When the Covers arrived at Fantasy Fun Park, Mr. Ken had their driver head to the employee entrance. The driver did as requested, but he'd never been back that way before. He was driving on uncharted territory for sure. The limo driver pulled up to the entrance where a man was waiting outside.
"Mr. Thomas, I am so glad you were able to make it back here for our Celebration of Christmas Wonders," offered the operating manager of the Fantasy Fun Park.
"Thank you, Joseph. I'm glad you three got together and changed the name of your Christmas theme. Christmas Jubilee sounded like ... like it was going to last a whole year," chuckled the owner, Ken Thomas.
"Joseph ... I trust you and the Fun Park are doing ... well," laughed Mr. Ken.
"And, who do we have here? I recognize these two scamps," laughed Joseph Shartz, as he ruffled Robert's and Eric's hair.
"Boys ... this is Joseph Shartz, my operating manager for Fantasy Fun Park. Joseph, this is my Estate Master, Wayne Mitchell. He has the responsibility to corral all the boys when I'm not available. Plus, he speaks for me ... when I am not available," began Ken Thomas.
Joseph Shartz said he understood the reference and would defer to Mr. Mitchell if he couldn't get a hold of the owner. Mr. Ken then added that expenditures of large sums of money had to be coordinated with him, though. Mr. Shartz said he understood.
"Mr. Shartz, I want you to meet, Collin, a college freshman, and you know Robert, who is now my son and Eric who is Robert's best friend. This here is Kevin the older of the twins and this is his virtually identical brother Kyle. Lastly, we have Matthew.
"Guys, while the two of us talk over some issues, you will have the run of the Park. Joseph, have you initiated the FLP, Front Line Pass yet?" asked Mr. Ken.
"No, we haven't, Mr. Thomas. That ahh ... that is one of the issues we need to work out for next season. But, I do have an employee known to all the ride operators and they will take your group to all the rides and get them on the next one. I hope that will work for you, sir," explained Mr. Shartz.
Mr. Ken talked it over with Mr. Wayne and Collin to make sure they didn't want to split up into two groups. Mr. Wayne said it might be better if they stayed together. He suggested the older boys could show them around and if the three younger boys want to ride any of the larger amusements, there would be at least four who could ride with them.
Mr. Shartz called his assistant operations manager to come out and meet the special group that just arrived.
"Jason, I want you to give this group the VIP treatment. Get them on any ride they want. Take them through the Exits as we talked. If they get hungry, get them whatever they want, as well. Mr. Thomas and I have some business to attend to. You can call me in the office if you run into any resistance," said Mr. Shartz.
As the large group walked off, Matthew asked, "What are we going to ride first?"
"Let's ride the roller coasters first," suggested Eric.
"Ahh, can we work our way up to the bigger rides first?" asked a tentative Matthew.
"Well, we could, but the bigger rides are smaller here than they are at Six Flags," replied Robert.
"Boys," began Mr. Wayne. "Why don't we just walk around the perimeter of the Park and ride them as they come, and then do any interior rides. After that, we can backtrack to the ones we liked the best. How does that sound to you?"
That was what they did. As they walked around the park the ones who were there for their first time were surprised at how clean, but old looking Fantasy Fun Park looked. They were also surprised at the number of people there for being the day after Christmas.
As they walked around, Mr. Shartz's assistant, Jason, was curious as to who they were that he was to give them VIP priority treatment on all of the rides, no matter which ones they were. They were standing in line when the man asked the question to no one in particular.
Matthew spoke up since no one else did. "Mr. Ken owns the Park. He gave us this trip as part of our Christmas presents."
"Then, who is that man?" asked Jason, as he pointed to Mr. Wayne. "He surely isn't your Mr. Thomas' son. He's almost as old as Mr. Thomas is," said Jason.
"Oh, that's Mr. Wayne. He's our Estate Master. He takes care of us when our 'dad' can't be around. If we do something wrong, he'll blow his whistle and throw a penalty flag at us," said a smiling Matthew.
Just then they heard a whistle and a red flag came flying over to where Matthew and Jason were standing.
"See what I mean," laughed Matthew.
"Hey, Matthew, you're holding us up. Let's go!" called out Mr. Wayne.
Matthew shrugged his shoulders, picked up the flag, and then ran to get on the ride. The seven Covers rode what is known as a flat ride. This one was called Faster Up 'N' Down. It was a smaller version of Scream they rode the other day at Six Flags Fiesta Texas. Instead of being 200 feet tall it was only 150 feet.
The Covers continued to walk and ride. They eventually came to a roller coaster and Robert and Eric ran to get in line. It wasn't until the rest of the Covers, plus Jason, came by and walked right by them they realized they had VIP privileges and the two Best Friends rushed to catch up.
What kind of roller coaster is this?" asked Matthew.
"It's a wooden roller coaster. This is the Comet, an Out and Back coaster," answered Jason.
"But how high is it?" quickly asked Matthew.
"It ain't that high. You rode things higher at Six Flags," said Eric. "This is only 110 feet high at the top of the first hill and a downward hill of only 80 feet. The train goes down and up and down the hills then turns around at the end and comes back. It's a lot of fun. Lots of air-time," finished Eric.
Matthew looked the coaster over, but figured he needed to try all of the rides, so he can tell his friends what he did. They all walked to the exit and waited until the train came back into the station. When it stopped, the people on the coaster car got off, but the ride operator didn't open the gates to allow the next group to load.
"Hey, what gives?" yelled someone in line.
"These are VIPs and they get to go next," replied Jason.
"That's not fair!" came back the same person.
Matthew felt bad they got on the next train, but his older 'brothers' were laughing as they loaded into the first seats. Mr. Wayne pulled the youngest Cover into the seat next to his. Once the eight Covers were seated, the ride operator opened the gates for the people to fill the remaining seats. The person who complained they got to go first didn't get to ride.
When the coaster train was dispatched, the train went slowly down a slight hill to the lift chain. The Covers who'd never been there before used the slow ride to the top to get a better view of the whole park. At the top, they put all of their attention on the ride.
Matthew screamed as he went down the first 80 foot-hill. Even though it was only 110 feet high, the boy wasn't prepared for the quick fall to the bottom where they then raced up to the top of the second hill. It was then Matthew relaxed and no longer had a death grip on Mr. Wayne's hand.
"That was fun," exclaimed Matthew, as the group walked out the exit to the midway.
"Yea, it sure was," teased Kyle. "You screamed like a little girl going down the first hill."
"Sooo ... I still rode it didn't I?" replied Matthew, and then stuck his tongue out at his 'brother'.
They all laughed as they walked to the next ride.
The covers rode a number of flat rides. The Scrambler, the bumper cars, and the Tilt-A-Whirl to name a few. They played a few Midway games, as well. By that time they were hungry from all the riding and walking, they'd done.
Mr. Wayne warned them not to eat anything too greasy because it would weigh heavily on their stomachs. He suggested they eat something light like a soft pretzel, cinnamon bread, or a plain funnel cake and wash to down with a soft drink instead. The boys decided on soft pretzels and a soft drink. Jason picked up their tab.
As they let their meal settle, Matthew asked if they could ride the train. He reasoned they could get another view of the park, and then they could figure out where to go next when they returned back where they started. That's what the Covers did as it also gave their feet a rest.
After their train ride and rest, the Covers had renewed energy. They hurried to some of the bigger flat rides. The Galleon was first. That ride was shaped like a boat that swung up back and forth and went higher and higher on each pass. The boys riding the highest seats got more airtime than the rest and the much better ride.
They came to their next roller coaster. This one was made of steel that had a few inversions, steep hills and twists and turns. Matthew didn't want to ride it, but his 'brothers' convinced him the ride wasn't as big as the Rattler and would go by so fast he wouldn't know he rode it until it was over. Matthew relented and followed them to the exit to wait for their ride.
"That wasn't too bad," offered Matthew as they walked back out the exit. "But those people we got in front of didn't like it one bit."
"Yes, most people don't, since they waited in line and here you come along and jump the line and get right in front of them," spoke up Jason with a smirk.
"Jason, you have been given a job to do," said Wayne Mitchell, as he turned and stopped in front of Mr. Shartz's assistant. "I suggest you keep your comments to yourself and do it, then!"
The boys had never seen nor heard that side of Mr. Wayne before, and started to snicker. They immediately stopped when their Estate Master looked directly at them with a glare in his eyes.
"Now listen here, I don't have to take that even if you are some VIPs," returned Jason. "You're here for a day, and you have no idea what this park is all about. I'll do my job, but I sure won't enjoy it."
"You'll do your job ... and you will make our time here the best you can, or you better plan on finding a new job!" shot back Mr. Wayne.
"Who do you think you are?" yelled Jason.
"He works for our 'dad' and his word is just as good as if my 'dad' said it!" shouted Matthew.
"And who is your dad that he can fire me and send me on my way?" snickered Jason.
The boys simultaneously said, "He owns the park! And, he owns two more just like it."
Jason smiled at hearing that and discounted it. He figured the boys were just trying to scare him. He figured he'd find out what this was all about. He pulled his phone out and dialed the operating manager, Joseph Shartz.
"Mr. Shartz," the boys' heard the man say.
When Jason pulled his cell phone out, Mr. Wayne did the same. But, the Estate Master called Mr. Ken.
The boys heard parts of both conversations and when the men had hung up they all smiled. Mr. Wayne told the boys they would wait there until their 'dad' came to them. They didn't have long to wait as their 'dad' and Mr. Shartz came to them riding a golf cart.
"'Dad', 'dad'," called out the young boys, as they ran to meet him.
"Jason, what's this all about?" demanded Mr. Shartz.
"These so-called VIPs are making a mockery of the park, Mr. Shartz. They've upset many of our guests by their continued jumping the lines and going up the exits. Many times the people have made remarks about them going ahead of them," explained Jason.
"Jason, do you have ANY idea who these boys are? Do YOU?" now yelled Mr. Shartz.
"They told me their 'dad' owns the park. If he owned the park ... surely he'd have been here more than just one time," smirked Jason.
"You stupid man," said Joseph Shartz. "Go back to the office and wait for me."
"I am truly sorry, Mr. Thomas. I had no idea Jason would act this way," tried to apologize Joseph Shartz, the Fantasy Fun Park's operating manager.
"Joseph, it's nothing to worry about. But, I will tell you this. If Jason is still here the next time I visit, he had better have a completely different attitude. I understand he's been with the park for many, many years and he fills in for you when you're off.
"He may be a good worker who knows almost as much as you do, and cares about the park and how to run it. But ... I won't stand for someone who has that kind of attitude towards VIPs. How's he going to act when we institute the FLP? You had better make sure he changes his attitude, or you'll be looking for another assistant, for sure.
"Now ... find the boys another person who can do this simple job of escorting my 'sons' around the park and getting them on the rides without waiting," calmly, but sternly, spoke Ken Thomas, the owner of Fantasy Fun Park.
Just then the boy, who talked with Matthew earlier, had overheard the conversation and came over to the young Cover. He asked him if what the man said was true. Matthew smiled and told him that his 'dad' did own the park, but that was his first time visiting it.
The two boys talked while Mr. Shartz had someone else to escort the Covers around the park. When the woman arrived the operating manager explained to her who the VIP's were. When he told her they were the owner's sons she flinched, but she totally understood what she needed to do. She was mad at Jason for being such a jerk.
The woman took the Covers to all of the rides, and then back to a few they wanted to ride again. When it got late, Mr. Wayne had her take them back to the employee building and Mr. Shartz's office, so they could meet up with Mr. Ken. She didn't know that name and the Estate Master had to tell her that was Ken Thomas, the owner of the park.
"Did you boy s have a good time?' asked a smiling 'dad' Ken.
"Yes, 'dad', we had fun," spoke up Matthew, as he hugged his 'dad'. "That is except for that Jason guy. I sure hope we won't have one like him at the next park."
The Covers all thanked Mr. Shartz for his generosity and letting them go ahead of his other guests in order to ride his rides. They shook his hand and then went out to the limo to wait for their 'dad'.
Mr. Ken and Mr. Shartz had one last conversation. The park's owner told his operating manager he needed to straighten up his crew, or he'll replace all of them, or he'll close the park down and put hundreds of people out of work.
The Covers looked for a good restaurant to eat dinner. Charles saw a Cracker Barrel and he suggested that one. He told them he ate at one when he and their 'dad' were up in Dallas/Fort Worth and it had a family atmosphere. They decided to try it, since they didn't have one near them.
The boys couldn't believe the menu items. The menu had entrees, daily specials, burgers, sandwiches, salads, and many sides. They had a difficult time choosing what they wanted to eat.
Mr. Ken suggested they get a good steak, but the boys said they get them at Four Corners and they wanted to try something different. And that they did. One boy got the country fried steak, one the Chicken n' Dumplins, and a few got the Cracker Barrel Sampler that included a few items of what the other boys got. Collin did get the grilled sirloin steak, while Mr. Wayne ordered the 10 oz. rib eye. Mr. Ken decided on the apple cider BBQ chicken breast.
When they got back to the hotel, Mr. Ken told the boys they had an early flight and had to be downstairs by 8 a.m. to make it to the airport by nine. He told them that if they wanted to eat breakfast they should be down in the lobby by 7:30 and not to overeat.
'Dad' Ken explained they should be at their next hotel by eleven, or earlier, to unpack before they head over to their second park, Mountain Top Park. Their 'dad' told them they'd repeat what they did today, but this time he'd make sure their escort knows who they are from the start.
Everyone headed up to their rooms to relax before bed. The younger boys talked about their day and that man, Jason. Matthew told them he enjoyed the rides as they weren't too big, and he could build up his courage to ride bigger ones later.
The three older teens had their own talk. They couldn't believe how that man Jason acted towards them. They said they felt the man was trying to act as if he owned it, or he should be the Operating Manager instead. The younger teens said they were going to talk to their 'dad' about him while they flew to the next park.
The next morning the Covers were down in the lobby by 7:50 with their luggage packed and ready to be loaded.
"'Dad' ... do I have time to get something off the breakfast bar?" asked Matthew.
"You can, but make it something that can be hand-carried as our ride will be here very soon. Oh, there he is, already. Hurry up 'son', and no liquids or anything powdered. Grab a muffin. That should hold you over until we get in the air," called out 'dad' Ken, as the boy hurried over to the breakfast bar.
The ride to the airport took as long as it did to get to the hotel the previous day. They did the same thing they did yesterday before being allowed to load onto the 9-passenger super midsized business jet. The boys decided to change up seats, so others could look out the windows easier. 'Dad' Ken kept his seat, though.
"While the Covers flew towards their next airport and eventually their hotel and amusement park, Robert and Eric wanted to talk to their 'dad' about Jason. They gave their arguments for why their 'dad' needed to get rid of Jason.
But, Mr. Ken explained he needed to let his park manager deal with the problem. He told the boys he didn't know all that much about Jason, but did know he was Mr. Schartz's right-hand man and knew almost as much about the park as Joseph did. Mr. Ken added how much Mr. Shartz depended on the man. He did tell the boys, though, he told Mr. Shartz to fix it by the next time he visited, or he'd fire the man himself. That put a smile on the boys' faces.
They made good flying time and were at their hotel by 10:45, fifteen minutes early. They had flown through many dark clouds, along the way, and the boys didn't get to see much of the ground unless they were taking off or landing.
Mr. Ken got them three suites, as before, and they looked to their 'dad' to learn who was bunking in with him that night. The twins were selected. They had great big smiles on their faces and followed the man to his and, now, their suite. They all agreed to meet downstairs in the lobby at 11:15.
The group gathered at the assigned time, but as they walked outside to load into the limo the rains came down hard. Their limo driver said they get those types of rains all the time. He added it might rain for a half an hour and then clear up, or it might rain off and on. They just had to wait and see.
The ride over to Mountain Top Park was quiet inside the limo. The boys were bummed out they might not get to ride any of the rides, until the rains stopped and they dried out. When they arrived at the park things didn't look good. The attendants at the parking booths told them the park was closed until the weather cleared up.
Mr. Ken opened his window and told them he had an appointment with Mr. Walthers. The supervisor called the front office and was told to let them in and direct them over to the employee entrance. The driver got directions and drove in the right direction.
"Mr. Thomas, welcome back," a very happy Ben Walthers said as the man got out of the limo.
"Oh, and I see you brought Robert and Eric with you. Welcome back, boys. And, who are all these other handsome gentlemen?"
"Mr. Walthers, Ben, this is Wayne Mitchell. He works for me and is my Estate Master and helps me corral all my boys when I can't seem to do it," laughed Mr. Ken. "I'll tell you more about his duties later as we talk."
"Ben, Robert is now my son, by the way," added Mr. Thomas.
"Congratulations Mr. Thomas and the same to you young man. That is something wonderful to know," offered the same happy, upbeat man, Ben Walthers.
"Thank you, Ben, and as for these four, this is Charles. He was living with me when we visited back in the late summer, but the CPS regs ... they wouldn't allow him to travel at that time. This boy is Kevin. He's the older of the twins and this is his identical brother Kyle. And this last lad ... his name is Matthew. They are my foster sons," finished Mr. Ken.
"And this strapping young man is my 'Lil Bro' Collin. He's a college freshman this year and is along to have some fun before going back and hitting the books," said Mr. Ken.
"Boys, I know you want to ride all the rides, but, as you can see, the rains have caused us to stop operations for now. I'm sure you saw I didn't even open the front gates, so we won't have to issue refunds. That causes many problems for us when we have to do that.
"We hope these rains will ease up enough for us to open the gates and get the rides up and running. In the meantime, would you like someone to show you around the park?" asked Mr. Walthers.
Robert and Eric spoke up and told the man they could show their 'brothers' around the park. That they knew where everything was. But the manager told them he could have someone show them the behind the scenes items, they didn't see last August. The boys smiled at hearing that and the three youngest said that was what they wanted.
Ben Walthers made a quick phone call and before the Covers knew it two men driving two work carts came up to the employee entrance. Mr. Walthers introduced the boys to the men and he impressed upon them that these were Mr. Thomas' sons, and his right-hand man and they were to show them the behind the scenes stuff the public would never get to see. The men said they understood their instructions.
Mr. Ken and Ben Walthers went into the manager's office. There the park's owner found fresh coffee, canned sodas, and bottled water along with a few sandwiches waiting for them. And, instead of the men sitting in hard chairs at a desk, Mr. Walthers had brought in a sofa, armchairs, a coffee table for them to use to set their drinks on and food down on, and spread out any papers they needed to work from. Mr. Ken appreciated the efforts and told himself this man had his act together.
The two maintenance men, John and Bill, took the boys to the maintenance shop first. They wanted them to see what they had to use to repair things when they went 'bump in the night'.
The boys were impressed. There were three primary work areas dedicated to either metal, wood, or electrical. The men explained they did that so they didn't interfere with one another, but were close enough to lend a hand when they needed to.
The men showed the Covers the parts bins that held all of the elements that repaired the rides. One of the parts bins had roller coaster wheels and Robert and Eric just had to hold one. Of course, the younger boys had to look them over as well. The boys never knew the amusement park needed so many spare parts to keep its rides operating.
Their next stop was the dark ride, Ghoul World. It had 2-person cars that ran on an indoor track that guided the cars as they traveled through specially lit scenes. This ride was specifically geared towards animated ghouls, ghosts, and scary creatures that were accompanied by eerie sounds, music, and special effects.
The men allowed the boys to walk through the ride with them with the lights on. The boys could never believe they would ever get to see something like that, and here they were seeing something very few get to do. The man asked them not to touch the animated creatures. They knew then to keep their hands off.
Once the men finished their walking tour, they turned the lights off and then turned the power on to the ride. The men sent a car through the dark 'haunted' building and when it came through without a problem they sent another one through.
"Hey, why can't we ride it through?" asked Matthew.
"Well, we first have to make sure there was nothing displaced by our walk-through. But just because one got through doesn't mean the second will, as well. What we are doing is what we do to every ride every morning before we even open the gates.
"That is our main responsibility. Every day, before one guest even walks through the entrance to the ride, we check out every ride. Wait until we walk you to the top of the roller coaster," laughed John.
When the second car returned without any problems, the men allowed the Covers to load two to a car and sent them through the ride. The twins wanted to go first. After that Robert and Eric filled a car and it was dispatched. Charles went with Collin as Matthew said he was riding with Mr. Wayne.
The men outside could hear the boys screaming and laughing and screaming some more as they rode through the dark ride. Almost three minutes later the twins came out laughing. They asked if they could do that again, so they could see what they missed. The men let them go through once more. When the rest of the riders learned the twins went back through, they wanted to go as well. The men readily agreed.
"I take it you enjoyed that part of the tour," said a smiling Bill. "We're now going over to the roller coaster. And no we aren't going to make you walk to the top, but if the weather was nicer, and it was early enough, we'd offer you that experience. But what we're going to do now is show you the coaster's mechanical room."
The men drove the Covers over to the wooden roller coaster. They drove around to the backside of the station where they opened the maintenance doors for the chain motor and the rest of the mechanicals.
"Boys, when the motor is running and that chain is returning and going back out you need hearing protection because that is how noisy it is in here. Now, besides the motor and chain, if you look up you can see many different lines. Some of those are hydraulic lines that lead out to the brakes and loading gates," said John.
"You can also see the conduits for the lighting. Those are the main ones, but there is also a fire suppression system, the red pipes, because this is a wooden coaster and if there ever is a fire we can fight it, or at least slow it down, as we wait for the fire department," added Bill.
"Can you send a coaster train out on the track?" asked Kyle.
"Well, not just yet. We prefer to test it when the track is dry, or mostly dry. Otherwise, we have to use more braking power and that just wears the brakes out sooner than we want. We can walk up to the station, next, so you can see the controls," suggested John.
And that was how the next few hours went as they waited for the rains to stop. The boys had the chance to see the 'behind the scenes' of most of the major rides. They were all happy they had the opportunity to see that, even though they only rode the ghost one. The rains finally did stop and the gates to Mountain Top Park were opened for the guests.
With the rains stopped, and holding off, all the rides eventually opened after they were inspected and tested. The boys were able to ride a few of the bigger rides, and even Matthew took a chance and rode them, too. The boys felt they had a much better experience at Mountain Top Park than they did at Fantasy Fun Park.
'Dad' Ken called the boys to come back to the operating manager's office, telling them they had to get a move on. The boys begged him to let them stay another hour, so they could get a few more rides in. The tradeoff was they had to eat at a fast-food restaurant instead of a nice sit down one. They readily agreed to that.
When the boys finally came back to the office, they were so excited about their day that started out so wet and dreary. They told their 'dad' that their day was even better than the previous one. They couldn't say enough about John and Bill and how they not only showed them behind the scenes at the major rides; they explained things to them as well.
"Ben, thank you for your hospitality. I also want to thank you for letting your men take the boys out and showing them things the general public won't get to see, otherwise. I'll bet when they get home this will be what they tell their friends all about," said Mr. Thomas.
"Mr. Thomas, don't be a stranger. I realize you have quite a bit on your plate right now, but it sure was nice to have you stop back by, and get some face-to-face talk in. Those new rides will give us something to advertise with and hopefully the following year we can get that steel coaster we looked at. Have a safe and fun trip," offered Ben Walthers.
The ride back toward the hotel was so different from their ride over to the amusement park. The boys were so enthusiastic about what they did, and the rides they experienced they talked over one another as they told their 'dad' what they did. After yesterday's encounter, 'dad' Ken was extremely happy the boys had fun, some real kid fun.
The Covers stopped at a typical fast-food restaurant. They got their burgers and fries and soda, and they continued their talk about their day. But the conversation turned a corner when Robert asked his dad what new rides he was getting for Mountain Top, and was he getting some for Fantasy Fun.
'Dad' Ken explained he was getting three more flat rides for all three parks, which would be different from the others. He explained that right now they were painting, landscaping, and doing general maintenances that had been totally ignored by the previous owners. Mr. Ken told the boys if the attendance comes up this coming year, he would install a new steel coaster at Mountain Top. He said the jury was still out about Fantasy and its management.
They arrived at the hotel, and the boys wanted desperately to go to their suites they felt so tired after two long days. But, 'dad' Ken held them up until he told them what would happen tomorrow. He told them to be downstairs by 8 a.m. and if they wanted breakfast they should get down there a few minutes early. Then they would then ride to the airport, and fly to their next stop.
'Dad' Ken told them after they visit the last park they would then have a leisurely Tuesday morning before going to the airport to go home. He even reminded them they could even have a good breakfast before they were taken to the airport. As long as they got to the buffet and ate by 9 a.m. when it closed.
The boys liked the idea of being allowed to sleep in Tuesday, and even get breakfast, but tonight was Sunday and they had to get up early again tomorrow. But right now, however, they felt so tired from two long days of rushing around and riding all the rides, all they wanted to do was to get up to their suites and into bed.
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