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Clippings by John Flowers: A bracing trip to the Magic Kingdom

Roughly mid-way through the Vermont winter, our family was in need of some defrosting.
And where better to accomplish that, we reasoned, than the Sunshine State? So we booked an early-January trip a few weeks in advance, anticipating beach weather and a chance to revisit that bastion of family excess, Disney World, after what had been an 18-year hiatus from the Orlando area. Our children, Diane and Mark, had been munchkins during our first trip there and therefore weren’t able to take in all the sights and stomach-churning rides. Now they were old enough to stand in line for 40 minutes to vomit!
Well, Mark took a pass on the trip in order to honor his volunteer commitments to the St. Michael’s College Rescue Squad (yes, we are proud of him). Fortunately, Diane (equally proud of her) had a window in her busy school/work schedule that allowed her to come with Dottie and I on our five-day sojourn.
We left Burlington on a Monday morning in 44-degree weather.
We landed in Orlando 14 hours later — courtesy of a missed connection in Philadelphia — in 42-degree weather. I guess somebody forgot to turn the oven on for us. Turned out to be one of the coldest snaps in Florida in recent years. We had received a frosty foreshadowing from Weather.com, but I guess we didn’t want to believe it. Most people buy swimsuits during trips to Florida; our first purchases were tacky, touristy sweaters.
Still, we kept a sunny attitude. After all, we were hearty Vermonters who had enough activities lined up to stay warm. And it all began with a trip to the big Kahuna: Disney World.
After parking our rental vehicle in a lot the size of New Jersey, we began our voyage into the Magic Kingdom. We huddled together in the open-air courtesy tram for a ride to the main gate, with connection to a frigid boat ride for the second and final leg to Disney. I think I saw some real snow on Space Mountain. We thawed out our wallets for the considerable cabbage that Walt’s successors are charging for what is admittedly a special experience.
I was ready to make a bee-line for the “big kid” rides. I had had enough of the Teacups and merry-go-round when Mark and Diane were last at Disney. But to my surprise, Diane — now 22 — quickly parked herself in a line to have some face time with Aladdin and Jasmine. Then it made sense. She was revisiting her youth, which had included Belle, Jasmine, Mulan and a host of other characters that for her were far more than “cartoons.”
We hopped on the Jungle Cruise, the Kali River Rapids, Pirates of the Caribbean, the Journey of the Little Mermaid and Space Mountain, to name a few. We laughed, walked, stood in line and walked some more, and of course got extra, unchoreographed entertainment provided by fellow Disney visitors.
Dottie and I got a sense of déjà vu seeing the late-afternoon meltdowns of kids who had missed their naps. Some apparently able-bodied, plus-sized folks had rented electric scooters that they arduously maneuvered through the throngs of trudging people who had made pilgrimages to this legendary hub of fun. There were times I felt like renting one.
We jockeyed for position in food lines and quickly found challenges in consuming what we had purchased. While Alfred Hitchcock has nothing to do with Disney, “The Birds” could easily have been one of the featured attractions. Dozens of winged bandits watched from perches overhanging dining areas, picking their moments to swoop in for a French fry or half a sandwich. And let’s just say that the birds weren’t toilet trained, as one unfortunate youth learned while eating near us. Bet he used some extra shampoo that night. We were also intrigued by the huge poultry legs that we saw people munching on as they wandered from attraction to attraction. Perhaps that explains why we didn’t see Donald, Huey, Dewey or Louie during our trip…
We capped the Disney voyage with the must-see fireworks show and rounded out the Florida trip with visits to Epcot, Animal Kingdom and what for me was the highlight — Cirque du Soleil. All of it spelled tourist with a capital “T,” but we didn’t care. The three of us were kids again, reconnecting with simpler times while sporting chocolate-coated smiles.
So I got a Florida fix that’s likely to last a while. Perhaps the next one will include a grandchild and teacups.

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