“Everybody likes a roller coaster ride.” –Pete Wasserman, English record producer, songwriter, and railway enthusiast.
“That looks awesome,” responded my son, Lee. “I would go there to ride that one.”
His reply was to my message last weekend asking if he had plans to ride the world’s tallest, fastest, scariest, baddest roller coaster ever that debuts at Canada’s Wonderland park next year.
Lee’s been a coaster junkie since reaching the minimum height requirement. He’s closing in on 40 and still loves them. I’m betting he’ll ride the Yukon Striker billed as the fastest dive coaster at how fast … 80 mph? My last 80 mph “dives” were at places like a stretch of Titus County, Texas, road appropriately dubbed the “roller coaster” when I was a teenager or the old “thrill hill” in Shelby County.
The Canadian coaster is also touted as the longest dive coaster at how long … 3,625 feet? Can’t be any worse than that Delta Flight I was on landing at Chicago one morning during a thunderstorm. The freefall squeezed three inches off my waist and created enough airspace between my wallet and the seat to accommodate a Sears catalog.
The tallest dive coaster at 245 feet “including underground.” Falling that far into a hole in the earth? No, thanks. I was out on the first two.
Despite my scoffing, there was a time when challenging the best wooden coasters from Panama City Beach, Florida to Santa Monica, California was my passion. My son came by his honestly.
Unlike Lee, my passion soon turned to excitement with both feet planted on terra firma and without all the blood in my body shoved up between my ears.
I still believe every ounce of blood and a couple of organs were behind my eyeballs on The Starliner, an attraction at what was the Miracle Strip in Panama City Beach in the 60s and 70s. The wooden coaster ran the entire length of the park along the beach.
Panama City Beach is a different place now than it was in 1973 when a bunch of bike riders from Mount Pleasant rode to Florida spending a week at the “luxurious” Barney Gray Motel. Besides taming the Starliner, we basked on the beach, suffered the sunburn of a lifetime, and got our first flash from a genuine streaker. Sorry, Ethyl, we looked.
I also looked one night a few years earlier riding the Sea Serpent on the opposite side of the continent at Pacific Ocean Park in Santa Monica, California. The 1926 wooden coaster offered a dive with an ocean view. Mine was a memorable view of a moonlit Pacific Ocean in the summer of ’67 just months before the once popular pier closed for good.
It was one night at the long closed-for-good Hamel’s Park in Shreveport that I walked away from my last ride. After a youth spent on the best coasters in the country, it was a small kid’s ride beside the Red River where I silently prayed for it to end. I was riding with daughter, Robin, who was about ten at the time. Both of us were shrieking through the night air. For her, they were expressions of joy.
Mine were more along the lines of long-time good friend Petey Gandee’s response to Lee’s message last weekend after watching the video of the Yukon Striker, “I just threw up watching it.” Doubters: Google “Yukon Striker coaster” and see for yourself.
Last week’s coaster conversation ended when Lee said, “I went to Fiesta Texas yesterday and rode The Goliath, The Batman, The Superman and The Wonder Woman (all coasters). I had a blast!”
“Cool! Ride them again and call it my turn,” I told him. “I’ll watch from the ground.“