Jason’s note: This is the second in a short series of the annual Offutt Family Vacation Extravaganza.
Crowds make me nervous. Not just nervous, but agitated to the point I’ll do stupid things as an excuse to go somewhere quiet, like fake an injury or my own death.
I thought about the second option during day two at Silver Dollar City, a Branson, Missouri, 1880s theme park that has operated vomit-inducing thrill rides since 1960.
Thrill rides? To me, thrills are when I first saw Princess Leia in a gold bikini. Thrills are not spinning in a metal cage until I can’t walk straight.
The area where Silver Dollar City sits is beautiful. What little of Missouri is left south of Springfield is the type of tree-covered-mountain gorgeous that makes for good postcards. Darn it. That reminds me, we forgot to buy postcards.
But despite the trees, the Ozark Mountains and the promise of beer when we got back to the hotel, my blood pressure was up. It was the people. Walking over fresh asphalt on a 90-plus-degree day amongst 20,000ish visitors crammed into 110 acres that are mostly filled with buildings, rides and not one sign that read, “Shhh – Quiet Space,” was the type of thing my therapist would tell me to avoid.
That reminds me, I should probably get a therapist.
But the trip wasn’t about me. My in-laws treated their entire family to Silver Dollar City. The trip was for the grandkids. My mental health would have to wait.
I once loved theme parks, and by “once” I mean before I was married, and by “theme parks” I mean “Hooters.” I also enjoyed the type of theme parks with roller coasters, too, for about 20 minutes in 1979. It took that long for me to get a second look at the park restaurant hamburger I’d just eaten.
I avoided the coasters and such of Silver Dollar City and wandered with the Toddler while my wife and the older children waited in lines for rides astronauts probably train on.
“I hungry,” the Toddler said 10 minutes later. Cool. I could use a break – and French fries.
Theme park restaurants are known for three things: 1) the price of one meal is equal to the cost of feeding an Indonesian family for a week, 2) lines longer than those for the roller coasters, and 3) you can never find the ketchup. So I asked.
“You see that kiosk designed to look like an 1880s well involved in a property dispute?” the high school-aged worker not paid enough to deal with me asked. I nodded. “The ketchup’s not there. It’s way past it.”
Oh, the ketchup.
Watching my 3-year-old fish a broken French fry from a plastic tub of red goo, then wipe the hair from her face with the same hand, I wondered if condiments worked as sunscreen, and if so, what is the SPF of Del Monte tomato ketchup? And if Del Monte doesn’t have the UV radiation-blocking ability of, say, Hunt’s or Red Gold, should I file a complaint with management?
We were going to need all the UV radiation-blocking ketchup we could get. Silver Dollar City was hot. And loud. And so, so full of people.
It was only 11 a.m.
Next week: Jason hits the wall.
– Jason’s newest novel, “Bad Day for a Road Trip,” is available at jasonoffutt.com.