One of the things I've neglected to chronicle in recent days was my recent trip with Mrs. Geek to one of the House of Mouse theme parks. It was my first visit in about a quarter century; I rode "E" ticket rides the last time I was there. Mrs. Geek is more of a Mouse afficionado and goes every few years. The Apostle Paul says something in his many Epistles of the New Testament about how a husband and wife should be "equally yoked". He was speaking about faith in Jesus, of course. Being that Mrs. Geek and I are pretty equal in that department, we were (jokingly) more concerned on our way there if my faith in Mickey was strong enough (I was more of a Looney Tunes man, growing up.)
It turned out to not be a worry. I had a great time. While I could not look back to many nostalgic memories of visits past, I found it impossible to be caught up in the immense scope and sweep of the place. Walking in, you cannot help but notice that everything about the place is professional. True, it is possible to be cynical and notice that the very architecture of the place encourage the parting of tourists with their money. I tended to marvel more at the fact that the park was obviously designed and built by men and women who had lots of college degrees -- not carney hucksters.
I have to admire the Disney approach. Walt's attitude was to try to create magic, and he was not afraid to turn scientists and engineers loose to solve problems. From the earliest animatronic attractions on to the latest multimedia live extravaganzas, the parks drew as much with their tech as with the familiar corps of animated characters and princesses.
I also have to admire the scope of the Disney entertainment experience. There is something for almost anyone in the parks. If rides are not your thing, there is musical theater. If that doesn't do it, there is live music and fireworks. If neither of those float your boat, there is likely a nearby shopping experience to cater to your fancy. The parks cast their nets very wide, and generally succeed in finding something you like.
It is also very interesting to consider the parks as cultural artifacts. Some of the rides speak to charicatures that are decades old. Others represent twists on social mores that are now far from politically correct. The parks also attempt some modest form of cultural enlightenment by taking a page from the old Worlds Fairs and Grand Exposisitions -- if you cannot travel around the world, Disney will bring a little bit of it to you. In an age of jet air travel, HDTV, and the Internet, that notion is a nearly antiquated novelty in itself.
As for our visit itself, Mrs. Geek and I are now steadfast believers in a little software application called RideMax. It is quite impressive. Simply put, the developers of the program have spent a lot of time waiting in lines at some of the Disney parks so you don't have to. You just provide the program with some simple information (what time you want to start, what attractions you want to experience, how quickly you think you can move through the park) and it gives you an itinerary of when to take each ride that minimizes the wait. Where's the spontaneity in that, I hear you cry? Well, spontaneity is the language of the Devil on a busy summer Saturday at a Disney park. Thanks to RideMax, we didn't wait longer than 25 minutes for any ride on a Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in August. We had long, late afternoon siestas each day and plenty of time to take the odd ride not on our itinerary. We found RideMax to be ideal.
About the only downer on the trip was the hotel. We travelled on a Disney Travel package deal from AAA. This was, for the most part, a good thing: consolidated passes for all the days we were there, free travel from the hotel to the parks by shuttle, and even the odd discount on food and merchandise. The hotel was another matter. We picked it because it was part of the Radisson chain -- generally excellent purveyors of hospitality for me in the past. Not in this case, however.
The trouble began as soon as we walked in the door. First, a charge card imprint was not taken at the front desk when we checked in. This made for trouble later when we tried to charge meals at the hotel restaurant to our room. Next, they initially placed us in a room facing a busy street on one side and the noisiest ice machine on the planet on the other. That was quickly fixed, but even then there were problems. The new room was much quieter, but the toilet in the bathroom overflowed... twice. In fact, the second time was so bad that there was a quarter inch of standing water on the tile floor that began to seep into the carpet... and rain down through the ceiling of the room below us. Those poor folks downstairs had to be moved.
The hotel was a dark spot in an otherwise rosy landscape, however. We both had a great time. I've got my Disney jones filled for the next couple years. Mrs. Geek may be heading down with friends or family sooner than that. We both know, however that this will not be our last trip there together... and that is the important thing.
on 2005-08-29 at 8:21 p.m.
The Wayback Machine - To Infinity And Beyond