Monday, October 10, 2011
Cody and Jonah's Disneyland Adventure
Jonah and I recently returned from a really nice vacation in Anaheim. It’s been a while since either of us has had a real vacation, so it was really nice to get away. A few months ago an old college friend of mine invited us to attend Gay Days at Disneyland with him and and another college friend. I didn’t know if I would be able to go because I sometimes can’t plan that far in advance because I never know for sure when or where I will be working. I had auditioned for a show in Salt Lake City, and if I had been cast I wouldn’t have been able to go to Disneyland. While I could have used the job, I was actually quite thankful not to get cast. Jonah and I had already been apart since April, and we needed this time together (plus the thought of reconnecting with my two college friends at a really fun amusement park sounded like a blast).
As it stood, once my summer gig ended, I stayed in town another week to audition for another show (which I was cast in, by the way, and then came home to Jonah, which has been really nice.
I also qualified for unemployment and am actually making more not working than I did when I was working at my last job. Go figure!
Jonah and I left Thursday, Sept. 29. Jonah had been really sick at the beginning of the week due to a urinary tract infection, and we worried that it might prevent us from taking the trip after all. In fact, he took the whole week off of work, which he never does.
My college friend had offered to let us stay in his room for free, which I would have been more than happy to do. Jonah has a hard time sleeping anyway, and besides, he thought it would be nice to have some privacy in case we should want to “get busy.” The motel was quite inexpensive – only 50 bucks a night. Evidently, my friend stays at this motel every time he comes to Disneyland (which is as often as he can – this is a guy who chose his graduate school based on its vicinity to Disneyland - no joke), but Jonah had doubts about it and suggested we stay somewhere a bit more expensive. Being the cheapskate that I am and because I felt we should stay in the same hotel as the person who invited us, I said we ought to stay at my friend's motel.
It turns out Jonah was right. Now when it comes to motels, I am not at all fussy. For me a hotel or motel is just a place I sleep when I come back from doing other things, and I don’t need a lot of frills. However, this motel was even beneath my low standards.
If you’re looking for a cheap, bare-bones, no-frills place to stay while going to Disneyland, the Alamo Inn in Anaheim might be the place for you.
However, unless you'd like the following "amenities", I’d look elsewhere:
- a dirty plastic spoon on the edge of your bed when you arrive. (Jonah asked if it was mine. I said it wasn’t. Ick!)
- beds that don't have fitted sheets; just two sets of non-fitted sheets that slide down when you're on the bed
- sheets with stains
- maids who, when they "clean" your room simply remake the bed with the stained sheets until you insist they be replaced. (Double ick!)
- no orientation guide to tell you where the ice machine or pool is or what number to dial to reach the front desk (which you will need to do often) or what restaurants are nearby or where Disneyland is in relation to the motel (although you may already know where it is because you have already stayed at the nicer Stovall Inn two doors down)
- no shampoo (at least on our first night). (Neither of us had brought shampoo because we assumed the motel would have some, so we had lovely hair (NOT) on our first day in the park.
- soap that does not lather up and is like washing yourself with a piece of candle wax
- no iron (Jonah likes irons)
- a cheap hair dryer that has fallen from its mount on the wall
- towels that are cheaper than your average motel towels; the kind that are like drying yourself off with sandpaper (which is especially uncomfortable when one is trying to dry their genital region)
- electrical outlets where nothing will stay plugged in. (It was like the outlet openings were too big for a regular-sized plug. This was very frustrating, but was probably designed to keep guests from using this cheap motel's precious electricity. Because of this, the lamp next to my bed would not turn on, and when I tried to plug my laptop in, I had to keep jiggling it until I found the “sweet spot” where it would remain powered. Careful! Don't even look at the cord or it will fall out of the outlet.)
- complimentary wireless service, which has a bit of a catch. (We discovered that the wireless signal did not extend to any of the actual rooms and that if you wanted to use it, the only place that seemed to have a signal was the front office. This normally would not have been a big deal, but Jonah has been selling some artwork on Ebay and needed to check what was selling so he could ship it in time, so that was inconvenient as well.)
- toilet rolls so tight that you’ll break off each individual piece when trying to unroll it (again, probably to prevent you from using their precious toilet paper at all)
- a bathroom door that won't completely close
- a rubber bathtub mat that has been torn off so that only half of it is remaining
- only one hanger in the room. (Good thing we brought some of our own)
- not enough parking for the number of guests at the motel. (Thus, we did not take the car out at night for fear that we wouldn’t have a place to park when we returned.
- an outdoor hot tub whose jets don't work
- an uncomfortable bed
- room keys that consistently don't work and take several tries before you can actually open the door to your room. (Good thing we're not being chased by a serial killer.)
- a smell of burning in your room (couldn't be the faulty electrical outlets, could it? Hmmmm.)
Any positives? Yes, actually. The staff was friendly (not overwhelmingly so, but they were pleasant). Wireless in the office worked well, and there were places to sit and use one’s computer. We were able to buy a two-day park hopper pass for Disneyland and California Adventure directly at the hotel (cash only, though) for slightly less than the park itself, and this enabled us to forego lines to buy tickets at the park, thus allowing us to enter Disneyland more quickly. Although the hot tub jets did not work, the hot tub itself was a great temperature and the pool was nice, too. Since I seemed to be the only one using either, they were nice and private, which I liked. Our room itself was very conveniently located near the office, ice machine, and our car. The air conditioning worked well. There was a variety of channels to watch on the television. The room had a small fridge and microwave (neither plugged in when we entered), so that was nice. The shower was hot and didn’t take long to warm up at all. The motel was close to several restaurants, shopping areas, and Disneyland (within walking distance).
If you’re on a very tight budget and don’t mind staying in a cheap, cheap motel where going above and beyond the call of duty doesn’t exist, I could probably recommend the Alamo Inn. If you want somewhere nice where customer service and comfort is of the highest priority, look elsewhere.
So why did we stay here? Well, we had already paid through Expedia, and we were on a budget. Once again, Jonah was right, and I even suggested we change motels, but we decided to tough it out. And it was fine, but we will never stay there again.
One thing I did like about it was that it made for some great stories to tell the kids we will never have. Sometimes the dumpiest places are the ones you remember most. We jokingly referred to the office as the “Internet Café.” At least we had a good sense of humor about it, and really, we weren’t actually in the motel that often.
Originally, Jonah's friend from work was supposed to hook us up with his friend, a Disney employee who could have gotten us in for free. But we also know that Jonah's friend is a flake and highly unreliable, so we were prepared to pay, which we did because, as expected, the friend did not come through for us (big surprise!).
The drive to Anaheim was great; hardly any traffic at all. Jonah makes me laugh. I try to pack everything I need the night before and then I’m ready to go. Jonah packs the day of and then brings everything but the kitchen sink…and yet still manages to misplace such things as his phone charger or forget his sunglasses and bag.
We got into the motel and checked in. We then went out to eat and then went to Target to get sunglasses, hats, sun block, and a bag for Jonah and some money from the bank so we could buy our park-hopper passes. Jonah misplaced his debit card, so we had to go back to the motel to get it. We bought our park-hopper passes and then called my friend to find out when we should meet the next day.
We got into the park quite quickly on Friday morning and met up with my friend. It was really great to see him. The park wasn’t very crowded because it was closing early because of a Halloween party, but that actually worked to our advantage.
While my friend got coffee, Jonah and I rode my favorite ride, Space Mountain, and we got on really quickly. Then we met up with my friend and rode Star Tours, which has been revamped and was absolutely cool. There are a myriad of combinations and so the ride is never exactly the same each time you ride it. It was so fun.
We then rode Buzz Lightyears’s Blasters, which was fun, and the revamped Submarine Ride, which is now Finding Nemo. I hadn’t been on the Submarines since I was a kid. It brought back good memories of my first time riding it, and it was fun, but nothing to write home about. I remember it being so much more impressive as a kid. We got on Indiana Jones, the Haunted Mansion, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, Winnie the Pooh, and the Matterhorn with almost no waiting. It’s the fastest I’ve gotten on the rides at Disneyland ever. It was fabulous! A nice man also gave his fast passes for Space Mountain, so we were able to get on fast and ride it again when the lines got longer.
We ate at a Mexican restaurant in Frontier Land. The cool thing was that neither my friend nor Jonah and I had any agenda nor were we in any hurry to get on anything. We were just enjoying one another’s company. Jonah and my friend had met previously, but this was the first time they had spent an extended amount of time with one another, and of course, you always wonder if your good friend and your husband will get along, but they seemed to hit it off well.
We rode Space Mountain and Star Tours again and checked out Toon Town (no Roger Rabbit, though (it was experiencing technical difficulties)). We went over to California Adventure and rode the Grizzly River Run (my friend got soaked, which was immeasurably entertaining to Jonah and me), Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train (dumb, but entertaining to watch my friend), The Bug’s Life attraction, Muppets 3-D, Soarin’ Over California (so fun!!), The Little Mermaid ride (for kids, but still fun), Toy Story Mania (also intended more for kids, but surprisingly fun), the Monsters Inc. Ride, and the Tower of Terror (which Jonah rode for the first time (I was very proud of him; he’s afraid of falling from heights)).
Later we went back over to Disneyland before it closed. We managed to worm our way through the crowds that were watching the parade and rode Space Mountain and Star Tours once again. By that time, it was time for the Halloween party at Disneyland to start and so we headed back to California Adventure and had a bite to eat while we waited for Disney’s World of Color to start. We had fast passes for that event, too, and so we ended up with a really great place to stand on a bridge overlooking the lake where World of Color takes place.
World of Color is kind of like the Fountains of Bellagio in Las Vegas, but better (and I say that as a big fan of the Fountains of Bellagio). It’s a water show with images from Disney animated features projected on the water and which uses colored lights set to music. It was pretty awesome and, if I may be a bit cliché, pretty magical.
Jonah and I are not as young as we once were and were pretty achy from walking around the parks, so it was nice to head back to our motel. We walked with my friend our luxurious abode and agreed to meet again (this time with another friend, but not the one who was originally supposed to come (she had a family emergency)the next morning.
Jonah and I ate at Coco’s, which was pretty good. I got a tuna salad, some butter nut squash soup, and a croissant for a pretty reasonable price. We also had some dessert and then went back to the motel to sleep, which was great because I was worn out and my feet hurt.
Jonah thought he forgot his phone charger (which I later found), so we agreed that at some time the next day we would need to go to Target and buy him another one.
The next day we went to Disneyland. We were a little later than we had been the previous day. The park was also busier, and there were now many gay people (including us) wearing red shirts, which was kind of neat to see (and nobody seemed to care except one man who kept staring at us when we rode Alice in Wonderland later in the day). I noticed a lot of the gay people I saw throughout the day were middle-aged or older, like us. Actually, some of my own stereotypes of what constitutes a gay person were challenged, and I saw so many different kinds of gay individuals, many of whom would never have caused my “gaydar” to go off. I thought that was an interesting and useful discovery.
Jonah and I spent a bit of time together before joining my friends. We again went on Space Mountain and Star Tours and then did Tarzan’s Treehouse and the Haunted Mansion. Then we joined my friends and went on Space Mountain yet again (can you tell I’m a fan?). Then we went on Buzz Lightyear and did a little shopping.
Then Jonah and I left the park and went to Target to get him a phone charger, and we had lunch at Red Robin and went back to the hotel to drop off some souvenirs we had bought. I have a great “Muppets as Star Wars characters” set and Donald Duck as Han Solo in carbonite and Bad Pete as a very fat Boba Fett. They’re cool additions to my already sizable Star Wars collection.
When we returned to the parks, Jonah and I went over to California Adventure again while my friends stayed in Disneyland. Jonah and I rode the Tower of Terror and Soarin’ Over California again and then returned to Disneyland again in time to watch a parade with my friends. I don’t remember what rides we rode after that except Alice in Wonderland, which I had not been on since I was a child, but which my second friend wanted to ride.
My college friend, Jonah, and I took it kind of easy while my other friend wandered around. We ate at the Plaza Inn eatery in Disneyland, and Jonah and I got some ice cream on Main Street. The other friend, apparently, was on mushrooms and was high for some of the time. I don’t get why you need drugs to have a good time, especially at Disneyland, but whatever.
We did a bit of shopping and then went over to New Orleans Square to wait for the first Fantasmic show to end so we could move in for really good seats for the second. We found a nice quiet table to sit at while we waited, and my college friend acted out the whole Fantasmic show for us while it was going on. I also bought Jonah a Nightmare Before Christmas gift (he loves that show).
Jonah and I watched the fireworks show from further away, which was good, but not as impressive as it is when you’re up close. We snatched up great seats for Fantasmic, though. It was terrific and, again, very magical! Disneyland is great at marketing and making one’s experience feel very personal and magical. They excel at it.
Jonah and I said goodbye to my friends. They would be going to the park the next day, but we had only bought a two-day hopper. My college friend was teary-eyed because we’d had such a wonderful time, and it really was great to connect with him again. He was my best friend in college, although we drifted apart after my mission. But it was like picking up right where we left off, and I know he felt the same. Jonah and I said we’d still be around another day and agreed to get dinner together the following night. Jonah and I went to eat dinner and then headed to bed.
The next day Jonah and I drove to LA to meet a friend I did a show with in 2004 (the same show where Jonah and I met) for breakfast. We drove to her house and then followed her over to IHOP. It was busy, but we had a great time chatting and catching up. Jonah gave her a pumpkin lantern he made, and she loved it. She also gave him some small figurines, which he really liked. I took a photo of her Emmys and Golden Globe (yes, my friend is a Golden Globe and two-time Emmy winner) while I was there and she and Jonah were upstairs. It seems childish, but to know somebody who has those awards is kind of cool, and I just wanted a photo of a real Emmy.
I love the way my friend has her house decorated, and one room, in particular, I really enjoyed. It was wallpapered in vintage-looking black wallpaper with green vines on it. I thought it looked really cool.
She also had this really cool art piece called “The Secret,” which was made of paper, but looked like a portrait.
I took some photos of us, and then she had to get to rehearsal. It was really great seeing her.
Jonah and I drove down Sunset Boulevard and then went over to Hollywood Boulevard and went to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and looked at the foot and hand prints of stars past and present. I’d been there before, but always find it cool to walk where some very famous people once walked. We also went down the Hollywod Walk of Fame and went to a local farmers’ market in the area.
I took a photo of the Hollywood sign and we got some shakes at a local yogurt place. I was very touristy. When we got back to Anaheim we went to the Cheesecake Factory (a favorite restaurant of ours and the very first restaurant at which we ever ate together) for our last hurrah.
Then we went back to the motel and slept, slept, slept until it was time to meet my friends at the Rainforest Café in Downtown Disney. We had a nice dinner, strolled through Downtown Disney and then parted ways. It was really great to hang out with my friends, especially the one from college.
Jonah and I did some last minute shopping and then went back to our motel.
The next day we decided to take it easy and not rush heading home. We went to some antique shops in Fullerton (something Jonah really enjoys doing) and then headed out before traffic got too heavy. By accident, we actually found a faster route home than the one we normally take (at least it seemed faster). We also stopped in Calico Ghost Town on the way home, and I got to ride the train this time. Not impressive, but still worth it. We didn’t spend much time there as the town was to close in about an hour and a half from when we got there, but it was nice to show it to Jonah.
It was such a fun, fun trip and very needed. I’m so glad we had the opportunity to do it.