Saturday, September 03, 2005

Paying to Poop Your Pants

During my temporary blogging exile, I went on a trip, with Sunny and all my stepkids and their partners to the excellent Paramount’s Carowinds, the absolutely fantastic theme park on the South Carolina – North Carolina Border.

To say we had fun would be an understatement.

The day started out with an excellent piece of good luck. We’d saved for the trip for months (we paid for everyone), and while we were queuing for tickets, a quick visit from a scalper got two of us into the park at half price. This is very common outside the park, we saw at least 20 people trying to sell of excess tickets cheap, as many corporate trips turn up with a few extra tickets. Just make sure that if it’s a single day ticket, that it’s for the right day. While it didn’t happen to us, the potential to get screwed over is there.

Carowinds is huge. Not quite Disney Land, but near enough for me. Being owned by Paramount means lots of themed rides. Everything from a Rugrats mini-coaster for the kids, to the absolutely mindblowing Top Gun suspended coaster, and the ‘Borg Assimilator’, a coaster where you are lying down beneath the track. Picture flying around on a coaster like superman.

The first ride we went on was the ‘Wild Thornberry’s Log Flume’. We chose this, simply because it was the shortest queue we saw. Being a ride based on a Nickelodeon show, I expected a kiddy ride... It wasn’t.

The boats were quite small, and being the tallest in the group, I got stuck with the front seat, with its the extra leg room. I figured I’d get wet, but I didn’t know how wet. You see, the splash didn’t do much. The 10 gallons of water that came directly over the front of the boat and into my lap absolutely soaked me.

Let’s just say I didn’t smoke for the rest of the day. My cigarettes were in my pocket.

Sunny, directly behind me managed to escape with a minor splashing, a few spots of water here and there. She clung to my back like a frigging limpet, and had managed to use me as a human water-shield. It turns out the other ladies did exactly the same thing. The guys got soaked, while the girls looked like they’d taken a single squirt from a water pistol.

So as we stood at the exit to the ride, Clayton (my youngest stepson), suggested that while we were all soaked already, we might as well go on the bigger log flume ride…White Water Falls.

“Sure!” I said. “we’re not going to get any wetter!”

Let me just state for the record, I have never been more wrong in my life.

Whereas the Wild Thornberry ride had a bit of a track with a few twists and turns, White Water was your classic log flume. Up one hill, turn, down another, splash…although the word ‘splash’ doesn’t quite do it justice.

The speed you get up to going down that hill is awesome. The acceleration really pushes you back in your seat…and once you hit the water…

You know when you jump into a pool of water, and you get that ‘gloing gloing’ noise in your ears? That’s what it was like, jumping directly into a deep pool. I looked around the waterlogged, laughing faces, listened to a few choice expletives and wondered if I was as wet as everyone else looked. We looked like we’d all taken a 40 minute shower fully clothed.

However, the real attraction on White Water Falls is the observation deck, accessible only after exiting the ride. I was told ‘you get splashed’, which is the understatement of the decade.

We waited for five minutes for the next boat to reach the top of the slide. We all stood on the deck, grinning like idiots.

Ever seen ‘The Day After Tomorrow’? Remember the scene where the tidal wave is racing down the New York streets? Imagine that by a factor of ten. The worst thing is you see this deluge of water for a full 5 seconds before it reaches you, then it almost knocks you off your feet. It was like getting hit with 40 fire hoses at once.

I couldn’t help myself. I let out the world’s largest ‘FUCKIN’ HELLLLLL!!!!’ I instantly realized I was surrounded by young children and expected a few harsh words from parents. Instead, the looks I got said “You said it, buddy, I couldn’t have put it better myself.”

I looked around to find that my darling, beautiful wife, who had convinced me to stand on the deck in the first place, had turned tail and ran before the wave hit. Apparently, she was giving it toes before the boat was halfway down the ramp…the evil, deceitful be-hotch.

She just pointed and laughed as a dripped onto the wooden decking. I got my own back by wringing my shirt out on her head.

As we stood there, soaked to the skin, for the first time I was pleased it was about 95 degrees.

The heat brings me to the one bad thing I’ve got to say about Carowinds. The prices of drinks are absolutely astronomical. You’ll pay $4 for a glass of lemonade. A small bottle of Sprite will cost you at least $3.50. Now we thought we’d been smart by packing a lunch and filling a cooler with drinks. You’re not allowed to bring your own food or drink into the park, so we planned a car side picnic. Unfortunately, it is so hot that you end up buying their drinks anyway. It’s a choice of that, or collapse of dehydration and heat exhaustion.


The next ride we went on was the Top Gun coaster. This is a suspended coaster where you sit under the tracks with your legs dangling (make sure to tighten those shoelaces).

Because this was a fairly new coaster, the ride was as smooth as butter. There are multiple loops, corkscrews and twists. It was probably one of the best coasters I’ve ever ridden, and the large train size means you don’t queue for an hour either. Try to resist the urge to lift your feet up when you get close to the ground…it’s just not possible.

While the closest I’ve ever come to riding in a jet is an 8 hour flight on a 747, I have to say that if felt exactly like I’d expect it to feel flying in an actual fighter jet. If you look directly ahead, and not up or down to see where the track is going, it honestly feels like you’re flying. Awesome.

Next came ‘The Vortex’. This was a whole new experience for me as you ride it standing up. You have a bicycle type seat between your legs, but stand up throughout the whole ride. It was a blast. The only thing I have to say about this coaster is to make sure you adjust the seat height properly. When you get on it, the seat can move up and down, but locks into place when the ride starts. I’d noticed that Clayton and Frank were riding in more of a stooping position, whereas I was bolt upright. I soon figured out why they chose to ride in that way…

While the ride was excellent, I came away from it feeling like I’d had a back-alley vasectomy-circumcision combo, and to this day doubt I’ll ever be able to have children. It’s a weird feeling to be having a hell of a lot of fun while it feels like someone is going after your balls with a sledgehammer. I think I may have invented a new fetish. Look for in the near future

The Carolina Cyclone was the next coaster we went on. This was just your traditional steel track coaster, a few loops and corkscrews. It was damn good, but after riding the newer coasters first, it just didn’t seem all that great…like getting back in a Ford Escort when you’ve spent the day driving a Dodge Viper. Basically, if you go, ride this first. Don’t get me wrong, it was damn good, but after the suspended coaster and the stand-up coaster, it was just…well…vanilla.

By this point in the day I was dehydrated as hell and starting to get a little sunstroke. Trust me, if you plan to spend the day at Carowinds, bring a hat and plenty of sun block. As it was, I ended up having to buy some sun block from a souvenir shop (it was forecast to be overcast all day, so I hadn’t bothered).

Let’s just say: CVS Price - $2.00. Carowinds Price - $11.50. Again, daylight robbery, but we had no choice.

Next we went to my favourite ride of the day, Dropzone. I’ve got to give props to Frank and Marie for being the only other members of the group with the balls to ride it.

This is a freefall ride. You’re strapped into a chair that’s attached to a tower, hauled up 350 feet… then you’re just dropped, with a magnetic braking system stopping you just a few feet from the ground. You get about 5 seconds of freefall, which is a lot longer than it sounds.

From a distance, I wasn’t impressed. The tower just didn’t seem tall enough. Slightly closer, it looked like fun. Right up close, it was downright scary. From the top, my sphincter was threatening to eat my underpants.

There’s just no way I can describe how that ride felt. You get slowly winched to the top, and it just feels like you’re going to keep climbing for ever. I’d cheated by counting off how long you stay at the top before you get dropped, so it wouldn’t take me by surprise. I thought I was prepared.

I wasn’t.

The three seconds waiting for the release felt like hours, and the drop felt like you’d climbed to the top of a skyscraper and just jumped off. It was absolutely exhilarating. Your legs fly upwards, your gut attempts to escape through the top of your head, and the ground comes up at you…fast. The ride seems to brake impossibly late.

That ride convinced me that most of the people who have jumped off buildings to commit suicide must have found an amazing appreciation for extreme sports before they went splat. I guarantee that half way down they regretted their decision, because the way they chose to experience freefall means they could only do it once. If you’re considering jumping of a building, try a skydive instead, because once you reach the ground safely…all you want to do is do it again.

Unfortunately, by that point in the day I was completely and utterly wrecked. Walking around all day in wet shoes had given me blisters, I was sunburnt, dehydrated, and my feet felt like two pounds of raw ground beef. In the way home in the car, I drank over two liters of water…and still felt thirsty. I was sick for a day or two afterwards from sunstroke.

…but it was totally worth it.

Also, bear in mind my unavoidable Britishness, which means my tolerance for heat is probably half what you native folks’ tolerance is.

However, if you live close enough to Carowinds, I would totally suggest buying a season pass. They cost only $20 more than a single day pass, so once you’ve been twice it pays for itself.

Why go twice? Quite simply, there is far too much to do in a single day. We were far too exhausted to try out any of the wooden coasters, and I regret that we missed trying out the Borg Assimilator. Buying a season pass also means that it’s not a complete waste of cash to arrive at the park at about 4pm, when most of the families are leaving (meaning shorter queues and less screaming and puking kids). It’s also a lot cooler after 4pm, meaning you won’t get shafted having to buy drinks. The park stays open until 10pm, so you’d still get a good few rides in.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give Carowinds a 9…and it only lost a point because the food and drink were so ridiculously over priced. If you plan on eating two meals and 5 drinks over the course of a whole day…plan on getting a second mortgage.

Overall, it was an excellent day, and I’d recommend it to any coaster enthusiast.

Oh, and to the 5 year old that walked off a ride, stopped dead in his tracks, and then just threw up on the floor before continuing, smiling, on his way…I hope you feel better.


Nicholas said...

I'm not gonna lie. As soon as I saw, I immediately clicked on it. You got me, again. Well, actually, I knew the links were fake both times, but there is a deep desire in me, and I think in all men, for these websites to be real.
Man, I can't do theme parks. They destroy me. I just can't do them. I guess, if it is really cloudy, and someone else is paying, and people who have no business going out in public aren't wearing g-strings, I can go, but otherwise (and sometimes even with the above three factors) they drive me absolutely blinking mad. Maybe, if I ever have kids, I will take the little whippersnapper(s) and get some enjoyment out of it.
I'm glad you had a good time, though, despite paying more than double two hours of minimum wage pay for that container of sunscreen. Theme Parks are crazy places.

Paulius said...

Yup, that's why I suggested going after 4pm, when the families are leaving.

I'd just love to be rich and powerful enough to rent out a entire themepark for the day...just for me and friends.