Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Great America. Check!

We - The General especially - have been waiting for years for the girls to be physically and emotionally ready for a day at Six Flags Great America.  With them earning free tickets for reading during the school year, it's only been a matter of them both being tall enough to ride most of the roller coasters holding us back.  This year they both surpassed the 48" mark, and a day at Great America has been number one on our list of must-have adventures for Summer 2013.

Yesterday was the day, and I can promise you that it was everything we hoped it would be.  Picture taking was limited, but the memories I have stored in my brain are enough to last a lifetime.  I did, however, confirm many assumptions and/or theories in our almost twelve hours at the park, and I thought I'd share some of them with you.

  1. Weather reports can be wrong.  When The General was decided which day to take off work over a week ago, he picked the day that advertised high temps in the 70s with partly cloudy skies and a 10% chance of rain.  The weather report as of Monday night gave a forecast for a high of 88 degrees (real feel:  97) and 60% chance of scattered thunderstorms throughout the day.   Skies looked ominous the farther north we drove, but we both kept a positive outlook on the one situation we had absolutely no control over.  "Maybe this will help keep the crowds away," an optimistic General announced more than once.  And, as it turns out, he was right.  Although we sat for 30 minutes in the truck staring out a rain covered windshield before the park opened, the skies dried up just as they were letting visitors inside and we didn't experience another drop except for a short, light sprinkling about the time we stopped to eat dinner.   Perfect amusement weather.
  2. Long waits make you appreciate quick service even more.  Thanks in part to the poor weather outlook and, we later learned, the first day of Milwaukee's Summerfest the park was virtually empty yesterday.  Our longest wait the entire day was maybe 15 minutes, and on several of the rides - even the brand new roller coasters - we were able to walk right up and get on without any wait at all.  It was miraculous and never stopped being amazing.  There were even a couple of rides where we didn't even have to go back through the lines and instead just reloaded.  Amazing.
  3. We sometimes let our excitement get in the way of rational thinking.  The General and I had a solid plan of attack going into our day.  After last week's proof by their glorious time on every ride offered at our little Homecoming carnival for the second year running, we had no doubts the girls would be ready for some REAL roller coaster action.  The best idea we figured was to start with the Whizzer - larger than anything they have ever seen but still small enough to avoid any long term damage which might ruin our day.  Cut to yesterday, when the thrill of being on premises took over.  We were closest to a ride call Gotham City (or something like it), and with adrenaline running high we gave into the girls request and rode it first.  Overall the ride was sort of lame, but riding in complete darkness with semi-frightening images flashed in front of us was enough to make Elaina declare, "Hated it!".  Next, we set out for our planned ride on Whizzer only to reveal it wasn't yet open.  Walking farther into the park, I pointed out, "There's Giant Drop" and for some unknown reason we decided it would be a good idea to try that out next.  So, in a matter of seconds we threw out our original "ease into it" plan of action and instead strapped our children into a plastic seat with a shoulder harness and waited to be dropped from 200 feet.  Does any of that make any sense?  No, of course not.  Reliving it even now makes my palms start to sweat.  That was maybe the most horrifying 5 minutes of my life, rising into then dangling in the air while staring into the trusting eyes of my children and wondering what in the hell I was thinking putting them in this situation.  The free fall was horrifyingly awesome, and the look on Elaina's face when we reached the ground was something I will never forget.  She cried as we unbuckled her and declared, with even more emotion, "HATED IT!  NEVER AGAIN!".  Thankfully, fearing we had ruined the day after batting zero for two, she recovered her roller coaster mojo after a mild initial panic attack on The Demon.
  4. We put an awful lot of trust into a seat belt and harness mechanism.  On every single ride I found myself double, triple, and even quadruple checking my restraint system as the trains left the station.  What would I have done had it noticed it was malfunctioning?  Absolutely nothing, aside from screaming like a maniac and probably peeing my pants.  Still, it struck me has totally ridiculous that we had no (or at least unvoiced) reservations about putting our life - and those of our daughters - at risk.  When I shared this with The General on the way home, he declared that I really knew how to take the fun out of roller coasters.  It was strange to me that he had never considered a similar thought and when I told him so he mentioned something about the safety of the devices and how they run thousands of rides every day with no incidences.  My response:  yeah, then they're probably due for an accident any time now!  The Mrs., thy pseudo name is Buzzkill.
  5. We are a fat nation.  Related:  visiting amusement parks boosts my self-esteem by at least 75%.  Also, if this trend of shorty-shorts continues much further, we are going to have to rebrand shorts as underwear.  There was more butt cheek on display at Great America than in a Victoria's Secret catalog, my God.
  6. The General and I are totally willing to become "those parents" in search of 90 seconds of fun.  First of all, get your mind out of the gutter.  What I mean by this revelation is that we are not afraid to usher the girls off to the exit of a roller coaster they are not tall enough to ride all in the name of The General and I getting to relive our youth by riding a roller coaster together.  Did it frighten me to leave them behind in a crowd of hundreds of strangers?  Yes, of course.  Was it worth it?  Yes, of course.
  7. The General is more than capable of having captured on film a brilliant smile with eyes wide open.  He just has to be riding a coaster at 60 mph under the pressure of 4Gs to have it caught on camera.
  8. Visiting an amusement park as a mother means leaving old habits at the turnstiles.  When riding a roller coaster, I scream.  I scream loudly and shrilly and without apology.  Holding tight to that tradition on Giant Drop without thinking, it quickly dawned on me that this behavior which is interpreted by adults to be, "Man she's freaked out but having a ton of fun" is probably translated by my children as "Oh my God, mom's freaking out and we're all gonna die".  Thus, I had to learn very quickly to reign it in when riding with them.  Soothing voice, reassuring words, calm eyes, a steady hand on their leg throughout the experience.  It was easier said than done on some, I assure you.
  9. Mother knows best.  As was tradition when I was growing up, we exited the park for a lunch of sandwiches, chips, fruit, and store bought cookies from home as a way to rest, reboot, and more than anything save a little bit of money.  I always made fun of this process and my mom for insisting on doing things that way growing up, never understanding why we couldn't just eat inside the park.  Our $40 dinner of four pizza slices, two side salads, and eight half-sized cheese bread slices (drinks not included) solidified that fact that we'll be packing lunches from here to eternity when visiting Great America.
  10. Water rides are definitely mid-afternoon rides.  After returning from lunch the sun started to make an appearance and the heat kicked up noticeably.  We figured that would be as good a time as any to hit the few water rides available.  As predicted, we were soaked after two rides but dried quickly.  Later in the day, long after the light and heat of the sun disappeared Elaina decided she wanted to do Logger's Run again.  I agreed to join her, reminding her that we would be cold and wet much longer since it was nighttime.  She was not to be deterred.  My clothes did not dry for more than two hours.
  11. An early departure is never a bad thing.  We had plans to stay until the bitter end, but headaches and other ailments started to wind the party down earlier than anticipated.  Watching the grand finale show at Hometown Square, I casually asked the girls if they would want to leave just a few minutes early.  McKenna quickly answered in the affirmative, while Elaina was torn.  In the end we decided to walk about out 15 minutes before closing time which gave us plenty of time to walk to the truck, put on their pajamas, and get out of the parking lot just as the masses flowed out of the gates.  We easily saved ourselves 30 minutes of sitting in a parking lot traffic jam with that move. 
  12. A day of riding roller coasters has long term effects.   Just past Joliet, Elaina pulled a "David goes to the Dentist" moment when she woke up from a snoring slumber to ask, "Are we on a slide?  I don't want to go on any more roller coasters!".  Assuring her that we were done and almost home did little to calm her.  This morning, McKenna woke up confused and uncomfortable, not understanding why her neck was so sore. A solid night's sleep in her bed for one and some time with the heating pad for the other seemed to cure both ailments.  Something tells me it will take longer for The General and I to recover.
    It was an awesome day with my three favorite people.  I'd take on any adventure anywhere in the world with these three by my side.


Page Turner said...

Sounds like you had a great family day.
If you like heat without water, long lines, and frightening rides. This person does not!

em said...

Seriously, I'd rather go camping.........

Meghann said...

I took Lindsay on one of those drop rides, and had that moment, as well. I looked over at her when we were at the top, and she looked so tiny in her chair, and thought "What on earth was I thinking?!" I did remind her to hold on tight with every coaster we went on.

That day we went to Busch Gardens was a blast, but the next day I was SO sore! I never had that when I was a kid.

p.s.-half empty amusement parks are the best. When I was a kid, we were at one where there was NO line, and when we were on the ride, no people came to stand in line, so as we reached the end, we waved to the operator to send us through again, and he did without even stopping! I think we went through three times before people showed up in the line and we had to stop. Lol.

Anonymous said...

Elaina I'm with you on Giant Drop.


Munchkin said...

I laughed out loud at least 7 times at this one. I had the exact same reaction as Elaina to my first ride on giant drop.... except I was 19.

Tru Stories said...

#6 being 'those parents' is my Fav. I miss seeing you guys!


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