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!