Friday, June 15, 2012

A Day at Six Flags Great America

Yesterday, we all went to Great America. The kids, Donovan & Krissy, have
Ron, Domi, Donovan, Andrew, Krissy, Brookie & S
season passes, along with their oldest son, Domi and he brought his little friend, Brookie.
A double decker carousel!!!!
They had some coupons for us to get in free that expired this week, so although it wasn't that hot outside, it was warm enough to brave the cold waters of the water park. The main park  just added the water park about six years ago and I'm sure the residents of the area are glad they did, with the summers being so hot. We have never been to a water park, so this was going to be a treat.

Andrew checking out the water
The entire park consists of lots of rides, mostly roller coasters and the water park,  so, that is where we headed first. The water park is broken down in parts, so first we went to the little kids park, so Andrew could go into the shallow waters and not be scared by so many people. He had a great time and that is where we went on the smaller slides, but, they were still exciting. I

What's this?

say smaller, but, it didn't seem that way from the top!!! All those stairs about did me in! The first slide I went on, by myself, because although Ron was all for going on the slides, once he found out the water wasn't heated, he had second thoughts.
I had to lay on my stomach on a mat. I didn't like that so much, I'd much rather sit down and slide, easier on the body. After I finally headed down into a dark tunnel, which twisted and turned, I bonked my poor head on the side of the walls

and then shot outside and I kid you not, I think I sailed through the air on the first hump. Enough of that, I'll not go on that one again, I think...

We spent a little while there, then, walked

over to the other side with the wave pool, bigger slides & the lazy river. We were all in the wave pool except Ron and he finally decided, to heck with it, he was going to go in, because we were giving him a hard time about getting wet.
Domi & Brookie in the wave pool, notice the water slides
Once he got wet, he decided we needed to go over to the original side we were on with the smaller slides....grrr! So, back we, (Ron & I), went and he went on the very slide I went on first...after he was done with that, we went on the second one I wanted to go on. This one had rafts that we took up to the top. They were two man rafts and I sat in the front, Ron sat in the back, boy was that fun!!! Except when we hit the water, I was bounced out of the raft, but, Ron wasn't...oh well, it was still fun!

After that ride, we went back over to where

We're all cruisin' the lazy river....Ron...
everyone else was and went on the lazy river. I felt kind of sorry for Krissy because she had to stay on the shore with the baby, so it seemed we were having all the fun. The lazy river was longer than I thought it would be,
(which was good!), a good half an hour of floating and staying out of the way of the waterfalls and such. The last thing we did in the water park was go into the warmest pool
there. That one was heated to at least 80 degrees, if not warmer. That was a welcome relief after being in the cold water everywhere else. We never did make it to the larger slides, but, we will leave that to another day...
Krissy & Andrew taking in a ride

Once we were done there, we all got dressed in our regular clothes, had dinner and then had time to go on a couple coaster rides. I haven't been on a coaster since the last time we went to Disneyland in 1999. Whenever Ron & I go, I have to go by myself, but, this time, Donovan, I,  Domi &  Brookie went. The best ride of the night was the wooden roller coaster.

The wooden roller coaster, what a blast!
That was just good old fashioned fun, no riding upside down or corkscrews, just dips and going round and down from high up. The only downside was that it was so rough & rickety at times, I felt my whole body was being shaken to death. We were some of the last ones on the wooden coaster, so we were thrilled when we came back to the station and found out they were going to let us stay on for the last ride of the night. We all swore the cars left the track when we came up from some of the dips...
The kids playing a water pistol game, Brookie won!

They said we'll probably be going next week as well, so I have my eye on going on as many coaster rides as I can, I LOVE roller coasters and it's even more fun riding with others!

This morning, when I woke up, I felt like I'd been run over by a truck, it was because of that dratted wooden roller coaster, I just know it... Today, Ron went over to the repair shop where the Jeep is getting repaired from

The windshield is out
the hail damage. He was able to take some pics, but, they told him to come back on Tuesday, when they would
The tail light & rear window are out, those little yellow circles are dents
have the hood & top of the car off, that will be a sight to see. Our poor old Jeep, but, pretty soon it will look brand new once again. The repair guy said they would actually have to do some real dent repair on part of the car, because apparently the dents weren't minor.
This rear window is out, too

Tomorrow, it seems we are going camping, so maybe I'll
have more to tell later....

This little kitten wanted to come along with u
I have some parting pics of our friends' yard before we left Graham.
Storm clouds coming in, thankfully, no hail this time...

The face on the tree is what I liked best, would like to get something like it for when we plant our trees next winter.
Cute, huh?

I want to pause here and say, while we were here, we received sad news about an old and dear friend who died out in California. She had been ill for some time and then suddenly, she was gone. We've known Alice since Oct of 1996, when we met her and her husband, Chuck, (who died in 2008), at a rally of Boomers in Moab. They were a great addition to any group, as they played the banjo & guitar and sang the old folk songs around the fire and they always encouraged us to sing along with them. I'm sure they are up in heaven now singing with the angels and making beautiful music for eternity. We shall miss them both, as they were great friends through the years and we made it a point to visit them whenever we were nearby.

Our next stop was Linden, TX, (hometown of Don Henley), about 260 miles northeast near Texarkana. These are also bus friends, Jere & Ronnie, & they also live on a few acres. They used to raise a few Texas Longhorns, but, last summer, during the drought, they ended up selling the last of them because it was getting too expensive to feed them hay. While we were there, it didn't rain much either.

In the week we stayed, we went to garage sales & to their fish camp which is right across the border in Louisiana. We only went the one day and the lake they are on is being drained, because of invasive water plants in the area. Guess they are going to spray them with something, then, fill it back up with a special kind of carp, that are sterile, but, eat the grassy fungus that is in the water. Hope it works, because for most of the  year, Jere can't even get his boat out to fish. We've been to that camp twice in years past and we haven't been able to go for a ride yet on the water. Hopefully, by, next winter, the water will be back to normal and everybody living on that body of water will be happy.
Granite City, IL, here we come! When we added up the miles, it was going to be another looong day of driving. Ron wanted to get there all in one day, because he wanted to sightsee the next day, so we drove the 600 mile trip & it took us about 11 hours to get there. Now, you are probably wondering what we were in such a hurry for, since we are retired. We had told our kids we'd be there around the 6th, so we wanted to get as close to that date as we could, so we started early in the morning, around 7 & got there at 6 well before it got dark. We parked at the Elks lodge and they have two electric hookups. We promptly plugged in so we could turn the A/C on and a few minutes later tripped the circuit breaker on the electric post, so had to go into the lodge to see if they could get it back on, which they did. I think it was the combination of us running the A/C, the fan & the microwave at the same time. It was nice to get off the freeway and rest for awhile....

The next morning we drove into St. Louis and drove around and around looking for the darned parking lot! I had looked on the internet and it said there was a huge lot that could accommodate RV's, but, I don't think we ever saw it, we ended up parking in a parking garage, which fortunately adjoined the park where the arch was.
The arch as seen from the parking lot
The minute we walked out of the garage, we were surrounded by trees, so nice & shady on a hot day. All the way down to the park, where the arch stands was shady, it was great.

The arch itself invites you to take pictures at many angles, as we did, then, it was into the Visitor
Looking towards the visitors center and the south arm of the Arch
Center to get tickets to the top. We had to go through a checkpoint much as you have to do at the airport, although you don't have to take off your shoes. Ron had a knife in his
Looking from the visitor's center back towards the entrance
pocket, but, they didn't confiscate it at all, as I had a knife in my purse, but, they didn't say anything about it. So, not sure what they were looking I came down the ramp, Ron was just about to get our tickets. We looked around a little, there is a nice
The museum
little museum inside about the westward expansion, which we decided to go through when we got back down from the top of the arch. Ron surprised me by telling me we were going to go on an hours long
The making of the arch back in 1965
boat cruise on the Mississippi River.

After looking around a bit, we decided we wanted

The door to our cubicle to go up into the top of the arch
to go to the top, so got in line. Now, we had to walk, walk, walk to get to the
Doesn't this remind you of a Disneyland ride?
place where we were to wait for the elevators to take us to the top. As the pictures will show you, there are 8 small cubicles, I'll call them, because that is what they are, but, they are all attached to each other like a little train. We all had a door to stand in front of and each cubicle can hold 5 people, but, when we went
Looking inside, don't those look like toilet seats?
up, there were only four of us and when we went down, just us two were in the car. We were standing there waiting for the door to open and the whole concept reminded me a lot of waiting for a ride at Disneyland.
Looking out at our boat we'll be riding, on our river cruise

Each little cubicle has 5 seats inside, that swivel to keep us upright as we are going up, because of course, we're
going up on a slant. It's pretty confining inside this cubicle,
The city of St. Louis, MO
although the door does have glass in it so you can see out into the leg of the arch where there are beams & stairs, so not so bad. It takes 4 minutes to get up
If you click on this pic, you will see the rooftop swimming pools
and 3 1/2 minutes to get down. We went up the north leg & down the south leg. At the top, the floor starts low & then you walk up over the hump and go down the other side, with little low windows along both sides of the arch. To see
This is the only inside pic we took, we are standing 630 ft above ground.
through them, you have to bend over a low wall and look out. Very beautiful views all around, as it was a nice, clear
Looking into southeastern Illinois

After coming down into the main building downstairs, we took a walk through the museum.

See the windows up there?

A model of a sod house
This museum has the true stories of the Indians & how we treated them with our endless broken treaties & putting them on reservations, because of all the Europeans coming in to claim the land. They even have a nice area where they have depicted the Lewis & Clark expedition
The photo panels in back are telling of the Lewis & Clark expedition
marked by panels & actual excerpts out of their journals posted on each panel. I ended up going through it backwards, but, from what I could tell, it took them a little over a year to reach the Pacific Ocean. I also didn't realize that Clark not only was a botanist, but, also had rheumatism and I can't believe he undertook such an arduous journey all crippled up as he was...
These paddle wheels don't move

After walking through the museum, we walked down to the river & got on our boat, the "Tom Sawyer". The "Becky Thatcher" was parked right next to us. Ron took a picture of the
Besides all the barges on the river, there are fishermen, too
paddle wheel in back, but, it wasn't really turning. You'd think that even though they use real engines now, they could at least have the paddle wheels going around to make you think it was being paddled by that mode. They do
A new bridge going up across the river
have real paddle wheelers on the river, though, we didn't see one. They are like cruise ships plying the Mississippi with tourists instead of commodities. I've looked up maybe riding on one, but, they are very expensive!

Grain being filled into a barge
We saw all kinds of barges, some loaded, some empty. One was being offloaded of oil, one was being loaded with grain. We saw another bridge being built to go across the river, and old bridges that had been there since the late 1800's. St. Louis is right on the river in Missouri, but, on the other side, in Illinois, there isn't anything over there along the banks of the river.....there are towns, yes, but, they are just small towns set further inland on this part of the river.

After the cruise, we want to tour the Budweiser factory, which was just

Notice the trolley going across the bridge
down the road from the Arch. The first thing we saw as we headed towards the parking lot, was some of the Clydesdales out for some exercise. We parked, then went into the
Anhauser-Busch brewery tour
Visitor Center, where a tour was just starting, so we joined it. The first place we stopped was the paddock of the famous Clydesdales and there was one horse in there. It was so CLEAN!! Ron said it was looked cleaner & nicer than some homes! While we were
Inside the visitor's center
learning about the horses housed there, the three that were outside, came in. I was standing at the gate where the first one was coming in. The handler didn't even ask me to step back, he just assumed that I would, which I did, and this huge horse just walked right past me. He was so close, I could have petted him, but, I didn't. I wish I'd had the camera,
Clydesdales out for their exercise
because I could have taken a great picture of him going by. All three came in that way and right into their rooms. The horses have to be 4 years old to be hitched to one of the teams and there are many teams out all the time in the various areas of the
In his paddock
country. They have 200 horses at any one time. St. Louis is not where they breed them, though, there is a farm nearby with more Clydesdales. Warm Springs is the name of the place where they breed them,
Coming in from exercise
which is in Missouri, but, I forgot the name of the town.

After seeing the horses, we went on the rest of the tour. The plant employs about 3,000 people, even though most of the packaging & labeling is
done via computer and conveyor belts. Everything else is done by hand. At the end of the tour, each person over 21 is given two complimentary beers. I was surprised that we were given actual glasses, not samples of beer. I was also surprised to hear that Shock Top, a Belgian wheat beer, is made by Budweiser. I like it because it doesn't have that nasty aftertaste like most beers have, so I had two glasses of it. Ron, because he was driving, had a soda.
On the brewery tour

After resting and drinking our beverages and wandering around the visitor's center, we decided to have dinner out and then head back to the bus.

Inside the packaging plant

The next morning, we started heading up to Round
Lake Heights where our nephew & family live. They are about 2 hours north of Chicago, up near the Wisconsin state line. We had paid to have an asphalt driveway put alongside their house about two years ago, but, have never gotten to park on it. This was the year we were finally getting to do that.
During Prohibition, Busch branched out into other fields, this is kinda cool looking....

We got there in early afternoon and got parked on our "pad". Since we are not really supposed to be sleeping in our rig, we are going to temporarily, while we
are here, start sleeping in their basement on an air mattress. Last night was our last night sleeping in the rig.

Since being here, we've gone to numerous baseball games in which our great nephew, Domi, plays. He also goes to swimming classes every day. We went to one of those, but, since he's just learning now how to perfect his swimming strokes and such, there isn't much to see. We may go camping this weekend at a preserve near here, (tent camping, that is). Also, there is a trip to Great America/water park coming up either this week or next, depending on how we feel, as we are fighting colds. These last two days have been rather cool, so I'd rather go on a fairly warm day to make it worthwhile to go into the water without feeling cold.