Sunday, January 31, 2016

Cookies, Wookies, and bunch of other Sith

What to do after running a marathon?
Go rub shoulders with stormtroopers, jawas, a wookiee and a Sith Lord, of course.
A trip to Hollywood Studios in 2016, it turns out, involves a LOT of rubbing shoulders with the Star Wars universe.  Which sat quite well with 50% of Clan Cook.  You can probably deduce which half that was.
But c'mon, how can anyone pass up the chance to mug it up with Chewbacca?
Hollywood Studios has historically been one of our favorite stops on the Disney tour, though truth be told, of late, it's been looking a bit threadbare.
Probably never more so than this visit, when most of the back half of the park was completely closed.  Attractions are in flux, so quite a bit was off-line, but it does present a somewhat bleak landscape when so much of the park is now off the grid.
Backlot tour, the Art of Animation, and others fill the list of casualties, with even more closing in the next few months.
I have no doubt the end product (expanded Star Wars and Toy Story lands) will be worth the wait, but the park needs some serious TLC in the meantime to keep the Magic alive.
Coming off Star Tours, which now features a pit stop on Jakku via the Force Awakens, and lo and behold, a packed-to-the-gills gift shop!
Where once again, the father-son battle light saber battle ensued
Lunch in the Primetime Cafe is always an adventure, so long as you keep your elbows off the tables and eat your vegetables.
Then it was was over to the new Star Wars pavilion.
Immediately, I was beset upon by a jawa who was admiring my marathon medal.  Probably because it was so shiny.  Harmless, right?
Yeah, until the greedy bugger tried to take it for his own.
From there, we headed over to meet up with the greatest of the Sith Lords himself.
On our way in, we got to scope out the various stormtrooper and light sabers of the Star Wars mythos.  (If we could have, Andrew and I would have done battle with the real deal light sabers.  Damn protective cases.)
Jackie and Heather were too afraid to meet the Sith Lord, so they waited outside.
Once inside, Andrew and I were immediately schooled by the Sith Lord himself, Darth Vader.
He happily welcomed us to the ranks of the Empire.
From there, we went on to mug it up with Chewbacca, where the girls did join us.  Apparently they're not as afraid of the big furball.
Props and promos from the movies are EVERYWHERE!
From there, we headed over for a little Toy Story Mania, and Andrew got to renew a pose in front of one of his favorite companies on Earth.  He's determined to work for them some day.
Andrew really does think that movie is about his childhood.
(This is an unabashed plug for Andrew's own blog, fittingly enough, called Andy's Room.  You can check it out here: Andy's Room
Two of these gunners look way too serious for this ride.
To Infinity, and Beyond!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Disney Marathon 2016 (Let's FINISH this!)

Heading into the home stretch (finally!) in this 26.2 mile trek through Disney's four parks, not to mention all the connecting roads, resorts, and recreational areas that surround them.
Bounding into the Wide World of Sports, we know who's number 1
Three Goofs.  I might also add, Goofy's water stop had hands-down, the coldest water on the entire course.
Donald Duck wished us luck. At least that's what I think he said
The 2014 Legend of the Baseball Field.
Turns out there's 30 fields at the Wide World of Sports.  A fact we know this year, but didn't know in 2014.  Andrew re-enacts the anger of the 2014 communication snafu
Heading out of the parks, we run into this officially sanctioned character.  Didn't know the Gronk Patriots SuperFan was a licensed Disney character, but we were proud to shout out our Patriots Pride.
Heading to Hollywood Studios, you've got to stop and take orders from Sarge and his Green Army Men.  He ruthlessly barks out inspirational taunts to get you up one of the very few hills on the entire course.
Approaching the Tower of Terror, Andrew does his best Scream
Mile 24, wasn't feeling so incredible, but luckily we had help from some super-heroes to get us to the end
This one's for you Boo!
Andrew needed to stop and channel his inner force for fellow Star Wars aficionados Nick and Carlos
Wishing he had the speed of BB8 to propel him to the end
While not the New York City Marathon, it's a pretty good replica
Right there in the heart of Hollywood Studios, it's a father-son face-off, Captain America vs. Iron Man.
Final stretch, and I was starting to feel like Carl Frederickson  (BTW, that's not our time atop the clock, that's the official first gun time. Just sayin'.)
But as we rounded the corner, a Genie awaited, ready to grant us that one final wish for the final push through EPCOT
Finally, at mile 26, I heard the choirs and knew we had arrived.  Or maybe I was hallucinating.
Either way, Hallelujah!
In the chute post-race, Andrew said he's ready to have another go at it.
I can only stare at him in puzzlement.
In case you haven't figured it out from the gallery of shots posted throughout recent blogs, this will go down as probably the greatest, most enjoyable race ever for me.
Not because of my time, which wasn't stellar.
Not because it's a marathon, of which there've been a few.
But because I got to share the experience step-for-step with my son, and we goofed, laughed, and mugged up our way through it all.  We went the distance together.
Truth be told, with but a couple of exceptions among the 26.2, it never really felt like a marathon.  We were having too much fun out there, anticipating who would be the next character we'd encounter, what surprises lie ahead for us.
Our ChEAR squad of Jack and Heather helped make it all possible.
And at the end of the day, we've got a series of unforgettable memories that ain't gonna be taken away any time soon.
So yeah, at that particular moment when the race was done and the family was reunited post-finish line, it really was the Happiest Place on Earth.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Disney Marathon (Villains United)

In case you haven't figured it out by now, Andrew and I were having a hell of a good time for ourselves at the Disney Marathon.
It was like a jolly holiday, in fact.
The day was practically perfect in every way
Middle of the race, on the roads behind the Magic Kingdom, up alongside the Grand Floridian and Polynesian resorts, and then along backroad access ways between the parks.
It's a stretch where the villains come out in droves.
But not here.
Here, it's our favorite heroines, Jack and Heather, waiting to cheer us on behind the Polynesian
Can I just reiterate how gross it is that I'm sweating this much and it's only Mile 7?
(Insert Bodyglide promotional plug here.)  Runners know of what I speak.
Truth be told this stretch of the race is one my favorites.  It's on roads that you would otherwise never navigate or even see during a routine visit to any of the parks.  The roads pass through acres and acres of isolated brush and wetlands that hide untold secrets of the Disney property.
But it's also where  you encounter some of the rarest of characters, the ones you don't normally get to rub shoulders with in the parks.
And it provides you unique moments such as an up close opportunity to inspect the wicked queen's cauldron
Or the chance to flex muscles with Mulan's favorite bad guy, Shan Yu.  The only thing missing here was my adorable daughter asking me why the bad guy wanted to hurt Mulan.
Captains Jack Sparrow and Barbossa were hamming it up with the landlubbers
As was Aladdin's nemesis, the evil vizier/wizard Jafar, complete with his King Cobras
This kid is Brave, I tell 'ya.
Heading into Animal Kingdom via the back way, we saw our only sunlight of just about the entire run.  Or for that matter, nearly the whole trip.  Ironically, during my last outing at the Disney Marathon, running with the brothers Scanlon, this was the same stretch where we first saw sunlight and also bumped into Captain Hook.  The good Captain was nowhere to be found on this day, though.
Runners will understand this aside, but this couple below was a pair of fellow runners, a mother-daughter team that we kept bumping into at nearly all of the photo opportunities, because we were running at nearly the same pace for the first half of the marathon.  We had lots of laughs together.  In fact, they snapped some of the previous pics you see above, and we returned the favor.  It was a wonderful parallel, this father-son duo sharing the experience with a mother-daughter tandem who were virtually the same ages.
Cheers to the Reinbrechts of Sylvania, Ohio!
Mufasa and Simba with the rest of the wild animals
A king's time as ruler rises and falls like the sun.  One day, Andrew, the sun will set on my time here, and will rise with you as the new king..

The vultures were circling, waiting to prey on the slower runners
My boa was ready to keep running
The wildlife in Animal Kingdom was more than we could bear
The Tree of Life
Climb every mountain, run every race
Heading out of Animal Kingdom, on one of the longer straightaways of the entire race, where there's not much to distract you, you suddenly come across these cryptic crypt diggers
Yeah, I know how you feel, Andrew
Things were looking grave, but we kept our wits about us.
On to the home stretch!