I hold a particular standard when it comes to beaches. To me, a beach is the sandy or rocky or general coastal area next to a large body of water. That body should usually be an ocean.
Now, being a former resident of Fayette Name, we had our own beach in South Connellsville which bordered on the Youghiogheny river. This is the same river that forks at one point and if you go canoeing or tubing down the wrong path, you’ll eventually have to pick up your flotation device and walk a bit. I don’t consider that a real beach. I consider it a lie we tell ourselves in order to feel better about not having a real beach around.
My wife likes to think that Presque Isle, in Erie, is a beach, complete with somewhat dirt based sand and rocks jutting up out of the water of a lake that, at one point in history, caught fire. I wouldn’t be too quick to take a dip in that. OK, actually, it was Lake Cuyahoga that caught fire back in the 60s, but as my one coworker put it, “Have your dog take a dump on your kitchen floor. Then have your mom clean it up, using the best possible cleansers and bleach. Once that floor shines , have her make you a sandwich and then drop it on the floor where that steaming pile was ten minutes ago. Would you still eat it?” Regardless of how much time has passed, that crappy, flammable water still ends up in Lake Erie.
So, going forward, Lake Erie does not have a beach. It has a shore. It has a park. It does not have a beach. END OF LINE.
Since we’ve settled that, I wanted to relate to you my trip to Erie over Labor Day weekend. Because we are perpetually procrastinating everything, my wife and I have been doing some spontaneous summer stuff to kind of break up the long haul towards next summer and the ‘REAL’ beach trip.
My kid’s been wanting to go to a water park and because of the weather, I came up with the glorious idea to go to Splash Lagoon in Erie. It’s an indoor waterpark which is open year round. Doing a quick search on their site, I was able to get a night’s stay at an adjoining hotel and two days worth of park passes for the three of us for $250.
We drove up Friday morning and spent the afternoon drowning at the water park. We broke for dinner and then hit the hotel pool for a bit before going to crash in the room. The next morning we checked out and went back to the waterpark for a few hours, cleaned up and then did Presque Isle and Erie Not-a-Beach.
My take on Splash Lagoon.
If you have kids I would definitely go there at least once while they’re old enough to ride the slides. If you have little ones, like I do and you do not plan on going on any slides, then it’s fine to go with small children. We’re in that period of flux where we are not exactly slide worthy anymore, yet our kid is not quite old enough to really tackle the slides on her own. That being said, I rode every slide to get my money’s worth and paid the price in injuries.
My wife only went on two slides out of embarrassment and risk of injury. My kid rode two slides and spent most of her time in the kiddie area. While my wife watched her, I rode the big kid rides and sustained many an injury.
Splash Lagoon has seven water slides, three whirlpools, a lazy river, a pool for basketball and some obstacle stuff and the kiddie area.
Maui Wowie: Basic open body slide with circular pattern. It kind of hurts the back a bit, going over the pipe seams but my kid loved it. She rode it again and again all day long. I could only ride it a few times because it kept slamming my ankle into the turns.
The Black Hole: A similar ride to Maui Wowie, but completely in the dark.
Big Kahuna: This one is a tube ride that goes outside the building and then back in, ending in a splash pool connected to the lazy river. All three of us did this one, once. I could not get either my wife or kid to go on a second time.
Python Plunge: Another tube ride that seems to be a combination of Kahuna and Black Hole.
Shark Attack: Body slide that goes outside the building next to Python Plunge, has a longer ending due to speed.
Cyclone: A tube ride that drops you into swirling bowl that eventually plunges you down a slide into a splash pool that connects to the Lazy River. This one I liked going on a lot but there is a moment when you head towards the exit chute where you end up slamming into the barrier between the chute and the bowl which usually hurts. I usually dumped out of my tube at end, every time.
Hurricane Hole: Body slide, just Cyclone. I dubbed it the Pain Hole. You slide into a swirling vortex which ends in a giant hole that drops you into six and a half feet of water. It took some time to figure out how to not dump into the pool, head first. It’s also a bit jarring when you initially exit the slide into the bowl. I found that if you sat up you had better control and could actually maneuver yourself into going feet first into the pool.
Most of the slides where hard to gauge because there was no way to see anything. You managed to get water in your eyes and nose and mouth no matter how hard you tried. Because most slides insisted you ride with your legs crossed and hand behind your head you couldn’t guard against the splashing. So, telling someone that slide goes outside the building doesn’t do much for me because I can’t see anyway.
Probably the most notable part of the park is the Tiki Tree House which has various water cannons and buckets that you can spill on people as they climb. But at the top there is the huge bucket which spills its contents on everyone below roughly every ten minutes. An air horn sounds and like some Pavlovian response, people come running from every corner to wait for the deluge of water that drenches everyone and everything in its path. At first, my kid tried to get away from it. By the end, she was running towards it.
In all, it was fun. I guess they just opened an indoor wave pool, so we’ll have to try that next time. For me, it's hard to try and be the kid that didn't have these kinds of places around me, growing up. I want to enjoy the rides and experience them with my kid but man I'm getting too old for this shit. That's why I made that point about having kids of a certain age. If you have more than one, close in age and over the minimum height requirement it's easier because they can ride together or at least run off and have fun, leaving you to lament the fact that you didn't lose that extra ten pounds over the summer. And as a clumsy, 36 year old Mongo, it's hard to be graceful as you are being tossed about by water. I gave Splash Lagoon the tagline: "Every ten minutes they dump 1000 gallons of water and every fifteen minutes there's 1000 awkward dismounts."
I felt the best part was going to a restaurant located in the parking lot, called Boston’s. I’d never heard of it before but it was pretty damn good food. My wife got an Italian sampler which consisted of chicken parmigiana, Fettuccine Alfredo, and a sausage lasagna. How sad am I?
The only things we didn’t dare try were the family and adult only whirpools or hot tubs. I’d just assume not even go there. I know, consider how many germs were probably in that water, no amount of chlorine would make it safe, but it was probably safer than Lake Erie which does not have a beach. STEP OFF!