Friday, August 06, 2010

One Week in California

The true purpose of our trip to California last month was to celebrate Nic's graduation, but after two days of that, we were left with five extra days to hit up some our favorite spots in the golden state.

About two weeks before our trip, I was possessed by a nostalgic whim to revisit Knott's Berry Farm, my favorite amusement park. Knott's earned the honor of being my favorite park not because it's the nicest (that's Disneyland) or has the best rides (that would be Six Flags). In fact, I like it precisely because, when compared to the Magic Kingdom, Knott's is a little bit grungy, almost grungy enough to be retro/hip, but not quite. Knott's is consistently cheaper and less crowded than Disneyland and sells their signature Knott's Boysenberry Juice alongside other soft drinks, so really, what's not to like?

Much like Wayne's World is my favorite movie, Knott's is also my favorite park because I've created a lot of fond memories there over the years. There's a sweet, drooly picture of a three year old me playing in one of those nasty ball pits in Camp Snoopy, the section of the park reserved for wee ones. I remember visiting Knott's with Allison and Debby O'Connor for Alli's tenth birthday and being completely terrified of "the big rides." Alli poured on the peer pressure and by the end of the day I was reciting the mantra 'there will be a tomorrow' to manage my fear of Montezuma's Revenge. I loved it.

We spent several summer days there during my middle school years. A couple of friends had season passes and I remember showing up at the park with a complete change of clothing (socks, underwear, shoes) in my backpack. My dear friend April couldn't get enough of Big Foot Rapids, the white water rafting ride, and we'd run from the exit back to the end of the line, riding it until we were completely drenched.

Well, this year there was no running from the exit to hop straight back on the ride only minutes later. Unfortunately, the park was too crowded for us to ride anything more than once. In fact, we were at the park all day, but only got on six rides. Upon arriving I quickly learned that our tickets purchased online were cheap because we chose to visit the park on the same day that every other middle school in Orange County did.

This put a slight damper on the day because middle school students are well... middle school students. They think they're quite clever and adorable when they jump the queue and there was a lot of screaming; even for an amusement park with thrill rides, there was a lot of screaming. Our party of four decided early in the day that we wouldn't tolerate anyone cutting in front of us in line. We didn't accept excuses such as 'I need to go with my group' and nearly got into a scuffle because of our stubbornness.

We had just joined the snaking queue to ride Montezuma's Revenge when half a softball team tried to cut in front of us. We told them that this wasn't okay and their mama bear got really bent out of shape.  She was armed with plenty of nonsense arguments: 'they're just little girls and you're adults.' Yeah, and we think everyone, regardless of age should take turns. Anyway, she asked her male companion who we later began to call Number One Dad, to get involved. Though the words coming out of his mouth seemed to agree with us, he was angry and decided to teach us a lesson (and set an incredibly poor example) by cutting in front of us. As you can imagine, the rest of the wait in that line was awkward, but Number One Dad was from that point on an excellent reference point and butt of all jokes.

Knott's had changed, but not dramatically so, since my previous visit. Though a self-proclaimed 'huge weenie' about roller coasters, Kat summoned the courage to ride most rides with us. I even dragged the whole crew on Big Foot Rapids despite their reluctance to get wet. We tried out a couple of new rides, too: Pony Express which is poorly designed, uncomfortable and generally sucky and Silver Bullet which is perhaps the best roller coaster I've ever ridden. Silver Bullet is the type that suspends you from the top and leaves your feet dangling.  It took you through plenty of loops and corkscrews, but didn't bang your head around which was brilliant.

I wanted to stay until the park closed, but our visit was cut slightly short by Nic's need to see the Laker game and Mickey's desire to get the hell away from middle school students. I couldn't blame either of them, really. In the end, I still love Knott's, but made a vow never to return unless it was a random mid-week day in the spring or fall; school days at the park are just too hectic.

Almost two months later, the rest of our week in California was a happy blur. We shopped, went swimming and played games. We celebrated my birthday by going out for In 'N Out burgers and my brother taught me the coolest trick: ordering a neapolitan shake so that you don't have to decide between chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry, you get all three!

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