One day. Just one short day. That’s how much time we gave ourselves to tackle Disneyland … a place some folks spend a week exploring.
And because we had just one short day, I decreed well in advance that we would be visiting only one of the two Disney amusement parks that sit side by side in Anaheim. The classic Disneyland Park contains more than enough rides and attractions to fill a day, and it is the quintessential Disney experience, so it was a no-brainer to make that our park of choice. The newer Disney California Adventure complex would just have to wait until our next family trip to California … which, with any luck, will take place some time prior to never.
One park. Not two. Because both parks in a single day? Sheer madness. Utter lunacy. Totally fucking bonkers.
It was a sensible plan. A practical plan. A reasonable plan. Which is exactly why it was destined to fail.
Remember way back in Part 1 (which I’m sure you don’t, thanks to the shitterrific job I’ve done of posting this third installment in anything vaguely resembling a reasonable amount of time) when I said we originally had planned to stay at a so-called “Good Neighbor” hotel but ultimately decided to splurge on an official Disneyland hotel? Well, that splurge spiraled into more splurging, because, Hey! EMH!
“EMH? WTF is EMH?”
Great question! EMH = Extra Magic Hour. You see, when one stays “on property,” one is granted entry into either Disneyland Park or Disney California Adventure (which I shall henceforth refer to as DCA) one hour prior to the general public … but only one or the other of those two parks offers the Extra Magic Hour on a given day. And would you care to wager a guess as to which park was offering the Extra Magic Hour on the day we were there? (Hint: Not the one we were planning to visit.)
Fortunately, buying special “Park Hopper” passes for a family of four to bounce back and forth between both parks is surprisingly affordable.
BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Oh, Christ, I slay me.
But, hey, truth be told, no one was more pleased than I to have a legitimate reason — nay, an indisputable reason — to visit Disneyland Park and DCA. (I’m sure my financial advisor would object to my use of the word “indisputable” to describe this expenditure … that is, if I actually had a financial advisor. Much to the Walt Disney Company’s delight, however, I don’t … which is just as well, really, because I’d have told my financial advisor to go suck it. The Fun Daddy train had already left the station, and its mission was to visit not one, but two Disneyland amusement parks, consequences be damned.)
Of course, being the completely neurotic, obsessive-compulsive, know-before-we-go kind of guy I am, this change of plans meant that I now had to become a board-certified expert on all things DCA … which is how I learned that the park’s newest attraction, Cars Land, features a ride dubbed “Radiator Springs Racers” — a ride experience that, according to the Internet, is not that dissimilar from meeting God.
Now, as you might expect, meeting God is the kind of the thing that attracts a crowd … and the Internet further informed me that the average wait time for “Radiator Springs Racers” is 90 minutes … which was a problem, because the list of things for which I would be willing to stand in a 90-minute line is spectacularly short … and I can assure you with great certainty that not a single thing on that spectacularly short list is even remotely related to family entertainment. So you can fuck that 90-minute-line shit.
Fortunately, as part of my exhaustive online reconnaissance, I discovered a painstakingly detailed messageboard post titled “The Cars Land Wide Right Technique: How to be one of the first 20 people on Radiator Springs Racers.” No, I am not even kidding. And this life-saving post contained the critical information I would need to whisk my family past the throng of less-fortunate families whose members did not include a neurotic, obsessive-compulsive planner capable of finding things like The Cars Land Wide Right Technique.
I studied it. I learned it. I lived it.
An integral part of successfully executing the Wide Right Technique is to arrive at the DCA gates prior to opening … which, thanks to the three-hour time difference between Philly and Cali, was no problem; we were wide awake by 5:30 a.m., and were standing outside the DCA gates well before the 7:00 a.m. early entry.
Once the gates opened, the half-dozen-or-so lines that had formed began filing through the turnstiles, and I felt confident we were on the verge of living the Wide Right dream, because I knew that the super-convenient e-tickets on my trusty iPhone’s display would allow us to breeze right through the entry checkpoint with far greater ease than the patrons who so foolishly had armed themselves with those antiquated paper passes of yesteryear. My inner geek laughed at them in smug delight. “Ha,” it said.
So you can imagine my inner geek’s horror as the technophobic ticketholders on either side of us continued streaming into the park without incident while the employee manning the turnstile through which we were attempting to pass presided over an epic duel between my super-convenient e-tickets and her demon-spawn-from-hell scanning device.
This wasn’t happening. It couldn’t be. All of my planning … all of my smug-inner-geek know-how … all of my strategic superiority … undone in the blink of an eye.
The paper-ticket people were pointing at us and laughing as they flooded into the park unimpeded, high-fiving each other on their way to Cars Land while complimenting themselves for choosing to avoid the e-ticket option. At least, that’s what I imagined them doing while I closed my eyes and focused all of my energy on Force-choking the turnstile attendant in the hopes that her sudden and mysterious death would a.) distract the other employees long enough for us to slip into the park unnoticed, and b.) create enough of a spectacle to draw the crowd’s attention, thereby thinning the ranks of those headed to “Radiator Springs Racers.”
Unfortunately, my Sith powers failed me and we weren’t granted entry until enough time had passed to completely destroy my finely tuned plan of attack … or so I feared. And that’s when my Army training took over.
“Let’s go, people!” I commanded my family as I led them on an impossibly fast-paced power walk. “C’mon now! Pump those arms! Move like you’ve got a purpose!”
But alas, my son could barely keep up, my daughter even less so, and my wife, in a shining display of her out-of-whack priorities, was determined to keep both children in sight.
I was appalled.
“Goddamn you kids and your short, underdeveloped legs!” I said … to myself … because we were at Disneyland … and I only curse them out in private. Nonetheless, this child’s-pace bullshit just wouldn’t do. I had to kick things up a notch.
“Come here,” I instructed my daughter as I scooped her up in my arms and began sort-of-running towards Cars Land … a move I’m sure the parents around me thought was obnoxious and immature.
Fuck them. We had a ride to get on.
“Try to keep up!” I goaded my wife and son as I navigated my way through the opponents — I mean, the other patrons — who also were beating a path toward “Radiator Springs Racers.”
By the time we reached the main street leading to the ride’s entrance, I was pretty sure we’d regained most of the ground we’d lost at Ye Olde Fashioned Turnstile … but was it enough? I couldn’t tell. Rather than let my doubts and fears get the best of me, though, I did what any good soldier does in these circumstances: I stayed focused on the mission.
“Stick to the plan,” I told myself as I guided my family to the far right side of the crowded street in accordance with my Wide Right marching orders.
It seemed to be working. Though the tightly packed crowd now filled the entire roadway, we were part of a mercifully small group of
dorks winners skilled in the art of the Wide Right Technique, all of us moving nimbly between the curb and the less-knowledgeable civilians to our left as we advanced on the ride’s entry point.
And suddenly, just as the author of that insanely detailed messageboard post had promised, Red the fire engine pulled out of his station and blocked off three quarters of the roadway, forcing the massive crowd into a single-file line on the far right side of the street, where — TA-DAH! — we already were.
I was in neurotic, obsessive-compulsive, advance-planner heaven as my family and I zipped through the elaborate and delightfully empty maze that soon would hold a line of people who would wait an hour-and-a-half to board the ride. As we reached the loading platform, Wonder Woman and I high-fived each other. “Wide Right!” she exclaimed.
“Wide Right, motherfucker!” I roared … minus the roaring … and the “motherfucker” part … because getting us all kicked out of Disneyland less than 10 minutes after our arrival seemed like not the kind of memory I was looking to create for my children.
A less-than-impressive facsimile of the kind of memories I was looking to create can be glimpsed in the following series of blurry photos and shaky, poorly framed videos that I shot on that magical morning:
As you can (sort of) see, it was an awesome beginning to an awesome day … and, thanks to our masterful execution of the Wide Right Technique, we still had plenty of time to burn. Hell, we were just getting started.
TO BE CONTINUED …