Every time we get back from Disneyland, we end up wondering why we're so thoroughly exhausted when we couldn't have been at the park that
long. In this case, we think it's from sleep deprivation and lack of sunblock, because sunburn will sap your energy, and we woke up early Saturday and Sunday, and had a lovely sleep-depriving adventure on Sunday night. (I don't want to go into the details, but the short version is efforts to unclog the toilet were failing. The story ended when Alice drove us all to a gas station for a bathroom break before we finally went to sleep at about two.)
But anyway, we had a good time at Disneyland, and we got several new experiences because Gaston was in a wheelchair. We've heard stories of people getting wheelchairs because they're tired, or just to take advantage of the "not having to wait in line" feature, but we always shunned those ideas as dishonest and/or lazy. But since Gaston had really broken his leg, and was in fact reduced to either going around in a wheelchair or hopping on one leg all day, this time it was fully legit.
The first time the wheelchair made any real difference was when we went on Grizzly River Run. The boarding area is a circular platform that rotates, which is not a great place to be when you can't walk and want to get from a chair into the boats. So for guests in wheelchairs, they have a special boarding area that doesn't move, but does involve a lot of cast members kicking the boat around. The cast member explained it by saying they'd let us into the boat, and then they'd stop the regular landing area from moving, so the ride would stop and everybody would hate us. But he still liked us, he assured us. Then they kicked the boat out into the water and were able to start the ride again. It was pretty neat, but hard to explain. I would have taken pictures if I'd had a camera. (On that note, we got an email from Canon about camera deals on Sunday, so we ordered a new (refurbished) one this morning! I'm so excited!)
Other than that, California Adventure was pretty normal with or without the wheelchair. All of the rides and cue areas were built with wheelchair accessibility in mind, so there's not a whole lot of cutting you can do. Gaston told us that before you get a wheelchair, it might occasionally occur to you how hard it must be to get around in a wheelchair, but you never notice how completely awful it is until you find yourself in one. Disneyland is one exception, however, as their wheelchair accommodations are amazing.
This has nothing to do with wheelchairs, but! we noticed one of the cotton candy vendors had cotton candy that looked like candy corn. That sounded like a brilliant idea, so we had to buy some! Disappointingly, the cotton candy was not candy corn flavored, but the orange was orange flavored and the yellow was lemon flavored. The white was regular cotton candy flavored, and that was boring, but it was still tasty. They also have some orange and purple Halloween cotton candy that, we're told, is orange and grape flavored. Next time, we'll try that one.
At Disneyland, we learned (technically we already knew, because Gaston and Alice, who had been in the park on Sunday, told us) that the wheelchair policy is now much like the Fastpass system. You check in at the ride exit, they scan your party's park tickets, and tell you to come back later. Then
you can board the ride via the exit. All the rides are different, so they have different ways to make sure you can get back to your wheelchair when you get off. On It's A Small World, they put a rod in the front of the boat to make sure your boat goes to the right dock (where the wheelchair entrance is; there are two boarding docks).
At Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, they don't have a way to do that. Gaston splurged and got a motorized wheelchair, which is too big and unwieldy to make it through the Big Thunder exit, so they transferred him to a regular wheelchair, and the cast member was kind enough to push him all the way to the ride. When we got off at the other train landing, a cast member was waiting for us with the regular wheelchair, and he pushed Gaston back to where the motorized wheelchair was parked. What service!
This one has less to do with getting back to your wheelchair and more to do with passenger loading efficiency. Space Mountain needs to keep all the cars moving quickly, so there's no time to stop and let people transfer from a wheelchair to the ride. To make up for that, they have an extra bit of track that can be switched in and out, so the car is on the track that's not part of the roller coaster track while you make the transition, and then they move the track sideways to connect it to the rest of the ride and send you on your way. Alice was especially excited about this, because we'd seen it so many times, and now she finally got to experience it! Then you go on the ride and they move you sideways again so you can disembark without holding up the other cars.
The most interesting one to us was the Haunted Mansion. First, they make sure your party is the last one to go in the stretching room that takes guests underground to experience the rest of the ride. Once everyone leaves the stretching room, they take you to a little side path (still in the portrait hall, but closer to the spooky windows, and chained off to prevent traffic), where you can wheel happily along without bumping into people. Then they let a bunch of people get on the ride, then they stop the ride! so the person in the wheelchair can get on.
Oh, I forgot to mention that the Haunted Mansion doom buggies are on a conveyor belt that's always moving (unless someone in a wheelchair is getting off or on). What made it so interesting to me is that the doom buggies always come from a tunnel--you don't ever see people getting off of them. When the ride is over, you get out of the doom buggy, and it goes through the tunnel to get back to the beginning. I would often see that tunnel and, since it's the Haunted Mansion, think of it as some eerie passage into the Beyond (even though I knew it was just a tunnel to the other side of the attraction).
Well, since Gaston's wheelchair was at the other side of the tunnel, we couldn't get off at the regular exit, and we got to ride through! It was funny, because it goes by a heavy curtain, and you can see a brightly lit, tiled floor at the bottom of it. It made me comment, "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!" And then, after Gaston was back in his wheelchair, we went back through the portrait hall and we got to go up the elevator! ...Er, I mean, we got to be in the stretching room while it unstretched. It was really cool. And squeaky. And then they had a side door that we left the building from, so as to prevent collisions with incoming guests, and it opened out right onto a great view of Chickapin Hill, the top of Splash Mountain.
Other than that, we went to the Frontierland Jamboree area, where they're having the Halloween Carnival (or whatever it's officially called). As part of the carnival, they have a magic show, where a magician comes on and does tricks, and at the end, he tries his unrehearsed trick, which, if successful, will make him the most powerful magician in the land! By the time it was done, he had been replaced by Mickey Mouse! He really was
the most powerful magician in the land!
We also stopped by the petting zoo, because on the way out, I spotted a fiddler, whom Gaston and Alice recognized as Farley. I think his job is to just have fun and entertain guests at the same time. He asked us if we had any requests, and we said, "I don't know. Impress us." So he pulled out a harmonica and started playing it and the fiddle at the same time. I said it was impressive but not great, because he wasn't playing the harmonica very well. So instead he pulled out mouth harp (you know, that thing Snoopy plays), and I always liked those, so he got points for that. He told a lot of corny jokes, and Jessie (from Toy Story) came over and hung out with us. Then it was time for him to go on break, so he gave us stickers (they have a picture of him and say "I had fun with Farley!") and was on his way.
After an almost full day in the park, Gaston and Alice took us to Target to buy a plunger, and we also got some Ghirardelli squares (of the type we failed to buy when we went to the Ghirardelli shop at California Adventure) and maple frosting. And now, thanks to Gaston's demonstration of how to use a plunger, our toilet works again. So it was a pretty good day overall.
Today I'm thankful for another fun day with friends at Disneyland, said friends being very patient with our not-working toilet, said friends also helping us fix the toilet, having more Ghirardelli's sweet dark chocolate cookie minis, and the neat experiences from having a wheelchair at Disneyland.