In September, 2000, my entire immediate family visited me for a couple of weeks, including two children, a daughter-in-law, and grandchildren, Wesley and Christian. It was the first time my grand children had ever seen my California life, since they all reside in Tennessee. I was not quite sure what I would do with them for this period, but it turned out not too difficult to keep them busy most of the time. We rented a large van so that the entire crew could travel around in one vehicle.
One of the highlights of the visit was an unusual trip to Knott's Berry Farm, an amusement park in Buena Park. I had not been to Knotts in years so I was not exactly what else to expect other than hour long waits in lines to experience a one minute ride. For this reason I gave up going to Disneyland years ago except on special occasions when the attendance is limited.
Upon arriving we were greeted with a few pleasant surprises, the first being that local residents get a sizable discount. I did not realize the significance of the ticket venders question "Where are you folks from?" When I answered "Right Here", she responded with a surprising "Prove it and you get in real cheap" type of statement.
The next surprise was both a blessing and an ultimate demise. Apparently because schools had just opened the fall semester, the attendance was down, but the park was still on full force. We walked right on to the famous "Ghostrider" rollercoaster which is Knotts latest and greatest thrill ride. This roller coaster can be compared with the best and it scared the pants off of us like it is supposed to do. After this we proceeded to ride after ride walking right on with no delays. All those stalls that usually house hundreds of people waiting to inch up to the ride were empty. You normally weave back and forth before entering a door to yet another room with more stalls, hidden from view to keep those waiting from getting too depressed. It was not uncommon for people to wait in line for up to two hours for some of these rides, especially the newer ones.
I began to tabulate, and by the end of the day we had ridden twenty six rides, including ones that dangle you upside down, screw you around, douse you with water and jolt your brain, rides that when you think they are over suddenly turn you upside down once more.
I stayed away from a few rides that I knew made me sick, manly the ones that spin you round and round. Wesley and Christian seemed to like those the most.
Montezuma's revenge takes you from a dead standstill straight up at about 10 g's, then backwards through a loop. I had ridden it once before after waiting for an hour. Today there was no wait. I wondered if the kids fully realized what a unique experience this was. We were on so many rides we hardly got our breath before we are being spun around again. I began to wear out when suddenly we approached the infamous "Supreme Scream". This ride comprises a tower that is about 200 feet tall in the shape of an octagon. On each face are two seats facing away from the tower. The rider sits in his seat with his feet dangling as he is raised to the full height. When at the top, the chair is dropped almost to the ground before rebounding about half way back up the tower where it bounces a couple of more times. I am not sure how I wound up in one of the seats. Wesley and Christian wanted no part of this nor did either of the other two ladies.
Somehow, my son, Jim, and I got each other on the ride. The fact that there was no line gave us little time to think about this or to watch the other riders in terror. Under normal circumstances I would not have wound up in that seat. As soon as I took the seat I knew that I had made a bad choice. And yet the potential for shear embarrassment made it impossible to back out at this point. Can you imagine half of California watching you as you beg the attendant to let you off, all saying "Look at that wimp, who just chickenedout"? Just the very act of sitting in a chair facing the world at 200 feet with feet dangling is terrifying enough let alone being dropped. Knowing that one is going to be dropped is cause for cardiac arrest. By the time we had reached the 200 foot level, just before they dropped us, I had called Jim every name in the book for getting me on the thing, fully realizing that he had not actually talked me into it; it was merely an act of complicity that helped me get into it. It seemed somewhat comforting to me to keep saying "OH SHIT, OH SHIT, OH SHIT" as we went higher and higher. Then I discovered an interesting phenomenon. As we were released into free fall, it was absolutely impossible for me not to scream "OH SHIT" at the top of my lungs. I fully expected the cops to be waiting at the bottom for me because of all the profanities I was shouting. Who would have ever known that it is impossible for someone like me to ride that kind of ride without screaming "OH SHIT" ? At the time, screaming "OH SHIT" seemed like the perfectly logical thing to do. Would a judge believe me in court if I said, "Judge, I had no choice but to scream 'OH SHIT'. It is not my fault. The ride made me do it." Fortunately everyone else was screaming things like "SHUCKS, WOW€ and GEE WHIZZ so that my "OH SHIT" apparently got drowned out, and I did not have to face the judge after all. In fact I am not sure to this day what Jim was
screaming. Maybe what he was screaming was even worse than "OH SHIT". One thing I do know, though. I know he was screaming.
Knotts has some more civil and less terrifying activities, like gunfights in the streets, singing shows, gold panning and Camp Snoopy. One other unique event has always amused me. At least three people are needed to set it up.There is a jail house with an old coot sitting on a bunk. About 25 meters away is a telegraph office where a man can speak into a microphone that is directed to a speaker placed behind the old coot. One person takes the fall guy and walks to the jail, while the other prompts the telegraph operator and tells him something about the fall guy now approaching the jail. I once successfully pulled this on my mother. As she approached the jail the old coot says to her, "Why hello, Euna Mae Trolinger, I didn't expect to see you out here in the west." He went on to carry on a conversation with her and even made a pass at her before she left, completely baffled at how he could know here name. I can't remember if I ever told her the trick.
We pulled the same trick on Wesley and Christian. They stood there and carried on a conversation with the old coot and even wound up in an argument with him. At first they did not seem surprised at all that someone sitting in a jail in California would know so much about two kids who just walked up. About five minutes later, Wesley made an inquiry finally realizing what had just happened. I don't think we ever told him the truth about the encounter with the old coot.
The next to the last ride was called the "Bigfoot rapids". A big sign at the front proclaims "You will get drenched". I am not sure anyone really believes this. I didn't. In this ride everyone sits in a large innertube like boat that spins around through rapids. At some points the boat goes over a falls type of condition. Near the end of the ride, I verified the warning sign. Passing over the last falls, a huge wave of water totally drenched me to the point I was dripping when I left the ride. With this I was ready to head for home. On the way out we passed the bumper cars and added one more ride to our list.
The rest of the week included trips to Hollywood, the beaches, cookouts, swimming, and rides on the LA subway (yes, there really is an LA subway). The gang managed a few things without me like Legoland. But the most memorable day for me was definitely our unusual day at Knotts.