Tuesday, June 30, 2009


What started as a fairly random choice on our 2003 Walt Disney World trip has turned into an ongoing tradition for our family.

In 2003, once we checked into our hotel near the Orlando airport for our first night’s stay, we found that our hotel room keys would get us a free appetizer at the local Tony Roma’s. Now, we love us some Tony Roma’s, and given that by the time we returned to WDW in 2005 all of their Texas locations had closed, a return trip to the Orlando restaurant was a must. We ate there again on the first night of our December 2007 trip.

Well, upon using Google Earth to find local restaurants, I noted early on the presence of a Tony Roma’s about 3/4 mile up Harbor Boulevard, across from Disneyland. Our usual traveling gang (me and my family plus Becky’s parents) and our additional entourage (my parents and aunt and uncle) were happy to make plans to dine there tonight.

We have a logistical problem, though – how to get there? At Orlando, we either used our hotel’s shuttle or (on the last trip) purposefully booked a hotel right next door to the restaurant.

Here in Anaheim, though, transportation’s not a given. Our convention supplies bus transportation to and from the Honda Center 2 miles away for the competitions and shows. Everything else is considered “walking distance,” which is great in theory, but when you have a handful of slower-moving seniors and one slower moving middle-aged barbershopper (me, due to my foot/ankle surgery and the need to conserve my endurance for the contest), 3/4 of a mile is an awfully long way.

My parents, at least, have their minivan here, so my dad and Uncle Ron set off walking back to the Sheraton to retrieve it, leaving my mom and Aunt Kay to wait for them to return and pick them up. We can’t fit all 10 of us in it though, so the remaining six of us turn to the ART: Anaheim Resort Transit.

The ART is a group of shuttle buses and trolleys running 16 continuous loop routes throughout the area, and all 16 routes stop at Disneyland. Since the restaurant is roughly across the street from the DL entrance, it’s a much shorter walk from there than from here, so Bob, Linda, Becky, the boys & I all go to purchase ART passes.

With help from a few Hilton employees, we locate the ATM-like pass dispenser in front of the hotel. My family and Becky’s parents get three-day passes, as they plan to use the ART to do some sightseeing while I’m rehearsing over the next couple of days. Given that I will be in those rehearsals, I only obtain a single day pass.

My dad and Ron return with the van shortly after to pick up my mom and aunt, and we’re left waiting at the ART stop. It takes several minutes of standing in the hot sun until an ART trolley arrives; I worry that my parents will be seated and waiting for us for some time before we get to the restaurant.

Finally the trolley gets here; we climb on board, insert our passes, and take a seat for the relatively short ride. We’re all hungry and a bit dehydrated, so no one’s talking much, but I still can’t help being excited as travel up Harbor past California Adventure and turn into the Disneyland entrance.

The ART stops are actually on the Disneyland property, so as we exit the trolley we are surrounded by the lively music that Disney pipes into every location – in this case a cheerful entrance-area arrangement of “You Can Fly” that the boys and I have on one of our many Disney CDs at home. I love Disney parks, and even though we get off the trolley and immediately start walking off the property and toward the street, it’s a nice dose of the park atmosphere that gets me smiling.

We exit Disneyland, cross Harbor, and walk the short distance down to Tony Roma’s. We find my parents and aunt & uncle already at a table, as I feared, but it turns out they’d only just been seated. The timing is near-perfect. Bring on the Carolina Honeys! (After some water, that is – we’re all pretty thirsty!)

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