This is the story of how a small-town Georgia girl (Shelby) and big-city Chicago native (Frank) found love in the most magical place on earth, then found home in Sandusky, Ohio.
I met Shelby in 2015 while we both worked at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Though this circumstance is not uncommon our crossing of paths was seemingly impossible. I was asked to temporarily check-in on an operation outside of my usual duties which had unexpectedly lost its evening leadership coverage. As a member of this operation and by the inherited nature of the challenge, I found Shelby "stuck" in a hot, sunny, outdoor location without a break or water for numerous hours. Despite being complete strangers my approach was met with immediate hostility, and rightfully so! I immediately resolved the error by providing an extended break followed by a permanent indoor position for the remainder of her shift. I thought nothing of this standard resolution as it was just the right thing to do and returned to my usual work. Shelby found the gesture extraordinary and sought out to discover "who was that incredibly caring gentleman and where did he come from?" Those she asked could not pin who she was referring to, others suggested I was new to the area, one said they thought I worked clear on the other side of the park (I did...but this seemed ridiculous and highly unlikely).
In the coming weeks we finally met more officially through loosely connected mutual acquaintances. An evening at EPCOT with this group was cancelled due to a thunderstorm resulting in meeting for dinner off-property instead. Shelby and I made small talk while awaiting the arrival of others. The conversation turned to a trip I had taken earlier that summer to another park with a 325ft. roller coaster, Fury 325. In seeing a photo of the ride she immediately turned away saying "nope, nope, never-ever, no way!" Yet, apparently that wasn't enough to drive her away as she later contacted me to ask if I would join her at EPCOT on our upcoming mutual day off. This turned out to be a wonderful day of enjoying the Food & Wine Festival while people watching and getting to know each other. We ended the day with a scheduled date to visit Animal Kingdom the following week.
While at Animal Kingdom Shelby asked if I would like to ride a roller coaster called Expedition Everest. I was shocked and sought to confirm her interest referring back to her disgust for the roller coaster I had merely mentioned weeks earlier. She clarified that while she was not fond of larger rides she was okay with this one, but only in the last row. As we exited she asked if we could ride again. I agreed but asked if she would be okay trying the front row this time to which she reluctantly accepted the challenge. Shelby was beyond nervous, holding my hand with both of hers until she suddenly became fascinated with the fact she could see nothing but the tracks ahead of us. Going forward, every time she rides a roller coaster she always takes the front row.
Our dates progressed from park to park and coaster to coaster eventually finding our way to Busch Gardens Tampa. This is where Shelby finally met her match with Sheikra, a 200ft. vertical dive coaster. She took one look and refused to ride even after I had prefaced on many occasions that ride was not important to me. However, when she found this cute backpack in a nearby shop I told her that purchase would be on her. She scoffed, but understood I could not support an unearned prize. On our way out of the park that evening our path took us past that shop. Shelby frantically dug into her pockets for what ended up being quarters, took my hand dragging me toward the lockers, stole and stored everything from our pockets, and proceeded directly to Sheikra taking her seat in the front row. As soon as we stepped off the ride she noticed there was no line and empty seats thus she immediately rode a second time before they closed. I then bought her a backpack and we continued to visit other parks and ride other rides.
In the summer of 2017 my career path offered an opportunity to take a position with Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio. I'll never forget Shelby secretly listening to the virtual interview and running to my arms saying "we're moving to Ohio!" as soon as it wrapped up. I had not even been offered the job yet but she knew it would happen and would follow me anywhere. It was an extremely tough decision to leave our family and friends for this brand new home. I had only visited this park a few times in high school and Shelby had never even been to Ohio. On our relocation drive we visited Shelby's family in Macon, GA then took a scenic route up the east coast and through the mountains of West Virginia. Shelby had plot our trip to include stops at two parks along the way. Most notably Carowinds, where she finally and proudly took her front row seat on Fury 325 without worry or fear.
In December of 2018 we booked a spontaneous trip to visit my hometown, Chicago. We took an Amtrak train from Sandusky and proceeded on foot and by way of public transportation throughout exploring the city. Shelby was fascinated by the city and could not believe I had grown up surrounded by so much concrete and traffic. She finally understood why I was so fast paced, why I was so fascinated with doing absolutely nothing when we visit Georgia, and why I appreciate her constant effort to slow me down. We ate nothing but pizza and hot dogs for three days and they gave her grief when she asked for ketchup but I snuck some to her anyway. We visited all the major museums, observation towers, and parks. In our travels she had seen the Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier asking to go there on several occasions but it was always off our intended path. Finally, on December 4th, our last night in the city, we hopped in my friend's Tesla for an autopiloted joyride down Lake Shore Drive. Shelby was so impressed with the lack of manual driving she neglected to notice we had parked at Navy Pier. She was even more surprised to find our ride on the Ferris Wheel was pre-booked in a very fancy gondola complete with glass-bottom floor. I asked Shelby to be my wife because she is my exact polar opposite offering a perfect balance, she keeps me connected to the most important things in life, and she trusts in me whenever she's outside her comfort zone.
Our wedding Ceremony & Reception was planned for December 12th, 2020 in Orlando followed by a honeymoon cruise out of Port Canaveral. As every currently engaged couple is familiar the pandemic affected us in many ways including the cancellation of our entire wedding plan. We expect to reschedule our plans as soon as overall conditions improve, mostly due to the distance and destination nature of our desired venue and honeymoon plan.
In the meantime, Shelby & I continue to live happily ever after in Sandusky, Ohio with our three adorable rescue cats. We have become die-hard fans of the Cleveland Monsters, Columbus Blue Jackets, and every other local sports team. We spend our summers along the Lake Erie Shores & Islands and winters bundled-up staying warm beside a roaring fire (or bowling). Our friends and family from afar remain connected in this newly imagined virtual world while we have developed many new friendships locally.
Shelby continues to work year-round at Cedar Point within the Live Entertainment Department while I have moved on to my role as the Director of Weddings & Events with Lightwave Entertainment.
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