No really, life is a roller coaster

I’ve reached some sort of a personal record: I’ve gone to 2 amusement parks in 7 days in 2 different states.

Last Monday, Labor Day, I couldn’t write a blog because I was at Lakeside Amusement Park in Denver Colorado. We attended as a family with my parents and then drove the rest of the day 3:30pm-1am back to KC. No time to type! Just yesterday, I went to Worlds of Fun here in Kansas City, MO with my good friend Lauren for her Bachelorette party. Both occasions provided fun, excitement, new adventures, and a connection to good memories.

At Lakeside, we were celebrating what has become a tradition in our family- going to Colorado over Labor Day, and going to Lakeside during the holiday weekend. Labor Day weekend only, they have $.10 ride tickets (usually $.50) on top of a $2.50 admission gate fee, per person. It’s a heck of a deal and this year, for the 8 of us to enjoy rides for 3 hours, it cost a grand total of $24. But we don’t really go for the bargain; we go for the blissful simplicity of the thrills.

Eli and Andi on Lakeside Frog Hopper in 2011

Eli and Andi on Lakeside Frog Hopper in 2011

For 108 years, Lakeside has been open and inviting to families. The carousel is one of few absolute originals still in operation but it’s absolutely a functioning original antique. There was tacky duct tape on one golden post but mostly, the paint and the gears, are in fine operating fashion. The carousel was Oakley’s only ride but he loved it.

Oakley's first ride!

Oakley’s first ride!

The operator, tenaciously avoiding 108 year old pigeons with a propensity to poop on him, didn’t even charge Oaks a $.10 ticket.

There are few height restrictions at Lakeside and most rides that do require patrons to stand tall, offer shorter adventurers the option of riding with a taller companion. Most epic is the Cyclone Coaster- a white, wooden roller coaster whose just-off-the-highway presence welcomes all Westbound I-70 travelers to the foothills. Anyone can ride the Cyclone as long as you’re with someone at least 48 inches tall. It’s fast and shaky and most fun from the front. It’s controlled by hand operated levers in the hands of committed and playful operators.

Eli's first ride on the Cyclone

Eli’s first ride on the Cyclone 2011


Andi ready to ride the Cyclone

Andi ready to ride the Cyclone

start in a long dark tunnel, crank up the highest ascent, speed and shake down the

Eli and Andi on the kiddie coaster this year

Eli and Andi on the kiddie coaster this year


Andi on the kiddie coaster in '11

Andi on the kiddie coaster in ’11

hill, smash into your seat partner around every curve, swing out over the lake on turn 6, and hope the line is short enough to do it again when you pull back into the coaster corral. Eli’s first ride was 2 years ago in 2011 when he rode with Drew. This year it was Andi’s turn for history and she never looked back. She loved it from the very front first and rode with Grandpa the second time.

They both had a hard time choosing between the Cyclone and the Loop-O for their favorite ride. The Loop-O put Andi and Eli into an oval cage with an adult. The seat belt/lap bar combo came down hard across the thighs and was the only think holding anyone in when the cages swung around on their vertical axis and stopped in the agonizing upside down position after every so many swings. Their bravery was commendable and their joy contagious. Something had to motivate us to flip again right?!

World’s of Fun takes one on a newer, larger scaled trip “around the world” with thematically named classic rides (“Autobahn”= bumper cars, “Finnish Fling”= spinning, floor-dropping cylinder which doubles as Eli’s favorite ride, the “Prowler”- a new wooden roller coaster in the African jungle, and the “Viking Voyager”= your classic log ride, which earlier this summer ate our good friend Beckett’s glasses! That Scandinavian, rushing green water can be costly).

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The bride ready to ride

With commercialism and a higher price, also come awesome thrills- the high, fast, and smooth Mamba, the spinning and coasting Spinning Dragons, and a giro-scoping side and upside down spinning Zulu to name a few. My inlaws generously bought  season passes for Eli and Andi, and have even more generously taken them for days and nights of fun in heat and chilly air, all summer. My kids are brave and adventurous, unafraid of most any speed or orientation, and grateful for the chance to sit next to someone who loves them during the ride.

We had fun celebrating Lauren and her upcoming nuptials in the 97 degree heat yesterday. I mean a lot of fun. The lines were short or non-existent (guess most people took that heat advisory seriously!) and we walked the whole park.

As I watched the Zulu spin before I rode it myself, I thought, “What is all this?” We willingly put ourselves into small, germy (think of all the sweat on those seats yesterday!) spaces and endure spins, loops, careening hills, and jerking corners. We choose fear and momentary discomfort. We ascend to higher than sane heights, speed at head blistering paces, and come out feeling more alive, and very entertained.

Watching the spins of the Zulu made me think we might be a little crazy, us first-world humans. But we might also be tapping into a tangible reality, a physical representation of what it is to live, parent, age, learn, and work.

You face forward on the Zulu and spin clockwise, at first. Then, the axis rotates and you face forward but spin on an angle. Finally, the axis is completely upended and, without you having shifted your body in its caged space, your whole self (and cage) are rotating upside down. Which way is clockwise if you’re upside down? The ride lasts less than 2 minutes in repeated cycles- just different angles of the axis. I don’t know what you’re picturing and claim it’s a hard ride to explain. So is life.

Everyone understands the metaphor of life as a roller coaster, with its ups and downs. What struck me yesterday is life’s changing angles. Our personal orientation might stay centered, forward, and within the bounds of a cage with a seat and ample foot room. But life turns us steadily upside down. There’s a thrill and a joy and some entertainment to it. And there’s the agony of it’s repetition when the cycle we’re stuck in is pain, disorientation, disappointment, change, or destruction of what we’d known before.

My friend Patti just said, “No one really ever says it, but when you become a parent, you begin a life of change. After your children are born, change starts coming and does not stop. You will endure and face change for the rest of your life as a parent.

She’s right and her saying it made me feel better. So did riding the Zulu. I chose to climb in the cage, buckle up, look forward, follow directions of someone who knew the machine, how it was built, and how I fit within the whole. Then I let the spins, turns, and inversions take me around and around. Sometimes I screamed the whole rotation. The next time I’d stare out to try and see our friends on the ground. On yet another rotation, I focused only on my feet- what was inside the cage with me as we fell.

Life is full, dizzying, fast-paced, and out of my control. And yet, I love my life. I’m grateful. I like feeling upside down from time to time and I like riding in a cage with my self and my family through the twists and turns- being free to move about but held together by the One who crafted the carnival and around Whom every axis spins.



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