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Marg-Ins Summer What?
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Welcome to August and the resumption of school and a somewhat normal routine. Summer, or what months pass for summer vacation here in California, are just about over and like it or not, alarm clocks will soon be back in use.

The unusually mild summer weather (trust me, I'm not complaining at all) has made it seem like we are still waiting for the real summer to hit and it's a little difficult to fathom that classes are about to start. We'll probably get slammed with a week of 110-degree weather sometime in September, just to make sure we get our fill.

As un Central Valley-like as our summer has been so far, I did have the chance recently for a little R&R at a spot that was some 15 to 20 degrees cooler even than the low 90s we had in the past week. Heading over to Santa Cruz for a day of fun at the beach and the boardwalk could be considered my final summer 'fling' of vacation before getting back to the business of fall sports, fighting with my daughter to get out of bed for school and much nailbiting over homework assignments getting done on time.

For the moment, I prefer to put school in the background and just focus on the fun of spending a day with good friends. My daughter and I went with friends we have known since she and their daughter were in preschool together. Many birthday parties, softball games and elementary teachers in common later, we and friend Lisa, her daughter Rylie and younger son Casey Custer hit the highway. We settled in at the beach first and didn't really plan to do anything but sit and watch the waves, do a little wading - it was very cold, so there wasn't much wading go on amongst us Valley types - and buy an overpriced corn dog and fries for lunch.

It was relaxing to see everyone co-existing peacefully on the beach and we even shared some laughter as we watched what had to be a class of three dozen junior lifeguards trotting along the beach in their signature red life-saving swimsuits, trying to keep up with their older instructors.

Seagulls dove in close, hoping you were eating something and their dive-bombing would scare you enough to drop a piece of whatever you were munching on so they could snatch it up.

I just love the smell of the sea air, the sound of the ocean waves coming in, the feel of the cool, damp sand underneath the top layer that's heated and dried by the sun.

After a few hours of beach exploring we headed to the Boardwalk and yes, this was my first time there, so of course certain rides had to be on the itinerary. The smaller of the two roller coasters was a little too herky jerky and rattly for my taste; I just didn't care for it. But that put me into a quandary over boarding the larger 'Giant Dipper' famous wooden coaster. Casey, who had been my seatmate on the smaller Hurricane, apologized for not warning me about the turn that slams you into the side of the coaster car, but promised that I would like the 'Dipper' better. With trepidation, I eyed the wooden and steel monstrosity and friend Lisa echoed Casey's encouragement that it wouldn't be that bad.

My daughter considers me a chicken; I just don't like being turned upside down and spun in circles of my own free will. At least, I consoled myself, the Giant Dipper never puts you on your head, just on your side.

Well, I wasn't prepared for total darkness as soon as we took off and seatmate Lisa apparently screams like crazy just because she's having fun. Plus, she knew the tunnel was coming. I screamed at first because, as previously mentioned, I just wasn't ready for the dark. But then we came up and out and whipped around that first corner and lost our stomachs and crested the top and I was having fun.

Really having fun.

It was the best roller coaster I've ever been on. Because it was fast and didn't have to turn me upside down to make it thrilling. I started screaming just because, like Lisa, I was having fun.

"Can we ride it again?" I asked as we pulled in to the end of the line.

We did. Multiple times. The best was the last time, when we ended up in the first car and I swear we went faster than all the rides before.

My daughter tried to get me on that thing that spins you around at a dizzying height but I bypassed that. To my surprise, though, she convinced me to go on the ride that shoots you up 125 feet in four seconds, and then drops you down nearly as fast.

By the time I worked up the nerve, we were almost at the end of our day. Strapped in to what seemed like an ejection seat, I'll admit to being pretty scared. Shooting straight up, I let go of being scared and just enjoyed the sensation of freedom. Maybe it was G force, but it was pretty cool. Too bad I didn't have time to do it again.

What I discovered was that I loved all the rides that allowed you to soar; the sea swings, the sky coaster that's like a controlled hang glider, anything I could ride on and look at the world ahead of and around me from was good.

So do I get all philosophical here? ... Is this a metaphor for me wanting to just face life straight on, take a look at what's ahead of me and always move forward? As opposed to being turned upside down to see where I've been?

Nah ... I just like not losing my lunch when I go to the amusement park.

Marg Jackson is editor of The Escalon Times and The Oakdale Leader and assistant editor for The Riverbank News. She may be reached at or by calling 847-3021.