Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Good Times, Good Memories - The Simpler Days

Classic Demon sign - which has now been replacedThere are so many things I have to write about, but I wanted to start with some good memories. This weekend's foray to my old childhood amusement park reminded me of how the new rollercoasters just seem to try too hard. Some of my favorite memories are of the simple coasters from days gone by. In fact, my favorite ride still in the park has to be the Demon, which has always been my favorite. Can you believe it's the same design as it was in 1980, and that is just slightly changed from a coaster introduced in 1976. Believe it when you check out this ad from 1980 - classic!

classic Whizzer coaster
I miss the Whizzer, which unfortunately they removed not long after I finally got up the nerve to ride it (1988, according to this awesome website). Apparently it's still around at the other Great America park in Illinois. I would love to ride it again. No loops, no corkscrews, no jet propulsion, just lots of fun turns and banks, speed, and lots of centrifugal force to keep you in your seat. Oh, for the days where you didn't need shoulder harnesses or even lap restraints!

Each ride had its place along the map, and therefore its place in the day. Start out with the Demon, move along to the Grizzly, and on to one of our favorites (which usually ended up being right after lunch, oddly enough, as it's a "get dizzy" ride), the Lobster. This required great concentration and cooperation with your seat buddy, the Lobster - took a long time to load, but that was great time to spend getting your spinning masteredbecause the goal (besides the ride, of course), was to get the car to spin all the way around. If you could get it around once, you could usually keep it up for most of the ride. But even without getting your car to spin simply from body weight, it was a plain and simple fun ride. This was another of those rides that had no seatbelts or real restraints. I miss those days.

my all-time favorite ride that is no longer at the parkAnd the ride that was proof you had conquered all rides and could handle anything, was the Tidalwave. Complex? No. Long? No. But it was an upside-down ride. Really, this was the first step before being brave enough to ride the Demon, but in some ways, this was a lot scarier. Because all it was, was a ginormous loop. And all the car did was go forwards through the loop, and then backwards through the same loop. Really fast. And oddly enough, you didn't have a shoulder harness. Just lap ones. No wonder they removed it. We loved this ride. Not to mention it just looked cool, especially at night. And if the lines were short, the operator would let you ride over and over and over...

If I had my choice, I would have it be nighttime at the park all the time. Because the rides are just that much cooler at night. The Demon is still as awesome as it was the year I was bornThe Demon turned from a fun ride into something downright scary. Because even though you knew each drop, loop, corkscrew, and tunnel, there was not much light on those tracks. And what was there was red. Did you watch that ad from before? Yeah, well that lighting in the tunnel didn't last long - the tunnel was pitch black. No lights at all. And going into that and coming out where there is no light, my friends, is damn scary. And frikkin awesome. And the "blood" red waterfall over the skull rock you corkscrew through? Yeah, that's all lit up too. And the Tidalwave? It's not so scary on the outside. But that one giant loop was not lit much at all. You might as well close your eyes and go through that loop forwards and then backwards. In fact, sometimes I did - you almost felt like you were flying.

Sometimes I yearn for those days when that was all it took to make you feel on top of the world - or detached from it, as the case may be. I find it harder and harder to achieve that, even with the advancements in rollercoasters and trying to push us further and further towards the edge; while strapping us in tighter and tighter. Maybe riding your bike down the street with your arms out, or floating in the pool with your eyes closed, pretending to be weightless - maybe those things are more freeing than the most advanced technological mechanical rides. But you can't keep me from trying the new ones out, because sometimes you do have that ride where everything just comes together, and it's the best feeling in the world.

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