G.A.P (Grandkids Amusement Park) Day

It has now landed in the category of traditions. That means the grandkids expect it! To not have it happen would result in whining, deep sighs, and words like “We’re disappointed in you and Grammy!” Chastised by your grandchildren!

The tradition, that has now reached four summers in a row, is a trip to a small amusement park west of Colorado Springs called North Pole. It’s Santa’s Village at 8,500 feet, at the base of Pike’s Peak, a park designed with kids and grandkids in mind. Since their school year begins the first week of August (August 3rd this year!), we plan our grandkid adventure an an end-of-summer-vacation outing, loading the three munchkins up in our CRV and making sure we’ve got Tylenol close at hand.

North Pole does not have roller coasters like Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio or King’s Island on the outskirts of Cincinnati. It has one junior-sized coaster that is more about causing a grandparent to schedule a chiropractor adjustment shortly afterwards, bouncing top and down, jerking you back and forth, as your six-year-old granddaughter sits beside you with her hands in the air.

This year North Pole had lines waiting to pay admission at 10:15. We had never experienced that before, but saw it as a good thing, since the pandemic had curtailed operations for so long and they had difficulty gathering a labor force back.

Grammy and I are a decade or two past our amusement park prime. Our squeals of delight are now more about finding an empty bench to sit down on as the 10 and 13-year-olds run to the next attraction that we have no interest in being passengers on. We do the train that goes at a snail’s pace, the Sky Ride because it’s a nice view, and at least half of the benches around the park.

But then I make a mistake caused by empathy for the six-year-old. The Tilt-A-Whirl that her brother and sister have ridden on requires an adult passenger for her to be with. When her siblings ride it for the third straight time, my resistance can’t take it any more. I ask her if she’d still like to ride it. She sprints to get in line! I mosey at a slower pace to get behind her. There’s no hurry, because no one else is in line.

Halfway through the ride I have to close my eyes and try to focus on something else, like survival and remembering what day it is. I open my eyes long enough to look at my ride partner. She’s laughing, smiling, and displaying the gap in her upper teeth where she recently lost two. My teeth are feeling like they’re about to be pulled away from my body as well!

When the ride stops and the bell sounds to indicate seat belts can be unlocked, everyone heads to the exit at the brisk pace. I am the last to leave, wobbling like a dashboard bobblehead and…looking for an empty bench! It takes me a good hour to get my equilibrium back from the twilight zone.

We spend four hours at North Pole and the grandkids ride everything that they want to ride…several times! It’s a good day. It really is. They see hug the North Pole (an ice post in the middle of the park) and say hey to Santa as we head toward the exit.

Next year, G.A.P #5, grandkid number four will join his cousins. He will be a month or two shy of his third birthday, ready to ride the boats that go around in a circle, and then the fire trucks that go around in a circle, and then the motorcycles that go around in a circle. Do you sense a theme here? Carol and I will do “Rock, Paper, Scissors” to see who stays with him, because he won’t be ready for the Tilt-A-Whirl yet…we hope!

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