Last Friday Alyssa, Ryan, and I went to Hersheypark with our very good friend and brother-from-another, Zimire, and his girlfriend, E. To be honest, I really wasn’t looking forward to the trip. I’m I-Don’t-Want-To-Go-To-A-Damn-Amusement-Park years old. But I knew that in order for Ryan to go and have a chance at enjoying himself without overwhelming anxiety, and for Alyssa to be able to go and have a good time with her boyfriend (who met her at the park; they then planned on going off to do their own thing), I’d have to go.
So I went.
I had a great time with the rides we went on, even though we only went on…let’s see… . Gone are the days of getting to the park the moment they open, staying until the moment they close, and riding everything I deem “rideable” at least twice each. Instead, because all of us except for Alyssa overslept, we didn’t even get to the park until nearly an hour after they opened (Hersheypark’s summer Friday hours are 10:00am to 9:00pm). Then it took us a good 15 minutes to get situated with sunscreen, bathroom stops, and tickets.
Finally, we’re in. Our first stop actually wasn’t a ride at all, but a trip to Hersheypark’s Guest Services to apply for a pass via the Hersheypark Ride Accessibility Program. While the wording of the program strongly implies it is intended for those with physical disabilities, individuals with qualifying emotional/mental/neurological disabilities also qualify for a pass. The pass entitles the rider and up to three co-riders to access rides through the Fast Track / handicapped / exit lane, thereby bypassing having to wait in long lines or traverse them. Ryan’s autism and anxiety are our reasons for applying a pass, which we’ve done ever since we started taking the kids to Hersheypark, circa 2010ish. The program process is painless, by the way. You simply scan a QR code to access an online form (or get a printed copy), fill it out, and then answer a few questions about how long the affected individual could stand in line for, what happens when it gets to be too much for them, what their concerns are, etc. From start to finish, from filling out the form to walking out the door with the printed pass (which you also have your picture taken for), the whole process takes about 10 minutes. We waited in line for the next available staff member longer than the time it took us to scan the QR code, fill out the form, answer the questions, and be on our way.
That day we rode:
- Reese’s Cupfusion
- Wave Swinger
- Skyrush (least favorite ride of the day – more below)
- Great Bear
- Coal Cracker
- Wildcat’s Revenge (amazing, my favorite of all the coasters I rode that day)
- Tidal Force
So, I rode the infamous Skyrush, aka Thighcrush. I hated it, but not for the reason you think – despite being nearly 160 lbs. and bottom heavy, my thighs were just fine and escaped the ride completely unscathed. No, I hated Skyrush due to the lack of head and neck restraint. The ride rides rough and whips you through several zero-G hills, yet there is no further support for one’s head and neck beyond a high-backed seat. I spent the majority of the ride not enjoying it because I was trying so hard to keep my head and neck still (I have previously sustained a concussion on Great Bear due to my head and neck whipping about, so you could say I have PTSD from that experience!). The rest of it I spent cursing the relative roughness when you consider it’s an all-steel coaster, and usually those ride relatively smoothly.
All in all, most of us had a good day. Zimire and I finished the day with a ride on Tidal Force followed by a thorough soaking on the bridge, which was our lone water ride for the day – we skipped the water park entirely (we plan on going back in August for that).
Ryan, unfortunately, did not have a good day. Autism and anxiety and amusement parks do not play well together, and I’ll leave it at that. It breaks my heart to see him struggle so, but I’m glad he got a little enjoyment out of the day, and proud of him for making a valiant attempt.