The summer between elementary and high school, my best friend Chloe and I spent most of our Saturdays at Amuseland, the theme park conveniently located down the street from our neighborhood. My mom would drop us off on her way to work in the mornings and then pick us up on her way home. We reported to Amuseland like it was our job. Occasionally, we’d run into kids from school, or even bring them along with us, but the best days were when we’d go alone.
Despite the long lineups at the popular tourist destination, we could proudly say we’d been on all the rides multiple times. We were thrill ride fanatics, riding all of the scariest ones without second thought, loving every minute of it. It was any kid’s dream.
We knew the park grounds like the back of our hands. We knew that all the annoying Bridgewood kids hung out on “Guido Hill,” that the best pizza was found in ChildTown and that Screaming Jets was always to be avoided because once a kid threw up when it was upside down, and the vomit landed on the people directly below him. There was our joint favourite rollercoaster, BrainBurster; our favourite small rides, Tornado and Spine-Chiller respectively; the thrill ride that just boring, Incubus; the roller coaster that was so overrated, Whirlwind; the one we’d always skip, The Vampire; and many many other rides.
“Wanna go on Clear Liquid Gully?” I asked Chloe as we sat on a curb one Saturday, eating our foot-long hotdogs. CLG was one of my favourite rides in the park. It was an impressively long ride aboard a river raft through real rapids with water spilling in from all sides. The raft would spin during the ride, so it was up to fate to decide who’s going to go backwards through the cave, get splashed, or end up right below the waterfall. Visitors at the park could also pay 25 cents to set off water bombs as they watched the journey from the path above. Sometimes we’d get off completely dry, and at other times we’d get soaked. The luck of the draw was what I loved about that ride.
“Yeah, it doesn’t look that busy today,” Chloe noted. The biggest downfall to Clear Liquid Gully is that it had one of the notoriously longest lineups in the entire park. Especially on the hottest summer days, you could be stuck in the wooded queue for at least an hour.
“That’s probably because it’s not that hot out today. It’s kind of cloudy,” I observed.
We raced through the winding line up through the trees until we arrived at that familiar brown log house and stepped onto the spinning turnstile for boarding. They let us ride on the raft just the two of us, despite it seating six, because there weren’t that many people around that day. We sat opposite each other, trying to spin the raft to get wet. Somehow we both avoided the water fall as it splashed viciously through the middle of the raft.
“That sucks,” I said as we left the ride. I felt a drip on my nose from above. I turned to check out the back of my flared Parasuco jeans. “I hardly even got wet.”
“Me neither,” Chloe said with a splash of water on the side of her Adidas t-shirt. “What next?”
“Let’s go into the theatre,” I said, referring to the ride where the fancy seat moves as you watch a huge screen. The current picture playing was of an adventure with Spongebob chasing a rogue pickle under the sea.
When we exited the Spongebob ride, the clouds had turned dark and ominous, and people were seeking shelter at the ride exit, from the light sprinkle of rain that had began to fall. Chloe and I walked right through the crowd, knowing Amuseland’s best kept secret: the ride lineups were always the shortest when it rained a little.
“Let’s go on Hydra Flame!!” Chloe exclaimed, and we stepped into the drizzle. We walked across the park, not caring at all that we were getting wet. They let us ride Hydra Flame 4 times in a row because there was nobody else in line. That’s 8 loops. By the time we exited, our adrenaline was fully charged.
By then, the thunder was clapping and the rain was pouring and all the rides were shutting down. But we were wild and unrestrained and had a whole deserted park to amuse ourselves with, and we were going to make the best of it. We always did.
Chloe led the way as we marched through the park like we owned the place. We jumped into puddles as we sang our favourite songs as loud as we could. We ran and we laughed and we caught some pretty concerned looks. We didn’t care that our socks were squishing in our shoes, that our hair was frizzing up, or that my thick black eyeliner was running down my face. We had nowhere to be, no one to impress, and in that moment during that summer right before we started high school, nothing else in the world seemed to matter because I was having a blast with my best friend.
We’re older now. Both of us are prone to motion sickness now. We don’t run outside through the rain. We don’t walk around singing our favourite songs. We are sensible adults with grown-up lives. But we’re still best friends. And every time I hear that thunder start to rumble, I think fondly about those last few times when we could be wholly free before real life caught up to us.