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”