Printed on August 6, 2019

Schlitterbahn outing revives memories of high school trip

By B.A. Belthoff / The Bulletin

It’s not every day we get to spend time together as a family doing fun stuff on a random Tuesday. But that’s just what our family did recently when we visited Schlitterbahn Waterpark in Galveston for the first time.

Since the tickets were courtesy of the publisher – we thank you very much – we decided to splurge on renting a cabana. It was a wise idea because it gave us a shaded haven when periodically taking a break throughout the day. It also came with a safe for our valuables and car keys, a waiter, and a bucket of ice with bottles of water. We wheeled in our cooler full of fruit, light snacks and more water, prepared to take on the thrilling and sometimes stomach-flipping slides of the water park.

All four of us were immediately transformed into little kids woo-hooing our way through the water slides. We made sure to go down every one of them in the adult sections, at least once. I think our collective favorite was the water coaster. The concept of riding up and down on a water slide is clever. Getting soaked while being thrusted upward, then downward by jets of water, is most exhilarating. The girls enjoyed the ride for different reasons.

“You guys go first this time; we want to hear mom scream,” Grace and Emily said in unison.

Grace was the only one to go down Cliffhanger. It’s a steep straight shot downward. I went down a slide like that at the Jersey shore when I was younger and didn’t feel the need to replicate the super wedgie it gives you, and I didn’t like the idea of going down the Screaming Serpents slide because it’s totally enclosed and in the dark.

The two serpent slides twist around each other before propelling you out at the bottom. When we got to the top of the ramp, Emily and Grace decided they would race each other to see who would emerge first, and then Alan and I were to follow racing each other, too.

Hmm. I stood back, asking the lifeguard if the slide was totally in the dark.

“Yes, ma’am,” he replied.

Alan could see it in my eyes. “If you don’t want to go down, we don’t have to. It’s totally fine.”

“I’d really prefer not to. But if you want to go, go ahead, and I’ll walk down and meet you at the bottom – I’m pretty sure you’ll win,” I said, trying to play it cool.

“If you don’t go, I won’t go,” he replied. He grabbed my hand, and together we walked back down the circular ramp. And that’s when it all came rushing back to me. I looked over at him and mentioned how I was feeling like we were back at Great Adventure, oh, so many years ago.

“Yeah, just like back then; it feels like we’re kind of on a date,” he admitted.

We were in high school when we met. My mother felt I was hanging out with the wrong crowd and suggested I join the youth group at church. It met on Tuesday nights, and it turned out to be a great experience for many reasons. It gave me a chance to meet and get to know some new friends as well as reunite with some old ones from elementary school. One of the new friends was Alan.

When I first saw him with his wavy blonde hair, light golden brown eyes, similar to a tiger, and those muscles ... let’s just say I was totally focused on getting to know him better. My opportunity arrived when the group planned an outing to Great Adventure.

That’s the name of the Six Flags Adventure Park located in the central part of New Jersey. It’s off of exit 98. We explain location in New Jersey by the proximity to an exit on the Garden State Parkway. It helps to put in perspective where in the state you are talking about. I’m pretty sure a comedian like Joe Piscopo did a skit about this on Saturday Night Live once. Joe’s a Jersey kid, too.

With the aid of my friend, Maryann, we made sure Alan and I sat on the bus together. We talked the whole two-hour ride there and back. We talked about everything: school, music, food, politics – everything. We even sang a few songs. It was then that I learned he’s a very musical person. Not only does he have a beautiful singing voice, he’s taught himself to play the guitar and the piano. I frequently find him singing, and it always makes me smile. On the polar opposite side of things, he learned that I am tone deaf and cannot hold a tune to save my life. He married me anyway.

We traversed Great Adventure together, riding all the rides, sitting side by side the entire day. Even the rides I didn’t think I’d like, all just to be with him. And then we came upon the haunted house. I hate being scared. I hate scary movies. I don’t like surprises or people jumping out at me – especially when it’s pitch-black dark. Naturally, I did what any boy-crazy girl would do. I grabbed his arm and held on tight. I was scared, but the act served two purposes. He didn’t shy away and held on tight, too.

It was the same at Schlitterbahn. We held hands most of the day, choosing the double tubes so that we could ride together down every slide.

By the middle of the afternoon, we all felt it. Man, we were tired. We did a lot of walking up ramps and steps while carrying the tubes. The constant rush of adrenaline as you slosh from side to side heading down a watery chute at a pretty good clip eventually takes its toll on your energy level. We decided to call it a day and head home. That one day trip was a much-needed break from the everyday routine, and one we all needed. It felt like a mini vacation, and for Alan and me, a lot like our first date.

(New-ish Texas resident B.A. Belthoff welcomes your comments. You can reach her at babelthoff@gmail.com.)