Waterslides and Rollercoasters
July. Summer morning. Blue skies. The promised forecast of 93°F. We eat breakfast, pack for the day, load up, and climb into waiting seats. Pull out and drive up the street; tires rotate upon graying asphalt. Making our way towards the highway and head north. The familiar blue and green tall twin towers greet us as we exit off. Following the road to the east, it leads us to a parking lot, already peppered with cars, trucks, SUVs, and minivans boasting out-of-state plates, allowing us to continue our "I spy" game of travelers.
We unload, grab our belongings, and walk towards the entrance, only to be stopped by bag check. We wait for our turn, are searched and given the 'okay', then continue on our pavement journey. Down the concrete ramp and into the tunnel that leads to a flight of stairs. Up to the ticket booth to redeem vouchers. Hanging ropes sewn through wooden beams funnel our feet to the entrance. “Have a good day; enjoy,” the ticket checker relays to us. “Thanks,” I reply.
A sea of brick surrounds us as we make our way to the next entrance. We transfer from brick to asphalt and step over a set of train tracks that splits the landscape. To the right, covered and open train cars sit behind Engine No. 7; we continue on our path as others load these cars and wait.
Our destination is still another 15 minutes of standing in line. We talk and joke. Spray coconut sunblock upon sun-kissed flesh. The line moves forward. A collective inchworm of adults and children move together, the sound of oldies rock and roll mixed with the unmistakable splashing of waiting water. Sol has inched closer to the height of its climb. Our family dodges and serpentines around other families and groups. We find our spot, drag pool chairs from Sol's sunshine, and give them relief under trees' shade. The scent of coconut sunblock stains skin.
“Where to first?” I ask.
“How about 'Ricochet Rapids'?” the kids ask in unison.
“Sure, let's do it,” I reply.
Moving as one, we make our way to the incline and hike up the paved hill, sprayers spill jets of mists from above us. A 740 foot massive green tube snakes the hillside. Pavement turns to steps which lead to a green gaping mouth swallowing gallons of water in a continuous waterfall. We split in two groups and take separate rafts. The lifeguard gives us instruction and cheerfully quips “Enjoy your ride” and pushes us into the snake’s mouth while entertaining herself while splashing us with cool water. Entering the belly and back out, we are expelled from the watery ride into the splash pad below. The rest of the family follows and we decide to ride 'Avalanche Mountain', the smaller of the snakes. We make our way to 'Velocity Peak' and drop an almost vertical 60 feet.
Entering one of the wave pools; head to the rollers in the back, diving below an artificial tide that crashes upon the rough pool's bottom. The promise of warm day doesn't disappoint. The waves stop and we exit, dry off, and re-apply the sunblock spray. 'Riptide Racers'. 'The Lazy River'. The wave pool. It gets late into the afternoon and we decide to change and head back the way we came in the morning.
The family separates as two kids stay with Erin while two walk with me back to our parking spot. Drop off wet clothes and towels and meet back up with the others. Our youngest pleads to go on 'Thunder Canyon'. “We are heading that way,” I assure him. The line is long and we find our place as Erin finds some place to sit and wait. Not wanting to waste time, we decide to come back later when the wait is shorter.
“How about 'Super Roundup, since it is right here?”
We all agree and wait in line as the ride starts from a dead stop to a spinning mass. It slows and comes to a complete stop. Passengers exit and we enter. Erin stands next to the girls while I stand between the boys. The operator gives us instruction and starts the spin once again, then the ride is over and we make our way off the metal path and down the steps.
Walking the very familiar pathways, we end up at the welcoming twin towers. The entrance sits to the left.
A wooden ramp switch-backs for a line of riders, but there is only a few as of now. The line operator asks us “how many?”
“Six,” I answer back.
“Take 12, 13, and 14.”
“Take 12, 13, and 14.”
“Since there isn't anyone in the rear, can we take 14, 15, and 16?” I ask, hopefully.
“Thanks,” I reply and we drop down two aisles.
Metal cage doors locked as the rollercoaster's cars hang from blue and green metal tubes. We wait as the doors open before us, allowing us safe passage, then close and lock behind us, sealing our fate.
Unload our pockets and kick off our flip-flops. Climb into open, rear, wing seats. Lap belts buckle. Harness clicks down into place. Locked with a second safety measure. The OK is given by each of the three attendants.
Slowly, the train backs up, pulled by a pulley system behind us. We crawl backwards up the first 191 foot tower. Gravity pulls me out of my seat and chest rest upon harness. The pulley stops and gives way to gravity's tight-grip hold. Rocketing forward, we travel along the tube's turns, drops, and inverted loops. The second tower greets us with a grin as the train's acceleration grinds to a halt; gravity's invisible choke hold pulls back down on us, slingshotting us backwards as we complete the ride in reverse. Back to the train station, we unload and decided to get some dinner.
We eat and then decide to go on the log ride. Since we are wet, we try the line at 'Thunder Canyon' which is quite a bit shorter. Erin stays behind and finds someplace to wait while we wait for our turn to load. The water pools and rapids around our raft. The metal stop opens and we follow the current down the first slope as cold water descends upon us. Soaked. Water spills and smashes in and around us. Our safe haven is a drenched being of rubber and water. The ride ends. We climb out and meet Erin in her spot. I wring water from wet shorts.
Back down the path, we check lines and their lengths. Sol's descent deepens into the waiting horizon as evening turns to night. Amusement park lights shine under a blackening summer sky. Blue changes to black. The next ride on our list—'SpinCycle'—is closed so we find one more to ride. Our journey is almost complete as we take time to stop and get ice cream. We discuss the day as we wait in another line. Cookies And Cream. Mint Chocolate Chip. Cookie Dough. Cotton Candy.
Standing outside under a moonless night, the sounds of arcades surround us; the lights of neon and flash put sensory on overload. The air is chilly against wet shorts as we finish the cold treat.
“Dad, I'm full. You can finish mine,” our youngest says.
We re-trace our steps from this morning's beginnings and walk back down entrance steps and through the underground tunnel. Up the concrete ramp. We drive back from whence we came. The scent of coconut sunblock still staining sun-kissed skin.