May 202022
 

Oh shit, the last spring break vacation post! Is that true? Yes! Okey-dokey yo.

We spent the second half of Thursday at the Kissimmee Fun Spot location. It was threatening to rain as the day got later, but we managed to complete a streak of perfect weather theme park visits! Our luck is usually not that great. And there were no crowds here at all so we were straight walking on everything.

The first thing we did was go on Mine Blower because it was our most anticipated ride there.

….and also right at the entrance, lol.

Good lord, this coaster is INTENSE. It’s a Gravity Group hybrid and should honestly be illegal, I think?? It was rough and felt like it was running so out of control that I was actually terrified and that  doesn’t happen to me very often! (Twice at this park though, apparently lol.) It also has a zero gravity roll, which really makes you feel like this coaster should be called Your Last Ride. However! I did like it, it just wasn’t re-rideable for me. I rode it once when we got there, and then Chooch and I rode it again once it got dark, but…that was enough for us. Even Chooch said he couldn’t marathon this fucker.

Right away, I loved the vibe and ambiance of this Fun Spot way more than the Orlando location. It felt more colorful and lively (even though the crowd count was probably about the same) plus it had that little lake area which looked SO GOOD once all the lights came on at night.

This chubs was just casually napping in the grass next to a flat ride like he was an operator on break. Loved him!!

Chooch got a King Cake sundae and was all, “This isn’t all that” so I was like “LET ME TRY IT” and I thought it actually was pretty close to being “all that” so I made Henry go and get me my own. I ate it all with no regertz in that moment.

Fun Spot shares the space with another area called Old Town which is more of the shopping/entertainment section. It does have some rides though but I guess the big draw is the CAR SHOWS that happen on the weekends. Thank god it wasn’t a weekend. Although my dad would have loved this place because he is (or was, at least) super into car shows.

I bet this section in POPPIN’ on the weekends. There was some pretty entertaining/hideous karaoke going down on a stage outside of one of the bars though, so that was fun-ish. I suggested that Henry and I could sing Air Supply again like we did at a noraebang in Seoul but he was like, “no I’m good.” I think Chooch might have attempted to emancipate himself if that happened, anyway.

There were LOTS of Trump-Lovers shirts and shit in all of the Old Town shops which was not great but also expected because Florida.

Henry’s favorite part was when he was handed a fresh, piping hot soft pretzel in the arcade. OK and usually I hate arcades but this one had some stupid Wheel of Fortune game that I became obsessed with after watching Chooch play it once, then I kept asking him for tokens or whatever and he was super pissed.

Henry bought this pretzel while we were waiting an actual eternity for Chooch to cash in his tickets at the prize center. He takes this shit so seriously and tries to use up every last ticket. One of the guys behind the counter said, “Here, let’s end this” and actually gave him something that was just a bit over whatever his remaining ticket count was. So then he had a small armful of stupid little toys and candy. All of those toys are probably under my seat in  the car right now, I guarantee it.

OK honestly would you look at how beautiful this is?

I love that this place was like the perfect marriage of amusement park and carnival. (Except that the ride operators came off as way more trustworthy than carnies. Well, the Mine Blower crew was questionable though, lol.)

One very notable fact about this Fun Spot is that there is a year-round haunted walk-thru in Old Town which was designed by the same special FX company that does Hundred Acres Manor in Pittsburgh. Now, I’m not the greatest fan of that haunt, in fact I think it gets worse every year, but I wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity to go through a haunted house.

In April.

In Florida.

It’s an upcharge attraction so we ended up forking over $30 for both Chooch and me to go through. We were the first customers of the evening and the dead guy running the joint had a very enjoyable time talking to Chooch about Iron Gwazi and trying to intimidate me. I will admit that I was a bit nervous only because it was just Chooch and me and sometimes I get super paranoid.

But it turns out it was very much like Hundred Acres Manor in that it had a handful of live actors but mostly animatronics. It was OK. If I ever went back, I would 100% skip it though, sorry.

The best year-round haunt we ever did was FOR SURE the one in Gatlinburg. Holy shit, that one was legit bonkers and the whole time I was screaming WTF IS HAPPENING and we were also in there with an entire family who were off-the-wall terrified and the dad was screaming like a bitch and they kept making me and Chooch go first – it was an incredible experience. If you’re even in Gatlinburg, take a break from the moonshine sampling and check out that haunted house.

Seriously, this place was SO PRETTY.

We left around 9 or 10, having claimed all the coaster creds and ridden all the flat rides we were interested in. Right as we were leaving, it started thundering and lightning really bad, and then it was storming by the time we made it back to the hotel. What luck!!

I can’t express how much I loved this trip and how it was the first time where we seemed to really gel as a family. I guess Chooch and I are finally coming of age, you know, and Henry is lightening up some. Sure we still had small spats here and there, mostly driven by hunger or food indecisiveness or exhaustion. But we always got over it. I’m very relieved to finally be done with the recaps but also sad that this means it’s time to put this vacation to rest. It was such a good one. I love having fun with these two dumbos. And also, I can tell Henry had fun because he was suddenly super into buying hats and souvenir shirts. Who even if this guy. Is this his version of a midlife crisis? Coaster snapbacks instead of muscle cars?

Anyway, if you stuck around for this whole extended blog-saga, THANKS FOR LETTING ME SHARE! (That’s what those dumb broads always say on A Beautiful Mess and I always say out loud, “I didn’t.”)

I will leave you with a video of Mine Blower:

May 192022
 

Hey Phil. Here are pictures of Chooch and me riding some rides at the second Fun Spot of the day: Fun Spot Kissimmee! (Which is evidently pronounced Kiss-IM-mee which I learned only about a month before our trip thanks to copious YouTube video-bingeing.

I liked this Fun Spot significantly more than the Orlando one – it was just more scenic, with a livelier atmosphere (although, may the Orlando locations gets more poppin’ at night), and just all around better rides. So of course I took way more pictures at this one and will now ask your forgiveness as I proceed to split this up into parts. Hopefully just two. Here is Part 1.

There were FIVE coaster creds for Chooch to collect at this Fun Spot and one of them was this super exciting kiddie coaster, which is also the coaster featured on his recent birthday cake, lol.

I was originally going to ride it too but we can no longer fit in one seat together on kiddie coasters now that Chooch is basically a grown-up, and as much as I dislike CHILDREN, I would have felt like a Big Asshole for taking some dumb kid’s spot. So I sat this one out.

If this had been a Wacky Worm though, I’d have elbowed a kid out of my way.

Then we headed to the very back of the Old Town section of the park (technically this was a completely separate area but the rides there were included in our wristband, which by the way, was discounted since we had already purchased one at the other Fun Spot. THAT IS CALLED “SCORING A DEAL”). There’s a super janky coaster called Hurricane that dwells back there and I was 100% not looking forward to riding it.

At first I thought it wasn’t running, but then a ride operator at a nearby flat ride called over that she would be right there, so….woo.

Look how much….fun…I’m having! Oh man I really did not trust this contraption.

Then this ride, where first my wrist band suddenly quit scanning but the super nice ride attendant let me on anyway, I guess because I have SUCH AN HONEST FACE and do look like a SCAMMER, and told me to just go to customer service and have it taken care of afterward. Then once we got situated in a car, the restraints wouldn’t go down and he was like, “Man, first you’re trying to sneak on my ride, now you’re breaking it!” and I FEEL LIKE WE IMPRINTED THEN. My response was a full-blown giggle fit in his face and Chooch mumbled, “You’re so embarrassing” which, now that I think about it, is usually the most amount of words he says to me at a time these days.

Shoooooot, this ride was FUN, fam. You might say it was a real FUN SPOT. I love me a spinning crazy mouse coaster and this one made me laugh hysterically while also white knuckling the safety rail because of those perilous turns.

EVEN CHOOCH IS PRESENTING A FACE FULL OF FUN AND JOY!

…unlike when we rode the screamin’ swing thingie together.  I love these damn things. We rode it again about 20 minutes later and the ride operator was like, “Don’t sit on that side,” and pointed to the one side that was now roped off – WHY. All four sides were opened when we last rode it, what happened?? Hopefully it was just that someone puked and the operator didn’t have time to clean it??

And here were are about to get the last row on Mine Blower for a night ride. Um, that coaster was WILD – possibly too wild.  It was out-of-control, breakneck speed fast, to the point where I was sincerely worried that we could get hurt. And the Mine Blower crew were absolute psychos, in the most complimentary way. I think you have to be to operate this crazy-ass woodie.

We’ll discuss that more later.

This concludes “pictures of us riding on rides.”

May 182022
 

On Thursday of that one week in April that now seems so far away because IT IS since I am so fucking slow at blogging, we were able to squeeze in two smaller parks called FUN SPOT. These are Henry’s favorite types of parks because you can pay per ride in lieu of getting an all-day wristband and that is definitely his jam. I know what you’re thinking: why would you choose to go to a dinky park like this when you’re in Orlando, the theme park capital of the whole motherfucking planet? Well, both Fun Spots have a small coaster collection and Chooch has gotta get those creds, yo.

Fun Spot Orlando, which we will recap here first, has a woodie called White Lightning which was manufactured by GCI and is the only wooden coaster in Orlando!

But first, we chose to ride Freedom Flyer which is a Vekoma SLC  (Suspended Looping Coaster) first. Typically, these types of coasters are TRASH (except for the one at Morey’s Piers!). But this one was a family model and surprisingly smooth and unjanky.

Before we even got to ride it though, we had to have an ALTERCATION with two bitches who cut us in line, and by “we” I mean “I, myself, me.” There was a garbage can blocking a gap in the queue so that people could only enter from one side. So Chooch and I entered correctly, while two DUMB MIDDLE SCHOOL BITCHES (actually the one looked like she could have been 13 or 31, one of THOSE) squeezed past the garbage can, eliminating the need to go through the entire queue (which was not that long and OH YEAH, EMPTY)  so they cut us off at the station and got to take the front row.

“I guess a garbage can blocking the entrance actually means just squeeze through,” I said loudly to Chooch as we stood behind them waiting for the train to return. I knew they heard, and they refused to look at me even though I was facing them and GLARING. Henry, who was standing off to the side, said he could tell something was going down. I’ve just like HAD IT WITH LINE JUMPERS. I don’t even care that there literally WAS NO LINE. Follow the fucking rules, you dumb assholes. Because you know that people who act this way in amusement parks are just as bad everywhere else!!

Maybe if we didn’t go to so many parks, this wouldn’t bother me as much but shit gets OLD, people.

“You’re not behind the yellow line,” Chooch said to me after the ride attendant made the “stand behind the yellow line” announcement. Like, a centimeter of the toe of my shoe was stepping on it.

“Either are they but they also cut so I guess they just don’t know how to follow rules,” I said haughtily, still on my high horse and WOO BOO was the view up there dandy.

One of the little bitches, SNORTED and said to her friend under her breath,  “aaaand we’ll do it again!” in a cheerleadery tone and I about exited my body and crushed them between the thighs of my inner demoness. Little bitches!!

Luckily, that was the only negative thing that happened all day. I had to actually laugh because when we first arrived around 2pm that afternoon, one of the park staff members apologized in advance for the “crowds” we may encounter. Apparently, there was a school trip happening that day. So we were prepared for the worst, only to see that there were essentially no crowds whatsoever!

Oh and a bonus is that entry to the small Gatorland exhibit was included with our wristbands! Henry had to stand outside though like a sad man lol.

I was obsessed with Big Nasty. Imagine keeping this toothy chunker in your effin’ backyard!! What an asshole that person is. I hope they  get a lot more than just a slap on the wrist and that Big Nasty has a better life even though he is still in captivity. :(

We had fun watching the gator handlers feeding the smaller kids. But my favorite part was the SUPER ADORABLE GUY who was in charge of the “hold a gator” station. Chooch and I even went through a second time so he could hold one and I was very agreeable to his request because I WANTED TO SEE THE SUPER ADORABLE GUY again.

We also had a fun time in the gift shop (Henry joined us for this portion since it was open to all). Chooch wanted a stuffed animal because when doesn’t he, so he asked the lady at the register how much it was and she was like, “I don’t know, how much does the price tag say” and I loved her for that, lol. We were all lowkey bullying Chooch and it was quite fun.

Henry manned up and put enough money on a Fun Spot card in order to get a ride on White Lightning, which was the only coaster he was interested in riding here. I guess he’s too good for the kiddie coaster. But Chooch and I are not:

White Lightning was A LOT better than I expected it to be! Really smooth.

Why do I look like I’m a calm and casual paddleboat ride lol.

Chooch and I got right back on, this time in the front seat. Henry even bought us both White Lightning t-shirts which we didn’t ask for but he was being oddly pushy about it, SUSPICIOUSLY PUSHY if we’re being honest.

Chooch was obsessed with buying a refillable slushie thing and finally got his way. It was very hot on this day and I stole several sips which were very refreshing even though I do not consider myself a slushie person by any means.

Henry realized that the White Lightning crew didn’t make him scan his Fun Spot card which meant he still money on it, so he actually became A DAD long enough to go on the go-carts with Chooch. Oh by the way, the go carts (there are THREE tracks) are included in the wristband! That shit is usually an upcharge everywhere else!

I’m not a big go cart person. We used to this place called Trackers (I think??) in Pleasant Hills when I was younger and I had a bad experience one time when I didn’t notice that the dumb ref guy was flagging us to pull into the thingie and I kept going, so then I was the only one out on the track and when I got back, the dude yelled at me and it was v. embarrassing. So now I hate go carts. There. I told my traumatic go cart story.

Sadly, this is where I was sitting when I found out that Tim Feerick from Dance Gavin Dance had died. I ran over to tell Henry while he was still in line and he looked like he really had to dig deep to scoop up a crumble of empathy from the depths of callous manly-man-man heart.

Waiting for the go cart idiots. During my wait, I saw the LINE JUMPERS for only the second time, lucky me. They were in line for another go cart  track but then left, presumably because they were unable to cut and unaccustomed to having to stand in line with the rest of the basic riff raff.

Chooch ended up winning because Henry, who was in the lead for most of the race, ended up breaking down twice, LOLOL. It’s what he deserves.

Chooch looks exactly the same in both pictures, which is cracking me up. Was he sleeping?! I mean, ops *were* extremely slow on this coaster.

Oh shit, I forgot to mention that we also went through the fun house which was SKETCH but also longer than I expected.

Overall, there wasn’t much to do here once we knocked the coasters out, but the Gatorland section was cool and the park itself was very clean. If you’re a coaster cred collector, I would definitely suggest coming here because White Lightning was cool, dude. Cool.

We wanted to hurry up and get to the nearby Fun Spot Kissimmee before it started storming so we left after about three hours.

Had to get a refill before leaving for the next Fun Spot, COMING SOON.

May 162022
 

I don’t even know where I am in this damn spring break wrap-up anymore. I covered the most important topic: IRON GWAZI. So now let’s just take a relaxing stroll down memory lane, look at pictures, dip out now if you want, stay if you please. EITHER OR.

Dude, I’ll tell you right off the bat that BGT has A LOT of coasters and luckily they were all running so Chooch got a full sweep of coaster creds. Coaster in the first picture up there is Kumba. It was OK but old. I liked the secluded area it was in though – that was cool. And this was a walk-on.

Through that opening resides what is quite possibly my favorite B&M invert, Montu. I never really cared much for inverts until I rode Great Bear at Hershey, and then I had a REALLY GOOD night ride on Banshee at King’s Island. THEN I rode After Burn, which is one of the few saving graces (in my book, you guys, not trying to start a park war here) at Carowinds. That was actually my new #1 until Montu.

Then I rode Raptor for the first time this past weekend since 2019 and decided that inverts are actually one of my fave coaster types now I think.

I even love Alpengeist at Busch Gardens Williamsburg but mostly for the theming. That one is SO ROUGH and hurts my back but the theming is killer.

But back to Montu – it was one train ops so we had to wait for about 30 minutes which was actually kind of long on this particular day when you consider that we had walked on Kumba, Sheikra, and Tigris. (OMG speaking of Tigris – the family next to us in the station was in front of us two days prior in Sea World when we were in line for that fucking Atlantis water ride that broke down; Chooch is the one who pointed them out because he allegedly the teenager daughter’s shoes. Mm.)

(I mean OK maybe that was the case!)

Shit son, Montu was fucking incredible. When we were rolling back into the station, Chooch and I just looked at each other with our eyes in the universal widened O’s of WOW. “Did that just become my favorite B&M invert??” I screamed in Henry’s face when we reunited with him and he tried to play along but Henry isn’t as WITH IT when it comes to coaster types and manufacturers as me and Chooch are. Just so you know.

Also, Henry hates inverts because he has poor taste.

Oh shoooot, this was a fun family coaster! Cobra’s Curse, I think? And also the cause of the one sole fight that Chooch and I had that day. The wait time was posted as 45 minutes, because it’s a family coaster. Chooch wanted to ride it anyway which is astounding considering he’ll be the first one to go OH HELL NO when the wait is anything longer than 20 minutes. Boy hates waiting. I mean, I’m not so sweet on it either. But he is way worse and will complain like an old man in desperate need of a prune.

All I said, “I want to ride this too but MIGHT WE go and get lunch first before we all start to get hangry?” and that was all it took. He got all bent out of shape, and then I got pissed at him for being pissed at me, and Henry was like, “WHAT IS HAPPENING” so I said, “OK fine you spoiled brat, let’s go get in line” and now suddenly Chooch “didn’t care anymore” and kept walking in the opposite direction so I said, “Well, I’m going to ride it” and stormed off so then they both had to turn around and follow me. I got in the queue first, but Chooch caught up and then we proceeded to not talk to each other the whole time, which ended up only being 20 minutes anyway, and the line was inside so it was nice to be in the shade, and then somewhere along the way we forget that we were giving each other the silent treatment and started talking to each other again and had a wonderful ride on Cobra’s Curse, thank you very much.

It was spinning coaster AND it had a creepy elevator lift!!

THEN we went to eat. We had another meal voucher thing and this one place had the Impossible Burger so that is where we went except that, even though it wasn’t even the height of lunch time anymore, the line was almost out the door. Where had all these people come from?? The park was barely crowded! The problem was that there were multiple different food places but nowhere for the individual lines to go, so everything converged into one long line until you got to a point where you could break off and go where you needed to be, but those lines were actually way slower-moving. Like, slow-motion slow. There was one lady behind the burger counter and she was taking her good old time. And you know what? Couldn’t even really be mad. I’m certain the park was understaffed causing everyone there to be overworked and she even said several times, “I’m exhausted.”

I mean, we waited longer just to get to the counter than we did on ANY ride there that day.

And the worst part was that when Chooch and I got there, there was only one Impossible Burger left and she was like, “Can you wait a few minutes?” so I was prepared to forfeit my lunch and eat later if I needed to, so that Chooch could have the last Impossible Patty standing, but she was like, “You really want to eat this?” she said, picking it up with two pinched gloved fingers. “It’s been sitting here for a long time. I wouldn’t feed this to me DOG.” So then I was like, “OMG fine, we will wait for fresh Impossible patties then” so we had to stand off to the side. Now we had front row seats to watching this lunch lady assemble burgers for her customers and it was E X C R U C I A T I N G. Like, my skin was twitching because I wanted to hop the counter and help her.

Anyway. It took about 5 minutes for our patties to come out but then we had to watch her attempt to build them into totally unappetizing burgers-with-fixins and she messed up like two times. Sweet baby Jesus, it was an exercise in patience, but there was a group of college kids in front of us who had also suffered, so when we went from that line to the long ass beverage and check out line, we all bonded over our traumatizing experience. I like being a part of something like that with strangers! Henry wasn’t a part of this portion of the lunch line so he wouldn’t know. But we all shared a bonding moment when one of their friends, still in line to pay, needed a water refill at that point and was having a crisis over having to stand in the drink line again so we were all like “JUST SQUEEZE IN AND FILL IT UP!” I was like, “You gotta rehydrate after being in this line for so long!” and Chooch turned himself inside out with the forceful eye roll he gave me.

It took us so long just to get to our table – somehow Henry beat us, even though he struggled with the cashier he got stuck with who kept trying to charge him for things even though he had a voucher. I wasn’t hungry when we first got there, but now I was literally chewing on the inside of my mouth so I practically inhaled my SUPER TERRIBLE BLAND Impossible Burger. Literally just tasted like a really cheap original Boca Burger. I  mean, I wasn’t expecting much from what was basically a glorified cafeteria, but the fact that it was JUST COOKED – like, I WATCHED the cook as he was cooking it and then cook-walked it on over to the tray behind the glass – made me think that it would at least be semi-edible. I guess it did have a lot of time to cool off and get mushy while we were standing in the beverage line from hell.

Even worse than this was the SUPER CRINGE acapella group that came out while we were eating. They made my stomach hurt, honestly.

Aside from the 10-minute spat with Chooch, this was the only negative part of the whole day. And it was a LONG ASS DAY because we had to drive about 90 minutes each way so  that’s saying a lot!

Cheetah Hunt is one of the most popular coasters in the park and I was really looking forward to it! It’s an Intamin multi-launch coaster and as you well know by now if you’ve had the endurance to get through these word-salad disaster posts, this trip was very Intamin-heavy. That being said, if we had started with BGT, I think I would have loved this way more than I actually did. It was fun, don’t get me wrong! I loved how unique and long of a ride it was – a really great family coaster and honestly something that I think would be really cool at a park like Kennywood. I don’t see Kennywood every getting an RMC or B&M, but an Intamin multi-launch family coaster would be awesome!

Henry was on the train after us (he was too busy fucking around with a locker and we didn’t wait for him so he had to get in line alone. This was the theme of this trip lol). Chooch and I were also in the front row too so don’t go patting Henry too hard on the back!

It’s actually built next to the actual Cheetah area which is cool but I still don’t understand how those animals could actually be unbothered by thrill rides going off all around them. :/

Sheikra was a really great dive coaster, and that’s saying a lot because I don’t really care too much for this type of ride. I loved the layout and the whole area of the park it’s in.

A HIPPO! We watched this big guy cool off in the water for a really long time. Hippos are cool.

BUT DEADLY.

Overall, we had a wonderful time at Busch Gardens Tampa. Iron Gwazi is KING, Montu is PRINCE, and honestly pretty much everything else was solid except for maybe Scorpion which was a bit too old school for me. But, it’s a Schwartzkopf and only one of three remaining in the world so even though I don’t count coaster creds like Chooch does, I had to ride it. It wasn’t as terrible as I expected, but I wasn’t trying to ride it again.

In case you were wondering.

We left right around the time the park was closing (8pm), took the TRAM* back to the parking lot and then journeyed back to Orlando. It was relatively uneventful. We stopped at a gas station for snacks to eat in lieu of dinner because we are super great at vacationing.

*(NOW I WANT TO GO BACK TO WILDWOOD, HENRY ARE YOU READING THIS, WATCH THE TRAM CAR PLZ IT’S UP YOUR BUTT**.)

**(My standard response to everything Henry asks is, “I dunno, up your butt?” because I’m a 13-year-old in 1985.)

Stay tuned for the last two parks of Florida, which we did on the same day so maybe I’ll try to squeeze everything into one post but probably not because my blogging endurance is dwindling in my older age.

May 112022
 

Yo, did I end up liking Busch Gardens Tampa better than Williamsburg?? OMG I think so? I will say though that both parks KILL IT with their coaster line up. So many parks have like, one or two Really Great coaster and then there’s a big drop-off in quality (you catching my shade, Carowinds?) but I feel like both east coast Busch Gardens parks got it going on because I’m a 1990s r&b slow jam lyricist now, ooh baby baby. Yeah.

ANYWAY!!! I will do a ride recap in another post. This one will just be about us, me and the Robbins Guys. The Kelly-Robbins cohort. We had an excelsior time and only fought once, and it was – wait for it – over food. But it ended almost as quickly as it began. I think we are *almost* at the age where we can vacation together without fighting every damn day. I have been looking back fondly at this trip ever since we came home, and I think that, aside from Korea, it will go down in the books as one of the best times we’ve had as a family.

I mean, look at us! We weren’t even mouthing off to each other behind fake smiles!

Probably talking about 3D printing stuff or other things that don’t plump my pleasures.

I don’t know what that means. I was trying a “just go with it” technique but that was weird.

Can you imagine if I taught writing classes? LOL LOOK FOR ME ON SKILLSHARE.

More boring talk. I don’t know why they were walking so fast, but my feet were like bloody stumps by Park #4 and I was struggling to keep up. And you know that it must have been dire straits because I am essentially a Professional Ambler.

Waiting for the train. Chooch was all of us at this moment. This was one super fast-paced trip and the prospect of sitting on a train was tantalizing.

OMG the train guy aggressively told us to go to the front of the train but we disobeyed him and went to BACK. We are from Pittsburgh, land of JAYWALKING and sitting where you want to sit on a scenic train.

OK this train was amazing because it was basically a SAFARI. We got to see all kinds of animals like giraffes and zebras and a shit ton of other animals I have never heard of. It was wonderful.

And we could see Iron Gwazi peeking through!

YOU GUYS there were so many Mr Gray Guys – Busch Gardens edition flouncing around. We watched some young guy feed one and pet him and then the squirrel was like “I’M YOURS NOW, LET’S GO” as he tried to climb into the guy’s backpack! It was GOALS. I have Girl Buddy fairly acclimated to me, like I can hand feed her and she’ll (sometimes) come when I whistle or scream GIRL BUDDY, HI! COME HERE! I HAVE WALNOOOOOTS! but I have been too afraid to try to pet her.

Anyway, here’s a picture of Chooch and a THREE-LEGGED Mr. Gray Guy!! I’ll tell you, these squirrels are living their best lives at Busch Gardens.

Lol, I forgot about this at the time, but when we came upon this hut thing, Chooch screamed, “It’s the hut that Molly was in! Let’s go!” and I was like, “Wha—?” and then I remembered that MOLLY, the girlfriend of one of the guys from YouTube channel In The Loop, did a fake “house tour” when they were last at Busch Gardens.

“Take a picture of us where Molly stood!” Chooch demanded, and Henry was like, “OK but I don’t know what is happening” similar to this other time we were at a theme park and made him take our picture somewhere Molly had previously posed.

Honestly, we love Molly. I hope we run into her at a park someday.

PROBABLY bitching because Henry’s FUCKING SHOW was squeaking through the whole damn trip. It’s still squeaking and driving us up a fucking wall. I reminded Henry of the time recently when he was about to get into the car and was like, “Oh. Wow let me take care of this first” and pulled a huge fucking thick ass nail thing out of the sole of his shoe. Now we can’t remember where this happened, but he thinks that was probably the genesis of THE SQUEAK.

This was literally so annoying that I wrote about it in nearly every post card I sent.

Chooch was TOO TIRED to walk down to the gift shop that I stopped in before we left the park. We found him sitting on bench, befriending a duck. This is Peak Chooch, honestly. You can always find him off somewhere talking to an animal. Who even knows where he got that trait from.

And that’ll do it for this post.

May 102022
 

People. Listen. You know that I am a SLUT for Rocky Mountain Construction. One of my bucket list items is to ride every RMC in the world because they are actually works of art.

One of the most controversial RMCs of late is Iron Gwazi in Busch Gardens Tampa. It was originally a dueling coaster called Gwazi, which was notoriously rough and a prime candidate for the RMC treatment. It was like HUGE NEWS in the coastersphere when Busch Gardens officially announced that it would definitely be happening. I think this was in 2019, and it was slated to open for the 2020 season.

Welp. We all know about 2020.

So then it was pushed to 2021 but ended up SBNO (standing but not operating) for the entire season. I looked GREAT though! Seemingly complete, but you know, you just couldn’t ride the damn thing. I remember at some point during the summer of 2021, there were videos circulating of IRON GWAZI TESTING!

But then nothing.

The park finally announced sometime that fall that it would be officially opening in March 2022. We had actually tossed around the idea of doing a Florida park road trip last January, but omicron was still rampant so we nixed that idea. It was for the best though because I don’t think I would have been able to handle being that close to such a magnificent RMC without being able to ride it.

Imagine my screaming when we solidified our spring break plans and I finally let it sink in that I WOULD BE RIDING IRON GWAZI less than a month after it opened!! (I mean, GOD WILLING.) The world’s steepest and fastest hybrid coaster! (As of this posting anyway!)

Obviously we made a beeline for Iron Gwazi as soon as we arrived at Busch Gardens on this beautiful, sunny Wednesday in April. It is right near the entrance too so that was great! Now that I’m thinking back to this day, I don’t even remember walking through the gates. I mean, we definitely did, but I have no recollection of it AT ALL. I just know that we got there a little bit after the park opened and I was so nervous that everything was going to be crowded already.

LOL. Janice. Please. Iron Gwazi was a motherfucking STATION WAIT.

A STATION WAIT.

Can you even!?!?

And not just for our inaugural ride. It was like this all day long. I think the longest we waited MIGHT have been 25-30 minutes but that was just because we wanted the front row.

LOOK AT THE FRONT OF THE CAR THOUGH!!

And I loved all of the greenery around the queue, and the polynesian-esque roof thingies. I am very cultured. Look at me go.

I love this picture of us so much!

OK let’s back up, Brenda. The line attendant was assigning seats but anytime we asked for the back, they were just like, “That’s fine” which cracked me up. I love a backseat ride on an RMC, and this was no exception. Broken record here, but I am not good at explaining roller coasters so I will just say that this was 100% worth the hype and I got off the damn thing feeling INVIGORATED. Like most RMCs, this bitch is RELENTLESS. It makes you feel like you’re being yanked around on a leash, or riding out an avalanche down a mountainside. From the first drop, you’re just careening at breakneck speed, unable to even contemplate the elements you’re whipping through.

And it only got better and better with every ride as the day went on.

Here’s how you know RMCs are the real ones: Henry does not often re-ride coasters, but he always gets back in line for an RMC.

This is Henry agreeing with what I just said up there.

I rode once with Henry in the third to last row and this broad in the dress was right behind us yapping at the back of my head the whole way up the lift hill, and on one hand I was agreeing with all the super hype shit she was saying about air time, etc, but she was more annoying than anything else. Especially when we arrived back on the brake run and I said to Henry, “OK, that sealed it for me. I like this better than Steel Vengeance,” and it was almost like she heard me and was purposely squawking to her husband about how Steel Vengeance is still superior because it’s a longer ride, and OK I’ll give it that, but Iron Gwazi did more for me in a shorter amount of time than SteVe.

Also, SteVe is RARELY re-rideable. That motherfucker always has a huge line every time we’ve gone to Cedar Point, except for when it’s down.

Which is often.

So this is why I’m ranking Iron Gwazi higher – the entire experience from the queue to the ride itself was just a bit better than SteVe in my opinion.

Chooch and I got right back in line and this time opted for the front and that dumb bitch got in line right behind us so we had to endure her being a THOOSIE IN A DRESS again but at least since she was in line for the same row as us, that meant I wouldn’t have her screeching behind me again.

She was the only person who annoyed me all day (aside from Henry, natch) and honestly, she wasn’t even that bad.

EW, DAVID.

Henry liked Iron Gwazi so much that HE BOUGHT THE DAMN HAT. Chooch got a t-shirt. I got nothing and I have big sads over that. I should have gotten at least a coffee cup or something!

This was the last BIG COASTER that we had to check off the list for this road trip and it was really like saving the best for last.

Ugh, but VelociCoaster…

No, Iron Gwazi….

Yeah, but those VelociCoaster night rides…

OK but Iron Gwazi’s insane elements…

Yeah, I can’t decide. Those are two very different coasters and ride experiences. Can it just be a tie!?

This was our 8th RMC (just Henry’s 6th LOLOLoser) and it’s safe to say that RMC still owns my heart. This trip had Chooch replacing B&M with Intamin for his favorite manufacturer, but it’s still me and RM sittin’ in a (hybrid) tree.

May 072022
 

Let’s pray this is the last part of the Islands of Adventure series and then we can move on to the next park.

*cue faux enthusiasm from the crowd*

This is the shittiest picture of the Hulk but I was just so excited to finally ride it since it was closed for refurbishment in 2016! I LOVED IT! If I had ridden it in 2016, it would have hands down been my favorite ride in the park. We stand a solid B&M. And the wait was only about 10 minutes!

I remember that we rode this immediately after VelociCoaster, so it was our 2nd ride of the day and it wasn’t even 9am yet! Was this day going to be the opposite of what the vlogs and crowd prediction websites warned of???

We rode Spiderman after this which was about a 25 minute wait. This made spoiled Chooch lose his mind because the line appeared longer than it was. I forgot how good this ride is!

Then it was Kong time. I kept my expectations low because I heard from numerous sources that the line is more entertaining than the ride. Pen please, I’d like to cosign this sentiment.

OK that’s harsh – the ride was fine! But the queue was very well-themed and actually kind of enjoyable to walk through. I think the wait was only about 30 minutes though.

It’s funny – in other amusement park contexts, like for instance Kennywood, I would definitely balk at a 30 minute for a non-coaster but at Universal, 30 minutes felt like a walk-on since we were prepared for outrageous crowds. Oh did I mention that approx. 87 times already? Sorry, but I’m still trying to get over our stroke of luck, because apparently the crowds had heated up the very next day. Randomly choosing a Tuesday for Universal turned out to be very fortuitous! Especially because this was the only park on our itinerary that locked us into a specific day – you couldn’t just buy a ticket online and go any day you wanted. This made us so nervous!!

Many skulls.

I never saw Kong but I imagine this creepy witch person is in it? They were cursing us in tongues and it was actually kind of terrifying.

Anyway, the ride itself was fine!

After this, it was around 10 or so, and that’s when I decided it was “ride-or-die” time re: Hagrid’s. You can read about that shit here.

OMG for lunch we went to a real restaurant instead of a self-service place like we normally would do! We went to Confisco Grill because they had veg/vegan options. We beat the lunch crowd and they sat us within 5 minutes!

I had vegan pad Thai and my body was straight rejoicing as the tofu slid down my food chute. The pad Thai was semi-bland which ended up being good because I really don’t want to eat a heavy meal at a theme park and this was actually sort of light. I was SO HAPPY. Chooch and Henry both got udon – Chooch went with the vegan version and Henry got manly meateaters’ version with pork belly. They were just moderately happy with it but we’re only here to care about my thoughts and feelings, and my lunch was great. So moving on…

Probably arguing over directions.

This area of the park was moderately crowded all day until early evening. This are and Hogsmeade definitely made the park seem more crowded that it was. Although, the wait times did fluctuate a lot throughout the day. VelociCoaster was always about 30-45 minutes though which was wonderful since that was THE RIDE we wanted to re-ride over and over again!

I forgot how amusing Poseidon’s is! It’s a live action show thingie and Henry didn’t do it last time because he thought it was a water ride like the one at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. Chooch and I didn’t even know what it was back then, but that just adds to the fun! Anyway, Henry joined us this time and agreed that it was “fun, yeah.”

MY FAVORITE – THE DR SEUSS TRAIN!!

We did not spend nearly enough time here, if I’m being honest.

A few days after, I think that both Disney and Universal went back to full-contact meet-and-greets but I was ok not hugging anyone while we were there. It was hot.

And…hugs.

Ew.

LOOK AT IT!!! I made Henry ride it with me later that night when Chooch was running amok with his friend from school who also happened to be there. That’s the dream, really – being at a park as awesome as Islands of Adventure with a friend??! Here I was stuck with Henry, but I guess that was ok too.

Henry 100% is not a fan of this train and also the wait was SO LONG, like 45 minutes!!?? The ops were awful.

The scenery in this park is top notch. I wish we had spent more time just sitting and taking everything in. I mean, I guess we did a lot of that the last time we visited because we had three whole days to spend at both parks. But still…

Oh! For some reason I don’t have any photos of this but we went to Crescent Moon Bakery right before they closed at 4 because every vegan Universal video I watched (again, we’re not vegan but Chooch and I are vegetarians and this is how we find out what our options are) and I really wanted a vegan elderberry croissant. They had one left!! I felt so blessed.

There was some super bitchy Beverly Hills broad ordering when we got there and of course she was trying to make some special request for her gluten free bitch friend who was too busy screaming on the phone to order her own damn panini or whatever the fuck. They were so unappreciative and rude to the lady behind the counter and you know what, the place was supposed to close in literally 3 minutes so fuck these people for coming in and ordering food. All we wanted to do was buy baked goods that required no preparation so I made sure we were extra nice to make up for those stuck-up botox broads.

Literally what is the point of being rude to people in the service industry. I don’t get it. Oh wait, that’s because I’m not an entitled delulu.

Anyway, after this we rode VelociCoaster again and then that’s when Chooch ditched us and we went to Seuss Landing, lol.

So romantic!! Seuss Landing at night!!

Henry bought a SNICKERDOODLE at Seuss Landing.

If we’re being honest, I’m kind of pissed that we wasted so much time in line for that damn train when we could have ridden the Cat in the Hat ride or something else, but YOU LIVE AND LEARN.

(Do I though?)

OMG then the best thing ever happened: I convinced Henry to lean into his inner KID AT HEART and ride Dudley Do Right’s Ripsaw Falls or whatever it’s called, I don’t feel like looking it up, but I will tell you that it’s my favorite log flume ride in the entire world. (Until I finally stuff my ass on the one at Phantasialand, anyway.)

There was NO LINE but the queue itself is so long that it still took us a good five minutes just to get to the end, and it was disconcerting because it was so dark and we couldn’t tell where we were going some of the time, and some random girl was behind us, which made me paranoid and I felt like I had to walk faster but my feet hurt SO BAD.

Henry bitched the WHOLE TIME because he did NOT want to ride a water ride at night and I was like, “No, it will be fine. I don’t think you get that wet on this, so please shut the fuck up, you’re ruining my perfect day.”

Yeah, so here’s Henry actually attempting to put money in the people dryer afterward, which he WOULD NEVER TYPICALLY DO BECAUSE HE IS A CHEAP-O, but um, we got W-E-T. Like, thoroughly soaked, and he was so pissed, lol.

LOL, look at him.

Yo, I can’t remember the last time I laughed THIS HARD in public. I was almost in tears during the whole ride because Henry’s plight was so hilarious to me, him behind me muttering, “Oh, Erin” every time we got doused. And the fact that it was nighttime made it even more fun because we couldn’t see what was coming and you guys, I forget about that grand finale. I was full-on BELLY LAUGHING, like totally unattractive deep-throated manly GUFFAWS. Yes, GUFFAWS. I was GU-FUCKING-FAWWING all over myself, to the point where I’m not sure how much of the wetness on my face was Ripsaw Falls water or my own saliva.

I could feel Henry go completely rigid behind me after that last drop. He was so pissed that it just stunned him into silence which made me laugh even harder.

Oh my lord, I highly recommend this ride at night.

The only bad part is that Henry lost his WILDWOOD HAT on it! But that just gave him an excuse to buy a VelociCoaster hat, which kickstarted a new souvenir hat-buying hobby. And then you know what he said?? “We’ll just have to go back to Wildwood so I can get a new hat.”

OMG YES WE CAN.

Anyway, after this, it was minutes away from park closing so we headed back to VelociCoaster to wait for Chooch who had opted to end the night with one last night ride on that with his pal. While we were waiting, one of the line attendants called out to all of us waiting in the courtyard area that they were closing the line and anyone who wanted to ride had until he made it back to the ride entrance to get in line. I could have made it and now I wish I had tried. But instead, I stayed with Henry and waited for Chooch.

Regertz.

Second regertz: not ordering Voodoo Donuts before they turned off online ordering. The line was way too long by the time we left the park and walked through City Walk.

It was well past park closing by the time Chooch and his friend exited the ride. They said goodbye and then we made the painful, sore-footed walk back to the park entrance (we stopped at one last gift shop first though!) and it was just really fun being there when Universal was technically closed! Barely anyone was left in the park and it was so cool. It also made me laugh because that morning, Henry made some comment about how we probably weren’t going to stay until the park closed, right? Lol, bitch you thought.

I think this about wraps up our day at Islands of Adventure. I already loved this place, but this second visit made me wish that I lived close enough to be able to realistically need a season pass. I’m already looking forward to returning, and even more stoked for Universal’s Epic Universe to open in a few years.

Also! I think that we only fought once, and it was a classic Erin v. Chooch stand-off when we rode Hulk the second time. I can’t remember what instigated it, probably the fact that I didn’t make it to the line entrance at the same time he did so TWO WHOLE PEOPLE got in front of us, boo hoo. And then we proceeded to snip and snap at each other for an additional 3 minutes before I was like YOU KNOW WHAT JUST DON’T TALK TO ME WE’RE LEAVING AFTER THIS YOU’RE THE WORST I DON’T LIKE YOU but then we rode it and had an amazing time and then we were friends again, forever united by rollercoasters.

Was this my favorite day of vacation? I think so. OK yes, it was, definitely.

May 052022
 

With the exception of the new(ish) Hagrid’s ride (I refuse to type out the full name, it’s outrageously long and stupid), we already did all of the Harry Potter stuff the last time we were at Universal,  and it was a good thing too seeing as this was the only area of Islands of Adventure that was actually crowded.

Hagrid’s was right up with VelociCoaster as far MUST-DOs went on this trip, and I was watching the wait times on the app like a fucking hawk for a few days leading up to our visit. It was always in the three digits no matter the day and time, so I was prepared for at least a 2-hr wait. Even when we first got there that morning, the wait time was already 150 minutes!!

Late morning, the time dropped down to 130 minutes (lol, wow what a reprieve) and I made the unilateral decision that it was now or never. I’m pretty sure that Hagrid’s is known to break down throughout the day and this was actually the lowest I had seen the line over the last three days of cyber-stalking.

I suggested that we put our stuff in a locker because I wasn’t sure what the loose articles sitch was like and, not that this matters, but I remembered having to empty everything from our pockets and go through a metal detector when it was still Dueling Dragons, the coaster that Hagrid’s replaced.

Almost immediately upon entering our new home for the next who knows how many hours, Henry and Chooch were quick to point out  that pretty much every single person in line had their phones. Chooch wanted to kill me, and it didn’t make things any better when I said, “Oh well, now we’ll just have to talk to each other!”

BIG SMILE.

You guys. What a line. It wasn’t as awful as you would think because the queue scenery is so well-done (I’d share pictures but LOL we were off the grid). For the first portion, we were outside but even that part had cool Harry Potter shit to look at. I don’t know if it was a good or bad thing not knowing how long the queue actually was.

Once we got inside the ride building, I was happy for a change of scenery, but now we were out of the sunlight and basically living like moles for the next however long. We reached a standstill at one point, where the line just wasn’t moving AT ALL. We could see a line attendant up ahead blocking the way with a chain but we had no idea what was going on. Everyone was starting to get shifty and restless now. There were two girls in front of us and one of them asked if we had ever ridden it before. “It’s so worth it,” she said when I said we hadn’t. So that was reassuring! And I had only ever heard great things about this coaster, which was why I was in for the long haul.

I guess when you go into things with the expectation of having to wait, it’s not as bad. We had gotten so incredibly lucky with VelociCoaster, so this felt like an even trade to me. We continued to wait without complaining, and omg we actually talked to each other! Even Chooch! He spoke to us! In public! Without even a hint of derision in his teenaged tone!

Turns out the reason why we had come to a standstill was because we had reached the STORY TIME point in the line. Th line attendant ushered a large group of us into a room and said, “MOVE ALL THE WAY DOWN.” I stupidly listened to him instead of sticking with the two girls in front of us, who were like “no thanks” and stayed along the left side of the room. So now we had to watch this….show? where Hagrid and Mr. Weasley are doing stuff, I dunno, I was drifting off. But it was basically building up the ride experience, so you knew why you were riding on some motorcycle thing.

But here’s the point in the story where I wish I had paid more attention to YouTube reviews of this ride, because then I would have known, well, that we were allowed to bring phones onto the ride, for starters, but also that this room is fucking dumb and that the exit is on the same side of the wall which we entered, so WHEN THE EXIT DOOR OPENED, WE LOST OUR SPOT IN LINE AND NOW THERE WERE LIKE 50 MORE PPL IN FRONT OF US.

At the end of the day, it really only set us back about 15 minutes, but it was so frustrating and Chooch was losing his goddamn mind over it. Every time we saw the two girls way up ahead in line, Chooch would say, “Just a reminder that we’d be all the way up there right now…”

He’s actually still finding ways to “just a reminder” me about this, and it’s been almost a month.

Meanwhile, we were wending and winding our way through room after room and thankfully they were all nicely themed so we had shit to look at, but really it was just like being in a dungeon with a bunch of strangers, none of which were annoying at least. No line-jumping here!

Another PRO TIP is that the single rider line bypasses that whole stupid story-telling room and so much more of the internal queue, but it was our first time riding it and I wanted to ride together! I think Chooch would have happily ditched us in favor of riding with a lone stranger though.

Eventually we reached a point where the family behind us started asking us when the fuck the line would end and we were like, “Let us slip on our ‘seeing-thru-walls’ glasses & get back to you.” This was when we were in a stone corridor and it felt like the walls were caving in.

So maybe about an hour into the line at that point?

The line was moving so inconsistently and I couldn’t figure out why. This ride is high-capacity! I think they run like 10 trains at a time and the loading station uses a moving conveyor belt system to really keep that shit going.  But I guess it’s just THAT popular that even with excellent ops, there is just always going to be a line. Even on days when the rest of the park doesn’t seem too overly crowded.

So annoying!

Anyway, after the corridor section, we got to ANOTHER room and this is where we realized that this was where the fucking FAST PASS / QUICK QUEUE / EASY ENTRY / RICH PPL ONLY whatever the fuck you call it, pick one, people were spilling into the general queue. On one hand, that meant we must be close to the platform! On the other hand, it was so frustrating watching more and more people push us back in line. One of the families had this HUGE/TALL guy with them and Chooch was like AW HAGRID CAME TO RIDE HIS OWN RIDE but he said it kind of loud and Henry was like SHHHH because that’s Henry for you. Always at the ready with a dad-like SHHHH.

Then we did it! We reached the finish line! Everyone was getting so amped now, being in the final holding room, hearing the trains being loaded in the station on the other side of the wall, seeing the end of the single rider line!!

“Just a reminder that we’d be next,” Chooch said as the two girls who used to be in front of us were now being admitted onto the platform. Fuck off, Chooch.

I’m so glad that there were enough people ahead of us for us to still be in line long enough for Chooch to have the chance to say, “Just a reminder we’d be getting off the ride now,” as we saw the two girls walking through the exit a few minutes later.

Then we were next in line!! “Meet your new best friend,” the line attendant said to Henry as he was paired up with someone from the single ride line. I can’t believe it worked out this way AGAIN, but Chooch and I got the back row and Henry and his new friend (who was Maybe French, and I know this because Henry wouldn’t shut up about him like they had really shared something special together) got the front row of the next train!!

Anyway, finally the ride! Hagrid’s is a multi-launch family coaster with several tricks and gimmicks up its sleeve. I thought it was really fun! It made me laugh, and I felt that it was worth the wait – for the first time. While I would have loved to get a night ride on that thing, I was not willing to stand in that line again. So it’s got to lose some points for not being easily re-rideable. Which is a shame too because there was so much going on, and also the option to ride on the motorcycle or sidecar, so I feel like the experiences could vary.

But yeah, it was seriously fun and a GREAT family coaster. I do typically prefer more intense coasters, but I knew going in that this wasn’t going to deliver on that front.

“Can we stay on?” Chooch jokingly asked the ride attendant on the unloading platform. The guy took him seriously and said, “Oh man, I’m sorry but no. I wish I could let you,” and Chooch was like, “Haha I was kidding,” but the guy kept going on about how we couldn’t stay on and it was borderline embarrassing. Thankfully everyone else on our train had already started to walk away so no one else heard.

Thanks for that, Chooch.

For a split second, I liked it better than VelociCoaster but then came to my senses!

So overall, by the time we boarded the ride, we had actually been standing in line for less than 130 minutes. I think it was more like 110, or an hour and 45 minutes, which still isn’t fantastic but actually less than what I was bracing for when we planned this trip!

When I said this to Chooch, he was quick to point out, “Just a reminder, it would have been about 15 minutes less if we had stayed with those girls.”

UGH UGH UGH.

After we got off the ride, we immediately went to retrieve our phones and it was literally like REUNITED AND IT FEELS SO GOOD.

Hogsmeade is so beautiful.

We came back to Hogsmeade later for Butterbeer!

You know I’m 100% vegetarian and only about 75% vegan but this is still really annoying to me: Did you know that jackass terf J.K. Rowling contractually does not allow Universal Studios to offer foam-less Butterbeer to those who request it? This prevents vegans and other people with food allergies from being able to enjoy the Hogsmeade staple and I think it’s so stupid. I’m not sure if it’s actually JK Rowling’s doing but it was mentioned in several videos I watched about Universal Studios and she’s such a fucking weirdo that I wouldn’t doubt it.

Henry refused to drink his until I put my phone away, lol.

It really is great though. I am such an old person when it comes to butterscotch. Butterscotch candies are my absolute favorite and if it’s an option, I will usually take it over hot fudge on a sundae. My mom used to make the most divine butterscotch pie that my taste buds can still conjure up the memory of even though I haven’t had it since I was in high school probably. I recently asked her for the recipe so Henry can make it and she told me to look on Pinterest!??!? Um, I want the specific recipe she used back in the day BUT OK I’ll get it from some twee Pinterest influencer. Yay.

The only other Harry Potter ride we did that day was Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. I would say we waited in line for about 40-45 minutes but the line moves pretty continuously and like Hagrids, there is a lot to look at. This line was MUCH MORE ANNOYING than Hagrids though because right off the bat, a family of five behind us cut through an empty part of the queue and jumped ahead of not only us but the family of 5 who was in front of us. The dad of that family called them out by saying, “Not fair, guys. Not fair” and they just looked at him blankly and continued on with their cheating ways.

So now I was fixated on hating them. The mom reminded me SO MUCH of this total psycho bitch I used to be friends with during my LiveJournal ways who was super into making yarn hair to sell on Etsy (she actually told me back then that she wouldn’t recommend me selling my art and serial killer cards on Etsy, that they probably wouldn’t sell…that was in 2006 and here we are) and Civil War reenactments. Ugh. I literally could not stop glowering at the mom while she played some dumb hand games with her son who looked like he was in college, and then her mini-me teenaged daughter was doing the same with the youngest son, but kept looking at her mom for approval, and I bet they go camping together and sing church songs while baking mountain pies.

OK, the mountain pie part sounds nice. I take that back. I don’t want to envision them doing nice things. They eat baked beans out of a boot. There. Fixed it.

Then we stood there and watched as more and more people continued to appear out of nowhere, doing the whole, “Excuse me, my kid’s up there” song and dance. Like, hello. This is not how standing in line works!! I swear to god, I want to make my own theme park and have trap doors that will drop line-jumpers into an underground amusement park jail that’s actually another queue line but this one is so narrow that people can only fit in a single-file line and it has walls that go all the way up so you can catapult over or climb under. You’re stuck in a narrow AF queue that goes on forever and doesn’t even take you to a ride. It takes you to the very back of the parking lot but now the parking lot is covered in hot coals AND there’s a doctor at your car waiting to give you a colonoscopy while Baby Shark plays over the speakers in the lot.

Fucking cut in MY park, bitch I dare you.

Whatever. Still happy to be there!

Chooch barely spoke to us in this line because THE LINE WAS TOO LONG, WAH I’M SPOILED.

This part of the queue is excellent. It’s literally like being inside the movie.

I really wish JK Rowling wasn’t such a shit human.

Anyway, it was just about our turn to tell the line attendant how many dummies were in our party when I turned to continue walking and suddenly a new guy was in front of me. It had been that same family the whole time, the ones who got cut along with us, and now it was some new dad. I stopped in my tracks because he was facing me and I was startled, and then I saw that he was MOTIONING TO PEOPLE BACK FARTHER IN THE LINE TO JOIN HIM. Oh HELL NO, you bitch. I am very non-confrontational when it comes to this shit because you never fucking know what someone is capable of. I certainly don’t want to be the one getting ejected from the park and with my temper…well, this is why I struggle on the daily. But look man, I waited in that line for at least 40 minutes which isn’t that long but I was not about to get all the way to the end just to have people cut in front of me, and by the looks of it, he was inviting his entire family reunion to join him.

So, I looked at him and said, “Where did you come from.”

Just like that. WHERE. DID. YOU. COME. FROM.

I could tell he was stunned that someone had the audacity to call him out, so he didn’t say anything at first. I went on to say, “I was behind those people this whole time,” and I gestured to the family that I had forged a silent affinity with after BEING CUT TOGETHER and now it was about to happen again, I was about to get DOUBLE CUTTED.

“Oh, you can go ahead,” he said stammered, like he was DOING ME A FAVOR by letting me keep my original spot in line.

“Yeah I know, I can,” I said and marched ahead. Chooch and Henry were just like, “What….just happened” and when I turned around, sure enough, several people affiliated with this audacious asshole had cut through the line to join him. And no one said a thing.

The only thing that will prevent this from happening is having park employees stationed throughout every line but when parks can barely employ enough people to open all the food places, that is just not a viable option. Those “line jumping is cause for removal from the park” signs that I once WROTE A POEM ABOUT in high school (it was my Kennywood series lol) do not intimidate a single soul. Line jumpers gon’ line jump.

Well, at least the Harry Potter ride is worth all of this.

Again, even though this area is usually the most crowded section of both sides of the parks, it is still magical and not even the crowds in the general Hogsmeade area brought me down. I know it typically gets waaaaay more crowded than what we experienced during the summer and other holidays, but I would recommend going at the end of April like we did in 2016. It was still the most crowded sections of the park, relatively speaking, but we were nearly walking on both Escape from Gringotts and Forbidden Journey back then, AND the general area was not congested at all.

If you just can’t get enough of my AWESOME and INFORMATIVE Universal recaps, you are welcome to go back in time and read my “recaps” (I laugh because when can any of my posts be considered “recaps” when I drone on and on and on).

(Dude, I might even re-read these myself, to be honest because I EFFING MISS IT THERE SO MUCH. Like, am I considering moving to Florida? OK, maybe let’s not go that far. But I wouldn’t be mad if someone bought me a season pass for Xmas, you know?)

(Also, don’t worry! I still have one more Universal post up my sleeve. Jesus, I need a life.)

  1. Universal Studios 2016 #1

Universal Studios: Part 1 of Only God Knows

  1. Universal Studios 2016 #2

Universal Studios Part 2: About to Buy Property There 

  1. Universal Studios 2016 #3

Universal Studios 3: Can I Go Back Now?

May 022022
 

The main reason I was reluctant to change our spring break destination to Orlando was because I was 99.9999999% sure that Universal would be poppin’ off. I was watching all kinds of WORST TIME TO GO TO UNIVERSAL videos on YouTube and I checked all those different “crowd prediction” websites, whatever the hell they’re called, and sure enough for the week we were planning on going, Universal was in the RED ZONE. Otherwise known as the PREPARED TO STAND IN LINE ALL DAY AND HATE HUMANITY zone.

Add to this overhearing a guy in line behind us at Busch Gardens Williamsburg saying that he waited in line for VelociCoaster for 4 hours.

Four.

Hours.

Granted, he didn’t offer any additional information on this, like was it during the height of summer? Was it on opening day? Who can be sure?! But this was still enough to chill my blood.

I was lowkey dreading this day. It was, in my eyes, the most important day of the trip because we had such a great time at this park in 2016 and I have been chomping at the bit (I learned this phrase in elementary school and use it entirely too much – does anyone else even say this!? Is it time to retire it??) to go back. Plus? VelociCoaster.

And OK< Hagrid’s too.

But…VelociCoaster.

Assuming not everyone here is a coasterslut like me, VelociCoaster is a new as of 2021 Intamin multi-launch coaster built in the Jurassic World section of Universal Islands of Adventure and it has caused some sopping wet dreams across the coaster community. A lot of popular enthusiasts whose opinions I greatly trust have even gone as far as to say it’s the greatest coaster in the world, currently.

I was prepared to plant myself in a long-ass line and potentially get one lone ride on this thing, if I was lucky.

The park opens to the general public at 8am so we got there around 7:30 because we remembered that it was quite a hike from the parking garage, through security, and then through the City Walk before you even get to the park entrance.

Side note: Universal is actually split up into two separate parks which is so fucking annoying and low-key feels like a scam to be honest. Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure both have entrances that are accessed via City Walk, but if you pay the park-to-park pass, you can access both not only on the same day, but also via Hogwart’s Express. Of course the park-to-park pass costs even more money than an individual ticket for each park, because CORPORATIONS, amirite.

Oh and fun fact: if you’re going for  the Harry Potter specifically, kindly note (I spend too much time writing work emails OMG) that this land is SPLIT BETWEEN THE TWO SIDES so you need to buy admission to both parks if you want to experience all of the Harry Potter stuff.

Universal is lucky that it’s worth every penny though. I literally can’t even say it’s not.

Anyway, that being said! We lucked out because everything we wanted to accomplish on this trip was on the Islands of Adventure side: VelociCoaster, Hagrid’s, the Hulk coaster which was being refurbed when we were there in 2016, and Kong which was still being built and didn’t open until later in 2016. So woo hoo, the Tight Wads got to save some dough.

OK, so we got there around 7:30 and drove right up to an open parking booth, no giant line of cars to wait in. The guy at the booth said we were his first customer of the day, even!? Paid for parking (cheaper than Busch Gardens Tampa by $15 I think, which we’d learn the next day lol!) and got a spot in the garage with no hassle, and then proceeded to cruise right through security because Henry left his PURSE in the car.

In that picture up there, you can see how far ahead of us Henry was walking, lol. Roller Coaster Dad was on a mission!

I was almost peeing myself!! It still wasn’t quite 8am but they let us in! Like, we never had to break a stride, no additional lines to stand in!

Henry said, “I think today might not too bad—” and I nearly slapped my hand over his mouth. Like, OK Jinx Jacobs Strikes Again!

What? Am I being too niche in my references again? Did you not own this Care Bears VHS (the kind in the puffy case!) and watch it every day for a year?

It was nice not having to run, especially because there was no way I’d ever remember how to get to the Jurassic World area. However, you could see VelociCoaster from various areas en route and we were squealing! (OK, just I was).

OH MY GODDDDDDDDDDDD.

When we got to the ride entrance, it said it was only a 30 minute wait! Once we got into the line, though, it did a lot of wending and winding and we thought that there was no way this was only a 30 minute wait. No fucking way.

But when I say that this line never stops moving, I’m not lying. There is no time for kids to fuck around the railing or people to pop a squat against the wall. It is near-constant motion. And the queue is so entertaining!

In this part of the line, you can actually watch the trains go through the second launch. I was obsessed with this area! We made Janna watch videos about it when she was here for Cake Night and she was like wow and we were like NO JANNA YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND THAT IT IS THE ACTUAL RIDE SHOOTING THRU THERE and she was like OK I GET IT YES THAT IS COOL OK THANKS.

You know you’re almost there when you reach the LOCKER area. I love that more and more rides are adopting for in-line lockers so you’re not stranded in a crowd without your phone. It was so easy too – you scan your park ticket and a free locker pops open. You just have to remember what dinosaur group your locker is in so  that when you get off the ride, you can find it on the other side. It’s a pretty seamless process. I’m sure there are people out there who still find ways to screw it up, but we had no issues. Some of the RMC coasters do this too (Steel Vengeance, Twisted Timbers) and it’s so convenient, but there are always those people who don’t listen and still try to bring in giant backpacks. The lockers are small and meant for phones, cameras, wallets, fanny packs, anything you have stuffed in your pockets.

And then you go through the metal detector and upstairs to the final waiting area before it’s time to board!!

When it was our turn, I told the line attendant that there were just two of us because the only row open was the back row, so Chooch and I were like HAHAHAHA SUCK IT HENRY until we realized that meant he got front row on the next train.

Ugh.

By 8:30am, we were riding on the VelociCoaster, what a goddamn dream.

OK, now it’s time to talk about the actual ride and you know I’m bad at this! I’m not all “Immelmann this” and “Zero G Stall” that…I barely know the names of all of the elements! That’s all Chooch. But what I can tell you is that this ride seemed to defy all logic. Like, how do these engineers know that the average human body can withstand such insanity?!

This is not the tallest or fastest coaster out there, but the launches are perfect and the layout is will you leave you breathlessly asking, “Whaaaaaa just happened?!?” when you come barreling into the brake run.

Um, this is legit. Believe the hype.

Actually, our first ride on it was the weakest. Probably because it was still so early and hadn’t had a chance to fully warm up yet (I used to think this was a myth; ’tis not) because we ended up riding it three* more times throughout the day and that bitch was fucking hauling by the afternoon. And you guys, do not even get me started on the NIGHT RIDES.

Chooch is actually on  this one here ^^^! But yeah, later in the evening, Chooch was like, “Fuck this, I’m using the single rider line” even though we never waited more than 35 minutes each time, so he actually got on before us and then got right back in line so we stood there taking pictures of every train as it came over the tophat, figuring we’d eventually get him, lol.

Honestly though. The last two rides Henry and I had were in the front row. They assign seats on this ride in order to keep the line moving but there is a separate line for the front row with a sign that warns you that the wait will be longer if you opt for that. I feel like people didn’t realize it was an option because both times when we requested front row, there were only two couples waiting in that line. And then both times it was like we broke the seal because both times when we returned to the station, the front line was so much longer, lol.

But holy shit – front row at night. I am such a back row bitch, but hold up, Rhonda – front row is where it’s at on this.

AT NIGHT.

It was hands down one of the best coaster experiences I’ve ever had and I am honestly crying a little bit as I try to parse through my memories.

Oh also! After Chooch came back from his second single-rider experience, one of his friends from school was there (it wasn’t a surprise- they knew going into this that they were both going to be at Islands of Adventure on this particular Tuesday) so they went off and rode it together and then spent the rest of the evening running amok in the park and isn’t that the dream? To be at a park THIS GREAT with a friend? Meanwhile, I was stuck with Just Henry, ugh. It was fine. We’ll talk more about that later.

This post was for VelociCoaster Things Only.

To summarize: this coaster is just as amazing as all the cargo-shorted enthusiasts will have you believe. Ops were INCREDIBLE. Theming was just right. FUN WAS OFF THE CHARTS.

Here. This guy explains it so much better than me.

May 012022
 

After we left St. Augustine two entire Fridays ago at this point, we chose Savannah as our final rest stop for the day and now you get to look at the handful of photos I took from that leg of the return trip home. Just pretend like you’re sitting in my living room as I’m clicking through the slides.

Chooch was determined to go to Georgia Peach World, having seen the signs for it after waking up in the backseat during our initial trek  to Florida earlier in the week.

So, we stopped at Georgia Peach World because What Chooch Wants, Chooch Gets.

Sike, we all wanted to stop there.

Luckily, we made it there about 30 minutes before CLOSING TIME. I was hoping for some peach pie but alas, no luck. They had pecan pies though, but I was being a pie snob and said NAY. Chooch desired a glass jar of peaches for some reason, so we got that and then Henry and I shared some peach soft serve which was actually quite delectable. BUT the girl working there was so fucking miserable that it ruined the whole experience for us and I was actually mad that I liked the ice cream.

I mentioned this in my live blog from last week, but Chooch’s jar of peaches only lasted 24 hours. Henry opened the trunk when we got to our final hotel the next night in West Virginia and the jar rolled right out and shattered in the parking lot. $10 and Chooch’s “only want” (yeah right) down the drain.

Henry allegedly booked a hotel “in” Savannah but it was actually on the outskirts and was SUPER WEIRD:


Henry kept saying, “THEYRE REMODELING” but they apparently only remodeled the lobby and then quit because everything else was shabby and neglected and there were no signs that the renovation was still in process?! The wallpaper was peeling everywhere in the hallway and our room had super strange window valances and decorative jars displayed in recessed walls?! It was very 80s which I would normally be down with but this place was strange AF.

Don’t ever let Henry book you a hotel. He’s like a travel agent trained in Hell.

The bathroom was decent though. I will give it that.

Anyway it was only about 8:30 when we checked in and I started panicking about not making the most of our time so Henry was like good lord we will go to downtown Savannah, calm down!

Chooch was like “nah I’m good fam” so he stayed back and watched, I don’t even know, King of the Hill or something, while I was miserable for the TWENTY MINUTE drove to Savannah. Henry is the worst.

We parked somewhere and then walked down to the river where there was some action.

Coulda went here but we didn’t because Henry never wants to do anything.

I remember these steps from the last time we were in Savannah! Or at least similar steps that I was sure I was going to fall down.

Nothing too notable happened while we were down there except for when some guy stopped us and asked, “wanna see something cool?” And I’m like “I want to say yes so bad but is this going to end with him whipping out his dick?”

Henry had the KEEP WALKING look in his eyes but I of course let my naïveté get the best of me and said OK!

He goes, “ok, yell ‘aye!’ real loud.”

I mean, I did it but I was also super paranoid that I was being groomed as the butt of a joke. I mean, there were people around but it was also a Friday night and many of those people were drunk so this was probably ok.

He was like “no do it louder.” So I did and he’s like “do you hear the echo?”

I did not. At this point my mind is flipping through all the scenarios where the end game is my dead body floating in the river behind us.

How do we get from Point DO YOU HEAR THE ECHO to Point BLOATED RIVER BODY? So many scenarios.

Now he’s telling us to walk outside of the little courtyard circle we’re standing in and to yell “aye” again. “Or yell anything you want, just yell something,” he said and this comforted me because I admit that I was fixating on the “aye” part. Why “aye”? Is that the magic word, when hollared at 9pm in the center of this courtyard, that permits a pirate portal to open so the ghost of Blackbeard can claim a wife?

So we did as we were told and then he had us come back to the center again and do it again AND BY GOLLY, now I could hear it! There was a distinct echo but only in the middle of the courtyard!

Now the guy and his friends were really stoked that we could hear it and he explained that it was some local phenomenon or something and I was like WOW THANKS FOR TELLING US! But then I made sure to Google “Savannah echo” afterward to verify that he wasn’t actually trying to fuck with gullible tourists and thankfully, it’s an actual local attraction.

Then we bought three rum cakes off some vendor. They were delicious.

I don’t know what any of this shit is but I thought it looked like something that tourists would take pictures of.

I made Henry cross the street so I could take his picture in a Nugent Vibes Recharging Station.

Then we went to a souvenir store because as mentioned previously, Henry is suddenly really into buying hats. I can often be found looking bored and impatient during these times.

After I was satisfied with the number of steps I had accumulated and felt that we made the most of our free Friday night time, we went back to the hotel, stopping to pick up some Taco Bell for Chooch since feeding your kids is something that parents are expected to do.

And this was what we did in Georgia.

Apr 302022
 

We eventually made it to the Fountain of Youth. Can you imagine going to St. Augustine and not checking out the Fountain of Youth!? I mean, I’m sure Henry and Chooch would not have lost any sleep over that. But I learned about this in fifth grade, therefore, I needed to see it. I am just that kind of person.

I am also the kind of person who pays admission to tour museums and other places of historical import only to lose interest somewhat immediately and proceeds to skim the informational placards in an effort to get to the end faster.

It me.

I appreciate that this signage looks like it hasn’t been updated since the 1950s.

The lady at the admission booth liked my phone case! It’s my bread one from Brunch Brothers, in case Future Erin is here reading this and wondering, “Ha! Which one??” Queen of the Interesting Phone Cases.

It also me.

America’s FIRST colony!

It St. Augustine!

OK, I’ll stop with that not. I had a lot of sugar today.

I should also note that after we paid to get in, Chooch asked, “So what is this? Like, a ride or something?”

OMG that would make this place so much better, if Sally Dark Rides came in, installed some track and pretzel cars, plopped down some animatronics and jump scares….It would have been worth the $20pp!!!

We did the thing. Well, Chooch and I did. Henry was like I’M GOOD. It just tasted like an extinguished match. So you know, sulfur.

It was just us and two old ladies inside, so that was nice! I was expecting it to be packed, like we would have to stand in line just to chock back some disgusting $20 thimble of water by choice. But nope, we marched right over and helped ourselves. The old ladies didn’t even know you could drink it until they saw us and then we had to point out the cups to them. LOOK AT US, Fountain of Youth docents, basically.

Chooch always has to take a selfie with my phone before taking the phot requested of him.

And then we always get the zoomie of Henry too:

Honestly, after doing this portion, I was bored already but now we had to walk around the land and look at the artifacts or whatever.

These things seemed significant, so I took a picture to show my Internet Friends.

IT YOU.

OK for real I’m done.

Posin’ with Ponce.

Apparently, the local peacocks like to chill by the gift shop so they have feed there that you can buy and even though there are signs everywhere that say FOOD IS FOR PEACOCKS ONLY DO NOT FEED OTHER WILDLIFE, the pigeons were like, “No, the sign spelled pigeons wrong. That food is for us.” This one lady had accumulated close to 10 pigeons on her person just by holding out a hand of feed.

Here’s Chooch half-assedly fending off the pigeons.

We spent more time here than anywhere else in the whole archeological park, not surprising. At before we left, there was a healthy crowd of about 25 people hanging out, feeding the “peacocks.” Good times.

In  the gift shop, I of course bought a tiny souvenir bottle of FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH WATER and Chooch bought a puzzle of some sort – there was a lot of back and forth about said puzzle between him and Henry but I wasn’t paying attention. I’m not sure what was so special about this puzzle other than it was Noah’s Ark which was appealing to Chooch because he evidently inherited the “I love Noah’s Ark but not the BOOK it came from” gene from my mom, who had so much Noah’s Ark shit around the house when I was growing up including a MASSIVE wooden Noah’s Ark with handmade wooden pairs of animals that she collected from a store called the Hobby Horse and then our German Shepherd, Rama, started using some of the animals as chew toys so that kind of put an end to that. Man, I haven’t thought about that in so long but it was actually epic. She had it displayed in the bay window in our dining room. She must have spent thousands of dollars on that in the end because she would make trips to the Hobby Horse to pick  up whatever new animal pairs the artist had recently crafted and then I would beg for rock candy even though EW and also honey sticks, which OK those were good. They also had an old-fashioned ice cream parlor in that place. I had a love/hate relationship with it because it “so far away” (like 25 minutes probably, lol) and also my mom spent so much time there and it was essentially a cross between an antique shop and a country store, so it was dark and wooden inside with like, lots of wreaths and Americana bullshit. And like, old skillets. I dunno. It was fine.

Wow. what was I talking about?

Oh yeah, Chooch’s puzzle. So he and Henry worked out whatever the issue was (I think maybe he needed Henry to transfer money to his PARENTAL CONTROLLED debit card lol) but then Chooch was like, “Hold the phone, this box is messed up. I need to swap it out” so he went back to a new one. This is only relevant to the story because when we got home two days later, he opened the stupid thing to put it together and it was the WRONG PUZZLE – somehow a Santa’s Workshop one was in the box instead, lol.

There’s my bottle ^^^

The worst part was that after we left, we had to walk all the back to the car and I don’t know if I mentioned this or not but my feet were like blood sacks at this point?? My right foot was so fucked with bruises and my left foot had/has some METATARSAL thing happening, I don’t know if that’s true – I googled it and didn’t get very far in my research before becoming overcome with the woozies.

Henry started walking SO FAST and so far ahead of us limpers, because he was afraid of the meter running out I guess and as you know, he already earned himself a speeding ticket on this trip and was probably not trying to add a parking ticket to the collection.

Oh shit this reminds me that I forgot to tell his mom last weekend about how her perfect tree-climbing son got a speeding ticket.

Don’t worry, we made it back to the car. I think this was when we realized that Chooch’s Harry Potter chocolate frog was in the car and consequently perished because Florida.

From here, we went to Sarbez for lunch! Please read about that here. Then we drove around the St. Augustine Beach area which looked super cute and fun and I could see us potentially coming back there someday when we’re looking for a “slow vacation” and by that I mean a super fast-paced vacation with perhaps one day where we slow down and maybe dip our toes in water and read a book or something.  But just for a day. Then roller coasters.

Before venturing out of St. Augustine and Florida in general, Henry ran into The Kookaburra to grab us some iced coffees, which was funny to me since this trip made me feel a type of way about Australians and it ain’t a good way, pal.

My nails were fucked by the end of the trip. Actually, by the second day, who am I kidding. I even brought polish so I could redo them but I was so tired every time I found myself in the hotel room that this never happened.

WAIT PS PS PS!! I just realized that there is some Noah’s Ark art on the walls in the background of this picture of my brother Corey holding a very new baby Chooch at my moms house in 2006!

Enjoy.

Apr 282022
 

Wow, hello. I’m back with more rollercoaster road trip recapping. You are so stoked, I can smell the stink of your stoke-ocity all the way from here.

The only other time I was ever at Sea World Orlando was in the early 80s. I remember approximately nothing about it, my brain being the ripe old age of 4, except for the fact that Richard Simmons made an appearance and I got on stage AND KISSED HIM. The only reason I remember this is because I was mocked mercilessly about it every now and then throughout the years by my family.

Sadly, there was no Richard Simmons to kiss this time around (though I could have my shot at Cookie Monster because the line was short but Henry and Chooch were being dumb about it).

Guys, did you know that parking at Sea World is like $30 or some other crazy outerspace denomination? Henry was all, “HAHA I WILL SHOW THEM” and ordered a Lyft to take us since it would only be $9 both ways. But then he forgot about the tip, so it ended up being wash in the end BUT it was nice being dropped off right at the entrance!

Side-note: you’re supposed tow ear your masks in Lyft vehicles. The first driver had his on which was awesome, but the second driver didn’t! Also, we were so giddy Monday morning waiting outside of the hotel for the Lyft. And by that, I mean, Chooch and I were acting like absolute crazy people while Henry kept hissing, “STOP IT.”

I know it was only our first full day in Florida, but I was feeding off the sunshine and theme park energy in a big way. I can’t believe I was originally opposed to this spring break back-up plan!

I already wrote about the two main negatives that we experienced at Sea World and there was only one other bummer of a thing that happened, pretty much as soon as we walked through the gate. Henry had realized that he left his dumb eyeglass strap thingie in the car, which was at the hotel, so he immediately set off to the nearest gift shop in order to procure one. Chooch and I wait for no one, not even The One Who Feeds Us (unless it’s Feeding Time), so we continued walking through the main courtyard area.

“Look! Sea World buddy!” Chooch called out, pointing to a squirrel frolicking in the landscaping along the path. We walked over to get a closer look, and it just so happened to be near a side path that was labeled “park employees only.” We weren’t even CLOSE to entering the path, still clearly on the main park-goer path, but an employee walking past at that moment still felt obliged to call out, “THAT’S FOR PARK EMPLOYEES ONLY.”

Um, OK thanks, we can read?

I started to explain that we weren’t going to step on the path (we still weren’t even close to it!??!) and that we were just trying to get a better look at the squirrel which you would think she would be understanding of considering she’s working at a park whose theming revolves around animals!?

She literally cut me off to call over her shoulder, once again, “THAT PATH IS FOR PARK EMPLOYEES ONLY.”

OK now I was pissed and offended, which is a deadly combo for me and makes me want to breathe fire. Normally Chooch would be like, “OK you’re overreacting”  but he was like, “Wow, cool” and I launched into my indignant tirade of injustice. I HATE BEING SCOLDED and it was exactly what she had done. She was carrying a clipboard with her and appeared to be in some type of supervising or management position and if you ask me, someone needs to knock her down a peg, looking at you, killer whales.

So now I had a bad taste in my mouth (probably from the fire-breathing) and I was concerned that it was an omen for the rest of the day. But luckily, with the exception of the Australian Piss Party referenced in link above, the day only got better from here.

Right after the squirrel incident, we came upon the entrance to Manta, a B&M flying coaster. The entrance itself was like the opening to a cave, and only continued to get more and more cave-like as we moved deeper inside. It was so dark and then suddenly:

Is this best queue of any roller coaster, ever? Maybe! It was so cool! There were several other aquarium windows as we walked through and since hardly anyone was every in line with us, we were able to walk right up to the windows and have it all to ourselves! Literally EVERY SINGLE TIME we rode Manta (at least 4 or 5 times!). This was such a fun surprise!

The other fun surprise? Manta was AWESOME. I generally do not like flying coasters that much. They can be extremely uncomfortable and unenjoyable but this one really took me by surprise! It actually ended up being Chooch’s favorite coaster in the park! (Not mine, though. I’ll give it the #2 slot.)

The only bad experience I had on this was maybe the third time we rode it – it was a complete walk-on in the back row, and most of the train was empty. The ride op at that time – TY, an older white man with a huge chip on his shoulder – walked around and SLAMMED down the restraints of each empty seat. Then he kicked (KICKED!!) in the leg restraints too flying coasters have additional restraints down there to make sure your legs and feet stay pinned back when the coaster is in flying position (i.e. when you’re face down and screaming your face off). I looked at Chooch like, “Wow he better not do that to us—OW! OMG!!” as Ty came over and practically smashed my clavicle with the restraint and then Annie Wilkes’d my feet.

So aggressive, I couldn’t believe it. I should have reported his ass! Along with the bitchy EMPLOYEES ONLY cunt.

This was also the coaster where I discovered that Sea World goers are super conscientious of filling all the seats, so people in line would turn around to see if there were any single riders available. I loved this. Nothing is more frustrating that when a pair of people board a 4 SEAT ROW and proceed to not move all the way to the end so that other people in line can’t easily get in to fill the seats.

Anyway, I really appreciated the couth and NOONCHI (Korean for personal awareness) of these riders which was almost negated by all the line-jumping going on (really only experienced this in line for that stupid Infinity Falls, but water rides always bring out the idiot GP). The only time the “fill the row” proaction was scowled upon was when we were waiting in line for the front row for Kraken.

There was a middle school-aged boy behind me and Chooch, and 2 pairs of people in front of us. The train that was boarding had one empty seat in the front. The boy noticed this and did the whole “Excuse me, pardon me” side-step song-and-dance until he was able to JUST BARELY slip through the gate before it closed and occupy the lone empty seat in the front row.

Did this affect any of us? No. Was this considered cutting NOPE. A park with super on-point ride ops will usually even have a ride attendant calling out for single riders, and some rides even have single-rider lines. THIS IS NOT A NEW THING. This is called FILLING THE FUCKING TRAIN AND MINIMIZING THE WAIT TIME FOR EVERYONE ELSE.

That being said, the wives in front of us got RULL bent out of shape about this. Acting appalled, suffering a personal affront, the whole deal. They were scoffing about the audacity, and grunting their displeasure, and then the one woman even went so far as to MOCK the kid’s appearance.  I was pissed.

“He was in a big hurry to get to the front!” the one WIFE said so since she mocked that kid, Chooch and I proceeded to spend the rest of the day mocking HER. Dumb lady.

“HE WAS IN A BIG HURR—stfu!!!”

Kraken was super fun though, although a bit rough (I’m old).

Don’t get me started on this fucking ride. Apparently, it’s similar to Busch Garden Williamburg’s Escape from Pompeii but this one is Atlantis-themed and I wanted to do it but when we were in line for it, it broke down. We stayed in line for quite some time waiting because the recording urged us to but finally an employee got on the speaker and was like, “Yeah, this bitch is fucked, guys.” You know, in so many words.

We kept trying to come back to it but the line was SO LONG every single time. Meanwhile, we were practically walking on all of the coasters. The park wasn’t even crowded but it was a hot, sunny day and bitches always tryna ride the water rides on days like that, you know?

You have just looked at two pictures of Henry walking like he’s on a mission.

OK, now that we got Manta and Kraken under our belts, it was time to find our way to Mako, a B&M hyper, because Chooch had already decided that this would be his 200th coaster.

#200!

OK. Bro. We all loved Mako but I LOVED MAKO ENOUGH TO MARRY IT, OK? Is Mako my new favorite hyper? I think so. Yes. Mako is my new favorite hyper. Chooch and I rode this at least 6 times that day and it was a walk-on every time except for when we waited for the front row and that was only about a 5 minute because ops were A+++ on this one.

My favorite was toward the end of the day. I wanted to go and ride it one last time before we left. We sat in the back with a young couple and it was just good vibes all around (probably because we left Henry behind lololol). When we got back to the station, it was practically empty. As we were about to leave, the couple we sat with asked one of the ride ops if they could stay on if they moved to an empty row (there were people waiting for the back row). She nodded and I was like, “OMG CAN WE DO IT TOO??” and she nodded again! So Chooch and I jumped in an empty row and got in another ride. When we came back, all four of us turned and looked the Best Ride Op Ever and she NODDED AGAIN without us even asking! So we ended the night with three back to back to back rides on Mako.

IT WAS DREAMY.

And a better experience than one of our earlier rides when we sat with two older thoosies  (that’s industry slang for coaster enthusiast, you guys, get on our level, god. I tell you guys too much sometimes!) and the one was pretty nauseating, like one of those guys who likes to expel random facts and comparisons loudly so everyone will be like, “OMG THAT GUY MUST RIDE A LOT OF COASTERS.” Like when he pulled his restraint down, he exclaimed, “Oh yeah, B&M clamshell!” (named for its shape, obvi) and I just rolled my eyes at Chooch.

We are not that annoying, you guys. (Lol, Janna is probably reading this and vehemently disagreeing while paging through a Cat Name book.)

The last coaster credit we needed was the brand spanking new Ice Breaker. The section of the park it’s in opens later than the rest of the park I guess, but the Sea World employee hanging around the entrance of Mako told us that this was the fastest way there so we hung around and enjoyed the scenery until the rope was dropped about 10 minutes later.

Aaaaand of course Ice Breaker wasn’t running yet, lol. We stood in line for a few minutes anyway but then made the unanimous decision to go do other things and come back because unlike Busch Gardens Williamsburg, it was our first time there so we wanted to see all the things!

LIKE THE MANATEES!

We did eventually go back later to ride Ice Breaker. It was the longest line we waited in for a coaster – a whole whopping 25 minutes. Henry had to pee first but we got in line without him, lol. Unlike other people, we did not invite him to cut the line in order to join us and he still ended up on the same train as us.

Chooch and I got the front row! The ride op was this super nice girl but she made me scrape my calf on the restraint (they were really awkward) and then I proceeded to have a bruise there for the rest of the week. Just add it to the rest! My right foot had the most purplest bruise of my life running alongside of it.

I feel like not many people would be ok with our versions of “vacations” lol.

Anyway! Ice Breaker was cool! A really interesting launch coaster but having just ridden Pantheon two days before this, Ice Breaker was a little underwhelming. Still good! But we rode so many incredible coasters on this trip that it did not end up in my Top 5.

Also, the ride op loved my Marcy tattoo so I forgave her instantly for maiming my calf.

This was before I ruined my shoes on Infinity Falls. :(

(I’m obsessed with these particular Vans though so I bought a new pair and am going to try and bleach the ruined ones and dye them neon orange, I dunno. And by that I mean that Henry is going to try. He’s the She’s Crafty one, not me.)

This is how far ahead of me Chooch typically walks, lol.

The penguin house was so much fun! We got to watch a bunch of them being weighed and it was so sweet and hilarious. This was also the first time I saw the WIVES WHO ARE AGAINST SINGLE RIDERS JUMPING AHEAD TO FILL EMPTY SPOTS.

A really nice British lady took this picture for us! When she handed me the phone back, she said, “I took three. I got all of your different positions!” I thought she was being sarcastic since I didn’t change at all while standing there, but then I looked at the pictures and sure enough, Henry the Stoop was doing something different with his arms in each one.

Additional things:

  • The soft pretzels were SO GOOD.
  • We each got a free meal with our ticket. Chooch and I were stuck with pizza but it was fine!
  • There was some 20-something-ish girl there with her boyfriend wearing obscenely short shorts and Henry was PISSED about this?! He kept saying, “I’M SORRY BUT YOU SHOULDN’T WEAR SOMETHING LIKE THAT WITH CHILDREN AROUND” and this was extremely hilarious to me because he was actually seething. Meanwhile, I was like, “Ugh I wish my ass looked that hot.”
  • It was near the end of the day when Chooch and I rode Infinity Falls and we were 100% soaked. Henry was so nervous that we weren’t going to be dry enough by the time the Lyft came but we were, calm down Henry. God, first the short shorts, now this. Homeboy was STRESSIN’.
  • My overall impression of Sea World was that it was super beautiful and (MOST!!!!) of the staff was awesome. Of course, I’m uncomfortable with the whole animal portion of it, but can only hope that the animals are treated well and ae given the best lives possible. I would go back over and over again just to ride Mako and I am devastated that I live so far away from it. But now I’m feenin’ for Diamondback, my other fave hyper which is within driving distance.
  • We only fought once and it was toward the end of the day when I think I was suffering from sun stroke and had to go sit down and then Henry was being SO DRAMATIC because he went to get water and I wasn’t where I was supposed to be. God, track my phone, why don’t you.
  • Chooch bought a Mako shirt (Manta was his fave but he didn’t like the Manta shirts) and now I wish I had bought one too, or a coffee cup. REGERTZ.
  • I know I have a picture of Richard Simmons on stage at Sea World somewhere but it’s sadly not in the photo album I thought it was in and I just want to get this damn thing posted because I still have so much more to write about the trip and I’m getting panicked because this is how I live my life: creating imaginary deadlines that affect nothing and no one but myself for absolutely no reason oher than I must be fueled by stress, that must be it.
  • We were supposed to go to Sea World San Antonio on one of the earlier iterations of our spring break trip but I have a feeling this one was superior.
  • Chooch was able to snag all 5 coaster creds here!
  • We did not spectate the killer whale show (or as Henry kept calling it: SHAMU). I dunno, that doesn’t sit well with me.
  • I wish I had taken more pictures. Oh well, I’ll just have to go back when the new surf coaster is open!
Apr 272022
 

As the title suggests, Rita, this is Part 2 of our Friday in St. Augustine.

After doing all that other stuff, we found ourselves in the courtyard of the CATHEDRAL BASILICA OF ST. AUGUSTINE. Henry was like, “Ugh more god-stuff” but then went inside anyway because yo, that sun was cookin’ us.

You guys. This was America’s First Parish, founded September 8, 1565. Thank god I took a picture of the brochure that I donated one entire US dollar for (2 weeks later, Henry was all, “What is this Venmo payment for $1?????” like I went on a shopping spree at Tiffany’s or some such shit. Calm down, Hank. It’s called a CHURCH DONATION.).

(And also, I told him at the time of the Venmo’ing that this was what I was doing, so way to prove once again that you don’t listen to me, DEARHEART.)

Touring churches and shit was my favorite part of Europe vacations as a child. Not for religious reasons but purely art appreciation.

I just really like cathedrals/churches/cemeteries – all the good Cs, I guess. Yeah, and you too, Vitamin C.

Sadly, we only spent about 5 minutes in here because RIGHT AS I TOOK THIS PICTURE, Henry (the lump of which can be seen in the far left church pew) sneezed SO ROBUSTLY in the BONE QUIET CATHEDRAL that the echo kept pinging off the marble trying to find something to absorb it and EVERYONE (OK there were only about 6 other people in there not including us but still) whipped their heads around all Regan-like to see whose schnozz orchestrated such a jarringly percussive explosion of sonic weaponry while I quickly slipped out the nearest door.

Henry and Chooch joined me outside a few seconds later and Chooch and I both launched into YOU ARE SO EMBARRASING lambasting.

Honestly though!

Meanwhile, Chooch had seen a sign for some ghost hunting supply shop inside some building and suddenly had his heart set on purchasing a spirit box and an EMF reader. He actually walked away from us while I was still eviscerating Henry for The Sneeze and then we were like WHERE IS OUR SON so we frantically texted him and he popped out of a hallway of shops and actually made a very Henry-like exasperated motion with his arms.

“I told you I was going to buy ghost hunting stuff!” and that was when I had to admit that wow, I often block him out.

Anyway, the stupid store was closed so we went to a shop full of St. Augustine accoutrement. Henry is suddenly uber into buying souvenir hats?? And forcing Chooch to pick out shirts and hoodies?? Suddenly Henry is like, “LET’S SPEND MONEY” so I’m going to have to investigate this 180 degree U-turn from Tight Wad Town.

Then the dumb ghost store was open after all but Chooch came out empty-handed in less than 30 seconds. “That shit’s expensive,” he mumbled. I don’t know what price-points he had imagined….

Henry had to run and put more money in the frustrating meter before we could venture off to the FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH which I actually almost forgot I had wanted to do until I accidentally opened a tourist map and saw it on there. Phew.

When I looked up the Fountain of Youth to see how far we were from it, it told me that it was a 40 minute walk. Oh hon, no. Nope. Uh uh. Not after all the theme park marathon treks we had completed during the week. But then HENRY looked it up because I apparently cannot do anything right when it comes to direction things, and determined that it was only 17 minutes.

Therefore, we walked.

We passed the most beautiful, and also OG, Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum! It used to be some rich dude’s house. I don’t know the details. That is what Google is for.

Realty Cafe was on the way and I declared that it was COLD BEV time.

Hello, this place was so cute and the owners (seen in that $3.99 magnet on the left, AND YES I BOUGHT ONE FOR MY FRIDGE) were fabulous. Henry paused for a split second before ordering and the dude was like, ‘You want an iced mocha.”

And Henry said, “Yes.”

I got an iced chai latte.

Chooch got whatever this neon yellow liquid causing him to scrunch his face.

I lasted one minute into this chess match. I cannot concentrate on chess or most games, actually.

I’m not sure if this house was actually abandoned but it was pretty cool.

Almost to the Fountain of Youth!!

Wow. Look at that stride.

This wall was made of shells, I guess. THE FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH PROPERTY WAS ON THE OTHER SIDE.

I know you’re going to be SO BUMMED but I am going to end this here, and here is why: MY PERIOD STARTED TODAY AND I AM CRAMPY and also we just sat through an hour+ info session for Chooch’s study abroad program and I need to get up and move. Sorry, blog. I just don’t have anything else to give today.

Apr 242022
 

The second park we went to on our vacation was Sea World Orlando (full recap when I’m not drowsy from hiking in the heat today). Their kiddie land second is themed after Sesame Street and honestly, despite my angry feelings toward Elmo (he ROONED Sesame Street, ok? ROONED it), I thought this was a lovely area.

We have to hit up the kiddie land in every park because they usually have a kiddie coaster and if we’re lucky (is that really it tho?), we don’t need to have a small child accompanying us.

Do you know how embarrassing it is to get turned away in front of small children and their parents for being too grown?

Luckily, the ride op was more than happy to have us board Super Grover’s Box Car Derby and even jovially insisted that we “PICK OUR FAVORITE CAR.”

I don’t even know who Abby Cadabby is (in fact, in my head I kept calling her Abby Cadaver, so…), but we chose her car because it was the last row. I guess if I was pressed for a re-ride, I’d have picked Oscar, or Count if he had a car.

I did, thanks!

When I came out of the bathroom (always feels weird using the restroom in kiddie land when I’m not there with a small kid but I digress), I walked in on Henry asking Chooch to take his picture next to Cookie Monster, so of course I needed to get in on this action too. But every time I asked Henry why he requested this photo, he got SUPER SHIFTY and kept saying DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT.

I had forgotten all about this until just now so naturally, I am back to worrying about it. DOES HE HAVE A MISTRESS? IS HER NAME COOKIE? IS HENRY A MONSTER FOR HER COOKIES?!

I’m spiraling.

I was distracted by CAROUSEL TIME though. There was hardly anyone on it and we walked right on! Later that day, we walked by and the line was like human caterpillar of screaming kids, so good call riding this early. Because you know we can’t pass up that carouselfie opp.

Lol, “we.”

Oh man, this carousel was so adorbs. Strangely though, there was some cutesy Sesame-ish announcement when the carousel started but then the ride itself was silent. No music at all! I wonder if they normally have music playing but something was wrong, because it seemed incredibly strange to me. I mean, even carousels that don’t have legit calliopes just play a recording of carousel music?!

I love forcing Henry to straddle carousel animals. I wonder if he was thinking of Cookie. :(

I would hate Pittsburgh bike lanes much less if they were identified as cutely as Sesame Street bike lanes.

OK, I’m effing exhausted and would very much like to go to bed early (I say that every night but still rarely go to sleep before midnight, hate that for me) so more Sea World content will come later. We had a wonderful day here (except for these two moments) and I would like to memorialize it all with a chaotic cluster of grammatically-fucked words. AND YOU KNOW I WILL.

Apr 212022
 

Hello, I am here to tell you about one of my favorite moments of our vacation. To some people, it might sound like a horrible drag, but…just stick with me.

We got to Busch Gardens Williamsburg early enough that we were one of the first cars in line for parking. The lot wasn’t open yet so we had to wait for about 15 minutes. The thing about amusement parks is that there is so much waiting involved. I guess that can be said with travel in general. So much of our lives is spent…just waiting.

I actually cannot stand the anxiety that builds up like plaque in my heart while waiting for parks to open. Especially Cedar Point. And I even said that I didn’t want to do this shit on this trip, yet here we were. Not so much by choice but because we just left too early from wherever it was that we stayed the night before – I honestly can’t even remember now aside from the fact that it was one of the worst beds I have ever slept on in my life and I threw a big fit. The mattress was like a waterbed without the water! I felt like I was going to flop right out of it!

But I digress.

Of course, when the gates opened and the cars started making their way through, our line came to a standstill because as usual Henry chose the WRONG LINE. He always goes right to the one where someone in front of us doesn’t understand how to pay for parking or starts asking the attendant for, I dunno, Netflix recs. It never fucking fails. So Chooch and I were screaming at him and Henry was shouting, “IT DOESN’T MATTER! IT DOES NOT MATTER!” and some lady in the car next to us called out, “Oh, it matters!” sarcastically because her kid was doing the same shit to her and it was the funniest, heartwarming moment of Coaster Parent solidarity. I loved it.

So then we finally got through and parked the closest to the entrance we have EVER been. Like a row away, ISTFG. But as we’re walking to the entrance, Henry realized he forgot his man-purse or something and WENT BACK TO THE CAR. Chooch and I had our tickets so we were like, “Fuck him” and continued on in. It ended up not being his man-purse and now I can’t remember what it actually was. His eyeglass rollercoaster strap I think. Actually, who cares.

We were behind only ONE PERSON!!  And then somehow, even though there were 5 or 6 gates, we managed to be the FIRST PEOPLE IN THE PARK?? Yo. This day was off to a sweet start.

FIRST!

So, since it wasn’t 10am yet, we could only make it through this first area until we reached the “crossroads” where a park employee was standing sentry. We were still first in the now-larger group of people gathering at this point but weren’t allowed to go any further until the park officially opened. We knew that Pantheon, our most coveted ride du jour, was off to the left somewhere, so we scooted over to that side and stood along the wall.

HOWEVER!!! Some bitchass older man inched his way over so that he was on the other side of us. I was so pissed. Like, how are you just going to pull a bitch move like that when we were clearly at the head of the pack and did the work to get there first??

THEN!!! Two dumb teen boys casually did the “do-doo-doooo” whistle walk right past and got even further than the man did! I was outraged and started to stare them down and they knew it so they wouldn’t look at me. Chooch was like, “Please stop trying to fight with minors” and I was like, “FUCKING RUDE AMERICANS” like I’m not from here.

Because I’m not.

I’m from a beautiful country in my mind where I’m fluent in Korean, the sky is purple, the temps range from 55 to 85, and Josta is the national bev.

(Seriously, long live Josta.)

There was two younger people (like early 20s?) behind me talking about how they didn’t want to run, but they also didn’t want to get mauled over, and I started to really panic now because I didn’t want to run either and I hadn’t planned on it and had hoped that Busch Gardens was not a running of the bulls / rope-dropping type of park but then the clock struck 10 and it was MAYHEM, MARY. Everyone started running. Chooch was at the head of the pack and people behind me started to pass me up so my fight or flight response kicked in as a combination of both I guess and off I went too.

OK, I GUESS I’M RUNNING, I thought grudgingly.

The girl that was behind me talking with the other person about not wanting to run was also running but she FELL on the train tracks and her glasses flew off and I felt so bad but don’t bad enough to stop and help because I had about 15 kids and frat boys that I needed to gain on, and also I had no idea where I was running because this was only my third time at this park and I am awful with directions and also part 2,  I was wearing newish Vans and even oldish Vans aren’t great to run in so you can imagine my misery as my feet slapped the pavement with NO ARCH SUPPORT.

Eventually, I started passing people. Kids were dropping left and right. The two stupid asshole teen boys COULD NOT HANG with this 42-year-old track star, Lucy, and they too eventually dropped out of the race.

Turns out, it was actually kind of far to where the new coaster was, and I almost gave up because my vision was going gray and my lungs were SCREAMING, like they were trying so hard to assist with my breathing but also they’re like, “WE ARE 42 YEARS OLD, HON, CAN YA SLOW IT DOWN TO A JOG MAYBE?”

I vaguely remember sprinting (I can only imagine how I must have looked) over a bridge and as my vision was graying out and the cymbals were crashing in my ears, I looked up just as I was passing the last kid and now the only person in front of me was…

CHOOCH.

And right up past him?

PANTHEON.

We made it. We motherfucking made it.

FIRST! FIRST FIRST FIRST!!!

Well OK, I was second, but still Chooch and I were a team so I’m co-opting his win.

But, LOL, instead of the sweet horns of victory we were instead met with SAD TUBA as we saw a park employee standing at the entrance to the ROPED OFF PANTHEON AREA.

“Is it….closed?” I huffed, bent over with my hands on my aching knees.

“Unfortunately, we’re having some maintenance issues and Pantheon will be having a delayed opening today,” the young guy named EVAN said calmly. “You’re welcome to enjoy the many other rides the park has to offer, such as Tempesto and Apollo’s Chariot which are directly behind you.”

“Can we stay in line?” I wheezed, and Evan was just like, “I mean…” You know these people are instructed by the park to try to deter lines forming in front of closed rides in any way possible and some parks are actually SUPER FORCEFUL about this (COUGH*KINGS ISLAND*COUGH). But I was like, “No, I ran here. I am 42-years-old and blew past all those bitch ass kids, did you see me? Shout out to me, right? Also I  came here from *wheeze* Pittsburgh specifically to ride this *pant* so please don’t make me leave.”

Now some little kid had also made it over to us and his family caught up with him around the same Henry meandered over like fucking Huckleberry Finn strutted through a meadow I have no idea where I’m going with this but I was still bent over, huffing painful breaths of what sounded like PLEURISY* into my knees, and he started cracking up because it wasn’t even open.

*(I have been obsessed with pleurisy ever since I got my grubby little hypochondriac child hands on a copy of the Merck Medical Journal and then kept it on my nightstand for some light bedtime reading. I always think that I have this anytime I have even the slightest twinge in my chest!)

Sandals Guy was behind us from the beginning with his son and wife. I heard him talking to the parents of the small kid who made it to Pantheon after us, and he was saying that his family were big coaster enthusiasts but then said that King’s Island was owned by Paramount and that Carowinds was a “world class park” like OOOOOH-kay buddy boy. He eventually turned his attention to us and I told him we came from Pittsburgh so he started trying to get me to care about some cavern that his family had just went to and made me look at pictures of it on his phone and it just made me real uncomfy, swiping through a  stranger’s phone, you know?

Then I didn’t like him anymore because he was saying to the other family, “Wow and your boy here was the first one in line for this too! I saw him running the whole way here, like lightning!”

LIES.

EGREGIOUS LIES.

THIS IS ERRONEOUS.

MORE SYNONYMS FOR BULLSHIT.

Chooch and I locked eyes and telepathically exchanged hexes. Like hell that bitch kid was first! If he was first then why were Chooch and I at the front of the damn line? BECAUSE WE WERE THE CHAMPIONS.

WE RAN LIKE THIS WAS THE ORIGINAL MOTHERFUCKING OLYMPICS AND THE GODS WERE DOING THEIR ANCIENT-ASS VERSIONS OF TIKTOK DANCES IN THE CHEERING SECTION.

WE DID IT ALL FOR YOU, PANTHEON.

Meet Benjamin and Zach. Poor Zach was tasked with continuously walking the line to inform everyone that the ride was down and there was so estimated time frame. Benjamin was the more-senior ride op, from what I could tell, and he would periodically come down from the ride’s station, where maintenance was doing the damn thing, and get on the little microphone thing to implore us to move on with our lives and ride other things.

Every time he came down the sidewalk, the mom of the non-first kid would scoff in disgust, “Oh here he is again” and her husband yelled, “SAVE YOUR BREATH!” So after Benajmin gave his canned spiel for the 3rd time, an hour into our wait (oh, yes we had crossed the 60 minute threshold by now), he walked all the way down to us and said to me and Chooch, “You guys are die hards, I love it” and fist-bumped us (I felt SO SEEN) and then he goes, “Which one of you said ‘save your breath’?” and shook the dude’s hand! It was so funny, but I actually had really started to despise both families behind us after a point because while their little barbs were funny at first, it was starting to wear on me. Look, none of us woke up that morning wanting this to happen!

The one lady kept saying in her annoying South Carolina drawl that they were there yesterday and the same thing happened but it was because of a staffing issue, so every time one of these poor employees would try to say that maintenance was working on it, she would call out, “Yeah, OK we know you’re just waiting for more employees to get here!” so Benajmin was like, “Look, between just the three of us standing right here, we have enough people to run this ride right now, but we literally can’t until maintenance gives us the all-clear.”

She was such a fucking know-it-all! If any of these assholes were actually “thoosies” like they were pretending to be, then they would know that the manufacturer of this coaster is notoriously unreliable. (But fuck, Intamin makes some world class coasters though so I can’t hate them.)

This is my boy Evan, who was stuck having to look at us all morning and as if that wasn’t bad enough had to deal with people CONSTANTLY coming up to him and asking, “Is this not running or something? When will it open?” POOR FUCKING EVAN. We were like, “You should just start making things up like, ‘it ran out of gas.'”

I sincerely liked this kid and I hope that he liked us too because we were literally the only ones at the front of the line not being entitled dicks. I also appreciated that he was ONLY divulging behind-the-scenes info with me and Chooch. It made me feel like a VIP.

Like here in this picture, you can see the guy who told Benjamin to “Save his breath” BERATING THE MARKETING DIRECTOR. What the fuck is she going to do to solve this problem?? She is in marketing not maintenance!

Furthermore, I don’t know why this guy even gave a shit because he was barely in line. He left his wife and who I assumed was the older daughter to be placeholders while and his kid WHO WAS NOT FIRST kept running off to ride other rides!!

Eventually, the Know-It-All It’s-A-Staffing-Issue family of Karens called it and left the line after about an hour or so. Good riddance! Go find the nearest restroom to lodge your complaints up your asses. About 30 minutes later, the Sandal Dad family also called. The dad wished us luck and honestly I should clarify that none of these people were *that* bad. They were just middle-aged and grouchy, and I don’t care how many parks they allegedly attend, if this was true, then they would have more patience. Once we started really getting into park-hopping, we learned super quickly that you gotta walk into these parks with low expectations. If you go in thinking that lines will be short, rides won’t break down while you’re in line, and that you’re gonna collect every single coaster cred…

….don’t go to Cedar Point, lol.

We learned the hard way.

Now that the old asses were gone, we had young people behind us! I was so happy to have refreshing convo happening behind us. We now had the girl who fell and her brother, and a group of 3 young people: I think two of them may have been a couple, and then their third-wheel friend who was SO COOL. All of these people were in their early 20s I would and I was trying to breathe in their youth.

The third wheel girl cried out at one point, “OMG I love your nails! Did you do that yourself??” and I realized she was talking to ME, an OLD?! Then she told her friend to look at them.

“Yeah!” I said, fluttering my fingers. “Thanks!”

“And they match your shoes too! I love it!”

“I like to coordinate,” I blurted out because I couldn’t think of anything cool to say and couldn’t catch any of the current slang swirling around in my mouth fast enough to put sound behind it.

Chooch straight scowled at me and turned his back in embarrassment. I think his favorite part was when I thrust my hand toward the guy in their group (who earlier mentioned that he had waited 4 hours for VelociCoaster and it was worth it), and said, “Do you want to look, too?” and he goes, “Oh. Yeah, OK sure.” We were going on 2 hours at a standstill, you guys. Your girl was getting slap-happy.

Suddenly, a voice called out from the nearby Tea Cups, “Why are you guys in line for a ride that’s not even running?” Turns out it was a group of middle school boys. The guy who I forced to look at my nails fired back, “Why are YOU in line for the TEA CUPS?”

“Because it’s the best ride here!” one of them shouted back and they all cheered like dumbos.

“What a lame response,” the guy who looked at my nails said. “If they had said, ‘because at least it’s running’, that would have been a sick burn. But…best ride here?”

“We’ve now reached the point of this endless wait where we’re having battles with kids over which ride is the best,” someone said, and I deliriously cracked up.

Then!! Evan got some intel in his headset and came over to tell me that the issue was that one of the trains was not connecting to the WIFI. I….didn’t know what that meant but I made an appropriate-sounding, “Ah,” to fool him.

Then I heard the Girl Who Fell and her brother (the things you learn in line: family trees) say something about how she was going to punch someone in the face if it was really a staffing thing so I passed on the WIFI message and it turns out that the brother used to work at Carowinds and he said that this was a legit thing! Apparently newer coasters have control panels that use WIFI…OK I can’t remember. But this was something that genuinely happens, I guess.

And then, at exactly the TWO HOUR mark, Evan quietly turned around and unchained the entrance to the steps. No loud announcement, just a quiet, “Go head, guys, have fun” and Chooch and I took off. We still had to walk (run) up a small set of steps, over a bridge, down the steps, across the Pantheon courtyard, and FINALLY through the ride entrance, where a Pantheon worker was standing and nodded at us. Chooch and I ran all the way through the empty line, up the steps to the station, and straight to the front row. I like front row on launch-coasters, OK?!

Apparently no one else ran because it took a bit for all our friends (and Henry ugh) to catch up and fill the inaugural train.

The energy in the station was palpable! It was like we all had BEEN THROUGH something. Also, it was so crazy to now see Evan and Zach in the station and not standing in front of the closed-off line delivering “no news” to all of the people who were demanding ETAs! They had joined Benjamin and some other crew and it was exciting to see them doing their thing. Then one of the ride operators was like YOU GUYS READY FOR THE FIRST RIDE OF THE DAY?? and we were SCREAMING. Oh, the vibes, you guys. I’m getting all teary as I write this.

I’m shit at reviewing coasters. I have a hard time remembering various element names, etc., but this ride exceeded expectations. I had watched so many videos on it and it is so hard to imagine how great it actually is. I was low-key worried that it was going to be over-hyped and that I would regret waiting 2 hours. But yo. This fucker is fucking satanic I swear to god. That backward launch over the hump and up into the spike is BONKERS.

When we returned to the station, the whole train exploded in uproarious cheers and applause (Henry probably didn’t join in though – FYI he ended up sitting near the back with the DAD OF THOSE DICKHEAD TEENAGE BOYS WHO TRIED TO CUT! The boys didn’t make it on the first train with us though because they opted to wait for the back row).

Our young people friends!! A memorable moment was when the girl on the left was inexplicably bleeding from her elbow in line and the friend who liked my nails sprung into action by asking Evan if there was first aid anywhere.

“Dammit,” Henry mumbled. “I had band-aids – from Korea! – in my bag—”

“–purse,” Chooch and I corrected in unison.

“—but I left it in the car.”

Don’t worry! She procured a band-aid for her elbow-dripping friend from “some mom back there in line.”

See?? I don’t carry band-aids on my person so I’m still cool and not entirely mom-ish.

Even if you have eyeglass straps, they still make you put your glasses in the bin so Henry looked like this on the ride ^^^ lol.

I really wish that anyone reading this could just jump into my blog and have a virtual ride on Pantheon because it is so hard to put in words how outstanding this coaster is.

Our friends behind us!

WE EARNED THIS! When we got off the ride, Evan was like, “Well, was it worth it?” and I gushed, “YES IT WAS AWESOME!!” and Chooch gave me the “stop talking” eyeball warning.

Stand back a little bit farther, Henry. People can still see us.

I had so much love in my heart for the Pantheon crew that I made a point of stopping by customer service before we left that night. I was so excited to give them the names of each employee and gush about how awesome they were in light of all the bullshit vitriol they had to catch from a lot of the park-goers. We have never had a bad experience at Busch Gardens and the ride operators have always been so awesome, but these customer service hags were AWFUL. First of all, there were three of them there behind the counter, chatting away as I walked up. They looked at me and then continued their conversation. Finally, the youngest broad asked if she could help me, like yeah duh that’s why I’m not here and certainly not to eavesdrop on your lame-ass chit chat.

Anyway, I told the bitch that I wanted to give props to the Pantheon ride crew and I had to wait for her to pull out a binder for comments while pausing to talk more to her co-workers. I was so excited to tell her how awesome these guys were and she never once smiled, said “That’s so great to hear,” nothing. She just went through the motions of writing down what I was telling her and then said, “Anything else? OK, thanks.”

I should have said, “Yeah, there’s something else. I’d like to also put on record an account of a shitty experience I had with a park employee” and then this would be the part where I menacingly read her name off her name tag. But in reality, I just walked away. I was shivering from Pantheon night rides and I wanted to eat some of the delicious cookie that Henry had just purchased.

Additional things that happened on additional rides later that day:

  • Zach remembering us and exclaiming, “You’re back!” and me saying, “The wait was a LITTLE shorter this time, ha ha.” (We only waited about 25 minutes for the back row!)
  • We got back in line toward the end of the night and there were verbal fisticuffs when two meatheads cut the line and another meathead called them out and it was super passive aggressive and then the guy who called them out yelled, “let’s all cheer for the line jumpers!” and it was tense but also kind of exciting?!
  • On our last ride of the night, there were two guys in front of us. Their friends were on the train right before, so when that train came back, one of them ran over and took the one guy’s hat and the other guy’s glasses for them so that they wouldn’t have to put it in the loose article bin. But then THE RIDE BROKE DOWN. So the one guy goes, “Awesome, now I can’t see” and his friend said, “And now my hair looks like this” and made an annoyed gesture toward his head. WHY WAS THIS SO FUNNY TO ME, I ACTUALLY LAUGHED OUT LOUD AND CHOOCH WAS SO EMBARRASSED. Anyway, the ride was only down for 10 minutes and then Chooch and I got the nightride of our lives (well, after Hat Hair and Bad Eyesight Guy).
  • There was a guy in line front of us on one of our rides and he had these interesting lines of symbol tattoos. I asked Chooch if he knew what he was and he said no. But then a few minutes, Chooch said, “Oh, it has something to do with Naruto.” I was like, “Wow Chooch really has his finger on the pulse of…whatever Naruto is.” Then we were in line for the next ride and I saw someone with a shirt with the same symbol shit on it! “Did you watch Naruto or something?” I asked Chooch, and he admitted that he only knew it was Naruto because in the Pantheon line, there was some young girl in line behind us acting like an idiot and she bumped into the tattoo guy. He turned around and said, “I like your shirt” and then pointed to his tattoo. She was wearing a Naruto shirt. After this, I couldn’t stop seeing Naruto shirts at every turn. It was weird.

We were recapping our Pantheon experience for days and days afterward, and I mentioned that I thought the 2-hour wait actually made it more memorable. 100% worth the wait.

“Yeah,” Chooch agreed. “It’s about the memories you make along the way.”

Chooch should get that tattooed on his neck. And I want “That Time I Ran to Pantheon” on my tombstone.

Here is a video of Pantheon. Because, Pantheon.

And here’s my FAVORITE coaster vlogger’s experience:

P.S. The formatting of this post is trash and the font mysteriously shrunk near the end. I cannot spend any more time trying to fix this so apologies for causing you to squint.