Chris and I had nudged our daughter and son-in-law out of their own home for a romantic getaway, so we could spend time with our grandchildren, six-year-old Noah and 13-year-old Lia. While deciding what we could do together, Lia said, “Can we go to Carowinds? My best friend went a couple of weeks ago with her family and she’s still talking about it!”
Everyone agreed this was a great idea. But there was one aspect I wasn’t so sure about: Lia wanted me to join her on the roller coaster rides.
I gave her a doubtful look.
“C’mon, Grandma!” she urged. “YOLO!”
“You Only Live Once!” she said with a grin.
Adventures in Camp Snoopy
When we arrived the next morning, I needed to work my way up to the “real” roller coaster experiences, so we visited all-new Camp Snoopy first. The area included five rides plus a playground all designed with the nature of the Carolinas in mind. Noah was bouncing up and down with excitement after he got a big hug from Snoopy standing near the entrance. Then we paired off to climb into teacup-like “nests” on the Woodstock Whirlybirds ride. Lia and Chris tossed their hands in the air, and whooped and hollered, inciting perpetual giggles from the grinning Noah, as we spun around and around.
We took an adventurous ride in Pig Pen’s Mud Buggies, soared up and down aboard Camp Bus, lifted 20 feet up to the top of the Kite Eating Tree, and paired up again to ride “off-road Jeeps” on the PEANUTS Trailblazer ride. Our last stop was to check out Beagle Scout Acres. While Noah and Lia explored the giant playground’s climbing structures and interactive areas, Chris and I caught our breath and relaxed in the shade.
YOLO! Rides of our lives
As we left Camp Snoopy, Lia looked directly at me, proclaiming, “It’s time, Grandma!”
There are 13 roller coasters at Carowinds and, of course, Lia wanted me to ride the two tallest. Two of the 10 tallest steel coasters in North America! We headed to Fury 325 first. Chris and Noah went off exploring other kid-friendly rides.
“Grandma, did you know that during this ride we’ll cross both the North and South Carolina state lines?” Lia asked.
“Mmmm,” I murmured, noticing how quickly we were moving to the front of the line.
Fury 325 is the world’s tallest and fastest giga coaster. Sitting there strapped in, I had way too much time to contemplate the giant rise of blue track in front of me. As we s-l-o-w-l-y rolled our way up to the 325-foot peak, I’m not embarrassed to admit I made Lia hold my hand. I had a brief instant to appreciate the lovely view and every mountainous curve of the ride that lay before us—and then my stomach dropped. We raced straight toward the ground. We flew through multiple drops and around super-tight high-speed turns that I’m pretty sure defied both gravity and physics. I screamed about a dozen times as I was lifted out of my seat, putting my lap restraint to good use. Lia later explained this is called “airtime.” When we pulled to a stop, the words “Let’s do it again!” rolled through my mind. I kept the thought to myself, though, and wobbled my way out, beside Lia who boasted a huge smile.
Our next ride was Intimidator. This hyper coaster was inspired by North Carolina native Dale Earnhardt, the late NASCAR legend. My sensibility had fully caught up with me, and I could hardly believe I was putting myself through this a second time. (Oh, what we do for our grandchildren!) Once we were settled in, we heard “Gentleman, start your engines,” and then we were off! We sped up and down giant hills covering nearly a mile of track, racing for that checkered flag at the finish line. I felt a bit weak-kneed, but strangely exhilarated as we exited.
“Who’s hungry?” Chris asked, once we met up with him and Noah.
“Are you crazy?” I exclaimed. “I’m pretty sure I left my stomach back there somewhere!”
Everyone laughed, but now that the adrenaline had worn off, I actually was feeling hungry. We ate a hearty lunch together followed by some delectable funnel cakes for dessert. We caught a couple of the park’s live shows, listening to talented musicians and sucking in our breath as we watched the daring cirque show.
Splashing good times!
The day had grown hot, so we headed over to Carolina Harbor Waterpark—included as part of our Carowinds admission—to soak up some fun in the water. Chris and Noah went off to play in Kiddy Hawk Cove while Lia and I headed for Blackbeard’s Revenge, a six-story waterslide complex. We started out with the Pirate’s Plank slide, each standing in individual chutes. I nervously watched water churn below my feet as I waited for the floor to drop out from under me. Then WOOSH! I was plummeting and spiraling down the slide before finally popping out, laughing, across from Lia at the bottom.
From there, we twisted and turned around four 360-degree turns in the Captain’s Curse slide, and did the Cannonball Drop, which shot us down a series of intense drops and turns and past a cool mini light show, before spitting us out at the bottom. Later, we met up with the boys to catch waves at the Surf Club Harbor wave pool, before finally deciding to head home.
We were all deliciously exhausted. On the way back to our car, Lia threw her arm around me, “This was an amazing day! What did you think, Grandma?”
“You know how much Grandpa and I love spending time with you two. But I must admit, this was pretty incredible. Where else could I ride two of the tallest coasters in the country? And because you were absolutely right, Lia … YOLO!”