Lisa Berton -- August 2004 -- Disneyland (Offsite)
Cast (in order of appearance):
Julie and Dave are getting married on Sat., Aug. 7th. *Off-track - I used to work with Julie & Other Lisa. Once Dave & Julie began dating regularly in 2001, I told her "You and Dave will be married within 5 years." Now, if you are all comfortably seated, I would like to present to all of you my "I Told You So" dance.* This is the reason for my journey across America as I'm on the East coast all alone and there is no one to drive me…
After much hemming and hawing over whether or not I could afford the trip, my mom offered me her Delta miles. 25,000 no more and if I even thought about flying first-class she was going to hurt me. The scare tactic worked. After getting a headache with Delta's Frequent Flier offerings, I picked up the phone. It was worked out that I'd fly from Boston to Los Angeles on Wednesday, August 4th at 5:20 PM and depart from Orange County to Boston on Monday, August 9th at 1:10 PM. Not the hours I prefer but with free airfare complaining would be unjustified. That was taken care of so I made a reservation through TripRewards.com for the Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel that's been discussed here many atime. With my AAA discount, I snagged a non-smoking room for $62.10/night. Tax not included. Alrighty now, I'm ready...to drive myself and everyone else crazy. Wait, I remembered that the last time I flapped west at that time my bodyclock never adjusted. A few weeks after booking my flight I called back and changed it to a 3:30 PM departure, getting in at 8:43 PM. I know, I know 2 hours doesn't seem like much but I can force myself to stay up until 1AM, but 3AM would never happen.
I read dozens of trip reports, multiple forums, scanned over park maps, checked and re-checked DL's website. Why? Because I was nudgy, had ants in my pants, restless and any other term with the same meaning. Really, it was quite ridiculous. I've been to DL umpteen million times why was this trip any different? I still don't know. Phone calls were made and plans were set.
My Schedule (to be read with a British accent)
Wed. - Jenn picks me up at LAX
My goal was to gather/collect/buy a variety of things for my friend Yoli's birthday. She's stationed in Iraq until October. When I lived in CA, Yoli and I would hang out at DL all the time. It took me a while and a few of my friends for me to realize she's been one of the best friends I've ever had. Yoli is also friends with Drina & Jenn and has gotten to know Julie and Other Lisa as well. This birthday care package will be a group effort of various people.
Something else I had to consider was finances and watching what I eat. I was going to allow myself $30/day for food. That's a total of $180.00. Having meals at Goofy's Kitchen and the Vineyard Room would force me to eat for much less on other days. I have battled my weight all my life and was finally making strides, having dropped 7 pounds in July by eating smarter, less and walking 5 days a week. I wasn't about to let this trip get the better of me.
And away we go...
Wed. August 4, 2004
My dad picked me up at 7:05 AM so we could catch the early train to work. I had my camera bag, backpack and suitcase to lug. We actually caught an even earlier train than planned and were at work an hour early. During the day, I picked up lunch and an extra sandwich to take with me. At 1 PM I headed out, walking through Downtown Crossing (Boston) to the Blue Line (subway) which was all stairs. I made a lot of noise dragging my suitcase. The station was hot without any air circulating but there was a musician performing and he was so good that I thought he was lip-syncing. Turned out he was live and a heck of a lot better than many folks with record deals. The Blue Line came and took me to the airport bus. I checked in at Delta and made my way through security then found my gate and plopped down.
Apparently Cincinnati was having thunderstorms and the airport was closed for a short time. We boarded on time but left 45 minutes late. By the time we got there the storm was long past. Landing 45 minutes late didn't give me a chance to do much looking around and I went right to my gate, sat down and ate the sandwich I'd brought with me. The guy sitting 2 seats over from me had fallen asleep and the airline was already calling Zone 4 for boarding. I tapped him on the shoulder and woke him up. He looked at the monitor; said "Thanks" jumped out of his seat and ran to board. It was funny. Soon I got on the plane and again we left 45 minutes late and landed 45 minutes late as well. Soon as I got off the plane I turned on my cell to call Jenn. She was there circling the airport waiting for me. I got my bags, called her again and was soon on my way to the hotel. We made tentative plans to hang out Thurs night since Khris & Kassie had bailed out on going to DL and Jenn followed their lead.
I hadn't slept on any of the flights and my body was on East Coast time (now 1 AM) I was pooped. Shortly before we got to the hotel, I got my second wind. Checked into the Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel, went to my room, number 416 in Building 1. It faced the freeway, which you could hear through the large glass windows. It had a patio, king size bed, mini-fridge and a nice bathroom. Now I was hungry so I walked to McDonald's and picked up a chicken caesar salad and mini-parfait for breakfast. Walked back but now my energy was gone, my legs were wobbly and I couldn't stop yawning. Ate half the salad, changed and went to sleep before midnight PDT.
Thurs. August 5
I woke up at 1:30 and felt as though I may not fall asleep again so I grabbed my discman and listened to my "Warm and Tender" lullaby CD by Olivia Newton- John. I can't even begin to tell you how great this album is for relaxing and putting me to sleep. Three hours later and my body thought it was 7:30 AM so I was awake. I watched TV until about 6:30, got up took a shower and realized I was broken out in hives on my arms and face. Why? Only thing I could think of was the pepper in the chicken salad. I took half a Benadryl (I have to carry them with me for other reasons) and an hour later they were gone. I got dressed and then unpacked my suitcase. I walked over to DL with my point and shoot in hand, ready for action. At 7:15 I walked up to a ticket window and bought a ticket because my pass was blocked out. Went over to the gates and stood in line just behind a woman with 3 teens. The lines eventually reached the first series of flags past the monorail tracks. Once the park opened, people ran down Main Street, which made me laugh as I strolled along admiring the freshly painted buildings. There must have been 6 guys working in different spots along my stroll. I smiled at waved at the men, which seemed to happily surprise them. While everyone had run to Adventureland, I made my way over to an empty Fantasyland. In order, without any wait whatsoever I rode Peter Pan's Flight, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Casey Jr. Circus Train, Snow White's Scary Adventure, King Arthur's Carrousel and Pinocchio's Daring Journey. It took less than an hour. I was really relaxed and happy, I remember thinking. Then I wandered over towards ToonTown and saw a sign about the Olympic Pin Event at the Fantasyland Faire Gifts shop. I asked CM Mary about it and she told me all about how it worked. She was very sweet, the grandmother type, who I talked to for a good 10 minutes about having friends and family in Iraq and my quest for Yoli's birthday care package. Onto ToonTown for a ride on Gadget's Go Coaster. Now I was hungry and no food options were open in ToonTown so I went over to the River Belle Terrace in Adventureland and had 3 pancakes. Then it was over to Space Mountain to upgrade my Annual Pass from Poor to Middle Class (S. California Pass to Deluxe) where some lady was upset that the park had revoked her husband's AP. She had given it to her female friend to use. I'll keep my snide comments to myself. Over to Main Street for another stroll and a visit to City Hall where I asked for a birthday sticker for Yoli. The girl gave me 2 plus an Honorary Citizen sticker. I then caught the new Snow White Musical which I enjoyed. Still not sure about the makeup on the Dwarfs but the Magic Mirror was nifty. Snow White and Prince Charming have great singing voices. Time for Billy Hill and the Hillbillies. I'd be a liar if I said I liked the new lead Billy. Let's just say I left early which is something I've never done at their show before.
I called Jenn to check & see what her schedule was. At that point I thought I was going to take a nap soon so we decided I'd call back afterwards. Slowly I made my way to CA Adventure, took a peak at the Vineyard Room menu and wound up at the Pacific Wharf for lunch. Trying to stay clear of anything but whole wheat bread, I asked if I could have the chicken, walnut & apple salad without the bread bowl. The CM said it was fine it would just be on the side. I thought he meant my lunch would be like a side dish (I was pretty tired). So when he gave me the salad on a plate and a loaf of sourdough bread wrapped to go I understood, laughed and decided I'd hold onto it for Other Lisa. After lunch I watched kids play in the Redwood Creek Challenge, then saw The Magic of Brother Bear Show. I called Jenn and she said she'd call me while on her way, sometime around 4:30. Stitch, Minnie, Max, Pluto & Mickey were dancing in the central plaza. Took a few photos, wandered into the shops and then back to the hotel. By now my back was sore from carrying the backpack all day filled with bottled water, a loaf of bread, and a few things I'd bought for people.
Got into the hotel at 4:30, called Jenn, got no answer. Called Other Lisa and told her about the bread. She had me import Fluff so now all she needed was some peanut butter and she'd be good to go. At 5 I called Jenn again to find out she was parked outside the hotel. Went downstairs, got in the car and went to the Character Warehouse. Picked up only 3 things (pats self on back) and they weren't even for me - ok, ok I think I'm keeping one thing for myself. Well I won't bore you with all the details. We just went to the Brea Mall, where I got to see my old boss and customers, had dinner at the Chinese restaurant across the street and then met up with her parents to look at cars. A quick stop at Albertson's for water and yogurt and then I was back at the hotel at 10:30, turned on "Frasier" and hit the hay at 10:45. P.S. I never took the nap, as you noticed.
Fri. August 6th
Wake me up before you go-go. Feh! It was only 4:30 and I was up again. Turned on the TV, nodded off a bit and then got up, showered and dressed. I got to the Disneyland gates around 7:30 and stood further back in line this time around. Again, people raced through the tunnels while I stayed and watched the band playing in front of the Mickey flowerbed. I had an hour to kill before returning to the hotel to meet up with Julie and Dave. On Main St. I saw Mary Poppins, then walked along into Adventureland watching the morning light illuminate the park. It was very peaceful. After walking around and through Tarzan's Treehouse, I headed back up Main Street. There was Captain Hook and Gideon searching for Peter Pan and Wendy. They were all very playful and submerged in their characters.
This is what Magic is all about. I called Julie real quick and headed back to my hotel. Changed bags and soon enough they picked me up. We parked in the Downtown Disney lot and walked over to the Disneyland Hotel. It wasn't until we got to the lobby that I let them know where we were going. They loved the hotel decor and vowed to stay there sometime. We checked in at Goofy's Kitchen and I walked us over near the exit so they couldn't see all the characters inside. I wanted that to be another surprise. A few minutes later we were seated on the upper level (maybe 3 steps up). The waitress took our drink order of coffee and juice. Julie and I hit the buffet first. She was in awe of all they had to offer and loved the characters walking around. We had a great brunch and I'd managed to tell the waitress about their impending nuptials. She seemed a bit reluctant but eventually brought them a cupcake and a candle. Belle wished them well and asked how long they'd known each other. She was a bit annoyed that her beau, Beast hadn't proposed and they'd been together since 1991. It was quite amusing. Before we left, we saw Goofy, Pluto, Daisy, Donald, Alice, Aladdin and of course, Belle.
Julie bought a gift bag at the restaurant for Yoli. While we were in the gift shop she tied the balloons to my camera bag. They'd posed for me and when I went to move my camera bag back around to my hip the balloons took off. Oops! I asked the store CM if she had anything to get them down. She didn't. Luckily I had already poked a few holes near the knots so we could pack them up. I asked if she could save them for me when they deflated. She took my name and we headed back to the car. They dropped me off at the hotel to rest for a bit. I changed bags again and called Other Lisa at work. Her back had just about gone out on her a few days earlier so going on rides was not an option. She guessed that she and Jeff would meet me an hour before our 7:30 Priority Seating. I reapplied my 50 SPF sunblock and headed back to the park.
First, a stop at New Orleans Square to look for one of Yoli's friends only to find out the woman had left the company last November. Oh well, onward to Pooh with a 5 minute wait. I pointed out to the man seated in front of me, the moose, buffalo and deer heads from the Country Bears. He was very excited and told his wife and kids. Seems he missed the Country Bears too. I walked over to watch Tigger interact with guests and when he saw my Tigger shirt, he pointed to me. I said, "Look, I bought your merchandise," and got a thumbs up. The Character Host then blasted me for wearing a Tweety watch. Thems the brakes bucko. Pirates of the Caribbean had a 10 minute wait and I got the front row. The man behind me kept taking photos with his flash despite my telling him not to in Spanish. Three PM and I checked out Billy Hill again. It was the same lead Billy but I decided to give him a try. If he made the character his own, I'd respect him but he had Kirk's acting mimicked down to the deep breaths and snorts. I rode it's a small world then took the train to Tomorrowland and the monorail to Downtown Disney. My back was hurting again. Stopped by the Disneyland Hotel gift shop and picked up the deflated balloons, meandered over to the Paradise Pier Hotel and bought a few things for Dexter (on MousePad), who did a wonderful favor for me. Then to the Grand Californian where I finally found the Napa Rose Lounge. So proud of myself! Also found Whitewater Snacks where I got a blueberry muffin. I picked up some napkins, a paper plate and asked the girl there if I could have a cup. Strange as this may sound, it's all going to Yoli, except the muffin which I ate outside watching people who were inside CA Adventure. What a great spot to relax. Slowly I walked back to CA Adventure and into Flik's Fun Fair. Rode Heimlich's Chew Chew Train and Francis' Ladybug Boogie. The Cast Members laughed and I just said, "Oh well, this is what happens when you're waiting for your friends." They understood and shook their heads in agreement.
After the kiddie rides, I plopped down on a bench by P.T. Flea Market when Other Lisa called that they were in the park. We found each other and sat down. After some yakking and a kid telling us that he liked our matching Tigger shirts we wandered up the Pier. We just poked around some shops then went to The Vineyard Room for our 7:30 PS. We checked in a few minutes early, asked for a table nearest to the Electrical Light Parade route. We sat and waited about 10 minutes all the while taking photos of each other. Yes, we're weird. A little boy of about 8 was climbing on the 4 FT high wall. Now we're on the 2nd floor and had the boy fallen, he would have most likely slid down the roof and fallen to the ground. Luckily, his mother finally told him to get down.
Other Lisa, Jeff and I were seated in a perfect location. Our server, Mark, quickly made his way over and gave us a description of the various wines they offer and his personal recommendations. We looked over the menu and I could see a problem with my food allergies. I got Mark's attention and told him of my situation. He went and got a chef who gave me several options to choose from. My friends had no problem ordering and soon we were dining on what was by far some of the best food we've ever had. My 1st course was soft shell crab, 2nd course was an Atlantic king salmon on a bed of corn and wild rice. We stood up to watch the ELP which was great fun. Other Lisa and I are both Elliot fans. After the parade we had dessert. I had the banana cotta for dessert. My oh my, the entire meal was delicious. If you ever get the chance to dine at The Vineyard Room, I suggest asking for Mark as your server. He was very friendly and adjusted to our quirky humor and still retained his professionalism. My only disappointment was that he couldn't make a giraffe from my napkin. LOL Oh well!
After dinner they left and I headed over to Disneyland to see Sandbox perform. When I got there Mickey and Pluto were rockin' out. It was hilarious, I've seen dozens of bands play but never have I seen any characters show up. After several songs I picked up a Fastpass for Autopia with a return time of 11-12 PM. Wandered up to Matterhorn and got on quickly then back to Autopia, which took 30 mins. I was exhausted so I headed down Main St. when my legs just about gave out. I pulled a banana from my backpack, sat down and rested. It was nice to sit and watch people, some of whom looked as tired as I felt. Made it back to the hotel and in bed at midnight.
Sat. August 7th
Jetlag is a ferocious evil. My eyes opened at 4:30 AM, yet again. I tried to sleep but nothing happened. Not much is on TV either. Several hours later I phoned a few friends who I knew were up. I wasn't getting picked up until 2:45 so I had time to get some shopping done. I headed over to World of Disney and shopped on behalf of my friends for Yoli. On my first visit to the Confectionary I picked up some sweets for Yoli and then took the shortcut into the Grand Californian Hotel. I asked the CM facing the front desk if it was possible to get a birthday button for my friend, after explaining what I was doing and that I wasn't a hotel guest. She was really nice and offered me anything else from the hotel that she had, like a map and such. She suggested I ask at Guest Services and so I did. Brad and Francis were super, handing me temporary tattoos, stickers, American Mickey postcards and other small souvenirs. The sun was hot as I walked thru the concourse and back to the hotel where I showered and changed. Jenn came by and did my hair and before I knew it Other Lisa and Jeff arrived to get me. We headed off to the wedding, once again Lisa and I nearly matching. This time it wasn't planned but we knew we'd both be in floral print skirt and black blouses. We thought it was funny. Don't worry our shoes were nothing alike. I wore sandals and she wore tie shoes with kitties on them. Jeff wore a dress shirt, a tie and suit pants. Jeff doesn't like to play our matching game.
I'll spare you the wedding details and just say it was quaint, I saw everyone I knew from work and took some photos. After we left the wedding around 9 maybe 9:30, the 3 of us went back to their place so they could change. Then over to my hotel so I could change while they inspected everything. We had a late dinner at Mimi's Cafe. Don't tell Julie but the only thing I could eat at the wedding were rolls, salad and sorbet. I ordered the turkey dinner at Mimi's and couldn't finish it all cuz I was stuffed. We said our goodbyes and she reminded me, "If you still lived there, you'd be home by now." It's nice to know at least someone misses me. I was asleep soon after 11 PM.
Sun. August 8th
Well wouldn't you know it, 4:30 AM already! Time sure flies when you're sleeping. Grrrrr. Same routine this morning, TV, try to get more sleep, give up, get up, showered and dressed. Drina was coming in early this morning from San Diego. Originally she was going to stay over Sat. night but her cousins showed up a few days earlier and altered her plans. She got to Hojo's at 7:20, I got her a parking pass, we went back to my room so I could finish getting ready. We got to the park a good 10-15 minutes before opening.
As in previous days, guests made a beeline for Adventureland and I headed to Fantasyland. Drina was quite impressed with my tour guiding skills as we rode Peter Pan's Flight, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, Dumbo, Casey Jr., Carrousel, Pinocchio's Daring Journey, Snow White's Scary Adventure, Storybook Land, Alice in Wonderland and it's a small world in just 90 minutes. Fantasyland was empty. It was wonderful. I sat in front of Drina on Dumbo so I could take photos of her piloting her personal elephant. Onto ToonTown, for a thrilling ride on Go Coaster. We saw Goofy and Pluto playing underneath Chip -n- Dale Treehouse so of course we had to check it out. Goofy was lying on the ground while Pluto tried giving him CPR. What a smart dog! Goofy was back on his feet and Drina posed with them both. We watched them make their way backstage and made our way over to Roger Rabbit's Spin. Back thru Fantasyland we chuckled at those now waiting in lines, a quick tour of the animals and then over to the Golden Horseshoe Theater. I hadn't even finished asking the CM, who was playing the lead when he said Kirk. Yippy! Drina and I found seats upstairs, on the left side over the stage. During the show Kirk kept looking up at me. It was funny and Drina asked me why he kept looking at me. It's probably one of these 3 reasons:
1. He's seen me there a lot
Whatever the reason, the show was awesome and I adore Dennis. In NOS, I needed to use the ladies room so I left her to look at the Blue Bayou menu. When I came back she said it looked good and I called in for a PS. Onto the Haunted Mansion and then Winnie the Pooh. Shopping was in order and so we stopped into Pooh Corner. We took our time walking along Main St. and headed into CA Adventure for our 1:00 PS at Ariel's Grotto. I was unknowingly suffering from sun poisoning so we sat inside. It explained why I was woozy off and on Fri & Sun. I'm sure the jetlag didn't help because I was yawning non-stop. I must have downed 4 glasses of water at lunch. Drina and I both had the boathouse salad and cheeseburgers. I asked the waitress if it was possible to get an extra pin for Yoli and she said sure. During lunch Goofy, Chip, Dale and Minnie came by. Drina told Goofy that she liked his shoes. LOL Drina treated me to lunch which was really nice of her. I'd made the PS cuz the deprived child had never been to a character meal before.
Drina's a school teacher and loves musicals so I knew she'd enjoy Aladdin, the Musical. We were both so exhausted that we each nodded off if not for 2 or 3 minutes. She loved the show. Next we watched Muppets 4-D, got Fastpasses for Tower of Terror and cooled off in the Animation building. The personality quiz said I am like Nala and Drina is like Jane. Boy did I let her have it. I told her to stay away from my man, Tarzan! LOL She told me too bad. We "sang" our own version of "Heigh Ho" which only we found funny and we still screwed it up. While waiting for our elevator at Tower of Terror, 2 teenage boys offered to trade seats with us. They said that we had the front row, center and that if we switched, we could have the corner seat and the one next to it. I was afraid they were trying to trick us and offered them the seats for 5 bucks. They declined to pay up but we switched anyway. Holy smokes! I should have paid them $5 each and thanked them. I sat in the corner seat, holding onto the handle for dear life, screaming my head off. I'm never ever never ever never ever getting on that ride again. When we got into the mandatory gift shop, my legs were unsteady and I was literally shaking. Drina bought the photo which is pretty funny. The 2 boys are looking at me, with my eyes shut tight, scrunched down in my seat.
Drina's a thrill rider so she wanted to try California Screamin'. I waited. When she came back she said that ride was too much for her. LOL I got us some frozen bananas to chew on while walking the boardwalk. We hit the stationary car on the Sun Wheel, then the Orange Stinger where I did my Peter Pan impression and Drina screamed in fear. Oops. At Soarin' Over California, we did the single rider thing and wound up in the same screaning, different rows. I got front row, left side, she got 2nd row, center. By now it was time to make our way back to DL. I was pretty worn down and Drina said we could call it a night but I didn't want to cut short her day of fun. Afterall, I hadn't seen her in a few years and didn't know when I'd get to see her again.
We got matching keychains for me, her and Yoli that say KOLM. I was surprised the CM didn't question our request since it didn't sound like and isn't a name but an acronym. She also got a princess nametag for Yoli. We chcked into Blue Bayou and waited maybe 10-15 minutes. Seated on the far right, not far from the kitchen, it was ok, kinda crowded but then again it is a small place. I talked to the waitress about my allergies and she checked with the kitchen. She came back with a few good choices for me and I had the salmon while Drina had crab cakes. Everything was great especially the mint julep. Happily stuffed we wobbled over to Club Buzz and watched Sandbox for a bit before hitting the pin shops. On Main St. we shopped and decided that we really needed and deserved ice cream. Adding to my list of firsts, I had Fantasia and wondered why I hadn't tried it before. It was yummy! We got back to the hotel around 10:30. Drina showed me photos from a trip we'd made years prior to Tijuana. I'd nabbed us some press passes for a concert where they let us shoot from onstage and since we were both long-time Sergio Blass fans, we were in heaven. That bad boy is hot stuff! Wait, where was I uhhh ok so after that she headed back to San Diego, I packed and went to sleep - glorious, glorious sleep.
Mon. August 9th
Not! 4:30, 6:30 and 8 were my wake up times. It was slowly getting better. Other Lisa was picking me up at 11 for my 1:10 flight from Santa Ana. I thought I'd pick up some kids meals for us at DL beforhand. She's a vegetarian so I was in search of the peanut butter and jelly meal. I ran all over the place but no one had it. My last effort was the Carnation Cafe and they did have it but didn't allow takeout. That was it, I was pooped and out of time. I hauled tush back to the hotel. She picked me up, dropped me off at the hotel and I was so hungry that I ate at McDonald's. My flights home were again late, and caused me to miss work the next day.
I missed my favorite attractions: Jungle Cruise and Tarzan. Forgot to grab some shots of the signs on and about the castle under tarps and didn't get the boxed lunches. Jetlag - bad. Sun poisoning - bad. Suffering from both - horrendous. The good news is I got everything and more for Yoli from myself, Other Lisa, Julie, and our friends Figgy and Patricia. All the CMs were in great spirits, talkative and extremely helpful. I sent 3 complimentary letters to DL once I came home. I spent less than $180 on food believe it or not. It wasn't by much, less than 5 bucks. I had a great time overall and was thrilled to be there for Julie and Dave's wedding, to see all of my friends and to enjoy my park before handing it back over to Yoli.Lisa Berton