In an effort to make sure our children would have a great memory of this summer break(besides mom and dad getting drunk with grandma and grandpa in a hillbilly mansion in the woods), my wife had me buy some tickets to Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, Ohio at the beginning of the summer. Well, we left yesterday morning at 7am and arrived back home at 2am earlier this morning. I do believe it was the right call, as everyone had an absolute blast. My equilibrium is still a bit off, but war wounds worth having I think.
I’ll admit right off the bat that I was not a fan of this plan. I used to love rollercoasters. LOVED them. But with the passage of time and the thinning of mucous membrane in my inner ear my abilities to take sudden head movements has waned significantly. Even a swing on a swing set can cause the world to move around me in ways it shouldn’t. Still, I wasn’t going to let my prissy issues get in the way of family fun. I did what any good father and husband would do: I sucked it up. I got up at 5:30am on Sunday and made up sandwiches for the lunch break we’d have, as well as some cinnamon rolls and orange danish so everyone could get off to a unnaturally sugary start. Besides our three kids, my oldest brought one of her good friends along, too. That way, everyone had someone to ride with. I wasn’t sure how much I’d be riding. Turns out, I rode a lot.
If you’re not familiar with Cedar Point, I’ll tell you a few things then. It’s an amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio that sits right on Lake Erie. Apparently you can see Canada from some of the highest rollercoaster peaks. I can neither confirm or deny this claim. The park as been there since the beginning of the 20th century, starting out as a resort-like area for folks to come and relax and listen to live music(apparently Louis Armstrong used to frequent the bandstand.) As the years went on they added rides. In 1964 they built the Blue Streak. One of the biggest rollercoasters at the time, an all wood behemoth it’s the first coaster that used to greet you when you entered. Since then, the Blue Streak merely sits in the shadows of some of the biggest coasters in the world. Now I’m not going to bore you with specifics here(as most of those details were rattled out of my skull yesterday), so I’ll leave a few names here and you can let Google do the work: The Gemini, The Corkscrew, Iron Dragon, Magnum XL-200, Skyhawk, Millenium Force, The Raptor, Maverick, The Gatekeeper, and the Rougaroo. Give a few of those some proper internet searches and feast your eyes on some intense thrills, folks.
For a kid that grew up in the Midwest, Cedar Point was a summer destination nearly every summer. It was a four hour drive from where I grew up, so we always hopped in the family sedan and made the journey. I didn’t start enjoying rollercoasters till I was a teenager. I couldn’t get past the fear of those massive heights and blood-curdling screams. But once I did when I was 14 years old, there was no going back. I loved the speed, the dips, the loops, the adrenaline, and the fear. For the course of a minute and thirty seconds you were removed from your regular, earthly plain and belief was suspended. You become this massive, screaming oneness with all the other passengers. Everyone is in this together, man. If you’re going down, everyone is going down. You enter the car strangers, and you leave them strangers still. But, during the ride you’re all in it together. Terrified and exhilarated. That’s what pulled me in.
Nearly every year we’d go and have a blast. When my wife and I started dating in high school we even made the trek together. It was something fun to do. To get away from it all. I guess that’s what the amusement park is there for, right? The boardwalks on the east and west coasts. Coney Island, King’s Island, Six Flags, Disney,…they’re all there to beat everyday life right out of you with every dip and 80 mile an hour drop. Sure, the $4 bottle of water and $10.50 ice cream sundae put a damper on the fun(and wallet), but that’s why you pack food. That’s why you save a little extra green and get there prepared.
Also, bring lots of sunscreen.
So the kids did indeed have a blast. The only one I was kind of worried about was my son. He used to get carsick a lot. Like, a lot. 30 minutes into a 3 1/2 hour drive home from a cabin stay four years ago he vomited up double chocolate donuts in the back of the family van. He’s done this on hour long drives home as well(just not donuts….refried beans I think it was.) I feel my trepidation was justified in taking him to Cedar Point. I mean, we did take the kids five years ago, but they were all much younger(five years younger to be exact.) The only rides he rode were the kiddie rides. Snoopy’s Balloon Chase, and the Alligator Fun Hop…crap like that. He had never known the likes of the Magnum XL-200 or the Gemini. Well, we broke him in with the classic Blue Streak and won him over with the slick Iron Dragon. From there he was hooked. I think we rode the Gemini 8 times yesterday. It’s a classic wood rollercoaster. Smooth, fast, and fun as hell. He’s now a rollercoaster fiend, and about four years before his old man was.
So is my head kind of wonky today? Yeah, it is. And unfortunately, I think with each passing year those rides will get harder and harder on my noggin. But, I think I’ve got a few good years of enjoying them. At least until the kids are all grown up and doing their own vacations. I believe we’re trading in the cabins in the woods for lake breezes and screaming thrill ride patrons as our family fun event for the summer.
If you want to make memories your kids will take with them the whole year long and beyond, just put ’em on a rollercoaster and scare the ever loving shit out of ’em.