Thursday, January 31, 2013

Sehome Sunset

Red light at night reflected in majestic Thunderbird Lake. Does this mean good weather is finally on the way?

California Adventure: Mickey's Fun Wheel

150 feet up and "dare to board one of the 16 "free-mounted" gondolas that slip and slide back and forth along the tracks inside the spokes."

Brian and Taegan wrote on this wheel 18 months or so ago and chose the swinging cars. Kathy wasn't aware of how much they "slip and slide" up near the top until it happened. The look on her face gives her away...

Riley thought it was great from beginning to end...

As we near the bottom the car swings less, and Kathy is happy to know the ride is just about over. Luckily our Riley has no bruises from Kathy's squeezing.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Cars Land With Riley

We went on this ride in California Adventure not once but twice. Our second morning at the parks we lined up when the doors opened and stood in line to get a Fast Pass. We did the same the following morning. On both occasions, we returned later in the afternoon and got on the ride after standing in line for 15-20 minutes.

It's a terrific ride. No wonder people line up. We found this video - not ours - that gives you an idea of what an exciting experience it is.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Junkyard Jamboree: The Ride That Made Us Laugh

We went on this funny little tractor ride in California Adventure no fewer than three times over two days. We took turns with Riley. The first time we noticed she just couldn't stop laughing. Pretty soon, we couldn't stop laughing either.

Kathy bravely shot a video on our final time and you'll occasionally catch a glimpse of Riley and Brian if you click here.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Buh-Bye TSA X-Ray Scanners (Update: Not Quite)

Not a moment too soon in our opinion...

TSA to phase out Rapiscan 'naked scanners'

TSA dumps near-naked Rapiscan body scanners

Unfortunately, though, the story as it's been relayed in much of the media isn't complete. The X-Ray scanners aren't going away completely.

TSA has contracted with L-3, Smiths Group Plc (SMIN) and American Science & Engineering Inc. (ASEI) for new body-image scanners, all of which must have privacy software. L-3 and Smiths used millimeter-wave technology. American Science uses backscatter.

You can read that entire article here.

At Disneyland

With a statue of Walt Disney...

And one of his greatest creations...

Sign Of The Times - California Style

Something about the brass doorknobs on Minnie's house - Alas California...

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Third Day Luck

We covered a lot of ground again today. We picked up Fast Passes for the Radiator Springs Car Ride and then wandered from California Adventure to Disneyland in time for a reserved lunch at the Blue Bayou, adjacent to the Pirates of The Caribbean ride.

The lunch was again fairly blah (remind us again not to eat at the fancier Disney establishments) but we also squeezed in a final ride on Pirates. We then stopped by Toon Town before heading back to California Adventure.

It will take awhile to list all of the rides we visited in our three days. Oddly enough, one of the favorites for all of us was a simple "rocket ship" swing ride in California Adventure.

It's still the Magic Kingdom and we'll look forward to a future trip with grandchildren. Riley has been a particular gem. We've enjoyed our time and we think she has too, although she's looking foward to seeing Mommy, Daddy, and her two little brothers tomorrow night.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Our California Adventure Day

We started off a little tired this morning but got some momentum as the day progressed.

We entered California Adventure to get a Fast Track pass for the new car ride that's causing huge lineups.

From there we walked over to the Disneyland Hotel to eat brunch with the characters at Goofy's Kitchen.

After that it was the monorail to Tomorrowland, second rides at the submarines and the astro-blasters, and then a ride on the fire truck back to the entrance.

There we had a picture with Mickey himself before returning to California Adventure for the day. The car ride was as much fun as we could have guessed, and we hit a lot more rides including the big ferris wheel.

We also saw the live Aladdin show. It was terrific.

We ate a reasonable dinner in the park and then walked back to the hotel. We're all ready for a good night's sleep before we tackle our last day at the park tomorrow.

Chilly California

It's 37 degrees F in Ahaheim as we get ready for our early-entry morning. At least it isn't windy like yesterday.

On the schedule today is a character lunch and probably more time at California Adventure. We're still amazed at how much of Disneyland Riley and we could cover in one day. The secret? Short lines of course.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Disneyland Exhaustion

We're back at the Sheraton, tired but happy and satisfied after a hugely successful day at Disneyland.

Granddaughter Riley behaved magnificently and we "covered" almost every ride in Fantasy Land, most rides in Tomorrow Land, and rides in Frontier Land and New Orleans Square as well. We've just about lost count. The park is relatively deserted and 20 minutes was a long wait for us.

We hit Disneyland Adventure for a couple of rides on the way out. Our only negative experience was the challenge of trying to find a restaurant outside the park. We bypassed a couple nearby and looked for a place called Fire and Ice or something similar in the Anaheim Walk mall after a security guard recommended it. That was a weird experience. Their doors were locked and they weren't letting anybody else in because they had a "problem." Very mysterious and we don't to go anywhere that has a "problem" that requires the front doors to be locked.

We then went for our first ever visit to the Cheesecake Factory. We found a seat in the bar area. The service was terrible, without going into the dreadful details, but we left about an hour later with our stomachs relatively full. The Cheesecake Factory is now officially off our list of chain restaurants. Since even Denny's remains on our list, nobody would accuse us of having standards that are too high.

Tomorrow it's California Adventure and a character lunch. The weather is supposed to be warmer, but that may only encourage the Californians to emerge, so it's a mixed blessing at best.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Good Travel Day

We enjoyed a great flight on Alaska Airlines from Seattle to Orange County (John Wayne).

Riley visited the flight deck before the flight and talked to the captain (photos to follow at some point), the fight attendant was exceptionally kind, even cutting up Riley's chicken for her in the galley before serving it, as well as skipping the sun-dried tomatoes on the salad, so we felt very well looked after and landed before we knew it.

A van ride later and we were checking in at the Sheraton Park. Brian walked down to the Disneyland main gate to pick up our passes to avoid standing in lines tomorrow, and Kathy and Riley sat out on the balcony waiting for the fireworks.

Brian returned in time to enjoy them as well, although Anaheim is chilly enough that we all retreated inside to watch them through windows.

We're all going to sleep now, as tomorrow promises to be a very busy day.

Through A Five-Year-Old's Eyes

It was a long wait for Riley, but finally we hopped in our car to drive the 20 minutes to BLI, Bellingham International Airport.

Parking was easy, Riley pulled her own roll-aboard like an experienced traveler, and the people at the TSA checkpoint, even when they discovered a large corkscrew, complete with knife, in the computer bag of another experienced traveler, Brian.

As soon as we walked into the waiting area, Riley spied a 737 out the window and exclaimed loudly, "What a big plane!", much to the amusement of nearby folks.

Now is the waiting part, but between walks and the good fortune of buying ourselves an upgrade into First Class from Seattle to Orange County, there should be enough to keep her happy until we finally arrive at our hotel tonight.

Updated: This was a great first flight (within Riley's memory) is on a little regional prop plane (ours was a small Embraer)that enabled Riley to look out the window and see the view.

We're in Seattle and about to board for Orange County. Riley's getting some exercise because the next flight will be a "long one" for her at about 2 1/2 hours.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Our First Trip Of 20013

It's a short trip for us but a very special trip. Granddaughter Riley and we are flying to Disneyland tomorrow, or, more technically, flying BLI-SEA-SNA on AS, that is Bellingham to Seattle to John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California on Alaska Airlines, with our final destination being Disneyland.

Riley is excited because she can't remember her last time on an airplane. Of Disneyland she knows very little, but she'll know more after three days there starting Monday morning.

We're almost as excited about the the trip as she is.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Europe In March

We're returning to some of our favorite haunts in Europe after confirming we could use the international upgrades we received as UA 1Ks on a flight to Munich.

It's getting harder and harder to use those upgrades, and we spent a lot of time looking for them. The new UA is valuing cash spend over loyalty. To give one parenthetical example, they have just announced their third or fourth revised boarding procedure since the merger and their "Premier Gold" (Star Gold) customers are in the same boarding group as "Silvers" and credit card holders. What's in your wallet?

We'll be flying Chicago to Munich both ways in lie-flat Business seats. Whew!

We're finalizing the details of our itinerary. We've reserved tickets for three operas in Bratislava, we're looking at some time in Vienna, and we plan to see a little bit more of Croatia, which up to now has been limited to one cruise-ship port on last summer's Mediterranean cruise. We'll probably utilize a multi-day multi-country rail pass to get from one place to another.

Lots of details to work out but we're got a start on it.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Driving Test In The Sumas NEXUS Lane

We had a great time driving up to B.C. on a sunny day to spend the afternoon with Jake and Taegan at Castle Fun Park, thanks to some half-price vouchers we bought on Groupon. Karen treated us to a fine dinner, enhanced by some wonderful "leftovers" (appetizers and desserts) from their New Year's Eve Party.

Driving back around 8:00 p.m. we smugly zipped into the empty NEXUS lane at the Sumas crossing, only to round the corner past the Canadian Immigration building on the left to see the large lighted sign over the booth: Nexus Lane Closed.

Fortunately, there were only six or so cars in line for the one booth that was open. We backed up around the bend, drove through a gap in the barrier posts, backed up once more, and politely got in line behind the last car in the line. Fortunately nobody had followed us down the NEXUS lane. Equally fortunately, no officials accosted us for our "suspicious" behavior.

We're printing out the opening hours at the various crossings - we found them here - and will keep them in the glove box for future reference.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Christmas At Our House

Boxing Day actually -

Little tree...

Lots of grandkids...

(Left to Right) Taegan Riley Avery Blane Peyton Lily Jace Jake