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September 22, 2006

Fantasy Ride

Reason #158 why I love the information age: remote blogging.

Thanks to remote Internet access, I was able to keep up with some blogs, drop a few comments here and there, and even managed to publish a new post on Tuesday, all while my family and I spent the week away from home. Admit it, now – you couldn’t really tell the difference, could you?

If my typing seems somewhat giddy - not to mention a little exhausted - today, it’s because we’ve just returned from the so-called Happiest Place on Earth: Disneyland, California, USA.

During our weeklong vacation, our kids had an absolute blast, and completely forgot about school and soccer teams and whatever other concerns they encounter in their daily routines.

On the other hand, my thought process stayed fairly true to form, in that I kept thinking of oddball blog posts I could have written. Most of those musings centered (predictably) on an amusement park theme, and one of them is the topic of today’s post.

Our kids range in age from 2 through 8 years old, which makes for difficult logistical management in deciding which attractions to visit. The older two kids go on the biggest roller-coasters, while the youngest is limited to areas like the carousels or kiddie rides where her older siblings don’t like to dawdle.

But on our final day at the park, we all spent time together in Fantasyland, on the old guard of original Disneyland attractions: Peter Pan’s Flight, and Mr Toad’s Wild Ride.

It was on this second ride that I wondered what in the heck we were doing there.

Here’s a brief synopsis of Mr Toad’s Wild Ride: Psychologically unstable Toad publicly demonstrates erratic behavior while driving himself to a pub. Departing the pub, he causes widespread havoc while crashing through rural fences and haystacks in his attempt to evade police pursuit. He is ultimately captured, tried and convicted, but somehow allowed to go free – at which point he immediately gets behind the wheel again and crashes directly into an oncoming train and dies. He descends into the bowels of hell to be eternally tormented by what can be best described as Satanic-looking rats. And that’s where the ride ends.

(Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Disneyand! Fun for all ages! Be sure to bring the kids!)

Seriously – that’s the story. I’m not making any of this up. I mean … is there any possible way this ride would be green-lighted today? It’s essentially “Mr Toad’s DWI.”

It also got me to thinking … the ride is basically a 2-minute morality play, teaching that if you do the crime, you’ll do the time - in one form or another. So why couldn’t we update it a bit? Tell the same story, but with a more recognizable character that today’s kids can identify with.

While we’re at it, we could also combine some of the “Star Tours” virtual motion technology with the visual and sensory effects of “Soarin’ Over California” to create a 21st century application of our modern-day ethics lesson.

I’m imagining an attraction called “Mr Landis’s Wild Ride”.

The ride would start with a tough Alpine stage in the Tour de France: your bike (the cart you’re sitting in) would spurt and struggle up an enormously steep hill. You feel your legs get heavy with lactic acid as packs of riders pull away from you. You see and hear the densely packed crowds screaming just inches from your bike as you inch closer to the summit. You feel your energy wilting as the temperature rises above 90 degrees. Maybe you’d even smell the wafting body odor of hundreds of French people who camped out for weeks just for the honor of spitting at American cyclists (timed in coordination with a light misting of water from the auditorium ceiling - talk about a memorable sensory effect.)

Then, without warning, you feel a pin-prick sensation in your backside as you’re injected with an unknown substance. You don’t know what the substance is, or how it got there. Maybe it was an accident. All you know is, suddenly you feel a lot better.

For the remainder of the climb you feel your legs becoming lighter and gaining strength while you’re churning up the hill as if connected to a tow rope. Breakaway riders come back to you so fast you have to swerve to avoid them. The heat becomes less of a factor as you use cold water bottles to douse your shoulders and back.

Finally you crest the summit and begin your descent. You feel the wind whipping against your face and the unsteady balance as it blows your bike unpredictably from side to side across the road. Your bike/cart tilts at 45-degree angles as you experience the hairpin curves of the mountain descent. You sense the exhilaration of descending at 60 mph towards the finish of the day’s stage.

Unfortunately, the ride isn’t over at the finish line. You keep pedaling across the French countryside, evading drug patrol officers who want a urine sample. You smash through fields of sunflowers and blockades of media vehicles, and end up crashing the bike onto the set of the Today show, where a pitchfork-wielding Matt Lauer continually yells “You cheated!!”

You’re found guilty and about to have your title revoked, when suddenly … you just disappear. Your teammates and sponsors stop calling, friends and reporters abandon you, and you’re never heard from again.

And that’s where the ride ends. (Hey – it’s no less gloomy than that Mr Toad ride.)

At least, that’s the 2006 version. Five years from now, maybe there will be an alternate ending that concludes amidst an adoring throng on the Champs-Elysees, with the smell of a victors’ bouquet and the sound of your national anthem soaring overhead. We could always edit that Matt Lauer stuff out later.

But alas, it seems like the 2006 version is the one that’s here to stay.

You know, this might not be such a crazy idea. Maybe I should give those Disney people a call.


stronger 9/22/06, 10:09 AM  

You're on to something. Although, if you make it a ride and make it fun then what is the lesson?

backofpack 9/22/06, 3:30 PM  

Thank goodness most kids don't get the full story of Mr. Toads Wild Ride. They just think it's fun to crash through things.

Have you ever thought about that storybook classic "James and the Giant Peach"? Where a strange looking man wanders by your yard, offers you candy, and suddenly your world changes into a fantasy? Hmmmmm...not my favorite story at all.

And just for the record, my very favorite ride at Disneyland is Peter Pan. I love that ride!

Annette 9/23/06, 12:15 PM  

Somehow I just don't see that ride appealing to the general public. Especially the heavy legs and the smell of sweat - now that sounds like something all Americans would go for. ;)

Glad you got in a vacation. It sounds like a good relaxing time for all. And, welcome back!

Sarah 9/25/06, 8:13 AM  

I've been sitting here with the comment box open for a few minutes. I'm not sure what to say! How is it that quite a few of your posts leave me speechless? ; ) : ) Too funny!

Deene 9/25/06, 12:54 PM  

i might could ride that fantasy without the smelly sweat. just add 3-d glasses.

rick 9/25/06, 2:32 PM  

Like Angie said, hahaha. Will riders need to shave their legs too just to get the full treatment?

Brit 9/26/06, 12:34 AM  

LOL. do you ever feel like you might be fixated on the whole "drugs in athletics thing?" just wondering.

Bex 9/26/06, 8:02 PM  

I loved Mr. Toad's Wild Ride as a kid. Oh, who am I kidding. I love it now. And I would totally ride the Tour de France ride, banned substance and all. :-)

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