Waking up the next morning we had some of our leftover Korean food for breakfast before hitting up the pool, then heading out. We were going to find the Hollywood sign from a good vantage point so we headed to LA and then to Hollywood. We actually accidentally ended up at the foot of the hike up to the Hollywood sign. We weren’t prepared, nor did we have the time to do the hike, though I definitely want to do that at some point, so we walked a little bit up the trail before heading back down and driving back to Anaheim for day 2 of Disneyland, or in this case, California Adventure.
Today there were no GPS mishaps. We parked in the parking garage and headed to the Grand Californian on a much easier route this time, meeting up with our contact/new friend for a drink at the bar at the Grand Californian. She was starting her vacation today and wanted to start off right, so we gladly obliged. I had a drink made with Wild Turkey, Red Stag, and something that made it all taste a bit smokey. It was good.
I really did enjoy my visit to California Adventure on my last visit a decade ago, but the park has now grown in much more, and obviously there is that recent billion dollar make over. There were elements I liked from the original, but I won’t mourn their loss much because California Adventure, as it stands now, is amazing. We headed over to Pacific Wharf and straight to the main attraction there.
I was kind of bummed that I didn’t get to spend the day in Philly on Monday, but the one park I was looking forward to the most was Great Adventure and that was my game plan for Tuesday. I was nervous because the road to Jackson was a bit confusing and the tolls expensive. My GPS gave me different directions than Matt had, which compounded the confusion as well. So I called Matt a few times to make sure I was at the right place, and in just over an hour I was turning in to the park. This was a huge area, with the water park and wild safari available as well, but I headed in to the parking lot to the theme park, parked, and headed to the gate, season pass in hand.
All of the coasters that I could see were testing except for Kingda Ka, which just happened to be the Tallest, Fastest coaster in the world at the time. But whatever. I wanted to ride it, but I was here for other coasters. The front gate for Great Adventure was nice and well landscaped. I went thru the turnstiles and in to the park. The entry plaza was huge. I knew this park was notorious for getting packed. I was worried because there were already a lot of cars in the lot.
Once inside I headed to the left and made it to the ropes. The park opened at 10:00 AM, but the rides start to open at 10:30. I think they should have had an opening ceremony like Six Flags America. That would have helped pass the time better. Promptly at 10:30, though, the ropes dropped and off the bulls ran. My first stop was Superman.
Waking up Friday morning, Jamaal and I got ready with plans to head over to Stratosphere with the gang to see if we could get a ride on Insanity since it was closed the night before. We’d had the breakfast buffet at our hotel the day before, but no such luck today. We rode over by Stratosphere but, after talking to Bill, decided we weren’t going to wait till the rides opened later in the day as we had plans to go to a concert that evening in Hollywood, so we left Las Vegas.
I wanted to get a picture of the billboards on the way back that said, “What happens in Vegas” & “Dosen’t get past this billboard” but we went by too quickly.
Speed was fun for the 2 rides, the food we had was great, Manhattan Express wasn’t the worst, and High Roller Sucked. The other rides (that were running) on the Strat were fun even if we didn’t get to ride Insanity. And Star Trek: The Experience was awesome.
But now it was time for coaster credit #106. We headed towards Prime, which is about 40 minutes outside of Vegas, on the NV/CA border.Buffalo Bills was interesting.The casino was nicely themed, and the Log ride looked like fun but we only got tickets for Desperado, even passing up what would be our 3rd S&S tower.
Desperado–It could be slightly rough, yes. But the trains were prettier than those on Magnum. The station is inside by the casino. Jamaal and I were in front seat with two other guys in the very back. We waited for a few minutes and then were dispatched. You go down a dip and then start up the lift that takes you outside. The first drop was great, just a bit rough at the bottom, but still fun. The subsequent bunny hops were filled with airtime, and both of us liked the ride, which circles the outside of the casino. I’d rate it above average. Another hypercoaster in the books. Another former record breaker ridden.
We were already 40 minutes past Vegas and our drive back from here wasn’t bad. Eventually we stopped at a gas station in a little settlement in the middle of the desert where we had stopped on the way to Vegas. I don’t think the temps ever got below 80 the couple days we were there.
Though I may have wanted to do more sightseeing, once we arrived in Hollywood it was already around 4pm, with a concert at 8:15. After parking at the bottom of the hill we rode the tram up to CityWalk. We had dinner at Panda Express and did some shopping. It was getting much cooler than Las Vegas had been. We really didn’t have a lot of time before getting in line for the concert.
Universal Amphitheater was a nice venue. We made it to our seats, which were a welcome to my tired legs. We still didn’t know who the opening act was, then someone told us-Phantom Planet, the guys that sangthe theme song for ‘The OC’. Plus we found out this was the opening nite of the tour.
Phantom Planet was great. They had a fairly long. It’s always refreshing to hear a good *Live* band. During intermission we went for a potty break, and I spotted someone I walked by that looked familiar. I knew I recognized this person. At the top of the stairs, I mentioned it to Jamaal, and coming back down the stairs, he was like “oh my, it is him”, our first celeb sighting…Ian Ziering from 90210. We had better seats than he did.
The lights went down and Maroon 5 came out to screaming fans. They did the songs off of their album and some new songs as well. Another refreshingly good live band. The lights went down and stayed until the encore. Then they went into my favorite Maroon V song, and I knew the end was near. I really love She will be Loved, and the audience went wild for that one as well.
After that, Adam Levine mentioned that the drummer had been off the tour due to injury and they had a back up drummer. But since it was L.A. and this was their hometown, Adam took the drums as the Drummer came out to play guitar and sing 2 songs. Their rendition of “Seven Nation Army” by White Strips, and then “Highway to Hell”, which just happens to be a song about being on tour.
They would be performing in Morgantown a few weeks later, but I wouldn’t be able to go. One interesting tidbit: The lead singer from Phantom Planet actually sat with his girl friend and family right behind us for the entirety of Maroon 5’s set. Great nite. Then it was a late arrival at Days Inn in Buena Park. We met up with Tim Danner who was also staying there that nite for a few minutes before bed.
Some years later, after meeting a friend’s wife, we found out that we were both at the same Maroon V concert, her in the pit just in front of us. Disney was right, it really is a small world. Jamaal and I were tired, and we had to get up early for Exclusive Ride Time at Knott’s Winter Coaster Solace the next morning, so we headed to bed.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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