My two most recent posts were about my short trip to Vegas last week… but what’s been going on lately? I’ll tell you – a whole lot of Read the rest of this entry »
What a difference 45 minutes makes. That’s all I needed to go from looking like this…
…to becoming a sweaty, exhausted mess:
Wednesday turned out to be a fantastic day. I can sum up why in two words: Roller Coasters!
I do love roller coasters, and on Wednesday I went to a theme park I’d never been to before: Six Flags Great America, outside Chicago. It was a blast. I went with my sister Laura and one of her friends that Laura dubbed “Incognito Friend X” for her own protection, since Incognito Friend X didn’t tell her boss where she was going. So shhhhhh… don’t spill the beans!
My history with roller coasters, and my love of them, has been very well documented on this blog. I spent a good solid decade avoiding theme parks because I was simply too fat to ride them – I couldn’t fit in the restraints. My very first blog post chronicled a trip to Six Flags Magic Mountain, which was a reward to myself for losing my first 100 pounds. I got to ride coasters for the first time since college. I wrote, in that post: “There were moments during the day where I felt like crying when that harness clicked into place.” Read the whole thing here. It was a powerful day.
Even more powerful was Read the rest of this entry »
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TO ME! A few days ago, I reached a big milestone: my two-year blogging anniversary. On September 13, 2010, I started a new venture of chronicling my weight loss efforts, and I’d say so far so good! This is my 639th (!) post, and I’ve now lost and kept off 160+ pounds for over a year. At the moment, I’ve lost 164 pounds, but I’m also due for a weigh-in that I should’ve had the other morning but I completely forgot.
I think my weigh-in slipped my mind because I had something much more exciting to do this weekend: a return trip to Six Flags Magic Mountain! I think there’s a few of you out there that have been blog readers since the very beginning (I’m looking at you, Mom), so you might remember that my very first blog post was about my inaugural visit to Magic Mountain. If you’ve never read it, or want a refresher, check it out here. That trip was a reward I gave myself for losing 100 pounds, and it was my first time on a roller coaster in eight years, thanks to my obesity, which prevented me from fitting within most coasters’ harnesses.
That first trip was nearly tear-inducing – it felt so incredibly awesome to fit on rides that I used to not be able to fit on. What was most eye-opening about this trip was how much of a non-issue my weight was. This is partly because I’ve made theme park outings a semi-regular affair since I started blogging, having been to Knott’s Berry Farm, Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, and Cedar Point, the Ohio park where I was once kicked off a ride for being too fat. But more importantly, it’s because I’m no longer a stranger to being at this weight. I walked in the door after a long day of riding coasters and realized I never once thought about my weight all day long. I’m proud of that.
Wanna see some pictures?
I went to Magic Mountain with my friend Greg, who I’ve known most of my life. Here we are waiting in line for Superman:
I love theme parks. Love ‘em! I love the rides, the atmosphere, the rides, the scenery, and the rides. I’ve written pretty regularly about my theme park adventures on this blog. I debuted this blog with a post that recounted my first visit to Magic Mountain – a momentous occasion, since it was the first time that I wasn’t too big to fit on a roller coaster in almost a decade. Since then, I’ve visited Knott’s Berry Farm and made a triumphant return to Cedar Point, the park I grew up visiting but hadn’t been to since college, when I was kicked off a ride because of my weight (details about that horrible experience here).
At the end of January, I visited, for the first time, the most famous theme park in the world: Disneyland. I had a wonderful time with my friends Heidi, Tom, and Keith – click here to read about it and see pictures. I had gotten a good deal on a park ticket, too – Disney offers southern California residents a 2-day pass for $99 (a basic 1-day pass is $80). And that meant that I had to go back to Disney a second time before my pass expired in June.
Luckily for me, there are two Disney theme parks in Anaheim. There’s the classic Disneyland, and the much newer Disney California Adventure, which is literally a few hundred feet away. So on Monday, I gathered up Heidi, Tom and Keith again, and we checked out Disney California Adventure. I love a theme park I’ve never been to before!
DCA opened about 10 years ago – it was built where the Disneyland parking lot used to be – and since I had never been there before, I had no idea what to expect. I had briefly heard about a few of the rides but knew very little about the park. Heidi and Keith are Disney junkies that know everything about everything – the perfect theme park companions!
I’m squinting in that photo, but here I am with Paradise Pier in the background. Paradise Pier was my favorite themed area – it’s a big carnival midway section of the park that wraps around a big lagoon. Screamin’, the roller coaster, wraps above and around a lot of it, and there are smaller carnival style rides. The ferris wheel, called Mickey’s Fun Wheel, is 160 feet tall and has both stationary gondolas, like a regular ferris wheel, and swinging ones, that add a thrill element. We waited in the longer line for a swinging one, and I snapped this photo of myself while we waited:
Here’s Heidi, Tom, and I on Mickey’s Fun Wheel:
My favorite amusement park rides are roller coasters, and Screamin’ is a good one – it’s fast, has great dives and air time, and it’s long. Paradise Pier is also home to what turned out to be one of my favorite rides: Toy Story Midway Mania. It’s a fantastic mash-up of ride and carnival game. You wear 3-D glasses, and sit in cars equipped with toy guns that whip you through fun carnival-themed environments. The cars stop in front of 5 or 6 giant screens, and you compete against the other people in your cars in virtual carnival games populated with Toy Story characters: there’s a ring toss, and games where you break plates with baseballs, pop balloons with darts, and shoot at moving targets. The ride keeps track of your points, and at the end of the ride, you can see who won! I rode with Tom…
…and I won (I was Player 2)!
Heidi, who was one car over, handily beat me by an additional 30,000 points or so. Well played, Heidi!
While Toy Story Midway Mania was a blast, my favorite ride at DCA was Soarin’ Over California, where you sit in chairs that allow your feet to dangle. When the ride starts, the chairs get repositioned in front of a giant concave IMAX screen. There’s beautiful footage of scenery and landmarks from around California, and it comes together to make it seem like you’re hang gliding over all of it. The ride isn’t scary – it’s simply beautiful, and wonderfully done.
I don’t have too many more pictures to share – I didn’t take many to begin with, and then my battery died halfway through the day (whoops). But I did photograph my lunch, because even though I was at a theme park, that didn’t mean I was going to make poor food choices. We ate at Paradise Garden Grill, which serves Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food – cuisines I’ve never seen in a theme park before!
That’s a beef kofta skewer. Kofta is basically a Middle Eastern spiced meatball. There’s cucumber salad, rice pilaf, and a piece of pita on the side. They offer 4 sauces, but I couldn’t pick just one, so I got all four to try. The white one was tzatziki (a yogurt and cucumber sauce), the green one was chimichurri (an Argentinean herb and oil-based sauce), and I forget what the other ones were, but I think one was a Moroccan-spiced chili sauce.
Later that night, we got a quick bite at Downtown Disney, a shopping and entertainment area next to the park. I got two chicken tacos at a taco stand, with lettuce, onions, cilantro, and salsa (no cheese or sour cream). I’m kinda happy to report that I wasn’t even tempted by any of the unhealthy theme park options, although I did love this vending machine, which we saw while waiting in line for the Monsters Inc. ride:
The “Sugar Salt & Fat” snack is my favorite! (It’s probably pretty delicious, too.)
Apart from the rides, we saw a couple really cool shows. DCA has a Broadway-style musical production of Aladdin that was well done, and, after the sun sets, the lagoon becomes home to World of Color, a very impressive, bright event that involves dancing fountains (like the Bellagio in Las Vegas) that shoot up walls of water that images and film clips are projected onto.
I’m excited to go back to DCA at some point i the future – two big parts of the park were under construction (opening in June): a Cars Land (themed around the Pixar Cars movies), and Buena Vista Street, a tribute to Los Angeles in the 1920s, when Walt Disney first arrived in California.
The best part about theme parks: I was walking all day long. Mile after mile after mile. Normally I’m very diligent about keeping track of my exercise, but every once in a while, it’s fun to have a very physical day (I was exhausted by the time I came home – we were there for around 11 hours!) and not worry about minutes or resistance levels or calories burned.
Keep it up, David!
The past two weeks crawled by. I’ve spent my days with family and friends in Colorado and Michigan, so I’ve kept busy, but my brain wandered every time I had a spare minute, and it always ended in the same place: Cedar Point. I’m not exaggerating: I feel asleep thinking about roller coasters, woke up thinking about roller coasters, drove around town thinking about roller coasters, worked out thinking about… you guessed it… roller coasters. I couldn’t wait to get to Cedar Point, and the day never seemed to get any closer!
Finally, on Saturday, it was time. It was CEDAR POINT DAY! And it didn’t start off well. I checked and rechecked weather forecasts all week (and posted them, too!), watching the chance of rain fluctuate between 40% and 60%, and I was nervous that we’d show up and it would rain all day long. My sister Laura emailed me Cedar Point’s Weather Policies (at the bottom of this page), and basically, once rain starts falling steadily, most of the good rides close. What a bummer that’d be!
It rained all night before we left in the morning. Laura and I picked up my friends Molly and Dan, and it rained the entire 2.5 hour drive to Sandusky, Ohio. Sometimes the rain was a mere sprinkle, sometimes it was a pounding, torrential downpour that drowned out all other noise. It didn’t look good for a fun-filled, rain-free day in the park.
But on our final approach, with the roller coasters in sight, it got quiet. No more raindrops on the windshield! The timing was perfect – we stepped out of the car in the parking lot, and the skies, while overcast, were free of rain clouds. It was our lucky day.
We had prepared and had a game plan in place: head to the back of the park first, and work our way around in a clockwise manner (see the map I made to aid in our strategy sessions here). We were in line for our first roller coaster 20 minutes after the park had opened. Let the pictures begin!
Here’s Laura and me getting ready to ride Maverick:
Maverick is the park’s newest coaster, and while it’s not the highest, it’s one of the best. It’s fast, smooth, and has great twists and turns (watch a video here). I ended up riding it three times – twice in the morning, and once at night, when much of the track isn’t lit, so you’re flying around at 70 mph in darkness. Very cool.
All of us by the Gemini station, the classic dueling wooden roller coaster:
Because there’s two trains that race, we split up into boys vs. girls. Laura took this photo of me looking backward with her cell phone from her train:
Taking that picture was a big no-no. As we climbed the lift hill, the ride operator’s voice boomed from some speakers: “Put the cell phone away! Put the cell phone away! Put the cell phone away!” She did was she was told, and after the ride, she was pulled aside by the ride operator, who told her that having a phone out on a ride is a misdemeanor under Ohio law. (!) BUSTED! Laura could have gone to Cedar Point jail!
Now some of the biggest, most insane rides. Here’s Molly and Laura in line for Millenium Force:
That lift hill in the background is 310 feet high, and by the time you reach the bottom of it, you’re going 93 mph! This was another coaster we rode twice, once during the day, and once at night, and interesting things happened both times: On our first outing, coins fell out of another rider’s pocket while going over a big hill, levitated in front of us, then flew past at speeds at which no coins should ever travel. During the nighttime ride, Molly and I sat towards the back, which was smart, as the riders in front ended the ride peeling dead bugs off their arms and faces. Gross. Gnats should learn to stay away from roller coasters.
Here’s Molly and me waiting for Top Thrill Dragster to start. I love how Molly leaned out to get her face in the shot! This ride is the tallest and fastest in the park, at 420 feet high and 120 mph. It’s basically the same height as a 40-story building!
Once you board the train, it moves out to the launch pad. There are motor revving sound effects, and 30 seconds later, you’re rocketed forward at 120 mph (see video here). The picture above was taken at the launch pad, and this next picture was taken one second before launch (there’s a lighting display, similar to those at drag races, that counts down the final seconds):
Molly and I on the ride - WHEEEEEEEEE!
We planned our day so we went on many of the coasters before tackling the one I was most excited to ride: Raptor. Raptor is the ride that I got kicked off of ten years ago (it was one of the most humiliating experiences in my life, and one that I recall moment by moment in this post), and I was ready to go back and show it who’s boss. I’ve been waiting for this day for a long, long time.
I was ready to ride the Raptor.
I was ready to replace a horrible weight-related memory with a wonderful one.
I’M GONNA RIDE THE RAPTOR, GODDAMMIT!
We headed up to the station platform. There was no one in line, and we were able to get on the train that was boarding right then – NO WAIT AT ALL! Within seconds, I was in the seat, and the over-the-shoulder harness and seat belt were securely locked into place. It all happened so quickly! There was no time for me to get emotional or reflective, because before we knew it, we were click-click-clacking up the lift hill and then flying through 6 inversions at nearly 60 mph.
Raptor is an amazing ride. Your feet dangle, and there’s so many twists and turns that it’s completely disorienting (watch a video here). We got off and immediately got back in line for a second ride. Within minutes, we were boarding the train again, and Molly and Dan hung back for the next train, so they could take this next picture. This, folks, is the picture I’ve waited ten years to share. Here’s I am, comfortably fitting within the Raptor’s restraints:
That’s a ride operator giving the thumbs up, which tells the guy in the booth that everything’s set and the ride can start. It’s my favorite thumbs up ever.
It wasn’t until the end of the second ride on Raptor that I was struck a little bit with the magnitude of what this ride represented to me. I didn’t become an emotional wreck – I just felt proud. Proud of the weight that I’ve lost, proud that I made it back to Cedar Point to experience something I wasn’t able to experience before. There wasn’t tons of time for me to revel in the pride, either – there were more coasters to ride!
Later, it occurred to me how little I had been thinking about my weight at all that day. It had barely ever crossed my mind! This wasn’t my first roller coaster outing since losing the weight – I’ve been to Six Flags Magic Mountain and Knott’s Berry Farm in the past year (click on the names to read my posts about them) – but on both of those outings, every time I stepped onto a coaster platform, there was a moment where I held my breath and hoped that I’d fit. At Cedar Point, that thought never crossed my mind. My weight had become a non-issue in my own head. That’s a feeling I can get used to!
Not all the coasters at Cedar Point were awesome. Blue Streak, the park’s oldest coaster (built in 1964), was so rough it was almost violent, and so creaky that it sounded like the supports were collapsing as we rode over them. Disaster Transport, the indoor coaster, was lame, and the park has abandoned all the story-based elements (the ride was originally themed to be a futuristic journey to Alaska that goes haywire), which made it even lamer.
Their new ride this year, WindSeeker, is pretty cool – it’s a standard swing ride, except that it takes you up 300 feet! Here it is (next to another coaster, Wicked Twister):
WindSeeker is next to the beach, and there’s great views. Call me immature, but I was laughing because someone had drawn a giant, 60-foot-long dick and balls in the sand. If only my camera wasn’t in my zippered pocket, under a lap bar!
All in all, it was an amazing day – the best day I’ve ever had at Cedar Point. More often than not, we waited ten minutes or less, and our longest line was 20 minutes (for Mantis, and they had closed it for a few minutes because someone puked on a train). We went back to ride Mantis (Laura’s favorite ride) a second time, and in the course of the 15 minutes we were in line, two people puked, one on each train, and they had some mechanical problems. The ride closed, and we moved on to something else.
In total, I went on 15 different coasters, a total of 21 times:
Maverick (3 times), Raptor (3 times), Top Thrill Dragster (2 times), Millenium Force (2 times), Mean Streak, Cedar Creek Mine Ride, Gemini, Magnum XL200, Corkscrew, Iron Dragon, Wildcat, Mantis, Blue Streak, Disaster Transport, Wicked Twister.
We also went on 6 non-coaster rides, including Skyhawk and Power Tower, a freefall ride where you get dropped 240 feet straight down. My cousin Macrae is obsessed with Power Tower, because she loves Supreme Scream, a similar ride at Knott’s Berry Farm. She hasn’t been on Power Tower, and wanted me to take a picture from the top of it, which I couldn’t do, because 1) my camera was inaccessible under my harness, and 2) I was too scared. Here I am with Power Tower (you can see riders at the very top of one of the towers):
Cedar Point is incredible, and I went with a great group of people. Molly and Dan are funny, easy-going, and they happily put up with all my nerdy coaster strategizing. Here’s the three of us at Iron Dragon:
And I’m so grateful that Laura was able to come. She drove 5 hours from Chicago on Friday night, just to get in a car for another 2.5 hours the next morning to get to the park. That’s 15 hours in a car over one weekend, just to come to Cedar Point. She’s a trooper!
Laura took one of my favorite pictures of the day, when we were on Sky Ride, the gondola that runs down the length of the park’s main midway:
OH! FOOD! The lunch I packed for all of us (read about it here) went over swimmingly, and there was plenty of food, so it also provided a nice dinner and snacking for the drive home. I didn’t buy any food in the park whatsoever (which my wallet loved), and the only non-packed food I ate was a couple handfuls of popcorn that Laura bought, about 6 pistachios, and 1/2 a bottle of Diet Coke (for some caffeine, since I drove most of the way home).
You know I end all my posts with the same 4 words, and for this post, those 4 words represent so much: planning and eating healthy food in a place that’s filled with tempting unhealthy options, getting tons of exercise (I can’t even guess how many miles we walked), but, most of all, for all the hard work over the past year and a half that’s led to me being able to fully enjoy, without an ounce of worry, all the thrills that a place like Cedar Point has to offer. Thanks for bearing with me during this monstrously long post. All that’s left to say is…
…KEEP IT UP, DAVID!
It’s quite likely that by the time you read this, I’ll be at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, riding roller coasters and having a grand ol’ time. It’s also possible that I’ll be at the park, but not riding anything, because as of right now, there’s a 50% chance of rain. Keep your fingers and toes crossed for us!
As I write this, it’s just before bedtime on Friday night, and I gotta make sure I have everything I need for tomorrow. So let’s go through the checklist:
1) Tickets. I bought these for my sister Laura and me ahead of time at Meijer:
2) Maps. There are two ways to Cedar Point. One involves the Ohio Turnpike, and the other is on Ohio State Route 2. The 2 is a more direct route, but the speed limit is slower. The turnpike is faster, but it’s also a little further out of the way. I printed out maps for both routes. We’ll figure out which one we’ll take tomorrow:
3) Cedar Point Park Map. We’ll get one of these at the park, but I printed one out and marked all the coasters, as well as non-coaster rides of interest, so that we could plan a strategy and figure out an ideal coaster-riding order:
4) Food. The park is open from noon-10pm tomorrow, which means that we’ll be able to bring lunch with us, and eat it before we enter. We’ll save some cash that way, and we’ll also guarantee that our lunch is healthy.
My sister Laura is avoiding processed foods, so I went shopping earlier today and put together an all-natural, processed-food-free lunch for all four of us (besides Laura and me, my friends Molly and Dan are coming along too!). Here’s what we’re bringing:
Vegetables: carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes, yellow squash, zucchini, cucumber, yellow pepper, red pepper. Fruit: pineapple, strawberries, blueberries, grapes.
On top is a black bean dip. In the middle is a spinach hummus. On the bottom are individual serving sizes of cottage cheese.
More Produce and Protein!
I’ll be honest: I just forgot about this stuff, or else I would have incorporated it into the above photos. It’s low-sodium beef jerky and bananas.
Produce and Protein Combined!
I bought the ingredients, and Laura assembled these – they’re turkey lettuce roll-ups. That’s turkey breast slices, sunflower greens, and a little Cajun mayo rolled up in leaf lettuce.
5) Miscellaneous. I borrowed a raincoat from my dad, in case of inclement weather, and will bring along chapstick, gum, my camera, my sunglasses. And the most important article of clothing:
GOOD SHOES. There’s going to be a lot of walking at Cedar Point – hours and hours of it – and I want supportive, comfortable footwear.
Possible crappy weather aside, I’m ecstatic to go back to Cedar Point! Since I likely won’t be getting home until very very late on Saturday, and since I’ll undoubtedly be exhausted, I probably won’t be able to post together my Cedar Point blog until Monday morning. Look for it then!
Keep it up, David!
How was your Labor Day weekend? Did you eat well and exercise? More importantly, did you keep up with Keep it up, David? Of course you did. But in case you’re one of the few people that couldn’t break away from the pool/barbeque/parade/whatever, here are links to the two posts I published over the long weekend: one focuses on food, the other focuses on exercise. Now, on to today’s post!
I can’t wait! On Saturday, I’m heading back to Cedar Point, America’s Roller Coast. There’s no place on earth with a collection of roller coasters like the seventeen that are gathered at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio. As their commercials from the ’80s proclaimed, Cedar Point is the cure for the summertime blues.
Cedar Point is about 3 hours away from where I grew up in suburban Detroit, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve been there – I’ve gone with family, with friends, with church groups, on school outings… growing up, I went nearly every summer, and never tired of it.
My excitement always peaked for the first time each visit in the car. Cedar Point is on a peninsula that sticks out into Lake Erie, and a significant part of the causeway that gets you there is over water. I remember pressing my face to the window in the car, scanning the horizon, watching the peninsula get closer, waiting until the moment when I could see the tops of the roller coasters appear above the trees. I can see it! We’re here!
There was the excitement of trying to pick the shortest line to buy tickets and actually get in the park, and once you made it through the gate, the decision became Where do we go first? What do we ride before we ride anything else?
Cedar Point has a fantastic record of regularly building new roller coasters. The first new one that I can remember eagerly anticipating was Iron Dragon, which opened in 1987, when I was 8 years old. It’s a suspended coaster, which mean you sit in trains that hang from the track, and they swing back and forth around the curves. While the Iron Dragon is rather tame compared to the coasters they’ve built since, at the time it was terribly exciting, especially the end of the ride, where the track dove in and around itself in a final pretzel-like helix over a lagoon that was surrounded by the midway.
The rides that came after continually raised the bar and, consequently, made me more and more excited to return to the park each year:
- Magnum XL-200, which opened in 1989, was the first coaster in the world to be more than 200 feet tall, and it’s still an amazing ride: it has the clackety, anxiety-inducing lift hill (which takes nearly a minute to climb), great drops, hills that lift your butt from the seat, and tunnels.
- Mean Streak, the new coaster for 1991, broke records among wooden coasters when it first opened, and I loved that the long queue line for the ride was located in the middle of the ride, so I could watch the trains diving and turning all around me.
- In 1994, the new coaster was unlike any other in the park. Called Raptor, it’s like riding the topsy-turvy ski lift – the track is above you, and your legs and feet dangle freely. It goes upside-down 6 times, more than any other coaster in the park.
- 1996 saw Mantis, the park’s first stand-up roller coaster, which was so crazy and terrifying that rumors spread immediately about people losing consciousness on it.
- Then there’s Millenium Force, which, when it opened in 2000, helped Cedar Point shatter 13 world records, including roller coaster height (310 feet) and speed (93 mph). The anticipation for this ride, at the time, was astronomical, and it’s been named either the best or second-best steel roller coaster in the country every year since it opened.
The last time I went to Cedar Point was in the summer of 2001, when I was 22 and about to enter my final year in college. I was much, much heavier then, and it was… well, it was memorable, and not in a good way. I went with my friend Jim, and a couple buddies of his from high school. Because it was located near the entrance to the park, the first coaster we got in line for was Raptor. The wait was long – at least an hour – but finally it was our time to board the train and scream for a few exhilarating minutes.
I sat down, and brought the over-the-shoulder harness into place. As I remember it, the harness had to brought down far enough so it could lock into place, and a seat belt that came up from between your legs buckled into it. I couldn’t quite get the over-the-shoulder harness far enough down. I was too fat. A ride operator came by – a guy around my age and probably 150 pound lighter – and tried to push the harness the final inches so it could lock. He couldn’t do it, and then he sighed, loudly, and looked up at me.
I can still remember the look of contempt on his face, as if he’d spent all summer dealing with fatties who should know better than to try to get on roller coasters. “You need to leave the boarding platform,” he declared, squinting his eyes at me. “You can’t ride.” He had his arm fully extended, pointing at the exit, like a parent scolding a child and sending them off to their room.
Here I was, in a situation where my excessive size caused a problem, and yet, I’d had never felt so small. There’s noise in a roller coaster station – the chattering of excited riders, the hissing of hydraulics – but it seemed to all go quiet, and the eyes of everyone in line behind me, staring at the situation unfolding before them, made my skin burn. “Let’s try one more time,” I stammered. “I’ll take a deep breath.” Please oh please let this harness lock into place I don’t want to be humiliated I really wanna go on Raptor it’ll be so embarrassing if I get kicked off.
The ride operator took a step closer to me, his eyes narrowing even further. He got so close I could feel his breath, and his tone, in an instant, turned angry and combative. “Look,” he shouted, “you can’t ride, and if you have a problem with that, you need to take it up in the main office located next to the park entrance. Right now, I. Need. You. To. LEAVE.” He grabbed the harness and yanked it up off over my shoulders, and pointed again at the exit. I looked at Jim, who seemed startled, looked back at the ride operator, whose nostrils were flaring, and climbed out of the seat. My eyes welled up, but I wouldn’t let myself cry in front of all those people. I avoided eye contact with anyone as I made my way to the swinging gate, and called out, over my shoulder, “I’ll wait for you at the exit!” I tried to sound cheerful. I felt anything but.
When I got to the midway, I found a bench, sunk my head into my hands, and wiped away some tears. I could hear the train that Jim was on climbing the lift hill, but I refused to watch. I pulled myself together – I wasn’t going to look defeated when Jim and the others found me in just a few short minutes.
I stood when I saw Jim come out of the exit. “How was it?” I asked, fulling knowing the answer: It’s awesome. Jim didn’t answer the question, but rather, he made an observation. “That guy was a jerk. He could have let you leave with your dignity.”
For the next few hours, I did consider going to the main office. I had no intention of demanding a chance to ride Raptor – I understood why I was kicked off. But I did consider filing a complaint against the ride operator, who handled the situation so poorly and rudely. I never made it to the main office, though, because as the day progressed, I learned there were other coasters that I could fit into (barely) – the ones without over-the-shoulder harnesses – plus, complaining would require me to relive the whole scenario again, and I didn’t want to do that.
I haven’t been back to Cedar Point since that day, 10 years ago, and as I plan for this Saturday’s trip, I feel a certain detachment to that memory. It’s still painful, but now I feel removed from it. It was a different me that suffered the shame of being booted off a roller coaster. I’m not that guy anymore.
When I return to Cedar Point this weekend, I’ll enter the park having lost 168 pounds in the past 20 months and having gained the freedom to go any death-defying contraption I want (and I want to go on everything!). There will be no ride operators looking me up and down, squeezing me into restraints, ordering me to wait for my party on the midway.
More than anything else (including the three coasters they’ve built since my last visit), I especially look forward to riding Raptor, and treasuring every moment: the anticipation of riding, the boarding process, hearing the harness click into place, ascending the lift hill, whirling down nearly 4,000 feet of track at 57 mph, coming to a stop as the ride concludes.
I need a new Raptor memory to replace the one that’s seared in my brain.
This weekend, I’m going to get it.
Unless, of course, it rains, and the park shuts the coasters down. It’s true. Ten years of waiting to go back to Cedar Point, and I ended up scheduling a day that has a 40% chance of rain. See for yourself – this is what I saw last night on The Weather Channel’s website:
If you know any anti-rain dances or have an ‘in’ with Mother Nature, can you please see what you can do to keep us dry on Saturday? I’d really appreciate it! I’m going to continue what I’ve been doing for the past two months, which is to think positive thoughts and picture seat belts easily buckling into place, then getting double-checked by ride operators who will never know that these moments would never have happened for me as recently as two years ago. I can’t wait to smile at them, then look ahead, and gear up for the click-click-clack of the lift hill chain that will take me up, up, up into the sky.
Keep it up, David!
Want to read more about my theme park adventures? Check out my posts about visiting Six Flags Magic Mountain last September, and Knott’s Berry Farm in February. Also, check out what it’s like to ride Top Thrill Dragster, Cedar Point’s tallest and fastest roller coaster – you can find the video here.
It just hit me. In exactly two weeks from today, I’ll be riding the coasters at Cedar Point! For any of you that aren’t familiar, Cedar Point is an amazing amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio. It currently has 17 roller coasters, and is the only park on the planet to have 4 that are over 200 feet tall. It’s been named “Best Amusement Park in the World” for the past 13 consecutive years. Need I say more? It ROCKS.
I haven’t been to Cedar Point in 10 years. But I’m going in two weeks. I can’t wait!
You’ll be hearing LOTS about Cedar Point on this blog in the next couple weeks. For now, I’m gonna keep this post short and sweet (I’m really tired), and post a video of one of the rides I’m most excited about: Top Thrill Dragster. It’s 420 feet high, goes 120 mph, and since it was built after my last visit, I’ve never been on it. Check it out:
In other news, today was a rest day. I’ve exercised for the past 9 days in a row, so I was due. I did go with my sister, nephew, niece, and cousin for a walk to the playground – we were gone over an hour – so I wasn’t completely inactive. And tomorrow, we’re going for a hike in the mountains. I gotta remember to bring my camera!
Keep it up, David!
I’m still catching up from all the fun I had over Presidents’ Day weekend. You’d think lunch on Saturday at a fancy, famous restaurant would be enough, but nope! Sunday proved to be an incredible day, too, which I spent with my cousins at Knott’s Berry Farm. (Monday was also one hell of a day, but I’ll save that for my next post.)
I love roller coasters, but for most of my adult life I’ve stayed away from them, because I was too fat to ride them. My very first post on this blog, back in September, was about going on roller coasters at Six Flags Magic Mountain, and that was the first time I’d been on a roller coaster in eight years. Here’s a little more of my history with roller coasters, from that blog post:
The last roller coaster I had ridden before today (excluding 2 kiddie ones at Legoland in June) was the one that goes around New York New York in Las Vegas in July of 2002, and it was a tight fit. I had to suck in my gut and hold my breath to get that harness to click into place, and once I did, there was no room for me to exhale completely. Good times.
That, however, was a better experience than the time before: maybe a year prior, I had an awful experience with friends at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio (the park I grew up going to, America’s Roller Coast, my all-time favorite park), where I was kicked off Raptor because I didn’t fit, in front of everyone in the station, by a thin (naturally) ride operator who really couldn’t have been ruder about the whole thing. Now that’s a walk of shame – holding up a train full of people who have waited an hour or more, while a punk-ass guy scolds me, then tells me I have to leave, then getting up out of the train while trying to laugh it off and fight back a tear then shouting to my friends over my shoulder, ‘I’ll wait for you by the exit!’ as if I had any choice in the matter.
The first couple times I boarded a coaster at Six Flags, about 6 months ago, I had lingering fears that maybe, just maybe, I still wasn’t gonna fit – but the other day at Knott’s, the thought never even occurred to me once, and we went on a LOT of rides: Eight different roller coasters, and we went on two of them twice (Xcelerator and Montezooma’s Revenge), and one of them (Ghost Rider) three times. We also went on four other non-coaster rides, including Supreme Scream twice, which is the scariest ride in the park – It’s a freefall ride, where you get strapped into a seat, taken up about 250 feet, and then they drop you back to earth. Here’s the tower:
There’s three towers, so they can accommodate more riders, and you can see on the tower in the center of the picture, about halfway up, a car-load of riders making their ascent. I took this picture while waiting in line the second time we rode, and riding at night is even scariest than during the day. It’s beautiful to see all the lights of the park, and surrounding Orange County, spread out before you, and get smaller and smaller as you rise above them – oh, and it’s also ridiculously terrifying, because you don’t know when you’re going to reach the top until you reach it, and you only hover at the top for about 2 or 3 seconds before Whoosh! You start falling, and your butt lifts off the seat, and your heart pounds even harder, and it feels like your stomach is somewhere near your neck. My heart is racing just recalling the experience!
Here are a few other photos:
That’s Macrae on the left, then me, then Erik, then Aaron. Erik and Aaron are my first cousins, and Macrae and Erik are married, so I suppose she’s my cousin-in-law? I just call her my cousin too. Behind us is Xcelerator, the park’s fastest coaster, which shoots you out of the station at 82 miles per hours and sends you straight up (and down) a 205-foot hill.
Here we are in front of the entrance of Montezooma’s Revenge:
This is a fun, quick coaster that shoots trains out of the station, through a loop, and up a hill, and then you go backwards down the hill and through the loop, and that’s about it. But I loved that there’s a ride at a family-friendly theme park named after diarrhea. Love it. And for the record, none of us got the shits after riding it.
The waits at Knott’s weren’t that bad – I’d say we averaged 20-30 minutes per ride. Our longest wait, which was probably close to an hour, was for one of the mildest coasters, Pony Express, which only lasts about 35 seconds, but it pretty unique in that instead of riding in a train, everyone rides their own horse. Here’s me and Macrae on our horses before the ride started:
In case you’re wondering how I ate at a theme park, where funnel cakes, corn dogs and caramel corn await around every corner, I’ll tell you. I ate breakfast before leaving the house (oatmeal, banana, apple), then, on the car drive down (which took about an hour), I munched, the entire time, on carrot and celery sticks – I wanted to bulk up on veggies, as I knew they’d be tough to find throughout the rest of the day. For lunch, we stepped just outside the park and went to Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Restaurant. This restaurant opened in the ’30s, and was so popular that the theme park was built around it to keep diners occupied while they waited for hours to get a table.
My meal began with a salad and some rhubarb, which was served in a cherry syrup:
I ordered the rhubarb over the soup (which was cream-of-something, I forget) because I’ve only had it maybe twice before in my entire life, but the syrup was really sweet and it all tasted like it came from a can, so I only ate about three pieces of it. The salad looked like it came from a bag, but I ate all of it, because it’s salad. I ordered Italian dressing on the side, because our server identified it as being their low-cal dressing, but only used a little bit. My main course was broiled chicken and potatoes:
I couldn’t tell what the sauce on the right was, but it looked like a flavored butter, so I didn’t touch it. The chicken was fine, and I ate one of the potatoes, and all of the braised cabbage, which is in the bowl on the top corner. Dessert came with our meals, and was the choice of three types of pie, but I passed. My cousins all got pieces, but no one ate more than three or four bites (they weren’t that good), so I felt perfectly happy passing on dessert.
We stopped at a gas station leaving the park, and I picked up a bottle of water for the drive, and a banana, and I also ate 5 or 6 almonds that Macrae had brought, and a Gummi Bear that were being passed around the car, and then my dinner, when I got home, was leftover balsamic chicken, couscous, and quinoa from the other night. I ate well. At one point in the day I started craving kettle corn really badly, because the girls behind us in line were eating a giant bag of it, but once the ride was over and we got away from the girls, the craving went away.
Keep it up, David!