I won't lie... the thought of traveling cross-country on multiple flights with a baby and all of his gear, with one day in between, brought anxiety and dread. While the trip was in fact hectic, it was very much needed.
Yes, riding roller coasters is certainly a part of what makes trips to Holiday World great, but I associate the place with nothing but great times with great friends. I've come to learn that there is a group of people I've known for years that, regardless of how often we see each other in person, seems to have my back, and enjoys seeing me as much as I do them. Our contact in between is often little more than Facebook pings, e-mail and Skype calls, but when we get in the same room, it's like we're picking up from yesterday. As much as I may complain that maintaining long-distance friendships is hard, this small group of people make it feel effortless.
The only down side in this case is that there just wasn't enough time. Last year, we had the chance to hang out with most of these people at different times, so we had adequate time to spend with each. This weekend, we had to try and spread that out, and that kind of sucked. I mean, I got home to find I had zero photos of Mike and Artemisa, and we shared the RV with them!
But aside from that, it was well worth it, and provided us with a sense of normalcy that hasn't come easy since we moved west. Best of all, we got to share our little man with everyone, and I loved how he interacted with them. He was such a part of everything, to the extent that I even carried him with me when I spoke to the group at dinner.
Our flights were relatively painless, flying through Denver to Louisville. Simon didn't sleep much on the way out, but didn't whine or complain too much. On the way home, he slept almost all of the first flight, and about half of the second. Aside from some snafus with bottle pressure changes causing leakage, it all went pretty smoothly. Diana and I do a pretty good job of tag teaming and keeping him happy. Our first experience with Frontier wasn't terrible either, even though we had to do goofy things like pay for snacks (though they were extra delicious).
Lake Rudolph came through again as adequate with the RV rentals, and for an extra charge, they hooked us up with linens so we would be warm, dry and pillowed. Mike and Artemisa brought one of their pack-and-plays for Simon to sleep in, and that worked exceptionally well. The convenience of location, and splitting the cost, makes the RV totally worth it. That, and the Jandes girls are completely adorable.
I ended up getting to the ticket booths slightly late, but I don't think anyone got really bent out of shape over it. The whole registration process this year did not go as smoothly, which was partially my fault because we did very little preparation compared to prior years, meaning no name tag write-ups or pre-counted envelopes. I didn't even have tickets shipped to me because we were trying to travel light. But I also let way too much shit go, including several late registrations and phone-ins that made the catering count a moving target and we seemed to lose one of the registrations on my desk (I'm talking about you, Althoff! :)). Diana could not go with me to the ticket booth either because Simon just wasn't ready, so that probably hurt my organization as well. Having credit cards available for use was a huge win this year though, with around $350 in on-sites paid for that way, meaning very little cash for me to carry and deposit. We had well over 130 people.
We finally got into the park a little after 11:30, and headed straight to the Thanksgiving section for lunch. It was a lot more crowded this year, because the water park was still open, and it was around 90 degrees. It didn't prevent any fun, but it was different from what we were used to. Initial feedback seemed to indicate people liked having the water park open, especially with Wildebeest being open this year.
Carrie and the Neus (sounds like a band) joined us for lunch, and we'd see them off and on (mostly on) all day. Lunch was delicious, and Simon nom'd some cottage cheese for the first time. When we were done, I was surprised to see the Grahams, including future prom date candidate for Simon, Louisa, who is 10 months already. What a great year for Mike, with the baby and his new trains coming to life.
We walked through the water park, and ultimately did not change and do water park stuff. I knew I'd slightly regret that, but the really honest truth is that we would've been so rushed with the clothes changing and all of that. It might be easier next year with a more sane event registration process, which I've been neglecting to do now for years.
Our first ride of the day, late as it was, was Liberty Launch, a small S&S double shot tower. Diana screamed like a little girl, and actually woke up Simon who was down the midway a bit sleeping in his stroller under Beth's watchful eye. It was the first ride (not counting dark rides and Soarin') that we had been on together in well over a year.
After getting blue ice cream, we met with the Grahams and we took our babies on the carousel. Simon got his first amusement park ride! He seemed to like it at first, but I don't think he was comfortable being so high up with just me to hold him. Half way through the ride, he started to slouch inside against the pole. But still, we had our moment, and I was very excited to have it, even if it was mostly for me!
We left everyone else to have some quiet feeding time with Simon in the shade, and spent the next hour really walking and relaxing with him. He was such a trooper all day, not sleeping nearly as much as he was used to. I do wish I would've had more rides on stuff, but it was pretty special just being in the park with my little family.
Before dinner, we racked up some Skee-Ball which Simon thought was reasonably fascinating for a few moments. If I can have a 300 game or two, I'm pretty happy, and I did. I still don't like the non-wood balls in those newer machines.
At dinner, it became very clear that we doubled last year's attendance. We filled the banquet hall completely, and left very little pizza. You know, it's not spectacular, but the park consistently makes decent pizza, which seems rare anymore for amusement parks. I always enjoy it. Paula told some jokes, Mrs. Koch thanked everyone for their kindness following Will's passing, and Mike Graham talked a little about his new trains.
We didn't get that extreme during the ERT, basically getting in a lap a piece. The Voyage was of course insane and awesome as always. But it was still the action on the midway that I was really longing for, and I'm so glad I had the opportunity. Being among friends like that, for the first time in almost a year, was so overdue and necessary.
After they closed down the ride, Mike took me up to get a closer look at his train. It was a dirty mess, covered in corn dust mixed with water dummy leaks and random oil sprays, but wow was it impressive. There are messes of wires connected to strain gauges. They've made some modifications here and there after collecting mountains of test data, so they still need some paint, but they're still beautiful. The restraint system is elegant. The chassis is light. The wheel system is way overdue for wood coasters. They've done so much to reduce the wear and tear on the track, and made maintenance of the trains themselves so easy, that the trains will pay for themselves in a few years. And it's completely epic to see Mike and his three partners grow their business the way they have. I can't tell you how much respect I have for those guys.
The evening brought the campfire, with a different vibe than in past years. No one got drunk, and there kids and a pregnant woman around. But once again, it was nice just to enjoy the company of these people, and I'm grateful that so many of us were there.
By the time we got up and moving in a meaningful way on Sunday, the Jandes clan was already heading back to Chicago, and we left right at check-out time, around 11. Simon was a little cranky, but I can't say that I blamed him. We picked up Carrie (who was also in and out from Louisville), and had lunch there before heading to the airport.
"Aunt Carrie" went with us to skip the TSA line with her "family," which seemed ridiculous in size given the scope of the airport. She enjoyed a few more cute moments with simon before we boarded. Having an extra person at the airport makes it so easy to roll with a baby.
Overall, the trip was short, and 20 some hours were devoted to flying, waiting to fly or driving, but it was definitely worth it. Simon has six flights now at six months of age. I think we've broken him of his requirement for ideal sleeping conditions, too. I'm so glad we took that trip.