They roll down with the urgency of worshippers worried sick about missing the opportunity to catch a glimpse of some deity fleetingly passing through a temple.
Clad in shorts, jandals collectively flip-flopping to create an orchestra with abrasive sneakers, the pilgrims march relentlessly as they take on the rising sun, never mind the snarling traffic at the street lights.
Lugging bags and pushing strollers while herding children already struggling to keep up, the devotees stream towards the imposing wrought iron gates of "The happiest place on Earth".
Oh, yes, with supposedly more assurance and tranquillity than one would find at home, they queue impatiently to enter the kingdom of Disneyland — the first of two theme parks built at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California — for a handsome portion of their savings.
Designed and constructed under the direct supervision of the man himself, founder Walt Disney, the park first opened its gates to 1313 Disneyland Drive on July 17, 1955.
Fighting pangs of guilt as a hypocrite, I join the throngs to see what all the fuss is about at the 34ha property although I take the free shuttle service from the Anaheim Majestic Garden Hotel just a three-minute ride away, to the filtering tunes of Michael Jackson hits.
My heart races — as much as it had done when I had forked out US$225 for a go-knock-yourself-out two-day pass — as I approach the multi-turnstiled entrance early last month.
Armed security guards — very much in airport fashion — pat you down and run your belongings through a scanner as I note Anaheim is much warmer in autumn (fall) than the rest of California or Las Vegas in Nevada and Utah, for that matter.
The staccato of yelps, squeals and hair-raising screams emanating from inside only quicken my pace before I come to an abrupt halt. I have to remind myself to be methodical in my pilgrimage of the man-made bubble that personifies fantasy. No, none of it is real but I needed to attack the marquee Disneyland Park, Disney California Adventure Park and the Downtown Disney District with some decorum.
The principal park offers Tomorrowland, Frontierland, Mickey's Toontown as well as the Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge. Easy — the sci-fi stuff's out for me but the Jambalaya Jazz, Royal Street Bachelors and The Bootstrappers at the New Orleans Square beckon. I soak up the entertainment as well as the choreographed acts.
Having walked the Main Street, USA, for some odd reason I have visions of what Michael J Fox's character must have felt like in the epic Back to The Future, or Olivia Newton John and John Travolta's characters in Grease.
On a 13-day holiday, I have no intentions of scribbling notes or massaging my laptop keyboard into the wee hours. I just want to be a tourist so my best-laid plans go awry.
Out goes the systematic approach as my sixth sense kicks in. For someone who gets lost looking for a gym at a signposted resort, all the pointers mean little although the park guides are fantastic. Fast passes are up for grabs but I simply want to slow things down to a chewing pace to help digest some of it.
What puts me off immediately is the buzz of commercialism. It reminds me why I had instinctively not been able to bring my wife and two daughters on a holiday here. Shops with myriad dolls and souvenirs, at exorbitant prices, are in your face at every turn.
I think of buying my 23-year-old monkey collector (younger daughter) a cuddly replica but just can't find one. It seems primates, bar King Kong, don't qualify for the park's most-loved animal kingdom.
At the end of day one I'm feeling pretty overawed. I enjoy the free park train rides when walking becomes a marathon. The toilets are great considering the throngs.
It's a great service for parents and disabled visitors although my hunch is some hiring the motorised vehicles are able-bodied people who just can't carry themselves anymore.
Prone to motion sickness even on a yacht berthed near a reef while fishing, I have to scratch all the rollercoaster rides and such derivatives.
My first turn left takes me to Adventureland where I savour the nifty Jungle Cruise ride along a moat. All sorts of creatures pop up from under the water as mechanical people and creatures — hippos, boa constrictors, lions and giraffes — complete with sound effects draw exclamations. Staff in safari suits usher and commentate.
It's a quick scout of Tarzan's Treehouse — the views are great — as youngsters zip past me on wobbly bridges. Next I'm queuing up for the Pirates of the Caribbean.
Actually be prepared to queue anywhere with oodles of patience. My suggestion is wander off to the lesser hectic attractions then retrace your steps to maximise your time.
The Pirates ride isn't motion-sickness material although it can be scary for some children as old as 12. I see a father comforting his bawling daughter as he carries her out.
Ditto the Enchanted Tiki Room where the Audio-Animatronics also is a captivating visual symphony but some mothers with toddlers push past the curtain early perhaps because it's frightening or the booming stereo sounds are too much for the kids' eardrums.
I fixate watching 5 & Dime — a five-piece jazz band arriving in a vintage car — playing hits of the 1920s and 30s at the Bueno Vista St. The female leader singer keeps her composure in the heat, considering the band performs six times in half-hour spells from 10.45am to 4.35pm every day of the week in period costume.
The dance off from the Guardians of the Galaxy in Hollywood Land also strikes a chord. I can't for the life of me fit the Mariachi Divas in my helter-skelter schedule.
The highlight for me is having two caricaturists sketch me and, from a photograph in my cellpone, a collective one of my mother with my wife and two daughters. Mine cost US$45 but the group one was calculated on each individual. Costly but they beat the mass-produced souvenirs every day.
Frankly two days isn't enough, if all my scratches would have been starters. The mind and the body simply can't cope. Maybe it's because I'm 56.
But I find exhausted parents seeking shelter under umbrellas and shady branches. Some kids are pouting, some crying and others just succumbing to sleep. A few parents who arrive early appear to have done their day's dash, hopping into shuttles shortly after midday.
In hindsight, the Universal Studios Hollywood trip, at a basic US$109 pass, is better bang for my weaker New Zealand buck, albeit from an adult perspective. It can take up to two hours to get there from my hotel but that's why tour operators take the early bird route to beat the bumper-to-bumper traffic.
The amusement park is divided into upper and lower lots, with an escalator bridging the two. Not a film theatre goer these days, I find myself out of synch with some of the themes but I enjoy them regardless.
The towering Wizarding World of Harry Potter catches the eye at the upper lot not long after I walk down the red carpet entrance.
Again, just walk straight past the merchandise outlets to the real deal. In fact, I stride all the way down to the lower lot to get a feel for things before retreating to commit to a show at the upper one.
The special effects show at a theatre acts as ideal entree. It involves movie stunts, fight simulations and setting someone on fire. A pretty full house but some people can't stomach it. I'd hate to think how they fared at The Walking Dead attraction where a dank-feeling abandoned hospital-like building comes to life as you walk through dark passages. Gnarly characters from horror and slasher movies lunge at people to sound effects, making some jump out of their skin.
The 3D theatre is great with some animated movie. During the adventurous scenes the seats rock and roll while fine water sporadically sprays the audience from the ceiling when boats hurtle through ravines and drop at waterfalls. It's short, sharp and riveting.
I wolf down a chicken and chips with bottled water for lunch at an outside restaurant table where volcanic or earthquake-like explosions rattle the furniture and smoke billows.
I then wander towards the Studio Tour, joining throngs filing through multiple turnstiles where I grab a pair of glasses and am ushered to multi-car trams. Signs claim comedian Jimmy Fallon is "hosting" it but I learn it's via videotape on miniature TV screens.
You get a Kiwi flavour as you go past Peter Jackson's King Kong works. A red light outside a studio set, we're told, is filmmaking in progress. The glasses come in handy for the Fast & Furious ride as the trams are put through car-chase and gunfire scenes. Grumpy dinosaurs from Jurassic Park come too close for comfort and water levels rise after a tidal wave splashes wet those sitting on the outside seats.
Remnants of an actual plane crash is part of the set, creating an eerie feeling as wisps of smoke still billow from them.
I enjoy a Duff Brewery pint but they have no "dry" variety. I guzzle a regular regardless and, yes, it's sickly sweet. I sit on a table to strike a conversation with two middle-aged widows who share a story of a priest who had turned an adult sex shop into a church in some city. "It's not a coincidence that we're sitting here talking today," says the affable Canadian before we bid farewell and go our separate ways.
I have a three-scoop serving at an ice-cream parlour but find it disappointing the young staff member shrugs her shoulder when I ask if the gigantic plastic toy receptacle I'm eating from, with matching utensils, is recycled. One can only hope the conglomerates are doing it.
I end the evening with a nice salmon dinner to the tune of NZ$48 at a swanky restaurant sidewalk along the Universal Citywalk.
Just like Disney, one day isn't enough if you want to do everything and I only manage 50 per cent at a push.
Some sections of the park, as it was in Disney, are closed for refurbishment. I can only imagine how much money goes into keeping them in humming order, not to mention wages for staff.
From a visitor's perspective, add the Hayward airport to Lax Airport return flights, Uber taxi ride to Anaheim, four-night resort and theme park tickets and you're looking at close to NZ$3000. If you pay up to $1500 to travel that far it seems a shame not to budget for theme parks.
I imagine a tidy sum will be necessary if you have seven dwarfs to cater for in the family. It pays to know those under 1.2m are entitled to a modest discount. For those whose waistlines are more than 100cm, test seats are available but they may not be accommodated on certain rides.
It's simply priceless watching wide-eyed tots snuggle up to Sleeping Beauty, Shrek, Donkey or Donald Duck for a photo — at no extra cost. It certainly reincarnates the child in adults.
All I can say is I've been there and done it but the jury's out on whether they are the happiest places on the planet. A furtive glance at the bank statement will drain the warm fuzzies in the blink of an eye for many.
For me, the happiest place on the globe is still my home — wherever that may be.