Monthly Archives: March 2011

In Which I Am Almost On Oprah

Today was hot hot hot, and I don’t mean that in a “Hey, that’s a great 80’s song!” kind of way. According to Weather Underground, it was 91.5 degrees. And it felt like 91.5 degrees. Or maybe more.

Oh, and here’s another valuable tip from Shelby–when you bring along your sunscreen to apply when you get there, make sure there’s actually enough in the bottle to do the job. I had to buy a bottle of Coppertone from the little newsstand hut thing in Downtown Disney next to the Wetzels cart, and much to my surprised, they charged exactly what I would have paid at Walgreens. I thought for sure I was going to get stuck with $35 sunscreen, but nope! So that was a bonus at least.

Anyway, walking into the park, I saw this:

Oprah's so lucky to have an acronym-conducive name. If I had my own network, it would be SLRH, and that's just...no.

In case you can’t read miniature print, it says that OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network, is filming in the park today, blah blah blah, if you don’t want to be on TV then avoid the cameras.

So of course I immediately went to look for the cameras.

But then I felt like I should ride a ride, so I hopped on Buzz Lightyear (post coming soon), and then Theo became very unhappy when I swung through Fantasyland (he wanted to ride the carrousel and kept saying “horse? horse? horse?” in an extremely pathos-inducing tone of voice) so I figured I would 1) abandon my search, 2) find a nice, shady spot to rest for a second, and 3) refill my water bottle. Did I mention it was hot? Good lord, it’s not even April yet. Even though it will be tomorrow.

Off to my right was a small bridge that leads to the Carnation Plaza Gardens, a little stage tucked away near Frontierland that I absolutely love. I noticed a bunch of official-looking cast members with clipboards, and lots and lots of equipment on carts.

I walked over the bridge and so as not to be conspicuous, having learned my lesson from the Awkward Social Situation, walked to the stage area and turned around to snap a picture.

Lots of equipment, no Oprah

I know that doesn’t look impressive, but there was more there that didn’t make it into the shot.

I thought about hanging around to see if something was going to happen, like maybe a celebrity would show up or something, but they didn’t seem to be setting anything up. A cast member did block off the bridge:

Well let's just hope there's not a riot at the regular entrance, because the emergency exit is now blocked

However, I stopped caring about Oprah when I saw a high school choir performing on the stage. They were just wonderful, and Theo was entranced. And I will blog about them later.

Suffice to say, they never set anything up and I never really got close to being on Oprah. But I think her camera crew is a good second best.

Soarin’ Over California

People ask me a lot if I’m going to do Disney’s California Adventure for My Year With The Mouse, and I say no because there’s tons of stuff to do in Disneyland alone to keep me occupied for a year. But I do occasionally go over to California Adventure to hit a few rides, and on my Mom’s Night Out we went on Soarin’ Over California, so I’m going to blog about it.

Also, I just learned via the Standard Research Methodology that the actual name of the park has changed to Disney California Adventure Park. Which, quite frankly, is kind of lame. D-CAP? That sounds like some kind of nutritional supplement. What was wrong with Disney’s California Adventure? Well, a lot was wrong with Disney’s California Adventure, but that’s a whole other blog or something. Anyway, for the purposes of THIS blog, I’m going to call it the Mouse-Next-Door (MND).

The MND has a small handful of cool rides, and Soarin’ Over California is one of them. Now let me just get a personal pet peeve out of the way. The Mouse-in-law also has Soarin’ Over California in Epcot, but they just call it “Soarin’.” For some reason, this makes me irrationally irritated. It’s Soarin’ Over California because the film is you flying in the air over California. The ride at Epcot is exactly the same. That is, in Epcot, you are still Soarin’ over California.

Every time someone says Soarin’ without the California part, small blood vessels explode in my brain that, over the long term, might cause some real problems for me. Yes, I know that’s actually the name of the ride in Florida, but I can’t help it.

Let’s just get on with the post, shall we?

Okay, Soarin’ Over California was the first ride the mom friends decided to do after our dinner.

Notice the part where it says "Over California" underneath "Soarin'." I know it's tiny, but it's there. Trust me.

Soarin’ Over California is basically a ride where you sit on a seat and are dangled in the air, and then they show a movie on a hugely ginormous screen of various place in California from the air and your seat moves around like you’re actually flying over the Golden Gate Bridge or Yosemite or whatever.

First, you queue up outside and zig-zag for a while. This is also where we met Janine and Brianne.

It started to drizzle a little

Once you get inside, it’s pretty cool. The building is supposed to be like a big airplane hanger, and they give you lots of interesting things to look at.

The first time I saw this sign I thought it said "Wings of Flame" and I was like oh, famous plane crashes? Tacky.

There are banners with seminal moments in aviation as well as pictures lining the walls.

That wacky Kristin models the interior design

As an aside, I took the following picture because there was an adult in the line with a full face-paint job. Face painting is popular and expensive, and very very rare on an adult. I tried to hide the fact that I was trying to get a picture of the face paint guy by pretending to take a picture of my friends. Sadly, my aim wasn’t all that great and I just ended up with a picture of my friends.

Lesson learned--when you're trying to take a picture of someone, make sure they're actually in the picture

Kristin nearly got us kicked out by flashing a gang sign.

I'm kidding

At the end of the Wings of Flame part, you get funneled into either Concourse 1 or Concourse 2. The flashing sign cycles through the various airports in California.

I've actually flown out of the Palm Springs airport before. It's quite nice.

We were on Concourse 1. Shhhhhhhh–it’s the same ride either way.

You zig zag for a while more and then you are cleared for takeoff

Once again, I'd like to take the opportunity to point out the "Over California" part under "Soarin'"

You go inside the big giant room with the pretty blue screen

The cast member is here in case you get lost

You then sit down in your designated row

SIT DOWN, CARISSA! YOUR BUTT IS BLOCKING MY PICTURE!

There’s a simple seatbelt to keep you in your seat. There’s also a loop between your legs and if you’re under a certain height, you thread the seatbelt through the loop. This confused some of us.

There we go--group picture!

I laughed as I realized that, being a big group of moms, we were all leaning over and checking to make sure everyone else’s seatbelts were on properly. You can leave the kids at home, but you’re still going to feel horribly guilty if someone falls off the ride because you didn’t double-check their seatbelt.

Just sayin’.

Once everyone is belted in, the ride lifts up so that every row is equally facing the screen and you feel like there’s nobody else around you (except for the people whose seatbelt you just checked).

The screen looks like this, but it's much, much bigger

The movie itself is super cool. There are fun effects like when you’re flying over an orange grove, there’s an orange scent, and your seat gently tilts when you’re turning. Your flight ends over Disneyland at night during the holiday season with the fireworks.

And make no mistake–no matter how hard they tried to take the California out of Soarin’ in Florida, you’re still Soarin’ Over California.

Space Mountain!

And now we get to my favorite ride in all of Disneyland–Space Mountain! Space Mountain is one of four Mountains at Disneyland, each corresponding to a thrill ride. Space Mountain is an indoor rollercoaster (as is Big Thunder Mountain and Matterhorn Mountain, while Splash Mountain is a log ride). The cool thing about being inside is that it’s dark so you can’t see the tracks.

According to Standard Research Methodology, Space Mountain opened in 1977. One of my earliest memories of Space Mountain was when I was little but finally tall enough to ride it (I was a very small child), I was really chicken, but I wanted to ride it, so my mom kept saying, “are you sure? are you sure?” and I was like “yeah yeah yeah, I’m totally sure.” So we waited for hours (it seemed, it was probably about an hour) and then at the very last second–very last second meaning sitting in the car–I freaked out and started bawling and refused to go on it. My mother had to stay behind with me and she was livid that we had wasted all that time standing in line for me to chicken out. LIVID.

Ah, the joy of Disney magic.

Anyway, somewhere along the way I found the guts to ride it and it quickly became my favorite. This visit I was with my mom’s group for “Mom’s Night Out” (see Mothers in the Mouseland). We were all keen to go on Space Mountain, since it’s a difficult ride to go on with toddlers (difficult = impossible unless you have someone to ride switch with). Well, not all of us. One of us was pregnant, so SM was out for her. Still, this was that last picture of the whole group before we parted ways.

Look familiar? Thanks for reading!

Space Mountain was completely shut down in 2003, and they dug all the way into the ground to rebuild it. I was hoping they’d put in a new track, maybe something with a loop, but they ended up with the exact same track. That’s kind of the only disappointing thing about Space Mountain, once you learn the track. You bank to the right a LOT.

In the 80’s and 90’s, Space Mountain had this moving walkway that went right to the roof of the mountain. It was all futuristic and cool and stuff, but totally useless because it backed up the queue and they always had it turned off. After the re-do, you walk around the side and schlep yourself up to the roof. You can get some cool pictures up there

Oooooo, it's all glowy and stuff!

One baffling thing about the re-do is that it gets unbelievably hot up there on the roof while you’re waiting. You’d think they would take the opportunity to put in misters, or even just cover the whole thing, but no. In July, you bake.

After a thoroughly uninteresting queue in which you zig zag a number of times, you finally reach the actual mountain building. They let you through in groups, presumably so you don’t back up inside.

What ride are we waiting for again? Oh that's right--Space Mountain

Once inside the building, you descend. So yeah, you climb up to the roof to wait, and then descend to board. There’s not really space at the base of the building for a line, so there ya go.

Hi Kelli!

Inside, there are various monitors with loops talking about the ride and how if you’re pregnant or you don’t like high-speed adventures or shooting into space or whatever, this isn’t the ride for you. Which kind of bites because by the time you’ve made it to the building, you’ve already invested a huge amount of time in line. The inside looks a lot like this:

Boring

Kristin attempted to entertain us with some ballet and yoga moves.

I almost killed myself trying to imitate her. It was bad.

Again with my awesome photography skills.

Back in the olden days, there were darkened windows in the queue where you could actually look into the ride and see space shuttles go shooting by. There was also a viewing area from the Peoplemover. Both of those things let in a lot of light, so originally Space Mountain wasn’t completely dark.

It is now.

Which is pretty awesome.

In lieu of the windows, they installed the above-mentioned monitors. They try to give you a clue as to what your riding experience will be like, but trust me, it’s nothing like this.

Are they shooting lasers or something?

You finally open onto the space port area and get a nice aerial view before you board.

You're almost there--hang on!

After being seated, you move to the launch tube. This is all futuristic and there are black lights, so when you insist that everyone in your group turn around and smile so you can take a picture, their teeth glow.

It's like a freaky Crest commercial

You approach Mission Control, and then off you go.

We haven't actually started yet. Monica needs to get out more.

In the launch tube, the lights start flashing and spinning until you get to the inside of the coaster where it’s completely dark.

This starts spinning and stuff and it's kind of nauseating, actually

When you get to the actual track, the music goes all “Ahhhhhhhhh!!!!!” and then you get a countdown from 10. At 1, you shoot through the entire track, completely gravity-fed. It’s really awesome. There’s also this cool soundtrack that just kicks it up a notch.

At the end of the ride, you get your picture taken. I always try to think of something clever to do, but tend to fall short. However, this time I attempted to take a picture of my own. This is the part where you get your picture taken:

Flashy streamy lights and stuff

When you get off, you can buy your picture for $14.95 for a 5×7. Or you can go all ghetto and take a picture of your picture, like I did.

You're actually supposed to buy this

So there I am, taking a picture of the part where they take a picture of you. I mistakenly thought that the camera was off to the left a bit, so my camera is pointed off to the left, but I later realized that the camera is directly overhead and it’s just the flash that comes from the left.

This is a picture of me taking a picture of the camera taking a picture of me

That is so postmodern, my head exploded.

Mothers in the Mouseland

As you no doubt know, I am the stay-at-home mother of a two-year-old, Theo. This lifestyle offers many advantages–one of which is having the time to go to Disneyland frequently and blog about it. However, there are some drawbacks, like being limited by the rides only 2-year-olds can go on. And outside of Disneyland, motherhood can become rather monotonous.

For social activities, one can join a mom’s group. I happen to really like mine–the Gen X Moms of North OC. We’re all moms born in Generation X (1965-1980) and we have kids roughly the same age. The best thing about a mom’s group, other than that I have something to do with my time and my kid gets to play with someone other than me and the television, is that they have Mom’s Night Out events. MNO are as they sound–leave the kids at home, moms get together on their own and have a good time.

Alcohol is often involved.

Our latest MNO was at Disneyland. We met at La Brea Bakery in Downtown Disney for dinner. Well, for dinner, and for the people who didn’t want to park in the garage, so they could get their Downtown Disney parking validated.

Half of the group--the drinking has started

Clockwise starting at 9:00, this is Monica, Ruth, Renay, Kelli (a repeat MYWTMouseketeer), Kristin, and me.

The food is actually quite good. I’d never eaten there before.

This is Ruth and Renay

Ruth had been to the park earlier in the day with her kindergartener and passed him off to his daddy to join us. Renay’s husband is a Disney employee so she has a special awesome pass that gets her and three of her closest friends in for free.

If I didn’t have an annual pass, Renay would be my closest friend.

Actually I just met her last night, which is another fun thing about a mom’s group that keeps changing so you keep meeting nice people.

Kelli and Kristin

You many remember Kelli from the Churro cart post. Kelli is the mother of Princess Katie, my go-to rental princess when I need to write a post about something involving a little girl, like the Princess Fantasy Faire.

Kristin also spent the earlier part of the day at the park with her husband and her three kids. She greeted us with some joyful news–she had a “minor celebrity sighting.” And living in LA, it’s not a huge deal to see celebrities and you try to act all nonchalant or whatever, but Kristin argued that when it comes to, like, celebrities who are actually on reality shows on TLC, that’s different than a regular LA celebrity and you can be all weird and want to get a picture or whatever when you see them.

I had to agree when she said that the minor celebrities in question were Kody and Christine from Sister Wives, a TLC reality show about a polygamist family.

Self portrait of me and the woman who saw Kody and Christine from Sister Wives

Kristin was also the one who said, “Is anyone else having another glass of wine?” which prompted me to naturally say “I will if you will,” which lead to a new round for the whole table.

It got darker and we added a few people

That's Bex in the white hat

And after we finished up our drinks and paid the bill and got out our rain gear, it was time to head into the parks.

Bag check without a stroller!

We went on Soarin’ Over California, Space Mountain, Matterhorn, Indiana Jones, and we stood around in some confusion for a while. I’ll post separately about the first two.

CJ, Renay, Carissa, Kelli, Bex, Liz, Me, Melanie, Kristin, Monica, and Ruth

CJ, Renay, Carissa, Kelli, Bex, Liz, Me, Melanie, Kristin, Monica, and Ruth

While we were in line for Soarin’, we met two ladies in front of us who had ALSO seen Kody and Christine from Sister Wives.  We got to chatting and they actually got a picture, so I took a picture of their picture of Kody and Christine. Obviously it turned out well. They promised to email the actual picture to me, so I hope they do!

This is Janine and Brianne Kingston from Atlanta. They’re an adorable mother-daughter duo who were very fun to talk to while we were in line. Everyone say “Hi Janine and Brianne!”

Leave me a comment if you know Janine and Brianne!

After Soarin’, we headed over to Disneyland. Sadly, as so often happens when a large group attempts to do something at the Mouse, we ended up getting split up, when those of us who usually tote kids around really wanted to go on Space Mountain and the one of us who was pregnant could not. Ah well, you do what you can.

Last big picture before we parted ways and pretty much never saw half the group again

I almost panicked because by the time I decided I really needed to eat a churro RIGHT NOW, the carts started closing. Fortunately Main Street still had one open.

Churros in the rain

And we ate them in line for Indiana Jones

Me and Carissa, right before waiting approximately 35 minutes for Indiana Jones

We met at 6:00 and it was quarter to midnight when we got off of Indiana Jones. Poor Kristin was like, “Haunted Mansion? Anyone? Anyone? Jungle Cruise? ANYONE???” but the rest of us decided to call it a night and schedule another mom’s night out another day.

All in all, it was awesome. Particularly where we’d pass other mothers dealing with their kids in strollers and we’d look at each other like, “isn’t it nice that our own children are home without us?” Although I did spend much of the night feeling like I left something behind. Like you know that feeling when you walk away from somewhere and you feel a little bit naked because maybe you forgot your purse or your phone, or maybe you left the gas on? I kept having to remind myself that no, I did not accidentally leave Theo alone in the stroller at the bag check, and that I was, in fact, there without my child and was already carrying around everything I needed.

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