Monday, August 6

Parking: $9
Admission ticket to park: $20
Confidence boost: Priceless

If you have any body or confidence issues whatsoever, I have a cure for you. When you look in the mirror and don't like what you see, or if you're feeling miserable about your life in general, it's time to take a field trip. Get a friend, preferably one with a great sense of humor. Drive to your local amusement park. Make a day of it, or just purchase a starlight admission -- most parks discount the fare after 5 p.m.

This worked for me this weekend. My husband and I decided to visit Geauga Lake, an amusement park close to where we live. It's a pretty decent park, but it's no Cedar Point.

Before we even purchased our admission tickets, I thanked my husband for taking me. I felt like Miss America walking into the park. It was an eye-opening experience, to say the least. I saw people in clothes several sizes to small, things bulging out of places from which I did not know things could bulge, people with fewer teeth than my son, bathing suits that creeped and crawled into folds of skin.

Once inside the park, we enjoyed ourselves, despite coming off each roller coaster with a feeling of "we're definitely too old for this." The night before, we had gone on a bike ride, after recently having our bixes fixed. I haven't been on a bike in at least 5 years, maybe more, and it showed. When I got off the bike, I could barely walk. My tailbone in particular was bothering me. So riding roller coasters the next day? Not a big help. The old wooden coasters tossed us around and my poor petuttie was aching. The Big Dipper, which is Ohio's oldest coaster at the ripe old age of 82, was a killer. Both my husband and I have battle scars from that ride. Mine is a huge, grape jelly-colored bruise on my hipbone. Seriously, I have never had a bruise this color. I'm not sure that I'll be able to reproduce after the jostling my insides got. Sorry, Doodle.

We also escaped peril by mere minutes. We were in line for the Double Loop, another one of the older coasters, and they had loaded the car ahead of us. We were next in line to go. Without warning or apparent reason, the ride operators, most of which were not U.S. natives, by the way, shut the ride down, citing mechanical failure, and apologized for the inconvenience. I bolted away from that ride faster than you can say class action lawsuit.

After about 2 1/2 hours, we had had enough. We rode everything we wanted to ride (Double Loop and a second closed-down coaster notwithstanding), we saw a little slice of Americana, and we felt good about ourselves and our lot in life.

It was time and money well spent.

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