Great America is great again

Opinion: Arlene Jones

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By Arlene Jones


The Chicago Fire Department rented Great America for a private evening event. When my daughter first mentioned it to me, I instantly recalled how many years ago, my sister's job used to do the same thing. It was fun to go on the rides without having to wait in line for a figurative 20 years for something that lasted barely a minute or two. But that was probably over 20 years ago when I was 20 years younger. Now that I'm 65, amusement parks are an actual thought process.

I quickly volunteered to, at the least, watch the kids while everyone went on the rides. My daughter's boyfriend had surgery on his shoulder, so he was incapacitated and couldn't ride. And anything involving lifting the baby was completely out for him.

We were a nice-sized group consisting of eight adults, one teenager and four young children. The weather forecast varied between possible clouds and rain, but this past Friday ended up being a perfect night. We gathered as a group and I suggested the first ride be The Whizzer. It is nice and easy, what I consider a "baby" roller coaster. If my body could tolerate that, then all the others were definitely on the agenda.

I think we had to wait for at least four cars to be filled before we could all get on as a group. As I stood in line, I recalled a conversation where I told someone that roller coasters were now a thing of the past for me. I don't know if the root of the conversation had to do with my creaking knees, my equilibrium, or just my age. But I professed that my roller-coaster days were presumably over. 

Not! I rode The Whizzer and it was great. I was now ready to take on any other roller coaster. We ended up on something called X-Flight, one of those roller coasters where you stick out from the side of the rail, and the coaster is flipping you upside down forwards and backwards. I rode that ride, and my teen years were back. From that point on there was no stopping me.

Next we went on The Demon. Again, my body took it with the greatest of ease. I was so relaxed, that when we got on The Joker, I insisted that the ride was going to be a piece of cake. Because I had never really watched it, the first backward dip and flip did cause me an expletive-filled outburst. But it was fun.

I thought the Superman ride was excellent. I could imagine being on a date with him and having him zooming through the air holding me in his arms. The Dark Knight was a complete waste of time. If I had waited two hours to ride it on a busy day, I would have been pissed.

As the evening came to a close, our choice of what to ride last was limited: the American Eagle (which kept closing down), Batman, or Goliath. Because I had ridden the other two in the past, I wanted to try Goliath. It was one of the few rides that actually had a 20-minute wait time. Goliath replaced the stand-up roller coaster Iron Wolf. All I'll say about that ride is, had I known what it was going to do, I might not have gone. But I got on with a blind mindset and admittedly closed my eyes on that first major dip. 

I can't wait to go back in 2020. 

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