We were making good time until we hit Las Vegas, where we got caught in the flood of California gamblers who were returning from their Fabulous Las Vegas Weekends™ and who, based on the aggressiveness of their driving, had lost a lot of money. So, halfway across the California desert, we needed a little break and allowed ourselves to be lured from the highway by the promise of “The World’s Tallest Thermometer!”

In my mind, I pictured a gigantic depression-era scientific instrument with 18 gallons of mercury rising and falling with the desert heat. Instead, we got this:

The World's Tallest Thermometer
The World’s Tallest Thermometer Baker, California

Pthhht! Then again, if we hadn’t been lured from the highway under false pretenses we never would have seen the dilapidated splendor that is Arne’s Royal Hawaiian Motel:

Arne's Royal Hawaiian Motel
Arne’s Royal Hawaiian Motel Baker, California

Shortly after getting back on the highway the traffic went from bad to worse when we were brought to an hour-and-a-half-long halt by a seven-car pileup on I-15 between Bartow and Victorville.

But, in spite of all of the obstacles, we still made it to the park before sundown. Barely.

Finally There
Finally There (And a little glassy-eyed…)

Fantasmic! didn’t start until 9:00 p.m. but at Disneyland people start saving places for the shows and parades hours in advance. Having spent the last seven hours sitting in the car we didn’t feel like sitting for a few more waiting for the show to start, so we went on a few rides first. Then, at about 7:45, we headed over to the show area to try and find some acceptable seats.

After looking around for a while, we settled on some stairs that were off stage right. They weren’t going to be ideal seats, but they didn’t look bad to me. But just after we sat down we were approached by Bob. (I call him Bob because he reminded me of a shorter version of Bill Murray in What About Bob?.)

“Would you guys like to sit closer to the show?” asked Bob.

<blink, blink> “Um, sure…” I replied.

“I just ask because you guys are in the worst possible spot for this particular show. You’re not going to be able to see anything from here.”

(So much for my seat-picking abilities….)

Bob continued, “We’ve got a blue tarp down in the front with plenty of room. You’re welcome to come sit with us if you’d like.”

I hesitated for a second trying to figure out why a total stranger would make such an offer, but I finally said, “What the heck…” and we followed Bob down to what were surely the best seats in the house.

Apparently, this is what Bob does. He comes to Fantasmic! four hours early, sets up a tarp, front and center, and then invites random people to come down and experience the show with him.

You could tell that Bob was a regular because all of the other regulars on the front row knew him by name. In fact, at one point, one of the Disneyland “Cast Members” came over and asked, “Hey, Bob, do you have room for two more?”

“Sure,” said Bob, the epitome of hospitality. “Send them down.”

So, there we sat: A Korean family of five, a Hispanic couple, me and my girls, and my brother-in-law, Sam, and his daughter, Isabel. Strangers on a blue tarp. All enjoying the show from the perfect vantage point. All thanks to Bob.