Our 2003 Road Trip, Part 4 of 7: Mandatory Amusement Park


Yup, that’s me, back in the days when a guy could wear a backwards cap in public without onlookers casting aspersions on his character or anti-fashion sense.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: our fifth annual road trip became our first family road trip as we jettisoned our convention plans and took my son to scenic Washington DC to learn history and significance and architecture and so forth. We took a handful of photos using ye olde 35mm film when we weren’t busy corralling and entertaining the boy.

Day Four: Wednesday, July 9, 2003. Tuesday and Thursday were set aside for our official Washington DC tourism. We knew my son would need a break from history and learning to do something more overtly kid-like, more indulgent, and arguably more thrilling. The solution was a one-day intermission at Six Flags America, 20 miles east of town and not too far from Baltimore, home of Homicide and The Wire. It wasn’t the best amusement park ever. The security check-in at their front gate was sterner and more invasive than what we’d encountered at the Washington Monument or any other institution post-9/11. More rides were out-of-order than we would’ve preferred. And then there was the anxious moment when one guy got kicked off a ride and expressed his displeasure by tossing a basketball over a crowd’s heads and getting extremely lucky that it didn’t hit any of us.

But hey! Thrill rides on a sunny day!

Joker's Jinx!

Some had cooler decorations than others, but transmedia corporate synergy wasn’t our reason for coming.

Full disclosure: we’re not an any-ride-anytime kind of family. When it comes to gravitational forces and centrifugal astronaut exercises, my son had the strongest stamina of our trio, though a bad childhood incident with one of his former stepfathers shook him so badly that he forevermore swore off any and all rides than involve turning upside-down. I can handle roller coasters if I take Dramamine in advance, but anything that spins harder than a Scrambler was beyond my limits, drugged or undrugged. Anne preferred to be the staff photographer on such outings, but would serve as his backup plus-one on occasion when I needed a break. We agreed a few years ago that our amusement park days are over, but we hung in there for the sake of the parent/child experience for as many years as we could.

For the first couple of hour, the boy and I made a go of it, and had fun comparing how each ride stacked up to its counterpart in Ohio’s Kings Island, our benchmark for the park experience.


Early in the day, a happy-ish father/son duo prepares for adventure on the Flying Carousel. Kings Island has swings just like these, of course.

Not Whitewater Canyon!

You can barely see bits of us, but we’re in there. The boy and I always loved water rides, such as the then-new Penguin’s Blizzard River. At Kings Island this is called Whitewater Canyon, no villainy involved.

Everything was fun and games till we rode a lifting, spinning contraption called the Falling Star that’s easier to show you a YouTube video than to describe. Thanks to an unhealthy combination of relentless summer weather and too many rides in a row, I began to suffer what we believed in hindsight to be initial symptoms of heat exhaustion. It’s hard to tell if all you notice is the sweating and light nausea, which are symptoms perfectly in line with the carnival experience. It’s when things escalate that you have to reassess your diagnosis, which occurred after I threw up on the ride.

(Only the finest in true-life road-trip adventures for you here on Midlife Crisis Crossover, folks.)

After that, we unanimously decided my own day of riding was done and my primary duty would be rehydration. Meanwhile we found other things to do for the rest of the day, exhibits as well as rides the boy could handle without us, based on his physical tolerance and his eight-year-old’s height, which didn’t bar him from as many rides as you’d think.

Amazon Falls!

That’s the boy at far left on Shipwreck Falls, which at Kings Island was first christened Amazon Falls, then changed to Congo Falls when Paramount owned the place for a while. Whatever the name, I regretted missing out on this.


Tilt-a-Whirls have been my mortal enemy since childhood. No way I was getting on this even at top fighting strength.


Ditto the Avalanche or Himalaya or Alpine Bobs or whatever this was called at the time. That’s his face peeking between the bars that Green Shirt is blocking.

fake Liberty Bell!

A moment of repose with a fake Liberty Bell, what with DC nearby and all. We saw the real thing on our 2010 road trip to Philadelphia.


I have no memory of SUPERCROC and am only 70% certain this pic belongs here. It was in the same stack of photos, and his shirt matches the other Day Four photos. Honestly, his shirts were a tremendous help in reconstructing our 2003 memories in order, like a sort of walking time code.

To her credit, Anne tried accompanying him on a ride or two so he wouldn’t have to go at everything alone. We felt bad about that, so she took over as his copilot. Then came their wooden roller coaster called ROAR.


My son and two teenage girls having the time of their lives while Anne assumes crash position all ride long.

…and that was the end of Anne’s riding for the day. We enjoyed the place for what it was worth, exited without further incident, and returned to the hotel for yet another supper at Subway. Yippeeeeee.

To be continued!

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for other chapters, and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email signup for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my TV live-tweeting and other signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]

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