The Koehl Family and Rao Family Visit The Corn Fields of Santa Claus, Indiana! - Part Three

Edited: February 15, 2016, 8:51 PM

[ICYMI: Part One and Part Two]

JR: As a matter of fact, riding coasters is exactly what we did. The park was open until 9 PM and it was starting to get dark at 8:00 when we left the Café. We definitely wanted it to get darker before we hit the wooden beasts, so we went back to Thunderbird first and rode it several times until about 8:20. It wasn’t quite dark yet, but the ride was still exhilarating, and the shade of nightfall provided a canopy of coolness that heightened the fun. After Thunderbird we started our way back to the front of the park riding Voyage, Legend, and Raven as it became progressively darker. By the time we got on Legend and Raven it was full on nighttime, and the rides were crazy and out of control just like any night ride on a wooden beast is supposed to be. The final ride on the Raven was fantastic… but at the end, I was done – wiped out – and ready for a good night’s sleep. So we trudged wearily but happily to our cars and drove back to Motel Hell to get some sleep.

We purchased two day tickets to Holiday world (less expensive than buying two one-day tickets) but had no real agenda for the second day other than to get some final rides in and start the drive back to Kansas City at a reasonable hour (no later than 2:00 or 3:00 PM). So, in the morning we took our time getting ready with no real need to rush to the park. Our plan was to eat breakfast then loiter around riding flat rides and buying souvenirs until 11:00 when the water park opened, then hit all the coasters one more time before starting the long drive back to our respective homes (although Jim and Anton would be stopping at Kings Island on the way home – the lucky devils!).

Entering the main area of Holiday World thirty minutes before park opening, we headed straight for Kringle’s Kafe to get breakfast. This indoor, air conditioned, fast food joint serves a variety of breakfast biscuits at pretty reasonable prices (no more than what you would pay at a McDonald’s or the like, if I remember correctly). Anyway, the food was decent, but not at all comparable to the feast we had at the Plymouth Rock Café the night before. It was fairly standard fast food, but it hit the spot.

After breakfast we toured through the nearby candy shop and made our plans for later in the afternoon on the way out of the park. We were definitely going to grab some oversized buckeyes and chocolate covered bacon. Once my daughter saw all that chocolate and peanut butter there was no way she was letting me leave without making a purchase. To her, getting those oversized buckeyes was a moral imperative. And hey, since Jim introduced us to buckeyes during our Cedar Point trip the previous year, how could I refuse?

When the park opened and everyone headed in a mad rush back to Thunderbird, we hung behind and touring the 4th of July area. We rode the Liberty Launch (a seven story S&S Double Shot) and the Star Spangled Carousel before making our way back to the Thanksgiving area and riding the Turkey Whirl (a Tilt-A-Whirl) and Gobbler Getaway. We experienced little or no wait at any of these attractions which was in stark contrast to all the sprinting we did in our race to ride Thunderbird on day one. This leisurely pace was the kind of slow as molasses touring both Jim and my wife appreciate the most. Wimps!

Anyway, by the time we completed this leisurely circuit and made our way back to Thunderbird, the water park was open and the coaster lines were down to manageable levels, just as I expected. Ah, it is so nice when a plan works the way you expect it to work! Anyway, we spent the next couple of hours grabbing final rides on the four big coasters, shopping, visiting the candy store to get those buckeyes (delicious) and some chocolate covered bacon (yucky), before heading out to the parking lot, bidding a fond adieu to both Holiday World and our extended family members, Jim and Anton, and heading back to Kansas City.

JS: Well, now, that was a lot less long winded, Mr. Rao. Too bad you couldn’t be as brief during the first half of this overly long diatribe! Anywayyyy… Mr. Koehl!! Is there anything you want to add about your last day at Holiday World and your jaunt to Kings Island before I get your parting thoughts?

JK: I can't say that I disagree with James at all about our last (half) day there. Luckily our "goodbyes" were short and sweet. Any longer and they would have gotten a bit emotional. The Raos, with five to get organized into the van for a long trip home, took a little longer than Anton and I to get ready to go, so we left before them – and James still passed me in the parking lot and was half-way to the Illinois border before we got to the interstate. It's amazing what replacing your spark plugs with dilithium crystals does for fuel efficiency – I must ask for them the next time I get my car serviced.

JS: All right! With those comments, gentlemen, let’s have your final thoughts – and keep it short, I’ve got and Ebay auction that’s about to expire and if I don’t win that ultra-rare Mad Hatter Disney pin I am gonna be pi…uh…really mad!

JR: Overall, our whirlwind trip was a lot of fun. Kentucky Kingdom may have been a bit of a misstep, but Holiday World more than made up for it. So, I am glad we made the excursion. It wasn’t a Disney trip, but it was still a great vacation. And I can talk about all the great coasters and tasty food until the cows come home but it won’t change the fact that just like our visit to Ohio the previous year, the real joy we experienced on this trip came from our interactions with Jim and Anton. They are tremendously fun travel companions! To be perfectly honest, as much as I have enjoyed over the years, the best thing about that site is the fact that through it I met the Koehl family. It isn’t very often that we encounter such genuinely superb people in this life, and even more seldom for us to meet them through a theme park fansite, but that’s exactly what happened when I met Jim. He and Anton are amazing people who I will treasure as dear friends for the rest of my life. And while this trip was all about riding coasters and having good, clean theme park fun, the real highlight of the trip, without a second thought, was being reunited with Jim and Anton at that Embassy Suites in Louisville, and the lowlight was saying goodbye in the parking lot of Holiday World. Everyone says we live in a “small world” but it isn’t small enough when you are saying goodbye to friends. I cannot wait until we meet again in 2016 at Cedar Point to ride Valravn! Ride on!

JK: My parting thoughts…. For those of you who have actually made it this far, you have my admiration, or pity, but also my thanks for sharing this adventure with us. We have all been on some vacations that were less than memorable, or were unforgettable for all the wrong reasons. This week with the Raos was one of the best weeks Anton and I have ever spent. The enthusiasm that James and his entire family has for all things theme and amusement park is unending and contagious. When the Raos and the Koehls get together, it is like a family reunion where everyone is over-the-top excited to see each other again. My son Anton and James' sons Jacob and Jeremy are like cousins that grew up together, his daughter Emma is a delightful young lady with an ear-splitting coaster scream and a smile to melt the heart. Robin, James’ charming wife, seems to be the calm in the storm of the Raos crazy enthusiasm, but she can ride a coaster with the best of them.

I will always be in debt to Robert Niles for creating Theme Park Insider, and for that day that I saw it listed someplace as the "Web Site of the Day". I don't want to imagine how different my life would be if I hadn't decided to check it out that day, because in my circle of close friends, many of them were found through TPI. James and I are the proverbial "brothers from different parents", and have been through some personal tragedies this past year. Having each other to help us deal with them has been a blessing. Next summer, with the Raos returning to Cedar Point to ride Valravn and Gatekeeper (and hopefully not breaking it like they did last summer) can't get here soon enough. James, Robin, Jacob, Jeremy, Emma, summer 2016 means Valravn, front row, center seats. Anton and I can't wait!

JS: And there you have it, folks, the conclusion of another episode in the long running, highly touted, tl;dr, 18-49 demo hated series, Meet the Insiders or: Here’s Another Offering to the God of TPI, Robert Niles, for Which I Will Receive Less Than Minimum Wage, but I Am Still Grateful. I want to thank James and Jim for sharing their adventures with us, and also thank them for helping us all get plenty of rest as reading this article certainly had soporific effect on me, and I am sure it had one on you as well. So, for now, this is your favorite roving reporter, Johnny On the Spot, signing off by saying, “Happy travels to all, and to all a good night ride on your favorite wooden coaster!“


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