Too Many Photos From My Weekend in Northern Ohio (Including a HUGE Race Milestone)

June 12, 2019

I know that this post is supposed to be about my weekend trip to Ohio, but my adventures actually start in Michigan, on Friday evening, when I saw a childhood friend I hadn’t seen in almost thirty years.

That’s Shay. He lived down the street for one year when we were in middle school, and we became good friends. Then he had the nerve to move to Florida, that jerk! Anyway. We reconnected Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

My Incredible Shrinking Clothes – Casual Pants Edition

January 19, 2012

Come see me speak at Whole Foods Pasadena in two weeks! I’ll be there on February 2nd. Click here for details, and tell all your friends in southern California!

Gather ’round, because I have an epic tale involving a pair of pants. This is a post I’ve wanted to write for five months, but there have been delays, due to events both good and not-so-good, my own procrastination, and a good solid stretch where I forgot about this idea completely.

Let’s start from the beginning, shall we?

Part 1 – Finding the Pants (Early Sept, 2011). At the end of August, I flew to Michigan for a couple weeks, and on one of my very first days there, I went shopping with my mom at Macy’s. We entered on the opposite side of the store from the Men’s Department, and as we approached, the very first thing I see is a display featuring an awesome pair of pants. I had a feeling this would be fortuitous, so I snapped a crappy picture on my cell phone:

They’re the pants on the mannequin in the front. I made a beeline for them. They were awesome. My mom liked them too. I grabbed a pair in my size. When I got to the dressing room, with an armful of options, I tried on these pants first. Something didn’t seem right, so I went out and showed my mom, who said something that I’ll never tire of hearing: “Well, you’ll just have to see if they have them one size smaller!”

I found them in the smaller size (more on that size later), and they fit. Perfectly. So I took them home with me, along with a pair of jeans I also ended up blogging about.

Part 2 – Wearing the Pants (September 10, 2011). I had the perfect occasion to break in my awesome new pants: Cedar Point. They were the most awesome pants to wear to the world’s most awesome amusement park. Before the big trip to Cedar Point, I called my sister Laura, who was going to come with me, and I said: “I found the best pair of Cedar Point pants ever.” Her reply: “Do they have zippered pockets or something?” Laura knows me pretty well! In addition to zippered pockets (which keep important items from flying out on crazy and super-fast roller coasters), they were lightweight and comfortable.

The first time I wore the pants was at Cedar Point, and, as I predicted, they were perfect. Here I am, in the pants, near the entrance to Millenium Force, Cedar Point’s 310-foot coaster:

The pants have eight pockets total (two on the butt, two on the side, two zipper pockets, and two flap pockets just above the knee), and I made good use of them at Cedar Point. Not ever did I lose my phone, wallet, camera, chapstick, gum, or the jerky that I carried around for 1/2 the day just in case I needed a quick protein fix. It was a long day: 10 hours in the park, and another 5 in the car, and by the end of it, I was more in love with my pants than ever. (You can read more about my Cedar Point adventures here – that day was 10 years in the making!)

The pants were worn frequently during the next few weeks… until disaster struck.

Part 3 – Demise of the Pants (October 2, 2011). This day was supposed to be celebratory, because the night before, at 9:15pm, I set out to accomplish a goal I had set a year earlier: to run past all six strip clubs in my neighborhood without stopping. I completed the run (6.4 miles), and, for this blog, wanted my picture in front of each strip club. So, on October 2, I drove around to all the establishments I ran past the night before, and photographed myself. You can see the photos and read about the run here.

I wore the pants. I was kinda in a rush, because I had a dinner party to go to that night, but I stopped in front of every strip club and snapped away. At about the fourth strip club, as I was getting out of my car, I heard the rip.

I’m very familiar with the sound of pants splitting up the backside. I split more than my fair share of pants when I was heavier (and always pairs that I really liked), and when I heard that sound, I knew exactly what had happened. I reached around and felt, and sure enough, there was a tear. A big tear. CRAP.

There were two more strip clubs to photograph, which I did with ripped pants, and then I went home and changed before the dinner party. Once the pants were off my body, I was able to confirm what I already knew: the rip was bad.

At least the rip wasn’t right up the ass. It was a little off-center, and up the side of the back pocket.

Part 4 – Forgetting About The Pants (October-January). The ripped pants stayed out in the open for about a week, with the intention that I would try to fix them, or have them fixed for me, but that didn’t happen, and soon, they were tossed in the deepest, darkest corner of my closet, where I forgot about them.

Part 5 – Finding The Pants, Again. (January 18, 2012). Yesterday, while rooting through my closet, I found the pants. I held them up, and my fond memories of loving the pants came back. Then I turned them around, saw the rip, and those memories came back. I decided on the spot that it was time to fix the pants.

I wouldn’t say I’m a whiz with a needle and thread, but I know enough to make some simple repairs, like reattaching buttons or stitching up a tear. This was a big tear, too – I had forgotten how big. I could fit my hand through it:

So I got out my sewing supplies.

I picked a brown thread, because I didn’t think I had enough black. It took over an hour, but I was satisfied with my work. It was a two-part process: first, stitching together the base fabric that covers the butt, and then reattaching the pocket. Check this out – you can hardly tell it had ripped! The tear originally extended the entire length of this photograph, but you can only really see the mismatched thread where the pocket ends:

And you can’t see any evidence of my work at all when the pocket flap is down!

Nice work, David!

There’s one other piece of information about these pants that I had forgotten about until I had them inside out yesterday. They’re a size medium. MEDIUM. The first pair I tried on at Macy’s (the pair that was too big) were a size large. When I ran to grab a medium pair, it occurred to me: I had never fit into medium pants before. This was a new experience.

Here’s a photograph to show how far I’ve come in pant sizes:

I lined up these two pairs of pants, so the seam on the right for both pairs are on top of one another. The khaki pair on the bottom are a size 3x. I wore these when I was at my heaviest. I wore pants with drawstrings almost exclusively when I was heavy – they were more forgiving. Not having to worry about buttons was a good thing. I wore these pants most recently as part of my Halloween costume last year – I dressed as Jared, the Subway guy (see pictures here).

From 3x to medium – that’s freakin’ impressive! Now I just gotta prove that I can still wear these pants without ripping them again! I’m a little hesitant to wear them out, so I think I have a dry run where I wear them around my house for an afternoon, and if that goes well, I’ll venture out in public. I’d hate for my pants to split when I’m around other people, but I do love these pants! And I did wear them successfully on many days before they ripped the first time, so I’m confident they’ll continue to serve me well.

Keep it up, David!

Check out the other seven posts in the My Incredible Shrinking Clothes series by clicking on “My Favorite Posts”!


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!


Weather, Nancy Drew, Pop, and MORE!

September 8, 2011

It was wonderfully rainy yesterday in Michigan.  It was wet all day, ranging from drizzly to a few occasional downpours, and I loved it!  The rain wasn’t so severe that it’s prohibited me from going about my business (although the power did go out for a minute in one of the buildings I was in), and it’s nice to have weather.  There’s not much variety in Los Angeles.  It’s consistently hot and dry (not a bad thing), so to be somewhere where’s actual rain falls for longer than 10 minutes is a nice change of pace.

There’s a few odds and ends that I want to get to today, and since I’ve already mentioned the weather, I thought I’d start by talking about… more weather.

1) Cedar Point Weather Update.  My big Cedar Point trip is the day after tomorrow!  Yesterday I bought discounted admission tickets at Meijer, and I checked to see if the weather forecast had changed.  The last time I looked (at the end of this post), there was a 40% chance of rain.  Here’s the update, courtesy of The Weather Channel:

CRAP.  Now a 50% chance of rain, and not just rain, scattered thunderstorms.  But it’s not going to rain.  I’m willing it not to happen.  The park doesn’t open until noon on Saturday, so if it does rain, maybe I’ll all be over by, say, 11:45am.  Yea, that’ll work just fine!

2) Nancy Drew.  I found this book on the shelf in my parents’ house:

It’s “The Mystery at the Ski Jump,” a vintage Nancy Drew mystery, copyright 1952.  I opened it randomly to page 12, and found this paragraph, which introduced Nancy’s friend Bess:

“I’d rather stay inside,” said Bess, blond and pretty.  “Maybe we can make some fudge,” she added hopefully.  Bess loved sweets and worried little about her weight.

Oh, Bess, you and I are nothing alike.  Except that we both love sweets.  And staying inside.  And we’re both pretty.

3) Pop.  I had another fun reminder that I’m back in Michigan the other day, when I had lunch with my friend Laura, and a word showed up on the bill that I’m not used to seeing anymore:

Michiganders, like most midwesterners, use “pop” as the generic term for soft drinks.  That’s the term I grew up saying.  Sometime during the past 9 years, though, I switched teams, and started referring to soft drinks as “soda,” like everyone else in California.  It wasn’t a conscious switch, it just happened, so it was fun to see “pop” on a restaurant bill. What do you call soft drinks?  Check out this fun map that breaks down who says what in every county in the country.  I don’t drink soda or pop anymore – it was Laura who ordered the pop, and it was Vernors, an amazing ginger ale that was created in Detroit in 1866.

Laura, by the way, is a huge Cedar Point enthusiast who goes every year (she gave me some great park-navigating advice). She’d totally be there screaming alongside us this weekend, except for one little snafu: she’s 7 months pregnant.  It would’ve been fun for Laura to join us at the park, but it will be more fun (if that’s possible) to meet her baby the next time I see her!  Cedar Point isn’t going anywhere – Laura and I can always go another year.  We’ll just leave the baby in the car, with the window rolled down a crack – he’ll be fine!

4) Amazing Super-Local Dinner.  The other night I went to Ann Arbor, my college town, and spent the night with my friend-since-sophomore-year Jim and his husband Aric.  Shortly after I arrived, we sat down to a very impressive and delicious meal that Aric put together.

I’m so amazed at how Jim and Aric eat.  Being healthy and eating well are very important to both of them, as is eating organically, eating seasonally, supporting local farmers, and knowing where their food comes from.  My plate (and bowl):

I can’t remember the specifics of everything on the plate, but the meal included tons of vegetables that came from a variety of wonderful sources:

  • Their backyard.  They have a garden and grow all sorts of things, including the tomatoes and lots of herbs.
  • Farmers’ market.  They go every week and personally know a lot of the vendors.
  • CSA box.  They participate in Community-Supported Agriculture (sometimes called farmshare).  Basically, they pay a fee at the beginning of the summer, and every week, a box is delivered to their door with all sorts of just-picked produce from the fields outside of town.  Sound like something you want to try? Learn more and find a CSA near you here.

A couple more fun things:

  • In the lower left of the plate is homemade kimchi, a Korean dish of fermented vegetables.  This was the second time in a week I’ve eating Korean food (here’s the other time), a new record!  Aric made the kimchi, and I visited on a good night, because I got to see the kimchi get unveiled.  Aric has a fermenting crock (similar to this one), and this batch has been fermenting for a couple weeks in their basement.  The kimchi was delicious, and now I’m toying with the idea of getting a fermenting crock for myself.  Maybe.
  • Two of the dishes had fresh mushrooms in them, and Aric found them, himself, in the woods.  There’s a whole underground culture of people who go looking for wild edible mushrooms, and Aric’s a pro at it.  What’s funny is that mushroom foraging is very hush-hush and top secret, because you don’t want to give away where you’re finding the good stuff!  Aric’s a mushroom expert: he knows the scientific names and can identify tons of mushroom varieties, and has found all sorts of varieties in the woods around Ann Arbor.  He just found this beauty, called Hen-of-the-Woods, which is the size of a football:

My god, I have such interesting friends!

I spent the night in Jim and Aric’s guest room, and before leaving in the morning, I grabbed a peach:

Where did the peach come from?  The peach tree in their backyard, of course!

5) Chart/Exercise Update.  It’s been slightly over two weeks since I’ve updated my weight loss chart, mainly because it’s on my wall in California, and I’m in Michigan (see my two-weeks-ago update here).  I actually don’t even know how I’m doing, weight-wise, because I don’t have access to a reliable scale.  My parents’ scale is way off-base – the last time I used it, I weighed myself 3 times in a row, and got 3 different weights in a 30-pound range, none of them in the ballpark of what I should have weighed.  The gym I joined for these 2 weeks in Michigan has a physician’s scale where you slide the thingamajigs back and forth until the lever-thingie balances, but it’s not accurate either – I used it the other day, and the thingie stayed perfectly balanced for every pound in an 8-pound range.  Not helpful.

I don’t need a scale to know that I’m doing well, however, and it kinda liberating to just live without feeling tethered to a number (although I know my curiosity will get the best of me and I’ll jump on my scale the morning after I get back).  I’ve been eating well and making good choices, and my exercise has been strong.  I took a rest day today, after 7 workouts in a row, and on Monday, I started weight training for the first time since I hurt my lower back.  All went well, and it felt great!  I’ll be hitting the gym again today – I’m looking forward to it!

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.


Two Weeks Until Cedar Point!

August 28, 2011

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!