Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Big Dork Dad in Waterpark

So here in Redding, there's a place called Waterworks Park. It sits on eight acres, with several water rides, along with tamer attractions for little kids and older folks.

Rhonda and I, prior to Dylan's arrival, never felt the pull of Waterworks Park. We'd instead opt for more natural water recreation at one of two nearby lakes: the huge Lake Shasta, with 370 miles of shoreline, or Whiskeytown Lake, with its beautiful quasi-alpine setting.

But, as any parent can attest, having a child changes things. Last summer, Dylan and Rhonda visited the park a few times at the invitation of our friend Sharyn and her two daughters. Dylan had a blast, so we bought season tickets for this summer.

Thus, Dad's initiation to Waterworks Park.

Last weekend, the three of us spent a couple of hours at the park. Dylan, Rhonda and I had a grand time plummeting down water chute rides. I was surprised when Dylan announced that he wanted to go down a ride called the Cyclone.

Dylan had announced on the way to the park that he would never, ever ride on the Cyclone. Not in his whole life. But after an hour or so at the park, he had a change of heart. He'd, ahem, mastered the three giant waterslides, and felt up to a bigger challenge. He wanted to ride on the Cyclone.

The Cyclone looks kind of scary. The rider climbs several flights of stairs, then plunges five stories down an enclosed tube into a giant bowl. It looks like a giant toilet bowl, in fact, complete with a drain at the bottom. The rider swirls around the bowl two or three times, then gets dumped down another steep chute. The ride ends with the rider being propelled through a waterfall and into a pool.

We picked up a two-person raft for the ride, then climbed the stairs to the top. Dylan showed no hesitation until we looked at the mouth of the chute. "Dad, can we go back down the stairs?" "Of course we can." We went anyway.

Yep, it was thrilling. Especially since it's dark in that tube. When we climbed out of the pool at the end, Dylan allowed as how he was glad he'd done it, but was in no hurry to do it again.

I should have left it at that, but for some reason, I got the bright idea that it would be fun to plummet down the Cyclone solo. I found one of the innertube-with-handles thingies for solo riders, and set off to face the Cyclone alone.

The young lady attending the ride at the top looked concerned when I approached. I'm not sure if it was because I was twice the age of the next oldest person waiting in line, or because of my size. To borrow a line from comedian Ron White, I'm between six-four and six-six, depending on which convenience store I'm walking out of.

"Sir, cross your ankles, and be sure to keep your feet down."

I'm a helicopter pilot. My working life is built on procedure. My life depends on adhering to procedure.

Unlike the two-person raft that Dylan and I had traveled down, the tube tended to rotate in the enclosed chute. I realized that fact at the very moment that it got good and dark in the chute.

"Be sure to keep your feet down." Mr. Helicopter Pilot, he with eleven thousand hours and thirty-three years of flying experience, he with thirty-three years of adhering to procedure, did not adhere to procedure.

Oh yeah, I kept my ankles crossed, but I didn't keep my feet down. As my tube rotated around, my feet brushed the wall of the chute. In a split second, I was flat in my back in the chute, head downhill, with the tube upstream. The tube and my body were serving as a plug against the rushing water. "This is not good," I thought.

Perhaps only a second passed until I could move my foot, wedged against the chute. Meanwhile, the wall of water had built appreciably. I plummeted again, only faster, and on my back, head downhill. "This is not good," I thought.

I began to tumble, and tumbled into the toilet bowl. The tube took its leave and plummeted down the last chute to the pool below. The water was no longer carrying me. I sat there in the toilet bowl for a moment, before sheepishly crawling to the final chute to the exit pool, and salvation. I suddenly remembered those dreams I had as a kid, those dreams where I'd find myself sitting in a classroom naked.

Rhonda and Dylan stood waiting for me, looking concerned. "What happened?" Rhonda asked. "The tube got away from me." I didn't feel like elaborating.

That night, Rhonda and I were in bed, almost asleep, when her voiced roused me. "Hal?" "Yeah." "What was that sound I heard when you were coming down the Cyclone?" "That was my body." She paused, then asked, "Your body?" "Yeah, that was the sound of my body tumbling through the chute. And the bowl." Rhonda began laughing, laughing hard. I heard her nose running. She was laughing so hard she was crying. She recovered for a moment, then asked, "What were you thinking?" I answered, "I was thinking, this is not good." Rhonda completely lost it. She was laughing so doggone hard the bed was shaking. I fell back to a slumber to the sound of my dear bride laughing herself to sleep.

It's wonderful to be loved.


Kelly said...

I am sitting here laughing out loud!!! Wish I could have seen that!!!

Pam said...

I'm also totally in tears!!! I'm hooting with laughter! The visuals are enough to send me over the edge!!!

As a matter of fact, Trish and I are taking the boys, next Tues., to a local water park we often go to in the summer. Same kind of setup.

We have several around me. In fact, we might take in the new one at a pool run by Plano Parks and Recreation. HUGE water slides!

The boys are salivating!

You made my day, Hal! I'll be grinning with the picture of you tumbling down that slide all day.

I can especially visualize it since my son is 6'4" and my oldest grandson is not far behind his dad.

debby said...

Hal - since you can't hear me sniffing, and since you are not seeing me wipe my eyes on my sleeves, allow me to say this. I did not laugh. Sounds scary. My sympathies.


Bob Barbanes said...

Hal, I looooove waterparks. You know me, I'm just a big kid at heart (although, not as big a kid as you, evidently- I'm shorter). But I gotta agree with the womenfolk, man, I too was laughing out loud at the imagery.

And I'm right with you on the procedure thing. We pilots- we're slaves to procedure, aren't we? Just gimme the damn procedure and I could fly the Space Shuttle. Kinda hard to run a checklist though when you're tumbling upside down in a dark tube with water rushing up your nose and trying to pull your bathing suit off...

But it *was* fun, wasn't it? Come on, admit it.

Algernon said...

Hehe. My thrill-seeking days in waterparks are over, although someone might try to draft me back.

Annie said...

In my glove compartment, right now, are two tickets to Waterworks Park. Nightly, my kids beg to go. They're leaving for South Dakota on Saturday, for 10 long days, and I'm taking 'em to WWP as soon as they get back!

And I will NOT attempt the Cyclone.

David said...

Laughing toooo hard to type and toooo many tears in my eyes to see!!!

Thanks Hal!!!

quid said...

Funny, funny, funny, funny.

I'm glad to know I was not the only dork that ever went to a water park (I'm afraid of deep water) with my kids.

And Algie, let's seen you avoid them in 8 or 9 years, when Gabriel's ready.

There is no humor quite like self-deprecating humor, Hal! Loved it!

Hal Johnson said...

We visited the water park again today. I didn't go on the Cyclone, because Dylan wasn't up to it. I wasn't up to trying it on the solo tube either.

Rhonda and I were sitting at a table, watching Dylan swim. She looked at me, and looked at the Cyclone. She laughed. I rolled my eyes. "Are you still laughing at me?" "Yeah," she answered, "I was just thinking that you sounded like a tennis shoe in a dryer."

debby said...

Again, not laughing.

^Wipes eyes^

Hal Johnson said...

Bob, is it just me, or are pilots kind of polarized when it comes to amusement park rides? It seems to me that they either love 'em or avoid 'em like the plague. Pilots as a group like to be in control, so that explains why some avoid the rides. For me, though, the thrill of a rollercoaster or other ride serves as a vacation from that need to be in control.

That, and being married.

Uncle E said...

Geez, at least you had the courage to take your shirt off in public! I think I'd look like a Bartlett pear with a rubber band tied around the middle...good on ya for doin' it, Hal.
I too was lauging out loud as I was reading...

debby said...

Okay, Hal, confession time. I went on a water slide once. It was high. I was a little nervous, but for pete's sake, there were little kids everywhere, and they looked like they were having a fine time. So I decided to give it a try. Know what I discovered? That I shot down the slide at a speed I don't even DRIVE at. Halfway down, I changed my mind. This was insanity. I wanted off. Know what? You can't stop on a water slide. Any attempt to do so makes you look like a flailing chicken in a swimsuit. By the time I'd flew off the bottom of the slide, went cartwheeling across the water surface from the sheer momentum, only to sink like a stone when the momentum suddenly stopped, the only good thing I could think of was that no one carries a camera at these places. Now, I expect that you're not laughing at my story just as hard as I was not laughing at your story.

Bob said...

I recall a time years ago when I decided I should go on one those water "rides" where you lie down, cross your arms over your chest and go down this big slide. I ended up with an inema. That was the last time.

Redlefty said...


Parenthood: making idiots of men since the beginning

Danielle & Michael said...

Absolutely hysterical. You are so funny, Hal!

Ruben said...

"I'm between six-four and six-six, depending on which convenience store I'm walking out of."

-Awesome visual!