Our trip to Six Flags was as hot as expected but Erin enjoyed herself immensely.  I didn’t see much of her though.  This is the irony of having a daughter:  I get loads of Dad points for going even though we didn’t spend much time together during the trip.  Beyond a certain age, Evan didn’t want us to go anywhere that he was going but Erin likes us to be involved – just not with her directly.   So I signed up for bus #1 arbitrarily and she signed up for bus #2 because that’s where her friends wanted to sit.  We had about 150 kids and adults on three buses.  Our church doesn’t do anything halfway.

Another irony is that Erin is one of the shortest kids of her age and she always hangs out with one of the tallest girls her age.  That kid is almost as tall as I am so they look interesting.

These rock-star buses that we charter have DVD players onboard.  As a result, the trip gets a lot smoother.  My job was to choose the movie and plug it into the player.  These DVD players only had two buttons: play and skip and the skip button was not operational so we actually had to watch all the previews.  I guess that’s not so bad; the point was to kill time so that just killed more time.

The first night, we went to see the Texas Rangers play Oakland at The Ball Park in Arlington.  Our seats were at third base in the second level.  I had only ever been to a Ranger game during Nolan Ryan’s days at the old stadium and this place is super nice.   The kids payed as much attention to their seat assignments as they did the movie previews.  They were up and moving the whole time; in fact, it appears that about half of them wandered the stadium a lot just looking around.  Things would have been nicer if I hadn’t kicked my own drink over in the third inning but these things happen.

We spent the night at a small Methodist church near the stadium and slept on the gym floor.  The youth directors are a special breed of people that I don’t understand at all.  They seem to enjoy trying to sweep the chaos of 150 7-12 graders into a pile of organized activities.  I asked the guy in charge of our group if they have a special class in youth pastor college in how to estimate how many PopTarts to buy for 50 boys.  Apparently there is no such class but there really should be.  Or how to take a roomful of boys and organize cleanliness with only two showers.  Or how to get everybody to shut up and go to sleep.  We never really solved that one very well; one of the volunteers finally serenaded them to sleep with his guitar like in a movie where the cowboy sings to the cattle to keep them from getting restless.

My job was to make coffee in the morning.  It’s strange how a lot of guys will say no to coffee until you make it and then will hammer it pretty hard.

We got to Six Flags when it opened and, without having to herd my own kids any more, I got to practice a trick I read on a website somewhere.  When the park opens, everybody always wants to go right and the park architects have done that on purpose.  So I went left.  As a result, for the first 45 minutes to an hour, it was like I had the entire park to myself.  No lines anywhere.  Of course, some of the rides and shops weren’t open yet since they didn’t expect anybody to have worked their way over there yet.

It got hot really fast and so I avoided standing in roller coaster lines.  Instead, I tried to attend the shows that occur in the air conditioned theaters.  Still, Six Flags is pretty much just a roller coaster place so there isn’t that much to do.  But the last time I rode a snot-slinger with the kids a year or two ago, my neck hurt the next day so I took that as a sign that my roller coaster days are numbered.  My neck has been bothering me a bit lately and I figured that I would not hasten the onset of problems by riding things that promise more G forces than a jet fighter.  Instead, I went to the Spongebob Squarepants 4D movie.  And rode the train.

I would see Erin flitting past every now and again.  She would always wave, dart over for a hug, and her friends would wave and say hi before dashing off to the next coaster.  That’s all they did all day and still didn’t get to ride all of them.  We actually got meal tickets with our admission and so I spent a pleasant hour in the (again – air conditioned) restaurant at midday.

One poor girl got sick overnight and spent the entire day at the First Aid station stretched out on a cot throwing up and napping by turns.  One of the women who were with us stayed with her all day which sounds like a bummer until you stop to think that she got to play mother, nap, read, stay inside, and have people bring her snacks.  It doesn’t look so bad from that perspective.  I went to check on her several times since I felt like I should be doing something helpful rather than having fun but they never needed anything.

I must have a certain look about me that says “trustworthy” because on two occasions I had complete strangers stop me for help.  One woman apparently felt that her toddler son might have disappeared in the men’s room so I went to check for little feet in one of the stalls.  Another group of women and girls asked me to take their photo.  I don’t mind of course but why me out of the hundreds of other people?

Along about three o’clock, the heat really got brutal and I began to with for six o’clock for our date with the bus to return home.  I got one of those frozen lemonade things and some other snackage to spend the time.  I sat in the breeze of one of those fans that sprays mist.  The appointed time finally arrived and we headed out.  I plugged in another movie and drifted off to sleep.  The kids were all pretty restless and noisy; probably from all the overstimulation and sugar.  Only about half of them watched the movies.  I don’t know what was going on in the back seats but one of the other adults had to make several trips back there to break up something.  I don’t think any sins were being committed but the unwritten noise ordinances were being broken.

We stopped for dinner in Allen, TX at a fast-food cluster (you don’t want to stop with three buses at a single restaurant – you’ll be there all night.)  I tried in vain to find Erin and never could until she found me; she has wisely avoided the restaurants entirely and gone to the gas station convenience store and gotten stuff there.  Good thinking for a kid but of course, she has been on these trips before and knows the tricks.  Rather than fight to get to the restaurant first, she simply thinks outside the box.  Or outside the bun – so to speak.

We finally dragged back to town at around midnight and this morning I felt like death warmed over.  Gotta go to work though.  Ugh.

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