Happy Halloween to all my readers!
I had the boys this weekend, and I have been promising to take them to Great America. For those of you who are not from Northern California, you may not be familiar with great America it’s the local equivalent of Six Flags, or at least that’s what it’s supposed to be. I had read some fairly negative online reviews (at Yelp, where nearly everything seems to be negative) and I wasn’t sure what to expect. However, a promise is a promise, and yesterday it was time to deliver. We bought our tickets online directly from the Great America website. This is substantially cheaper than buying them at the park.
I was a bit worried about the weather. The forecast called for highs in the mid 60s with a 60% chance of rain. Sure enough, it was raining in Morgan Hill when we left, but the further north we drove, the fewer clouds we saw. By the time we arrived in Santa Clara, it wasn’t exactly warm, but it also wasn’t raining.
We parked (an additional $12) and headed for the main gate. It would be an exaggeration to say that the crowds were sparse; there were no crowds! We breezed through the entry line, but only after passing through a metal detector. It turns out that pocket knives of any size are not allowed in the park, so I had to check my Swiss Army knife at the gate for later pickup. That done, we entered the park. It quickly became evident that the park was ready for Halloween; there were decorations-skeletons, zombies, and all manner of bloody and or gross stuff-everywhere. Many of the rides and activities were decorated in a Halloween motif, too, but none of it was scary. The scary stuff only happens at night, during a separate “haunt” event that is intended for teens and adults.
Matt doesn’t really like thrill rides, so we took turns riding on various things. There is a good-sized carousel-two levels, in fact-that we enjoyed riding, then we went on to the Vortex roller coaster. I’d rate it a 6/10; it was fun, but it buffets your head back and forth between the unyielding bars of the protective cage, so I ended up feeling as though I had just finished sparring class. The only other standout ride was Flight Deck, a fantastic hanging coaster with two loops, several twists, and a naval aviation motif. Matt and I also had fun driving the gas powered go carts, in which he drove his own kart and caused zero accidents, unlike his old man, who was rear ended by an even older man who wasn’t paying attention to where he was driving.
We closed out the park by riding the cable car, which turned out to be surprisingly enjoyable considering that neither David nor Matt are big fans of heights. It was neat to be able to look down and see some of the logistical parts of the park that are normally invisible to ground dwellers. Speaking of logistics; one of the common complaints I saw on yelp was that the park was dirty, rides were broken, and employees were at best apathetic and at worst actively hostile. It’s true that great America is not Disney World. Having said that, I didn’t notice any major disrepair; everything was clean, and the few employees we interacted with were pleasant enough. I’d go back, although it wouldn’t be my first choice to go in the summer, when it’s bound to be crowded and noisy.
I was not about to pay amusement park prices for what I knew would be terrible food. Instead, I took the boys to The Counter at Santana Row. The Counter in Palo Alto is one of my favorite places to eat, and the boys took to it like I thought they probably would. It was a rather late lunch, but we enjoyed it all the more for the delay. Then we went home to get ready for the church chili cookoff. This is apparently a widespread Mormon tradition; we had one each year in Ohio, and a friend of mine was just telling me about one in their ward in Texas. The one here actually combined three wards, so it wsa much larger than I was expecting, with many more varieties of chili than I could hope to sample. There were probably close to 75 cars set up for “trunk-or-treat” so the boys got a ton of loot. We finished up the night with a CHiPs marathon. OK, two episodes isn’t exactly a marathon, but it feels that way sometimes.
After church yesterday, we came home and broke our fast with various leftovers. David and I alternated between watching the Saints-Steelers game and game 4 of the World Series, then Matt and Tom got their costumes on and we went out to brave the elements– a cool, clear evening with throngs of kids wandering around Arlene’s neighborhood. Meanwhile, David stayed at my house to hand out candy. We got the better end of the deal; he said only 4-5 groups of kids came to my door, while we hit a large number of houses across town. Then we came back and watched the end of both games, flipping back and forth whenever things got dull or we hit a commercial.
Today I extended my weekend by staying home to take Tom to the pediatrician; Arlene was sick all weekend, and Tom’s cough had deepened. Turns out he had bronchitis, but nothing a Z-pack won’t cure. (And thank you, Wal-Mart, for selling me one for $6. Much appreciated!)
A quick technology note: I shot some video of Matt at the go-kart track with my iPhone 4. Sadly, I forgot that it wants to shoot video in landscape mode, so I was holding it upright. The video came out well, but when I used iMovie to rotate it 90°, it has a weird Jell-O-like motion that renders it unwatchable. The pictures I took using the camera, though, came out splendidly. I really like having the auto-HDR function; it helps quite a bit for novice photographers such as myself.