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Old 07-05-2012, 12:35 AM   #1
Merida
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The Bear and the Bow: On a Carousel of Color

Finally decided to write up a new intro!! Hooray!

Hey everyone! I’m Merida and about two months ago, my boyfriend Bear and I loaded up our little Kia and drove from our (present) home in Colorado to Disneyland.

This was our first time in SoCal (we’ve been to San Fran for work related things) and was a rather last minute trip. We (I) were planning a big trip for December to celebrate getting our Masters’ and a last West Coast hurrah before moving to Orlando (crossing fingers that everything goes well). But with some truly intricate Excel spreadsheet shenanigans, I stretched the vacation budget to cover Annual Passes and an ‘exploratory’ May trip, to see if we enjoyed driving out to Anaheim.

You know, because you should always test drive your vacation before actually taking your vacation.

Anyway, we were on the road from May 14th through May 18th, which includes 2 stops in Vegas.

Thanks for reading!
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Old 07-05-2012, 12:36 AM   #2
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Old 07-05-2012, 12:37 AM   #3
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We set off that morning bright and early, after one last check of our cats and hedgehog. During our December trip, they all had been boarded at the vet’s; this time, they’d be staying at home with the petsitter. Not that Nelson, our hedgehog, would notice any difference!


We took probably the most boring, least creative route possible out of Colorado. Not that I know what roads we were on; Bear hasn’t trusted me with navigating since I got us lost trying to find the way to the science museum from the Denver Zoo.


This is easier for both of us, because now Bear doesn’t have to decipher my directions and I can get all the sleep I need. And every so often I wake up and we’ve teleported to the next rest stop, which is just a brilliant way to travel.


I mentioned before that we drove to Florida in December – that drive is grueling and awful and boring. In comparison, the drive to SoCal is practically overstimulating. There are landscapes that aren’t the prairie! There’s convection! Other people around! Lots of dinosaur-themed tourist traps! And – most importantly – there’s lots of variations in the scenery. The Midwest all blends together, but the West


Eventually we got to Utah! We passed through a rain shower – a good five minute’s worth of rain – that was probably the only rainfall to hit that part of Utah all year.


The worst part of Utah is that all of the gas stations are in old tourist towns. The ones that Radiator Springs are based of, that had their entirely economy fall apart when people started driving on freeways and such. These towns are sad and creepy and depressing; the gas stations are always at the end of town so you have to drive all the way through, trying not to stare at the dilapidated buildings.

In one such town, Bear (and I) got so distracted that he drove over the curb getting out of the gas station. Of course, it’s hard to check out any possible damage to your car on the interstate, so we pulled over at the next scenic stop.


There are more view areas than run-down towns, if that’s even possible. Practically every rock formation – which, contrary to how it seems, I did not photograph – has one.


We pulled over at Black Dragon Canyon. Bear spent half the time checking over the car (it was fine) and the other half yelling for me to stay back from the edge or I’d break my neck (I was fine, too). Sometimes he worries too much.


The rest of our Utah drive went smoothly; I plowed through Megan Whalen Turner’s Attolia books to keep me from being too distracting. Our goal for the first night was Las Vegas with a short detour to a Utahan In’n’Out (in St. George, I think). This side trip turned out to be completely unnecessary as there are In’n’Outs every five feet (approximately) in Las Vegas.


We had booked a standard room at the Luxor, figuring we didn’t need anything fancy for one night. But the desk lady was so nice and we were so grumpy from the Vegas heat, that Bear agreed to the offered room upgrade. Now we were high rollers staying at the very tip-top of the Luxor pyramid (okay, maybe a few floors down).

The room was very nice, with excellent views of the Mandalay Bay, but I wouldn’t stay at the Luxor again. It’s supposed to be Ancient Egyptian theme (thus the pyramid shape and the name ‘Luxor’) but it’s less Ancient Egypt and more Mummies in the Morning (and not even the companion non-fiction book).

But the Jacuzzi tub was excellent and I only got yelled at by a security guard once (pro tip: you aren’t allowed to take pictures of the check in desk. I’m guessing they thought I was planning an elaborate heist. Or finding ways to snooker the house? The sum total of my gambling experience comes from watching the Oceans movies and my stats books).

Bear came and rescued me from the scary security lady and we were soon zooming out of Las Vegas, out of Nevada, out of Arizona. I had badgered Bear into adding a detour through Mojave Desert into our travel plans and we were coming up on that exit. Bear solemnly handed me a map, made me swear I wouldn’t get us lost in the desert, and cautiously pulled out into the Mojave Desert National Park.

Within ten minutes, he’d snatched the map back, sure I’d directed us down the wrong road (nope, and it’s not like there’s a lot of ways to make mistakes! There’s just not that many people travelling Mojave at 8:30 in the morning).


We drove past grove after grove of Joshua trees; over red roads and grey roads; narrowly avoiding road runners and rabbits.


The cinder cones are the best part of the drive; there are WAY too many Joshua trees (not very desert-y, in my opinion) and the groves go on forever. The cinder cones, in comparison, occupy a relatively small part of the park and are scarce enough that you don’t get overwhelmed with the sheer number of them. Also, volcanoes are more interesting than trees in pretty much every respect.


After we pulled out of Mojave, I took another nap and woke up as we were pulling into Brea.


Brea is an absolutely adorable little town, made all the better because Farrell’s is there. I love Farrell’s. We both love Farrell’s. So much good food and the caramel sauce is out-of-this-world. I’m pretty sure Bear would agree to another trip to Southern California just to visit Farrell’s again.

But all good things must come to an end and eventually we were staring at a bowl empty of any caramel sauce. It was time to get to Disneyland!
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Old 07-05-2012, 11:40 AM   #4
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Hooray! It's awesome to see these pictures... the farthest west I've ever been is Arizona, and I flew there so I saw none of this stuff. It's beautiful. Can't wait to hear about Disneyland!
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Old 07-06-2012, 02:17 AM   #5
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Loving your TR! Can't wait to read more!
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Old 07-08-2012, 09:26 AM   #6
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I'm here! Great start! I love seeing all the pictures from the West! I've been to California before, but I flew there so I didn't get to see all of that beautiful scenery! New England is beautiful, but there is just something about the western part of the US, it's like another country, it's just so amazing!

Can't wait to hear about Disneyland!!!
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Old 07-08-2012, 09:40 AM   #7
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Loving the report so far! Grew up in the west but have never driven through this part of the country.
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Old 07-08-2012, 05:06 PM   #8
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From Farrell’s, we headed directly to Anaheim. Our first night would be at a Good Neighbor hotel and we were moving to the Disneyland Hotel on our second day.

The whole check-in process went smoothly and I was soon dragging Bear down towards Disneyland. It was maybe 3 in the afternoon, much, much later than we ever got to the parks in Anaheim. And we still had to change our AP vouchers for actual APs.


We decided to forgo switching out for the real APs – we were too close to Disneyland! So we swiped through the turnstiles, getting the cheap-o paper tickets.


This was pretty much ‘extra time’ that we hadn’t previously accounted for in our planning. Neither of us could come up with a reasonable estimate on when we’d get in, how we’d feel, how terrible traffic and crowds would be. So to get in early, have moderate crowds around, and Fastpasses available (for use at any time!!) was more than we could have expected.


I’d badgered Bear to coming up with a priority list; I had pictured being completely overwhelmed in the different park and completely wasting our available park time. Of course, once we were inside the resort, all of the in-park touring plans were neglected in favor of food plans, but at least we were prepared!

Anyway, the Nemo subs topped Bear’s list of must-do rides; it was decided that this would be our official, very first ever Disneyland ride simply because the line was (relatively for Nemo) short.

But as a back-up, we grabbed Space Mountain Fastpasses, which was an experience in its own sake. The queue area is so different (by which I mean ugly) from Magic Kingdom’s and the entrance area is not as well marked (we eventually ended up going in through the exit. RULE BREAKERS), and it’s confusing getting FPs in Disneyland. It’s a slightly different process than in Orlando and we are too cool to read directions. So we stood there, looking ridiculous as we shoved the fake APs over and over.

But perseverance (and finally following the pictures) paid off and we headed off to Nemo, our first Disneyland Fastpasses in hand.


The Nemo queue is excruciatingly boring (like all of Disneyland’s queues) but (unlike most Disneyland queues) there are views of the lagoon and of Jedi Academy.

This was the first time we’d ever seen the show (we don’t watch very many shows) and it was completely adorable. I wouldn’t jump through hoops to get (my nonexistent) children to participate but watching the kids was great fun. Especially when they deviate from the normal routine and then Darth Vader has to ‘force push’ them back in line.


The lagoon was probably the first part of Disneyland that I fell in love with; Tomorrowland is not that exciting and we didn’t stay on Main Street very long. But the lagoon is perfect with the yellow submarines and the Matterhorn and the shade. It practically glitters, the colors are so vibrant.

The seagulls were down for refurbishments when we were there and I can’t wait to go back and see them in December.


And the monorail goes overhead! A perfect accessory for any queue.


I love Darla and her neon pink scuba mask thing. Perfect


I logically understand criticism of the subs and reasons to potentially remove them, but I irrationally am very upset that anyone would want them gone. First, the entire ride ‘housing’ is one of the most beautiful in the park. And you go in a submarine. The subs are such a great twist on the dark ride that incorporates new technologies; I would definitely choose the subs over the new Ariel ride, for example. There’s just not much creativity in the Ariel ride, it’s a dark ride done using the exact same plan as all the other dark rides.

After disembarking from the submarine, we headed over to Space Mountain to redeem our Fastpasses; we picked up another set on the way back out to Main Street. We had a bunch of administrative things to take care of – ice water from the Coca-Cola corner, changing out our APs, figuring out park hopping.


But when we finally made it out of the maze of walls, it was all worth it. I love Disney California’s ‘entrance’ – right into Condor Flats with a tantalizing hint of Grizzly Peak.


I love pretty much every part of DCA (I still haven’t seen Buena Vista Street fully redone and Carsland). It’s just so lovely and different and lush (at least Grizzly Peak area. I mostly love Grizzly Peak the best and everything else is just icing on the cake).


We went directly to Toy Story Mania; we had completely and utterly failed at anything involving Toy Story Mania in our recent MGM visit. TSMM West had only a 30 minute wait posted (only! And people were complaining about it!!) that went lickety-split.


I was pleasantly surprised by Toy Story; I knew the basic idea of the ride and what would happen. We are big fans of Astro Blaster (even though I always lose wretchedly to Bear) and this was a plussed version of Astro Blasters that I could (theoretically) do well! I wish they’d add a version to Disney Quest (the ride vehicle wasn’t the important part after all, I just like smashing plates).


My opinion was definitely flavored by our wait – it was calm and easy and there was no pushing anywhere. Toy Story Mania could’ve been the next Snow White’s Scary Adventures and we would have left pleased and content with the time and effort invested in the excursion.

Bear won, as expected, but we agreed to have a rematch soon.
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Old 07-08-2012, 07:45 PM   #9
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Wow... that lagoon is beautiful! And the monorail goes OVER the park like at Epcot? That's incredible. It's so cool to see these pictures, especially of Disneyland, because it's the same but so different. I'm loving this.

Those people will do more than complain if they ever try to ride TSMM in Florida.
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Old 07-08-2012, 09:42 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by marDgreen88 View Post
Hooray! It's awesome to see these pictures... the farthest west I've ever been is Arizona, and I flew there so I saw none of this stuff. It's beautiful. Can't wait to hear about Disneyland!
I wish we would fly more! Driving everywhere gets kind of boring but you do get much better food. We were looking at flights for our December trip and then realized that we wouldn't be able to hit up Farrell's, In'n'Out, or Black Bear Diner (this amazing diner in Utah) and it was just NOPE. Vacation is about food!

Quote:
Originally Posted by DisneytheKid View Post
Loving your TR! Can't wait to read more!
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nermel9 View Post
I'm here! Great start! I love seeing all the pictures from the West! I've been to California before, but I flew there so I didn't get to see all of that beautiful scenery! New England is beautiful, but there is just something about the western part of the US, it's like another country, it's just so amazing!

Can't wait to hear about Disneyland!!!
It is so great. You wouldn't think it would be interesting for a day and a half because it is literally a bunch of rocks, but all the rocks are different! And there's cool animals everywhere. We played Zitch Animal and Bear obliterated me, because he saw all these prairie dogs, road runners, rabbits, and snakes. I really wanted to do the Grand Canyon or the giant sequoias but we couldn't figure out a good route. Seriously, national parks are EVERYWHERE out here and for very good reason!!

Quote:
Originally Posted by limace View Post
Loving the report so far! Grew up in the west but have never driven through this part of the country.
Aw, thanks! I'm really bad at intros and the beginnings, I feel, but I think it gets better as I go on (though let's be real, probably not! ).

I totally recommend road trips from the midwest to the west coast. Definitely not from the midwest to the east coast - crossing the Great Plains is so boring! With our planned move back East, we're trying to squish all this sightseeing in now because it's so different and spectacular. Also, the traffic's better!
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Old 07-08-2012, 10:25 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by marDgreen88 View Post
Wow... that lagoon is beautiful! And the monorail goes OVER the park like at Epcot? That's incredible. It's so cool to see these pictures, especially of Disneyland, because it's the same but so different. I'm loving this.

Those people will do more than complain if they ever try to ride TSMM in Florida.
Yes! I love that lagoon; there's usually the Nemo seagulls like at The Seas in Epcot which I think is really fun!

The monorail goes from Tomorrowland, over the middle esplanade, through parts of California Adventure, and then to Downtown Disney. I LOVE the monorails out there, they're so colorful and friendly.

Haha, I will probably do more than complain when I have to do the Orlando TSMM! I'm glad we got the Wii version because I am dreading the Dash after having experienced this TSMM.
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