This is the Life!
As soon as I realised the full implications of visiting Cleveland in the summer, I rang Middle Brother and asked "Can we take The Kid to Cedar Point? Can we? Can we? Please? Please? Pleeeeeeeease?!?!?!" Predictably, he asked "How old are you?" but my enthusiasm was not to be quelled or slowed by sarcastic hypothetical questions.
I had but one goal in mind for the Cedar Point trip - to ride The Big Swinging Boat as many times as possible. I wasn't worried about getting sick on the ride. I was worried about men in white coats with butterfly nets carting me off to the insane asylum after the Cedar Point workers became concerned about my unhealthy fixation and repetitive behaviour.
The Wheaton Fall Festival featured carnival rides, which they set up in the parking lot near the commuter train station. When I got off the train the day before the festival started, I scanned the lot carefully, looking for the tell-tale pieces of my favourite ride. When I spotted the sturdy mast, I could barely contain my excitement. The next day, I dragged Peter up there as soon as I was able to and bought a big old pile of tickets, intending to 'spend' them all on the Big Swinging Boat.
The operator was an enormous man who could have been Mr. T's long lost twin brother. Except for a more moderate hair cut, the man matched Mr. T in both looks and style. What I remember most is the large cobra pendant the man had on a thick gold necklace. The cobra was striking, fangs glistening gold, and its eyes were rubies.
I rode the Big Swinging Boat three times consecutively. On my fourth go, the man said to me "Girl, you must really like this ride." I told him I did, that it was my most favourite. "But why?" he asked, genuinely puzzled.
Because it gives me the most perfect combination of freedom and flying and floating, all rolled into one. It gives me the butterfly funny-tum feeling without being terrifying. It's like the ride on a swing you always wanted to have, but were afraid to pump too hard or go too high lest you end up wrapping yourself around the bar, Fred Flinstone-style.
If the Big Swinging Boat was a bowl of porridge or a bed, I would definitely be its Goldilocks. It's Just Right to me and not getting my yearly fix has been one of the few disappointments of living in Ireland. Thanks to the generosity of my mother and her economic stimulus check, I was going make up for three years of being without the Big Swinging Boat.
When we got to Cedar Point, I knew exactly where I was heading first. MB didn't think The Kid was going to go in for the boat, since they're both prone to motion sickness. Instead, they went off the Planet Snoopy, an installation of kids' rides quite close to the Big Swinging Boat.
It was everything I'd remembered and more. Floating and flying, funny tum and freedom, if I could bottle and sell the pure joy that ride creates for me, I'd be a billionaire. I rode the Big Swinging Boat six times in a row, unabashedly stepping off, trotting through the exit and around back to the entrance, daring the gatekeeper to call the men with the nets.
MB and The Kid stopped by just as I was having my sixth go. MB took a picture. I'm in the yellow shirt, in the top half of the boat, on the end of a row. (I wore the yellow shirt on purpose, so that I'd be easier to find in a crowd since I knew that MB and I would be splitting up from time to time.)
After my Big Swinging Boat-stravaganza, I met up with MB and The Kid. We had some cheese fries (thanks again, Mom) and then rode the Bumper Cars. After that, we headed to the Frontier-land area, with some vague notions of finding the petting zoo and the Mine Ride. Instead, we came upon Thunder Canyon. I was 12 when this ride opened and it was advertised as a thrilling white-water rafting experience. I'd never been white-water rafting and was quite excited about the ride. When I went to the park with my friend Betsy and her family, all of us kids were anxious to ride Thunder Canyon.
Since the ride was brand new, we expected a long wait. But it was a miserable day, just barely 60 degrees, with grey skies and a brisk wind. So the wait was nonexistent. Soon, we were sitting in the seats of the round raft, drifting down choppy water towards the waterfalls. Even at 12, I quickly realised that the ride was the equivalent of having someone dump buckets of slimy lake water on your head. It wasn't very thrilling and the only thing it did with any regularity was make sure you were soaked to the bone. I spent the rest of the day walking around in wet clothes and ended up with a sore throat that turned into strep throat and kept me sick for two weeks.
When The Kid proclaimed that he wanted to go on Thunder Canyon, the smart part of me told me to find a bench and enjoy the wait. But he was so excited about it, dancing around and waving his arms. I wanted to see what he'd think of it, wanted to be there to watch him. So I pulled my shoes off, stuffed them into one of the thoughtfully provided cubby holes, and trailed after The Kid and MB.
Because it had been raining in the morning, I'd put a ziplock bag in my pocket, just in case we needed to protect our electronics. The bag managed to hold two cell phones, a digital camera, a set of keys, and a pocket watch. Since I was wearing my hiking pants, I had a big pocket on the leg that held the ziplock bag. So we were ready, even if I was dreading the inevitable.
The wait was short, less than fifteen minutes, and numerous signs warned "You WILL get wet on this ride." Still, I stubbornly clung to hope that I'd be in the one seat on the ride that gets spared the worst of it. Soon, we were sitting in the circular raft, drifting to the first waterfall. The raft swung around and around and I knew within seconds that I was going to get the worst of the first waterfall. Buckets and buckets of slimy lake water cascaded over me and I reminded myself that my first instinct is nearly always right.
I looked up with an expression that MB later said made me look like an angry wet cat. MB and The Kid were laughing at me. I shook my head and smugly thought that they were in for it next. Sure enough, the boat swung around and MB and The Kid disappeared behind a curtain of water. When they came out, The Kid was shrieking and laughing, like he'd just had the best experience ever.
This went on for the length of the ride, me hating getting wet, The Kid loving it. I undoubtedly was the most drenched person to step off the ride. The Kid immediately asked to go again, a request that MB indulged while I went to find a sunny spot to start the drying off process.
After their second ride, we wanted to find Cedar Point's version of the log ride, Snake River Falls, which we discovered was like a log ride on steroids. Instead of a skinny log that can seat 8 people, their log ride uses very wide, very large cars. On the log ride they used to have an Geauga Lake, you could get through it pretty much unscathed if you ducked down when you hit the water. Snake River Falls, well, let's just say that they also have signs that claim "You WILL get wet on this ride."
The wait for the log ride was a little bit longer, but moved quite quickly. The Kid was still excited, still dancing around. When it was our turn, we sat in the back of a boat, the three of us sharing a bench seat. The boat climbed up and up a steep hill. I didn't mind the height of the hill - I like heights and like being able to see into the distance. After the hill, the boat floated around a bend and then made for the thrilling hill.
It sounds silly to say it, but I've never been so afraid on a ride than when we were hurtling down the 50-degree angle of Snake River Falls. (Not just a clever name, apparently.) Where the Big Swinging Boat makes me feel like I could fly, this ride was making me feel like I was going to be flung out into the abyss, where I would drop like a rock.
After what felt like an eternity of hurtling, the boat hit the water at the base of the hill, creating a spectacular tidal wave that undid any of the drying out I accomplished while waiting in the sun. When we got off the boat, The Kid was ecstatic, more excited than all his Christmases combined.
To get out of Snake River Falls, you have to walk across a bridge, which is built in such a way that it takes the brunt of the tidal wave created by the ride. I scampered across the bridge like a hare across a busy road. I was taking no chances on getting even more wet than I already was.
The Kid and MB lingered on the bridge, waiting to experience the tidal wave. When the wall of water came, The Kid shook his little fist in the air and shouted "This is the life!"
The Kid and MB would ride each of the water rides another time, while I checked out a brand new fast-high-swinging-in-the-air-ride that was just nowhere near as fantastic as the Old School Big Swinging Boat. Just before it was time to go home, I returned to my favourite ride and had four more goes, thinking that, as usual, The Kid was right. This is the life.