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Mike's Milestone Birthday November 14-17th, 2018

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  • mpabis525
    replied
    Originally posted by mre200200 View Post

    Nice shirt!



    Made me chuckle.

    Thanks for taking the time to finish up your report. It was an enjoyable read.
    Glad you liked the report. Once I saw that shirt, there was no way I could pass it up.

    Leave a comment:


  • mre200200
    replied
    Originally posted by mpabis525 View Post


    Nice shirt!

    Originally posted by mpabis525 View Post
    We said good bye to the Happiest Place on Earth. Tears were shed, fingernail marks were left in concrete, attempts were made to go back through the gates. You know, the usual for grown men.
    Made me chuckle.

    Thanks for taking the time to finish up your report. It was an enjoyable read.

    Leave a comment:


  • mpabis525
    replied
    Our last day ☹
    Why do we have to leave? It is so fun here. But alas, this was the last 5:45 wake up call. Out and back in front of Disneyland after flying through security. Even wit the morning’s anticipation, I feel like the closing to the Mickey Mouse Club plays slowly throughout the day in my head.

    Geared up and ready to break through the gates, we stormed through at 7am. As everyone knows, “Follow me and don’t go slowly or you will get left behind.” Our MO is to always do Fantasyland first and that means heading off to the second star on the right at Peter Pan. But first a picture.




    We rode everything in Fantasyland. I took my youngest over to Autopia while my wife and oldest decided to tackle his first time on the Matterhorn. I waived this one off after hearing for the last several years about how painful it is for people as tall as me.
    Time for some fun old-fashioned knee breaking.





    Afterward, we headed over to Nemo while they rode the Matterhorn again.








    Toward the end of Nemo, I thought something was amiss as we went through a much longer dark period than I remembered from a couple of nights before. It turns out that the whole underwater volcano scene was not working that morning and was dark. Bummer.

    I got some more pictures of my youngest before we all met up to get some family pictures in front of the castle and at the Partners statue.





    One of my major pet peeves is that I hate asking anyone to take a picture of our family. No, not because I am shy, but because everyone who says yes is grossly incompetent in how to take a picture. I am not asking you to adjust settings on my DSLR, just take a nice picture of the four of us on our phone or pre-dialed in DSLR. Literally, point and click. Do you know how many times we have gotten a decent picture? Probably less than 10%. And since I am the one who is behind the camera always, I tend not to exist in many of our pictures.

    Not today. We and I were getting pictures or else.




    It turns out even the photopass photographers in front of the castle weren’t up to the job. Normally, the photo pass photogs are great and the pictures are perfect. Ugh.
    The family sat out the Partners pic and got a churro. Not me.




    I was happy now.

    We spent the rest of the morning checking out the rest of Adventureland and New Orleans Square. We got our last rides on Pirates, Haunted Mansion and more. We finished up our last ride of the day on the Disneyland Railroad. There be dinosaurs to see.





    Knowing it would be best to grab some lunch before we headed to the airport, we struggled with where we should have our last meal. Then my wife suggested Trader Sam’s. A perfect idea was we couldn’t go the night we got in as it is age limited after 8pm. We said good bye to the Happiest Place on Earth. Tears were shed, fingernail marks were left in concrete, attempts were made to go back through the gates. You know, the usual for grown men.

    As we were walking out, I realized we didn’t even stop and look at the Christmas tree at the entrance. All this time and not a look. Better late than never.


    We got a table outside as the small inside was already full. We sampled a whole bunch of different things and took our time enjoying our libations.



    Alas all good things must come to an end. We slowly walked back to the Grand to get our luggage and a ride to the airport.

    The uber driver was interesting. He nearly hit a couple of PEOPLE, broke numerous traffic laws and nearly took out a couple of cars. So, I guess we did get one last ride in.
    As always, if you hang with me at Disneyland, no quitting until we are done. It was a well-earned nap.


    Here are the last step totals for a very short partial day. All totaled, it was 30 miles in 2+ days, not counting our arrival night.


    Initially, I had thought I could tough it out and skip 2019 to avoid the Star Wars crowds. That took 5 weeks for me to cave and start getting the shakes about not heading back for nearly 2 years. I almost got my wife to reconsider going later this year with a friend of ours, but emergency complete replacement of all my pool equipment leaves that very much up in the air. So, goodbye for now to Disneyland. I hope to be back sooner rather than later.

    Leave a comment:


  • mpabis525
    replied
    Originally posted by mre200200 View Post
    Mike, thanks for continuing the write-up. I'm enjoying following along. Great dark-ride photos. What kind of glass are you shooting with?

    Sorry, didn't see the photography question at the top. I use my Nikon d5100 with 1.8 35mm on dark rides and my sigma 17-50mm 2.8 for jsut about anything else. I have borrowed some wide angle and 1.4 primes before from some buddies but I have to manually work those.

    I made the mistake of upping ISO to 3200 for many of hte dark rides and doing manual focus rather than just manual settings. I should have known better. in 2015, I got some of hte best dark ride shots I have ever gotten. But, I keep trying to do better. By adjusting my settings, I rarely do get anything better. I should just stick with what I know works great.

    Leave a comment:


  • mpabis525
    replied
    Originally posted by mre200200 View Post
    Mike, thanks for continuing the write-up. I'm enjoying following along. Great dark-ride photos. What kind of glass are you shooting with?

    How'd you swing waking up Jose? By request, or just happened to be asked?

    How can the Blue Bayou not have the Monte Cristo? That's a staple! At least there was Gumbo. It's been years since I've eaten there, but the Gumbo still brings back good memories. When I was there I asked for the recipe and our server emailed it to me.

    I'm right there with you on Luigi's. When you're watching it, it looks cool, seeing all those cars dance. But as a ride, I don't particularly care for it. It's a lot of jerky movement that's hard to predict. But perhaps I'm not the target audience. My kids love it.

    That is quite a few times on the Grizzly River Run. And in November?

    And that last photo is why calories don't really count at Disneyland.
    We lucked out at the Tiki Room by getting in their first and not having a crowd. Then I remembered you could request it. Boom! Done.

    I have seen over the last couple of years that the Blue Bayou menu sometimes drops the Monte Cristo. Strange I guess. I do know it is over at Cafe Orleans all the time though, or at least it was on my prior visits. Thanks for the recipe. I had come across the same thing a while back just don't have time to make it. But it is soooooo good.

    As for Grizzly, the weather was pretty good for mid november. Sunny, warm and as long as it wasn't cold and rainy, my kids were going to be all over it. Since we were staying at the Grand, worst case we would just run back and change if need be.

    I agree, calories don't count there. Those who go with me know they MUST keep up with me. I don't stop. A daily half marathon is my expectation now a days. Less, and I am dissapointed.

    Leave a comment:


  • mre200200
    replied
    Mike, thanks for continuing the write-up. I'm enjoying following along. Great dark-ride photos. What kind of glass are you shooting with?

    How'd you swing waking up Jose? By request, or just happened to be asked?

    How can the Blue Bayou not have the Monte Cristo? That's a staple! At least there was Gumbo. It's been years since I've eaten there, but the Gumbo still brings back good memories. When I was there I asked for the recipe and our server emailed it to me.
    Click image for larger version

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    I'm right there with you on Luigi's. When you're watching it, it looks cool, seeing all those cars dance. But as a ride, I don't particularly care for it. It's a lot of jerky movement that's hard to predict. But perhaps I'm not the target audience. My kids love it.

    That is quite a few times on the Grizzly River Run. And in November?

    And that last photo is why calories don't really count at Disneyland.

    Leave a comment:


  • mpabis525
    replied
    We spent the rest of the afternoon at California Adventure sampling treats and redoing rides that everyone wanted to do.

    We walk so we can eat.
    The Funnel Cake Fries were quite tasty


    Pre dinner ice cream? But of course.


    Yes, he is a chocoholic and he finished nearly the entire thing.


    A couple of other random afternoon shots


    I have never seen Frozone out and about before. This was the closest we could get for him to stop and take a picture.


    For dinner, we hit the Wine Country Trattoria. On our last family trip in 2015, we discovered it with the World of Color dining package. We all quite enjoyed it and have made it a point to return back to it. We enjoyed twilight dining outside and watched as the park came to life at nighttime.

    Following dinner, my wife and youngest headed back to the hotel. My oldest and I were off to Disneyland for the night. However, I did drop my camera bag off as the weight was killing me. I wound up bringing my bigger, older bag and it is not as friendly to the shoulders. The raw marks left on my shoulders would attest to that. Plus, this was supposed to be father and son time so no need to worry about pictures.

    With just the two of us, we headed off to check off as many rides as we could. We did Indy, Pirates, Mansion, Buzz Lightyear and the Jungle Cruise at night (a first for any of us). But there were a couple rides that were must dos for him. He had to get back on Splash Mountain.

    Not only did he get on Splash Mountain, he did it twice as a single rider. Not only did he do it twice as a single rider, but he never stopped in the entire queue. Not only did he never stop, but he got back to back solo rides with no one else on the boat! How is that for fun.


    Afterwards, we headed to Thunder Mountain. I have not been on the ride since I was about 7. At the time, my mom said we were going to ride the train. Great. I love dinosaurs. I couldn't wait to see them and the Grand Canyon I thought. But something felt strange at the time when we going through the queue. When I sat down, I realize this wasn't the Disneyland Railroad. I had been tricked. The train took off, I probably started crying and proceeded to grab onto the first thing I could, which turned out to be my dad's throat in the row in front of me. No joke, but I held on so tight with both arms around his throat, he was choking for the entire ride. Yeah, not fun for me. Hence the big reason I have been afraid of that ride my entire life since.

    However, I have told my son, I would ride pretty much any ride with him for his first time. Even if it meant I hated it. So we got our fast passes and I started the dreading. Trying to calm my nerves was not going to work. As we made our way up the stairs to the loading platform, I figured I had to suck it up and be a man when I saw a four year old in the car in front of us.

    We boarded in the next to last row. Nothing like not being able to see what is ahead of you, right? I somehow squeezed my frame into the seats and with my son trying to reassure me, we took off.

    And you know what? It was nothing. 30+ years of dread was for naught. I actually liked it. Honestly, it was tame. All those years worrying about nothing. And my 13 year old cured me of that fear. I still don't like big drops but can handle them for a few seconds.

    We finished up after 11 with more rides during the rest of the night. It was a fun way to be just the two of us.

    It was a fun day, our last full day at the parks. Tomorrow we would have a little bit more time before we flew home. It ended on a high note and with just a few steps in. Yeah, that is right. I bested my previous best mark of 13.6 miles with 14.12 that day.

    Leave a comment:


  • MommyJMB
    replied
    FYI - When staying at The Grand you can do the "Get Up and Go Walk" private walk an hour before DCA opens. It's just a 45min, 2-mile walk and a great way to get ready for the day. In the Winter it's dark and the sun comes up as you walk through an empty park. One of my favorite things to do when staying there.
    BTW- We were there the same weekend as you and in the lobby GCH photo I swear my friend's walking in it ;-)

    Leave a comment:


  • mpabis525
    replied
    Rise and shine!! It is Day Two at the parks. That means being up at 5:45 this time. Breakfast of Champions was once again consumed in preparation for everything.

    As we made our way through security, we ran into some friends of ours also staying at the Grand. It is funny that on every trip we have been on, we see someone we know.


    With no rope drop at California Adventure, we all waited at the gates and then busted through toward Radiator Springs Racers. This would be my wife and youngest’s first time on the ride. I knew my youngest wouldn’t be too big of a fan of the ride as he does not like any coaster action. But we would hope for the best.

    It really is a good ride and I appreciate it more each time I ride it.

    After that to calm some nerves, we did Mater and Luigi. I pity for Luigi. That ride needs to get redone entirely.



    Mater and Luigi were more his speed.



    Following Carsland, we did Toy Story Midway Mania. This is always our favorite. However, something tragic happened on the ride this time. My score was bested by my oldest. That has never happened in any way shape or form. For the first time ever, I was defeated. I am getting old, I guess.





    Afterward, it was time to get wet on Grizzly River Run. Now, I have no problem with water rides but having $000s worth of electronics on me, the prospect of getting wet is not something that appeals to me. Even when double wrapped in ponchos and plastic, I still am nervous about going on a water ride. Further, not being able to store my camera bag, means I must hold it on my lap and cross my fingers.

    But alas, I have a waterproof camera to document the ride?






    Going down!




    The rest of the family rode it a couple of more times after as they were having so much fun. My oldest has GRR as one of his top 3 rides. Rather than get wetter, I sat it out and took pictures.






    My kids wound up doing Grizzly River Run about 6-8 times during the day. Thankfully it was shorts and t-shirts weather so they eventually dried.

    Following a trip to the giant dryers, we headed off to Soarin. We wound up only being able to ride this twice in the morning. After that it was down the rest of the day. Bummer. And as you can see from the other pictures, I was representin’ Soarin via my “Nice Work Pal” shirt. Love that shirt. Love the pre-ride spiel. I hope they never change it.

    We split up a bit for the rest of the morning between Goofy’s Sky School and Redwood Creek Challenge trail.

    My oldest did ride after ride on Goofy. I don’t think I can fit comfortably on it, so I chose not to go with him. I am starting to get bothered by the fact that several of the rides do not comfortably fit someone who is 6’5”. After being severely pained at Universal, I am leery of getting on certain rides anymore.

    My youngest had a blast at the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. It had been several years since he was last there and I am not sure he remembers it. With my kids almost aged out of the area, I will miss spending time there. Even though it is a bit boring to sit and watch, the environment is magnificent and relaxing. I will always appreciate the memories of clambering up the ropes after my kids when they were younger. This is probably the most under-appreciated area in both parks. A true gem






    But we did have time to stop for the annual picture with Santa. We lucked out with a shorter line there and negated having to deal with the mall later back home.


    Leave a comment:


  • mpabis525
    replied
    After Buzz Lightyear, my oldest and I did Star Tours while my wife and youngest did another round of Autopia. We then headed over to Toontown to kill some time before out dinner reservation at the Blue Bayou.

    To make the reservation I stayed up until almost 1am the day they opened up. Too bad the reservation system didn’t batch through and open until a couple of hours later as I later learned. Thankfully my wife was up early that morning and followed the instructions I left for her on how to secure our reservation. Early birthday dinner, here we come.

    The ambience of the restaurant is surreal. For those who haven’t dined there, it is unlike eating in most other places. Sure the service is average at best but the feeling of being in the ride and lighting add so much to it. Much to my chagrin, the Monte Cristo was off the menu. At least they had the gumbo. I settled on a chicken dish while my wife got some fish and my oldest son got some sort of pasta. I can’t remember what my youngest got. Also, I tried to get a waterside table but no such luck.

    The bigger downer of the night was that the waitress couldn’t take a proper photo of us. Even when handed a camera already dialed in, it still wasn’t great. I wanted that badly as we rarely get all four of us together.




    Gumbo time


    Birthday dessert


    The funniest part of the night was watching the table next to us. After being seated, the waitress came by to take their drink order. She asked for a house red wine. It took all we could to not burst out laughing as a table. She didn’t get it and the waitress had to explain it a second time.

    When all was said and done, my family decided to head back to the Grand and call it a day. Me, not so much. I still had hours more to go. We parted for the time being and I told them I wouldn’t wake them when I got back to the room.

    Onto some solo action. It was time to do some serious park criss crossing.

    I headed over to Nemo and Tomorrowland first. I will say that I didn’t learn from last year about riding Nemo. The daytime is by far the best. Nighttime loses a lot in my opinion.




    Even as congested as it is, Tomorrowland is still captivating at night.





    Back over to New Orleans Square for some more Mansion and Pirate fun. I only took pictures on the Mansion and just relaxed on Pirates.
















    After the rides, it was dessert time. I headed over to the Gibson Girl for a nice peppermint sundae. But fate had to laugh at me. I thought the woman on the other side of the counter was joking when she said they were out of peppermint ice cream at the start of Christmastime. Seriously??? So I got a chocolate chip cookie sundae instead.


    I took my sundae and head over to IASW to watch the fireworks. From here on out for the rest of the night, I parked the camera and just enjoyed things.

    Sometime later, I wandered back to the room and snuck in after 11 to get ready for the next day.

    Here were the first day’s totals. I knew I would do better the next day with lots of park hopping.



    Leave a comment:


  • mpabis525
    replied
    With IASW and the Christmas parade over, it was time for some lunch. As always, our first meal is Rancho del Zocallo. I got my order of carne asada and enchiladas. My youngest tore through his chicken meal like never before. The ambiance of the restaurant is perfect. Quiet while still in the middle of all the action. Whether it be the Mark Twain’s whistle or the occasional Big Thunder Mountain train, I never feel too distracted and can fully enjoy our meal.

    With bellies full and happy, we mozied on over to the shooting gallery. This is a requirement of every Disneyland trip. I spent many an hour and fistfuls of quarters as a kid and mine do the same. While we had no lucky, free play guns like our last two trips, the kids still had a blast. Gone are the days where I used to have to hold the rifle for them and let them pull the trigger. Now they are fully capable at blasting away at the targets.





    Next, we headed over to Autopia. I am arguably too big for this ride. Combine that with driving a couple of hours every day commuting, I was not sad to skip this ride on my last two solo trips. However, my boys still love doing it. Our running joke is that my youngest is a knee breaker. As it is difficult to comfortably fit my long legs in the car, they are stuck pressed against the shell. With his ahem, “driving skills”, the car jerks constantly and my knees are driven into the hard shell. Yeah, it is a lot of fun. But I will always swallow the pain so they can have fun.






    Now, I am used to the bad drivers out there. However, on this ride, we had a first. A woman on the other track that drove off at the same time as us, fully stopped her car several times. No, there was nothing wrong, she just had to take dozens of selfies along the way. So, she parked her car and did her business. We just shook our heads.

    After Autopia, it was time to run up our high scores as Space Rangers on Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters. This used to be a walk on ride a couple of years ago. Once, I waited more than 15 minutes. Now it can be a 30+ minute wait.



    I sacrificed my high score in the sake of photography. As a result, my oldest got to experience the joy of beating me.

    Leave a comment:


  • mpabis525
    replied
    With Dole Whips in our bellies and a pleasant concert from singing birds and crooning flowers, we headed off toward Fantasyland. We stopped for a bit by the concert obstructed castle for one of the holiday themed gingerbread churros to split amongst all of us. Growing up in southern California meant I have eaten more churros than I can count. As a result, I am burned out of them. But I was not going to pass up on a gingerbread churro. I mean it is gingerbread after all.

    Alas, it was highly disappointing. There was barely any difference between that and a regular churro. Oh well, we tried it. And since we game planned this trip to hit every conceivable tasty holiday treat, it would be one of many tasty morsels we would all share. See, sharing one thing means we can have more things. I like that logic.

    Off to Toontown for our Mickey picture. With the sun out, I was glad to be able to quickly move into his house and begin waiting in the queue for our picture with the Mick.





    Twins, separated at birth. Can’t you see the resemblance?


    We then headed over to It’s a Small World. I may be one of the few adults who actually enjoys this ride. It is simple and it works. However, I wouldn’t mind a little sprucing up of things. First, obscure the ceiling and reduce a way to see the floor. Second, maybe spruce up the walls and make it less warehouse visible building like.



    What perfect timing?! As soon as we got off of IASW, the Christmas parade was starting. We hurried and got a spot to watch the parade. Last year was the first time in nearly a decade I got to see it. It brought back a lot of memories watching it with my then much younger kids. With last year, I got stuck watching it in a spot that had me looking directly in the sun. That meant no pics. This year, we lucked out and got perfect lighting.










    Leave a comment:


  • mpabis525
    replied
    After the Mansion, we made our way toward the Jungle Criuse. But what to my wondering eyes should appear? A Indiana Jones with no wait anywhere near. After a quick chat, we decided that I would take my oldest for his first time on the ride while my wife and son went to Tarzan’s Treehouse (remember boys and girls, when you see the signs on Tarzan to watch your head, look for the dents in the wood below those spots. I have been known to whack my skull there just about every trip).

    In November 2017, I got on Indiana Jones for the first time in nearly a decade. All the other trips we have taken either the kids were too small or it was broken down while we were there. Now, my oldest was chomping at the bit to check it out. We fast passed it and went on it.

    Our seats were near the back so not the best shots but here are a few.




    But, what luck should we have! A ride stop! Yes, we stopped twice for about 10 minutes total near the statues with the darts. It was a prime spot for me to not mess up a photo.



    Aftwerward we met up and boarded the Jungle Cruise. Following that we headed over to grab us a Dole Whip. I mean what doesn’t sound good about a Dole Whip before 10am?


    And what goes best with a Dole Whip? Why birds that sing words and flowers that croon. I even got to wake the birds! Bucket list item checked.







    Leave a comment:


  • mpabis525
    replied
    Originally posted by bigcatrik View Post
    I was at Disneyland for the stroke of midnight as it turned into my 50th birthday. I got on the Pinocchio ride as Pinocchio and exited as Gepetto. Ha ha.
    That is funny.

    Leave a comment:


  • mpabis525
    replied
    With Pirates done, it was now time to wander down the path of New Orleans Square to visit the Haunted Mansion. Once again, we are visiting during the Nightmare Before Christmas overlay. In fact, the only time my kids have seen the regular version was on our two trips to Disney World. Regardless, the overlay almost feels like home. In some ways, it is strange to not see it.







    This was actually the best shot I have ever got of the suit of armor next to the endless hallway. Go figure, I ruined most of my other dark ride shots but this one survived.















    Leave a comment:


  • mqpickles
    replied
    Great T-shirts!

    Leave a comment:


  • bigcatrik
    replied
    I was at Disneyland for the stroke of midnight as it turned into my 50th birthday. I got on the Pinocchio ride as Pinocchio and exited as Gepetto. Ha ha.

    Leave a comment:


  • mpabis525
    replied
    Originally posted by Stormy View Post
    Lovely pictures! Your comment about leading the way at 6'5" made me giggle. My DH is the same height as you, yet I'm the one who 'plows the road' with him trailing behind. It's not the height that works, it's the attitude! (meaning polite 'excuse mes' as you wiggle your way through, of course!)

    Those pics of the Grand make me 'homesick'.
    While I may be a big guy (I am the same size as the ideal NFL quarterback just not in the right proportions ), I can move faster than anyone there and glide like a bird through the crowds. I have not met anyone who can keep up with me at my speeds. My family is great in that they rarely complain even when we do a daily half marathon (no joke). But they are always hoofing it to keep up.

    Leave a comment:


  • mpabis525
    replied
    With Fantasyland conquered, it was time to brave the rest of the park. Bring us Pirates and the Mansion! Follow along as we head to the other side of the park.


    On this Thursday, the castle was blocked off for the Christmas Parade concert filming. It was a huge headache and bottleneck. It also meant the castle wasn’t in all of its glory. Fortunately it was returned to glory the next day. On a side note, my wife and kids did see Gwen Stefani performing later on in the night.


    Now, Pirates is my favorite ride. The immersion is unbelievable. From the moment getting on the boat at Lafitte’s Landing, it is about as good as it gets. I would argue floating along the bayou is one of the quitest and most serene parts of the park. I love that aspect. Once down the chutes (which I feared and loathed as a kid) you are in an unbelievably detailed environment. I just wish that they would change the ending ridigin up the slide back to the docks. Having read the Jason Surrell book about POTC, I understand what it is supposed to signify but……lets nail it down for real.

    Onto the photos. Ok, a warning first. I messed up the setting on my dark ride photos for most of the trip. I am sure that some may like the pictures which is great but there were 10x the shots that I ruined by using the wrong settings. Hopefully I can rectify it later this year or next.

    Down the second slide!


    Into the caverns





    I really liked the new Redd scene. While I wish the readhead remained, I was happy with the new enviromnet. However, I wish the Captain still gave his speech like it used to be.










    I did like the new add of the octopus and pirate at the start. However, as I mentioned above, no pictures for me. Getting rid of Davy Jones was good and the return of the voiceover was great.
    I will never tire of this ride.

    Leave a comment:


  • Stormy
    replied
    Lovely pictures! Your comment about leading the way at 6'5" made me giggle. My DH is the same height as you, yet I'm the one who 'plows the road' with him trailing behind. It's not the height that works, it's the attitude! (meaning polite 'excuse mes' as you wiggle your way through, of course!)

    Those pics of the Grand make me 'homesick'.

    Leave a comment:

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