Thursday, February 02, 2012


My last post alluded to this trip, but I'd yet to write about it. Here it is:

As last summer reached its midway point, I tossed about the idea of going to an amusement park for the 4th consecutive year. Tired of the same old rides at Valleyfair in Minneapolis and noticing that the faster coasters were making me woozier than they used to, I figured it might be good to hit Adventureland in Des Moines, Iowa.

The last time I was there, was in the early 80's. It was twice as far to drive as Valleyfair, but I figured if we set out early, it might be worthwhile. My friend, Shanon, said he was interested in coming and we were also able to get a friend's daughter (13) to accompany us; she'd come with me the three previous years and it was great to see her gradually tackle ever grander rides over the years.

The strongest thing pulling me to Adventureland was nostalgia. I remember seeing old pictures of my family wearing visors that said "Adventureland" near the front gate. My only crystal-clear memory of the park was getting off the ski lift they had with my mother.

What would it be like going back so many years, so many lifetimes, it seemed, later?

The three of us left in my car shortly after sunrise. As usual, I picked up a half dozen glazed donuts from the local Kwik Trip for us all to enjoy on the way down. Lady Gaga's newest album, "Born This Way", which had just come out, was one of the CD's we listened to as we left Minnesota. Not too long into the ride, a great deal of fog descended. It wasn't much concern as there was virtually no one else on the highway at the time. I drove a bit faster than I should have, given the extremely low visibility, but figured my eyes were sharp enough to correct if something came along I wasn't expecting; this could be true of all of life, of course.

We arrived about 15 minutes before they were set to open. It looked to be a very hot one. Once we were allowed to go in, we browsed a bit on Adventureland's Main Street. It had a great turn-of-the-century appeal to it; it had been modeled on Disneyland's Main Street, U.S.A. I thought about what it might have been like to have lived a hundred years ago and smiled as I went from shop to shop.

Unlike Valleyfair, Adventureland had actual themed areas. One had an Old West theme. I let Shanon and Brittany go on one of those spinny rides while I sat and waited; I can't abide Tilt-A-Whirls, Scramblers, and things like that, just too much spinning.

I was probably most looking forward to returning to the ski lift ride. Shanon and Brit got on one of the lifts and I got on the one behind them. The older man in charge of showing us when to get on the thing asked, "Have you been to Adventureland before?" I smiled and said, "Yes, in 1983, I was 12!". The ride was extremely relaxing as I climbed over the tops of trees.

For fun, I made some weird faces at some of the people coming across on the opposite side.

Next, it was time to hit one of the three coasters. Shanon and Brittany got in one of the cars and I sat a few rows back. After the ride, Shanon said he had lost his Batman hat. He'd worn it during the ride assuming that it would stay on; he was wrong. I was surprised he'd done this as about 15 years ago at Valleyfair, our friend, Shaun, had worn a baseball cap on a coaster built in 1977 and lost it during the circuit. Shanon wound up buying a replacement that said Adventureland later that day.

One thing I loved is that smoking was not allowed in any of the park, not even in designated areas like at Valleyfair. At one point, I smelled smoke and saw a guy (with his wife nearby) basically facing a tree. I noticed the cigarette in his hand and yelled, "Whatcha doin' back there, Boy?" Shanon said he looked a little scared as we passed by.

It was really starting to get sticky out, so we opted to go on some of the water rides. They were mostly shit, though, as they generally didn't get one wet. The log flume ride was fun, however. As we waited in line, there were some teenage girls on a log and one of them screamed as they passed. I wondered if she was really scared or more likely, was just trying to get attention.

When it came our time to ride, I was in front with Shanon and Brittany behind me. When we passed the spot where that girl screamed, I did the same thing. Some people turned their heads and Brittany chided Shanon, thinking he was the one who'd done it.

Next, we all got a 7-inch sub at one of the park's many foodstuffs. It really hit the spot. Sweat was just pouring off me, though. When I saw a blue washcloth laying on one of the tables, I picked it up and put it on my forehead. Ahh. The others looked at me weird, but I didn't care. I "wore" it as we waited in line for the next few rides.

Brittany told us about a trick she liked to do in which, when she saw an older man walking by, she would yell, "Dad!". She asked me to give it a try. Now this would only work for me with a man who had an adult son. I spotted a good candidate as we leaned against a fence post and said, "Dad!". I looked away and, out of the corner of my eye, saw the guy look in our direction. It had worked! We laughed.

Unlike Valleyfair, there was no sounds of the 80's playing at Adventureland. They did have some newer Usher-type music playing next to some of the rides. I boogied a bit as a number of tracks played while Shanon and Brit went on one of those spinny rides.

One other highlight was returning to the Raging Rapids ride. It had just opened when I went there as a child and I smiled as I saw the typeface they used for the title of it; it was in the style of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (which had opened the year before) with big R's and lettering in orange. We waited an hour to get on it and it was almost worth it.

We had subs again a few hours later, hit the other roller coasters, and went on the other big rides before leaving the park shortly before sunset. The humidity had been a bitch, but overall, it was a nice little blast from the past. I wound up returning the washcloth to the table where I'd found it.


Anonymous said...

It's been far too long since I've last been to an amusement park and actually had a chance to go on rides and all that. Last summer we did go to the little park at the shore but I don't think I can count that.

ExtraO said...

sounds like a wonderful time! :-)

Phats said...

Looks like fun!! I love amusement parks never been to that one would love to go sometime. We always hit Kings Island since it's close.

I did your requested post! Thanks for the suggestion

Phats said...

So how wet did you get on the rapids ride?

Phats said...

Sent ya an email hope you will play again this year!

Phats said...

You alive? haha

disestablishingpuritanism said...

I agree with Kyra's excellent apt description of you. Even though you and I haven't met in the metaphysical sense, I find your posts to always be very thoughtful and genuine. And yes, I can't stand the Tilt-a-Whirls that made me hurl twice growing up either. Up and down roller coasters -- I'm on 'em. Adventureland, based on your description, seems awesome and don't know why all those times driving through Des Moines to get to my relatives in Nebraska this is the first time I've heard of it. I think I'll have to bring along my girlfriend Canesha one day through there on the way to meeting family. Take good care Thomas and look forward to getting back on here again more often.

Thomas said...

Thanks for the kind words, PJ. It's great to know that you're still out there doing your part.

For the first time since 2007, I didn't go to an amusement park over the summer. Last year, at Adventureland, I got more woozy than is typical when on the roller coasters.

I think age has caught up with me; they say one is less able to handle such things as they enter their middle years.

In regards to posting, I spend more time on Facebook these days; I recently became friends with our old blogger buddy, Fay, on the platform.

As always, all the best to you...