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A grown-up vacation is more than thrilling
Em and Steph
THE EMSTER and her dear friend and co-madre, Stephanie McCumber, seemed to relish their opportunity to spend time with each other and leave their beloved children at home with their papas.

GAYS MILLS - Well, I did it. I took my very first childless, spouseless, vacation with my best friend. It had its ups and downs, but not the type you’d expect. Stephanie and I get around in the world together without any issues. But thanks to our destination, Six Flags Great America, it had ups, downs, twists, turns and even some screaming and curse words.

The trip was kind of an impulsive idea. We have talked about going on a vacation together since the dawn of time. But for one reason or another, we were really never in the position to pull it off. 

So a couple of months ago when it came up again, I told her you pick the date and I’ll book the hotel.  It was that simple to just get it done.

I have been to Six Flags a few times in my life and have always enjoyed the thrill. I’ve wanted to go back for ages but have never had the opportunity. 

Stephanie on the other hand had only gone once, when she was a tiny little girl. She was unable to indulge in any of the creaking old coasters or wild rides that her brother, aunt and uncle went on. Instead she was left to watch the others and catch a couple kiddie rides.  So this was going to be her time to bask in the sweet, terrifying glow of the thrilling coasters. 

After the long journey, lots of bathroom breaks, and a missed tollbooth, we made it to Gurnee, Illinois. 

Luckily for us, our hotel was pretty easy to find and right across from the other attraction in Gurnee–the enormous mall. We had a couple of hours to kill so we decided we would wander about and do a little shopping. 

Seven grueling hours later, we finally decided it was time to eat. It’s amazing how a place like that can suck you in and allow you to lose all sense of time.  An interesting aside about Gurnee is that it’s adjacent to the United States only Naval Boot Camp. This was made clear by all of the crisp; fresh-faced naval recruits walking about in their service dress whites, with an entourage of proud looking family members. 

Eventually, we made our way out of the caverns of consumerism and onward to our hotel. After a little snafu with getting put in the room that certainly didn't belong to us, we were able to settle in. Wanting to get a nice, restful sleep before hitting a long day of amusement park fun.  

It felt as though I had just drifted off to sleep, when I was shocked away by this quite strange and alarming sound, with no clear indication of where it was coming from. It sounded kind of like a waterlogged alarm clock that had gone haywire. I stood there kind of dazed for a minute staring at the alarm clock next to the bed, which blazed 3:15 in red glowing numbers. I gently poked at it, hoping it would cease the horrible noise.  

Still not quite out of my sleep state, I stood up to further analyze the situation. This was when a quite disgruntled, slightly deranged looking Stephanie blasted out of bed and began bashing away at the alarm clock, exclaiming a few expletives and questioning the Good Lord himself, why the damn thing just wouldn't “SHUT UP!” 

It was then I kind of realized it probably wasn't the alarm, so I did the next logical thing. I went and poked my head out of the door to see what the rest of the hotel residents were doing.  Upon opening my door, I was greeted by quite the strong odor of skunk and the squawks of disgruntled patrons who all seemed to come to the conclusion “SOMEONE IS SMOKING POT IN HERE AND SET OFF THE ALARM!”  

I turned around to share my findings with Stephanie in hopes it will suppress her aggression toward the alarm clock, which she was still bashing away at, and somehow managed to change the time on.  

“Go back to bed, someone was smoking in their room and set off the alarm,” I told my friend. And just like that, she was snuggled back into bed and snoring softly. 

The next day, we decided to follow the early bird gets the worm procedure and arrived at the park an hour before it opened. This paid off quite well for us, as we were first in line to get in. Our early day coupled with the purchase of this line-skipping device allowed us to avoid standing in any lines, all day long. Quite lucky for us, because by the time the sky opened up and the rain began pouring, we had already hit every coaster in the place and were ready to go. 

It all turned out to be easily one of the best and most rewarding vacations that I have ever enjoyed. I can’t believe I waited so long to get out of town with my best friend, but I certainly can’t wait to do it again sometime, hopefully before another 15 years passes