Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Which Sign to Follow...

Image result for road signs

Everybody's got their own shit to deal with.  We've all got problems.  I think how we deal with our problems dictates how happy or not we are in our lives.  Me, I'm never satisfied with my life.  I'm always looking for something, anything, to change it from what it is right now to, well, I really can't say, but better.

Like anyone else, I have good days and I have bad days.  I find that the worst thing for me about summer time is that I have too much time on my hands.  There's no structure.  I don't eat regularly or even well. I'm up at all hours of the night, and I waste a lot of time on my phone or on the pc.  On those kinds of days, which usually only happen when I have nothing going on, I live with a cloud hovering in the background of my mind, reminding me that I should be doing this or I should be doing that instead of the nothing that I am doing.  But it never affects me enough for me to do anything about it.  Before you know it, it's like 5 or 6 in the evening and that's when I go about the one regularized habit that I keep over the summer.  I work out, take my daily walk, get some coffee and then lose myself in pc-land until I'm weary and ready for bed sleep.  As I drift off I always tell myself that tomorrow's going to be better.  Then tomorrow comes.  

On those types of days, which happen at least once or twice a week, I'm not dealing with any of my problems, paying a bill, making an appointment, taking care of things.  I'm just avoiding them, and being self-destructive at the same time.  I smoke too many cigarettes.  I'll skip two or even all three meals.  I keep phone calls short, sometimes avoiding them altogether.  I keep to myself, lost in a world of nothingness, really, and inside I beat myself up for just letting time, precious time, slip away for nothing.  For no damned reason but my own avoidance issues.  

But that's me.  Do I sound like any of you out there?  Perhaps, and though it's not a. good way to be, it's not terrible.  There are far worse ways I could deal with my issues.  I could be drinking or gambling or doing drugs.  That doesn't make my avoidance issues any better, it just tells me that maybe changing the way I deal with things is not such a hopeless task. I speak of this now because a recently a good friend of mine, and the way he's dealing with issues, has been causing me to look inwards.  

This friend is a good friend who I've known for about five years.  He and I have had our ups and downs, like any friends do, but lately we're on a down.  This friend is a very isolated soul.  He keeps a lot inside, and you can always see, even on his brightest days, that he's got demons he won't share with anyone. Over the course of the past two years, this friend has gone through a lot of changes. Events in his life have caused him to change his living situation and the potential for that being a positive change has all but vanished at this point.  I think he's close to bottoming out and I'm afraid for him. 

Traveling down, this road
Watching the signs as I go
I think I'll follow, the sun
Isn't everyone just
Traveling down, their own road
Watching the signs as they go
I think I'll follow, my heart
It's a very good place to start

Madonna

I'm currently teetering on the precipice of a dilemma when it comes to this friend.  I'm looking at signs on this particular road, and I don't know which one to follow.  I don't know if there is a sun to follow here, but I know my heart is telling me something I don't want to hear.  It's giving me a choice, either I dive as deep in as I can to help him, or to I just let him go.  The first choice would be the one I'd usually make.  It's part of my nature, to want to help people.  That's why I'm a teacher, and that's why I think I have a lot of people in my life who appreciate having me around.  

The second choice would be the hard one to make.  It goes against my nature and would be a difficult detour to take, but maybe it's the right one.  I've come to learn in this life that the only person who can really effect change is the the person who will be making the change.  No one else can do it for them.  There have been events in my friend's life these past couple of years that would have caused most people to wake up and do something about, but they didn't cause any positive change at all.  In fact, they've lead to a more gradual change in the other direction.

Through it all I've been there, or at least tried to be there, for him, to make things easier...lending an ear, offering advice, giving refuge when it was needed, and sometimes even just a little company.  I'd like to think I helped, but I was just putting little bandages on a bigger cut and not fixing anything at all.  

A couple of weeks ago, things came to a head between him and I.  He'd been distant the past few months in a way that I'd always known was an avoidance of facing me with something he had done, or not done, that affected me in many ways.  He lied to me, which really hurt.  I had been very patient to this point, but eventually I had no choice but to confront him with everything I'd been observing. The avoidance had run its course. 

I wrote him an email, detailing the many issues we'd been having, and avoiding, and how I thought his way of dealing with his own problems was the source of it.  His own demons had changed him in a way that he was indirectly punishing not only himself, but me and really all of the people around him. I shared the hurt I'd been feeling at the way he'd been acting.  I reminded him of the dreams and goals he'd always talked about, but never pursued.  It was a difficult email to write, a lot of painful stuff to dole out, and it was even more difficult to send.  After having the draft for a day, I finally hit the send button.  

I believed, or hoped, that this would be his real wake-up call.  I had told him in the email that the way he responded could affect our friendship, which I know was a major card I had to play.  He knows I am one of the best friends he's ever had and his life is better with me around.  I don't want to not be around either, but maybe this is the sign I need to follow.

At first, it seemed that the email had at least some sort of positive affect.  He acknowledged all that I said was true, and he made mention of change.  But it was something I'd heard before.  In the time since, he's messaged me here and there, albeit tentatively.  He understands that things are shaky between us, and I've kept our conversations to a minimum to remind him of that.  I have seen that his demons have not gone away, though, and I'm afraid that at this point there is nothing I can do.  He's made his way towards the abyss and right now only he can pull himself up from that.  All I can do is wait, and hope.  Ugh, these damned signs!  Well, I think I'd better get working on my own...

  



     

Monday, August 7, 2017

Roller Coaster Road Trip 2017: King's Island's Great Coasters


It's no coincidence that King's Island has been a destination point on our road trips in 2012, 2014 and again this year.  It's sister park, King's Dominion in Virginia, has long been a favorite of me and my buddies, but this Midwest sister is that much more.  The cleanliness and beauty of the park, the friendliness of its staff, and of course the roller coasters make it my second favorite amusement park in the world (for my first, stay tuned! Wink wink.).  Rich, Gary and I headed out bright and early our first full day and more than got our fill of these great rides.  Check it out what we enjoyed of what King's Island has to offer:

Mystic Timbers


Image result for mystic timbers

Mystic Timbers is King's Island's newest coaster, debuting on April 15th of this year.  What's in the shed? is some sort of mysterious advertising gimmick that I guess was supposed to get people getting even more excited about the park's new coaster.  After one ride on it, we were all questioning what the big deal was.  We were maybe expecting some sort of elevated drop like on Verbolten in Busch Gardens, Virginia, or something.  Without spoiling it for anyone, I'll just say it wasn't all that.

The ride, however, was great!  It's got a nice, left sweeping first drop of about 54 degrees and the coaster hits about 53 mph as it careens through a series of nice twists and turns before coming to a halt right before entering...you guessed it...the shed!  You can see in the video below what does or does not happen in the shed, but really the ride would be just great without it.  A nice addition to the park!  Check it out...


Banshee


Banshee was the new coaster at the park the last time Rich and I visited and back then we liked it, but we only rode it once because the lines were too long, and because even though we liked it, we didn't love it.  That changed a bit this time around.  You see, Banshee is an inverted coaster, and Rich is not a big fan of those because you really can't see where you're going while you're riding it.  But for our second turn at the coaster this time around, Gary had an idea to ride it from the front car.  Big difference!  

Banshee was built on the former site of the notorious Son of Beast, towards the front of the park and is an imposing structure all on its own.  The lift hill travels straight through the second, vertical loop on the ride, as you can see in the photo, and the rest of it is well, wild!  Banshee is the longest inverted coaster in the world, with a length of 4,124 feet of track and it moves through seven inversions at speeds of almost 70 mph.  I can tell you that it's much more terrifying  from the front seat, and oh, that Banshee screech when you reach the top of the lift hill.  Hella scary!  Take a virtual ride...


Diamondback


Hyper coasters, those whose lift hill is more than 200 feet, are my favorite.  Aside from the thrill of that first, death-defying drop, they offer lots and lots of airtime.  King's Island's Diamondback is their version of the hyper coaster, and it is a doozy!  Reaching a height of 230 feet, this monster flies through the hill after hill, with lots of nice negative G's to give you that tickle in your stomach.  It even finishes with a nice splashdown over a small lake and is always fun to ride!  Oh, and the way the seats are arranged, each rider gets his own unique perspective on the ride...cool!  Check it out...


Firehawk

When we first visited King's Island back in 2012, I had never heard of this one, but till the day I die I will never forget it.  This ride is pretty unbelieveable, a flying coaster where you start out on your back facing the sky, all the way up to the top of the lift hill where it turns your body 180 degrees so you are facing the ground...flying...and then all hell breaks loose.  Rich and I have a history with this thing ever since that first terrifying ride back in 2012.  The thing was so scary we only rode it once, and when we returned in 2014, we gave it one more ride for old times sake.  It was early in the morning and poor Rich lost his wallet somewhere along that 3,000 feet of track.  Poor guy, it killed the day for him, but luckily he was willing to give it another go this time.  Well, what are roller coasters for?  Yes, scaring the bejeezus out of you.  Take a ride...(psst, fast forward to about the 1:30 mark!)


Flight of Fear

inside the cue

waiting our turn

I wrote about this one back in 2013, well the one located in King's Dominion in Virginia, which is the same.  Here's what I wrote back then...

Flight of Fear is an indoor coaster, many of which I do not like.  All the ones I've ridden before, except Space Mountain in Disney, were disappointing at best, but this one is freaking awesome!  
You would never know from entering the building what's inside, but soon after the darkness of the place and the sound of screams up ahead are excitingly intimidating.  Throw in a fun ride operator, who took pleasure in enhancing the experience for the most scared of riders by teasing them before releasing the linear induction coaster into the darkness, and a whole new element of fun is added to the experience.

Yeah, this one's still a great ride, and though it doesn't get much fanfare, it is popular with park goers as there is almost always a bit of a wait with this one!  I just had to take a quick video of the launch.  Check it out...3-2-1...blast off!


The Beast


Finally, we come to my favorite roller coaster in the world!  To me, The Beast is the ultimate roller coaster.  Long before I'd ever ridden it for the first time in 2012, I dreamed of riding it...literally.  The ride first opened in 1979 and has been giving roller coaster enthusiasts thrills ever since.  It's not the newest or tallest or even fastest, but this wooden coaster gives riders more than four minutes of death defyingly awesome twists, turns, hills and tunnels, (ooh the tunnels!), traversing 7,359 feet of track through heavily wooded terrain, making it the longest roller coaster in the world.  

The Beast was what made me excited about returning to King's Island and it was awesome to see my friend Gary, who'd never had the pleasure, enjoy this one.  By far this was the coaster we rode the most times that day and each time was as thrilling as the last, and oh boy, it's a killer at night!  I wrote about this one on the last trip, and you can check that out here.  In the meantime, take a virtual ride on this monster...



So yeah, that was our day at King's Island...a great start to a great trip.  I hope this whet your whistles if you are into coasters because if you ever have the chance, you must get there.  They have even more coasters than the ones I've talked about, like Vortex, Backlot Stunt Coaster, Invertigo, The Racer and The Bat.  Yeah, King's Island is a world-class coaster destination.

Stay tuned for more of this years Roller Coaster Road Trip 2017, with even more thrill rides and a World Wonder, coming soon!  Here are some more pics from our day...

Me n Gary

Vortex



Banshee

Entrance to The Beast


Be sure to check out the first entry:

An Unplanned Stop in Pittsburgh and Kennywood






Friday, August 4, 2017

Roller Coaster Road Trip 2017 - An Unplanned Stop in Pittsburgh and Kennywood

Road trips can be a lot of fun, and when you add amusement parks into the mix, then they can be super fun, especially for roller coaster nuts like me and my friends.  This year was my pal Rich and I's third Roller Coaster Road Trip and we had some new company this year, fellow coaster enthusiast Gary.  Now every time we do one of these things, I'm usually the one who comes up with the plan...it's kind of my thing, and this year all I knew was that I wanted to include a little bit of Canada.

Since Rich and I loved King's Island, near Cincinnati...and home to The Beast, and Gary had never been there, we made that our first stop.  Next it was on to Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio.  Cedar Point is the Mecca for roller coaster enthusiasts and this one wasn't hard to decide upon since we all love the place.  Niagara Falls, Toronto and Canada's Wonderland would round out the trip.  So after much planning and preparation, on July 23rd we were on our way.


Now here's one of the reasons why I love these road trips...unplanned pit-stops.  Our first destination was an AirBnB place in Cincinnati and the route our GPS was taking us was through southern Pennsylvania, a route Rich and I had taken before, right past Pittsburgh.  Pittsburgh was one of our stops on the very first Roller Coaster Road Trip and we enjoyed the city and of course its nearby theme park, Kennywood.  We had a pit-stop to make!


We had discovered Primanti Brothers on that first trip and since we arrived in the Pittsburgh area a little early for the evening run at Kennywood, we decided to give it another go.  Primanti is a Pittsburgh staple.  All of the restaurants sandwiches come on sourdough bread, with some french fries and cole slaw inside...interesting and tasty!  



After a cheers to the beginning of our trip and a quick Primanti, it was off to Kennywood, one of America's oldest theme parks. The place has been providing entertainment to people since 1898 and it is quaint and beautiful. They've got six coasters, three classic woodies, a dark mouse ride, and two steel monsters: Skyrocket and Phantom's Revenge, and we got our first five coasters in the check column! (We skipped Exterminator, the indoor mouse coaster.)

Now, Skyrocket, Jack Rabbit, The Racer, and Thunderbolt are all nice rides, though I found the latter a bit rough.  Phantom's Revenge, formerly known as Steel Phantom before a renovation to remove some four rough loops back in 2000 (check out this video on the history of the coaster), is da bomb!  It's one of the reasons I love roller coasters so much.  This one is unique in that it's second drop is higher and steeper than the first.  That's only possible because of the hilly terrain of the area and the fact that this particular drop careens through a ravine, straight through the structure of Thunderbolt!  Wicked!  Oh did we ride this one a few times.  Check out a video I took of the coaster: 


Anyway, this was a great, unplanned start to our trip.  Kennywood is a great place to spend a few hours, especially to ride Phantom, and now we had King's Island to look forward to.  Stay tuned!  In the meantime, check out some pictures from our evening at Kennywood...

Skyrocket





Phantom's Revenge



                 Me n Gary





Saturday, July 22, 2017

Roller Coaster Road Trip 2017: A New Adventure Awaits

Back in 2014, just three years ago, my pals Rich and Eddie and I took our second ever Roller Coaster Road Trip, venturing out to Louisville, Kentucky, Nashville, Tennessee, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, and Richmond, Virginia.  It was our second such trip, and a great one at that, riding many great coasters at Holiday World, Kentucky Kingdom, King's Island, and Dollywood, as well as exploring Mammoth Cave National Park, all the sites in Nashville, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, and more.

Image result for cedar point

Our third trip will not include Eddie, sadly, but our pal Gary, one of the most intense roller coaster enthusiasts I know, will be joining Rich and I instead.  This time we're hitting King's Island again in Mason, Ohio, Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, Niagara Falls, and finishing up in the city of Toronto, including a day trip to Canada's Wonderland.  Cool, right?

Image result for toronto

As the clock ticks down towards our adventure, I'm getting more and more excited.  It'll be our first Roller Coaster Road Trip in three years!  I can't promise any regular posts during the trip, but I do hereby promise to get all the way to the end this time (On our last trip, I only covered up until the first part of Nashville.)  So stay tuned...

Image result for niagara falls