Sunday, September 2, 2012

FTT Off-Topic: The Magic Hour

Not my pic or kids, but you get the gist
As always with FTT O-T, big Internet, not sports, yada yada yada.

As part of our annual family tradition, the family went to Knoebels yesterday, the great amusement park in upstate eastern Pennsylvania that I've written about before. Since we've done just about everything there is to do in a half-dozen other visits, the plan this time was to include the pool and waterslide portion of the park. The forecast called for mid-80s weather with only a small chance of rain, so it seemed like a plan.

We got there around 1pm; it's a 3-hour drive from where we live, plus we had to factor in a detour to drop off the family puppy with my mom, who dotes on him like he's her last grandchild. Upon entering, we immediately got our grub on, because Knoebels is just crazy good when it comes to the food. (Details: two orders of chicken -- big pieces, too, I didn't finish mine -- and stuffing with veg, two orders of meat loaf with sides and drinks, total cost $42. In an amusement park. No, seriously.) And now it's time to swim.

The way the pool works at Knoebels is that you pay for the pool or a band for the slides, assuming you don't just want to do tickets for an individual ride. My wife isn't into swimming, but planned ahead by bringing her knitting. So it's me and the daughters in the pool, and it takes freaking forever to figure out the locker situation, wait for them to get out, apply sunblock, drop stuff that shouldn't be in the locker with the spouse, and on and on and on. By the time we're in the pool, it's way too much later, I'm annoyed, and the water's cold, because, well, it's an outdoor unheated pool. It's going to be cold. We swim and slide for an hour or so before the kids have had enough, and we go head out to the rest of the park.

Knoebels is always a good time, and the kids have a good day despite my prior irritation; we all ride the great roller coaster as a family, enact a family tradition of suckering the youngest into thinking that they aren't going to get totally soaked on the huge log flume ride, and so on, and so on. Our good time is aided by the fact that we keep witnessing people having bad times around us, and there's nothing to make you appreciate your own good kids than someone else's monsters. But by late afternoon, after the eldest has been bumped from a good seat on the carousel (it's a great one, in that the youngest likes it, and the eldest is all over the reaching for the brass ring) and has been further annoyed on the old school bumper cars, the mood has soured.

That's when I get the great idea of, well, not just going more of the same and hoping that things are going to work out differently. I ask the kids if they want any part of the pool and slides at dusk; they say no. I saw off their wristbands (which makes them happier; they've been clawing at these things for a while, because, well, kids do that), ask my wife if she'd mind doing solo parent for an hour, while I got my slide on. Knowing that this means shopping that would just drive me nuts, she goes for it, and I'm free and clear.

And oh, man, it is glorious.

The pool and slide water is as warm as it's going to be all day, having been cooked by the sun. The place has lost 95% of the previous crowd to dinner and dusk concerns. And on Labor Day Saturday, for a half hour or more, it's a line-free waterslide where the only limit to your fun is how many times you can climb the steps, whether or not you can take that much wear and tear on your feet, and if you can overcome the self-consciousness of being a 43-year-old guy having what his 13-year-old self would have considered THE BEST DAY EVER.

(Oh, and kids? My loudest and longest Nelson Muntz Hah HAH! on you for not coming with me on this. I feel no guilt at all for you not having this fun. Remember this the next time that Dad's Idea Of Fun gets dismissed.)

I love, love, love waterslides. They take me out of my mind like nothing else, don't have the low-level concussion feeling that roller coasters can give me after a half dozen rides, never put me heels over head (I don't do upside-down at all well for digestion issues), and make me feel like, well, I'm 13. I'm in decent enough shape, still have my hair, and especially at my hobbit height, don't really look my age.

So I rode that sum'bitch, oh, 15 times in a half hour. Then did a lap in the near private pool, showered, got dressed, and met up with the family for dinner (shrimp scampi, garlic toast, eggplant fries and drink for $12.25, because, um, as previously established, Knoebels is awesome for food), and a few hours more of coasters, jerk-free carousel, and about as much fun as you can stuff into a day.

We got home around 3am. There are parts of me that hurt that haven't hurt in decades, because when you go on 15 waterslide runs in a half hour, you use muscles (mostly abs, to get the most speed possible out of the corners) that you never use. I slept until 2pm. I regret nothing.

So, um, if you want to swim at Knoebels? Do. At dusk. I'll see you on the slides. With or without children...

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