Joy Rides Better Serve the Fearless

A wimp, am I? Well, guess again!

How do you explain the fact that I’m first in line for the kiddie rides at any one of your theme parks and love the tram lift at Canobie? Hey, it gets me in the air and I have a bird’s-eye view of the park at “shudder-slow” speed—just the way I prefer.

I’ll do the bumper cars but only if a grandkid sits behind the wheel. Same goes for the Ferris wheel. What may send my heart fluttering is when they make a stop with me at 12 o’clock high.

Roller coasters not my ride.
Roller coasters not my ride.

While in Vienna one year, I got to visit the Prater, which housed the world’s tallest Ferris wheel. You got to see the whole city—a spectacular view at night.

But don’t get me near the “Untamed” ride at Canobie Lake Park. Or the “Cyclone.” Or the “House of Terror” at Disney World. My nerves cannot stand it.

I’ll leave those joyrides to such intrepid 10-year-olds as my grandson. The 5-year-old would join his brother if she were tall enough. The scarier, the better, for this lass. Nothing frightens her.

So, here we were for a day at the amusement part, watching and listening to people scream their lungs out when the “Untamed” car suddenly did a reversal, sending its occupants upside down.

Yes, the entire chair looked like it would become derailed at any time. Some of them even let go of the handlebars and had their arms flailing in mid-air like it was nothing.

I recall once summering at Nantasket Beach when I lost out on a dare. My best friend offered me a bet that I couldn’t go on the roller coaster. It was reputedly the tallest one around at that time.

“Bet you $5 you won’t go on,” he proposed beguiling. “If you’re game, so am I.”

No doubt, my pal was calling my bluff. I got as far as the ticket window and turned around when I heard the screams. My brother, far more daring than I, said there was nothing to it. How would he know when his eyes were shut the entire time?

A summer storm warning was issued from Six Flags with the debut of a ride called “Wicked Cyclone.” Whether it’s wicked good or wicked bad remains to be seen.

All I can tell you is this: You’re going topsy-turvy at 55 mph at 109 feet in the air with a 78-degree drop angle and 3 inversions. Having had two heart procedures, just writing about it gives me the jitters.

I’m also told that this creation debuts as a legitimate contender for the world’s ultimate steel coaster. They give you fair warning before letting you pass through the gate.

The writer/rider tells us it’s unrelenting in structure with sheer intensity and scores it “11 out of a possible 10.” Mercy!

My idea of fun is the Looney Tunes Adventure Park where you get to ride with Bugs Bunny and the gang. Not Dive Bomber Alley where you plummet 10 stories through the air at 60-80 mph for the ultimate skydiving experience. Parachute not included.

You can keep the menacing “Batman” ride through the streets of Gotham or what’s called “The Gunslinger,” which takes flight over the prairie with the country sky at your feet. Others like “Pandemonium” and “Runaway Mountain” are better served idle for me.

I recall an interview with one daredevil whose mission in life was to ride the tallest roller coasters in this country. He would visit these theme parks, seeking out the ultimate thrill rides.

The guy was a writer and was putting together a book of his experiences. He told me there was a definite market out there for people who ride the circular rails. The man apparently had a need for speed and was out to prove his mettle. I thought him odd but like they say, different strokes for different folks.

At Canobie, the twirling Crazy Cups made me dizzy. The Antique Cars were easy enough for a child to negotiate, so I handed the wheel over to my 6-year-old grandchild. Trying to compete with your young ones is no easy chore, especially when they want to become macho.

After four hours of dodging theme ride bullets and hiding out in the men’s room, it was time to make a quick exit, but not before one final extravaganza. We left the kids behind with their folks and were on our own.

“Want to try the merry-go-round?”

“After you,” my wife answered.

She took the white horse and I mounted the grey. It was just our speed.

Tom Vartabedian

Tom Vartabedian

Tom Vartabedian is a retired journalist with the Haverhill Gazette, where he spent 40 years as an award-winning writer and photographer. He has volunteered his services for the past 46 years as a columnist and correspondent with the Armenian Weekly, where his pet project was the publication of a special issue of the AYF Olympics each September.
Tom Vartabedian

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