Whirling Dervishes

Let me preface this story by telling you that as a child, I had no fear when it came to amusement parks. I remember begging my uncle to sit with me at the end of the Pirate’s Ship so we’d be sure to have the highest view and longest fall. Roller coasters were exciting–although they weren’t nearly as tall and fast as they are now.

The last time I went on a roller coaster, I was a junior in college. That summer I interned at Men’s Health Magazine and lived with some college acquaintances in eastern PA. We took a day trip to Six Flags Great Adventure and went on EVERY coaster. I loved the feeling of my legs swinging on Batman: The Ride and thought the loops on The Great American Scream Machine were crazy. The only time I felt fear was while waiting in line for the Batman and Robin coaster. It was one of the newest and featured two train tracks with slightly different courses. The ride shut down just before I got on, and although my better judgement said I should skip that one, I decided to ride it anyway. I’m not sure whether it was bravery or fear of looking like a chicken that won out. The ride was both exhiliarating and frightening–we traveled a cobra roll and a zero g roll before climbing a big hill, encountering a little drop and another bigger, 200 foot hill. And then we did it all backwards.

The ride shut down for the rest of the day after that due to mechanical problems. The mechanical problems were so significant that the ride didn’t reopen until the following summer. (And almost 10 years later the ride was closed down for good–supposedly because the ride continued to malfunction resulting in lots of down time.) Our last ride that day was something spinny, which promptly resulted in my friend puking on me.

In the past 12 or 13 years since that adventure, I’ve gotten older, less adventurous and perhaps even a little more sensible. I’ve also developed a moderate fear of heights, amusement park rides and puke. While white-knuckling it on a ferris wheel at the New York State Fair once, a friend joked, “You know how many times they put these up and take them back down again? I’m sure we’re missing a bolt somewhere!”

So when Evan suggested we take a vacation to Cedar Point, “the roller coaster capitol of the world,” I was pretty reserved–until someone mentioned the waterpark and Kelley’s Island. It seemed like a good mix of fun, so I agreed. Besides, perhaps it would be a good opportunity to break some fear barriers.

It started out great! We left Thursday after work, stopping at a Holiday Inn Express halfway between NJ and OH. Evan snoozed while I did week one of the Couch to 5k program on the hotel’s treadmill while watching The Black Eyed Peas perform on the Today show. We got to Ohio midafternoon, allowing us time to get settled in our room and get to the waterpark in time for their evening special–just $16 to spend 4 hours at the waterpark. It turned out to be more than enough time. We went on all of the waterslides at least once–including Eerie Falls which was a completely enclosed black tunnel and the speed slides. While being airborne for the speedslides and then smacking down on the plastic, water-filled track wasn’t the best idea for my back (I had surgery to repair a severely herniated disk in October and my doc has warned against high impact activities), I escaped uninjured and rode the other slides easily. We ended the night with 20 minutes or so in the wave pool (seriously overrated) before heading off for a late dinner and catching  the Sam Raimi thriller “Drag Me To Hell” (also overrated) at a local movie theater.

We spent Saturday exploring Kelleys Island. There’s something about walking through the woods on an island that makes you reminisce about Lost.

This is where we find Jacob’s Cabin. It was an old abandoned brick structure that still had a bed, a chair, and, eerily enough, sheer curtains blowing in the wind.

If you look closely, you can see a chair through the doorway.

Fortunately, the only black mist we saw were swarms of mayflies.

This is me wondering “Will we ever get rescued? What would John Locke do?”

We also found this fantastic bit of history. Kelley’s Island used to have one of the largest US wineries, back in the 1800s. Unfortunately, a fire nearly permanently stopped production and only it’s limestone remains are left. We walked through the rubble admiring  the beautiful stonework and amazed to find the metal rings used to hold the barrels together. The winery was re-established on the island in the 1980s, but it’s a much smaller operation. 

Here’s what we saw:

But THIS is what the winery used to look like.

We also wandered around to the glacial grooves–the result of a glacier that covered the area tens of thousands of years ago.

I fell in love with the cute houses (lots of Victorians) and started to contemplate what living on the island would be like… there were a lot of houses for sale. Apparently, the average temperatures compare to central NY, with a slightly drier climate. Travel during the warm weather months is fairly easy–there are ferries, including those that transport your car. During the winter any travel to the mainland is by air. Oh… and although there are restaurants, churches and shops, many of the shops and restaurants close during the winter and there’s no movie theater on the island. Thank goodness for Netflix, although I’m guessing mail might be a little slower than average! Make that thank goodness for streaming and downloadable movies! Most of the island’s 300+ inhabitants are 55 years of age and older, but there are about 50 kids that all go to the one school on the island. There are no hospitals or doctor offices on the island, but there is emergency medical service. During the summer months, the little island fills with thousands of tourists looking to explore the little island and take advantage of the hiking and biking trails, boating, bird watching and other outdoor opportunities. My favorite part was seeing how many people (tourists and townies) get around the town on golf carts! One local had a 3 car garage occupied by one car and several golf carts.

My Connecticut relatives will appreciate that the Connecticut Land Company actually used to own Kelley’s Island until two brothers from Middletown started buying pieces until they owned the whole thing. They started developing the island and creating profitable industries: wine making, quarrying, fruit growing, logging and fishing.

Although we got lost on the way back from the island ferry, partially thanks to the crowds and detours related to Ohio Bike Week (I’ve never seen so many Harleys in one place–where are the leather chaps when you need ’em?), we found our way back to the hotel with minimal angst and delay. We went out for dinner and went to Goofy Golf to play 18 holes of miniature golf. Of course, we did the course with the castle because some random person Evan asked said it was better. I also suspect the Nerd-tendo freak in him liked the Mario Brothers references he could make. Somehow, Evan got a little goofy with the score and missed logging one of the holes we played, but I scored a 50 and he scored 45. High score wins, right?

After that, it was time to rest up for our Big Cedar Point Adventure Day. Everytime we got a view of the coasters in our travels, Evan would ask “Do you feel less nervous now?” I always said “no” but the truth was, aside from a couple exceptions, I thought I could handle it, as long as we started easily.

Evan woke up as eager as a kid on Christmas morning. I was wishing there was a nearby Starbucks and actually wondering whether I could magically and temporarily gain 50 pounds so I could be banished from the rides as part of their “Guests of Exceptional Size” policy.

Here’s a representation of our level of excitement:

Despite my hesitance, I helped Evan plan the most effective amusement park trip EVER. It helped that it’s still early enough in the season, that the park’s attendance is still on the lower side. And we went on a Sunday knowing that it’s a lighter attendance day as well. But we also went straight to the back of the park first, knowing that everyone else would work in a clockwise or counterclockwise circle starting at the entrance of the park.

The Mean Streak was my re-introduction to coaster-ville. Yeah, it looks kinda scary and wooden coasters are known to be rickety compared to the newer, smoother, steel rides, but it’s relatively slow (65mph) and has relatively short drops (155 ft is the tallest and it’s at a 52 degree hill).

For comparison’s sake, Evan later rode The Dragster which goes 120 mph and has a 400 foot drop and The Millenium Force which has a 300 foot drop. (See pictures here and here.) 

The Mean Streak was definitely rickety. The ride was jostling and I felt my back slam into the hard plastic seats everytime we whipped around the corner.

I made a mental note to stick with steel coasters, so Evan and I headed to the The Maverick, known for having the steepest drop (a 105-foot, 95-degree hill) of any other Cedar Point coaster. Again, I felt every jostle and spent more time worrying about my back than how big of a drop the next hill would bring.

After that, I decided to play photographer and people watcher while Evan rode the coasters. He went on the aforementioned Dragster (3 times!) and Millenium Force, The Mantis (a stand up coaster that has 3 loops and a corkscrew) and The Magnum (which features 3 drops and is celebrating it’s 20th birthday, which must be ancient in coaster-years).

We also both went on the Wildcat, a “family friendly” coaster. I figured I could handle it. It wasn’t full of steep drops and superfast corkscrews, but it is deceptively frightening thanks to a figure 8 design, tight hills and headchoppers (places where it appears as if your head or outstretched arms will hit the frame of the structure). Of course, I walked off that one as queasy as a mom-to-be in her first trimester.

Let’s just say Cedar Point was a humbling experience as I observed kids barely old enough and tall enough to ride the coasters enjoying the scariest ones.

Meals during the trip weren’t exactly healthy, but they weren’t horrendous thanks to eating until I was satisfied (instead of button-popping fullness). We ate:

  • dinner Thursday: chicken and a baked potato at a rest stop
  • Luna bars for most of my breakfasts
  • lunch Friday: I can’t remember… we may have just grazed on the snacks I brought (pita chips, pretzels, apples, granola bars, trail mix)
  • dinner Friday: thin-crust pizza and salad at a pizza buffet (E and I split their featured dessert pizza: PB&J)
  • brunch Saturday: coffee cake and iced coffee at an indie coffeeshop on Kelley’s Island
  • dinner Saturday: spaghetti w/ sausage and a side salad
  • lunch Sunday: a soft pretzel with cheese at Cedar Point
  • dinner Sunday: a salad and grilled chicken wrap at BW3 (we also split an app of fried mushrooms, but I avoided eating the chips that came with the wrap)
  • Monday breakfast: bagel with light cream cheese
  • Monday lunch/dinner: fish and chips at Elephant and Castle
  • and a daily dose of ice cream

Oh… and what’s an amusement park without funnel cake?

We actually split that. (I’m especially fond of the roller coaster-induced faux hawk Evan is rockin’.)

Favorite parts of the trip:

  • Seeing Evan’s excitement the day he woke up at 9:00am for roller coaster day. The dude NEVER gets up this early and certainly doesn’t wake up with this much energy.
  • Hearing Evan say, after riding on The Mantis, “I totally got attacked by a fly on that one” and realizing that the Enrique Iglesias-sized mole on his face was, in fact, the fly.
  • Turning the Kelley’s Island hike into a Lost-themed adventure.
  • Discovering Hershey’s Denali Moose Tracks ice cream.
  • Spending 15 minutes in the hotel’s jacuzzi before getting on the road Monday. (Our hotel also replaced their Olympic-sized swimming pool with a kid’s mini indoor waterpark, including water slides. It was a decent place to stay and quite affordable.)
  • Realizing that perhaps I’m a better amusement park photographer than coaster rider. Check out this action shot:

Yes, they were going 90 mph.

I’ve since convinced myself I’m not a total wimp in this relationship. Yes, Evan may be a brave, brave man for surviving crazy g-forces and heart-stopping drops, but at least I win bravery points for being the bug defender. In the midst of our hike Saturday, I dropped my hoodie and Evan, being chivalrous, bent down to get it. On his way back up, he got caught in a cloud of cottonwood that was floating around and, thinking it was a cloud of mayflies, he started flailing spastically. And after Cedar Point, he was running his fingers through his hair when he suddenly started flailing again and shouted “oh shit!”

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Oh nothing. I felt something hard in my hair and thought it was a bug, but it was just a chunk of hair gel.”

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7 responses to “Whirling Dervishes

  1. Love the pictures!! You obviously had a great time!!

  2. Nice blog and pics. No rolor coasters for me…yuk! Loved the last pic you posted of yourself.

    Love, Mom

  3. Love the pictures!!! looks like you had a fabulous time, glad you were able to keep down that funnel cake, it would not have been pretty if it came up on one of the coasters.
    See you on the weekend.

  4. Sounds like a fun trip-and I love the last picture of you-I actually thought it was a fake backdrop at first! See you Sunday!

  5. Pingback: The tale of the traveling Weight Watcher « Downsized!

  6. Sounds like you had a great time. It was great to see you over the weekend.

  7. Man, why do you have to end the story with such a lame-o story about my killer hair gel attacking my scalp like that? I was an innocent victim of haircare abuse! You were a fantastic coaster photographer, and I’m glad you still had a good time while i was 400 feet in the air hanging upside down like a crazy space person. And i get up at 9am sometimes…o wait, I’m just UP at 9am sometimes going to sleep right then. O well, fun read baby!

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