At Universal Studios… For a Workout?!?

March 13, 2014

What a difference 45 minutes makes. That’s all I needed to go from looking like this…

David-Globe-Universal-Studios-Hollywood

…to becoming a sweaty, exhausted mess:

Read the rest of this entry »


Six Flags Great America!

June 21, 2013

Wednesday turned out to be a fantastic day. I can sum up why in two words: Roller Coasters!

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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 »


Magic Mountain 2 – The Sequel!

September 17, 2012

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 hereThat 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:

Read the rest of this entry »


Disney California Adventure

March 14, 2012

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!


Adventure Wednesday: Disneyland!

February 1, 2012

This summer will mark my 10th anniversary of moving to southern California. In all that time, I never once went to one of the biggest, most iconic landmarks around. That’s right, ladies and gentleman, I’d never been to Disneyland. Ever. Until two days ago.

There was no particular reason I had never been to Disneyland (I have been twice to Disney World in Florida, but not in 20 years), although I’m sure I had the notion, deep in my brain, that I couldn’t possibly enjoy it if I was too big to go on the rides. That’s not an issue anymore, so when I got the Disneyland itch last fall, I started really wanting to go.

One of the big reasons I wanted to go to Disneyland is because some of my friends are giant Disney fans, and I realized that going with them would be a pretty special and fan outing. Heidi is one of those friends. Maybe you’re familiar with Heidi – she blogs over at Finishing the Hat (the title of this post, in fact, is in honor of her blog) – but she’s not just my friend from the blogosphere. I’ve known her since 1997, when we met at orientation before starting our freshman year at the University of Michigan. Heidi is a frequent Disneyland visitor – once every couple months or so, with periods in her life where she’s gone monthly. She knows a ton about Disneyland – in fact, she’s a self-proclaimed Disney nerd, and she jumped at the chance to show a first-time visitor around.

I picked up Heidi and her husband Tom on Tuesday, and the three of us drove down to Anaheim. We talked park strategies on the way down, and, at one point, Heidi stopped me mid-question and asked, “David, are you going to want the full nerd tour when we get there?” I looked over and said, “Heidi, anything less than the full nerd tour would be a waste of time.” And I was serious. I’m going to Disneyland with an authority on the matter, so I wanted to learn as much as I possibly could!

The first stop, when we got to the park, was City Hall, where I was given, free of charge, a 1st timer button:

The full nerd tour was awesome. Heidi pointed out all the Disney hidden secrets – which building had the apartment Walt Disney lived in during the park’s construction (it’s above the Main Street Fire Station), the significance of this and that decorative feature, why certain rides had certain features that other rides didn’t.

We started in Fantasyland, riding all the classic rides. A few hours into the day, our friend Keith joined us. I was already impressed with Heidi’s wealth of Disney knowledge, but Keith is a whole different story. He is a board-certified, fully-licensed, triple-black-belt Disney expert who has been a regular visitor for the past ten years. “Regular visitor” doesn’t do it justice – while waiting in a line, I grilled Keith about his history with the park, and did some fast math in my head. “Keith,” I said, “is it safe to say you’ve been to Disneyland 500 times?” Keith’s response: “Easily.”

Let’s just let that soak in for a quick second: Keith has been to Disneyland over FIVE HUNDRED TIMES. He lives 15 minutes from Disneyland, and swings by a couple times a week. He’s there so often he’s been mistaken for a park employee before. He knows everything about everything. He knows when buildings get new paint jobs. He knows when the soundtracks to the parades get updated or revised. He knows how Splash Mountain in California is different from the one in Florida, down to ride mechanics and how the seats are configured on each log. It’s unbelievable, and, for someone like me who is naturally curious, enjoys learning, and appreciates other people’s passions, it’s completely fascinating.

So, when you add Heidi and Keith’s libraries of information together… holy cow! It is the best way to experience Disneyland. If you have the opportunity to go to Disneyland with them, don’t think about it – just go. You won’t regret it. Here’s Heidi, Tom, Keith and me in front of the Haunted Mansion:

And the four of us on the Casey Jr. circus train:

It was a great day to visit the park. It was a Monday, perfect weather (70 degrees and cloudy), and lines were short. We walked onto some rides, like Pirates of the Caribbean and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and waited, on average, 10 or 15 minutes for most of the others. Our longest wait was for Star Tours, and that was 45 minutes. Here’s Keith and I with our Star Tours 3D glasses:

Keith is really cute, don’t you think? I do.

As a result of the short lines, we went on everything we wanted to ride. In order, we went on:

Peter Pan, Snow White, Pinocchio, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Alice in Wonderland, Roger Rabbit, Finding Nemo, Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters, Space Mountain, Storybook Land Boats, Casey Jr. Circus Train, Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, Winnie the Pooh, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, Indiana Jones, Jungle Cruise, and Star Tours. Heidi and Keith are going to be horrified that I botched most of those names.

Nineteen rides – pretty sweet! We also saw the parade. OH – and I met a princess! This was a goal of mine. My 3-year-old niece Allison is obsessed with Disney princesses, and I wanted a picture with one to make her jealous (I’m such a good uncle, aren’t I?). Heidi and Keith warned me, multiple times, that the princesses were extremely popular, and that I should expect to wait an hour or more for the chance to meet and greet one. But twenty minutes into our day, what did we stumble upon? A row of princesses! Cinderella had the shortest line – I waited three minutes, and Heidi snapped this picture. Eat your heart out, Allison!

Cinderella and I are total besties now. She asked me to say hello to Allison for her, which I did. I texted that photo to my sister Sarah, who reported back that Allison stared it for ten minutes straight. I can’t wait to go to Disneyland someday with her and her brother Sam! I gave Allison specific instructions to bug Mommy and Daddy every single day to visit Uncle David in California so we can go to Disneyland, so it’s just a matter of Allison being persistent and Mommy and Daddy caving in!

I didn’t take tons of other photos that day, but here’s me in a teacup…

…and in the dog pound (I was unaware, at the time, that Pluto was right around the corner):

My favorite ride was probably Pirates of the Caribbean, because it’s so grand in scale and atmospheric. I enjoyed most of the dark rides, because they’re a Disney specialty – you don’t see many of them at other theme parks. Peter Pan brought back childhood Disney World memories and has a special place in my heart, and I loved Pinocchio because it’s so eerie and disturbing. If you’re a longtime reader of this blog, you know I love roller coasters (read about my trips to Magic Mountain, Knott’s Berry Farm, and Cedar Point), and Big Thunder Mountain and Space Mountain are both well-themed, exciting rides.

At the other end of the spectrum, I didn’t really care for the Roger Rabbit ride, which bummed me out, because I love that movie. And my least favorite ride, by far, was Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters. It’s a dark ride, but every rider has a laser gun, and you shoot at targets during the ride and earn points. I rode with Tom, and let’s just say he’s a little bit better than me. My score is on the left:

He only beat me by nearly 60,000 points. Big whoop. What a dumb, stupid ride. I’ve never going on it ever again.

Being a good food blogger, I also photographed my lunch. I had a big breakfast before leaving the house, and ate a late dinner when I got home, so I only needed to eat one meal in the park. We decided on Cafe Orleans, a sit-down restaurant in the New Orleans Square part of the park, and I ordered a big salad:

That’s salmon over mixed greens, corn salsa, orange segments, grapes, and caramelized onions, with a citrus dressing. And iced tea.

I was pleasantly surprised with the food options at Disneyland. There’s all the unhealthy theme park options, like caramel corn and churros, but they also sold fresh fruit all over the place, and fresh veggies and hummus, too. Heidi mentioned that yogurt and a few other healthy options were available, too – so Disneyland gets lots of bonus points.

As for exercise, well, we spent about 9 hours walking around, so I’m sure that adds up to at least a few miles. I also did a little weight-lifting, but I think this dumbbell was too heavy:

I’ll wrap this up with another huge thanks to Keith, Heidi, and Tom for making this day such an ridiculously enjoyable one. We’re gonna do it again, soon, at Disney’s California Adventure! I’ll give the final words in this post to Walt Disney himself. This is my favorite quote of his:

“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”

Well said, Walt. It sure is!

KEEP IT UP, DAVID!

UPDATE! Two more photos, courtesy of Keith. Here we are on Splash Mountain:

Yep, I’m blocking Heidi completely! It was already dark by the time we got to Splash Mountain, and going on it was a mistake, because we got soaked, and it was cold. However, if we didn’t go on it, I’m sure I would have regretted it. So, a lose-lose situation. And here we are on Space Mountain:

And now I’m completely blocking Tom. (Keep it up, David!) Naturally, Keith knew exactly where the cameras were placed on each ride, so I’m looking at him so I could copy his pose. But I obviously didn’t make it in time!


I Came, I Saw, I Conquered… CEDAR POINT!

September 12, 2011

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 PointI’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!


Cedar Point Checklist

September 10, 2011

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:

Produce!

Vegetables: carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes, yellow squash, zucchini, cucumber, yellow pepper, red pepper.  Fruit:  pineapple, strawberries, blueberries, grapes.

Protein Sources!

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!


Five Days Until Cedar Point!

September 6, 2011

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.


Magic Mountain!

September 13, 2010

What a day!  I’m beat and ready for bed.  I thought I’d share some photos first, though – because today I went on my 1st big reward trip, to Six Flags Magic Mountain!  A little background:  months and months ago, I decided that my first weight loss goal would be 100 pounds.  I chose it because it was more than I’d ever lost on a diet before, and because, well, it’s a nice round number and I like nice round numbers.  I also decided that I should motivate myself with some sort of reward once I read that goal, and it took me a little while to figure out what that goal should be.  It seemed wrong to reward myself with food (“I’ve lost 100 pounds, I’m gonna buy me some FUDGE!”), so I went with roller coasters.  I love Love LOVE roller coasters, and because I was so overweight (or, in theme park parlance, a ‘guest of exceptional size’), I haven’t really been able to ride them my entire adult life.  In fact, 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 your friends over your shoulder, ‘I’ll wait for you by the exit!’ as if I had any choice in the matter.

But I digress.  It’s all in the past now, because damn it, I’m skinny enough to ride roller coasters again!  I actually reached that 100 pound milestone in July, much faster than I anticipated, actually.  I decided to hold off on the Magic Mountain trip until now, just so it wouldn’t be so crowded.  Man, was that a good idea!  The park was not busy at all.  We waited 10 minutes or less for about 8 different coasters, and the most we waited was about 50 minutes, once, for X2.  In total, we went on 12 different coasters (all of them except the 2 that were closed for maintenance or whatever), and we went on 5 of them twice, for a total of 17 coaster experiences, plus 5 non-coaster rides (“carnie rides” as my friend Jen, who came with me, called them) – 22 rides total.  In 8.5 hours.  A great day!

Here’s some pics of Jen and me in front of our favorite rides:

X2. The favorite ride for both of us.  The seats are on either side of the track, and they rotate in a complete circle, so at any point on the ride, you don’t know what direction you’ll be facing.  Craziness.  You go up the lift hill backwards, then you’re rotated so you go down the first hill face first, and so on.  It’s fast and smooth and unpredictable (the first time you go on it).  Amazing.   Oh – the loop in the picture in the top right isn’t actually X2, it’s Viper, which is right next to it, and my least favorite coaster, because I am a little too tall.  I’m 6’4″, and the over-the-shoulder harness dug into the tops of my shoulders.  Plus it was jerky.  Jerky + Painful = Bottom of the list.

Tatsu. This is the flying coaster, where you’re in the train lying on your stomach, head first, with the track above you so you have no idea where you’re going.  Lots of big hills and swoopy curves and inversions.  It was the only coaster we did twice in a row – we loved it so much we did it again, in the front row the second time.  It helped that we waited, like, 10 minutes combined for the two rides – we got there pretty much just as the park opened.  Jen’s head kept getting cropped in these pics – whoops!  I was taking the pics myself, and it was hard to get me, her, and the sign all in the frame!

Colossus. I got all of Jen’s head in this pic!  Colossus is their big, older wooden coaster with twin tracks so 2 trains could race each other.  But when the park isn’t so busy, like today, they only run 1 train.  That’s ok, though, because the ride is awesome.  It’s everything you want a wooden coaster to be:  Loud, clackety, steep drops, lots of air time.  Reminded me a lot of Gemini, Cedar Point’s twin wooden coaster.

Goliath. I finally enlisted a stranger to take a picture, since their entry sign is so huge (huge enough to not even fit entirely in the frame).  One of the park’s tallest coasters with a first drop of 255 feet (into an underground tunnel!).  It doesn’t go upside down, but it’s super fast and only has a lap bar, so your butt rises off the seat at the tops of the hills.

Jen and I also loved Scream, where your feet dangle beneath you, and I loved Riddler’s Revenge, which is their stand-up coaster, but Jen didn’t like it nearly as much.

Since this is (or will be, as this is my first post) a blog about weight loss and food, I thought I’d mention what we ate there, since there’s so many unhealthy choices, and I didn’t want to go off my diet, especially since I had decided I wasn’t going to reward myself with food.  Around 1pm, we started looking for a healthy lunch, and decided upon the “family-size” salads at Papa Johns.  Here’s a photo:Lettuce, 2 cherry tomatos, 2 pepperoncinis (but Jen gave me hers, so I had 4) and dressing – I had a couple tablespoons of Ranch.  A few hours later, we stopped and got big turkey sandwiches (bread, turkey, lettuce, tomato, relish, mustard – we both removed the cheese), and I had half a single-size bag of potato chips – about 3/4 of an ounce.  Add in a good breakfast beforehand of fruit and eggs, and a good dinner at home after of carrots, celery, leftover cauliflower mash (cauliflower, yogurt, scallion, herbs), and strawberries, and a ton of water, and that’s my food log for the day.  More on food logs in future posts.

One final picture:  The last moments of daylight behind the coasters as we walked to the car:The wooden one in front is Colossus, and Goliath is behind it, and the vertical tower is Superman The Escape, which was closed today.

It’s just after midnight as I type this, and as I think back about the day, there’s one highlight that I will remember most of all.  It’s not the short lines, or seeing employees on 2 different rides cleaning up other riders’ puke, or the wonderful people-watching (theme parks are great places to see lots of what-were-they-thinking tattoos).  The best highlight of all is that I fit.  I worked hard, and as a result, I fit on rides that 8 months ago I couldn’t go on.  There were moments during the day where I felt like crying when that harness clicked into place, and I didn’t, because the excitement about the coaster itself was overwhelming as well.  But what a feeling!  My determination and willpower brought me to Magic Mountain, and sent me flying along miles of track and through countless inversions.  What am I gonna be able to do next?  That journey really is the most exciting ride of all.

Keep it up, David!


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