Simple things often rely on synergy, time, distance and perhaps a little bit of luck-or at least-natural selection. That’s true of relationships on some level, but I don’t let that confuse me into believing that relationships are a matter of fate. Love is a choice and the people with whom we choose to share it need to be reminded that we choose them.
So it was at vacation time in the Storer household last week. It was, as anyone might say, nothing special and something special all at once. Limiting ourselves to a vacation we could afford to pay for out of pocket, we began paying for it a few months ago, purchasing tickets to Sea World in San Diego and purchasing tickets to Disneyland before prices went up. Side note: If the crowding at Disneyland is any indication of prices of the park, then Disney needs to raise prices again. More on that later.
Last Monday, we hopped aboard a rented minivan and drove south to San Diego. The weather was perfect–and I do mean perfect. The daytime high was 72 degrees with light and passing clouds and a cool breeze. Famous Los Angeles traffic only materialized for about 10 minutes on the 405, the main north/south thoroughfare leading to San Diego-and we stopped for lunch in Redondo Beach, which proved to be about half-way on our trip. It took us about an hour and change to get to Redondo and about an hour and a half, a bit less, to get to our hotel in San Diego, the Sheraton Marina.
We spent the afternoon Monday at the resort-like pool sipping wine (sodas for the kids) and enjoying the weather. Here it was summer vacation and the pool water was warmer than the air. Spectacular, I tell you.
This was Conni’s last trip with us as she is due to fly back to Vienna on Tuesday. We can’t bear to see her go, frankly-and yet we know she has a life to live and an education to get on with. She has been the perfect addition to our family-a fine big sister to Shannon, a virtual daughter to us and a fast friend-a person for whom our trust is complete and for whom we would do anything. Sue begins to cry whenever she thinks about Conni going back home and so does Aunt Laurie, who frequently threatens to keep Conni here–in a playful way. Next week after Tuesday will be difficult, even painful, I imagine. But her parents miss her more than we will and we trust that we have made a friend for life and that we’ll all gather together again when time allows.
Sea World was magnificent. Uncrowded, at least not crowded enough to cause problems, but full of people visiting from all over and so many different things to see and do that it was a delight. We got there on Tuesday morning when the park opened and left when it closed at 10 at night. The sea turtle exhibit was a favorite as was Shannon’s very favorite of feeding the bat rays and sting rays and the rides were pretty good for most of us, too. I made the mistake of giving into pressure and riding the park’s new roller coaster called Manta. I am not a roller coaster guy and really never have been. I don’t crave speed or twists and turns and frankly, my idea of a good time is Disneyland’s It’s a Small World–but, off I went. And paid for it. At night, apparently, they speed the ride up and Sue, who’d ridden it once before, heard my one primal scream at the speed–and then, she said, she heard no more from me and realized I wasn’t enjoying myself. True enough. But I survived.
Wednesday morning was leisurely and we spent it sleeping late, hanging around sipping coffee and eventually, after a great lunch find in downtown San Diego, heading up to Anaheim where we spent the night again and awoke Thursday to Disneyland for the day. Let’s start at the end:
The fireworks show that Disneyland puts on each night is amazing. It’s the best display, married with music and story, ever. We sat at the Carnation Plaza at the end of Main Street, U.S.A. and watched the whole thing as the castle lit up with each explosion in the sky. It was the best part of the day and it was Conni’s gentle insistence that we stay to watch it that allowed us to see it. I’m glad we did.
No need to review Disneyland–it is an icon and deservedly so. My family history with Disneyland is long and varied and I’m a fan, always will be. But in recent years, the unceasing crowd levels make Disneyland more conquest than vacation, more trudge than gallivant.
We were annual passholders a few years ago when Shannon was young and we thought we had money. We used to go up to 4 times a year and that too caused us what I imagine is the usual problem: Disneyland is exciting and fun precisely because it’s not something you see, hear or do everyday. When you begin to make it routine, it loses that luster and the stories, the atmosphere, the sheer abandon and escape become something of an entitlement and you lose the magic.
Still, while we had gone to Disneyland last March to celebrate Shannon’s b-day, we were excited to be back. Conni’s friend from school was with us and she had not been in four years, so it was a treat to have someone with us who saw it again for the first time and for Conni, only her second time at the park, she was still enamored. That makes it worthwhile.
Disneyland’s prices have gone up and that’s as it should be regardless of what people kvetch about. The park, which now has California Adventure as a part of it–and the revamping of that park has been spectacular and successful, is worth the money one pays. If, however, one chooses to spend a lot of money for annual passes, then Disneyland becomes what it is–a vast sea of people standing in line, waiting for their own personal dream to take place. I don’t begrudge anyone the right to spend their money as they see fit. I’m fully capable of seeing the charm of being able to go to Disneyland and escape a couple of times a year. But for me, the magic of the place is that it’s not an everyday event–and further, the magic of the place is somewhat marred by being so crowded that simply navigating from one spot to another with the people you love include directions like: “if we get separated, meet at…such and such a place” and you have to say that nearly every time you venture out.
The food costs are astronomical, far more even than at Sea World, and the quality isn’t there. Sea World, for whatever reason, has invested in some unique food items that include a focus on fresh and even local ingredients. Disney has not made that choice and while the food is certainly edible, fun and even alluring, it’s not great food. It’s just that I’m hungry, I’m on vacation and the idea of making smart or healthy choices don’t enter into the decision.
So, no-not a critique. It’s Disneyland and I could sit and listen to those stories of Pirates sacking towns, rescuing fair maidens, sailing the world’s oceans with children, light-speed space journeys, roaring rapids and rushing rivers and magical fairies and pixie dust all day long. Who couldn’t that had a heart for joy? But with crowds in the hundreds of thousands, wait times as long as two hours, bumping and jolting and aching and sore feet-it’s not something I want to do several times a year anymore.
The main thing is that what makes Disneyland or Sea World or any vacation worth the while-is being there with the people you love and care about, sharing the experience and knowing that they choose to share it with you. My family are great companions and we’ve done a lot of traveling together. It’s a real delight to be able to share that with each other and collect memories that in the future require only a knowing glance to conjure up and share again. That’s what vacations are about to me.
Home around Midnight Thursday and happy to be here. Summer is a joyous and wondrous time–here’s to more of it.