Walt Disney World's marketing slogan this year is something along the lines of "Memories Are Made Here." Wait, it's for Disney Parks in general and it's "Unforgettable Happens Here" (I just Googled it). It's tough to quibble with that. My mind is full of Disney moments. I remember River Country vividly, along with 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, the Skyway and Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. That last one, Mr. Toad, came up the other day on a car ride home from Durham after seeing The Lion King musical (which was unbelievable, by the way.) We were talking about past trips, about what were some of our best times, and Lisa and I went back to this one night in 1993 that will be hard to beat for Disney Magic.
The trip was pretty great all around. It was a graduation gift to Lisa and I from my parents. We stayed in Fort Wilderness in a cabin with Lisa and I, my mom and dad, and my sister, then about 13. We spent a lot of time together all five of us, but sometimes Lisa and I struck out on our own. This night we'd stayed in the Magic Kingdom after the rest of my family left and we planned to "close out" the park. Boy did we.
I don't remember the entire evening vividly, but the incredible part began during the later of the two runnings of the Main Street Electrical Parade (or maybe it was SpectroMagic then, but I think it was MSEP). We hadn't planned to watch the parade, instead using the opportunity presented by everyone else watching the parade to ride Splash Mountain with very little wait. We were happily surprised to find that we had a great view of the parade from the higher portions of Splash Mountain! It looked incredible from that vantage point, and wonderfully new and different from the usual ground-level viewing. We hadn't planned our ride to coincide with the parade passing through Frontierland - I don't know if we could have - but it worked out that way and it was magic.
Well, that had us on a high. We cruised around Frontierland congratulating ourselves on how awesome we were to have such a great experience. Truth be told, Lisa and I do A LOT of congratulating ourselves on our awesomeness. Is that wrong? Anyhow, as the park closing time neared we found ourselves in Fantasyland, willfully as far from the entrance as we could get. We were in no hurry and wanted to be in the Magic Kingdom as long as we could, if I remember our thinking correctly. Attractions began closing off lines and we figured we might have one shot at one more ride, so we headed to Mr. Toad, because it was one of my favorites and Lisa loves me.
We squeezed into line as some of the last passengers and as the cars came around......Wait, let me stop here and explain a few things. I loved Mr. Toad because it was kind of hokey. It was a glorious, unapologetic, in-your-face kind of hokey. Part of the fun was that the cars were named for characters from the Wind in the Willows stories. It was fun waiting to see, and counting cars and people in front of you as you neared the front of the queue, which character's car you'd get. The crown jewel of course was Mr. Toad's car. It seemed harder to get. Maybe there was only one named for Mr. Toad? I don't know. But anyhow, there we were nearing the loading place and I was counting people and looking at the cars emerge ready to load and.....and....there it was. Mr. Toad. And we got it.
I of coarse, being the cool-as-a-cucumber person I am, let out with an exuberant and very loud, "IT'S MR. TOAD!!!!" Lisa was charmed. The cast member loading cars, who's likely been at her post for many hours and was quite ready to go home, was completely confused and a bit shocked at my outburst. Lisa gave her a "it's ok, he's just like that" look and off we went for what would turn out to be our very last ride through Toad Hall. Hated to see Mr. Toad's Wild Ride go, but what a way to end it.
So, after riding Mr. Toad's very own motor car through the very gates of Hell themselves (what, you didn't think Satan made an appearance in Disney World?), we followed the last of the stragglers down Main Street USA and out of the Magic Kingdom. More self-congratulating was happening. We were on such a high there was no way we were ready for this night to end. So instead of hopping on a boat for Fort Wilderness, we got on the monorail headed to the Polynesian and the Kona Cafe in search of ice cream sundaes.
Sundaes were acquired and eaten. Magic was re-lived. Much laughing and talking happened. Then it occurred to us that as magical as Walt Disney World was, it was unlikely they'd run boats from the Poly to Fort Wilderness 24 hours a day. We headed down to the docks and caught what turned out to be the last launch back to the Fort. Turns out that night they ran until 2 am. It WAS 2 am. This deposited us at the front of Fort Wilderness where we were lucky enough to find one of the internal buses waiting. We were the only passengers on the very last bus of the night. The driver, looking as tired as the Mr. Toad attendant, asked us what site were staying at and took us straight there, right to the door of our cabin, rather than to the bus stop near-by. Disney cast members are the best, even at zero dark freakin' thirty in August.
The family was sound asleep, as one might expect at 2:30 am, and we snuck in and bedded down without waking anyone up. Being only 22 years old and crazy in love and happy, we were up and at 'em with bounces in our steps early the next morning for breakfast with the whole crew.
Best. Night. Ever.
So far :-)