Spring Break Surprise Weekend Retreat Trip Report, Day 2, Part 2

After a brief nap, we had our “wake-up” snack of soda and a couple of squares of chocolate, and discussed our plans for the evening. We weren’t really into the beach after all and thought we’d swing by Downtown Disney for a little Disney magic.

We parked at Downtown Disney and saw, for the first time, the new security entrance, which we now know replaces the Valet parking area they once had. This secures Downtown Disney and allows you the freedom to enter the parks without going through Security in that congested area. People were friendly, and it went quite smoothly.

As we were walking toward the Security gates, we noticed a bride and groom riding inside Cinderella’s carriage – how romantic and magical is that! You can see that video here.

As we were heading toward World of Disney, Rich pointed out the people sitting at a table to our right. “JWs,” he said. I’m still in shock! I think I’ll write a separate post about my thoughts on that. Suffice it to say I think it’s a bad idea to open up the possibility of all kinds of non-Disney type entertainment setting up shop on DD property.

We also noticed the empty place where House of Blues used to be. They moved to Gardenwalk – the story is here. Splitsville takes its place at Downtown Disney – story here.

We must have arrived at Downtown Disney at the perfect time, because it wasn’t really crowded and World of Disney was the emptiest I’ve ever seen it. We spotted all the Minnie Mouse Merchandise immediately – she’s my girl (Real Mice Wear Red). I picked up a couple of red Minnie tapas plates.

Rich spotted a really cool Mr. Toad t-shirt and I assured him he must have it!

We then backtracked to the Grand Californian, noticing that on the way out, we’ll have to enter Security again. We were wondering where hotel guests would enter Security now that it’s been moved to the beginning of Downtown Disney instead of in front of the parks.

We stopped to enjoy the lobby and the pianist, and then on to Hearthstone Lounge, our home away from home.

This is one of our favorite places, but the last time it was a bit off. But we are happy to report, the fabulous service and experience was back on point, and I feel so totally at home here, I could just move in.

We shared our usual Robusto Flatbread and had 2 glasses of Malbec and tossed the idea around of stopping by the front gate to purchase an Annual Pass. It’s so hard to be asked, “Do you have an AP” when we’re dining or shopping and we have to say, “No!” lol!

We thought about getting the AP and popping in to DCA to check out the Food & Wine Festival, which had just started this weekend. Alas, we decided not to break the Downtown Disney parking rules and not enter a park, and wait for the “real” trip to purchase the AP.

On our way out of the GC, we stopped in at our favorite gift shop, and then through Security and back to the parking area with a brief stop to listen to our favorite Ry Bradley sing, and I took a bit of video from my iPhone. Or watch it here:

I’m still reuploading the iPhone videos to our YouTube channel but hope to reupload the GoPro videos soon. Unfortunately, on this trip, we didn’t have a better quality cameras with us.

4th of July Road Trip: Las Vegas to Laughlin

Summers in the desert drive me mad – worse than summers in Florida. No trees, no grass, no water (well, not much), with the intense blazing sun baring down on you. And no place to go – Las Vegas is very isolating.

But long about 5 p.m. on a weekend, I have to get out of the house. This past Sunday, we didn’t know where we should go – we’d been everywhere close. But we hadn’t been to Lake Mead or Hoover Dam in awhile so we jumped in the Jeep and headed that way. Somewhere along the way, we saw a sign that said “Searchlight” and “Laughlin.” Well, we hadn’t been to Laughlin and weren’t sure this was the time to do it. How far was it and would we get back before dark?

The Jeep navigation system couldn’t seem to find either so we thought we’d just head out that way and see how far we got. But by the time we made it to Searchlight, it was so underwhelming, we decided to press on to Laughlin and the sign indicated it would only take about 45 more minutes.

The other purpose of this trip was to continue to capture the area on our GoPro – not only to have in our archives – but as practice in getting to know the tips and tricks of it.

Here are the 3 videos of our road trip to Laughlin and back from our home in Las Vegas. Next, we’ll post about lessons learned with the GoPro so far.

Road Trip Part 1: From Las Vegas to Searchlight

Road Trip Part 2: Laughlin on the Colorado River

Road Trip Part 3: Laughlin to Las Vegas, Dusk to Dark

Summer of 2016 Kickoff: A Disney and Beach Getaway Trip, Day 2, Part 1

Who: Rich and Kathy
Where: Anaheim
What: SoCal Getaway, Disneyland, and the Beach
When: May 27-30, 2016
Why: Kicking off Summer of 2016

Saturday, May 28, 2016

We were still considering buying a 1-day Disneyland pass – our hotel is a Good Neighbor Hotel with Disneyland tickets and transfers for sale onsite – but we woke up to fog. El Nino has not been kind to us this year for our cruise departures from L.A. and our trips to SoCal. We were so not motivated to go to the parks.

Rich made us coffee and then headed downstairs to pick up some breakfast that the hotel provided. “What a zoo!” he said when he returned. Holiday weekend.

We enjoyed our quiet morning and we were able to sleep in more than we do at home with Skipper screaming for breakfast from about 6 a.m. until we get up, which is usually about 6:30 a.m. So we continued to chat while sipping coffee.

Eventually, we took our showers and got dressed and headed out the door. We were curious about the transformation of the Crystal Cathedral (from the Reverend Schuller days) into Christ Cathedral after the Catholic Church purchased it, so we stopped by, just a mile down the road.

We toured the grounds, managing to avoid the wedding taking place, and were even given a tour of one of the buildings. We love Cathedrals and Shrines, but weren’t really that impressed with this project, although we were glad we’d finally made it over there. It might be of more interest to Roman Catholics but we’re Eastern Catholics. Nobody ever really knows what that is (think Eastern Orthodox). Anyway, we can check that off the list.

(It actually still felt more Protestant than Catholic so maybe it’ll be more impressive once it’s finished – the tour guide was trying so hard to be PC that it lost any sort of celebration to the purchase).


With the sun starting to peek out, we were encouraged to drive to Huntington Beach for lunch at Duke’s. By the time we arrived, it was a beautiful, mostly sunny day.


We left our car with valet and were seated after about 10 minutes. Rich ordered a Mai Tai for each of us and then we were served an assortment of warm bread with butter.

Rich ordered the Opah, and I had the Baja Grilled Fish Tacos.


Avocado, grapefruit & greens, ginger vinaigrette, jasmine rice, harissa


Grilled or beer battered, flour tortillas, tomatillo sauce, guacamole, pico de gallo, tortilla chips

They were both delicious and we were surrounded by a lively crowd with views of the ocean. What a perfect day at the beach.


We then took a stroll on the pier, took some shots of the surfers and then popped into a couple of shops where I enjoyed playing the drums and we brought up a HB wall hanging for our home.

(I can’t wait to get the GoPro this week.)

We stopped to listen to a street musician when he was playing an Eric Clapton song (“Nobody Loves You When You’re Down and Out”), and then headed back to our resort.

We missed our freeway exit so we had to drive past the Tower of Terror – oh darn. I thought it would be a good time to practice videotaping.

We napped for a bit before heading to Downtown Disney.

(Additional photos here.)