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2012-366 Day 165 – Cars Land

So I suppose I have to give up the title of “luckiest lottery winner we know” (NY Marathon) to our friend Belen, who overcame reported less than 1% odds to acquire six passes to an exclusive passholder preview of California Adventure’s new Cars Land and Buena Vista Street entrance. Since Jess told her about it (and neither her nor I won), we got invited to attend along with her husband Eric. Apparently not everyone can get random Mondays off and has a Disney pass, but Eric did mention it around their 5 year old niece, who managed to secure permission and an invitation to come along. She did very well and it was fun to have an actual child’s perspective along with the big kids.

We drew the earliest time slot (8 am – 12 pm) and, while we live less than an hour away from Disneyland with no traffic, Eric and Belen live in Oxnard and made the wise decision to procure a hotel room that we shared with them for Sunday night. This allowed us not to have to worry about traffic Monday morning, and we arrived early to take care of tickets, pass renewal, and check in to the event before it opened. We were twenty or so people back in our respective line when the gates opened and were fairly quickly into the park proper and then through a door to the closed off Buena Vista Street.

Now, if you’ve been to California Adventure before, I’m fairly certain that you (like me) could tell you next to nothing about the bland entry street to the park save for the Golden Gate bridge replica the Monorail went across. The entire area has gotten a face lift to reflect the era (1920’s) when Walt arrived in California, and I must say that the area is beautiful. Disney’s usual attention to detail is everywhere in a way that seemed severely lacking in the previous setup. Jess started taking pictures of all the details almost immediately, despite the fact that we were merely in the entry to the main attraction of Cars Land. We stopped at the new Starbucks at the end of the street for breakfast and some liquid fuel, and then prepared to hustle over to the new land. (All pictures except one taken by Jess – or Eric or Belen if Jess and I are in the picture, and I’ll let you guess which one I took.)

So we headed past the new Carthay Theatre replica, which has been visible for a while, past Bugs Land, and past where the future entrance for Cars Land will be. They instead sent us through a side entrance off the Pier/Wharf that came in right by Radiator Springs Racers. Even coming in through the side, the opening vista was bold.

A line had already formed for the ride, but we could tell from the presence of two cars on the track that it was not yet operational or open.

So rather than wait in line for a ride that was not yet running, we decided to press on into Cars Land proper to see what we could see. The Racers ride is actually in the back right corner if you were coming in from the normal entrance, so moving into Cars Land put us pretty much at the end of the (freshly paved, an awesome nod to the first Cars movie) main street, smack dab at the crossroads with Ramone’s, Luigi’s, Flo’s, and the “Here It Is” store (who’s name I don’t remember). The details on all the buildings and environments would take all week to list, and I am certain that we missed some in the limited time we were there. A significant line for the Flying Tires had also formed by this point, so, after taking some pictures at the end of the street with the famous statue, we headed back up towards the main entrance of the land to see what was in that direction.

We immediately ran across Lightning McQueen hanging out at the Cozy Cone Motel and grabbed a picture, while marveling at exactly how far a cone theme can get you when you set your mind to it.

At the end of the road on the right side was the Mater ride, which involved sitting in a tractor spinning in circles doing a hoedown. If you know me, you know that I am not a fan of amusement park rides, particularly those that spin or drop. This one spun, so I was out, but not before attempting a little tractor tipping of my own.

After checking out the entrance (so incredibly detailed) and the two shops on the other side of the street, we had made it through all of the environmental theming and were ready to ride. On the way back we saw that Lightning had been switched out for Mater, so the little one got to get her picture taken with him too. Details abounded just on the character, his little yellow light on top was functional, going off at sporadic moments, and his license plate featured the well known Pixar easter egg A-113.

Having drank it all in (and being almost halfway through our allotted time slot), we decided it was time to go brave the line for the Racers. It had actually extended a little bit from when we first came in, and, while the cars had moved, the ride was not yet running. We got to see a few empty cars go by in testing, and then shortly a couple cars go by with Cast Members in them. We had arrived just in time for the ride to actually start working! It also turned out that the line did not go all the way to the ride’s loading area, as we got to move a great deal forward once the queue was released. We wound up waiting in line for about 40 minutes before reaching the front, and the little details peppered throughout the queue actually almost made the time worth it. There is just so, so much there (including the original Radiator Spring) and it will certainly distract you the first time through the queue.

Now again, I will repeat, I am not a ride guy, but Jess made me promise I would go on this one with her. Scoping out the track as we went through the queue, it didn’t look like it would be too bad, there were a couple hills whose drops didn’t look all that fun and a steep banked turn that I worried about my neck on. I determined that as long as I was in the driver’s seat, it would essentially feel like I was driving the course and I’d be a lot more at ease. Our turn came up, we strapped ourselves in, had our belts checked at the first station and zipped off . . .

Into a fairly leisurely drive past the waterfall (I love waterfalls, and this one looks great) and into an adaptation of the original Cars story. After avoiding big rigs, running from trains, tipping tractors, and driving through town, you eventually get to the point where the path splits. You are either taken into Ramone’s for a new paint job (our first time through) or into Luigi’s for a brand new set of tires. After making it through your branch, you are paired up with the car from the other branch and then it’s time for the race part! Both cars go side by side through a winding, hilly track which I (shh!) actually had fun on (I will point out that, outside of the steep bank turn, I’ve performed most of these maneuvers in an actual car). I don’t know how the ride decides, but one car wins (and it was us! Yay!) by a nose. You are then queued back up and unloaded from the car.

We decided it was finally snack time and headed to the Cozy Cones to try out their wares. The highlight (and necessity) was the cone shaped cups, while we also snagged some pretzel bites (which were pretty good). We’re waiting until our next visit for the Chili Cone Carne and the Pomegranate drink Jess wanted to try. The only downside was I had to haul the cones around for the rest of the day.

Did you know proper etiquette says you extend your pinkie when drinking from your cone? Apparently I should have told Jess.

Now we had about an hour left and it was time to address the final ride we had not yet accomplished, the Flying Tires. The line indicator said it was down to 40 minutes from the peak of 90, so we settled in for the wait. The first part of the queue was inside the tire store and featured many great details, but the final quarter of the queue was outside and it was starting to get warm, which kind of colored our feelings on the ride. From what I understand, this is an adaptation of a ride that used to exist in Tomorrowland, but it wasn’t all that exciting and Eric and I had some difficulty making it go where we wanted. That was disappointing because it meant we had a hard time tracking down any additional giant beach balls other than the two we acquired when we first got on the ride. The beach balls were definitely the highlight, although I had to defend myself from one that Belen had savagely thrown at Eric and me.

We stepped off the ride at 11:55 and knew from an earlier conversation with a Cast Member that as long as we were in line, they wouldn’t kick us out at noon. So we rushed back over to the Racers, only to find that the line was almost non-existent; we walked all the way to the foot of the loading area. A short wait got us into the car and I even ceded the driver’s seat and sat in the back now that I knew what to expect. We took off again, only to have the ride stop on us shortly after the start of the story. It was actually bad enough that they had to turn on the lights and send in the technicians, each of whom I offered a high five (most took it) as they filed back past us when they had finished the repairs in about 15 minutes. The ride proceeded smoothly again (we won again), and when we arrived back at the loading area they told us to stay seated as we were going through again. Yup, we got to ride it a third time (potentially the first guests to have ridden it three times), and we got to watch the car in front of us head into the mechanic’s bay, as it was apparently the problem child. There was a slight hiccup on our third run through, as our partner car never showed up (three times, three wins!), but it was still a blast.

We were well into “bonus time” getting off the ride, as it was around 12:30 at that point. We had blue bands on for our time frame and we started seeing some yellow bands in the land on our way out. We explored a little more, shopped, and then exited through Bugs Land and headed back to Buena Vista Street (which our bands would actually allow us in all day).

After determining none of the lunch options on Buena Vista Street seemed enticing (really just sandwiches at the Starbucks shop), we decided to venture out to the burger place by Soarin’. I actually ran up to the Corn Dog Kingdom to get a corn dog, and we all had a nice lunch as my timing was pretty good in getting back across the park. A final pass through Buena Vista Street yielded a delicious hand-dipped ice cream sandwich (warning, when you get “the works” topping on that one you get the chocolate chips, sprinkles, confetti, and Blue Raspberry burst – which is actually pop rocks like), some fun interactions with the characters that started wandering the streets (not just the Disney ones, but a cop, a bike messenger, and a couple of women), a bit more shopping, and witnessing what was probably the inaugural journey (for a couple hundred feet or so) of the trolley. Determined to beat traffic and make it back for the Kings game, we left the park around 3 and started the journey home.

In all, it was an amazing day and probably the most fun I’ve had at Disneyland (there Jess, I’ve admitted it). Being a part of the exclusive sneak peek meant it wasn’t crowded (my biggest Disney pet peeve) and it was actually down right peaceful on Buena Vista Street at the end. It’s too bad I won’t get to experience it like that again. Thanks again to Eric and Belen for the invite, we’ll see how the comparison is next week when we go back with Jess’ Aunt, Uncle, and cousins after the official opening on Friday.

Weight: 229 Loss: 11 lbs – Running Yearly Mileage: 177.5 miles
Fitocracy Level: 21 ID: disciplev1

Posted in Matt 2012-366, Matt General. Tagged with , , , , , .

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