April 2011 Archives

P4170315_medium.JPGSC to Disney.pngOnce again, we were up early, heading from Walterboro, NC to Disney, which should be about a 7 hour drive. I wasn't taking any chances, so we headed out good and early. Check-in time is 3pm and we were going to be ready!

For once there were no problems on the road. We couldn't resist the siren call of the ocean, though, so as lunch time approached, we peeled off of I-95 and over to the beach at Palm Coast, Florida. The brilliant sunshine and 85 degree temps sure were welcome to this snow weary group. Even the ocean water was already over 70 degrees, which is warmer than it ever gets here in New England! A delicious lunch was had at a local seafood shack, including aligator tail nuggets for an appetizer, which, not surprisingly, tasted like chicken.

AllStarMusic.jpgWe got to the All-Star Music Resort, part of Disney's "value" level of resort, around 4pm. The great thing about the Music Resort is that it has family suites, which are a must in my opinion, Sure, the girls get the "master" bedroom, but at least there's a door to close for a bit of privacy on both sides. The room wasn't quite ready though - check in time is between 3 and 5, not at 3, silly us! But the girls changed into their bathing suits and gratefully jumped into the pool, while we sat at the nearby bar, frozen margaritas in hand. A fine beginning actually.

I had made a number of Disney dining reservations but the friendly parking lot security guy recommended Boma, at the nearby Animal Kingdom, so we decided to give that a try. And we're glad we did, as this "African styled" buffet had lots of interesting foods to eat. I have decided, somewhat arbitrarily, that I don't want to eat mammals any more, but there were plenty of bean, chicken and fish dishes to fill me up. It was all very delicious. I also liked that the waiter said no to me when I ordered a particular "specialty" cocktail. Anything with raspberries will attract me, but he said I didn't want it, as it tasted really bad and he didn't want to have to make a second trip to return it and get me a different one. I don't know about you, but I appreciate a waiter with an opinion, even a strong one like that.

It was too dark to see the animals that purportedly roamed outside and too late even to borrow the night vision goggles (although our waiter also said those weren't worth the effort either). We enjoyed the look of the Animal Kingdom Lodge and perhaps next time, we'll look into staying there.

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traffic.jpgThe post title is a dead giveaway that Saturday's drive was about the worst imaginable, especially if I told you we were on the road for a good 16 hours or more and we only made it to South Carolina. Tolls, construction, rain, heavy traffic and even tornados conspired to make it a drive from Hell.

NJ to SC.pngWe actually made it out of our New Jersey hotel at a reasonable hour, about 7:30. I was watching the weather report in the room and they predicted some severe weather moving east, due to arrive later in the afternoon, but I wasn't too worried, as the plan was to be sitting by the pool in Savannah Georgia long before it arrived, skirting it nicely. And traffic down Interstate 95 / New Jersey Turnpike was pretty good. Then we hit a combo construction site / toll booth heading into Deleware and sat for a good hour trying to get through that.

There was a bit of a drizzle and when we hit Washington DC, traffic really began to slow down. And then south of DC, it was a dead stop. According to Google, it was red for the next 30 miles, until you got past Fredricksburg. So we wandered off of I95 and onto Route 1 south, which, while it had traffic lights, at least was moving. Lunch at a little Chinese place and on down to Fredricksburg, which meant it took us over 3 hours to travel 30 miles. Now we are really behind schedule.

And traffic is really heavy. This two lane I95 was driving me crazy. It's like traffic was inverted, as there would be a car every 1/4 of a mile in the right lane, while everyone else would drive in the left lane. Periodically, someone would come flying up on the right, get about 5 cars ahead, and then slam themselves back into the left lane, causing everyone else to jam on their brakes. It was a long, tiring drive, on edge the whole time. The 70 mph speed limit helped not a lick, as I doubt we ever hit that all the way thru North Carolina.

As we approached Selma, NC, in the middle of the afternoon, the skies got very ominous and then traffic came to a complete halt. Once again, we checked Google and got off at the next exit, as it showed red for many miles ahead. But I was faced with a real suprise after pulling off the exit - 18 wheelers backing down the road on the other side! Other cars were coming back, waving us back onto the the highway. We weren't sure what the blockage was, but we wearily got back into the traffic.

I lasted one more exit and decided to try it again. This time, instead of heading west into Selma, we headed east and it soon became clear what the hold up was - high winds and quite possibly a tornado had preceeded us, probably by less than 30 minutes! Soon it began to downpour and then even hail! We crept along the side road, barely able to see, until the hail and rain stopped. We turned right to get back on the highway and then noticed a big pine tree down across the road. As we turned around, we saw a house with a tree right thru it and a small group of people just standing in the front yard, gazing blankly at the destruction.

P4160298_medium.JPGAs we slowly drove along the road, trying to figure out how best to get back on the highway, we came across more scenes of chaos - trees down, cars flipped over and mobile homes smashed. In one case, a huge pine had fallen, but went completely parallel to a mobile home, leaving it unscathed! It just never occured to us just how close we were to it - probably a good thing or we would have been really scared. We thought about taking some pictures but it just felt too ghoulish. Follow this link to see some Youtube videos of the storms: Selma, NC Tornado.

We finally got back on the highway, a little shaken but none the worse for wear. A few more miles down the highway, traffic got real slow again, but this time it was more of the "gawker blocker" version, as everyone was staring at the destruction on either side of the highway as we approached Fayetteville, NC. We got a couple of blurry pictures, which you can see here.

It was more slow traffic with one last soul crushing construction area on a bridge, at 11pm on a Saturday night. Over an hour to get merged down to one lane and over the highway. To rub salt into our wounds, when we finally pulled off in Walterboro, South Carolina, all the "name" motels were filled! We ended up in a $35 room at the Rice Planters Inn. Considering all we went thru, I was just glad to get a bed. We had been on the road for over 16 hours and had hadn't made 700 miles. Ugh.

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walt_disney_world_logo.jpgYes, we decided to drive down to Disney World. A little bit to save money (by the time we booked, it was like $700 a ticket to fly), and a little bit because we just like to drive. The girls are kept entertained with MP3 players, Nintendo DS, texting and DVD movies, while the wife enjoys following along on the map and via the in dash navigation system (who we have dubbed Casandra). We weren't going to kill ourselves though, especially for the drive down. As we weren't planning on leaving until lunchtime (ha!) on Friday, we figured we would stop after in Virginia, to make it to Savannah Georgia sometime mid-afternoon on Saturday. This would leave us with a relatively short 5 hour drive to Disney World, in plenty of time for a 3pm checkin, after about 20 hours on the road.

Medford to NJ.pngBut of course we got started late, not leaving the house until almost 4pm. This got us caught up in local rush hour traffic. Then the DVD player broke - yikes! With over 40 hours planned in the car, a new DVD player was a priority. So before we even got to Sturbridge on the Mass Turnpike, we got off at a local mall, bought a new DVD player at Best Buy and stayed for dinner, as traffic was still a mess.

This helped a little and we moved along smartly. Unfortunately, I deviated from my plan and listened to Casandra, as my navigator wife was dozing in the front seat and I didn't want to disturb her. Our original plan had us following 84 across the Tappan Zee bridge, giving NYC a wide berth, but I figured, how bad could New York City be at 11pm on a Friday night?

The answer was "Pretty bad.". It was stop and go down thru the city and across the George Washington Bridge and so we barely made it to New Jersey by midnight, well short of our goal of Richmond Virginia. Even a New Jersey rest stop was confusing, as it was one of the those between the north & south bound highways and the signage was incomplete, as it wasn't clear that the "Thruway" was the same as Interstate 95. So we pulled into a Ramada in New Jersey about 8 hours after leaving home, checked in and crashed for the night.

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Back from Disney World
Man, real life sure is hard work
Wish we could go back

We had a glorious time at Disney World! While it was an incredibly busy vacation (up at 6, to the parks before 8, up until 11, rinse repeat), it was fun and the weather was perfect, at least for these snow-weary New Englanders - upper 80s and 100% sun. I hope to have more travelogues coming up!
Hollywood Studios 2011.JPG

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This page is an archive of entries from April 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

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