No Time For Lesser Amusements

When I was youngster a trip to the amusement park meant riding as many rides as possible, and the more motion the better. I could be spun, turned upside down, sent hurtling forward or backward or some combination of all of the above without suffering any ill-effects. Like Dirk Diggler, I could ride all day long, slowed only by a lack of riding partners or too much Coke. I felt this ability separated me from my more timid friends, and certainly from most of the adults I knew. Of all the paying customers at Worlds of Fun, my regional amusement park of choice in Kansas City, I knew I was the ride-ridin’est of them all.

Things have changed.

On Labor Day we went to the Minnesota State Fair. Linus, being 8, now approaches the “big” rides on the Midway with vigor. I say “big” because these rides absolutely pale in scale to the behemoths of my youth, and so naturally I appointed myself his co-pilot, to help ease him into the world of big-time amusement. I chuckled as he looked skeptically at the first ride we approached, the inexplicably-named “Fighter”, best described as a combination of aerial swings and the scrambler. “Are you sure you’re ready for this?”, I asked him as we approached. He gave a solemn nod, and I made sure to check my position as we boarded the ride so as not to be in the path of his vomit, the appearance of which I calculated to be a 50/50 proposition.

But these rides today, they leave nothing to the imagination. All this ride did was spin us around and jerk us back and forth at extreme speeds and obtuse angles. And they played unforgivably bad American Idol reject music at Who concert decibel levels, on extremely shrill speakers with no bass that splits your eardrums. And, the sun was beating down on us relentlessly on a 90 degree, 90% humidity day. Plus I had just eaten a pork chop on a stick, a large Coke, and some deep-fried batter with something inside it.

Above all, it was the relentless spinning with no point or purpose that made me realize my mega-ride pride was a thing of the past. Back in the day I would have scoffed at this single-day assembly joke of a ride, but as we disembarked after a long 25 minutes, I realized a new era had arrived. Linus, to his credit, seemed unscathed and was eagerly searching for his next big-ride fix. I, on the other hand, wobbled over to Jane and Lily and shakily offered my best Roberto Duran impression.

My only other ride for the day was a go on an embarassingly lame roller coaster, which presented no problems for me and did restore some of my wounded pride. But it took the rest of the day for my head to stop throbbing and my internal gyroscope to right itself. It seems that moving forward and dropping, even at high rates of speed, are not a problem for me as a rider. But the spinning, the jerking around, the being upside down…that’s all for the kids. Rather than view it as weakness or the unflattering reality of age, I prefer to view it as a refinement of taste, sort of like moving from Mad Dog 20/20 to fine wine. I have no time now for the lesser amusements, and now will focus my efforts on the great roller coasters of our age.

That this is a decision born of necessity is quite beside the point, I think.

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6 Responses to No Time For Lesser Amusements

  1. kelly says:

    I recently went to Coney island and rode one of the country’s oldest operating roller coasters. It was small, old, and I was going to ride it because its like a historical monument. Like yourself, I scoffed at the notion it was going to rattle me, and kind of smirked at my nervous wife. As it turns out, I’m too old to do that crap. Part of it was the 80 year old engineering and wear and tear on the wooden ride; but my brain and my heart hit parts of my skeleton they should never touch ….. and not lose your stomach like; more like pain, real pain. And I was queasy. And both my wife and I had minor bleeding from scrapes. I’m not sure I can do amusement park rides anymore.

  2. Thanks for the Cyclone link, I enjoyed reading about that. A 53-degree drop is no joke! But really, an old wood coaster like that, even when it’s been restored, is going to be a rough ride that will jerk you around. That’s just what wood coasters do. Remember that Batman thing we rode at Magic Mountain, where your feet hang down below you? That thing was smooth as butter, and absurdly intense. I bet Linus couldn’t handle that!

  3. My favorite was Mr. Twister at the old Elitch Gardens in Denver. It was a violent old wooden coaster with cars that had very little padding and would bruise the absolute hell out of you. But fun! There have been many folks on the net who have written about it and I think it ranked #8 on an SI poll of old coasters. Unfortunately, they closed the old Gardens in the early nineties and relocated it. The Twister was torn down and rebuilt in Pennsylvania, but it now lacks much of the character of its original incarnation, it is said.

  4. Steim says:

    We’re doing the Florida thing in December for 10 days. Having been there once before, I can tell you that there’s a serious difference between the Batman-type rides that you describe and the older amusement rides. Things like The Cyclone, or even the “good rides” at your local county fair just totally suck compared to modern coasters and other more technologically advanced rides. We’re planning on doing some coaster at Busch Gardens that has a 90 degree drop. Crazy…

  5. brent says:

    check out if you want a sweet rundown of coasters.

    the “kingda ka” in new jersey reaches a top speed of 128 mph and has an initial drop of 418 feet. you can watch some sweet video on youtube of the ride.

    for comparison–mr. twister is 50 mph and a drop of 80 feet. the coney island cyclone is an 86 foot drop. the orient express, 50 mph at 115 foot drop.

  6. Scotch says:

    That’s what kept me out of the space program. Nothing more fun than trying to suction up zero-g regurgitated Tang and reconstituted beef protein.

    I love the artwork on a lot of these rides. Clearly homemade jobs. Like the huge Klingon forehead on Tom Selleck at the Magnum ride.

    The Diggler would be a great carnival ride too.

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