Rite of passage for our family this past weekend.
In turning 18 in September, Claire had one request for her birthday. She wanted concert tickets. Having never been to a mass-audience, big-scale, arena-type night of music, she wanted to go.
We bought her tickets to Demi Lovato at the Giant Center in Hershey, Pa.
The logistics were daunting. I would have to take a half-day vacation to leave enough time for arrival before the 7:30 show. And then, because I had 0 interest in attending the concert itself, I would cool my heels in the parking lot for the intervening hours until the show was over.
I wasn't looking forward to it but was willing to make the sacrifice.
We pulled into the Giant Center somewhere before 7 p.m., and I sent Claire and her giggly-with-excitement friends inside.
Within 10 minutes, nature called.
I banked on the fact that I could get into at least the lobby of the Giant Center without a ticket to use the bathroom. No soap.
I walked toward the adjacent Hersheypark, which looked dark in the distance. Between the Giant Center and the park was a public bathroom, and I made that destination my immediate priority.
Afterward, I decided to keep walking toward the park, just to stretch my legs.
When I arrived at the gate, it was bustling with people. Hersheypark was holding a Halloween-themed opening, advertising the rides and shows as a "Park in the Dark" experience.
I thought about how to fill the next four hours and decided immediately to buy a ticket. The price was a little hefty ($38), but the boredom relief made it worth the expense.
I entered amid an array of Halloween-themed decorations and troops of toddlers in costumes. The carousel was ablaze in lights (and swamped with riders), but I was happy to hear that the carny-like music was Halloween tunes (ala, "Purple People Eater"), set to an oompa beat.
I wandered a bit, just to see what was open and running and what was not. The coasters were in full operation. The waterpark was not.
I love rollercoasters. But at age 51 (almost 52), I am now a little more hesitant than I used to be. The last time we were in Disney, I rode both Rock-n-Rollercoaster and Expedition Everest, and each time, just prior to launch, I sat there and looked at the teenagers I was sharing the ride with and thought, "What the heck am I doing here?"
But the thoughts were always short-lived, as we rocketed forward.
And at the end, I loved those coasters. So the opinion of what other riders thought of me didn't really matter.
Some of that feeling still followed me to Hershey, so I hesitated a bit.
Coasters remain one of the only "boardwalk"-style rides I can do anymore. I have never liked anything spinning, even as a kid. So now, a half-century behind me, they are absolutely out of the question. But for some reason, coasters -- even those that flip riders upside down -- are still within my comfort zone.
Eventually, the call of a wooden racing coaster was too difficult to avoid. I figured it was a good starting point and that I would make a decision on what else I was willing to try after successfully tackling one of the older models.
I strapped myself in. It was a great ride; as if this old, slatted beauty was saying, "I may be retro, but I can still give a kick."
Boy, could she ever.
Having delighted in one, I couldn't resist the call of the others. The finally tally for the night was five: Three wild wooden ones and two high-tech steel ones.
The Hershey event ended at 10 p.m., and as the crowds made their way to the exit at the end of the night, I walked away with my pulse still pounding from the thrills of the night.
Demi Lovato... Two thumbs up for the night of entertainment you provided.