Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Despite Setbacks, a Good Time Was Had By All

I'm not a skilled photographer. Moreover, this post is primarily to assist in retaining the memories of our vacation. It won't be a polished product, but it will hold moments, as in a jar, to be pulled out and viewed in later times.

The thing that amazes me most about this vacation was that it was fully initiated and orchestrated by my husband. He is not a traveler. He loathes the departure from the routine of daily life, the endless hours of driving, and the possibilities of potential problems. He certainly doesn't have an ounce of wanderlust in him. Yet, he came up with the idea for us to take the boys to see Niagara Falls. He had been promising Bryce a trip to Cedar Point amusement park for years. Thus, he began to plot and plan and scheme and schedule our first official lengthy family vacation. He secured the hotels, printed out driving directions, assisted in procuring the necessary passports to see the Falls from the Canadian side, and scheduled our itinerary at Cedar Point. I stand in awe and appreciation of his efforts.

We set off with the younger boys on a Friday afternoon with a prayer for safety and good memories. When we reached Elyria, Ohio, the site of our first night's stay, we were thoroughly frustrated and flummoxed by the pervasive construction. It must have taken us twenty or thirty minutes to figure out how to get to our hotel and then, once established, how to cross the street (blocked by construction) to eat at the Denny's restaurant within view of the hotel. When we finally arrived at the Denny's, weary and travel-worn, a man approached us near the door saying that they were just getting ready to re-open after a period of remodeling and asking if we could simply wait ten more minutes. While a strange request, we're so glad we sat tight, because the meal was fantastic and the service first-rate (indeed, the food on our whole trip was superb).

Saturday's drive was a bit shorter and we managed to arrive at our hotel in Niagara Falls, New York, by late afternoon. The boys decided to swim in the deserted hotel pool. While in the pool, Trevor hit upon a new way to extend his ability to hold his breath under water. Basically, he would breathe in and out quickly for a full minute to hyperventilate and then suck in the biggest breath he could manage. He was holding his breath for two minutes at a time and did this a dozen times. This could explain what happened later that evening.

After the pool, we headed to the local Ponderosa for dinner. All of us got the buffet except for Trevor, who said he wasn't very hungry (so unusual for that boy that it was our first inkling of danger). He nibbled at his steak, baked potato, and carrots and drank three full glasses of milk. Towards the end of the meal, he began to look a bit unsettled. Just as we were leaving the restaurant, the milk and carrots decided to reappear. We apologized profusely to the approaching customers and assured them the food was well worth side-stepping our poor son's unfortunate series of events. Although it was unpleasant and required a trip to a laundry facility, we survived this little bump in the road.

We were terrified that it was the flu and he would have to remain in the room with me while John and Sean went to see the Falls. However, he seemed to rally once his stomach was purged and was completely fine the next morning, so we took a chance and set off for our adventure. We are so glad we were able to experience this together, even though it was a thoroughly exhausting day.

The Falls were absolutely stunning. John was so bowled over that he took about five or six different videos of the Falls so that he could share the experience with Bryce later. When we first arrived at the park facilities (near the nature center and the aquarium), we discovered an unlocked door which led to an elevator taking us to the ground level of the falls (further down, not directly by the falls). It provided interesting views and a pleasant little excursion, but we still had no idea of the magnitude of the sight we were about to behold.

After walking over to the American Falls, we took the Maid of the Mist boat tour. I worried about the devices because I knew Trevor would insist on taking photos from his I-pod. He was careful and even though we did get wet (especially our legs and feet, where the provided ponchos failed to extend) we enjoyed both the boat trip and the walk up the side of the falls, where the spray practically drenched us in mist.

We took the trolley to Goat Island and from that vantage point, John took his numerous videos of the gigantic plunging waters.

John wanted to visit the Cave in the Winds, but the boys were eager to head over to Canada. Unfortunately, we had left the passports back in the hotel, so we had to make a quick trek back. But, it was fortunate in a way, because I asked the front desk clerk what we should be sure to see on the Canadian side. She explained that it was like a carnival over there, with tons of things to do and see. She also suggested that it would be easier to park on the New York side (where the parking was free) and walk across the Rainbow Bridge into Canada. We're so glad we followed her advice because the parking we saw was all quite expensive and traffic looked frightful.

With no line at all, we quickly handed over our passports and were ushered into Canada. We stopped at the Duty Free to exchange some money, then walked over to the walls to view the Falls from the Canadian side (I had heard that this was the better view, but I'm not so sure. I think the view from Goat Island was more impressive than seeing it from further away on the Canadian side). What was truly majestic, was viewing the Falls from aboard a giant Ferris wheel. I think that was my favorite part of our venture into Canada.

The boys also went through a haunted house with John, but that seemed like a bit of a rip-off. The boys both purchased a t-shirt souvenir and then (after a birthday dinner for John) Trevor purchased a small statue and Sean a candy bar in the Duty Free shop before we walked back over to the American side and back to our vehicle. We probably logged in four or five miles of walking for the long day, but it was well worth it and we all had a wonderful time. Trevor had another episode of queasiness during the middle of the night and then Sean felt queasy during the drive back to Ohio, but neither one succumbed to the nausea.

The next day we were scheduled to meet up with Bryce and his girlfriend, Madisyn, at the Breakers Hotel, right on the Cedar Point Amusement Park grounds. I'm so glad we stayed right on the property because during the episodes of rain, we were able to return to the room and wait out the storms while the boys watched television. Sadly, at times watching television was all the boys wanted to do (instead of walking around trying to find rides which might still be running).

The hotel provided us with an entry to the park after four on the first day of our arrival. Madisyn and Bryce were eager to head over right away, but we took the boys to dinner and didn't really manage to get to the park until later in the evening. The boys went with Dad to ride the Magnum XL roller coaster, but I stayed back because we had just eaten. Next we headed for Top Thrill Dragster, a roller coaster I resolutely refused to try. It goes from zero to 120 mph in the space of 3 seconds and then races up an incline of several hundred feet, pausing at the top and then plunging down again. Sean wanted to wait and ride it with his big brother, so Trevor and John went to get in line. They had just been strapped in the car, when the ride was shut down because of an incoming storm. We headed back to the room grateful that we had Fast Passes for the next two days.

The next day, we entered the Fast Pass lane for the Millennium Force roller coaster and just as we were getting to the entry lanes, the ride broke down and after ten minutes of waiting we left the line to get some lunch. They attempted to ride Top Thrill Dragster again, but the wait was almost two hours long, so again, they ditched the line. In all, they tried four times to ride it, but never managed to get on.

We did enjoy the rides we were able to ride and I managed to ride several roller coasters I wouldn't have touched if the boys hadn't begged (Magnum XL, Iron Dragon, The Corkscrew, Raptor, Gemini, Mean Streak, and Wicked Twister). They rode several without me either because I couldn't bear it or I stayed below to hold stuff (Gatekeeper, Millennium Force, and Rougarou). We loved Max Air and Pipe Scream. Sean especially loved Skyhawk (running back to get on it again and again with his Fast Pass). Trevor and John rode two rides where they were thoroughly soaked with water. I thought I would lose it on Wind Seeker (think swings but 400 feet in the air) and the Giant Wheel (only terrifying because it held us for five or ten minutes at the very top while loading other riders and the wind was seriously battering the metal structure). I did enjoy the Sky Ride and Witch's Wheel.

The boys also begged to ride the Slingshot. They looked so small getting into the two-seater ride and being flung up into the air. Because they weren't very heavy, they spun more than the adults we had watched ride it before them. They said they loved it. You couldn't get me on that ride!

The final day at the amusement park was a bit of a bummer because the weather impeded our enjoyment. It seemed like the rides were either down because of mechanical error or down because of weather for a majority of our visit. We spent a lot of time simply walking the park looking for something to be running. They ended the day with a ride on the Power Tower and went back for a second shot but were pitched from the line when lightning was sighted.

Bryce and Madisyn had much better luck than us. They rode more rides and really loved Maverick (spending two hours sitting on the ground in line for that during a torrential downpour on Wednesday - thankfully they were under a canopy and had phones to occupy them). They had an interesting experience which led to their favorite moment of the trip. They boarded Gemini (a coaster where two cars race each other along the tracks) and were seated on the red coaster. About two-thirds of the way up the initial incline (125.3 feet), the blue car passed them and their car got stuck. A worker came up and told all the riders that they had to walk down from the car, down a narrow wooden walkway next to the tracks. There was a seven year old boy near them and they said they were really afraid for him but he seemed unaffected by it all. They said it was especially scary stepping from the car to the walkway and holding onto the railing the whole way down.

                                               (Photo from CedarPoint.com)

For their little misadventure, they were awarded two Fast Pass Plus tickets. On the very last day, after hours of inactivity because of winds and scattered showers, Bryce looked up and saw them doing a test run of Top Thrill Dragster, so they sprinted to a locker to secure their backpack and phones and sprinted to the ride just in time to use their passes to get in line. Bryce said it was absolutely amazing and even though Madisyn is afraid of heights, she loved the view from the top and the plunge back down. Within twenty minutes the ride was shut down again. It was like a window opened up for them and they snatched the coveted ride that John and the boys were desperate to experience. Sean actually cried when he found out that Bryce and Madisyn had ridden Top Thrill Dragster. He was crushed that he didn't get to ride it with his big brother like he had hoped.

So, despite episodes of illness and frustration with malfunctioning or closed rides, we had a wonderful vacation and made loads of memories at both Niagara Falls and the Roller Coaster Capital of the World. We finished our last morning there with a delicious meal at Perkins and then walked the beach near the hotel for a while. I'm so grateful to John for organizing it all and forcing me out of my comfort zone on the rides so that we could enjoy them together.

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