Long Live


Downtown Des Moines, Iowa

I live in Iowa…flyover country to most people, but I love it. I love to see the change of seasons (although, after this last winter, I am none too anxious to see that particular season come around again). I live in the capital city, which means that we have access to both our traditional agricultural roots and city living benefits including Broadway shows, outdoor summer concerts, theater, art festivals, kids fest, and the like. We have a children’s zoo, a science center, a spectacular art museum, and a sculpture park. The people who live here are generally friendly, real estate is affordable, and pre-K through grade 16 education is important. More specifically than my general love of my state, I love the geographical location of my house within the state. I am 20 minutes away from three major shopping centers, 2 blocks from a grocery store, less than 2 miles from a SuperTarget, 3 blocks from the elementary school my children attend, and less than 1 block away from the entrance to a major city bike path/jogging trail.  Best of all, it is 20 minute drive from our front door to the front gate of this. Adventureland – a relatively small family-owned theme park plopped down in the middle of Altoona, Iowa. This is the subject of today’s post. This piece of magnificence opens for the 2014 season today (in fact, I’m probably there right now as you read this-thanks WordPress post scheduler!). Adventureland’s opening heralds the true beginning of spring and the slow crescendo to the hot, humid Iowa summer.

A view from the bottom of the ferris wheel.

A view from the bottom of the ferris wheel.

Although Adventureland Park was well established as one of the summer activities by the time I was old enough to enjoy it, I can’t remember one occasion of actually being in this park until I was a teenager. When I was growing up in the 1980’s and 1990’s, I used to see commercials for Adventureland on TV and I wanted to go. Of course I did…who wouldn’t? Many of my friends were able to go at least once during each summer season, but not me. Although, this is before they put in the best part of their resort – the waterpark – so I guess it’s okay. Plus, it’s water (park) under the (train) bridge now. Due to the distinct lack of Adventureland in my childhood, when my own kidlets got to an age where I thought they might enjoy a trip there, I talked my husband into season passes (seriously, you can buy season passes to the place for $100 per person. For the entire season. That price includes both the rides and the waterpark and free parking). Our first summer of Adventureland was in 2012. On that first visit to the park, my then 3-year-old somehow thought the most visible ride as you walk up to the park gate, a huge and scary ferris wheel, was the only ride in the park. Between the time we got out of the car and made it up to the entrance, he convinced himself that I was going to make him ride said ferris wheel, and well, he threw up in the grass. It was not an auspicious start, but I can’t blame him. Hell, if someone tried to make me ride that fucking ferris wheel, I’d throw up in the grass, too! I don’t like ferris wheels.

Regardless of my dislike of ferris wheels and big M throwing up at the idea of riding one on that first visit in 2012, once we

Skee-ball time! It's still just $0.25 per game...can you believe it?

Skee-ball time! It’s still just $0.25 per game…can you believe it?

got inside the gates the kids were ecstatic. Moreover, they were totally hooked on the place. Adventureland boasts a multitude of rides for the preschool/kindergarten crowd…a carousel, a tiny Ladybugs roller coaster, a kid-sized ferris wheel (I won’t ride that one, either), kiddie kars, a frog hopper, a semi-truck convoy ride, and airplanes that “fly” in a circle just to name a few. There are also big rides for the grownups, shopping, bingo, 2 halls of arcade games, more traditional fair-type games (skee-ball!), a circus, a variety of magic shows that run 4 or 5 times each day, and, of course, the waterpark (which opens on Memorial Day weekend!!!). The great part of having season passes is that we don’t feel obligated to do ALL the things every time we go. Our proximity to the park and the freedom of time we have in the summer means that we can pop over for an hour or two in the evening or on a random weekday morning. During that time, we enjoy a ride or two, a nice summer stroll, a couple of rounds of $0.25 skeeball or Whack-a-Mole, a box of popcorn, which is a must for our youngest, and then we head home. Not everyone has this luxury. We are grateful that we do.

More than what the park has to offer as far as rides, games, popcorn, and other things to do on a warm and lazy summer day; however, Adventureland represents family bonding time. Right now, our boys are 4 and (almost) 6 years old. They enjoy doing stuff with Mom and Dad…soon to be known as boring parental units. Right now, they like to have us ride on the carousel horse beside theirs. They like us to snuggle them in the seat on the crazy spinning Lady Luck and they like to cuddle with one of us while the sky chairs move us from one side of the park to the other. The boys scream in mock terror when we suggest that they join one of us on a big ride for which we know they aren’t ready. They still accept our advice on the proper way to hold/throw a skeeball, and both of them insist I squeeze onto the train bench with them instead of sitting with their dad in the seat behind. This will not always be the case. Soon enough, my Adventureland summers will involve dropping off a gang of my boys and their rowdy friends with money in their pockets and an appointed meeting time. The adults and the teenagers will go their separate ways. My husband I will probably count it as lucky if we happen to cross paths with them while they go one in one direction and we go another in the park, and when we meet at the appointed time, the kids will regale us with the story of their afternoon exploits. I will be sad that they didn’t deem us cool enough to tag along with them. That day is coming; I can feel it. But not this year. This year, today, the 2014 Adventureland Park season begins. The slow build to summer starts today….Long live the sun baking the blacktop in front of the Galleon. Long live the smell of the popcorn and the funnel cakes. Long live the carousel music jingling sweetly along the main street. Long live the roar of the thrill rides and the screams of the passengers. Long live the delighted giggles of little ones on the Ladybugs roller coaster for the first time. Long live the shout of joy when my kid wins one of the fair games. Long live the cool splash of the waterpark at the fever pitch of July. Long live sunscreen and sore muscles. Long live two little brothers excitedly laughing and dancing down the cracked walkway in front of the Balloon Chase ride. Long live childhood. Long live summer.


Happy Birthday, Grandma!

Today is my grandma’s birthday.  She was born in Zanesville, Ohio in 1909; the only daughter in her family (I believe she had four brothers, but I might be off on that).  She was born before the time of electricity, running water, indoor plumbing, air conditioning, automobiles, computers, and many of the other technological advances we enjoy on a daily basis.  In her lifetime, there were 2 World Wars, a Great Depression, wonderful advances in civil rights, and a man landed on the moon. There were gas wars, a Cold War, and a president resigned amid scandal.  In her life, the Berlin Wall went up and it came down; history happened all around her.  Of course, my grandmother made her own history-she married my grandfather, raised four children, and was active in local clubs and her church throughout her life.

I never gave much thought to all the events she lived through.  By the time I came along in 1978 (her 9th grandchild), she was thoroughly ensconced as a grandmother.  She was the stereotypical widowed, white-haired lady with glasses and an apron.  When I came over, strawberries & raspberries were harvested from her enormous yard before breakfast, the newspaper comics were read and cards were played.  During the summer, we watched soap operas on her old-style console TV.  I helped her cut fabric squares for quilting and we made sun tea in a jar on her concrete patio.   I was absolutely enthralled by the fact she had a special cut-out in her wall just for her telephone (rotary dial) and that she lived without a dishwasher, clothes dryer or microwave.  She taught me that messed-up recipes can be fixed rather than thrown out, grilled cheese sandwiches are best made with Velveta, and that sometimes in Euchre it’s best to call Clubs trump even if all you have is the 9 of the clubs and the jack of spades.

It is unfortunate, but like all children, I grew up.  In spite of my love for my grandma, I thought about her less and less; I called less and less, but I always looked forward to seeing her at family events.  Like all children, I thought she would always be around; after all, she had always been around, and anyway, death certainly didn’t apply to MY family.  Later, I reasoned…there is always later.  Of course, my “later” ran out.  Death stole her mind before he took her body; she had a stroke in 1998 and died in May 2001, a couple of months shy of her 92nd birthday.

I think of my grandmother often; early summer mornings remind me of her.  Early morning in the summer has a certain smell, a certain quality of light.  In the early morning, the grass is wet with dew, the birds are chirping and there is an anticipation of a beautiful day ahead.  Beautiful like my grandmother and the soft personality she developed after seeing so much history, both personal and textbook-worthy.  Beautiful like a six-year-old girl racing down a grassy embankment and crashing through scratchy hedges, a red plastic bowl in her hand, eager to see if her grandma’s meager raspberry vines were bearing fruit.

Happy birthday, Grandma.


Grandma & Me, October 1980