Wednesday, June 09, 2004

My Disneyland Trip

My Disneyland Trip, or, Back There Again: Randomly Organized Thoughts on How I Spent The Last Five Days

Thursday afternoon: At about 1:45, dad pulls up to our house with Tres and Kevin in the truck. Kim and I pile in, we swing by Krys' school and pick her up at 2:00, and head to the airport. Security check was quick, the plane was a bit late, and the five of us fly to LAX.

Trestin will be leaving a day early, heading back home on Monday. Because of this, I had to purchase a package deal for four of us, and a separate airfare / shuttle / park ticket for Trestin. The plan is for Tres to take the shuttle bus out of LAX to the hotel, and for the rest of us to fly in a puddle-hopper from LAX to John Wayne (SNA), then take a shuttle bus to the hotel. The LAX-SNA hop is silly, but that's the package, so we gotta do it. We arrived late into LAX, parted ways with Tres, and the four of us jogged to our next gate. We heard the "final boarding call" announcement as we approached the gate, and Trestin says he heard a call for the Lauricella party to contact that gate, but they held the plane for us. Up, down, uneventful flight.

We arrived at the Park Vue Inn at around 9:00 and check in. Trestin arrived about five minutes later. I was a bit trepidatious about the hotel, because it was one of the cheapest I could find and the on-line reviews either gave faint praise (e.g., "decent place to sleep, but you can't get a closer non-Disney hotel") or complained about rude staff, roaches, or the noise of all the remodeling work being done last winter. We were pleasantly surprised to find a clean room, decent staff, and remodeling finished three months ago. We staked out our space in the room, got settled in, then headed to Downtown Disney.

We went to ESPNZone for dinner, which was pretty cool, because we had a flat touch-screen (HD?) TV at our table, and were constantly channel flipping between 12 different sports feeds, including baseball highlights, ESPNNews, women's rugby, and the World Series of Poker. Food was fairly good, and not outrageously expensive. Then back to the hotel and off to sleep.

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, are now pretty much a blur: I, irritatingly to the other four, was the first one up and eager to go each day, especially on Friday when I woke everyone up too early to have breakfast at the most expensive IHOP on the planet.

It pays to do your research. Those of you who've been to Disneyland in the last five years probably know about FastPasses, which allow you to virtually stand in line -- for free, you get a ticket for a ride which says "come back at X:YY p.m.", and when you do, you go to the front of the line. Generally speaking, X:YY is the theoretical time you'd get to the front of the line if everyone was in line without FastPasses. There are 15 rides which have FastPasses, and in theory, each person can hold one FastPass at a time. You can't get a new FastPass for any ride until X:YY p.m. or for two hours, whichever is less.

However, what most visitors and several cast members don't know is that not all of the FastPass rides are hooked up to the same network:

Network A: Indiana Jones / Splash Mountain / Big Thunder Railroad / Autopia / Pooh

Network B: California Screamin' / Tower of Terror / Mulholland Madness / Millionaire / Maliboomer

Stand-Alone nodes: Roger Rabbit, Star Tours, Haunted Mansion, Pirates, and Grizzly River Run

So, theoretically, you could get a FastPass from Network A, a FastPass from Network B, and FastPasses for each of the stand-alone nodes, for seven total, per person, at a time.

In addition, although FastPasses have a printed expiration time (X+1:YY), they're never enforced. We used FastPasses that had "expired" six hours before, and at one point Kevin and Trestin used a fast pass that had expired 26 hours before, and got into the Grizzly River Run. It was at this point where I, not willing to use yesterday's FastPass, discovered the beauty of the single-rider line. The ride has 8-person rafts, and when a party of 7 boards, or a 4 and 3 boards, the ride operator picks the next person out of the single rider line to go on. The single-rider line is almost always 5 people or shorter, even when there was a 50 minute wait in the regular line. So it was a simple matter of getting a single-rider pass, get in the single-rider line, get on the ride, meet 7 new people, ride, get wet, disembark, and repeat. I think I ended up riding Grizzly River about 12 times over the course of the trip, getting geysered four times.

Also on Friday, the five of us rode It's A Small World, and made crank calls to some of the CPFers, giving them horrible nightmares and generating obscenity-laced tirades and death threats. Good times.

I don't remember standing in any line, anywhere during the trip, for more than 15 minutes. And the park, to me at least, seemed crowded.

Innoventions had a Segway that I got to drive, slowly. It's more intuitive than I expected.

Kevin, Tres, and I played the 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire' stage show game, and I was five spots (out of about 200) away from the hot seat. Dang!

California Screamin' is a fun, smooth roller coaster, which we rode so many times that we broke it. Unlike most roller coasters which get their acceleration from the potential energy built up as the chain pulls the cars to the top of a hill, this coaster launches the cars along a straight flat track (0 to 55 in 4 seconds using a magnetic launch system. It's got one upside down loop, but the worst part of the ride is the brakes at the end, where it drops you from high speed down to a near stop in the space of about 50 feet. Just before it broke down, we really slammed to a hard stop in the braking area, and as we were moaning from the strain, the prerecorded voice came on the speakers indicating that we just experienced, and I quote, "a slight delay". Ouch. Insult to injury.

The Maliboomer, which is like the Extreme Scream at the Puyallup Fair, taught me that I'm glad I didn't waste my money on the ride at the fair. It was surprisingly lame.

Krys was really opposed to going on any of the intense rides for the first few days. We took her on Grizzly River Run fairly early, and after her first trip on it, she liked it. We then took her on Mulholland Madness, explaining that it was like the Mad Mouse ride at the Puyallup fair that she had ridden before. Then, the next day, we talked her into going on the Matterhorn (I finally got to ride it!!), although she objected all the way down the line. Afterwards, she laughed, and said "that was a total waste of time," which I think referred to her panic instead of the ride, because she later declared it her favorite. We then convinced her to go on the Big Thunder Mountain. Finally, on Tuesday, we forced her to go on Splash Mountain (which she still doesn't like), but *she* decided she wanted to ride Indiana Jones.

On Monday, Tres convinced us to go to Newport Beach (a 60-minute bus ride each way), which must be absolutely packed on hot summer weekends. He and Kevin had lunch at Hooters, while I headed back to the park and Kim and Krys took a nap at the hotel. We met back up with Kevin and Tres at 3:00, sent him off on the shuttle, and the remaining four of us went to the park.

The Haunted Mansion is still my favorite ride. I seem to see something new every time I ride it. I went on it five or six times this trip, but never did get to use the right side stretching room.

In addition to getting to ride the Matterhorn for the first time (finally), other firsts included riding on the sailing ship Columbia (did you know you could go below deck on that one?), seeing "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln", watching the fairly lame "Honey I Shrunk the Audience", and rowed the Davy Crocket canoes.

Unlike the 2 three-day trips I've come down here on before, I didn't leave this one thinking, "darn, I wish I'd have had time to…". Five days is just about right.

By Tuesday, we'd accumulated enough extra FastPasses for 13 of the rides that we were close to being able to build a Great Dalmuti deck out of them. Our goal for the day became getting enough FastPasses to complete the deck, while still going on some cool rides and getting out of the park to do some shopping by 2:00 to catch the 5:00 shuttle. We also caught the Aladdin show at the DCA Hyperion theater, which is just amazing. It was during this stretch that we rode Splash, Indy, and the Haunted Mansion, watched the most raucous Tiki Room show I've ever seen, then split up and while Kim and I rode Grizzly twice (have I mentioned the single-rider line rocks?), Kevin and Krys rode the Orange Stinger and Jumping Jellyfish.

At about 3:30, after completing our shopping, we took an hour to burn through the $50 in free ESPNZone vouchers, then headed for the shuttle. Halfway there, Krys realized she'd forgotten her backpack, so Kevin and I went back for it while Kim continued ahead to delay the shuttle.

We got to the airport and waited, and waited, and waited. Winds aloft at San Francisco (where we were to change flights) were 80 knots, with surface winds of 40 knots, so they weren't letting anyone fly in or out. Finally, at about 9:00 p.m., we took off. The 140 seat plane had about 25 people on it -- it sure seemed empty. We had no trouble making our connection, because it was delayed as well. We finally arrived at SeaTac at about 1:15 this morning, and finally got to bed at about 2:30. Oy. What a fun trip. We rode almost every ride in Disneyland (except Space Mountain and Alice, which were closed, and Dumbo, which is just weak.)

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