Dear Coaster Friends,
Sorry, but I got a repeat for you, actually I want to take a blog post from last year and annualize it for the week before Father’s Day. That way all my coaster dad friends will get a boost on their holiday, and prospective coaster dads, and coaster kids can reflect on their dad and going to theme parks. This hobby can be very family friendly and I wanted to update this every season.
I got into roller coasters as a hobby later in life, not because of a lack of love for roller coasters, but simply it never occured to me that it was a thing. I always enjoyed going to theme parks as a kid and throughout my life. I grew up asking my parents to include going to parks as part of family vacations, and sometimes I was indulged and other times it wasn’t in the cards. The desire to be hurled around a circuit of wood or steel was my love and it was not shared by my family, so I was the lone voice begging to ride one more when the day was over. I was very lucky to have a dad who would indulge me and become my riding partner when I wasn’t old enough to wait in line by myself. This was greatly appreciated, especially since my dad doesn’t like heights. His fear of heights was not something I was aware of at the time.
When I became a teen I attended a summer camp that brought us to amusement parks, and it became my first job too. So a few outings a summer to amusement parks were a welcome perk. Then when that first summer of work was over I needed to find a year round after school job and my priorities shifted to work and school. I still had fun and went to parks with friends, but because of the cost of paying my own way it became less frequent. Then I became a college student and almost all of my free time was about working for extra money, so I could socialize with my friends, and not eat Cup-O-Noodles for every meal. After several years with no amusement parks I started going to Great Adventure at least once a year with friends, and my girlfriend who later became my wife. I was working on my career, but it still never occured to me that I should be branching out and seeking new experiences.
Then all of a sudden it clicked when my wife and I were in Los Angeles attending a family wedding. We realized we had an extra day to visit and we were on our way to Magic Mountain with my cousin and his wife. They ran out of steam after a few hours but we kept on riding and enjoying our day at the park. On the drive back to LA we were like, “Why aren’t we doing this more regularly?” So we started making a spring and fall trip every year to Great Adventure, and every time we were out of town with the opportunity we visited a new park. Then the sickness really kicked in and I was like let's plan road trips to parks too! We gradually started making our travels a bit further and more frequent, we started visiting lesser well known and sometimes out of the way parks too.
Age starts to creep up on you and things change, responsibilities expand, and life happens. One year I injured myself and I couldn’t ride roller coasters for a year, I was devastated. I even had to face the possibility that I could be done, at the risk of ruining myself physically. Thankfully I healed and hit the ground running again. Then came the biggest change, my wife was pregnant and our family would be expanding. This was a welcome change that was both scary and exciting. It did however change my thinking on the future and family time.
I now have a daughter who will turn four this fall, and I have gone from adrenaline junkie to coaster dad. As soon as my daughter was the right height I brought her to Adventureland, the first park I went to as a kid. Instead of waiting on line for the roller coaster I was folding myself in half to fit into the kiddy rides with her. My wife and I will still go to parks without her when we are lucky to have a babysitter and enjoy that time. However the conversations have changed from, “Do you think we can find a time to visit Cedar Point this year?” to “How long before we can all go to Storyland/Great Escapes/Disney?” I think we will be bringing her someplace new this year soon, so she can see big rides in action, most likely her second park will be Lake Compounce or Six Flags New England. They both are a fair distance from were we live and have a good mix of; being easily walkable, having fun attractions for my daughter, and some large scale rides for her to see. I don’t remember being her age but I do remember not being tall enough for rides and I hope being exposed to large scale thrill rides may spark her imagination.
I was never the enthusiast who would ride kiddy coasters without a kid. No judgement if you want to I just felt like I would rather be going on something I enjoyed more or I felt self conscious and silly. But last spring when visiting Kings Dominion with Daniel Westfall I jumped on Woodstock Express solo. I told Daniel I wanted more wood credits so El Toro would be number one in the Ride Warrior Choice Awards, but really I wanted to feel a kids roller coaster to see how long before I thought my daughter could ride something like it. I even got mad and upset at the thought a kiddy ride could get removed before we have outgrown it. I did get to ride with my daughter on her first roller coaster a few months later in the summer back at Adventureland. We have been back several times since her first ride, and sometimes she asks to ride the roller coaster and sometimes she doesn’t. At our first visit this season she wanted to ride, when we told her we wanted to take her someplace new, with new rides she seemed very excited at the prospect. I really hope it is the beginning of a family pastime. So does this mean I need to slow down? NO! I WILL BE GOING FASTER AND HIGHER THAN YOU ON KINGDA KA! But now every time I ride I am doing mental math, how long before my daughter can ride this too?