Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Trip Report - Day 5

Saturday, December 18, 2004

We were a little sad this morning, because we knew today was the day we had to return home. The park opened at 8:00 AM, but we didn’t have the energy to get up early enough to finish packing and still make the rope drop. Since checkout wasn’t until noon, we left our things in our rooms and drove over to the park.

Our first stop was the Mark Twain Steamship. I wanted to take some pictures on our journey along the Rivers of America and this was the first time we had ridden during the daylight hours. I busily snapped away at everything in sight, especially trying to get pictures of the logs from Splash Mountain. We discovered during our October visit that just after the logs go down the big drop, they pass under the walkway and briefly out alongside the Rivers of America. As many times as we have ridden Splash in the past, we never realized that. I guess we were too busy wiping the water off of our faces and cleaning off our glasses to notice.

Next stop was a stroll through New Orleans Square where Jason purchased the Nightmare Before Christmas Soundtrack and then over to the Main Street Cinema where we were promised continuous running Mickey Mouse cartoons. We were both pretty tired from the busy days before and thought it would be a nice break to just sit and watch cartoons. Unfortunately, there wasn’t any seating in the theater. It was basically a large room with 6 small screens around the perimeter showing continuously running cartoons. We left after just a couple of minutes.

By now it was getting really crowded in the park. Today was the start of Christmas break for many people and the park was really filling up. We decided to go to the World of Disney store and do some final souvenir shopping. We wandered around the huge store and Jason purchased a couple of frames for his collection. After leaving the store, we decided to go back and split the purchase of the Disney Holiday CD. This CD contains 3 songs, the soundtrack to the “Believe in Holiday Magic” Fireworks show, the “It’s a Small World Holiday” soundtrack and the soundtrack to the “Lumin-aria” show that used to be in the lagoon over in DCA. It was an impulse purchase, but one I definitely do not regret. I played that over and over throughout the Christmas season (and even a little bit beyond).

With our bags of purchases in hand, we boarded the tram to the parking structure and then drove back to the hotel. Since we had minimal luggage, it was easy to load everything up into the car and then we drove over to the front of the hotel to check out.

Our plan was to find the nearest UPS store and have them ship all our purchases home. This enabled us to keep our baggage to a minimum. We also felt this would keep our items safe from the security inspection stations at the airport. We located the UPS Store in a strip mall about 5 miles away and even though the parking lot was very crowded, the store was empty except for two employees. They were very helpful, wrapping and packing all our things in a large box.

Even though we had plenty of time until our flight, we were both nervous about the trip to the airport. You really never know what kind of traffic you’ll run into. Last October it took us a couple of hours to drive 12 miles because of a chemical spill on the freeway that shut down a lane while they cleaned it up. Fortunately, we experienced smooth sailing all the way to the airport. We stopped just up the street from the car return lot to fill up the tank and then continued on our way.

Checking the rental car back in at Alamo was a breeze. We were directed to an empty lane where the attendance scanned the bar code on our car and within 1 minute we were checked in and ready to go to the airport. We boarded the shuttle bus and within a few minutes we were headed over to the airport.

We didn’t have access to a computer and printer this time around, so we needed to check in at the United counter at the airport. There were many lines open with just a few people in each line, so we figured we would be in and out quickly. Many of the stations were equipped with Easy Check In terminals so it took just a few minutes to punch in our information and get our boarding passes. Since we were checking baggage, our baggage claim tags printed to a printer located on the other side of the counter. That’s when we discovered that while all available stations were open along the counter, only three customer service people were working behind the counters. Without someone to pick up our baggage tags from the printer and put them on our baggage, we were stuck. Instead of working their way along the counter, the reps seemed to be staying in one location. A woman on one side of me was frantic because her flight was already boarding. A man on the other side of me was absolutely livid and was trying to call the United number to complain. He was very loud and obnoxious. Fortunately, in response to his yelling, someone did eventually make their way down to our line and we managed to get our baggage tagged. I hoped that it would make it on the plane, since there were lots of bags piled up on the other side of the counter.

Next stop was Security. The line wasn’t too long and we passed through without incident. After the fiasco at the check in counter, Security was a breeze.

It was mid afternoon and we were starving. We picked up some lunch from McDonalds and sat down at our gate to eat. We had a couple of hours until our flight was scheduled to leave so we settled in to wait. There was plenty of opportunity to watch the people around us. A large group was seated across from us. They seemed to be all members of the same family and from what we gathered from our shameless eavesdropping, had just finished taking a long cruise. They were loaded to the gills with carry-on luggage. They had boxes of bottles of wine and tons shopping bags. I was surprised that they let them on the plane with all their bags.

Finally, it was time to board the plane. Our seats were directly behind the row with the emergency exit, which seemed to have plenty of leg room. Unfortunately, the extra leg room that this row enjoyed seemed to have been taken from the row that we were seated in. It was ridiculously cramped. I’m a very short person and it was close even for me. Jason, with his long legs, was even more crowded and uncomfortable. The flight seemed to be very full so there was no chance of moving to a different seat.

The flight was smooth and passed without incident. This time we shared a can of Ginger Ale, since one can was really too much. We also enjoyed our 1/2 oz. packs of Gourmet Party Mix. The plane also was equipped with TV screens which gave me something to watch.

When we arrived in Portland we walked out passed the Security checkpoint and my dad was there waiting for us. It was so nice to see a familiar face and we really appreciated him offering to pick us up. We all walked over to the baggage claim area. Jason’s bag arrived almost immediately. Mine took forever and we were starting to think that maybe it didn’t make it on the plane. Just when my level of panic was reaching an alarming level, it appeared on the carousel.

Being late on a Saturday evening, there wasn’t any traffic and we made it home quickly. We did some unpacking, watched a little TV and then headed off to our beds. This trip had been without question the absolute best we’ve ever had. Writing this account has enabled me to relive each moment over again. Now that I’m through with the report, I feel the same letdown I did after we returned home. The only cure for that is to start planning the next trip.


Post a Comment

<< Home