Friday, May 29, 2009
Top Ten Highlights From Our Foray Into Beech Bend Park
We spent a day at Kentucky's Beech Bend Park two weeks ago and it was a perfect day because it was just cold enough to keep most of the crowds at home. There were literally no lines for anything. Probably sixty people total in the whole park. Beech Bend is this really cool mix of modern rides (wooden coaster, log ride, other coasters etc) and vintage carnival rides like Bobsleds, Swings, and that ridiculous spinning sphere where those who enjoy revisiting their lunch pay for the privilege of whirling around so fast they destroy their equilibrium for the rest of the day. They also have a huge selection of kiddie rides and a cool water park so there's always something for everyone in the family to do. Here's the best of what happened while we were there.
1. The Ferris Wheel: I don't do Ferris Wheels. I know, it's sort of crazy since I'm such an adrenalin junkie with coasters, but Ferris Wheels don't inspire adrenalin in me. They inspire fear. There's nothing fun about willingly entering a cart that refuses to just hold still already. It's bad enough that there's no track beneath me, giving me the illusion of safety, but with a Ferris Wheel I'm stuck slowly savoring the height (which I actually hate, even though I can do it in coasters because it's over so quickly) when the cart stops at the top to let more riders in at the bottom.
This time, I was alone with Daredevil (the other two were with Clint), there was no line anywhere in sight, and so when Daredevil begged me to please go on it with him, I figured I was fairly safe. I didn't realize the man operating the Ferris Wheel was struggling with both a mile-wide sadistic streak and a healthy dose of boredom. In fact, I didn't figure that out until after I'd already allowed myself to be strapped in the brightly painted cart of death and the ride had jerked into motion. The operator took one look at my face (which, I believe, had not a shred of color left in it) and my hands, which had instantly and compulsively clutched the thin metal bar that stood between me and the ground as though somehow if I held it hard enough, it would actually be enough to save me in case of emergency and called out, "You're afraid of heights aren't you?"
I didn't have a chance to answer because we were heading over the curve toward the top. I reminded myself to breathe and fielded Daredevil's incredulous "You aren't scared, are you?" question and as we sped by the operator, I noticed the wicked grin on his face and realized I would need to marshall all of my fight or flight instinct into fight the second I disembarked because one of us wasn't going to survive this encounter.
He did his best to destroy me. We sailed through the air countless times, the advantage of not stopping and starting repeatedly to let people on offset by the fact that the operator didn't have to stop the ride until another person showed interest and there wasn't another person in sight for 100 feet. Just when I'd started to pry my white-knuckled grip off the metal bar and convince myself that while I might be meeting Jesus soon, it wouldn't be because of a Ferris Wheel, the operator stopped the ride.
While. We. Were. At. The. Top.
I nearly screamed but I'm not a screamer. Even in abject terror, I have to prove I'm tougher than my tormentor. Still, my grip tightened, Daredevil began soothing me with meaningless platitudes, and as he turned toward me and the cart rocked, my eyes latched onto the huge sign posted on the back of the cart in front of us. It said "For Your Safety, Do Not Rock The Cart." I pointed it out to Daredevil, ordered him to sit still, and then trembled when I realized that just breathing caused the stupid thing to rock. Why post that warning at all if not rocking your cart is impossible? A lesson in irony? A flimsy attempt to avoid legal complications if you dump a 35 yr old author on her head?
Perhaps everyone connected with the manufacture and operation of Ferris Wheels is required to have a sadistic streak? I don't know. I just know I sat there, as still as I could, forcing myself to breathe without hyperventilating until the cart lurched into motion (More cart rocking!) and swung down to a stop at the bottom. I couldn't get out of it fast enough. The operator was laughing until I gave him the Beady Eye. When Daredevil asked to go again, the operator looked at me and asked me if I'd like another trip. I asked if he required all of his limbs or wouldn't mind having a few of them forcibly removed.
He stopped laughing.
2. The Water Park: It was 60 degrees out with a wind blowing colder than that and the water park was open. Because boys are born with a natural indifference to minor inconveniences like goosebumps and hypothermia, they all wanted to go swimming. They were flabbergasted when Clint and I refused to join them in their Arctic excursion. They played in the pool for forty minutes, teeth chattering, bodies shaking, until we forced them out, wrapped them in warm towels, and over-ruled every single objection to us ruining their fun.
3. Bathroom Visits: Because I didn't know it was going to be so cold out, I'd come prepared to participate in the water park fun by wearing my bathing suit beneath my clothes. After guzzling a Diet Coke on the car ride to Kentucky, I made the bathroom my first stop of the day and quickly realized the error of my ways. To make a bathroom visit at all effective, I had to take everything off. Everything. And the stalls at Beech Bend are those annoying ones with the one inch margins of visibility between the stall door and the surrounding walls. I believe I broke a world record in Speed of Disrobing. Also in Speed of Doing One's Business.
4. Daredevil's Cast-Iron Stomach: I knew Daredevil was made of strong stuff, but even I was taken aback and what that kid can do to himself without missing a beat. He ran from spinning ride to spinning ride, staying on multiple times in a row until at one point I figured out he'd been spinning more than standing for thirty of forty minutes and it didn't phase him. I don't know who he takes after but it isn't me and it isn't Clint. Part alien perhaps?
5. Daredevil's Big Mouth: I may have mentioned before that Daredevil rarely has a filter between what he thinks and what comes out his mouth. Often, this is a source of amusement. Sometimes (most notably the time he yelled to me across a grocery store aisle while pointing to a man's beer gut that he didn't know men could have babies) it's a source of praying for the floor to open and swallow us. This time, thankfully, it was amusement. As Daredevil whirled through yet another spin on a teacup-esque ride (his third time in a row) little girls were crying to get off, a man was slowly sinking toward the floor, his eyes shut tight, and two teenage boys were visibly heaving, about to lose their lunches. Daredevil was laughing. When the ride stopped, the crying girls ran past the operator toward their mothers, the man dragged himself along the fence toward the exit, the two teenage boys hurried toward the bathrooms and their looming appointment with the porcelain god, and Daredevil stood up in his cart, met the operator's eye, spread his arms wide, palms up, and yelled (in his best gangsta voice), "What now, people? What now? That's what I thought."
6. Bumper Cars: The Scientist refuses to go on rides where he isn't in control of his own destiny. After my Ferris Wheel experience, I think he may be on to something. He spends a lot of time riding the Bumper Cars and, as a result, has skills and strategy most of us never realize exist. In fact, I didn't even know you could have skills and strategy on the Bumper Cars until I got suckered into going for a round against the Scientist, Daredevil, and Starshine. Starshine spent the ride going in circles...sort of...and occasionally tapping us. Daredevil spent the ride slamming into anything he could. The walls. Us. The unmanned cars. The Scientist painted a glowing target on my back and came after me. It was eleven year old boy vs. his mother and his mother lost. Big time.
I'm fortunate I don't need a chiropractor after that.
7. The Magic Show: There's a magic show every two hours, complete with escape artist, and Clint took the Scientist (who loves practicing his own magic tricks) and Starshine while I supervised Daredevil's attempt to spin himself senseless. (What now, people?!) The magician picked Clint to be his lucky assistant. Clint agreed and ended up wearing a bra over the front of his shirt for his troubles. I don't think my boys have yet recovered from the sight.
8. The Kentucky Rumbler: Daredevil is my coaster buddy and we hit the Kentucky Rumbler--a wooden monstrosity that hurls you over the track at 65 mph--three times. I had to bribe him to come on it with me the first time (coughed up $5) but once he rode it, he was all about going on it again. And again. I don't mind the heights on roller coasters because, unlike the Ferris Wheel, there's no time to contemplate the risks or the strong possibility of your own imminent demise should a screw come loose.
9. Pictures: The Kentucky Rumbler has two cameras on the track and you exit through a gift shop which displays your expression of exhilarated terror for the world to see and for you to purchase for the moderate sum of Holy Cow! You Want How Much?! Once Daredevil realized he was on camera, all bets were off. We had to ride again. Immediately. And I had to point out the location of the cameras so he could monkey around for them and get the pose he wanted. No small feat while you're flying around a corner at 65 mph. When we returned to the gift shop to view our new pic, Daredevil grinned and said "Oh, look! They got my good side." Then he slanted his eyes toward me and said, "Oh, wait. It's all good side."
It's nice to know I'm raising a confident kid.
10. Goats: That's right. Goats. And not just a few. An entire herd and then some. They know I'm on to them so they've begun congregating en mass at locations they expect me to be so they can give me a taste of the coming Goat Apocalypse.
Daredevil wanted to go to the petting zoo. I realized there would be a few goats there, but expected to see various other representatives of the barnyard variety as well, making it possible to avoid the goats.
I was wrong. There were goats (I stopped counting at 32) in every conceivable nook and cranny. Baby goats looking deceptively cute and helpless. Billy goats slamming their horns into other goats, walls, rocks, and people willy nilly. Granny goats perched on rocks, bleating their orders for world domination to their many minions. My non-goat petting options were limited to two roosters and a goose.
Two roosters. And a goose.
Have you ever tried to pet a rooster or a goose? You'd be lucky to have all your fingers intact. Not to mention that petting a goose is like sending said goose an embossed invitation to forcibly explore body cavities you'd rather remain goose-free.
I began to wonder if perhaps Beech Bend Park was marshalling their own army of human-hating animals. Who knew the bid for Zombie Goat rule would originate in Kentucky?
I was stuck with the goats and Daredevil who, though he wanted to go, was having serious second thoughts as the goats converged upon us. No, I am not exaggerating. We were quickly surrounded on all sides by goats and herded toward a rock where a granny goat perched, eyeing us like dinner.
I tried to reassure Daredevil that the baby goats around us weren't all that threatening when they attacked. Tiny horns jabbed my calves. Vicious little teeth ripped at my pants, my handbag (Back off, Horizontal-Eyed Demon!), and when I bent down to gently shove their heads aside, a large mama goat went for the Girls.
The day I let some rude mama Goat bite a chunk out of my cleavage is the day I turn in my stilettos for crocs. I grabbed her head and turned her entire body to the side, shouting at Daredevil to stick with me. As we pushed and shoved our way toward the exit, the billy goat noticed us.
This was a very bad development.
He gave up butting his fellow goats and came after us. Daredevil screamed and jumped behind me. I yanked the billy's horns aside and he proved his innate devious goat nature by pretending to lose interest. We made it nearly to the exit when I was rammed from behind.
I had a brief moment to be thankful it wasn't the goose since billy goat heads don't usually fit bodily cavities, and then I used my handbag to my advantage and beat the goat off while we made our escape.
As we stood outside the goats' barracks (For truly, I could no longer call it a barn), the little old lady who tended the petting zoo smiled at us and said "They haven't had a lot of visitors and were a bit excited to see you, weren't they?"
I think that was code for "Darn it, now I have to lure in other visitors or what will my Zombie Goat babies eat?"
We're going back to Beech Bend at the end of the summer. We'll hit the water park, the Bumper Cars, the magic show, and the Rumbler. But under no circumstances, unless I'm duct-taped and knocked unconscious, will I willingly enter either the Ferris Wheel or the petting zoo from hell.