Monday, April 13, 2009

Disney Devil or Diva?

©2009 by LeeZard

I thought I’d done Disneyland – twice, in fact. That was until I flew through the Magic Kingdom via the pixie dust of my very own Tinkerbell. That would be Wende, The World’s Best GirlFriend (TWBGF!). LeeZard will never view “The Happiest Place on Earth” the same again.

Wende was born in the Bay Area but lived for many years in Southern California. Over that time she began to channel Peter Pan’s little gal pal and made Disneyland her own fiefdom. Even today, living hundreds of miles to the north, Tink (as I now know her) maintains an annual pass and manages more than a few visits a year. Last week was LeeZard’s first fly-through with Tink. Let’s call it “Extreme Disneyland.” Ladies & gentlemen, fasten your seatbelts!

Not that it was bad; au contraire, it was AMAZING. LeeZard didn’t know that he should have gone into training weeks before the journey. Along with Tink’s nine-year-old daughter Sarah (our self-proclaimed Minnie), we blazed through Disneyland and the adjacent Disney’s California Adventure with both purpose and abandon. It started with the “Four Mountain Morning.”

“What,” you may ask, “is a Four Mountain Morning?” It is a cherished Tink & Minnie tradition, a Disney sprint riding the four BIG ones – Splash Mountain, Thunder Mountain, Space Mountain and The Matterhorn – before noon. Sound simple? It is, if you have legs of steel (each “mountain” is as far away from the others as the Disney Imagineers could get them), the patience of job and the determination of Bernie Madoff signing Fonzie for the Ponzi.

Here’s the thing; it takes timing and a bit of luck. First, you have to help the Disney “cast,” open the park. That is to say you have to be one of the first, if not THE first “guest” through the gates at 8am. We were staggeringly late, entering at 8:01 PDT. Not to worry; the pixie dust took over and before you could say, “Bibbedy Bobbedy Boo,” we were in the very short line for Splash Mountain.

Ah, the lines at Disneyland. They are legendary and often long and this is where the luck and patience come in. By starting out first thing in the morning you beat the crowds to the first and, if you’re LUCKY, the second mountain. This being spring break and a typically beautiful Southern California day the crowds began building by the time we left Splash Mountain. We were thoroughly splashed I might add. Yup, it’s fun and it lives up to the warning sign: “You will definitely get wet and perhaps get soaked.” LeeZard got a healthy dose of both.

Next stop was Thunder Mountain, the roller coaster ride through a Frontierland
gold mining operation. We had a 20-minute wait. Still, not too bad. If you’re a big roller coaster fan, though, Thunder Mountain is lowercase ‘t’ and ‘m’ but it is a requirement to achieve your Four Mountain goal.

By now, the crowds and the lines were growing to spring break proportions.
As we approached The Matterhorn in Fantasyland, I could see a line snaking around the edges of the faux mountain. I held our place while Tink and Minnie explored Alice in Wonderland; in Tink’s world, every minute at Disneyland counts.

The Disney marketeers call The Matterhorn a “bobsled-type rollercoaster.” For those of you old enough to remember the real Bobsled at Brooklyn’s Coney Island, it is a misnomer. In its day, Coney’s Bobsled was billed as the fastest roller coaster in the world and it was a brain-rattling rush. When I expressed mild disappointment to Tink about Disney’s coasters, she reminded me the goal is to thrill and entertain the entire family, not just the adrenaline junkies.

Finally, Space Mountain our luck had run out; there was a one-hour wait. Tink says Space Mountain is her favorite of the four and I can see why. It is a rocket ride through the darkness of space and the effects are well, Disney-like. After the ride and after my eyes readjusted to sunlight, I checked the time: 11:35am PDT. I was officially a member of the Four Mountain Morning Club! And, my dogs were barkin’. It was time for the first rest-break of the day.

Our “break” was the first shopping stop of the day. Disneyland is peppered with shops; some of them targeted to nearby attractions and others giant emporia for everything under the Disney sun. LeeZard collects baseball caps, favoring simple designs and found an appropriate Grumpy hat. LeeZard also discovered pin collecting and trading. Who knew? Tink knew. She also knew to ask them if they had any specials for season passers. Of course they did!

I needed to outfit myself for my new Disney alter ego, who else but – hyuk – Goofy! Not only did I find the perfect Goofy shirt but I found myself sucked into the pin-trading thing wildly searching for anything Goofy. “Got Goofy?” became my opening salvo to anyone with a pin lanyard around his or her neck.

We finally stopped for lunch at a cafĂ© that you wouldn’t notice unless you knew it was there (or if you were traveling on pixie dust). Tink explained the afternoon plan. We were heading for Disney’s California Adventure across the plaza from Disneyland for two or three key rides. “There’s not much over there,” opined Tink. “Why go to a California adventure when you’re already in California?” Good question.

But, there are at least two great rides there, including the only real roller coaster on the block, California Screamin.” Yeee Ha!!!! LeeZard has always had a little queasiness about any ride that turns him upside down. Screamin’ changed all that. Bring it on!

In the shank of the afternoon, the lines were long, even at the more lightly populated DCA. We finally meandered back to Disneyland by early evening and, by now LeeZard was beginning to feel his age – and everyone else’s as well. I was encouraged by the fact that Tink was moving more slowly. Even though it was already an amazing day I found myself yearning for the parking lot, a soft seat heading for a hotel bed. It was not to be.

“Let’s see,” said Tink as she inhaled her second wind, “what time are the fireworks?” She explained that the fireworks show, aside from being spectacular, is the final event for most families – and other normal people. “That allows us to hit some of the most popular attractions afterwards with no waiting." I knew then I was doomed to close the joint at 11 p.m. C’est la Disneyland avec Tinkerbell.

Finally, after the fireworks, after Pirates of the Caribbean and Jungle Cruise and after still one more shopping jaunt, we were done. LeeZard was done in.

Was it worth it? You betcha. Will LeeZard fly with Tink and Minnie again? You bet I will but only after three weeks of intensive physical training and several sessions with a sports psychologist.