Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Different View from the Ground

My 7 year old son is a huge fan of all things roller coaster! He loves to feel the air whip across his face as the car careens along the narrow track, jerking around tight corners and zooming down hills at speeds unknown. He is enthralled. I, on the other hand, find roller coasters to be anxiety producing behemoths that make my palms sweat, my heart beat faster and my thoughts race with imagined views of disaster.
My son on a Coaster with his Dad at the Jersey Shore!

When I was younger, I loved rides that spun me around in circles and made my head feel otherworldly from the spinning effects. Things like the Tilt A Whirl and Tea Cup rides, when I was a small tot, were the absolute best! As I got older my demand for spinning got more intense. I loved a ride at Six Flags Great Adventure in NJ called The Rotor. You entered a circular room where you stood against a rubber wall studded with a Velcro like material. The door would shut and the operator above you would remind you to keep your feet, hands and head against the wall at all times. Slowly the room would start to spin and your body would be gently pushed back against the wall. But within seconds this gentle force would be felt like a heavy weight against your chest and throat till you were unable to move your body in any direction. Suddenly,  the lights would go out and you would hear metal scraping metal. When the lights came back on the floor had dropped 3 feet below and you were delightfully stuck to the wall with shear centrifugal force. It was heaven to me! I hated when the floor slowly started to come back up which always seemed like seconds after it dropped. Which it probably was because at the time Great Adventure was notorious for ghastly short rides in order to move the crowds along. It was frustrating, however you could run out the door when it opened and jump back on line the minute you got outside.

I was not one to shy from coasters completely, in fact, I loved The Runaway Train at Great Adventure. This was a relatively fast coaster with more twists and turns then ups and downs.  I have ridden Space Mountain in Disney, albeit with my eyes mostly closed as I jerked around the track, and was one of the first riders on the Scream Machine at Great Adventure soon after it was built. I white knuckled it the whole way and kept my eyes tightly shut screaming "I HATE THIS" until it was over. My boyfriend and my cousins thought it was hilarious. Needless to say I never went on again!

 Just as an aside, I have an Uncle Louie, who is quite famous in the world of roller coasters aficionados! Uncle Louie adores them so much so that well into his 80's he would be asked to travel to various amusement parks to try out the latest and greatest in coaster thrills from inventors and engineers that were trying to be top someone else's record for speed and height. He did this so often that he was even featured on several Discovery Channel specials on Roller Coasters. I was in awe of Uncle Louie and so often wished I could tap into his free spirit and bravado to learn his secrets!!! I know one factor that worked against me growing up was the fact that my mother  raised me to think coasters were dangerous. Which they probably were back in her youth in the early days of shoddy carnivals that set up rickety old rides that were not inspected and looked as though they could fall down in a slight breeze.

Now that I am older, I can no longer go on rides that spin and twist me about as my equilibrium is not the same as it was in my younger days. I was disappointed when this started to happen but accepted it in due time, as an inevitable progression in my march toward AARP status. So at 49 my rides are relegated to things like the Lazy River tube fun at water parks, or the bumper or mini race cars. I know, not so much thrilling as fun, but you still enjoy them none the less!

So I applaud my son's love of coasters and I hope it continues well into his later years as it had for my Uncle. You can just see it transports him to another world, much as those spinning rides did for me in my younger days as well. And to coaster lovers everywhere, BRAVO to you for being daring enough to let go and see those same body reactions that I feel as fear and you see as excitement! I am moved beyond words since I find it so thrilling to watch you all as you careen through space, from the safety of the ground,

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