I woke up stiff, despite the real bed. (‘I woke up stiff’ has a completely different meaning for girls and boys. Did you know that?) Heather and I went to Bob Evans for breakfast, because if there’s one thing she loves, it’s Bob. I had oatmeal and fruit and bad coffee. I missed Dunn Brothers.
We drove to Animal Kingdom and parked in Unicorn 22. Then we hopped on a tram, which drove all of fifty feet and dropped us off at the park entrance. We felt dumb, but it didn’t seem to bother anyone else on the tram. I got espresso, and we ran back to the Jungle Safari, having heard that you’re more likely to see real, live animals in the early morning.
That was only half-true, because they do come out in the morning, but not when it’s cold. And it was cold. La Florida isn’t tropical year-round, apparently. But we did see some animals.
I had originally thought Animal Kingdom was kind of nice because it was more jungly and not completely open like the other parks. All the paths were lined with huge trees. However, the shade meant cold, and so I found myself standing in little patches of sun whenever Heather stopped to look at animals. I would pull my hands up into my sleeves, shove them in the pocket on the front of my hoodie (I think the technical term is ‘hoodiemuff’), and then tuck one sleeve inside the other. I might as well have been back in Minnesota.
Also, those furries sure did like my girlfriend.
We got a pretzel and sat on a bench in the sun for a while. I malingered while Heather shopped. Then we went to see ‘It’s a Bug’s Life’ in a 3D movie theatre underneath the gigantic tree in the middle of the park. I though it would be pretty lame, but it was amusing. They sprayed water on us and made it stink in the room, and at the end, we felt bugs running under our asses. Entertainment.
We walked over to the dinosaur section of Animal Kingdom, which is sponsored by McDonalds. Why does Disney need corporate sponsorship for everything, again? I’m so confused by that. Anyway, we rode ‘Dinosaur’, which got my seal of approval for making me scream and giggle like a dumbass. Then we went on a ride that was a combination of a roller coaster and Tilt-A-Whirl, which was also pretty cool. Then we left Animal Kingdom, and took the shuttle to MGM Studios.
By that point, I think we were both pretty sick of Disney. I know I was. I had one goal at MGM: to ride the Tower of Terror. I grabbed a FastPass. We wandered around for a while, and the fake-Hollywood shit actually made me nostalgic for California. We shopped, then had burgers for lunch: Heather, ham-, and me, garden-. When it was time, I went to the Tower of Terror. It was the one ride Heather refused to accompany me on, because it involved freefalling.
I liked it a ton. You sit in a big box with about 20 other people. They run you through this cool Twighlight-Zone scenario, lift you up 14 stories to the top of the building, and drop you. It’s mostly in the complete dark, but occasionally they slide open doors so you can see outside, especially when you’re at the very top. The best part is that it varies how far it drops you, and in the dark you sometimes can’t even tell whether you’re being lifted up or you’re falling. You just mostly want to keep from puking. It was awesome.
We had an hour to kill before dinner, and not much interest in exploring Disney any longer. We sat on a bench in the sun. I wanted to absorb it and take it home with me. The daily parade had just let out, and so hoards of people were walking past, in our own personal people-watching parade. The nice thing about MGM was that the people were more interesting, as it’s more adult-oriented. (Man, if they had an adult-oriented theme park, I’d be there in a second. Dirty.) Also, they vacuum the streets. On the way out, Heather wandered in and out of the shops, and I placed myself on various benches along the way, knowing my hours in the Florida sun were numbered. I think I got a little too much, since I left with a pounding headache.
From MGM, we took the shuttle bus over to Animal Kingdom Lodge to meet the rest of the Ripleys for dinner at Bona, an African-themed buffet. We were early, so we took a seat in the bar and waited for the rest of the family to show up. I paid $4 plus a $1 tip for a single shot of espresso. Heather’s drink was a far better value.
My family members started showing up in groups, even though they arrived together. Ali appeared, and called Scott on a walkie-talkie. Scott showed up. Escobar was missing. Scott and Ali left. Ali reappeared with Stephanie, who was carrying Kaitlyn, fresh from her first haircut. The three of them wandered off again. My mom showed up, then my Dad came up from downstairs to beckon us to the table.
Finally, we ended up downstairs in the restaurant, and found Escobar already sitting down. We took turns going to the bathroom, and it was good 15 minutes before all nine of us were actually seated at one time. I was dreading being able to find something to eat at the buffet, which are notoriously meat-oriented, but I was happily surprised: I immediately found two kinds of hummus and flatbreads, falafel, and tons of fresh fruit.
The food was really impressive. I wanted to try it all. I was standing by the salads wondering out loud which of them had sugar in them when a chef came up and asked if I was diabetic. I said yes, because it’s close enough. He told me he’d show me everything that was safe for me to eat, because a lot of the savory dishes had sugar in them, too.
He went up to the salads and started pointing them out, then quickly realized that almost everything there had sugar in it. He was clearly disappointed. I told him not to worry about it; with the other stuff I had found, there was more than enough to eat. He argued. I reassured him. He kept saying, “Let me make you something! I can make you a salad!” I protested, but finally, he said, “Look at this uniform! It’s perfectly clean! I hate that!!” So I gave in. I told him I was vegetarian, too, and he yelled, “Great!” I think maybe I was his own personal Iron Chef episode. I pointed out where I was sitting, and he told me to get myself some fruit, and give him 15 minutes in the kitchen.
Ten minutes later, he appeared with a big plate with three different salads on it. I thanked him several times. It was a ton of food. Then he said, “After that, I’ll bring the soup. Then your entree. Then dessert.”
I almost died. The salads were already enough. There was no way I could eat all that food, especially when everyone with me had already eaten most of their meals. I told him over and over that he didn’t have to do that, that this was more than enough. But he insisted.
The salads were great. The soup made me want to cry, it was so good. The entree was a work of art. Every time he brought out another dish, I would thank him over and over and tell him, no more! I can’t eat it! I was begging Heather, Stephanie, and Ali for help, because I felt bad barely touching it. The rest of the family had long since finished their meals and left to see fireworks at Epcot.
He insisted on presenting my dessert, even though I swore that I could not possibly eat it. He wanted me to bring it home with me. If I hadn’t been getting on a plane the next morning, I’d have taken all of it in a giant doggie bag, and had a feast to last the week. When he brought out the platter, I understood why he made such a big deal of it: it was also a work of art. There was sugar-free cheesecake surrounded by fresh fruit, and little Mickeys made of sugar-free chocolate piped on the plate. It was incredible. And right after showing it off, he took it back to the kitchen and put it in a to-go container for me.
Turns out Tjetjep (T.J.) is sous chef at Bona. Our server couldn’t say enough good things about him. I took his card so I could write to Disney about him. Also, I’m pretty sure I’m in love.
Ali drove us back to the sexymobile, and Stephanie, Heather, and I went back to the condo, where my family was still talking about how awesome T.J. was. I showed them my dessert, which I ate later that night. I spent the rest of the evening writing, packing, and even crocheting a little in an attempt to force myself to relax on vacation. Then I took a picture of my pants.
Well, I wanted to show you the magic that is my FastPass pocket, but it didn’t turn out that great. So, pants.