California EDC For The Intrepid Traveler: Disneyland, Amtrak and Beyond

Image courtesy Wikimedia

Last week’s family vacation took my clan from the relatively EDC-friendly California streets, to no-EDC-at-all Disneyland, and then on a 24-hour glide on Amtrak’s Coast Starlight train back home. The California Republic may not be knife nirvana, but their blade laws are surprisingly mellow compared to their gun laws. My EDC choice for the Hollywood Walk Of Cosplay Freaks And Teenaged Prostitutes: a disposable sub-3″ flipper, deep in the internal divider of a cargo pocket. Why?

That’s why.

Image: Chris Dumm for TTAK

In addition to the obligatory pilgrimage to see R2D2’s footprints in the concrete, we also spent a long day (and a small fortune) in Disneyland. It really is The Happiest Place On Earth ™, so long as by ‘Happy’ you mean ‘Expensive.’

Knives of any kind are completely verboten inside Disney attractions. There was no metal detector visible, but there was a fairly thorough bag search with sworn Anaheim Police Department officers waiting in the background. My only EDC was a tiny single-cell CR-123 flashlight, which actually came in useful when we were stuck in the middle of the Indiana Jones ride for fifteen minutes. (We all got an extra spin afterwards, which was a nice reward.)

There was also a tiny SOG Micron II with a 2″ blade which I’d forgotten in the bottom of my knapsack. It discreetly sliced up some apples at lunch, and then went back in the bottom of the backpack. I suppose it could have cut through seatbelts if we’d been stuck on a burning ride, but that’s never happened at any Disney resort that I’ve heard about.

I’d normally be royally pissed at being told that I couldn’t carry a simple tool like a knife in my pocket, but Disney’s ‘no knives’ rule didn’t get me too hot or bothered. Why? because Disney takes safety, and security, pretty seriously. Unlike most ‘gun-free zones’, they’ve got their own security, fire department, paramedics, and nurses on-site.

Excluding the risk of motion sickness or sunburn, Disney properties are among the safest places on Earth. All the drunks, vagrants and street criminals you would ordinarily worry about are kept outside by high admission prices, and Disney’s discreet but pervasive security makes sure all the fun happens in safe, predictable and profitable ways. (There was a prank involving a tiny dry ice bomb there in May; the employee involved is currently in jail on a half-million dollar bail for possession of a destructive device.)

Disney’s security is more than a little bit Orwellian, actually. Any time a bored child climbs on a railing to get a better view of the Space Mountain line they’re waiting through, a gentle voice pipes from an unseen speaker and reminds him not to climb on unapproved equipment. The NSA’s got nothing on Walt Disney Co.

Image courtesy Wikimedia

The final leg of our vacation was an all-day (and all-night) train ride back home. Long-distance passenger trains are also notoriously free of common street criminals, and I would only have carried an EDC knife for slicing up apples again. You’ll never need to cut your way out of an Amtrak seatbelt, because their passenger railcars don’t have any.

Amtrak’s baggage policy is a bit ambiguous, and it looked like it might even prohibit knives in your checked baggage as well. Here’s the quote that had me a bit puzzled:

Sharp objects, including but not limited to axes, ice picks, knives, spears, and swords
*Scissors, nail clippers, corkscrews, and razors are allowed in carry-on baggage.
**Sheathed equipment, to include fencing equipment, are allowed in checked baggage.

Wouldn’t ‘fencing equipment’ count as ‘swords?’ I’d think so, but I never fenced. So I contacted Amtrak ahead of time to inquire if ‘sheathed equipment’ included folded pocketknives. Their response was that sheathed or folded knives are fine in your checked luggage, but can’t be carried aboard. Simple enough, right?

So I dutifully packed my few knives into our big checked suitcase and handed it to the porter for checking…where it was promptly placed on an open-access luggage rack in the downstairs compartment of the train car. There was no locked, checked baggage compartment. Oh well, at least I tried to follow the rules.

Amtrak didn’t seem to worry too much about security anyway: there were no patdowns, no metal detectors, no full-nude body scans, and no visible security presence at either the stations or the train itself. You could have carried whatever you wanted aboard our train, and nobody would have bothered to check.



  1. PubliusII says:

    Disney learned early on that they had to child-proof the whole place. The company discovered that when parents arrived, they deactivated their normal child-safety radar, assuming that Disney had made everything totally safe.

    This is why railings, for example, have bars spaced 4 inches apart. Turns out, some toddlers can get their heads caught if the spacing is wider.

  2. Out_Fang_Thief says:

    Hey, how bout that cutting edge, Avatar-quality animation about knife laws? I liked when the video suggests that you to “seek a criminal……..
    …attorney.” When you have amassed over 20,000 laws on your state register, you’re not a republic anymore, you’re in a totalitarian state.

    What you experienced is known as, “The Disney Way.” It’s nearly legend.
    Walt Disney was a benevolent autocrat. It was always his vision, his way.
    I think Walt must have seen a stock yard for shipping cattle when you see
    the metal stanchions they use to herd people in an orderly manner to each
    ride. Disney set the bar very high on how his Park was to be run. You can
    see “The Disney Way” being used by theme parks all around the world.
    Because it’s about the children, it’s danger averse every step of the way.
    Safety, Safety, SAFETY! This gives the people paying for it( the parents),
    one less thing to worry about. The only reason you need to keep your head
    on a swivel, is to prevent your children from wandering off from all of the
    sensory overload going on at Disneyland, but not out of a fear of a crime.

    I took an Amtrak train once…….once! It appears, the Coast Starlight
    is the exception to the rule, that they’re awful and awfully expensive.
    Oddly enough, when I backpacked around Europe with my brother,
    my Buck Special was strapped(visibly), to the outside of my Kelty.
    Nobody said boo about the 5 inches of hollow ground awesomeness.
    Not on planes, trains, or ferries. That was then, ’84’, and this is now.

  3. Chris Dumm says:

    Disneyland is certainly an authoritarian’s paradise: safe, photogenic and very expensive. Kind of like Simgapore.

    1. Mark N. says:

      Simgapore….Is that a computer generated version of a famous Asian city? Ah yes, virtual vacations. No fuss, no muss, no jet lag, and no nasty diseases…

      1. Chris Dumm says:

        Oops. I have a gift for typing on smartphones, but it’s a gift I haven’t opened yet.

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California EDC For The Intrepid Traveler: Disneyland, Amtrak and Beyond

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