(Photo courtesy of the Cedar Point Weather Cam May 25)
Those of you who follow me on twitter will know that we not only drove out to Boston for the Reubens this year but we had a series of adventures on the road. As Tom Racine said, "It's not the Reubens, it's The Amazing Race!" And I have to admit it felt like a road trip movie at times.
Why did we drive? Well, largely because we decided to take our three kids with us.
Which meant that flying would be waaaaaaaay too expensive. (Plus, Richard Thompson was hoping I would take some of my homemade chocolate truffles - try explaining those to airport security).
Another wrinkle was that the Fairmont Copley Plaza, nice though it is, does not have a swimming pool. And we have a daughter that is still young enough to be interested in swimming and considers any hotel without a pool to be unworthy of consideration. Since we couldn't provide said pool at the Fairmont, it became important to find pool containing hotels to stay at on the way there.
To further the "fun family road trip" vibe we decided to spend one of our travel days whooping it up at Cedar Point.
An ordinary trip, right?
Not in the insanity that is our current weather.
Everything started out fine as we headed over to spend the first night with family in Indiana. We had watched the weather reports for Ohio (location of Cedar Point) for a couple of days and knew that thunderstorms were a possibility. But I was thinking, oh you know, thunderstorms.
As we left Indiana Wednesday morning, May 25, the sky was clear. In fact, pretty much all the way over to Sandusky things looked pretty decent. We got into the park at opening time and divided up into smaller groups (the better to be sure of roller coaster bravery compatibility levels). I do remember saying to everyone - "Be sure to ride your favorites early before the bad weather moves in".
It was great. No storms, lots of fun roaming the park. We breathed a sigh of relief that the weather folks had been wrong and we had dodged a bullet.
Somewhere after lunchtime, things clouded over and got ugly but the rain stopped and within 30 minutes everything was up and running again.
Until about 5:00 pm.
I don't remember what it was that caught my attention - maybe it was the wind picking up - but I looked to the East and saw the biggest, blackest, fastest moving cloudbank I've ever seen in my life. We all managed to find each other (the up side to each family member having a cell phone) and began looking for a place to take shelter. Which is when I realized something I hadn't thought about before.
Amusement parks don't have basements.
So we settled for the next best thing. The oldest building we could find - my reasoning being, if it has weathered horrible storms before, it can again.
We crowded into the arcade with hundreds of other park visitors and hunkered down. And it was a good thing because this was one of those storms where the rain goes sideways. Worse, every time I peeped out at the sky the clouds were going in a different direction. At one point the clouds overhead were actually swirling in a circle.
I was pretty sure that was bad. We stayed put.
But we couldn't stay there forever. Eventually we took advantage of short breaks between rain and worked our way from shelter to shelter toward the front of the park.
Which is how we wound up trapped in the gift shop below the cable cars. Turns out there was enough rain to cause serious flooding and the water was coming in under the doors on both sides of the shop. The employees were valiantly trying to push the water back with giant squeegees but I know enough about gravity to realize (although they didn't seem to) that this was a battle they were not going to win.
So we sloshed our way out through shin deep waters and made a break for the parking lot. This was a trip of about a quarter mile. I started by running as fast as I could - hoping that somehow less time underwater would magically make my Reebocks less saturated - but eventually I gave up and just plodded the rest of the way.
Once we made it to the van we still had to get out of the flooded parking lot without stalling and then over the causeway to the mainland (Cedar Point is on a peninsula - hence the word "point" in the name).
After about 10 harrowing minutes driving through water of undeterminable depths, we safely got to the highway and proceeded to Cleveland and our warm, dry hotel.
Except it wasn't.
The hotel entrance was flooded, half the parking lot was flooded, and there were actually puddles in the hotel hallways. I will decline to mention the name of the establishment (I plan on filling out one of those "rate your stay" emails, though) but I was shocked at the level of disrepair in a hotel of this price and stature. One of the elevators was out of order, the pool area was a disaster of cracked tiles, peeling paint, and peeling floor, and water seemed to be leaking into every area. The bar, the hallways, the rooms. By morning a leak had appeared in our room right where my daughter's bed would have been had she opened the sofa bed. As it was she chose to sleep on the sofa as a sofa and remained dry. While I realize this was a storm of above average rainfall, it was clear from the damage to the ceiling, walls, and carpet that this hotel has had water issues for a loooong time.
Watching the weather channel we could see that everywhere we had to drive for the next two days would be in the path of one storm or another. Ugh!
Thursday we headed to Albany with fingers crossed and a van full of wet, smelly shoes, dodging the corners of the storms. Finally, at about 3:30 our luck ran out and we were caught in a doozy with quarter to half dollar sized hail.
I'd like to take a moment to thank all the folks on the radio who said we should take shelter.
We're on a highway we've never traveled before in between cities and towns we know nothing about. Are we supposed to just pull into the first driveway we find and ask strangers to take us in?
So we just kept driving. Until the hail came and it got so bad we had to at least pull over to the side of the road, put on our flashers, and cross fingers that no one would run into us.
The hotel in albany was actually warm and dry so we finally got some rest and recuperation while the storms kept up outside our window. (Still couldn't get those shoes dry, though, and they smelled worse every day).
Friday we made it to Boston and 3 days of beautiful storm free weather. Two days after we drove back west, tornadoes touched down in three towns we had passed.
And now that we are back in Wisconsin, they have found us again - last night we had storms with winds of 100 mph.
I wonder if someone is trying to tell us something........
Next post: Boston and the fabulous Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel!