#1 By: Bobby, August 8th, 2015 20:14
Sunday, July 12, 2015
I don’t fly, so driving it was. Amtrak, which we have taken before and I will be again in December, was too expensive with such late notice. I figured out how many times I’d have to stop for gas and how much a tank would cost. I figured out where we would stop over night (same place as always). I had the drive timed to the minute.
The day was finally here. My friend arrived at my house at 8:00 AM. We packed up my car and said our goodbyes to my father, who saw off, making sure we left safely. I realized I forgot something, so I ran home to get it.
We stopped at the bank to take out cash for our gas and spending money. We stopped at a store to get two backs of ice for the cooler I bought with me. We filled the cooler with bottles of water and our food for lunch. I checked one last time to make sure we had everything.
We left an hour later than I wanted. I was hoping to be on the highway at 8:00 AM. But since my friend arrived at my house at 8, and we had errands to run, I wasn’t out of my town until 9:00 AM. No biggie I said. I just had to recalculate the times I originally counted on.
The drive from NJ to Florida usually takes about 16 hours, or 15 hours 35 minutes according to Google. However, I always stop over night, never driving through.
The drive was pretty uneventful. I was out of NJ by 10:15 AM and into Maryland by 10:30 AM. I don’t even consider Delaware since that state is so small, 15 minutes to pass through. And the 15 minutes is being generous LOL. My first stop was at the Chesapeake House in Maryland. We stopped to use the rest room, stretch our legs. My friend bought an iced tea, I bought a milk shake. I wanted something cold to keep me alert. Yes, I had cold water, but I desired something else. The milk shake did the trick.
We were through Maryland and Washington DC by 12:30, and into Virginia. Here is where the traffic came into play.
For some reason, there is always traffic in Virginia. We didn’t hit any in Alexandria, nothing through Washing DC. But, we get closer to Woodbridge, VA, and suddenly traffic. No rhyme or reason for it. No accident or broken down vehicles or construction, nothing. There is no explanation. I was very frustrated, but the traffic was expected. There is ALWAYS traffic in this area. We figured we would use the EZ Pass Express Lanes, but unlucky for us, the lanes were northbound only at that time. Just my luck.
My second stop came in Virginia. I filled up my tank with gas; we used the rest room, and ate lunch in my car. The stop lasted, maybe, 20 minutes. I was back on the road. Next stop: North Carolina.
We crossed into North Carolina about 4:00, maybe 4:30. Thankfully, I was out of Virginia. No offense to the Virginia residents, but I really hate driving through your state LOL. Anyway, I stopped at the Welcome Center as soon as you cross into North Carolina. I called home to let my father know we were alright. We used the rest room and stretched out our legs. And after about 15 minutes, we were back on the road. Unfortunately, we did hit some traffic in North Carolina, but nothing too bad. There was a bad accident on the northbound side of I-95. A truck must have smashed into a car and through the metal guard rail. The front of the car was smashed. The metal divider was torn apart, The front of the truck had a lot of damage to it to. Emergency vehicles came from behind us on the southbound side of the highway. We were stopped for only a minute as the responders were directed to the scene of the accident. I don't know if anyone was seriously hurt or not as I have been unable to find information about the accident online. We only hope everyone is okay.
The next stop didn’t come until South Carolina, more specifically South of the Border. The time was approaching 7:30 at night. Actually, the time was earlier than 7:30, but we’ll just call it 7:30. I knew we were only about one hour away from our destination of Manning, South Carolina, where we would be calling it a night and crashing at one of the hotels we have stayed many times in the past during our drives to Orlando. I filled up my tank with gas (only the second time I had to so far), and off we went.
We noticed, up ahead, dark clouds. My friend figured them to be storm clouds. I was hoping they weren’t. The further south we drove, the closer the clouds appeared. They were coming up on us fast. And man, did they look wicked. The sun was setting, and the sky was getting dark. The clouds were only going to make the road darker. Manning, South Carolina was only a few miles away, Exit 119 off I-95, but those few miles felt like an eternity. The exit was right in front of me. I was hoping we would have missed the storm, or at the very least it would wait until we were in the room. But nope, no such luck. The skies opened, and the rain came pouring down. The rain was so heavy I was unable to see in front of me. Luckily, I knew the road and the exit, so I was able to navigate the exit without any issues. I exited I-95, and found myself on Paxville Highway, right where I wanted to be. We arrived around 8:30, only 30 minutes off the mark I originally planned for.
The hotel we usually stay at is located on Paxville Highway, not even a mile off the exit. We stayed at the Ramada Inn the first few times we drove. The only time we didn’t stay there was when the hotel was under refurbishment. That year, we stayed at Best Western across the highway. Well, Ramada isn’t there anymore. The hotel is now a Howard Johnson. But that didn’t matter to us. We still decided to stay there. It is an area we are very comfortable with.
I checked us in and went to our room. The rain had stopped in that short period of time. We unloaded our bags and entered the room. I called my father to let him know we arrived safely and were settling in for the night. My friend and I took a short walk to Wendy’s which is located right in front of the hotel, on the side of the highway. I ordered a baked potato to go along with the half of sandwich I had left over from lunch. My friend also ordered the baked potato. But he had chili to go along with it. After we ate, we relaxed. My friend put the TV on, but couldn’t find anything to watch. I forgot what we put on, maybe ESPN. I was going to read my Nook, but I was too tired. We crashed for the night.
Next up: July 13, 2015
#2 By: Bobby, August 8th, 2015 20:49
Quick Trip: Days One and Two (July 12, 2015 and July 13, 2015)
Monday, July 13, 2015
We woke up at 6:00. My friend hopped into the shower, while I caught a few more minutes of sleep. I showered after my friend. We packed the bags back in the car, making sure we didn’t forget anything. I checked us out at the front desk, then over to Shoney’s for breakfast.
Shoney’s is located right next to the hotel. The restaurant was empty, so the waitress sat us quickly. We chose the all you can eat buffet for $5.99. And was it well worth it. We had to eat about $20 worth of food LOL. The idea was to be nice and fueled up for the final leg of the drive.
We were pack on the road by 9:00 AM, an hour later than I wanted. But no big deal. I figured we had about 6 hours left, and would be arriving in Walt Disney World by 3:00, though I held out hope of arriving by 2:00 PM.
So, on the road we were, heading to Florida after a filling breakfast. In two hours, we would be in Georgia I figured, give or take. We were actually in Georgia by 10:30. Yes, I was able to shave off 30 minutes, otherwise 119 exits would have been close to two hours (one exit a mile, 60 miles an hour, , one exit every minute: that’s how I figure out the times through each state).
Made our first stop in Savannah, GA to get gas. My friend had to use the restroom as well. I was finished filling up the tank (third stop for gas), when I noticed my friend hadn’t returned. I waited several more minutes, and still no friend. I sent him a text asking “Did you fall in or something? Seriously, are you OK?” No answer. I was about to go in and look for him when he walked out. He sat in the car, and I asked him “What happened?” He stated that as soon as he exited the restroom, well, let’s just say his stomach decided to play havoc with him. But he felt fine. And maybe a few pounds lighter LOL.
Back on the road, driving south. We entered Florida by 11:45. Georgia is only 109 or 110 miles long, so less than two hours. But, with no traffic, and driving the speed limit of 70 Miles Per Hour, I was able to shave off a good 20 minutes from the drive. We have this driving tradition where, once we cross into Florida, we play Disney music. I made several CDs filled with Disney music for this trip. And once we were in Florida, my friend took out a CD and put it into the player. We first listened to music from the animated movie soundtracks. Then we put in a CD I made of all Epcot music.
We were just a few miles from the exit to I-4 when my friend needed to use the restroom. I stopped at a rest stop for him, and while there, I called a client I am working with in real estate. They had sent me a text while I was driving, asking about a house we looked at and placed a bid on before I left for Florida. We were given an option of submitting a best and final offer, as the owner contemplated five offers. My client was trying to decide what to do and wanted to know if I knew the other bid amounts. I explained the other agent was not at liberty to reveal the other amounts so I have no idea how high the offers were. After a few minutes of discussion, we decided to up the offer. I told him I was on the highway driving to Florida (though he already knew I was heading out on vacation, but I did tell him I’d see the deal through even though I was away), and I would contact my broker as soon as I was able to. She had offered to work with them while I was on vacation. She had our contract and all the information. He thanked me, I told him either I would or my broker would be in touch, and we hung up. By then, my friend was out of the bathroom, and we were back on the road.
My friend was trying to figure out what time we would be in Disney. I said “I bet we are there by 2:00.” He said “No way, we have at least three hours drive from when we crossed into Florida. We crossed at 11:30. We’ll be there by 3:00.” I said, “Never doubt me.”
Well, we turned onto I-4 at 1:00. I knew we had about 60 miles to go. That would put us at 2:00. I was also hoping to shave a few extra minutes off the travel time, so I felt we would have been at the hotel before 2:00. However, the state is doing one heck of an improvement project on I-4, so needless to say, traffic slowed in sections of the highway, but never came to a crawl. And we were never sitting in what I deem highway parking lots.
Finally, through Orlando and into Lake Buena Vista. The exit to the Crossroads was upon us. I took this exit, as I always do, and entered Walt Disney World property onto Hotel Plaza Boulevard. Traffic wasn’t bad at all, even by Downtown Disney, despite the construction. I turned right off Hotel Plaza Boulevard, and down to Saratoga Springs. WE HAD ARRIVED!!!
Oh, and we arrived at 2:05.... five minutes later than I planned. See, I told you I have these states times almost perfectly.
#3 By: Bobby, August 8th, 2015 22:21
Quick Trip: Days One and Two (July 12, 2015 and July 13, 2015)
Monday, July 13, 2015 continued
I parked in the guest parking lot and entered the Saratoga Springs lobby. A Cast Member approached me asking how she could help. I told her I was here to check in and that I did online check in. She took me off the line and looked my information up on her tablet. She informed me my room was not read yet, despite me stating in the online request that I was to arrive at 2:00. Oh well, not too important because Disney does not promise or guarantee the room would be ready at that time. Anyways, she gave me my welcome package and parking pass/permit and told me I would receive a text when the room was ready. She did show me on a map where my room would be located (I requested a Downtown Disney view in Congress Park), and also explained to me I could see concierge for assistance with my park tickets.
I then went to speak to a concierge Cast Member about my two day base tickets. She was able to assign them to my account, something I wasn’t able to do at home since I didn’t have the physical ticket and the ID associated with said ticket. I asked her to make sure I would be using the two day base ticket and not my 3day park hoppers set aside for December. She informed me to go to Guest Services for help because concierge did not have that access.
My friend and I walked over to the gift shop while we waited for the text. I called home to let my father know we arrived in Walt Disney World safely and how hot Florida was. I then called my Broker to discuss the deal I mentioned above, where the contract was, and how they wanted to increase their offer and have it submitted as a last and final, but we were waiting for the pre approval letter from their mortgage agent. She took control of the deal from me so I didn’t have to worry about it while on vacation. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the deal. The owner selected a better offer. Oh well…..
The text finally came, maybe 30 minutes after our arrival. I drove over to Congress Park, and up to the room we went. Oh after I parked obviously LOL.
I had a one bedroom villa in Saratoga, and the room was up to expectations. The view, however, wasn’t. I asked for Downtown Disney. My view was of trees and the river/canal the boats take to get to DTD I believe. But the view wasn’t terrible and honestly, was fine.
We settled in and relaxed for a little while. We then went over to Walmart to get a few things for the room. We picked up breakfast foods and juice for the morning. We had a lot of bottles of eater left over from the drive down, so we kept them in the cooler. My friend filled the cooler with new ice at the Howard Johnson in Manning before we left in the morning. All we did was drain the water from the melted ice from the day before, then put in the new ice.
We put our food items away before heading to Downtown Disney. The bus stop was not too far from our room so the walk wasn’t bad. The bus arrived pretty much right away, so no waiting. I was feeling somewhat tired, but pushed on. After all, we were in Disney!!!!!
Tradition time: On previous trips, we would go get a sandwich from Earl of Sandwich, return to the hotel, and sit on the balcony and eat. Well, same thing with this trip. Earl of Sandwich, back to room. However, we actually ate inside this time. My friend put on Stacey’s Must Do’s to watch.
We hung around in the room for a little while before calling it a night. I know I was exhausted from the drive down, and so was my friend. Plus, we knew we had a very early morning the next day, for we were going to Magic Kingdom, at opening.
Next up: July 14th, Magic Kingdom