Tuesday, June 03, 2008


Froggy took the "Ladybug" ride very seriously.

A week later and I'm still posting pictures of Iowa. I've been so busy unpacking and getting our lives in order that posting has taken a back seat. Sometimes you have to make the hard decisions - posting on a blog... or grocery shopping for your family.

These photos were taken at Adventureland, an amusement park that my sister and I grew up going to. Many years ago, I wrote an essay about this place, so here it is:

by Froggymama

I’ve always been amazed by the calculated way life is so random. It’s like bumper cars with four billion people in a rink, running into one another, getting angry, falling in love; traveling in little blue, yellow and red cars with that electric buzz above us, all the while aware we are run by a grander force—the thirteen year old freckle faced boy pulling the lever, drinking a slurpee, thinking about breasts.

My sister loved the bumper cars at Adventureland in Des Moines, Iowa, because Disneyland was 2,000 miles away. Every year we anticipated that one hot summer day where we were each given a crisp twenty dollar bill for admission and a funnel cake, to bask in the black pavement of Midwestern amusement; that smell of tar and diesel, the sound of pressurized air, the scream of brakes on the roller coaster jarring to a sudden stop after loops and twirls and neck-wrenching splendor.

For one day out of the year we got along. It was a place where siblings actually liked each other and nothing could spoil the 364 day wait for downhill exhilaration. But it was the bumper cars my sister adored. She had the control to steer and veer, to choose her victim from all the rest, the poor soul or sister, friend or foe that for $1.25 could cry out in whip-lashed surprise. I hated the bumper cars. That zap above, indigo sparks, like an electrical fly zapper, snatching moths and beetles on my grandparents’ farm in the middle of the night; the small gnats barely audible, but every few minutes that deafening jolt of power through gigantic flapping wings. I hated the bumper cars.

The roller coaster with its clean departure, climbing the metal rung like latches on a belt buckle, to the top for a dramatic pause…overlooking acres of green corn fields, so green its almost blue, like the ocean we’d never known—and then before there is time for a single breath or ‘I wish I’d never done this,’ swoosh into the sea, laughing and crying, loving each turn more than the last-- and finally into the overhang, where we gasp and show off with exasperated faces for the poor fools waiting their turn. That was what I lived for, the roller coaster, that, and to lick the powdered sugar from my funnel cake.

My sister was magical because she was two years older and could make a tootsie pop last seven hours, with slow patient licks, savoring grape sugar for the better part of a day. And so it was that she would save the best for the last, the bumper cars for the night.

With strong parental concern, we were warned to stay together, forced to endure annoying sibling habits, like two very different peas in a pod. I was made to stand in line and watch the violent thrashings, the burnt rubber, the ferocity of children and grown adults smashing into each other in clownish cars, with seatbelts where one-size is supposed to fit all.

And when it was time to pick our cars, thirty screaming kids ran like rats to a donut. We would claim our own. We would ride alone. Climbing in, frantically attaching belt to buckle, the thirteen-year old freckle-faced boy pulled the lever and the electric jolt, the zap of power beneath our fingertips began.

My car roared as I distinguished break from accelerator. I peeled out into a circle and whipped around, searching not for a victim but a way out of my circular nightmare. Holding close to the sides, I drove around and around, avoiding accident after accident, the frightening, vengeful faces of strangers who were suddenly out to get me.

Finding a safe spot in a major traffic jam, I peered out to find my uteran partner in crime...and there she was, with a look so full of despair, like the world had let her down. My sister, my poor sister whom I’d hated for the better part of my eight years, was sitting in the middle of the rink, completely still. And then it hit me, not a car, but a thought, a realization that haunts me to this day. She got the DUD. The bumper car that for some reason failed to move or bump or swerve, and me in the Rolls Royce, speeding along, hating every second. How could this be? The park was closing. It was too late to wait in line—no second chances, no refund, no best for last. In the search for ultimate control, to steer and power her life for 1.5 minutes, she was denied. My sister got the Dud. And I realized that I loved her more than anyone.


DutchMac said...

You have no idea how thrilled I was to read this post! We get to take Little Cub to Adventureland next month, and I absolutely cannot WAIT!

Oh how well I remember those ladybugs, not to mention the red-and-white Red Baron bi-planes, the blue boats, and the golf-cart Model T fords that are no longer there (they are gone, right?). We went a number of years back and I got to relive the glorious days of youth by running around like an 8-year-old, dragging Daddy Big Chief from one excitement to another. 'They used to have the coolest 1-person roller coaster here, but now it's a stupid ferris wheel. I can't wait to show you the Dragon and The Galleon. Hey, what the heck have they done to the Super Screamer?!'

I cannot WAIT!!!!

And I have to admit, I was a hybrid between a Lover and a Hater of the bumper cars. I, too, have been a victim of The Dud, and felt a mixture of supreme unfairness and relief at not having to attempt to whack other cars and failing miserably. But just wait .... I haven't had a chance to slam Daddy around on those things yet.

Beverly said...

I love it!

Angela said...

I have similar recollections of Adventureland, although we always had to go on "Norwest Bank Day" because my grandma got free tickets. We also got a spectaular lunch at the picnic pavillion, complete with pulled pork BBQ sandwiches and mini-bags of chips. We had to bring our own money for funnel cakes though.

We are headed to Adventureland next week - and my personal fave was that spinny ride where the backs of the ride had pictures of frontier scenery on them. I liked the bumper cars, but HATED the Silly Silo. Is it still there? Oh, and the Himalaya. Is that still there? And the Scrambler! Oh, I could go on forever...
Great essay by the way! Brought back memories. :)

Meeps said...

Froggy looks so cute and happy. It is always clear what a wonderful time you have when you return to Ohio, I mean Idaho, Iowa.