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The Haunted Water Park

I have a macabre obsession with abandoned places.  This also includes amusements parks, and more recently, a water park.  River Country was the first water park at Walt Disney World, and remained as such for 13 or so years.  It was on the property of Fort Wilderness.  Fiddledaddy worked their as a lifeguard many years ago.

River Country opened in 1976, and closed its gates in 2001.


But here’s the thing that most people don’t know.

It’s still there.


And it’s really really creepy.

You have to know where to look, but there’s an area of Fort Wilderness that houses the horses.  Behind that area and near the pavilion are very very tall chain linked fences, with a green plastic grid so that you can’t see what’s behind it.  Except that there are places that the green plastic has been broken.  And you can see.

This is a picture that I took on our last trip to Fort Wilderness:


Those two chute type structures were the slides.  There is a pool ladder and plastic chair floating in what’s left of the murky green water.

I found some images of River Country in its heyday.  This is that same pool.





We stayed at Fort Wilderness back in 2000, after Emme was born.  I regret not visiting this attraction before it closed.  There are a number of rumored reasons for the closing of River Country.  Some speculate that it was because of the opening of the other two Disney water parks, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon which can accommodate much larger crowds.  Another reason could likely be that most of the attraction’s water sources were from Bay Lake, which of course could not be filtered.  The State of Florida began clamping down on public swimming areas which could not be properly maintained because of deadly amoeba contained therein.  I prefer to think that it closed because it was haunted.  That’s how I role.

Very close by, surrounded by Bay Lake, there is a small island which used to be called Discovery Island and home to various wildlife and nature walks.  Disney visitors were able to ride a ferry to the island and explore, as it was another tourist attraction.  And then one day it was closed with no warning.  Not even the employees knew what happened.  It is rumored (by people who have swum the lake in the dead of the night and explored the island on their own) that there are still filled file cabinets in offices, and an open coke can on a desk.  And a lot of really really weird noises….

Anytime you take a ferry from Fort Wilderness to Magic Kingdom or other park destinations, you pass that island.  Seriously it always scares me.  But if I had less sense and more nerve, I would LOVE to explore it.

When we were camping last week, and very kind lifeguard had gotten off duty and was answering our kids many questions.  The subject of the abandoned water park came up, and he said that he heard that the area was going to be turned into a Disney Vacation Club destination.  This is fancy talk for another hoopty ploopty hotel.

I secretly hope that they leave it be.  I like to visit the fence most nearly every time I go there, as it allows my vivid imagination to enjoy a workout.  At least that’s one part of me that gets a workout.

(You Tube hosts a number of videos about River Country.  This one was fun.  There is before and after footage.  It’s lengthy, but it shows some kids who sneaked in and took video a couple of years ago.  I kept wondering where their parents were…)


Eating and drinking my way around the world

Last week we took an impromptu personal day.  In other words, we played hooky.  The Food & Wine Festival was drawing to a close and since we’ve never in all the years we’ve lived here, taken advantage of that feature of Epcot, we felt it would be a shame to miss it.

So we pointed the van towards Epcot.  And yes, we still bring the ratty stroller.  At this point none of the children could actually, you know, sit on the thing.  Jensen, now 8, comes up just under my chin and weighs in at close to 98 pounds.  I’m pretty sure he could carry me if needed.  But we need something to haul our cargo, which includes snacking opportunities, water bottles, and assorted light jackets.  And rain ponchos.  (Never leave home without them.)

The children refer to the stroller as “mommy’s walker” because it does somehow keep me from careening into other park guests.  I like it because it has a cup holder.


The way the Food & Wine Festival works is that there are kiosks located at each of the various “countries” in the World Showcase.  They sell a small sampling of food and drink fare native to that particular country.  Fiddledaddy fancied the wines, I was drawn to the coffee/liquor type concoctions, and the children eyed the desserts from each country.

As we traipsed through Great Britain, the children posed for this photo as an homage to Doctor Who.


We did pause to participate in a Perry the Platypus interactive adventure.



The glasses.  They change her whole personna.  She and her one of her best girlfriends have a matching pair.  With a whole comedy routine to match.  I think everyone should have a pair of these glasses.  Makes you takes things not quite so seriously.

Moving on.  France changed my whole personna.  Just sayin’.


As we continued on our way, we happened upon a free concert.  HANSON!!!!  When the kids were very young, Hanson’s first hit “Mmmmbop” was my go-to happy song.  It’s still on my play list.



The 3 brothers who make up the group were quite young when they released “Mmmmbop”.  Now they are all grown up.  With kids of their own.  Emme could not wrap her head around that.  They were absolutely awesome in concert.  Their momma did a good job with them as they are excellent role models.

We spent several hours taking a leisurely stroll from kiosk to kiosk and eventually made our way around the entire world.  I think the “leisurely”, some well timed Ibuprofin, and my Orthaheel inserts were what kept me from having to be wheeled out in the stroller.

I think we should play “hooky” more often.



Window Dressing

We spent several days enjoying our stay at the Pop Century Hotel in Disney World last week.  We are particularly fond of the value resorts, because, well, the operative word is VALUE.

Fiddledaddy and I spent our honeymoon at the All Star Music Resort, one of the first value resorts at Disney.  It is therefore my sentimental favorite.  The first three value resorts were the All Star Sports, All Star Music, and All Star Movie.  After the popularity of these affordable hotels soared, Disney built the Pop Century and then finally the Art of Animation.

We have now stayed at every single one of the value resorts over the years, and I would say that the original Music Resort is my favorite.  One of the reasons (besides sentiment) is that you are able to park near the building in which you are housed.  When staying at the Pop Century and Art of Animation (because of their size), be prepared for a hike when transporting your luggage from your car to your room.

I don’t prefer a hike.

Also, I think the latter two resorts (while they are awesome eye candy) are a little too crowded for my claustrophobic taste.  But I do dearly love the attention to detail.  These were taken when my entourage traversed the bridge between the two resorts to take photos.  This is the Art of Animation, Nemo and Little Mermaid style.



There was something that I found interesting about the value resorts when we visited on our honeymoon.  Many of the guests decorate their windows with Disney memorabilia.  This tradition has continued over the years, and has extended to the newer Pop Century and Art of Animation resorts.  I’d love to know how the tradition began.  Our family often gets into the spirit of the window dressing by bringing various Disney plush animals and Barbie Princesses.

This year Jensen took charge of the window decoration.


At first, you might think, “Oh, someone is celebrating a birthday!  How nice!”  Upon closer inspection you would find the following scenario:


If we had allowed him to pilfer ketchup packets from the food court, the carnage would have been considerably more graphic.

We call it “Ode to the Dinosaur Ride” courtesy of The Animal Kingdom.  Guests may enter, but seldom come out in one piece.

I apologize to any parents whose children were scarred during their magical vacation.


Oh look, I have a blog!

My absence from the internet has been mostly attributed to the realization that if I’m going to continue to call myself a homeschooler, I need to, you know, homeschool the children.  We started a week ago Monday and successfully made it through an entire 5 day period without anyone dying or dipping into their therapy fund.

I call that a successful first week.

So we thought we’d reward ourselves with a short trip to the Pop Century (Value) Resort at Disney World.  And besides, it was my birthday.

Because we’re a party of 5, and I have industrial sized children, we cannot stay in a singular hotel room.  So we book two adjoining rooms at a deep discount (I know people…I am well connected…)  This meant that we had 4 double beds, and more importantly, TWO bathrooms.

A must when rooming with a teenager and her sidekick, the tween.


Plus some stuff you don’t even want to know about.

The aspect of the trip that excited me the most were the trips to the food court.  We had saved enough Disney Reward points to cover the majority of our meals.  Everyone got what they wanted, and I didn’t have to cook or clean up.  And thanks to some good menu options, I was able to still eat mostly healthy.  Mostly.

The kids were in heaven because of the ginormous pool.  Evidently this particular week was a last hurrah before the beginning of the school year because I experienced a good deal of claustrophobia while poolside.

There were a couple of instances wherein the pool was closed and everyone cleared out in a hurry.  When Fiddledaddy asked the lifeguard on duty what happened, she turned and deadpanned, “Unexpected clean up.”

That’s right.  A floater.  A freed Tootsie Roll.  Closed the whole thing down until a good cleaning occurred.  I took advantage of this scenario and secured a table with an umbrella, while lecturing my children on the importance of KEEPING THE POOL WATER OUT OF YOUR MOUTH.

It was also an opportunity to snap a photo of a young Brazilian couple who was sharing pool space with us and our impressionable children.

bikiniThat’s right, no closeups due to the family friendly nature of this blog…

This young mother wore a suit that I could only describe as butt floss.  And what luck!  She had a different color but identical in style suit for each day!  HOW CAN THAT EVEN BE COMFORTABLE? At one point she was directly in front of us and she bent over to talk to her child.  BENT OVER.  AT THE WAIST.  I was all I CAN SEE YOUR SOUL!  MY EYES, MY EYES.   All while distracting my children’s attention to the shrubbery behind us.

So we got a little homeschooling in during our vacation.  An impromptu study of the anatomy.

The trip was fraught with a bit of drama when my son (who can swim) had to be rescued by a lifeguard.  It seems that he had hold of a toy dinosaur in each hand, and rather than drop them and, you know, PADDLE PADDLE KICK KICK, he preferred to be towed in.  We’ve since instituted a NO DINOSAURS IN THE POOL rule.

The highlight of the trip for me was a wonderful pool side visit from a dear friend that I hadn’t seen in about 12 years and her family.  They’ve moved to Orlando from out west and now we can catch up on our 20 plus year friendship.  A blessing, to be sure.

Have a wonderful weekend, my sweet friends.  And I promise to brush the dust off the blog more often.


Sunrise, Sunset

Last Friday we had the blessing of being able to spend a little time with dear old friends that we hadn’t seen in 4 years or so.  This is a family that we’ve known since way before Fiddledaddy and I got married.

After moving to Florida, we lived on different coasts, but were able to meet up with them at Disney World when they were traveling the United States in an RV.


Yes, that’s Lisa Whelchel, her husband Steve, and their 3 beautiful children.  That tiny baby was Cailey.   We met up again at Disney when Cailey was about 18 months, but we didn’t have the good sense to take a group photo.

Then some years later, we gathered together at Animal Kingdom.  This time we had gained a Jensen, while their family was one son short, as he was in college.


Now their children are all grown up, one is married off, and they all live in different corners of the United States.  They all came together last week to celebrate Lisa’s birthday at Disney World, and we were able to spend precious time with them once again.  This photograph was taken behind the scenes at Lights, Motor, Action at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  All of those handsome guys on the left were some of the drivers who were kind enough to show us the backstage workings of the show.  (Lisa is tucked behind her daughter which was a shame, because let me tell you, SHE IS GORGEOUS.)


In the blink of an eye they grow up, you know.  Now I’m off to sip my Geritol while crying bitter tears…


A Valentine Date

For the first time since we had children, Fiddledaddy and I spent Valentines Day at Epcot.  WITHOUT THE CHILDREN.  My first visit to Disney World was on our honeymoon 15 years ago, and I made it known right then and there that Epcot was my favorite park of them all.  I think it has a good deal to do with the wide open spaces (a bonus for a girl with claustrophobic issues) and the wide variety of dining options.

This date was made possible by my dear sweet sister-in-law, Trish, who offered to keep our offspring for the entire day.  On our way to her house to drop the children in the early hour of the day, I mentioned to them that Aunt Trish sounded a wee bit stressed over the phone, so they were to be on EXTRA GOOD BEHAVIOR.  Jensen chirped, “It’s okay, mom, I’ve been over at Aunt Trish’s LOTS of times when she’s stressed.”

I have now discovered the common denominator to All The Stress of my sweet SIL.  And he was sitting in the passenger seat right behind me.  Still.  We were committed to the date, and not even deep seeded guilt could persuade me to cancel.

The hour long ride over to the happiest place on earth was heavenly.  Not once did I have to reach behind me to swat at someone, and we were able to listen to talk radio without ONCE turning down the volume to yell at anyone.

We had no real agenda in mind, except to meander aimlessly wherever the wind took us.  We had reservations at the Coral Reef for lunch at 1:20.  But we showed up slightly before noon because we could.  As no one was whining about what to ride next.  The Coral Reef is a beautiful sit down restaurant that boasts a giant aquarium view of your menu options, should you decide to go with the fish.  Which is not at all like sitting in a steakhouse with front row seats to cows grazing lazily in the grass.  But whatever.  I went with the pasta adorned with lobster and sauce.

At one point during our quiet and peaceful meal, I noticed a family of 5 dining on the tier just in front of us and down the row a bit.  Their three small children had just commenced with All The Crying and Bickering.  I fought the urge to tiptoe down to their table and reassure them,  “DON’T WORRY, IT’S ONLY GOING TO GET WORSE. MUCH MUCH WORSE.”

We meandered some more and then rode Mission Space (the gentler version, not the one wherein I’m certain to revisit my lunch.  Plus yesterday’s groceries), Soarin’ (by far, my favorite), and Spaceship Earth.

At some point during the day we spotted the following t-shirt, and asked the model to pose for a picture.


Father’s Day is coming up, you know.  And now I have the perfect gift to find.

I hope you all had a fabulous Valentines Day and an even better weekend.  Our washing machine repair guy is expected in the morning around 8 am.  Which is a good thing because the only clean clothes that I own are a pair of parachute pants and Flashdance sweatshirt.  No one should have to endure that fashion horror on a middle aged woman.


Lost and found

Somebody forgot to tell Florida that it’s still January, so we are enjoying warmer than usual winter temperatures here.  I’m not bragging.  Just stating facts.  Fast forward to the middle of August wherein my thighs have melded to the leather upholstery of the van, and then we’ll be even.

We decided to take advantage of the 80 degree temperatures by spending the day at Typhoon Lagoon water park in Disney World.  The Europeans had the same bright idea.

Oh the humanity.  My retinas.  Will never fully recover.

And it wasn’t just men in need of a good waxing wearing speedos.  Nay.  The thongs nearly did me in.  I have to ask the makers of the thong.  Why?  And I would pose the same question to the wearers of the thong.  Why?

It can’t be comfortable.

As you might imagine, I fit right in with my one piece sausage casing, knee length board shorts, and long sleeved rash guard.

I hope that you’ll be proud of me when I tell you that I conquered a ride called Slushing Gusher.  It’s a long tube like slide that hurls a rider straight downward.  You emerge at the end with a thong-type action, even if you didn’t intend to wear one.  The most difficult part of the attraction, for me, was the long winding stairway which ascends to the top of the slide.  Fiddledaddy was quizzing me on the way up and finally I had to tell him to STOP TALKING because I could no longer breathe, much less engage in witty banter.  At about the half way point I had to stop and hang over the railing in the likely event I was going to hurl.  My apologies to the patrons below me.  If I had pen and paper I would have scribbled down my last will and testament and called it a day.  When I mercifully did reach the pinnacle, I was so thankful to get to lie down at the entrance to the tube that I didn’t really think about what I was about to experience.

I closed my eyes, held my nose, and prayed like I’ve never prayed before, hoping the whole thing would end as I’m certain that I caught air, only to crash down onto the slide before flying out at the end.  I lay there a moment blinking up at the sun, wondering if anyone had ever died on such a ride.  The only thing that motivated me to get up was the fear that some hairy thong wearing vacationer would land on top of me after not understanding the ENGLISH behind WAIT FOR THE GREEN LIGHT BEFORE LAUNCHING.

I understand that while I was making my descent, my son was at the bottom of the slide causing a great deal of havoc while audibly worrying about his mommy WHO SHOULD NOT BE DOING THIS RIDE!  And really, I could never have done it two years ago when I visited the park in my wheel chair.  And I likely could not have done it even a year ago.  But I’ve come a long way, baby.

The day would not be complete without an incident sure to make you feel better about your own parenting skills.

We lost Emme.

At the beginning of the day, we made the speech about should you happen to get lost, head to the entrance where there is a lost parent booth.  Or ask a cast member/employee/life guard, and they will take you there.

We’ve never lost a child at Disney World, we just always like to feel like we’ve prepared everyone for most emergencies.  It’s sort of like the speech given at the beginning of the airplane flight.  No one really listens, but it’s your job to give it your best shot.  Then at least you can say I told you so.

We were going to the shark tank to swim with the sharks and stingrays.  And by we, I mean NOT ME as I don’t go near water that is below 90 degrees.  Or inhabited by sharks and stingrays.

I exited the bathroom near the exhibit and asked Fiddledaddy where Emme was.  Emme is the 13 year old independent child who is counting the moments until she can drive and move out on her own.  He told me that she had gone below the exhibit to watch the sharks from underneath the water through the safety of portal windows.  He then deposited me and our stroller full of crap at a picnic table near the exit of the exhibit.  Yes.  We bring our stroller.  Our son has completely outgrown it, and can dismantle the entire thing and fashion it into a weapon, but we still insist on bringing it to hold ALL THE CRAP.

Fiddledaddy then took child #2 and #3 to swim with the fishes.  I assumed he was going to collect Emme on the way.  I sat and watched him snorkel up with the 2 younger children.  I yelled to him to ask where Emme was, to no avail.  He couldn’t hear me.  I assumed she decided to stay put at the portal.

A great deal of time went by, and still no Emme.  I became nervous as I began to think about my beautiful teenager and ALL THE HAIRY EUROPEAN MEN IN SPEEDOS.  I got up from my perch and moved to a more central location.  I spotted Cailey about 20 feet away with Emme.  Who was crying.

Emme never cries.  Never hardly ever.  I knew immediately that she had come up from below the exhibit, not seen our stroller full of crap, and panicked.  I walked over to her and she hugged me.  SHE HUGGED ME.  IN PUBLIC.  Sure enough, she couldn’t find us and wandered off in search of the family she wants so badly to grow up and leave.  She told us that she went to the lost parent’s booth.  Twice.  But did not stay there to WAIT FOR US.  She circled the park a couple of times and came back to the shark exhibit at the same time that Cailey was coming out of the water.  She didn’t let loose with the tears until she saw her sister.  Prompting her sister to say, “Wow, maybe she really does love me.”

I noticed a very different Emme for the rest of the day.  At one point she even let me hold her hand, something I’ve missed VERY MUCH since she’s gotten all grown up and taller than I am.  I think the incident really struck a chord with her and that maybe, just maybe, her family is really not all that bad.

All in all, it was a good day.

Despite losing a child and the near death experience.


Disney Magic

In a vain attempt to avoid confusion, I posted a version of this last night, but quickly took it down when it came to my attention that I was allowing ALL THE FUNK that I’ve been experiencing over the last couple of days to slant this post toward ALL THE NEGATIVE.  As I’m generally a sunny side up sort of gal, that would be quite unlike me.  After a nights rest and 5 cups of coffee, I’m feeling much less funky. 

As I’ve eluded, we spent last week camping at Fort Wilderness in Disney World.  There were 7 families, and we all linked our reservations many many months in advance.  We all requested Loop 1500, because of its close proximity to the HEATED pool.  At Fort Wilderness, the only two loops which will accommodate either tent camping or pop up camper camping (loops 1500 and 2000).  They are also the least expensive loops, providing electric hook ups and water, but no sewer.  Who needs a bathroom in your pop up when Disney provides “Comfort Stations” which are far cleaner than my own at home.  And all the hot water I could ever hope for.

By the end of the trip, Jensen would only call the bathroom “The Comfort Station” and he corrected anyone who tried to name it otherwise.

Anyhoo.  The majority of our friends were set to arrive on Thursday, with a couple of stragglers on Friday.  Because we’re rebels, we got there on Wednesday.  Our thought was that we could recover from the whole set up and enjoy our friends more on Thursday, and be able to visit Epcot on Thursday before everyone arrived.

Excellent plan.

When we arrived, Disney put us in Loop 1500, which was good.  They assured us that our friends were still linked and would be also located in 1500 on Thursday.  We thought it odd that there were no available spots nearby, but we headed to Epcot to enjoy the Christmas decorations.  About 30 minutes into our adventure, we received a call from Disney reservations telling us that we were placed into the wrong loop, and the other 6 families were in Loop 2000.  It should be noted that Loop 2000 is on the opposite side of the campground from 1500.  They apologized profusely, but stated that nothing could be done, as this was an error not caught in time.  There was no room at the inn, as it were.  They felt horrible and offered us the use of a golf cart with which to visit our friends.  We told them that we had a golf cart and preferred to be next to our friends.

It was decided in the end that we would move from Loop 1500 to Loop 2000.  Not an easy feat if you were to witness the elaborate set up of our tent and surrounding accoutrements.  It took two Tylenol and one good ugly cry to recover from that set up.  The thought of tearing everything down, and then resetting up was enough to bring on an encore performance of the ugly cry, part deux.

So Disney offered us a flat bed truck and some helpers.  We left Epcot and headed back to pack up.  The flat bed truck showed up, accompanied by two elderly women.  Now, I qualify for the McDonald’s senior coffee, but let’s just say that these ladies have been enjoying the senior coffee for about 20 years.

However, I could take a page from these ladies play book.  These were two tough broads who gave me a run for my money while pitching all of our possessions onto the truck.  They were awesome and we managed to break everything down, move across the campground, and reset up in sort of record time.  A few more Tylenols were dispensed, but I cried no more tears.

At long last, we were situated among our dear, albeit odd, friends.


In total, there were 7 families, including 17 children.  This netted us only one trip to the emergency room during our stay.  A personal best.

(to be continued)