So last week was the kids’ spring break from school. They get an entire week, so I decided to take a trip. I took them genealogy researching with me in Kentucky. My dad started the whole “let’s find our roots” when I was in Jr. High, and when he passed away, I caught the bug.
But that’s not what this story is about.
After we hit three towns, two libraries and three courthouses, we head back to Tennessee. We were on a small two-lane highway somewhere around Paducah, Kentucky when the memory of my dad video taping our very first ride on the Oriental Express at World’s of Fun in Kansas City came to me.
I started laughing because I remembered my dad telling my mother, “I liked to poke my eye out!” Which made me think of his voice frantic and amazed which made me laugh harder when I added it to “I liked to poke my eye out!” Now, he wasn’t saying that he wanted to poke his eye out. What he was saying was saying was… Well, just keep reading.
F and Z were watching a movie and had their earbuds in and G was reading the last book in The Hunger Games trilogy when my laughing made her look up.
“Okay,” I said, “Have I ever told you about the time my dad tried to video riding on a roller coaster?” Of course her answer was “No,” and of course she closed her book and waited for me to continue. Stories about Grandpa’s ridiculousness are gold mines of humor.
“Well,” I started. “Ya know that my dad loved to make home movies and he always had his 8mm camera with him wherever he went. Well, when I was in Jr. High, he bought a video camera, a VHS camera. Those things were monstrous. They weren’t like the little hand-held jobbies we have now. They were big and bulky. They rested on your shoulder and you had to look through the eye piece to see what you were taping.
World’s of Fun had just put in a new roller coaster called the Oriental Express, and Dad took me and your Uncle Joe there on vacation. I think Aunt Beth and Uncle Ed were there, too, but I could be mistaken. Anyway, Dad and I were going to ride on the Oriental Express together, and he had this brainstorm to video our ride. He thought that by taping it, he would show everybody else what the rollercoaster was like. He thought it was going to turn out like an IMAX movie, although we didn’t have IMAX back then. Anyway, he thought it would look like a commercial shot that would entice people to come ride the Oriental Express.
Well, we get on the roller coaster, and how he got that stupid camera on the coaster I will never know. But he did.”
“No one said, ‘Hey, you can’t bring that thing on here cause it might fly out of your hand and kill the person behind you?” G asked keenly.
“Apparently not because he took it on,” I answered a little less keenly. “So we start moving, and everything is okay. We start up the incredibly high and sharp incline, and everything is fine. Then the cars round the top and speed down the drop off, everyone is screaming, and then we hit the turns and the loops and more turns and more loops and there’s more screaming. The ride lasted probably 45 seconds at the most, but it scared the crap out of me!
When the ride ended, I looked over at Dad, and he was bent over holding his head. I asked him if he was okay, and of course, he said, “Yeah.” We got off the coaster and found Mom and Joe. Mom asked him how it went and all of a sudden Dad was full of emotion. ‘I liked to poke my eye out! I had the view finder up to my eye. When we hit that first turn, it jammed back into my head. And before I could pull it off, we went around that first loop and the view finder was banging against my eye and the camcorder was banging against my head. It liked to knock me out completely! I’d be surprised if I don’t have a concussion.'”
At this point in the retelling, I was laughing so hard I couldn’t talk, and I about ran off the road. G was laughing so hard she wasn’t making any sound at all.
“So,” I continued with the story, “when we got somewhere to watch it, the video was a little shaky going up the incline and really shaky coming down, but from then on all you saw was a huge blurr of red, orange, brown and black, and all you heard was a lot of screaming and Dad grunting and groaning.” We both bursted into laughter again at the thought of all the screaming and my dad’s intermittent grunts when the video would clobber him in the head.
If that wasn’t the most ridiculous thing my Dad had ever done, it came very close. What made me think of that adventure, I have not a clue. Maybe it was Kentucky. Maybe it was picking up the ancestral search where my dad left off. Maybe it was me reevaluating forcing my kids to spend their spring break in libraries and courthouses learning about people who lived over 150 years ago. Maybe it was a random synapses firing a crazy spark in my brain after the sun blinded me because I forgot my sunglasses. Who knows?