Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Grand

Our morning was uneventful. Everything went according to plan. We woke up on time. Got out the door on time. We left the OC and got to the airport, boarded our flight and arrived at Santa Ana/Orange County/John Wayne Airport all without incident. All of the kids were wonderful. We had a block of nine seats in the back of the plane. My and Sean sat with Anna in the front row. Sara, Karsten, Erik and I sat in the back row. Brookie, Djeryd and Madison sat in the middle all by themselves and were so well behaved. Djeryd took great care of the girls - he entertained them with his backpack full of books, toys and other activities (great preparation, My!), and he made sure their seat belts were always fastened and properly tightened.

We split up for a bit - My and Sean took their boys to LegoLand for the afternoon, much to their delight. Djeryd (and Sean) have been describing its many wonders practically non-stop ever since.

We checked into our hotel and hit California Adventure right away, determined to get in a full day. I say checked in and most people assume that means we began to occupy a room in the hotel. Apparently the Grand Californian has found a way to let guests check in without actually providing a room. We got our key cards. We got the hotel map. Cousin Timmy came through with the Cast Member discount voucher. But they wouldn't tell us our room number. It was "still being cleaned" and they provided us with a telephone number to call to learn our room number when it became available. A very long story short, after six hours and multiple phone calls to various entities within the Disney empire, our room number was finally revealed to us. By the time we physically arrived at our room, Sean and My were already settled into their connecting room next door. Recall that they first drove to San Diego and spent several hours at LegoLand before driving back - and they still beat us; and had time to take a nap and for Hannah Montana to jump into fourth place on Djeryd's interest radar (trailing only Star Wars, Indiana Jones and now, Legoland).

We didn't spend that six hours sitting around. Ever since our Disneyland trip in 2006, Madison has had just one thing on her brain. There was a particular ride that she had been too short to ride. She's prayed every single night that she would someday be big enough to go on the Jumping Jellyfish. The what?

Jumping Jellyfish is a ride in the new park, California Adventure. As far as we can tell, it is not based on anything Disney. Passengers 42 inches and taller sit in a chair with a giant Jellyfish attached overhead. The ride lifts the passengers up, slowly, before bringing them back down, also slowly. One time only. Having fulfilled a nearly lifelong pursuit and received an answer to countless prayers, Madison immediately constructed a new agenda. We all got to ride on the Ferris wheel and all the girls rode on Ariel's sea creature carousel.

We then headed over to the world of A Bug's Life for a while. Madison also discovered that 42 inches gains access to other, even more compelling rides than the the Jumping Jellyfish. Namely, the roaring river raft ride (Grizzly River Run) which is literally just a few steps away from the private entrance to California Adventure directly from the spectacularly rustic Grand Californian hotel where we are staying. Part of the hotel is actually inside of the park. Upon being completely drenched, Madison had the surprisingly brilliant and sensible idea that she be allowed to wear her swimsuit the next time she does it. I don't see why not.

Our original plan (after our original, original plan of actually checking into The Grand had failed) was to play around in California Adventure (hereafter referred to as "CA") for a couple of hours until our room became available. We would then settle in, grab some dinner at the famous Chicken Pie Shop, and re-enter the parks for the rest of the evening, culminating in the Friday/Saturday-only fireworks above the Matterhorn. Most of that was rendered impossible when both Sara and I neglected to get our hands stamped upon exiting CA. No hand stamp, no re-entry. Period. Brookie and Madison got theirs stamped and they, in the words of the friendly Cast Member I spoke with, could "re-enter the parks themselves but there is absolutely no way [Sara or I] could get back in without purchasing another ticket." Lesson learned.

It actually worked out great because My and Sean didn't have park tickets for the day anyway and we would have had to separate according to our second original plan. We asked our friends at the other end of one of the Disney phone numbers for the best place to see the fireworks and ended up in the plaza/mall at the vortex created where the entrances to Disneyland, CA and Downtown Disney (to be addressed in a future post) converge. We ducked into the World of Disney store in Downtown Disney to get Brooklyn an autograph book for when we meet Disney characters. Everything around Disneyland is super clean (especially the trash cans; Walt Disney himself decreed that his park would even be free of chewing gum) so we staked out a spot right on the ground in front of the giant "California" sign at CA's entrance. If their cheering and clapping were any indication, the kids LOVED the fireworks.

That capped an 18-hour, napless day for those kids. A day that saw us safely arrive in the other OC. A day that launched our long-awaited Disney vacation. A day in which I, through my many, many phone calls, forged a first-name relationship with The Grand.

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