Last night Murray and I decided to board the Mark Twain for the last trip around the Rivers of America before the attraction was closed for the night to prepare for Fantasmic!. With just a couple of minutes to spare, we boarded the beautifully lit Mark Twain and were decided where we should experience our journey from. Before a decision could be made however, a cast member named Donny approached us and asked if we would like to experience the trip from the comfort of the pilot house. With big grins, we quickly accepted his invitation and made our way up the stairs to the top of the Mark Twain.
Once we reached the top deck, we waited for a moment while the current pilot came down and was relieved by Donny. We were quickly invited into the lower room of the pilot house. Inside, there was a small living area. The thing that caught our attention though was the steep staircase leading up into the pilot house. We carefully ascended up the stairs.
The top of the stairs had a small gate with the giant wheel of the Mark Twain right behind it. We quickly moved to the wheel. I was to the starboard side of the ship, Murray in the middle at the wheel, and Donny on the left. After a few minutes things got going. It began with Murray ringing the bell four times as slowly pulled away from the dock. I then pulled the chord for two long whistles to indicate that we were free and clear to move forward. This was followed by four more pulls of the bell by Murray and we were off on our adventure around the Rivers of America.
This would be an excellent time to comment about our pilot Donny. This guy clearly knew quite a bit about the inner workings of the Mark Twain, the history of this beautiful ship, and was proud to be work on her. We learned about how the Mark Twain is powered, some of the upgrades she has received through the years, and what the various jobs are aboard the Mark Twain. As we continued around the Rivers of America we chattered away like old friends. It really is amazing how a common love of Disney can bring people together and make new friends seem like old.
The whistle was blasted a couple more times and we finally made our way around the rivers and back to the Frontierland dock. After docking there was one thing more that Donny had us do before we darted. He asked us to take turns standing in the left position of the pilot house where he had been standing. Once there, we were instructed to lean out the window a little bit and look around. After we both did this, we carefully made our way down the steep stairs to find out why he had us do this. I had a little bit of a hunch and very quickly it was proven to be true. By the door to exit the pilot house is a picture of Walt Disney aboard the Mark Twain, leaning out the window of the pilot house on the left side… looking around…just as we had done.
It is always special getting to do something that Walt Disney once did. Those kinds of experiences add an extra level of magic that goes beyond pixie dust. Both Murray and I walked away from the Mark Twain beaming with our pilot certificates in hand. This was Murray’s first time up in the pilot house of the Mark Twain and it was my most memorable. A big thank you to Donny for making our evening magical. A big thank you also goes to Disneyland for continuing to find and hire people who still love the magic and continue to share it with those who visit!