It is a relatively short hop from Jacksonville to Orlando, three hours at the most as I recall.
As we got closer and closer to DisneyWorld, it seemed somehow more and more incredible that we were there. I remember Elsa turning off the interstate and driving past lots of trees - as I remember it, it was sort of like the Pine Barrens. It felt like New Jersey, like going to the shore.
The car was headed toward the sort of toll booths that welcome visitors to DisneyWorld. Except we were not visitors at DisneyWorld - we were going to be residents.
Elsa took a road that pulled to the right and followed the signs. I remember the thrill I felt when we saw the oversized wooden twiggish sign that announced "Wilderness Lodge."
We drove down the road and finally there it was up ahead, a place that looked exactly like ... well, exactly like a wilderness lodge.
It looked just like one of those great lodges I have read about in National Geographic, except it was HUGE. We parked the car out front, handed the keys over to a young man in a "ranger" outfit, saw our bags and our bag of stuffies whisked inside. We walked in the BIG doors and into the lobby and looked up and up and up. It was magnificent, yet also cozy.
We checked in and Elsa left me settled into a big chair that reminded me of my own, back home in our own living room. While I relaxed downstairs, Elsa headed for the elevators with another one of the "ranger" staff members.
When she came back 15 minutes later, she practically bounced off the
elevator. It seems that the "ranger" took her to our room - about as far from the elevator as you could get. The first thing she did was ask him what she needed to do to arrange a wheel chair for use during our stay.
Why, he asked.
She explained that her 87-year old mother would be too tuckered out after doing the walk to get to anything else. He was on the phone in a flash and before Elsa knew it, our things were bundled back on the cart and moved to a room right around the corner from the elevators.
Now, THAT is service. And we were not charged a penny extra for what had to be a premium location.
(the view, just around the corner from our room)
I have to say that again -
all we could see from the balcony of our room were trees.
It was more than I ever could have dreamed of.
We felt far away from everything.
Far, far more than I ever could have dreamed.
Elsa got our bags unpacked, the stuffies spread out over the armoire - around the TV and on top and all over the place - and tucked me in for a nap, then headed out to check out the Magic Kingdom. (One of the things that made the trip work so well was how many times we were together, yet on our own.)
She glowed when she came back. I had awakened awhile before and was just having a marvelous time, sitting out on our balcony, soaking in the view. She told me about taking pictures of elmo and three of the Sissettes - Sissy, Baby Girl (Kelly Zeigler's) and Sissette (Brenda's) <Erin's Stephie could not make it> - in front of the Magic Kingdom and how a man asked if she would like to have her picture taken with them. She thought his offer was a hoot (and, no, she did not take him up on it).
As she was putting the minkies back with the rest of the stuffies, Elsa sensed something was not right. She realized that Skylar, our life-size skunk puppet, was nowhere to be found! She looked high and low, no sign of Sky.
The last time she remembered seeing him was at the car. He was perched atop the baggage on the luggage cart. Our hearts sank. Not only were we concerned to have lost him, we were trying to figure out what to tell John.
On our way to supper - we stayed close to home, choosing to eat at the Lodge that night - Elsa swung past the front desk and filled out a missing item report. I remember what she wrote - "Large skunk puppet; very friendly and always ready for a good time."
We had a sort of quiet supper, a combination of excitement and concern.
We soaked in the incredible beauty of the lobby,
We walked past the "mountain spring-fed" pool (the "mountain spring" started in the lobby and meandered its way along to the outside, ultimately tumbling over a waterfall into the pool), out to the dock that lead to the boat that would take us the next day to the Magic Kingdom.
Standing there on the dock in the comfortably cool night air, the lagoon stretched out in front of us and the magnificent lodge in back of us, we seemed a hundred miles away from civilization. It was the perfect place for us to stay and it is a perfect memory, three years later.
I expected that our digs for our stay would look sort of like a mountain lodge and that I'd feel sort of happy to be there. There was nothing “sort of” about it - it was beyond wonderful, through and through.
As we looked around at the trees and water, we talked about Skylar - our storyline (which would continue and be embellished on for the rest of our stay) was that he had been overcome with the sense of the place as soon as he had clapped eyes on it. Far from being lost, we figured, his wild side had overcome him and, when neither of us were looking, he had made a break for it. We imagined him in the woods, having a high old time.
The stories of Skylar's exploits grew taller and taller as our stay went on - the next Disney production, "Skylar in the Wilderness."
It is so lovely to be going off to bed with a smile on my face and lovely, lovely
memories playing tag between my head and heart. Am up the wooden hill.
Love to one and all - Skylar's Grammie