Disneyland (for Free!) on my Birthday
The Hotel Palomar is about four blocks from I-405. It took between 20 and 30 minutes to reach the freeway. Once on it, traffic moved, and I offered up a prayer to the traffic gods as I noticed the Northbound lanes standing still. It wasn't a bad drive after that point and Disneyland was easy enough to find. I followed signs to parking and received a call from my friend Lea as I pulled up to the window to pay. Once the car was safely tucked away in the Simba lot, I headed toward Downtown Disney. It was different than I'd imagined, though not surprisingly so. Lots and lots of shops outside the parks proper, as well as hotels. I waited in line, showed my birthday e-mail (note: in 2009, Disney ran a promo where you got into one park for free on your birthday) and ID and was given a button I considered stowing in my purse. I walked toward the spot where Lea had told me she was waiting, and after another phone call we found each other. We headed into Disneyland.
Our first stop was to get something to eat in Downtown Disney. When I told Lea about the button, she told me to put it on, that people would wish you a happy birthday all day long. And they did, starting with the chef who greeted us. I ordered a yummy turkey sandwich and a pirate punch with a light-up Tinkerbelle attached. I noticed the Mickey shaped confetti that a girl by our table was sweeping up; we asked her about it. She said it comes from the parade, every night (and it glows in the dark) and every morning. Lea noted that that would suck. The girl was noncommittal, as I'm sure the Disney employee handbook disallows you to admit that any job in the park sucks. We finished lunch (Lea treated me), and then headed for Adventureland.
Lea was a great guide - she suggested we stop by the Indiana Jones Adventure to get fast passes for later, then go on to Pirates. So we stopped by Indy - and the ride was out of order. On to Pirates. The wait wasn't bad for almost every ride. Pirates was fun. Pretty much what I expected, but fun. We passed the wench bride sale just before the chants of, "We want the redhead!" After Pirates, the Haunted Mansion was next. Lea said it was kind of dated, but I thought it was fun - possibly because I had little expectation and fond memories of the cheesy haunted house at Funland at Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Next was Thunder Mountain in Frontierland. It was fun to go on a rollercoaster type ride after the classic ones. We stopped by and got tickets from the back-in-order Indiana Jones Adventure. To kill time, we did the jungle cruise - Lea described the appeal as really bad jokes (which was spot-on) - and the riverboat around Tom Sawyer's Island.
The time for our Indy fastpasses was soon approaching, so we headed over there. It was definitely worth it, whizzing past the long line. The ride was fun, if bumpy - I felt like my neck might need a readjustment after. Instead, we met up with some of Lea's friends at the ice cream parlor in Downtown Disney. After we'd finished gabbing and eating and said our goodbyes, we headed over to the 30-minute line for Space Mountain. As we got to the front of the line, we got near enough to hear the people clap and cheer as the cars came out of the tunnel at the end of the ride. I was excited. Maybe it's just my current Star Trek fixation, but I knew I was going to like this ride.
And I did. Totally my favorite. Though I guess I knew it, Disney doesn't have many rides that get the adrenaline going. This was one. No loops or anything, but a rollercoaster in the dark, flying past stars, with fun, cheesy sci-fi adventure music playing. Had my hands in the air, laughed, screamed, loved it.
We took the train around the park and got off at Downtown Disney - they were still having a singing, dancing in the streets party, which is a bit surreal to witness for real. We stopped by the gift shop, then took a few final pictures, headed out of the park, and said our goodbyes by the tram pickup for Lea's parking garage.
I got out of the parking lot, and drove around for a while, totally lost. A few streets down from Disney is residential Anaheim, which wasn't too pretty. I turned around, found a gas station, filled up and asked the guy delivering gas which way I needed to go to catch Highway 57. He told me, but seemed a bit concerned at the prospect of me getting there. So I headed off, feeling better now that I had directions, but a bit uncertain - do I look really young, or just have a general air of incompetence around me? That aside, the trip out to my uncle and aunt's wasn't bad at all. The sun had set by the time I reached Lake Elsinore and I missed several of the turns in their neighborhood, but I got there eventually.