I am a spoiled, spoiled man.
Living in Southern California affords me the luxury of attending Disneyland whenever I want, which I do. Not alone mind you, with my wife Nicole (Mrs. Geek to you PODCAST loyalists). We go at whim, usually as fantasy escapism when the world seems especially cruel. I can't believe I just said that, because how cruel can it be? We're Disneyland Annual Passport holders, calm down there Old River. Anyway, I have perspective here. I get it.
I know we're spoiled. We got engaged there. We celebrated two days before our wedding there. Heck, we even have one of those engraved cobblestones out front. Point is, we love it, and we don't quite understand the negativity some people associate with Disney.
Then again, we've never tried to cram all of Disneyland into one day. Sometimes we go for a few rides, sometimes for fireworks, and sometimes to just do some people watching on Main Street. Being a passholder, there's no pressure, because if we miss Space Mountain this time around, we'll simply catch it next month when we invariably go again.
The real challenge is finding new ways to appreciate Disneyland and the surrounding areas. We eat at new places, visit new stores, ride long-forgotten rides, and every now and then do some REAL ghost-hunting. Seriously, try THAT! It's awesome!
Somewhere in the middle of an otherwise boring January week, I proposed to Mrs. Geek that on our next trip we try something altogether different. I suggested we attempt to board all working rides. In a single day. A quick search of the internet revealed it had been done by hundreds of people before. It could't be that hard, right?
What follows is an account of one such day, and the ways in which I felt my mind was melting over time. You see, this is Disneyland seen in a wholly different, almost loopy light. Follow me down the rabbit hole if you wish, but be forewarned, the language is definitely not clean…
GAME-DAY RULES- It's a typical dewey Tuesday morning. Choosing a Tuesday in February provides us with statistical and historical advantages we fully intend to take advantage of. There will be less people, less pressure, and an overall better chance of succeeding. I hate losing, and the mere thought of publicly declaring our goals only to fall short keeps my heart whirling at an elevated rate. Maybe that's just the inexplicable coffee purchase currently coursing through my veins.
Either way, I decide we're going to do this sans fastpasses or RideMax itineraries. That's cheating in my eyes. To me, fastpasses are steroids, only to be used for the weak. I am not weak, and I am not a steroid user.
We leave the house on-time, three hours before the park opens. The traffic is what I assume is our only real obstacle today, but as I'll soon find out, I am an idiot.
En route we listen to the excellent Disney podcast, Ears of Steel. Full disclosure, it's produced by the same producer of Stay Cool, Geek, but I genuinely do like it and its affable bearded host, Bart Scott.
It sets us off on our journey in a good mood, ready to tackle the day!
EQUIPMENT- We have one small bag. We are both dressed Fall casual, on account of the somewhat dreary weather. And by dreary, I mean weather the rest of the country would kill for right now. Did I mention I am spoiled?
I bring along a small digital camera. I intend to document the entire day, taking small snippets of each ride entrance and subsequent ride action. I make plans to edit it all together in some rapid-fire Harmony Korine-esque Disneyland video. I spend a ridiculous amount of time debating whether to edit said video to something cliche like Capitol Cities "Safe & Sound", or perhaps something really disturbing like Nine Inch Nails "All the Love In The World". One thing is certain, I'm excited about the video.
I also throw a pain pill in my pocket, just in case 10 hours of ride hopping leaves my back and/or leg in a locked-up, difficult position. The pill is meant as an emergency should either nagging longterm injury flare up. For the record, I'm aware of how ludicrous it sounds that I may need a pain pill for Disneyland. Nonetheless, the pill comes.
THE PLAN/START- The plan is to get there when the park opens, position ourselves appropriately, and tackle what we assume are the two longest ride lines of the day- Space Mountain and Indiana Jones. The problem is, they're on opposite ends of main street. A quick consultation and we decide to hit Space Mountain first due to the fact that in all our years of going to Disneyland, it consistently has the longest wait time. That being said, we assume that we're there early enough to hit it up before there is any line, then jog to Indiana Jones and start a more traditional route around the park.
I should mention, the only three rides I fear are Astro Obiter, Dumbo, and the Mad Hatter's Teacups.
Seriously, I'd rather be forced to swim the Jungle Cruise in frigid weather than board these rides. Spinning in redundant circles has been a new nemesis of mine, kind of like my Venom… new, but just as deadly as long-term foes like tanning beds and hipsters. I detest going in circles, but I realize I must endure these hazards in order to successfully complete the challenge.
There are four rides closed for the day- Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Finding Nemo, and most curiously… It's a Small World.
We can't control the factors, so this will have to do. We still have roughly 30 rides to get to, in 10 hours. Not terribly difficult, especially with two major rides down, but still fun enough to make us adapt a brisk stride for the entirety of the day.
Besides, throwing a no-hitter against the Houston Astros is still throwing a no-hitter.
FIRST CURVEBALL- We're at the edge of Tommorowland, awaiting the rope drop. Hundreds of people are behind us, and I smile the kind of smile only an arrogant man can do justice. I got this.
The rope is neatly coiled back by a fairly cherubic man, and the familiar sounds of the Disneyland announcer Bill Rogers come bellowing out over the loudspeakers. The announcement is given, and the park is open! Mrs. Geek and I practically run to Space Mountain, embarrassingly giddy at our checklist for the day. We reach Space Mountain.
"Sorry guys, it's closed for now."
Wait, what the fuck did that guy just say? You mean I personally planned an entire itinerary for the day, and this little bespectacled wannabe Milhouse is going to thwart it? Doesn't he realize we have an AGENDA?!
I'm pissed, and certainly thrown for a loop.
We alter course, and soon enough, the rides have started…
TEACUPS- Are you kidding me? I have to start with the Teacups? The goddamn teacups? Mrs. Geek insists we should just get it out of the way, and somehow I acquiesce.
We stay away from the purple one, long rumored to be the spiniest of the spins. The ride is over quick, and the video footage looks good. All in all, it could be worse. Still, I'm naming my next hemorrhoid after the Teacups.
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN- We attempt to go from the Teacups to Indiana Jones, which for you Disneyland veterans, is fairly ridiculous. Again, we felt the need to get on one of the two big rides right away. Alas, Indiana Jones is down as well. My anger is rising.
I feel threatened, full of anxiety, and unsure if this was a good idea.
For the record, Disneyland lets guests in an hour before the public opening time, with something called EXTRA MAGIC HOURS. You receive this special admittance when you stay at the accompanying Disney-themed hotels. We of course did not, but I can't help but think of how sad it is that those who did weren't even allowed to ride Space Mountain or Indiana Jones before us. What's the point of extra time if your longest wait-time rides aren't operable until after even the opening time for regular guests? Weird.
Pirates is awesome, it always is, but I'm truthfully only thinking about the next ride and our pace. This is a problem. Concurrently, I can't believe how many people insist on taking flash photography during these rides. It's expressly prohibited, and generally adds a damper to the other guest's experiences. On a good day, I shrug it off.
Today, I want to beat these patrons senseless. It's right up there with littering to me, which also sadly happens quite a bit at Disneyland. And another thing, your daft flash photo of Johnny Depp in pirate gear isn't going to come out just because you used a flash. Do you KNOW anyone who happens to have a picture taken INSIDE a dark ride WITH flash who proudly displays said picture in their house for all to see?
Buy a postcard.
INDIANA JONES- Thankfully, Indiana Jones has opened up and we get on fairly quickly. This ride continues to be pitch-perfect, with amazing theming and possibly the world's greatest queue. Our jeep somehow feels smoother than in the past, and I finally feel myself relaxing a bit. I know resident Disney expert Bart Scott thinks Dinosaur! is a better ride (both rides utilize the exact same track), but I find that argument bordering on insanity. You have an iconic character and iconic settings… dinosaurs can't compete, especially when the dinosaurs in question are at best the Go-Bots of the Dino-world. There's only one Jurassic Park my friend, and Dinosaur! ain't it…
HAUNTED MANSION- My favorite ride in the park is altogether forgettable on this day, except for the searing caffeine rush that hits me like a lightning bolt. Just before the Haunted Mansion, I felt the need to quench my dehydration with some Coca-Cola. With no time to waste, Mrs. Geek went to the bathroom while I grabbed a "small" coke. Because there was no line at Haunted Mansion, I'm forced to make a decision while just outside the elevator- chug my small "soda" or discard it. Like an idiot, all I can think about is the 3+ dollars I spent. And, our pace.
My health loses. A dozen or so ounces later, I'm in my doom buggy. This is all well and good, except by the end of it, I don't want to get out of my doom buggy. I want to lie on my side until my body and mind say it's ok to wade back into the sea of of attractions.
I get up.
WINNIE THE POOH- A vastly underrated classic dark ride, every time I ride Winnie I'm struck by how pleasant it is. From the variety of characters, to the rain scene, to the digital tumbling Pooh, it's a wonderful ride. The only thing that bothers me is that Winnie the Pooh resides in the back of the park, surrounded by virtually nothing else. Splash Mountain is his only neighbor, and as stated, it's down for the day. Winnie has cost me precious time simply because I have to go out of my way to get to it. Suddenly he's not so cute.
My leg starts to bother me.
ROGER RABBIT'S CARTOON SPIN- We enter Toon Town, annoyed at the prospects that lie within. I like Roger just fine, but his dark ride involves spinning. Lots of it. More egregiously, and unless I'm wrong, there's nary a sign of Christopher Lloyd's Judge Doom in the whole ride. He's the villain, how is he not there?! And, how can we live in a world where there isn't at least ONE Christopher Lloyd animatronic?
CAMERA/VIDEO UPDATE- I've discarded my opus to the day, irritated by what I now see as editing flaws. Really, I'm just tired of opening and closing the lens simply to get four seconds of super-dark black-lit characters. This thing was going to suck from the get-go. I decide to blog about my adventures instead. This seems to be a more welcoming format to engage followers…
GADGET'S GO COASTER- I can't believe I'm riding this kiddie coaster. For Christ's sake, I'm a 36 year old man. Did I mention I kind of liked it?
IT'S A SMALL WORLD UPDATE- Small World is down due to filming, and a quick tweet to Bart reveals the likelihood of a Tomorrowland presence. No sign of Clooney. No matter, I've already had the single greatest meeting with him ever.
LUNCH- The lukewarm cafeteria-esque Tomorrowland Terrace cheeseburger hits my mouth with an unusually high amount of sweat on it. I immediately recall why we stopped eating food from this spot. I love a lot of the food in Disneyland, which I realize is like saying I love a lot of the eating options at T.G.I.Fridays… nonetheless, Tomorrowland Terrace has never been a high spot. The cheese on my burger is just sort of on there… stuck but not melted, as if Gorilla Glue lies beneath. It's a mystery best not answered.
I finish the burger in less than 10 minutes, a thick layer of ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise coating what solid material is actually there.
The fat grams swirl to my brain, and my receptors indicate I'm ready to continue.
STAR TOURS- The rest of the day could hinge on this moment, because if we get Jar Jar, there'll be hell to pay. In case you were't aware, this ride features a whopping 54 possibilities. You get various worlds, characters, and endings all based on random queuing.
Before boarding, the Star Tours attendant informs us that we have a rebel spy on board. Usually this is a fun bit of interactivity with the guests, except that today's attendant, Fred, isn't so keen on playing along. Seriously, Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller might as well be jacked up on cocaine next to this guy. And to be clear, this isn't some dry, flat attempt at humor. This guy is miserable, and seriously cramping my buzz.
Luckily, a Han Solo appearance followed by Hoth, Admiral Ackbar, Darth Vader, and Boba Fett swing me back to the powers of positivity.
We emerge from Star Tours with good news and bad news. The bad news is that the one souvenir I've allotted time for, a Marvel Series 1 Vinylmation Figurine, isn't going to happen. They're sold out. Motherfucker. I still have no Captain America or Iron Man. But gee, I have a white costume Spider-Man and two Black Panthers. Not happy.
The good news is that Space Mountain is now up and running, only three hours after the regular opening time. Not surprisingly, the line is knee-deep at 30 minutes. Not atrocious on a a normal day, but we're behind our pace.
A decision is made.
I'm not going to be Alex Rodriquez, but I'm now not going to be uber-clean Ken Griffey J.R. either. A fastpass is utilized, and I feel the groans from the crowd. Yes, the imaginary ESPN crowd in my head. Shit. I apologize to the fans and realize I'm now Andy Pettite.
We grab the fastpass and head over to-
AUTOTOPIA- I haven't been on this ride since I was seven. Everyone in line has a child but us. I can only imagine what it's going to look like when we hop into the Monkey cage at the Circus Train. My only comment to Mrs. Geek in the 35+ minute wait is that I find it odd they have brown cars. Red, yellow, blue, green… sure. But brown? What kid wants a brown car? The brown Autotopia car is the Saab of cars. Undesirable. Unremarkable. Unnecessary. It's like opening a package of baseball cards and finding Warren Brusstar inside instead of Ryne Sandberg. Warren-f-ing Brustarr.
She says nothing and we continue waiting.
Finally, our turn comes.
We get the brown car.
I angrily climb in. One of the lovely joys of riding something so infantile as Autotopia is that I HAVEN'T done it in many years, thus it feels fresh. I actually have a blast crashing side to side into the track, and the drive as a whole is immensely enjoyable. It's almost a shame they'll have to tear this sucker down when they make way for the inevitable Star Wars land.
Who am I kidding, rip that bitch out TOMORROW. I WANT MY BLUE MILK!
SPACE MOUNTAIN- A jolting ride as always, there's something so simple and yet so amazing about this ride. Disney has a way of suspending your belief through old timey magic. As noted before, this isn't that big of a roller coaster. The trick is in the darkness. It messes with your mind and makes you guess at what's coming next.
BUZZ LIGHTYEAR ASTRO BLASTERS- A modern dark ride featuring video game targets. More competition! Mrs. Geek gets out to a surprising lead. and I start wondering if my laser is working correctly. Seriously, how many times during the day does someone turn to their spouse or sibling and say this.
Honestly though, it's not working right.
Nonetheless, I prevail. By a lot. Hit the diamonds and triangles kids, especially when they're lit.
ASTRO ORBITER- NSFW people. Fuck this ride to holy hell. The teacups might not have been as bad as I thought, but this thing is like a sarcophagus of sweaty doom. I'm cramped and in tremendous pain on account of Mrs. Geek in between my legs. My knees crash into the metal sides, a pain I barely notice because my head is swimming in dizziness. Don't get me wrong, it makes for a delightful picture or video, but it's genuinely a ride only some awful insurance salesmen or IRS agent could construct.
Exiting, I actually openly ponder whether this is all worth it. This is like a bad hangover, and I pray the Astro Orbiter sees its end soon.
Star Wars land can't come soon enough.
SNOW WHITE- Brain still swelling from Satan's golden robotic penis, I say next to nothing during Snow White.
When I see the two vultures ominously staring down at us, I only muster enough energy to say what I've always thought when seeing them.
"Those guys are a bunch of dicks."
PINOCCHIO- I love Jiminy Cricket. And Figaro isn't so bad either. As usual, we're on and off this ride in less than 5 minutes. Sad times for history.
CASEY JR CIRCUS TRAIN- You don't know embarrassment until you've stood in line for FORTY MINUTES trying to get on this ride despite not having a child. I've never been on it, and likely never will again. I internally tell myself that I'm at least keeping some modicum of respect by not entering the cages. Oh Fantasyland.
KING ARTHUR CAROUSEL- Another spinning ride, albeit much tamer. On a lighter note, the Carousel is an awesome place to take engagement photos. The lights and background make for a blissful image that hides the strain your marriage is likely to face when you try and conquer all Disneyland rides in one day.
"STEP IT UP HONEY, YOU'RE HOLDING US BACK!"
"SAYS THE GUY WITH THE 70 YEAR OLD BACK AND KNEES! COME ON OLD RIVER!"
PS- It has always bummed me out that no other circus animals are featured on this carousel. Who the hell wants to ride a white horse? I'm a tiger man, always have been, always will be.
DUMBO- What. the. fuck. Another spinning ride, and certainly an iconic one. My only happiness comes in the presence of a rare Vine. The endless loop is quiet, peaceful, and serves to distract me long enough to somewhat enjoy the history of Dumbo.
That being said, Astro Orbitor can still fuck off.
STORYBOOK LAND- It's no secret Walt loved miniatures, and if ever there was a part of the park that truly makes you feel Walt's magic, this is it. It's damn near impossible not to smile at the miniature castles, towns, and cities that dot this boat ride. A real delight, and thankfully one that settles my melting brain.
MATTERHORN BOBSLEDS- Then there's this. Sigh… the Matterhorn Bobsleds used to be my favorite ride. I love the Yeti, the dips, and the old school feel. Unfortunately, just recently they changed the 'sleds' and the ways in which you sat in them. In my opinion, this was a gigantic and horrendous lapse in judgment. For one, the old seating system (one person in between another person's legs) was romantic, and I truly mean that. It was the type of nostalgic romance sorely missing in today's ever pumped-up theme park world. It's just you and your gal, clutching tight as a red-eyed monster wails away over screams of delight.
Now, you're not only blocked by a traditional bar, but you're in far more pain. The Matterhorn has always been a bit of a rough ride, but I can tell you first hand that if this new car system was meant to smooth out the bumps? It didn't work. It's far, far worse.
Suddenly, crying kids anger me. I've never had this happen at Disneyland.
But hopped up on sugar, trying to find my equilibrium, I can only see a constant loop of technicolor madness starting to overtake my rational sensibilities. I can see why some folks don't like Disneyland.
DINNER- We're well ahead of our pace, and it dawns on us that we need more fuel. The trick isn't making it to the final rides, it's in not giving up because the end is so obvious. Relaxation brings apathy. We cannot have apathy.
We plop down in New Orleans Square and eat. I start feeling better, but the pain pill in my right pocket starts crying out to me. I've been sitting uncomfortably most of the day, and the opiate euphoria surely to commence would be all too easy. But I know it will also affect my head, and make the last push even more dizzying. Also, I still want to do this thing au natural.
I don't take it.
MR. TOAD'S WILD RIDE- Of all the Disneyland dark rides, this one feels most in need of aid. Most of the people in line ask who Mr. Toad is, and a little part of me dies inside. This ride features zero three dimensional objects, relying instead on colorful wood cutouts. It's basically 1920's stage sets highlighted by backlight. I love you Mr. Toad, but your ride is seriously dated. And yet that makes the underdog in me want you to stay for as long as they'll have you…
TARZAN'S TREEHOUSE- This is bonus, but we decide to ascend the stairs anyway. It just feels right.
Nope, retraction. It doesn't feel right at all. In fact, I think I could recreate the exact shape and contour of the pain pill in my pocket now, as I've been rolling it in my hand ever since dinner.
I'm tired, exhausted really. We've been going since 7AM, and the sugar crashes aren't helping.
We need to level out. We need to eat something leafy and green. We need to drink water, calm down, maybe eve-
CHURRO! CHURRO I LOVE YOUR SWEET CINNAMON-SOAKED ASS! CHURRO CHURRO CHURRO!
JUNGLE CRUISE- I like the Jungle Cruise at night. I especially like the Jungle Cruise as I'm slowly get lulled to a cinnamon-dusted sleep. Churro… churro… churro...
TIKKI ROOM- I'm officially loopy. This is another bonus spot, and despite needing to get home, is too alluring for me to pass up. That's right, a bunch of animatronic birds are alluring to me. Like I said, I'm loopy. So loopy that I start going into a loud dissertation pre-show about the merits of Pierre and Jose (two of the featured birds).
I'm not lying. I'm being loud. And somewhat belligerent. Honestly, people are listening.
"I don't like your reaction Nicole. I'm telling you, these guys (the birds) are professionals. Let me tell you something, you think Daniel Day-Lewis could do what they do? Fuck THAT. Look at this guy (points to the stationary Pierre)… he's sitting there, waiting for showtime. THAT is a professional. Fuck Daniel Day-Lewis, I vote Pierre."
It's time to finish this thing.
ALICE IN WONDERLAND- My least favorite Disney movie. I don't get it, and don't find any of the characters even remotely likable, save for the Chesire Cat. I like the ride less, and desperately need a good finisher to remind my melted brain of my love for Disneyland.
PETER PAN- And there it is. The perfect, classic dark ride. Peter Pan notoriously has the longest Fantasy Land line wait, and with good reason. You can't fly over London and not feel whimsical. Every character has a defining sweetness that has lasted lifetimes. Peter Pan's Flight is just so damn delightful.
We exit the ride, victors in just about everything but calories.
I'm beat, and sleep will come tough on account of my pathetic creaky body. The pain pill remains untouched.
Driving home, I pop in some podcasts featuring interviews with the mysterious Captain Black. I smile knowing...
Disneyland is still the greatest place on earth, but I'm sure as hell glad I don't ever have to cram it all in one day ever again.
Yeah, I'm a spoiled man. So be it.
One more thing, Pierre gave a HELLUVA performance tonight.