Radiator SpringsOur first visit to Cars Land, a.k.a., “Radiator Springs” was at night—and we were toasted. We’d just come off of the wine flight at Napa Rose, celebrating the birthday of one of our dearest friends, and we were flying high. We didn’t even consider trying to get on a ride—Cars Land had only been open to the public for about a month, and the experience of just being in this animated adventure in real life—after an unreal dining experience—was an intoxicating and thrilling ride, and the whole experience was surreal in the best possible way.

When we committed to spending our early-August anniversary at the Disneyland Resort, we knew we wouldn’t have a prayer of getting on a ride unless we got a Fastpass, and we had no prayer of getting a Fastpass for Radiator Racers. So, when the cast member at the DCA City Hall, who was filling in our Happy Anniversary badges with the number “25,” asked what ride we were headed to, we said Tower of Terror, since that was the plan. Next thing we knew we had a Fastpass for two for the Tower of Terror. Amy scrambled, thinking there could still be time to convert the Tower of Terror Fastpass into a Radiator Racers Fastpass, but she couldn’t get it out fast enough. What came out was an awkward fumble using “Radiator Springs” in the form of a question. The end result was learning that there’s a “lighting up” ceremony every dusk at Radiator Springs featuring a Cars  parade headed by Mator, who plays a different “horn” solo every evening. The facts might be suspect, but that that was the gist. Amy was still kicking herself for not having the wherewithall to think of “Radiator Racers,” and Mark was thinking it didn’t really matter since we’d be seated at Napa Rose at dusk anyway.

We left with Amy apologizing for not thinking fast enough and Mark absolving her of every molecule of remorse. We’d come for a day of photography and happy escapism, after all; it was never about rides.

At dusk we were at Napa Rose, a couple cocktails and wine, a table in the center of the dining room, looking at the dessert menu. We scanned the list up and down, then glanced at each other slyly. “Wanna get soft ice cream in Radiator Springs?” one of us asked the other, and the other nodded enthusiastically.

The sky was aquamarine coming off of violet as we arrived at the Gateway to Ornament Valley. Amy remembered the dusk ceremony they’d missed and Mark said something like, “Yeah, well, maybe next time,” when he was probably thinking “I could tell you why we won’t be able to do it the next time, either, but it’s better I don’t.” Besides, the light was tugging at our lenses possibly a little more than the soft swirls, but Mark made sure we were taking a direct route.

The alcohol was working like a propellant and we were barely touching the ground.

Two chocolate-vanilla soft swirl cones later, we were laughing with delirium while trying to take a selfie of Us while licking our swirls and simultaneously taking “real” photos while the sky was still changing colors.

We strolled the streets as if we lived in Radiator Springs, and it was easy to believe that everyone else felt the same way and that we were all neighbors.

As the sky darkened to ultramarine the red rocks of Ornament Valley glowed a burning ember orange. We watched night overtake the final shades of visible light from the patio of Flo’s V8 Diner with a perfect view of the winding road and the iridescent fall. In Radiator Springs nobody has to be the designated driver.