On the 13th Day of the PapiBlogger Family Road Trip we had our first visit to Disneyland and spent some time at a Ronald McDonald House in Orange County that deeply moved our family.
MEDIA COVERAGE BUILDING FOR THE ROAD TRIP
The day began with a delightful interview with EFE Spanish-language news wire service writer Luis Uribe at our hotel, the Disney Paradise Pier Hotel. The kids were in a slightly misbehaving mood for their first major media interview of the trip but they did well considering it lasted 30 minutes and we told them not to move from their seats to play. Here’s a link to one of the many places where the EFE Spanish-language story ran.
MY DISNEY ROOTS EXPLAINED
Like many Cuban American kids from Miami, I grew up going to Disney World regularly. No joke, even though I haven’t visited any theme park in Orlando for four years, I have been to Disney World more than 40 times and only two of those times involved going with one of my kids, my son Jonathan! If you think that’s a lot, that’s nothing compared to my 70+ year old aunt Millin. It seems she’s there every two months so I would safely say she’s been to Disney World, in her lifetime, between 150 to 200 times.
When PapiBlogger learned that he and his family were being invited to visit Disneyland, the original one that revolutionized everything we know and love about theme parks, I couldn’t resist. Disney stuff is so much a part of what PapiBlogger loves that long before I had kids I would actually pay to watch the major animation movie releases (Beauty and the Beast is my favorite).
DISNEYLAND EXPLORED AND COMPARED, PART 1 of 2
My first impression of Disneyland is that in layout, look and feel it is a virtual replica of Orlando’s. Or rather, vice versa. Orlando is a replica of Disneyland, which was launched in 1955. Interestingly, both parks are located in a county called Orange and both have the same type of pleasant, mild weather. Both parks have a lot of the same rides and attractions, including Main Street USA, It’s a Small World, the Haunted Mansion, Space Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean.
The major difference is that Disneyland is about a third the size of Disney World. I actually enjoyed the fact that it is smaller because it gave us less stress to know this was a theme park we could spend a full day at without feeling the pressure to “complete it” in a rushed fashion. Up until my late teens I remember that Disney World could be “completed” in one day but I don’t think that’s the case any more, which is both good and bad depending on how many kids you have pressuring you to see EVERYTHING a theme park has.
In any case, the first ride we rode was It’s a Small World. I thought the outside of the ride looks spectacularly better than Orlando’s and my kids thought the ride itself was better. Honestly I didn’t see any difference except to say that I noticed that Woody and Bull’s Eye have been incorporated into the ride, an addition that Disney PR rep Norma Perez noted was closely scrutinized by legions of local parents. As funny as it sounds, I understand their concern.
At both the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean, I didn’t notice any differences either. In fact, I don’t know if you do this when you go to the Pirates of the Carribbean but one thing I was looking for is whether towards the end of the ride there is a drunken pirate who’s hanging from a ledge strutting his hairy bare leg. Well, if you were wondering, that same pirate apparently originated in Disneyland. Orlando’s hairy leg pirate is a clone!
KIDS DEEPLY MOVED BY RONALD McDONALD HOUSE VISIT
After a solid half day of fun at Disneyland, the PapiBlogger clan visited a local Ronald McDonald House in Orange County where we volunteered to
work. Since 1974, the Ronald McDonald House (and its related charities) serve as a home away from home for families near the medical facility where their child is receiving critically needed treatment. Here, family members can sleep, eat, relax and find support from other families in similar situations.
I had heard of the RMHC for years while visiting local McDonald’s but it was profoundly different to actually go to a RMH to see and hear the living story of this great home.
At the Orange County home we visited we were greeted by volunteer coordinator Katie Russell, who immediately engaged us with an overview of the house and several stories about families that impacted her life. All of us were moved by the story of Aubrey, a two year old who endeared herself to Katie and who tragically and suddenly died five years ago from a brain tumor everyone thought she had defeated. When Katie took out a photo of Aubrey, Elena and Jonathan were so moved they asked Katie if it was alright for them to carry the photo with them while they toured the house. (SEE THE YOUTUBE VIDEO INTERVIEW BELOW)
The meticulously-kept Ronald McDonald House in Orange County has three floors and can provide shelter and food for as many as 80 people at one time. The house is run by a combination of staff and volunteers and everything is extremely well organized. The first floor of this particular home is the common recreational area of the house and it is also the only place where food and drinks are allowed.
After Katie’s tour of the house, Jonathan and Elena moved into the kitchen area to prepare food and desserts for some of the families that were returning from the hospital. Angela and I sat down with some of the families who were curious to learn about our road trip and the PapiMobile. We wanted to respect families’ privacy so we didn’t ask questions. What these families need are volunteers who can just be friendly and helpful to them in their worst time of their life.
We met an African American father who shared a passion for playing Madden football online on the Sony Playstation 3 with Jonathan and I. I also spoke with Latino family of Mexican origin who told me that the RMH is a life saver for them because they live 45 miles from the hospital and in Southern California that really means a bigger distance due to traffic.
For these families, and millions of others, the RMH is an oasis in the midst of turbulence. Families and marriages are kept together because of the practical, compelling work of the Ronald McDonald House charity. There are currently 280 Ronald McDonald Houses around the world. In its history, RMH has helped more than 10 million people.
Angela and I were deeply impacted by what we saw in action but what most surprised us was what Jonathan and Elena offered without prompting. “Daddy, this is my favorite part of the trip,” Jonathan said. “I liked it because we got to help families.”
When we get back to Miami I think our family is going to make it a point to become involved in the Ronald McDonald House because this is a charity that thrives on the work of its volunteers. We were all glad to learn first hand that this an amazing charity. If you would like to learn more about getting involved with the RMHC click here.
SPRINT NEXTEL ROAD TRIP TIP OF THE DAY
Keeping up with laundry is one of the biggest challenges you will face on a road trip. In PapiBlogger’s case, we’re five so the stacks of dirty clothing gets large quick and that has an immediate effect in the way we pack and how we miraculously make things fit in our stuffed PapiMobile. Most hotels will charge you between $4 to $5 PER ITEM OF CLOTHING so our only sure bets are to either pick hotels that have laundromats or find laundromats near where we are staying.
When you do your road trip, PapiBlogger recommends that you plan to do laundry at least once per week of vacation. That’s right plan because you don’t want to have to do laundry during major fun days. Generally speaking you will want to schedule laundry on your slower, down time days.