To Infinity........and BEYOND!

clipped_wings

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Accepting my fate with a head full of curls again was a lesson in humility. A rare thing in Hollywood eh? Anyhoo, we thoroughly enjoyed the winter afternoon, which was tempered by unseasonably warm weather. The crowds were very manageable and we eventually split off into smaller groups to experience attractions that appealed.
And by attractions, I mean corn dogs. Mr Clipped hasn't arrived in America until he's eaten one. He gets to taste it all over again when he rides The Mummy - a violent, frontwards/backwards rollercoaster that I absolutely refuse to grace. Does anyone ever remember the Vomitron scene on The Footy Show with Sterlo and Fatty? I rest my case.

Meanwhile, our special boy and I decided to sit at a small table & chairs in the Lower Lot, near the Transformers Ride to wait while the others rode some scarier rides. It's a favourite pastime for me to people watch and I became engrossed with the antics of a life-sized dinosaur in the distance. I never saw the small yellow remote-controlled car that had taken refuge under my feet. My son started giggling as the car continuously banged into my feet, as if it was trying to get me to move. I felt the nudge and looked down. It was a Bumblebee car. And it had decided to stalk me. I left the table and assumed whoever's kid was operating it would eventually get a short cut to the head by well-meaning and responsible parents. No such luck. The car followed me. I walked faster. The car went faster. I ran in circles. So did the car. Everywhere I went - this damn thing followed me. How was this happening? And where is the little cough who is doing this? By this stage there is a crowd watching me, arms flailing and panting from my useless attempts to lose my little yellow stalker. I was screaming "STOP FOLLOWING ME!" But this only made the little guy pace me more. Even my figure eights were futile.

I had absolutely no idea where the controller was. Until I spotted some Universal cast members in full fatigues, standing by the Transformers entrance and calmly navigating a suspicious-looking iPad. I bowed in defeat and the crowd applauded. Performing a small doughnut, the little yellow car and I finally parted ways. But not before I tried to step on it.

The sun was beginning to set, so we regrouped and rode the classic Tram Tour together, with a schmaltzy host who laughed at his own jokes. Which was good, because nobody else did. But he was a wealth of knowledge with facts and figures on Universal movies that even had our daughter and partner shaking their heads. We left the Park as the main gates were closing and wandered up through Citywalk for a quick bite to eat. This precinct only comes alive at night, so the area was bustling with people. It's full of activity and the concentration of young families makes it all very dynamic. We grabbed some takeaway Chinese from Panda Express and took it back to our room. Very ordinary fare, quite disappointing compared to some solid quality in years gone by.

We fell into bed at 10pm - at the end of a very long first day. I had stopped worrying about my poor hair and was now more concerned with my poor feet. They were aching and sore. I owed them at least 8 horizontal hours and they were demanding it now. We'd managed to stay awake long enough to beat the jet lag. So I obeyed my feet and turned the alarm off zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
 

clipped_wings

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We hit the ground running on our second day. Lots of fun with the kids at Universal Studios again. Animal Actors (a favourite), Special FX, photo ops and Waterworld - where we got special passes to meet the cast after the show for a private audience. I love this attraction, mostly because I get to sit down for a good hour. But the back-stage passes were a whole new perspective on the production and the actors were extremely generous with their time and very candid with answers to the many questions we all had about the show, despite me seeing it more than 10 times over the years. No spoilers, but there is a really big finale that involves a fake plane being "shot down" over the watery impound and I have always wondered how they managed to perform this feat over again. My questions have all been answered and I will die happy knowing Hollywood can still churn out the fun stuff that entertains mortals like me.

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An early night, followed by logistically routine check out the next day. We filled the car with people and bags - and made our way down the i5 to Anaheim and our home for the next 2 weeks. Rather than stay in a pricey hotel - we choose to rent a house through the many online sites that allow home owners to open their houses up to the traveller. For us it is VRBO. We find VRBO is an easy booking process and you can communicate directly with the owner on all matters ranging from furniture placement to pool heating. As there was 8 of us this year - we went with a much larger house right across the street from Disneyland. At over 2300 square feet - it was a huge step up from our last rental in 2017 (1200sqft). It had a pool (we didn't use) outdoor spa (definitely used it) four bedroom and three bathrooms, cable TV's everywhere and a large kitchen that was well stocked. Plenty of space for everyone to avoid the inevitable cabin fever. It also had a huge games room with a pool table and foosball table. We dropped off the kids and went grocery shopping for the first week. Then we wandered down to the Disneyland promenade to redeem our 10 day Park Hopper tickets. These passes gave us unlimited access to both Disneyland and California Adventure theme parks for 10 days - a special deal available only to Australian and New Zealand residents. It used to be 14 days - but the Disney Company reeled it in a few years back. So you pay the same money, but get less days for your dollar. It was their way of hiking up prices, without you really feeling it.

Tomorrow was Saturday. It would be our first day at the Happiest Place on Earth. The Connor MacGregor fight would take place in Vegas. Therefore Vegas was the Happiest Place on Earth for our daughter and her martial arts-mad boyfriend, who is actually a sweet caramello bear.

I'm betting our happiness lasts longer than Connor's fight.
 

clipped_wings

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Some years back, Disneyland bought the rights to Lucasfilm and all it's assets. In June 2019 - they officially opened their latest venture in the form of a new Land.

A multi-billion dollar gamble called Galaxy's Edge. It was an homage to all things Star Wars and it promised an experience quite unlike anything ever before. From the ground up, they built an incredible landscape that resembled some distant planet that was straight out of George Lucas' blockbuster series. In true Disney style everything was authentically created to reflect a Star Wars existence at The Black Spire Outpost. Weathered rock, rusted "old" steel and frayed muted hessian fabrics. Even the restrooms resembled something from outer space. And check out the Coke & Sprite bottles below!

The cast members (employees) would all be dressed in full Star Wars garb and they were taught to act exactly as their character in the film. So Chewbacca, Storm Troopers, Boba Fett - even the officers, all walk around and engage the public as they would on film. No detail was spared and the finished product is a intergalactic triumph in construction.

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But the star of the show is undoubtedly, a full-scale replica of the Millennium Falcon - the famous old spaceship that Hans Solo (Harrison Ford) captains to a glorious victory in the early trilogy. This behemoth sits majestically in a generous corner near the Smugglers Run Ride. It's a testament to the genius of Imagineers at Disneyland, with every nut and bolt faithfully true to the film that inspired a generation of kids. Those kids are now middle-aged and they have money to burn. And Disney Inc. hears them. Everything is for sale. From US270 for a steel/plexiglass lightsaber, to a lifesize Storm Trooper at US6600. The online conversations and forums that documented the progress of Galaxy's Edge as it took shape were gobbled up by an eager public, hungry for the first taste of their childhood dream coming to life. My own family (below) are among those fans. Our daughters have soaked up Star Wars from their die hard Dad. Our son even bought the lightsaber, but I stopped Mr Clipped from investing in the Storm Trooper.
I couldn't bear to spoil the photo, as I am a (shudder) rebel spy who just doesn't get it as much as they do.

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There would be two main rides in GE. One was called Smugglers Run: a violent, virtual reality simulator where each "crew" of 6 would be required to contribute to the outcome by steering and navigating their ship through space and all the perils that present. The other attraction was Rise of the Resistance. This was a more immersive, full contact interaction experience and it promised technology never before utilised in a theme park. We booked our holiday for January 2020 with the logic that GE would have been open for 6 months and all the initial hype would give way to manageable crowds and immediate access to both rides.

In anticipation of monumental crowds for the Grand Opening - Disney executives decided to stem the flow of visitors to the Disneyland Park. So they blocked all annual passholders for the month of June, as well as limiting access to Galaxy's Edge, which would be only available to people who booked a reservation. You would be given 2 hours maximum to enjoy the land, after which time you would be moved on.

The fallout from this decision almost cost Disney their investment, as well as some heads in Corporate. The ROTR had been plagued with issues during construction and eventually, it was decided to delay the launch. That meant only one ride operating (Smugglers Run), but Disney still snubbed SoCal locals and hard core hard fans.
So, the people stayed away in droves. No-one wanted to come and experience a half-finished land. Instead of record summer crowds, Galaxy's Edge and most of Disneyland for that matter was a ghost town. It took until Christmas 2019 before people starting flocking back. Meanwhile ROTR was being completely overhauled and rebuilt to newer specifications for a launch date of January 17, 2020. The EXACT day we had booked our first day in Disneyland....

Rise of the Resistance was eventually completed in time for it's opening. Rumours persisted that it was going to break the records for attendance. But Disney wasn't going to mitigate crowds this time. They opened up access to everyone, but instead of limiting time in the land - they devised a "Boarding Group" system, whereas you needed to download and open the Disney app once in the park, then request to join a boarding group in order to ride. Groups would be called via a push on the app that advised them to attend the ROTR at a certain time. Once the maximum volume of scheduled rides was exhausted - the app would close and no more boarding groups would be permitted for that day. It was almost a lottery of sorts.

We decided to push our schedule back to the Saturday. Lucky we did. At 2am Friday morning - thousands of people flocked to the Disneyland main gates. By 6am they swelled to tens of thousands. All waiting to get inside and launch the app for ROTR. Disney opened the gates at 6:10 and allowed people to wait inside.
They waited for another three hours. And as the clocked ticked over to 9am - there was an immediate heads-down as thousands of users turned to their mobile phones. Screams of elation rose among the crowd and at 9:01 the app closed due to the sheer volume of people who joined a boarding group to ride. So many thousands missed out - it was absolute bedlam.
When we finally walked through the gates on Saturday - there was no chance to join. The ROTR was booking out within 3 minutes of the Park opening. So we used this opportunity to enjoy everything else Disneyland had to offer.

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Crowds were peaking due to the unseasonably warm weather, but we totally enjoyed ourselves for the first week and even managed to wander through Galaxy's Edge for a memorable taste of all things Star Wars. Our younger daughter and her boyfriend took a gamble and got up at 5:30 one morning to camp outside the main gate, in the hope of being first in line. They made it through to become Group 69. It took 10 hours of waiting before they were called to ride. But they joined a select few to experience ROTR in its opening week, which was quite a feat. Their recount of the ride was nothing short of spectacular. So we all got up early and tried our luck. Success! Boarding Group 38. The below photo was taken 7 minutes after sellout and over 120 groups were allocated boarding passes.

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SUMMARY
All I can say about this experience - is to anyone who has the opportunity - DO IT! Rise of the Resistance will go down as one of the most incredible 30 minutes I have ever spent in a theme park. If you are a fan of Star Wars - it is as close to living the dream as it gets. The technology is superb, the graphics and animatronics are ahead of their time. And the cast who deploy you to the mission do not break character once. I was pulled up for talking during "interrogation" and I swear - they positively scared the blue milk out of me. The ride takes a good 20-30 minutes to complete and the trackless vehicles coming face to face with those full scale AT-AT's has to be seen to be believed. ROTR has been a game changer and if all goes according to plan - it will set a new precedent for virtual reality and theme park experiences. If you can't get there in person, do yourself a favour and view it on YouTube with Disney 360.

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After a huge day - we retired to the house for some spa time and to reflect on a magnificent achievement. For me, it was just a really great ride. I was never into Star Wars as a child and I still struggle with the storyline. But it was something else for Mr Clipped, who - even though he had long wiped the tears from his eyes, felt the emotion long after the ride ended. The dream of a 13 year old Star Wars fan was finally realised after 43 years and I think he wanted to savour that feeling for as long as there were hours left in the day. He went to bed with the biggest smile on his face and I couldn't help but envy him.
 

clipped_wings

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On a cool Saturday evening in Las Vegas - 20,000 people gathered to watch the return fight of Conor McGregor - an Irish professional mixed martial artist. We weren't among those 20k people. But our daughter and her boyfriend were. It was a happy co-incidence that this fight was taking place during our holiday - and not an opportunity to be missed. They forked out the US500 per ticket and happily booked their onward flights to Vegas. Mr Clipped gifted them the First Class round trip with Delta on Velocity points. But the outbound was only on a CRJ175 and First Class translates roughly to First Row. Nothing else.
The return flight was a B737 and so much more comfortable, with IFE and service over the 1 hour journey.

We put them up at the Signature by MGM, as they were going to provide some babysitting for our special boy later on. I've reviewed the non smoking/non gaming Signature before, so no need to repeat myself. Suffice to say - their 950 square foot corner balcony suite was very nice and received with thanks. Pity the fight wasn't as grand. The biggest risk with these events is the likelihood of an early knockout. And that is precisely what happened. It was all over 40 seconds in. Poor old Donald Cerrone didn't see it coming. He hit the deck once and once only. There was more value in the pre-game entertainment than the main event. But our daughter and her intrepid beau considered the experience a once-in-a-lifetime event and justified the money. I couldn't argue - Mr Clipped and I had booked VIP tickets for Universal Studios early in February and they were just as ridiculously priced.

Whatever goes on in Vegas, stays in Vegas. That includes money on the table. But after 5 days, they returned to LA happy and not as broke as we predicted.

We were all together as a family at last and the next the next two weeks were filled with much fun & laughter. Our traditional trek to a kitschy outdoor mini golf land called Camelot was as hysterical as always. Like the set from Happy Gilmore - it boasts 3 x 18 hole courses, all with ridiculous themes and impossible tasks. (Hard to put out when there is a full sized Jeep half submerged in front of you). There are so many other ways to waste your time in LA, but this one always seems to waste the time in a fun way.

I don't know whether the ball is to go in this guy's mouth, or out of it.

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Speaking of fun, we did Character Breakfasts with all the Disney favorites and shopped ourselves silly at huge American malls. Who buys four pairs of last season's Nike's half price? WE DO!!

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I don't know why I included this photo. It was embarrassing enough to watch Mr Clipped purchase a drum of Cheetos.

In a pharmac_.

In Target.

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It was even more embarrassing to clean the drum out.

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Disney's World of Color remains a kaleidoscopic triumph in water and pyrotechnic special effects. This was taken before the 20 minute show, when most rides close and the area is darkened to allow for full viewing pleasure. It's not to be missed if you find yourself here. It still brings a lump to my throat. Pure Disney.

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clipped_wings

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Sorry for going MIA and falling off the planet for a while. I developed a rather nasty and unyielding chest infection that stubbornly refused to go away. All the usual tests and scans have found nothing too sinister - however I was struggling to breathe most days and was just too tired to pen anything worth reading. I'm into week three of this battle and although I still can't talk for long, I can certainly tap away at the keyboard. Mr Clipped thinks this is more a blessing than a curse.

So on we go......

Eldest daughter developed a family game called Food Bingo. It's just like regular Bingo, except the card is made up of different American fast food outlets and restaurant chains. Each person has to tick off as many eateries as they can. And it's harder than you think. There were bonus points for double-takes (repeat visits). I succumbed early on, when the thought of another Denny's Deep Fraah'd Chicken Tender made me want to puke. Pity Lean Cuisine wasn't on the bingo card.

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This salad was from Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. It's a pricey option for casual dining, but a kitschy experience if you're into the movie. However I am always puzzled by the difference in plating between America and Oz. Even at this level, Australia just seems to have more finesse with presentation. What do others' think?

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We did enjoy some glorious meals, one in particular at Lucille's BBQ for Mr Clipped's birthday. I thoroughly enjoyed a large bowl of steaming Gumbo, a Creole dish rich in spices, with prawns, sausage and peppers, while Mr Clipped demonstrated admirable restraint with his favourite Baby Back Ribs (BBR). The guy from Man V Food has nothing to worry about with competition and the BBR record remains unchallenged.

Identical dishes I sourced from Lucille's website. Our meals were half finished before we remembered to take the photo :(

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I love Corona. And I love Margaritas. This little beauty is called a Coronarita, which is pretty self-explanatory. It packed a punch, so I only had two.
Which is four, when you think about it (hiccup).

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In the middle of a SoCal winter, we often managed to simmer slowly in the warm spa to ease our throbbing feet. I forgot that 20 years have passed since we took our first steps through the gates of Disneyland. Any logic in the promise we made back then to one day bring our grandchildren was evaporating as fast as the spa water. But I will say, that the weather on this January trip was about as magnificent as it could be. Balmy, clear days with intense blue skies greeted us each morning, before ushering in the soft palette of a cool afternoon and still evening. The fireworks from our porch became such a highlight that we completely forgot our aches & pains. A nice little toddy of Scotch warmed up any chills while we retreated to the games room (converted garage) for competition pool each night. As always - I brag about how good I am, before losing unceremoniously to our 16 year old son, (or anyone else for that matter). However I reconcile my loss to his brilliance with the fact that I taught him how to play. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
 
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clipped_wings

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Feb 7, 2016
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Wow, just found this thread and realised I never finished it.
Not sure the grey matter has enough electrodes working in the Memory Department, but I might try to recollect enough useless information to constitute another entry later today. :)
 
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