11th Annual Spring Training Trek 2007

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Saturday, March 17 2007

Good morning and welcome to Day 1 of the 11th Annual Spring Training Trek 2007!

It has been four years since we last ventured to Florida for this pre-season adventure and many things have changed. Rocking Leo is gone from the Braves dugout and so is the Wild Horse Saloon from Pleasure Island. But many things remain the same. John Smoltz is still on the mound and the ballpark at Disney's Wide World of Sports looks just as it did when it opened 10 years ago.

Unlike past years, I chose not to fly this year, instead drying the hybrid FuskieMobile™ from Atlanta to Orlando. Instead of weather delays at the airport I had to contend with rush hour traffic leaving Atlanta on Friday at 6pm. Then there was an event at the Atlanta Motor Speedway causing a another delay south of Atlanta. Then the roads opened up and I arrived in Orlando about 2:30am. The 468mi trip took a little over 8 hours on one tank of gas averaging about 50mpg. I do love the hybrid.

I spent a few hours at a Motel 6 outside of Disney which was cheap both in price and comfort, but it served its purpose. I had left a wake-up call at 10am, but never got it. Fortunately, my biological clock was ticking (there was no clock or alarm in the room) and I woke up on time and was out the door by 11am. Fifteen minutes later I pulled into the Port Orleans Riverside resort.

Friends and neighbors will recall that I have stayed at all four of the moderate resorts at Disney, but Port Orleans Riverside is my favorite and the one I have returned to for 3 additional visits. I checked in and since my room was not ready yet, left my bags with Bell Services, parked the FuskieMobile&trade and caught the next Disney Transportation bus to Disney-MGM Studios, transfer point to Disney's Wide World of Sports. Since I did not know if the Braves were allowing camcorders into the ballpark because the game was being televised on Fox SportSouth, I left my camera bag in a locker. Unfortunately, the first two lockers refused to disengage the key after dropping in my quarters bu the third try was a charm and I was on my way to the sports complex.

Disney's Wide World of Sports is more than just the Braves Spring Training facility for the last 10 years. The annual AmeriCheer international finals competition was in full effect, with glittery teenage girls galore. In addition, there was a high school relay event that had the place popping.

I arrived just in time to find my seat in aisle 114, row S, behind home plate. These tickets were bought off eBay for $55, but the game against the Cardinals was sold out so it was worth it. I actually sat next to the gentleman who had made his extra seat available and we had a good conversation. Lunch as a double cheeseburger for $5.50 and a beer for $6. A 20oz diet coke was only $2, a bargain for a ballpark. In honor of St. Patrick's Day, I picked up a green Braves shirt and cap. The players on both teams wore the green caps while on the field.

Given the wealth of information covering the Braves Spring Training games on the internet, I am not going to attempt to provide play-by-play this year but I will note some highlights and lowlights that stuck in my head. First, John Smoltz looked good, giving up one run in the first but then having no problem the next four innings. The Braves answered in the bottom of the inning with 4 runs. But the bullpen could not hold the lead, giving up 8 runs over 5 innings resulting in a 9-5 loss. Martin Prado stood out having a good day as did Chris Woodside. Some of the young subs showed some offensive and defensive hustle as well, although there were some bounced balls at first that could have saved some runs.

After the game I headed back to Disney-MGM Studios and checked in with Guest Services to request a refund of the $2 lost in the lockers. While there, I experienced a young man who, due to extreme inebriation in celebration of his honor the Saint, had become separated from his friends and needed assistance dialing the house phone to try and reach them. I recovered my money and retrieved my camera bag from the locker, then took the boat from Disney-MGM Studios over to Epcot where I had 6pm dinner reservations At L'Originale Alfredos di Roma in Italy.

My Magic Your way package allows me to visit multiple theme parks for up to 8 days, and includes a number of meal and dining options. Dinner tonight started with Lobster Bisque ($8.95), continued with a Taglioni alla Vodka con Gamberoni ($28.95) and a chocolate cake with creamed cheese filling for desert ($5.95). A glass of Grigio Zenato ($8.75) complemented the meal. All but the alcohol (including tip) was covered under my meal plan.

After dinner, I headed down to The Land to check out Soarin' but the ride had a 70 minute wait with no singles line so instead I headed down to Space Ship Earth, which is now sponsored by Siemens (a change from AT&T). After I came down from earth I took a quick look inside the Art of Disney store and then headed back up to Great Britain where I staked my location for Illuminations, the night time extravaganza at Epcot that depicts the formation of the earth in an incredible explosion and follows a millenia of development from the evolution of life to the cultural advances of man and culminating in a celebration of our future.

After Illuminations, I took the bus back to the Port Orleans Riverside resort. I had called earlier to receive my room assignment, however when I tried the key it would not work. So I had to go back to the registration building to get the card reprinted. The second time the card let me in and I dropped off my bags and headed out to Pleasure Island. Sure it was 11pm, but it was St. Patrick's Day and I was still wearing green. I went to Raglands Irish Pub (which has replaced The Jazz Company, one of my favorite locations) where a U2 tribute band made a valiant attempt to channel Bono. I had a few drinks of Irish whiskey and diet coke and listened to 2 sets before heading back to the resort.
Back in my room, I (finally) called Bell Services and my bags from the morning were delivered.

Sure my plan A was to go skiing in the Rockies last month, but as far as Plan B's go, the 11th Annual Spring Training Trek 2007 (A Season of Change) stands to be a knock out home run. Day two is about to begin.

Fuskie
Who notes that as he was pulling into the resort, there were a number of guests sitting outside with their luggage on their cell phones saying that their flights home had been canceled due to the weather up North...

 
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