Aug 062008

One of Z’s favorite rides at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk reportedly started falling apart on Monday.  Apparently the entrance ramp/door to the Cyclone opened while in motion and banged into the interior ride a few times before the ride-op could shut it completely down.  Although news reports are full of quotes like [t]he door flew off and almost killed my daughter, and my personal favorite- You could tell it (the ride) was pretty much out of control and coming apart,” Hogan said. “The door itself came apart and went flying over to where the kids were. One boy dove out of the way just in time to avoid it crushing him or cutting him in half… It was a horrifying event“, there is, in fact, no evidence that a single part of the ride actually detached at any point.  Despite all of the fear-mongering going on, not a single person was seriously injured.  The 9 year old boy with a hurt leg and his mother declined further medical attention after being seen by paramedics on the scene.  In other words – no blood, no foul.

These rides are complicated devices designed with safety as a top priority.  Every ride at the Boardwalk is inspected every morning.  And, according to local news channel KTVU

Tuesday, a Cal-OSHA spokeswoman said that the cyclone ride has no history of trouble and it had passed inspection by state investigators at least three times this year: in January, February, and most recently on July 10th.

There has not been a single serious injury at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk within anyone’s memory.  The most comprehensive website devoted to collecting news stories of amusement park incidents ( doesn’t have a single entry related to the Boardwalk. And, once again, despite the sensational headlines and outlandish statements from frightened eyewitnesses there has not yet been a single piece of evidence released to indicate that any parts or pieces came off the ride and “flew” towards anyone.

Aug 032008

Two Tuesdays back Z and I headed to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk for what we intended to be a short trip.  The plan was to drive over the hill, spend about an hour in the ocean, teaching Z to dive under waves and maybe body surf a bit, then get our annual Old Tyme photo.  I suppose I should backtrack a bit here to fill y’all in on one of our most cherished traditions…

When Z and I were reunited on June 8, 2005 after a seven year separation one of our first outings comprised of me taking her, her half-brother and their mother to the Boardwalk for the day.  As part of that experience we took an Old Tyme photo with the two of us dressed in gangster outfits from the days of Prohibition.  You can see the picture above.  The following summer we returned to the same studio at the Boardwalk and had them attempt to recreate the photo in order to show how much Z had grown.  The plan was to take one each year.  Unfortunately, due to lack of both finances and time together we skipped last summer.  But we were determined not to miss out on the photo this summer.

Okay, back to the recent trip…

We arrived in Santa Cruz, changed into bathing suits, locked all of our valuables into Rover and headed for the surf.  We were about half way there when I realized that I had forgotten to leave my glasses in the car as well.  Having worn glasses 24/7 for the last 30 years or so, it’s easy to forget that I’m wearing them.  Well, I was excited to get Z into the water, so I decided that instead of returning to Rover I would just stay in the shallows so as not to lose my glasses.  To no one’s surprise it took less than 15 minutes for me to get blind-sided by a wave and lose my glasses, leaving me legally blind.

A trip back to the car and a few phone calls found us a friend that could come drive Rover home (it’s hard to drive when you can’t see the dashboard, much less the road or other cars), but he couldn’t get there for about 10 hours due to other commitments.  So, back to the surf for a while we went followed by some time playing games and riding rides – all without my glasses.  I’ve got to say that the Boardwalk (especially at night) with 20/250 vision is an absolutely surreal experience.  The lights and noise and crowd all seem completely forum and the inability to see anyone’s facial expressions leaves one feeling completely disconnected from the near-chaos of the environment.  On the other hand, I did manage to top my previous score on Desperadoes (they’re new shooting ride/game) despite being unable to actually see the “bad guys” I was aiming at 😀

We still went by the Old Tyme Photos Studio in the main arcade and had the picture on the left taken. The crew there this year (Sarah, Carney, Alejandra, and Jose) jumped all over the idea of recreating the original photo. They all thought it was an amazing idea and quickly became far more obsessive about matching the original picture than we ever were. It was absolutely wonderful! And the results are clear when comparing the three photos. If you’ve ever admired the Old Tyme Photos I couldn’t recommend any studio more highly then the one at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

The next morning we rose early and Z acted as my “seeing-eye Kitten” on a long bus journey up to Lenscrafters at Oakridge Mall.  Unable to drive or work I had little choice in where or when I purchased new glasses – I needed them now.  Z managed to find some great new frames for me while I had my eyes examined yet again and $300 later could finally see again.

Apr 272008
Part of the Carnival Midway Games Series - Previous in series         Next in series

100 Years Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

Z and I made our first joint trek of 2008 to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk last weekend. I’ve been unable to afford to renew our season passes yet, so it was a games only day (oh and Z finally got her first deep fried twinkie – she liked it 😯 ). Sometime over the winter semi-closure of the Boardwalk a couple of major changes occurred with their carnival games.

First the good news

The price of almost all the games has been reduced from $3 per play to $2 per play. As soon as I saw this two thoughts competed to occupy the forefront of my brain-

  1. Huzzah! We can play more games today!
  2. Wait a second. Prices never go down.

Turns out, both thoughts were accurate. We were able to (and did) play more games. Although I skipped a few regulars for reasons pointed out below, we did hit up about half the open booths on the midway, including a couple we almost never play because I’m no good at them. Of course, we also brought home several new plush critters to crowd Z’s new bed.

Second the bad news-

Without fail, every single game had (at least) one of two things happen-

  1. The games got significantly more difficult to win
  2. The prizes got smaller and/or cheaper

In several cases both of these changes occurred. For example, the classic bushel basket game which I win 90% of the time I play. Traditionally (and up until last year at the Boardwalk) you pay your money ($3 last year) and receive three balls. You win by getting a single ball to remain in the basket. Some variants have smaller prizes which can be traded up to bigger prizes, with each “made” ball earning a small prize. This year the Boardwalk has changed the game in several ways-

  • They lowered the price from $3 for 3 balls to $2 for two balls
  • They raised the height of the baskets. They’re the same baskets but they now rest higher up on the platform.
  • They got all new colored wiffle balls. I don’t think this actually effects game play, but it is a noticable change.
  • Last year they had a single prize as described above. They now have small prizes which are tradeable (2-for1) for large prizes.
  • They posted a “Game over when you win” sign. What this means is that if you make your first ball in the basket your second ball is now a waste of money. You are not allowed to win two small prizes (tradeable for one large prize) on your single $2 entry fee.

As a result of these changes (and, I must admit the lack of utter cuteness in the critters / prizes) I refused to play my all-time favorite carnival game. Similar changes can be seen at other game booths. The red star dart game used to be $3 for three darts or $5 for six darts. Every dart in a red star won a prize which could be traded up. Now it’s $2 for two darts or four darts for $3. They also increased the top level prize to a full size guitar. Sounds good, right? But in order to get a prize comparable to last year’s “small” you now have to hit with three darts. Hitting one or two darts gets you much smaller prizes then previously offered here. In order to win the full size guitar you have to hit four darts out of four! Needless to say, given my 30% (or so) win rate on this game in the past and the jacked up fees (disguised as price reductions) I didn’t throw any darts in Santa Cruz.

Here’s some proof of the smaller prizes for y’all-

(The “shelf” the first two are sitting on is a step in the ladder visible in the third picture. The steps are roughly 11″ across with the height between steps just under 9″)

That first one is the new small prize for the Chicken Catapult game. It’s now $2 for three chickens (a $1 price reduction), and it doesn’t have the “game ends with win” rule of the Bushel Baskets game (above), but what used to be the small prize is now the medium prize. As it always takes me at least one (and usually two) chickens to hone in on the pot this seriously increases my personal cost/benefit ratio.The second one (the sequiny whale) is the new 2-4 player prize for the infamous balloon race game.The larger purple snake in the last picture used to be the 2-4 player prize.The third picture is the new 2-4 player prize for the water race game. Again, the price is lower, but as can be seen clearly in the last pic the prize is much smaller as well.Finally, the exciting news-

Although Z was saddened to see that the old Skee-ball palace next to Frightwalk has been closed, the new facade on the building had me very intrigued-

Apparently this is going to be something called “Desperadoes” and is being managed by the Games Department. Other than that I have no clue. But if you do, a comment and or link would be much appreciated.

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Dec 172007

It took me six months to plan it, three months to pay for it and less than a week to cancel it entirely, losing about $650 in the process. Here was the itinerary:

  1. 12/26 – Early morning pickup of Z, heading up to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo for a day of wild rides and coaster fun followed by an evening of watching Z ooh and ahh over the Holiday in the Park decor and the World’s Largest Christmas Tree. The rest of the plan was going to be laid out to her while we sat under this 125 foot tall glowing wonder.
  2. 12/27 – Sleep in at home then head south once we’ve awoken fully rested from a wild and crazy day because there’s plenty more to come. We’d stop when we hit Valencia, home of Six Flags Magic Mountain and the most roller coaster in one location West of the Mississippi. If we made it there before closing we’d head in and catch a few rides before retiring to our motel to rest up for the next big day.
  3. 12/28 – All day at Magic Mountain using our Thrill Pass to bypass all of the lines, chow down at the free buffet, and shop to our hearts content in order to save back the cost of the passes and then some. With more than a dozen coasters (several still on my haven’t ridden list) this place is thrill ride Mecca. Plus we could add a half-dozen ride photos to our slowly growing collection.
  4. 12/29 – After staying a second night in Valencia we’d get up early and head down to Universal Studios Hollywood. We’d start the day with our traditional Saturday morning breakfast (the single event I look forward to each and every week) at the famous Saddle Ranch Chop House on Universal’s City Walk. I’ve been to Universal a few times in the past and not much really changes there, but they do have a single roller coaster, The Mummy, I need to cross off my list. The rest of the day would be up to Z. Though I was looking forward to watching her joy at experiencing her first look at the behind-the scenes action of a real movie studio. Our VIP passes even gets us backstage at the live shows as well as extra stuff beyond the standard studio tour.
  5. 12/30 – Knott’s Berry Farm is scheduled for Sunday as that’s typically a less crowded day than Saturday. Knott’s has always been my favorite theme park (as opposed to pure amusement park) and this would be Z’s first time attending. In addition to eight more roller coasters (3 on my unridden list), Knott’s is full of amazing adventures. Plus it will actually be Knott’s Merry Farm, so the evening would bring another Christmas parade and plenty of decorations to warm Z’s Santa-lovin’ heart.
  6. 12/31 – Winding things down on New Year’s Eve. After sleeping in we’d head over to the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum (Z’s a big Ripley’s fan) and possibly one of the Wax Museums as well. The afternoon would bring us to Pacific Park at Santa Monica Pier to add two more coasters to our trip total and for Z to experience an alternative boardwalk amusement park to Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk (our home park). Then we’d head home after hitting six major attractions (and more than 30 roller coasters) in six short days.

Sound exhausting? Yeah it does to me too, but I have a feeling the adrenaline and joy would pull us through and Z would have all the way to January 5th to recover before heading back to school. Everything was lined up perfectly. But now it’s gone….

I’ve mentioned Z’s brattiness and spoiled attitude here in the past, mostly in passing. Well, it’s become simply intolerable. I’ve tried rewarding her when she does well, punishing her when she does poorly, too many talks to keep track of, bribery, coercion, and just about everything else I can think of short of outright physical violence (which is not only anti-thetical to my entire belief system but ineffective as well). Nothing can get through to this girl.

Part of the problem is that I can’t completely control her environment. X, her mother, is getting better but still a pushover on too many things. The kids act spoiled because they are spoiled. Neiher of us is wealthy but we’ve always done our damndest to give the kids everything we can. About six weeks ago I got so fed up with this spoiled Z that I took away everything I’d bought her in the last several months. It had all been acquired under false pretenses – she acts like a different person with me then without me. The effect – she cried and then kept on being a spoiled brat. During that time she was still serving a repeated punishment (because she violated the rules the first time) for talking back to her mother and I. The effects of that lasted a record 48 hours (the punishment went on for two months all told).

After calling off the trip yesterday (when she flat out refused to listen to me and clean her room instead of continuing to order her brother to clean his part of the mess) and leaving the house I felt I needed to have an actual discussion with her about it today. So I went to pick her up from school and talk. Unfortunately, she wasn’t interested in a discussion so it became yet another lecture. Our brief history has shown that these obviously have no effect, so I kept it relatively short – I told her the bare bones of the trip I described more fully in this post. Her response (when forced to give one) was “I’m thinking ‘what do I have to do to earn that trip back?'” She still doesn’t get it, no matter how many times or ways I explain it to her: being good for the simple sake of the reward isn’t being good at all. The key is to simply be (and do) good, and trust that good things will come of it. The work must come before the reward.

Shortly after I returned home X called to encourage me to reconsider the trip. the financial loss is a steep one, not to mention how much I’ve been looking forward to it myself. She then went on to tell me how Z walked into the house after our talk and immediately began giving her (X) attitude. (See, nothing gets through.) X is at the end of her rope and considering returning some of the (way too many) Christmas gifts she got the kids. I’m 100% behind the idea. As far as I’m concerned Z’s on the equivalent of bread and water. I’m not spending any more money on gifts, luxuries, or experiences until she can start to show some actual adjustments to her behavior. She’ll get food, rides to school, clothes. Period.

I think I could actually turn things around if I had 24 hour care of Z, but X will never allow that to happen. Even temporarily. So, since I don’t have the power to change the behavior I’m no longer going to support it in any way. I’ll keep her alive, but her happiness is entirely in Z’s hands.

Oct 082007

I opened part one of this weekend’s report with the statement that I was physically unable to write this earlier. Then I never really pointed out why. Well, here’s your answer…

Emboldened by our successful french toast endeavor, Z and I headed up to Hellyer Park in San Jose to play our first round of disc golf with her new discs. Last weekend, before we headed to the hospital we stopped and picked up some specific discs for Z to train with:

  1. Driver – Innova Champion Sidewinder 150g
  2. Midrange – Discraft Elite Z Glide 167g
  3. Putter – Lightning Rubber Putter 168g

She did remarkably better than in our first outing and we both enjoyed the day much more. We only did nine holes because I was getting hungry and we were both getting tired. But Z shot a 48, while I shot a 35 with my Discraft Spectra which I am really not liking at all anymore. Z was only 7 strokes behind me until she fell apart on the last hole and started beating herself up, causing her to take a 12. She actually beat me on two holes and tied me on two others.

We headed into downtown for a lunch of the best burgers in the Bay Area at a little hole in the wall called Burgers on Santa Clara St in downtown. We both highly recommend their food and great service. Then we cruised on down to Santa Cruz for the first night of the Pirates of Emerson Invade The Boardwalk which is the Boardwalk’s Halloween event. Since Girl Scouts were canceled we ended up arriving about 5 hours early, so played around in the arcade for a bit then wandered the streets of Santa Cruz and explored the Municipal Wharf which Z has frequently seen, but never actually visited before. As a result I could barely walk by the end of the day.

Saturday was the Discraft Ace Race which would be our first official disc golf tournament. Essentially, this is a promotional event and wide beta test for one of Discraft’s latest discs. Every player gets two prototype Discraft discs, a Discraft hat, and a special mini. They then play a shortened course only making a single throw. You only score by getting an Ace (hole in one) or a hit (hitting any part of the basket). Otherwise you just score a zero on the hole, pick up your disc and head to the next tee.

We figured this would be a good first event for us because expectations were fairly low (the winner only had one ace and two hits) and we only had to make 36 throws. But the group at Hellyer Park decided to throw both discs on every hole, so we got expanded to 72 throws, not to mention three treks around the course. We both had a grand time and we got to play in a threesome with Doug Korns, who is both a 30 year disc golf vet and a member of the Silicon Valley Disc Golf Club‘s Board of Directors. We all had a great time despiting Doug scoring the single hit on our card. However, I was once again barely able to move once the course was done.

Still, we headed over to the Hellyer Park 10th Anniversary barbecue afterwards at Parque De La Raza. Chow was much enjoyed and after about an hour’s rest for my legs Z, Doug and I played in the 9 hole mini disc golf tournament as well. It was a lot of fun and incredibly challenging as well. I ended up four over for the course (+7), and Z ended up ten over (+13) – once again, not bad at all for our first outing. They had several other games at the barbecue, but our favorite was the Ring of Fire where basically everyone circles a single basket and putts simultaneously. It was a blast despite neither Z nor I making a single putt.

In fact, we had so much fun during the day that we ignored our budget and both became SVDGC members on the spot!

Hole 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Total
Length 132 112 182 153 248 149 157 217 ?
Z 3 6 4 4 6 3 6 4 12 48
Length 267 255 253 275 330 212 223 233 ?
Aahz 4 4 4 4 4 5 3 3 4 35