08:55 AM

Bonding Over Steel - First Roller Coaster Ride brings Stepmom & son closer

His first grade teacher gave the assignment: Create a book that shows a recent event in your life that shows something fun that you did.

Alex Smeal (7) knew immediately what his book was going to be about - his first ride on a REAL roller coaster at Hersheypark.

Just two weeks after Rachel and Nathan, her husband and Alex’s dad, moved back to Harrisburg from outside Philadelphia, her stepchildren came to visit for the weekend. They hadn't finished unpacking boxes yet but the first thing the kids asked to do was go to Hersheypark. Alex and his sister Emily (5) were no strangers to amusement parks, but this would be their first trip to Hersheypark, Alex had something special in mind for this inaugural trip to Hersheypark - his first roller coaster ride. So Nathan and Rachel packed up the kids and headed to Hersheypark that Saturday.

Reese's ride height sign at HersheyparkIf you haven't been to Hersheypark, the first thing you must do upon entry is measure yourself in the ride height area outside the ticketing area.

Because it is Hersheypark, the theming for the ride height signs is all based on Hershey's brands. So as his family entered the Park, Alex dutifully stood up nice and tall with his back against the Reese's candy colored backdrop to see if he was tall enough to ride a coaster. And just barely, he was. Being a "Reese" in ride height category meant that he could ride all of the kiddie rides, but he also had his choice of four coasters including Comet, sooperdooperLooper, Trailblazer and Laff Trakk

He grabbed stepmom Rachel's hand and they headed The Hollow section of the Park to get in line for the sooperdooperLooper.

"I love coasters, the tame ones I mean, like the white wooden one...Comet," confessed Rachel.

With that, she was the obvious choice for who would ride with Alex on his first coaster while Nathan and Emily went on a nearby kiddie ride.

As they waited in line, Rachel could tell that Alex was a little nervous. Rachel had been on this ride as a youngster, too. When she was a kid, she came to Hersheypark with her family and remembers riding this coaster. Waiting in line, Rachel had time to share those memories with Alex noting that she was happy to be part of his first coaster experience as it is a moment that will stick with her.

The experience itself was great.

When the ride was over, Alex immediately turned to his dad and told him how cool it was exclaiming, "Did you see me dad? Could you follow me? We were going SOO fast!"

"Did you see me dad? Could you follow me? We were going SOO fast!"
Alex Strella

So back to Alex's class assignment. Alex drew this account of his time at Hersheypark and his first ride on sooperdooperLooper to share with his class and it now proudly hangs on Rachel's refrigerator at home.

Photo credit: Rachel  Photo credit: Rachel Strella

The drawing on the left is a Hersheypark landscape from Alex's point of view. Mostly the blue coaster with a little bit of the Kissing Tower depicted to the left. But the part I focused on was the drawing on the right, which prominently features the whole family but notice that stepmom Rachel (R) got the special spot directly next to Alex, who depicted himself with the "Yo" thought bubble.

Rachel posted this on her Instagram account (which is where I came across the story) and her caption I think perfectly sums up the sentiment of the story.

"Love the family pictures designated with a 'D' for Daddy, 'R' for Rachel, 'A' for Alex and 'E' for Emily! (And he chose the superdooperlooper as his ride of choice. That was just me and the little guy on his first coaster!). Xoxo"

Congratulations Alex on your first ride and a very happy Mother's Day to all of the moms and stepmoms out there who make special moments like this happen for their kids.