Field Report: Classic Midwest Summer Weekend: Indoor Water Park, Roadside Food Stand, Drive-in Movie, Sandusky and Monroeville, OH
by Rosie, MaceVindaloo, DancingQueen, PandaCat

School's out for the summer, but summer ain't quite here — or at least it can't seem to stick around for the weekend yet. Skies are overcast and threatening rain and temps are in the low 60's at best. We need some fun, but don't wanna freeze or get soaked in the rain. Hey! Let's go back to Castaway Bay! Lots of indoor water fun in a temperature controlled environment and enough daylight left in the evening to explore the surrounding area. Perfect!

We left early in the morning for the two hour ride to Sandusky, Ohio stopping only for a quick bathroom break and coffee. We remembered our experience with "Genghis Guest" from our last visit and hoped he or others like him wouldn't be there to spoil our visit. The coupon we received in the mail to compensate for problems during our previous time there brought the price down to about $175 per night which included the water park admission — not unreasonable at all. Our room, a standard double-double with a balcony overlooking the little inlet from Lake Erie, was ready so we were able to check in early and get changed to head straight for the attached water park.

We were greeted in the hotel lobby by Snoopy and Lucy, drumming up interest for Cedar Point, across the water. That's a huge amusement park which also happens to own Castaway Bay, but this time we were more interested in water; yes, the Peanuts are irresistable, but we'll remember them for next time.

No new water features had been added since our last visit, but we didn't care. We went straight to the Rendezvous Run, the largest slide to start this visit with a big splash. Next we raced each other on the pink, green, and yellow tube slides. Watch out for those seams. You bump over those a few dozen times and you will get bruised. We checked out the Creature Cove pool and clambered over the floating snake, dolphin, and turtle anchored to the bottom of the pool; then played water polo basketball — with some of us able to throw those balls across the entire width of the pool! Cargo Crossing is still a great way to test our agility and muscle strength as we pull ourselves across the suspended rope net and step from fake floating crate to barrel to box. Then off to the wave pool to jump through the artificial waves generated on the ten minute on/off cycle. Lookout Lagoon is like a huge Jungle Gym with water shooting out at your at every possible angle, then every two minutes, the "water tower" would fill up and dump over the whole thing. It's actually exhilarating as opposed to dangerous. You could also "ambush" people with conveniently located buckets to fill up yourself. And last but not least, we stepped down into the warm spa pool and luxuriated in the not-so-gentle pulsing of the water jets at waist and foot level. Aaaaahhhh ...

We grabbed a quick snack of hotdogs, pretzels, and chips at Big Daddy's Snack Shack before making the rounds of the different pools and slides several more times. Eventually, we were hungry enough to want lunch, but we only threw on swimsuit covers and t-shirts and wandered down the hall to Mango Mike's, the hotel's in-house restaurant. We checked out the buffet, but only one of us decided to sample it. The rest of us opted for Pizza Hut personal pan pizzas, a salad, and a couple of appetizers — just enough to silence the rumbly tummies. Lunch the next day was at TGI Friday's. We opted to sit out on the deck where we watched several boats come up the inlet from the Lake, tie up to the dock, and have lunch too.

After a short rest in our room, we wend town to Crabbie's Arcade. This area was filled with the usual array of video and arcade games and air hockey tables which could be played with a credit card loaded with points according to how much money you paid. Many of the games rewarded the players with tickets that could be redeemed for arcade prizes. We pooled our tickets the next day and got one pink and one purple fluffy dolphin — promptly named Obi-flipper and Darth Dolphin respectively.

We returned to the water park for another hour or so. Then we decided to see what else there was to see in the area. We had done a bit of research online and discovered that there was a drive-in movie theater in a small town nearby. Only one of us had actually been to a drive-in movie so this was an opportunity not to be missed. We knew the start times for the two movies to be shown in succession that night so we gave ourselves plenty of time to locate the drive-in. The concierge at the hotel gave us good directions so we found the theater with no problem and lots of time till show time. Of course, being the Heartland, we found the theater in the middle of a cornfield ... just like in the movies! We did see cars already lined up with coolers and lawn chairs. Hmmm ... Did they know something we didn't?

We drove on for another couple of miles looking for a place to grab some dinner before the movie. We were hoping to find someplace a little unusual; not the run-of-the-mill fast food joint or chain restaurant. As it turned out, we didn't even see any of those; that's how small this northern Ohio town was. What we did find was an old road-side food stand that still had carhop service on Friday nights. We missed out on that, but we did see the trays that hang on the car windows stacked inside the glassed-in kitchen area.

H & B's Hop was the ideal place for us to take in the whole small town Saturday night at the drive-in experience. When we got there, there were only a few people grabbing a bite or treating their kids to ice cream, but while we waited for our food and then sat and ate it, it became clear that this place was a gem frequented and appreciated by the locals. The menu included everything from corn dogs and curly fries to fried balogna sandwiches and jalapeño poppers to chicken tenders and mozzarella sticks. And it was all freshly made and delicious!

Of course we couldn't leave without dessert, the core of Americana and the reason most of us survived the dreaded peas at our mothers' dinner tables. There were rainbows of slushie flavors; vanilla, chocolate, and swirled softserve ice creams; milk shakes; sundaes; apple dumplings; and cheesecakes to choose from. We opted for a Dole whip (an orange flavored dreamsicle) — 8 inches tall at least, a swirled softserve, a turtle sundae, and an apple dumpling. Every one more delicious than the last, but Oh! Were we stuffed by the time we were done!

We drove back to the drive-in, which had started admitting cars, and saw why they had been lined up early. They knew to be there early to stake out the best spots to view the movie. The first three or four rows were pretty filled in, but we were still able to get a good spot about 40 minutes before the show was to start. It was still quite light. Some people brought footballs to toss back and forth. We heard others on cell phones calling their friends to come and meet them at the show. Families in minivans and pickup trucks had tailgate dinners and kids ran around till the food was ready. There was a snack bar centrally located and offering the usual movie snacks, but we were too full from dinner to indulge.

Some kids thought the term "drive-in" should be taken literally and that it this was a great place to practice their driving skills — but when one is only 12 years old and throws the car into reverse, Mom is going to have a fit ... Fortunately no one was injured and no cars were hit. (Do be careful at drive-ins, since cars are large and dangerous things if the drivers are idiots or simply inattentive.)

Classic drive-ins had speakers on posts so that the movie sound could be heard through open car windows, but we saw no speakers here and wondered if we had to lip-read. We discussed several possibilities and thought that the movie's sound might be broadcast on a local radio station and that turned out to be a good guess. The station number was flashed on the screen just before the movie began so we quickly tuned in and didn't miss anything of the movie. One difference between the drive-in and a regular movie theater was that they showed no previews of other movies or all those annoying ads. We didn't miss them.

Double features at drive-ins usually feature a family friendly film followed by a more adult offering. The movies showing that night were Madagascar and The Longest Yard. Pixar's latest offering, Madagascar, was not really its best, but it was an entertaining adventure tale and animated, too!

A common occurrence with drive-in movies and children is that the youngsters may not make it through the whole movie. Particularly with very young ones, they might even come to the drive-in in their PJ's so they are ready to be put to bed. The activity at the pools at the water park had really sapped our energy so it was pretty tough to stay awake — particularly as it got darker. One of us conked out for a good 30 minute nap before the movie and another ran out of steam and missed the last 15 minutes or so of the movie. It was still great to experience a little piece of classic Americana and we all hope drive-in movies make a comeback.

Just a short two-hour drive took swept us off on a genuine Midwestern/ pseudo-Carribean getaway that let us indulge in our desire to lol and play in the water, discover off-the-beaten-track dining pleasure, and revel in the nostalgia of an evening at the drive-in. What more could we want? You can be sure we'll take another weekend like this again.

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