Thursday, March 03, 2005

Trip Report - Day 1

Tuesday, December 14, 2005

Finally, the wait is over and today’s the day we leave for Disneyland. I’m going to try to make my trip report somewhat abbreviated this time around, and hopefully make it sound a little less like I’m giving testimony in court.

My dad very graciously offered to drive us to the airport and I really appreciate the gesture because we needed to be on the rode very early this morning. We left the house at 6:35 AM and made it to the airport by 7:05 AM. Luggage was checked in at the curbside thanks to United’s EasyCheck-In feature on their website. We breezed through Security without any unnecessary groping by Security personnel and after picking up a mocha and muffin for me and a bagel for Jason, we sat down to wait for our flight to leave. Our departure time was for 9:30 AM but our flight was delayed for two hours due to mechanical problems in San Francisco. That was the last thing we wanted to hear as we are both a little nervous about flying. This is our first post-9/11 trip.

Around 11:30 we finally boarded our plane and settled in for the two hour flight. The entire flight was amazingly smooth. Shortly after takeoff we were treated to a bag of “gourmet” party mix and a ¼ oz bag of mini pretzels. We each had a can of Canada Dry Ginger Ale which ended up being a lot of liquid to drink at one time. We were both trying to hurriedly gulp it down before we landed.

We landed shortly after 1:30 PM and went in search of the car rental counter. My confirmation notice said that there were counters located in various terminals. Unfortunately, our terminal was not one of them. We were in Terminal 7 and the nearest counter was in Terminal 5. Not being familiar with the routine of picking up a rental and the whole shuttle system, we decided to walk down to Terminal 5. Big mistake. It didn’t really look like that far of a walk, but it seemed to go on for miles. Fortunately, we had each checked only one bag so we didn’t have a ton of luggage to haul with us. It was a very warm day, especially for us Oregonians, so by the time we reached Terminal 5, we were tired, hot and sweaty. We located the car rental counter, only to be greeted by a sign directing us to the shuttle stop outside. We hauled everything out to the shuttle stop and within minutes the Alamo shuttle came and picked us up. I was worried about being able to quickly get all my luggage on board the shuttle since it was kind of heavy and I was tired from the long walk. The driver was very helpful and quickly loaded it for us.

Once we arrived at the Alamo pickup location, we waited in line for only a few minutes before it was our turn. We had requested an economy car as I’m vertically challenged and don’t feel comfortable driving large vehicles. Turns out they didn’t have any economy cars left so they upgraded us to a mid-size. My desire to get to Disneyland outweighed my reluctance to drive a larger vehicle so we just went with the change. The car really wasn’t that large, though even with the seat adjusted all the way up, I initially felt like a kid driving his parent’s car. It didn’t take long before I felt comfortable driving it. The only thing we didn’t like about the car was that it was a two door. The doors swung wide and it was sometimes difficult to get the door open wide enough to comfortable get in and out of. Also, the door locks would automatically lock after a few minutes on the rode, which started us the first few times. Actually, it startled us every time it happened.

We loaded up the car and headed onto the freeway and then got stuck in the middle of rush hour traffic. It took us 1-1/2 hours to drive the 30 miles to Anaheim. Since we hadn’t had any lunch we were both starving. Luckily, we had some snacks in our carry-on bags that we purchased at the Portland airport with the meal vouchers we were given by the airlines when our flight was delayed. Jason was able to get into the trunk through the back seat and brought back a single serving sized can of Pringle’s Potato Chips, which we shared.

At 4:00 PM we pulled into the parking lot of the Anaheim Plaza. Check-in was a breeze and we drove around to the other side of the property where our rooms were located. Our rooms were located on the second floor and we were able to get all our luggage upstairs in just one trip. We each picked a room key at random and opened our individual doors. Jason was the lucky one with the refrigerator and microwave. Once inside, the first thing we did was open the connecting door. The second thing was to turn on the air conditioning. Even though it was the middle of December, it was in the 80’s outside and really warm and stuffy in the rooms. After a few minutes, we realized that our rooms were GETTING HOTTER. Instead of cold air, the unit was spewing out hot air. I opened the window, but it really didn’t make any difference. Neither of us handles hot weather very well at all. We both get cranky. There was no way we would be able to handle spending even one night in that hot, stuffy room. I called the front desk and was told that all the units in our building had been switched over to heat for the winter. The desk clerk said that the nights tended to get cold. I told her that we were from Oregon and there was no way we would be too cold at night. She was very nice and said she would send an “Engineer” up to our rooms to switch things over.

We were very anxious to get over to the Park but we wanted to make sure the air conditioning was fixed before we left. Within 10 minutes, an “Engineer” knocked on the door and switched things over from heat to air. While he worked, I unpacked my luggage and was ready to go as soon as he finished. We put on our name badges and the lanyards holding our passes and headed out the door.

Driving over to the Mickey and Friends Parking Lot, we were both filled with anticipation. Neither of us had been to the Park when it was decorated for Christmas. Even when people posted pictures of all the decorations on, I tried not to look at them. I wanted my first look at them to be when we were actually at the park.

We parked the car and hopped on our first ride of the trip, the Parking Lot Tram, narrated by our favorite Disney voice, Corey Burton. Arriving at the tram station in Downtown Disney, we decided the first order of business would be to get something to eat. We had about a half hour until DCA closed, so we headed into the Park to each dinner at Taste Pilot’s Grill. The theming of this counter-service restaurant is like an airplane hanger. It serves delicious burgers, chicken sandwiches and ribs. They also have wonderful onion rings and criss-cut fries. One of the nice features of this eating establishment is the condiment bar where you can add a nice variety of toppings to your sandwich. They have lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, along with the usual assortment of sauces. I love it because I don’t have to special order my burger to get it without mayo.

After dinner we strolled through the almost deserted park enjoying the beautiful Christmas decorations and the music. We had learned during the Walk in Walt’s Footsteps tour in October that the music plays 24-7 through both parks. It was now dark outside and the lights were beautiful.

Before heading over to Disneyland, we stopped at the Engineer-Ears toy store to check for new Mr. Potato parts. There were quite a few new parts including a Christmas tree hat, a name badge, and a crown, just to name a few. With very careful packing, we were able to fit two each of the new parts into one box. Jason used his pass to get 10% off the purchase price. We each also purchased one of the new merchandise gift cards. These gift cards can be used throughout the park to purchase merchandise items. Even after we spend the money on the cards, we plan to keep the gift cards as souveniers.

With DCA now closed, everyone was heading over to Disneyland, causing long lines at the ticket gates. Once we were in the park, we checked our package at the newsstand and headed onto Main Street. Our first glimpse of the Christmas tree was breath-taking. The tree stands about 60 feet tall and is beautifully decorated with colorful balls, toys, and musical instruments. All of the buildings along Main Street are richly decorated with thick garland, each a little different than the other. The lampposts all have Christmas wreaths hanging from them. Christmas music played in the background. It was absolutely amazing. Outside the Fire Station, tables were set up for cookie decorating and a lighted Christmas tree shone in the window upstairs where Walt’s apartment is located.

People were already lining up for the parade so we walked down the center of the street enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of Christmas at Disneyland. We headed towards Fantasyland and saw that the Matterhorn was open again after its refurbishmen. The line was fairly long so we didn’t wait to ride it.

It had been a really long day and we were both exhausted so we decided to call it a night and head back to the hotel. We took the train from Tomorrowland to the Main Street station, arriving just as the parade was winding up. We tried not to look at it as we were planning to see the parade tomorrow.

After a stop at the Build-A-Bear Workshop, we hopped the tram to the parking structure and headed back to the hotel. One the way we stopped at the Food-4-Less to stock up on cereal, milk, juice and pop (Cactus Cooler of course).

We arrived back at the hotel in time to watch The Amazing Race. The TV reception was marginal at best and Jason discovered that he didn’t get all the channels that he was supposed to. He called the front desk and even though they offered to send an “Engineer” right over with a new TV. Since it was late and he arranged for them to do it the next day after we left for the Park.

The evening had turned rather cool and we were able to sleep without the air conditioning on. In fact it was rather cool and I ended up taking the blanket off the other bed and putting it on my bed. Even with the air off, it still made a noise like constantly running water. However, it didn’t prevent me from going to sleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.


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