View Full Version : Steve Clark - January 1997

Trip Reports
10-16-2005, 06:12 PM
* Time of Year: Winter
* Travel Method: Plane, Rental Car
* Resort: Offsite
* Accommodations
* Ages Represented in Group: Adult
* Disneyland Experience Represented in Group: Veteran
* Comments: Steve and his brother, David, went to DL mostly to see "America the Beautiful", the older circlevision presentation. Of course, as long-time veterans of the park, they made quite a trip out of the visit. The report is full of hints and tips that, if followed, can greatly enhance anyone's visit to the "Happiest Place on Earth."


The Place: Disneyland

The Time: January 18, 1997

The Participants:

Steve (that's me), age 37, married with a new baby boy (born April 20). I am a systems applications manager for Colorado Springs Utilities and I also own and run a landscape photography business, specializing in mountain and fall foliage scenic photographs (OK, enough of the commercial). I grew up in So. Calif., attending high school and college in the San Diego area. I have been going to Disneyland (DL) since the mid-1970s. While I have been living in Colorado for the past 9 years, I still fly to Calif. to see my folks and of course, go to DL at least once or twice a year. My dream job is to work for WD Imagineering specializing in fine-tuning DL.

David, age 22, student at San Francisco State University and my youngest brother. David has been going to Disneyland since he was 2 years old. He, like me, devours on-line DL sites and books written about DL. The latest book about DL we both read was "Mouse Tales", a book so funny and enjoyable that it gave us a fresh perspective of DL. His dream job is to be a Jungle Cruise boatman.

The Setup:

This latest trip started with a phone call last Fall. I had read that America the Beautiful was back for a final run and I wanted so much to see it again. This had always been my favorite attraction back in the 70s and early 80s. I told my wife that I would like to just fly to LA, go to DL for a day and come right back. Then David called about that time and he was looking for something to do over winter break. What he really wanted to do was to go skiing in Colorado. I told him of my plan to go to DL and we came up with an itinerary that had us meeting at LAX, going to DL and then for him to accompany me back to Colorado for couple days of skiing at Vail. Cool!

Being DL veterans, we go to DL knowing what to expect and what we want to get out of the experience. Of the many dozens of times we have experienced DL between us, we have always come out fully satisfied. However, I knew this trip would be the best because it would be the first time that just the two of us would experience DL together. We planned this trip so we would hit DL on Saturday, January 18 because the park would be open for 15 hours (9 am - 12 midnight).

The Arrival:

I got into LAX from Colorado about 30 min. before David on the morning of Friday, January 17. After renting a car, we headed for Anaheim to find a room for the next two nights. The plan was to visit our parents in the San Diego area that day and head back up to Anaheim later in the evening. That way, we would be fully rested to start the day at DL.

Since I have done a lot of travel for pleasure and business, I have always relied on the "Unofficial Guide to..." guidebooks. This series (including DL, WDW, Las Vegas, cruises, etc.) is the best guidebook I have read. They give the reader an unbiased and realistic evaluation of the place, including what is good and what to avoid, the best and worst lodgings/restaurants for the money, and in the case of DL, an accurate and humorous appraisals of each ride in the park.

Anyway, since David and I usually opt for Motel 6 (or the like) when we travel, we started from the top of list in guidebook that gives us the best deals for a 2 -3 (out of 5) star motel that is within walking distance of DL. However, after checking the first five or so, there were no rooms available. This usually happens when there is a big convention going on at the Convention Center. We then checked a couple of the more expensive ones across from the main gate of DL and likewise, there were full as well. Well, there are always the ½ - 1 ½ star motels along Katella Ave. Out of curiosity, we checked out the Islander (I think that's what it was called), perhaps the cheapest and most run-down motel in Anaheim. Sure enough, they had a couple of rooms and when we checked them out, the rooms were in the process of being painted and looked atrocious. After a good laugh at how a motel this close to DL can be this bad, we went across the street and got a room at Rip Van Winkle's. The rooms are clean, albeit somewhat pricey ($60) for a 1 ½ star motel.

The Day at Disneyland on January 18, 1997:

Earlier that week, the area had been getting a lot of rain. We were very blessed in having a perfect 72 degree sunny day. Speaking of weather at DL, let me digress a moment. I took me wife (then my fiancée) to DL the year before at around Christmas on a Saturday. Of all of the years going to DL, the weather that day was quite cold for So. Calif. (highs in the 40s) and very rainy. In fact, the snow level was down to 2000 feet in the hills around Orange County. My wife and I bundled up under the infamous yellow ponchos and had a great day at DL because the crowds were gone and there were no lines anywhere! If you are planning to go to DL and are not going with kids, do not hesitate to go even if the weather is bad.

To continue, after a good night's sleep, my brother and I got up early so we could eat someplace on the way to the park and still be on Main Street at 8:30. We walked down Katella and then up Harbor Blvd. towards the main gate. We found an inexpensive breakfast buffet at Park Inn International right across the street from the main gate. As we negotiated our way across the parking lot, we wondered where they were going to build the California Adventure. We know the parking lot is big, but big enough for another theme park with its additional parking demands?

My wife and I are members of the Magic Kingdom Club through our visit to WDW last November. I used this membership to get two tickets for David and I prior to arriving in Calif. This was just a matter of convenience, even though there were short lines at the ticket booths.

As hoped, we were on Main Street at 8:30 and since the park opened right at 9:00 we took the time to get a locker about half-way down Main Street on the right. That day, a Cast Member (CM) was taking a survey of those walking into the lockers asking if we would be willing to pay more for unlimited access to the lockers (instead of $1 - I think - each time you access the lockers).

As the rope drops to start the 10k run towards Indy, David and I typically start at Star Tours and Space Mountain. We walked onto Start Tours and got into simulator No. 1. This is where the adventure began. We were the first group to enter that simulator and after the CM checked out the seatbelts, nothing happened. After five minutes, some techies started looking at the controls underneath the simulator but could not get it started. After about 15 minutes of sitting patiently, they herded all 20 of us to simulator No. 4, under the quizzical looks of those queuing for the ride. Ok, the ride started and just as we were making the first drop, the ride stopped and the lights went back on. Good thing everyone was in a good mood because it was getting comical. After another 5 - 10 minutes, they herded us to No. 3. Since a group had just left, we knew that this was going to work. On the way in, I noticed some DL manager-types arriving and I mentioned to David that I bet we are going to be compensated in some way after this ride is over. Since we had never experienced something like this before, we wondered what the prize would be. As we were filing out, they gave each person an apology and a precious little "ticket" that allowed us to get on any one ride that day without waiting in line. Cool! Immediately, David and I agreed it would be Splash Mountain at around 2:00 pm.

We then did Space Mountain (short 5-10 min. line, even at 9:45) and then across to CirleVision's America the Beautiful. Oh, it was such a joy to see that again. I love the music and the part mentioning God-fearing people carving a nation out of the wilderness. It also presented the military academies, including the Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs. All I can say is they don't make films like that anymore.

After CircleVision, we headed back to Main Street so David could get a cup of java and to play checkers at the Market House. We played an intense game of checkers (he won) while watching the people scurrying down Main Street. We commented that we still had 13 hours to go!

Our approach to DL is to get as much fun in as possible without the stress. This includes taking short breaks, hitting the rides when the lines are manageable and going on our favorite rides 2 - 3 times. We constantly checked the exaggerated wait times posted on the board near the hub and use the parades and Fantasmic! to hit Indy, etc. After the checkers, we went to another of my favorite attraction, the WD Story and Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. I'm glad they still keep these going, even though I believe Mr. Pressler would love to turn these into an extension of the Main Street Mall.

Speaking of favorites, I love New Orleans Square the best. There are so many details including the awesome Disney Gallery. My favorite ride is Pirates since one of my hobbies is studying the history of the Spanish Main. We knew that Pirates would be closed in January and February for its infamous refurbishing, but I'll get to see it again when I go this November.

The afternoon was spent going on the DL Railroad, Big Thunder (twice), Country Bear Jamboree (which I haven't seen in many years), Tea Cups and one hour at the great Starcade in Tomorrowland (David and I spent $12 on the skiing simulator, foreshadowing our upcoming trip to Vail).

The highlight of the afternoon was Splash Mountain at 2:00. As predicted, the line was all the way down to Haunted Mansion. Not knowing exactly what to do, we asked a CM who told us to go through the exit up to the loading area. We then laughed our way past all those poor souls waiting in line and proceeded up through the exit. Once we arrived at the loading area, we showed a CM our "ticket" and were immediately treated like VIP. They told us, apologetically, to wait until the next log (took about 15 seconds). We were then escorted by two CMs to the front seat of the log. It was funny to get all of this attention since there were people that had been waiting in line for an hour only to see two guys walk right on! I guess the CMs were told to treat people with these "tickets" extra special because it meant something went wrong somewhere at DL. We forgot about the picture they took at the plunge so we vowed to return at the end of the day (middle of the night?) to get a good picture.

As far as food and drinks, we snacked on stuff from the street vendors throughout the day. In the past, I have always liked to eat at the French Market, but as usual, they were closed that day. We ate at the Hungry Bear Restaurant in Critter Country (good burgers and onion rings) and later, of course, we had desserts at the Plaza Gardens.

At twilight, we rocked on the Matterhorn, visited the ghosts at the Haunted Mansion and experienced Indy, all without waiting in line for more than 20 minutes each. Speaking of Indy, Raiders of the Lost Ark is my very favorite movie; therefore, I love the concept of the Temple of the Forbidden Eye. This would be my 5th or 6th time on Indy since it opened and I wanted to experience this ride a few times before I passed judgment. Overall, I love the queuing area but the ride itself is only OK. Even though there are some special moments (such as the boulder), there is way too much going on to really enjoy the ride. You don't get a sense of "being there" since the ride is busy jerking you around. I find much of the visual effects distracting, especially the lava pit. For me, I wouldn't wait in a very long line for this ride.

After Indy, it was back to Big Thunder (a better roller coaster than Space Mountain, in our humble opinion) and since David is into swing dancing, we watched the dancers at the Plaza Gardens for awhile. After that, we wanted to do two things we have never done: Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin and Storybook Land Canal Boats. The Car Toon Spin turned out to be the biggest waste of time ever in DL. We waited in a very slow line for at least 45 min. and for what? The ride is so stupid that I would not recommend waiting in line for it; it's not worth it. Alas, at least we can say we've done that. The Canal Boats was very pleasant, I rather liked that.

It is now about 10:00 pm, two more hours to go! We rode the Matterhorn while observing the goths (kids in dark, gothic clothing and makeup) congregating around Tomorrowland Terrace Stage. It's funny to watch the reactions of those seeing these kids. David and I much rather watch the kids doing swing dancing (they're good).

We rode the Jungle Cruise to check out the new jokes. I crack up every time I go on that ride. The one I hadn't heard before was the guide shining the light across the back of the waterfalls and telling us this is the short version of Fantasmic! since that show wasn't playing tonight. Real funny stuff.

Time now is 11:35 and we're both feeling punchy. As planned, we hit Splash Mountain. When we got there, there was only a five minute line. We got the front seat again and worked out a pose for the camera. Afterwards, we judged that it wasn't good enough, so we went back around. This time it was a walk-on but we got in the middle seat. When that was done, it was 11:55 and decided to go back around again, only this time we were running. We got on the last boat and in the front seat. Think about it, we rode Splash Mountain four times that day and had to wait in line a total of 5 minutes! We got a good picture at the end and we both got a copy of it to remind us of a great and intense day at DL!

The Afterwards:

The walk back to the motel was very long and tiring, we should've taken a cab since my feet were ready to fall off. We left the next morning out of LAX to Colorado and spent Monday and part of Tuesday skiing at Vail. David then took the Amtrak back to San Francisco, stopping in Tahoe to ski for a day. Remember last January when they had all of that snow in the Sierras and an Amtrak train got stuck on the pass? Well, David was on it and they ended up busing everyone to Truckee since the train couldn't make through. What a way for him to end an incredible week.

It was good to spend some time in Walt Disney's dream again. I look forward to going this November with a colleague at work who has not been in DL since 1971. I also look forward to taking my son to DL in a few years. I promise I will not be one of those dads who use the stroller to mow people down :).

Thanks for reading. If you have any questions or comments, I would love to hear from you. You can reach me at the below e-mail addresses:

* Steve Clark