Today we visited what I suppose some could call a happy place. We were so excited too. Our trip to San Antonio brought us to a place I had never been (nor the kids), although my wife and her sister and mother had. Today, we visited Sea World! Sea World, home of Shamu… Although I am told by so-called reliable sources that Shamu is just a trademarked name the folks at SW apply to all of their orcas in honor of the very first Shamu; I remain convinced that there likely is only one Shamu, albeit cloned thrice. She is 44 years-old and looks good for her dolphin age.
So, Sea World… Magical home of marine mammals! And yet, not so much fun. Why? Well, let’s see. There’s really only one reason for this but that reason set off a chain reaction (as they usually do) which threatened to ruin our entire day. Yesterday we had so much fun at FIesta Texas. And Fiesta Texas has a water park (not a few bubbling fountains, a full scale park) attached to it where admission is free once you’re in the main gate of Six Flags. That is unusual because most places will charge a separate entrance fee. When I say “most places” I’m included Sea World. What we did NOT realize was that by entering the park the moment they opened (as we did) and heading first to see a show we would miss our opportunity to visit Aquatica (Sea World’s water park). You see, after taking in a spectacle involving two beluga whales (never thought I’d string those words together) and a kids’ show involving Elmo (for Rita’s sake) we found that the water park had “reached capacity” and would not reopen until 4PM. Let’s review. It’s 105 degrees. There is no shade anywhere. The water park was closed. We asked the nice young lady at the gate how they were so sure that the park would reopen at 4. “Do you ask all the people inside to exit at 4 to give others a chance to enter?” asked my mother-in-law. “No,” came her reply. “Then how do you know it won’t still be at capacity?” I think the park employee must have been frustrated because her responses just kept making less and less sense. She said she could “guarantee that the park would reopen by 4, unless it couldn’t reopen until later than that, although maybe earlier than that but that it definitely would be open again this day.”
Needless to say, we never did enter Aquatica. Even if we had been back at that gate at 3:15 on the dot (when they reopened) we could not have stood that line with no shade and both of our kids. So after an hour or so of literally sitting around near the park entrance trying to decide where to go next, we decided to try to see the Shamu show. It was on the far side of the park. We walked over and found out that Shamu Stadium (yes, that’s what it’s called) was full. On our walk back toward the gate, for we were about to leave, we passed no less than three major rides that were closed for mechanical reasons. One of these, a log flume, appeared to have actually been stuck while in motion leaving stranded a few dozen park-goers about 50 feet up in the air.
We were just about to give up completely and go back to Six Flags when we stumbled up Sea Lion Theater. I cannot tell you how much I get a kick out of sea lions! And apparently I’m not the only one. While my son was a bit more tepid in his reception of the giant flippery ones, my daughter could not contain her amusement. She and I laughed and laughed. The show was a cute production featuring Clyde and Seymour (sea lions) who run some kind of detective agency in the 1940’s. Who knows? It was adorable, especially the part where the otter ran across the stage for no apparent reason. We enjoyed that show so much that we returned later that evening for another show — this one featuring the same sea lions but the premise was a revue of a trip to Sea World through their eyes. Funny stuff; except that old Clyde and Seymour apparently made it to the water park and rode every ride they desired to ride without a line.
All in all it wasn’t a terrible day and we were able to make the most of it. We always seem to manage that pretty well. The kids, cranky at times, held up well and, though I was in great pain from my sciatica, I enjoyed it despite myself. My mother-in-law and I, never two to not get what we paid for if we can help it, took advantage of one final aspect of this operation. Upon entrance, the park sells a wristband for $30. The wearer can enter any of six restaurants (read: food shacks) on park grounds and eat or drink as much as he or she likes. However, there’s always a catch. And this catch stipulated that each time through the line, one could grab one entree, one side OR dessert, and one drink (fountain drinks or bottled water but oddly, not tea). Let me tell you, Wilma and I had a ball as we walked into every one of these six shacks that we passed on foot. “No, no, guys, you go ahead. We’ll catch up.” We’d break from our group and in the span of ten minutes or so we’d have made four trips through the line stocking up on mostly water but also “whale tail cookies”, ham sandwiches, and jello. Take that, Sea World! Trust me, we more than got our 30 bucks worth out of that deal.