You'd think turning 55 would make you feel the opposite of young. You'd think spending it alone would make you feel lonely, maybe even unloved. You'd think going to Disneyland would be potentially expensive undertaking. But you'd be three ways wrong.
On March 3, 2009 I turned 55 and I did it alone at Disneyland. Mr. Disney--he likes to be called Walt--treated me to free admission. He had one of his Cast Members give me a button with my name hand-written on it in Sharpie Marker. And he instructed the rest of his Cast Members to greet me by name and wish me a happy birthday every chance they got.
By the end of the day I had received 55 ~count 'em~ 55 birthday wishes from cast members, Disney guests, other March 3rd free-on-your-birthday folks, also more than a few friends and sisters called and sang various renditions of "Happy Birthday to You," and best of all BOTH my children called me on my birthday, how cool is that! (They don't know this, but that was the only thing I really wanted "for" my birthday--my children to remember, and to call.)
You might be thinking how does she know it was 55 people who wished her happy birthday? If you know me, you might be saying to yourself, "Oh my god, she wrote them down! What a geek!" You do know me. I did write them down. I am a geek. Every time a person said happy birthday I wrote it in the Notes application on my iPhone. I had a little bet going with myself, to see if I could get 33. Can't say I won or lost the bet, though, since I got 55.
I also gave myself a project. I photographed every number "3" I came across. I have been photographing strange things for years: manhole covers, puddles, shadows, crab signs, and Women's restroom signs. I must say Disneyland has the best Women's room signs anywhere.
Even though this was my most recent Best Disneyland Trip Ever, there's a reason I can't say this was Thee Best Disneyland Trip Ever. Recently I went to Club 33 with Allyson and Marilyn and THAT was pretty amazing and extraordinarily special. Like my birthday day we had perfect weather that day, and the crowd size was like a gift from Walt who art in heaven.
Before that I went with Allyson and her grandkids for their first visit and that was such a special way to see the park. You gain a whole new appreciation for Pooh Honey. And it makes you so thankful your kids are grown. And I'm not harkening back to the groaning wail of "I'm not tired!" I'm referring to the awesome grandma part.
Before that I went with Allyson, Marilyn...and Francesca...on her first trip to Disneyland (at age 46!) and that was pretty special considering we got to ride on the Lilly Belle, the special private train car of Walt and Lillian Disney. We met a Disney Cast Member and All Around Special Guy, Vern Smith, who made us feel like the princesses we are.
So I can't say I'm lacking in wonderful world of Disney experiences, but there is something about being able to sit in one spot for a half hour and not worry if you're holding anyone up. To be able to ride Big Thunder Mountain Railway three times in a row without asking, "Do you want to go again?" To be able to stop take a picture, or a hundred, without having to apologize for the wait, or worse, look up and find out they didn't wait.
My first stop was California Adventure. I thought it would be good idea to start my day by visiting my boyfriend, Patrick Warburton ~swoon~ and grabbing a whiff of orange groves and ocean surf whilst Soarin' (Over California), but it was a little early for my fellow soarers and their under-reaction kind of wrecked it for me. I like it when the crowd cheers when we fly over the aircraft carrier, and when they get tearful and cheerful when we fly down Main Street USA...alas this crowd was still waking up. Some of them didn't even lift their feet when we clipped the top of the Sierras!
Maybe I'd have better luck finding that Disney energy at California Screamin'. Yeah, baby! For the first time ever, I got to sit in front. The other front car rider, also a single, told me it was worth the wait. And, even though I had almost no wait, I can see where it is worth it. Ride in the front car whenever you can.
Speaking of single...Disney has a secret...some rides have a special line for single riders. Toy Story Mania is one. This new ride is a shooting gallery ride that is so much fun you'll want to go on it again and again. I rode three times consecutively, avoiding the stupid-long line for this "new ride on the block". Had I not been a little nauseous after the third time I might have gone again. Hmm...what is good for nausea? A churro! Sadly, or thankfully perhaps, the wait for churros was too long. I moved on.
Thank god the line at Corn Dog Castle was long and slow because after wasting a good ten minutes in that line, I decided a fancier lunch was a better idea for this birthday girl. (Although I do love a good corn dog.) I had lunch at the Wine Country Trattoria. One glass of sparkling wine and a chicken arugula panino later I was on my way from California Adventure to Disneyland. I thought.
I took a stroll into Hollywood Studios and that is where I spent a half hour just sitting, watching the entire series of animated movie shorts surround me overhead. I visited the Sorcerer's Workshop to see which Disney character I'm most like. (Tink) And I sat in with the Dudes and Dudettes at Turtle Talk with Crush. Cha! I skipped the learn to draw workshop because, to be honest, I didn't like the people I was in line with and the character of the day was Daisy Duck. No offense Daisy, but we just never hit it off.
On my way out of California Adventure I got a little sad because Allyson wasn't there to kick off the dance party when the Beach Boys' Surfin' USA came on, but then it happened. A big, muscle-armed kind of guy in a black T shirt started to do The Swim. Thank you, angels.
Hand stamped, smiling, well fed, relaxed and just a little bit tipsy I headed across the nearly empty plaza toward Main Street Station...all aboard!
Next, Part II