Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Trip that Almost Didn't Happen, Day 1

When I left off on Wednesday, I had just ensured we would actually go on our family vacation.  I spent a couple days prior panicking a bit because hotel prices jumped and our low-budget three days away were no longer looking very low-budget.  It just didn't seem worth it or wise to spend that much money on a trip like that.  I don't mind going to a not-very-exciting destination if the price point is proportionate.  The kids are young still, and as long as we leave home, stay in a hotel, and do a couple fun things, they're on board.  We used the same theory last year with Syracuse, and it was fine.  So this year we went in the other direction and decided to more fully explore a city where Craig has spent considerable time but which has since become a pass-through for us--Erie, PA.  He did his undergrad at Mercyhurst College (now University) in Erie, and worked there for a time, too, before he came to Rochester.  But clearly he wasn't doing kid-focused things back then, and a lot has changed anyway, so it seemed like a fun idea.  But the hotel prices went sky-high compared to what I first priced out, and for what we thought was reasonable for the location.  This was all last minute as it was because of how things worked out at work, but right when I was ready to book, the prices shot up.  When I actually found a couple good rates, I tried to book the room and suddenly the room type wasn't available at that price.  Tuesday night I had almost given up hope and we started talking about things we could do at home during a staycation.  It didn't have the same zip, though, so I vowed to try one more time in the morning in hopes something would open up.  When I walked downstairs on Wednesday (which I took off, too), I silently prayed that God would open something up for us at a price we could live with.  I really wanted us to make some good memories and get a change of scenery, but I didn't want to spend foolishly.  I panicked even more when the best option I found the night before ($250 total for two nights at a Days Inn) was no longer available.  In a last ditch effort I went on Hotwire.  I had given up on Priceline because you can't pick your room type (meaning we might not get two beds), but Hotwire gave that option.  Of course, they don't tell you which hotel it is, so that's always nervewracking.  Suddenly I had two deals in front of me, both in the $70-80 dollar range.  One had all the amenities I wanted (free parking, internet and breakfast).  The other didn't have breakfast, but it did have a 100% recommendation rate.  The first one was only about 55%, and they gave a hint that the last person that took that deal got a certain hotel where I knew the reviews weren't great.  I figured we couldn't argue with the 100% recommendation, and since the general location was fine and breakfast on our own was doable, I took the deal.  And when it popped up that we'd be at a Hilton Garden Inn in the heart of the busiest commercial area off the Thruway, I was thrilled!  I saved us over $80, which made the trip cost more in line with what it should be.  Whew.

I spent the second half of Wednesday preparing and packing, and we left close to on time Thursday morning.  Getting out the door was a struggle, and aside from Carter asking, "Almost there?" in the first 10 minutes, the trip went fine.  Our lunch stop at Burger King scored Scooby-Doo toys, which thrilled the boys, and as a whole the trip was pretty painless.  Our first stop in Erie was Waldameer Park, a small-ish amusement park.  I figured it was a great option coming off the success of the previous Friday's trip to Fantasy Island.  In fact, when I asked Jacob which part of the trip he was looking most forward to, this was it.  Only...when Jacob got up on Thursday he started complaining about his leg hurting.  We've gotten a lot of sore leg stories, enough that we took him to the doctor for it back in the spring.  But he was really complaining about it, and even believably limping.  He seemed to indicate at one point that he remembered pulling it a bit playing lacrosse with Craig a day or two before, but then he didn't seem so sure.  When we got to the park he was complaining on the entire walk from the car and we knew it might be a long day.  When we got to the gate, I had to chat with him again because I needed to make sure he'd ride enough rides to make his admission worth it.  See, Waldameer actually has free admission.  You either pay $27 to get an unlimited pass, or you buy points (basically $1 each) that you can use for rides that range between 1.5 and 4.5 points.  Jacob said he'd ride enough, so he and I got full passes, and Craig and Carter were going to ride from points, since Craig is not a ride fan and Carter's rides were pretty cheap.

We walked in and this was our first view...
Pretty fountain, sky ride, and Music Express to the left
The lovely view was quickly spoiled by what happened next.  Music Express was a near replica of Jacob's second-favorite Fantasy Island ride, Rock and Roll, so I eagerly tried to get him to go on it with me.  He refused.  He said it was faster than the Fantasy Island one and insisted the one at Fantasy Island almost made him sick.  I highly doubt that since he seemed to love it and talked about it non-stop for a couple days, but no amount of convincing worked, and we were forced to move on.  I was very unhappy and very concerned about the rest of the day.

Our first ride was a Carter favorite, the carousel...

After that I managed to get Jacob to go on the Comet, a small wooden coaster.  I figured it was a great next step, as the hills were small but it was a different style of coaster than Jacob had been on previously.  He was very confident going on, based on what he knew about the hill heights, though I warned him that wooden coasters feel a little different.  Well...he didn't love it.  It was pretty fast and there was lots of air time on the hills.  He survived and seemed OK at first, but eventually insisted it made him feel sick.  UGH.  I don't know why things were so different this time, if it was the leg, or a bad day with his "difficult personality", or Craig's presence, which usually means that Jacob only wants to hang out with him.  Sometimes I think he projects Craig's ride issues onto himself, and I have no doubt he was turning himself into a head case.  I was so angry because we'd spent the extra money on his pass, and now he was being a total party pooper.  He didn't even want to go on the kiddie rides with Carter this time. 

Carter, on the other hand, was loving his rides.  He went on this cute, old-school bumpy pony ride...

He rode on a vehicle ride that I'm pretty sure was identical to one I used to ride as a kid at a local restaurant (Page's, for you WNY folks), with the annoying buzzer button horns, an assortment of vehicles with glittery paint jobs, and the giant rainbow umbrella top.  Then he wanted to ride the teacups with me, since he loved those at Fantasy Island, too!  I took this picture from our cup, looking up at the first hill of the big roller coaster that was next on my agenda...

Carter LOVED the teacups again, giggling like a madman for most of the ride!

We didn't ride the swings, but I just loved this shot...from the colors to the motion, it just captured amusement park life to me...

Next I rode that big wooden coaster, the Ravine Flyer.  It had a really fantastic layout, but holy cow was it fast and rather rough.  It went through a tunnel over the adjacent road twice, and had some really fun twists and turns, but a couple of them hurt my head a little.  Bummer, but I'm happy I rode it.  The top of the hill definitely had the best view in town, a perfect view of the entire Presque Isle peninsula.

Next we headed over to this dark walk-through attraction, Pirate's Cove.  Jacob and Craig went through it first, and Jacob liked it so much that I had to go through it with him again.  It was a typical old-style fun house-haunted house hybrid--cheesy pirate/skeleton/ghost themed window displays, blacklit glow paint, crooked and moving floors, dark and narrow twisting hallways, etc.  I have no idea why he liked it so much, but like the antique cars the week before, this was the one he spent the rest of the visit begging to go back to.

After that, I went on a smallish drop tower alone.  I love them, even though a complete freefall never fails to terrify me for a second or two.  After that, I tried a second time to convince Jacob to go on the log flume with Craig.  He refused the first time but finally decided to try it.  I panicked a little as they waited in line, thinking that Jacob might hate me for pushing him.  Carter and I waited for their boat to pass and snuck in a selfie...

I caught the boys as they passed by, then ran around to try to capture the end of the ride...

When I saw their boat going up the big hill, I worried because Jacob was already tucking his head.  I figured the first hill traumatized him.  He looked pretty scared coming down the big hill (even more so when I saw the automated photo!), but you know what?  He loved it!  I was very relieved!
A little wet, but smiling big!
I then rode the Ali Baba, a magic carpet themed ride that reminded me of the Rainbow ride I used to admire at Maple Leaf Village (yep--another one).  I could have ridden a similar one last week, but I wasn't sure my stomach was up to it that day.  This time it was, and it was fine...maybe even a little boring.  Too controlled of a descent, maybe?  After that we grabbed a dinnertime snack and headed over to the ferris wheel.  Craig's willingness to ride convinced Jacob to do it, even though he swore them off after Fantasy Island.  The view from the top was not as good as the roller coaster, but you can sort of see the peninsula (how it hooks to the far right) if you look closely.

Carter loved it again!
We did another round of kiddie rides, first the boats...

...and then the Big Rigs.  I could ride the Big Rigs, too, but then Carter picked an inside spot that I couldn't fit in.  And by the time I tried to climb in the back of his truck, another kid took one of the seats.  Awkward.  There wasn't even a window to where Carter was sitting, so I periodically yelled around the corner to him while sitting next to someone else's kid.  The kids around me honked their horns and I was just sort of stuck there.  At least the track was pretty (nice landscaping and a tunnel), but still...weird.

Things were winding down as our points were dwindling and everyone was getting tired.  I had to give up my wish to ride the spinning wild mouse coaster (slightly different style than last week's, though similar to one I rode at Seabreeze here in Rochester a number of years ago) since the line was long, and Jacob and I hopped into a long-ish line at the Whacky Shack...

This was another classic dark ride, this time in a little cart.  Again, lots of cheesy props, blacklight effects, and fun twists and turns.  It was a fun little ride and Jacob liked it.  We probably would have gone on it again had the line not been so long.  Jacob and Craig did one more run through Pirate's Cove, and then we started working our way toward the front of the park.  Carter and I took one last ride on the carousel to use up the rest of our points while Craig and Jacob played a game of air hockey in the arcade.
 
Our original plan was to stop at Dairy Queen on the way to the hotel to grab Dilly Bars as a late snack, but our GPS is apparently wrong or outdated and the one we were trying to get to didn't seem to exist.  We were all tired and it was getting close to bedtime, so instead of seeking out another one or trying to find another gluten-free option, we opted to just check into the hotel and figure something out.  The hotel was very nice, a great value for what we paid.  We settled into our room, the boys ate peanut butter sandwiches, and we started the process of getting the kids into bed, which is never fun in a hotel room.  Carter was crazy, running around the room like a maniac despite such a long day with minimal napping.  The end of the day was pretty frustrating, but we all settled into bed before 10pm, hoping for a better day in the morning. 
 
Next up, the zoo and baseball!

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