We made our best effort to get to Disney’s Animal Kingdom at rope drop. But the post-race traffic made it impossible. We skipped the tram (since a tram ride meant folding up the wheelchair, Mikaela hopping onboard – literally, and then unfolding the wheelchair, having Mikaela hop down, etc.) and walked to the park entrance. We headed straight back to Expedition Everest, as this time around Jon was excited to ride it, rather than terrified. Boarding from the wheelchair accessible area means sitting at the very back of the train – it was a cool perspective on Everest that I hadn’t seen before. The best part of it is that, when the coaster stops before heading backward, that last car is looking right at the Yeti. It was the best view I’ve ever gotten of him (even if he was still in “disco mode.”). As you can see from the look on Jon’s face in the pictures, I wasn’t sure he’d enjoyed the ride. But when we got off, I got his standard, “That. Was. AWESOME!” response. He then confided that he thought he didn’t want to ride a second time, because if he did he would puke. But then he could ride again a third time, because he would only puke every other time he rode it.
Next, it was time to meet up with the gang for our Kilimanjaro Safari ride. On the way, we got a text from Mark telling us that he friend the Safari driver was off for the day, but the good news is that we had enough people in the group to very nearly fill a Safari vehicle (I think there were one or two rows of somewhat confused non-DISDads folks back there in the rear of the vehicle). The driver we did end up with was excellent, he really had a great rapport with the group. I think it was easier to develop that rapport without that contrived Big Red/Little Red/Poachers story line. The story always seemed forced, and this felt much more natural.
We got great animal views to go with the driver banter on our safari. In addition to typically good views of the giraffes and elephants, we saw both the black and white rhinos. We also got a great view of the zebra herd. It was newly moved into the Safari at the time we saw them, and that experiment turned out to be short-lived, as they’ve already been removed from the Safari as I write this (rumor is that the zebras as just plain mean – they bite and kick and treat both each other and other animals badly).
By the time we had gone from the Safari to our next meet up at DINOSAUR!, the group had grown even larger. I think this group picture was probably the largest single group shot we got the whole convention (and Mark Pratt showed up just as we finished taking the picture and were heading in to the ride building). Our group ended up filling two entire Safari ride vehicles. We had a great ride, and got some fun on-ride pictures.
Dinoland was up next. Jonathan REALLY wanted to ride Primeval Whirl (we have a similar spinning roller coaster locally at Worlds of Fun, which he had ridden before). But Primeval Whirl has the same 54″ height requirement as Rock-n-Roller Coaster, which he’d been turned away from at Hollywood Studios the day before. But miraculously, Jon had grown another 1/4″ overnight, and was able to get on Primeval Whirl with no problem. I sometimes have issues with spinny rides, so Miriam volunteered to ride with the kids – she, Mikaela, Jonathan and Joe’s daughter Ariel rode together. As their car returned, the CM missed that Mikaela needed her wheelchair – and felt so bad about it that she let them just go through and ride again. Miriam got off after the second ride, but the kids went around a third time before deciding they’d had enough (and Jon was worried about a second ride on Everest)!
After Primeval Whirl, we still had a bit of time before lunch. The girls wanted to hang out a bit longer, so I took Jon over to burn some energy off in The Boneyard. We met back up with the group for lunch at Flame Tree BBQ. I knew we were having dinner at ‘Ohana later, but I couldn’t resist my go to Chicken & Ribs from Flame Tree. They were excellent as usual. The group ended up scattered around the outdoor seating areas, but I think the smaller groups made for easier conversation. After lunch, we were ready for a break, especially with dinner and the live podcast to come. So we bid the group farewell and headed back to Port Orleans to rest for a bit. It was hotter than we had expected it to be, so we managed to get in a bit of pool time at the quiet pool near the Arcadian building.
Next up: ALL YOUR SHRIMP ARE BELONG TO US and a live podcast