Sure, I dream about winning a Newbery or an Oscar—even an Ovation award would be nice. But honestly I think I’ve already won what will most likely endure as my favorite pair of honors. Hi, I’m Rebecca Light: two-time Golden Betty Award winner at Theatre of NOTE, and now the proud recipient of a Mousetalgia platinum pen.
I was awarded this super fancy pen for completing the Mousetalgia Soarin’ Over California Challenge. What’s that you ask? Well I’ll tell you. Per challenge regulations, I visited 10 out of 13 of the locations featured on the ride, Soarin’ Over California—taking a picture in the exact filming location of each. Now I have this beautifully engraved pen to go along with the lifetime of memories this challenge helped to create.
I thought I would share a few highlights of the journey.
Oh this was a good one. Soarin’ credits this location as Palm Springs, but don’t be fooled by fancy city names. This is a golf course of lies. First, it’s not in Palm Springs. It’s in the neighboring town of La Quinta. Second, it’s not PGA West. I mean, it’s part of the whole PGA West resort, but you can’t play this course.
La Quinta is full of three things: dust, golf, and gated communities. I convinced Brad that I wanted to go to Palm Springs a few years ago ostensibly to celebrate my birthday, but I had ulterior motives. Did I mention my birthday is in June? You putting this together? Palm Springs. June. Brad’s car doesn’t have air conditioner. He must really love me.
Once we arrived, we had a nice casual lunch al fresco, piddled around Palm Springs a little bit, then I casually mentioned that maybe we could drive twenty minutes down the highway to La Quinta to, oh I don’t know, see what that would be all about. On the drive there the temperature gauge hit 118 and we had to pull over to put Brad’s iPhone in a freezer at the gas station because it almost exploded.
Wondering the need for driving through this furnace, I eventually confessed my scheme. Brad may not share my level of Disney fandom, but luckily he’s up for an adventure. We made it to PGA West. Lies! The resort course at PGA West looked nothing like the Soarin’ video. Brad suggested it was probably because the exact shot was somewhere out on the middle of the course. Hmm, maybe. But I didn’t see any benchmarks. There were hills in that part of Soarin’. Where were the hills?
We found a map of the entire PGA West resort in front of the gift shop. Turned out there were three private courses in addition to the resort courses. How interesting. Looking up I noticed to the east of us… hills! We cross-referenced the map and YES! There was a course over there. A private course. Eee.
If you know me you know that I love rules, and simply do not break them. I respect rules. I find that by breaking rules people disregard respect for their fellow man. If all of us broke the rules there would be chaos! Rules bring order, and a chance for us all to live in harmony.
Harmony flies out the window and chaos reigns when it comes to a good Disney challenge.
Brad at this point was either getting into it, or just eager to get out of the desert dust storm that was La Quinta, because he very enthusiastically drove us straight to the gated community that housed the private golf course. I sort of freaked out. I mean there were signs. “Residents Only.” We made up an elaborate story that we were visiting our grandparents who lived in the neighborhood in case the suspecting private golf police tried to cart us away.
At this point our only breadcrumb was to walk toward the hills.. We walked confidently, like we literally owned the place, and luckily no golf police bothered us. Okay so there were no golf police, but there were signs. I respect signs. Usually.
That was a great birthday.
The other location I’m quite proud to have tracked down was in Napa. Have you been to Napa? It’s huge.
On a weekend home in Sacramento,] I convinced my parents to drive with Brad and I to Napa Valley for wine tasting.
Sure. Wine tasting.
I eventually confessed my true purpose. They did end up with a nice wine subscription though.
I trawled the internet to see if I could track down any forums or sites with inside info about this location. I even called the Napa Chamber of Commerce to see if they had a record of the shoot. When they
asked me if I was crazy didn’t, I asked them if there was a spot over which the hot air balloons usually flew. “Nah, not really. They kind of go where the wind takes them. We’ve had them land on houses before.”
Remind me to skip the hot air balloon ride over Napa Valley.
This exact location seemed all but impossible to track down. A stickler for the rules, I did not feel comfortable taking a generic picture just anywhere in Napa, but by the end of the day this was what I had to do.
We drove home and life went on, but the fact that it wasn’t the precise location ate away at me. I watched the Soarin’ video on YouTube a few more times and finally something jumped out at me. A strange triangle-shaped body of water. Now that’s fairly unique. I could use that.
I hopped back on Google Earth and scrolled around Napa Valley looking for triangle lakes. There are unfortunately a few. (Weird, right?) Looking back at the source material for more benchmarks I made note of a big white house adjacent to the lake. Bingo. The combination of the two didn’t take long to isolate on Google Earth.
I convinced my Mom and brother to drive back to Napa to go “wine tasting” again. By this point I’ve assumed they think I have a drinking problem, but whatever.
What do you know, the triangle lake was also on private property. By now this challenge had turned me into a complete outlaw and we unabashedly drove down the private driveway to find the body of water in some vintners backyard. I crossed my fingers for some hot air balloons passing overhead, but alas, just blue sky. The balloons were probably stuck in some trees in Calistoga. But I got my perfect picture.
The other location I visited twice was Point Lobos in Monterey. The first time while in Santa Cruz for a friend’s wedding…
… but I never felt like it was quite right so I dragged Brad and the parents back for round two. Jeez, my family got dragged quite a few places for this.
I worked in Downtown LA for several years so that one was easy.
Brad and I almost got washed away getting this shot in Malibu. Guess we should’ve checked what time the tide was coming in.
I love any excuse to visit San Diego so this was one of the first I tracked down. It doesn’t hurt when your husband is a SoCal sales rep and has to drive all over the Southland for work. I just tagged along. Turns out you can’t just walk onto an active aircraft carrier, so I got as close as possible to Coronado Naval Base.
My favorite place in all of California…
Open your Golden Gate…
Anza-Borrego wins the award for most surprisingly beautiful location. The Soarin’ ride does not do it justice. Three times my breath has been literally taken away by a vista. Grand Canyon. Yosemite Valley. Anza-Borrego Badlands.
This one was pretty easy.
And at Christmas, just like on the ride.
I can guess what some of your are thinking. Why? Why go to all of this trouble? I guess my answer is, why not? I’m a competitive person and I love a good challenge, but that wasn’t enough to make me care. More than that, I love California with every fiber of my being. Raised in NorCal, now a transplant to SoCal, sometimes I want to scoop the whole state up like ice cream and swallow it so it will always be with me. This is a breathtaking and magnificent state, and I could not be more proud to be a born and raised California girl.
And I love Disney. I know, shocking! The experience gave me a new appreciation for Soarin’ (Which they’re about to replace with stupid Soarin’ Over the WORLD! Boo! Like honestly, who needs the Great Wall?).
Thirdly, it was fun. I don’t know if I would have taken the challenge on without Brad in my life. He brings out the explorer in me, while tempering the competitor. In other words, he makes me the best Becky possible.
Okay but the most important part of the story is that Mousetalgia is the best Disney podcast you will find on the web. If you’re interested in the history of the company and you’re looking to find a tribe at your advanced level of nerddom, download Mousetalgia right now. Start at episode 1 and get ready to binge. It’s delightful. Just don’t get too excited when they get to the Soarin’ Over California Challenge episode. That case has been closed.
Thank you for this honor friends. An honor it truly is. Carpe Kingdom!