Adventures in Autistic Parenthood

Monday, August 2, 2010

Kennywood's Open:

Although around Pittsburgh that's actually a phrase meaning 'your fly is open', this post has nothing to do with pants... or at least not very much. Last weekend it was time once again for my company's annual picnic to Kennywood. (which still doesn't have anything to do with Kenny Rodgers). Unlike last years trip, We woke up earlier, actually left (almost) on time, and made it to the park with (no matter what Raine says) a minimum of fuss, and in less than 2 hours this time. It turns out that taking the recommended rout to KW is NOT a plot by the local government to direct traffic through Homestead to drum up some local business, but actually a shorter ride to the park. Let's not say 'easy' or 'quick' because it's neither one of those, but we did make it to the park 45 minutes faster than we did last year. Also, the fact that the temperature was 10 degrees cooler this year also cut down the whining (a bit). Before I go further I have to comment on something: This year Raine's daughter Alayna and her friend Nettie decided to come to the park with us. Not wanting to be saddled with old-fogey expiration times, she followed us in her car. Knowing (and approving) that she's cautious about speeding I curbed (sorry, bad pun zone) my usual Andretti-like highway driving style. Only to have her cut off drivers twice to follow me into a lane instead of speeding up into the generous space I'd left her. The second time she looked up to see me freaking out in my rear view and laughed and had Nettie text Raine that it wasn't THAT close. I texted her back several stop lights later asking if she'd take her mom in her car to give me a break from the whining, but all that got me was smacked.

Dude was destined for some disappointment right off the bat, because the chairlift that he loved so much last year hadn't started operating yet. (it's ruled by PEN-DOT, more on that later) So we ended up taking a shuttle to the entrance with expectations of a cool chair ride on the way back to the car. We entered the park and immediately lost our teen-females, not to be seen again until free food was offered. Raine, Dude and I wandered for a bit fortified with hand-made corn dogs and Pepsi. Then Raine and I started discussing what we would do first and Dude piped up " Got to get to the Log-Jammer!" Raine used her Presidential veto powers to insert a bathroom break, although there was a minority opinion that after riding the flume ride no one would be able to tell the difference, and then off to the Log-Jammer we went.

After our refreshing spritzing we once again wandered the park aimlessly. Last year we'd skipped Riane's favorite ride, a wooden coaster called the Jackrabbit, because quite frankly it scared Dude to death the only time he'd ridden on it. It has a 'bunny hop' (not a pun, that's what it's called) in the middle of a drop that makes you think you're going to be flung out onto the tracks and run over by the cars, much to the delight of the screaming park-goers that had managed to hang on. David is never very happy waiting in line for anything but the aforementioned LogJammer but I'm not sure he realized just which ride we were actually on. Up to a point he had been really enjoying the ride, yelling to me that I had to put my arms in the air. Until we reached the curve just before the deadly drop. Then both his voice and his arms dropped a bit and he started looking a bit apprehensive. I put my arm around him as we dropped down the hill, and that must have done the trick because after the 'hop' he yelled 'This is sooo cool!'. Raine insists that this is now Dude's favorite ride, but I have my doubts.

I dragged everyone across the park to the Steel Phantom (my favorite KW coaster) and were whipped around in the last car and realized our corn dogs hadn't completely settled yet. Dave had been faithfully raising his arms and yelling for every drop on every ride, but at the bottom of the SP's second drop there's a really tight curve slightly to the right and back up the hill that compressed him almost down into his socks. He still loved every minute, but that many rides in such a short period of time really wiped us all out. Luckily for us it was just about time for us to head over and throw both trotters in the corporate trough.

I'm sure that's exactly the impression I gave to all my co-workers. But while I wasn't eating for two, I had to make several extra trips for Dude provisioning. After an almost drive-by dinner visitation by the teenage contingent we were actually deciding if we wanted to make our next ride our last before we went home. To no one's surprise Dave immediately voted for... you guessed it, the Log-Jammer. Since we were convinced that Dude wouldn't take us home if we didn't accede to his imperial demand we immediately got into line. Now it's a little known fact that the rear passenger on a flume ride is toast (so to speak) because the front of the boat is designed to dig into the water when the front passengers outweigh the back. Raine didn't care about the physics involved she just didn't want once again be the soak victim in our little fun-ride fantasy. So I became the sacrificial soak-ee while the other two sat up front and on the last hill I scooted and leaned as far forward as I could get to give Dude maximum splash-age. I'm glad I was wearing shorts, that way I wasn't wearing 50 pounds of soaked denim on the way out of the park. For some reason Raine was completely unsympathetic about my drenched condition, muttering something like, 'It's about time you got a turn', or something like that.

On our way out of the park we made our obligatory stop at the Fudge/Candy shop cunningly planted near the exit. (I sense a calorie conspiracy). Raine immediately chose 1/2 pound each of chocolate and vanilla, and I got two haystacks (coconut in white chocolate dipped in milk chocolate) that were nothing like the ones mom used to make (I still like mom's better. hint hint). Afterwards we proceeded to our anticipated date with the chairlift to our car. Now we get to it: As we walked up to the obviously operating lift there was a 'No Entry' sign at the gate. We found this confusing as there were people riding the lift down from the top of the hill. Talking to the obviously unhelpful and uninterested girls watching the ride gave us no comfort and damn little information. All we were told was that we were not allowed to enter and/or ride the lift and... well, that was it actually. Left to imagine Midwestern bigotry we were relegated with the rest of the drudges to the shuttle bus. Not to be made a liar to my son, and feeling rather clever, I asked Raine to drive the car to the bottom of the hill while Dude and I rode the lift back down. When we were about halfway down I asked Dave if he was ready to go home, thinking he would be experiencing game-withdrawals by this point. He answered immediately, "No! Got to ride the escalator!!" (chairlift). That made the little extra trouble and the fact that Raine somehow got lost on the way to the other end (it's 60 feet in the air on the side of the hill. How could you lose it?) all worth it. I'm not sure if he expected me to somehow know a secret way off, or he thought I was going to drop him through the sunroof of the car as it drove under us, but he wanted to make sure he got the full ride.

While Dude and I were dangling our tootsies above the firmament, Raine found out that PEN-DOT, who oversees the ride, has some strange rule about not having passengers going both directions at the same time. I mean there are evidently no rules about the 3 million potholes I slalom on the way to work so they've got time to micro-manage this chairlift. There are also some other strange rules about when or if the lift is even operated. We had just managed some lucky timing the last couple of times.

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