Monday, November 01, 2004

Day 2 - Santa Nella, CA to Disneyland

October 17, 2004

After a good night’s sleep, we were on the road by 6:00 AM. Today we only had 295 miles to go and hoped to arrive in Anaheim by 11:00 AM. It had rained during the night and the streets were wet. Luckily, there were few cars on the road this early in the morning. It was still dark and the rain made it difficult to see the road. I don't mind driving in the rain during the day except when I need to pass a truck. The spray from the truck's tires as you pass pretty much eliminates any view of the road, and you just have to hang on and hope you make it. We had light showers for a short while before settling into a grey, cloudy day.

In Bakersfield, we stopped to use the restroom at a McDonald's and then noticed a Starbucks next door. Of course, we had to stop. I ordered my usual Mocha and Jason tried their new seasonal drink, a Pumpkin Spice Latte, a delicious blend of pumpkin and traditional holiday spice flavors, combined with their signature espresso and freshly steamed milk, and topped with whipped cream and pumpkin pie spices. He said it was good, but the spices were a little on the strong side.

Armed with nourishing beverages, we cracked open a new box of Hostess Frosted Donettes and were ready to face the dreaded "Grapevine." Shortly after starting the climb it began to rain and was quite foggy in places, making the journey more than a little nerve-wracking. Fortunately, being early on a Sunday morning, there was light traffic and everyone seemed to slow down to just 15 miles over the posted speed limit. We made it safely down the other side and continued on our way.

The rest of the trip went quickly as we passed familiar landmarks and exits. To view a video showing the last 2-1/2 minutes of our trip (shrunk down to 34 seconds), visit my son's
website. It makes me look like a drive like a maniac. And no, I did not rear end the truck in front of me at the signal.

We arrived at the Howard Johnson Anaheim Plaza a few minutes before 11:00 AM and eased our cramped bodies out of the car and hobbled up to the registration desk. A very friendly front desk employee checked us in and as our rooms weren't quite ready yet, she suggested that we might want to go on over to the park. We thought that was a great idea, so we climbed back into the car and drove the short distance to the Disneyland Resort. Since we didn't have our parking pass yet, we decided to park in the Downtown Disney parking lot which offers three hours of free parking. It felt good to stretch our legs after the long drive and we enjoyed looking around as we made our way through Downtown Disney (hereafter referred to as DTD). On our left we noted the DTD Monorail station and how it was quite close to the Disneyland Hotel. Someday, we plan to stay at the hotel and take the Monorail into the park every day. Today, however, it appeared that the Monorail station was closed. This happened quite frequently during the week we spent in the Park. Twice we had to leave the DTD station and walk back to the Park because the Monorail system lost power and they didn't know how long until it would be up and running again. I guess we should be grateful that it didn't break down while it was making its journey to Tomorrowland.

After having my purse checked at the security station, we went to Guest Services to pick up our Annual Pass vouchers and Tour tickets. We were given a temporary one-day ticket that would get us into the Park so that we could have our permanent passes issued to us.

After an 18-month absence, it was great to be back although it really hadn’t sunk in yet that we were actually there. The park didn't seem especially crowded and we wandered up Main Street enjoying the view. At the end of Main Street, the Castle was almost completely wrapped in blue tarp and a six-foot fence surrounded the perimeter as it underwent much needed refurbishing. The top portion of the castle was the only part that was visible and it looks great with its new paint.

The annual pass processing center was located near the exit to Space Mountain (which is closed until November 2005). Even though it was undercover, it was hot and humid in there and the line was long. Russell, the Cast Member who greeted us as we approached said it would be about a 30 minute wait. It was hard to be patient when we were both eager to start exploring the park.

We finally made our way to the front of the line and a very nice Cast Member named Kathie helped us. It took longer than it should have because she originally issued me the wrong type of pass and misspelled Jason’s name on his a couple of times. To compensate us for the delay, we were given a “No Strings Attached” coupon that allowed us to choose one ride from a list of some of the more popular rides and go directly to the front of the ride without waiting in line. However, since the Park was never very crowded we ended up not using the coupon.

Because it took so long to get our passes, we decided to go back to the DTD parking lot and move our car over to the Mickey and Friends parking structure where we could use the parking permit that came with Jason’s pass. After parking the car, we rode our first ride of the trip, the tram that goes to and from the parking structure. As we re-entered the park, the Cast Member scanned in my pass and it came up “Invalid.” I half expected to be immediately surrounded by security personnel, my pass confiscated, and then escorted off the premises. Instead, the CM says I should go back to the processing center and let them fix the problem. We decided to do that first thing so it isn’t weighing on our minds.

The line at the pass processing center is even longer than before and there is no Cast Member at the end of the line to explain our problem to. We definitely do not want to stand in that line again, so we hover around for a few minutes trying to decide what to do. Finally, a CM comes out of the employee area of the booth and Jason gets her attention. She takes my pass in and returns a minute later and tells me it’s all fixed. Now that that’s taken care of, we’re finally ready to start enjoying the park.

Our first stop is It’s A Small World because it was going to close the next day for a few weeks as they prepare it for the holiday overlay. As we exit the ride, we continue to hum the catchy little tune they play during the ride over and over and over again.

By now it after 2:00 PM and we decide to get something to eat. During our trip last year, our one regret was that we worried too much about how much things cost and didn’t get to enjoy some of the special treats that the park has to offer. We determined that during this trip we would not worry so much about the money and just get what we wanted. As Jason stated, “If I want to spend $7.00 for a cookie at the Blue Ribbon Bakery, then I’m going to spend $7.00 for that cookie.” After consulting our map, we decide to get a sandwich at the Blue Ribbon Bakery. At the bakery, we see plenty of delicious baked goods, but no sandwiches. Neither are they listed on the menu board. When it’s our turn, we ask and are told that they do have sandwiches. By this time we are starving so we each order a sandwich and drink, but decide to split a $2.49 bag of chips. We were also pleasantly surprised to note that the famous Nestle’s chocolate chip cookies are “only” $1.99, so we each order one. After forking over a mere $28.00 for this delicious repast, we take our lunch across Main Street and sit outside at a nice table with an umbrella. While we’re eating, the Main Street band begins to play directly across the street and we sit there in the nice warm day, enjoying our lunch and the great music.

After lunch it’s time to head on back to the Hotel to pick up our room keys and get unpacked. We walk the short distance to the tram station, board the tram and ride back to the parking structure. It’s a very short drive to the Hotel and there is no traffic to speak of. Our rooms are ready so we drive around to the parking area next to our building. Our rooms are located in Building #2, which is in the back of the property and overlooks one of the pools. This pool is called the “quiet” pool since it’s mainly used by adults. The other pool, located near the front of the hotel, also has a kids’ wading pool area called Speedy’s Sprayground.

We begin to haul our stuff up to our rooms. Our rooms are both on the second floor, down the hall from each other, and fortunately there is an elevator. This hotel was renovated in 2003 and the rooms are impeccably clean, nicely furnished and very quiet. If I hadn’t observed other people on the elevator or noticed the Do Not Disturb signs on the doors of the other rooms on our floor, I would have thought we were the only ones in the building. I never heard one bit of noise from above or from either side of my room. We each have a king size bed, a table with chairs, a small desk, an armoire with a 25” TV, and a small refrigerator. In addition, there is an iron and ironing board in the closet and a hairdryer and coffee maker in the bathroom.

Since the rooms with microwaves were $20 per night more, we purchased a small microwave at Target the previous August and brought it along with us. We loaded the inside of the microwave with videotapes to go with the VCR that we brought along as well. We were able to connect the VCR to the TV without having to call maintenance.

After unpacking and resting a little, we were ready to head back to the park. The park was open until 11:00 PM the evening. Once again, my pass was rejected at the entrance gate, but the CM overrode the system and let me in. It began to get dark shortly after we arrived and the crowds began to thin out. We spent a fun evening walking around and riding quite a few rides. Around 10:00 PM it began to rain lightly and we decided to go back to the hotel. We were glad to be able to hop the tram to the parking structure and drive home, rather than face the long walk back to the hotel. We settled into our very comfortable king beds and drifted off to sleep.


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