This report is coming to you live from our modest hotel room near Orlando, Florida! We’ve had an eventful travel day; so let’s try to keep this update in order and start from the beginning.
My morning wake-up call was self-inflicted and too early, but a bit of self-healing had me back to normal; fired up; and ready to get started on our adventure. Once I was cleaned up and ready to go, I stopped in to say goodbye to the twins while convincing them to stay in their beds and dropping Mandy off with Ehlana; Mom and Dad got up to see me off; and Dad drove me over to the school so I wouldn’t have to walk there with my luggage and saxophone. Mom would have come along too, but after letting Silkie out for a nature break; it wasn’t tough to convince her to stay warm and go back to bed instead. Dad didn’t stick around, but we did have a bonus goodbye hug and kiss; he talked with a few of the teachers and adults; and then headed home again.
I was one of the first teens to get to the school, and needed to be there to help with the pre-boarding work; which is why we didn’t try to get Rowen or Michael along the way. The teachers and chaperones were all responsible for their respective groups of teens and tweens, but there were things that we needed to have checked for everyone – like making sure we all had our passports. Yes, there are other valid identification options for air travel within the country, but most tweens and teens don’t – or can’t – have them; so we just made sure that we all have passports instead. You do need to have them with you, though; which is why one of my jobs this morning was to check and make sure that no passports were left behind. We had a hard deadline for hitting the road to the airport, so it was a bit crazy as everyone converged on the school and buses at the same time. Luggage and personal instruments needed to be loaded onto the equipment bus; carry-ons had to be checked to make sure they actually could be taken onto the plane; and the band members needed to be matched to their chaperones and loaded onto the rest of the buses.
The travel group total at boarding was ninety-four teens and tweens and eighteen chaperones. Sixty-eight of the students are musicians; and we have a total of twenty-four in the color guard – including banner carriers, baton twirlers, and flag spinners. Our chaperones include eight teachers; six parents from our town; and four parents from Maple Valley. Including the equipment bus, we had four buses booked for the trip, and while we had to rush things a bit; we actually managed to be on our way out of town right on time with everyone accounted for and matched up with their chaperones. Those groups will be the same all week, but the chaperones will only be responsible for the tweens for most of each day we’re in Florida while the teens will only need to check in with them at buses when needed and for some meals. We’ll be on our own the rest of the time – though we will need to at least be in pairs at all times.
Rowen and I are technically one of those pairs, but we’ll be with Michael and Tim most of the time; and will definitely switch up with them now and then so that I can hang out with Michael and Rowen can spend time with Tim. We were with our boyfriends for the bus ride; Patrick, Jessica, Scott and Lindsay Faulkner, and Jimmy and Geraldine Sheldon were all in our chaperone group – and we have Brent and Sharon Palmer watching over us this week. All chaperone couples have a mix of ten teens and tweens, but we’re the only group with six tweens – and that’s partly because Scott and Lindsay wanted to be able to hang out with their best friends – and convinced their aunt and uncle that six tweens wouldn’t be too much for them to handle. I do have two bonus chaperones that will be around a lot, though, so Brent and Sharon could get extra help with the tweens if needed. ;^)
That wasn’t a problem for the bus ride, and while we had some kids sleeping for parts of the ride to the airport, most of us were too fired up to do that – not to mention that most of us aren’t used to bumpy school bus rides at all. While we didn’t have many of our own friends on our bus, Michael and I did have fun hanging out with Rowen, Tim, and the six younger kids in our group – and with Rebecca, Lucas, Jenny, and a few other cheerleading and football friends. It was a long-enough ride that iPads and smartphones were needed to keep us entertained, but that first leg of our travel day seemed short by comparison by the time we were checked in to our hotel and had our luggage in our rooms.
If you’ve never done a major group trip, you probably can’t relate to the semi-controlled chaos that goes into getting more than one hundred people, all of the luggage, and a busload of band gear into an airport and onto a plane in time for departure. I won’t bore you with the details, but will mention that we had a lot of help from the airport staff and airline personnel to get that done – along with a lot of work from some of us teens and all of the chaperones. The band gear and luggage was all taken care of straight off the bus and into the hands of the airline and airport staff; everything was tagged and scanned; and then we invaded the airport and spent some quality time getting our e-tickets; clearing security; and then spreading out to grab some breakfast ahead of our flight. While the usual fast food options were the picks for most of our fellow band members, our group opted for cinnamon buns or other baked treats and hot drinks – mostly because we could take them along and have our mini-meal while in the waiting lounge at our gate.
That wasn’t just to make our own lives easier. Brent and Sharon – and Rowen and I – were on-duty for that check point to make sure that everyone was there and accounted for by the time we needed to board our plane. We didn’t have any problems with lost students or luggage today, but that’s because we had everything well-organized; and our hometown travel experts made sure that we had help at every step along the way. It’s a bonus to get that kind of cooperation, but then our family business does collectively spend a lot of money on travel; and a few perks here and there should go along with that preferred customer status.
We did not have a direct flight to Orlando, but we did have about half of the seating booked for both planes. Unlike in the movies, the chaperones were not all up in first – or business – class; but were instead stuck in the trenches with their groups of kids. There wouldn’t have been a wild and crazy party in the main cabin if they had been segregated, but then we had lots of fun anyway; and I especially had fun with the friends that were flying for the first time. That isn’t always fun, and we had the usual issues with some earaches and temporary deafness, but only a few cases of that; and we didn’t have any issues with air sickness or other problems. Our connection was in Atlanta; Michael and I were on the team checking everyone for boarding the second plane after an hour-long layover; and Rowen and Tim were in charge of helping to get the tweens in our group fed while we waited for the second-half of our flight. This time, we needed to make two calls to round up stragglers that didn’t make it to the gate for the fifteen-minute warning, but they weren’t far away; and caught up with us with time to spare before we were called to board the plane.
We were on a slightly-bigger plane for the Atlanta-to-Orlando hop, but still had our seats in a big block; and the excitement level built as we closed in on our final destination. I was not on volunteer duty at the Orlando airport, but Michael, Tim, Rowen, and I did help Brent and Sharon with our group – and with getting the luggage and band gear from baggage claim to our buses. This time, we had two large coach buses, so all of the gear could be stowed in the luggage compartments – and we had more help with that from the bus service company that was getting all of our business for the week. The ride to our hotel from the airport took another forty minutes or so; Michael and I were on the crew that unloaded the band gear and helped to get it all into a small conference room we were renting for the week instead of trying to split everything up into band member rooms; and then we met up with Rowen and Tim to go to our rooms. They’d helped with the check-in; so we were able to go right up to our rooms; and then we had a half-hour available to unpack and freshen up before getting together with our group and chaperones to go out for dinner.
The room assignments were not done equally for Michael, Tim, Rowen, and me; though we aren’t the only teens that are two to a room instead of four. I am the reason for that in our case, but most of the senior students are in pairs; while most of the tweens and younger teens are in rooms of four girls or boys. We’ve been getting teased about being troublemakers because our two rooms are surrounded by chaperones, but while that was intentional too; only Rowen and Michael know the real reason for that – and they don’t know that they’re both in the loop on that part of the Magi protection plan. I’ll add that we’re not actually surrounded either – but only because our rooms are at the end of the hallway; so we are technically cornered instead of surrounded. ;^)
We’re in single-queen rooms; Rowen and I have a love seat and table in our room along with the desk and mini-fridge; and the boys have two armchairs instead of the love seat for extra furniture in their room. The bathrooms are standard for a moderate-level chain hotel, but Rowen and I came prepared; so bubble baths are still an option – even if we don’t get to have bedtime Jacuzzi fun. Just for the record, I totally am spoiled at home; and miss my Jacuzzi when I’m away and don’t have that option! There wasn’t time to grab showers and dry wet hair, so Rowen and I just freshened up; got changed; and then met up with the boys in their room. From there, we went on to the lobby to meet up with our group; we decided on a short tour of the main floor and grounds of the hotel; and then we went out for dinner. We – the band – needed to split up and have dinner at a handful of the restaurants near the hotel. We ended up having pizza, and while the fast food was good; the highlight of the meal for me was a chat that Michael and I had with Rebecca, Lucas, and Jenny while we ate. Their group was there too – obviously; and I’m mentioning that chat because it’s related to our future plans for home. While Rebecca and Jenny are still at the talking stage for it, we did collectively decide that a pizza shop would do well in town; and also think that we don’t need another ‘sit-down’ restaurant – though having some outdoor tables for a teen hang-out spot would work pretty well with a take-out pizza shop too. Yes, I know more than I’m writing about here, but that plan is going to start coming together this year; so I’ll just keep you posted as we go along. I also won’t write about some of the scarier food moments during dinner, but you can likely guess what a pizza feeding frenzy was like with a bunch of teen and tween guys at our tables.
Michael, Rowen, Tim, and I went for a walk after dinner; went back to the hotel after that; and split up to get into swimsuits to go for a swim in the pool. It was cooling off outside by then, but it was still nearly fifty degrees warmer than it had been at home, and the pool is heated; so we were just fine. We also had lots of company; since about half of our band mates went for a swim then too – along with a handful of our chaperones. Others came along to just hang out by the pool, but most of us only stayed there for an hour or less because we have an early start booked for tomorrow. Rowen and I did enjoy the swim, and the boys really appreciated our new swimsuits a lot; but we were ready to head back to our rooms by a bit after nine o’clock. We split up to get changed and dry; the boys came over to our room after that; and Rowen and Tim got to cuddle on the bed while Michael and I cuddled on the love seat and we all watched a movie on the modest-sized television.
Room check was at eleven o’clock; Sharon gave us the extra five minutes we needed to finish the movie; and then Rowen walked Tim back to his room while Michael and I said goodnight in ours in a non-verbal sort of way. He was back in his room by a quarter-past; Rowen returned shortly after he left; and then we took turns getting ready for bed with Rowen going first while I fired up my computer and got started on my bedtime computing.
I did not have a chat with Mom, Dad, or the twins because I knew by then that Mom and Dad were getting a kid-free night and wouldn’t want to be disturbed. The twins were with Naomi and Aiden respectively, and since I can hear the jokes already; no, they were not having co-ed sleepovers just because they thought that we might be doing that here! My email check was done by the time it was my turn for the bathroom; it didn’t take me long to get ready for bed; and then I joined Rowen in bed and we’ve been having a fun little girl chat while I’ve been finishing my email and computer checks – and dealing with a work issue that only took a couple of minutes to handle. It’s past-midnight now, but not by much; so we’ll still get a decent night of rest – even with the extra-early wake-up call I have planned so that Michael and I can do our Tai Chi workout before breakfast.
It’s been a really long day, but we’ve had fun all day too thanks to sharing the adventure with so many of our friends. We’ll be spending most of our first full day in Florida at Disney tomorrow, so the fun level is going to kick up a few notches; and it looks like we’re going to have a perfect weather day for that too! I can write all about that tomorrow night, though, and you can read about it in my future with a flip of the digital page anyway; so I’m just going to wrap this up now and get some sleep.
I love our home town, but Florida is an awesome place to visit – especially in the winter! Sure, it isn’t exactly wintry back home right now, but you know what I mean; and I am going to enjoy every minute of the sun and warmth while we’re here – starting with our first outdoor Tai Chi workout in months! It’s time to get some sleep to be ready for that and our first day of Disney Parks adventures, and I don’t have any news to add to this report; so, until next time...
...May the Magi Force be with you!