Thursday, October 28, 2004

Day 1 - Portland, OR to Santa Nella, CA

October 16, 2004

We were both up early and eager to hit the road. Originally, we had planned to be on the road by 6:00 AM but we knew we had a long day ahead of us so we managed to leave by 5:30 PM. In spite of our best intentions, we were both up late last night, packing and getting things ready, so we were both rather tired. After snapping a couple of quick photos to document the beginning of the trip, we set off. It's still dark, of course, but the fortunately there isn't any rain.

Today's journey was to be 695 miles and take us to Santa Nella, CA. Driving the extra long distance today allowed us to have a shorter trip tomorrow and get us into Anaheim early enough to spend some time in Disneyland on the day we arrived. Mapquest gave us an estimated driving time of 10 hours 30 minutes, but that seemed a bit unrealistic. In my mind, I was thinking it would take us 12 or more hours. I was just hoping to arrive before dark, as I don't like driving in unfamiliar territory when it's dark. Our goal was to maintain an average of 60 miles per hour (including all stops for restroom breaks and gas). Every hour we would check the mileage and see if we were on track. We were able to stay on target during the day's journey.

The drive was uneventful (fortunately). Jason popped in the first of our 30 mix CD's that we had made for the trip and we settled down for the long drive. Later in the morning we opened up the box of Hostess Frosted Donettes and munched on those for awhile.

To pass the time, Jason got out the camera and took a few pictures out the window. There wasn't a lot of traffic on the road, so when we reached the Oregon/California border I was able to slow down enough for him to get a decent shot of the "Welcome to California" sign. He also took pictures of the sign for the Sims Road exit near Shasta. For those of you who know me, The Sims is my favorite computer game. I didn't have very much time to play during the week before we left and it was weighing on my mind a bit that my Sims family was left in major chaos the last time I played. I like to have them all tucked into bed and the house clean before I close the game. He also took a picture of the sign for the Proberta/Gerber exit. This sign has always fascinated me since it sounds like a woman's name. If I ever need to assume a false identity, I think I'll use the alias Proberta Gerber.

We made excellent time, arriving in Santa Nella at 4:30 PM, eleven hours after we left. We checked into our rooms at the Motel 6 and were given 2 rooms on the ground floor, just a couple of doors away from the office, just what we wanted. We backed the car into a space right outside my room and within a few minutes, we had unloaded what we needed for the night. A quick look at the back of the TV revealed that there would be no problem hooking up the VCR that we had packed. So we decided to go have dinner and then return to watch a little TV before turning in early for the night.

Dinner was at Split Pea Andersen's restaurant where they make the best pea soup in California. The best pea soup in the US is made by my mom in Oregon. We both ordered the Traveler's Special which consists of pea soup (all you can eat), rolls, crackers and a beverage. We both ordered the vanilla shake. After eating two bowls of soup a piece, we ordered dessert to go.

Back in the room we watched some TV, ate our dessert and then felt our eyelids begin to droop. We decided to make an early night of it so we could be on the road early the next morning. Jason went back to his room and we were both asleep by 7:30 PM.

We did it!

Well, it's hard to believe but our vacation has come and gone. It seemed like it was so far in the future and now it's over. It was the best vacation we ever had and I'm going to try to recap it over the next couple of weeks.

I took a lot of pictures each day and every evening my son would download them off the camera onto his laptop so we could start each day with an empty memory disk. I'll try to post some of them when I get a chance.

We barely got out of Anaheim on our way back before we began to plan our next trip, most likely in December. We really want to take the Holiday Tour and see the resort all decorated for Christmas. It's A Small World will have it's holiday overlay and the Fantasmic show will be up and running again. Most of the rides that were closed during our visit should be open again, with the exception of Space Mountain and the Enchanted Tiki Room.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

California, Here We Come!

It's 4:30 in the morning and the day has finally arrived. Today we leave for Disneyland. We hope to be on the road no later than 5:30. In spite of our best intentions, packing took a lot longer than we expected and we didn't get as much sleep last night as we had hoped. I'm not fully awake yet, so it's hard to think of anything to say. I'll sign off for now. The next time I post, we'll be in California.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Less Than One Day To Go!

As you can see, the official vacation countdown clock now shows less than one day before we leave for vacation. My son took today off from work get ready for the trip and I wish I had done the same thing. There is still a lot to do even though I have been working hard each evening this week trying to get as much done in advance as possible.

This morning I put a load of laundry in the washer and was able to get it in the dryer before leaving for work. I also cleaned the windows on the inside of the car. This was something I neglected to do two weeks ago when we drove to Chico and it was really bothersome. Then, on the way to work I stopped by Kaady car wash and had the car washed.

Tonight, I'll finish do a second load of laundry and then start packing. I also need to make sandwiches for our lunch tomorrow and get all the food packed up and ready to go. We decided to bring a VCR with us and some of our tapes from last season, so I need to select and pack those tapes up. We are also bringing a microwave. Unfortunately, the standard rooms at HoJo's do not have microwaves and it was $20 per night extra to upgrade to a room with a microwave. Last August, we purchased a small microwave at Target for $27 during one of their back to school sales to bring along with us. It's small enough to fit on the floor in the backseat of the car and will be very handy to have in the room. We plan to pack the videotapes inside the microwave.

Hopefully, we can get everything done and the most of the car packed without staying up too late as we want to get an early start in the morning. We still need to watch The Apprentice which we taped last night and didn't watch.

Weather for Next Week

As you can see by the official vacation countdown clock, it's now less than one day until we leave for vacation. I've been checking the weather for Anaheim at almost hourly and it looks like the temperatures will be really nice. My definition of nice may be different that others. I don't like hot weather. Anything about 75 degrees is too hot for me. Right now the weather looks like it will be in the upper 60's and low 70's during the first part of the week. The last half of the week it looks like it will warm up to the mid to upper 70's. There is a good chance of rain showers at the beginning of the week. This doesn't bother me either, as I would rather have rain with cooler temperatures than hot weather any day. Rain would also reduce the crowds at the park. Living in the Pacific Northwest, I've learned that I don't melt in the rain.

Following a suggestion I found on the discussion board, I stopped at Target on my way home from work last night and picked up a couple of disposable rain ponchos for each of us. They were only .89 each and are small enough to fit in my purse. If it does decide to rain, we're ready for it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Our Daily Itinerary

On the left side of my website, you see a Trip Itinerary that lists where we plan to be each day. Here's a little more detail:

Day 1
We plan to leave Portland no later than 6:00 AM and drive approximately 700 miles to Santa Nella, CA where we have reservations at Motel 6. Dinner is scheduled at Pea Soup Andersen's restaurant in Santa Nella.

Day 2
Another early start is planned, hitting the road between 6:00 and 7:00 AM. Today's drive will be a lot shorter, approximately 300 miles. We hope to arrive in Anaheim by 1:00 PM at the latest and immediately check in to our hotel, the Howard Johnson Plaza Anaheim Hotel. Even if our rooms are not ready, we should still be able to check-in.

After this is taken care of, we'll drive over to the Disneyland Resort and park in the Downtown Disney lot, where you can get up to three hours of free parking. We'll head directly over to the Will Call area and pick up our Annual Passport vouchers, our Parking Pass, and our tickets to the Mysteries, Myths and Legends Tour.

After entering the park we'll proceed to the Annual Passport processing area, where we will turn in our vouchers and get our pictures taken for our Annual Passport. After a brief look around, we'll drive back to the Hotel, where we'll unpack and take a short nap.

Around 5:00 or 6:00 PM, we'll drive back to the park, this time parking in the Mickey and Friends Parking Structure and using our parking pass. The park is open until 11:00 PM this day, so we'll ride some rides and have a relaxing dinner before heading back to our rooms for a good nights sleep.

Day 3
This will be our first full day in the park and we plan to spend it at Disneyland. Since the park doesn't open until 10:00 AM, we'll be able to sleep in a bit after our long drive and late night the night before. With our RideMax plan in hand, we'll work our way through all the major attractions, stopping for lunch at the Blue Bayou at 1:40 PM and then continue until park closing at 8:00 PM.

Day 4
We plan to spend the day at Disney's California Adventure park, which opens at 10:00 AM. Again, we'll use the RideMax plan we designed before we left. Lunch is scheduled for Ariel's Grotto at 1:00 PM. We may schedule a short rest period back at the Hotel before returning to the Park for the new Mysteries, Myths and Legends tour that begins at 6:00 PM. I explain about the tour in more detail in an earlier post. By the time the 2-1/2 hour tour is over, both parks will be closed and we'll head back to the Hotel for dinner and a good nights sleep.

Day 5
Today, we're back at Disneyland again. The park opens at 10:00 AM, but we have breakfast reservations at the Carnation Cafe at 9:30 AM. This restaurant is located on Main Street and features outdoor seating and Mickey Mouse shaped waffles. We can eat breakfast and watch the crowds.

Day 6
We've scheduled another trip to Disney's California Adventure. This time we don't have a scheduled plan and we'll pretty much play it by ear. We would like to see all the shows and visit all the shops. Lunch will probably be at the Taste Pilot's Grill. Depending upon how we feel, we may return to the Hotel in the afternoon for a nap. This park closes at 6:00, so we would most likely go back over to Disneyland until the 8:00 PM closing time.

Day 7
This is our last full day and we plan to spend the majority of the day at Disneyland. We plan to see all the shows and visit all the shops and may use this day to finish up doing that. This also might be a good day to bring the camera and take pictures. We want to be sure to have a picture taken of both of us together to submit to the Happiest Faces on Earth project that Disney is working on. You can submit your photos to Disney and they'll use them is a series of collages to commemorate the 50th anniversary next year. They're trying to collect a million guest photos to use in these collages. One of them will be of Mickey Mouse. If they use your photo, they'll let you know approximately where it is located so you can check it out next year during the celebration.

At 7:50 PM, we will head on over to the Wine Country Trattoria restaurant in Disney's California Adventure for dinner and watch the Disney Electrical Parade while we eat. After we finish dinner, we'll go back over to Disneyland to watch the fireworks. When the fireworks are over, we may ride a couple of the rides before the park closes at 11:00 PM.

Day 8
After our late night, we'll probably welcome the chance to sleep in a little, but not too much. After packing up and checking out of the hotel, we'll drive over to the Disney Resort one last time and spend some time going through Downtown Disney and doing some last minute shopping. Around 1:00 PM, after making a stop at a grocery store for supplies, we'll hit the road to begin our drive home. Again, we'll drive to Santa Nella and stay at the Motel 6.

Day 9
We have a long drive ahead of us today, so we'll be on the road early, probably by 6:00 AM. Today's drive will be 700 miles and we'll be anxious to get home, but sad to leave Disneyland. Once we're home, we'll begin planning our next trip.

The Official Trip Binder

The official "Trip Binder" is ready to go. For those of you not familiar with this concept, the Trip Binder is a 3-ring binder containing all the important pieces of information that will make our trip the absolute best that it can be. When you open the binder up, the first thing you see is the Trip Itinerary. At the top of the itinerary is the same header you see at the top of my website. Below that, I've included our plans for each day of our trip. For our travelling days, this includes our beginning and ending destination, the total number of miles we will travel, the estimated travel time (according to MapQuest), the name and phone number of our night's lodging, and the confirmation number for our reservation. Once we arrive in Anaheim, the itinerary includes the name of the park that we intend to spend most of our time that day, the operating hours for bothparks, the time of any priority seating reservations we've made, and any other special plans we've made or confirmation numbers we need to remember.

After the trip itinerary, the binder is divided into five sections, with labeled dividers separating each section. The five sections are:
  1. MapQuest Info: contains driving directions to our different daily destinations, as well as directions and locations of various services we may need. Some examples of the different services are banks, fast food restaurants, stores, and Starbucks.
  2. Confirmations: contains printouts of the official confirmations for our hotel reservations, annual passports, etc.
  3. RideMax Plans: contains the schedules for two days of touring plans that we created using RideMax, a ride planning software tool. See an earlier post for a description of RideMax. Since the park shouldn't be too crowded, we just developed plans for one day at each of the two parks and will wing it the other days.
  4. Park Tips: contains a collection of tips gathered from my two favorite Disney websites, and that will help us make the most of our vacation. For example, you can get free coffee refills all day at the Market House restaurant in Disneyland by saving your receipt. You don't even need to save your cup. Also, Annual Passport holders (or AP holders) can get a free The Incredibles Halloween Trick-or-Treat bag by presenting their AP's at a shop on Main Street. It also contains information about the best place to get cash, what discounts for dining and shopping are available to AP holders.
  5. Other Info: contains mailing address labels for family members to make it easy for us to send postcards, a couple of empty plastic sheet protectors to hold receipts, and any other information that doesn't fall within the parameters of the other sections.
My son kind of smirks when I talk about the trip binder. My sister commented about someone having too much time of their hands when I whipped out the trip binder on our trip down to Northern California a couple of weekends ago. It doesn't bother me. I know the binder will make things go as smoothly as possible and enable us to have the best trip ever!

Rooms Confirmed at the Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel

On Monday morning I emailed Willie, the Sales and Marketing Director at HoJo's to touch base and let him know how excited we were about our upcoming stay this weekend. I also wanted to check to see what we needed to bring to connect our laptop to their complimentary high-speed internet access that they provide in every room. We were also curious about whether we could connect a VCR to the TV in the room.

Yesterday, I received a very friendly, welcoming reply from him that really set the mood for a great time next week. We were hoping for connecting rooms, but unfortunately they do not have room configurations for two connecting King bed rooms. He did say that his staff has booked us into two King rooms on the same floor in their very best location. The rooms are located in Building 2, which is in the back of the property. All rooms face inward and overlook the quiet pool (as oppposed to the other pool that has the kid's water play area. The building itself is one of the tower buildings, which means it has an elevator. This was important to us, because it is tough to lug all the stuff up even one flight of stairs.

He also gave us great information about what we needed to connect to their high-speed internet (basically a computer with an ethernet card), but also recommended bringing a CAT-5 cable if we wanted to be able to have more flexibility in where we use the computer. Some of the connection boxes are located on the nightstand next to the beds and not always the best location for using a computer. They are currently in the process of converting to wireless internet access.

As far as connecting a VCR in the room, he says we should contact maintenance when we arrive and they'll come up with their special tool to remove the tamper-proof cable from the back of the TV so we can connect our VCR. We won't be doing a lot of TV watching, but thought it would be nice to bring some tapes to watch so we don't get too far behind.

Monday, October 11, 2004

"Mousekeeping" Envelopes

Yesterday, I created custom envelopes for us to put the housekeeping tips in when were staying at the hotel. I got this idea from the MousePlanet Discussion Board. Someone provided a link to a woman's website where she has quite a few sample envelopes to print out. I printed out one of them, but the font size and graphic seemed a little small, so I designed my own in PowerPoint. They have a picture of Mickey Mouse on them and the words, "Thank You Mousekeeping." My son thinks I should say "Housekeeping" instead of "Mousekeeping" because we aren't staying at the Disneyland Resort. I'll change his to say "Housekeeping" but mine will remain "Mousekeeping." I think it will be okay, since we are staying right across the street and I'm sure the majority of the hotel guests are visiting the resort. If I was using these at a hotel in Sacramento, it would be different. So, "Mousekeeping" it is!

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Trial Run for Trip

Last weekend we drove down to Chico, CA to attend my Grandmother's memorial service. The service was actually in Paradise, but we stayed at the Super 8 in Chico. It was a nice weekend. We were able to see cousins that we've haven't seen since 1988, when we all met in Tulare, CA to celebrate my grandma's 75th birthday. Some of these cousins are now married with kids and it was nice to meet them.

We treated this as kind of a trial run and it gave us a chance to try some things out before the big trip next weekend. Here are some of the things we learned on this trip.

Things that worked
  • Hostess Frosted Donettes and milk for breakfast - After a couple of hours on the road, we set the open box between us in the car and munched on donettes throughout the morning. We purposely brought small bottles of milk, rather than cartons, so they would fit in the cup holders.
  • Ice chest in the backseat - We brought along a cooler filled with pop, individual servings of pudding and apple sauce, PB & J sandwiches, milk and strawberry jam. This provided easy access to quick snacks without having to pull the car over.
  • Frozen Water Bottles - We discovered this idea during our trip last year. We froze the bottles of water to keep the ice chest cold and then drank the water while we were in Anaheim (where the water tastes awful). The bottles kept everything cold during the entire trip.
  • Rolling Duffles - A few months ago we purchased rolling duffle bags and had the chance to try them out for the first time last weekend. They worked great. We were afraid that they wouldn't hold enough, but we had plenty of room. There is a zippered false bottom that provided extra room.
  • Mickey Mouse two-way radios - My son purchased a set of Mickey Mouse two-way radios on clearance at Target a while back. These worked great for communicating between our two rooms. The radio was turned on when you were available and turned off when you were not. This worked out better than calling the room because you didn't wake a person up if they were sleeping. I even took it with me while getting ice late one night and it provided a little extra security.
  • Making Mix CD's for the trip - Last year we each made 12 CD's to listen to on the road. We decided on 12 CD's each because the CD case we brought had room for 24 so we divided it in half. We switched off between the two of us, each taking a turn playing our CD. We both enjoy a wide variety of music, so even if it wasn't our turn, we still ended up enjoying the other person's CD.

Things that didn't

  • Cupcakes - I baked cupcakes to take with us. While they tasted great, the frosting melted a little while they were sitting in the trunk and they never really recovered from the experience. We didn't even try to eat them in the car because it would have caused a huge mess, and ended up bringing a lot of them home. Tonight I baked chocolate chip cookies and will pop them in the freezer until we are ready to leave.
  • Staying on an upper floor in a building without an elevator. Our room was on the 3rd floor and there wasn't an elevator. It was tough hauling all our stuff up two flights of stairs and then hauling it all down again two days later. The rolling duffles were nice, but carrying them up the stairs was not. We plan to ask for ground floor rooms if we end up in a building without an elevator.
  • Bringing team games for two people - I brought Trivial Pursuit (Baby Boomer edition and Pop Culture edition), Taboo and TriBond along on the trip in case we wanted to play some games with the family. We ended up not playing with the family, but the two us wanted to play a game. We tried playing TriBond, but it wasn't as fun with just two players. Next time we'll bring some easy to play games for two players, like Cribbage or Yahtzee or Boggle.
  • Putting labels on the CD - Last year I very carefully made labels for my CD's. They looked nice, but I think it caused the CD to be a little unbalanced and made a slight noise while spinning in the CD player. After the trip, I kept the CD case in my Gym bag in the trunk and the heat from the car caused the labels to buckle. I'm re-doing the CD's now and will leave the labels off.
  • Not bringing a VCR with us - We could have easily hooked up a VCR to the TV in the motel room and brought a few tapes along with us. I've emailed Howard Johnson's to see if it's possible to hook the VCR up in our room there.