The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

April 19, 2013

Fun With Ridiculously Early Airplane Rides

Filed under: Random Stuff, travel — Brian Lutz @ 8:38 am


You always know you’re in for a fun time when you’re setting your alarm clock to wake you up at 4 am and standing in an exceedingly long airport security line at 5.  It’s something I try not to make a habit out of, but for some reason, it seems like airline schedulers are all morning people.  I suppose it’s still easier to deal will than the ever-popular East coast redeye flight, mostly by merit of not leaving you crammed into a tiny catch class airline seat for six hours at a time.  Given my apparent inability to ever sleep on an airplane, one of those usually means I’m looking at spending a good 36 hours nice and sleep deprived just so I can be extra fun to be around when I get to my destination.

Then again, I suppose I really have nothing to complain about here.  As usual, I’m on my way down to Disneyland, with an hour layover in Vegas along the way.  It occurs to me that a lot of people only ever manage to make the trip there once, or don’t ever get the chance to go at all.  Since I started going to Disneyland back in 2006, I’ve spent a total of 20 days there, including 14 days since I got my first annual pass back in 2011.  I’m sure that some people manage to get thoroughly sick of the place in just three days, but for some reason I just keep coming back.  Then again, given the fact that my Mom spent quite a bit of time at Disneyland while she and her family were growing up, I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised about that one.

Even though I have gone on several of those trips by myself and enjoyed them (there are some distinct advantages to traveling solo at Disneyland over going with a group, although at the same time it gets a whole lot easier to completely overdo it and leave yourself completely wiped out at the end of the day,) it’s always nice to have some good traveling companions to share the trip with as well.  In particular, the two friends who I have taken several of these trips with over the past couple of years are especially fun to be around at Disneyland, even if most people would think we’re just a little bit on the weird side when you get all of us together.  Then again, if there’s anywhere on the planet you can get away with being just a little bit weird, it’s Disneyland (well, just as long as you’re not weird in any particular way that would get you hauled off to Disney Jail at least.)

In particular, one of our favorite pastimes on our trips is to come up with the silliest ideas for ride photos we can think of and do them on Splash Mountain and the Tower of Terror.  For this trip, we made a trip out to the dollar store prior to the trip and picked up a number of cheap props to take along with us.  Somehow I suspect we may get an eye roll or two from the bag check people on the way into the park, but then again,it’s not like we’re trying to sneak any really dangerous stuff into the parks like chewing gum or Pepsi.  There should be a few surprises along the way too…

Anyway, it looks like we’re getting close to Vegas now, so I’ll probably go ahead and wrap this up.  I wonder if there’s anywhere at the airport there where you can get married on your layover?  Somehow I doubt it, but I don’t think I’m the first person to get the idea.  Something tells me there might actually be a market for it…

April 18, 2013

Selling Out to the Mouse (Again!?)

Filed under: travel, Wanderings — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 1:10 am

Somehow, I suspect that these next couple of months are about to get really busy.

This evening, I have been simultaneously getting stuff in order for this weekend’s trip to Disneyland, while simultaneously trying to sort out details for another trip coming up late next month for my brother’s wedding.  This weekend’s trip is, fortunately, pretty easy to figure out.  Then again, with as much time as I’ve spent at Disneyland over the past few years, I’d say that I’ve got a pretty good handle on the place by now, although they really make the whole thing easy enough that I don’t know how you could even manage to complicate it.  In a nutshell, it’s pretty much an instant vacation; just add a few hundred bucks.  Of course, with at least one, possibly two more additional trips planned for this year with various people, I’m once again finding myself in annual pass territory.  This is a bit odd, since I was pretty sure that back when I bought the first one in September of 2011 that it would be a one-time thing to get it out of my system.  Apparently it didn’t quite work out that way.  The main problem with that is that I managed to inadvertently convince some of my other traveling companions that the annual pass was actually not a bad idea, which means that now there’s several of us buying them.

In my experience, there’s no such thing as a cheap Disneyland trip, and even though we’re saving a pretty decent amount of money by not needing to pay for a hotel this time around, by the time I’m through paying for the plane ticket, the rental car and the annual passes, I think I’m looking at pretty close to $1,000, which is a little bit on the high side, but not far off what would be typical for when I go on a solo trip.  If I figure out how much I spent on the trip last June when I managed to get into Cars Land before it opened to the general public, I think even with the annual pass already paid for I still ended up spending at least $650 on that trip, not counting food and incidentals (around $200 in airfare, another $150 or so for four days of a rental car, and around $300 for three nights in a hotel.)  If I hadn’t had the annual pass, that would have been another $275 for the 4-day ParkHopper, plus I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to visit Cars Land early.  Even with the annual pass, that opportunity came only by sheer luck;  Only a relatively small number of annual passholders even got into this in the first place (last time I saw a statistic on it there were over 1 million people with Disneyland annual passes, although most have the cheaper Southern California resident passes) and I basically had to plan and book the trip without knowing whether or not I’d even get the chance at the preview.

I would have taken that particular trip regardless, but getting into the preview made for a nice bonus on that.  Since I don’t expect Disney to be doing a whole lot of billion-dollar overhauls of their parks in the next year or so I probably won’t be taking a trip like that again, but with at least one more big trip on the schedule (which would count as the de facto annual trip, currently planned for sometime in October) and a good excuse to sneak in at least a couple more weekend getaways, somehow I suspect I’ll be spending a decent amount of time there again over the next year or so.   Fortunately, I’ve got good traveling companions to keep things interesting  (especially the one I’ll be spending this trip with) and even though there’s no such thing as a relaxing Disney vacation, there should be no shortage of memories to be made along the way.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to finalize plans for our silly ride photos and figure out another round of Disneyland Fact That are Not True…  Plenty more to come, and most likely a “bored on the plane ride down” Blog post coming up later this week as well.


April 4, 2013

Fun With Insomnia: Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

Filed under: Fun With Insomnia — Brian Lutz @ 2:12 am

Don’t worry, I’m not planning on getting all creepy and/or depressed here, it’s just a song lyric.  For some reason, Simon and Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence has always seemed to me to be an especially appropriate insomnia song.  Granted, it was released in the early Sixties right around the time things really started getting weird (although, as the Wikipedia article on the song notes, it was written just a few months after John F. Kennedy was assassinated,) but for some odd reason, I seem to have picked up a bit of a taste for at least some of the various psychedelic 60s music out there.  Even though I have no intention of ever abusing various recreational controlled substances for fun and profit, occasionally a little bit of Grateful Dead, Byrds, Animals, or even a bit of the out-and-out druggie music just hits the spot  Incidentally, if you ever find yourself trying to figure out the meanings of some of these songs, something I’ve found to be a useful exercise is to just start randomly replacing various nouns in the song with the word “drugs”.  This song makes for a particularly good demonstration of this theory.

Anyway, as you can probably tell by now, I am currently awake at nearly 2am on a weeknight, not particularly thrilled with this fact, and probably a little bit loopy to boot.  Come to think of it, it’s been quite a while since I’ve done one of these Fun With Insomnia posts.  Not that I’ve necessarily been sleeping any better than usual, but lately I just haven’t done nearly as much lying awake in bed as I used to.  I’ve been pretty good about avoiding caffeine lately (which I pretty much have to do, since pretty much any amount of caffeine will keep me up half the night and send me flying up the walls in the meantime) but even without that, every once in a while I try to go to sleep and find myself completely wired for some reason.  Tonight seems to be one of those nights.  Granted, I might have gotten myself just a little bit more sugar than I really needed this evening, but usually that alone isn’t enough.  It’s probably the combination of that mixed with anticipation.

Earlier this evening, me and my friends spent some time sorting out details for some of the upcoming trips we have planned.  In just a couple of weeks me and one of my friends will be headed to Disneyland for a badly needed weekend getaway.  Yeah, I know that I seem to end up there a lot for some reason, but with as hectic as work has been lately, I’ll take any excuse I can get.  Given the fact that once again there are multiple trips planned throughout the upcoming year, it looks like I will also be renewing the Annual Pass I bought about a year and a half ago.  As I’ve found through quite a bit of experience, there’s no such thing as a cheap trip to Disneyland (unless you’re a local, then you might actually be able to manage it every once in a while) and it’s looking like this one won’t be any exception, but I actually found that the Annual Pass can be a pretty good way to save a few bucks if you know you will be going often enough to justify the cost.  The included parking alone on the Premium Annual Pass is $15 a day that you won’t be paying at the gate, and amounted to over $200 in savings by itself on last year’s Annual Pass.  On top of that, the discounts in the parks on food and souvenirs can add up.  The only real problems with the Annual Pass are the blackout dates (if you get the Deluxe version instead of the Premium version) and the steep initial cost.  Either way, it looks like I’ll be getting one again, and it looks like I’ll need to find some excuses to use it.

After that trip, it will be only a couple of weeks later that me and my friends are taking a 3-day cruise up the West Coast from Los Angeles to Vancouver.  Shockingly, it’s been over a year since my last cruise at this point, and I have no idea when the next one after that will be (although there’s been some talk of a European cruise next Summer.)  And then a couple of weeks after that one I’ll be heading to Atlanta for a weekend to attend my brother’s wedding.  I still haven’t sorted out all the details for that yet, but since it’s a part of the country that I’ve never been to, that should be an interesting (if brief) trip as well.  After that…  Who knows?

Anyway, I should probably try to get some sleep now.  And I should probably stop writing words on the subway walls and tenement halls too.  Be sure to tune in next time I can’t sleep for more fine quality semi-coherent rambling and pointless drivel.

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