When I was little, I used to collect things. Treasure trolls, beanie babies, rocks and minerals; the list is probably as lengthy as my collections. But I really haven’t collected much since. In fact, now I tend to avoid clutter and sell a lot of stuff on ebay and Amazon.
Collecting race medals is different. I love the feeling of earning one after the endurance of training for a specific race. I love hanging them up on my handpainted “Runner Girl” display rack, right across from my husband’s “Always Earned” rack. Races are more fun for me when they come with the promise of a tech shirt and a medal, because it’s something to look forward to, and a keepsake to treasure later.
Some of my races come with even more bonuses, which I’ll refer to as “fringe benefits.”
One of the races I run each year is the ChristmasTown Dash 8k. This year, it turned out to have a lot of fringe benefits beyond the glittery white medal and fabulous sky blue, long-sleeved tech shirt.
I grew up living a few minutes from Busch Gardens, so I know the park like the back of my hand. I treasure so many memories of gallivanting around the park during my childhood, from the original ball pit, to running through the park in rainy days, to band competitions, to staying so late that my friend and I were the only 2 people on Loch Ness, to watching fireworks on my birthday in the parking lot, etc. So when I heard that this race would let me run through the empty park, and my $35 registration fee included a tech shirt, a medal, PLUS a free ticket to return to the park in the spring, I vowed to run it every year. One year, I even ran it while pregnant, even though I couldn’t ride any of the rides when I returned to the park that spring with my free ticket. Unless you count the carousel. I don’t.
This year was different. My son was about five months old, I didn’t have morning sickness during the race, and I was able to take full advantage of my free race ticket this spring and ride ANYTHING I WANTED. I wasn’t pregnant this time, and I also wasn’t babywearing like I was when I visited the park back in December when my husband and I took turns riding the limited rides that were open in the freezing cold. This time, I felt like a kid again! (Reality check: I did have to take a break to pump milk in my car for my son partway through the day, which took an hour of walking/tram-jam riding back to where we parked in the Italy 33 parking lot.) By the way: always, always, always memorize where you parked when you’re at Busch!
My husband and I went to the park this past weekend while we were in town for my high school reunion anyway, before our tickets expired. We had no issues with the free tickets, we expertly split up and avoided eye contact with the hired photographers at the entry gates, and hesitated only briefly to decide whether to start on Loch Ness Monster as per tradition, or head to Ireland for a date (just the two of us!) at Grogan’s Pub.
Before I graduated high school, the yearbook staff asked all of the seniors what our “secret desires” were in life, then published them in the yearbook, sort of like a bucket list before Bucket List was a movie.
I wrote “getting stuck on a roller coaster” as my secret desire. I love heights, and I’ve always wanted to get stuck at the top of a coaster and have to walk down all those little tiny steps. Call me crazy, but I’ve always been frustrated that as many times as I’ve been to the park, it’s never happened to me!
Then fate intervened. On the very day of my high school reunion, it happened. Not once, but TWICE. First on the coaster that is 35 years old. Then again on the newest coaster celebrating its very first birthday.
We decided to wait for the front row on every coaster we rode that day, starting with Loch Ness. When our train rolled out of the helix tunnel on Loch Ness and started the crawl uphill, it suddenly – and without warning – jolted to a halt.
Our view, stopped. Notice the stairs! We were so close to them!
After a few seconds of awkward silence, people started getting excited. The man behind us took out his camera – “we gotta Instagram this! I’m Instagramming this!” A recording came over the speaker, telling us basically that we had stopped. (So grateful for that info.) I took pictures and a video, obviously ecstatic that my dream came true.
Here I am, obviously over-the-moon.
And while we didn’t get to evacuate and go down the stairs, it was all still very exciting. Later, the recording came back on telling us that the ride would be starting back up again. Back into my zippered pocket went my phone. By the way, when we arrived back in the station, the workers didn’t even acknowledge what had happened. Weird.
Our second incident of getting stuck was when we were riding Verbolten, the new coaster already famous for its false starts and breaking down. Even while we were waiting in line, it experienced several restarts and complications, and a lot of people were jumping ship and getting out of the line. My husband wanted to as well, but I told him that with it breaking down so much, we’d have better odds of it happening to us! When we finally boarded, our ride went without a hitch until we were almost back inside the station. That’s when someone got sick (I bet no one warned that kid about the sudden freefall!), and they had to shut down the entire operation (all four trains) until it was cleaned up and that specific train could be sent out empty. The automated recording came back on, informing us that they were doing some light “housekeeping.” The worker walked over to us and said “sorry, somebody threw up. We’ve gotta clean it up.” Much more informative, thank you.
Stuck on Verbolten!
The rest of our day in the park was much more uneventful, and then it was just about time to race home, wash my Busch-Gardens hair, nurse the baby to sleep, and arrive at my high school reunion a fashionable 3.5 hours late, where I found my senior yearbook sitting on a table. Snapped this pic. Enjoyed a laugh:
Guess I need a new Secret Desire now. What is yours?