Rufus and Penn were devouring a unhealthy breakfast of coffee and double chocolate doughnuts. Between bites, Rufus asked, “So what are we doing today? Six Flags or zip lining?”
Penn regarded his friend’s question carefully. The ladies would return home Saturday, and classes started up again Monday, so this day and tomorrow would be the most logical days to plan something. Logical? That sounded like something Rufus would say!
“Let’s do Six Flags,” Penn suggested.
“Great! There are a couple of DC rides,” Rufus said. “The Joker is supposed to be the best roller coaster in the park.”
“Yeah, I’ve heard about it. It’s supposed to be intense.”
“Okay, we’ll save that for last. YouTube reviews say the Batman coaster is good but Superman is better. Reviewers also like the Medusa, even though it isn’t DC,” Rufus replied.
Aha! So that’s how Rufus, a novice rider, knew so much about roller coasters. Then again, that sounded exactly what he would do: look online for reviews, search for theme parks near San Francisco, and watch videos taken by people who were actually on particular rides. Most likely, he studied injury and death rates as well.
Rufus watched videos roller coaster videos most of the way from San Francisco to Vallejo. “Did you know,” he asked Penn. “That there was supposed to be a Batman and Robin roller coaster? They built one at St. Louis and it failed massively. Cars were supposed to climb a hill, then speed backwards. They didn’t have the momentum to do that. There were other issues, too, and eventually the ride was closed for repairs longer than it had been open.”
“Guess it fizzled like the Batman and Robin movie,” Penn quipped.
“No, no, no. You made me sit through that movie and told me to look at it as an homage to the crazy 1960s TV series. And I liked it!”
Penn grinned sheepishly. “I can stream it. You want to come over and watch it again?”
Rufus laughed. “Smart ass.”
When the guys got to the park, they started to look for thrill rides. The first ride they came across was the Boomerang Coast-to-Coaster, which flung riders 120 feet in the air, only to yank them back to the place where they started. When the ride was over, they wandered a little through the park until Penn spotted a sign about Odin’s Temple of the Tiger. Odin was a beloved white Bengal tiger who died in 2019, shortly before he turned 18. Rufus felt a little shaky, so Penn took his pulse. “120. Yep. Tachycardia.” He looked at his friend’s worried eyes and glibly said, “You’ll live.”
Rufus scowled at Penn, called him a name not normally used in polite company, and insisted they do something relatively tame. So they went back to the Temple of the Tiger to watch the big cats play fighting, swimming in a pool, and leaping over huge rocks. Instead, the tigers were sleeping! The animal care attendant decided it was time to feed—and awaken the big cats. She threw some thick, raw pieces of meat into the water and the tigers pounced, eagerly swimming and scooping up the limbs and steaks. The guys were sitting near the pool and got soggy. So, hoping they would dry out, they climbed aboard the Ark, a swinging ship ride.
Then they took in the Sky Screamer, a ride that took them nearly 150 feet in the air and swung them around due to centripetal force. Penn made the error of calling it centrifugal force, so Rufus explained the difference between the two. From there they rode the Flash, a suspended coaster that featured twists and an extreme, vertical climb upwards and let them plunge all the way down.
After battling the Flash, Penn suggested they stop for lunch. Rufus felt like his stomach was still on the top of the ride, so he didn’t want much to eat. He decided to get a little ice cream. Penn, on the other hand, opted to get a chili cheese hot dog with extra onions and washed it down with a can of beer. It tasted so good that he ordered another hot dog with even more onions and had another beer. Rufus looked at him with astonishment. Not only did Penn enjoy thrill rides, he also relished culinary risks!
The next ride was the Wonder Woman Lasso of Truth. Described as an extreme pendulum ride, it lifted the riders up, spun them around, and swung them side to side. Since it was nearby, the guys rode the Superman ultimate flight. Penn’s stomach did a backflip but he didn’t want to admit it, so after the ride, he insisted they take in the Superman Ultimate Flight took them from zero to over 60 MPH in seconds, and featured a non-inverting loop.
Penn finally caved and told Rufus that his normally iron stomach was bothering him. The hot dogs and beer congealed in his stomach. Rufus steered him to an unoccupied table in the shade and left to find some ginger ale and some candied ginger. When he returned, Rufus asked Penn if it would bother him if he got some food. He got a turkey leg and, while Penn was feeling too nauseated to eat, he thought Rufus’ lunch looked delicious.
Afterwards, Rufus suggested they head back to the zoo. He got up close and personal with some of the snakes and peered at the alligators. Penn wanted to check out the aquarium, which was actually an underwater tunnel. Looking at the sea creatures on all sides and above was so relaxing. It didn’t take long for Penn to feel better, and the guys went to conquer the last three roller coasters.
The Medusa was as formidable as the YouTube videos suggested. It consisted of seven snake-like vertical loops on which the riders would be inverted, a double-inversion loop, and a couple of corkscrews. Penn was so grateful that Rufus got him some candied ginger, because he might have gotten sick on the Medusa or on the Batman coaster, featured an overhead track and a 360-degree loop in the first few seconds of the ride.
At last they came to the final ride, the Joker. It was a hybrid coaster, made with metal and wood. The ride immediately took the riders 120 feet in the air at a 90-degree angle, and turned the riders head-over-heels without warning. Both men thought that the Joker deserved all the hype, and stood in line to ride it again.
They ventured back to the zoo to participate in some of the Ocean Discovery events. The exhibit itself was spread out over two acres and had a Caribbean theme. They wondered what kinds of sea creatures Ellowyne, Amber, Lizette, and Pru encountered.
All too soon the day was over. The guys stopped at a gift shop for t-shirts for themselves. Rufus found a shirt perfect for Ellowyne, while Penn agonized over whether he should or should not get a shirt for Amber. Penn ended up getting shirts for Pru and Lizette so they wouldn’t think it strange that he got one for Amber.
As they headed home from a day of fun, Penn asked Rufus if they were going to do anything Friday. “Do you really want to go zip lining?”
Rufus shook his head. “This has been fun. But I’ve had enough adventure for one spring break.”
Penn sighed with relief. “I’ve done it as part of my Army training, and it takes a lot of upward body strength. It looks kind of easy but you have to be in good shape to do some of the longer lines.
Rufus asked, “Want to get some food?”
“Yeah. There’s a new Vietnamese place that serves delicious pho,” Penn replied.
Pho was exactly the comfort food the guys needed, and when they finished eating, they went over to Rufus’ place to play video games.