In 1984, I was still water-resistant, avoiding pools and swimming out of fear and uncertainty that a 13-year-old shouldn't feel. Into this equation came another factor -- I was a teenager, with any resistance put up being more resolute, more independent. On our first vacation to Florida (not the greatest destination for someone with a fear of water), I at least tried going in a pool, even if I was just standing with my back against the side. This trip, I had no intention of even getting near the water.
Wet 'n' Wild was right across the street from my hotel, and River Country was DisneyWorld's sole waterpark in 1984. We couldn't spend every day at the Magic Kingdom or Epcot, and the waterparks were high on the list of things the girls wanted to do. I was content to stay at the hotel. Would I have wanted to do something else? Of course, but I wasn't willing to make a tradeoff if it meant I would have to endure the waterpark. So while my family went to Wet 'n' Wild, I stayed in the hotel. I watched "All My Children," read my book, and even designed an armored bus for the game Car Wars. Dad wondered why I was wasting my vacation with the bus, but I liked designing it (this was an slightly elaborate game). For me it was relaxing ... at least compared with the alternative.
At some point, my father was annoyed I wasn't joining the family on the family vacation and decided I'd be going with them to River Country. I didn't have to go in the water, but I still had to go with. I tried to explain to him that it was a waste of his money, but he wouldn't have any of that. So, against my wishes, I went to River Country.
The girls had a lot of fun, as did Dad. Mom mostly just lounged in the sun, watching the rest of the family. I brought my book and ... barely hung out anywhere near the water. River Country had a short wooded nature trail that had benches where visitors could sit and relax. I found one, settled in with Isaac Asimov's "Foundation," listened to "Paradise Theater" on my Walkman over and over, and only checked in occasionally and to eat lunch. At one point -- and we have a picture of this somewhere -- I did sit and play chess with my dad on this little magnetic travel set I had brought with. And he was happy with that, too, that he got to do something with me that day. I was as well. But I never even took my socks off all day.
Looking back, the River Country day is just a sad memory of the most regrettable fear of my childhood that I was still a few years from trying to overcome. When I got into my 20s and started liking waterparks, I realized how much fun I would had that day if we took the trip just three years later. I'll never get a chance again, either -- River Country has been abandoned in favor of the more modern Disney waterparks. (If you want to see what happened to River Country, check out this website; it's pretty haunting.)
Secondly, and maybe Dad might not think this, but 31 years later, I still believe it -- I would have had a more enjoyable vacation day if I had stayed at the hotel. It was a waste of money. And I could have designed another armored bus!