Donna and I began planning this trip at almost exactly the 6 month mark but had no trouble making the ADRs. Iím not quite sure why we decided on October again, when we had talked about going down in late November/early December, but it worked out well as we found out that some very dear friends will also be there. To avoid the 14-15 hour drive down I-95 and I-4 and back again we decided to take the Auto Train both ways. The Auto Train runs between Lorton, VA, just a few miles north of our house, and Sanford, FL. It is supposed to take approximately 17 hours.
We both took the day off before we were to leave and got some things done around the house, including packing. We left home on Friday October 5 and headed to Lorton. It was around lunch time and not remembering what sort of food may be in the Amtrak Auto Train Station for lunch we stopped in a McDonaldís nearby and grabbed some chicken strips. We then headed to the station and arrived there around 1:15. There was a short line and without much wait we were turning in our car and going into the terminal to get our boarding passes and wait for boarding. They told us that we could have 5PM, 7PM or 9PM for dinner and we chose 7. Boarding would begin at 2:30 and we were assigned seats 55 and 56 in car 5312. Turns out the train was full. Over 400 passengers and over 200 vehicles. The train departed Lorton 20 minutes ahead of schedule. We were making very good time with very few slowdowns and our expected arrival in Sanford was to be about 2 hours early. The train changes crew around midnite in Florence, SC and we were in around 11:30, crew changed and back on the tracks in about 15 minutes. About 20 miles out of Florence the train ground to a complete halt. No reason was given. Finally, after about an hour and a half a conductor came through the car and was asked what was going on. He didnít know but said he would check. Turns out that a CSX train (they actually own the tracks) running ahead of us had struck a tractor trailer that got stuck on the tracks. The truck driver apparently tried to warn CSX but either never got through or got through too late. We ended up being delayed by 3 hours. The train, which like I said was running well early and expected into Sanford around 8AM, vice the 920AM in the schedule met a couple of more delays, waiting for trains enroute and finally arrived in Sanford around 12:30. By the time they got our car off of the train it was 2PM. We then got confused leaving the train station and had to do some backtracking to finally find the 417 Toll Road. I wasnít about to drive down I-4 through Orlando on a Saturday afternoon.
We finally arrived at Art of Animation Resort and managed to get checked in right away. We found our room (7737) and went in, showered, changed clothes and headed to DTD. Our original plan, had we arrived on time was to go to AoA, drop our luggage if the room wasnít ready, and then head to DTD for a Margarita and Earl of Sandwich. We were going to do some shopping and then head over to EPCOT for the Food & Wine Festival. Needless to say that didnít happen so we opted for Raglan Road. Donna ordered a Harp, and I ordered the Irish Beer Four Provinces Flight (Guinness, Kilkenny, Smithwicks and Harp). We both ordered Colcannon Soup and Donna ordered Beefy Murray,a curry beef pie while I ordered the mixed grill which came with the largest piece of black pudding I have ever seen. The meal was quite tasty, though it could have used some veggies other than potatoes. We then decided to hit the shopping and EPCOT another time. We retired to the room where she is already sleeping soundly and Iím about to head to bed. Will post some pics later.