Today was the media event for GateKeeper at Cedar Point. The park hasn't had a serious media event since 2006, the year that Skyhawk opened. The opening of Maverick in 2007 was kind of a makegood, since the park was already open and the ride was delayed. This particular one was epic: They invited enthusiasts of any club to come, for free, with tons of food and refreshment. If that weren't enough, we were invited to stay in Breakers the night before, even though it's not really open yet. That was particularly nice, since the event started at 4 a.m.
I've done a lot of these events, but the last really special one was in 2000 at Cedar Point, when they opened Millennium Force. I was just starting to forge the friendships that persist today at the park, and I spent the entire winter watching the ride literally grow up from a parking lot full of track sections and support pieces. This one was special for different reasons. I got to see the actual fabrication of the track, joining the CEO (who I would place at the top of my list of people I would treasure as a mentor) in seeing how they make these things. Perhaps even more importantly though, this was the first real chance that I've had to share with Diana the perks of being a big roller coaster nerd with a Web site. Not only that, but I got to share it with Simon, too. He might not really know what's going on, but he can say that he was there!
A day like this also gives me a chance to tell stories with video. I may not do it for a living anymore, but I still enjoy it. Time and circumstances kept me from accomplishing everything that I wanted to do, but I may have a chance to make up some of what I missed. I did get some night time stuff of the new ride, which doesn't exactly tell a story, but it sure is cool to see!
I also got to pull off a great technical experiment, building a simple "live blog" app to send updates out to the world in real-time. I built it in Windows Azure, what I would describe as a hero platform in terms of scalability. It performed flawlessly, never breaking a sweat. At one point it had several hundred active, open simultaneous connections, which isn't a huge deal, but one that worked well given my knowledge of the platform. It gave me a lot of technical validation.
One of the great things about a day like this is the convergence of great friends. There's a great deal of humility that comes from a day like this, given the breadth and depth of people I encountered. I ran into a college classmate I haven't seen in probably 18 years, working the satellite truck. A 20-something thanked me for the work I put into the Web sites, who probably wasn't old enough to sign up for the site when it launched. A guy I knew only virtually a dozen years ago is now a creative giant in the industry, and when we first talked, I was giving him advice on pricing his lucrative side business. A younger friend has struggled with the same issues that I did regarding broadcast work. Oh, and the general manager of the world's greatest amusement park trusts me with his cell phone number. It's not lost on me, and I don't take for granted, that I am surrounded by a lot of amazing people.
Some days I wonder if I shouldn't be working in some kind of capacity in the amusement industry. If I had this kind of network in the software industry, I'd be doing anything I wanted. I just don't know that there are specific roles that would be right for me. "Director of software" isn't really a big title in an industry that took forever to embrace the Internet.
By the time we got back from lunch, I realized that I had been in the park for nine hours already. Insane as that is, I've never had that much fun. And if that wasn't awesome enough, I got to share it with my little family. Simon got to high-five my hero CEO. Days this good are something of a rarity, but I'll be smiling about this one for a very long time.