Monday, June 8, 2009


The advantage to being able to see your breath in June is that there are no lines for the roller coasters.

Six Flags Great America is not all that far from us, and we had nonrefundable, date-specific tickets for Saturday thanks to the Girl Scouts (who seem to be playing an ever-larger role in our lives these days - must check on that...). The fact that it was November - grey, rainy, raw and cold - was therefore irrelevant. We were going to go.

Plus, if we had canceled the trip, Lauren would have just exploded and the clean-up would have taken weeks. Tabitha was looking forward to the trip, but Lauren was just buzzing.

We got there not long after the park opened and immediately set about siphoning money out of our wallets and into their cash registers. All of these parks are designed expressly to separate you from your money, and they do a very good job of it. You just have to accept that going in. This is most clear at meal times, when a pizza (admittedly a tribal-sized pizza) and a refillable drink (refillable for free at *any*location*in*the*park* no less) will set you back more than gas, tolls and parking combined. You feel sort of obligated to drink a lot under those circumstances. We know where all of the bathrooms are at Six Flags Great America.

But we were not there to eat and drink! No! We were there to Party! And Move It Move It! At least we felt that way, since the only two songs on the park's loudspeaker system were "We Like to Party" and "I Like to Move It, Move It." Am I the only one who thinks that Sascha Baron Cohen's version of that last song, from Madagascar, is better than Kanye West's? I didn't think so.

We went on a number of smaller rides first - the double-decker carousel, the swings that spin around, and whatever it is they call the Octopus there - and then it was roller coaster time.

My children are roller coaster junkies. Life. Is. Good.

The first one we went on was based on the latest Batman movie, and featured a post-industrial setting full of light, graffiti, movie clips, and black sheet metal. And then we got to the ride, which was a small car that whirred around in the dark. It was a hit, as you can see:

Then we found the Viper, one of the two big wooden coasters at the park. We cruised right up to the platform and got on. Lauren and I went on first - she kept telling me that "this will be the ride of my life!" - and I think it was, at least for a few hours. Tabitha and Kim followed on the next car, and Lauren and I watched as they whizzed on by. Then we did it again, only this time with the girls together in one car. And again.

That's Kim in the blue coat, in the second car.
Tabitha is with her, but she's hidden.

We made it to the American Eagle coaster - the really big wooden coaster - just as it re-opened after a rain delay, which meant that there were absolutely no people in line at all. So we got right on the front seat - the girls up front, Kim and I just behind them. The American Eagle takes you right up into the stratosphere and then drops you pretty much straight down for about 130 feet. Naturally, we had to do it again after that, only this time switching from the blue to the red track.

The last coaster we went on was called the Demon, and it was a steel-tracked coaster with two loops and a corkscrew. Once again, there was nobody in line, so the girls and I went on three times in a row, without even getting out of our seats (Kim declined the third trip).

All this and food too.

We did a few other things as well, though nothing truly compared to the roller coasters. Perhaps my favorite from a nostalgic point of view was the old Bearcat cars, the ones with real gasoline engines and a metal rail down the middle of the track so you can't drive off into the park, the ones that the kids can drive.

When I was little, we used to go to a small park called Dutch Wonderland near Lancaster PA. In addition to having a permanent guest host (Chief Halftown, who had his own early morning kids' talent show on local TV back then) and quite possibly the worst food ever served by humans, it also had these cars. I loved those cars.

And so did the girls. I went with Lauren, and she was just transfixed at the idea that she was driving a real car. It gives me a decade to get used to that idea, I suppose.

We finally abandoned the park not long before it closed, and headed home. It was a good day.


Kathleen said...

Dutch Wonderland! As Eric calls it, "The Amish Amusement Park". Can't wait to take the kids there on our next trip to the Lancaster area.

KimK said...

Kathleen: From the McKay family's "Legend of Dutch Wonderland," you should be prepared to bring your own food or plan for a day of fasting. :)

David said...

Well, that was 35 years ago. They may have learned how to cook a hot dog since then...