Disneyland Trip November 1997

by Dave Schultheis

I made my travel plans with the California State Automobile Association office at San Jose - Oakridge a few weeks before the trip. They deal with Walt Disney Travel Company. Planning ahead was very helpful.

Just one thing when dealing with CSAA: remember that (to them) "touring" means "by car," and "travel" means "by planes, trains and boats;" try not to get them mixed up.

Friday, November 14

Our group consisted of my mother (who had a birthday a few days before the trip), my adult sister Joanne (who also has a birthday in November) and our adult friend Teri. I had a stuffy nose and cold symptoms, so I took along plenty of medications. My mother can't walk very far nor stand very long comfortably, but she gets around pretty well with a cane. However, she agreed in advance that it would be appropriate for her to use a wheelchair while at Disneyland.

We left San Jose at 7:10 a.m., worked our way down Hy 101 and over Hy 152 to the Central Valley. Interstate 5 was wide open and clear, although there were spots that looked like they could get foggy real fast, so I was alert, but overall the weather got nicer as we got further south.

We stopped for breakfast around 9:30 a.m. at The Apricot Tree restaurant and then wandered around their gift shop briefly before getting back on the road.

After listening to a variety of music on the CD player on the way down, we listened to the Official Album of Disneyland (1997) from about Valencia onward, just to get into the proper frame of mind.

Traffic was heavier as we got into the Los Angeles basin, and only somewhat unpleasant as we entered Anaheim. As per comments on the alt.disney.disneyland newsgroup, we skipped the Harbor Blvd. off-ramp and got off at the next one, which included Katella Ave. and three other street names. That took us directly to Freedman Way, which goes right into the Disneyland main gate, but we turned north on Harbor Blvd. for one block, through the nasty construction, to Howard Johnson's, arriving at 1:45 p.m.

The big orange envelope from the Walt Disney Travel Co. was there waiting at the front desk, my name was spelled correctly, the Festival of Fools lithographs were inside, the Flex Passes included free parking, and everything appeared to be in good order.

We were able to get "keys" (plastic cards) for only one room; the other two rooms weren't ready yet, so we stowed all our stuff in that room. Unfortunately, I had failed to mention the need for "minimum walking," "ground floor," or "close to the office" when I made reservations, so we ended up in a building at the very back of the hotel. They did give us "adjoining rooms," which to them meant "next to each other." (To me, adjoining rooms means "next to each other with a door between," but I may be wrong.) Three rooms next to each other were good, but they seemed to be a very long walk from the elevator. On the other hand, we found handicapped parking immediately outside the particular building entrance, just steps from the elevator.

(Meanwhile, a pile driver was pounding long pipes into the ground so that they can widen Harbor Blvd. as it goes over Interstate 5. They blocked one of the routes from the front desk to the building where we were staying. The construction also narrowed Harbor Blvd. from 6 lanes to 4 lanes. Fortunately the pile driver only pounded away during the daytime.)

We caught the shuttle over to the park at 2:30 p.m. I was very pleased that the Howard Johnson shuttle goes from HJ to Disneyland without stopping anywhere else. (This was a marked improvement over my last experience, where the bus took a circuitous route, stopping at half-a-dozen motels and wasting about 20 minutes each way.)

We showed our Flex Passes and IDs as we passed through the Disneyland entry gates at about 2:45 p.m. and proceeded to Stroller/wheelchair rental while waiting for the ink to dry where they'd stamped the date on our passes. (Note to Disneyland: please use faster-drying ink so that we can put the ticket away without smearing it. If they can't read the date, they may not let us in tomorrow.)

We weren't prepared for wheelchair rental to be $27 but were pleased when we noticed that $20 of that is a deposit, so I guess that's not unreasonable. (Let's see, each wheelchair pays for itself in about 20 rentals, so they've been making a killing in rentals for several years.)

We went over to City Hall to get a Special Assistance Pass and a Guidebook for Guests With Disabilities, but were forced to stop at the steps to City Hall. (We could not immediately see that the wheelchair ramp to the restrooms also served City Hall, because people were blocking the doorway.) The cast member gave me a Guidebook and said that if my mother was in a wheelchair, she would not need a Special Assistance Pass, the wheelchair would be enough (and it was).

We proceeded to the Jungle Cruise and waited at the Exit. They seated us on the next boat and we enjoyed a nice cruise. Skipper Chad's silly jokes were mostly recognizable but still enjoyable. When we neared the end of the cruise we had to back up. Then back up a little more, then a little more, three boats worth! He joked that we were going to run the whole ride in reverse. I don't know what was happening but it might have been that they were adding (or removing) a boat. Then we were allowed to go forward again and then debark.

Meantime Joanne and Teri went on Indiana Jones and loved it; they wanted to go again.

We all went over to Pirates of the Caribbean and waited at the Exit. It was about 2 minutes but a Cast Member loaded us into the next boat. We expected them to load other guests into our boat but they sent us out alone. Very Nice. I did NOT enjoy the first downhill plunge (in total darkness) but other than that, it was okay.

After POC I wanted my mother to see the Disney Gallery, so we asked at Le Gourmet (as per the Guidebook), but the CM was new and didn't know what to do. So he called someone on the phone. Meantime another CM came by (I noted the "33" on her uniform, meaning she was an employee of the exclusive "Club 33" restaurant) and escorted us to the elevator, which delivered us to the kitchen! We waltzed the wheelchair between the cut carrots and the Bernaise sauce and into the back door of the Gallery. Only when the CM got us to our destination did she continue about her business. Very Nice. Mother enjoyed the Gallery immensely.

We reversed the process when leaving, finding another CM who escorted us all the way to the elevator. My mother was quite apologetic to the kitchen staff but since there is no other way through, they didn't seem too upset about it.

Mother and I went on the Mark Twain while Joanne and Teri went off to Splash Mountain. The CM was very helpful in boarding us and suggesting a good place to park the wheelchair. I really enjoyed the ride since the MT was "down" last year at this time. After debarking, we wandered down Main Street with plans to meet the others back at Stroller rental at 5 p.m. (they were late - having too much fun! - so we missed our shuttle). We turned in the wheelchair and got our $20 deposit back.

While waiting for the others, I talked to a couple of trench-coated, radio-toting CMs, who told me that (next time) we could get a special pass to take the wheelchair past the turnstile, take Mother to the car and then bring the chair back. We discussed how far it was from Stroller rental to Handicapped parking versus how far it was from Stroller rental to Shuttle stop and I developed a plan for the next day that would mean less walking for most of us.

We caught the next shuttle at a little past 5:30 p.m. and went back to the hotel. The other two rooms were ready, so I picked up card keys and went back to move luggage. Both of these rooms had television sets in the bathroom (!) which I didn't have.

From the hotel, we drove north on I-5, then west on I-10 to visit friends in West Los Angeles. This trip, at 6:00 p.m. on Friday afternoon, took over 90 mins. We had a nice visit (including an ice cream run) but since we were going to get Early Entry the next day (7:30 a.m.), we only stayed until about 10:00 p.m. We arrived back at HJ at 10:41 p.m. (much less traffic on the way home, but it was still a long, tiring drive).

Saturday, November 15

My alarm sounded at 6:30 a.m. We left the hotel at 7 a.m. and drove over to the park. The Flex Pass said we could park for free, so while we had to stop at the gate, they put a pass under our wiper and we parked in the Disabled Parking area. We took the short walk to the entry area, arrived at 7:14 a.m., and stood in line for Magic Morning. Teri got pictures of Gumby and Pokey in front of the railroad station while we were waiting. (That's right; Gumby and Pokey are not Disney characters; she carries them with her.)

Although the clock on the train station was incorrect, the gates swung open at 7:30 a.m. and we entered (along with several hundred others). We were not offered copies of Disneyland Today and I forgot to ask, so we got them at Stroller Rental. I didn't note until later that they were generic, rather than date-specific copies.

They didn't tell us where breakfast was being served and I didn't think to ask. So after we got the wheelchair, we moved toward Tomorrowland Terrace but that wasn't the right place. So we went back to the Information Center at the Central Plaza (the Hub) and asked. Breakfast was served at the Village Haus. I had not known where that was, but it all began making sense as we passed the Carrousel. We had a nice breakfast and Teri got pictures of several Disney characters.

There was a small crowd at Indiana Jones so Joanne and Teri went on it again. Mother waited by the Exit while I got a few postcards at Indy's Gift shop. I wrote and stamped the cards and put them into the mailbox at the Central Plaza. While there, we paused briefly to watch the crowd waiting behind the rope on Main Street.

I took Mother over to the restroom near Tomorrowland. She climbed out of the chair and went inside while I went into the men's room. I absent-mindedly said "stay" to the chair, as if I were speaking to my dog. A young woman saw this but said nothing. When I finished washing my hands I went back outside and waited. When this young woman came back out of the ladies' room I felt compelled to explain why I was talking to an inanimate object. She made me feel very comfortable when she told me that she wished her dog would obey as well as my wheelchair did.

It was almost 9 o'clock so we watched The Admonition To Walk, followed by the rope drop, followed by the kids walking the first 20 or 30 feet and then breaking into a full run toward Indiana Jones.

We went around to Star Traders to look for goodies. I bought a red Mickey Mouse t-shirt ("Disneyland, est. 1955") and had it sent to Package Express for later pickup. Mother got some earrings, key chains, gloves, a snow globe and a few other items for the grandchildren and likewise had them sent to Package Express.

I found the Official Album of Disneyland (1997) on a rack of CDs but could not find the Official Album (1991). The CM volunteered to call around but I said I'd look at other shops. (I never found one.)

(Explanation: the 1991 CD has 28 cuts while the 1997 CD has considerably fewer. If you have a copy of the 1991 album you'd like to give away or sell, please e-mail. Thank you.)

While Joanne and Teri went on Space Mountain, Mother read a book and I checked my voice mail on the nearby pay phones. Then we all headed back to Main Street, where I briefly wandered into the Emporium (no 1991 CD) and then we went into the Walt Disney Story.

As I look back on this, I don't know how this next decision was made, but we went to ToonTown for a look around. For anyone planning to retrace our steps, plan a little better than we did. ToonTown is at the far distant end of the park.

Mother had expressed an interest in seeing Billy Hill and the Hillbillies, so she and I went over to the Golden Horseshoe for the first show (reservations not needed for the 11:15 a.m. show) while Joanne and Teri went off on their own. We had to wait a few minutes in line but got good seats. I got some burgers but had to walk all the way to Adventureland to wash my hands before eating lunch. There are no restrooms in the Golden Horseshoe and they don't have hand-wipes at the counter.

The show started at about 11:45 and it lasted about 30 minutes. I remembered much of it from last year and we both enjoyed it. There was a family there from Lemoore (near Fresno CA) with a video camera, and Billy kept playing to the camera. So did Billy. So did Billy. So did Billy. They are all excellent musicians and cornball comedians.

When the show was over, we went out the door but didn't get very far. We could not turn right because of the rope holding people back for the next show. Pecos Goofy was holding court as we turned left, and we could not get to the wheelchair ramp. We had to wait through several minutes of "photo opportunities" until we could get Goofy's attention and get him to move for 10 seconds so we could pass by.

(Why don't the characters have escorts any more? I only saw one character being escorted, and it was a character with a tail; I have read that the escorts are there to prevent tails from being torn off. An escort would have noticed a wheelchair guest who needed to pass by.)

We met the others and I suggested the Enchanted Tiki Room. Mother agreed but Joanne and Teri had better things to do. We had to leave the wheelchair outside. I enjoyed the show but the CM who escorted us in forgot to tell his relief, so after the show we were kind of abandoned until the next CM found us working our way out the door and through the ropes; he escorted us back to the chair.

The sun was coming out, it was nice and warm as we got into position for the Hercules Victory Parade. The sound system was pretty well screwed up: there was a 10-minute announcement, then Danny DeVito's 5-minute announcement, then a 3-minute announcement (Danny again), then the 5-minute announcement (again!) then the 3-minute announcement (again!), by which time the beginning of the parade was audible and visible coming around the fence. The announcements were poorly executed. The parade was okay but not really very exciting for me.

We then headed for the Festival of Fools but accidentally ended up at Critter Country. By the time we got to the right place, it was too late. The CM told us to come back at 3:15 for the 3:45 show. We stalled (I made phone calls and Mother read) and got back at 3:15 p.m. They made us wait about 10 minutes at the Exit and then led us up the exit ramp to a curtain and made us wait on a steep slope for about 15 minutes with no explanation of what was happening or was going to happen. When they let us in, there were special places in front for wheelchairs. Unfortunately, a child kicked me from behind, and even after I turned around and requested that she stop, it continued periodically.

The F of F was quite .. quite .. well, it was something. I don't really know what it was. There was clearly a lot of effort expended by a lot of young people - jumping and singing and climbing and dancing - I didn't understand it and I can't explain it, but they did a great job.

On the way to Main Street, Teri and I took the Castle Walk-Through while Joanne wheeled Mother over the drawbridge. We caught the Dorky Boys just finishing their performance. Joanne and Teri call them that because of their grey and purple uniforms and purple high-top tennies. (more on this later)

It was time for us to leave the park so we went back to Stroller rental, where I gave them my driver's license in exchange for a pass to take the wheelchair past the turnstiles, then headed over to get our hands stamped.

CM Brett had the chain in his pocket so all he would have to do for a handicapped guest was to step back, rather than to move the chain AND step back. Very clever. At one point a young woman on the outside of the turnstile asked him to stamp her hand but he said "Sorry, I didn't see you leave." Good Catch! I guess they're very alert to scams like this.

We stopped at Package Express (just outside the front gate) to get our purchases (they were not very quick but they found all our packages ... eventually). Then we went to the car, unloaded packages and got into the car. I took the chair back through re-entry, got my license back and then got the $20 deposit back.

It was 5:31 p.m. and nearly dark. The blue paint on the asphalt had nearly disappeared under the phony street lights, so some pinhead had parked on the cross-hatched area, much too close to our car, but we managed to get in and go anyway. Birds had made a mess of the car, but there was nothing I could do at that point.

A need for dinner was expressed, so we stopped at Tiffy's Restaurant (SE corner of Katella Ave. @ West Street). My waiter from last year, Pasquale, was there again this year. Good service, good food, good prices.

When we got back to the Hotel I filled some ice buckets with water and washed the bird droppings from the car as best I could.

Sunday, November 16

My nose was still stuffed up so I took more acetaminophen and echinacea. The birds had gotten the car again while it was parked at the Hotel. We left the hotel at 9:00 a.m. and drove back to the park, parked in the Disabled Parking area again and showed our Flex Passes again. They did not offer us copies of Disneyland Today. We went through the same wheelchair-renting procedure, then headed over to the River Belle Terrace for breakfast. Some had "regular" pancakes, I had the Mickey Mouse pancake, juice and milk. We walked through New Orleans Square and then Teri offered to push the chair for a while.

Alone for the first time on this trip, I took a keel boat over to Tom Sawyer Island (I don't remember my last visit there). I explored Injun Joe's Cave, the suspension bridge, the treehouse, the fort, the cemetery, the juice cart (!) and lots of other places. (The pontoon bridge was closed.)

CM Harlan (?), evidently from Security, asked about my a.d.d baseball cap. I told him it was the name of a newsgroup and explained that we exchange information about things to see and places to go. He asked what restaurants "they" recommend. I told him that Big Thunder BBQ came highly recommended and he agreed. Then he went on his way, evidently satisfied that I was not a representative of a terrorist organization.

I caught the Disneyland Railroad at New Orleans Square and rode it all the way around the park. The public address system announces the Tomorrowland stop but the train doesn't stop there due to construction. Doesn't seem very smart. The train ride was very pleasant.

I had difficulty finding date-specific copies of Disneyland Today, so I went over to the Country Bear Playhouse, luckily arriving just in time for the 11:20 show.

After the show I walked over to The Hub for a Noon meet of the group from the alt.disney.disneyland newsgroup.

After some introductions and discussion, the group had lunch at Casa Mexicana and a few had ice cream nearby as the group broke up.

I walked with my ice cream cone over toward Story Book Land, catching the end of the Hercules Victory Parade and then got into line for the Canal Boats. I was surrounded by ill-behaved urchins (pushing, shoving, grabbing, kicking, running, elbowing) and their equally ill-behaved adults (shouting and threatening), who had evidently called in sick for their parenting classes. What jerks. I refused to get into the same boat with these morons and waited for the next one.

The ride wasn't very exciting but at least I can say I've been on it, and can recommend it to the next 5-year old that asks me about it.

I went over to the Submarines but the line was too long. On the way back to Main Street I found Mother, Joanne and Teri having burgers at Tomorrowland Terrace. I suggested we visit the Disneyland Hotel to see what was there.

I asked the CM at the Monorail if it was "wheelchair friendly" and he said "yes." So we stood in line for about 10 minutes, only to find out, when we got to a different CM at the turnstile, that we'd have to leave the wheelchair at the Monorail station. I asked him if he knew how she was supposed to get around while we were at the Hotel. He GUESSED that they MIGHT have wheelchairs at the Hotel. There was so much "if" in that statement that I asked him to let us out of the line.

On the way to City Hall, we walked by Coca Cola Corner. Rod Miller was playing the piano and holding court from inside the building. (I guess the piano is outside during the warmer weather and inside during the colder weather.)

At City Hall, CM Curtiss called the Bell Desk at the Disneyland Hotel. After much discussion, they said they'd loan us a wheelchair (for a deposit) but since I figured we'd have to find a place to park the car, it would never work out. So we abandoned the Hotel visit idea. So much for spending money on gifts for my neighbor across the street for feeding the dog while I was gone.

We went back to Stroller rental and discovered that the $7 fee entitles us to use the wheelchair "for the day." They were happy to hold it for us until we came back later. Of course, I had to give my driver's license in exchange for a pass to take the chair past the turnstiles to take Mother back to the car. Then I took "old number 5" back; they gave me back my license but NOT the deposit. That would have to wait until later.

I gave Joanne one of the two Family Radios we had taken along, so that we could coordinate meeting later for FANTASMIC! She and Teri stayed in the park while Mother and I went back to the Hotel to rest.

We got back about 7:45 p.m. and got "old number 5" wheelchair again. As we passed the Central Plaza on the way to New Orleans Square, Joanne called on the Family Radio to say that she had staked out a spot at the Keelboat Landing and was holding it for us. Cast Members had told her that they'd had 600 wheelchairs the night before, and were prepared for quite a few for this performance. Along the way we found Teri and filled her in on the news.

I was not looking forward to the long wait for FANTASMIC!, but we spent the time talking to the Evans family of Trafalgar, Victoria, Australia; Peter and Linda and their daughter Caitlin. They had intended to go to Queensland for vacation but discovered that they could come to America for just a little more money. We had a wonderful chat with them about where they live, where they've been and other places they were going on their trip. They were very nice people and it surely was a good way to pass the time.

FANTASMIC! was very exciting, although I could neither fully understand nor explain it. But again, we enjoyed all the cast members jumping around, singing and dancing, the lights on the water and the fireworks.

On the way out of the park we saw the Dorky Boys again and discovered that their real name is the "Magic Kingdom Corps." This time we got to see the whole show and they are very good! One of the sweeper people told Teri that they are all music teachers at area high schools.

Mother expressed hunger and even though it was after 10 p.m. we stopped at Coco's (right next to the Howard Johnson Hotel). They were closed so we ate at Millie's (a few hundred feet down Harbor Blvd. and right next to McDonald's). While Mother and Teri and I ate dinner, Joanne read facts from the book she bought ("Disney A to Z.") The food was very good and the facts were interesting. We got back to the hotel at 11:20 p.m.

Monday, November 17

I set the alarm for 7:30 a.m., we checked out by telephone and left the parking lot at 8:37 a.m. The traffic on I-5 was not too bad, then it was bad, then it was not too bad and then it was very nice. We only saw one car fire on the way home, and they had already put out the fire by the time we got there.

We got to the Harris Ranch adjacent to I-5 at exactly noon; had a wonderful lunch and got back on the road at 1:10 p.m.

We got back to San Jose at 3:25 p.m. with 832 miles on the trip odometer. The goal of the trip was reached: my Mother had a wonderful time for her birthday!

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Last updated at 10:15 on March 29, 1999.
David W. Schultheis, San Josť, Silicon Valley, Santa Clara County, California, USA