Rainy afternoon nearly upstages monster ride

Most Atlantans know that Six Flags Over Georgia celebrated its 45th birthday this summer. Incidentally, so did I, albeit with a bit less fanfare.

Six Flags introduced a giant new roller coaster named Goliath. I merely tried to introduce more fiber into my diet.

The fact that Six Flags and I share a birth year means I've been a regular park-goer for roughly four decades. Heck, I can remember when the Monster Plantation was the most thrilling ride in the park, barely edging out the shuttle trams from the parking lot.

More recently, I've been taking my own kids, which has been even more fun - watching from the sidelines as they twist and turn and loop-the-loop, knowing they'll be the ones blowing chunks afterwards, not me.

But for some reason these outings haven't been quite as much fun lately. Perhaps it's just age, but unbearable heat and interminable waiting no longer constitute my personal definition of a good time.

This summer's excursion would have been OK, if not for the Category 4 hurricane that settled over the park and remained stationary for 12 hours. OK, it was only a Category 1 and it only rained for three hours, but I kept thinking, "How ironic is this?"

I mean, Atlanta is in the midst of one of its driest summers in years, we have a rainfall deficit of approximately five and a half feet, my yard turns to dust if I don't water it every three hours, and the one day I take off to go to Six Flags we suffer through the second coming of the Biblical deluge. Except Noah's kids hadn't been waiting six months to ride Goliath.

Some say rainy days are best, because the park is almost empty and you can ride whatever you want whenever you want. That may be true if we're talking about a little drizzle, but it certainly doesn't apply if the reason the park is empty is that everyone has been swept away by a flash flood.

That bit of conventional wisdom also fails to consider what happens when park employees spot the first distant flash of lightning - namely, they immediately shut down the rides and congregate in the employees lounge until the Weather Channel assures them there is no further possibility of precipitation anywhere in the eastern United States.

Still, we managed to have a good time, or at least my kids did, and I suppose we didn't get any wetter than if we'd fallen out of the boat on the log flume (which actually happened to me once). And the kids did get to ride Goliath, as opposed to Noah's children, who only got to repopulate the earth.

But I think next year we may pass on Six Flags. Maybe we'll try something different for a change, like tubing on the Chattahoochee. That would probably be drier.

Lawrenceville resident Rob Jenkins is associate professor of English and director of the Writers Institute at Georgia Perimeter College. E-mail him at rjenkinsgdp@yahoo.com.