Going Home day.

Crap.

There really isn’t much reason to go through a narrative of our trip home. Luggage pickup was at 8am and the breakfast buffet (we invited Kari and Chris to eat with us) and the ride to Calgary airport (90 minutes away) were bittersweet in that “last day of vacation” sort of way. We spent a decent amount of time at the airport since our flight wasn’t until around 2pm, but that’s nothing compared to the folks who weren’t flying until 5pm that afternoon or even 7 o’clock that evening. Despite being an International flight, the airport was well-equipped with food, beverage and crap shops and we managed to spend all but the last 23 cents of our Canadian money (note: Tim Horton coffee at the airport SUCKS BIG TIME! But the Maple Iced doughnut was good). Fortunately our travels were without problems and our connecting flight from Minneapolis to Orlando, which was listed on Joe’s TripIt app to be an hour late, was actually on time (take THAT, technogeek hubby of mine!). In fact, we arrived at both of our destinations of the day EARLY, which was very nice indeed. Our house was in one piece and Dobby was thrilled to see us, so we certainly couldn’t have asked for anything more on that front, either.

The previous two Adventures by Disney trips we had been on were very, very different from each other. The first ABD tour we had ever been on, Southwest Splendor, was wonderful. It allowed us to explore parts of the US that we had barely, if ever gotten to experience before. Most of the people on our tour with us totally rocked. Our Adventure Guides had a “tour group mentality” that helped in so many ways over the course of the trip. On the other hand, Backstage Hollywood, the more recent one we had gone on, has several aspects of it that we didn’t really like. Don’t get me wrong – the tour really was very good. It just wasn’t good for Joe and I and our particular situation. We were going to places we had already been to several times before. We were surrounded by many people in our tour who acted as if “all things Disney” were Holy Grails of sorts. The Adventure Guides had more of a “Disney Cast Member” mentality that always made me feel like there was more to the story that they just couldn’t tell us about because it was “Disney Magic.” We had also been lucky enough to see enough “backstage” things at Walt Disney World that the concept of “going backstage” at Disneyland, even to experience historically significant things that most regular park Guests never get to see, wasn’t really a big deal to us. So for us, there was no comparison – Southwest Splendor was the MUCH better tour. We were a little hesitant to do a third ABD tour, simply because we had such different experiences previously – what if Southwest Splendor was the “diamond in the rough” tour and the problems with Backstage Magic wasn’t “us” after all and was just how ABD usually went?

We never should have worried.

Just about everything about the Rocky Trails & Mountie Tales trip ROCKED. The scenery and places we visited were fascinating. We had two guides who were friendly, courteous, well-versed, a whole lot of fun and who would answer just about any question that came down the pike. We shared our vacation with 16 other couples and, although we didn’t hang out with all of them on a consistent basis, there wasn’t one couple who we disliked (pretty good for this generally unsocial couple who usually don’t make friends quickly or easily, LOL!). We had a WONDERFUL time!

The group dynamics of the tour were actually very interesting. Once again Joe and I were in the “younger half” of the group, which ranged in age from (approximately) mid-30’s to late 60’s (interestingly, this has been the case for all 3 of the ABD tours we’ve been on. Granted, we’ve only gone on “Adult Only” tours so I assume most people with kids under age 18 (read: couples generally younger than us) who would use ABD as a touring company would be going with their kids on kid-friendly tours (duh.). Adult Only tours seem to catch the eye of couples whose kids are grown and retired people most often, followed by relatively younger couples like us, who don’t have kids). Two of the older couples in our group were friends and were purposely on the vacation together so they tended to hang out together as a foursome. Just from casual conversation, we know that besides the relatively vast differences in age, there was also a mixture of religions and political affinities. We were from a good dozen or more states and one couple was from a different country. Yet we ALL got along, even if we did tend to hang out with the same people after a while. Not only that, but we all started talking and being friendly with each other from the moment we all met at the airport – usually that takes DAYS to happen. No one was shy and we had more than our fair share of wise asses in the group, which also added to the fun.

The demographics of our tour was equally interesting. Besides the age differences, we discovered that more than half of the couples had used DVC points to pay for the trip. At least a half-dozen of the couples had been on ABD tours in the past. And if anyone on our tour got sick we were ready – in our “little family” of 33 people there were 4 doctors, 3 nurses, 2 dentists, 2 occupational therapists, 1 pharmacist and a partridge in a pear tree. Oh, and we had some celebrities in our midst, too – one person in our group used to be a professional baseball player for the Boston Red Sox. And another…hmmm…how can I keep this as vague as possible…has had a professional relationship with one of the stars of the Harry Potter series of movies for many, many years. 😉

I write these blogs for a variety of reasons. My memory is generally pretty bad and with a written history of what we did, it helps me to remember our vacations. It also gives updates to our family and friends while we’re gone. And it’s a damn good way to cull out the really good pictures we’ve taken. But sometimes there are pictures that may not be totally perfect for the blog but tell a good story all by themselves. Or I’ll take some pictures just to amuse myself. Let’s see what we’ve got…

The Piano at our hotel in Glacier National Park. I rarely heard it played and it certainly wasn't played on any sort of schedule, which I thought was weird until I read the sign on the piano

The sign on the piano 😉

The Glacier National Park was kept very clean and you rarely saw trash where it didn't belong. I did see this Walgreen's bag under one of the porches of our hotel, though. Thought it was funny because of where Joe works, plus the fact that the nearest Walgreen's was something like 45 miles away

This teepee was in the hallway on the 2nd floor of our hotel in Montana

This was what was inside the teepee!

Who else is going to take pictures of the people taking pictures of the bears in the ravine? (BTW, lots of people taking pictures of the same spot seemed to be a good indicator that there was something worth taking pictures of. Just sayin') (taken on the way to Many Glaciers)

Scary stalker photo of Tiffany on the Jammer Bus

Hey Sharon! It's snowing!!!

How NOT to make a Sharonesque photo

Warren making horns behind Geraldine as she takes a picture of someone in front of Chief Mountain

We went past this sign 3 or 4 times in 5 days and I never managed to get a good shot of it. Yeah, I suck at shooting galleries, too. Same concept.

International OCD

Loved this! Almost as good as the Chateau du Gay wine that I got for Rob & Scott one year

Joe's first Pumpkin Spiced Latte of the year (taken at Starbucks at the Gondola)

On top of Sulphur Mountain. 360 degrees of beautiful scenery and half of our tour group was watching the squirrel in the recycling bin. LOL!

You can hike down Sulphur Mountain - it's a 2,000-foot walk down a dirt path in the wilderness. Is the "No Biking" sign REALLY necessary??? Then again in this day and age, yes, I suppose it is.

At Banff Hot Springs. We don't have kids so instead of being a Daddy Long Legs, he can just be a Joey Long Legs

Saw this (as well as "Potty Golf") in several stores in Banff. It just made me laugh and laugh!

And this one was just all shades of wrong!

"If one pees, they all pee." (I really was just trying to get the horse in the foreground and Joe in the background. I didn't notice what else I had caught on film until I was reviewing the pictures I took)

An Asian guy was patiently waiting for me to walk out of the picture he was getting ready to take so, me being me, I did my typical "Sharonesque" pose, just as a joke (because I knew the guy was watching me and not his photo subject). Little did I know that at the same time, Joe, unaware of what I was doing, was taking pictures of the mountains and wound up getting a shot of me photobombing the Asian guy, LOLOL!

I saved the best for last. An awesome picture of Joe that somehow didn't make it into the blog.

It’s my understanding that the Rocky Trails & Mountie Tales tour did not occur as often as many other tours sponsored by Adventures by Disney in 2010, so it’s a possibility that my blog, as long as detailed as it is, might be a decent way to give people a taste of what the tour is about. With that in mind, please remember that just because something was done on OUR tour does not mean that it will be done on EVERY tour. Weather, timing and changes beyond anyone’s control are just three of many reasons why something on your tour might be a little or even very different from what happened on our tour. Also remember that I wrote this blog from my own point of view, based on my own interests – as they say in car commercials, your mileage may vary. However these words of advice might help here and there:

* Artificial sweetener besides Sweet & Low (“the pink stuff”) was VERY hard to come by during ANY portion of the trip. Bring your own packets of yellow or blue stuff, if those are your colors of choice.

* The coffee in the Glacier Lake National Park restaurant sucked, day or night. However the coffee in the little kiosk next to Rocky the taxidermied mountain goat was pretty decent.

* Cell phone reception at Glacier National Park and its surrounding area is horrible. However some people on our tour who had Blackberries had decent reception. Joe and I, with iPhones, could only find reception when we stood on the “town” side of the train station (there is a small cell phone tower a few dozen feet away) and even then the data was the equivalent of a 1st generation iPhone (worse than Edge). Actually, that’s not true…if Joe put his phone in the windowsill of our room (our room faced the front of the hotel, as well as the train station), he could sometimes get 1 to 4 bars but the signal changed continually and the data was still as slow as molasses.

* Cell phone reception in Banff is generally terrific but remember that cell phone use (data or voice) will be charged at International rates. AT&T had an International Data plan that allowed me to check my Facebook, emails, etc. for the few days we were in the country. It seemed to me a fair price for us but again, your mileage may vary.

* The Banff Park Inn offered wireless internet for $10/day CAD. However some people in our tour somehow were able to get $5/day as a “special.” At one point Joe and I were making reservations for our internet access and the girl at the front desk charged us $10 while another person from our tour was getting charged $5 from the other girl at the desk, AT THE SAME TIME! So besides asking if there are any specials for $5/day, also ask around to see if other people in the tour have gotten specials that you didn’t. Of course there’s no guarantees that it will ever happen again (after our group I wouldn’t be surprised if they CLOSELY looked at the policy and pricing of their internet access) but it worked for us on our tour.

* No matter how much you paid for Internet access at the hotel, the wi-fi was still inconsistent and generally as slow as molasses. I wouldn’t suggest planning to do any huge uploading or downloading – refreshing a Facebook page took long enough as it was! (FWIW, the Internet provider was the same sucky one that was offered at the Holiday Inn Kensington Forum, our hotel in London UK, this past May. Internet speed (or lack thereof) was a problem there, as well).

* For those who plan to do laundry during the trip: the Banff Park Inn has 2 washing machines and 2 dryers (if they’re both in working order), one each on either wing of the building and the washing machines can automatically add their own soap, if you wish. The machines only take Canadian coins (Loonies, Twonies, etc.). To my knowledge, Glacier National Park hotel did not have a public laundry facility.

* The Banff Park Lodge’s exchange rate is a total ripoff. Go anywhere – ANYWHERE! – else to exchange U.S. $ for Canadian $ and vice versa.

* My opinion only but the potty on the back of the bus is much cleaner and smells much better than the porta-potties that are sometimes the only other places available to do your business. However I don’t recommend trying to change clothes in the bus potty while the bus is in motion. Been there, done that, stumbled around like a drunken sailor. ‘Nuff said.

Anyway, for everyone involved in our Adventures by Disney tour, I would like to give my thanks and appreciation. From Tim the bus driver, to Tiffany and Geraldine our Adventure Guides, to the 31 other people in what became our crazy little family for the week, THANK-YOU. You helped make a good vacation become a great vacation and you helped put our faith back into the Adventures by Disney program. We had a wonderful time with all of you!

BTW, Joe and I already have our ABD vacation booked for 2011, so maybe we’ll see you then!

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