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Trip through space travels back in time

I piloted the Millennium Falcon.

I’m going to let that sink in for a second.

Yes, I maneuvered the famed spacecraft as it successfully attempted to pick up some cargo and return it to the smuggler Hondo Ohnaka.

For a person who grew up in the ’70s and was a science fiction fan, this is a big deal.

The “Star Wars” saga has been part of my life for nearly as long as I can remember. Granted, I’m not quite as fanatical as some and cannot recite lines from every single movie, but over the decades I have grown to love the characters and stories as the battle of good vs. evil raged across the galaxy.

So just the chance to fly in the Millennium Falcon alone was enough to set my heart beat racing. Being selected as a pilot was just icing on the cake.

I felt just like a kid again as my husband and I headed to Southern California and to Disneyland for a few days of R&R. It has been years since I visited the theme park and the first time I was going to visit its newest land: Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

And just like my childhood visits, I couldn’t sleep the night before.

Stepping into Galaxy’s Edge was like stepping into one of the “Star Wars” movies. It is a totally immersive experience. From the overall appearance of the attractions to the writing on the buildings, not one element was left untouched. Even the greetings by “cast members” (as Disneyland employees are called) reflect the films’ themes.

Reading about it, seeing pictures and even watching a special program dedicated to Galaxy’s Edge didn’t adequately prepare me for the experience of actually being there. It was overwhelming.

My husband and I were ushered into Oga’s Cantina and it felt like I had walked into the cantina that Luke Skywalker and Obi Wan Kenobi had visited when they first met Han Solo and Chewbacca. They were looking for a ship to get them to the Alderaan system. That ship turned out to be the Millennium Falcon.

Inside the cantina there were an assortment of unusual looking characters, catchy tunes played by the DJ and the occasional droid. Drink dispensers and the bar itself practically mimicked the one in the film. It was easy to forget that you weren’t actually in another galaxy far, far away. Although, in some ways, we were.

So, it seemed appropriate that the ship itself would be our next stop on our visit to the Black Spire Outpost on the Planet Batuu — the proper name for Disney’s new land.

Again, the attention to detail was amazing. It was obvious that Disney’s Imagineers had teamed with the folks from George Lucas’ Lucasarts to replicate elements from the films.

As we waited in line for our turn to ride in the Millennium Falcon, we wove our way through a space port, heard transmissions from the crew and learned about our pending mission. With each step toward the ship, my excitement grew.

Once “on board,” we were given our assignments. I suppose you could call it luck that my husband and I were tasked with being pilots. Or you could call it fate. Either way it was an experience unlike any others. Sitting in front of the control panel and looking out the cockpit window was surreal.

Then we were off on our adventure. We really did pilot the ship, moving left and right, up and down. We moved levers and pushed buttons for a truly interactive experience. For the duration of the ride, I felt like Han Solo’s apprentice. I felt his presence. I felt the Force.

While the adult in me appreciates the intricacies of what it took to create this one-of-a-kind experience, the kid inside still feels my heart racing whenever I think of the day that I piloted the Millennium Falcon.

Hali Bernstein Saylor is editor of the Boulder City Review. She can be reached at hsaylor@bouldercityreview.com or at 702-586-9523. Follow @HalisComment on Twitter.

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