A few weeks ago the Girlfriend took me on a surprise outing to the All Fun Recreation Park in Millstream, just outside Victoria. I used to ride/drive by this place, nestled in an active gravel pit, on the way to mountain biking, before the new subdivision and golf course put an end to it (the riding).
So like, it’s a very hick looking place All Fun, all huge asphalt parking lot all baking in the sun without green leafy shade in sight, sharing an entrance with streams of dump trucks hauling rock, a chain link Thunderdome batting cage arena, small towers of old tires demarcating an empty go-cart track, some small administrative shacks, and a hill with somewhat enticing blue waterslides.
I’d been to All Fun once for my first go-cart experience when I first came to Victoria in say, 1997/98. I think my visions of full-throttled rally racing were somewhat let down. I’ve played some grade-school b-ball but’ve never returned a mechanically-propelled ball. And I briefly enjoyed water slides during a 1.5 year period in the 80s when my family lived near Edmonton and its Mecca of a mall and waterslide park.
But so the All Fun batting cage was pretty cool. For $2 I think you get 25 balls. We (the G-friend and I) got the shitiest aluminum bats I never imagined could be pawned on unsuspecting customers but were like the only bats All Fun provided (for free). It was like someone’d used them for drilling oil and breaking bedrock, so black, so extremely dented they were. I also have no idea what length/girth of bat I fit so we had little stubbies and thin long ones with us in the cage.
I started with Slow Softball, which by ball 25 I was batting maybe 15 hits, including ricochetes that were more like lobbing gum above my head and those with an acceptable velocity and trajectory to have got me to maybe first base. I then moved up to the Slow Baseball cage, but decided my money was better spent actually hitting something other than oxygen. Man, those balls come so super fast. And after $6, blisters were coming off my palms.
For $20 ($15 after 3pm) we entered the recreational subculture that is watersliding. There’s a whole complex hierarchy and system of slides, slide technique, and teenage socializing that I was privy to for the two hours I could handle it.
So like, you get a stamp from the 80-year-old ticket kiosk woman before you push through the stern tile, revealing a concrete veranda of outdoor showers, walls of lockers, and family broods sweating and screaming and eating from the concession stand (which we had to sneak our lunch in past its sign prohibiting food from the “outside”) and lounging on the grass beyond.
Up the 45 degree concrete slab to the slides, barefoot we trudge: with the apprehensive toddlers and their over-weight moms; with the well-developed 14-year-old boppers in circles of three, wearing swimsuits out of Maxim magazine; with the underdeveloped 14-year-old boys in packs of three, protruding shoulder blades and equally high-pitched screams budging their way in line; and with the eager and focused pre-teens, usually in pairs, wrinkled hands and feet from hours of uninterrupted exposure, the true hardcore sliders.
And this is how water sliding works:
You climb to the very crown of this hill—above the first-level kiddy slides and second-tier wuss rides—to the alpha chutes and tubing highway feed zone. You pick the knarliest of the slides, say numbers 5 and 6. You take one, your best friend and rival takes the other. You wait. The college students life guarding/marshalling as a summer job, perched above you from their podium of buzzer and radio relay controls overlooking the entire park, ask “You two racing?” You nod affirmative.
When both tubes clear (radioed from the marshal below) the buzzer is sounded and you just heave yourself feet first down the initial drop like you were walking a huge, uncontrollable dog, or you’ve just been kicked from behind by a horse.
You should now be a torpedo. Two seasoned 10-year-olds inform me the finest technique is this: go stiff, fold your arms over your pumped-out chest and point your toes forward. The only contact between you and reality should be the points of two jutting shoulder blades and your heals. You are, under no circumstances, no matter how chillingly close you come to breeching the bankings and plummeting to your death, to sit up, or put your arms out, or otherwise compromise your projectile form and speed.
When you reach the bottom and emerge from this dark, twisting, hollow, aquatic-engineered Mario world into the frothy arms of the ejection pool, you get a jet full of heavily-chlorinated water up your nose, swim for the surface, flick the booger hanging down to your lip before anyone sees it, and breath again.