Adios, Pancakes – Disneyland October 2012 Days Nine and Ten

“Have you thought of an ending?”
“Yes, several, and all are dark and unpleasant.”

— J.R.R. Tolkien

After a week of clear skies and unseasonable heat, we woke up to rain on the morning of Saturday, October 20 – our last day in the park. We did a quick mental inventory of our previous trips and arrived at the conclusion that neither of us had ever been rained on before at the Disneyland Resort. We were breaking new ground, even at the end of eight straight days at the parks.

A composite image of the storm, from the perspective of the less adventurous hotel guests.
A composite image of the storm, from the perspective of the less adventurous hotel guests.

The crowd was light at the familiar intersection on Harbor, with locals and tourists holding off, we guessed due to the precipitation. The rain itself was light enough that we were not bothered, and it had broken the heat, which was welcome. It may have taken a week of unseasonable heat, but the cool weather we hoped for had arrived.

We had late morning reservations for Storytellers Café in the Grand Californian Hotel, a character meal that had turned into a tradition for our little two-person family. With over an hour before our assigned time, we thought it might be fun to go by way of Disney California Adventure and use the connected hotel entrance from the park.

We ambled down Buena Vista Street, chattering about the novelty of the sprinkling rain and the scant guest population. Our walking loop took us around Paradise Bay, and past non-existent lines for California Screamin’, King Triton’s Carousel, and Toy Story Midway Mania. Further around, we passed Goofy’s Sky School, a side-salad of an attraction tucked into the space between the Corn Dog Castle and the restrooms. Continue reading “Adios, Pancakes – Disneyland October 2012 Days Nine and Ten”

Down the Stretch We Come – Disneyland October 2012 Days Seven and Eight

“A lot of people run a race to see who is fastest. I run to see who has the most guts, who can punish himself in exhausting pace, and then at the end, punish himself even more.”

– Steve Prefontaine

We are Disneyland Marathoners, to put a label for our park strategy. For anyone counting, this post describes our seventh and eighth days of vacation, and subtracting the travel time, our sixth and seventh straight days visiting the parks. Plus, when we are in the parks, our efforts are equally marathon-esque. We spend long hours on the go, always engaged, observing our environment, rarely sprinting, but with practiced motion.

Don't bother looking for me in this photo.  I promise, I am not there.
Don’t bother looking for me in this photo. I am not there.

When I speak with friends and colleagues about our Disney vacations, most express amazement at how we could spend so much time in one place. This is something I suspect is heard by many of our compatriots in the Obsessive Disney Fan Community (in which, frankly, we are relative lightweights): Don’t we wish for other adventures?

Well, of course. We don’t take every bit of our yearly vacation time to a Disney park, after all. We love travel, period. But when we are here, we are focused on Disneyland. We circle it on our calendars, we develop an approach, we reserve our time, and we plan everything we can in anticipation. Just like any good marathoner.

Incidentally, I am making broad assumptions as to the nature of running a marathon. I am not in any kind of physical shape to do more than watch a marathon on television, provided I take frequent pauses to catch my breath. I often remind myself – with substantial self-loathing – that if I did a better job of resembling an actual marathoner, I would not need to take occasional stops on a bench or second laps around the park on the Disneyland Railroad to rest aching feet. I plan a lot of exercise programs in the Toy Story Mania queue. Continue reading “Down the Stretch We Come – Disneyland October 2012 Days Seven and Eight”

Rituals, Quests and a Quick Trip to Hell – Disneyland October 2012 Day Six

“The human soul can always use a new tradition. Sometimes we require them.”

— Pat Conroy

Amy and I have travel rituals. Rituals for road trips, rituals for camping trips, rituals for airplane rides, and rituals for almost every other aspect of our vacations. Of course, it goes without saying, we have rituals for Disneyland. For example, every time we go, we do something we have never done before at the Disneyland Resort.

This is sometimes hard for me to imagine, considering how many times we have been there, but there are things Amy and I have never done at the Disneyland Resort. There are three reasons this is possible:

Sacred Cow
It’s sometimes surprising where you find the Sacred Cows in Disneyland

First, the Disneyland Resort is much bigger than it seems. At a bit over 500 acres, the current, developed property can feel claustrophobic for two theme parks and a shopping district, especially when compared to Walt Disney World’s 25,000 acres. But there is a lot packed into that space.

Second, the Disneyland Resort is always changing. Walt Disney originally bought 160 acres for Disneyland, to address the first point, but it is not just expansion. There are very few sacred cows at Disneyland and change is the only constant, as management develops new experiences and opportunities for guests just like us. This is not always met with widespread public enthusiasm, but they do it anyway.

Third, our definition of “never done before” is pretty flexible. Like, really flexible. Continue reading “Rituals, Quests and a Quick Trip to Hell – Disneyland October 2012 Day Six”

Citizens of the Resort – Disneyland October 2012 Day Five

“A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and in the point of Life.”

— Thomas Jefferson

Like many others, my job has become 24-hour-a-day presence in my life. Even in a full-immersion place like Disneyland I am often on my phone, checking work email or voice messages, and answering text messages. It’s not that I am irreplaceable to the company; if anything, the opposite is true. I keep in touch with the office so I can maintain whatever shred of standing I have achieved. Amy understands my dallying with work during our time together, but wants me to keep it brief, where possible.

This version had a better ending, but wasn’t quite as funny.

An extended break from the daily grind was once considered essential to a healthy constitution, but that line of thought has disappeared like poodle skirts and leaded gasoline. The structure of a vacation had become a fluid concept. Grand tours and summers abroad sound self-indulgent, and things our parents did to unwind are out of vogue. The road trip, once a quintessential American experience, is as dated as the Griswold’s pilgrimage to Wally World.

I have a theory that vacations can be restorative even if they are not relaxing. More important than lounging in a chair or lolling in a swimming pool is separating from the daily routine, which is the real key to getting away. The most remarkable vacations have included more than just a change of scenery. They may not be the easiest, but they are the ones where I returned the most fulfilled. I think of it as becoming a short-term “citizen” of the vacation.

Continue reading “Citizens of the Resort – Disneyland October 2012 Day Five”

Byways, Distractions, and Introductions – Disneyland October 2012 Day Four

“Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going.”

— Paul Theroux

If everything went according to plan, our fourth day, Monday, October 15, had the potential to be the most unique and exciting of the entire trip. For one thing, we were attending the special-ticket “Mickey’s Halloween Party” at Disneyland with everyone that evening. But more than that – and this was the really big news for us – our already-sizable company would swell by another eight people. The Duffins were coming.

Disneyland is expensive, but the sun and smog are free.
Disneyland may be expensive, but there is no extra charge for the heat and the smog.

The Duffins had never visited Disneyland as a family. Joel, the dad, was last there in 1992, which was the year before Mickey’s Toontown opened, for Disney history/trivia fans. Julianne, the mom (and Amy’s sister), had not been since 1988, which was the summer before Splash Mountain debuted. They had met, married, finished school, had kids, worked, played, went to piano lessons and soccer games, served their communities, and lived full lives, but neither had since set foot in The Happiest Place on Earth.

Even as big fans of Disney parks, we understood why. Amy and I often discussed how much we would enjoy visiting the Disneyland Resort with either of her sisters and their families, but we knew it was a demanding prospect. All desire to visit aside, unless a person has buckets of money, taking a group of any size on that particular vacation falls somewhere between impractical and impossible. Related: again, the Duffins are eight people. Continue reading “Byways, Distractions, and Introductions – Disneyland October 2012 Day Four”

The Long, Hot, Crowded Day – Disneyland October 2012 Day Three

“Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.”

— Benjamin Franklin

At least once per vacation Amy and I snooze our alarms too often and have to rush to make a morning deadline. On day three of the trip, October 14th, my parents had made reservations for the entire group to enjoy “Minnie & Friends – Breakfast in the Park” at the Plaza Inn in Disneyland. True to form, we erupted out of bed like flushed grouse about forty-five minutes after the alarm started going off and started the day with manic action.

Sometimes it's a challenge just getting to the gates...
Sometimes it’s a challenge just getting to the gates…

So far, we had enjoyed an unhurried, high-calorie, high-carbohydrate breakfast at Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant. Today, we had another leisurely, gluttonous meal with Minnie Mouse and her friends at the Plaza Inn. Our phones were bleeping with text messages from my Mom as we flew out the door with minutes to the reservation deadline. She was making sure we were well on our way, and, fair to say, we were not.

The line we joined at the security checkpoint was at least 50 yards long, although it went faster than I expected. The line for the front gates was about the same, and it sped right along, as well. We only had the length of Main Street, USA between us and the Plaza Inn. Continue reading “The Long, Hot, Crowded Day – Disneyland October 2012 Day Three”

New Experiences in Familiar Places – Disneyland October 2012 Day Two

“The greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time.”

– Bill Bryson

One of the most underrated pleasures of being on a vacation is the happy reconciliation of waking up in a strange place, your head still blank with sleep, and then at once remembering where you are. The day is stretched out ahead of you, brimming with potential, and you can either surge out of bed to start your adventure, or you can shut off the alarm clock and roll over to catch more sleep, depending on your tastes.

The new, big wienie at Disney California Adventure.

Amy and I are both prodigious sleepers, so it was a little surprising to find us with the Subaru re-packed and ready to continue down the road by 7:45. Morning people or parents of young children would not find that remarkable, but for us, on vacation, it was an accomplishment. We chalked it up to the proximity of our goal destination. It was Saturday, October 13th, and the Disneyland Resort was a scant 80 miles away.

The road-drunkenness of the previous night had dissipated with the new day. The Subaru took us over the Cajon Summit, past the Mormon Rocks, and began descending into the Los Angeles area, the miles ticking off behind us faster than expected. In no time at all we exited from the freeway, found Harbor Boulevard, saw the tall structures of the resort, and arrived at our home base for this trip: The Anaheim Desert Inn and Suites.

Continue reading “New Experiences in Familiar Places – Disneyland October 2012 Day Two”

On The Way There – Disneyland October 2012 Day One

“Expecting is the greatest impediment to living. In anticipation of tomorrow, it loses today.”

– Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Seneca Mouseketeer
“Can I be banished to Fantasyland, instead?”

Ten long months had passed since we had reserved a hotel room with a few excited clicks of a mouse.  The formal opening of our Disneyland adventure was the morning of Friday, October 12, 2012, but as with almost all of our vacations, it had been long in anticipation. In this case, we began negotiating dates with our travel party the better part of a year before.  October seemed a long ways off in the cold dark of January.

Dreary old Seneca thought that anticipating the future kept us from appreciating our present, but he never planned a trip to Disneyland – his travel opportunities included banishment to Corsica for sleeping with the emperor’s sister. In my experience, the gathering and staging phase can be every bit as engaging as the trip itself. Continue reading “On The Way There – Disneyland October 2012 Day One”

CES: Crazy Times, Great Candy

Everybody is overwhelmed at CES. That is the only genuine emotion of the show.

It is true that the attendees of the 2011 International Consumer Electronics Show would often display curiosity, happiness, irritation, frustration, flirtatiousness, thoughtfulness, disdain, or disgust, but those were affectations. They were simply overwhelmed, and how could they not have been? Either they were there to meet people — and there were too many to count, or they were there to see the tech products — and there were too many to count.

Welcome to the ZAGG booth! Can I... slightly confuse you?

CES is, in all ways, a sensory invasion. Visiting CES is a little like dropping by the Smithsonian Institution in that it is far too vast for a person to see all in a day. I spent most of my time in the Central Hall, which held most of the larger, more elaborate booths and bigger name exhibitors. Although I was a working stiff for ZAGG Inc. at the show, my responsibilities were such that I was able to look around and take in some of the other areas. Even so, CES is large enough that I still saw just a modest fraction of the show.

There is no dress code at CES, which is very fortunate for some people, and creates an unusual situation where businesspeople in expensive suits rub shoulders with television producers in wrinkled khaki, and shove past hipsters with ironic t-shirts and women in impossibly short skirts. My CES dress consisted of company golf shirts and slacks, which was not uncommon, although by far I saw more people in what could be termed “trade show business casual.” It was the same for men and women: slacks, loafers, a button up shirt, a sports coat, no tie for the men, no heeled shoes for the women, and both carrying a sensible bag. Black was the shade of choice. Women might substitute a t-shirt for the button up, and men might substitute expensive jeans for the slacks, but if there were 400,000 visitors to CES, at least 50,000 of them were dressed like they shopped out of the same catalog.

Continue reading “CES: Crazy Times, Great Candy”

Notes from the Duckburg Geographical Society or, Is It Ever Too Late For a Trip Report?

Hello, my name is Nate/The Lumbering Bear, and I make lists. In fact, I have an almost overwhelming compulsion to make lists. I categorize practically every trivial interest in my life, from my favorite make and model of car to my order of preference when eating Skittles. I would worry about this being a possible mental disorder, but I think it is one of those things that almost everyone does, but few people admit. I may take it to a little higher level than most, but we all have our preferences. Anyway, that’s me.

Nothing says "vacation" more than a five foot tall mouse in a tropical shirt.

I have wondered before about my source for this compulsion to categorize, hoping, again, that it is not a rare problem. Is it our (my?) attempt to bring some sort of order to the chaos of impulses that assault us from every direction? I doubt my grandfather (and his generation) spent much time wondering which person to put at the top of his “celebrity girlfriend” list, or which was his favorite sports team of any league at the moment. Maybe he did, but I doubt it. It could be a question of spare hours and idle minds, but I don’t consider myself a lazy person with an overabundance of time. I am certain I would be by my grandfather’s standards, though, so perhaps that explains it.

If anyone cared to know which are my favorite movies, actresses, actors, songs, bands, snacks, vacation destinations, cars, cities, animals, video games, television shows, and brands of milk, I could tell them. I have already considered it. Furthermore, within most of those lists are further lists, like the movie category: action, rom-com, drama, and so on. I can pontificate about any of my personal likes and dislikes (I have lists for those, too) ad nauseam. I swear, it is much more reflexive than deliberate. I try hard to keep these to myself, for the most part. Or, at least I think I do. I’m sure the poor Wandering Moose has heard about them more than she cares, though.

Continue reading “Notes from the Duckburg Geographical Society or, Is It Ever Too Late For a Trip Report?”