We began with a trip to an amusement park. Emily, Timothy and I arrived in Allentown yesterday at noon and decided to have lunch before heading to nearby Dorney Park. We wanted to give our food a little time to settle before we started roller coaster-ing. By 1 p.m. we were standing in line for our first ride (Talon: the Grip of Fear), chosen because it was the first coaster we saw. We didn’t have a lot of time to study it before our turn came–the line was remarkably short –but on seeing just a few loops and stuff, we wondered whether it could possibly live up to a name that 1) sounds like the title of a bad Hitchcock sequel; and 2) you can’t help but pronounce in a Monster Truck Rally Voice.
Yes, and yes.
Had I done any research before the trip, I might have learned the Talon, which climbs to a height of 135 feet, was one of the longest inverted coasters in the Northeast when it opened in 2001. It’s also a very efficient ride. In just two minutes, it takes you through two sizable drops, a 98 foot “vertical loop,” a zero-gravity roll, a series of corkscrews, and an inverted loop.
After the Roommates and I screamed for two minutes straight, The Talon relaxed its grip, leaving us slightly scrambled (though the ride somehow improved Timothy’s hairstyle) and with a very good understanding of why the line was so short. We decided to seek our remaining thrills from the log flume and the games section.
Fifty dollars later, we figured we could do no more: the Roommates had won a pair of stuffed bananas whose size hinted strongly at the involvement of GMOs, and all three of us had been soaked to the bone. We went to the hotel to prepare for our date with the IronPigs and bacon-scented destiny.
Thanks to my brother’s four-year stint in minor league baseball, I knew the quality of both the play and the between-inning hijinks would be high. I did not, however, expect a world-class venue.
Coca-Cola Park welcomes you with a gorgeous, retro facade and wows you with a diamond whose dimensions closely resemble the field the Phillies play on at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. Small wonder it was named Ballpark of the Year when it opened in 2008.
More impressive than all of that, though, are the people who work there. Beginning with our trip to the merchandise store –where, believe it or not, we had trouble finding the clothes that smelled like bacon– to each of our three concession stops, every person we encountered was not just polite but downright friendly.
The employees seemed happy to be there, and they love their IronPigs (whose name Wikipedia tells me comes from pig iron, the molten iron produced by the blast furnaces that used to be commonplace in Lehigh Valley). The stadium has just over 8,000 actual seats, but fans without fixed seats can spill over into picnic areas and porches. Game attendance averages well over 9,000, and with promotions like the Foam Finger Giveaway on Prostate Cancer Awareness Night in 2013, you understand why most games sell out.
The Pigs played to a full house last night, and we watched the action one row removed from the visitor dugout on the first base line.
“You can see the umpire’s actual spit from here,” Timothy said.
The kids were nearly as impressed by the between-inning shenanigans. Having gone to Washington Nationals games a bunch of times, they’ve seen mascot races. But live-action presidential sprinting couldn’t hold a candle to the Pork Races. We cheered as Chris P. Bacon, Diggity, Hambone, and Barbie Q battled it out, with Barbie crossing the finish line just a few feet away from us.
The Pigs delivered their fair share of entertainment, too. After two home runs, several hits and some solid pitching, they were up, 6-2, in the top of the 9th. Then their closer struggled to find the strike zone, allowed a few hits, and got himself into a proper jam. The Pigs managed two outs, but they’d allowed 3 runs, the bags were loaded and the count was full.
By definition, the next pitch would be a game-changer.
And it was a strike.
The place erupted, the Roommates high-fived, and we were all smiles as we gathered our considerable belongings and headed out.
Those smiles stayed on our faces until we were at the hotel and I picked through the backpack I carried in lieu of a purse, searching for one of our souvenirs. I found it but realized my wallet wasn’t there. It held no cash at that point but it did have credit and debit cards, my drivers license and other government-issued items a person tends to find helpful on a road trip. Since it wasn’t hidden among the bacon shirts, the jackets we never needed, or the caps I hadn’t planned on buying, I had to have left it at the stadium.
“Stay here!” I told the Roommates. I realize leaving an 11 and 12 year-old unattended won’t exactly win me Aunt of the Year, but I knew the stadium would be closing any minute if it hadn’t already, and let’s face it: those two would’ve slowed me down. I tried to obey traffic laws as I retraced my steps (though a police escort might have helped my cause), ditched the car and sprinted across the parking lot to the ballpark.
Through an incredible stroke of good luck, a trio was giving a little post-game concert and I was re-admitted. I explained my problem to a very kind man, the same one who’d helped me find the bacon shirts, and he flagged down another guy who let me run back to our seats and then to the ladies’ room to take a look. No luck. As I ran back, that guy was hailing yet another guy in a golf cart.
“He’ll check the lost and found for you,” he said. Mr. Golf Cart disappeared. While he was away, I worked on coming up with a dignified way to ask if I could dig through the trash, since there was a very good chance I’d tossed it in there along with an empty popcorn box. It’s precisely the kind of absent-minded move I’m famous for in my family.
The guy returned, holding a clipboard and a pen. He asked for my name and a description of the wallet. My heart sank. He probably needed my information in case someone came back to turn it in, which we all know doesn’t happen. I told him while trying to fight a rising panic. My preferred calming tactic is to remind myself that I have survived a dangerous marriage, a stolen car, and various other more significant calamities. It always works but it can take a little while to kick in.
I was somewhere in the middle of the stolen car part when the guy smiled and said, “We have it.”
I said, “I could kiss you,” and meant it. (He was pretty cute, after all.)
After completing some paperwork and thanking him profusely, he said, “You’re not from here?”
I told him we’d come from Virginia, and the look on his face told me he understood my panic.
“Well, we hope you come back,” he said. “And all we ask is that you become IronPig fans for life.”
As if he had to ask. I intend to wear that bacon shirt with pride. Even if the scent fades after 15 washes, the memories won’t.