Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Monday, June 22, 2009
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Posted by Ray Harkness at 1:01 PM
Well, day 0 and day 1 collided without a bout of sleep to split them apart. We were up till about 3AM.
Enchanted Rose didn’t come home until 12:30AM because of some late shift excitement. She brought home a couple #2’s from Mickey D’s to top off the ole tank before we dug into the nightly preparations.
Enchanted Rose finalized the packing while I got all the electrical components ready for the trip. Most of that time was me prepping this nifty ASUS Eee PC 1000HE netbook with all the software that I need (Mozilla Thunderbird, Nikon Transfer, Nikon View NX, Nikon Capture NX 2, Picasa). I was amazed at how few system updates were needed from the ASUS site (only the system BIOS), but the windows updates too most of the day to complete.
I also needed update the firmware on my Nikon D300. Fellow D300/D700 shooters on The Magic in Pixels have been talking about settings that my camera didn’t have that turned out to be available after upgrading the firmware.
It’s always stressful to get ready when Belle and Coco are not at the “puppy spa”. Coco who gets insanely neurotic when there is a thunderstorm seems to take the hustle and bustle of packing in stride, but Belle, who normally is calm no matter what is going on, goes nuts. She constantly wants to be held and if you sit down she’ll make sure she’s in your lap pronto.
Normally, we put them in the “puppy spa” the morning before we leave just to avoid this extra stressor, but this time we wanted to save the money of that extra day since we weren’t flying out till noon the next day. That gave us plenty of time to get the dogs to the “spa” before we needed to be at the airport.
Even though we went to bed at 3AM we didn’t need to get up until 8am, so that meant at least 5 hours of sleep. This is a whole lot more than we got on previous trips because Enchanted Rose got a new shift at work which has her punching out at 11PM instead of 3AM (granted she never really is off at the designated time).
8AM came in with a roar and I was exhausted. I really didn’t sleep well anyway and I am pretty sure it was due to a combination of excitement and knowing there are still things needing to get done in the morning.
After catching up on our e-mails and tweets that came in while we slept, I got up and got the dogs fed and let them out to do their part to water and fertilize the lawn.
A shower was had and it did a lot to revitalize but I was clogged up and was worried I was getting sick. My sinuses wreak havoc on me when I don’t sleep enough.
We got the final packing done in record time and I loaded up the 4Runner with the luggage while Enchanted Rose got the dogs bag packed with all their medicines, food, and treats.
We loaded the dogs up and started our way out. We ran into our neighbor at the foot of the driveway and she flagged us down. I went out to see what she needed and she wanted to wish Enchanted Rose a happy birthday. She also offered to pick up out mail and move our trash cans back to the bottom of the driveway after the collect the garbage later today.
She also offered to call us if she sees any mail from the US Department of Immigration or Department of Homeland Security. We are waiting for one more form to finalize our dossier for the process of trying to adopt a child from China (to keep up with that adventure please visit Waiting for Xiao Hai). We have such awesome neighbors!
We make great time to the Vet’s office (aka "the puppy spa”) due to the fact that everyone must’ve already been at work for the day). Belle was being neurotic the whole way, but as soon as she saw where we were going she got really excited. She seems to love staying here but freaks out every time the luggage comes out.
We made our way from the Vet’s Office to the airport. Once again, the route was smooth sailing. The covered garage was full (as expected) so we parked in the shuttle parking. It took a bit to find an open spot, but we got lucky that the shuttle was coming by as soon as we got out of the car. So, we didn’t have to wait long.
When we got the Southwest Airlines check-in there was no line which was great considering all the other airlines had from medium to long lines. I guess the fact that Southwest Airlines doesn’t require you to pay for your 1st two checked bags means that the process of getting them checked in goes quicker. This is another reason I love flying Southwest Airlines.
Security is always fun and they only have one X-Ray machine open. But,the new netbook with it’s smaller dimensions really made things seem to go smoother. The TSA seems to have implemented a new rule requiring that you put your shoes directly on the conveyor belt instead of in a bin. But, I pretty much did that already.
We had a 1.5 hour wait for our flight. Another passenger overheard Enchanted Rose talking to a family member about our adoption process and came over and asked if he heard correctly that we are trying to adopt from China. We answered in the affirmative and that began a lengthy conversation about adoption since he too was an adoptive parent (he chose the domestic route).
Finally it came time to board and our first leg was to Denver. I got nice low boarding numbers for this flight (A20 & A21), but the flight already had a bunch of people on it so we ended up sitting somewhere in the middle of the plane. I had to chuckle when I saw that the guy in front of me in line was sporting a carry-on emblazoned with United Airlines Crew badges and embroidery. I guess even some of their employees love Southwest too…ha-ha
Our flight to Denver was quick and uneventful. It turned out the gate for our next flight was across the aisle from the gate we disembarked at.
We grabbed a couple seats and Enchanted Rose proceeded to call her sister, Julie, to see if a trip to In-N-Out could be arranged after she and her family pick us up at Orange County Airport.
We didn’t have to wait long before it was time to line up for boarding. I didn’t score as good of boarding numbers on this leg. We were A38 and A39. I still don’t know how, when I check in exactly 24 hours before the flight, that I end up being that far back in the A’s. I know the first 15 slots are reserved for the Business Select passengers. Maybe this flight had a lot of members of their frequent flier program that award guaranteed A boarding after you log a certain number of flights in a year (I think it’s 16 flights).
They finally started boarding us and we quickly found our seats. Right after we got comfortable we hear people talking about alarms going of and the doors being slammed behind them.
It didn’t take long before we found out what was going on. The captain got on the overhead and told us that the airplane has been locked down due to a security breach in the Denver International Airport. That’s all that he knew and he was trying to get more information.
Enchanted Rose read her e-mail while I twittered the situation. After about 30 minutes the captain informed us that someone had passed through a security checkpoint with an “dis-allowed item” and since he wasn’t apprehended at the checkpoint, they had to lock down all planes and stop all boarding until he was located.
Just as he was finishing his explanation, we were informed that the suspect had been apprehended and that boarding could resume. At this point, we lost about 30 minutes of time.
I tweeted out a status that we were getting to take off just as they were asking me to shut down my iPhone.
The flight to John Wayne (Orange County) Airport was uneventful and I got to work on this trip report and my next article for Celebrations Magazine.
When we finally landed, we ended up only losing 5 minutes from the time were were originally supposed to land. So, it turned out to not be really bad after all.
Enchanted Rose’s sister, Julie, was going to pick us up from the airport along with her husband Jason and their two lovely kids Collin and Regan (our niece and nephew). When Enchanted Rose called to tell her we had landed, they were pretty much at the airport and she and Collin met us at the baggage claim while Jason circled around waiting for us to come out.
The luggage wasn’t the first, but also wasn’t the last but it did make it here. Two years ago when we flew into John Wayne for a Disneyland Vacation (my very first trip report on this blog), our luggage didn’t make it to us.
We didn’t have to wait long for Jason to get to us on one of his laps, we packed the luggage between us and the kids and off we went.
During our Denver layover, Enchanted Rose had asked Julie if it was possible to go to In-N-Out burger. That decision was up to Jason since he was doing the driving. He decided that the traffic wasn’t bad enough to not allow it to happen so he took us to the closest one that my iPhone app, Yelp, told us about.
The line for the drive through was insanely long, but we got our burgers (we got the Cheeseburger meals) and they were tasty. In-N-Out Burger is a tradition for us on our trips to California.
While Jason was looking for the correct on-ramp to 22 West, poor Collin had one of his frequent vomiting spells and managed to not miss his clothes. Fortunately for me, I have a really diminished sense of smell (not it wasn’t from Zicam, but from many many broken noses), but I was told the car not reeked to a nauseating level.
So, before we could get to the Grand Californian, we had to swing by Target to pick up Collin a new outfit.
After navigating our way to Target, getting a new outfit, and getting Collin cleaned up and changed, we were on our way and we weren’t really that far since we were already on Harbor.
We quickly got to the resort hotel and I hopped out and went to the registration desk with a couple of the bags to get us checked in since everything was in my name while Enchanted Rose, Julie and the gang hung outside (didn’t want the kids to get bored).
The check-in process was smooth and as I was finishing up, everyone else joined me. Turns out that since the handicapped parking spaces were out of commission due to the construction for the DVC units there, Jason was able to get free valet parking.
As Enchanted Rose walked up I pointed out the Cast Member behind the desk that she was celebrating her birthday on this trip. The Cast Member said she’d be right back and came back with balloons and a signed picture of Minnie Mouse for her. Then she asked if Regan and Collin would like a balloon. They answered in the affirmative (of course) and it didn’t take long before they scored some magic.
Not long after entering the room, housekeeping asked if they could turn down the room. I saw that they had some “surprises” to put in the room (some towel art and a card which I assumed was signed by some characters). But since Enchanted Rose was in the room,I didn’t want the surprise spoiled so I asked if they could come back in an hour.
We got Collin and Regan fed and then we were off to the parks. I did forget to mention that Julie picked up a case of Dr Pepper for Enchanted Rose since you cannot get that libation anywhere on property. We loaded them into our fridge.
I decided at the last minute that I didn’t want to take my camera bag. Even when it has nothing inside, it’s bulky and the sheer size gets in the way of many of the attractions here. Since Enchanted Rose decided that she didn’t need anything with her in the park, I decided to confiscate her backpack that we got from MEI-Mouse Fan Travel during MouseFest 2008 and use it instead. I put my tripod in it’s carry pack and put my Nikkor 50/1.8, flash unit, and other accessories needed into the MEI bag. It really kept things more manageable.
I had sent everyone ahead of me. Jason had left with Collin much earlier to go to Guest Relations because he needs to get his “Green light Pass” renewed every time he comes to the park.
I had taken awhile and apparently, Enchanted Rose didn’t have her room key so she was calling me from the entrance into DCA from the Grand Californian asking where I was cause they wouldn’t let her into the park without her room key.
I met up with them and we were the only people there. Everyone went ahead of me because I knew I was going to need to get my backpack off and opened for bag check. As I was walking up trying to take my bag off, the security CM barked at me that I needed to have my bag open before getting into line. I looked around for a line, but I didn’t see one. But, I’ve learned before, just take things in stride.
Then it was off to Midway Mania Toy Story Spin. We go into the attraction through a different entrance due to Collin’s pass so we had to wait a bit (but not as long as the regular line) for a wheelchair accessible car to become available. Jason rode with Collin, I rode with Julie, and Enchanted Rose rode with Regan. We had some difficulty because the Cast Member who put on the straps to keep Collin’s chair from rolling didn’t do it right so they had to stop and attempt to do it again. After a few moments, Jason basically told them where everything needed to go on their own attraction to get him safely strapped in. Jason was quickly told that isn’t how they normally do it, but he replied that is how they do it every time they’ve come before and they are here about every week. He later told me that the thing that frustrates him the most is when a Cast Member tells him that they “don’t do something” when he knows that it has been done on multiple occasions in the past. Collin comes to Disneyland so much that many cast members know him by name.
After Toy Story we realized that we forgot our traditional ice cream from Catch A Flav, but at this point, it was getting dark and we already knew we were under-dressed and I didn’t want to be colder than I knew I was going to be.
Julie asked what we wanted to do next, and Regan responded, “Horsies”, which meant King Triton’s Carousel. I tried my best to get some pictures, but the lighting was killing me. Plus, I was having some issues with the Nikon D300, or what I perceived as problems. So, I was texting my friend Craig (a loyal member of the forums at The Magic in Pixels and Nikon D300 owner) asking for help. He quickly determined that what I thought was a problem was normal. He also walked me through some settings changes, via text messaging, to help make things a bit better for me.
We continued to walk the along the Boardwalk. At this point, Jason and Collin went on Mulholland Spin and Enchanted Rose and Regan went on the Jumping Jellyfish (I think that’s the name of the attraction). Julie showed me how going up the exit gave us a great spot to snag a photo of Jason and Collin as they were finishing up. Then we ran over to where Enchanted Rose and Regan were. We were able to get right in front of them to try and take some pictures.
After the kids got a round of rides in that they enjoy separately, we headed to the Golden Zephyrs for a fast spin around and around. I really don’t like rides that spin, but I cannot really get pictures from the ground. So, I sit in the back and hope I don’t hurl.
From here, I got some great views of the new Wonderful World of Color that they are working on as a light and water show.
From here, we made our way to A Bug’s Land. The first place we stopped off at was to visit Heimlich, but he wasn’t feeling well, so we kept walking. The next stop was Francis’ Lady Bug Boogie (but he’s no Lady). It’s like the Mad Hatter Tea Cups but the vehicles look like Francis the Lady Bug.
Afterwards, we headed over to the ride where you look like you are spinning around in cartons. I cannot remember the name, but we found it fascinating that one of the cartons was Chinese food takeout and we made sure to get some pics of that.
We decided it was time to head out of A Bug’s Land. I don’t think we really knew where we were going from here. What we did know is that Jason and Collin decided to hold our places for the Electrical Light Parade.
While we decided what to do, we parked our but on some chairs inside the “land”. At this point, Julie got a call from Jason requesting that we head to where he was because he was having some “issues” with other park guests.
So, we headed in his direction. I took a few pictures on the way (of course).
When we got there Jason was noticeable frustrated. Apparently, Jason had secured enough space for 3 adults and 2 kids (one kid in a nicely sized wheelchair that had been there the whole time). Next to him were some other park guests who were also trying to hold space for an even larger group. Every time Jason turned his back to them, they’d not-so-subtly try to take some of his space for their own by moving their stuff into our space and pushing our stuff out of the way. He’s move his stuff back and words would get exchanged.
By the time we got there, the words were loud with the other guests being very loud while Jason stayed rational with them (I think that upset them even more). The funny thing is that the kids and Enchanted Rose were talking to park security where this was happening. They were telling the kids why it was important to always know where mommy and daddy where. They never really noticed the situation that was going on to their right.
As I was setting up my tripod so I could video the parade (my shoulders just get tired trying to hand-hold through the whole thing), Jason decided to go get a few more rides in with Collin since the rest of us were now.
Now, they decide to start giving Julie grief. Now Julie is used to getting grief from people because she comes to Disneyland at least once if not twice a week with Collin and Regan. She’s also the queen of dealing with these people with a smile and a tone in her voice that would make Walt want to hire her on the spot. No matter how nasty these people talked to her, she would stand her ground but do it in a way that was very polite. I swear she could insult you and make it sound like she was complimenting you.
During a 30 minute period while this was going on, Enchanted Rose and Regan headed over to the Bakery to get some food. Fifteen minutes into it, I got a text to come get Regan because she was tired of standing in line. I told Enchanted Rose I wasn’t leaving Julie there to deal with holding our space by herself and I didn’t want her to feel responsible for the camera equipment. Plus, she only have 15 more minutes until the parade started.
Enchanted Rose and Regan got back in time empty handed. She said the line was just too long. I told her that we could try and get a chowder bowl at New Orleans Square after the parade.
The parade finally started and as I was afraid, while we had great “seats” for viewing, it was a tad too close for video or photography. I did my best and hopefully the pictures look good on the monitor at home.
The one frustrating thing was that we were positioned near the “crosswalk” across the parade route. So every time there was even the slightest break between floats, large throngs of people were crossing and blocking my shot…ha-ha
After the parade was over, it was time to see Jason, Julie and the kids off. We were freezing at this point so we were going back to the hotel anyway to get our coats (glad we brought these for the flight). We needed to go with them anyway to make sure they could get back through the hotel to their car.
After saying our goodbyes and getting our coats, we decided to head over to Disneyland. That park was still open for a couple more hours.
As expected,there were a great number of people leaving after their fireworks. We experienced this during our June 2006 trip to Disneyland. What we didn’t experience was this volume of exodus. It was so thick that we felt like salmon swimming up stream to spawn in our attempt to get to New Orleans Square for chowder bowls.
They had so much space roped off for Fantasmic! that we had to walk to Haunted Mansion and then double back in order to get to the Quick Service Establishment
The line for the food was long as well. I waited for awhile while Enchanted Rose did a bit of window shopping. Our friend Trace (from the podcast The Disney Dudes) had asked us to keep an eye out for some special Haunted Mansion Pin Merchandise and she was looking for it. She didn’t find it and came back right before I got to the front of the line.
I decided that I didn’t want to deal with the creamy goodness of the chowder bowl and realized I never tried the steak gumbo. So, Enchanted Rose got the chowder and I got the steak gumbo. That plus a bottle of water was over $22!
We took our boxes of food and walked to the eating establishment next door, which was closed, but had a ton of outdoor seating. We got to enjoy our food while listening to Fantasmic!
After eating the soup and bowl we decided it was time to try and get on Haunted Mansion before Fantasmic ended and the crowds returned. As we were standing in the very short line for Haunted we got to see how Disneyland handled the fact that the new dragon feature of Fantasmic was still not working. They basically put Maleficent at the top of the “pillar” that would rise up and housed the head of the old dragon.
We quickly were able to get into the stretching room of the Haunted Mansion, but while we were walking in we saw a really bad case of “Bad show” as a cast member seriously came out of character when she saw someone she knew in the line.
We really like the Haunted Mansion and it was down during our January trip to remove the Christmas overlay. So, it was nice to make sure it was accomplished this time. I also like how they have the changing portraits where we walk instead of where the doom buggies are.
After we got off of Haunted Mansion, Enchanted Rose decided that she’d like to ride Alice and Wonderland. Lisa Farry (from Those Darn Cats) wrote on Enchanted Rose’s facebook wall that she would like us to ride it at night for her. Since we had never done that, this seemed like the right time to do it. There was still an hour left before the park closed so we thought, “What the heck”.
We made a few wrong turns trying to get from New Orleans Square to Fantasyland as we kept trying to go the Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom way to get from place to place.
When we got to Alice in Wonderland, the line was kinda long. So we decided that we’d enjoy this attraction and then call it a night. By this point, both of us had really bad cases of sciatica attacking us. We eventually got to the front of the line and got to enjoy a trip down the rabbit hole.
On the way out of the park, we had to stop at the Disneyana store and saw a few items we’d love to have if money was no object.
Then, after leaving the park, Enchanted Rose had to swing by the World of Disney to see what kids clothes were there. Now that the potential for parenthood is 1-4 years away, we start to think about things like kids clothing.
After some very quick window shopping, the energy level quickly went to nil. We very quickly got back to the room. Just to tell you how tired I was (it was about 3AM back home) I didn’t want to work on my trip report.
I set up the computer to pull the pictures off my CF card and started getting ready for bed. I’m loving the new card reader I got before the trip that was compatible with my faster card because it pulled 600 files off real quick (I decided to shoot both JPG and RAW this trip).
I shut the computer down, crawled into bed and crashed hard. That is how day 1 ended. Day 2 is going to be a day without any family members and we figure we’ll go to Disneyland and see what we can get done.