This morning, as I tried to shake off grogginess, I collected my still-wet swimsuit from the shower curtain rod and shoved it into my backpack with the rest of my dirty clothes from the day before. Thankfully, I’d thought to pack two swimsuits, because it was to be another day full of slides and splashes at Venture River. We had to check out of our hotel in Cadiz before heading on to the water park though, because we would be trekking further north tonight. I peeked at the weather forecast and started loading the cooler, hoping our cheese and other snacks would survive a day in our car with the 100 degree heat. Downstairs, the hotel’s ice machine warned that the ice was for rooms only and patrons were not welcome to fill their coolers there. I wish I’d known that before I’d lugged the damned thing down three flights of stairs.
It’s hard carrying anything heavy around when you can barely walk to begin with. During yesterday’s excitement, I neglected to mind my feet on the concrete walkways, which aside from being hot as hell, were textured like a cheese grater. Blisters, thick and throbbing, dotted the bottoms of my feet. Both heels and the tender wrinkles between the balls of my feet were adorned with them and I couldn’t take a step without wincing. As we pulled into the gravel lot again, I had resigned myself to sitting most of the day in our cabana when ELW came to my rescue and offered to get me a pair of water shoes at the gift shop.
As the shop was nearly picked clean, what I ended up with was perhaps the worst made pair of shoes I’ve ever worn. The zipper on the left shoe was sewn so that the left and right sides didn’t match up at the end. The zipper on the right shoe didn’t work at all. The stitching was already pulling out and the pink fabric was bleeding neon into the white trim. However, they did fit and they did save my feet from further damage, which was the important thing.
The day before, I’d made the bold proclamation that the very first ride I’d tackle today was the Cliffhanger. This is by far the most adrenaline-inducing attraction at the park. Resembling a giant half-pipe, the Cliffhanger requires that you have a buddy and that one of you start the three-and-a-half story drop backwards. I couldn’t back down, but I could take someone down with me. ELW did not shy away from the challenge, although he did offer it to his daughter first. We went for another go immediately after having our hearts jump-started the first time.
One of the advantages to recreating in an area populated predominantly by churchgoing folk is that the giant waterpark was nearly deserted on a Sunday. The four of us rode together on a large inner tube down several slides without having to wait in line. Then, we paired off and rode double tubes down another set of slides. The teenager in our group pointed out that I screamed on all of the rides. I couldn’t tell if she thought I was a wuss or just weird. I explained that rollercoasters and water slides are two of the very few places where it’s acceptable for an adult to scream her head off. So, I was going to take advantage of that fact as much as possible.
For most of the rest of the day, I wandered solo. I napped for a bit in our cabana by the wave pool. Then, I reapplied sunscreen before climbing the stairs of a multi-tube playground, nozzles spraying out from fiberglass surfboards, umbrellas, and sombreros. Despite the signs posted at every tube entrance, showing little stick figures with legs crossed and arms folded over chests, children launched themselves down every which way. The teenaged lifeguards barely noticed the two little boys ahead of me going down Superman style. I imagined a clog of skinny arms and legs wedged into the tube further down ahead of me as I prepared to scoot myself into the wet and inky blackness.
Eventually, I just parked myself on a tube in the wave pool and waited for the rest of my party to get sick of sliding. Ten minutes to closing, we collected our things, disposed of Icee and Dippin’ Dots containers, and made for the changing rooms. Settled into the car again, ELW shifted his Subaru into drive and directed us northwest, toward St. Louis.
I don’t think I’d ever been to St. Louis in the daytime and this trip was no exception. As I listened to the sounds of Charlie Parker from my headphones, I marveled at the Gateway Arch graceful and illuminated against the backdrop of skyscrapers. To its right, a brilliant display of LEDs glowed rainbow atop another tall building. We whooshed by with the rest of the traffic on the highway while the girls in the back seat speculated as to what the technicolor screen was for. Was it a stage for singers? Was it another tourist attraction? Was it a movie screen?
By the time we checked into our next hotel, I was exhausted, but not too exhausted to watch Game of Thrones. Every Sunday night, whether I’m on an island, in a Super 8, or at home snug in bed, I never miss the latest episode. After the screen went black and the end credits started to roll, I was still sitting at the edge of the bed with my jaw open. And that was about as much excitement as I could take in one day.