On our return trip to Six Flags Great America the weather was considerably warmer than it was last year, in that you could not see your breath, but it was just as rainy. We spent the day dodging raindrops and failing, but on the upside this meant that we didn't spend the day dodging crowds, and we'll take that.
This year we remembered to participate in Not Bad President Elementary's reading rewards program, which nets each child a free ticket to Six Flags if they read so many books in a given amount of time. And when you combine that with the half-price Girl Scouts tickets, well, there you go - four admissions for the effective price of one.
Or at least it would have been had we noticed the fine print on the reading rewards tickets, which did not become effective until at least a week after the only date the Girl Scouts tickets were good. There were some panicked moments there, but fortunately the Six Flags people were nice about it and let us use the tickets anyway. They take a lot of your money in this place, but in return you get friendly service and that's not really such a bad deal.
They did give me grief for wearing my Flyers shirt to an amusement park in Chicagoland during the Stanley Cup finals between the Flyers and Blackhawks, but to be honest that's why I wore the shirt in the first place, so that was fine. As my dad always told me when I was younger, "Sometimes you have to rattle people's cages, otherwise they fall asleep on you."
But entry assured, we plunged into the park.
We followed much the same route as last year - left out of the gates, through the double-decker carousel and the Condor, and toward the roller coasters.
The girls are still roller coaster junkies. Life. Remains. Good.
Lauren and I went on the Dark Knight coaster, which spins you around in the dark (as advertised), and Tabitha joined us for the Ragin' Cajun (a teacup coaster with lots of turns), and the American Eagle - the stratospheric wooden coaster on the other side of the park. We all went on the Little Dipper. And of course there was the Viper, which is the family favorite - another wooden coaster, somewhat smaller than the American Eagle but more exciting. Especially in the rain.
Yes, we road the roller coaster in the rain, which is what Billy Joel should have put in for that lyric. We may be crazy but it just might be a lunatic you're looking for, and it was a lot of fun. We got the last ride out before they shut down for a while because of the weather, and if you think roller coasters are wild normally, you should try it with "fly vision" - the refracted multiple-image result of raindrops on glasses.
Tabitha and I even went on the Superman coaster, much to Lauren's dismay - they have a minimum height requirement for the wilder rides and this just frosts Lauren's whiskers no end. Next year, when she is taller, I'm just going to put a GPS unit on her belt and let her run loose. She'd have loved Superman. It's one of those steel coasters, with loops and corkscrews and tight turns, and they sit you in it like Superman flying - you sit down normally, and then the seats pivot back so you're on your stomach. This has its downsides - for one thing the ground below is carpeted with small change that has fallen out of people's pockets, and for another it produces a "dog-sled" effect in which unless you're the lead dog the view never changes - but it's still fun. About halfway through Tabitha, who had worried all during the wait (they run the line underneath the coaster so you can see what's going to happen to you), turned to me and shouted, "This is awesome!"
And that's why you take the time and spend the money - for moments like that.
We also hit the bumper cars, the long swings and the Bearcat cars, because of course you have to do those things. Lauren drove her own Bearcat around the track this year, which thrilled her no end and made me count the years until she gets her drivers license. Tabitha drove Kim around as well, and since she is much closer to her own drivers license I did not count those years. They will come soon enough.
Did you know that they still have photo booths? Yes, those ancient machines where you stuff yourself into a tiny little space and get four tiny little pictures - they still exist, and people take them about as seriously as they always have.
The high point of this year's trip was the space needle, or whatever it is that they call that ride where they haul you up into the ionosphere and drop you in free fall back down to earth. Kim, being sensible, passed on this one, but the girls and I took the ride. It was quite a ride.
And then they wanted to do it again, so we ran around the lines and came back for a second turn. While we were waiting a bunch of high school students came up behind us, including one guy clearly trying to get his girlfriend to go on the ride. Tabitha turned around, pointed at Lauren and said, "She went on it! It's fun!" The girlfriend was not amused, though I assume she went on. One can't be outcooled by a seven-year-old, not in high school.
Me, I'm kind of used to it.
We left the park after ten hours, which was a bit earlier than we'd hoped actually since we had thought about staying for the glowing parade, but it had started to rain more steadily by 8pm and we hadn't eaten dinner yet. Rather than bankrupt ourselves eating soggy pizza we decided to find a nearby restaurant. This turned out to be a smooth move on our part, despite stopping at the closest Olive Garden to a major tourist attraction (along with most of the other tourists), since right as we got there the skies opened up, the lightning flashed, and the rain poured down like unidentified liquids out of a boot. We dined in comfort.
It was a good day.