Wednesday, October 26, 2005

California Trip - Day 6

Thursday, September 22, 2005.

Click Here to see more Photos from Day 6

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Thursday was our first day at Disneyland. Bryan and Amy had never been there before. Dawn Ann was last there more than 20 years ago. For me, it had been a whopping 30 years! We navigated our way from our motel to the Disneyland entrance. From there we wended our way through the labyrinth of parking structures to finally end up in the parking terrace. We hopped out of the rental car, and the guy next to us kindly informed us that our right rear tire was nearly flat!

Oh boy! Just what we needed to get the day started off good! I was left with a choice. Change it now, or change it later when we got back from our day's activities. I opted for now. No one wants to change a tire after an exhausting day at an amusement park. I opened up the rear hatch, and started looking for the tire changing tools. I found a compartment over the rear wheel well that contained the jack. Then we started looking around for the spare tire. Oh where, oh where could it be? We tried to lift up the floorboard in the rear compartment of the PT Cruiser, but it wasn't budging. It had to be here somewhere -- gulp -- I hope! I checked the glove box, and fortunately the owners manual was there. (Often times rental cars don't have the owners manual in them.) I found out where the spare tire was stowed -- hoisted up under the undercarriage in the rear. You have to remove a patch of velcro attached carpet from the floor, there to find a bolt that you can loosen with the lug wrench. As you loosen this bolt the tire slowly descends from its stowage compartment. After about 10 minutes, it drops down enough to get the temporary spare donut tire out.

Meanwhile, Mama and Bryan had been figuring out the jack, and started raising the car off the ground. We got the tire changed, and were finally on our way. At least the floor of the parking plaza was pretty clean and we were in the shade. We were also away from traffic as well. I decided to put it in a positive light -- if you're going to have a flat tire, it may as well be here. Better here than on the freeway or some other dangerous or inconvenient place.

After getting the tire changed, we were all pretty dirty. Isn't changing a tire one of the dirtier jobs going? By the time you handle the flat tire, which has been literally everywhere it has just about every kind of dirt and grime imaginable. Naturally, you have to get pretty up close and personal with the grimy tire by the time you lift it off the hub, roll it around to the trunk, and then lift it up into the trunk.

Then we made our pilgrimage from the parking plaza to the tram that takes you to the park entrance. After getting off the tram, I noticed that the California Adventure theme park appears to be where the old parking lot used to be -- that is if my 30-year memory serves me correctly. At the park entrance, we claimed our pre-paid will-call tickets -- 3 day park hoppers with fast pass access. This time, instead of renting a wheelchair, like we did ad Legoland, we rented an electric motorized scooter instead. Then we were off.

We first headed to tomorrowland. We decided to go easy on the first ride to help Amy overcome her fears. Their first ever ride at Disneyland was the Astro Orbitor. After that we went on the Buzz Lightyear Astroblasters ride, where you shoot with a laser tag pistol at the bad guys -- in order to save the universe, of course! Then we went on the Star Wars Tours ride, which is a little more adventurous. Amy did OK, but wasn't so sure about that one. Finally, we all piled into Space Mountain. We found the lines to everything so short, that it was 5 minutes or less for each ride. Space Mountain took a little longer, maybe 10-15 minutes for that line.

Space Mountain was just toooo much for Amy. She was in tears by the end of the ride. It was TOO SCARY!!!!! The sudden drops, twists and turns, along with the general speed of the ride sent her into panic. At the end of the ride, they snap a photo of you (which is for sale). In the photo, Amy was shown in tears. We decided not to purchase the photo. The whole idea of this trip was to create pleasant memories for our children. Who knows when or if we will ever be able to visit Disneyland again? We didn't want to perpetuate the trauma for Amy, so we decided against buying the photo.

After Space Mountain, we wanted to go for a ride on the Monorail -- only to find out that it was closed. As it turned out, we had just experienced a genuine Southern California earthquake! Apparently, at about 1:24 pm, a 4.7 magnitude earthquake hit about 70 miles Northwest of Los Angeles near a town called Mettler, California. It was not a quake on the famed San Andreas fault, this time it was on the White Wolf fault. This particular fault last had a major (7.2) earthquake in 1952. Why would the affect to monorail? We learned that according to state law, whenever an earthquake hits, the monorail (and other commuter type rail tracks) have to be re-sighted using laser tools to make sure that the tracks are still in alignment, to prevent potential derailments. Wow. Who knows, maybe the earthquake hit while we were on the Space Mountain ride -- that could explain Amy's squeamishness -- yeah, that's the ticket! It wasn't the ride -- It was the Earthquake!! Of Course! Doh!

From that point on, Bryan and I went on the more adventurous rides (The Matterhorn, Thunder Mountain Railroad), while Amy and Dawn Ann rode the calmer, gentler rides (It's a small world, the Tea Cups, etc.)

We put our cell phones to good use at Disneyland. After we split up, we were able to reconnect with each other by cell phone. It sure beats meeting at a fixed location at a certain time. Even though it was billed as an evil, hated, "roaming" charge on Dawn Ann's phone, it was still worth it for the peace of mind by staying in contact with one another.

We went on a few other rides in the park, and finished with the Pirates of the Caribbean. This turned out to be Amy's favorite ride in Disneyland (it was the only ride we went on twice!)

The park closed at 8:00 pm. We decided to leave at about 7:30. We would beat the crowds leaving, and besides, we were really beat! While we were waiting for the tram to take us back to the parking plaza, we saw an unusual phenomenon in the Western sky.

It looked like a con trail of some type. The main difference was, that it was so high up in the atmosphere that it was still in the sunlight, outside of the earth's shadow. We saw the vehicle stretch across the sky, then it seemed to go out for a moment. Then it picked up again along the same trajectory -- only this time it was much smaller, and dimmer.

Come to find out, what we beheld was a Minotaur rocket being launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base. The rocket was launching a satellite for the defense department. When the glow of the rocket engine seemed to go out was when the first stage booster separated from the main rocket. Then in turn, we saw the second stage motor firing up and continuing on to its orbital destination. I tried to snap some photos of it as best I could without a tripod. It was an amazing sight. You can see more photos of the Minotaur Rocket here.

If we would have had more time on our trip, I would like to have actually visited Lompoc, California, which is near Vandenberg Air Force Base. My father was stationed there in 1961. I was only 2-3 years old at the time, but I still have some memories from Lompoc -- perhaps the very earliest memories of my life. My sister, Jeannette was born while we lived there. But alas, a visit to Lompoc will have to be on another trip. Someday I would like to take a central California Coast Trip -- say from Santa Barbara to Monterry, and all points in-between. I hear gas prices are horrendous in that area though.

We made it back to our car, and the spare donut tire even still had air in it! Wahoo!! After getting back to our motel room, I tried numerous times to call the car rental agency to report the flat tire, and to get their instructions. At first the phone would just ring and ring, with no answer. When it was answered, I was placed on eternal hold without ever being able to get a word in edgewise. Finally I just gave up trying to contact them. (Next time, remind me to go with a name-brand car rental agency! -- That was two strikes against them!)

We decided to just go ahead and get the regular tire fixed on our own. I got the yellow pages out and started looking for tire shops in the area. I even found one on a street that I could find! First thing in the morning, I will be visiting the local Goodyear Store. We didn't want to risk having the spare donut going flat in the middle of a Southern California Freeway, even though we were only 36 hours away from the appointed time to return the car to the rental agency.

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