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Doug Reed -- November 2005 -- Disneyland (Offsite)


Doug Reed

BaronVonReed@Yahoo.com

November 10, 2005

Offsite hotel. Friend's car for transportation.

2 adults: One an Annual Passholder, the other a WDW veteran who had been 19 years between Disneyland visits.

The Cast:

Buck: Mid-thirtiesish. Actor who recently moved from the midwest to LA in order to move his career forward. As a sendoff, a bunch of his friends pooled their cash and bought him a Deluxe Annual Disneyland pass.

Doug: Mid-thirtiesish. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Playwright/screenwriter/Disney nut. Would like to move to L.A. to move my career forward. However, I have a wife and kids who really like the midwest. And I really like the wife and kids.

The Date: November 10, 2005.

The Background: I went to school for a year in the L.A. area during the mid 80's, and went to Disneyland several times. Since then, despite half a dozen WDW trips in that span, obsessive Al Lutz/Jim Hill webreading, and endless scheming, I hadn't been back to Disneyland in 19 years.

I was in town for a screenwriters' conference, and tacked a single Thursday onto the beginning of my trip. Dammit, me and Buck were going to Disneyland.

Objective - hit everything at Disneyland that isn't at Disney World.

Other objective: Stay out of DCA. I was really into the whole "walk where Walt walked" aspect of the trip.

The Night Before: The plan was simple really. My wife would pick me up at work. Take me to the airport in Madison, WI. I would get on a short hop to Chicago, and then have nearly four hours to drink myself silly at O'Hare, and then on to LAX, where Buck would pick me up.

And then the winds came. And we sat. And sat.

And the layover window got shorter and shorter.

And then we took off. And never landed.

There was Lake Michigan and the Sears Tower circling below us. If J.M. Barrie had been born in Chicago instead of London, this is what the Peter Pan ride would have looked like.

Then we flew back to Wisconsin to refuel.

And we sat some more.

And then they gave us the option. You can land at O'Hare at the exact same time the LA flight was due to take off - or get off the plane and come back at 6 in the morning.

Neither was a good option.

Take option A, miss the connection, and spend the night at O'Hare.

Take Option B, and miss the whole day at Disneyland.

No choice really. I took Option A.

Elbowing my way off the plane past orphans and widows, I looked up to see that my LA flight was now boarding. Three terminals away. And the shuttle cars had stopped running.

Which meant one thing. Haul my middle-aged asthmatic self across an airport that's four times the size of Jim Hill's home state.

I'm not a chatty fellow on airplanes. I don't like small talk with the bovine seated next to me in coach. And I found that the best way to keep from having to make small talk is to flop myself down, wheezing, sweating, and proceed to suck on my inhaler like a mother's tit until somewhere over Boise.

My seatmate never even made eye contact.

Buck had been waiting for several hours, so our joyous reunion was limited to a brief uneffusive man-hug and a "get in the car".

Due to some construction, we ended up at <a href="http://www.leisurelivingresales.com/LLR/index.cfm">Leisure World</a>. By the time we had been lost on the back streets of Anaheim for half an hour, we were genuinely starting to growl at each other. I was well after midnight in California time by this point, and to my Central timezone way of thinking, I should have been in bed hours before.

Then we saw it. California Screamin'. Following Walt's dictum of "Build it as close to the road as possible, lest our guests think they're in some sort of other world", there was California Screamin' - big as life. Buck and I both melted into puddles of Disneyland-inspired joy.

Of course, we wouldn't be riding California Screamin' the next day. But who's quibbling?

Buck drove me around the resort once just for the thrill of saying "Look, monorail tracks." And then we got to the Howard Johnson and were unconscious in seconds.

THE DAY DAWNS:

We awoke to a cool, rainy day. All the better to keep the crowds down.

After breakfast at the hotel, Buck drives us over to the big lot. The one Al Lutz is always complaining about. We had plenty of time for me to buy my one-day, one-park ticket and get in by the 9am opening.

Our best laid plans are foiled when our parking attendant directs us to the exit of the garage instead of to a parking place. This threw the crucial early morning schedule off track by a fair margin. Nonetheless, determined not to be deterred, Buck bravely did a U-Turn and doubled back.

8:40 am - Parked in Donald 8E

It took a long time to get tickets. The ticket booths weren't well-staffed and weren't nearly as efficient as they could have been, and people in front of me were paying in Norwegian kronar. And I think they were refinancing their mortgage. And seemed to have some confusion about how many kids they had and which park they were visiting.

There really needs to be a "cash only, get the hell out of my way" line.

Buck had laid out the plan. Space Mountain first. Then the Fantasyland dark rides. Then on to Adventureland where I would FINALLY get to ride Indiana Jones for the first time in my life.

Finally, in the park. Right hand tunnel. And we were in.

The Christmas tree. The castle. The "wow, it's smaller than Orlando" feeling.

There was a lighted Christmas tree in the window of Walt's apartment. I made Buck stop and say "Good morning" to Walt. By the time we entered the park, they were just about to drop the Tomorrowland rope, and we were well behind the crowd.

Undeterred, we headed to Space Mountain.

9:03 am - We got Space Mountain fastpasses and then got in the Space Mountain standby line.

Wow. That's a cool ride. Just... wow.

9:44 am - Exit Space Mountain. I'm thinking we're already behind schedule.

As we're walking to Fantasyland, we made a quick pass by "It's A Small World". Unfortunately, it was one day away from opening with the holiday overlay, and there were no signs of a soft opening.

A small diversion is in order here to tell you how Buck and I met. It's 2000. I hadn't written a creative word since I my daughter was born six years prior. I was starting to think I would never write a creative word again. An advertisement caught my eye. Buck was producing a 24-hour show in Madison. The playwrights drew titles at 8pm. The playwrights wrote until 8am. Then the actors came in and had 12 hours to stage the plays the following night.

I thought, if I'm ever going to restart my muse - this is the way to do it. Neglecting to tell Buck that I hadn't written in years, I begged my way onto the writing crew.

I drew "tourism" and "hell" as my suggestions. The result was "SmallWorld Uber Alles", a nightmarish tale of two couples condemned to ride IASW for all eternity. If I do say so myself, it was a darned good little play. Then I found out that Buck was a fellow Disney geek, and a lifelong friendship was born. We swore that one day we would ride "It's A Small World" together.

We're still waiting.

But I digress, and we've only been on one ride so far. As we're walking along between the Matterhorn and the construction wall for Nemo, having a grand morning, an oldish man, festooned with Disney pins stopped us and asked if we wanted to hear some trivia.

It's 9:52am. (A restroom stop accounts for the timelag.)

He seemed to have a potato fondness. He had a lot of Mr. Potato Head pins and a nametag that said "Spud". If anyone knows him, tell him we said "thank you".

He told us where to look for the Abe Lincoln figure in Pirates Of The Carribean. This wasn't a story I'd heard or read anywhere before. Was he pulling our leg? Anyway, we had an enjoyable chat and Buck and I filed the info away for later.

We head into Fantasyland, and I'm eager to do the triumverate of Alice, Toad, and Pinocchio before the lines get too long.

9:56 am - We round the corner and Alice is closed due to the rain. But it's clearing up.

9:58 am - We get into the Mr. Toad line. I miss this ride at WDW. Buck was afraid of it as a child, so it's a major milestone for him to face it fearlessly. When I was four at WDW, my Mom told me jokingly that I should have stopped for the policeman. I spent the rest of the ride looking for a brake pedal and trying to pull over.

Buck and I both have issues.

We get "Winky". Which is one of the names that my wife calls my... um...

I still have issues.

What a great classic dark ride. Never fails to amuse.

10:10 am - We're off Toad and into the Pinocchio line.

Pinocchio breaks down before our eyes.

10:15 am - out of the Pinocchio line and over to Peter Pan.

Despite having been an AP'er for almost six months, Buck still hasn't ridden any of the Fantasyland dark rides. The crowds of kids and the slow loading cycles get to him. But today we're eight year old boys with credit cards and no parents, so we can do whatever we want -- and we want to do Pan.

While in line, there's a little girl behind us. I take great delight in pointing out the Wicked Queen peeking out the window of the Snow White ride across the street. For a guy who lives 2,036 miles away, and hasn't been behind the berm in 19 years, I know way too much about this park.

We get on Peter Pan. Bliss. London. The flying. The fields of stars. The greatest dark ride ever.

Only complaint. It's too short. Still, it's such a great ride that the half hour spent in line is not counted as lost time.

10:42 am - off Peter Pan.

Buck heads for the Snow White line. Now I'm getting edgy. Buck is on a Fantasyland high. I've been in the park for two hours and we STILL haven't gotten anywhere near Indy. And they have this ride in Orlando. And it's not one of the rides that's high on my list.

Four minutes later, my whining and the slow-moving line have convinced Buck of the moral justice of my position.

10:46 am - off Snow White.

We head back over to Alice in Wonderland. The sun has come out, the track has dried off, and there's a purple caterpillar with our name on it.

What a cool psychadelic ride. If I were an AP'er, I could spend days on it. In an altered state. Because man, have you ever really looked at the Caterpillar, man? I mean, really looked at him?

Sorry. Went back to college for a minute.

11:00 am - off Alice

And, it's FastPass time boys and girls. Back to Space Mountain we go. Every time we pass "Eisnerventions" we make a point of singing "There's A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow" at the top of our lungs. It's good subversive fun. We pick up our "Buzz Lightyear" FastPasses and get in the FastPass line for a second ride on Space Mountain.

Wow. That's a cool ride. Just... wow.

11:20 am - We're off Space. Notice that we still haven't ridden Indy yet.

I casually mention to Buck that if we don't hit Adventureland in the next 10 minutes, there's going to be blood on the hub.

11:30am - We're in Adventureland. I am really digging the intimate size of this park. In Orlando, you can't make the cross-park journey in ten minutes without a sherpa. We stop for a restroom break in the Tiki room courtyard.

11:32 am - Exiting the restroom, Buck mentions that the show is just about ready to start. I tell him I want to go ride Indy.

11:32:45 - The Tiki Room show starts with us in it. Singing like the birdies sing, Tweet tweet tweet, tweet tweet.

We are both big dorks.

11:46am - Out of the Tiki room. Grinning like idiots. That's such a fun show.

I suggest we ride Indy. Buck points out that there's no line for the Jungle Cruise. I can't believe how densely packed the attractions are in this park.

Seconds later, Ryan, our skipper is pulling us away from the dock. I can see the Indy line from here. Ryan has a very dry delivery. I'm not sure a lot of people in our boat knew it was okay to laugh. The pirhana effect rocks. And I could see the Indy line. Oh, so close.

12:06pm - off Jungle Cruise and finally, finally in line for Indiana Jones.

First of all, what a cool queue. Even if some of the effects like the dropped ceiling weren't working. You know it's a cool queue when you're disappointed every time the line moves you away from whatever you were looking at.

And then, the ride itself.

For a guy who'd been waiting fifteen years to ride it, you'd think the potential for disappointment would be great. You'd be WRONG!

Okay, a couple of effects, such as the insect room, were a little sub-par. And the Harrison Ford animatronic doesn't look that much like Harrison Ford.

But that's quibbling. And I didn't come all the way to Disneyland to quibble. What an incredible ride.

12:35 -- We're off Indiana Jones and I tell Buck that I can die happy now. Strangely, Buck chooses not to kill me at this time.

This park is so cool. We staggering out of Indy, catching our breath. Babbling like fools, and seconds later we round the riverbend into New Orleans square. Which has fared much better than the real New Orleans.

And there's a 5 minute standby line for Pirates Of The Carribean. 12:39 pm-- and we're in the Pirates line.

A little girl waves to our boat from the shore of the Blue Bayou. I wave back. Buck and I have a lunch reservation for 2pm, and I'm suddenly very hungry.

I ride fully mindful of the fact that this is the last time I will ever go on this ride in it's Johnny Deppless incarnation. It's not that I mind the addition of Cap'n Sparrow, it's just that, like most Disneyphiles, I'm a sentimental sot. I'm trying to take in every moment of the ride.

And sure enough, right where Spud said he'd be, is a Pirate who looks very suspiciously like our 16th President.

1:00pm -- off Pirates. That's a satisfying story well-told. And by golly, there's the Haunted Mansion just a couple steps away. You can't spit in this park without wetting at least three e-tickets.

1:02pm -- and we're in the Haunted Mansion line. The week before the trip I re-watched "The Nightmare Before Christmas" for the first time in years. Just for this moment. I'm impressed by how the ride feels like it was designed as a "Nightmare" ride. I had expected the tried-and-true Haunted Mansion with a few Jack Skellingtons thrown in.

1:20pm -- We're off the Haunted Mansion, and we've got Buzz Lightyear fastpasses. And at this point, we've both got mid-afternoon pre-lunch theme park drag.

1:29pm -- We board the E.P. Ripley to Tomorrowland. Somebody's got to oil old E.P.'s wheels. Every time we went through the tunnel, it was auditorially painful.

1:44pm -- We disembark in Tomorrowland.

We ride Buzz Lightyear. Buck mostly steers and so final scores are not indicative of shooting ability. I don't think Buck's into the competition thing quite as much as I am.

So I win.

1:48pm and we're off Buzz. Our Blue Bayou seating is in 12 minutes. This, at Disneyland, is only a matter of a pleasant stroll through the hub, and we're back in New Orleans Square.

This is how theme parks ought to be laid out. I never once got that jelly-legged feeling that I invariably associate with Orlando.

2pm -- and we're seated at the Blue Bayou. Not as close to the water as I would have liked, but neither of us is in any condition to hold out for a waterfront table. For the life of me, I can't remember what I ordered, but I remember thoroughly enjoying it.

Our waiter is a little slow bringing the check. I get antsy. Even with the atmosphere and the boats going by, and the excellent Dixieland combo on the balcony, we're ready to hit the streets again.

2:58pm -- We exit the Bayou well-fed and well-rested. We spend a few minutes poking around the Disney Gallery.

3:14pm -- Here comes the train, and it's the E.P. Ripley again. And the wheels still aren't oiled. The tunnels are painfully squeaky.

This time, we ride to Main Street, and so we get to see the dinosaur dioramas. I love them becaus ethey're so illogical. When going from Tomorrowland to Victorian small-town America, what makes less sense than passing through a land of dinosaurs?

I want to work at Disneyland when I'm an empty nester. This makes my wife weep with despair.

3:37pm -- We're off the train back at Main St. and we spend a few minutes poking around the Main St. stores.

We don't buy anything.

3:55pm -- We enter the Opera House with plenty of time to nose around at the 50th exhibit. I have real envy for anyone who grew up in Orange County. Spend a lot of time looking at the 1955 model.

4:15pm -- And we go into the cinema to see the Steve Martin/Donald Duck film about the building of Disneyland. Both Buck and I, saps that we are, get misty-eyed.

4:48pm -- We stop at the Main St. cinema. This was one of my favorite stops at WDW as a kid. And they've wrecked the Orlando version. Now it's a plush store with a Vacation Club video on a loop. But the Disneyland version is still pristine. There's the Steamboat Willie, and the Chaplin, and the Keaton.

Main Street Cinema - the way it should be.

My notes got wet and so I can't read the times. At some point in the next 14 minutes, we rode both Snow White and Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin. Roger Rabbit may have a better queue than Indy. We had a fairly long wait by the walk-on standards we'd been used to all day, and we didn't mind a second of it.

Buck's fantasy tastes tend to run toward Gaston or Tarzan, and so he was a little annoyed at my insistance that we always face the car toward Jessica Rabbit.

I love Jessica Rabbit.I lurve Jessica Rabbit. Key portions of my adolescent development were fueled by Jessica Rabbit.

Next Buck suggests Splash Mountain. My notes say that we were in line by 5:02pm. I'm not sure how we did two rides and walked to Critter Country in the 14 minutes after we left Main St. Cinema. Especially since the Roger Rabbit line was fairly long. I'm going to chalk it up to Disneyland magic.

5:45 --We're off Splash, and I'm starting to panic. I have 2 1/4 hours left and there's so much left to do that we haven't done.

5:50pm -- We're in the Indy line again. And after jostling with Buck I get in the Driver's seat. Behind me I heard a Mom say, "I'm sorry, honey. That man has the dirver's seat." It's an eight year-old boy. Who really wanted to drive.

I gave up the seat. You have to be nice to little kids when you're at Disneyland. Or you'll go to hell.

6:24pm -- We're off Indy, and the clock is ticking.

We get into the Big Thunder Mountain line. It's not moving very fast, and it's a ride I've ridden many times in Orlando.

And we haven't done the Matterhorn yet! What is my problem? To the Matterhorn!

So we get out of the Big Thunder line.

(As we're leaving Frontierland, I realize this is the one land we haven't explored all day. I think Frontierland needs some dark rides. I love dark rides.)

And we're passing Pinocchio. And there's no line. And we haven't done Pinocchio yet.Alright, we'll ride Pinocchio.

This one doesn't impress me as much as it did in the mid-80's. For one thing, the storytelling isn't good. The whole belly of the whale sequence is left out. It's the least emotionally satisfying of the Fantasyland dark rides.

6:45pm -- We get off Pinocchio and get into the Matterhorn line. It wraps all the way around the side of the mountain, and I'm sure that I'll be spending the rest of my night here.

But they're stacking. And the line splits in two. So we move at a lightning pace

7:04pm -- And we're on Matterhorn left. And we get back in line for Matterhorn right. From the queue, we can see a little bit of Walt Disney's Parade Of Dreams go by. Someday when I sell that screenplay, and I can afford to join Club 33, and spend every night at DL, then I can relax and watch the parade. But for now, it's cram every possible ride into the time remaining.

7:25 -- We're off Matterhorn right, and with half an hour left to go in our day, our decision making has gotten eccentric. In retrospect, I should have ridden the monorail. I could have seen into the Nemo lagoon, peeked into DCA, and ended the day on a high.

But we hesitated. We still wanted to experience as many of the Disneyland-specific attractions as possible. So we went with that paragon of high-speed thrills and chills...

THE STORYLAND CANAL BOATS!

It seemed like a good idea at the time. And we beat the parade crowd by seconds only to have the last boat in the fleet pull away from us and leave us standing. Thinking, "Wow, my feet really DO hurt."

We limped onto our boat and took a tour of miniature storylands. It was... um... cute. For some reason, we were the only people between the ages of 6 and 80 on our boat.

7:48pm-- And we're off the boat. There's time for one last ride. And I've gotten just loopy enough that Lewis Carrol's hallucenogenic dreamstate seems to fit our mood. We get back in line for Alice, and they close the line behind us.

The last ride of the night.

Nineteen years between visits. Twelve hours. Twenty-three rides/attractions later. And it all came down to a slow ride down the side of the building. One last Unbirthday party, and the day was over. (Almost).

On the way out, Buck took me past Snow White's grotto. And we waited until the "I'm Wishing" song came on. I had seen pictures of the grotto, but I had no idea that you got a little show. And when the wishing well started echoing, I got an icky warm fuzzy feeling that I can only assume was setiment. The lights were twinkling all over Main Street.

We slowly walked out. I stopped by the big golden Christmas tree to take one last look at the castle. The lights were on in Walt's apartment. We said good night, and walked slowly out the oppposite tunnel from the way we came in.

Drowsy. Sentimental. Happy.

Then I suggested we stop in at the World Of Disney. We'd done almost no shopping, and I couldn't go home empty-handed.

Two hours later, I had an armload of crap roughly equal in price to the GDP of several small European duchys, and Buck was sitting on the curb praying for merciful death to take him away. Next time, I'll do the shopping online before I leave home.

I bought the 6-CD box set. And now I can go back in my mind anytime I want. - But I will be back soon. Nineteen years will not go by again.

Doug Reed

BaronVonReed@yahoo.com


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