816 North Opinion

Susan Vollenweider: A round mom’s practical guide to Schlitterbahn

Riders slide down Verrückt, the world’s tallest water slide, at the Schlitterbahn Waterpark.
Riders slide down Verrückt, the world’s tallest water slide, at the Schlitterbahn Waterpark. The Kansas City Star

“I’m in shape … round IS a shape,” I positive-self-talked on the drive to Schlitterbahn Waterpark.

The kids and I were Schlitternewbies, but out-of-town friends wanted to treat us, and the appeal of gaining Verrückt water slide bragging rights sealed the deal.

You Gonna Ride That Crazy Slide?” I can’t share the experience of the 168-foot heart-stopper that is Verrückt. To get on the thing you must arrive at the park when it opens, hightail it to the slide, stand in line with your rider group and get a reservation. This requires having your act together. I can report that a not-with-us friend got in the reservation line at 9:15 a.m. and plummeted at noon. Another, who queued-up at 10 got her reservation for 7 p.m.

Round Mom Hint: There is a scale involved as your group needs to meet weight restrictions. And there are steps up. A lot of steps up.

You will walk all day in a wet swimsuit. The park has a fairly small footprint despite the number and length of the rides. However, there is walking to be done. Barefoot. Yes, you can wear water shoes but I didn’t see many, except in the bathrooms. The staff does a decent job of keeping the bathrooms mopped and stocked, but with wet traffic all day the floors were too slick and icky to be shoeless.

Round Mom Hint: I left my mom-gear tankini skirt at home and opted for board shorts to protect me from the elements. (The Elements: Damp thighs meeting with each step.) I still joined the late-afternoon masses in what the Ministry of Silly Walks might call, “The Waterpark Waddle.”

Chafing is no joke, my friend. I learned the hard way: Lukewarm, not hot shower at home. Burt’s Bees Hand Salve or Vaseline are good. Cocoa butter lotion is bad. Very bad. It created a sensation that is best likened to a hot branding iron on my inner thighs and a scream that scared my kids.

“Mom! I’m hungry!” You can bring coolers of food and drink (no glass, grills or alcohol) into the park. I thought I had brought enough but still managed to drop many bucks on ice cream because … summer.

Graceless Is the New Black. I know that I should be past the age when walking around in a swimsuit makes me emotionally uncomfortable. And I am.

Except when I’m not. Taking my bathing suit covering sundress off created a wave of awkward, self-conscious turmoil.

I took a deep breath and wiggled out of my dress.

Nothing happened.

I looked around and realized that every body type and age was represented, all swimsuit clad. I blended.

The next wave of awkward occurred when I was first knee-deep in water. I’m not going to lie: Not once during the day did I gracefully perform the Getting Booty Into Tube move. I was graceless, clumsy and uncoordinated. After the first time, I didn’t care.

Round Mom Hint: Shove your ego into a locker with your cellphone, car keys and wallet.

Parting Shots. Wet towels, soggy kids, sore muscles and thighs that were threatening to ignite from friction made the uphill walk to the parking lot uncomfortable. That night I eased my sore self into bed before the sun had set. My plan was to not move. Maybe for days.

And yet, once the pain was gone, I wanted to go back. I had fun, the kids had fun, even the occasional stranger’s foot in my face as we floated down a wavy river didn’t distract from the experience.

Besides, I still want crazy slide bragging rights.

Susan Vollenweider lives in Smithville. For more of her writing, go to thehistorychicks.com.