Departure day--it seems remarkable that it's here already. At the beginning of the trip, it seemed an impossibly long way away, but here we are at last.
We say goodbye to Roger Rabbit from the elevator vestibule, and manage to trudge all our luggage down to the Bell Desk for storage until it's time to catch the Magical Express. Then, it's off to EPCOT.
Once at EPCOT we make a beeline for Soarin' for fastpasses, and then, as tradition would have it, we ride Living With the Land and manage to not sing "Listen to the Land" out loud.
Afterwards, hunger demands attention, so we have a relatively forgettable lunch at Sunshine Seasons, inside the pavilion. Apparently it's so forgettable I didn't take any photos of it, and then promptly forgot it. Anyway, by the time we're finished, it's time for our fastpass, so we ride Soarin' which is always fun, although I think they could clean the film up a little, as the dust specks are becoming evident.
Our flight is at 6:40pm, so our Magical Express is at 3:30pm. We figure we'll leave around 1pm to have ample time to gas up and return the car, and then get back to the Pop. With that in mind, we take our last ride for the trip on Spaceship Earth.
The Judi Dench narration is grating and condescending, but we still like the little animations at the end that tell you of your future in a charmingly retro-fashion.
We take our leave of EPCOT and gas up the car with no problems. Our Nuvi directs us competently to the car rental place, and we check in, again with no problems. We still have 45 minutes to get back, so everything seems going swimmingly. The Thrifty lady calls for the shuttle and we sit down to wait...
After several hysterical proddings from us, she finally calls for a different driver who ultimately shows up. By now, however, about 40 minutes have passed, and there is pretty much no chance of our making it there on time. This is compounded by the fact that the driver appears to not know how to get to the Pop, as evidenced by the fact that she drives right past the turn-off. After we give her some direction (during which she continues to insist that she knows where it is, "it's just these roads!...") we finally get there--in time to see the bus pulling out, as we drive in.
After some more hysteria, the Bellguys assure us another bus is coming in 20 minutes, and say we can probably get on that one, which we do. They don't play the departure video on the monitors, which only serves to point up the non-magicalness of the Express when you're going home.
Unfortunately, the calm lasts only until we get to the airport, where we have to face up to carting all 8 pieces of check-in and carry-on luggage up to the check-in desks, and then having to rearrange Mom's suitcase which proves to be 2 pounds over the limit. Frankly, I think their scales are off, as the removal of only a few magazines drops it 2 pounds under the limit, but in the end they take it, without extorting any more money from us, and we are grateful.
After making our way through security and riding the monorail to the next terminal, we reach our gate with even enough time to go to the restroom before lining up in the odd signposts Southwest uses to manage the boarding crush. We manage to get seats in the exit row, and enjoy an uneventful flight home...at least we think it's uneventful, as we pass out for the rest of the way, rousing only for the connection in Dallas, where we reflect on the eventful last 18 days, filled with buffets, and horseback riding, ziplining and jetboats, Broadway shows, and chocolate-covered strawberries.
Thus endeth the Panama Canal narrative.