Roller Coasters

Riding a giant roller coaster should be a mandatory personality test for every adult.  Anyone who gets off smiling and relaxed should be registered as dangerously insane and unable to buy anything more hazardous than twinkies & crayons until they’re 60.  Also, no licenses for those people.  Ever. I shudder at the thought of all the people who enjoy rocketing toward the ground at speeds god never intended driving the car next to mine on the highway.

We went to Knottsberry Farm a little while ago to try out some big rollercoasters.  I love Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, The Octopus, The Scrambler, they’re all fast and fun so, why not try a new kind of ride I’d never been on.  They look scary, but thats never been a good enough reason for me to not do something.  And it might turn out I love it…. Or maybe it’ll turn out it’s just not my thing.  Those are the only two outcomes right?

We’d gone on the Pony Express ride first – which it turns out is less roller coaster and more of a brief  rocketing loop on a plastic horse.  Each rider has a horse that they sit astride and lean over to hold on where reins would be.  A locking bar rotates up and locks at the small of your back and two more lock just behind your knees.  Mind you, they aren’t actually touching you when you’re sitting, so you feel like you’re not secured at all, but you couldn’t stand up if you tried (and I did try).  Since I’m used to shoulder straps or lap belts being involved in keeping me inside any ride, my brain was screaming that I was going to die a horrible death when I inevitably flew directly out of the ride onto the pavement at 100 mph.  The ride took off and did a rollercoaster-gentle rise and dive whipping around the track once.  The whole thing was over in about 45 seconds, it was super fun, not scary at all and I wanted to get right back on.  But no, too tame for my partner in adventure, so off we go to something more ‘interesting’.

We’d asked some of the little kids who were on the Pony Express what the best rollercoaster at the park was and they all said Ghost Rider.  The random employee we asked also said Ghost Rider.  So, ok.  We’ll try it.

Here’s a brief detour about why rides can be a little scarier for me than for some other (nameless) people.  Any ride with a pull down bar will not pull down far enough to touch my legs if I’m riding with anyone.  Which means a couple of things inevitably happen: There is nothing touching me that tells my brain I can’t fly out of the ride, if the car goes down quickly, my body will fly up off the seat until I hit the bar (that split second of free fall is freaking terrifying) and lastly since I’m not touching that bar, I also slam sideways with each turn.  If the turns are sideways AND down, there’s extra air time before I hit something that will keep me in the car.  Intellectually, I know I’m not going to die…

We walked through the maze of line dividers for Ghost Rider and up into the top platform of the building without seeing any people.  At the top there were a few people waiting to get on the next car and I heard the theme for the Good the Bad and the Ugly playing over the loudspeakers.  That being one of my favorite songs, I took it as a good sign…mostly because I was grasping at any straw to not be terrified.  I watched the people before us get off the ride all smiling and happy and kept trying to convince myself it would be fun and I was being silly.

Why does that never work?

Finally it was our turn to get on and away we went.  It was terrifying.  It wasn’t the ups that were bad, it was the plummeting downward toward the ground from 108 feet up.  It wasn’t the fun kind of scared, it was the kind of scared where the lizard part of your brain and the monkey part of your brain are in full agreement that you’re about to die and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.  After about 20 seconds, my monkey brain stopped even gibbering word sounds and my lizard brain took over: My eyes closed and I just screamed.

The ride is 2 minutes and 40 seconds long and it turns out, that’s the exact amount of time needed to deafen the person next to you for the next 2 ½ days if you scream continuously.  Ask Kris, we have empirical proof.  He might have had fun if he hadn’t been in agony from his eardrum attempting to shatter.  I haven’t asked because I’m not sure I want to know.

At lunch afterward, the paper placemats had printouts of the rides in the park with ratings next to them.  Out of curiosity and a desperate need to not replay that first plummeting death dive again behind my eyelids, I looked them up.  Roller coasters are rated from 1 to 5.  1 being the little trains that 3 years olds get on that bore their parents into groaning eye rolling zombies.  5 is called ‘An extreme thrill ride’.  I looked up my favorite rides and they’re all 4’s.  I think 5 should be renamed ‘If you have fun, you should never be allowed to drive again’.  Just a thought.

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Vivien NicUldoon

Vivien lives in Portland Oregon with two cats, a smart dog, a happy dog and a brilliant husband.