Yes, I’m still alive over here. Between vacation, assorted job-related uncertainty (which seems to have resolved itself for now, at least temporarily) and having spent the last weekend working, I haven’t had a whole lot of time for Blogging lately, but with PAX coming up this weekend and a vacation to catch up from, I figure I better get a post or two out here before I start showing up on a milk carton or something like that (although I actually think it might be kind of cool to get your face on a milk carton in an odd sort of way. If you could somehow manage to do it without mysteriously vanishing forever (which seems to be the best way to get yourself on a milk carton, but also seems to come with some annoying side effects) you’d probably end up with a cool story to tell. Anyway, without further ado, a few random thoughts collected over the last couple of weeks:
- Since it was opened in 1955, Disneyland has billed itself as the Happiest Place on Earth. Somehow I get the sneaking suspicion that Walt Disney didn’t coin this now famous slogan after spending five days walking all over the parks and waiting in lines with relentless 90-degree weather beating down from above. Thanks to the annual pass I purchased last September I have spent a total of fourteen days at the Disneyland Resort over the course of the past year, and in spite of my best efforts, it has become abundantly clear that there is no such thing as a relaxing Disney vacation. This doesn’t mean you have to turn the whole thing into a manic three-day slog (something I’ve been guilty of on occasion) but I challenge anyone to find a way to get through three days at Disneyland without some seriously sore feet and a good dose of sensory overload at the end. Some of the things that did help were, of course, taking the day off in the middle (more on that one later) and getting out of the sun and the crowds to go take a nice quiet break for an hour or so in the afternoons. If you’re staying near the parks the best thing to do is go back to the hotel and do something like take a nap or hit the pool, but since that wasn’t an option (we were staying at a townhouse owned by my friends’ parents about 25 miles away from the parks) we oped to go back to the car instead. It’s not an ideal solution, but even so it made the evenings a whole lot more bearable than they would have otherwise been.
- Speaking of accommodations, having access to the above mentioned townhouse saved us quite a bit of money on this trip as a result of not having to spend the money on a hotel, but at the same time it wasn’t without its drawbacks, the biggest one being the distance from the parks. Since we were going to need a rental car for this trip anyway we opted to fly into LAX instead of Orange County to save a bit on the airfare, but that came with a few headaches of its own. For one thing, due to the vagaries of airline pricing we ended up having to book flights on separate airliners so my friend wouldn’t have to spend an extra $70 on her ticket (which she tried to book two minutes after I booked mine,) which caused a few headaches on the way down. Her sister was flying in a couple of days later, also to LAX. Originally this flight had been scheduled to get in around 10am, but ended up getting delayed three different times, ultimately requiring a 50-mile drive to LAX at Midnight (which fortunately seems to be just about the only time that the 405 isn’t a traffic nightmare) for a 1am pickup, then another 50 miles back to the townhouse… Oh, and a 6am wake-up time the next morning. Needless to say, I think I might be reconsidering the whole LAX thing for the next trip.
- Speaking of traffic, this trip was the first time I ended up having to wade through the horrendous slog that is trying to get anywhere in the LA area during the day. One day of the trip was designated as an “off day” from the parks, and we used that day to make a trip up to the Santa Monica pier, and then over to Downtown LA and Beverly Hills to wander around a bit. Naturally, this put us through quite a bit of traffic on the 405 (which, unlike the 405 in front of my apartment, apparently requires a “the” in its name) and even the carpool lane did hardly anything to make it any easier to slog through. I think I prefer the other version of California driving I had on the last trip where I was doing 80 on the I-5 and still getting passed on the right by pickup trucks full of furniture. At least that way you’re actually getting somewhere most of the time…
- All the time spent driving on this trip (or at least all that sitting around in motionless traffic) afforded us plenty of time to listen to the radio. Most of the time when I’m driving around locally I tend to stick to one or two radio stations (mostly KZOK) and keep the radio off most of the time, but my friend is the type of person who needs to have some sort of background noise while in the car, so a lot of the time was spent flipping between the various stations on the dial. Is it just me, or does it seem like Los Angeles has something like 50 radio stations on the dial, but they’ve only got something like 10 songs to play between all of them? It may be just a case of me trying to listen to music I’m not familiar with (if you haven’t figured it out by now I’m more into classic rock than modern stuff) but it sure seemed like I was constantly hearing the same few songs played over and over on all the different stations. I’ve actually managed to find a couple of stations on the dial down there that have a decent mix of the type of stuff I listen to (in particular KLOS seems to be a good fit) but left to my own devices I think I’d probably still prefer to keep the radio off most of the time.
- One of the little traditions my friends have developed over their various Disneyland trips they’ve taken over the years is to ride the rides that take photos (currently Splash Mountain and Space Mountain in Disneyland, and Tower of Terror, California Screamin’ and Radiator Springs Racers in California Adventure) and take goofy photos, occasionally involving elaborate props. On this particular trip, I opted to purchase the Photopass Plus option that Disney now offers, which basically meant that we could take all the ride photos we wanted (as well as any other photos from the Photopass photographers, which is where the header photo for this post came from) and get them all on a CD at the end of the trip. As a result of this, I think I ended up riding the Tower of Terror far more times than I had ever planned on, which resulted in the above photo, probably my favorite from the trip. The ride kind of stops being suspenseful after you’ve been on it enough times that you know what to expect, although the Disney World version randomizes the drop sequences. I still haven’t gone completely through all of the photos from the trip, but I actually didn’t even bother bringing a “real” camera into the parks this time around, opting to use the Photopass photos and occasional use of the camera in my phone for this trip. I probably could have gotten some better photos if I did, but the ones I took with the phone turned out surprisingly well, plus it was one less thing to haul around the parks all day.
- Finally, another of the things I like to do when I’m at Disneyland is to find some various interesting facts that people might not know about, and post them on my Facebook status. Unfortunately, a lot of the good ones have been rehashed to death already, so I decided that I might as well just make up a few completely new ones off the top of my head and post those. Of course, making stuff up off the top of my head is basically, well, lying, but why let that get in the way? Anyway, here are a few of the Disneyland Facts that are Not True which I came up with while on my trip:
– Due to declining native bird populations, many of the birds in the skies over Disneyland are now animatronics. Although the latest in animatronic design has been applied to make these fake birds incredibly lifelike, they aren’t without their issues. Occasionally one of the animatronic birds will be somehow diverted from its designated flight path, and may even wander away from the park. If you happen to find one of these wayward birds and return it, you get a free churro.
– In order to avoid having to put a State of California Proposition 65 warning at the front entrance of the ride, in 2007 all of the water in Pirates of the Caribbean was replaced with a lifelike nitrogen-based substitute. Most people do not notice the difference, but Disney junkies endlessly debate whether the real-water version is better than the fake water version on Internet forums. Ironically, if water gets into the “water”, it becomes necessary to take the ride offline for cleanup. Real boats would sink in this substance, so the boats had to be specially modified.
– As a show of Disney’s commitment to embracing alternative energy, King Arthur’s Carrousel has recently been converted to be powered by four oxen. A total of thirty oxen live at the Circle D ranch located in the backstage area, and power the Carrousel in two-hour shifts.
– In order to move the phases of the Moon to a more convenient time for photo-taking opportunities within the parks, Disney Imagineers have created an artificial moon over California Adventure which normally has its phases eight days out of alignment the real moon, but can also be modified as necessary. On October 27th 2005 the fake moon malfunctioned, and for roughly three hours there were two separate moons over the park.
– Although many theories have been made about the origins of the name of Disneyland’s exclusive Club 33, the club received its name from the fact that when it opened in 1967, the cost of a meal at the club was $33. Among the many special benefits that Club 33 members enjoy is the fact that they are each allowed to bring home up to six of the park’s feral cats each year.
- When this trip was being planned, I had chosen this particular week for a couple of different reasons: First of all, I wanted to get in while most of the Southern California annual passes (which contribute heavily to the crowds when people can use them) were still blocked out, and I also wanted to get in one last trip before the annual pass I bought last year expired. At the time, I figured that this was going to be the last trip for a while, and that it was highly unlikely that I would be renewing my pass. A funny thing happened along the way: Somewhere in the process, I think I managed to inadvertently convince my friends to get annual passes whenever we make the next trip down to Disneyland. Sure, the upfront cost of the annual pass is pretty steep (especially after the last round of price increases) but I’d definitely say I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of it, even though I only ended up using it for fourteen days. Mine was the premium annual pass with no blackout dates, included parking (whch by itself saves $15 a day) and 15-20% discounts on food and merchandise throughout the parks. Between the parking costs and the discounts I have to figure that the annual pass saved at least $125 on this trip alone, and with the other trips I’ve taken this past year figured in I’d have to say I’ve easily made up the price difference between the deluxe and the premium annual pass in cost savings. Ironically, one annual passholder over on the DISBoards pointed out that with the annual pass discount, a drink at the recently opened Starbucks in DCA (it’s found inside the Fiddler Fifer and Practical Cafe, part of the new Buena Vista Street) would actually cost less than it would at a local Starbucks around here. Not that I’d recommend it for everyone, but I suspect I’m going to end up getting another one whenever I go down for the next trip. Not quite sure when that’s going to be, but there’s nothing like having good friends who actually get it to make a Disneyland trip enjoyable. And next time I sewar I’ll find a way to do it without being completely wiped out at the end…