s time for another trip recap. And this one is much different from Alaska!

I’ve given myself such a bad travel itch, that even only five months after Alaska, and only about a week after Florida, I’m already wondering when my next trip will be. I have so many ideas! Austin, Texas. DisneyLAND, instead of Disney World. St. Augustine again, or San Francisco again and again. I just love that hotel life, even that airplane life, and the fact that you can be warm in January, and smiling for 12 hours a day. Even smiling makes my face ache. Name that movie quote for a kiss!

Disney World

This was our fourth year in a row going to Disney World, which is a high number for someone who thought she’d never get to Disney World with her kids. It all unfolded sort of naturally and progressively. Our first trip was a gift from my aunt and my now-deceased grandfather, and we didn’t have to fret about the trip at all. Every detail was taken care of for us, including flights, accommodations, car, carseats, food, and admission to Magic Kingdom and EPCOT, and both Universal Studios parks.

It was a bit of a dream.

Our second trip started in St. Augustine, Florida – where my in-laws had rented a house for a month. They gifted us with plane tickets, and a gorgeous place to stay. We couldn’t go so close to Orlando and NOT then stay there for a few nights and theme parks. We stayed in my brother-in-law’s apartment and since my aunt still worked for the theme parks, I don’t think we had to pay for tickets. We got so lucky again! Except we did Orlando at the end of our trip, and paid the price in exhaustion!

Last year – our third year – was quite different. We paid for everything, except to stay in St. Augustine, but we had learned to do St. Augustine second! We spent five nights at a Walt Disney World Hotel – for the first time – at the Art of Animation Resort in a Finding Nemo suite. We had told the kids we were staying in a Little Mermaid room, but surprised them with the upgrade. Five nights was a bit crazy. We then relaxed for four nights in St. Augustine at the beach, and didn’t do much – other than walk, read, sleep, eat, etc. It was totally awesome, so we were refreshed to return home after warm weather and sea air.

It was also our first time going to Animal Kingdom and using a Disney travel agent.

The cost was so high that we said we probably wouldn’t do it for 2017. For that money, I was thinking the Caribbean or Aruba. Anything! Somewhere early in 2016, Des got OBSESSED with the Cars movie franchise. I couldn’t believe this because there had been a whole Cars section of the Art of Animation Resort – only a two minute walk from our Finding Nemo Suite. I had even walked around it with Scarlet, but never thought to take Des. He got into the movie shortly after the trip. For nearly a year, Des had been talking about the “Lightning McQueen” hotel. Except for Christmas time, in which he asked us to tell him Santa stories every night, he got Lightning McQueen bedtime stories. This was big! As the new year grew closer, I also knew I needed to get to Orlando to visit my aunt. My uncle had died fairly suddenly in June of 2016 and I wanted to stay with her.

It’s still nearly impossible to wrap my head around his loss.

We booked last minute at the tail end of last year, but still got a great deal on JetBlue. This dream was on! We were skipping St. Augustine this year, which is still bugging me and I’m dreaming about somehow going during February vacation! That dream is probably ridiculous with the price of our last trip (just last week), and that I had to buy a new lens this week.

A girl can dream, though..

So Athena went to stay with our in-laws, we got a great cat-sitter for Juniper, and then we packed our suitcases full of bathing suits, Disney pins, and various layers of clothing. We ONLY needed warm weather clothing, though. Magic!

The flight was uneventful, which is good, and then it took an hour to get our rental car. It rained for ten minutes right after we landed, but then we got to my aunt’s house, the sun came out, we stripped down to shorts, and went into vacation-mode:

Next up – the first two days of sunshine, and then we’ll get to the theme parks. I can assure you that this trip was one of the best of my life – just for how it tested me physically, mentally, and emotionally. I’m so game to tell these stories before I lose even a minute of them, or that they fade at all. It’s funny how a trip can be life-changing, isn’t it? Have you ever had a trip that you didn’t necessarily think would be a game-changer, but it totally was? Tell me about one of those trips you had!

How I Honeymooned Your Father, Part XVII: Last Song

If you’re just tuning in to our Alaska adventures, here are the links to Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, Part VIII, Part IX, Part X Part XI, Part XII, Part XIII, Part XIV, Part XV, and Part XVI. Where did we leave off last? Oh, boy! Talkeetna! We spent 24 hours there, making lemonade out of lemons, by ziplining after our Denali Flight Tour dreams were all squashed by the weather. We had a locals’ dinner, a tourists’ dessert, and then went looking fruitlessly for moose, but fruitfully for adventure – like abandoned earth stations and tales of severed moose heads. Sometimes I have something so deep-rooted and burrowed that I want to say, but I don’t know how to say it. I’ll let Eddie Money say it, but pretend it’s me.

I may not have his obvious charisma, but this is about more than Talkeetna. It’s the whole thing. It’s the whole life. It’s dreams and magic and little girl wishes. There’s nothing I can say to make you understand, but it’s ok. I imagine you get it anyway. It’s about that hollowed out feeling from things beginning and ending. And how every ending is a beginning, and every beginning is an ending. It’s about how nothing is ever as it seems, or how you imagined it when you wanted it for SO LONG. That’s ok, too. Sometimes the reality is even better. Achier. Breakier. Heartier. It has grooves & heights. Peaks & dips.

It can knock you off your feet, and make you lightheaded and dizzy.

Now bear with me, because this post could easily be two posts, as it is two or more stories, and I’m even adding two songs for you. We woke up on our last day at Grace and Bill’s Freedom Hills B&B and went to the main house for breakfast. It was awesome to sit with other guests and talk about Alaska land, Denali, and bull moose. There was spotty WiFi but I remember taking a shower and then making a video for work out there in the wilderness. I was even wearing a lumberjack shirt. During checkout, Bill suggested we go back to Anchorage through Hatcher Pass, therefore bypassing Wasilla – easily the ONE place in Alaska I wasn’t completely captivated by – but we were only on the main road once. I’m certain there’s beauty there.

Hatcher Pass wasn’t shabby, though! It was an old road for the gold miners! So cool! #TheMoreYouKnow

It was foggy and drizzly, with cold wind gusts. We went to check out a lodge on a mountain out there – boasting warm soup and awesome views – but it was closed! I didn’t take a lot of photos, other than the ones above. It was hard conditions for it and I was tired and overwhelmed. Sometimes the world is almost too beautiful? Magical and barely touched – like a watercolor. It was like that, but also cold, rainy, and windy. I was numbed over because of all the beauty and emotions.

I wouldn’t kick this view out of bed:

Our flight was a red-eye, so we had the whole day to explore. We headed to Anchorage – and had dinner plans later with Erika and Steve. Remember them from the beginning of the story? They’re our family and they had given us our first moose, first soup, and first warm bed in Alaska nine days previously. It was probably around late afternoon now, and I had to tackle Anchorage’s WiFi for a blog post first. Yes, even on vacation, but it was only one or two! So I went to a McDonald’s while Cassidy decided to go back to Eagle River to explore the visitors center. Well, while I smelled french fries I didn’t ever intend to eat, he was seeing what he thought might be his last moose of Alaska. We all know smartphones don’t zoom in so well:

Holy cow, though! Not cow. Holy bull! He did a solo hike and saw his second bull moose of all time on a secluded bog. In Alaska. MAN. And it was his favorite moose encounter of the whole trip, and maybe of forever, although we saw our first moose in the wild together in 2004. She might have favorites rights for all time? I don’t know, though. What makes me happy is that Cassidy’s favorite moose encounter actually became his SECOND favorite. That’s right. With only a few hours to spare left before our flight, we somehow topped that together. He picked me up from the dreadfully WiFi-ed McDonald’s and we went back to Powerline Pass. We weren’t there long, because of dinner reservations, but can we say worth it?

Worth it.

Then we rounded a bend, with minutes to spare, and Cassidy said, “Oh, hello!” There was our last bull moose of the trip!

That looks close, right? It was. I was balking a bit, and I went to warn two incoming runners about the moose so they’d change their course. They saw the look on my face and said, “Don’t worry! Anchorage moose are different from the ones outside the city. They have more tolerance for people coming close to them.” That does NOT mean I recommend getting close.

He looked at us curiously, but mostly minded his own business. I had the luxury of distance, although this is NOT my zoom lens. This is just a 50mm. My rented zoom was already packed in my suitcase, and ready to be checked at the airport.

I had to go black and white for at least one!

Oh my. Well that’s it for moose! We made it to our dinner reservation just on time, and guess what I ordered? That’s right. Salmon. We showed Erika and Steve all of Cassidy’s pictures and told our stories in chronological order. Then, the airport:

I took that same photo on our first day there – after landing at night – and I felt like I had grown so much in nine days. The things I had seen, and not seen. The things I had done, and not done. I felt like something inside me had been sleeping.

We boarded the plane and had someone sitting in between us, which seemed fitting. It was dark and I leaned my head on the cold window, thinking of everything I wish. I wish I had taken more photos. I wish I could break through a shutdown. I wish I could do it all over. I wish I could feel it all over. I wish I could feel.. in general.. when sometimes I can’t touch that raw part of myself. It’s frozen over. Our plane’s satellite radio kept playing one song, and these days, I can’t listen to the song much.

Whenever I take a deep, altering trip, there’s always one song that makes me think of it the most. It’s almost a treat to revisit it in small doses, and reopen the heart and sound waves – to let it all come back rushing towards and through me.

I’m back there now. I’m forever there, in the middle of dreams dying and coming alive. Ending and beginning. They all meet in the middle. I’ll never forget that silent and endless night in the sky – and the brightness I found on the other side.

It was always leading me here:

*Endnote – my mother-in-law took that picture, bringing our kids to meet us in the middle of a parking lot in Sturbridge, MA, after ten days apart. The photo is 100% candid – showing our sleeplessness, sweat, tears, and LOVE. Thank you for reading.