"Around here, however, we don't look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things...and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths."
---Walter Elias Disney

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

"Treasure Hunting" In the World

A US Geodetic Survey marker in New Bern, NC
Ok, maybe it isn't treasure in the usual sense, but it's got me excited. It's the perfect storm of Geekdom! We have the opportunity to combine two of our family's favorite things, a trip to Disney World and geocaching. Geocaching involves using a handheld GPS receiver to find hidden "caches." These caches could be anything from a large metal container to a tupperware to a tiny tube and are hidden everywhere from the deep woods to parking lots. No geocaches are hidden on Disney property, they aren't allowed, but I find that an offshoot of geocaching called benchmark hunting is possible in the parks.

Benchmarks are small markers, usually a metal disc, used to permanently mark a location. Most are placed by the government to help with surveying and keeping track of boundaries. Most markers are embedded either on roads or walkways or the sides of buildings, but some are on concrete posts out in the grass and trees. They tend to often be in interesting places and/or hidden by time and disuse, so finding them can be a lot of fun. Private companies use survey markers as well, and thanks to a blog post in MiceChat, I find Disney has them scattered all through it's property.

A Disney Benchmark
Being Disney, these aren't just plain old brass discs with some initials and numbers on them. Disney benchmarks feature Mickey Ears placed on a globe with lines of latitude and longitude on it. There are a few web sites devoted to finding and cataloging these benchmarks. One of the best I've seen so far is Patty Winter's Disney Benchmark Pages. She has them broken down by resort and park and "other places," so it's easy to find the locations near where you plan to be. Each section features a .loc file with the coordinates so geeks like me can easy transfer them to a GPS unit. I'm sure from looking over the site that there are many she doesn't have listed. Most of the resorts don't have a list yet and I'm sure there are more in the parks as well. This presents the fun part, the challenge if you will. Not only will the Pooh Sticks family be seeking out all the previously found benchmarks, but we will be keeping our eyes to the ground hoping to discover, photograph and mark some "new" ones.


My countdown clock app dropped below the 200 day mark! Just 199 more days and we will be in Disney World!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Pooh Sticks at Moore's Creek National Battlefield

Yesterday, the family made the trip up to Moore's Creek National Battlefield in Currie, NC. It was the anniversary of the battle and the park is full of re-enactors and there are special programs and fire department food and all sorts of fun. Basically, it's a great excuse to get outside and moving around in February. The Battle of Moore's Creek was fought over a bridge as Loyalist Scots from Cross Creek (what is now Fayetteville, NC) tried to reach the coast to rescue the royal governor from uppity Patriots. The uppity Patriots made this difficult by removing most of the bridge and firing small cannon and guns into the advancing Scots. The Scots were convinced to turn back and the first Patriot victory in battle in North Carolina was secured. The royal governor, by the way, left for New York shortly after.

The creek remains, though it looks like more of a swamp to me. A bridge crosses the creek at about the same location as the old one, and we love walking across, unbothered by cannon fire and screaming Scots with broadswords. Yesterday we saw the creek moving a bit and decided to have a game of Pooh Sticks. Here we are eagerly awaiting the arrival of our sticks at the finish line. Sadly, I lost. :-)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Pin Code, Ahoy!

I got one of those elusive "pin codes" in my email today. I'm not sure what sort of discount it offers or if I will use it or even really how to use it if I decide to do so, but after a thoroughly crappy day, I'm taking this as a bright spot.
I will investigate this new development and report back here what I find. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Few Good Links

Today I saw some really interesting and/or fun articles and blog posts concerning the Dis, so I thought I'd share.

What's On Walt's Bookshelves?

 I have something in common with this author. I too love to look at the bookshelves in homes of people I visit. It gives me a window into the person who owns the books and, as the author says, it may show me a book I want to find for myself. I'm sure anyone old enough to remember the Wonderful World of Disney shows on television can remember seeing Walt Disney standing in front of a huge wall of books. This article delves into the story behind that bookshelf and shares some of the books found on it. It's not what I was hoping for, but extremely interesting anyhow.

How To Get And Use A Pin Code

This is an installment in Everything Walt Disney World's series of how-to's. I have heard of pin codes, special discounts Disney sends out to people it considers good potential customers, but I've never gotten one myself. I'm going to try some of the tricks in this blog post and see what happens.

Disney Monorail Stuff

Our new decal. Thanks Iapaluccis!
I have always LOVED Disney's monorails. Riding the monorail was, and still is, an attraction in itself. I love the retro-modern styling, the way they are different colors so you can try to ride them all, the cement rails that look exactly the same way today as they did when I was 5, I love it all. Apparently they no longer let people ride up front with the driver, which is a bummer, but at least my son got that experience before they quit. This article from MousePlanet has some awesome pictures of monorail toys and models.

The Coming of the XPass?

All the hub bub about enforcing Fastpass rules may be just a prelude to the introduction of a new XPass system. XPass would reportedly allow visitors to some deluxe resorts the option of paying more to schedule ride times weeks or even months in advance. I'm not sure what I think about this idea, and I want to know more than just rumors about it before I give it a post of its own, but this article is at the very least food for thought.

Valentine's Day Magic

I just needed to brag. One of our family's favorite things from Disney's kitchens is the Mickey-shaped marshmallow krispy treat on-a-stick. We always buy some as a good-bye gesture as we leave the property and we eat them on the drive home remembering what a great time we had. Well, the best wife in the world arranged for our friend to pick some up on her recent trip to give my son and I for Valentine's gifts. It's mid-February, chilly and rainy, and 210 days (who's counting, right?) from our Disney trip, but I have a Mickey treat, and that makes it much better. Big thanks to Lisa for having such a sweet idea and Jen for helping her make it happen. I'm a lucky guy.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Enforcing Disney Fast Pass Rules; and The Joys of Waiting In Line

Disney World fan sites have been abuzz today about rumored upcoming changes to the Fast Pass system. If you are unfamiliar, the Fast Pass is Disney's attempt to control ride lines. You may walk up to certain attractions with a longer wait than you'd like, and instead of getting in line for the ride or show, get a Fast Pass, with a scheduled return time. The pass will give you a one hour window in which to return and by-pass the "stand-by" line for the Fast Pass line, which is supposed to be little or no wait.

The problem seems to be that Fast Pass wait times are growing, especially later in the day. Disney cast members have not been enforcing the time window printed on the ticket, so folks have been using them whenever they please, usually at the end of the day. Reportedly, it is no longer unusual to wait for 20 or 30 minutes in the Fast pass line, which sort of defeats the purpose.

The solution that is rumored is simply to have cast members manning the Fast Pass queue start enforcing the return time windows printed on the passes. They will reportedly allow you in up to 15 minutes after your scheduled window closes, but no more than that. This has many panties thoroughly in wads. The number of people upset by this speaks to me of the need for the change. If all those folks were not "playing by the rules," then its no surprise that longer lines than are desired appeared at Fast Pass entrances. This is really a good thing, and I believe everyone will adjust their own plans accordingly and the system will work as it was intended.

I have to say, though, that I was really surprised by the amount of interest and concern this change to Fast Pass policy brought out. We've been to Disney World four times since the Fast Pass system was rolled out in 1999, and we have yet to use it. Now we did actually get ourselves a Fast Pass, we like new gadgets and wanted to see how it worked, but we never actually used it. That was during a trip in September and the lines were so low there was no need. It was busier the other three trips, one was in the summer, but we never bothered to use Fast Pass. Thinking back, I'm not sure why. Most likely it's because I'm not a fan of change and "that's not the way WE always did it." Also, our family is about as far from Type-A as you can get. I do plan, and I really enjoy planning our meals and which day we're going to which park and so forth, but Disney is the ONLY thing I plan out like that. It amuses my wife to no end. Once we get to the parks, aside from making our scheduled ADRs, we aren't very plan-oriented. We wander about riding what we like and skipping anything that we don't deem worth the wait.

We aren't opposed to waiting in line, though, for something we all really want to do. Two hours is a bit much, but even for an hour and a half we have been known to suck it up and wait. It's really not the end of the world. There's lots to do in line. Disney has spent a tremendous amount of time and imagination and money making even the queuing areas of its attractions interesting. That's not even to mention the people watching opportunities. I pity the people who never wait in line and as a result miss out on mocking the other Disney guests' dress, hairstyle, accent, mannerisms and child-rearing skills. What do you people talk about at dinner? Even if you are sickeningly nice and don't get snarky and mean about strangers, you could spend time in line talking to your family. Imagine that! You are on vacation and the children, if not the adults, are probably close to sensory over-load. Talking about what you've done and seen and what adventures are yet to come make passing the time in line rather enjoyable.

So, I'm glad Disney is fixing the Fast Pass system, it sounds like it needed it. I also hope everyone can get along and make it run smoothly going forward. Just remember as you bustle by me in the stand-by queue, I'm making fun of your hat and how stressed you look and we are going to talk about it over dinner.