Raise you hand if you love amusement parks.

We are lucky enough to live within an hour’s drive of a fairly decent one – King’s Dominion. In the past we might have gone once a year – mainly because of the cost, and we had 2 kids that had different mindsets when it came to the rides.

My oldest? I took her on her first looping coaster – the Anaconda – when she was tall enough to ride. That was maybe 7 years ago. Since then she has been fearless and will try everything and anything once.

Me? My last looping coaster was when I took her on the Anaconda. I too had a fearless stage when I was a kid. We used to drive down to Jackson, NJ and go to Great Adventure. Man, I have so many memories of that place.

I remember when it first opened in 1974, my sister Judy got invited to go with a friend of hers and her family. I was so jealous – but when she came home she said the park wasn’t all that great. A lot of the rides weren’t even open yet.

But by the late 70’s/early 80’s – my heyday – the park was fantastic. I’d usually go with my best friend John, and who ever else wanted to go. We’d spend our day roaming the park, feeling free and independent, and enduring the endless lines to get on our favorite rides; The Runaway Train, Rolling Thunder, and the Log Flume.

LightningLoopsLightning Loops was my first looping coaster. It was an odd configuration. You climbed up some 6 or 7 flights of steps and boarded the train from atop a platform. Then you were pushed down the hill which gave you enough speed/momentum to get through the loop. Once you reached the opposite platform you did the loop backwards and found yourself back at the starting point. There were two tracks that intertwined, but I don’t ever recall them running simultaneously, like they show in the photo.

In any case, I wasn’t a big fan. It was pretty scary for me, especially after a girl was killed on it. It wasn’t a ride malfunction, but still – it was enough to keep me off of it.

Looping_StarshipAn amusement park turning point for me was when I was on The Looping Starship. It’s your typical ride that pivots back and forth, higher each time, until you eventually do a few full loops. As I hung upside down, watching change, Chapstick and sunglasses fall from the pockets of my fellow shipmates, I realized that if for some reason my safety harness failed, I would die.

That sort of killed it for me. A seed was planted in my 20-something year old brain, and I gradually began to lose interest in anything that inverted me. I still went on some rides. I was forced onto Montu at Busch Gardens (Tampa), and kept my eyes closed the whole time. I also rode The Griffon at Busch Gardens (VA) – but that doesn’t invert. However I had to keep my eyes closed the whole ride up the hill as heights freak me out.

These days my advancing age (and widening tushy) have made me even more aware of my mortality (and how small some of those seats are). As a result, I take a pass on most of the thrill rides. But I still love a good wooden coaster.

The past few years I have tried to coax my youngest onto a variety of coasters. My mistake was letting her ride her first really big wooden coaster, Rebel Yell, with her sister. I was in the seat behind them, and once we return to the station, she was almost in tears. There are a few bumps where you get some decent air time on that coaster, and it freaked her out. That incident was 3 years ago and it was a real chore to get her to give them another chance.

Last year she rode all the wooden coasters, but no steel. Progress.

This year she reached the height limit for every ride in the park – and her attitude changed. She rode almost everything. Her first inversion coaster? The Volcano – a ride I would never even consider going on unless there was a large sum of money involved.

Volcano: The Blast Coaster

My girls’ last ride yesterday was the Anaconda. It was nice in a coming full circle kind of way. My oldest passed the coaster riding torch to her younger sister. So now going to the park is 10 times more fun. Both girls can ride everything together, and me? I people watch, or read a chapter of my book until it’s time to board a ride that does not flip me upside down, or take me too high up for more than a few seconds.


Oh, and I’ll also spend the summer trying to get up the nerve to ride this. No inversions – but that hill? I think I’d pass out from sheer terror before we reached the top…