Jonathan faces Darth VaderWednesday morning – our last pre-Convention park day – and we were headed to the kids’ second favorite park – Disney’s Hollywood Studios. We were in line waiting before park opening, and has become the practice at DHS, instead of a “rope drop,” they picked a seemingly random time between 8:30 a.m. and the scheduled 9:00 a.m. park opening and started letting people through the turnstiles. We were pursuing patented divide-and-conquer DHS rope drop plan of attack. As soon as we were through the turnstiles, I headed to the right with all of our tickets to grab Toy Story Midway Mania Fastpasses. Miriam and the kids headed left to get signed up for Jedi Training Academy. Usually, we meet back up at the TSMM line to ride standby. But instead of getting a text teling me which JTA show the kids were signed up for, the text just said, “uh, oh.” The folks doing the signups for JTA said that Mikaela could not participate in the show in a wheelchair. She was crushed. She loves to perform and looks forward to JTA almost as much as her favorite ride (Tower of Terror). We went ahead and signed Jon up for a later JTA time, and headed back toward Toy Story with Mikaela in tears.

Mikaela, Jon and I rode Toy Story while Miriam went on a mission to find some consolation for Mikaela. As we rode, Miriam confirmed that Mikaela could sing for a judge at American Idol Experience, even though she was too young to perform on the stage. We caught MuppetVision 3D together (and made a brief stop for Mikaela to have her picture taken with Phineas and Ferb, since there was no line). Then we split up and I took Mikaela to sing for an AI judge and Miriam and Jon headed for Star Tours and then JTA check-in. Even though it wasn’t on stage, Mikaela really loved getting to sing for a judge. I wish I’d recorded it. She sang Taylor Swift’s “Mean,” and really nailed it. The judge was very nice and encouraged her to continue singing and to come back to audition when she was old enough, and Mikaela was very pleased with that outcome.

After AI, Mikaela and I worked our way back toward the JTA stage. Jon was in the pre-show meeting, so Mikaela and I rode Star Tours together. We experienced a brief Star Tours 101, but they moved us all to another Starspeeder and we were only delayed a few minutes (and Mikaela officially broke her streak of being the Rebel Spy magnet. The last three times in a row she’d ridden Star Tours, the person sitting next to her had been the Rebel spy). We got off the ride just in time for Jon’s JTA show, and afterwards we all rode Star Tours again together.

RnRCNext, it was time to head to Sunset Boulevard. Jon had been psyching himself up for Rock’n’Roller Coaster for WEEEKS. He couldn’t wait to ride it – right up until we got to the measuring stick. He missed making height by less than 1/4″, triggering the second family round of DHS tears for the day. Miriam took Jon for some more Star Tours rides to distract him while Mikaela and I got in the standby line for Rock’n’Roller. A 40-minute standby for Rock’n’Roller Coaster normally wouldn’t be bad, but this was the first time I’d ever walked up those inclines pushing a wheelchair. The problem is that the line generally moved juuuuust fast enough that there wasn’t really time to have Mikaela engage her brakes each time we had to stop. This whole wheelchair thing was turning out to be much more of a workout than I had anticipated. As we exited the ride, I got a text from Miriam indicating that she had now learned that her limit for consecutive Star Tours rides is four, so Jon got a bit of time to play on the Honey I Shrunk the Kids Playground (another attractions Mikaela would have been disappointed to miss out on, so that worked out well).

Jon's First Tower of TerrorJon and Miriam met back up with us for Jon’s first time on Mikaela’s favorite ride, Tower of Terror. He put up a brave front, but I don’t know that he really enjoyed it. Then again, Jon almost always likes a ride better the second time he rides it. Sometimes though, we have to wait until the next trip to get him to try it again. We headed to Backlot Express for lunch. Our usual lunch stop at DHS has been ABC Commissary, but I’ve been disappointed in it the last couple of times. I’m glad we tried Backlot. I like the seating – it’s nice and open, and the props to look at are much better than the continuously running TV promo loops. Food was good and plentiful – not being on the dining plan this trip made it psychologically easier to share, and we did a lot of sharing of lunches.

The Great Movie Ride - Mary PoppinsAfter lunch, Jon and Miriam headed back for more Star Tours, while Mikaela and I got in another ride on Tower of Terror. We texted ahead to see of Jon and Miriam wanted to meet back up with us for Great Movie Ride, but Jon wanted more playground time, so we were on our own. Wheelchair access on the Great Movie Ride comes with a nice perk – we were seated right next to the CM tour guide. Our guide had good energy, which always makes for a better ride. Mikaela got a bit freaked out by the gangster scene this time – since we were right next to the tour guide, it meant that the “gunfire” was going on right around us. And despite my reminding her that she doesn’t like the Aliens scene, she looked up just as we were passing under it. Oh well. I tried.

By the time we were done with Great Movie Ride, it was pushing 3 p.m., and we’d been going hard all day. So we decided to pack it in, with the official start of the DDC coming at an EMH rope drop at the Magic Kingdom tomorrow. And besides – I still had goody bags to deliver.

Next up: Let the games begin!

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