The buzz of a roller coaster and high-pitched excited voices approach me. In another second, the cars roar on the track above as they whiz by. I see hair flapping and feet kicking. An explosion of gleeful screams from the passengers quickly dies out as the ride continues down the track. I can’t help but laugh out loud, amazed and amused, feeling the fear and fun of the riders though I stand on the ground and they fly through the air.
I hated my first roller coaster ride. My father took me on the Bluestreak when I was in elementary school. It was the oldest coaster at the park. And when the car came over the hill and the ride accelerated, I closed my eyes and held my breath and imagined I was somewhere else, anywhere else. And then someone, I don’t know who, maybe my mother (but that wouldn’t make sense because she never stepped foot on a roller coaster all of her life), told me to try opening my eyes and screaming. So the next time I was yanked onto a ride (I wouldn’t have gone willingly), that’s exactly what I did, and I was cured. Cured or cursed? Cursed with desire for speeding down twisted metal.
In the summer, the lines last for hours. Before smartphones, we made up words games to pass the time. When Top Thrill Dragster arrived, the wait time was three hours for a ride time of seventeen seconds. It was new and didn’t always perform perfectly. The car may make it over the one drastic 420-foot hill, but it may not; if not, the car comes rolling backwards to where it started, speeding down the hill it just climbed. We stand in the herd, waiting our turn, watching every car that goes up that steep incline, watch it slow down drastically toward the top, nearly crawling to reach the top. The whole crowd inhales together and holds that breath in their mouth until the car inches far enough for gravity to take it the rest of the way over the hump, plunging down down down, faster than a bullet. And we all cheer triumphantly.
When it is finally my turn, I lower myself into the car. My heart races and my palms sweat. I wipe my hands on my jean shorts and try to ration my breath. Most coasters, you can’t see what’s coming until you’re there. But I’ve had three hours to stare up at this monster and contemplate the speed, the height, the angle. Getting in that car, waiting for the thumbs up from the workers, pulling away from the loading platform never gets easier for me. But it’s too late. I’m in the seat. The car is on the track. The stoplight moves from yellow to green, and in an instant, I am hurled forward and shot into the air, screaming all the way.
Coming to Cedar Point is like coming home, and yet every time I visit, it feels like the first time. It still awes me with its colors, its sounds, its energy. It dares me to strap in, take a risk, get spun upside down and every other direction. I am a kid again here, a fearless kid who can take on anything. And even though I know I shouldn’t take on everything, especially if I want to keep all my food in my stomach, I feel that power of possibility, that power that says I will conquer.
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