As summer is coming to a close, so are my roller coaster days

By John Toth / Editor and Publisher

We sat around one late summer afternoon and got on the subject of roller coasters.

I have never met a coaster that I didn’t ride, I reminisced, but they are coming out with some monsters, one taller than the Washington Monument.

The Skyscraper in Orlando, Florida. will be a 55-story attraction that will wind around a 570-foot tower. That’s taller than the Washington Monument at 555 feet. Total ride time is expected to be about three minutes.

Right now, the world’s tallest roller coaster is Kingda Ka, which stands 456 feet, at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey.

Chances are I’ll never ride any of those. I’m not getting any younger. I also won’t go on the tallest water slide in the world, Schlitterbahn’s Verrückt in Kansas City, Kansas. I’m not much of a water park person anymore.

The fastest I like to go in a water park is the speed of the Lazy River.

I saw a video as they were building and fine-tuning the Verrückt (See how I included the two dots on top of the “u”? It would have been easier to leave them off.)

So, I saw this video in which the raft used to carry the people down at insane speeds to the bottom, only to lift them up again for a second thrill, jumped off the slide and landed on the ground.

Those type of videos are not good publicity, but I assume they corrected that slight problem and now the raft stays in the slide all the way down.

I have gone down some tall slides, but not anywhere this tall, in my younger days. It’s a thrill, but after a few decades, we kind of settle in and watch others do it.

The last roller coaster I probably will ever ride in my life (maybe) was that relatively small one at the Pleasure Pier in Galveston.

I rode it shortly after the pier opened. It was a lot fun, provided you don’t mind the possibility of whiplash while this steel contraption tosses and twists you in more directions than thought possible in a matter of seconds.

It was a good way to finish off my roller coaster career (if it is finished).

I’m not sure which coaster was my first one. There have been so many. It may have been the one in Vienna, Austria at the Pratter, or the Coney Island Cyclone in New York.

I remember the Coney Island ride because it was a huge wooden coaster, and it shook me and my mother to death all the way up and down. We banged heads once, but otherwise escaped injury.

(That’s where I get my adventurism from - my mother’s side. She was always game to try anything).

The Cyclone’s little car seemed flimsy considering how high we were being taken to start the ride. There were no shoulder straps or harnesses, just the a belt around our waist. And, we held on to the handle bar in the front.

A few weeks after we rode it, I saw on the news that the coaster had been condemned and closed.
The Cyclone opened to the public in 1927. It’s only 85 feet tall and is now operating totally safe and refurbished. It’s not as tall as the record-setters, but it has history.

The original cost $127,000 to build. Back in 1927, that was a pretty good sum of money, but not as much as what today’s monsters cost. The Skyscraper is expected to run about $200 million.

My last wooden roller coaster ride (unless I get on another one) was the one at Kemah. Good ride for the money, but bumpy, and it’s over quickly.

The problem with wooden coasters is that they don’t loop. After the first big drop, you’re just waiting to finish the ride. The looping metal coasters have the thrilling drop, and then whatever else comes along, including the loops.

I rode a wooden coaster in Dallas a few years ago that was a pretty good ride, but bumpy, of course. I rode it with a friend about my age. Our daughters decided against joining us. Enough said.

We were there for a softball tournament, and after winning it, decided to stay an extra day and take the girls to Six Flags over Texas.

Roller coasters, I love you, but I hope you understand. Younger ones have taken my place – maybe. I’ll never forget the thrills and that head bump that only hurt for a few days. It’s been fun while it lasted, but now we have to part ways – well, maybe.

As summer vacation fades slowly, the screams die down. Then schools open, and the only screams to be heard will come from students after they get back those first test results.

But let’s not end on a sad note. How about one more ride?