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View Full Version : Brian Bennett - April 1998



Trip Reports
10-16-2005, 06:18 PM
* Time of Year: Spring
* Travel Method: Plane, Rental Car
* Resort: Holiday Inn at the Park
* Accommodations
* Ages Represented in Group: Adult
* Disneyland Experience Represented in Group: Veteran
* Comments: This is the documentation of my own solo trip to Disneyland in April. I took the "Walking in Walt's Footsteps" tour on Saturday, met up with some of the West coast ADDers, and spent tons of time just absorbing the atmosphere. I hope you enjoy!


General Plans

This promises to be the oddest trip to a Disney park that I've ever had.

I'm going to Disneyland alone.

As usual for my Disneyland trips, I'm heading for Santa Barbara to attend a training class for work. Since this class is only two days in length, and runs on a Thursday and Friday, Barb and I decided that the cost of her coming out with me didn't make much sense, especially since we're going to go down to Walt Disney World just a week and a half after my return from California.

I'll be flying out to LAX on Wednesday. Class, as I've already pointed out, will run on Thursday and Friday. After class gets out, I'll drive over to the Anaheim area (I have reservations at Holiday Inn at the Park, my favorite Anaheim motel) to spend the weekend before my return to Michigan on Monday. Like I did during our last trip, I'll be flying out of John Wayne (Orange County) Airport for the flight home.

Pre-Trip Thoughts

The trip should be a nice one. I have no major goals, but I do have some tentative plans.

* Spending a nice late night in the park by myself…doing whatever I want to do (Friday night) -- although I've also considered stopping in to see Travel Town at Griffith Park on the way. From what I understand, Travel Town inspired Walt's interest in model railroading…and influenced his decision to build Disneyland.
* Taking the "Walking in Walt's Footsteps" tour (Saturday morning) I've been told to just show up at the tour garden at 10:45am, but I'm going to check in at City Hall first thing in the morning on Saturday to be sure.
* Attending the ADD meeting at the Hub (Sunday at Noon).

This will be an odd trip. I'm not sure if I'll hate doing the park alone, or love it…we'll see about that. Regardless, I am looking forward to a few days Disneyland, even if I'm a bit more apprehensive about this trip than most.

Wednesday, April 22nd -- (Travel to California)

There is nothing major to report on here. I drove to the airport near home and parked about an hour before flight time. There was a large crowd (at least large for MBS International Airport) at the Northwest check-in, so it took some time. When I finally got checked in, I walked to the gate to find that they were already boarding. I literally walked right on.

We landed in Detroit, and I had a good hour and a half to kill. I had my traditional Cinnebon and white milk, then continued on to the gate. Mark Saur, an engineer that worked with me when I was the noise & vibration lab administrator, was traveling to California to visit a friend on the same flight. We talked there at the gate in Detroit, then again on the ground in LA for a bit. It was nice to catch up on some of the goings on in the lab. I love my new job, but I miss my old friends...

After I collected my bags at the carousel (it seemed to take forever), it was on to National to pick up my car. Being a member of the Emerald club is really nice. The bus drops you off at the Emerald Aisle, so you don't even have to go into the building to get your car. You simply choose a car, and drive to the gate and they check you out at the exit booth...very nice. It will be even more nice when we travel to Florida with Allan in a couple of weeks.

I Drove North to Santa Barbara, stopping for a quick lunch at a McDonalds on the way. Check-in was smooth, and I moved into my room for the next two nights, then called Barb to let her know I'd made it in one piece.

Dinner was at Presto Pasta, a West Coast fast food chain. I had spaghetti and meatballs, with a salad. Not bad, but not excellent. That was a food theme for this trip. Since I was alone, I didn't go to really nice restaurants (nothing worse than eating by yourself in a restaurant, I think) so meals were more of a necessity and much less of an enjoyable time than on "normal" trips.

Thursday, April 23rd -- (Class in Santa Barbara)

Nothing remarkable about today at all. This Class is excellent! All of the material we're going through will be useful in my job. I really want to be involved in boosting the technology of our validation test lab, as I did for noise & vibration, and this class material will be a boost in my doing so.

Dinner tonight was at Arbys. It was disappointing because this place didn't have baked potatos, one of my favorite items at the Arbys at home, and the main reason I went here for dinner. I also gased up the car while I was out, to prepare for tomorrow's drive down to Anaheim.

Friday, April 24th -- (Class, then a Drive to Anaheim...Brief Foray into the Park)

Class continued to be excellent. I didn't leave the Santa Barbara area until about 3:30 to 4pm. 101 was fairly busy. Everytime we drove through a town with more than two exits, there was a mini-traffic jam...Ventura, Oxnard...you get the picture.

Anyway, I got to Anaheim about 6:30, got settled in, and called Barb for our daily chat. I really miss my wonderful wife and my little boy. I didn't realize how much I would before I left, but it seemed like they were almost constantly on my mind during this whole trip.

I Caught the 8pm shuttle bus from my hotel to the park, but actually it was early (they ran another at 8pm) and I got to the turnstiles right about 8pm sharp.

Since I had no plans, and was at Disneyland just a month and a half ago, and I am going to Walt Disney World in two weeks, I spent alot of time just walking around the park and enjoying the atmosphere on this trip. It started this evening when I entered the park and made my way onto Main Street.

I sauntered over to City Hall to find out what I needed to know about the "Walking in Walt's Footsteps" tour that I planned to take the next morning. The tour would take place at 10:45am from the tour garden, cost is $14, and I had to buy a ticket at a ticket booth or City Hall in advance.

Then I thought I should get something to eat, although I really wasn't that hungry. I walked to the bakery then to the corn dog stand at the North East end of Main Street (by the Plaza Inn). Nothing looked really good, so I strolled on.

I made a right turn into Tomorrowland. The place is looking really nice. Very similar to the Tomorrowland look in Florida, but with more color and fewer structural elements (like the metal trees at the Magic Kingdom). I made my way to the new Pizza Port, but again, nothing looked good. I guess I really wasn't hungry but I knew it was getting late, and I didn't want to snack on junk later just to fill up.

I walked back past the Matterhorn and around toward the hub and passed by Triton's fountain. I saw a churros cart, and they -- finally something did -- looked good. I really didn't want to eat something like that for "dinner", so I figured I have a churro later for desert.

I continued my personal walking tour into Adventureland. The Jungle Cruise was shut down. That would have been a bigger disappointment if Barb had been here. It was one of the many times I associated something very specific at the park to Barb or Allan. It happened throughout the trip...

I walked around the RiverBelle Terrace to check the line at Pirates of the Carribean. It wasn't too bad, so I decided to jump in. Pirates is one of my all time favorite rides and after its' most recent overhaul, it looks great! I thought that there were more waterfalls and light effects that I don't remember from before, but I might just be comparing the original version to the ersatz one out East.

After the bucs, I scouted New Orleans Square for food options...stew in a bread bowl? chowder in a bread bowl? It sounded good, but I still wasn't very hungry and I hated to spend alot of money for something I wouldn't enjoy that much.

I turned about and walked back through Adventureland to check out Bengal Barbecue. I finally made a decision, and ordered a Chieftain chicken and a Bengal beef skewer with iced tea. I found a table way over by the RiverBelle and sat down to eat. The flavor of this food was excellent! I finally realized how hungry I really was, and admitted that I'd been putting off eating just because I didn't want to eat alone. The Bengal Barbecue was an excellent choice because I didn't feel weird sitting at a table at such an informal place.

As I enjoyed my chicken and beef, I heard Fantasmic! starting up on the river around the corner. When the strains of the princess theme (Beauty and the Beast) started, I got misty eyed thinking of Barb. That's the most romantic part of the the show, and whenever I listen to the Fantasmic! music, I think of Barb then. Of course, if she's my Beauty......well, you can draw your own conclusion.

I walked back to hub and got my churro...it didn't last long. I was disappointed that they don't sell churros with chocolate frosting (I'd heard they did that), but the cinnamon and sugar gave me a rush anyway.

After desert, I walked back down Main Street. I considered buying a cappuccino truffle at the candy store (this is something I consider every trip, and always skip because of the price). This was no exception. The $2 was just too steep when I figured I was already pretty full of chicken, beef, and churro. I walked around toward the front of the store and considered buying some saltwater taffy, but decided against it too.

I made my way South down Main Street. As I walked through the Emporium, I started thinking about what to buy Allan and Barb. No self-respecting husband and father can go to Disneyland without bringing home something for the folks that stayed home, right?

As I walked through the store, I thought of the T-shirt I'd bought for Barb in 1987, before we even went on our first date. A new Minnie T-shirt was definately a good idea. Wow, it's amazing that that happened so long ago. My eyes started to mist again as I thought of Barb and the wonderful years we've spent together.

I got myself together and walked across the square and out of the park to catch the next shuttle bus back to the hotel. I asked about early entry in the morning, and the bell staff assured me that they'd have a bus for early entry (it wasn't on their schedule board, but promised they would take me over). I continued up to my room and made by 10pm or so. I crashed early, since I knew tomorrow would be a long day.

Saturday, April 25th -- (Walking in Walt' Footsteps Tour)

I decided to use my flex pass early entry today, since this would be the day that the park opened earliest, and I didn't want to get too early of a start on Sunday.

I was down at the lobby to catch the bus by 6:05am or so. Sure enough, a bus was being readied for the trip to the park. I was very impressed with the bell staff and their shuttle service again this trip. Holiday Inn at the Park, at the intersection of Ball and Harbor (bordering on I-5) is really a nice place to stay. The building and rooms are very nice, and the shuttle service is great! I wondered on more than one occasion on this trip if Patrick, Dean, and the other guys had been trained by Disney. They were always so polite and fun as they took us to and from the park. I was also impressed by the care they took of the buses. I saw them run complete safety checks and oil checks many times throughout the weekend.

When I got to the park, I tried to buy my tour ticket, but none of the ticket booths were open yet. I waited until the early entry started, entered the park, and got my ticket at City Hall.

As soon as I was done getting the ticket, I walked back to Adventureland to ride Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye, but found the premier attraction closed. I wish they'd had some warning on Main Street or at the entrance to Adventureland...it would have saved me some time. Anyway, Indy was supposed to open at 8am (it was still only 6:45am or so), so I decided to come back in a bit.

I walked back to and across the hub and made a beeline to Space Mountain. The new entrance is open now and the old, steep powered ramps have been removed. Now you have to walk up a bunch of unpowered ramps. The queue continues on top of the theatre which now houses Honey I Shrunk the Audience but there was no one in line at this time of the morning. When I finally made it to the load area, there was a small group of people getting ready to ride. There must have been something wrong, because the CMs were only loading the first three seats of every train. As I watched, they started loading the first four, then later the first five, and by the time I got to load...all six seats. Space Mountain in California is another attraction that blows the socks off of the one in Florida. They used to be quite equal, but the soundtrack in Disneyland has really tipped the scale.

After I exited, I walked down to the Matterhorn, and rode the left (I think the A-side) of the attraction inspired by "Third Man on the Mountain" and one of Walt's visits to Europe during the 1950's. The attraction opened in 1959. This is the attraction that has a tribute to the late Walt Disney Company President Frank Wells, some mountain climbing gear clearly labeled, "Wells Expedition."

Next, I made my way back around into Fantasyland to ride Peter Pan, only to find that my favorite dark ride wouldn't be opened again until May (the 22nd, to be exact). I'll just have to enjoy the ride in Florida with Barb and Allan in a couple of weeks.

I still had some time to kill before Indiana Jones would be open, so I walked through Sleeping Beauty's Castle and back to ride Space Mountain again. This time, as I exited the ride vehicle, a girl behind me said "oh, look someone left their camera in the car" as she pointed at the camera. Then she promptly proceeded to walk away from the vehicle to the exit. I retrieved the camera and gave it to the CM operating the ride. I'm glad it wasn't my camera that someone had noticed, but ignored.

I crossed the hub again, this time heading toward Adventureland. The Indy queue was already out to the area just in front of where the steel drum band sets up on top of the Jungle Cruise queue building. I got in line, it certainly wouldn't be any shorter later on, and waited until 8am. The line moved fast when the attraction opened. I don't think I waited longer than a minute or two once we started walking in. The queue never stopped moving and the loading went very quickly.

This is another ride that is just classic Disney. I know that the theme of the ride didn't originate at the Walt Disney Company, but the themeing and implementation is classic Imagineering at it's best. Tony Baxter and his crew can be proud of this one. I'm glad I had the steering wheel seat. It's nice to have something big to hold onto when Mara gets upset in here.

After Indy, I went back to the Blue Ribbon Bakery on Main Street for a snack. Alot of things looked good, but I settled on a crumb roll (cinnamon and apple) and a croissant along with a latte with raspberry to drink. I knew I wouldn't be able to eat both pastries, but I wanted something to cut the sweetness of the roll and the latte. As it turned out, I enjoyed the croissant much more than the roll...and the Latte was absolutely fabulous! I took my items up to coke corner to munch as I watched the crowds pass by.

After my breakfast, I walked back to the West end of the park again and rode the Haunted Mansion. I walked right in, and was ushered immediately into the stretch room. This ride always fascinates me. There are some effects that are just astounding.

After escaping from the spirits, I walked through Frontierland and back to Main Street. I stopped in at the camera shop and bought a postcard and stamps so I could send a little note to my son (and Barb). I didn't really want to have to buy a pen, so the CM gratiously let me use one of the desk pens to author my quick message. I suppose I'll get home before the postcard, but I wanted to send one anyway.

I continued through a few more stores and found a new hardcover book that I don't have yet. I don't remember the exact name, something about designing the Disney parks (it's not the Imagineering book which I do have). I don't even know the price, I didn't check since I figured I wasn't going to buy it anyway. Maybe I'll pick it up in Florida in May or September...or maybe this will be one I'll just skip.

As I walked South on Main Street, I made a quick stop to pay homage to Mickey, and watched "Steamboat Willie" in the cinema. Then I walked back to the square and up to the railroad station and caught the next train (with the C. K. Halliday providing locomotion) on a round trip about the park. I really enjoyed the circuit tour, all the more so, I think, because I just recently read the book by Michael Broggie about the rail history of the parks, and Walt's interest in live steaming and the history of rail transport.

When my train stopped back at Main Street, I got off and strolled down to the tour gardens to wait for my tour. It was only about 10:25 or so, I was about twenty minutes early, but I had nothing else to do. As I waited, a young family came into the garden. Their little boy was decked out in a Buzz Lightyear getup. A few minutes later, Buzz himself showed up and stayed with the family -- and the little boy -- until after I left on my tour. I'm not sure if the family paid for the special attention, or if they got it for some other reason. Regardless, the boy was enthralled. He posed for pictures with Buzz, played catch with him (using a couple of beanie babys) and generally just goofed off. Buzz was great, even though with all of the foam rubber he could only catch about half of the beanies thrown his way.

Walking in Walt's Footsteps Tour

Finally, about ten minutes late, our tour guide showed up. Only three of us were on the tour. Besides our guide, John, we were escorted by one of the Disneyland Ambassadors. I can't for the life of me remember her name now, but she was very nice and was extremely helpful in keeping non-paying additions to our troupe from taking too many liberties. She also fielded alot of questions of us...and non tour group folks that just needed to know something as we made our way around Disneyland.

John took us on a walking tour of the park that had me completely engrossed for the next three hours (the tour was only supposed to last two, but John could see that his audience was eating things up, so he took his time with us). I'll try to capture the main points of the tour in bullets...or else this report will take up too much precious server space :)

* The tour garden used to be an area where Walt would hold his daily meeting with the imagineers during the early years of the park. It became the place for tour groups to meet in 1962. It's slated to be eliminated in favor of a AAA-sponsored travel information area of some sort.

Then we walked to the front plaza, in front of the railroad station.

* Here John described the theatre concept that Walt had for the park. The marquee (the Disneyland sign), the ticket booths, the outer and inner lobby, and the "coming events" posters showing the attractions as you walk under the station...all were intended to set the stage for the show to come.
* Walt had originally intended for curtains to be opened as each guest entered the park, but the more realistic tunnel was implemented when the size of the expected crowds were taken into account.

We strolled over to the firestation, where Walt's apartment is located (above the firehouse):

* CMs always knew when Walt was in the apartment because he would close the doors of the firehouse to cut down on traffic noise upstairs.
* The entry into the apartment was through a spiral staircase about the brass pole...until some kids got into the apartment one day, and Security talked Walt into building the back stairs that now service it.
* The apartment is a small one-room studio. One either side of the room is a couch that pulls-out into a bed. Walt's was on the right (as you face the firestation) and Lily's on the left. The apartment has access to the upstairs patio between the firestation and city hall.
* The room is decorated in a victorian style, very much in theme with the rest of Main Street.

Next stop, the Walt Disney Story.

* Referring to the portraits of Walt and Roy Disney in the foyer, John pointed out that Roy, of course, was the critical fiscally-responsible complement to Walt's energetic creativity.
* The electric runabouts (the green one is on display next to the office mockups, a white and a red one used to exist also) were used to carry VIPs on tours of the park. The vehicles were left parked in front of attractions as the group enjoyed the various attractions. This practice was eventually discontinued when Walt realized that the runabouts were breaking the themeing in the various lands.

Referring to the display of Walt's offices in the Burbank studios:

* Dave Smith, the company archivist, was responsible for documenting the offices before they were moved to the park. Dave took a thorough inventory and a ton of pictures to make sure that everything was set up just as Walt had left it.
* Dave talked a phone company worker to allow him to take the phone, even though the phone company owed the hardware (this was back in the days before the AT&T/Bell breakup). John joked that the phone was "hot" mechandise.
* Walt was working on a script, at the time of his passing, of "The Happiest Millionaire" - staring Fred McMurray. The script is still in the second cubbyhole from the left on Walt's working desk.
* The several planes that the Studios owned when Walt was running things are memorialized in photos and models. The call letters for each end in "MM." The last plane that Walt used, I can't remember the make and model, can be seen at the Studios theme park in Florida.
* On Walt's desk is a note from Walt to some Studio staff suggesting that they use newcomer Kurt Russell for an upcoming role. Kurt now hold the honor of staring in more Disney films than any other actor or actress.
* A diagram of "the Florida project" is posted on the wall in the working office.

Moving to the formal office on the left:

* The miniatures that surround Walt's formal desk were collected all around the world. Walt's obsession with miniatures led to the development of miniature audio-animatronics (the dancing man) and eventually the technology used in the parks (the Tiki Room, Mr. Lincoln, Small World, and the rest).
* Pictures of Diane and Sharon, Walt's daughters, sit on the piano (which was built just for Walt's office).
* Walt rarely read books. He just didn't have the time. The books in the formal office are almost all personal gifts to Walt, signed by the authors.
* On the left side of the piano is one of fifty statues, called "Mousekars" after the "Oscar" award, that Walt and Roy had made to distribute as special awards to Studio personnel. Walt is the record holder of Academy Awards with 32 Oscars to his name. The originals are all kept at the family's Carolwood home. Copies are on display in Florida.
* The window view behind desk is not the view Walt really would have seen. In fact, the building shown is the one that the office was located in, on third floor of the rightmost wing in picture. For the television shows that Walt hosted, though, the window was covered with the scene shown today -- because the actual view out of the office was an ugly parking lot.
* Walt never dwelled on the past. Whenever he was asked what his favorite project was, the answer was invariably "the one I'm working on now." Dave Smith was very surprised, then, to find a copy of the "Steamboat Willie" manuscript in the formal desk when he took the office inventory (fourty years after the first of Mickey's shorts was released). It was very unlike Walt to hold onto anything sentimental like that. (By the way, the manuscript is one of the few things that Dave did not leave in the office. It was taken to the company archieves instead, so that it could be better protected. A few personal items were given to the family, too.)

We walked back out to Main Street:

* John pointed out the forced perspective in the height of the buildings on Main Street...and the blocks in the castle.
* We walked by several Main Steet windows including one for Walt's dad, Elias Disney (a contractor), Herb Ryman and Ken Anderson (two of many Disney animators that worked on Disneyland projects), and Ron Dominguiz (who's family owned much of the property that the park now stands on. Ron's family agreed to sell their property if Walt would agree to hire their son when he finished college. Walt agreed, and Ron was hired as a ride operator...and eventually made it through the ranks until he retired as Vice-President of Disneyland in 1994. Ron's window says something to the effect that "...we'll take care of it as it's our own."
* John mentioned that there is a window for Walt himself in Toontown, next to the five & ten store.
* We continued our walk up to the hub. John told us that at one time all of the various lands were accessible only from the hub. You had to walk back to the hub to change themes. We also talked about the weenies that were designed into the lands to "draw" you in: the castle and carousel, Mark Twain, Rocket Jets...and nothing for Adventureland (the mystery was intended to draw you into that dark, forboding domain).
* We walked by Snow White's grotto, which was a gift from an Italian sculptor that had never seen the film, but owned a set of soaps in the form of the princess and the dwarfs. Unfortunately, Snow White was the same size as the dwarfs in the soap set, so the sculptor made her that way. Forced perspective (putting her high, and next to an especially small deer added for the effect) was used by John Hench to give Snow some additional stature.
* The castle drawbridge has opened and closed only twice...first on opening day in 1955 and in 1983 when the redesigned Fantasyland reopened.

We walked through the castle passageway into Fantasyland:

* The architecture of this land is oriented toward historical source of the stories depicted. Peter Pan and Mr. Toad's Wild Ride were both set in London. The architecture of that side of Fantasyland is Tudor. On the opposite side, the Pinnochio and Snow White attractions are adorned with Italian and Bavarian dressings.
* Even the weather vanes are themed. The Pinnochio building is topped with a figure of Monstro. Peter Pan is surrmounted with a pirate's galleon.
* The carousel didn't have all white horses until 1976. Prior to that time, they all had various colorings.
* A carousel differs from a merry-go-round in two ways. First, a carousel has all horses. Second, a carousel moves counterclockwise. Merry-go-rounds have a menagerie of animals and rotates clockwise.
* The original center of the park is marked in the castle. It's a small metal button right under the Fantasyland end of the castle.
* John told us the story of how the castle was originally supposed to face the opposite way, but Walt changed it when he saw Herb Ryman playing around with the model one day.

We walked through Fantasyland and made a brief stop by the Submarine Lagoon, across from the Matterhorn:

* The 16-elephant Dumbo attraction was supposed to go to Disneyland Paris when Euro-Disneyland opened. Disneyland's Dumbo was in bad shape, though, so the park appropriated the new attraction and a duplicate was built for Paris.
* The ride on the B-side of the Matterhorn (the right side as you face the loading area) is 19 seconds longer than the other.
* The Submarine Voyage is one of the most costly rides to operate and maintain. It's expected to be shut down soon.
* John told us the story of Walt showing off the new Monorail to Vice-President Richard Nixon in 1959, when the VP was at Disneyland with his family to dedicate the new tranportation system. Walt was so excited to show off the new hardware, that he took Mr. Nixon onto the vehicle, and sped away to impress his guest. The secret service was less than pleased, but no charges were made against the "kidnapper."
* The noise created by the new rocket rods is actual gear noise in the vehicle...not a good sign from my experience as a noise engineer.

We walked back around the South side the Matterhorn toward Frontierland:

* We made a brief side trip so John could show us the teacup handle that Imagineers made on the Alice in Wonderland side of the Matterhorn when the holes for the skyway were closed up. Yep, it's up there.
* We walked into Frontierland and made a beeline for the Mark Twain. We rode up in the pilot house. I'd done it before, but it was still fun. John pointed out the old remnants of the Rainbow Caverns attraction and the Mule riding trail.
* As Captain Neil made up our pilot's licenses, I asked about Captain Mickey (the guy that hosted Barb and I in the pilot house in 1996). Neil knows Mickey, but hadn't been in contact with him for quite some time. He no longer works at Disneyland, but Neil -- coincidentally -- was planning to call him that evening because he'd heard that Mickey had a fall and suffered a broken bone (foot or ankle or leg, I think).

When we disembarked, we walked back into New Orleans Square and the Royal Courtyard:

* The entrance to Walts new apartment, now the Disney Gallery, was supposed to be off the Royal Courtyard. The staircase is still there...in fact, we walked up it to get to the Gallery for the next part of the tour.
* You can see the ladder to the Fantasmic! control crow's nest from the courtyard.

We entered from the back end of the Gallery, but I'll describe the rooms from the current entrance to make it easier to navigate:

* The first room at the top of the staircase was originally the parlour. It did not have access to the street, the current door and long staircases were added later when the Gallery was opened.
* At the very back of the parlour, to the very left side, are two doors that lead into a pair of very small bedrooms intended for Walt and Lillian's visiting grandchildren.
* Continuing outside to the upper courtyard, Walt and Lillian's master bedroom is the room to the left off the courtyard. It has a doorway to a bath and closet, both of which are now used for storage by the Gallery.
* The Courtyard was rigged for heat and air conditioning. The registers can be seen just below and running all around the roofline.
* To the right, the next room is the sitting room, complete with wet bar and refrigerator (still functioning and used by CMs for lunches). The wet bar is where the cash register is now located for purchasing books and materials in the Gallery. The outside porch overlooking the Rivers of America is just outside the sitting room.
* The dining room is the next room back down the Hall to the right. It was located next to a smaller kitchen (now used by Club 33, next door).

We walked back downstairs, and near the Blue Bayou next:

* John told us a little bit about Club 33, the membership-only club in New Orleans Square. There are two dining rooms. The main one is located above Cafe' Orleans and faces out over the Rivers of America.
* The center chandalier in the main dining room (you can see it at night from river side) is an original dating back to the 16th century, and wired for electricity. The two on either side are reproductions of that original.
* The trophy room has alot of eclectic stuff that Walt accumulated over the years. This smaller dining room was intended to be wired for sound, so the wait staff could provide whatever guests wanted whenever they said they wanted something. Walt also planned to communicate back to guest through an audio animatronic falcon (or other such bird of prey...can't remember which).

Next we made our way over to the Haunted Mansion:

* It was Walt's idea to keep the building nice on the outside, others wanted to make it creepy to advertise the attraction inside. As usual, Walt won out.
* Pirates of the Carribean and the Haunted Mansion were both originally intended to be walk-through attractions. Lessons learned at the 1964 New York World's Fair showed how crowd control depended on some automated ride system, so both attractions were scrapped and redesigned.
* The mansion was copied from a house in Baltimore (not New Orleans).
* The Hearse was really used...in fact, it carried the body of Brigham Young in the 1800's. John had no idea how Disneyland came to acquire it.

With the tour over, we walked back to Main Street to get rainchecks so we can ride the LilyBelle, the presidental car on the Disneyland Railroad. This is normally a standard part of the tour, but the LilyBelle is undergoing a rehab at the present time. I talked John into a family pass, so I can take Barb with me when we return (he didn't put an expiration date on the pass, either).

This was an EXCELLENT tour! John did a fantastic job. Clearly he's a historian of the park and enjoys the details. My only regrets are that it was too short, that we didn't get to go up into Walt's apartment over the firehouse, that we didn't see Club 33, and that we didn't get to ride LilyBelle. Still, for $14 a Disneyphile can't go wrong on this one!

After we got our rainchecks, I walked back up to the North end of Main Street and called Barb. She seemed excited that I was calling from the park. Mostly I wanted to make sure I caught her before she went out to visit her parents for the evening, which I knew she planned to do. Since the tour had taken so long, I never would have caught her if I'd waited to call from the hotel room.

It was after 2pm now, and I'd missed that bus, so I decided to try the Al Lutz-recommended corndog. I ordered a dog and a coke and sat down to try it. It was ok, I enjoyed the cornbread and dog combo, but it wasn't spectacular. Still, as a small snack (for a late lunch, I didn't want to overdo it) it was perfect.

With the rumbly in my tumbly taken care of, I went back to hotel for a break. I read for a little bit (I'm in the middle of Cornelius Ryan's, "The Last Battle," about the final days of World War Two in Europe) then took a nice nap.

I returned to the park on the 7pm shuttle.

As usual, I spent alot of time just walking about, enjoying the atmosphere. I considered several places for dinner, but like yesterday I just wasn't hungry (and feeling odd being alone). Therefore, I rejected the Plaza Inn and Cafe Orleans in turn. I finally settled on on the French Market and ordered the Jumbalaya. It was good, but not excellent, and fairly pricey ($14 including pie and iced tea). Worse, there was no way to get a refill on my iced tea without losing my table (having a traveling partner is great for alot of reasons -- especially when traveling to California, right Barb?)

After I scarfed down my meal, I strolled the alleys of New Orleans Square. When I reminded myself of the prices at Blue Bayou, I realized that what I'd paid for my dinner wasn't so bad.

I made my way back through Adventureland, and I was able to sit and enjoy the Steel Drum band playing above the Jungle Cruise queue building. I continued toward the hub, but before I got there, I turned right and entered the Tiki Room just as it was to begin. This is yet another classic attraction that is much better in Disneyland than the Magic Kingdom. The soundtrack was clear, the audio-animatronics was good. The only negative was that there were several flowers that didn't join in during the singing. Bums.

After Jose, Michael, Pierre, Fritz and company finished their thing, I made my way back into the hub and around into Frontierland to see if I could snag a spot for Fantasmic!

The "Fantasmic! is Full" signs were out, but the crew was still ushering crowds into the River area, so I made my way in toward New Orleans Square. I got just past the mill (across the river) when I turned left and started walking into the back reaches of the crowd areas. I managed to find a standing spot, not a great one, but not bad...about fifteen minutes before nine. Considering how long I know the folks with the great seats had to wait to stake their claims, I was glad to have the spot I had. I was amused at the one kid, probably thirteen or fourteen, that kept complaining to his parents that he couldn't see anything. My amusement turned to irritation when he kept up his droning until the show started. He was quite the whiner. I vowed to teach Allan to never be a Whiner. Never.

Fantasmic! was wonderful as always. The appearance of Columbia and the Twain are always highlights. More than that, though, I enjoyed the wonderful music. This is a tremendous show. I'm looking forward to seeing the Florida version at the Studios soon! I understand that a volcano and a new riverboat and sailing vessel are part of the Studios rendering.

As soon as the show ended, I walked toward the back streets of the square and strolled the shops as I waited for the crowds to disperse a bit. I considered buying some green rice...sounded like it would be a great dinner with some stewing beef added, but ended up holding of. When I eventually walked back toward the river, the crowds pushed me (like a piece of driftwood in a maelstrom) out of New Orleans Square and through Adventureland. I suppose I should have waited a bit longer.

Once again, I considered whether or not I should buy something for Barb and Allan. I'm struggling with this because we're on a family project to pay off our debt (a pretty big goal), so we're sticking to a fairly tight budget. If I'm gonna do it, I want to find something fun and useful. The jury's still out.

Sunday, April 26th -- (My Last Day in the Park, ADD Meet)

I figured that the crowds would be lesser today, since it was Sunday. I didn't even try to be at the park until nine. As it turned out, that was the normal opening time anyway.

I made it through the turnstiles in fairly good shape, and made a line to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. The line was non-existant. I literally made my way through the queue and when I got up to the platform, I was immediately ushered to the waiting train. This is one of my favorite rides in Disneyland. I can't believe I didn't ride it before now (mostly I was avoiding the lines earlier in the trip).

After Big Thunder, I walked around the river and enjoyed Splash Mountain with only a slightly longer line. I waited maybe four or five minutes once I got to the load area.

After my dose of E-Tickets (don't correct me purists, I know neither attraction ever used them...but they would have qualified I'm quite sure) I walked through New Orleans Square and Adventureland some more.

I got all the way to the juice bar and ordered up a Dole Whip. The CM didn't want to give me one because I only had a fifty dollar traveler's check and she didn't think she could make change because she had just opened. I just insisted, and waited until she made change (I knew she could), and smiled sweetly when I was proven right.

Once again I started to think about what to buy for Barb and Allan. I walked into Fantasyland, checking shops (Tinkerbell, and others) along the way. Nothing was grabbing me, except for a Matterhorn T-shirt that I thought would be cool. I thought matching Ts for Mom, Dad, and Allan would be cute. The problem was, we didn't really need them...and the budget thing started to bug me again.

I walked back toward Toontown, and since it was about 1:30pm at home (I knew Barb would be home from church by then) I stopped to call from the phones across from Toontown station. We talked for awhile, thank goodness GM lets me use my corporate calling card to make some personal calls during a trip like this.

After I got off the phone, I continued on into Toontown, looking for possible gifts. I spied the five & ten, so I looked for Walt's window...he's credited as being the animating director or some such thing. When I strolled the shop, though, nothing grabbed me.

I walked over to the Rogger Rabbit line. It wasn't worth the wait under normal circumstances, but I wasn't doing anything anyway. One comment here, if you've never seen the film "Who Framed Roger Rabbit", you probably won't get this attraction. It's really a well done dark ride, but it refers to so much from the film that you'll feel like you're on an LSD trip if you ride without the background knowledge. Actually, you might feel like you're on an LSD trip anyway, but it will be worse if you havn't seen the film.

Then I headed back toward the hub via the Matterhorn and Tommorrowland. I got to the hub and planted myself on bench an just sat down and people-watched for awhile. It was probably about 11:30am by this time, and the ADD group wasn't supposed to meet until noon.

Finally, at about ten to twelve I walked over to the Partners statue in the hub. I quickly recognized Al Lutz and introduced myself. It was fun to finally meet someone that I'd had such long contact with about Disney -- via email and the web sites. There was a good-sized group of people there. I was finally able to meet Andy Dannelly, another long-time email pal. There were also several other folks that I had never met before. One woman was only there with us for about two minutes. She asked for me, said hi, and almost immediately left. I've forgotten her name (if you read this report, email me...I'd like to update this paragraph).

Judy Lewandowski (judylew@ebmud.com and judylew, on IRC RADP) later emailed me with the following note:

Hi Brian.
That was me you met on Sunday at the ADD meet for about 2 minutes :) I was meeting tigger and pegasus so couldn't stay long. I wanted to be sure and meet you and Al Lutz. I'm sorry I missed Andy Dannelly. Tigger, pegasus had our own Mini RADP meet and were lucky enough to have dinner at Club 33! It was nice meeting you.

We had fun talking about the park, and at about 12:30, we all went to Big Thunder Ranch for lunch. Most of the group joined us, probably ten of us or so. At Al's suggestion, I ordered the triple lunch (beef rib, pork ribs, chicken, beans, cornbread....very good, especially if you're into ribs -- hear that Dad?). The food was very good, and the price was reasonable. I was set back probably ten dollars or so. All during the meal we continued our nice, fun conversation about the park. I always have thought that the RADP group was hardcore Disney fantatics, but this ADD group is better (or worse...depending on your point of view, I guess).

After lunch, we strolled toward the Rivers. Columbia was out on the circuit, I wanted to ride her since I never have, but I didn't get around to it. Al said that Columbia doesn't come out unless crowd levels reach 52,000...yesterday, she had engine trouble or I'm sure she would have been sailing since the crowds were even worse yesterday. Al told me, too, that the special California resident discount was ending this weekend...I'm sure that contributed to the crowds significantly.

Since all lines for all attractions were outrageous, most of us agreed to skip them. We're all spoiled with short lines when you're smart enough to visit at the right time of year. A handful broke off to ride some things anyway, while the rest of us walked up the the Gallery (about seven or eight of us) to sit on the balcony. We spent a very pleasant hour or so talking some more, and watching the crowds and the Twain and Columbia.

The Twain is supposed to have a friendlier crowd than Columbia. We waved to both ships and people waved back, so it didn't prove to be true.

One other thing, I intentionally didn't document everything we talked about during lunch and our time in the park. For one thing, it would take volumes to do so. Also, I'm afraid that I would leave something out that someone said or accidentally attribute a comment to the wrong person or some such blunder. Suffice to say, I enjoyed meeting everyone -- and talking about the park, it's history, and the enjoyment we all get from visiting.

After another hour or so, I said my goodbyes and went back to the hotel for my break. It was great to meet so many fellow addicts...I just hope I wasn't too rude by leaving so early.

When I returned to the park, I looked to see if the ADD group was still at Coke Corner (they traditionally get back together at about 6pm, I was told). I didn't arrive until almost 7pm, but I wanted to check anyway. No dice, I missed them.

I made my way into Tomorrowland and decided to have dinner at Pizza Port. I had a pasta dish with tomato basil sauce. The meal was ok, the food was reasonable. I "dined" on paper and plastic. There were no desert options. I couldn't find any iced tea (I settled for root beer). I didn't think that the price was rather expensive given the quality of the atmosphere, but the food was reasonable. I might be considered a quack :) for saying so, but I think this is definately a fast food experience just as it's billed, not a buffeteria.

After dinner, I walked back toward the hub once again (seems that I've been criss-crossing the hub alot this trip). As I walked by Star Traders, the Trashcan Trio started its' routine. It was short, maybe only five minutes or so, but alot of fun -- and with alot of noise. A huge crowd gathered in the area, so traffic was pretty much halted, but everyone enjoyed the concussioning custodians. By the way, there's a similar group at Epcot called the Jammitors, but it's a much larger troupe, probably six or eight versus the three in the trio.

When the crowd dispersed, I continued toward the hub and was greeted by the strong brass sounds of the Magic Kingdom Corps, playing right in front of the castle. I stood and watched them play for the balance of their routine. I don't know how long it took, since I came up "in progress", but they were excellent! I played the cornet and trumpet in junior high and high school, so I particularly enjoyed the brass group. Their soloists were incredible! The guy on the flugelhorn sounded like Chuck Mangione. I enjoyed it very much.

After the Corp blew its' last notes, I walked over to Frontierland to buy some things for Barb and Allan. After all of my hemming and hawing, I'd made a decision. I'd seen them both on a previous run through the area, but was holding out in case something else grabbed my eye, but now was do or die time, and I did it. For Allan, I purchased a genuine imitation Davy Crockett coonskin hat. I bought Barb a Big Thunder Mountain Railroad sweatshirt. I would have prefered a Matterhorn one, but I never saw a Matterhorn sweatshirt, only the T-shirt. Anyway, the deed was done...but budget was blown...and I had a smile on my face...

As I walked out of Adventureland (the exit from the store is right where the Adventureland restrooms are - between the two land's entrances), I found a seat in the hub to relax and just soak up my last few minutes in the park. My hindmost parts hadn't hit the bench before I heard the strains of Rod Mueller (sorry if that's spelled wrong, Rod) playing at Coke Corner. My posterior and I rebounded like Flubber and I walked over to find a seat right in front of the piano. That's another instrument I played as a kid (I can still pound out a couple of Joplin rags myself, but child's play compared to Rod.) I saw a few of the ADDers there enjoying the music, too, but since I didn't know them by name (they were at the hub, but didn't join us for lunch, so I didn't really get a chance to meet them) I just smiled at them. Rod played magnificently. For several numbers, he was joined by a young man that didn't appear to be a cast member, but was clearly well acquainted with the keyboard. Rod and his partner played several duets, four hands - one keyboard, that were real toe tappers. I walked over and told Rod that we were all set when he retired, and he just smiled and said that the two were already working together on several projects.

After a few more minutes, I had to take my leave in order to catch my 10pm bus. I wanted to get back to the hotel to get squared away for the morning departure.

I did stop in at City Hall on the way out. John, the tour guide from the day before, had promised to give me a list of all of the Main Street windows. I'd forgotten to remind him yesterday, so I stopped in to ask. The only copy they had seemed to be missing a page or more at the beginning, so the CM took my name and address and promised to send me one.

When our bus showed up, Patrick -- our driver -- told everyone to get out their room keys to show that they belonged to the right hotel. He laughed when I pulled me out, and said that he knew me a mile away. I've seen Patrick and Dean and some of the other guys around the hotel for several trips now (although I hadn't been to the hotel since the Fall of 1996), but his comment got me thinking about the bell guys all through my stay. They were all very friendly (and I think to me specifically), they threw on an early morning bus run on Saturday because I'd asked (they didn't have it on the schedule board until I did), they took great pains to were make safety and oil checks on the buses several times a day (I must have witnessed six oil checks and two light checks in two and a half days of shuttling). I'm not sure if these guys are just doing a fantastic job, or if maybe one of them has seen my site and knew I was going to be in town. When I mentioned this to Barb when I got home, she said they were probably just doing it for tips. Probably so...but I (with swelled head) wonder.

Monday, April 27th -- (Travel Home)

On Monday, I really missed Barb. For one thing, I had to pack for myself (insert boos, hisses, and "poor boy" comments here). For another, I realized how helpful Barb is in navigating when we drive around. I missed my exit or otherwise got turned around no less than five times as I drove from the hotel to John Wayne Airport's rental car return...and that's having made that same trip just a month and a half ago. For the amusement of you, my audience, I will list all of the blunders here:

* Made wrong turn out of hotel parking lot, heading North on Harbor instead of South (this was the dumbest move of the morning, since I knew where I-5 was, and I'd navigated that area bunches of times myself).
* Drove along Ball Road, making several abortive attempts at finding an entrance to I-5...It took me ten minutes to find a way onto the freeway (and all of the ladies reading this report will be asking themselves, "typical man, why didn't he just turn around and go back to Harbor Boulevard?". I asked myself that too...about five minutes too late.)
* Missed the exit from I-5 onto 55 to head down to the airport. I ended up taking the next exit, swung around to I-5 north (luckily it was an easy place to do that) and took the exit onto 55 from the opposite direction.
* I saw the sign to take I-405 to the airport at the last minute and was able to do so with no fatalities on the freeway. It didn't seem to be the same entrance to the airport terminal area as I remembered from March...either things have changed a bit with the new construction, or we came in from 55 directly without taking 405 (I don't remember taking 405 at all, but I might be mistaken).
* When I got into the airport area, I couldn't find the rental car return for the life of me. I ended up taking another run around the loop (and had to make an illegal U-turn back into the airport to try again). I eventually found the rental car return right where I'd left it.

With all of that road warrier excitement behind me, I returned my car (no problem, very efficient) and made my way up to the Northwest check-in area.

Two exciting things happened in the next few minutes. First, my computer bag was strip searched...I guess a bearded guy traveling alone fits the profile in Orange County (I've never been searched when Barb is with me). Second, there was an unattended bag about twenty feet from me (I was seated across from the gates at the only outlet I could find...working on this report). Security came and finally found the owner of the bag. He was seated about twenty feet further away, and couldn't understand why he had to keep it with him (I personally would be paranoid about leaving my belongings unattended at an airport, but to each his own.)

The flights home were uneventful. I was able to get alot of this report done before my laptop battery gave way somewhere over Iowa (I estimate). I was able to enjoy the traditional Northwest Airlines breakfast sandwich as part of my wonderful ala carte breakfast. Then my connecting flight back to Saginaw was delayed on the ground (this after several folks were assigned seats in rows 22-25, when the last row in the plane (other than the toilets) was 21. Well, I made it home safe and sound, found Barb and Allan waiting at the airport for me, and we had a wonderful reunion -- then went out for dinner on the way home (I hadn't eaten since my wonderful breakfast sandwich so I was starved).

I gave Allan his coonskin hat, and Barb her Big Thunder Mountain Railroad sweatshirt when we got home and thus it ended.

Concluding Remarks

Now that I've been to a Disney park by myself I don't feel the need to do it again. I had fun mind you, especially during the tour and the ADD get together (not surprisingly, when I had someone else to talk and enjoy the park with). However, I really learned that the park is someplace I like to go to enjoy time with my family and friends. It's much more fun to relish the attractions, restaurants, and atmosphere with loved ones than by myself.

Would I go alone again? Yes, if I was in the vicinity and had no way of taking someone with me (I tried to get my brother to go when we decided that Barb couldn't make it, but he made the same financial call we did and turned me down). Would I ever plan a trip by myself on purpose? Nope.

I conclude here by quoting a comment from a previous trip report, my November 1995 trip to Walt Disney World, because it really sums up the mixed-emotions I'd felt throughout this two-and-a-half-day jaunt:

"I hate leaving the Magic Kingdom for the last time...I always feel so empty when we leave the Magic Kingdom. The last look down Main Street USA, the last view of the castle as we leave, the railroad station as we pass underneath it for the last time....all make me glad that I'm fortunate enough to be able to return year after year. I have so much to be thankful for: My wonderful wife, my wonderful family, my church and our many friends there, my home. I don't know why, but the last day at the Magic Kingdom always makes me think of all those things. Maybe it's a matter of where my Magic Kingdom really is. It's not in Florida or California, it's in the heart. Coming to Walt Disney World is fun because of the great times we always have here...but it's the memories...the fun that I've had here with Barbara and our family and friends that makes this "the happiest place on Earth." Thanks Walt, for the "little family park" you've given us, West coast and East."

With that, I conclude. I hope this has been a useful documentary...email if you have comments or questions!

Brian Bennett