Tuesday, April 24, 2012

To Orlando and Back

B-man here. I've become the unofficial travel writer. Since we recently returned from a trip to Orlando, Florida, I've been asked to fill you in on the details.

B sitting at a table at Sunset Sam's.You may remember last year's trip to San Francisco. Like last year's trip, this trip to Orlando was for a conference related to my job. This time, it was the Breaking Development Conference, which is for web development for non-desktop devices, like mobile phone, tablet computers, and even televisions. Also like last year, my employer paid for me to attend the conference, and we paid for Megan to come along, making it a nice little vacation.

While we were sitting at our gate in the Salt Lake City airport, we realized we forgot to pack a little lunch to eat during our 4+ hour flight to Orlando that would span our usual lunch time. I knew I would be very hungry if I didn't eat anything, and I didn't want Megan (and the twins) to miss a meal either. Megs stayed at the gate to watch our stuff, and I returned with some over-priced sandwiches and chips. Unfortunately, the new Cafe Rio in the airport was not open when we departed, but when we returned from Orlando, Cafe Rio was open, along with a whole food court that was still boarded up when we left.
Megs standing in front of a Lego sculpture of a dragon outside the Lego store in Downtown Disney.
As we settled into our seats on the plane, I glanced over at the book the passenger in the window seat had on his lap. It was the back cover, but I recognized the style of the cover as that of a series of web development books.

"Going to Breaking Development," I asked.

He looked up at me, a little puzzled as to why a stranger on the plane would ask him that question, and said, "Yes, I am."

"So are we," I replied. "Well, I'm going to the conference, and my wife here is coming along with me. I noticed your book, so I wondered if you were heading to the conference."

B standing in front of a Lego sculpture of Buzz and Woody (from Toy Story) blasting off on a rocket from RC.He turned out to be Jason Grigsby from Cloud Four, and he wasn't just attending the conference, he was also a speaker at the conference. Also, about a week before the conference, he had responded to one of my tweets about my excitement for the upcoming conference. Who knew I'd actually sit next to this guy on the way to Orlando? It turned out to be really good, as he and I chatted about the conference, web development, our news of twins, his kids, Twitter, Facebook, and the Kennecott Smokestack.

The Orlando airport wasinteresting. We made our way to baggage claim after landing, where there were three carousels, but only one of them was in use for about five flights worth of people. I was annoyed by all the people who had to cram in right next to the carousel to look for their bags. It would benefit everyone if they would just hang back a little, keeping an eye out for their bags, then move in to pick them up when they see them. Instead, they insist on creating a human wall, blocking anyone but those in the wall from seeing their bags.

I fought my way through the way to retrieve our bag, only to discover the tear in the bottom of our suitcase. Luckily, nothing came out. I knew we'd have to retire this one after the trip. I just hoped it would hold together on the return, which involved a layover, unlike our direct flight to Orlando.

A picture of the torn suitcase
With our battle-damaged luggage in tow, we headed down a level to catch a shuttle to the resort. We checked in at the podium for our shuttle, where an older man who we couldn't understand wrote something down and handed us what looked like a restaurant pager. So we waited, and waited, and waited. While we were waiting, more people came until we had quite the crowd waiting for a shuttle to take them to their destinations. With each shuttle that showed up, I would hope our wait would be over. When a large bus showed up, everyone wanted it to be their bus. The guy at the podium shouted something, which nobody understood, and the crowd starting moving in the direction of the bus to try to find out if it would take them where they wanted to go. Soon after that, our pager went off, and we were directed to the van next to the bus. We were happy to get out of that mess and on our way to the resort.

B pointing out the huge and lovely sculpture in the conference center at the Gaylord Palms.The Gaylord Palms is a lovely resort, just across the freeway from the Disney parks. The conference was held in the resort's large conference center, along with a couple other conferences. The resort has shops, restaurants, alligators, and a large adults-only swimming pool. While I was attending the conference during the day, Megs would enjoy relaxing by the pool and jumping in for an occasional swim. She did notice, though, that a group of old guys would happen to also get in the pool just after she did and exit the pool shortly after her exit.

Our last evening, we watched the alligator feeding in the atrium before getting a town car to take us to Downtown Disney. If you're unfamiliar with Downtown Disney, just imagine all the people in Disney World in a large outdoor mall. Now imagine that in the evening when kids are hungry, tired, and melting down while their tired parents try not to melt down themselves. Okay, so it wasn't that bad, but there were plenty of kids and parents who were tired and ready to call it a day.

We arrived to Downtown Disney hungry, so we walked from one end to the other, looking for a place to eat that did not have an hour of wait time. We stumbled upon Earl of Sandwich, and we had two very delicious hot sandwiches and shared a chocolate banana smoothie. That fueled us up to wind our way through the shops to the other end of the mall. They had all kinds of wonderful stores! Disney stuff galore, of course, and a store dedicated to Lego. When I was a kid, the Lego store would have been like heaven to me. Even as an adult, I enjoyed looking at all the cool Lego sets. Megan laughed when she overheard one kid say, "But Dad, it's only $350."
A man from Gatorland feeding the juvenile alligators at the Gaylord Palms.
Walking the length of Downtown Disney twice tired us out. We headed back, slept for a few hours, then started our return home. The shuttle to the airport was full, but I'll never forget the wisps of fog dancing on the ponds on the side of the road, and the warm morning air. We wished we could have stayed longer.

An interesting fact about the Orlando airport: they don't sell gum. I was told it was so they didn't have to clean it up. However, the Atlanta airport, where we had a layover, does sell gum. The Atlanta airport also has a Wendy's with an animated employee who broke out into "She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain" while he was getting our Frostys (yep, that's the plural of Frosty).

Megs sitting at a table at Sunset Sam's.Sitting across the aisle from us on one of our return flights was a father of eight-month-old twin boys. He told us, "What do they say? 'The days are long, but the years are short.'" It's good we got to enjoy this short trip to Florida before the twins come, as we're in for some long days ahead. Interspersed in those long days, though, I know we'll have some sweet, funny, loving moments with our children, and we look forward to welcoming them into our lives. One day, perhaps we'll return to Orlando for a trip to Disney World with the kids, and we'll be in the shoes of the tired, worn-out parents trying to keep our kids from completely melting down. We'll also get to see our kids faces light up as they experience the magic of the world around them. I think I'll choose to remember those moments instead.

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