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The family in front of the castle and Walt DisneyDisneyland





Buzzwars on Space Matterhorn





How LA Thrilled and Poisoned Us


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It had been too long from our last family vacation in Zion, Utah.  We had planned a trip in the fall, but it fell through because of exigent circumstances.  Tanis was at the perfect age; seven years old which means he has that real over-the-top enthusiasm about things.  We kind of surprised him with it after we ran into some windfall money.  It had been an already warm winter and we figured some time in 70 - 80 degree heat in southern California was exactly what we needed.  Linda planned it all out and got a nice hotel at Knott's Berry Farms. 

I had only been to Disneyland as a six year old, front-teeth missing boy.  It had been Disneyland's 25th Anniversary year.  We drove down with another family we had grown up with.  Both our fathers were cops and they put CB Radios into their vehicles (I think we had a station wagon, the SUV of the 1970's.  They made up goofy CB handles and would call each other every time they saw a cop so they could speed down Interstate 5 and not get caught.  I am not sure, but I think my dad's handle was "Red Fox," which I am less inclined to think of a CB handle rather than a gay bar nickname.  Linda and her family had done a similar trip with her family when she was around age twelve.

The ODonnell boys at California Adventure on our first day

My wife and I had gone to Disneyworld in Florida for our honeymoon.  I absolutely loved Disneyworld.  We found a very common rhythm almost immediately: hit the parks in the early morning and later evening, taking long day naps and then heading to Pleasure Island.  Each night was a different dance club, but the drinks flowed like the Mississippi and we usually stumbled onto the last bus back to the hotel around 2:45 am.  I had one of the best times of my life.

California Screamin roller coaster

To be perfectly honest, had we had the money, I would have pushed to go back to Florida.  I am not a fan of southern California.  Too many people, too hot and too much traffic.  Not enough of the good stuff right in the valley. You have to go 100 miles east to get away from the smog.  And who wants to be around all those perfectly hot women walking around wearing next to nothing.  I can't stand totally hot women who are wearing next to nothing walking around me.

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We flew down to Hell A after work.  Linda had put together a furious packing and planning and had everything waiting by the door the day before.  We just chucked it into the The White Buffalo and ran off to Redmond to catch our flight.  We left Redmond Thursday evening and it would only take Hell A thirty-six hours to poison us with it's awful breath.  The night we flew in was cold and snowing as we left Bend.  It was raining in Hell A when we flew in.  The air was extremely clear, we were able to see the San Bernadino Mountains blanketed in a thin layer of snow, something I am not sure the locals see very often.  We checked into our hotel and were all a little too excited to get any sleep.  We were going to his Disneyland for three days and Knott's Berry Farms one day with a full day break we would use to recover from long days in lines and rides.

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We were all very anxious to open the park.  We had turned Ciernan's stroller into an ATV Duece and a Half.  It had a diaper bag, two water bottles locked onto the handle with individual carabeaners, enough food for three days for Ciernan, three blankets, four jackets, a video camera, a large digital camera and, of course, Ciernan.  Since none of us had ever been to the new California Adventure park, we decided to hit that first.  It was a bit like the MGM Studios at Disneyworld with the same type of rides.  But there was another section which was all its own.  Prior to coming, Tanis and I had looked up some Disneyland videos on YouTube.  The number one ride that kept coming up over and over again was the Tower of Terror ride.  Linda and I had done this ride a dozen times or so at Disneyworld and it had been one of our favorite.  It was definitely the scariest!

Hollywood with the Tower of Terror sitting behind it

Tanis had eyes for only one ride: Tower of Terror.  Linda and I just nodded our dumb little heads and were just excited to get on a ride.  Nothing went off in our heads like "HELLLLO?  He is Seven!  He hasn't been on rides like this!  Why would you let this be his first ride?"  Nothing, nada, nathan, cero.  I have to give Disneyland some serious credit on how they deal with families with infants.  They have this thing called a switch pass.  If you have a baby, one parent goes with the other child while the other waits with the baby.  The first parent and child have to stand in line for a full time.  After they finish, the child and the parent watching the baby get to fast track your butts to the front and get another ride.  This worked out good for Tanis because he got to wait in line once for two rides.  No waiting with the baby!  I took advantage of my time with Ciernan to walk him around everywhere while Linda and Tanis were on rides.

Sir Tanis Patsy with sword and shield

As I was waiting for them to wait in line for the ride, I started having second doubts about this ride and that this might not have been the smartest move.  Scaring the crap out of him on the very first ride of four days worth of rides.  About 20 minutes later Tanis comes out looking pale as a ghost and visibly shaking.  Linda said he literally started quivering when the lights in the elevator went out.  I asked him if he was ready to man-up and take a second trip.  He shook his head with wide eyes and told me NO FLIPPIN' WAY.  I ended up going on my first ride by myself, but I believe it was the last one I went solo.  We spent the rest of the day at the park, eating on the fly and trying to cram in as many rides as we could.  The park really wasn't all that busy!  We were able to get on most rides with a 10 minute wait, some we just walked right onto without a wait.  Tanis hit all the big ticket rides again and again.

Ciernan ODonnell at California Adventure in Anaheim, CaliforniaLater that night both Linda and I noticed Ciernan was starting to weeze and act a little off.  We hoped this wasn't the start of anything.  But nothing goes together better with Family Vacation than Family Vacation Sickness.  The inevitable trips to the emergency room whether it be bronchitis, pneumonia, strep and the flu combined or an almost severed finger; somewhere at some point in any family vacation someone is going to get or do something which is going to make dollars transfer from your bank account to a medical facility's bank account.  You just hope it doesn't make them completely miserable during the rest of the trip.

We awoke early the next morning with Ciernan's weezing increasingly worsening.  It was like someone in the night came and injected his lungs with fluid.  Tanis was complaining of an upset stomach.  Linda said her throat was hurting her.  I felt an achiness in my joints.  Hell A had laid her claws into us.  We were scheduled to go to Disneyland the next day.  Tanis, again, was all about the big ticket rides.  I never understood as a child how parents could be content with sitting on the benches and watching their children.  I got to spend incredible time with both my children.  After another day of rides I could see it was taking it's toll on us.  Ciernan was sounding horrible by this time.  Linda and I agreed that if he got worse, we would take him to an urgent care clinic.  Tanis threw up later that night and Linda was so clogged up she could barely talk.  I had a harsh sore throat, cough and was starting to feel feverish.  We tossed and turned all night listening to Ciernan getting worse and worse.  I was getting very alarmed.  First thing in the morning we had an "American Hotel Doctor" come to our room.  He brought a suitcase of pills, vials, powders and a genuine medical bag.  You know, like the ones on TV.  He told us Ciernan had bronchitis and a throat infection.  He was worried about his breathing and thought he was close to developing pneumonia.

Ciernan waiting for dad and brother to finish up Mullholland Madness

The doctor explained it was the Hell A air that was most likely causing all of us to come down with a different illness within 36 hours of touching down.  He said he gets to see a lot more of it than most doctors, but he said he thought about 30 - 35% of the people who visit Hell A get ill because of the air.  Ciernan was given a shot of steroids and penicillan.  We were told if he didn't get better within 12 hours to call them back.  Ciernan did get worse, making us think at times that we were going to have to pull the plug on the vacation and head back home.  Tanis was fantastic during all of this and took the entire thing in stride.  Even though he had every right, he didn't complain once about being stuck in the hotel an entire day after only just getting a taste of Disneyland.

Darth Vader at Disneyland feeling the force strongly from...someone

The next day Linda and I took turns with Tanis at Knott's Berry Farm.  Knott's is fun for a day, but it is not Disneyland.  Tanis went with Linda in the morning while Ciernan got a little better after getting some breathing treatments and some rest.  I was getting worse and starting to throw up.  Linda was getting worse and Tanis was starting to feel a lot better.  I will have to say Tanis was the least affected by the poisonous air.  I went with Tanis in the afternoon.  We hit all the big rides he wanted to do.  I had to duck into the bathroom about every 2-3 rides and talk to Ralph on the big telephone.  Tanis thought it was funny to take me to the next ride and ask over and over again, "Will this one make you puke?  Yeah?  Cool!  Let's ride this one!"  As good as he had been, how could I say no?  And it wasn't like I wasn't going to throw up anyways, might as have some fun in between.

Tanis expressing some anxiety while looking at the spikes coming out of the ceiling on the Indiana Jones Adventure ride

Everyone started getting better that night while I continued to get worse.  I got a wicked fever on top of the sore throat and puking.  The next day, I tried to really nut up and make it out to the park.  We couldn't sit in the hotel forever.  I really tried to make a good day of it, but I was throwing up at least once an hour.  Tanis had a blast going from ride to ride with Linda mostly while I played with Ciernan.  There are so many little things at Disneyland that you can spend a lot of time not on the rides.  Towards the afternoon it became apparent that I was just about done for the day.  I also got a full understanding of the term "uncontrollable bowels," a term that I found odd to ask a patient when they are fully conscience and coherent.  I will never find it an odd question again.  The boys went back to Disneyland that evening while I tried to get some rest.  I was bad enough by the time that Linda got back to the hotel that I ended up taking a taxi down to a local emergency room.  I had strep and the flu.  I got some pills and went back to the hotel.

The ODonnells on their way out of disneyland

The next day was our last day of our trip and for once, we were all feeling relatively good!  We told Tanis that we should hit his favorite rides again.  Meaning we hit California Screaming, the Matterhorn, Star Tours, Space Mountain, Thunder Mountain, Indiana Jones and some rides for Ciernan.  Of all the days, I think we all were relaxed and feeling good enough to really enjoy our last day.  It was one of those character moments for the family; moan and bitch and have a miserable time or try to make the most of it.  We obviously did the latter, even though I am not sure anyone would have blamed us for the former.