Frugal Weekend Travel: Riding Roller Coasters and Conquering Fear

Frugal Weekend Travel- Riding Roller Coasters and Conquering Fear

A few weeks ago, the weather was dreary, and I felt stuck. I came downstairs in the early hours, and said, “I want to go ride roller coasters.”

I married a self-confessed roller coaster junkie, so my statement made Brent’s ears perk up, even though he was on his first sip of coffee.

“We can make that happen, you know. We have that companion pass from Southwest,” he replied.

A few hours later, it was booked. We’d fly Friday afternoon to Oakland, have dinner with two of Brent’s friends who live in Oakland on Friday, spend the night, drive over to Vallejo Saturday morning, spend the day mostly in line for roller coasters on Saturday (though several minutes of the day would be filled with pure adrenaline, which is the whole point), come back to Oakland Saturday night, and leave Sunday morning.

What We Spent for the Weekend

Airfare: $10. Okay, points plus the companion fare, but ten actual dollars.

Hotel: $384. We stayed at the Marriott in downtown Oakland, and while it was nice, it was more expensive than we needed (and it was tiny!). I’d probably stay elsewhere if we visit Oakland again.

Airport parking: $20, although we really expected it to be $30, since it’s $10 a day and we went Friday afternoon and came back Sunday afternoon. Thanks, PDX!

Rental car: $20: Brent is a Hertz Gold Club Member, and was able to redeem points for a free rental weekend. Still had to pay taxes and gas, though.

Friday night dinner: $100. We went to a fancy restaurant that one of Brent’s friends really wanted to try, called Flora, which was cute and swanky, and yes, the bar next door was called Fauna. My appetizer outshone my entree by a mile, so if you’re there and there’s halibut crudo on the menu, get it. You won’t be disappointed. Unless you don’t like halibut. Or cold food. You know what? Never mind. This is quite clearly not a food blog! :)

Saturday breakfast: $34: Everything in the Bay Area is expensive. $34 for two bowls of polenta, a small side of fruit to share, and two cups of coffee.

Two tickets to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom: $91: Brent bought these tickets online so we wouldn’t have to wait in line at the park for tickets. Sounds like a good idea, except for two things:

1) They charge a $4.99 “convenience fee” for the privilege and
2) The park wasn’t particularly busy

Oh well.

Parking pass: $20. Because $91 doesn’t get your car there, just you!

Two sodas in the middle of the day: $8. I needed something to settle my stomach after a few roller coasters. Because, yes, I am old.* But I got a Sprite, and holy smokes does a Sprite have a lot of sugar in it! I did not drink my whole 20 ounces, but it did make me feel better, and increased the number of roller coasters I could ride, which made the whole day better. We didn’t consume any more food inside the park.  I don’t know how people can eat the crap food they serve at places like that and still ride those rides!

Saturday dinner: $71. If you go to the Bay Area, eat at Burma Superstar and get the tea leaf salad. Also, I ordered lemon-mint tea, which was hot water, mint leaves, and lemon juice. I’ve already replicated it at home. I LOVE IT. Your bill might be lower than ours if you were a normal person and ate lunch and also didn’t have to overcome some serious height/fear issues during the day that can really work up an appetite!

Total cost for the weekend: $758. Which, no, doesn’t sound like a screaming deal. But we knew going to a theme park would be pricey, and in retrospect, we could have easily stayed somewhere else. Somewhere not downtown. Because we were only downtown on Friday night, and had to rent a car anyway, we could have easily stayed somewhere else. Even near the theme park, which only ended up being half an hour away.

Plus, then we wouldn’t have gotten woken up by some punk kid who pulled the fire alarm at 1am on Friday night, causing alarm and panic to course through my veins and make Brent mutter something about how the 20th floor is no upgrade when you have to walk down 20 flights of stairs.

Why We Went

We’ve been pretty busy since we got married, what with the moving and all, and it felt like our routines were starting to get stressful. And frankly, it sounded like fun. Leaving Portland during my least favorite month always sounds like a good idea. Plus, we had that companion pass burning a hole in my pocket.

Neither one of us had been on roller coasters in years.

Which brings me to another point: if you don’t do things that scare you, you get more scared as time goes by, and you don’t put yourself in uncomfortable situations, and when you don’t do that, you don’t grow.

I used to love roller coasters. In fact, as my best friend informed me, she and I had even been to this particular theme park before! But this time, I was scared. Sweaty palms, sweaty feet, scared.

We started with Superman, which I am glad I didn’t read about beforehand, because I probably wouldn’t have gone. As it was, I kept my eyes completely shut (as well as my mouth) for the entire ride. Then I hurried as fast as I could away from that thing.

“You can’t keep your eyes closed,” Brent told me. “Otherwise you’re just jostling.”

Things didn’t get better immediately.

The next ride (Medusa) was just as scary as the first, but I kept my eyes open. This roller coaster had cameras that took pictures, and if the pictures weren’t so expensive, it would have been funny to buy one. Because the look on my face is priceless.

Eyes open. Teeth clenched. Terror registering throughout.

We went on a few tamer rides, and then I got in line with Brent for Boomerang, which, by that point, I was feeling queasy, so I decided to skip it.

Then we had the most expensive sodas ever, and I felt better.

So much better, in fact, that we went on a few other roller coasters, and then went back to do the first two again.

And I loved it. Every second of the ride. My face was captured again, and you can tell I’m having fun.

I conquered my fear, at least for the day.

And it was wonderful! We got back home on Sunday, to a house that my dear sister cleaned, and I was ready to get back to real life.

So, sure, not the most frugal vacation we could take, but well worth every penny. Plus, now we know… after a day at a theme park, stay at a Best Western instead of a Marriott because you’ll want to be in bed watching the food network by 8pm because you are actually old.

*Fun game we played while waiting in line: let’s try to find people older than us without children. It was a hard game because you couldn’t tell who had kids meeting them elsewhere later, but there were people older than us. But there were teenagers on dates, and a whole fraternity from Reno. I nearly spilled my Ovaltine on them.