All Around Florida
Bob and Terry on Tour 2012, with Ellen and Richard
Days Eight, Nine and Ten

We wake up in Florida on the morning of day eight.

The Savannah portion of the adventure is over, and we have some more time in Ocala with Ellen and Richard before wrapping this trip up with some time in Orlando with the Mouse.

And it all starts with a very low-key day.

Day eight – Friday, October 5, 2012

Ellen has problems with Richard.

(Ok… that needs to be rephrased or explained.)

When Richard and Ellen go out to eat, and they are considering where to go, there are certain suggestions she knows won’t earn her many easy agreements.

It should be pointed out that we are not talking about anything that is at all different than something you or I would do in response to a suggestion. This is nothing more than a couple expressing likes and dislikes, and then coming up with a mutually agreed upon result.

Maybe you don’t like ice cream. (Well that’s just silly. Of course you like ice cream. Stay with me though.) If I suggest skipping a true meal and creating a sundae bar for dinner, chances are… if you didn’t like ice cream… you won’t be that enthusiastic about the idea.

In Richard’s case though, during our visit, Ellen is using Terry and I for support (and trying to rig the vote in her favor). See… on a regular date night for the two of them, Richard isn’t normally that excited by Chinese or Mexican food. It becomes a tie, and they end up agreeing on something else, like… for the sake of an example… Italian. Ellen knows Terry and I love Chinese food. She also knows that Terry’s response when I suggest a Mexican restaurant is similar to what she gets from Richard (and that she can try to swing my vote in her favor since this is also an opportunity for me). So before we leave, she is loading up her daily suggestions with Chinese and Mexican restaurants… trying to get her cravings satisfied while she has a chance to win the voting.

Earlier in the trip this tactic got her Chinese food for lunch. Today… we’re heading to Guadalajara!

Now… in fairness… I did not ask Ellen and Richard if they have been back since our visit. But… the Happy Hour drink offerings were outstanding at Guadalajara, and the food was pretty darn good. Everything was amazingly reasonable as far as prices, and we all enjoyed our meals. In fact, had we gone earlier in our visit, we would have returned… might have even taken up residency in a corner to play some cards, while continuously ordering drinks and appetizers.

Continuing our afternoon, while we’re out we make a quick stop at Hobby Lobby and Kirkland’s. (Quick stop… at Hobby Lobby… yeah… who am I kidding?)

Hobby Lobby… you have been introduced to that place by me before, and I do want to tell you that I like it. Even when Terry is in there wiping out our savings, I can always manage to wander around and find plenty of things to keep my interest. I’m a fan of the place.

I’ve also noted though that Terry tends to fill our luggage very quickly on trips, so Hobby Lobby followed by Kirkland’s… another place where we always manage to find great items… well, considering what we’ve already done on this trip, we’re not far away from me needing to either add a bag for the return home or begin arranging to ship a few boxes.

The wandering wraps up with a stop at the Renaissance Room… a consignment shop.

Now… dinner… and it is a GREAT one.

Terry and Ellen have been kicking around the meatloaf from Mrs. Wilkes’, and that’s on the menu. Also planned are a summer squash casserole we saw while watching the Food Network during this visit, and… I cannot stress how amazingly wonderful this is going to be… Ellen’s Key Lime Meringue Pie. Toss in some glasses of Malibu and pineapple and you have an absolutely perfect evening.

Day nine – Saturday, October 6, 2012

A few years ago, Ellen and Richard introduced us to Lakeridge Winery.

Located in Clermont, Florida, Lakeridge was a stop for us first during the 2010 Florida trip that also included Mike and Louise. It has continued to be a place on our list of possibilities for each trip since then.

This weekend they are having live music and a car show.

We walk around, look over the cars, and make our way to a picnic table in the corner. While eating some food and listening to a band, we decide that playing a few hands of cards might be nice… and since, naturally, we forgot to bring any cards with us for this afternoon jaunt, I head inside the gift store to see if they carry any. It’s a bit pricey, but I return with three decks of wine-themed cards. Terry decides that’s not nearly enough for the Hand and Foot version of Canasta we’re now playing and, price be darned, heads back in to purchase two more decks.

The record shows Bob and Ellen taking the game… on a really great afternoon.

Driving home, we begin discussing some different things, and end up spotting a sign for the Russell Stover outlet store. Ellen says she knows right where it is… and off we go.

As we walk inside, things are ok in general. It’s not an amazingly discounted location considering what we were expecting… but they have samples… and a few specials… and basically the complete line of Russell Stover offerings as opposed to, say, the selections you might find in the limited shelf space of your local retailer.

And then Terry spots it.

She’s been gearing up for the next craft fair and holidays. (Visit the ComplemenTerry Designs web site folks!) And Russell Stover is offering some of their outdated holiday-themed boxes… which just happens to include a little stuffed bear. Terry doesn’t care about the box of chocolates… but the discount means she would be getting the chocolates AND the bear ornament for about 47-cents each. She buys 20 -- that’s 20… two-zero… twenty -- boxes.

We get back in the car and she apologizes to me, saying she knows that it means more stuff to pack. I chuckle, say I’m going to regret mentioning it, and then offer that she should have bought more.

Stunned silence.

And then…

“Why did you say that?’

“Well, they’re perfect. You could attach wings or a small musical instrument or whatever and have an entire line of Christmas ornaments out of them. For that price, you could give them away as a ‘spend $20 and get this free ornament with your purchase’ item and still be way ahead on it. You should have bought about 50 boxes.”

More silence.

“Crap. You’re right. Do you mean that? Yeah. You’re right.” (Add look of sorrow with the saddest eyes you could ever imagine.) “Could we go back?”

Thirty more boxes of chocolates later… literally fifty boxes in several cases in the back of the car… we hit the road again. Richard… who rarely eats chocolate, and I mean rarely as in it needs to be a special occasion because he prefers fruits and seldom goes for candy at all… is laughing at Ellen as Terry explains that she’s planning to leave at least twenty boxes of chocolates with them because of the needs of packing.

We get home to a treat. Leftovers! (Oh yes… more meat loaf! What an awesome trip!)

Day ten – Sunday, October 7, 2012

We’re getting ready to make our final move of the trip… Orlando… Disney.

We’ve got reservations at the brand new Disney World resort, Art of Animation. The section we’ll be staying in… for The Little Mermaid… has literally only been open for a few weeks.

And as if that wasn’t enough… we have plans to catch up with two dear friends, Donna and Joe.

First… we have a few hours left with the dynamic duo… Ellen and Richard.

After packing our bags -- and I’m stunned, but Terry has managed to make everything fit (It should be noted that there is a pile of boxes, containing chocolates, on a table in Ellen’s kitchen.) -- we get in the car and make a decision… Five Guys!

We haven’t been to a Five Guys yet on this trip, and it’s a real treat. We’re smiling and laughing and eating peanuts and having a grand old time.

We hit the highway and make a decision to head to our room first. We’re planning on taking Ellen and Richard to dinner in Orlando. They aren’t staying too late with us, but they’d like to see the new resort… and having just eaten a good lunch we have some time to look around.

According to the representative that checks us in… and I am killing myself for not having her name, because she was incredible… the resort has only been open about three weeks. I ask her what we need to know, since being so new there really isn’t much out there about it. She gives us a few pointers (like the evening outdoor movie), and then tells us that no matter what we do we need to get into the Big Blue Pool and hear the characters and music underwater.

Ok then.

(We tried it -- more coming soon on that -- and had been told you could hear characters talking to each other. We did not hear the characters… just music… still pretty cool.)

We head out to our room, and it is a bit of a hike. Fortunately, Ellen and Richard are there to drive us over to it today, but over the next few days we are going to find out this is one huge property.

The room is fantastic.

Ok… disclaimers up front… this is one of Disney’s value-resort efforts. You need to understand that. Why? Well… it doesn’t have high-end dining options as a part of it. (We ate at the cafeteria one night, which was fine but nothing memorable.) Every room is more or less set up with families in mind, and as such we had a door for an adjoining room. Ours did have a king-sized bed (no doubt there were two full or queen size beds in the other room). And some of the decorations are nice, and custom creations, but likely not something that cost Disney a ton of money for each request of a special mirror, artwork, or characters to hang on the wall when the order was made to get them for several hundred rooms. (Heck… we even liked the shower curtain, which triggered a thought motivating me to check something… and, sure enough there it was for sale in the gift shop. In fact… funny story…)

We were at the Big Blue Pool (later on this very day) and I was looking at one of the Nemo buildings. It just so happened that where I was looking there was an entire floor-by-floor set of rooms with their curtains drawn back. And from my vantage point, on the walls of the room, in the same place in each room, I could see the same character hanging on the wall. (I seem to recall it was a depiction of a fish created by the school of fish from the movie.)

None of that is bad… but it’s not the Grand Floridian or some luxury resort. In other words, expectations should be checked a bit.

Still… folks… this is Disney. And Disney takes a back seat to no one when it comes to giving 100% to anything they do. This might very well be set up and designed as a “value” resort. That doesn’t stop it from having incredible character statues and displays throughout the property. (The section for Cars was unreal and stunning… and this was after seeing the dazzling courtyard for The Little Mermaid (that also included a pool), amazing courtyard for The Lion King, and unreal design of the Finding Nemo section. I also found myself saying “mine… mine… mine…” during our walk from our room to the main building, and you would have too.) They have a movie night set up in one of the courtyards (The Lion King area), showing a Disney movie each evening after sunset.

Value? Ok.

Awesome? Definitely.

(If you want to see what I mean, just open up your favorite search engine and use the option for images. Type in Disney – Art – Animation – (in this place pick an option out of Cars, Nemo, Lion King and Little Mermaid) – Room. When you see the results that come up, you will likely understand.)

Ok… back to our visit.

After dropping off our bags and checking out the room, we decide to take a little walk around the resort. We head out to the pool area in the Little Mermaid section, and to say it’s incredible really doesn’t capture it. Giant figures of Ariel, Ursula and Triton are part of each wing. The small details… all of the character statues, painting, and even items along the walkways are just about perfect.

And this sense of capturing the moment works in all of the areas. If your kid has seen the movie forty-bazillion times, and is going to pester you about that one scene, I can just about guarantee you there will be some type of nod to the characters and scenery from it in each themed section. You keep starting to put your camera away only to find you need it again.

We get to the gift shop… and yeah, today I’m regretting that I don’t own a “mine… mine… mine…” seagull coffee mug. Like most Disney gift shops, there are many of the items you might expect to find in just about every store around the vast Disney World property -- T-shirts and snow globes and Mickey Ears, oh my! -- along with some offerings distinctively designed for the place where you are and unlikely to be found elsewhere. For a hotel gift area, this one is very well stocked with a large variety.

(I recall about fifteen years ago I bought a stuffed Eeyore with a pith helmet and outfitted for a safari. Got it in the Animal Kingdom, at a shop out near Kilimanjaro Safaris. I don’t believe I have ever seen that Eeyore in any other store. It was themed for the Animal Kingdom, and it was purchased in the Animal Kingdom. And while so many Disney items can be bought in many locations… my treasured Tinkerbell “mornings aren’t magical” coffee mug is in virtually all the stores… there are often some items you pass up at your own risk if you don’t plan to return to that shop.)

Terry and I agree to come back later, and the four of us get in the car. We’re heading to what is becoming a tradition for us in Orlando.

Back in 1997, Terry and I found a Japanese Steakhouse out on Irlo Bronson. It was called Yoji’s… we made it a part of our trips, as I remember, in both 1997 and 1999, though it has long been closed. So in 2005, we decided to give Kobe’s a shot… and Terry, Ellen, my sister Kris and I had a fabulous time.

Terry, Ellen and I returned in 2010 with Richard, Mike and Louise. And today, the four of us are headed back for another visit.

We’ve arrived as the doors open… and there are drink specials available. We can’t help ourselves… panda and kitten ceramic specialty drink mugs… we’re hooked. Dinner is awesome… Terry and I have our picture taken when Ellen responds to the “are you celebrating anything today” question by saying it’s our anniversary. (She was a couple of weeks early… but hey, let’s celebrate!)

Once again… if you find yourself on Irlo Bronson, and you want dinner, Kobe’s Japanese Steakhouse is a fantastic option.

We get back to the resort… “and now it’s time to say goodbye” as the song goes. We’re saying goodnight and goodbye to Ellen and Richard… with a special stress on the chorus of “C you really soon… Y, because we like you” for them.

As they depart and head back to Mia and Sam, Terry and I get ready to visit the Big Blue Pool.

The pool itself is a fine example of Disney cool. With a play area adjacent to it, water-based and Nemo-themed, the setting is designed for families and specifically to entertain kids. (Yeah… of all ages.)

One potential problem? Well… it was fine while we were there… but considering the size of the Art of Animation resort, I could easily see this pool being packed to the point of unbearable on a scorching hot Florida day.

For Terry and I… we’re here for a brief visit. We want to swim for maybe a half-hour or so, and we are looking forward to hearing the underwater entertainment. And sure enough… place your head underwater… there it is. Music. I have been told (and seen it noted) that Nemo characters can be heard speaking with each other, but Terry and I never heard that. We heard music.

We head back to the room to settle in for a quiet night. Some television… some reading… and getting ready for the last stretch of the trip to begin.

We are in Orlando… we are at Disney… we have tickets for the Halloween party… we are going to catch up with Donna and Joe… and…

Tomorrow morning the quest for Tonga Toast begins!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

As a refresher, in case you’ve landed here as a starting point and really need some background, there have been two travel diary entries so far for this trip…

All Around Florida – Days One, Two and Three

Welcome to Savannah – Days One, Two, Three and Four

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at