Monday, July 2, 2012

The Thrilling Ride into Summer

dragon coaster Summer's arrival in our house has nothing to do with calendars, temperatures or fireworks. It starts with a steady ascent of anticipation, teases us with a quick dip then throws us a curve before plunging us into the thick of it with a rattling headlong rush.

Summer comes on the Dragon Coaster.

Unlike many who grew up a short trip from this 83-year-old wood-beamed marvel, I have almost no childhood memories of the rollercoaster or the Playland amusement park that surrounds it in Rye, N.Y. That's what makes our annual trip there as special to me as to my two children.

This ritual started a few years ago the way the best things tend to, not out of the need for nostalgia's comfort or the desire to begin a grand tradition, but through the lowered expectations that come with not having to pay an admission fee. The local Make-a-Wish folks had given us a handful of free passes owing to Li’l Diva’s juvenile myositis so I figured, at worst, using them would give us a few hours away from our one true summer ritual at that time: the two kids bickering over who got to choose which Disney Channel rerun to watch for the 47th time.

Everything then went unaccording to our lack of a plan. Six hours flew past. Hopping from the Dragon Coaster to the Crazy Mouse to The Whip and back again. Inhaling cotton candy the size of hay bales. Bathing our outsides in sunscreen and our insides with grease from the funnel cakes. We all left happy and exhausted with both children popping the inevitable question: "When can we come back?"

Come back we do every year, especially after I learned the all-ride wristbands at Playland cost exactly the same as the ones for the carnival that takes place every spring at the Greek church down the road from us.

"I'll pay for one carnival or the other," I told my children in one of my infrequent attempts to lay down the law. "You choose."

They chose wisely. Then they dipped into their own pockets to pay for wristbands to the Greek fest. Someone obviously needs to reassess just how much his children are paid for doing imaginary chores.

DCoaster This year's trip, which we took on an unusually quiet and cool day last week, found us going a bit beyond the normal twists, turns and wet underwear courtesy of a half dozen rides down the Log Flume. We ventured just outside the amusement park grounds for a change.

We played a round at a  crumbling miniature golf course that featured water hazards in the form of a weekend's worth of rain filling several of the holes. We searched the boardwalk for the Zoltar fortune-telling machine that turned Tom Hanks' character "big" in the movie of the same name, only to find a handful of soda machines offering to make us big only around the waistline. And on that note, we ate on the deck of the park's Pier Restaurant, which features a fantastic view of the Sound and the most overpriced burger and beer menu you'll encounter on this side of Manhattan.

However, none of that disappointed us.

When the train car pulled us up the Dragon Coaster for the last time that night, we reached the peak just in time to see the sun setting behind the treetops to the west. It filled the sky, and us, with a popsicle-orange glow -- the kind you only truly know when you're a kid during the summer.

Photo source

15 comments:

  1. That's cool. I wish we had something like that here. Actually, I wish we had weather here that would facilitate something like that being a viable option instead of only being able to be open 2 months of the year then getting drenched the other 10. We don't have any sort of ritual to begin summer. It would be nice to start.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I believe you. We spent the first week of July in Seattle last year and it barely cracked 72.

      Delete
  2. Oh, my friend. You need to drive that family to Cedar Points in lovely Ohio, on Lake Erie's southern shores. Not only the largest and fastest wooden roller coaster ever built (the Gemini) but so many other spectacular rides for every level of bravery. I avoid the Magnum, myself. Not for nothing has it repeatedly been voted the best amusement park in America.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. One of the ex-Cedar Point owners is bidding to "update" Playland. One of the frontrunners from what I hear and that's good news.

      Delete
  3. Laura S., Stamford, CTJuly 2, 2012 at 12:29 PM

    I have amazing childhood memories of Playland. From growing up in the Bronx and going to "Rye Beach" and the pool to our Willard Elementary 6th grade field trip (after moving to Stamford) and even a Pitney Bowes picnic with my future husband. Before that picnic I had no idea the park extended beyond the rides! We now take our boys there at least once a year - the history and the memories are wonderful!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're lucky. Playland's great because it is a smaller, older park and not of Six Flags proportions, but it could stand some updating at least to freshen it up.

      Delete
  4. I can't wax nostalgic over any parks, as the ones we frequented have all been torn down. I had my first make out session at Geauga Lake, so yeah.

    My son has a season pass to Cedar Point every year. I go one time/yr., as once is enough for me!

    ReplyDelete
  5. i love playland. it's the one i grew up going to - until they built that six flags in jersey anyway. still love playland best of all though.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Living in Phoenix, my kids (and I) get screwed: No amusement parks. We've got the 6th largest city in the country (with a suburb in the top 40), and no amusement parks. Bogus.

    I do enjoy Greekfest, though. Ouzo!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Oh man! Now that's how you kick off summer properly!

    ReplyDelete
  8. That Dragon looks freakin' awesome.

    ReplyDelete
  9. It occurs to me that I haven't been to a carnival since I was a kid. I really ought to do something about that...

    ReplyDelete
  10. That sounds like a really good time. I love amusement parks; my husband not so much.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Heading to Hersheypark this week ourselves. Good times.

    ReplyDelete

HEY, YOU! DOWN HERE! READ THIS!!

I try to reply to all comments. To receive a reply email, make sure the comment ID you use contains your email address AND click the "Subscribe by email" link before you publish your comment.

Otherwise, you'll need to check back here for my reply.

REMEMBER: You're at your sexiest when you comment.

My Uncool Past

ShareThis