Thursday, 10 November 2011

Dean's vacation blog and whatever the heck else I want to post.....it's my blog, bitches!!!

CALIFORNIA TRIP BLOG, APRIL/MAY 2007
TUESDAY, APRIL 24TH, 2007



10:00 AM - I take the car to Future Shop to have the new stereo installed.
In the last month I have secretly bought a new car stereo, 10 CD-changer,
and XM satellite radio system. My intent is for it to be a surprise for Tracey;
I'm hoping I can keep it a secret until we have the car packed up and ready
to go.....unfortunately Tracey is working from the only room in our townhouse
that happens to overlook our parking spot....so if she happens to open up
her blinds and look outside, she's going to think the car has been stolen.
The weather is crappy so hopefully she won't have a reason to open her blinds.



12:00 PM - Tracey looks outside her window. Damn. Well, since I can't
really think of a good lie at this point, I tell her where the car is.....ruining
the surprise, of course, but she's still pretty happy......especially since
she (predictably) thought our trip was off since the car had been stolen,
as far as she knew........



3:30 PM - We are off; a half hour behind our schedule......behind already!!!
The weather is crappy...Tracey says to me " I'm tired of all this rain,
let's go somewhere hot"....well OK, sounds like a plan to me.



5:30 PM - We decide to stop for an early dinner in a small little town
whose name I don't remember, for two reasons....one, we're hungry....two,
we'd prefer to miss most of the rush hour in Seattle. For any of you who
have never traveled through Seattle during rush hour, picture the Port Mann
bridge with three of the four lanes closed. We spot an Applebee's and decide
to try that, as neither of us have ever been there and they advertise enough
to make us think it might be good. Things don't start particularly well
as we have to wait a few minutes to get acknowledged and seated; now, it
wasn't an obscene amount of time, but as I am likely the least patient person
on the face of the planet, it pissed me off. Once we get seated, we get
a waitress who doesn't seem particularly thrilled to be there; she's not
rude, not incompetant, but she's just not all that great. Things are not
starting well.



I order Shrimp Dippers as an appetizer; it's basically just grilled shrimp
with three different dips; first, a standard-but-tasty spicy cocktail sauce,
second, something involving avacado that I wouldn't eat if it was the last
dip on Earth, and third, a pineapple salsa. Now, it was called "pineapple
salsa" but really, it was chunks of pineapple in a little cup. After I
deduced that dipping shrimp, or anything else, into a cup of pineapple
chunks was a logistical impossibility, I dumped out the pineapple and used
a fork to eat it with the shrimp; and it was outstanding! Shrimp and pineapple....who
knew.....



Tracey's caesar salad was brilliant; very tasty. Things are looking up.



Tracey ordered something called "Chicken Fried Chicken".....chicken so
nice, they named it twice, I guess. She loved it.



My entree was Parmesan Shrimp Sirloin Steak; I tend to try to avoid Sirloin
steaks as it's just an average cut and tends to be tough to keep tender;
however, this one was cooked perfectly and was incredibly tender. The parmesan
shrimp that were served on top were also excellent; All-in-all, this had
turned out to be one of the best meals I can remember in a long time!



They featured some interesting things on the dessert menu, one of which
was a Triple Chocolate Cake, filled with fudge and topped with dark and white
chocolate and ice creme. Normally I'd be all over that like a fat kid on
a bag of skittles, but I was just too full......so we decided to head out
and hit the road.



6:30 PM - As we hop back into the car to continue our journey, I notice
that the CD changer is playing "Touch of Grey" from the Grateful Dead.....their
only Top-20 hit. I'm amazed that a band who was around for so many years,
had so many legions of rabid fans who followed them from city to city,
and even inspired a flavor of ice cream, couldn't manage to have more than
one hit. Strange.



Tracey switches to the XM satellite radio to listen to the Oprah &
Friends channel. Yes, she has her own F***** radio station. Unbelievable.
We listen to Dr. Robin or Dr. Pete or Dr. John or Dr. Whoever the Hell it
is for the next little while. Everyone is a doctor but they don't seem to
have a clue about what they are supposed to be experts on. I am now calling
myself Dr. Dean.



10:00 PM - I look at the gas gauge to notice that we still have over
1/4 of a tank left. We can't get from home to work twice without having
to fill up the tank, but we can get from Chilliwack to mid-Oregon on 3/4
of a tank. The laws of physics seem to change at the border.



We decide to call it a night and pull into a Motel 6 in Salem. Tracey
drove the entire way today; my wife rules......even with the Oprah thing.....



WEDNESDAY, APRIL 25TH



8:00 AM - Up and on our way again. I offer to drive but Tracey is a trooper
and she'll start....I expect to take over and drive lots today and let
her rest. I fall asleep about 10 minutes after we hit the road.



12:30 PM - I'm awake, just in time to stop at Taco Bell for lunch. Taco
Bell rules. Seriously. It's about 1000 times better in the US than in Canada;
we get two decent lunches that fill us up for under $10. Can't beat that.




1:00 PM - Tracey has a sore throat so we try to find a drug store to
get her some medicine; in the same parking lot as the Taco Bell is a place
called "Bi-Mart".....hmm....Bi-Mart?? I wonder if they are describing the
employees, or the qualifications for the customers?? If it's the former,
they must have some great staff parties. We decide not to find out, and
go to a little grocery store next door, trying to find some Buckley's cough
medicine, but can't find any. Hmm, I wonder if Buckley's is just Canadian??



1:15 PM - Back on the road and Tracey is still driving. I'm asleep in
about 10 seconds.



7:00 PM - I'm awake, again, just in time for dinner. We pull off the
highway into a little town that has lots of restaurants....upon further
review, however, our choices are limited to Denny's or fast food burger
joints. We choose Denny's. We chose poorly.



As we get back into the car, we find the Canucks/Ducks game on the XM
satellite radio. It's already 1-0 Canucks....cool. Oh, well, it WAS 1-0.......Anaheim
scores again and again and again....and again....and again....... we had
actually planned on going to Game 2, but it's Friday and that's going to
seriously screw up our schedule, so we're going to skip it.



Finally, I'm driving. I've slept all day, but after driving for about
10 minutes, I'm sleepy again. Wow......still, I can stay awake enough to
get us to the motel.



10:00 PM - Stopped at another Motel 6, this time in Generic Hick-Town,
Calfifornia, a couple hours north of L.A. We're only a few hours away from
Anaheim but there isn't much point in driving through as we'd have to find
a hotel in Amaheim anyway. Might as well get up and be fresh in the morning.



THURSDAY, APRIL 26TH



9:00 AM - Checked out of the motel and headed to Denny's for a little
Grand Slam action. Denny's for breakfast is a whole new ballgame compared
to the dinner from the night before. We can tell that we are getting further
South as every employee in the joint is Hispanic, and not a word of English
is spoken, except to us. Not to suggest that is a problem, however, as the
staff is very friendly and efficient, and we have a perfectly fine breakfast.
 We are in no huge hurry as our official check in time isn't until 4
PM....we are sure they will let us check in early, but we don't want to show
up THAT early.....



1:00 PM - Arrived at the Disneyland Hotel. This was our first time here,
and it was everything we expected. All the staff, er, "Cast Members", are
as friendly as can be, from the Valet guys to the check-in people, to the
bellhops. Everyone does their very best to make this a fantastic experience.




We have 3 day flex passes but we already have 3 days in Disneyland scheduled
so we aren't going to use up a day today. We head to Downtown Disney to
do a little shopping and look around. There is a store that sells entertaiment
memorabilia; from signed record albums to signed movie posters to everything
else you could expect. They have some amazing stuff, including a couple
pieces signed by JFK. They also have one piece that features signatures
from Al Capone, Bugsy Siegel and Machine-Gun Kelly. Way cool.



We run into a lady named Rose who is manning a booth that advertises
"the best kept secret in Disneyland"....which turns out to be sales for
Disney Vacations, a time share vacation experience. We agree to go to a
sales pitch to find out more.....we certainly are interested. The sales
pitch is very good and the property is fantastic; certainly something to
seriously consider, especially for someone who likes to vacation in Disneyland
as much as we do.



5:00 PM - We decide to have dinner at Goofy's kitchen; they have a buffet
that features many of the Disney characters. It could also be described
as the "World's Most Expensive Buffet" but what the Hell, we're on vacation....and
when else can you have your dinner interrupted by Goofy???? He signed our
tablecloth. Hmm, I wonder if he thought we were going to take that home
with us?



The buffet was amazing; everything from Prime Rib to Chicken to Shrimp-stuffed
Sole and just about anything else you could think of. Sitting just behind
us was a table of kids, who put more food on the floor than in their mouths.
Their parents were sitting at an adjacent table and seemed oblivious to
anything that was happening there....oh well, it's Disneyland.....one of
the kids is eating with his hands when his dad notice that his fork (actually,
three forks) is on the floor under his chair. Dad handed a new fork to the
kid who, quite politely, said "thank you" to his dad.....and then proceeded
to put the fork down and continue eating with his hands.



During our meal we got visiting by Goofy, Chip N Dale, Belle (who I'm
sure was flirting with me, the saucy little Minx), Snow White (I told her
to watch those apples), and Pluto. We also had an absolutely fantistic server....what
a difference between her and the bimbo from Applebee's.....this girl had
"it", whatever "it" is.....she refilled our drinks from two feet high, right
to the rim, and never spilled a drop. Amazing. I just had to ask her how
the Characters manage to never get seen together....I mean, there is obviously
more than one Goofy......she confesses that they have it timed to the second,
and they work on ensuring that they never overlap. She says she has never
seen a problem in all the time she's been working there. The attention
to detail here is incredible.



7:00 PM - After dinner, back to Downtown Disney to look around a bit
more before retiring for the night. We don't look around too long, just
enough to make us both sleepy. Shortly, we head upstairs to our room to
get to bed early, as tomorrow is going to be a big day.





FRIDAY, APRIL 27TH



3:00 AM - Hmm, nice time to get sick......I spend an hour or so in the
bathroom, feeling pretty sure that I'm going to hurl......I take some probably-lethal
amounts of Pepto Bismol and it works well enough that it never happens....I
head back to bed, feeling a little better but not nearly as well as I'd
like, considering that I'm on vacation !!!!!!



7:00 AM - WOOOOOOOOO it's Disneyland day!! First, of course, we gotta
eat......we try to get into Goofy's kitchen for the brunch buffet (Brunch
at 7 AM?? When is breakfast, the night before?!?), but we don't have reservations
and are told we would have a better chance of getting attacked by wolverines
than a table in the forseeable future, so we head off to Downtown Disney
to find somewhere to eat. We settle on the Rainforest Cafe, quite a cute
little restaurant that, for those of you who have never eaten there, is
decorated like a rainforest. There used to be one in Metrotown, I wonder
why it didn't make it? I open the menu and see the prices and I suddenly
remember.  Since my stomach is still not feeling quite right, I don't
have a huge breakfast, but my Eggs Benedict fill the void and everything
seems to be OK.



8:00 AM - With full bellies and a lot of excitement, we hop into the
lineup for the Monorail to take us into Disneyland. Shortly, we are whisked
into the Magic Kingdom.....we hop off at the Tomorrowland stop. With my
queasy stomach, the smart thing would be to start the morning with some
of the less aggressive rides; however, since nobody has ever accused me
of being particularly bright, we are off to SPACE MOUNTAIN!!! Of course,
just about everyone else in the park is headed there too.....no big deal,
though, only a 10 minute wait to get on the ride which is pretty good. Last
time we were here we lined up over an hour to get on this ride. The ride
is outstanding, of course, but this was reallllly not the ride to start with;
after the ride I actually have to sit down for a minute. I don't really feel
sick, but my knees are weak and I'm definitely not 100%. After a couple of
minutes I'm better and we head off to find our next conquest. I actually
have to sit down after every aggressive ride, as they all get to me a bit.
Even still, it's a fantastic day.



It's a weekday and it's not busy at all, and we are able to hit all the
major attractions before 1 PM!!! Awesome. This is how to do Disneyland. Our
timing seems to be pretty good too, as we go on Indiana Jones just before
it closes for a few hours. Not sure why it closed. The only significant attraction
that is closed for our whole stay is Splash Mountain.....disappointing,
but we already knew about it beforehand so it's not a surprise. We are
a month too early for their newest attraction, Finding Nemo Submarine rides,
which opens up on June 11th. Oh well.



Pirates of the Caribbean has been modified to include several of the
characters from the movies; Captian Jack Sparrow now shows up a few times
in the ride. We've heard rumours that they are going to significantly expand
this attraction to capitalize on the huge success of the movies, but there
is no evidence of that right now.



2:00 PM - Well I'm still not feeling all that great and since we've already
hit all the major attractions, we're going to head back to the hotel for
a while to rest. I need a nap. I must be getting old. Yeah, I know, I should
have left out "getting".



4:30 PM - I'm up and ready to continue the day. Feeling a little better,
I guess....but at least a little more rested. It's hot but not crazy hot.....the
weather reports say it's only going to get hotter and hotter. We head back
to Downtown Disney to do a little shopping and browsing before we head
back to Disneyland for dinner; we have 6:30 reservations at the Blue Bayou,
the restaurant that is actually in the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction.




6:05 PM - We arrive at the Blue Bayou and ask if it's possible for us
to get a table next to the water.....they say it will be up to a half hour
to get one. Since our reservation isn't until 6:30 anyway, that's fine
with us....we go wait in the lobby for them to come get us. I decide to
go to the washroom and wash my hands; when I return, Tracey is nowhere to
be found.....they've already taken her to our table. Wow, this really IS
the "Magic" Kingdom, they've found a way to make a half hour seem like 5
minutes.....my hands are probably realllly clean.....



Dinner is absolutely spectacular, as we expected. I have prime rib which
is cooked perfectly and beautifully spiced. The side dish, scalloped potatoes,
are also fantastic. Neither Tracey or I can quite place exactly what they
put in the potatoes, but they are possibly the best scalloped potatoes
I've ever had. Tracey's meal is some kind of chicken; can't remember exactly
what it was called, but she loves it; I try a bite and it is very nice,
with a very unique flavor. I'm not sure how to describe it but it was very
tasty. For dessert, we order a trio of creme "don't call me Gilbert" brule
to share.....there is Vanilla, Chocolate, and Passion Fruit. At the risk
of repeating myself, it's the best I have ever tasted. We're tempted to
order another one, it's so good, but we're full and we leave completely
satisfied.



OK maybe not COMPLETELY satisfied.....at the table next to us, they seat
a family with a little girl, maybe around 7......it's dark in the restaurant
(remember this is the actual P.O.T.C. ride, so it's meant to look like
it is nighttime) and she asks her grandpa if it's really night out.....my
first instinct is to think that is a cute question.....after she asks the
same question about 6 more times, I'm tempted to smack her in the head and
ask her if she is retarded. For goodness sake, she just came in from outside
5 minutes ago and it was completely light out, it's only 6:30 for the love
of GOD...... I guarantee none of our cats would ask such a stupid question,
let alone ask the same stupid question 6 times..... just one more example
of why cats are better than people :-)



7:45 PM - Tracey wants to see the fireworks so we head near Sleeping
Beauty's castle to find a good spot; they don't start until around 9:25
so we have a long time to just sit there and hold our spot. Personally
I think it's absurd to wait this long to see fireworks....they are way up
in the sky, right?!?!? You can see the sky from anywhere, right?!??!  Sheesh.
Anyway, it starts to get a little chilly so Tracey decides to go and buy
herself a sweatshirt to keep herself warm, while I sit and hold our bench.
She returns with two, one for each of us; hers is "Mickey Mouse"....mine
is "Grumpy".....I wonder if that's a hint.......



We notice that we are sitting right next to an area that is roped off;
by eavesdropping on some of the cast members, we determine that it is roped
off for some "dignataries" who are going to come and watch the fireworks.
We spend the next hour or so trying to guess who it could be. We finally
decide it's going to be Governor Schwarzennegar and his family. Cool! Of
course, once they show up, it's a bunch of suits we've never seen before;
looks like it might be some execs from the company who sponsors the fireworks.
Whoopee.



9:30 PM - Fireworks start and are pretty spectacular. I'm glad we have
a good spot, as they aren't as high up in the sky as I had imagined, and
we wouldn't have seen them as well from farther away. Tracey made a good
call here!!!!



Time to call it a night, after a very full day we head back to the hotel
for some much needed sleep. What a great day!





SATURDAY, APRIL 28th



8:30 AM - We get our hotel bill and are thrilled to find out that the
2 phone calls that Tracey made when we arrived, both which got answering
machines and were a total of 3 seconds, cost us over $24. Yes, 3 seconds,
$24. Note to self: never make another long distance call from a hotel phone.



9:30 AM - After checking out of the Disneyland hotel, we had just one
more Disney-related function scheduled: Breakfast with Minnie and Friends!
Into Disneyland we go....definitely the first time I've even gone through
those gates without the intention of going on any rides or visiting any attractions.
Breakfast was superb, as you would expect; a French Toast and waffle bar,
made-to-order Omeletes, fresh fruit and pastries, as well as the usual breakfast
buffet fare such as bacon, eggs and sausage. As usual, the food was secondary,
as the Disney characters wandered around to every table to say hello (figuratively
speaking of course; the non-human characters never talk). This morning we
got visitied by Captain Hook, Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore (he's an ass),
Chip N Dale, Minnie Mouse and Alice (of Wonderland fame).  After breakfast,
we left Disneyland (not for the last time, though, as we're scheduled to
be back on Friday) and hopped in the car, headed for the resort in Escondido.




11:30 AM - Not in any huge hurry to get to the resort as check-in time
isn't until 4 PM, we spot an outlet mall in the middle of nowhere and decide
to partake in a little shopping. First stop is the Nike outlet, where I
get a pair of Shox, a bunch of T-shirts, shorts and socks for less than the
shoes would cost back home....GOD I love outlet malls......Tracey hits the
Liz Clairborne outlet store to feed her purse addiction, and feed it she
does.



The mall  features all the standard Outlets.....lots of mid-to-high-end
stores, designers like Hugo Boss, Calvin Klein, etc etc....but there was
one store that seemed a little out of place: "OLD NAVY OUTLET"....!?!?!?
 Hmm....I wonder what happens there....maybe THEY pay YOU to take away
their crap??????????????? Anyway, since I've always said "You can't pay me
enough to shop at Old Navy", I didn't go in to find out.



Jesus it's hot. It's supposed to be close to 100 today and it feels like
it's already there. If this is the temperature in spring I'm glad we didn't
come in summer.  Thank God for air conditioning.



Tracey keeps saying this heat is "inconcievable". She keeps using that
word. I do not think it means what she thinks it means.



We leave the Outlet mall and drive down the street to Target (properly
pronounced Tar-ZHAY of course) to pick up some incidentals for the resort.
Kristen Wiig is nowhere to be found unfortunately. Maybe it's her day off.
I expected her to be there, it IS Saturday, after all. Ah, I know, it's
the afternoon, she only works Saturday NIGHT......I get it.



2:00 PM - We pull into the resort, figuring it's likely they will let
us check in a couple hours early....and they do. We get our Villa assignment
and it's in a different section of the resort than we had stayed in previously,
but we are relieved to find it is exactly the same as the Villa we had
last time we were here.....2 full bedrooms, full kitchen, 3 TV's, pretty
much what you would expect from a 5 star resort. Absolutely gorgeous. Since
we were last here they've opened up a Pizza Hut in the resort......sounds
like tonight's dinner is taken care of!!! We're planning to take it easy
tonight, just stay in and watch the Devils/Senators game on TV and relax.
Maybe we'll go to one of the pools or spas once the sun goes down a bit.




7:25 PM - Ottawa scores with 26 seconds left to tie the hockey game at
2. My instincts are to throw something - heavy - at the TV........but I'm
also on vacation from my hockey rage, so I refrane.



8:44 PM - New Jersey scores early in Double Overtime to win the game
and tie the series 1-1. Thank God I don't have to break anything tonight,
everything here is probably really expensive to replace.



9:24 PM - Finally got this damn blog finished and uploaded......now it's
off to bed.....tomorrow is the first day of this trip that we don't have
anything planned, so I think I'll sleep until about noon.



SUNDAY, APRIL 29TH



7:00 AM - Hmm. This isn't noon. Why am I up? Back to sleep.



8:00 AM - OK this is still not noon.



9:00 AM - OK this is now officially silly. If I have lost the ability
to sleep in while I'm on vacation, I think there is clearly only one option:
suicide.



10:00 AM - OK the fourth time I have awakened this morning, I guess it's
time to get my lazy ass out of bed.



11:00 AM - Tracey is still asleep but I better wake her up; we're going
to do a little shopping and she will definitely want to be back by 5 to
watch the Canucks game.



12:00 PM - Off to the nearest mall, which is a Coquitlam Centre-sized
place called Westfield about 15 minutes south of the resort. We look around
for a while, buy a few little things, and have lunch at the Panda Express,
which is some damn good Chinese Food in the mall's food court. Once we're
done with lunch we decided to head back to the resort and spend a little
time in the pool and spa. Driving back along the San Diego freeway (I-15,
otherwise known as "the Autobaun with Gunplay"), I am driving 20 MPH over
the speed limit and it still seems like we are driving backwards. Cars go
by us on both sides at warp speed. Pretty sure I just heard James Doohan
screaming something about needing more power.



1:30 PM - Pool. Spa. Sauna. Palm Trees. Frosty Beverages. I think I could
get used to this. All that is missing is a scantily-clad hottie to bring
me something with an umbrella in it. Oh, here she comes. I'm tempted to order
a Pink Lady but I am afraid it would seem too gay, so I go with the much
more-manly Pina Colada. OK that last part isn't true, I don't even know what
is in a Pink Lady. Honest. No, seriously.



7:00 PM - Noticed a small problem.....a flood in our kitchen, coming from
the washing machine. Hey, an indoor pool !!!!!! Well I guess that could become
an inconvenience, so we call maintenance and they come and clean it up and
fix the problem.



8:00 PM - Canucks lose to Anaheim to go down 2-1 in their series. The
next game is Tuesday night, so we rearrange our schedule so that we'll be
here to watch it. We were going to go to the Wild Animal Park tomorrow,
but we will push that back to Tuesday as it is the closest thing to the
resort. That means we are back to Disneyland tomorrow for the final time
this trip.



9:29 PM - Fading fast and it's time for bed. Can't believe how tired I've
been on this trip. It wasn't that long ago that I could easily have gone
all night on a vacation like this with no problem......assuming you consider
20 years to be "not that long ago".....



MONDAY, APRIL 30TH



8:00 AM - Up early and having breakfast at the resort as he get ready to
head back to Disneyland; more specifically, Disney's California Adventure.
The best part of being at these theme parks during the week is, of course,
the much smaller crowds....the downside, however, is GETTING to the theme
parks during L.A. rush hour. ICK.



10:15 AM - We finally arrive at the park and head straight into D.C.A......with
hardly any wait. Nice!!! We head right to Soaring Over California, wait
about 2 minutes in line, and get on the ride. The bad news is that the guy
sitting next to me on the ride smells like he hasn't bathed in a month;
the good news is that this ride features smells that match the scenery you
are soaring over.....as we fly over forests, we get the smell of pine trees......then
over the orange groves, we get the smell of oranges......thank goodness that
Disney's smells are stronger than Smelly Italian Guy.......



12:00 PM - By noon we have already hit all the significant attractions
in D.C.A., and we head across the courtyard to Disneyland to finish off
everything we didn't get done in our first visit, and have a second visit
with some of our favorite rides.



4:00 PM - We're done. We do a little shopping, including picking up a piece
of limited, numbered Disney artwork which we plan on framing and putting
over our fireplace, and head out. We've had an absolutely fantastic time
at Disneyland, but are a little sad that this part of the trip is over and
we're not sure when we'll be back. Neither Tracey nor I can imagine a better
place to vacation.



6:30 PM - Back to the resort for dinner, some TV and sleep......tomorrow
will be a big day.



TUESDAY, MAY 1ST





8:00 AM - Up for a little cereal for breakfast (Fruity Pebbles!!! MMMM
American cereal rules....) and then out the door to the Wild Animal Park.
Nice to be going somewhere close, this park is right here in Escondido just
about 15 minutes from the resort. Very excited about today as this is one
of our favorite places we'll visit on this trip; particularly looking forward
to the Photo Safari Caravan tour that we are planning to go on; it's a 3.5
hour tour that takes us right down into the exhibits to interact directly
with the animals. Last time we were here we went on a shorter, 2 hour version
of the tour and loved it.



9:00 AM - We arrive at the park only to find that the only Deluxe tour
that isn't already full is at 2:45 PM....no big deal, there are lots of
other things to see so filling the time won't be an issue at all. However,
we are also forced to come face to face with the most fearsome of creatures......not
lions, nor tigers, nor bears (oh MY!)....no, this creature is RAIN......yes,
it does rain in Southern California apparently. It's also damn cold.....well,
cold for San Diego anyway....  of course we are woefully unprepared
for rain and cold, but it's not raining that hard and we are hoping that
it gets warmer as the day goes on.



So we're off into the park.....for anyone who has been to the San Diego
Zoo, one of the larger zoos in the world, this park is 10 times bigger......suffice
it to say, it's tough to see the whole park.....so we try to see as much
as we can that we think we won't get to see when the Caravan Tour starts.
Firstly we're off to the Gorillas exhibit.....as we get there, there are
3 gorillas out playing, and we get some good pictures. Suddenly, a park worker
appears on top of the exhibit and starts to throw food down to the gorillas.....and
suddenly the rest of them start to come out of the caves....there are suddenly
4, 5, 6, 7, 8 gorillas, including the leader, a huge Silverback that dwarfs
the rest of them. Amazing.



Next we're off to the petting kraal, where we can get up close and personal
with some tamer animals....some deer, gazelles and antelopes are there for
the guests to pet, feed, and get pictures with. Very cool. The animals are
so used to humans that they seem happy to pose for pictures.....happier,
of course, if you have food.



Next to the Lions Den, which is incredible; you can get to within inches
of the Lions, separated by just some plexi-glass......the largest male Lion
walks back and forth for at least 15 minutes, right in front of the glass.....not
sure if we was posing for pictures or trying to figure out which of the
guests would be most tasty, just in case the glass somehow disappeared.
At another point of the exhibit, they have a telescope where you can put
in a quarter and get right up close to the lions for pictures....Tracey
and I are standing there reading the instructions on how to use the telescope
to get good pictures, when a little punk kid, maybe 8 years old, starts
yelling at me telling me that I can't use the telescope (not that he was
even using it). I pick the little brat up and throw him into the cage. OK
I didn't really do that but my GOD it was tempting. Irritating little puke.



11:45 AM - We sit down to have a bite for lunch and notice a tiny, tiny
little problem......our camera battery is dead!!! Oh good grief, if there
was only one day on this whole trip that we needed a camera, this was it....and
now we were just minutes away from not having one at all. After searching
the park for a store that might carry something like that, I remembered that
the mall that we had visited the other day was just a few minutes away....so
we get our hand stamped and head off to the mall, hoping to find a camera
store that would have a spare battery. If we can't find one, we'll have
to head back to the resort and charge the battery.....which was going to
be a close shave, since we had to meet the caravan at 2:30.



12:00 PM - We arrive at the mall and find a camera shop that just happens
to have ONE replacement battery left for our camera. Of course, the battery
has very little charge, so even after buying this battery we now have 2
batteries without much charge. Luckily the store owner is a good guy and
he takes our original battery and puts it into one of his chargers. We have
about an hour, which won't be enough time to get a full charge, but we figure
it will be enough to get us by. So, now that we have an hour to kill, we
head off to Sears to look around. We end up buying 3 new DVD's (Dreamgirls,
The Queen, Little Children)......even with the exchange, we probably save
a couple bucks over buying them in Canada.



2:30 PM - We are back at the park and ready to meet the caravan tour. We
get a great guide, a girl names Jaime, who clearly loves animals and loves
her job. The Wild Animal Park is meant primarily as a breeding facility,
with their main purpose to save threatened and endangered species. There
are tons of pregnant animals at the park, and lots of new babies, so it's
a very exciting time to be there.



Soon after getting into the first enclosure (there are a total of four
that we are going to be visiting), we get visited by a very friendly giraffe......I
call him Norman. To be honest, I actually thought I heard Jaime call him
Norman.... I am not sure where I got that from, because his name, which I
can't now remember, began with "I" and didn't sound anything like Norman.
Anyway, he's Norman to me. Everyone on the tour got to feed Norman and take
several great pictures with him.



The next exciting event involved some deer; now, there are hundreds of
deer in this enclosure, including several different species of deer, and
including lots of very young baby deer.....but we actually got to see some
that had JUST been born....and I mean JUST born....in fact, you could still
see the afterbirth. The caravan stayed there for quite some time so everyone
could get pictures and we could watch the newborns try to walk, which was
pretty funny.....they were so tiny and kept falling down.



Next were some rhinos........they have some rhinos there that are over
44 years old, which is pretty amazing since the life expectancy of a rhino
was generally thought to be less than 30! Of course, that was always meant
to be a "best guess" as it's nearly impossible to get an accurate age on
rhinos that aren't born in captivity; they rarely carry ID. The Wild Animal
Park has been so successful in breeding some of these species of rhinos,
that one species has actually been taken off the Endangered list. This is
the only species of rhino in the world that is not endangered.



Next, we move to a different section of this enclosure and Jaime calls
over one particular rhino....yes, they are smart enough to know their names.....and
she pulls out some apples and we all get to feed him. Rhinos have to be
the most misunderstood species on the planet, they have a reputation for
being aggressive, but unless you do something stupid like corner them or
attack their children, they are the most gentle animals you could ever encounter.
Some of the guests are a little apprehensive about getting so close to a
rhino's mouth so they tend to throw the apples in his mouth, but some of
us actually just hold the apple out and let the rhino take it right off our
hands with his upper lip. He is completely gentle and probably couldn't bite
us even if he wanted to, rhino's are herbavores with very small teeth and
absolutely no interest in biting people. If they did want to hurt you for
some reason, they certainly wouldn't do it with their teeth. They weight
up to 2000 pounds so they really don't need to bite. After we run out of
apples, he loses interest (hey, he's no dummy) and heads back to his area
as we move on.



After a short break we head on to the last enclosure....Jaime warns us
to watch out for the Ostriches who will come to the caravan and bite anyone
that they can.....for no particular reason that to be irritating and to show
us who is the boss. As we just get into the enclosure, 2 ostriches start
to come towards us, but they are a long way away and we continue to move
away from them long before they can get close. The next thing we get to see
is the most heartbreaking, as we get to interact with an African White Rhino
who happens to be one of the last 12 in existance. In fact, there are only
2 males in the world; 1 in the Czech Republic who is too old to mate, and
this one.....who they have been trying to mate with the 2 females they have,
but to no success. Unless things change significantly or they can bring
in another female who mates with this male, the species will be extinct
during our lifetime.



Last on this fantastic tour, we meet Ivan; an 18-foot tall, 18-year old
Canadian giraffe who is treated as the "star" of the park; he is the tallest
giraffe in the United States and is quite a showman. Jaime calls him over
and he is happy to oblige, as everyone gets a chance to feed him and marvel
at his 19-inch tongue which he uses to grab the leaves from our hands. All
giraffes have long tongues, of course, but this one seems particularly proud
of his, as none of the other giraffes use their tongue to grab the leaves.
He is also so tall that he can actually eat leaves that are on the ground
OUT of the enclosure, just by leaning over the electrified fence, which doesn't
seem to bother him in the least as he is clearly leaning right on the fench.
Jaime can't quite explain why the electric fence, which she is sure is on,
wouldn't bother him.....giraffes have thick skin, but not THAT thick. Another
interesting fact is that we are asked not to pet any of the giraffes; despite
how docile and friendly they are, giraffes just don't get petted in the
wild, of course, and they just don't like it.



The Wild Animal Park is an amazing place; everyone who comes to Southern
California should make it a point to come here. They are completely non-profit
and their only reason for existing is to take care of animals; money very
well spent. IMO, it's much more interesting than a normal zoo.....yeah,
there are a few animals at the zoo (Bears for example) that you can't find
at the Wild Animal Park, but seeing these animals in their natural habitat
is so much more rewarding.



6:00 PM - After another fantastic day, we head back to the resort for dinner
and to watch the Canucks game on TV. Tomorrow we are going to sleep in and
hit the resort amenities again.



WEDNESDAY, MAY 2ND





10 AM - Up. This is probably going to be a short and boring blog entry.
I plan to do nothing. Nothing.



9:00 PM - Well it's bedtime. I did nothing today. Nothing. It was all I
thought it could be, and more. Vacations rule.



THURSDAY, MAY 3RD



10:00 AM - A nice leisurely sleep in and we're off to SeaWorld.



11:00 AM - We arrive at SeaWorld. There are two thrill rides at SeaWorld,
both water-themed, of course; first we head off to the Journey into Atlantis,
a roller-coaster type ride that features a huge drop, straight down, into
water. There is a warning that says "You will get soaked" but most of the
people getting off the ride are wet, but not soaked, so I decide to give it
a shot. Tracey decides to watch. As I expected, I get wet, but not drenched,
and it's a fun ride; nothing special, however, and certainly quite a few levels
below the rides we went on at Disneyland.



Next we head off to the Manatee Rescue exhibit, which features 3-4 huge
Manatees and also some exhibits about how the SeaWorld crew rescues Manatees
who get into trouble trapped by fishermen's lines, or what have you. Nice.




Shortly after that we head to the Shark exhibit, which features lots of
opportunities to get up close and personal with some large sharks. Unfortunately
we can't get our camera to take any decent pictures of them for some reason;
our digital camera has a "through glass" mode, but the sharks swim too fast
and those pictures are blurry....and the "Sports" mode which is meant for
fast motion don't work very well through the glass either. We really should
have read the instructions for this camera before we left.



Unfortunately our favorite exhibit, the Penguin Encounter, is closed today.
The downside to seeing SeaWorld at this time of year is that there are a lot
fewer shows and exhibits to see.



1:00 PM - The highlight of our day was our Lunch with Shamu. We booked this
months ago and it paid off, we must have been the first to book as we had
the best table in the house. This is a buffet lunch with a Killer Whale show
as you eat; it's a great show. Some of the guests get drenched as the whale
misinterpretes one of the commands; instead of doing what the trainer asked,
the whale soaked the guests with his tail....haha.....glad he was at the other
end of the restaurant when that happened!



We have a good meal and get some pictures of a Killer Whale 7-10 feet away
from our table, as we are seated right in front of the shallow area that the
trainer has the whale jump onto. Awesome.



2:00 PM - We decide to check out the other ride, which is an Inner Tube
Rapids Ride; again it says "You will get soaked" but we've heard that before.
Some of the guests getting off the ride seem pretty wet but lots are not;
looks like the standard inner tube ride; you might get wet, you might not.
Tracey decides to come with me on this one. Well..........the sign should
have said "YOU ARE GOING TO GET SO WET THAT YOU ARE GOING TO WANT TO KILL
YOURSELF. SERIOUSLY, WE ARE NOT KIDDING THIS TIME. YOU HAVE HAD DRIER SHOWERS".
We get really wet during the main part of the ride, and then we get near
the end and go through a waterfall. Now, this is not one of those trick waterfalls
that shuts off just before you get there......IT'S A FRICKIN WATERFALL.......I
cannot figure out how anyone got off that ride without being drenched, until
I (much too late) realize that they were wearing parkas to keep them dry,
and had taken the parkas off before we saw them. Gee that would have been
useful information 15 minutes ago.



So, luckily we have seen most of what we wanted to see......it's warm today
but not so warm we are going to want to walk around for much longer in this
condition. We check out some dolphins, and otters, and then we decide it's
time to head home. Unfortunately the otters were really boring this time,
they were asleep.....last time we were here they were one of the highlights
of the trip, they are so cute when they are playing as they spend most of
their time swimming on their backs. Oh well, it was still a great day, the
lunch with Shamu was worth the price of admission alone.



4:00 PM - We're home, still absolutely soaked, and I'm exhausted so I think
it's time for a nap. We've had a terrific trip so far, and amazingly it's
almost over; just Universal Studios left to go, and that's tomorrow.



6:00 PM - Up from the nap and ready for dinner; we order a couple of personal
pan pizzas from Pizza Hut; now, these personal pizzas are really tiny, and
normally I would need a couple of them for a meal, but they pile the toppings
on to the point where I can barely eat one. I've never seen that many toppings
on a pizza.....it looks like they took the toppings that would normally be
on a large and put them on the little one...not that I'm complaining, I wish
pizzas in Canada came like that.....



Apologies for no further entry; nothing overly exciting happened at Universal
on this trip and I was unable to get any internet access for a couple days
anyway.....

















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