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Ruminations: Your Disneyland "Car" Stories

Ruminations: Your Disneyland "Car" Stories

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Ah, the call of the open road… The shiny automobile packed for the journey, the family gathered, a full tank of inexpensive gasoline and repeated cries of "Are we there yet?" There is nothing like it!

Loyal readers may recall that last summer, I shared the tale of my family's first Disneyland visit (made in a Volkswagen bus, no doubt a distant relation of the character Fillmore in Pixar's "Cars") as we traveled in those pre-Interstate highway days from the San Francisco Bay Area to the wilds of Orange County.

So, when I was looking for a way to share the pair of tickets to tomorrow night's "Cars" premiere event at the Lowe's Motor Speedway, it seemed like a good idea to ask you to share some of your tales from similar excursions with us.

So without further adieu, here are two I think you will enjoy.

First, from Ron Schneider:

Your call for stories of a car trip to Disneyland stirred some ancient memories for my sister, Lisa and I.

Our Dad was vice president of the family business, Air Comfort Company, that installed the air conditioning in the original Disneyland Mill, the wood shop where all the lumber was cut and prepped for DL's construction… located back then in the Main Street Opera House, long before it was open to the public.

Thanks to his involvement, we had tickets to Disneyland's first public day, July 18th, 1955, and that started our family tradition of visiting the park once or twice every year. Of course in those early years it was a MUCH longer trip (or seemed so to us) and I remember driving from Inglewood to Anaheim through acres of orange trees, punctuated only by the occasional motel or traffic light.

Disneyland's main gate in the early days.
Image courtesy of Disney.

What I DON'T remember are the long drives home – when we would invariably fall asleep after a long day of Disney Magic. Because we were never awake for the trip back to our own reality, my sister and I (for some reason) came to believe that Disneyland flew away at night.

Back in the late 50's, when air pollution wasn't that bad, Southern California used to have some beautiful red sunsets.And whenever the clouds would pile into heavenly palaces over Inglewood, we'd watch the sunset from our front yard and wave goodbye to Disneyland."

And from Crystal Cox:

"Let's flashback to 10 years ago…

Car trips with my family always began with a plan: wake up at the crack of dawn, showers, change, pack up our Dodge minivan with small snacks to bring, and get on the 5 towards Disneyland.  Of course, it never turned out that way with four kids; I was the oldest and the only girl.   We would wake up late because us being kids, we were too excited to sleep the night before and that would definitely throw our plan out the window. We'd be disappointed because of our late start and we knew we wouldn't be the first in line.

Once in the van and on the road, like clockwork, we would always have to turn around because something was forgotten.  It would either be a hat, a jacket, and even a shoe one time!  When we were back at our house, my dad would always crack, "Well that's it, its over.  How did you like your trip to Disneyland?"  In unison, we'd reply, "Daaaaaaaad."  Soon, we'd be on our way, again.

Finally on the 5, we knew it wouldn't be too much longer and we'd be in the Happiest Place on Earth.  We were lucky to live so close to Anaheim; it was only about a 20-minute drive from Long Beach.  In the van, one of my brothers (Chris, the oldest out of the boys) and I would plan out all the rides we wanted to go on.  It was a goal to ride all of them in one day and it was a bonus if we got to ride a particular ride twice.

My parents would hand us money in the van for additional snacks and treats for the day.  They would also set a meeting time for lunch and dinner since we would break into groups.  My younger brothers and my mom would go on the "baby rides" and my dad, Chris, and I would go on the "bigger rides."

The excitement would reach another high as we spot Matterhorn as we got off of the freeway.  It was hard to imagine that we were soon going to be in there.  Going through those welcome signs and entering that big parking lot, it was pure euphoria.  Us kids would start getting rowdy and then getting yelled at by our parents to sit down and be patient.  It was definitely something hard to do. 

"Hans" and "Franz" ascending the peak in question.
From a Disneyland Panavue slide.

As we parked the van, we can see the front gates to Disneyland and if we were lucky, we'd see the train making one of its first stops at Main Street, USA.  Before we headed towards those gates, I always made it a personal habit to remember where we parked.  "Kanga…Kanga…" "

If you are one of the 30,000 folks off to the Premiere, here's hoping you have a great time watching the film.

Next week? Roger returns with a review of the new "Art of Cars" book.

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