Tuesday, June 28, 2005

First Fiesta, Now Siesta

The Muley family got back today from a wonderful 4-day weekend, the highlight of which was our annual visit to Six Flags Fiesta Texas in San Antonio. It was hot (in the high 90s), but not as hot or humid as last year, and we went on a Monday, so the crowds were very small. We had no more than a 10-minute wait for any ride, and on some rides, there was no wait at all.

I knew the day was going to be interesting from the get-go. Waiting to enter the park, an unusual man was in line just ahead of us. He was middle-aged and scruffily dressed in somewhat worn clothes, which included a long sleeve shirt and long pants. He was also wearing one of those wide leather belts that weightlifters wear to keep their midsections from ripping apart when they're pumping iron. This was strange, since this guy probably didn't weigh 120 pounds wet.

My antenna first went up when I noticed him talking to himself while waiting in line, but then I saw what he was carrying with him. He had a rolling dolly loaded with -- no kidding -- two huge, bulging duffel bags, a few smaller duffel bags, a rolled-up sleeping bag, and assorted other smaller bags and pouches.

After we entered through the metal detectors, I saw that the man had been let through as well, but four Fiesta Texas security guards and a San Antonio cop met him and were watching as he unloaded each bag for them. The guy was haphazardly pulling out clothes, towels, and I don't know what else.

He was cheerful and a nonstop talker, and from his spiel as he unloaded his bags, I heard him say that he was from Connecticut, that he was an attorney "certified in three states" (but not Texas), rode the bus out to the park, had been to Fiesta Texas the previous summer, and was riding around the country visiting amusement parks. A number of times he asked the officers, "You remember me from last year, don't you?" And then, he would start pulling out photos to show the officers the other amusement parks around the country he had visited.

I looked everywhere for this guy throughout the day, but never saw him again. I wonder if he got admitted, and what his story was. He was a little off, but he seemed harmless. I just wondered what the heck he did at an amusement park, assuming he got in. Did he pitch a tent and camp out by the railroad tracks? Follow Bugs Bunny and Tweety around all day and talk to them about his legal career? Or did he do something like pick one ride, and ride it nonstop, 37 times, from opening to closing?

None of the rest of the day was as strange as this, but we were put through a time of testing when we rode one of the most popular rides in the park, the Superman coaster:

This is one of those coasters that twirls around in corkscrews and upside down loops, like this:

My 12-year-old daughter was excited, because this was her first time to get up the courage to ride a coaster with loops and corckscrews. As we waited in line, I did a doubletake, then had to chuckle when I noticed how someone had altered the phrase "numerous hills" on the warning sign:

The ride was a blast, and my daughter loved it (she rode it 10 more times before the day was over), but on that first run we encountered problems. About halfway through, on a level section high above the ground, the emergency air brakes came on and our coaster screeched to a stop. We sat in the cloudless Texas sun for a full 30 minutes (and me without my hat or sunglesses for fear they'd fly off) before they were able to bring us back in. It turns out that the computer commanded a stop for some unexplained reason, even though no warnings were shown, and it took them all that time to figure out how to command the computer to release the brakes. We were all safe, but I was fried from the sun, and felt somewhat queasy the rest of the day.

The ride crew was great, though. They gave each of us free drink passes, as well as a pass to get on any ride immediately by going in the exit door instead of waiting in line:

Ever seen the dancing little bald guy that does the Six Flags commercials on TV? A somewhat surreal fact of our day was that we had to see this creature's smiling yet scary face grinning at us from seemingly every wall or window. I keep thinking this is what Paul Shaffer will look like in 20 years:

I mean, I like those commercials in moderation, but just looking at this guy's face over and over again got tiresome. I was very glad that when I went to the restroom, his bespectacled bald noggin was not leering at me over the urinal.

In short, the day was great -- the kids were in great spirits, nobody got sick, and the crowds were friendly and manageable. As I waited for kids to finish riding rides, I took my little digital camera and tried to capture shots of unusual things I saw. This carousel, for example, seemed beautiful and quite normal

until I noticed a jester sitting atop the backside of a pig, making what appeared to be a most disrespectful gesture at me:

I went to the big German beer hall to use the facilities, and noticed that the walls were filled with paintings of happy men and women in German costume, playing accordians, dancing to polkas and drinking foamy steins of beer. It seemed a family-friendly tableaux, which made me wonder why they had a character you might nickname "hooker frau" guarding the entrance to the women's restroom:

Across the street from the beer garden was a large game arcade, and inside I noticed to my dismay a game I found in bad taste -- the "Titanic," which includes a plastic replica of the doomed ship as it heads for Davy Jones' locker:

It's late and I must get to bed. One final question: do you know what the most loved ride at Six Flags is at the end of a long day at the park? The roller coasters? The water rides? The Ferris wheel? Nope. It's this:

Quote of the day:

"The healthy being craves an occasional wildness, a jolt from normality, a sharpening of the edge of appetite, his own little festival of the Saturnalia, a brief excursion from his way of life."

--Robert MacIver

No comments: