“There’s a great big beautiful tomorrow shining at the end of every KABOOM!”
An enormous clap of thunder shudders through the rotating Carousel of Progress Theater interrupting the Sherman Brothers’ famous song and shaking the walls and seats. It’s sometime past 10:30 pm Sunday June 16th and Shane and I have completed 36 of the 47 rides on Walt Disney World property; we are about a third of the way through number 37.
KABLOOOOM! Another crash of thunder rocks the theater. We are nearing the end of our quest to ride every single ride Disney has to offer at Walt Disney World in one single operating day. BOOOOOM! More thunder, the theater rattles under the strain.
We have less than two and a half hours to complete the mission but are actually thirty minutes ahead of our impossibly optimistic schedule. Carousel of Progress is the last really long attraction to knock off but the night skies have opened and an absolute deluge is pummeling the Magic Kingdom. The streets are flooded and weary guests are crowding into and under any covered structure they can find thus boosting attendance at the fifty year old and frankly dated Carousel of Progress to levels it has likely not seen in years.
In the third act “Fathers” head is broken, it hangs at a 45-degree angle staring down at the kitchen table giving him the uncanny appearance of reading his mid-century script off of notes as his head bobbles back and forth. I think of myself as a realist and the reality is sinking in that though we have the time, plenty of time in fact, to complete our goal we may not have the ability to do so. With the storm has come closures and we know that both the Tomorrowland Speedway and the Astro Orbiter attractions are closed because of the rain. Our hope is that by knocking out the Carousel of Progress now, somewhat early in the night and ahead of schedule we will allow the storm to pass.
The theater continues to rotate through the decades of technological advancement until we finally stop on the last and perhaps oddest scene of the show: the world as it exists today and in the future. The only problem is that “today” was envisioned in 1993 and the scene is hopelessly, comically out of date. Grandma plays virtual reality games, Dad talks to twenty-year-old appliances and some sort of huge dinosaur of a computer lurks in the corner under the kitchen desk. We don’t have time to mock the outdated dialogue or ridiculous props (though we still do) because we are too preoccupied by the silence outside, the lack of thunder. Five or ten minutes have past since the last reverberation was felt and Shane (ever the optimist) is now convinced that the storm has passed. We have visions of the heavens clearing, the outdoor attractions opening and the two of us breezing to an easy victory.
The theater slowly jerks to a stop; it’s final rotation complete. We strategically had sat on the aisle near the back so we can be the first to bolt out of the doors into the drying and calm park, now thankfully cleared of virtually all the rain soaked mobs. We rush to the exit, excitedly waiting for the automatic doors to swing open and reveal our fate. Visions of spinning rocket ships and puttering racecars dance through our heads. The doors part…
A literal wall of water smacks us in the face with inky blackness eerily lurking beyond. Huddled masses are clustered together hiding under the circular building’s overhangs; a torrent of water floods off the roof; the sidewalks are now lakes. The thunder has indeed subsided, now only flashes of lightning and unimaginable volumes of rain mock us. We push through the crowds, step into the soaking neon lit retro-futuristic landscape and hope for the best… we will need a miracle.
Over fifteen hours earlier Shane picked me up at my hotel. We had no idea what laid ahead for us. Eager and excited we were setting out to do the impossible, the unthinkable, the absolutely ridiculously brazen and bold idea that we could do in one day what takes most visitors a week to accomplish. I’ve known Shane for 18 years and yet I had never met him face to face. We were one of those odd internet friendships in which you know someone, you really do, and yet you have never been in the same room with each other. I guess these days that type of friendship is not uncommon, but it was unique for us and added another layer of interest to this challenge. We had met in Epcot the night before just to get any awkwardness out of the way and make sure we were on the same page… we did and as I suspected there was no awkwardness at all, at least none that I felt.
Shane had been planning this for a long time. His personal story gives his quest of riding all forty-seven rides in one day extra weight and impact. I just like doing silly things and doing this with Shane was going to be the perfect excuse to finally meet in person. We discussed the plan and I gave my opinions and points of view. I tried to play devils advocate and point out pitfalls or possible improvements and I added some nice tweaks for sure but Shane was the architect of the overall plan and it was beautiful. We agreed that the plan was sound, one of those truly “It’s so crazy it just might work” types of things. It called for no less than six park hops and seven total legs in the parks. The timing was beyond tight, things needed to be nearly perfect to even have a chance, and luck was certainly going to come into play.
Leg One – Magic Kingdom:
We arrived well before park opening, sometime shortly after 8:00 am. We were just back from the rope and could easily see the Main Street Vehicles queuing up inside the park. Because of the ridiculous 10:15 am closure of this ride we needed to hit it first. We waited, we joked about pushing up ahead of the few people in front of us, we ignored the old school Disney entry show they put on at opening and when the time finally came we sprinted to the first vehicle we saw… an old timey car. As we sat in the car the horse drawn carriage lazily came into view, the lone horse clopping along seemingly using less than its one horsepower to slowly meander down Main Street. Shane knew that the horse always had the right of way on the street and it also just seemed more of a classic so we jumped over to the carriage desperately trying to get others to join us so that the thing would pull out and get on its way. This is when my wife and eight year old daughter casually strolled into view, climbed aboard and plopped themselves down next to us. While it was certainly fun to have them along for the first ride (they were attempting to ride all 24 Magic Kingdom rides concurrently to our larger mission) it was also a bit deflating. Why did we need to get here so early again? No matter… lets just get the horse moving!
When engineers test cars for aerodynamics they use wind tunnels. They place the car in the tunnel and pass wind and smoke around it to study the flow patterns; the car does not move but the smoke streams past it at rapid rates. I felt like the car as we sat there while the crowds pouring around and past us were the slipstream smoke. It seemed like it took forever until the kindly older cast member finally got the old buggy moving and we moseyed lazily down the thoroughfare. I kept telling myself “Trust the plan.” One ride down, 46 more to go.
After the slowest start to a race ever we sprinted to Peter Pan to thankfully find it a near walk on; during the previous morning’s test run Pan was at a 15 minute wait by this time… things were looking good. Big Thunder and Splash Mountains were next and both were wide open as we predicted they would be… moving fast now.
We sprinted to the Frontierland train station to find a locomotive patiently waiting for us. This was huge… we saved minutes by not having to wait. The train chugged past the static Indian Village and plastic Native Americans and we jumped off at the new Storybook Circus station. It was closing in on 9:40, we knew we had to make the 10:00 departure of the Riverboat and we still had to hit Mansion. This was our first on the fly decision, forget Mansion and go for the two Circus attractions: Barnstormer and Dumbo. In rapid succession we struck them both from the list, piling two adult men into the Dumbo vehicle may have drawn some curious looks but we were in the zone… and facing the first real challenge of the day.
It was a dead sprint in sweltering Florida morning heat to get from Dumbo across the park to the Riverboat. If we missed the first trip of the day the quest would almost surely be lost already. While spinning around on the flying pachyderm we came up with contingency plans but I think we both knew that missing the 10;00 boat meant missing the goal very early. Dumbo landed and we headed for the exit… we got there before it was even unlocked. For a moment I thought Shane was going to Hulk out and rip the gate from its hinges but thankfully that was not necessary as the gate clicked open and we took off running. Not walking fast, not jogging… RUNNING. Running as fast as a couple of middle aged (Sorry Shane… join the club) kind of out of shape guys can. I don’t know exactly what time it was but it was very close to 10:00, probably 9:57 or so… Shane swerved to the left, I decided to take the obvious short cut to the right only to find myself running towards the new Belle interactive meet and greet; a dead end! I backtracked full of early day energy and soon found myself abreast of Shane who at this point looked a little worse for the wear. Shane was wheezing having just gotten over a cold and the heat was brutal. We cut into Liberty Square and leaped onto the River Boat collapsing on the interior benches moments before she pulled out of dock. We did it. We made it through the first of many tight squeezes and now had a nice leisurely ride to chill out and regroup. 8 rides down, 39 to go.
The Liberty Belle meandered around the Rivers of America and we tried to enjoy it as best we could. By this time, the park only opened for an hour and a half, we had already seen what Disney says statistically is a full day of attractions. The boat docked and after what seemed like an excessively long procedure of roping off and opening gates we were again on the go. Off to Tom Sawyer Island for what may be the least fun “ride” on the list for the entire day. Disney states that the short trip across the river and back is actually a ride… not transportation, not part of the Tom Sawyer Island attraction but a ride in and of itself, and so because of the marketing department’s manipulations we had to include it. We had the fortune of meeting Chris, the skipper of the raft. He got us there and back in no time and took note of Shane’s shirt that stated our intended goal: One Day, Every Ride. Intrigued Chris later joined us via Twitter and we were glad to see him.
The next big challenge was at hand; with all the early closures accounted for it was time for the first park hop…that also meant a full sprint to the front of the park. With a second wind we sailed on and had our sites set for Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
9 rides done, 38 rides to go.
Leg Two – Disney’s Hollywood Studios:
We made great time during hop number one and bee lined for the Fast Pass distribution for Toy Story Midway Mania. This is where the entire plan hinged. We needed to grab a Fast Pass for use much later in the day. Our research showed that the passes would be pushed out to around a 7:00 pm return time at this time of day… but our luck had gotten us here early. Without thinking I bolted ahead of Shane and plunged my ticket into the Fast Pass Machine. I was excited to have the Fast Pass in hand and exhaled a sigh of relief until Shane squashed my exuberance. It was too early. The Fast Pass return was at 4:30… a dreaded no man’s land in our plan. We could not afford to hang out until 4:30 nor could we leave and get back in time to use it. It was a meaningless Fast Pass mocking us and jeopardizing the entire day. I felt horribly bad but we did not have time to fret… we would figure something out so we set off to knock a big slow moving time eater off the list: The Back Lot Tour. By 11:10 we were on the tour and this gave us time to devise a new plan. We debated what made sense; should we swap the order of parks and move Animal Kingdom up next? This way we could clear out the small slate of rides there before hitting Epcot and hopefully circling back for the Toy Story Mania Fast Pass return. No, that was fraught with difficulties. Then it dawned on me… we would continue through the park as planned and hope that the Fast Pass window continued to get pushed out until it hit the 7:00 – 8:00 range… then trade our passes to a lucky guest who would be happy to receive an earlier ride time. Shane was and had always been dead set against ANY sort of cheating. We truly wanted this to be absolutely as fair as possible. After a little pondering Shane agreed that trading for a later Fast Pass was fair game, any guest could do this and it broke no rules.
Off the tour we bolted to the Rock N Roller single rider line and more or less ran through the queue and jumped on board… Shane first and I followed on the next train. I happen to hate roller coasters. At one time I liked them, now I don’t. Riding things like the Rock N Roller is simply an endurance test for me. These rides are akin to some sort of World War II torture device and I was ready to give up all government secrets just to avoid it… but I soldiered on and made it through.
By 12:15 we were in line for the Great Movie Ride. We were entering the heart of darkness, the time of day when everything, even less popular and older rides packed huge crowds. We were also thrown our first real set back, a much longer than anticipated wait for this original Disney-MGM Studios attraction. While in line we joked about the trailers being played. When an Indiana Jones era Harrison Ford appeared on screen I quipped that I thought he had played Luke Skywalker or something, Shane replied that it was in some kind of Star Trek movie and thus the tone of our interaction was set. Silly, ironic and self-deprecating… we were connecting and having a great time. We were also worried that the thing was taking forever to get through!
I kept consulting the laminated ride lists I had made prior to the trip, Shane knew everything by heart… robotically naming the next attraction to hit, the time period we needed to be there and the ride count as well… he was a machine. He was Schwarzenegger systematically taking down the enemy; it was awesome.
After the Great Movie ride finally loaded and thrilled us with a trip through old and REALLY old movies we flew past the Toy Story Midway Mania Fast Pass machines to find the perfect return times in the 7:00 – 8:00 range. Passes successfully traded we were now facing the dreaded Disney’s Hollywood Studios to Epcot park hop, a sprint over a mile long from gate to gate.
12 rides down, 35 to go.
Leg Three – Epcot:
The run was a killer but not quite as bad as anticipated. We were flying high knowing that this thing was actually working; trust the plan. Shortly after 1:00 pm we were lining up for the Imagination ride, yes… it had a line. As we exited Imagination we were met by two spectators who had been following along on Twitter… there they were cheering us on! It was a truly fun and special surprise and gave us a much needed mid-day boost. In fact all the Twitter comments really were a welcome treat as well. Knowing that people were rooting us on and following on our journey made things much more fun and exciting as we ebbed and flowed through the day.
Living with the Land went down unexpectedly for some reason but fortunately that did not last for long… we took a risk and grabbed Soarin’ Fast Passes that were good from 7:15 – 8:15, basically exactly the same window we had for Toy Story Midway Mania. It was a mistake, we were not allowing ourselves enough time to hop from park to park and use both passes. Without using the passes both rides have hour plus waits for the rest of the day… again the plan was in jeopardy. Nothing could be done about it so we pressed on. Land was back up and by a quarter to 2:00 we were off of it and in line for Norway…finding another unexpectedly long wait.
The plan was to hit Test Track prior to the two World Showcase boat rides but Test Track was down. The weather was fine but the ride was sending only empty cars though. Clearly we were concerned, especially because the day prior Test Track was down for most of the day but we had contingency plans for this… Test Track would have to wait for later in the night but this caused even bigger problems for our tight Fast Pass window.
At 2:10 we were in the Mexico pavilion and boarding the Fiesta Fun Ride sponsored by Tostitos or whatever it’s called now. By 2:25 we had exited Mexico and ran to Mission Space noting Test Track was still down along the way. A walk on through the green mission and ride 17 was done.
By shortly before 3:00 we were at Energy having grabbed some water and hot pretzels at a nearby cart. There is nothing like the feeling of confidently striding into an attraction with a hot pretzel jammed into your shorts having visited three parks and a dozen and a half attractions so far. Shane was always insistent on sitting as close to the exits as possible to shave every second off that we could and so we staked out the very last row and settled in for a long and much needed rest. Let me tell you, Ellen’s Energy Adventure never exactly flies by but when you are racing the clock it moves at glacial speeds. At one point I looked at my watch and thought time had started to turn backwards, that perhaps there was some sort of temporal shift that allowed time to move more slowly than usual and we were caught in the middle of a physics altering event. However it was just the attraction as normal… and don’t you know that I missed the dinosaurs, the only good part! I was so busy tweeting, covertly eating, checking video and so on that we had passed the dinosaurs before I even realized it; the Energy ride was never longer.
A little after 3:30 we were in the short line for Spaceship Earth. It was tight as the next hop called for our one and only trip to Animal Kingdom and we had to ensure that we were there before the Wildlife Express closed sometime around 4:30. We had accounted for all the oddball early closures and late openings and this was the last one that had to be hit. That’s less than an hour to get on and off a ride at Epcot, get to the Animal Kingdom and run like mad men to the very back of the park in order to catch the train; cutting it close for sure.
Shortly before 4:00 our hop was underway, 19 rides down 28 left to go.
Leg Four – Animal Kingdom:
We somehow made it to Animal Kingdom early! Shane was flying high now fully recovered from his near collapse in the morning on route to the riverboat; I on the other hand was about to hit the wall. With the extra time we cruised through the single rider line of Everest and walked on. Another endurance test for me and by a little before 4:30 we were in line for the Wildlife express train. Frustratingly we made it to the station in time to see a train sitting there for us, however we were nor permitted on. The train chugged out of the station as we impatiently waited for the next to return. SMASH! I ran head first into that wall.
I had been anticipating some blisters for sure. I had Band-Aids on me just in case. Once in Animal Kingdom I realized that something was wrong with my right foot. It did not hurt but it felt as though there was some uncomfortable pressure on my toe, as if a rock was in my shoe. It did not feel like a blister but what else could it be? Once we boarded the train I took that opportunity to investigate. One of the odd quirks that Shane and I happen to share is that we are kind of foot-phobic. It’s hard to explain but I just don’t like looking at feet all that much, especially gross ones and I think it makes Shane a physically ill. So having foot problems is not something to relish nor is it something I could look to Shane to commiserate with. I hoped in the back row of the train to spare Shane any wayward foot glimpses and as I pulled off my shoe I saw my sock soaked with blood! Not a huge amount… nothing scary but I was dreading seeing what was underneath. As I pealed back the sock I saw my toes were bruised and my one nail was a ghastly shade of gray. I’m going to spare us all any more details but I realized that things were not looking good down there. I knew that I would have some issues in the coming weeks but I was committed to this. Shane said something like “Wrap that thing up and forget about it” and that’s exactly what I tried to do.
Off the train we grabbed a fast pass to the Safari only to decide it would be best to stick out the posted 20 minute wait to avoid having to cross all the way back to Africa later. I was dejected and hobbled and it felt like the day was slipping away.
We boarded the Safari, ride number 22, before 5:00. Typically Kilimanjaro Safari is a 20-minute ride. Today much to the thrill of those around us and the chagrin of ourselves the ride time doubled. A crash of Rhinos collectively took ownership of the road. They slowly, seemingly deliberately, walked across and down our path preventing any forward progress whatsoever. Shane was frantically counting the minutes as I was losing my drive. We saw lions as I had never seen them on this ride before, we saw elephants frolicking and the Rhinos were inches away and yet instead of thrilling at the great ride we were frustrated that our windows were closing.
One bright spot came when Shane checked the system and saw that Test Track was back up… our plan was still possible. We had a shot and this gave us hope. Trust the plan!
When the world’s longest safari adventure finally came to an end we darted for Dinoland. We walked on Primeval Whirl (yet another endurance test) and Shane’s wife and son met us at Triceratops Spin. It was Father’s Day after all and I got some time with my daughter early in the day, now Shane got a special trip with his son. On to Dinosaur where we blew through the pre-show holding pen only to be shut down by a cast member who did not want us to proceed without first watching Dr. Seeker and the gang explain time travel safety. We pleaded that we had both seen the video many, many times. The cast member would have none of it. We were both a lot bigger than she was, I considered briefly overpowering her but thought better of it. She reiterated that we MUST watch the video… this is when Shane started to recite the video verbatim, from the top. Word by word he reenacted the script precisely as he had seen it obviously innumerable times before. Silently and somewhat slack jawed she let us pass. 25 rides down.
About ten after six we were at Kali River Rapids and facing a thirty-minute wait. The weather had shifted from the idyllic sunny start to a brooding threatening sky and now had transitioned to a full on rainstorm. We had been dragging ponchos around with us all day. Jammed in our pockets along with power bars, spare batteries and the occasional hot pretzel the ponchos were now a Godsend. We donned them just as the skies opened and rode Kali in a monsoon. By 6:45 we were done with Animal Kingdom and making our way back to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
26 rides down, 21 left to go.
Leg Five – Disney’s Hollywood Studios part two:
With clearing skies above we entered Disney’s Hollywood Studios reinvigorated slightly before 7:00, too soon for the Toy Story Midway Mania Fast Pass return but with just enough time to high tail it to The Tower of Terror. The rain must have thinned out the crowds because despite a twenty-minute wait time on the sign we ran through the queue and into the library by 7:00 pm. Shane was stunned at the lack of line and the time recouped that was previously lost at the Safari. It’s amazing how fast you can actually work through the rides when your timing is on… trust the plan.
After gingerly running / jogging (our legs and feet were betraying us) we were in the Fast Past return line for Toy Story Midway Mania before 7:15. We realized that we were again facing a daunting challenge; in just one hour we needed to be in the Fast Pass return line for Soarin’, about a mile and a half from where we stood in a totally different park, and we still needed to get on and off Toy Story Midway Mania AND get to and through Star Tours before we could leave this park. It seemed insane; frankly it seemed impossible. Though I had worked through the foot issue and general depression of Animal Kingdom I just saw no way to make this happen. I’m more used to Star Tours at Disneyland; it always packs 45-minute waits. Shane kept hope alive repeating again and again that as long as there was a mathematical chance of making it happen that we had to push on… trust the plan.
We semi-tried to get a decent score on the Toy Story ride but in our already exhausted state managed mediocre ones instead. As we exited the ride we were greeted by a large cheering section of Shane’s family! I was confused at first but somehow recognized them. I’m not sure if it was family resemblance or having possibly seen some photos on Face Book but I quickly understood who they were. It was very sweet of them to support Shane like this (and I got the benefit as well). Mom, Dad, siblings the whole shebang cheered us on. It’s amazing how that gave us a lift; we were unable to run prior to entering Toy Story but managed to drag ourselves to a light gallop on towards Star Tours… the last of the Disney’s Hollywood Studios rides.
By 7:40 we were waiting to enter the simulator, again no line to get in the way. There was hope but just the slimmest sliver of it. We were now facing the tightest squeeze of the day. We always knew that the Toy Story Midway Mania / Soarin’ conundrum was going to be the place the plan triumphed or collapsed. We had the required Fast Passes in place and despite my overzealousness at Toy Story managed to adjust the times on those passes to theoretically work. Nonetheless at 7:50 with Star Tours completed we had a scant 25 minutes to get to Epcot, not just the gate but rather deep into the park to slip through our Soarin’ window before it slammed shut. Trust the plan sure… but this was going to take some super human effort and both our tanks were empty.
29 rides done, two parks completed, 18 rides to go.
Leg Six- Epcot part two:
The path from the front gate of Disney’s Hollywood Studios to the rear “International Gateway” entrance of Epcot is about a mile long; to us it might as well have been a thousand miles away. Though we desperately wanted to sprint our tired legs and injured feet were not allowing for that. Though we knew we had no time to spare and that WDW47 hinged on this very moment, a moment we knew was coming all day long, we just could not make our tired bodies lumber along at the required pace. We broke down the path into segments “lets run until we hit the trash cans” or “lets walk as fast as we can until that bridge up there.” My shoes must have been made out of cinder blocks because I could no longer lift my legs; my vertical jump was probably about a half an inch at this point. Shane felt like needles were being jammed into his feet with each step… moving like spry 95 year olds we clumsily shambled along. The clock was ticking… LOUDLY. This was it, the make or break juncture of the day.
As we made our way limping and shuffling towards our goal we started to reason that they HAD to let us on even if we missed the Fast Pass window. We knew that it would be close, that if we missed it would not be by much and surely there had to be some sort of grace period, right? Shane started to get angry… there was no way this dream was going to die because a clueless cast member was ruling the gate with an iron fist. He started to come up with schemes to talk his way in, to speak to a lead, to shove past… whatever he had to do he was hell bent to get on that ride. We pushed forward, our legs aching, our backs breaking, and sweat streaming from our faces we were at the entry gate to Epcot by 8:11. We had three or four minutes to plow through World Showcase and into Future World to hone in on the Land pavilion and make the deadline.
The inclined ramp that leads to the land looked and felt like a mountain, navigating through the pavilion has never been more difficult. As the Fast Pass Return clock clicked to 8:15, the last possible minute to allow us entry we were in line! We passed under the sign with our tickets in perfect sync with the digital display… somehow someway we did it!
Trust the plan.
Epcot closed at 9:00 pm, we had 45 minutes to get through Soarin’, The Seas with Nemo and Test Track… that again seemed to be an impossibility and the long line in front of us, even in the Fast Pass line did not bode well. It looked to be at least 20 – 30 minutes until we would load. I was in some serious pain at this point. I was again headed towards a wall and having a hard time seeing how this could actually happen. Shane did not want to hear it; he kept saying again that if it was mathematically possible that we could do it. While we waited in the torturously slow line we started talking to a girl and her mom in front of us. They had no clue what this ride was and knew very little about Disney. We told them what we were doing and they thought that was quite nice oblivious to the insanity of it all. I found the juxtaposition of two determined, experienced, some might say idiotic fools against two naïve, idealistic first timers quite charming even if the humor was totally lost on them.
We were running purely on fumes at this point. Remember, we had a total of three power bars and a hot pretzel to eat all day and I was severely dehydrated. My upper thighs felt like daggers were being jammed and twisted in them with each step and my cement shoes and crippled feet were not helping. Shane asked if I would be able to make the relatively short run to Nemo and I said I would try my best… but after that I was not sure.
As we rode Soarin’, one of the few rides of the day I actually took the time to enjoy, Shane and I again joked using a lot if inside humor. As we flew in over Disneyland I mentioned how 90% of guests think it’s Florida as Shane adopted a dumb guy voice and said “Look, there’s Big Thunder” while gesturing to the west coast specific Matterhorn. The idea that I was spending time with someone who could make such small and specific jokes about such a narrow topic made me smile.
We managed to make it on Nemo by 8:48. I was figuring the math out… we would have 7-8 minutes to make it from the exit of Nemo to the entrance of Test Track before they shut it off at 9:00 pm, all we needed to do was be in that line. While on Nemo we came up with a game plan. I was not sure that I could move fast enough to make it across the park in time. In any normal situation I could shoot there in a couple minutes but I was beat, I was beyond beat, I was like something from the Walking Dead. Shane felt he could do it and I was not ever going to stand in his way. The plan was that he would take off as fast as he could and I would follow. If he made the ride and I missed it then I would wait for him at the exit… my quest a failure but his still alive. If he got off the ride and did not see me that meant that I also made the ride but sometime behind him so he was to wait for me. In either case we were both going for broke and once again everything hinged on the next few minutes.
We exited Nemo as expected and Shane took off in what could best be described as a limping, gimpy jog but it seemed like Usain Bolt speeds to me. I could barely move; my legs seized up in dehydration and my feet now weighing 50 pounds each. I managed to keep up about 15 feet behind Shane until we hit the midway point near the central fountain. I pulled up. I watched as Shane distanced himself from me determined to make this no matter what. I thought about my wife and my daughter riding the Main Street Vehicles that morning, a time that seemed days earlier. I thought about telling them that I could not do it. I thought about Shane managing to get on the ride and then having to deal with me and my failure the rest of the night. Screw it! I started to run. I pushed through the pain. I managed to catch Shane and side-by-side we rolled into the Test Track plaza with a couple minutes to spare. It was the hardest physical thing I had ever done. I know it sounds silly but that moment, that push was the most difficult thing I had ever asked my body to do. We stumbled through the single rider line and had somehow done it. Yet again we managed to meet and beat the odds. Trust the Plan.
After Test Track we both only wanted to WALK to the front gate. We stopped to buy a drink, both of these things; walking and stopping were new to us on this day. It felt incredibly good to have finished Epcot knowing that we had a real shot at this. The drink gave me a third or fourth or fifth wind… I lost count and we both were feeling good again. I had been telling Shane that if we could get to the Magic Kingdom anywhere near what the plan called for (10:00) that we could do it. We were on pace to beat that time by 30 minutes. One last park hop would take us home.
32 rides done, 3 parks completed, 15 rides to go.
Leg Seven- Magic Kingdom part two:
Splitting our final power bar and with the end in sight we made our way back to the Magic Kingdom… this was the seventh park entry of the day. We had hoped the severe weather had passed back in Animal Kingdom and had actually worked in our favor clearing crowds out of our way, but we could see lightning off in the distance. I feared that this was going to become an issue with several of the remaining Magic Kingdom rides being outdoors. Shane also feared that Carousel of Progress might shut down at any time. Disney does not really commit to when this ride will be open or closed it all depends on crowds. We had some tough decisions to make. In retrospect I wish we made a different decision but at the time this was likely the best option we had. We headed to Adventureland and sure enough we were nearly thirty minutes ahead of the plan. By 9:40 we were onboard the Jungle Cruise. Skipper Katy was the most over the top, animated, enthusiastic skipper I have ever had (and I used to work this ride myself many years ago), she was great and cheered us on as well. We headed toward the Flying Carpets next but called an audible and switched up to Pirates in hopes the line would drop. We boarded Pirates of the Caribbean just before 10:00 pm, well ahead of the plan… we could taste it. The drinks and rest had done wonders for us. While still in pain we could at least move. We sailed through Pirates joking the whole way and headed back to the Carpets that were now not only empty but also afforded a wonderful view of the fireworks while we were riding. But ominously we could sense a storm coming. Weather was not on our side.
This was perhaps the fatal flaw, the one mistake we made all day… we could have possibly and in hindsight should have sprinted to the Speedway and the Astro Orbiter while the skies were still clear. Instead we took off to Mansion since it was closer and would avoid crossing back to the west side of the park. By 10:15 we were on Mansion…
This left nearly three hours for 12 more rides… that’s cake this time of night.
Then the sky fell… literally and metaphorically. By 10:30 the deluge had started. All outdoor rides were down… we hoped not for the night but for the time being they were closed.
This brings us back to the Carousel of Progress and the slow, painful realization that despite the perfect plan, that despite great luck, that despite physically and mentally exhausting ourselves that mother nature may now stand in our way of the ultimate victory.
The rain was heavy; even by Central Florida standards this was a no kidding rainstorm. It was Biblical in both size and intent: to put us puny humans in our place.
With 37 rides under our belt we were on the Peoplemover (Tomorrowland Transit Authority) and happy that it was still able to operate even with the typhoon howling around us. Shane’s family had made a park hop of their own and were again cheering us on, even riding a few cars behind us. We did not worry about ponchos, video cameras or anything else… we plunged through the torrents of rain and hit the Buzz Light-Year ride before making our way back to Fantasyland to check off the Teacups; ride number forty… that was huge. Previously we had skipped over Fantasyland, which was next on the list according to the plan and jumped to Tomorrowland in hopes of getting ahead of the rain, but clearly that did not work out. Now we had no choice but to backtrack to Fantasyland and hope the rain would clear.
The next rides fell fast… Pooh at 11:25, the Carousel at 11:31, Small World at 11:35 and Little Mermaid before midnight. That was 44 rides done… every ride that we could do with the exception of Space Mountain and the two closed Tomorrowland thorns in our side.
It was clear; we trusted the plan and the plan worked. The plan was sound, the plan carried us far… but the plan could not alter the weather. It had called for saving Space Mountain for dead last… jumping on it as the clock struck 1:00 in the morning but at midnight the Speedway and Astro Orbiter were still down and though the rain had ended lightning was still filling the sky.
Truthfully we had the time to hit several more rides or even a show before boarding Space Mountain. We could have ridden Tea Cups ten times in a row or something just to boost the count… but we were not about padding numbers… we were about proving the impossible was in fact possible. We were happy to know that even when Snow White opens next year and WDW47 becomes WDW48 the plan would STILL work (weather permitting). So we headed to Space Mountain knowing that waiting in line while the park was still open would eat into our total ride count. At 12:09 we were waiting in the Space Mountain queue. Shane was still hoping for another miracle. We dreamed about exiting the building to see the Astro Orbiters majestically spinning above us, glowing in green neon. We fantasized about finishing the night on the last car of the Speedway before walking down an empty Main Street and into park history… We dreamed a dream that would not die.
At 12:30 am with a half an hour to spare we emerged from Space Mountain to see a static, stationary and shut down Astro Orbiter… flashes of lightning illuminating the black sky. Reality was at hand, It was clear that these rides would not reopen tonight. We would be unable to ride all 47 Walt Disney World rides in one day. But we had 100% proof of concept and then some. Unwilling to give up we decided to ride two substitute rides… People Mover would fill in for the Speedway (it is longer and more time consuming) and Pooh would fill in for Astro Orbiter (also longer and farther away.)
Just to add a cherry on top… to show that it could be done we trekked across the park back to The Haunted Mansion and entered a dead empty stretch room at 12:58 am. Shane collapsed on the floor staring up at the morphing ceiling in stunned disbelief. I know that he felt a tinge of disappointment. We cannot deny the fact that on a technical level we failed. However we proved it could be done, we proved the plan worked, we in fact exceeded the minimums and beat all odds. While I wish the weather worked in our favor I consider this a total success. Not only did we do what no one thought could really be done (myself included quite honestly) but we cemented a friendship nearly twenty years in the making and created memories to last a lifetime. We were delighted to see the followers on twitter cheering us on (we picked up several hundred followers during the day) and perhaps most importantly we had a blast.
With Shane’s family in tow we made our way through the emptying streets of the Magic Kingdom on into the history books.
It was a tiring, exciting, thrilling, depressing, heart breaking, exhilarating and dare I say “Magical” way to spend a Father’s day with a good friend doing the impossible.
48 rides, 4 parks, 1 Day!
I never could have done this without Shane. I mean even with the plan in hand I could not have pushed myself through the physical challenge of it all. I think Shane may have had trouble finishing it without me as well. Our strengths and weaknesses complimented each other in a way that made us stronger than either of us alone. It was nothing more than two guys being silly and doing a crazy thing at Disney World but it felt like we did something special. It felt like we did it together.
And oh yea…. TRUST THE PLAN!