A funny thing happened to us during our first day at Disneyland, sometime between meeting all the Princesses and leaving to enjoy the crazy party at Medieval Times. My Aunt Mary posted a picture of her and her friends… enjoying themselves at Disneyland!

So I texted Mom. What’s Mary’s number? She got it for me.

Then I called Mary. “Is this Mary?”

“Yes?”

“Mary So-and-So?”

“Yes?”

“Mary So-and-So from Cityville in Iowa?”

“WHO IS THIS?”

“Oh, it’s Nomad. You know: your sister’s kid?”

After that the conversation went swimmingly. Turned out she was in town for the Rose Bowl parade in Pasadena on New Year’s Day. We let her know we’d be at Disneyland all day, and we should meet up at Citywalk for dinner when she got back.

Flash forward to today.

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January 1: Still “Christmastime” by Southern California Theme Park Rules.

The kids were pretty wiped out from the events of the day before, and being up all night partying. The adults weren’t too far behind them, so we slept in a little, then headed back to Disneyland for round 2 with the Mouse.

The park won round 2 pretty handily: we missed out on RV parking in the park, and got directed to their overflow lot. First point: Disneyland has like, 1,000,000 parking spaces in the park. If you get directed to the overflow lot… it’s going to be a crowded, suck day. Second point (and I did not realize this until today): the overflow lot is literally a mile away. D’oh. Fortunately, there’s trams here too, even if they don’t run quite as often as the trams to the main parking lots.

Nevertheless, every day at Disneyland’s a good day. We went in and set out for seeing the cool stuff, and we started at Tomorrowland. Got a Fast Pass for Star Tours, then went to see the other rides. We rode the Finding Nemo submarines and that was an interesting experience. For those of us who remember the original submarine rides, they haven’t changed much, except adding a bunch of Nemo references. They also added digital displays — basically they worked out how to show animated sequences in gaps in the coral — to add the Nemo characters interacting with each other.

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Then we split up, sending Mom and Arwen to meet with Tinkerbell while the boys waited for Space Mountain. I hung out between the two groups so I could coordinate both their activities, but that didn’t work. The boys came back after 20 minutes saying the line was too long.

“TOO LONG?!” I shouted in disbelief. “There’s no such thing as TOO LONG at Disneyland! And while I may have been exaggerating pretty heavily right there, in this case, I was justified. The line at the time was only 45 minutes. They had abandoned it halfway through, and would have to wait again for it. Ugh.

I took them in tow and went back into the line, but it was too late. The “You think THIS line is too long?” gods struck, and Space Mountain suffered a mechanical breakdown. Now we had waited 40 minutes, and there was no more line… or ride. I explained to the boys how they could have ridden it before it broke down if they’d waited, but oh well.

Arwen and Mom weren’t back from Tink yet (she had quite a line too), so I put the boys in line for a new Star Wars movie that was playing where Captain Eo and Honey I Shrunk the Kids used to play (it’s a theater between Star Tours and Space Mountain, next to the Starcade). But just as the film was getting ready to start, Mom texted, saying that they were back from Tinkerbell, and Arwen wanted to see the movie too.

Mom and I had difficulty communicating our relative positions, and as a result, I didn’t get Arwen until after the show had started, and Disney doesn’t allow late admission. So I missed Space Mountain and the Star Wars movie, but at least the boys saw that one. In the meantime, Mom had started to feel really awful, and needed help getting Baby-Kai’s stroller onto the tram so she and he could go back to the RV for a nap.

I wistfully looked at the about-to-become-active FastPass tickets for Star Tours, and then took Arwen, Mom and Baby-Kai in tow as we headed back to the entrance, entreating the boys to actually STAND in the line and ride it for us.

Stephen, Jake and Damian rode Star Tours, and then went into the Star Wars experience — an interactive exhibit of Star Wars movie props, character interactions, and other various activities while I was riding with Mom the mile or so back to the tram stop so she could rest.

NOMAD NOTE: For other nomads heading to Disneyland. When Mom went back (to an overflow lot a mile from Disneyland) to take a nap in the RV, she got accosted by a Disney security guard who told her she wasn’t allowed to sleep on the lot. “I HAVE A 5 MONTH OLD BABY” was all she needed for the guard to realize he was a jackass and back off. But be warned. Don’t run your generators on the lot or they’ll give you crap.

Arwen and I headed back, and I took her directly to the one place in the park I wanted her to see: Big Thunder Ranch. This was important, because we’d missed the San Diego Zoo, and I’d promised her animals. Little did I know, but because a new Star Wars Land is coming to Disneyland, we were in the ranch during the very last week of its existence.

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There are petitions to move it (or at the very least, it’s very popular BBQ restaurant) to California Adventures, and I hope they do that. It’s been an institution at the park, tucked away in a quiet corner that will — it seems — be very not-quiet in the near future. Disneyland is losing a precious resource by taking this away, and here’s proof: Arwen and I spent an hour at the Ranch. We didn’t stand in line. We didn’t ride rides. We didn’t shop. We didn’t do anything except pet goats and sheep, and Arwen got to share what she knows about goats with little kids from all over the world. Every child there fell in love with the gentle animals in their petting zoo, and in a year, all that will remain will be jawas and bantha tracks.

Then, because she’d never ridden one before, I took her on the Big Thunder Railroad rollercoaster. She loved it! She’s going to be a holy terror when she gets older!

The boys waited in line for the Matterhorn, except for Jake, who had decided that all forms of motion were awful, and so he sat on a bench and waited for everyone to finish their rides. We met up and decided there was only enought time for one more ride before having to meet up with Aunt Mary, and so the boys rushed off for Indiana Jones, and Arwen and I rode the Jungle Cruise. Then we reluctantly said goodbye to Disneyland again, and headed out to meet up with Mom and then come back to Citywalk.

The street mall was packed, and the restaurants full. We put in reservations at every restaurant in the hopes that one of them would open up. I suspect lots of people do that. Then we wandered to the far end of the walk and found my Aunt Mary, looking exactly like she had when I’d last seen her over a decade past.

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We ate at Tortilla Jo’s, and I let the boys order whatever they wanted. “Taco,” one shouted. “Burrito,” called another. Stephen said, “I’d like the nacho plate, please.” Poor, poor kid. They brought him a massive dinner plate piled high with chips, cheese, meat, beans, sour cream, guacamole, olives, and it was enormous. The look on his face when he realized what he had ordered made the entire dinner worth it.

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Melissa and I chatted with Aunt Mary for what seemed like hours. It was so nice to see her again, catch up, talk about family and friends, and look into how we could avoid making our visits so infrequent. Once again, time spent with family and friends turned out to be a high point of the trip.

Arwen and Kai were done by the time we got to the end of dinner. We could have stayed in the park another two hours, but there were too many “no” votes, and so for the first time in my life I spent two days at Disneyland without riding a single ride that I wanted to ride. Yay, fatherhood.

There was one day left in the epic part of our epic California Road Trip: Universal Studios. We went back to the RV park, and went to bed laden down with souvenirs, memories, and chips and salsa. You could already feel the burden of the 1000 mile distance between us and our home starting to press in.


This post is Baby-Kai approved!

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