Worst vacation ever, almost

posted by Jeff | Monday, June 9, 2014, 11:36 PM | comments: 0

Words can't really express how excited I was to go back to Cleveland for a few days so we could spend the weekend at Cedar Point. The primary motivation was to be there for the 6th annual Coasting For Kids fundraiser benefiting Give Kids The World, an event I co-founded in 2009 that has ballooned into this huge thing. My involvement these days is mostly just promoting the crap out of it, but especially now that GKTW is local to us, it's super important to see that this event keeps going.

The event is only one day, across all of the Cedar Fair parks, but we decided to make a weekend of it. Sure, we live next door to Walt Disney World now, but there will always be something special about Cedar Point. Some of our best times have been there (we actually got engaged on Giant Wheel), and we have a great many friends who work there, too. Really good people, and I'm a little jealous that they get to work there. Being there just feels like home. If that weren't enough, they comped us a room at the Breakers Hotel since we were up for the fundraiser.

As a total coincidence, Friday was also the annual Coastermania event, which includes tons of exclusive ride time for coaster nerds. And on top of that, it was also the kick-off party for Luminosity, their night time singing-dancing-light show. In other words, this had the potential for being the most epic weekend ever.

It got off to an amazing start. After we checked into the hotel, arriving late because of a delayed departure at MCO, we headed into the park. We immediately did two rides on Sky Ride ("the baskets," as Simon calls them), a lap on the carousel, and once around the Antique Cars with no waiting. Once the party started, we were treated to completely amazing food (including turkey that was crazy moist and covered in something spicy), and a wonderful supply of Columbia Valley Riesling. Met up with many friends I really miss seeing on a regular basis. Learned the details of what it takes to plan a WDW wedding, too (friends getting married there next year). Finally met the new GM in person. Diana and Simon snuck out of the social activity to ride Giant Wheel and one of the kiddie circular rides. After the party, Diana and I each got a lap on Maverick, which was running brilliantly. To top the night off, Simon and I took a spin on the new Lake Erie Eagles. He sort of liked it, but said it made him dizzy.

We left the park after walking down the beautiful new Gemini midway, and there were plenty of warm and fuzzy feelings (and not just from the alcohol). Cedar Point is just not something that can be replaced. But don't worry... I can assure you we're not moving back to Cleveland.

Saturday had no agenda, but despite the late night, we were all up by 8:30. I started the morning by posting a photo of the skyline as seen from our 9th floor window. It was a little weird that by 9:30 they weren't even testing Magnum. Another friend commented on the photo, asking if we had water. We did not.

By 10, we were at the beach gate to find they weren't letting people in because none of the park had water. The next hour would reveal a stream of bad news. The water main feeding the park had burst, and they decided to close the park. With no running water, you can't flush toilets, serve food or fight fires. Naturally that meant they had to evacuate the hotels as well. At that point, it wasn't clear what would happen for us as resort guests, but we decided to bail so we could get lunch. We packed our stuff in the car because it was unclear if the hotel would be open that night. It then took us an hour to get off of the peninsula. On the way out, we could see where the main was broken, at the corner of the main parking lot. We redirected down the chaussee to avoid the traffic on Cleveland Road, then backtracked to Perkins for lunch.

We had lunch at Chet & Matt's, which might be our favorite pizza joint anywhere. They were slammed, but aside from a brief moment of emptiness, the buffet was stocked. Their chicken alfredo and hot wing and cheddar pizzas are amazing. The dessert pizza is yummy as well.

While Diana was doing the Ask-a-Mom panel thing for Great Wolf Lodge, we got to know the GM at the Sandusky location, and of course she's an Ashland Eagle, so we have that in common. We told her we would be in town, so she graciously left some day passes for us to use the water park there. This turned out to be a perfect arrangement, because we had no where else to go. They didn't have any rooms, unfortunately, because it was bike week and there was a big fantasy convention down the street, but we were able to spend a couple of hours there while I gathered information.

By 2:30, they made the call that the hotels would be closed until Monday afternoon, because getting them up to pressure and tested was not going to happen quickly. Shit. We just became homeless. By 5 they would also announce that the park would be closed Sunday as well. Double shit... no Coasting For Kids.

While at GWL, I booked a hotel where our friend from GKTW was staying. It was in Vermilion, 20 minutes away or so, but on the plus side we figured it was also close enough to Cleveland to show our friend a good dinner at the Winking Lizard. When we got there, they had no room. Somehow, the Holiday Inn Express site hosed me and changed the dates. The hits kept on coming. Just as we were about to try and find something else, someone called to cancel, and we got their room. It was a king, so all three of us had to pile in there, but despite being suboptimal, it was functional.

I helped get the announcement out of the alternate plan options for C4K participants, and we resolved to go out and do something for Sunday. Our first idea was the Toledo Zoo, which at least had a carousel and a train. Simon was struggling to understand why we couldn't just go back to Cedar Point, and even as he was going to bed, he kept telling us, "We'll try to go to Cedar Point tomorrow." Honestly, this was the most heartbreaking thing. The whole situation sucked, and it couldn't be helped, but at least as an adult I can process it. He had a harder time. Seeing your kid upset sucks.

We woke up to a total washout. The zoo wasn't going to happen. One could argue that the event at the park would have been crappy as well, but at least we would be at the park, and could see some shows. That, and we would retreat to our view of the park at the hotel there. I figured we could try the Great Lakes Science Center. At the very least, we could spend a few hours there doing inside stuff.

Admittedly, it was kind of neat to be in downtown Cleveland. I didn't know this, but they apparently moved some of the more important artifacts from the NASA visitor center there. That makes a lot of sense, because as a stand-alone attraction it was struggling at the actual research center near the airport. Security was ridiculous, too.

While there, Simon had two meltdowns when we had to physically carry him out of the play area with the rubber balls. These are becoming more frequent and more scary, and they're starting to resemble the more stereotypical ASD meltdowns we've read about.

Since we were in Cleveland, and it was still raining, we thought that maybe we would try to get some lunch at Melt in Lakewood, since it was on the way west back to the hotel. Despite getting there at 3:15, they still had a 40 minute wait. Shit. We weren't destined to do anything we actually wanted to do this weekend. There was no way Simon could wait that long given his state. It might have been repetitive, but we went down the street to a different Winking Lizard and sat right down. Simon peacefully played with his cars, and reached a bit of a zen place. Incidentally, our original plans were to visit the Brunswick Lizard on Friday so we could see my favorite bartender ever, but that didn't happen because of United's massive delay.

We retreated back to the hotel by 5, and honestly were feeling generally defeated. Simon had one more meltdown over I don't even remember what. He spent a good 90 minutes in bed talking to himself and not sleeping. He didn't get to sleep until after 10.

Cedar Point announced that they would definitely be open Monday, and we resolved to do whatever it took to get three good hours in the park. The massive shitstorm had to end.

First pile of awesome: I was able to claim the Fastlane pass earned from my fundraising efforts. I got the call on the way to the park, and this was well-timed because I don't think we'll be back to the park this year. Later that morning they decided to reschedule the Coasting For Kids riding out a couple of weeks. They totally didn't have to do that, but they did it anyway. I won't be there for it, but it's still great.

We got to spend about 20 minutes talking to our friends in marketing, which wasn't long enough. Honestly, they're busy people anyway, and just got through a crisis, but I selfishly wish there was more time. I miss those people.

Once in the park, we only had time to use Fastlane for two rides (GateKeeper and Giant Wheel), but anything helped. Love GateKeeper, even though I haven't been on it in almost a year. It's a serious winner. We did sneak in some fresh-cut fries, and they were delicious. The 10% off discount for passholders makes so much more sense this year. We ended up skipping grown-up rides to make sure Simon could get his fill after two days of disappointment and stress. He got to ride the cars and sub twice each along with the train in Planet Snoopy, Giant Wheel, Sky Ride, the Kiddie Kingdom carousel, Rub-a-Dub's Tubs (which should not have been operating as they were full of water and mufflehead filth), the CP&LE, Snoopy Bounce, Woodstock Express and two double laps on Jr. Wilderness Run Gemini. That's 11 rides or so in just three hours. It was so worth missing Millennium Force and other rides to see how happy it made him. He really misses Cedar Point, even though he gets to visit WDW almost once a week.

The drive back to CLE was uneventful, and it turned out that our friend Kaylee from GKTW got bumped up to our earlier flight. It's still completely weird to leave CLE and end at MCO as home, but it's all good. Cleveland was "cold" to us. Florida has made us soft.

The weirdest thing about all of this failure is that we initiated this trip on our dime for the purpose of charity fundraising. Shouldn't we have scored massive karma points? What started out as mostly just an airfare expense turned out to include two hotel nights and other attractions, and a whole lot of emotional injury. For 48 hours, most everything that could go wrong did. The odds of that happening seem impossible in retrospect.

Meh, shit happens. I get that. My expectations were very high for the trip, and came on the heels of a couple of really awesome weeks. Now that I've committed the fiasco to bits, I hope to just leave the middle part out of my mind and remember the end caps. The weekend ended up being about 80% suck, but it started and ended well.


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