Sometimes these blog posts about multi-day trips can be intimidating to write. Either I have to break it up into a multiple-part blog post to cover each day in detail, or I feel like I stiff the reader on details. I’ve found that indecision leads me to write absolutely nothing about the event, and something is probably still better than nothing, right? In the event of this trip, I am simultaneously working on a vacation video, which means:
a) I’ll have a detailed memory of the visit on YouTube, at least. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W2b5TVuIzqo&t=252s
b) I didn’t take very many pictures as most of my documenting effort was maintained in the video department.
In light of both of those facts, but with the knowledge that we did *technically* visit a national park, I’m going to summarize the entire weekend in a few posts without many images.
I’ve driven by Six Flags outside of St. Louis probably a dozen times before this year. It sits just off of I-44, plainly visible from the highway, and it always looks *so* fun. When my family was looking for an opportunity to spend a weekend together that put the travel burden equally on everyone, we settled on St. Louis, the midpoint between Oklahoma City and Grand Rapids. Six Flags felt like a natural fit. So did the Gateway Arch, which somehow is a national park nowadays. And then, as Meisters do, we fit everything else into a neatly packaged weekend that would only require me to take one day from my internship.
On Thursday, June 17 I worked a full day at NWS Blacksburg remotely from my home desk. The work day lasted from 7:00 – 3:00, and at 3:05 Elizabeth and I were pulling out of The Links with practiced efficiency. Everything was all packed up, Scipio was dropped off with his dogsitter, and all we needed to do before we left was get some Starbucks. Ideally, we wanted to be in St. Louis before it got terribly late. Without the dog, the two of us figured we’d be able to make time with the practiced efficiency that we are known for. And so we did, making it up I-44 to Joplin for dinner with no more than a 5-minute stop at QuikTrip for the bathroom and some quick jerky. We made such good time, in fact, that I thought we could make a quick stop and eat inside at the Steak n Shake in Joplin. As we would find out multiple times over the weekend, there’s a real labor shortage going on right now. Steak n Shake was understaffed, and the manager was running around apologizing to people for the delays (we got our food promptly). Unfortunately, we can never go back. Elizabeth politely inquired about the status of her shake as we were finishing our food, and then the server ran to the back and audibly yelled “I need that shake, I’m getting rushed!” It was a mortifyingly hilarious moment.
We got back on the road and made good time across the state of Missouri (misery). It wasn’t terribly late when we made it to the Hampton Inn just past Six Flags on the southwest side of St. Louis. After figuring out how to get in, and being informed that the entire hotel was in a boil water advisory (yes), we finally got our keys and headed up to the room we would share with Taylor and Kyle for the next couple of nights. Several hellos and hugs later, it was time for bed.
The next morning, I figured I’d wake up early and spend some quality time at the breakfast buffet with Rich. I miscalculated, though, and beat him down there by a solid hour. So instead, I spent some time watching the Weather Channel in the lobby and enjoying the fancy blueberry waffle batter the hotel had laid out. Eventually everyone except Alex filtered their way downstairs for breakfast, and we began preparing to attack a day of Six Flags St. Louis.
It was hot that Friday. Like, 100 degrees and relatively humid. I walked outside ahead of everyone to get a handle on the day and already early in the morning it was hot. There is, of course, nothing you can do about the weather, so with unbroken spirits we headed west a few miles on I-44 to where the Six Flags sits nestled into a mountainside. I was heartened by the appearance of the parking lot, which was notably not very full. Even though it was a weekday, I figured more people were going to show up for the water park.
Immediately after getting into the park, we went over to Batman: the Ride, a roller coaster that emulates Raptor from Cedar Point outside of the fact that it’s all black. The ride queue was in this fun, intricate system of all-black tunnels that apparently were going through power outages, which meant that they were super dark and super unventilated and super hot. We worked up quite a sweat in the few minutes in line before getting to the top. Amidst a (some would say overdone) plethora of Batman-themed decor, we sat into the inverted seats, with me sticking my slides into my shirt so they wouldn’t go flying into the Great Beyond. And then the ride spent the next 3 minutes trying to tear our stomachs in two. It was a great ride, but also super intense. A definite “one-and-done”.
The next stop to beat the heat was the Hurricane Harbor nearby. We were lucky enough to find a couple of chairs in the shade thanks to some phenomenal scouting from Kyle. Kris and Alex went off to ride in the lazy river, Rich settled in with his Games Magazine, and the rest of us went to ride the funnel and toilet bowl rides. The funnel was pretty standard, except for the 700-pound weight limit, which Taylor/Elizabeth/Kyle/myself exceeded. Taylor volunteered herself to join the next group, and the other 3 of us went down the funnel ourselves – wherein we realized that even with less weight, we still were enough to nearly flip our raft in a wild ride. The toilet raft ride wasn’t quite as wild, partially because it was just Elizabeth and me. However, after dropping out of the bowl it threw us into what essentially was one half of a funnel below it, riding way up the wall before sinking to the pool beneath.
Upon finishing those two rides, which were definitely the most thrilling in the water park with the drop slide out of service, we had to hit the racing mat waterslides where you lay on your stomach and race people in other lanes. Proudly, I defended my title of always beating Elizabeth in those, but was forced to concede the overall title to Kyle. Those three rides pretty much completed that corner of the water park, so we headed back to regroup with Team Meister and take a nice lazy river trip with the entire family.
Next up, we tackled the other major corner of the water park – this being where the tube and family raft slides were. I would have enjoyed a break at the wave pool, but that option was not given to us because the wave pool was closed. What kind of place has a closed wave pool? Anyway, with Alex included, the five of us got our tubes and waited in line for the colorful covered individual tube rides. You know the type. The lines so far really hadn’t been bad, and this was no exception. It probably took 15 minutes before I was the last one waiting at the top to go down, listening to the screams of Taylor and Elizabeth in the slide below me. There was no way I wasn’t going backward, so I kicked the wall and enjoyed my ride – until it hit a little dropoff halfway down and all of a sudden I was going a lot faster in a lot darker of a slide than I’d bargained for. Ducking the entire way, I zipped out of the slide and bounced along the surface of the water feeling vaguely relieved.
Somehow, the raft ride was even more nerve-wracking. This time, the five of us were all allowed on one raft together, but we must have been pushing the Six Flags weight limit – and this one was an open-topped slide where I had seen rafts peaking up over the side walls. Anyone alert would have seen the same thing from us, because let me tell you, we did not have a slow and steady ride down. My side of the raft rode wayyy up the wall, leaving me with a drenching wave of water when the entire thing collided with the ground again. It was like we had bowling balls in our pockets – the entire thing was an exercise in speed and splashing.
By this point Elizabeth was looking like she was ready to pass out from hunger. I am not very well-versed in the system of getting food at an amusement park, and after this trip I can honestly say that I never want to be. Holy crap, the line for each food place in the water park was long. And holy crap, the food was expensive. We finally settled on a least-worst option of a large pizza meal option for the whole family, with some garlic knots and salads for Alex and Kris. Even that took forever, by which point I was feeling the heat and the sun beating down on my poor burning shoulders. We took the pizza back to our chair area and I tried to hide from the sun’s harmful UV rays while rehydrating on Powerade.
By this point, I was ready to put my shirt back on and give my shoulders a chance to avoid becoming lobsters, but Kris wanted to join us on one last thrill slide before we headed back, and somehow the consensus winner was the horrifically janky raft ride. Round two was less enjoyable than the first – the line took 20-30 minutes, and we split into two groups. Kris, Elizabeth and myself did not go flying down the slide as fast as the previous run with five people, for which I was duly grateful and disappointed.
Disaster struck while we were in the changing rooms. Scipio’s dogsitter messaged us to say that he had left the dog in his room when he went grocery shopping like we instructed and Scipio had dug up the carpet. That stupid dog. I was legitimately distressed, but as Elizabeth correctly pointed out, there wasn’t much we could do about it at this point. All we could do was wait until we were back and offer to pay, and apologize as profusely as we could. I tried my best not to let it ruin my weekend; it took a few hours, but eventually my mood was back on track.
Six Flags St. Louis is apparently renowned for their wooden roller coasters. With that in mind, I wanted to make a point to ride the famous ones. We travelled up the left side of the park from front to back – it was still hot out, but not as unbearable as I feared, and there were like no crowds whatsoever. Our first roller coaster was the wooden American Thunder. My take – it was like Gemini at Cedar Point if Gemini was designed to give you a hangover.
Obviously, not everyone in my family is going to ride a roller coaster (although I think everyone under 30 rode that one). So the next few rides were designed to be family-friendly. The first one was one of those 4-D rides where you shoot the bad guys with your ray gun and holographic glasses that totally don’t lead to migraines. I didn’t really understand what was going on at first, and I think I was shooting the Joker when I was supposed to be shooting his minions? Either way, I looked down and my score was worse than Elizabeth’s. That wasn’t going to fly. I pulled out the full Call of Duty/Fortnite aiming skills down the stretch and went pew pew to make sure I didn’t lose to anyone. That would have been embarrassing. We followed up the 4-D ride with a ride on the *continuously moving* Ferris wheel across the way. There is, after all, nothing in the world Rich Meister likes as much as a continuously moving Ferris wheel.
There was a ride that sort of looked like Mad Mouse from Michigan’s Adventure, except it spun 360 degrees on the track like a Tilt-a-Whirl. I wanted to ride this guaranteed vomit machine, but it broke down right before we got there. So, exercising that lack of judgment that makes amusement parks’ whole business model work, Elizabeth and I worked out a plan to ride two more wooden roller coasters, the most famed in the park. A quick summary: The Boss was basically like riding Mean Streak, and the Screaming Eagle was only better because it was slower. Maybe I just don’t enjoy roller coasters anymore?
I am only slightly ashamed to admit that I needed a break after those rides. After all, it was hot, and my head was pounding, and it had been a long day. I couldn’t stay down forever, though; Taylor wanted to ride The Boomerang, one of those coasters where they lift you up backwards and you shoot through the entrance station, through a few loops, and to the other hill, wherein you get lifted up and go back to the entrance station backwards. Again, I wasn’t a fan! I’m still deeply distressed by the thought that I maybe don’t like roller coasters anymore.
For all intents and purposes, my night was done after that ride; I’d gone a little too hard throughout a busy day at Six Flags, and maybe been rattled a little bit too much by roller coasters and the heat. Taylor and Kyle rode the swings that send you way up in the air, and Elizabeth and Kyle got Dip n Dots, but after that we were of an accord to call it a night. The family devoured a meal at Culver’s to replenish all the calories we had thrilled off of ourselves (note: the pub burger is not as good as Rich says), and headed back to the hotel.
The nightcap came back in our adjoining hotel rooms, with some Truly seltzers and the NBA playoffs on for Kyle and me. My parents wanted to play euchre, a game you just can’t get a good round of in Oklahoma. It ended up being Rich and me versus Taylor and Kris, and we started out down 9-1. I am proud to say that at that point I decided to call the suit every hand, and thanks to an epic choke job or two by Taylor, we came all the way back to win. I will never let her live that down.
All in all, for a day where I’d feared the heat and the crowd, Six Flags turned out to be a fun experience where neither of those was all that bad. The lines were downright nonexistent by the end of the night, and Oklahoma has at least prepared me for the concept of high heat levels. We still had 2 days to go in our weekend trip, and the summer of 2021 was off to a roaring start.