Thursday, May 19, 2022

Divide and Conquer, Part 1

A couple weeks ago Jacob got invited to an exclusive basketball combine in New Jersey.  His trainer that he's worked with a while now asked him to go.  It would involve him missing a day of school, and the commitment was basically full time from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon.  It left very little time for anything else, and one parent needed to be present all the time.  As such, it didn't seem like it would work out for Carter and me to tag along and make it a family affair, and then that was confirmed when it turned out that the trainer and his brother were going to be riding along with Craig and Jacob in the van.  Given that I'm already missing out on the one long trip of the season to stay back for my cousin's wedding in a couple weeks, I was bummed that this was not an opportunity to make up for that.  But then Craig suggested Carter and I do something ourselves.  I don't know that he expected me to take that to an extreme, but I figured, go big or stay home.  And I didn't really want to stay home.  So, we definitely divided and conquered with our respective kids for the weekend!

The thing is, Carter gets dragged around a lot.  I mean, yes, we go to playgrounds when we can, but most of those trips coincide with something else that we need to do, whether it's killing time in between tournament games or as a bribe for him getting dragged with me to Wegmans again because Craig and Jacob have something going on.  It's rare that he gets to do something that is all for him with no other purpose.  So, I decided I wanted to do a real trip--not just a day trip, not just something local--that was based on what he would like.  I wasn't sure what that should be, but one morning that week I looked at the pants he was wearing and realized that one of his longer pairs of pants was looking shorter than I remembered.  I measured him and it looked like he was at least 52 inches, if not taller.  He was only 51-1/2 at his last appointment in February, so anything above 52 seemed pretty impressive.  On a whim, I checked the height restrictions at Kennywood Park in Pittsburgh.  Much to my surprise, every single ride there was okay for 52" or taller!  That's two full inches less than Cedar Point, which we're hoping he's ready for next summer.  He had a doctor's appointment on Wednesday and they measured him at 52-1/2" in sneakers so I figured we officially had to be good on that front.  That definitely got me seriously considering a trip to Kennywood.  The complication, however, was the weather.  The forecast was warm but with a high probability of thunderstorms.  I decided to just play it by ear for as long as I could, but then as time ticked down I figured that even though Kennywood was the sure-fire best option, we could still plan to go and just find other things to do in and around the weather, like the science or history museum, or the zoo.  I knew we'd make memories no matter what, and that's what was important.  But by Friday, the weather looked a little better, and I figured that we'd probably still get in a lot of coasters in and around the storms, especially if lines were short due to the forecast.  So, I spent Thursday night starting to pack, took off work a little early on Friday and finished the prep--including last minute hotel booking and ticket buying--and off we went!

Our first leg was to my parents' house on Friday night, which would cut more than an hour off our Saturday drive.  The goal was to get a good night's sleep and leave around 7am so we'd arrive at Kennywood close to the 11am opening.  We were treated to a lovely sunset on the way to Buffalo.

Once we got there, I had to tell Carter where we were actually going.  He knew we were going somewhere but I didn't want to tell him where because a) I wasn't sure if weather (or something else) would mess it up and I didn't want to disappoint him if we couldn't go; and b) I didn't want to endure and endless string of "how much longer" questions from my very excited child who has zero concept of time.  But by the time we got there, the curiosity was driving him pretty nuts and I figured it would likely be as detrimental to his sleep as the excitement, so I told him:

The terrible camera work there was when he was hugging me!  Clearly a happy kid!

The morning drive was a longer one than Carter was accustomed to, particularly without the van's DVD player.  We got breakfast on the road which helped (although my Dunkin' Frozen Coffee tasted off so I did not have the benefit of much caffeine--a bummer since I woke up sometime after 3am and never really got back to a sound sleep!).  I also copied a couple movies from our DVD collection to my computer and figured my battery would last just long enough for at least one each way.  Carter definitely didn't love the drive and repeatedly mentioned that it felt like "seven hours", but in reality it was more like four.  The drive was mostly rural, but started to get a little more interesting closer to Pittsburgh, especially once we got to the city and Carter could see the skyline and all the cool yellow bridges.  I also pointed out the incline railway up the hillside, which I had tried to explain to him earlier in the trip.  Eventually we crossed a bridge and could see coasters in the distance, and ahead of us was the famous Kennywood arrow (which has been a magnet on my fridge for over 20 years, though it's pretty faded now)!

I've been to Kennywood twice before.  Once was in 2001 when my college friend Lois and I took our first coaster-based trip, starting at Kennywood and going to the now-defunct Six Flags Ohio and Cedar Point.  I loved Kennywood so much that I dragged Craig back there in 2005 when we took a trip to Pittsburgh for a Pirates game (and quite possibly a trip to IKEA) right around the time we bought our first house.  He's not really a ride guy but I did get him on a few things.

Carter was pumped when he saw the giant coasters from the road and the parking lot!

One of our first stops inside the park was at the Cowboy Joe photo spot.  Carter knew it because I showed him a silly picture of myself there from 2001.

What a difference 21 years makes!

The plan was to start with the Racer, which I recalled being pretty tame, to the point even Craig didn't mind it.  Even though Carter was excited to ride everything, I had to remind myself that he really only started riding bigger coasters last year, and even then it was only a few!  So starting small and working our way up sounded like the best route.  The Racer (with the fun facade in the picture below) is now dwarfed by an incredible new coaster called the Steel Curtain, but more on that later.

Part of what makes Kennywood so great is that it still has that old-timey, not-too-huge feel, but still has some amazing rides.  It's like if Seabreeze and Darien Lake had a baby, this would be it.  Carter was nervous going in, but as suspected, the Racer was a perfect first ride and he loved it!  It's a twin coaster on a single mobius track, one of only three in the world, which means that your ride finishes on the other side of the track from where you start.  Carter loved the racing aspect as much as the ride itself, I think!

Next up was another classic, the Jack Rabbit.  This one gets a little more intense, with more airtime and a pretty crazy double drop.  But once again, he loved it!

We decided after that to try something a little bigger and more modern, specifically the Sky Rocket.  This was a new coaster I had never ridden.  It's a launch coaster, so I knew the beginning might be intense, but the hill wasn't giant and I knew it would probably be a smooth ride.  It also had inversions, which Carter enjoys.  The line wasn't too bad, and when we got up to the station, we realized the front car line was only one ride longer than every other seat.  That almost never happens, so I decided we should take advantage and give Carter his first front-row experience! 

The end of that hill is nearly straight up, and the down side is pretty much straight down!

The initial launch was pretty intense, and the look on Carter's face when we summited the hill was a cross between awe and terror, and the way down didn't make that any better.  But Carter infamously keeps a complete poker face even if he's loving it, and I somehow knew he was okay, just surprised!  The rest of the ride was really fun and in the end he liked it a lot.  Ironically, Kennywood posted a POV video that was identical to our front-row view the following morning:

At that point it was lunch time and on our way to get a pretzel, we ran into Kenny!  Lois and I got our picture with Kenny, so I decided Carter and I needed to get ours!

Ignore the mom fanny pack--it is the easiest way to keep my phone, car key, ID, and credit card completely safe at all times.  If my bag got stolen when leaving it on the shelves at each ride, we'd lose some stuff, but if anything more important was in there, we'd literally be trapped.  So fanny pack it is!  Definitely not the most flattering photo, but being in your 40s brings comfort with just being practical.

After eating we explored other areas of the park and eventually Carter convinced me we were hot enough to ride the giant flume ride.  But first, we spotted a short line and rode the classic Whip!

I'm not a fan of water rides.  Log flumes tortured me as a kid, and then the round raft, raging rapids ride at Canada's Wonderland that left my sneakers a squishy mess when I was six basically turned me off for good.  I did come to an understanding with the log flume at Darien Lake when we had season passes there, mostly because I needed to concede to riding that one to more easily get myself off the hook from Grizzly Run, Darien's version of the round raft, raging rapids ride.  When I bought a pair of board shorts in 2002, it opened a whole new world.  I could wear those over my suit, throw on flip flops, and quickly change afterward so I wasn't walking around wet.  I still don't love them, but I can tolerate them if I'm dressed appropriately.  So Carter and I changed into our suits and got in line for the giant flume ride.

This ride goes up a hill, goes around a curve, and slides back down, creating a giant wall of water.  We were in the back of the boat so we got the worst of the giant wave that passed over everyone else.  Admittedly, the water felt pretty good on a hot day!  As I tried to dry off and get organized, Carter wanted to wait in the "splash zone" for the next boat to come through, and I think he got wetter doing that than being on the boat in the first place!

As I waited on the much drier bridge to exit the ride, I couldn't help but snap a couple pics.  I love this area of the park.  The old-timey architecture (see the buildings and fountain on the right below) co-mingles so fantastically with giant, modern coaster hills.

Here's an example of what the splash looks like as the boat hits the bottom of the hill.  It's almost as tall as the hill itself and it more than makes it over to where everyone is standing!

We knew there was one other ride that seemed to be water-themed, called the Old Mill, but we weren't actually sure if it was a log flume or just a water-based dark ride.  Just in case, we left our wet stuff on and walked there.  We dried reasonably well waiting in line, but in the end it was just a dark ride where you ride a giant canoe type boat through dark passages featuring black lights and cheesy, glowing, Old West-style skeleton scenes.  It was cute, though!  Once we finished that, we changed back into our regular clothes and headed back on the coaster quest. 

We wanted to hit up the last wooden coaster, Thunderbolt, but just as we got in line they announced they were having some problems and a technician was on his way to check it out.  So back out of line we went...

But conveniently, Phantom's Revenge was right next door, so we decided it was time for Carter to have his first hypercoaster experience.  Phantom's Revenge has a drop over 200 feet and goes 80 mph.  I knew it might be a little intense, but if he wants to brave Cedar Point next year, we had to start the big ones somewhere!  This coaster is a little different in that it has a tall but curving first drop, and then the second drop is the big 220-foot one because it follows the terrain and disappears down a hillside.  Near the end of the drop it goes through the supports for the Thunderbolt! 

Looking up the lift hill

I admit I may have forgotten just how intense it was.  It was so fast and had a lot more airtime than you usually get for a coaster like that.  The restraint system isn't my favorite, and I think Carter didn't feel quite as secure as he would have liked.  He wasn't going anywhere, but it just made him nervous.  He definitely had a look of terror for most of it, but he made it through and I was so proud of him!  I enjoyed it, though, and probably would have enjoyed it more had I not been so worried about him!  I think it will grow on him in coming years now that he knows a bit more of what to expect.

Since the Thunderbolt still seemed to be closed, we headed back across the park to the other big coaster, Steel Curtain.  This one just looks crazy, twisting and turning everywhere.  It was in a new section of the park that's themed for the Pittsburgh Steelers.  It looks like they're building some sort of "Steeler Experience" area, and I'll be curious to see what else they add in the coming years.

We knew the wait was going to be long, especially since they were just running one car, but I suppose we underestimated just how long it would feel in the heat.  Each run was a full five minutes, so it took a while.  And about 40 minutes in, Carter had to pee and they wouldn't let him out of the line even though we had easy access for him to get back in.  So, this ended up being the one downside of our day--Carter was very discouraged and grumpy, but I really didn't want to get out of line after waiting so long, in part because we might not have time to get everything accomplished if we needed to wait that long again.  Eventually we got to the last stretch and the women in front of us (an older mother and daughter) confirmed it had been about an hour. 

Looking up the lift hill with the coaster passing by above it

Luckily, there must have been a big group in front of us that all wanted to ride together, because they asked for four people to come up ahead of them and fill the train!  So we probably saved 10 minutes and reduced the risk Carter might pee himself on the ride!  In the end, the ride was totally worth the wait!  We both agreed it was amazing--it was fast but you could enjoy every flip and twist because each element was rather large.  The restraint was more secure which seemed to make a huge difference for Carter, too.  We were pumped by the time we got off--both because it was a great ride and because he could finally go to the bathroom!

We were starving by this point so we went to the Rita's stand and got ourselves some Italian ice with soft serve on top.  It was SO good.  It really hit the spot!

I should note that my amusement park eating philosophy isn't ideal but has always worked for me.  But forcing that on someone else makes me second guess it a bit.  I used to subsist on soft pretzels and Icees.  Anything heavier than that could hit me wrong, and each of those treats seemed to settle best when heading for another ride.  You never want a full stomach, and I'd rather spend my time riding than sitting down to eat anyway.  On the other hand, it's a long, hot day and water only does so much.  I realized I needed to be aware that he might need more than me, hence why we took this long snack break, but luckily he seemed okay with it the rest of the time.  The pretzel and this treat were the only things we ate during the course of the day (in addition to a lot of water), but I promised we'd get something on the way back to the hotel.  But honestly, we were having so much fun we didn't need a lot more!

While we ate we watched the Steel Curtain from below (luckily a different section than what we could see from the endless runs we watched while in line).  It really was quite the ride!

While we waited to get on the Thunderbolt, we went on some other rides nearby.  One of those was Noah's Ark, which is a classic fun house.  The ark itself rocks back and forth, which makes the dark walk through its halls a little more interesting!  It has the classic shaky floors, optical illusion rooms, and mirrors, plus a few displays of the animals hanging out on the ark.  It was really fun and different!

We also did the Turtle, which is a ride that's been around for nearly 100 years!  It's like a small single-rail roller coaster, but without restraints and in a circular car format.  Carter was really hoping he could spin the car since it had a wheel-style handle in the middle, but no dice--thank goodness for me!

The weather was starting to look a little more concerning by this point, but honestly, we had done so well considering the original forecast looked pretty concerning originally that I couldn't be too upset.  The radar didn't look bad, though, so I was hopeful we could work through it.  The Thunderbolt was back open by this point so we hopped in line in hopes we could get through it before the rain.  Just as we were getting close to the platform, the rain started, but thankfully it didn't seem to be bad enough to shut anything down.  Enough to get you wet but nothing terrible when it's that warm out! 

Carter LOVED the Thunderbolt!  It's a cool coaster because it starts with a drop directly out of the station--no lift hill!  That's where it interacts with the Phantom's Revenge track, and a Phantom's Revenge train passed through just as we hit that spot.  It was so cool!  The ride is really nice and long, too.  Carter liked it so much that he wanted to go again, and since the rain took the line down a bit, we did!  We threw on our hoodies to stay a bit drier, and we hit the line just right to make it into the second row of the first car!  It was definitely a different experience doing it in the rain, but I appreciated not being in the front row for that.  After all, as the announcer said when I went on Millennium Force at Cedar Point back in 2001, "you ARE a human windshield!"  In that case it was about bugs, but I can imagine rain isn't fun either.  We wondered how the rain would feel to the folks going 80mph on Phantom's Revenge!  As we waited in line for the second ride, I captured this view of a coal barge going down the Monongahela River.

The rain stopped shortly after our second ride, and it turned into a pleasant evening.

I waited for this shot while Carter was in the bathroom.  This is actually only about halfway through the ride--still a pretty good sized hill! 

Our last official stop was the Exterminator, which is an indoor spinning wild mouse coaster.  We have a somewhat similar one at Seabreeze that's outside, although Seabreeze's version has seats that sit backward, too!  It was a relatively long wait inside, which wasn't the most enjoyable thing in the COVID era, but Carter was fascinated by the theming.  The wait area had a giant control panel of dials and gauges and switches that I'm pretty sure was pulled out of some defunct factory.  It did not look manufactured to be pretend-old, it looked like a classic 1960s control panel, right down to the dirt and rust and plastic pressed labels under some of the dials (if you lived in the 80s, Google "embossing tape" and you'll recognize it immediately).  The ride was fun as we were spun around sharp corners in the dark, and with that, we completed all of the coasters!  I took this last shot of Carter near Phantom's Revenge as we walked toward the front of the park.

We noticed that while most lines were closed since it was about five minutes before closing time, the line for the Musik Express was still open!  When Carter said that he'd never gone on the one at Seabreeze (I think he was still too short last time), I knew we had to go! 

This is one of the few spinning rides I can still do, and it's definitely a favorite from my childhood.  We giggled as the centrifugal force smooshed everyone together by the end of the ride--you start out nicely spaced in the seat, but eventually everyone migrates outward and squished right up next to one another!  He loved it and while that is about my limit for spinning, I think the Dramamine helped me out just enough because the mild headache I get disappeared quickly!  What a fun way to end our day!

My only regret is that ride put us past closing time, and despite walking into the park a little, we couldn't find an open souvenir stand.  Not that we would have bought much, but it would have been nice to have a little something to commemorate our trip.  Oh, well.  At least we have my old arrow on the fridge!  

One of my favorite things about amusement parks as a kid was when the lights would start coming on.  I've always loved the colors, how they outline the rides, and the dazzling effects as the rides run.  An odd thing about our recent amusement park trips is that we haven't been able to enjoy the park lights very much, either due to leaving early or early closing times.  I remember one good visit to Seabreeze, but otherwise I've been left wondering why they even have them anymore!  This time we got a little glimpse between Musik Express and the Jack Rabbit...


It was officially time to leave--and I think we were both tired and ready!  We took a selfie on our way out...

...then headed back out of the park through this adorable tunnel full of mini-murals that takes you under the road to the lots across the street.

There was a lovely pastel sunset on our drive as the rain cleared.  I had tried to get a hotel somewhere between the park and our planned destination for the next day, but unfortunately most of the hotels in that area were expensive.  Our resulting trip was about a half hour, but the good news was that it was just down the road from one of our planned stops the next day--IKEA!  So at least that would cut off some time the next morning.  By the time we got to the hotel we were pretty tired and very hungry, but I figured it might be easier to check into our hotel, get the lay of the land, and then find something nearby to eat.  We walked into the hotel and as I was standing at the desk, I glanced over to the lobby TV.  I saw the headline about 10 people killed at a grocery store, which is horrible and terrible but too run-of-the-mill in our country right now.  But imagine my shock and horror as I read the rest of the headline and saw that it was in BUFFALO.  Of course, I was then very curious about where it was, whether we could have known someone, and what happened, which we eventually got more details on as the night went on.  When we hopped back in the car to get food, I called Craig who told us a bit more, and then back in the room we watched a little bit more coverage.  It's horrifying and sad and completely tragic.  

Our first food stop, Wendy's, was having computer issues (of course) so we went to the McDonald's a minute down the road instead.  The line was long and very slow there, and it was probably close to 10:30 by the time we settled back into our room to have our late dinner and get some sleep, but boy did that burger and fries taste good!  Carter was out in about five minutes once the lights were out.  I had some catching up and decompressing to do (and posting on Instagram!), but I slept pretty well all things considered.  And with that, a very long and productive day one of our adventure was complete!

Monday, May 9, 2022

Week in Review

As previously predicted, this past week flew by.  I had tons of work to do all week leading up to our Day of Giving so the days went fast.  Thursday was a long day, though it went quickly, but 13 hours in the same chair staring at a computer screen is tough mentally and physically.  We were fed well and it was nice to be around my colleagues again (and have instant answers without Zoom), but we had to do it masked and my ears still hurt a couple days later!  I also started feeling cruddy on Wednesday, sort of a sinus/post-nasal thing, so I loaded up on zinc and vitamin C and felt much better by Thursday morning.  That would have been awful to miss the big day!  My boss was panicked at the thought of me being sick, but thankfully it all worked out.  But by Friday night I could feel it creeping back, which wasn't good either because I had my cousin's bachelorette on Saturday and I couldn't cancel my $40 Painting with a Twist reservation.  I hit up the zinc again, had a smoothie with pineapple, and hoped for the best.  I woke up with a killer headache and still had the post-nasal drip problem, but I tested negative.  I decided to medicate right before I left and wear a mask when we were sitting in place, just to be safe.  I felt functional enough once the medicine took the edge off my headache, and I think my painting turned out pretty decent considering I can't do this stuff at all!  My palm trees ended up pretty good, if I do say so myself! 

We went to a local cidery for lunch, which was delicious, and then I decided to try to make the most of my time while I was alone (the boys were at Jacob's tournament even though he wasn't playing) and try to keep myself moving because a nap at that time might have been problematic.  I stopped at Kohl's to scout out a couple things, and then went to Walmart so I could start some spring shopping--mostly seeds, garden stakes, and the spray I keep on hand for when the spider mites show up on the burning bushes.  When I got home, it was so nice out (cool but sunny) that I decided I needed to do a little yard work.  I edged the grass, pulled a ton of weeds, trimmed most of the dead wood off our fungus-infected spirea that's only half alive this year, and then put Miracle-Gro on the spirea, our pear tree, the azalea, and all of my mounding perennial geraniums, all of which get fungal infections and supposedly could fight them off better with Miracle-Gro.  We shall see.  I think I felt guilty that I didn't have the energy to buy and spread mulch, so I did everything else instead.  That pretty much exhausted me, so I came back in, ate my lunch leftovers for dinner, and caught the Kentucky Derby just as everyone was freaking out over the shocking win of a horse with 80-1 odds.  Then I watched a movie and wrote this post until the boys got home around 9:45.  

Sunday was Mother's Day, and while we normally go see our moms, this year was a little different.  As I mentioned, Jacob had a tournament this weekend but he wasn't playing because of his ankle.  Injured players have been known to go and support the team, so that was our plan.  I feel like we probably could have skipped Sunday, but we had been talking about this tournament all year because it was in Lyons, which is just down the road from our favorite gluten-free-friendly chicken and waffles place.  Ideally we might have gone Saturday to free us up for Sunday, but I had the bachelorette and didn't get done in time to go with them, so if we were going to go, it had to be Sunday.  I knew we'd all enjoy that and it would make for a good finish line for a family-oriented day, so I didn't push the idea of skipping Sunday.  But hopefully we can make it up to our moms soon.

Right before the first game of the day, all the boys came out with a rose and a handmade card for their mom.  The coach and another parent or two helped coordinate it, and it was really sweet.

Jacob's team won their first game, which meant they would play in the championship at 3:30.  We spent the time between games visiting the garden outside the community center and then finding food to get us through until dinner, which is always an adventure in a small rural town.  Carter and I enjoyed this garden last year (plus the gaga ball court) when it was a bit more in bloom and there were frogs and tadpoles galore in the pond.  This year there were mostly a bunch of tulips, and the pond had a bunch of sizeable tadpoles.  But the closest we got to spotting frogs was seeing a little movement under the water.  Still cool, though!

I loved that these had that little reddish edge!

The championship game started well, and in fact they led at halftime, but the team imploded in the second half and lost.  Both games were actually pretty intense with a lot of refereeing issues and bickering fans (and coaches).  It was a little exhausting to sit through, especially since we didn't have the benefit of any time watching Jacob, but at the same time it was nice to just be a fan and not be grumpy about Jacob's playing time (or lack thereof), or worrying what kind of pep talk/psychology session we'd be facing down after the game.  It was disappointing, but not unexpected since they lost to that team the prior day.  

After that we headed off for chicken and waffles down the road in Geneva.  It's a family favorite, for sure!  We had a very nice dinner as usual (and three of us are looking forward to leftovers soon).

My favorite Polish-style black cherry soda and thick country gravy as a side...yum!

It could be an interesting week ahead.  The weather is finally going to turn downright summery, which will be nice.  Carter starts soccer tonight, I have a blood donation appointment on Tuesday (as long as this cold goes away), the boys have a pediatrician appointment Wednesday, and Carter has a dentist appointment Friday before Craig and Jacob take off midday for an exclusive basketball combine on Friday.  Carter and I might have gone with them, but they're going to give a ride to Jacob's trainer (who invited him) and his brother.  Not to mention that they'll be busy all day each day so we wouldn't really be able to do anything as a family, and leaving them without transportation to do something on our own might have been hard.  So, we might have an adventure of our own if I can get up the nerve to do the one I want to do.  I should probably get a backup plan in case the weather doesn't cooperate or the long drive freaks me out.  Stay tuned, but hopefully I'll have something fun to report on next weekend one way or another!  We're due for a cool adventure around here, no doubt!

Sunday, May 8, 2022

A Walk in the Park, The Sequel

Last year in late April I dragged Carter to Highland Park so I could see all of the beautiful spring flowers.  He wasn't thrilled initially, but lots of flowers, two playgrounds and some turtles later, he seemed to enjoy it.  The foliage was a bit delayed this year in comparison, but last weekend I knew things were starting to bloom there and I really wanted to go.  Unfortunately, Jacob's tournament schedule and the weather prevented that from happening.  But Monday night he had practice and the weather improved over the course of the day, so I decided Carter and I should make a visit after dinner. It wasn't the warmest night, but it was pleasant enough and we had a really nice walk.

The daffodils and flowering trees were peak, the azaleas, magnolias, and tulips were coming right along, and the lilacs were just starting to open, but barely.  The daffodils are always fun because there are so many different varieties.  These were two of my favorites...   

I love this spot.  The tree hangs over the walkway so beautifully.

We wound our way up through the azaleas, most of which were in bloom.  My favorite one, a melon colored one, wasn't open yet, but this light pink one was so pretty!

One of my favorite spots in the park is up on the hill where you can look out and see for miles.  In one little spot, there is a flowering tree that fascinates me--it has two colors of blooms!  I have no idea how it happened, but it's so neat!  It's hard to get a good picture of it because the blooms are small and the sky is usually too bright.  For example:

But here are a couple shots to illustrate how cool it is: 

Not just two colors on one tree, but also on one blossom!  Look at that pink stripe!

Here you can see the white and the pink intermingling.  It's so cool!

Everywhere you look it was beautiful!  There were families all over the park with their hired photographers!

We made our way up to the reservoir...

...and then started walking down toward the magnolias.  I wish this photo captured the colors of everything like it was in real life.  It was stunning!

I always think of my grandma when I see magnolias because she had a tree in her yard.  Hers were pink, but the yellow ones may be my favorite...

Some were starting to lose their petals, but others were just starting to open.  It was so pretty.

We finally got to the first playground, and Carter had it all to himself!  He climbed and slid to his heart's content.  We raced each other on the rock wall (timed, one at a time) and he found a way to make the slide feel faster.

It was getting closer to sunset so I encouraged him to wrap it up so we could keep moving. We still had a couple more spots to hit!  Unfortunately, we couldn't go in the Lamberton Conservatory because it was closed for the night.  We loved our walk through there last year, where we saw tiny quail, turtles, tortoises (one of whom roams free), and a ton of cool plants.  Hopefully next time we'll go and it will be an entirely different season!  

We did stop and sit on the big swing.  It's usually busy but that day it was empty.

Then it was off to the tulips!  I knew they wouldn't all be open, but I wasn't sure I'd get back before they were all spent, so we made do with what was there.  I just had it pop up in my memories when the deer ruined them during the early pandemic (apparently when they were coming up was in the thick of the stay-at-home push, and the deer got brave), but it was nice to see them thriving again this year.  I love these ones with the fringe.

So beautiful!  Especially those pinkish ones in the front!

I love that these ones are a different shape,  And their color was so bold!

There were lots of different colors and types.  I loved these, too, and the bed they were in was gorgeous.

As we walked toward the other playground, we walked through the Poet's Garden.  I noticed a couple flowers I haven't seen before.  I guess this one is a Lenten Rose.  

My plant app identified this charming little one as a chocolate lily.  I was obsessed.  It was so cute!  

I flipped it over to see the inside, and it was so pretty!

Then for some reason I got obessed with getting an underside shot by pointing my phone camera up at it.  It took a few tries but I was pleasantly surprised with this result!

While we were walking, Carter found a daffodil that had been detached from its stem somehow--not sure if it was a person or an animal.  He had wanted to pick one earlier and I didn't let him, but with that one I let him keep it.  We hoped to get it hope and revive it a bit, and while it did get a little beaten up in my purse (I didn't want people thinking we picked it), it did revive for quite a few days.  Carter is such a sweet, silly boy, and he does this thing when we're walking somewhere pretty where he does the whole movie scene thing, like, "Would you make me the happiest man in the world and do me the honor...", basically a proposal, and this one was extra cute with a flower!
Who could say no to that?

We finally got down to the natural playground, and once again, we had it all to ourselves.  That never happens with this one!  We balanced on logs and hopped between rocks, and Carter did his favorite part:

Those things are so tricky and he does really well with it!

We sat on the bench...

...and Carter got in the little tree trunk throne!

He worked so hard to get up on this log that I had to take a picture, but just before this I totally bit it trying to take a picture.  I backed up to get the whole log in the picture and there was a rock behind me that caused me to lose my balance and basically spin to the ground.  I hit the wood chips like a ton of bricks.  Carter was concerned, but thankfully I was mostly fine.  I think my pinky got a couple slivers, but otherwise I was lucky.  My arm muscles were pretty sore the next couple days so I must have somehow strained them in the process, but I was lucky.    

By that point it was starting to get dark and as we were just about ready to leave, I got a call from Craig that he and Jacob were going to either urgent care or the emergency room...again!  Ugh.  He stepped on someone's foot near the end of practice and twisted the same ankle he hurt a few weeks ago.  Darn it.  Thankfully, the emergency room was fast and he should be good within a couple weeks.

It was a bummer of an ending to a nice night, but I'm so happy Carter and I got to have that time, especially before the Lilac Festival took over this weekend!