The Ups and Downs of May 2005 (The Start)(Part 1)

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Thursday, June 16, 2005 4:17 AM
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Note: This is going to be a different kind of trip report series for me. The trips I took in May were fantastic, but there were a couple of tough times through in the mix. I added them not for you to feel sorry for me, but rather to show you that a good trip wtih a great bunch of friends can do wonders, as if many of you didn't know that to begin with.

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"Dude! What is with the cellophane?"

You know the saying?

Life is like a roller coaster. The month of May has showed me in more ways than one just how much life can surprise you just as a ride can. Some rides are good. Some are bad. Yes, May was one month I won’t be forgetting about anytime soon.

Let me track back a few months. I was chatting online to good friend Aaron Spriggs. I have known Aaron since 1999 when he used to help me with video shoots at PKI when I was the ACE regional rep. Aaron mentioned to me a few times about doing possible trips but our schedules never allowed it. During a conversation earlier this year we started chatting about trips. I asked him where he wanted to go and he gave a simple reply of, “Canada”. He had been to the country before but never to Paramount Canada’s Wonderland. I had been to the park last year but was willing to go back up as they had a brand new coaster I wanted to ride. We decided that Sunday, May 8th would be the day Aaron, his girlfriend Sara, and I would spend at the park.

Everything seemed to be going as planned. In late April I was invited to attend the MaXair media preview. I was allowed to bring one guest and I started to ask around but soon found out that no one could get the day off work. Aaron told me he could work it out and I soon sent the invite back. It just so happens that the MaXair preview would be taking place on May 6th. That would mean Aaron would have to drive from Dayton to Columbus, drive with me to Sandusky, do the MaXair media preview, drive back to Columbus with me, hop into his car and drive back to Dayton, get some sleep, then drive back to Columbus with Sara, then hop into my car and go to Canada. While it sounded packed with a lot of backtracking, it could easily be done. I have done some crazy trips in the past and was sure we could pull this one off without a hitch.

The weekend before we were to leave for Canada, Paramount’s Kings Island started allowing folks to preview the new Italian Job: Stunt Track. I was very much looking forward to riding this as I am a sucker for unique rides. I ended up riding 20 times that first weekend. I don’t like to walk up to a new ride with a list of expectations but I will admit that I thought there was no way the ride would look and ride like it does in the animation. To put I mildly, any expectations I had for it were blown away. It is easily one of the most fun coasters I have ridden. I couldn’t wait to try the Canada version.

It was also around this time that I was given some bad news. My grandmother wasn’t doing too well. Her health had rapidly gone for the worse in a matter of a couple of days. My father called me and told me she was so bad that they decided to put her in Hospice of Dayton. I decided to take the next day off work and spend it with my grandmother as if there was any question in the matter.

I did get the chance to say a final goodbye. It was one of the hardest things I have had to do in my entire life, but I am glad I got the chance to do so. It really put things into perspective for me. I believe there are times in life when you need to slow down and realize how important things in life are. If you refuse to slow down, life will sometimes slow things down for you.

One of the initial things I learned when I broke my fear of riding coasters was a way to release. I could scream as loud as I wanted to yet no one would mind, unlike the days when I used to have a loud band. That’s another story for another time. Even if I was stressed about something like work, I would head to a park for a couple of hours and just let everything out while riding. It made all the difference in the world. I could have easily just headed off to PKI or another park during this sad time, but to be honest, I wasn’t in the mood.

We didn’t expect my grandmother to live more than one night. She lived nine more days. I got the call from my father while I was at work. Alice Flaharty passed on the evening of Thursday, May 5th. I almost totally forgot about the upcoming trip I had planned but there was no way I was going to be able to attend. I called Aaron and let him know I would have to cancel. He fully understood.

My father called back with some details about the funeral. Instead of having a showing the day before, the family decided to have a showing and funeral in one day. This would be on Monday the 9th. I was planning on heading off to my father’s house to spend time with him but he said there was nothing I could do until Monday. He even insisted that if I had anything I was planning on doing for the weekend to go ahead and do it. I wasn’t comfortable about doing a trip at this time but we talked about it a bit more and he convinced me to go. I still had second, third, and fourth thoughts but I ended up calling Aaron back and told him I could still go if he wanted to. I warned him I probably wouldn’t be in a great mood. It still didn’t feel right but I decided to go. Perhaps my mood would change.

I left work on late Thursday evening. I didn’t get much sleep before Aaron showed up ay my house at around 3:00AM. We had plenty of time to get to Cedar Point as we didn’t have to be there until 8:00AM. We took our time and casually drove up to Sandusky. I could feel my mood slowly changing. I could tell things were going to be good again but it might take a while.

Aaron and I stopped for breakfast at a McDonald’s near Sandusky. As we were inside ordering, we both looked to the left and noticed the scariest picture we have ever seen. You know those “I am the manager and here is my photo” framed pictures that many McDonald’s have sticking on the walls near the cash registers? The photo that had caught our eye was HUGE. We actually thought it was a joke at first. Not something you want to see this early in the morning. Luckily we were still hungry after the scare so we continued eating before reaching Cedar Point.

We arrived at the park at 7:30. After a quick check-in, we walked over to the new ride. I couldn’t believe how nice the area looked. There were all kinds of images projecting on the walls and ground, as well as some nice red LEDs on the tops of all the buildings. MaXair looked very impressive as we walked up to it. We weren’t standing near it for more than 2 minutes before CP’s Bryan Edwards asked me to do a live, play-by-play interview while riding MaXair. I don’t mind doing these but I have never done a live interview while riding. Aaron and I were the only people riding so that added to the strange nature I was feeling. I had an earpiece so I could hear the anchors I was talking to. I believe I was talking to a station in Chicago. They were asking me all kinds of strange questions like, “So what did you have for breakfast?”, and “Are you glad you have the luck of the Irish with you today?”, all while I was swinging back and forth. Very, very strange.

The ride itself was great. I am so used to PKI’s Delirium that it was nice to ride a version with a longer ride cycle, and a view of Lake Erie and surrounding rides. The lighting package also bears mentioning with its “pit strobes.” Overall, I was really impressed with the ride even though I had ridden the other version a mere 4 hours away, many times.

Throughout the day I was able to get in over 15 rides on MaXair. I ended up meeting and riding with many different folks. Jeff, Kristen, Howard, Scott, Jim, Alan, Jeff P., and many others I got to chat with a bit. A group of us even decided to do the geeky thing and stand in front of the webcam while we called folks and told them to look at the webcam online. Can you spot who-is-who in the picture?

It was also great seeing the new head-honcho Jack Falfas back at Cedar Point. Anytime I am at Knott’s Berry Farm, I would run into him there while with a few of my friends from the area. Jack always took time to walk around and talk with us among other cool things. I know he is happy to be back in Ohio but I didn’t get to talk to him this visit. Perhaps another time.

Near the end of the media event I started talking to the President of HUSS. Forgive me as I have already forgotten his name but he was really great to talk to. He explained a lot about HUSS rides which surprised me as I know of a few Presidents for ride manufactures that seem to know very little about their rides. This guy really knew his stuff. I really did learn a lot from talking to him for the brief time that I did.

A few of the things I found surprising were he said it is possible for a Giant Frisbee to do a complete inverted revolution but it would require a sophisticated braking system to slow the gondola down to minimize the heavy Gs. He also said there was a larger Giant Frisbee being planned. Perhaps we will see a model that stands 170 feet tall or so in the future? Who knows? Perhaps the largest surprise he mentioned was his lack of enthusiasm for HUSS’s latest tower ride, Topple Tower. I thought the ride looked interesting but he claims it is one of HUSS’s more tame rides. He loves thrills and said the Topple Tower is a ride that grandmothers could ride and think it wouldn’t be very scary. Hmmmmm. Kind of makes you wonder.


Once the media event was over, Aaron and I headed back to Columbus just in time to hit rush hour. It wasn’t horrible but we both were so tired that it made the drive from the north side to the southwest side seem longer than usual. I felt bad for Aaron as he still had an hour and a half drive to Dayton. Luckily he slept for a good part of the way back to Columbus.


Saturday, May 7th.

I woke up and felt much better than I did the past week. That small trip to Cedar Point seemed to have helped a bit. Perhaps this trip to Canada wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

Aaron and Sara showed up around 10:00AM and we hopped into my car and began our journey up North. The drive to the Buffalo area went by faster than I had remembered. Aaron and Sara wanted to stop at Niagara Falls for a bit and try to do the Maid of the Mist tour. The last time I had done that tour was over 20 years ago and I don’t remember much about it other than being freaked out and thinking we were going to crash into the falls. I was up for trying it again this visit. Going through customs was a breeze compared to last year.

We ended up parking about a half mile away from the falls. The walk to where we needed to go was nice as the mist from the falls was a nice refreshing way to rejuvenate from a semi-long drive. As luck would have it, we missed the last boat for the tour by about 3 minutes so we decided to do the self-guided tour down behind the falls. This was something I had never done before. After purchasing our tickets, we made our way down a hallway and were given ponchos. I was going to pass on getting one but decided to take one just it case it was really wet.

We took an elevator down to the level at the bottom of the falls. Once the doors opened I was surprised to hear such a deep roar coming from the falls. It sounded like a large subwoofer or something. It didn’t sound anything like I thought the falls would sound like. We made our way down a tunnel where the roar became louder and louder. When we reached the outside portion I couldn’t believe how close we were to the falls. We were standing right next to them. Very impressive to say the least.

We continued our tour back into the tunnels and down another long hallway where we could actually stand behind the falls. There are a few small portals of sorts that provide a view of nothing but rushing water coming from overheard. It was quite eerie actually knowing you were essentially standing in the path of the falls. Once again we were surprised at the power of the roar the water makes.

We still had a small journey to do before the evening was done so we headed back up to the top and walked to the car. It didn’t take long before we were heading deeper into Canada. Both Aaron and I commented on the visual changes of pretty much everything as soon as we got onto a main highway.

We were to stay with good friend Iain Hendry tonight. I always have a good time hanging out with Iain and I know Aaron and Sara would like him as well. We attempted to follow Iain’s directions to his place from Niagara Falls but somehow missed an exit. We drove for about another hour before we ended up going over a hill and seeing a beautiful view of downtown Toronto. While it was nice to see the city again, this wasn’t exactly where we needed to be. We stopped at a gas station and tried to get directions from a clerk but he didn’t make an ounce of sense so we quickly looked at a map and found another way to Kitchener.

After a bit more strategy, we pulled up to Iain’s high rise apartment complex an hour or two later than expected. Iain met us downstairs and took us back up to his apartment on the 17th floor. I love heights and could spend hours sitting on his balcony overlooking the Kitchener/Waterloo. Iain and Aaron amused themselves with tater tots (don’t ask) before we all decide to go to a Pizza Hut to have dinner.

Dinner was fine and we got a kick out of the woman from behind a counter who noticed that Aaron, Sara, and I had accents, but only after Iain pointed these supposed accents out to her. I get a kick out of Iain’s thick Canadian accent but can’t quite understand when Iain says I have a “deep southern Texas accent.” What’s that about? I don’t hear it.

After we ate we went back to the pad and sat and watched some of the most bizarre and disgusting videos we have ever seen. It was entertaining to say the least, but I am not sure if that was a good thing. I thought for sure that Aaron and Sara were going to be freaked out by some of the stuff we saw but they all laughed along.

The night peaked as we were watching more videos when a bright spotlight shown up to Iain’s balcony from down below. When I pointed it out, Iain jumped like 10 feet across the room. It was hilarious. I wanted to look down from the balcony to see what the deal was but Iain suggested we all look down below from a different window. We went into his room and saw a window that was pretty high up. Aaron, Iain, and I stood on the edge of his bed so we could peak over the top of the window to see what was going on. Just as we were about to look over, the entire bed flipped on its side and we came crashing down to the floor. It scared the hell out of us but we were all slap happy that we just kept laughing about it for quite a while. Luckily our energy wore out rapidly from laughing so much and that meant getting some sleep would not be a problem.


We needed to really get a good nights rest as we had a really big day in store for us the next day. Right before I fell asleep I could tell this trip was what I needed. I was much more relaxed and felt more positive than I had in the last few days.


Next up...


The Ohio twin.


Thanks for reading,


-Sean


. *** Edited 6/16/2005 8:45:05 AM UTC by Sean Flaharty***

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Thursday, June 16, 2005 8:30 AM
Great TR as always Sean and let me be the first to send my thoughts and prayers with you and your family.

Someday I'll get to Canada.

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Thursday, June 16, 2005 12:38 PM
Excellent TR Sean! Those Falls are amazing aren't they? We didn't get THAT close to to them as I thought the mist bath from above was enough. ;-)

For a minute there I thought you were going to take back your title as the worlds longest TR writer. Oh well, at least I had it for a few days. LOL!

I am so sorry to hear about your grandmother. Sounds like she went peacefully and it's obvious that you NEEDED the break.

-Tina

<---who says you just "might be a coaster geek" if you and your friends stand in front of a park's webcam and have another friend at home get a photo of it.

That was hilarious!

*** Edited 6/16/2005 4:39:34 PM UTC by coasterqueenTRN***

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Thursday, June 16, 2005 1:25 PM

coasterqueenTRN said:


<---who says you just "might be a coaster geek" if you and your friends stand in front of a park's webcam and have another friend at home get a photo of it.


My mother in law has done that in Vegas, she will be at some stoplight where they have a webcam and then she will call and say "do you see me"

too funny

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Friday, June 17, 2005 2:49 AM
I've done that at myrtle beach as well.

Good chapter, Sean. One of these days, I swear I'm gonna have a supporting role in one of your novels ;).

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Saturday, June 18, 2005 11:28 PM
Sean,

Correct me if I'm wrong but didn't we also see a random bat fly in front of your car on our way to the Maxair shindig? Oh and what about the runners? Talk about some weird stuff!... Either way, Good Times! *** Edited 6/19/2005 3:29:14 AM UTC by SpArKyB29*** *** Edited 6/19/2005 3:30:41 AM UTC by SpArKyB29***

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Monday, June 20, 2005 4:13 AM
crazy,

Thanks. I am sure you will love it up in Canada whenever you get there.

Tina,

You haven't seen anything yet. Trust me on that. If everything goes as planned, I will be cooking up the largest series of TRs I have ever done later in the year.

I have done the webcam thing a few different times before. It really is a geeky thing to do but its funny.

Clint,

Someday I will run into you at a park. I don't know how we have managed to not run into each other in the past as I see Tina at parks, and she sees you, but we never seem to be at the same park at the same time. Go figure.

Aaron,

I forgot about the random bat. We almost hit it didn't we? For some reason I am drawing a blank about the runners. Oh wait. Didn't we almost hit someone that was running in the road or something? These past few weeks have been a fog.

-Sean

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Monday, June 20, 2005 6:48 AM
Clint and I tend to run into each other in far away places.....like Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Pigeon Forge. We may actually run into each in our home state for once. At least for Bridge Day this fall. :-)

Maybe the WV State Fair. We will see. ;-)

Keep the TR's coming! Rock on.

-Tina

*** Edited 6/20/2005 10:50:19 AM UTC by coasterqueenTRN***

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