(MOVIE PLANNING VIEWING: MANY STEVEN SPIELBERG MOVIES AS HE WAS BORN IN CINCINNATI)
Chapter 1: Leaving Chicago and Driving on the Wrong Side of the Road
We’d only booked the rental car the night before and we knew we had about a 4 -5 hour drive ahead of us; what we didn’t plan on was the torrential down pour and the luxury vehicle with a mind of its own! It was Monday, 31 May and Memorial Day in the US as we left our residence at the Congress Hotel and caught a taxi to the Hertz rental. Now we certainly didn’t book or pay for a luxury car but that is what was in the lot marked for us and, as the rain came down, we packed everything in and then took 30 minutes to work out where the park brake was! Well it wasn’t that bad, but sitting on the different side of the car does take some getting used to. Our next challenge was working with Simon – our GPS system. Contending with the rain was one thing, but Simon wasn’t talking to the big brother in the sky and Kelly as the first driver drove around the block a few times until Simon made his connection with the satellite. From there, it was plain sailing! The rain got heavier and heavier – what we’d call a drought breaker – and we were glad that it hadn’t put a dampener on our earlier activities in Chicago. Cincinnati was our destination for our first day of driving and it wasn’t until we’d left Illinois and headed into Indiana that the rain cleared and finally left us to make driving a little more comfortable. It was a nice drive and a particular highlight we passed were the fields of windmills – the giant industrial sized power producing ones. The certainly made an impression on the skyline. Happily tootling our way through Indiana, it was time to stop for a bite and all along the interstates were exits populated by just about every fast food outlet you could think of – and some you would just never entertain! However we decided to try our luck with White Castle – all Justyn and I knew of White Castle was what we garnered from watching ‘Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle’. I know, I know, we shouldn’t use Hollywood to decide on our eating experiences, but we knew they did little burgers and were curious. So we pulled into a White Castle at a place called Claireville in Indiana and ordered cute little cheeseburgers. K was quite adventurous and went for the snack pack with what looked like chicken donuts (well that's what we called them!) Justyn and I had the burgers for lunch – and then for the rest of the day as they continued to repeat... We were also the entertainment for the lunchtime rush - with our strange accents and being relatively normal we stook out like sore thumbs! Oh well, you win some and you lose some and White Castle is one option that we never need to opt for again! We gained an hour in time after leaving Illinois and so we arrived at the Garfield Suites in Cincinnati around 8:30pm. We had splashed out on a 2 bedroom apartment in Cincy and so we showered and headed to the Rock Bottom Brewery for dinner and to watch the end of the second game of the Blackhawks v Flyers ice hockey (FYI Blackhawks won game 2). What a great meal! J's mac n cheese was the best (and the best of the whole trip!), my pork chop would have fed Fred Flinstone AND Barney Rubble and K's steak was pretty awesome too. Not too many cocktails for dinner tonight as we were hitting Kings Island in the morning and hangovers and rollercoasters do not go together well....
Chapter 2: Kings Island and Hysterical Rollercoasters
Today was the first of our American amusement parks with plenty of rollercoasters to ride to add to the tally. Kings Island was about 30 minutes outside of Cincy and we arrived around 10:30am. Simon (the GPS) did not steer us wrong and it was a relatively quick, easy and picturesque drive there. We joined the queue as we had not had an opportunity to buy tickets online, however as we neared the front of the queue, some wonderful people offered us a voucher that gave us $20 bucks off the price of each ticket – we were surprised by their generosity that I don’t think we properly thanked them – so this is a BIG thank you to those people! Then we were inside and with some obligatory official photos out of the way, map of the park in hand, we set off for the first rollercoaster of the day. I had packed a few numbers for the photo marking and we agreed that the Diamondback would be ride #7. We took the photo and then queued for the ride only to be told that there was a delay as they said they were putting on another car on the ride (we think chunks were blown). So it was take 2 for ride #7. We headed back around to a ride called The Crypt and I really didn’t know much about this one and thought it was a rollercoaster in the dark. K and I headed straight in – no queues – and jumped on a ride that wasn’t a rollercoaster! It spun you around in the dark and was a bit of fun, but didn’t count towards the coaster tally. So we still didn’t have a #7! This was getting serious – we’d been at the park for nearly an hour and we still hadn’t added to the tally! Lurking nearby however was The Beast which is the only operating wooden coaster in the park (Son of Beast has been closed since 2006 after an 'incident'). Normally we build up to the wooden coasters as they are the biggest and roughest and you need to have your ‘coaster legs settled in but it was there and beckoning. So K and I dropped our bags with our bag lady (J) who decided to “sit this one out” and faced the wrath of the Beast. It was a long ride; over four minutes in duration and the ‘girls’ got a work out – or in the words of K “high jigglosity factor”. The coaster tally was on its way! The Vortex followed soon after and then the Flight of Fear was coaster #9 – a pretty cool ride in the dark! However the best ride of the day was number 10 – Firehawk. This ride strapped you in pretty tight because then it turned you over so you were facing the ground and going backwards – you read right – upside down and backwards. Off we shot and it was the most amazing feeling – almost like you were flying! Poor Kelly was almost hysterical and had a couple of giggling tears at the end and when I asked her what her thoughts were on the ride, she commented that she couldn’t really remember it! It was exhilarating! We threw a couple of extra rides in for good measure that aren’t going towards the tally after that – The Racer and Adventure Express which were just good clean fun. Then we decided to go back and see if Diamondback was working again – which it was. This became ride #11 and it was heaps of fun but didn’t live up to Flight of Fear or the Firehawk experience. The last coaster for the day at Kings Island was Invertigo, a ride similar to Lethal Weapon at Movie World in that you hung underneath the track, but so completely different to that experience! Ripped backwards up a high launch pad, you were then propelled forward at 90 mph, barrelling through loops and corkscrews to end up at a high point facing backwards only to be thrown through the ride again, but backwards! And Kelly and I were in the front seats! It was a very satisfying visit to Kings Island (even if we couldn’t find a single postcard) and as we were leaving, the icing on the cake was Charlie Brown from Peanuts was having photos with the kids so being a big kid, I jumped in to have my photo taken with him too! (Aren’t we cute!)
Final Word on Cincy: Dinner at Arnolds Bar & Grill.
Dining has been a great experience so far on our trip, yet I was to have the strangest meal thus far – a Cincy Hot Brown. Arnolds is an institution in Cincy and the bar / grill was a hole in the wall with a courtyard surrounded by apartments so you are having your drink with people cooking their own meals or watching tv listening to the piano player downstairs in Arnolds. So to the Hot Brown – it is a French loaf toasted, with cheese sauce, fries, turkey and bacon. All together. It was pretty good even though my arteries are still trying to process it!