When I was 6 years old, I rode my first real roller coaster: Space Mountain. I sat in the front seat and proceeded to cry my eyes out for an hour. I didn’t ride another roller coaster until the 4th grade. Pressured into riding Scream Machine (R.I.P.) at Six Flags Great Adventure, I transformed into a thrill-seeker. There’s still not a roller coaster out there that I won’t go on. Even the ones I’ve designed.
At some point, something flipped. I don’t know about anyone else, but I feel terrible on almost every ride now. I’m not scared, so don’t try to say I am because I’ll fight you. I will still go on anything, but whether it’s a headache, watery eyes, dizziness, nausea, or all of the above, I cringe as soon as the ride starts because I know what lies ahead.
In my head, all the people waiting in the loading station are holding up the District 12 three-finger salute. The ride operator announces, “May the odds be ever in your favor.” He follows that up with a list of side effects like a new drug commercial. And we’re off. Other than feeling terrible, I normally enjoy the ride. Of course when I return I feel like a shell of myself. Let’s go wait in some other two-hour line and do it again.
But these aren’t kiddie rides, so I’m sure those are going to be a cakewalk if my 2.5-year-olds can handle them. Now, my kids have ridden a few rides at Jenkinson’s in Point Pleasant and they love them except when they have to get out. This time, we make the conscious decision to drop a good chunk of change and drive 50 minutes to an unfamiliar place: Storybook Land.
From the pictures, it looks pretty exciting for little kids. and I can’t wait to see their faces light up. But I’m skeptical, because who wants to blow a bunch of money and a whole day on a whim? I mean, they’re only two-and-a-half. I don’t know what they like to do. Hell, they don’t even know what they like to do. And usually what they like to do lasts three minutes before they chant, “All done. All done. All done…..” So I just wanted to make sure this place where kids and adults cost $26.50 each would not just be a big waste of money.
“What are you doing?” my wife asks that morning as we prepare for our odyssey.
“Looking up reviews for two-and-a-half year olds.”
“I’m sorry, you’re what?”
“That didn’t come out right. Let me rephrase. You can search for ‘2.5 year olds’ on Trip Advisor. Alright, that didn’t come out right either. I give up.”
Yes, that conversation happened and we could not stop laughing. But once we did, we packed the kids in the car and away we went. I was pretty amped up for this as ridiculous and embarrassing as that sounds. Nothing makes me happier than seeing the joy on my girls’ faces. And for the most part, the girls had a blast. But Thing 2 also gave a ‘tude for most of the day for no good reason, which I shall expound upon.
This theme park was easily the cleanest one I have ever seen. I almost felt bad that we didn’t give my kids a bath for a day or a week or whatever it was, especially since Thing 2 spent half the trip lying down, dropping all her dirt and grease onto this immaculate theme park. The park consists of 20 acres which is exactly how many acres of sidewalk, asphalt, stone, dirt, and grass Thing 2 lied down on. We planned on drawing chalk outlines around her mid-tantrum, but we also figured Law & Order isn’t an appropriate storybook for toddlers. Or we didn’t have any chalk.
As for the rides, most were tame enough. We opened with Jumping Jumbos and then Work Zone, which were very smooth. The lines were incredibly short everywhere, which is great for toddlers with the attention span of, well, me. Then we got to Turtle Twirl, which we did not see in operation, but they held the ride so we could get on. That was great!
Until the ride started. Reading the website, “Under 46″ tall in height or under six years of age must be accompanied by a responsible person.” This is just totally unfair to the wonderful teenagers working these rides. They could tell our kids were under 46″ and under six years of age. But how the hell were they supposed to tell that we were clearly not responsible people bringing them on this ride? The ride felt like it lasted 20 minutes and only seemed to grow more and more intense as my kids’ panic started to show. We all stumbled off that ride like we were failing a field sobriety test.
Next we tried Bubbles the Coaster because we’re gluttons for punishment and how bad can something named Bubbles be? Well, it was better than Turtle Twirl, but this certainly didn’t make us feel any better. My kids liked that one more, but still were not huge fans. Thus, we spent the rest of the day recovering, riding only things that would make us not feel like death. Save for those couple of rides and the tantrums, we did end up having a great time.
Those smiles are forever ingrained in my mind. As they get older, I look forward to bringing them back here as well as to other parks. I want to be right by their side whether they’re riding Jumping Jumbos, Kingda Ka, or anything in between, because sharing these experiences, regardless of the side effects, reminds me just how lucky I am.