Amusement Park-ing - This Time Migraine-Free!!

I'm not going to lie, after my last amusement park excursion (and the subsequent migraine days - plural), I didn't expect to road trip again so quickly. But we learned lessons from the last go. The biggest lesson, DO NOT try to do an amusement park trip (out of the state of Illinois) in one day. It will only lead to migraines.

After a marathon of Bourdain on Labor Day, I texted Elias. If he had the choice between Kansas City (Worlds of Fun), Cincinnati (Kings Island) or Sandusky (Cedar Point), where would he want to go?? The answer: Kansas City. Which was good, cause that's where Bourdain was eating when I asked the question.

A plan came together pretty quickly, as most plans do. Drive to KC after school. Go to the park. Eat BBQ. Drive through Des Moines on the way home. Visit Drake. Go home. Done. And so the adventure begins...

Friday, September 19

Elias had to go to school, but the drive was pretty long, so I decided to work from home half a day. It actually worked out well as my workload has diminished (For now. I want to make that VERY clear) since the insanity of the...well, entire year. Luckily, September and October is notoriously been slower than other months of the year, so it's probably a good thing my trips seem to be happening now. I finished up work just in time to run a few errands (sometimes, you need to pick up a cupcake for the journey) before grabbing Elias and hitting the road.

Driving to Kansas City was a pretty easy deal. Drive west to Des Moines, slingshot around Des Moines (like you're going back in time on the Enterprise), then straight south to KC. It was easy. No really. The last hour was a little difficult as "Mr. I Don't Sleep in Cars" took a nap at the tail end of the journey. Eight hours is long. But there were plenty of stories told about the days of living in Des Moines and driving the long stretch of I80.

To keep entertained on the journey (I'm not sure how Elias is with comfortable silence), I tend to ramble on and read road signs out loud. Sure, What Cheer, Iowa is one of the best signs ever, but we drove past Dixon, IL where they tout Ronald Reagan's Boyhood Home. I said to Elias, "We could totally go there." Without missing a beat, he answered, "We can't go there!! We're not Republicans!!" That's my boy!!

Our hotel was on the north end of Kansas City. The good end. Why was it the good end?? Cause I could stop driving 30 minutes earlier than if it was anywhere else in the KC Metro area. We checked into the Hampton Inn and collapsed into a heap. The day was over.

Saturday, September 20

Honestly, the Hampton Inn was a lovely hotel. Everyone was insanely friendly. The rooms were nice and bright. The breakfast spread was fab. No, really. They had eggs that were amazing, a biscuit and gravy thing that was tasty. Elias had Belgian waffles that were pretty good (though ugly...that was my fault, not the Hampton Inn's). It was a ton of food. And it was free. I approved. Even though there was a church group there. Or a soccer team. Either way, a teenage kid called me Ma'am. Jackass.

Our main reason for going to Kansas City (besides food) was to go to Worlds of Fun and their Haunt celebration. We knew though that we needed BBQ. I was our first time in Kansas City. So we came up with a plan in the morning. It worked our for the most part. Except for one unexpected factor. Fear...

The first stop was the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. We liked that it was free. Elias also said, "We like art museums." Ok. I kind of didn't know that. Well...I knew that I liked them, so I'm thrilled to know he does too. We did have the stop at the Getty Museum in LA, so...we do like art museums!!

The museum had a Picasso exhibit that started the day we got there. Nice. Though I think I thought it was a Van Gogh exhibit, as I spent most of the time at the museum thinking it would be like the Doctor Who episode. No. Picasso is someone totally different. The museum also had big sculptures outside. Ones of shuttlecocks. Yeah.

We hung out at the museum for a few hours, then Elias was ready for lunch. It was kind of an accident that our chosen BBQ joint was only a mile away from the museum. We crossed the border into Kansas (can now mark Kansas off of the state list!!) and got in line at Oklahoma Joe's Barbecue. I think Bourdain was here during his episode. I know he was at the other place I considered going. Either way, we had some good, good food. I had a pulled pork and sausage combo (excellent!!). As was the case in Memphis, Elias devoured his ribs quickly.

Now we didn't have any excuses. It was time to go to Worlds of Fun and get scared out of our wits. Or not. We didn't have to get scared. If anything, it was just time to go to an amusement park.

Elias and I have now been to three of the Cedar Fair parks. We were sad there was no Windseeker, but we found plenty to do in its place. I knew I wasn't going to get him on any wooden roller coasters after the Gemini fiasco in Cedar Point. But the first stop was Spinning Dragons. It was a steel coaster, but one that didn't take you upside down (something we weren't going to do). It did twirl you around while you were on the track. That was pretty cool. Though I realized while I was in line that I had a slight headache. Considering I went full-blown migraine last time I was at a park, I was a little distracted during the ride. Once we got off the first ride, I quickly downed some preventative Aleve and we were on our merry way.

We rode a few rides here and there. Then there was a stop for drinks. It was our stop for drinks (and a quick look in some stores) that gave us our first clue about Worlds of Fun Haunt.

There was a train and a carousel and other things. There was also a funnel cake. Now here's the deal...I haven't had funnel cake in forever. We decided on one that had chocolate pudding on the funnel cake. It was very good, but the funnel cake itself was a little too well done. Still a good decision, but half of a funnel cake in your belly means a good time of sitting off of rides.

We knew Haunt would start at 730p. I told Elias we could stay at the park as long as we wanted. We were in no rush. There were no plans. We could do whatever we wanted. But we might want to do it close to the front of the park just in case we got a little freaked out by the scary people. This was not the worst decision we would have made that day.

As we got to the front of the park, we saw people were gathered around a street. Like the lemming I am, I told Elias we needed to get in the line. And we did. We were fine for a while. Until the scary people started wandering in the crowd. Elias got totally wigged out early and was nearly in the store hiding behind the cash register by the time the show started.

There was a big pumpkin-faced dude with overalls and a chainsaw. Then there was a clown in stilts. They were just roaming. Trying to scare people, but mostly taking pictures with people. As we waited by the street, characters were walking up and down
the street in character. I liked the steampunk guys (though I never found out what their deal was). A few people from the insane asylum seemed to come by. Then there was a monkey with cymbals. Who was a jerk when he crashed the cymbals near us. Monkey!! Dang monkeys are supposed to be good, not mean. (Note how there aren't any pictures?? Yeah, I apparently suck at taking pics of scary beings at dusk. None of my pictures were acceptable. I gotta figure out how to deal with that before the end of October.) The show itself...I didn't really know what was going on (I blame Elias), but it was cool to see all of the people from the different haunted houses come along. I knew we weren't going to go into any of the houses, but they would have been interesting to see. Sure, I say this now...

Once the parade was over, we went back to the car. Elias was more than ready to get the heck out of dodge. Our funnel cake was starting to fade away and we knew we had to find some food. As we drove through the town earlier in the day, we came upon a cute area that seemed to have a ton of shops and restaurants. I should have known better, but Elias wanted to go there to find dinner. I should have known better.

It was 8p on a Saturday night. Of course this area was going to be the most crowded area in all of Kansas City (probably all of Missouri). It took us about 30 minutes to find parking. It was an accident we actually did. Then, neither one of us knew where we wanted to eat. I had Yelp up on my phone and was throwing ideas out into the world. This is the time Elias decided to be totally mute. At a certain point, I found a place that I had visited in Vegas (might have been a station lunch) and I said, "We're going here." Mostly because I could see it in front of us. Mostly because I didn't care anymore. Brio is an Italian place. It had wine (I broke my rule for not drinking when it's just Elias and me on a trip). It had pasta. It wins. We had a bruschetta. We had a vodka pasta. Elias had Tiramasu. We had a nice dinner and drove back to the hotel where we would spend one last night.

Sunday, September 21

The one thing I realized as we left Kansas City on Sunday morning...our drive out of Illinois was not complete as we didn't start our journey with the traditional Starbucks stop. Boo. But we rectified this with the Kansas City Starbucks stop. Yay!! Sure, they spelled Elias's name wrong...

We had two stops planned in Des Moines. First stop was Drake University. The whole way to Des Moines on Friday was me telling stories about Drake. What didn't strike me until I was telling those stories (and again as I was telling similar or the same stories from KC to DSM) was how long ago these stories actually took place. Seriously. I graduated in '97 (JO97!!). I started in '93. Some of these kids weren't even alive as I was sitting in Meredith Hall taking JMC 30 in my first semester on campus. Old. I was feeling very old.

We kind of lucked out as we got to campus. It was Parent's and Family Weekend on campus, so the University Bookstore was open. We knew we needed to stock up on Drake gear, so this was good timing. I walked Elias around campus, pointing out buildings. It was a good walk through memory lane. And man...there were a few things I couldn't remember. Like where the hell Harvey Ingram was. For the most part, everything looked the same. There were just additions. A pond with a waterfall. A gazebo thing. But the rest...just the same. That was comforting. We didn't get to go into any buildings (except Olmstead). But we saw the campus. And did some shopping. There was a drive past my old apartment (Oh, Cottage Grove...) and we were on our way again.

Lunch was at a zombie-themed restaurant. Which is going to deserve its own blog post. Yeah. Stay tuned...

After that, it was a five hour journey home. We might have been a little food coma-ed as we drove out of Iowa (we did have to stop at a rest stop to do a quick run around the car), but the drive back home was pretty eventful. I mean, we didn't get pulled over by the cops. We didn't get into a wreck. The Super Cooper didn't stop for any unknown reason. So it was a win. Elias got dropped off at home and collapsed into a heap. I made it home and collapsed into a heap. We had a whirlwind weekend. For him, it was the last journey of the year. For me, it was the start of an obnoxious two months of travel. Strap in folks, we're only getting started...


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