Las Vegas Part 1 2005


Las Vegas 2005

We woke up Wednesday morning a bit later than we had planned. We’d wanted to go explore Hollywood that morning, but once we woke up and got ready Jamaal had a different idea. We had seen a huge shoe store on the way to Disneyland the day before and he definitely wanted to stop by before we left Anaheim, but first we had to go to Downtown Disney for a few souvenirs, so we checked out and made our way back to the Disneyland Resort.

There was a 15-minute parking area for dropping off/picking up and since we were picking up stuff from the gift shops I figured we’d just park there since it was just a run in, run out kinda deal.

Once we arrived at Downtown Disney we stopped into the first store and picked up a few shot glasses, magnets, and key chains. There were some Mickey gloves for sale but I wasn’t spending $17 for them this time, so I got the one thing I was determined to get for my first trip to Disney: Mouse Ears. I got the traditional Disneyland Mouse Ears as I’d been wanting a pair for ever. After we finished shopping Jamaal took a picture of me by a fountain and we were back to the car in about 20 minutes.

After getting back to the car we headed to the shoe store, after stopping once again at Carl’s Jr. and Jamaal suggested leaving early for Las Vegas. I thought about it for a second and gave in. More time in Vegas was fine by me. I’d hoped that since we’d be in Hollywood Friday maybe we could head to Venice Beach and get photos of the Hollywood sign.

We shopped for shoes and then asked for the best directions to Vegas, then it we were off. The drive was just at 3 ½ hours out in the desert. We gassed up and got more food for the drive at Quiznos and Starbucks on the outskirts of Los Angeles on the advice of the guys at the shoe store. Then it was off on the most beautiful drive ever. The snow capped mountains and desert terrain was stunning. Traffic moved swiftly, rarely reaching below 90mph for us. We passed by Calico Ghost town and then into the desert. It was beautiful. We came through Primm where Buffalo Bill’s is located, getting some decent views of Desperado. We arrived in Vegas at around 5:30 PM. Traffic was getting congested closer to the city, but it wasn’t far to our hotel. The Excalibur was right off of the exit, and very easy to find.

Las Vegas 2005

I had heard mixed but mostly negative reviews of the Excalibur. “Enjoy all the Kids”, “Its a bit run down”, etc. But in reality, Excalibur was nice, clean, and convenient, located just across from New York New York, and just beside Luxor and Mandalay Bay. We checked in (no screaming kids yet, this was March after all) and made our way up to our room with the luggage. By this point, the sun had set, and we were ready for a nite on the town. First things first, there was a coaster staring at me from across the street. It had a mean grimace and I wanted to get it and it’s bad reputation out of the way. So we made our way over the walkway above the freeway and into the NYNY Hotel and Casino.

But more importantly, we walked first right into the Coyote Ugly bar there. They were having a two for one special so I bought an overpriced Long Island Iced Tea and gave the other to Jamaal. We wondered around NYNY a bit before finding the station to Manhattan Express. Once there, I couldn’t believe the almost $20 price tag (for one ride, mind you) they were charging for a Togo…

But it was a one-time thing, so we paid and made our way to the front of the train.

Manhattan ExpressThe chain lift was smooth. Actually, the ride wasn’t the roughest coaster I’d ridden or ever ride. The only thing keeping me from a re-ride is the price. You go up the lift (over 200’) and then hit a fairly short drop, back up, and then its inversion time. The loop was decent, but I really did enjoy the Twist and Dive. We need more of these some day, please. The trains are cool to look at, but the restraints were weird and uncomfortable. Ah well, another credit down, and I’ll not have to do it again on this trip.

So we went back to the Coyote Ugly bar. It was expensive, so I let Jamaal get himself something to drink. The greatest thing about Las Vegas is the fact that you can have alcohol whilst walking down the street there. So we did. We walked to the MGM Grand and made a left towards Paris, Bellagio, and Cesar’s Palace. The strip was magnificent. We walked and looked around quite a bit. Once we got to Bellagio we crossed over to the other side of the street towards Paris and Bally’s. I would like to have gone to the top of the Eiffel Tower but we didn’t.

Las Vegas 2005

We walked into the Barbary Coast. We walked up to the information/concierge desk and asked where the closest bar is. The gentleman at the desk asked if we wanted the closest located bar or the closest ‘bar/venue’. We asked for the closest located bar and he pointed their main bar out AND gave us each 2 for one drink tickets. Score!

Normally I try to tip well because I’ve been reliant on tips. But our bar didn’t seem to want to wait on us. He got us our first BOGO drinks and then never came back to us. I left a decent tip, but I guess he didn’t want any more money. In fact, he wouldn’t even come by to pick up the tip. Sine we didn’t get any other service from the bar. Since we sat there so long waiting on our drinks, I picked up my tip and walked off, as the bartender wouldn’t come back to our side of the bar even when we tried to motion for him. His loss.

Instead, we saw a Roulette table. So we went to sit down. But before I finished pulling out my seat, a very nice waitress came and took our drink order. I got an Absolut and Jamaal got another Long Island. She got a good tip. We sat and watched at the roulette table, asking questions about how to play while getting a couple of drinks from our waitress.

But enough was enough and I had called Dawn Marie once we got to Vegas to set up a dinner date with her, Danny, Kristin and Jeff. We went back out to the strip to do some more wandering around. The group was staying at the Stardust so we took a cab. Then the six of us headed out to a Las Vegas classic, The Peppermill, which was basically an overpriced Denny’s with a bar. But the inside of it looked like cheesy Vegas lounge. I guess it kind of was. And I loved it.

Dinner was okay food wise. We headed back to the Stardust with the gang, and then Jamaal and I headed out. I was getting ready to get a cab but Jamaal said “We can walk it, it isn’t far”. The Luxor is not close to the Stardust. An argument ensued while we started to walk to the other end of the strip to the Excalibur. I knew this wasn’t a close walk. Eventually we got separated and both took cabs back to the room to sleep.

Las Vegas Part 2

Las Vegas 2005

Disneyland Resort Part 2 2005


Disneyland is the original Disney park. This was my first visit to a Disney park ever, and I’m glad that I started with the first one, and during the 50th anniversary celebrations, at that. After walking across the courtyard between the 2 parks we headed into Disneyland. Unfortunately Space Mountain hadn’t finished it’s reconstruction & refurbishment at that point and Splash Mountain was down for maintenance, as was Jungle Cruise. Oh well, that gave me more reasons to come back later.

We first found a restroom and then waited in front of the Castle for the other three. I don’t care what anybody says about the size of Sleeping Beauty’s castle, it was still really cute. One of the first noticeable things was how much more crowded Disneyland was than California Adventure. The first ride I saw was the Astro Orbiter. I almost took a spin, but the line was just a bit too long and we were supposed to be meeting up with the other three.

Then we saw Peter Pan’s Flight. This line was super long, so we opted out of that as well. Maybe next time. We walked back through the castle and I saw Tina waving for me. We went over and met Bill and Jodi. Then it was off for a ride. I’m pretty sure I have this in order, but there may be some discrepancies. First, I was up for some Haunted Mansion. The line wasn’t short, but the wait wasn’t that long.

Haunted Mansion-Granted, the actual ride portion wasn’t a bit scary. But the stretching room gave me a quick jump scare. Never the less, I really like dark rides and this was no exception. I know there were some changes recently, which were cool. Overall, aside from the temperature being a bit too cool for us, I really enjoyed the ride on Haunted Mansion. I’ve been waiting for many, many years to ride. Now when are they gonna add that 1000th ghost?

After Haunted Mansion I needed a coaster ride so we headed over towards Big Thunder Mountain. But first, we passed by The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh, and had to take a spin.

The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh-It was a pretty good dark ride. The ride looks very nice and was well themed. I liked Pooh’s Heffalump dream world scenes the best.

I was slightly worried about the coaster as there had been a recent accident. This wouldn’t be the first nor the last roller coaster I’d ridden that had had a serious accident, but I wasn’t going to pass on riding another classic.

Big Thunder Mountain Rail RoadAfter just a few lifts and drops, I proclaimed “If we were at Carowinds, It’d be over by now”. Bill agreed, Tina and Jody just laughed. This was my first ride with Bill. The trains were comfy to sit in, the ride was paced just right, and the theming was, once again, just blissful. Disney really is in a class all to themselves. Then there is that lift in the tunnel. After that, I proclaimed once again “If this were Adventure Express, it’d be over by now, and I’d be once again disappointed”. Bill was also making some Adventure Express comment (okay, so I did like it my last visit to Kings Island…). But BTMR was more than both of the previously mentioned mine train coasters. Heck, it is kind of the original. It was a fun ride, nicely paced with some decent ups, downs and laterals. I’d do it again.

Well, that was #98. Next up was another classic Disney Ride, and one that has been in the rumors lately: Pirates of the Caribbean. One neat thing was the restaurant that the ride actually navigates around.

Pirates of the Caribbean-Another golden oldie, Jamaal and I really enjoyed Pirates. It was fairly long, which is a good thing. More time to sit down. Plus it was a dark ride. Yay! The one drop was unexpected, and the animatronics were all in top notch order. Heck, I’ve been in some more ‘up to date’ dark rides that weren’t this good. Another oldie down, and another satisfied customer.

At this point I should have looked at a map and made some decisions on what all I wanted to see and do at Disneyland. Had I looked I would have realized all that Disneyland had to offer. In fact I didn’t spend any real time in Tomorrowland and almost missed out on two of the better rides at the park. Instead we rushed over to Matterhorn for another coaster credit.

Matterhorn (right)-We had been told to ride the right side of the coaster during the day, the left at night, and so we hopped in line for the right side as it was still daylight out. This was it. The first tubular steel coaster ever. It was also the last of my double digit credits at #99. I thought for a family coaster that it was fairly intense. Good theming, good coaster, and the water as a natural break is funky. The mountain actually looks almost real as well along the skyline. I rode in a car all to myself

Bill, Tina, and Jodi were hungry and Jamaal and I still needed to use our Screamin’ Fast Pass so we headed back over to say goodby to DCA. We picked up a disposable camera on our way into DCA since we left the digital camera behind by accident, and took some photos of the park before heading over to California Screamin’ again. The second ride was just as good as the first, and with 99% less wait time.

After snapping a few more pics the park was starting to close. We were there for almost an hour. Another Tower of Terror ride would have made me happy, but oh well. Getting two rides was still good. We then headed back over to Disneyland, which was still much more crowded than California Adventure. Next time I’d know I would need a full day for each park, but on this trip I’m just happy to be able to go.

I couldn’t get the gang to answer when I called to tell them we’d be heading back over, so I figured they were in line or on a ride and had no Cell reception. Walking over towards Tomorrowland I saw something I had forgotten Disneyland even had. I’m a huge Sci Fi geek. I like comics, I like coasters, I’m a Trekkie, and I like Star Wars. So when I saw the Star Tours sign, I just about flipped out. Thankfully, Jamaal is a Star Wars geek too.

Star Tours-I called my close friend Jon, who is a super Star Wars fan, to tell him what I was about to do. The line was long but moved swiftly. This was the only thing in Tomorrowland I ended up riding. We noticed Tina, Bill, and Jodi in line up ahead and told them to wait outside after they rode. Eventually we got through the queue and were off on our mission. It was fun. I mean, I’m not a huge motion simulator fan as they tend to make me sick, but it was a lot of fun.

After meeting up with the others we wondered around the park for a while taking photos. Just outside of Star Tours was the newly soft opened Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters which had about a 40 minute wait. I wasn’t willing to wait, so off we were.

Then it was that time. Time for #100. Everyone counts coasters in their own way. Matterhorn has two semi-dueling tracks. The sides are different, and that makes it, to me, 2 different coasters. So my 99th and 100th coasters are the kind of the same.

Matterhorn (left)-The other side was definitely more intense. Was it because it was nite? I dunno, but it was also a little rougher. Oh well, Matterhorn was still a lot of fun and being at night, the ride was a little darker.

We were going over to do the Kiddie coaster when I saw something else that is impossible to pass up the first time. Another Disney classic, and I don’t think I’ll ever get that song out of my head…

“it’s a small world”-Yes it is, but the line wasn’t small. Again, though, we’re at Disneyland, and so it wasn’t a long wait. The ride, however, was about 15 minutes too long for me. Okay, I had to do it once. But once is enough for me

We headed over to ToonTown to ride the last coaster operating in the park, Gadget’s Go Coaster, a roller skater. Another neat ride I saw was Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin. I loved that movie, but how would the ride be?

Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin-S loved this! The theming was very well done and the self spinning was a cool idea. Jamaal was with Bill, Jodi was with Tina behind me, and I was all alone. Yay spinning Cars! Tons o’ fun yet again.

There were lots of other things I’d like to have done. I didn’t get to ride Dumbo, didn’t get to do Snow White’s Scary Adventure, didn’t do this, didn’t do that. But it was all up to me, as the other 3 had been there all day and were letting me lead the way. That, and Jamaal wasn’t so in to Disneyland. So I decided to take us back for a last spin on the Haunted Mansion. But one thing everyone had mentioned was Indiana Jones, and how we needed to do that. I thought it was the stunt show. Boy was I wrong. So when we passed by it we headed to the entrance.

Indiana Jones Adventure-I’m so glad that I didn’t miss this. You board Jeep like vehicles after the long long themed queue. Then the ride starts. It was amazing, all the effects seemed to be working on time and it was so much fun. I’m glad they talked me into riding, as otherwise I wouldn’t have bothered.

Our day at the park was coming to a close. We went back over by Pirates and the Haunted Mansion for photos, but Disneyland was officially closed. Even with all that I missed, we got ride some really fun coasters and dark rides. But next time I’ll know to schedule more time for each park. We headed up to Jodi’s car for some Mummy posters she had (thanks again Jodi!) and then Tina and Bill left as well.

Jamaal and I were going to eat at Downtown Disney, but our legs hurt too much to walk back. And then we lost our car. Thankfully, we found it just where we had left it by hitting the panic button. After a quick stop at Carl’s Jr. we headed back to our motel and I headed off to sleep.

Las Vegas Part 1

Disneyland Resort Part 1 2005


March 8, 2005
Anaheim CA
Disneyland Resort
Photo Album

Disneyland Resort 2005

After I had been home for a while I was talking to my sister on the phone. She had been to Disney World with my brother as a child. I’d yet to go to Florida, but when asking me about Disneyland she mentioned that she’d always had this idea that Disneyland was old, rundown, and not very nice. I had always had the same perception of the park as well. I know that there was a time that some basic park maintenance was let to slip. Also, after reading that one of the reasons Walt build Disney World was because he wasn’t very happy with how everything sprung up around Disneyland after opening, turning the area into a tourist trap that he wanted to avoid.

But what I had seen of Anaheim was nice, and I really enjoyed the Disneyland resort, which looked amazing. Because of the jet lag I woke up fairly early. Seven in the morning early. Not usual for me. Actually, at 7 AM normally I’d just be getting off of work. I asked Jamaal if he wanted to join me for breakfast at the Denny’s across the parking lot but he declined, opting to sleep longer instead, so I offered to bring breakfast back to him.

I was going to call Tina and Bill to see if they wanted to join me since they were at the same motel, but it was early and I figured I’d just call them after breakfast in case they weren’t awake yet. While eating I made sure to call Jamaal’s sister since we couldn’t get ahold of her on Monday to let her know we arrived safely and everything was going well. After getting something to go for Jamaal I headed back across the parking lot. It was getting close to 8:30 AM and Disneyland opened at 10. I wanted to be there at or near opening, so I let Jamaal get ready and eat as I watched the morning news when I finally called Tina.

She said that once they got ready they’d come down to our room since I still had yet to meet Bill in person. A few minutes later as we were getting ready to leave I get a call from Tina:

Tina-“Hey, what room did you say you were in again?”

Me-“Um, 315, I thought I told you.”

Tina-“Well we’re outside the door”.

I opened the door…“No you’re not”

Tina & Bill-(through hysterical laughter) “Oh my, we must be at different Motel 6s!”

Me-“Are you at the one in Anaheim, Tina?”

Tina-“No, we’re near Knott’s Berry Farm, 7 miles away!”.

Disneyland Resort 2005

So there went our morning meet up. We were so sure the entire time that we were at the same motel when we were actually a few miles apart, with us near Disneyland, them by Knott’s Berry Farm. We decided to meet at Disneyland later in the day as Tina and Bill were meeting up with their friend Jodi, the SoCal ACE rep at the time. Just before 10 AM we were finally ready to head to the park. I had ordered special 1 day park hopper tickets for us for $54 a piece, and almost didn’t get them in time. They arrived in the mail the afternoon right before we left, thankfully. After we got directions to Disneyland we got a little turned around, but a few minutes later were entering the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim.

We paid to park and headed to one of the parking decks. During the drive to the parking deck you finally come upon the parks and see the Tower of Terror and Maliboomer at California Adventure. It was another exciting moment for me, much like seeing Cedar Point from the causeway for the first time. After parking we went down and hopped a tram to the front gate.

The front gate plaza was very impressive. Downtown Disney was straight ahead, with California Adventure to the left and Disneyland to the right. It was just after 10 AM and everyone had given me the advice to go to California Adventure first since we probably wouldn’t spend too much time there, as the park, though still fairly new, did not have nearly as much to offer. How wrong that advice was! After getting through the gates at California Adventure we headed directly to the Sun Wheel.

Sun Wheel-The Sun Wheel is based on Deno’s Wonder Wheel at Coney Island in NYC. I was excited to see the swinging cars in motion. This was defiantly one of the lowest capacity ride in the park, and the line showed that in how slow it moved. The Sun Wheel could have been a lot of fun, but it was just too slow and it had to stop 2 times during the continuous cycle for scared kids to get off and the like. Woulda, shoulda, coulda been funner. Oh well. I wasn’t upset, it was still fun.

After the Sun Wheel we were close to Maliboomer, a 3 tower S&S shot tower complex. The wait wasn’t long at all even with only one Tower running. Actually so far the park was fairly dead.

Maliboomer-I had been on Power Tower at Cedar Point but I always get nervous on drop rides. I knew what to expect with Maliboomer, however. The air pop at the top was great. Even with the annoying ‘Scream Shields’, the ride was fun and we would ride it again 2 more times during the day.

Next we wandered around Paradise Pier towards California Screamin’. This was a very nice section of the park. In fact, it could have almost fooled you into thinking you were at a small sea side park at the beach. Very nice, very clean, and very friendly. But enough of that, it was time for some more Intamin goodness, this time in the form of a coaster…

Disneyland Resort 2005

California Screamin’This was credit number 96. The line was slightly long. We quickly got a fast pass for later, since Moosh gave us the secret on how to exploit those, then we got in line. The line was about 20 minutes long, with about 3 trains running and only one side of the dual station. We made our way down to the launch area. One thing I noticed was that the soundtrack was also not playing. Oh well. The launch came and we shot down the launch track and up into the first hill and around the massive layout. The coaster was very smooth and I liked how the LIM lifts had the sound of a chain lift to it. The bunny hops in the latter half gave ample airtime and the loop was fun, with strong laterals thought the ride in the helices. It was a fun coaster, definitely good and worth a few rides. No head-banging, the loop was cool.

Since we had our ride and our fast pass on Screamin’, we had to figure out what to do next. Another quick go on Maliboomer.  Then while walking back thru Paradise Pier it was time for another coaster. Mulholland Madness was close by and the only other credit in California Adventure. Even though Jamaal was going to opt out at first, as he said it looked like a kid’s coaster, I explained to him that wild mouse coasters can be terrifying and that it was for adults and kids. The fast pass was not available on this, the line was a little long, but we were able to ride.

Mulholland MadnessDefiantly tamed down, but it was still a really fun mouse. The theming is cool. We were in the front of our car. There isn’t much to say, after a point it is just another wild mouse. I still love ’em, they still kinda scare me. ‘Nuff said.

Heading back through the Golden State then past Sunshine Plaza we headed into Hollywood Pictures Backlot. We checked out the Disney Animation building, but nothing much was going on at the moment so it was on to the next thing that I came to the park for, Tower of Terror. The scenery beside Aladdin’s theater was another forced perspective that was very well done again. Rounding the street towards the ‘Hollywood Tower Hotel’, we got a fast pass for Tower of Terror first before getting in line which, thankfully, was very short. It was nearing noon and still the park was pretty empty.

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror-I loved this! I had heard the Florida version was better, so I was excited at the possibility of eventually getting to ride. The tower looked really cool. When seeing it from outside of the park, I couldn’t tell if it was another hotel until we got closer and I recognized it was Tower of Terror. We waited a couple minutes and were led into the first room of the preshow. The effects of lightning and the ‘Twilight Zone’ episode showing the story were both really cool. The boiler room was nicely themed as well. After a few minutes wait we were led to our elevator. I must say, the special effects that did make it to the California version were impressive. The room turning to a field of stars, everything was cool. The first drop caught me off guard, and I was out of my seat almost every drop due to airtime. This was my favorite ride of the trip.

After Tower of Terror, we went back to the Animation building and explored it some more, going thru a few rooms and shows in there. It was a nice break, I highly recommend it for any Disney buffs, and especially artists. Jamaal & I were both Art Honor students so it was right up our alley. Then we headed to Muppet Vision 3D. Being that I had seen a lot of this on TV as a kid so I was interested to see what it was really like.

Jim Henson’s Muppet Vision 3D-It was cute, I enjoyed it, especially being able to sit down. Matthew said it was about 10 minutes too long, and he was half right. It lasted about 5 minutes longer than I had the attention span for, but honestly, mostly forgettable in the end.

We were getting hungry so we headed over to see what the line for Grizzly River Run was like and hopefully find some food along the way. Then I remembered one thing Matthew had said to do as soon as we got into the park, just before the Sun Wheel, which I had forgotten: Get a fast pass for Soarin’ over California. Oh my! I know wait times on this were outrageous, so we went to get our fast pass, only to find no line at all!

Soarin’ over California-Soarin’ was a neat experience. We didn’t get into the seats we had been told to ride, so there were feet hanging down above us, but it was still a lot of fun. The ride carriage was interesting to say the least, and it was nice to see some of California that I still had yet to venture to. But while I enjoyed it, It wasn’t something I was super eager to have to ride again.

There was a burger joint, the Test Pilot Grill, right beside Soarin’ which is where we decided to eat. Jamaal was kind of tired and his blood sugar was acting up. Since he doesn’t like to get wetI went over to see if I could get in line for Grizzly River Run. Once getting there, I realized that I probably needed a fast pass as the line was too long and I didn’t want to make Jamaal wait that long on me. I unknowingly took the long way around back to the Pilot’s Grill to get my ticket for a fast pass as the kiosks were close. But the Fast Pass kiosks were closed. There was, however, a single rider line.

Grizzly River Run-Yay single rider lines! More rides need these. I got in the line and was able to ride right away. This was the best rapids ride I’d ever ridden. It was very well themed all the way thru. The first drop got me fairly wet and the last drop finished the job. But it was a blast as the day was rather warm and I love water rides.

Okay, so I was drenched but we really needed to get to Disneyland if we wanted to see both parks. Just before we left California Adventure we used our Fast Passes for Tower of Terror. Another excellent ride which I could go on and on about again, but I’ll spare you. At one point, however, I was out of my seat once as soon as the drop sequence started and never touched my seat thru the whole drop sequence. It was definitely the best air I’d ever had.

It was around 2 PM so I called Tina, who was with Bill and Jodi over at Disneyland Park. They were in line for ‘it’s a small world’ so she told us to meet her in front of the Castle. We left California Adventure and headed to the one, the only, the original…Disneyland!

Part Two

Disneyland Resort 2005

Universal Studios Hollywood 2005


Citywalk & Hollywood 2005

I had planned this trip for months. I had never been to the west coast and didn’t think it was possible financially at this point in my life so I wasn’t planning on going to California. My original plan, then, was a trip to Florida in February. But one nite in an IM chat a friend had told me about Winter Coaster Solace at Knott’s Berry Farm and that I should go. At the time I was working 4 ten hour night shifts at a state run hospital and one good thing about my job was that I could get off work with ease. I started accruing leave from the first day I began working there. And since the West Virginia Dept. of Human Resources received a $1000 bonus at the end of the previous year year, I was more than on my way to a SoCal trip fund.

It took some convincing, but eventually I talked one of my friends into going with me. Jamaal had been to Frisco and Sacramento years before to visit his aunt as a teenager but now we were both adults. After months of planning, saving, and hard work on Monday and Tuesday nites Jamaal and I had our trip planned. It was rough at first; we had problems getting the airline tickets thru American Airlines and tickets for Maroon 5’s first concert on their Honda Civic tour.

The week leading up to our trip was very busy for both of us. There were a couple of last minute reservations to make and we almost missed getting our ultra cheap Disneyland Resort park hopper tickets. Saturday, the day before we left was going to be busy, as I had a previous engagement that afternoon and then work that nite. Sundays were always busy for me, and then we had to leave around 2 pm to drive 5 hours north to my Grandmother’s house, which wasn’t fun on so little sleep. I had only about 2 hours of sleep in 2 days. But once we arrived at my sisters I got my second wind.

We headed through town and to my Grandmothers house, where I visited with her for a bit, then used my brother’s computer to check in for our flights. Neither of us had flown in years, and this was our first time flying post-9/11.

Universal Studios Hollywood 2005

Early twenty something experience (or lack there of) being what it is, we somehow decided it was cheaper and more convenient to fly from Dulles to L.A. We lived about 6 hours from Dulles but were able to sleep at my grandmother’s house the night before which was about 2 hours from Dulles. On Monday we woke up early, but later than we should have, rushed to get ready, and head the 2 or so hours to Dulles Airport. On of my best friends was working there at the time and was able to get free parking for the duration of the trip, another deciding factor to fly from Dulles instead of, say, Charlotte, a major hub that was closer to home.

We arrived at Dulles around 8 am for our 9 am flight. I knew that flying wasn’t as easy as it used to be, and had told Jamaal that we needed to be there about 2 hours prior to our flight, but he continued to make decisions that pushed our arrival at Dulles back. We arrived at our baggage check with about a minute before our flight’s cut off . After hurrying to check in and thru security, we were at the gate. We made it to our plane on time to board with seats near the back. I hadn’t flown in over 14 years and was excited for take off. I had almost forgotten how it felt. We would have had almost an hour early arrival, but the pilot had to slow down over the Rockies so as not to arrive too early.

I enjoyed flying again. We flew over the Appalachian Mountains, over the plains of the Midwest, then over the Rockies and Grand Canyon. Our in-flight movie was ‘The Incredibles’, which I had already seen and loved. I kept trying to sleep since I hadn’t slept much the night before, but it was futile. I hated Jamaal for being able to. Instead I took pics from the air, watched some of the movie, and tried to nap.

Not long before noon we arrived at our destination. The flight had been fairly turbulent, which I enjoy. After touching down we picked up our luggage and hopped a shuttle to Alamo to pick up our rental. Thankfully, the girl at the counter thought Jamaal was cute so she upgraded our car. Thankfully we picked unlimited mileage.

Universal Studios Hollywood 2005

We asked for directions from Sepulveda Blvd. to Universal City for our first destination, Universal Studios Hollywood. The drive took about an hour, but it was, according to my friend Matthew, the long way around. Oh well. We were able to see some of LA and I caught a glimpse of the Hollywood sign, so that was cool. After arriving to Universal City we headed up the hill to park, changed our clothes, and headed CityWalk. I had a coupon for $15 off, so we picked up our tickets and went inside. I was more impressed with the park than I expected to be. We passed by the Van Helsing walk thru, which was only operating at certain times, and hadn’t opened yet, so I looked at our map and decided that we should head down the hill towards Mummy, our first coaster of 2005.

I’d never been to a park with so many escalators before. It was odd going down the mountain side to the lower level of the park but once down there we saw ‘Revenge of the Mummy’ and ‘Jurassic Park’ rides. Of course, we headed to Mummy first. The line was very short. The queue of Mummy was highly themed, with booby traps and a pre-show.  We got into the loading station and rode next to the back of the car. Then it was into the themed section of the ride.

Revenge of the Mummy-You roll into the first themed section of the ride, round a corner where the Mummy talks to you before Imhotep, just above you, sends you launching into the first coaster section of the ride, with twists, turns, dips, and laterals. Then you come to a stop atop a hill in a chamber where scarab beetles attack, just as you’re launched backwards into another twisting & turning coaster section. You come to a stop yet again in a domed room with projectors and are spun around while the Mummy is defeated before a door opens and you roll back into the station. I do wish that it was a bit longer, but the ride was really good. This was my 95th credit.

Universal Studios Hollywood 2005

Mummy was a lot of fun. I appreciated the free for an hour lockers located at the entrance even if we did leave our stuff in over an hour and ended up having to pay. Jamaal and I were both hungry so we went to the Jurassic Park Café for some grub. I wish we would have gotten the meal plan for the day. I had a large soft chocolate chip cookie, a grilled chicken sandwich with fries, and a peach Arbor Mist. We were close to Jurassic Park and I’d wanted to ride it for quite some time. It was nearly a walk on, so we hopped into the back seat of our boat.

Jurassic Park The Ride-The ride was very well themed. The only thing that didn’t seem to trigger on time was the falling Jeep. I was kind of amazed at the forced perspective as you get near the top of the lift. I guess because it was so dark inside I was fooled. The T-Rex animatronic was cool. We didn’t get very wet on the drop which was a good thing, even though the day was hot. All in all, I was not disappointed.

After taking a few more pictures we did the Backdraft effects show, which was also very neat. I jumped at the end when the ceiling came down. After Backdraft we once again got in the very short line for Mummy. During our time in the station house, I heard the ride ops say “Welcome to Superman: The Escape” which was kinda funny (if you’re a coaster geek and got the joke). The ride ops looked more like Pirates than whatever they were supposed to look like.

Our second ride on Mummy was just as fun. I liked the ride. After spending some time at the lower end of the park we headed back to the first level. We headed back up to the upper level of the park to try Van Helsing Fortress Dracula. I like dark rides, but…

Van Helsing Fortress Dracula-They should be slightly better than this. Don’t get me wrong, the actual theming was good. The rooms were filled with sets and effects, and there were people to scare you everywhere. The last huge guy did scare me a bit. But the attraction falls short. You know there is someone lurking around because there is a ‘guard’ standing around each scare actor. It could have been better if it was actually more ‘PG-13’ like advertised, instead of a neutered PG.

Universal Studios Hollywood 2005

It was starting to get late and the park closed at 6pm so we had to make a decision on either watching the Waterworld show, which I really wanted to see, or the Studio Tour. It was an hour tour, but very worth it, and I’m glad we chose it.

Studio Tour-This was the best part of the park. The tour went thru many famous sets and even some scenes such as the subway disaster, a King Kong scene that I was really happy about since I didn’t get to ride Kongfrontation at the Florida park. There was a Mexican town with a flash flood and a Jaws scene that was fun to finally see in person, even if the Shark needed some work on the skin. One of the last scenes we went through was from the ‘War of the Worlds’ remake that had recently been added. Jamaal took pictures and filmed quite a bit. We both enjoyed the Back lot tour a lot.

I had wanted to ride both Terminator 3D and Shrek but didn’t have enough time. We did opt for Back to the Future: The ride instead.

Back to the Future The Ride-I had heard bad things about the ride, but it was still fun for a first time ride. The queue was nicely themed, the pre-show was funny, and the actual simulator was decent with the movement and fog, etc. A fun ride, but something I could skip the next time.

At this point the park was closing phone battery was starting to die. But we were making plans to hook up with my friend Matthew for dinner. I called Matthew to find out where he was, and then he called me kind of confused, because we were at different parts of the park and I wasn’t familiar with where we were in order for him to pick us up.

After finally meeting for the first time in person Matt drove us to Hollywood. We parked near the Kodak theater, walked in to look at the list of Oscar Best Picture winners, then walked down by the Chinese Theater which was beautiful, and then over by the El Capitan. I still didn’t get to see Janet Jackson’s star on the walk of fame, but we did see Michael’s and ate at Hamburger Hamlet across from the Chinese Theater.

Dinner with Matthew was very nice. The food was good, and though I’d have liked to spend more time hanging with him, we had to get some sleep. So we opted to call it a nite and headed to Anaheim to our motel. We talked to Tina and Bill on the phone to make plans for the next morning as we were all staying at the same place, then I fell asleep while watching 24.
Disneyland Resort Part 1

Citywalk & Hollywood 2005