I Did Go to Disneyland

DisneyLand 002It has been over 25 years since I last visited Disneyland. It was a trip I took with my soon to be wife as a day trip when we were in Palm Springs. I was excited to see how things have changed and looked forward to sharing the experience with my daughter before she went off to college. She has been to Disneyworld quite a few times since she was 2, but this would be her first ever visit to Disney on the left coast.

We spent some time planning the trip as I always like to do so that we would be sure to fit all the activities into a quick weekend, including a trip to the beach and an Angels game (I wanted to check another Major League stadium off my list). We decided we would do the ball game the Friday night we arrived, visit the parks on Saturday and go to Huntington Beach on Sunday before we drove to the airport.

We took an early flight to LA from Chicago and arrived at before noon. I had gotten a good price on an Advantage rental car from www.autoslash.com, so we took the shuttle over form the airport to pick up the car. A word of advice if you are renting from the. Their location is a good 10 – 15 minutes away from the airport, dropped in the middle of an industrial neighborhood so make sure you make note of the address and put it in your GPS if you have one. It is NOT easy to find on the return and my Google maps took us to the wrong place (similar address the first time). We secured the vehicle, a KIA soul, or toaster as some call it, which Jenna was not too thrilled about, but I enjoy driving something different when I have the chance, even if it look weird. Weird is good.

I had reservation at the Sheraton with a high floor facing the Disney parks and we were not disappointed with the floor to ceiling windows with gave us a great view of the fireworks each night. What we were disappointed with was the amount of time if took to get into the room. It ended up taking more two hours to get into our room, but luckily I had suggested to Jenna that we grab out suits, stow the baggage and head to the pool instead of waiting around in the lobby. We went up to the pool, it is on a deck in the center of the U shaped hotel, and got some California sun and a drink while we waited.

After about 90 minutes our German/Irish skin exposed to some color, we headed back down to the lobby to try to check in. Still not ready so we grabbed a coffee in the lobby Starbucks and waited another 20. We finally checked into the corner room facing the parks and although we had a view of the Cinderella castle the hotel DisneyLand 024is far enough away that the castle is only about an inch tall in the distance. We were not here for the view so it was no big deal but just be aware that you do pay a premium for park view and now with the addition of Cars land, you are looking at the back of Radiator Springs which is just a view of a bunch of rust colored girders.

We got cleaned up and drove about 2 miles down the road to Angels stadium for the ball game. I had not purchased tickets ahead of time so there was a brisk line of people buying same day seats. The stadium is now part of the Disneyland half marathon so you get to run into and out of the stadium if you decide to run that particular race. It was a perfect night for a game and we enjoyed some of the local ballpark fare ( some Rudy’s Steak sliders and a strawberry shake) for dinner and walked all around the park before heading back to the hotel. The Angels ending up winning in extra innings.

The next morning we were up early so we could be at the park for rope drop. Early AM is not Jenna’s favorite time of the day so I appreciated her indulging me on this trip. We planned on Disneyland first to hit the classics and then California Adventure in the afternoon to see some of the new rides, some of which we had experienced already in Florida.

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I made my first mistake early which I have done once before in Disneyworld. I got on a motion ride first thing, with no food in my stomach. I have a pretty wimpy dizzy factor when it comes to motion rides so I need to be careful. I hate to say no to the kids but there are just some things I can never do, like Mission Space in Disneyworld, and sometimes not even Expedition Everest. This morning we decided to do Space Mountain first as there was no line out of the gate and The Matterhorn was closed for renovation (sad face).

The California version of Space Mountain ‘seemed’ to be darker and faster than the Florida version, plus it is two seats wide instead of a single. It took me about 1 minute before I was dizzy and trying to keep from throwing up what little I had in my stomach from the night before. We exited the ride and I had to sit down for a minute to stop the spinning before we walked a few yards to the Nemo submarines.

Jenna was too young to remember the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea subs at Disneyworld so she was excited to try this one and enjoyed the effects of the Finding Nemo characters projected into the water outside the sub windows. I enjoyed the subs in Florida so this brought back some good memories.

Next was a ride you can only do in Disneyland now as they closed the one in Florida; Mr Toad’s Wild Ride. This was another one that she really does not remember as it has been closed for a while. The joke in our family is that the ride was closed because of my wife. On one of our trips to Disneyworld. Lorie was on the ride with Matt while I was sitting outside with Jenna. The ride stopped as they sometimes do for various reasons, so they were both stuck inside the non moving ride while the doors between rooms continued to open and close with the music still playing. The recording to stay in your cars played occasionally as they waited for a good 10 minutes for the ride to start. Lorie is a bit claustrophobic and Matt was getting a bit upset himself, so Lorie decided to get out of the car with him and try to find the exit. That is a Mickey No No. As soon as they got out of the car and headed for one of the doors, the ride started up, but it was too late to get back into their original car. They had to press up against wall, wait for a door to open then rush into the next room avoiding the passing cars. The repeated this process until they found the exit and walked out to some very surprised cast members. She received a scolding and was on her way. The next year we visited the park the ride was closed. Thanks Lorie.

After Mr. Toad, we headed for my two favorites; the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean. They were both as awesome as I remember, except for DisneyLand 013the insertion of the movie characters in the Pirates attraction. It was nice to share them with her for her first rides on the classics. I had always wanted to eat at the Blue Bayou restaurant which you see when you first get in the boats for the Pirates attraction so we had made a reservation for that evening. I will come to find later that the kitchen that serves this restaurant also servers the private Club 33 which you can see from any of the outside tables at Blue Bayou.

We spent the rest of the day hopping back and fourth between the two parks trying things we had not done before and comparing rides we had experienced in Florida like Soarin’. As the lines started to get longer we were able to do less and less rides so we just walked around and did some people watching until dinner.

One of the areas we went to was the animation exhibit where we me a new friend. I really like the fact that Disney has the cast members put their home town on their name tags. I always look for towns I know and have even seen a cast member from Downers Grove where we live. This time as we were entering the animation area, I noticed the gentleman (Disney Dan as he calls himself) was from Niles, IL. I struck up a conversation with him and we talked for a good 30 minutes about what brought him out here, what different jobs he has done over the years and how he landed with Disney. Turns out he is a member of Club 33 and offered to get us in for dinner there. Now this is no simple feat as it is a private club, and I felt bad turning him down as I had wanted to eat a Blue Bayou for more than 30 years. He made me promise to take him up on it next time I am here, with advanced notice. I agreed and was happy to have made a new friend. We have kept in contact and I plan on getting out there soon to take him up on it.

We headed off to Blue Bayou and had just an outstanding meal. as we were dining I noticed a set of stairs and a terrace up and to our left where may of the wait staff were going with trays of food. I asked our waiter what that was and that is when I found out that our kitchen also served Club 33. I now have that to look forward to next time I/we visit.

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After our fantastic dinner, we crossed over to California adventure where they had set up a Tron Legacy area that was open only in the evenings. They had a Flynn’s arcade were we spent some time playing some of the classic arcade cabinet games, like Zaxxon, Frogger and Robotron.

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Just outside the arcade in the court yard they had created a large dace area and bar like Zeus’ club in the movie. They had cast members dressed as Tron characters including Zeus with his cane and had thumping music and light shows. I grabbed an adult beverage with a light up ice cube, Jenna had something soft and we enjoyed watching everyone do their best ‘ You Got Served’ dance moves. A nice way to end the evening before our walk back to the hotel.

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The next morning we checked out, got in the car and headed for Huntington Beach so Jenna could see the Pacific and the beach scene. We lucked out and there was a HUGE pro surf competition, so the whole town and beach was packed with every shape, size and color of humanity. We wandered around the beach and pier before we grabbed some lunch at one of the little sidewalk cafes. Jenna grabbed some souvenirs for her friends and we were off to the airport for our flight home.

Although it was a quick three days, we packed a lot in and I had a fantastic time with Jen. It took me a long time to get around to writing this post, but the upside it it gives me time to go through the whole weekend again, which is why I am typing this with a big smile on my face.

Thanks Jen, I had a great time.

I’m Going To Disneyland

We actually just returned and had a fantastic time. I have a crazy week ahead of me and I have to drive to Michigan in a few hours for the week, so I will post a recap as soon as I am able.DisneyLand Chip and Dale

2011 Chicago Half Marathon Giveaway

chicago-runningOnce again, the fine folks at the Chicago Half Marathon and U.S. Road Sports & Entertainment Group have generously donated an entry for the September 11th, Chicago Half Marathon, which takes place on a beautiful out and back course that is actually run on LSD (no not that LSD, Lake Shore Drive). Details about the course and facilities etc. can be found here.

The Half Marathon starts at 7am followed by a 5K start at 7:45am. The half requires a 13 minute per mile pace. All runners receive the following:

  • Commemorative Technical long-sleeve T-shirt
  • Computerized Timing & Scoring
  • Great course support
  • Entertainment throughout the course
  • Outstanding post-race party in beautiful Jackson Park
  • Water & Gatorade Endurance available at 10 aid stations along the route
  • USATF certified course
    and finishers receive a Custom finishers medal.

Packet pickup will be at Navy Pier, Exhibit Hall B at 600 N. Grand Avenue. Expo hours are Friday September 9th from noon to 6pm and Saturday September 10th from 9am till 5pm.  Admission to the expo is free and open to the general public but you will need to pay for parking. You can get an all day parking pass at the expo for $10 instead of the normal $23 the pier charges.. Just plan ahead, get there early and walk around the pier and enjoy what Chicago has to offer. There is NO Race Day Pickup on Sunday the 11th, so if you forget, you will be watching the race from the sidelines. The deadline for entry is August 26th and they are limiting the entries to only 20,000 this year.

To enter our giveaway for a free race entry, just comment on this post and let us know what social media tools, if any, you use to complement your running or help you find running partners, groups etc. I will pick the winner at random on Tuesday August 2nd at midnight, so you have 3 weeks to enter. We will send the winner an email with their free signup code. Please only enter if you are able to attend the race and use the code. You are welcome to comment even if you don’t want to enter, but let us know in the comment to exclude you from the drawing. Good luck and see you at the race.

 

Update – 8/2/11- I’m going to give this a few more day as no one seems to want a free entry. Come on people, it’s free!!! I will do the drawing next Monday the 8th.

A Break from Writing

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As some of you may have noticed I took a bit of a break from posting to my blog in the recent weeks. I have been on the road quite a bit (stranded) and have not been as efficient or prepared as I should have been, to continue to post despite my schedule. I plan to remedy that this week, and get back to regular posts.

I also hope to have another race giveaway in the coming week to 10 days, for the Chicago Half and 5K that takes place on September 11, 2011. Stay tuned for further info.

And finally, I am looking for someone to run the Disney Marathon Relay with me on January 8, 2012. We would each run half (13.1 miles) of the full marathon on that Sunday, as a team. I am not expecting an amazing time for myself but would love to run with an old friend or make a new one. If you are interested please post a comment. I will add further details this week.

Buying A Running Shoe

BrooksShoesIn a previous post from March 1st, I wrote about my need for a new pair of running shoes and my proposed selection process, such as it is. After a combination of research and happy coincidence, I ended up selecting the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 11, and could not be more thrilled with my selection.

The research part was a combination of online resources and the vast staff knowledge at Dick Pond Athletics in Lisle Illinois, where I purchased the shoes. The happy coincidence was that a Groupon popped into my inbox the week I was doing my research. The offer was to purchase a $50 certificate for $25, good at any Dick Pond store and since I was already going to make a purchase there, I jumped on the offer right away.

I visited Dick Pond and discussed my needs, past experience and future plans with the staff. They had me try on a few different pairs for sizing, comfort and I’m not ashamed to say, looks. They have an in shop treadmill so I was able to do a few miles before making a final decision. The Brooks ran a little smaller than the Kayanos, so I ended up with a size 11.5 instead of the size 11 that I had in the Asics. The brooks were also $40 less expensive, not cheaper, that the Asics so with the coupon, tax and tip I was out the doo for less than $75 dollars US.

I have already used them to run the Home Team Charity Run 10K in Chicago and they performed very well, with no rubbing, plenty of stability and an abundance of comfort. I realize this was a short run but was none the less a good test for a new pair of kicks.

Next step is to keep an eye out for clearance deals so I can stock at least one more pair for the next Disney Marathon. See you there.

Chicago 13.1 Marathon Giveaway

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Once again, the fine folks at the 13.1 Marathon Series have generously donated an entry for the June 4th, 2011 Half Marathon, which takes place along the beautiful Chicago lakefront path. Details about the course and facilities etc. can be found here.

All runners receive a snazzy Craft tech shirt, a finish line party at the South Shore Cultural Center, a free beer from Michelob Ultra (bring your ID) and an awesome spinning medal for all finishers.

Packet pickup will once again be a Fleet Feet Pipers Alley at 1620 N. Wells Street. If you have not been to the Old Town area in a while, parking is hard to find, so you may want to go with a friend and have one of you run in for pickup while the other circles the block. They had parking validation at a garage around the corner last year, but if that garage is full you are out of luck. Just plan ahead, or better yet, plan on spending a few hours, get there early and walk around and enjoy the neighborhood for a while. Pickup is on Thursday June 2nd from 4 – 8 PM and Friday June 3rd from 10am – 8PM. There is NO Race Day Pickup so don’t say I didn’t warn you.

To enter our giveaway for a free race entry, just comment on this post and let us know how the cost of race entry fees has affected your choice of races to enter. I will pick the winner at random on Thursday April 28th at midnight, so you have just over two weeks to enter. We will send the winner an email with their free signup code. Please only enter if you will be able to use the code. You are welcome to comment even if you don’t want to enter, but let us know in the comment to exclude you from the drawing. Good luck and see you at the race.

 

UPDATE: 4/28/2001 – The drawing is tonight so get your entries in.

Update:  4/29/2011 – Congratulations go out to Kristan Huenink who is the winner in our random drawing for the entry in this years Chicago 13.1. Thanks to everyone for your insightful comments on the high cost of racing. We will have more giveaways this year so keep in touch.

Japanese Gravity Marimba

This amazing video is an ad for the Sharp’s SH-08C handset. Pretty cool how they built a long stepped wooden ramp, down which a wooden ball rolls and strikes a wooden bar to produce each note. The video goes on for about 2 minutes, during which the impacts play some of the 10th movement of Bach’s Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben.

The video was uploaded one day before the earthquake and tsunami.

Chicago Home Team Charity Run 2011

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Today I experienced the first annual Home Team Charity Run 10K in Chicago. The event brought together 3 of Chicago’s professional sports teams to raise money for the local charities that each individual team already has relationships with. A portion of the $60 sign-up fee ($15) was divided equally between all three teams charities. During sign up, you were asked to select a team to support by selecting a particular race shirt design. You could select from the White Sox (my choice), the Bulls or the Blackhawks and your shirt would reflect that team in color and in lettering on the sleeve. All three shirts had the same logo on the front and white lettering on the sleeve. Besides being a White Sox fan I liked the fact that the Sox shirt was black, fairly unusual for a race shirt, while the Bulls and Blackhawks shirts were both the same red. I did notice while on the course that there was a much greater amount of Sox fans than the other two teams.

You may be wondering why they left out the Cubs. Well, it’s because the start and finish of the involved the stadiums were the three participating teams play their home games.

We started off at the United Center at 8am, in 41 degree windy weather, and finished at US Cellular field in 50 degree windy weather. It’s sounds a bit unpleasant but it was actually very nice once we got going and as long as you kept a few layers on the weather was unnoticeable. We were lucky enough to dodge the predicted rain, which held off until about 30 minutes after we finished the race.

The race was fairly small with just over 2000 entries that showed up and they handed out the bibs based on last name instead of by sign up date. A bit unusual but it was kind of fun looking at peoples numbers and truing to guess their last name ( the guy wearing number 9, I guessed had a last name like Aaron). The start was also pretty loose with people just lining up wherever they wanted to at the start. One nice surprise was we were treated to a rousing rendition of the national anthem, sung by none other than Jim Cornelison, the gentleman who sings the anthem at every Hawks home game.

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With such a small number of runners, there was not much going on along the route except a few water stations, an aid station, one Mariachi band and one bag piper. While on that subject, thank you to all the volunteers who came out to provide the water and some support. It was pretty early on a Sunday for Chicago residents to be up and about in the neighborhoods.

The race went pretty quick winding through the city streets, some of which were in bad shape from the nasty Chicago winter we had this year. There was one long stretch of almost half the race down Loomis towards 35th. Once we turned onto 35th we could see US Cellular less than a mile away so we knew we were almost home. The streets were wide enough that passing was not a problem and there were no four or five wide groups to deal with.

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At the finish in the north parking lot of US Cellular we were treated to a band, a free beer and a chance to have our picture taken with the Sox World Series trophy or the Bulls NBA Championship trophy. Southpaw, the Sox mascot, and Benny the Bull were also on hand for picture opportunities.

I ran the race with my sister-in-law Mary, who is also a middle-aged runner, sorry Mar. She is a bit younger than me and a bit faster, so although I PR’d today, she beat me by about 30 seconds.

All in all it was a very pleasant way to start a Sunday and it was nice to be out there with all the other Chicago sports fans having fun and supporting a good cause. I look forward to doing it again next year.

Microsoft Store Kinect Demo

We stopped in the new Microsoft Store last weekend to look at some laptops for Jenna’s to take to college this fall. While we were there one of the employees asked if we wanted to try Dance Central with the new Microsoft Kinect controller. If you are not familiar with Kinect, it is an add on for the XBOX 360 that allow you to ‘Become The Controller’. Unlike a traditional gaming controller, there is nothing to hold in your hand, but instead, a set of cameras housed in a thin appliance, track your movements and interprets them to control various aspects of the game.

Jenna and Lorie try Dance Central and the XBOX 360 Kinect.

Being an uncoordinated white man, I let Jenna and Lorie try it out while I filmed from a safe distance. It looks easy, but as they both told me afterwards, it is definitely harder than it looks. Despite that comment Lorie had the high score for the day. Yea team.

I really like the store, the layout the products and the employees. It was a much more friendly atmosphere that the Apple store and I did not have to deal with the 100 mall rats killing time checking their Facebook pages on the store devices. Stop by if you have a chance and check out their family game nights. The store is located between Sears and Macy’s, right were Oak Brook Tobacco used to be.