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Old 09-08-2010, 09:24 PM   #1
joyfulDisneytears
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Labor Day Weekend in Phoenix: ASU, Desert Botanical Gardens, and Food Porn!

Hi folks! My name's Dana, and this will be my very first TR ever, so bear with me! It's just going to be a mini TR about my quick trip to the Phoenix, AZ area over Labor Day weekend to visit my DBF, Jared.
_____

The (very small) cast of characters:

Me - Indianapolis native, lived here my whole life. I am technically unemployed, but take care of my 94-year-old grandma about 50 hours a week in her home. I live with my parents and my Himalayan cat, Smokey.

DBF - Phoenix/Chandler native. Student at ASU in the Computer Engineering program. Works doing email and in-person customer service. He lives with his parents and his dog, Max.

"Umm...so how the heck did you guys get together living so far apart and whatnot?" - We met online a little over 4 years ago while playing MMORPGs (yeah, super nerdy ...neither of us have much interest in it anymore, but I feel it served its greater purpose by bringing us together!). He came to visit me a fair few times and we started 'officially' dating in 2008. We now travel back and forth between Indy and Phoenix to visit each other every couple months or so, usually for a week or more at a time. We've been to Las Vegas, WDW, & Cancun together, along with various work trips (sometimes I get lucky and can get temp work with the company he contracts with), and a couple short road trips. My eventual plan is to move to Phoenix, hopefully within the next couple years...We'll both find jobs, finish school, get married, and live happily ever after. Getting a little ahead of myself, there.

Here's us at WDW in October 2008:



And at his brother's wedding this June:



____

This trip came about pretty suddenly. We usually plan things fairly far in advance, but we realized during the last full week of August that DBF had a free flight on Southwest that was going to expire on September 13th! How in the world did we let that get by us for so long?

A trip was definitely in order! It seemed really silly to have the opportunity for one of us to visit the other for free and not take it.

We determined it had to be me that flew out to Phoenix instead of him coming here to Indy, because he has classes every weekday. We didn't want him to miss anything important!

Now, when I try to get out of town, it's a little more complicated than you might think. As I said above, I am one of the primary caregivers for my grandma. I'm there Monday-Friday from about 9 AM to 6 or 7 PM. She needs someone with her 24 hours a day...my dad and aunt take care of the other hours. They both work regular weekday hours, which is why I am at Grandma's then...we don't want her to have to be in a nursing home, and home health aides are *expensive*!


Anywho, I was trying to fly out on Friday, September 3. That meant I needed someone to care for Grandma that day! Also, I planned on returning on Monday, so someone would have to cover that day as well (not as big a deal because everyone is off work for Labor Day anyway.)

My dad had just taken over a week off to go on a trip to Florida to golf with a buddy of his that lives down there. (Yes, he played a WDW course or two...I was super jealous he got to just be on Disney property! ) My aunt works for Meals on Wheels here in Indy and is constantly swamped at work. Things were not looking good when it came to someone being able to take off work to stay with Grandma!

Luckily, my mom took pity on me and decided that she would go over to Grandma's in my place for Friday. She could tell that I'd been a little bummed in general lately (we all are really - lots of family hardship happening) and that I was getting really upset when it looked like I wouldn't be able to get away and have fun for a few days. She had never stayed with Grandma before, but I wrote out a bunch of notes on how the days usually go and told her many times to call me if she needed *anything*.

DBF got online and booked my FREE flights, and I was officially on my way to Phoenix for Labor Day weekend!
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Me (Dana), 27 - DFi (Jared), 31
Next trip - Disneymoon at Pop Century! | 2008 - Port Orleans French Quarter | 2005 - DLR half-day | 2004 - Caribbean Beach | 1996 - Dixie Landings (now POR)

Park-Hopping Halloweentime Honeymoon - Our Disneymoon PTR - Updated 9/30/13 x4

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Old 09-09-2010, 11:59 AM   #2
Sherry E
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Here you are! I found you! I hate that you can't put this in the regular DLR TR section, but I guess this is the best place for an AZ Trip Report. I was about to go over to my TR in a minute, I looked up and saw that your AZ TR title was there, and then I forgot which section I found it in!!

Anyway, I'm here and subscribed!! You guys are so cute together. Love that first photo in WDW, with Mulan.

As I've told you before, I can empathize with the grandmas situation. Even though it sounds like you are much more involved in your grandma's day-to-day, hands-on care than I was with mine, I still had to kind of watch out for mine when she was alive. If she fell, I had to run over to pick her up, etc. She was still doing a lot on her own, but was in very fragile health.

Oh, and how cool that you and DBF met online and it actually worked!! I know two people in particular who have met others online, and they either get totally intoxicated by the fantasy of the whole thing but when reality comes crashing down it all falls apart, OR they get drawn into a long Internet romance but they never meet in person because the person is jerking them around and making excuses not to!! It sounds like yours is a success story!! Thank goodness for that!!

Can't wait for all the AZ photos!!
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Old 09-09-2010, 11:31 PM   #3
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Friday, September 3rd - Part 1

I had scheduled a doctor’s appointment for the morning I left prior to making our trip plans. I really didn’t want to cancel it because I haven’t the slightest clue how long I’m going to have medical insurance (I was just able to get back on my dad’s company plan since I’m under 26…one of the good parts of the healthcare reform! But his job situation is pretty iffy right now, so I didn’t want to have to push my appointment back).

Because of all this, I wasn’t able to fly out in the morning like I usually do. It always works out best for me to fly out early, because the flight is 3 ˝ hours, and the time change is 3 hours, so I end up losing very little of my day to flying out west. (Coming back is, of course, a completely different story…takes half of the waking hours in your day it seems!) My flight this time was scheduled at 2:00pm.

I went off to my doctor’s appointment, and Mom headed off the Grandma’s house. They made me wait what seemed like forever just to get my blood taken. I wasn’t there for anything else that day. I understand having to verify my new insurance and whatnot, though, so I wasn’t going to complain! (I actually worked for a health insurance company a couple years ago, so I’m sympathetic to the amount of time that involves.) But, I get really anxious about having my blood drawn, so by the time the nurse was able to get to me I was very jittery. I came out of it with a very minor bruise, which is better than some previous experiences!

I headed home and finished packing, made myself a sandwich to eat in the car, and Dad came home on his lunch hour to drive me to the airport! I was on my way!



It now occurs to me that I should have taken some pictures of our airport, since it’s nice and pretty and new (just a couple years old). However, I didn’t have a camera with me because we always end up using DBF’s when we go out anywhere. His can be charged and holds more pictures, where as mine runs on batteries and is just a pain in the rear.

Here’s some photos from google images (call me a cheater if you must! ):







It is amazing how much time you cut off airport check-in if you’re not checking any bags! I am an obsessive over-packer, but I managed to get by with a carry-on size roller bag and a backpack for the long weekend. My packing problem is clothing…how do I know what color shirt I’m going to want to wear on which day?! So I end up taking twice as many as I need.

I ran into a guy that I knew in high school…one of those guys that is really obnoxiously friendly and pushy to everybody and won’t leave people alone when they clearly don’t want to chat. He apparently works at the airport. I sidestepped conversation and concentrated on typing in the super complicated number and letter sequence that made up my confirmation number.

I still had over an hour before my flight so I meandered slowly over to my concourse’s security check. The Colts had a game the night before, and a bunch of the cheerleaders were sitting in the food court getting their munch on. They had on some snazzy track suits…reminded me of my days in high school showchoir when all the girls wore matching tracksuits and everyone thought we were super cool!

There weren’t many people in line for security, and I got through to the x-ray machines and metal detector quickly. Our airport has some of those controversial body scanners, but I haven’t ever had to do that yet.

I was thinking while walking through the line about how I’ve never had to have any random extra security screening. I put my bags on the conveyor and walked through the metal detector…BEEP BEEP…I forgot to take my silver bangle bracelets off. I do it every time I wear them to an airport; you’d think I’d learn my lesson and not put them on! So I go back and throw them in one of the change containers (which looks suspiciously like a pet food bowl?), and step through the detector again.

I’m fine the second time but then a light blinks on top of the machine and I’m told to step to the side for additional screening! I jinxed myself by thinking I’d never had it done! And if I hadn’t worn those stupid bracelets I wouldn’t have been the one to get randomly chosen because I wouldn’t have had to walk through it again!

A female TSA worker came over and walked me behind the metal detector. I didn’t have to be patted down or scanned, she just ran a circular piece of some sort of paper over my hands to test for powders. Uh oh, you caught me! I was making explosives before I headed to the airport! I felt tempted to joke about it like that with the agent, but I didn’t think they’d appreciate my humor and I’d have probably ended up in a holding tank somewhere being questioned by the authorities and miss my flight. I wasn’t worried about the test, but I hate that they make you just leave you belongings on the conveyor when they pull you off to the side like that. I was able to see my bags the whole time, but I was paranoid someone was going to walk off with my stuff!



I got through security and walked down to the concourse. I had a lot of time left yet, so I stopped in the Borders bookstore on the way. I didn’t walk in there intending to buy anything, but I went to the biography & historical shelf to browse and look for a book Jared might like. He’s a big war history buff.

The very first thing I see when I get over there:


A little editing involved there to make it Dis-friendly, but I’m sure you can figure out that letter! I thought this would be right up his alley…he loves Vikings and pirates and war history, and it also reminded me a bit of that show on Spike called “Deadliest Warrior” which we’ve watched a fair few times together. So I ended up getting that for him.

Also, a purchase for myself:


I love zombie movies and I figured this would be an amusing read. I actually just finished it today and it was surprisingly devoid of humor. It was written from the standpoint of reality and all seriousness. So I now know the best weapons to have if a zombie outbreak occurs, and what the best places to hide would be. There were also a bunch of ‘historical’ accounts in there. It was definitely entertaining, just not quite what I was expecting!

Jared called me while I was in the bookstore, so I called him back once I went to sit down at my gate. We talked until he got to school and then it was time for me to get on the plane!



They announced over the loudspeaker that the flight wasn’t going to be completely full, so I had my fingers crossed for an empty seat next to me. Being a bit pooh-sized, I feel pretty cramped in an airplane seat, and anyone sitting next to me is going to have my leg touching theirs. Not spilling over into the next seat, mind you, just on the very edge of mine. Can’t be comfortable for them either!

I made an exciting discovery when I sat down…the armrest would stay down without me having to hold it there! My thighs have apparently gotten at least a bit thinner because when I flew out there in June the armrest would keep drifting up an inch or two with my leg under it. I fit in an airplane seat more comfortably now! Score!

An older couple plopped down right next to me even though there were whole rows still open. Oh well!

I have real trouble trying to sleep on planes for more than 20 minutes at a time, so I spent most of the looooong (ok, not that long, but it seemed like it) flight reading and listening to Disney music (Fantasmic!, Finding Nemo the Musical, and Classic Disney) on my phone’s mp3 player. I also spent a fair amount of time watching the woman in the row ahead getting tipsier and tipsier. She was leaning on the man next to her (whom she didn’t know until they sat down next to each other), playfully ‘hitting’ him, laughing and talking really loudly, and asking for another Bloody Mary every few minutes it seemed. Pretty amusing, though I will say I’m glad she wasn’t sitting next to me!

The pilot announced sometime during the flight that the temperature in Phoenix was 110 degrees, and an audible groan arose from the majority of the passengers. I had to chuckle to myself. You’re going to the desert, people! What did you think the weather was going to be like in the summer?!

After 3 ˝ hours we landed in AZ! Woohoo!
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Me (Dana), 27 - DFi (Jared), 31
Next trip - Disneymoon at Pop Century! | 2008 - Port Orleans French Quarter | 2005 - DLR half-day | 2004 - Caribbean Beach | 1996 - Dixie Landings (now POR)

Park-Hopping Halloweentime Honeymoon - Our Disneymoon PTR - Updated 9/30/13 x4

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Old 09-09-2010, 11:47 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sherry E View Post
Here you are! I found you! I hate that you can't put this in the regular DLR TR section, but I guess this is the best place for an AZ Trip Report. I was about to go over to my TR in a minute, I looked up and saw that your AZ TR title was there, and then I forgot which section I found it in!!

Anyway, I'm here and subscribed!! You guys are so cute together. Love that first photo in WDW, with Mulan.

As I've told you before, I can empathize with the grandmas situation. Even though it sounds like you are much more involved in your grandma's day-to-day, hands-on care than I was with mine, I still had to kind of watch out for mine when she was alive. If she fell, I had to run over to pick her up, etc. She was still doing a lot on her own, but was in very fragile health.

Oh, and how cool that you and DBF met online and it actually worked!! I know two people in particular who have met others online, and they either get totally intoxicated by the fantasy of the whole thing but when reality comes crashing down it all falls apart, OR they get drawn into a long Internet romance but they never meet in person because the person is jerking them around and making excuses not to!! It sounds like yours is a success story!! Thank goodness for that!!

Can't wait for all the AZ photos!!
Yay, Sherry is here!

That picture is definitely one of my favorites from our WDW trip...Mulan is one of our favorite Disney movies and she was probably the only character DBF was excited to wait around for!

Taking care of an elderly or disabled family member is definitely a challenge, and we all need to get away for a bit sometimes, but I feel it's rewarding. Good for you for helping with your grandma. Mine was actually taking good care of herself all the way up until her early 90s, but her dementia suddenly had a severe decline a couple years ago, and it became infinitely worse after she broke a hip and had to be in the hospital and rehab at a nursing home.

I'm very happy with DBF's and my relationship! Of course, both of us are tired of all this back-and-forth and are waiting for the time when we can move me out there! I'm a bit amazed myself that it has worked out...long distance is never easy, but we are both dedicated to making it work. We had some rough spots there in the beginning but it all just works now (usually, anyway! Of course we have our little tiffs now and again, but who doesn't?). Thanks for the encouragement and kind words!

I'm super long-winded when I get going, but I promise I'll get to the pictures soon! I can't believe I just wrote a post that long about being at the airport! Oh wait, yes I can. Just hoping I don't drive anyone off that's reading because of my incessant yammering!
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Me (Dana), 27 - DFi (Jared), 31
Next trip - Disneymoon at Pop Century! | 2008 - Port Orleans French Quarter | 2005 - DLR half-day | 2004 - Caribbean Beach | 1996 - Dixie Landings (now POR)

Park-Hopping Halloweentime Honeymoon - Our Disneymoon PTR - Updated 9/30/13 x4

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Old 09-10-2010, 09:36 PM   #5
Sherry E
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Okay so after a coffee and lunch break I am back!
 
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Yes, I'm here! But, for some reason, I only got an email alert that there was one new post in this thread, so I didn't know you had replied to me until I just got here!!

Anyway, I'm going to go back and re-read the last installments!!
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Pumpkins, Peppermint, Pastels and...Club 33!!! - (A new chapter begins... Many photos and wacky tales, coming soon to a Trip Report thread near you!)
And for some non-holiday seaside fun in the sun ~~ 2012 Catalina Island/Avalon Trip Report - My Solo Day Trip, in Photos (LOTS of Photos!)- 7/21/12 & Highlights from 2013 & 2014
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Old 09-11-2010, 04:41 PM   #6
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Friday, September 3rd - Part 2

It was about 2:30pm AZ time when my plane landed. I had to wait a little on Jared to get to the airport, so I went outside and sat in the lovely desert heat. I don’t mind it at all as long as I’m in the shade!

There are all these southwestern themed designs and things on the sides of the highways in the Phoenix area, and I kept commenting on this one in particular as we were driving around during the weekend:

“Where exactly did he find that fish? We’re in the DESERT!”

We drove straight to his parents’ house and took my stuff inside. He always lets me have his bedroom and he sleeps on the couch or in the spare bedroom. (Now that there is a spare bedroom there I’m not entirely sure why I still use his bed, but I guess that’s just habit for us now!)

His dad Bob gave me a big hug. He’s such a sweet man! He always seems glad to see me, and I know I’m glad to see him! Once I put my stuff in Jared’s room I went and sat out in Bob’s office area and had a nice long chat with him just about stuff that’s going on in my family life and such. I feel like he’s not judgmental and I can talk to him about any number of things.

His mom popped her head into the room to say hi as well.

Jared wanted to show me something exciting in his room. A Disney candle! He found a stash of various Disney parks goodies when he was cleaning out his mom's office so he could use it.

Cute, and I definitely appreciated that he understands about my Disney obsession...but I wasn’t sufficiently excited according to him, especially after I smelled it. It smelled like cough syrup! NOT very magical!

I gave him the book I bought him, and he agreed that it would definitely be something he’d enjoy reading. Hooray, I chose wisely!

After a bit I decided I was hungry, but I didn’t know where we should go to eat. I knew I wanted to visit Mimi’s Café once while I was there. We’d been there for the first time in June and both enjoyed it. I liked that they had some different things aside from your standard sit-down chain restaurant faire. I decided we’d eat there another day, though.

It seems we both have a decision-making disorder of some kind, because every time mealtime rolls around it’s ‘What d’you wanna eat?’ ‘I dunno, what d’you wanna eat?’ ‘I dunno…I picked last time, it’s your turn.’ On and on we go. Somebody ultimately has to make a decision; it usually ends up being me!

We chose to drive around the mall a couple times and see all the restaurant choices. The mall is only about a 5 minute drive from DBF’s house, so we spend a lot of time in that general area. There is a Greek restaurant, Benihana, some Mexican places, Cheesecake Factory and various steakhouses. I considered Cheesecake Factory for a moment, but then decided that would pretty much guarantee I’d order dessert, which I definitely don’t need! We chose one of the steakhouses called ‘The Keg’ at random.

We walked in and it was all dim lighting and wine glasses on the table. Whoops! So not what we were expecting when the place is called ‘The Keg’! I let out a little ‘Uh-oh…’ as we were being taken back to a table because the place looked expensive. Looking at the menu showed it was a little on the high-end for us (we’re used to spending $10-15 per person for a dine-in meal…no one ever said we were super classy!). It was $25-40 a plate for most things aside from sandwiches and salads.

A funny thing happened while we were waiting for our order to be taken. I guess someone took it upon themselves to dim the lighting further, and just kept going, all the way down to total darkness in the whole restaurant , save for the very small, very dim spots directly above the booths. I don’t know how the servers were able to see to walk around! It was righted pretty quickly, but all the patrons and servers were confused and chuckling about it.

When our waiter came around, I asked him if there was a charge to split a meal. I hadn’t seen it on the menu, but I was fully expecting something like a $10 split plate charge. He told me no, there wasn’t! Well, alrighty then! That made things a little easier to handle. I suggested to DBF that we order an appetizer and then split a steak entrée. He was fine with that, but wanted to get one of the gigantic size steaks. I assured him that wasn’t necessary! I was only going to be eating about 3 oz of it anyway! I’ve been trying to watch what I eat and I certainly didn’t need 8 oz or more of steak all to myself!

Our appetizer:

Santa Fe Chicken Dip – Smoked chicken, cheeses, chilies, black beans and bell peppers with crispy chips.
There’s a few bites out of it already, sorry! We dove into it before I remembered that I wanted to take pictures of all the yummy food…
DBF’s decision-making disorder was in effect, so I narrowed the appetizer menu to this, snap pea & asparagus tempura, and stuffed mushrooms. I had a feeling he wouldn’t pick the veggies, but it was worth a try!
The chicken dip was very good, though not what we were thinking it would be. I expected a melty cheesy concoction but this was more creamy.

For our entree we decided to get something from the ‘Classic Dinners’ section of the menu, all of which included Caesar salad, steak, potato, veggies, and sautéed mushrooms. I picked the 10 oz prime rib immediately (though I found out later that’s not DBF’s favorite cut of meat…oopsies). I have always been in love with prime rib, ever since I was a little kid!

Here’s the salad:

I could tell the dressing was homemade and they served a wedge of lemon on the side to squeeze over it. I don’t think I’ve ever had a lemon given to me alongside a Caesar salad before. I love lemon juice on pretty much anything though, and this was no exception! It gave it a nice tangy bite.

Side note: DBF objects to my use of the word homemade in a restaurant setting. I guess what I really mean is ‘made on site’ or ‘made from scratch’, but you knew that right? He just likes to give me a hard time!

We both got a salad this size! I was amazed that we both received a full size salad when we were splitting the meal.

The amazement continued when the entrée arrived. We received one supposedly 10 oz (it looked bigger than that!) prime rib to split as we liked, and we both got a full size portion of all the sides!

DBF cut off about 1/3 of the steak for me and took the rest for himself. Totally peachy for me; I only ended up eating about half of my meat anyway!

This is my plate. (DBF had the same thing, just with more meat!)

The steak was served with au jus and horseradish. The au jus had a very nice flavor to it, again not quite what I was expecting. It tasted like there was a bit of wine added to it, whereas most that I’ve had is just the drippings from the meat with nothing added. So good! The horseradish was served straight up, not in a creamy sauce like a lot of places do it. I used that too, albeit sparingly!

I decided the sautéed mushrooms were my favorite part of the meal. They were prepared perfectly. Great to eat just on their own, or in the same bite as the steak.

I realize now, looking at the picture, it all looks sort of monochromatic and blah, but I assure you it was all very tasty! The pic also doesn’t do justice to the GIANT MOUNTAIN of mashed potatoes. I think I ate maybe a quarter of potatoes given to me.

Neither of us was able to finish our meal here. It ended up costing us about $35 before the tip. We agreed that the appetizer was good, but the whole reason we got it in the first place was to make sure both of us had enough to eat; it definitely wasn't necessary. We didn’t realize how much food we’d get! All in all, it was a very good meal and very cheap for what we got. We took home a lot of leftovers. I raved about the meal for a good hour afterward!


After dinner, we dropped our leftovers back at the house, then headed back out to the grocery store so I could get the ingredients to make slow-cooker salsa chicken on Saturday or Sunday. I got enough for 4 people, but didn’t know who all would be eating it since Jared’s parents had a wedding to go to on Saturday, and were thinking about going to visit his grandma on Sunday. We also got some cereal, milk, and bananas for me (DBF is not a big breakfast eater).

Shortly after taking our groceries back to the house, we decided we’d head over to DBF’s brother Tyler’s house to hang out for a while. We took Boggle and Scrabble games with us, and had a good time playing board games with him and his wife, Jen. (It was their wedding we were at in the picture from the first post.) I’m usually pretty good at those games, but by the time we left their house it was 11 or 12, so that’s 2 or 3 AM my time! My brain was not functioning at full capacity, and I didn’t win anything. I was dead tired and trying not to fall asleep on the car ride home.

Up next post: Day 2 and ASU!
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Me (Dana), 27 - DFi (Jared), 31
Next trip - Disneymoon at Pop Century! | 2008 - Port Orleans French Quarter | 2005 - DLR half-day | 2004 - Caribbean Beach | 1996 - Dixie Landings (now POR)

Park-Hopping Halloweentime Honeymoon - Our Disneymoon PTR - Updated 9/30/13 x4

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Old 09-11-2010, 10:44 PM   #7
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Just wanted to wave at all of those out there in lurkdom. I know Sherry and I didn't get this thread to almost 100 views by ourselves!

Thanks to all for reading!
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Me (Dana), 27 - DFi (Jared), 31
Next trip - Disneymoon at Pop Century! | 2008 - Port Orleans French Quarter | 2005 - DLR half-day | 2004 - Caribbean Beach | 1996 - Dixie Landings (now POR)

Park-Hopping Halloweentime Honeymoon - Our Disneymoon PTR - Updated 9/30/13 x4

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Old 09-12-2010, 06:16 PM   #8
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I'm enjoying your report. You were obviously hanging out in my neck of the woods based on your picture of the fishing bird (by the way, for a desert, we do have a lot of fishing around here) and the mall! We were actually at Benihana's that Friday night for dinner ourselves!

Can't wait to read more.
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