Travel hell and sweet success: Our Cleveland trip

posted by Jeff | Thursday, July 28, 2011, 11:53 PM | comments: 2

We made our way to Cleveland last week for the Cedar Point portion of the big Coasting For Kids fundraiser for Give Kids The World (donate here). This was easily one of the most ridiculous trips ever, but at the same time, very successful.

The fun began on Friday morning when we arrived at SEATAC, and United informed us that our plane was not there. So they did the most logical thing possible and put us on a different plane... to Charlotte. Keep in mind that we were supposed to go through Denver, which broke up the flight into two convenient 2.5 hour flights, with a two hour layover. In other words, it was ideal for traveling with a toddler. Five hours to Charlotte is not convenient. Giving us 35 minutes for a connecting flight while leaving 45 minutes late wasn't cool either. Fortunately, Charlotte did have a later flight to Cleveland, which also left 45 minutes late.

We rolled into CLE at about 1 a.m., about 14 hours after we left our place in Seattle. It was good that I decided to just crash at the airport Sheraton. Except it wasn't, because they put us in some ghetto "suite" that was missing one of its TV's, as evidenced by the holes in the wall where it would be, and was not in the greatest shape. The bed itself was clean, but the room was not in a good state.

During the course of our travel, Simon had maybe an hour total sleep time at best. He had a really good time in the Charlotte airport though. Unfortunately, he wouldn't sleep, making the situation stressful for all of us, until well after 2. You could calm him down, but as soon as you put him on his back in the pack-and-play, he'd stand up and scream as if he were in genuine pain. It was pretty awful. Eventually, I plopped a chair next to it, and kept a hand on him until he fell asleep. Surprisingly, the aggressive (and beautiful) thunderstorms did not wake him.

About seven hours later, we had to get up to fetch the car (rentals are off-site at CLE), and head out to Brunswick to meet some folks at the Winking Lizard. Simon wasn't in a great mood, but certainly better than the night before. He was super gross, so Diana got in the huge spa bath with him. He was so relaxed that he made a deuce in the tub. Yuck.

Arriving in Brunswick was surprisingly emotional. The general familiarity of it was part of it, I suppose, though it's odd that I don't associate it much with my parents house, or high school. Most of my association lies with my first house, where eight very intense years of my life took place.

But first, lunch at the Winking Lizard. That location had only been open for a year or so when we moved, but it quickly became a weekly stop for us. It's staggering that you just can't find good, inexpensive bar food like this in Seattle. We were joined by Diana's BFF Sherry and her family, as well as my brother-in-law and niece. Simon enjoyed some Skee-ball, mostly by walking up the lane. I wish more people would have made it there, but it was still a good time.

After lunch, we headed over to my house. The landscaping is really getting out of control. The dude who allegedly cleaned it up did not trim the bushes. Some asshole looking at the house managed to wedge one of the baskets in the freezer into the door so that it won't close or open.

Despite all of the angst over still owning it, and the somewhat shaggy appearance, I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss it. The familiarity and all of the memories, good and bad, make it feel like such a huge part of my life. Relationships started and ended there. I watched historic events on TV there. I had epic parties. I more or less ran an ISP out of one of the bedrooms for two years. I had a hot tub there.

After sorting through some clothes from Sherry's kids, we packed up and headed to Sandusky. By this time, it was pretty damn hot, and the morning super thunderstorm did little to cool things off. But honestly, I loved it. I never thought I'd miss 90 and humid, but I do.

Driving up to Cedar Point used to be so routine, but it really is a special event for us now. Going just beyond that traffic light and seeing that skyline for the first time in a year is a big deal. This year the big deal includes Windseeker. We pretty quickly checked into our room, lubed up Simon with sunscreen, and headed into the park.

Simon didn't seem as anxious to run around, which I suppose is because he hasn't experienced that kind of heat before. We did a quick walk around to the beach midway to see Windseeker, and up to Ocean Motion in its new home. We snagged a ride on Sir Rub-a-Dub's Tubs, since we could all ride it together. Simon was a real hit with the people in line for maXair, and there were many waves exchanged.

After that, we headed back to the room to clean up before meeting Bryan for dinner at Bay Harbor Inn. Tim stopped by briefly at the end of his work day to say hi. Not seeing the Walsh family on a regular basis has been one of the weirdest things about the move, because these are people I used to hang with regularly for a decade. Tim is my Sherry, so to speak. We miss our Cleveland people.

I hadn't been to Bay Harbor since I stopped eating red meat, because the last thing I had there was steak. That means 2003 or 2004 at the lastest. It was good to sit and talk with Bryan about changes at the park, and having kids (he has three now). Unfortunately, the last and final hell point in our trip cut that conversation short.

Simon was super cranky and not eating. I wrote it off to his travel fatigue, but decided to get him outside for a little while because he was being a little obnoxious. I picked him up, and as soon as I put him on my shoulder, he yacked. I'm talking epic spew, in three bursts. It was unreal. He wore almost none of it, but I wore much of it. Fortunately, Bryan brought my GKTW shirt for the next day, and I changed in to that. I was a little surprised at how little the vomit bothered me, but we've certainly had our share of spews at this point.

We got back to the room shortly thereafter, and when we sniffed the milk they gave us, now in his sippy cup, we realized it was spoiled. Yeah, they served that. I was super pissed. Simon seemed to be recovering quickly though, so given the way things had been going, I tried to let it go. I started into my dinner, and was completely unimpressed. It wasn't that it was bad, it just wasn't good. Totally bland.

The long travel day depleted snacks and diapers, and Simon's general lack of preference for restaurant food meant we needed supplies. We ran out to Target, and since it was across the street, ordered Chet & Matt's pizza. For a brief moment, things seemed more right with the world.

Not knowing what to expect the next day, we ran back into the park to see the Starlight Experience. We got on to the Frontier Trail and there were no lights. This was not surprising. The park was pretty desolate after the evening round of storms, but the lone person we ran into on the trail was none other than John, the GM of the park. The lightning storms of the day made life exceptionally difficult, knocking out Dragster and Millennium Force, as well as the Starlight Experience. We called it a day.

I preemptively placed the pack-and-play next to the bed, so I could help Simon get to sleep. For the most part, he got a good night of sleep, as we all did. I got up around 8, at which point our Magnum ride time had already started, but I just couldn't get up earlier. I headed into the park solo and took a few laps on Magnum, including a front seat ride. It was running exceptionally well for half-full trains and trims on. I forget the times the ride ops were calling out, but I do recall they were hauling-ass numbers.

I went back to the room to fetch my family, because I would be watching the GKTW table starting at 11. I made myself a pain in the ass, by calling Bryan to get us in the marina gate, so we wouldn't have to haul around the car between parking lots, and we arrived a little before 11 at Gemini.

I had a good time throughout the day chatting with the marketing interns, and we collected $125 in cash donations. We also had one of the families there that had stayed at GKTW, and they were awesome to be around. Their daughter has an extremely rare genetic disorder that affects all of her organs, and they consider themselves lucky to have whatever time with her they can have. It sounds terrible and sad, but that little girl is so full of life and she clearly brings a lot of love to her family.

The fundraising folks had a good time, and stayed well-hydrated with the constant flow of water supplied by the park. I got text messages from Kara and Carrie at Dorney, and it sounds like they had a good time there as well. Nationally, we raised about $62k as of that day, well above last year's total. For three years, that puts us over $120k. That is awesome.

Somewhat randomly, I ran into one of Stephanie's college roommates at the park, and it was pretty great to see her. My dad also stopped at the park, so Simon got to see all of his grandparents in the span of a week or so.

After the event, we ran out to meet the Walsh family, and ended up at BWW, until Simon started to meltdown. I hated that situation, but honestly, we asked a lot of Simon, and he mostly had been rolling with the punches. It was asinine on my part to again pack way too much running around into too small of a time frame.

That said, Simon seemed OK to move around a little while longer, so we went back to the park for about an hour, and got to ride Windseeker. What a great ride. It's not the world's most thrilling thing, but it offers some wonderful sensations, 300 feet above. We also scored a ride on Millennium Force. Sadly, this means we did not get on Maverick. We haven't been on there in two years. We did, however, walk through the Starlight Experience (which seemed to have less animated lights).

Tired but satisfied with the event, we tried to get into bed somewhat early, almost at 11. Simon seemed to be on Pacific time, so this wasn't too far from his normal time. Had to do the hand-in-the-crib trick, but he crashed pretty quickly.

My alarm went off at 3:10 a.m., Monday morning. As I loaded the car, there were still employees hanging out. We had less than four hours of sleep, and I feared the worst for the day.

But it never got worse. We left Cedar Point at 3:40, and by 5:15, I had dropped off the rental, checked bags and entered the TSA line. We had scarcely 30 minutes from the time we arrived at the gate to the time we boarded. Simon slept much of the way to Denver. In Denver, we had a three-hour layover, but it went pretty smoothly once we had some (ick) McDonald's breakfast. The food choices in that airport are awful. On the connecting flight, Simon slept most of the time. We got back to our car without incident. We were home by 2, exhausted.

So while Friday and Saturday felt like disasters, Sunday and Monday went pretty well. Things just seemed to turn around. And it should have... we were trying to rock a good cause!


Donald Green

June 13, 2012, 6:08 PM #

I was actually a ride op for magnum last season. Out of curiosity, were you the person asking about our trim-brake system being automated or manual?


June 15, 2012, 10:02 AM #

Nope... very familiar with that ride already.

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