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October 2007 Archives

October 4, 2007

Disney's Happiest Haunts Tour

Lee and I took the new Disney's Happiest Haunts tour at Disneyland/DCA last Friday. There hasn't been much information on this tour so we weren't sure exactly what to expect.

We met our group (there were 13 of us!) at 6:00 p.m. in front of the Tower of Terror, where a representative from Guest Relations (Christina) checked us in. Spoilers later, so this will just be a basic description. We went through the Fastpass line at the Tower of Terror, and eventually they put us on our own elevator, though we rode it without our guide. After we got off the ride Christina gave us all these really cool green glow-tube "necklaces" - with an old-fashioned key at the end. The necklaces turn on and off and have three settings - fast blink, slow blink, and solid. (We got lots of envious looks from other guests the rest of the evening!) Then we met our *real* guide, who took us over to Disneyland. We stopped along the way so she could point out the jack-o-lanterns on Main Street and tell us the legend of the jack-o-lantern, and near the castle we heard the *real* story of Sleeping Beauty, and in Fantasyland we got the *real* story of the Abominable Snowman.

In Frontierland she told us about Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman, and then we learned about the runaway trains of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and then went in through the exit and rode it. I must say we looked pretty cool on the ride with all of our green necklaces! In front of Pirates of the Caribbean we heard about the cursed pirates of the Black Pearl, and then she took us into New Orleans Square where we could hear the voodoo priestess chanting.

Our last stop was the Haunted Mansion, where we rode Haunted Mansion Holiday. After we got off and exited there was one last surprise...

Our tour actually started about 6:15 and was over at 8:00, so it was a little less than two hours. It was ok, but not a great tour - most of the stories we heard that were related to Disneyland attractions were made up for the occasion and had nothing to do with the *real* backstory of the attraction, so we didn't get any interesting insider information. Though I found some of the stories much more entertaining than the "real" ones. :-) I was expecting it to be a little spookier, but there were two kids (~6-8) in our group, so maybe the guide toned it down a little. To get the most out of it you have to get into the "spirit" of the thing with the guide...I think each tour is going to be a little different depending on which guide you get - different guides assume different characters.

For additional information on the tour, including cost, restrictions, when it's offered, how to book, etc. please see the page on AllEars.Net: Disney's Happiest Haunts Tour

**** SPOILERS AHEAD ****

Before the tour started, Christina told us that there were four rules:

1) No consorting or interacting with ghosts or spirits at any time.
2) Absolutely no seances.
3) Stay out of sacred burial grounds.
4) Do not enter any alternate dimensions.

Since we knew what rides we were doing (Tower of Terror, Thunder Mountain, and Haunted Mansion) we knew we were doomed. :-)

Our guide, Rachel, was clearly a no-nonsense schoolteacher-type - with her hair in a tight bun, wearing half glasses and a prim outfit, and she was carrying a ruler and a notebook. She immediately told us to ignore the rules, since we were going to break all of them. (And at that point we'd already broken rule #4.) Though we were following behind her and couldn't see it, she clearly had a rather forbidding expression when leading us through crowds - because people would look at her and get out of her way. :-) She warned us about all of the small "goblins" that infested Disneyland, and to watch out for them because they like to attach themselves to adults and they become a tremendous waste of time and money. Ahhh...a woman after my own heart. :-) (When we entered Fantasyland she warned us that the goblin infestation was especially bad there.)

Lee and I got into trouble - Rachel was holding her ruler up like a flag as she led us along, and at one point she said "Follow me", and Lee and I put our arms up in the air and she turned around and saw us. :-) She wrote our names in her notebook and told us to report for detention after the tour, where we'd have to write "I will not mock the teacher" 100 times. (Lee was only assigned 50 lines, though!) And one of the other men on the tour was chastised because Rachel asked a question and he answered it without raising his hand first and waiting to be called on.

Did you know that Maleficent was actually a very kind and generous woman? And the CEO of her own company: E.V.I.L (which stands for Enchanted Villages I[something] Limited.) She offered Princess Aurora an internship when she turned 16, but her father would hear nothing of it, and didn't want his daughter working in the textile industry. Instead he wanted to marry her off to someone she had never met. Well, spoiled brat that she was, Aurora pitched a fit and pretended to be asleep for years and years. But it was Malficent who got the blame for the whole thing.

Rachel pointed out the Queen in her window above Snow White's Scary Adventures, calling her a "lovely woman" who was killed by a poisoned apple. I told her that I'd heard that a bunch of dwarves pushed her off a cliff - Rachel was shocked. :-)

As for the Abominable Snowman - he was accused of luring all of the children of the village away one night. The villagers chased him and drove him up the mountain, where he caused an avalanche that blocked the trail. In the end it turned out that it was the Ice Demon that had lured the children away to his ice palace, where he bound their feet to the floor and made them sing the same song over and over and over...

Big Thunder Mountain was actually the site of the US's largest gold strike (bigger than Sutter's Creek!). But it was the site of a sacred burial ground...and eventually strange things started happening, and the mine trains started moving all by themselves.

When we were listening to the voodoo priestess in New Orleans Square Rachel actually revealed the truth - that she was one of the 999 "happy haunts", who love this time of year because they get to come out and interact with the living.

Rachel said goodbye to us as we went into the Haunted Mansion...but we were to see her one last time. :-) After we came out the exit and our group met Christina under a tree near the souvenir stand, Christina told us to look behind us. From there we could see along the side of the Mansion to the hillside behind it, and there was Rachel, in a luminous white dress holding a parasol and waving her ruler at us - she even had green glowing eyes!

And I know this is a really horrible picture - but do you know how hard it is to take a picture of a ghost? :-)

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October 5, 2007

More Disney's HalloweenTime

Disney's HalloweenTime is becoming one of my favorite times of year at the Disneyland Resort - it's just so festive and fun! The Halloween decorations are really clever - I like the huge character pumpkins sitting atop Disneyland's entrance. Not to mention the candy corn appearance of the "CALIFORNIA" letters in front of Disney's California Adventure. I think the imagineers must have had a lot of fun with it. But one drawback is that Disneyland is significantly more crowded, especially in the evening.

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I didn't get the chance last year, but this year I sat in on one of the Woody's Halloween Round-up shows back in the Big Thunder Ranch area. Pretty corny - just like you'd expect - but cute. It's hosted by Tex Tumbleweed, but of course stars Woody, Jessie and Bullseye. From what I could tell each day's shows follow a continuing story arc - I saw the second show of the day, which featured a character (Lucky the Cat) who had apparently been introduced in the first show. And Woody impersonating a ghost. And the show ended with a cliffhanger - was the witch hat that blew on stage good or bad??? Should Jessie use it as part of her Halloween costume? Unfortunately I missed the later shows so I never found out!

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But my favorite part was the "commercial" - where Tex does an ad for the show's sponsor, Cowboy Crunchies. He even brags about how they are loaded with sugar - and all a kid needs to do is take one whiff of the cereal to make them strong! He got an audience volunteer to demonstrate that. Ah yes...all the elements of bad 50s-era live TV shows. :-)

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What's next for our Dynamic Duo? Will Laura and Lee make it through the treacherous Friday Freeway Free-for-all with time enough to change into their costumes before the Mickey's Halloween Treat party? Will their macabre masquerade survive Mulholland Madness? Find out next time...same Blog time, same Blog channel!

October 9, 2007

Mickey's Halloween Treat

For the third year in a row, Disney is presenting the Mickey's Halloween Treat party at Disney's California Adventure on selected evenings during the month of October. It's a fun event for both kids and adults where everyone can dress in costume (normally no one over the age of 9 can enter the park in costume) and trick or treat around the park. Lee and I went to the party on Friday night, and here are a few observations.

Mickey's Halloween Treat

In addition to the formal Meet and Greet spots, there are LOTS of characters just walking around, I think even more than last year. The lines are pretty long at the Meet and Greets - I think it's more fun to just run into the characters where generally there is no line! Characters are also dancing with guests at the various party/music spots. We saw Stitch and Flik getting down at Candy Corn Acres, some piratical partying from Chip and Dale at Pirate's Wharf, and Frozone, Merlin, and Sulley had the boogie fever at the Bat Lot Bash.

Mickey's Halloween Treat

There are even more treat stops this year - there is a new "Treat Trail" in the Animation Building. There are more alternatives to candy available - every treat stop has a "healthy" option in addition to the candy. Last year there were only sliced apples, but this year there were boxes of raisins, packets of fruit leather and small bags of baby carrots as well.

I was disappointed in the candy selection - there was not much chocolate, and it was mostly things like Now and Laters, Laffy Taffy, Smarties and Lemon Heads. I got a couple of Butterfingers, Nestle Crunch bars and one Snickers and one Clark bar - not much chocolate as far as this chocoholic is concerned! There were several treat stations that were giving out 2 oz bags of Kissables, though, so that was a nice treat!

Mickey's Halloween Treat

There are many more activities in the wharf area this year, which has been set up with (what else?) a pirate theme. The characters in the area are all wearing pirate attire and the craft area is decorated with lots of pirate figures. There's even pirate-themed games - Lee got to fire a cannon at a target and won a pirate bookmark and some (temporary) tattoos).

Mickey's Halloween Treat

The decorations are much the same as last year - Halloween projections on the sidewalks, Mickey pumpkin and Mickey ghost lights, and spider webs projected on Grizzly Peak, the Orange Stinger, and the Hyperion Theater.

Mickey's Halloween Treat

Mickey's Halloween Treat

Mickey's Halloween Treat

New this year is the Mickey's Trick or Treat on the Street character cavalcade. I don't know that I'd call it a parade - there's one central float that's accompanied by some sign floats and a couple of large moving jack-o-lanterns. Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto and Donald are are the central float, and a bunch of characters and cast members in costume follow it on its route. It follows the normal parade route, with stops in front of Golden Screams and Candy Corn Acres (Sunshine Plaza). There the characters perform a couple of songs and invite audience members (kids, generally!) to come out and dance with them - the kids get a Mickey's Halloween Treat button for participating. It was kind of fun and the new Trick or Treat on the Street song is catchy.

Mickey's Halloween Treat Mickey's Halloween Treat

A fair number of people dressed in costume (like last year there were lots and lots of pirates!), but a lot of people didn't dress up. Lee and I were from very different worlds - he was a Jedi Knight (Luke Skywalker from Return of the Jedi) and I was Belle. Lee's costume was popular with the ladies. :-)

Mickey's Halloween Treat Mickey's Halloween Treat

October 12, 2007

Dining at Cafe Orleans

Last year Cafe Orleans at Disneyland was remodeled, and reopened last summer as a table service restaurant instead of the buffeteria it had been before. We ate breakfast there a few months ago and dinner recently, so I thought I'd post a review of the two dining experiences.

For breakfast we were there on a Saturday at about 8:15 just after the park had opened, and there were only about two other tables occupied the whole time we were there! There is seating inside and outside - we sat outside, in a table up against the wrought-iron fence, where we had a view of the people passing by.

Monte Cristo French Toast You can view the breakfast menu HERE. We both tried the Three Cheese "Monte Cristo" French Toast - "hearty egg bread filled with Brie, Swiss and mozzarella cheeses, then grilled and finished with a berry compote and applewood-smoked bacon." I would not order it again - it was just too much cheese, which cooled off and congealed into a sort of disgusting rubbery layer rather quickly. The "toast" part was fairly thin slices of bread - I was expecting something thicker. The berry compote was good - once we finally got it - it didn't come on our plates and I had to ask our server for it.

Considering how un-busy they were the service was not very good, and they seemed rather slow and disorganized.

I wish we'd tried the Mickey-shaped beignets - I've heard those are pretty good. And what's not to like about fried dough with lots of sugar? :-)

I'm happy to report that our dinner experience was a lot more positive. We walked up to the restaurant at about 5:10 on a Friday evening and were seated in less than 10 minutes even though I hadn't made Priority Seating in advance. Had we arrived 30-40 minutes later I don't think that would've worked nearly as well, though. We were again seated outside, which was fine with us, though as it started to cool off I had to put on a light jacket. It took a little while for our server to get to us, but once she did she was prompt with taking our drink and food orders.

French Onion Soup We decided to try a selection of things off the menu. (You can see the menu HERE.) I ordered the French Onion Soup, which was served in a nice personal-sized tureen. It was good - not the best french onion soup I've ever had, but tasty.


Gumbo Lee got a cup of the New Orleans Gumbo - "a rich, flavorful stew with chicken, andouille sausage and tasso ham, served with Cajun-style 'dirty rice'." He really enjoyed it, but it was a little too spicy for me.


Pommes Frites We also tried the Pommes Frites - "Traditional French-fried potatoes tossed with Parmesan cheese, garlic and parsley, served with a Cajun spice remoulade." These were REALLY good - evilly good. Nicely crisp but not greasy, with just the right amount of seasonings. Lee didn't care for the remoulade sauce served with them, but I liked it.


La Salade de MaisonI ordered La Salade de Maison as an entree (even though it's on the "Starter" menu). It's your basic salad with baby greens, topped with cherry tomatoes, crumbled goat cheese (I love goat cheese!) and caramelized pecans. It's served with raspberry vinaigrette which I asked for on the side, and I'm VERY glad that I did, because it was way too sweet. Had they poured it on for me, I'm afraid it would've been so sweet as to make the salad inedible.


Salmon Salad Lee decided to try the "Crescent City" Salmon Salad - "Fresh spinach and mixed baby greens, tossed with carmelized pecans, red grapes, navel orange segments, roasted sweet corn, and orange-cilantro vinaigrette - crowned with sauteed and pan-seared Atlantic Salmon." He doesn't care for cilantro so he requested the raspberry vinaigrette instead, which he said went pretty well with the salad and salmon - though he also used it sparingly.


Chocolate Crepe For dessert we split the Chocolate Crepe. Our server told us it would take about 15 minutes for that to be prepared, and she checked back with us a couple of times to assure us that it would be coming soon. (I think it took closer to 20 minutes.) The crepe was apparently cooked and filled and THEN baked - it was certainly very hot when it came out and the filling burned my tongue on my first bite. It was filled with a chocolate and raspberry filling - I don't much care for fruit with my chocolate, but this had only a slight raspberry flavor, so it was quite good. We both enjoyed it.

It was a very nice meal and the service was ok (better than I was expecting, given what I'd heard), though a little uneven. We had a little bit too much of a wait before our appetizers came out, but then our entrees were served to us before we had finished eating our appetizers. And although they came around to refill Lee's iced tea glass several times, no one ever refilled my water glass. I'd heard stories of how a meal can be incredibly slow, but we had appetizers, entrees, and dessert and were paid and out of there just over an hour after we were seated.

I think we'll go back - for one thing we want to try the Mickey-shaped Beignets! :-) And I'm curious about the Creole Ratatouille - it looks intriguing.

Bon appetit!

October 18, 2007

A Message From Beyond...

I received this message from a reader of my "Happiest Haunts Tour" blog, and I wanted to share it with the rest of you (though since I didn't want to get stuck with even more lines, I obtained her permission first!).

"Laura,

Well, I must say that I am quite happy to hear that you paid attention during the tour. I may cut down your detention time and the number of sentences you have to write. And yes, I still have your name written in my book.

And I must say that you are lucky that I didn't see you taking a picture of me at the end...that was in the rules you know...no taking pictures of the dead, undead, goblins, trolls..and so on. If I would have seen that I would have taken the camera and you would have had to have a parent or guardian come and pick it up. :)

And just for the record...what was the name of the man who told Walt Disney 'more mice'?

Hope to see you real soon,
Your ghost hostess."

Let me tell you, it was quite a surprise to me - who knew the Haunted Mansion had internet connectivity? :-)

The "more mice" question relates to one of the stories Rachel told us - one of Walt Disney's early "Silly Symphonies" was The Skeleton Dance (Rachel's favorite, as it turns out. :-) ). Walt's distributor at the time, a man named Pat Powers, saw it, didn't like it, and immediately sent Walt a two-word telegram: "MORE MICE." Walt Disney was undeterred, and was able to get it shown at the Carthay Circle Theater, where it was very successful.

(If you missed it, you can read the Happiest Haunts blog entry HERE.)

Disney's California Adventure Expansion

This has been rumored for a while, but on October 17, 2007 the Disney Company finally made it official, and announced a "significant multi-year expansion plan" for the Disneyland Resort - most of which looks to involve major changes to Disney's California Adventure.

You can read the full press release HERE, but here are some of the points that I find most interesting.

1. Disney will be bringing more of "Walt Disney" to DCA, and at least at the entrance to the park, the theme will reflect the 1920s California to which Walt came as a young man, with a new park icon modeled after the Carthay Circle Theatre in Los Angeles. Inside the theater will be an interactive "Walt Disney Story". The entry plaza itself will be completely revamped into more of a 1920s California main street environment, complete with Red Car trolleys traveling the street. Bye-bye Golden Gate Bridge!

2. Pixar and more Pixar...in addition to Toy Story Mania, inspired by the characters from Toy Story and scheduled to open the summer of 2008, there will be a new "Cars Land" area, featuring the world of Radiator Springs, three new attractions, and new restaurants and shops. "The new land will substantially extend the total area of Disney's California Adventure park" - guess that means the Timon parking lot (the last remnant of the original Disneyland parking lot) is finally going away.

3. FINALLY DCA will be getting a "signature nighttime spectacular", with waterside viewing alongside Paradise Bay for 9,000 people. Disney's World of Color will include water effects, animation, lighting, and music. (This has been on my "wish list" since the park opened!)

4. Paradise Pier will host the new state-of-the-art Little Mermaid attraction, as well as a Mermaid Grotto play area for kids. Nice to see the classic-style Disney animated movies getting a little bit of attention!

5. The Hollywood Pictures Backlot will be getting some "special ticketed events and chances to hear first hand from innovative directors, writers, and animators" - whatever that means. Maybe they will finally use the gorgeous Hyperion Theater for full-length shows - though they'll need to put restrooms in first!

6. No timetable in the press release, other than "over the next several years", but since the Preview Center isn't scheduled to open until late 2008, I suppose it'll be at least a year or two or three beyond that.

7. I find it interesting that Disney did not put a dollar figure in their press release, though other sources have put the cost at 1.1 billion, which is just about the original cost of building DCA.

Well, I'm excited...I've always liked DCA even as it is now, though I freely admit that it could use something more. Everything looks good on paper...I hope the Imagineers will get free reign to bring us new attractions that are of that Disney quality that has been a bit elusive at DCA, and that they don't get dumbed down because of budget issues.

October 22, 2007

Tower of Terror 13K: One More Week!

One week from now is the Tower of Terror 13K race. I did my last "long" training run (6 miles) Saturday morning - I'll do a couple of my regular 4 milers this week and then we leave on Friday morning.

For a change the 3 hour time difference between California and Florida will actually work in our *favor*, since the 9:30 p.m. start time of the race is only 6:30 to us. It's about time things worked out that way. :-) It's going to be SO nice not to have to get up at 3:00 a.m. to get ready for a race!

We plan to take it fairly easy on Saturday - we'll probably pick up our race packets that morning and maybe wander around Epcot a little, though on a Saturday during the Food and Wine Festival it's going to be pretty busy! And we don't want to stuff ourselves with exotic foods that day anyway - don't want to risk an upset stomach right before the race!

It's strange how very *little* information there is so far on this race - we've done the marathon and half marathon where we got LOTS of information in advance about the race, including transportation to/from, what time we had to be when, etc., but there's been almost nothing on the ToT 13K - they are keeping us in the dark, so to speak...but maybe that just goes along with the theme of the race!

Since Lee and I are staying at the Boardwalk, I'm assuming we can just walk to/from the race instead of having to deal with buses - it's not really that long a walk.

And the weather...here's hoping for clear skies and a cool night!!! Right now (8:21 p.m. PDT/11:21 p.m. EDT) weather.com is reporting 75 in Orlando - 10 degrees warmer than I'd prefer - but their 10 day forecast shows a cooling trend late in the week, with a Saturday low of 67, so that's a lot better for me! Hope the "Isolated Thunder-Storms" in the forecast are isolated to areas not over the race course...though I suppose it WOULD provide a lot of atmosphere. :-)

We're not going for time at all - I'll have my trusty tiny Canon SD300 with me and will be taking lots of pictures. I hope there will lots of fun surprises and character interactions. If we get hot/tired and need to walk, we will. One other thing working in our favor: we train in hilly San Diego, so it will be very nice to run in flat Florida where the largest "hill" we'll face will be an overpass or two!

So much for my random rambling thoughts on the race...at least for now.

October 24, 2007

The Best Laid (Running) Plans...

...Are no match for Mother Nature. As I'm sure you've seen on the news, there are multiple wildfires burning in southern California, including two very large ones in San Diego County. One out of every three people in San Diego County has had to evacuate their home at some point since Sunday. Fortunately, Lee and I have been able to stay put, and our home was never threatened. As I write this on Tuesday night the Santa Ana winds have died down and the winds are primarily coming from the ocean now, which has helped firefighters tremendously. There are still areas burning out of control, though.

The air quality here has been quite poor (not surprisingly!), and we've had to stay inside and limit activity as much as possible. So, it appears I won't get in any of my training runs this week. In the grand scheme of things that's certainly quite unimportant, of course! For a while we were wondering if we'd be able to leave as scheduled this Friday morning, since if there was any chance of the fire getting close to us we'd want to be here to evacuate the cats and our computers. Things are looking pretty good at this point, though of course we will be watching the situation closely.

Please think good thoughts for the firefighters and all those who have been evacuated, and especially those who have lost their homes.

Laura

October 29, 2007

Tower of Terror 13K

We dared to run 13K, and we survived. :-)

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Quick recap: This year is the 13th anniversary of the Tower of Terror and back in April or May Disney announced the Tower of Terror 13K and 6.5K, which as it turned out were being held the weekend that we already had a trip planned. So we signed up. Fast forward to race day...we took it easy all day and walked over to the Studios from the Boardwalk on Saturday evening - it was a night race and not scheduled to start until 9:30.

It had rained a fair bit earlier in the day but it was dry by racetime - dry being a relative term, since the humidity was about 157%. Even though the temperature was about 70 degrees, we were sweating profusely quite quickly once we started running. The race course started on the parking lot access road and went back out to World Drive under the "Welcome to Walt Disney World" archway, then doubled back on itself before getting onto Osceola Parkway. That was a little bit of an uphill - we had to chuckle at all the people who were complaining about it, since it was barely a bump in the road by San Diego standards.

Once we got alongside Wide World of Sports we had an off-road section, where we turned onto a dirt/gravel road. This was somewhat challenging because it was dark, even with the lights they had set up, and there were a lot of puddles to skirt around because of the rain earlier in the day. This was apparently the "Haunted Forest" section of the course, because there were a lot of Cast Members dressed in white shirts and pants on this section, who were banging pots, making moaning noises, running beside different people saying "I love you", crouching in the bushes saying: "Help me, help me", etc. Some of them were into it a little too much, maybe (Lee says that he thinks they were Cast Members who had been working at "it's a small world" for too long)...when we got into the Wide World of Sports complex itself there was a woman with a belt whipping it against a light post yelling: "Play with me! Who's gonna play with me!" :-) At Wide World of Sports we got to take a lap around the track and run on the grass of one of the big fields. We eventually made a loop around the complex and went out the parking lot entrance back onto Osceola Parkway, and passed the 4 mile mark not long after that.

After another overpass (higher than the first, but I didn't hear so many complaints on this one), we ended up back on World Drive again, where we got this feeling of deja vu as we passed back through the starting area again. We came into the Studios by the parade gate near Sid Cahuenga's. At the corner of Hollywood Blvd we saw Deb Wills and Masayo Kano cheering runners on, and made a quick stop for greetings and photos. Up Hollywood Blvd and past the Commissary and then we wound around the Streets of America. Lee said it reminded him of one of my runs - around home I wind around the neighborhood streets to add distance (I can easily do a 7 mile run without backtracking and without getting more than 1.5 miles from home) - and it makes him crazy. :-) Eventually we ended up in the back of the park on the Lights, Motors, Action stage, where we could see ourselves on the big screen.

Somehow we got backstage on the road the Backstage Tour vehicles use, and ran through the big tunnel in the costuming/props area. We popped back into the park on Sunset Blvd where we could see people who had already finished the race, though we still had about .75 miles to go. Lee was doing really well but I was getting pretty tired - the humidity really takes it out of me. We ran back down Hollywood Blvd and ducked past Oscar's filling station into the the Fantasmic! amphitheater area and back behind it, then came around the corner behind the Tower of Terror to (finally!) the finish line. My goal had been to finish in under 1:30, and we came in at 1:29:31.

After the finish was the usual routine - get the timing chips cut off, get our medals, get our picture taken, and then go through the food line. Even though we'd had some water at all four water stops we were still really thirsty. To exit the runner's-only area we had to squeeze back into the park near the Rock'n'Roller Coaster fastpass machines - that was quite a choke point. After we drank our water and ate our brownies we were somewhat recovered and went to retrieve our baggage and change into the dry shirts we'd brought - the ones we'd run in were soaking wet. It felt really good to put on our dry Tower of Terror t-shirts!

tot_medal.jpg The medal is very cool - it's quite a hefty piece of metal with a lot of detail. And the red elevator is on a spring - if you pull it down and let go it goes back up.

We met up with Deb and Masayo again near the Tower of Terror before they headed off. It was after midnight and we started to walk out of the park, but then decided that since it was the Tower of Terror 13K we should at least ride the Tower of Terror! There was a bit of a line, and it took about a half hour, but it was a fun ride. The bellhop warned us to hold onto any loose articles - like medals. :-) Good idea - getting bonked in the face by that thing wouldn't have been much fun! From there we walked back to Boardwalk - we were tired, but still felt good. Though we were glad our room was on the side of the Boardwalk closest to the Studios instead of the side closest to the Yacht Club! :-)

Though we had an ok time, overall I have to say that we were quite disappointed in the race - of the four Disney races we have done, this was the least "Disney-ish". I'll write more about that next time.

Race is over - now it's time to eat, drink, and be merry at the Food and Wine Festival. :-)

Laura

October 30, 2007

Tower of Terror 13K - The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Last time I talked about the Tower of Terror race and how we did...and I mentioned that we were disappointed in it - it just wasn't up to Disney's standards. So here's all the reasons why we thought that.


The Good

It didn't rain. :-) Ok, so Disney has no control over the weather, but there was the possibility of rain in the forecast, and we were relieved when it didn't rain.

It was quite a small race by Disney standards - between the 6.5K and the 13K there were only 4000 participants. That sure made it at lot nicer at the start area, and at the start of the race. They also started the 6.5K 6 minutes later than the 13K, so that helped lessen the congestion that you always have at the beginning of a race.

The medals are really very nice - Disney really knows how to do medals! The sliding elevator is a very clever touch, and you know they spent some money on the medals.

As always, the volunteers and Cast Members were amazing - so helpful and upbeat. There weren't a lot of specators for this race until we got back to the Studios at about mile 6.5, so in a lot of areas there was just a lone Cast Member waving and yelling encouragement. The four water stops were well-staffed with plenty of people handing out cups.

The race shirt is actually a t-shirt and not a cool-max running shirt, which means I can actually wear it for something other than running. The shirt also is NOT covered with advertisements for the race sponsors like the cool-max shirts always are.

The race party was really a nice idea - it gave family and friends something to do in those 1-3 hours while the runners were out on the course. And it seemed like the spectactors were having a lot of fun dancing to the music and hanging out.

It was nice having a race that started at 9:30 p.m. instead of 6:00 a.m. - which meant there was no reason to get up at an ungodly hour and then stand around for two hours in the cold waiting for the race to start.

For a night race the course was fairly well-lit - there was one section on the off-road part where one of the lights was out, but with the other lights in the area it was still possible to see.

Lee says they had plenty of porta-potties near the start of the race. :-)

The Bad

There was very little information available on the race until a short time before. The course map wasn't published until a couple of weeks before, and all of the other race information, like what time we needed to be there, what transportation there was, what to do about baggage, etc. was not available until two days before the race. We also never received any kind of race packet, and I'm used to getting that in the mail from Disney about two months before the race! There was no information saying that we wouldn't get a packet, so I was concerned - and so were people on some of the other Disney running bulletin boards - at least until we found out we were all in the same boat.

I'm used to Disney races starting on time...but this one started 20 minutes late. Since this was a night race and not a morning race, apparently they had delays in getting the roads cleared, which in turn delayed the start of the race. Since they didn't announce this until right at 9:30, when we were all crowded together awaiting the start of the race, that meant that we had another 20 minutes of being crowded together, instead of only "loosely packed" like runners are when the start is still a ways away.

When we arrived at the Studios, having walked over from the Boardwalk, there were no signs at all telling us where the start of the race was. We finally found a security guard who told us to keep going left along the sidewalk in front of the park and we'd see the tents. We weren't the only people who were confused - there were a lot of runners milling around the entrance to the park.

While we were running in the parks, there were no barriers or ropes keeping the spectators separated from the runners, and no Cast Members manning designated crossing areas, which meant spectators were on their own for crossing the race route. This wasn't a problem for us, but we heard other runners say that they almost got run over by strollers or almost ran into someone who was crossing in front of them.

The Ugly

There were NO Disney characters anywhere. Not at the start, not along the race course, not even at the finish area. What? How can it be a Disney race without characters?? If we couldn't have a spooky Mickey, at least Mickey dressed as a Tower of Terror bellhop would have been nice.

From the race write-up we were expecting some spooky surprises at various points along the way. All we got was the "Haunted Forest" section near Wide World of Sports - and those doing the 6.5K didn't even have that, since their route didn't go over to that area. So much for "the 6.5K only scares you half way and back" as stated in the race literature. No offense to the Cast Members, many of whom were wonderfully creepy, but that was really not a very good place for it - it was a one-lane gravel road and pretty narrow, and runners were having enough trouble keeping their footing and dodging puddles to really get what was going on.

The "course map" was a travesty. There were no mile markers, no indications of where the water stops would be, and no detail at all of what the course was inside the Studios. We couldn't even tell for sure where the start and finish lines were! The 6.5K map had a little bit more detail, but the course it showed inside the Studios did not actually reflect the real course at all, with all of the winding turns on the streets.

In Conclusion

Lee's comment, and I agree, is that this really felt like any other race put on by one of the big race companies - it just happened to be on Disney property. Other than the late start things actually went very well - it just didn't feel like a Disney race because it didn't have the special touches that those of us who have run Disney races are used to experiencing.

We can only hope that if the race returns next year, they will fix some of the issues above. If it hadn't been a Disney race we really wouldn't have any complaints (well, except the lack of information beforehand)...but it IS Disney, so our expectations were a lot higher.

October 31, 2007

Eating Around the World - Day 1

This blog entry is a bit late, since up until now I've been concentrating on writing about the Tower of Terror 13K - but I think I've said all that I have to say about that now. :-)

This is only the second time we've been to Epcot's Food and Wine Festival - the first time was two years ago, and we had a great time. But we love early December and all of the Christmas festivities, too, and we can't really justify two trips to Florida within 4-6 weeks, so we've decided to alternate the two.

We arrived at Walt Disney World on Friday evening and checked into the Boardwalk - always a great choice when you're planning to spend a lot of time at the Festival! Hard to get during F&W, though - I made our reservations almost 11 months in advance.

We'd planned to meet Deb Wills at the Festival, but she wasn't feeling well and had to cancel. :-( It was an Extra Magic Hours (EMH) night at Epcot, and it turns out the F&W booths were open during Extra Magic Hours, too!

Since it was Friday night the park was quite crowded, between the locals that had come in for the evening and the resort guests who had come for EMH. We stood in some fairly long lines (10 minutes or so) for food at a few places.

Our first stop was the Canada booth, where we tried the Maple Glazed Salmon with Roasted Corn and Arugula and the Cheddar Cheese Soup. Both very tasty, but not really new to us. That had a long wait because there had been a salmon run (pun intended) and they were grilling more. While we were waiting, one of the Cast Members asked us questions about Canada, and gave a glass of wine to the adult who answered first. I knew the Canadian dollar was called the "Loonie", so I won a glass of the Mission Hill SLC Chardonnay. This must have been aged in steel barrels instead of oak because it didn't have that dry buttery flavor so many chardonnays have which I dislike so much and I thought it was pretty good - especially for the price! :-) I made the mistake of giving it to Lee so he could take a couple of sips, and he finished it!

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The Dominican Republic booth was new this year, and we'd heard good reviews on the Pastelon de Platanos Amarillos, and we also tried the Mofungo. I couldn't really detect any banana flavor in the Pastelon - it was a veggie-type casserole topped with cheese and guacamole - and was quite tasty, though I couldn't really tell you what flavors were in it! The Mofungo was mashed yucca with pork cracklings, served with two shrimp. It had a very interesting flavor and I liked it - it was also quite filling. The shrimp were only so-so - a bit overcooked, I think.

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Lee tried the Beef Empanada at Argentina - this is another item that hadgotten really good reviews. He said it was quite good. (Quite a few of the highly rated F&W selections this year are some kind of beef, which unfortunately I can't eat, so Lee sacrifices himself and tries them for me. :-) )

Mexico again has Chilaquiles this year - something we both really enjoyed two years ago, and it's just as good this year. It's basically a chicken enchilada casserole with green (tomatillo) sauce. Really yummy, and still ranks as one of my favorites, and it's also a fairly generous serving. We also had the Conga Juice, and Lee had a Dos Equis.

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At Ireland we pretty much said "give us one of everything!". And it was all good. The Boxty is a potato pancake topped with bacon bits, caramelized onions and garlic butter. Very tasty. The Potato Leek Soup was served with a cheese breadstick - it had a nice flavor but we both thought it would have been better warm than chilled. The Irish Cheese Plate came with three slices of Irish cheese, some apple chutney and brown bread. The cheese was good, but we didn't think it worked with the chutney. The brown bread was more like pound cake than bread - LOTS of butter. We tried the Meade Honey Wine - and that was delicious - sweet but not syrupy.

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We tried the "one of everything" tactic again at India - but they were out of Samosas, so we had to content ourselves with the Curried Butternut Squash soup and the Coconut Indian Rice Pudding. The soup had a little bit of a kick to it but was quite tasty, and Lee really liked the rice pudding. I'm not much of a rice pudding fan but I enjoyed it also - it had some little bits of pineapple in it, too.

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It was getting close to time for Illuminations, but we wanted some dessert, so we tried the Apple Strudel with Vanilla Sauce at (where else?) Germany. I also had a glass of the wine recommended as a pairing with the strudel - the S.A. Prum Riesling Spatlese It was a bit sweet (but I like sweet!) and I enjoyed it.

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Stay tuned - there's lots more Food & Wine Festival eating to come! Though we have been doing some other things, too...

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About October 2007

This page contains all entries posted to Salute to All Things Disney but Mostly Disneyland in October 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

September 2007 is the previous archive.

November 2007 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.