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Observations from a theme park weekend getaway..

April 21, 2008

Leslie and I took a short four hour drive to a neighboring state for a weekend theme park getaway in partial celebration of her birthday last week.   I packed the camera, but forgot fresh batteries and the charger, so I’ll be doing the blog equivalent of singing a capella. 

We did take along one of her birthday gifts, a Magellan GPS navigation system.   It’s one of those things you don’t know you really need until you have it.  In short order we were entranced by the colorful scrolling scenery and bird’s eye view of our surroundings.  The depiction of the complex clover-leaved highway interchanges, especially those where 3 or 4 major interstate highways came together made me wonder what sense this system would make of a bigger challenge, say the concrete spaghetti of the LA freeway system.

We arrived at our hotel, which surpassed all expectations of what one should expect for a mere $40 a night.  Several nights prior, Leslie was shopping hotels, reading reviews and trying to find the best value for us, since I had stated the requirements as “somewhere to crash at night”.   I’ll describe the hotel as “historic”, not in it’s architecture, but by the archaeological studyof it’s history made possible by analysis of the layers of paint applied to most surfaces.   Sleeping in a King size bed, I had forgotten that a double bed’s length ends somewhere mid calf for me.   The room had all the requisites one would expect, and a few extras like refrigerator, microwave, and a coffee maker which produced a single cup of coffee.   The exfoliating towels were certainly an unanticipated feature.

The park visit was awesome, full of colorful attractions and amazing sights – and that was just the crowd.  Tatoos, piercings, and bizare clothing attire (one guy sported a giant milk carton over his head with “missing” emblazoned in block text above the cutout for his face) were all well represented.

Then there were the rides and other attractions.  We managed 4 of the 5 coasters, the biggest of which was a 210 foot drop and 73 mph track speed and that was a fitting finale’ for the day.  The 5th, which neither of us could quite psyche ourselves up for was a 205 foot verticaldrop, precipitated by a full stop hang, looking down for a healthy 3 second count.  Not even forty, and we both  wussed out on that one.   Sad really.  

Between bouts of brain squashing G loads on the coasters, we entertained ourselves with interactive “4D” shows,  animal exhibits like bald eagles and grey wolves, tamer rides like the log flume, bumper cars, and the sky lift.   Diets were abandoned, and we stuffed ourselves with things like “the smokehouse sampler platter” and large waffle cones packed with top shelf cookie dough ice cream.

I’m always amazed by the art of time and crowd management.  The psychology and creative construction of the serpentine  impoundments for those waiting on a ride.  How do you keep people entertained for 45 to 60 mins?  Pack in lots of sights and sounds, thematically designed to build anticipation for the ride.  Keep the full size of the crowd hidden at all times, allowing only portions of the line to be visible from any one vantage point by interposing walls, hedges, switchbacks and drastic changes in elevation.   Ascending and descending stairs, traversing bridges, or passing through doors create interim achievements to reduce frustration.  These way points are used in combination,  and are designed so that they are seen and established in the audience mind as the next objective to cross.    Attention spans are managed point to point.  I wonder how these tactics might be applied in other industries to improve satisfaction while awaiting the delivery of a product or service?  This was the only conceit to work I allowed myself during the trip.

While the hotel did advertise “free wi-fi”, my laptop stayed wisely in the car’s trunk, stowed neatly beside my best intentions to work on some reports during the drive there and back.

I was glad for the break, and for all the little adventures of the day.  

The work week looms.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Tim permalink
    April 21, 2008 4:12 pm

    As always, an entertaining read Mark. A giant waffle cone with cookie dough ice cream sounds heavenly…

    And wise move on the laptop staying in the trunk. Did you take the Vette or the Porsche? 😉

  2. David Churbuck permalink
    April 23, 2008 12:42 pm

    I get vertigo thinking about the roller coasters.

  3. April 24, 2008 2:45 am

    Actually we took the Audi. I sound like such a snob don’t I?

    We had a great time, and my commentary was intended as humorous – some of my other readers who haven’t left comments, but talked with Leslie were under the impression that I might not have had viewed the trip positively.

    I did. It’s all in jest…

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