Monday, August 31, 2015

Back to it!

Hi again!  It's been a while, but I've been busy.  My family and I spent July and part of August (6 weeks) on the road, traveling the US.

It was an amazing trip.  We visited the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Devil's Tower, Mount Rushmore, Wind Cave, Minneapolis (Foxy Dogs rocks!), and Michigan (for lots of family time). From there we visited Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Indiana, Missouri, Kansas, Texas, and Southern California for 11 amusement parks.  We rode so many roller coasters, I lost count!  Found a few new favorites, for sure:
  Voyage, at Holiday World is hands down the BEST wooden coaster I have ever ridden (Golden Ticket rates it as the #3 wooden coaster in the world), and one of my favorites overall!  That's saying a lot, because the wooden coasters just aren't usually my style.
  The New Texas Giant at Six Flags in Arlington, was my first "hybrid coaster" (they have a different shape steel track, but are typically built using the structure of an existing wooden coaster) and another new favorite.  We rode a few more hybrid coasters throughout the trip, but this one was my favorite with its over banked turns.
  My absolute favorite coaster of the whole trip though, is Full Throttle at Six Flags Magic Mountain.  I love launched coasters, and this one is just crazy fun. I love the giant loop, the stop in the middle (with a second launch) and then going over the top of that original loop!  So fun, and cool concept.

We also visited Carlsbad Caverns, in New Mexico, where I had one of the most incredible experiences of our trip. No, one of the most incredible experiences in my life. That day, we hiked down into the cave, where we took an interesting tour, and explored the cave for around 5-6 hours. Then, we decided to attend the bat flight in the evening.  We read a few recent reviews, and weren't expecting much, as it seemed bat activity was rather sparse in the previous week or so.  A ranger talks as people get seated, ask questions, etc. We learned about the history of the cave, bat colony, some bat behaviours, etc. Then the flight began.  A plume of bats began exiting the cave, circling counter-clockwise, then flying out to begin their night. They continued coming, sometimes changing the direction they flew once they exited the spiral, but always spiraling the same direction out of the mouth of the cave. Over the course of 40 minutes (until it became too dark to see anything), well over 400,000 bats exited the cave!  We were strongly encouraged to turn off all electronics and stay as quiet as possible.  The reasons for the silence quickly became clear.  As we sat quietly, often the bats would whiz past our heads, so close we felt as if we could reach out and touch them.  There was that one dude who was just "too important" to follow the rules, and the plume of bats divided around the sound of his ringer, and changed direction to get away from it. We could hear the crackle of their dry wings individually as they came near us, but the sound of so many wings in chorus made a unique hum loud enough to hear as well. Once in a while we heard a few using their echolocation. I have difficulty finding words to describe what we experienced, and how I felt at the time. I think some experiences defy explanation; experiencing them is the only way to understand.  We spoke with a couple rangers on our way out, and even they were a bit awestruck, saying they rarely see so many bats at one time.

It was an amazing trip. We had so much fun, so many amazing experiences, met some new friends, got caught up with friends we haven't seen for years (even decades!), and now we're back home, finding our new routines with work, school, and home.  I will try to be here more frequently, and even have some exciting news coming up in the next few weeks!

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