This is new. My daughter is having her first “friend” road trip/weekend and I’m backseat chaperoning and trying not to backseat drive. She drives like a teenager—too fast, following too close, and extremely irritated when I offer pointers. I’ve seen what she calls her most social finger waving to me from the driver’s seat at least 4 times now. I have to bite my tongue.
Right now she has one hand on the wheel and one hand awkwardly gripping the top of her Starbucks cup, sipping some overly-sweet concoction that doesn’t even have coffee or espresso in it. In my head I imagine she squeezes too tight and the lid pops off and the seat of my car is irreversibly sticky, uncompromisingly ruined as syrup and melted whip cream seep into the seams of the fabric.
I wince as she removes her “wheel” hand to pinch the straw and swirl it around the bottom of the cup.
The miles stretch on as we pass semi after semi. She read somewhere that driving seven miles over the speed limit is “acceptable.” Acceptable meaning, you won’t get pulled over. Sometimes I have to look away, close my eyes, take a deep breath, and remind myself (in my head), that it’s all going to be OK.
This is her trip and she’s waited a long time to get to do something like this. It would probably have happened during or just after her senior year of high school but the Coronavirus had other plans for all of us that year. So much of what was supposed to happen had been ruined and, at times, I feel like I am overcompensating–trying too hard to make it up to her. I feel like I might be doing that for the rest of her life. Letting her drive is such a small thing.
I have to remind myself that I did this trip to KC when I was her age—a right of passage for many teenagers from CB and Omaha alike. We didn’t have chaperones. We rented a motel in town the night before we left, didn’t have reliable cars, or smart phones. Hell, we didn’t even have enough money for gas for the trip home. We didn’t think too far ahead and didn’t worry about breaking down or all the terrible things that could have happened. We just went and it all turned out OK.
It’s all going to be OK.
Or is it?
When my daughter approached me with the idea for this road trip.. I was all for it. I would even have been ok with her and her friend going without supervision or help. They are very responsible girls and my daughter is a serious planner so she would have thought of everything well in advance. Well, only the things she knew to consider anyway.
It was her friend’s parents that would not let them go without a chaperone which I happily agreed to do. I even said up front I would stay out of their way and let them call the shots (hence the driving situation). What I didn’t realize then was that the weekend they were planning was a holiday weekend and also one of the first of the season when the main activity they wanted to travel for would be bonkers busy. The destination I’m talking about is Worlds of Fun in Kansas City.
All the planning in the world can’t prepare a person for the fresh hell we experienced at the park.
We arrived at our hotel in Liberty Missouri about 1pm and were able to check in early. Side note for all you young travelers—in these parts you can’t rent a hotel room unless you are 21 years old. It’s a good thing I was along for the ride!
With no time to waste, we changed and drove a stones throw up the road to Worlds of Fun.
Parking? No problem.
Waiting in queue to enter the park? No problem.
Navigating to our first ride? No problem.
But that was the end of our problem-less sidewalk.
We surveyed the line for the first “starter” coaster we wanted to try. It seemed extremely long. We got in it anyway. In about 10 minutes time it barely moved. Red flag.
The woman in front of us was eavesdropping on our conversation, part of which included the fact that there was a Panda Express right next to the ride and how absolutely gross their food is. After a few more minutes she says, “you guys know this line is for the Panda?” Ugh 😩
So we wasted about 15 minutes in that line and quickly made our way to the correct line, which didn’t seem all that long. In fact, I kinda remember the last time I was at the park and it was equally as long. It moves pretty fast. I said to myself.
And it’s one of those lines that you can’t really see where it winds around as the queue is out of sight. Well, you can’t see it until you’re already far enough that you’ve committed 40 minutes of your life to it, which is exactly what happened. And it wasn’t moving fast.. It was barely moving.
My daughter was the one who made the call. We dipped out of the line to go elsewhere. Mind you, we arrived at the park at about 2pm and now it was 3. She said “which way do we go?”
I urged that we head toward the Mamba, which is the major coaster at the back of the park. She said “we can’t start with that one!”
I said, “ok. We’ll stop at a few on the way.” The first one the girls were interested in (that was operational) was the detonator. An extremely tall tower that you sit in and it shoots you up like a rocket. There are two towers, 12 people at a time each. We got in line.
Between people with fast passes and only one of the two towers being operational (and clearly incompetent people running the ride) it took two hours and forty-five minutes to get to the front of the line.
After dipping out of the line on the first ride, we were all-in on this one and no way we were leaving without actually getting to ride. It was horrible. The ride was good, but not worth the pain.
When it was over, the girls looked at me for direction. I just shrugged and said “maybe if we hurry we can ride the mamba before the park closes.” The park closes as 7pm. We sprinted in that general direction.
We got as far as the end of the line and made the call, no way in hell we were waiting in that line. We retreated and continued on the path to leave. It was now about 6pm and we had been at the park 4 hours and rode exactly 1 ride. I was one hot mama on the hunt to get my daughter a refund for the hundreds of dollars she spent on tickets for this weekend.
En route to the exit, we stopped at the Zulu and waited in line 45 minutes to ride it. So 5 hours and 2 rides. I explained to the nice kid at guest services that my daughter paid in advance for three people for three days at Worlds of Fun and Oceans of Fun including a fast pass for three people for Sunday that she purchased while we were standing in line at the detonator.
They were ready. They knew that people were angry and it’s not like we live here or have season passes and can come back any day. No. This was a destination for us. This is the whole reason we came to this city. We wanted a refund. I told the kid “there is no way we are returning for two more days of this.” They gave her almost all of her money back, including the money for the tickets for the current day. What a relief.
Sad to be so relieved to not have to go back to an amusement park, but true.
We eventually found our car in the sea of departing vehicles and got in yet another queue to leave. Little did we know that the park was not done with us yet. The line to leave didn’t budge. We sat for 20 minutes without even driving 1 car length. There are a series of parking lots all connected by one road. One way in and one way out. 😩
So we waited.
My daughter had happily given up the driver’s seat and sat behind me googling directions on her phone. She said that there was another road in the map, an alternate way out. I argued that if that was the case, more people would be going that way.
She pleaded and I was just desperate enough to listen and indulge her. I peeled out of line and went the opposite way.
We arrived at a gravel lot where the road was crumbling, but I continued to follow it around to another paved road that had a sign—no guest access. The girls giggled from the back seat, “just DO IT.” So I did.
We wound all the way around the back side of the park and came to what was clearly an employee / service area. Then we hit the end of the road. A large metal gate blocking the path. We could see the main road just on the other side of that. We were so close.
My daughter wanted to try and move the gate, but it wasn’t latched and it looked electronic to me. I started to back the car out to go the other way and she pleaded again to let her try.
I said “it’s not the kind of gate a person can move. It’s probably operated from a remote or keypad or button.” Just then, I surveyed the gate again and saw a button. I said “like THAT ONE!!”
I jumped out of the car and pushed the button and sure enough, the gate began to open. Huzzah! Something finally went out way!!
On our way out, we drove past the long line of cars still waiting their turns at the final stop sign before the exit onto the main drive. We probably saved ourselves an hour by bending the rules. And I was ok with that. I Just hope that decision is not going to come back and bite me in some way. It might.
Despite it being almost 8pm at that point, we found a spot for dinner and still had time left after that to visit Wal-Mart and pick up a card game and some snacks. I crashed out about midnight and vaguely remember asking them to turn the TV off sometime quite a bit later.
Now it’s tomorrow and so far this day isn’t going as planned either. But it’s not my day and it’s not my plan and whatever happens, it’s all going to be ok. Right??!!
Until next time,