On Saturday, I got a text message from my thirty-four-year-old son, Daniel. He said he’d just taken a ride on the King’s Island roller coaster, Rattlesnake, with his eight-year-old son, Reese. Apparently, it was quite a ride. In my book, anything other than a shuttle launch that starts out with a two-hundred-foot drop is going to be quite a ride.
It reminded me of my first roller coaster fling, which came over twenty years past my eighth birthday. With no idea where the fear came from, other than possibly stemming from a rational brain and watching the terrified expressions on people’s faces, I grew up pretty much terrified of roller coasters. I could barely muster up the courage to get on the Tilt-a-Whirl or the Ferris Wheel. Even the thought of riding a roller coaster brought me to the verge of losing control of bodily functions. It didn’t matter how much my siblings or friends teased, cajoled, mocked, urged or encouraged; I would not even approach the threshold of getting on a roller coaster.
That changed in1985 on a trip to an amusement park in Columbus, Ohio, while I was attending grad school at OSU.
At that time, I had three kids big enough to ride the roller coaster at Wyandotte Lake. I did not want them growing up with the same fear I had. At a point of greater honesty than I prefer, I’d probably have to admit that I didn’t want them to know that I was terrified of roller coasters. So, I bought tickets and all four of us had our first roller coaster ride together. If any of them noticed my white-knucked grip on the safety bar or my excessively rigid posture, they didn’t comment. They were probably pre-occupied with the dips and turns, climbs and drops. They had a blast and I survived without embarrassing myself.
As years passed, I went on to tackle the Timberwolf, Zambesi Zinger and the Orient Express at Worlds of Fun. At the time, the Timberwolf was billed as the world’s largest wooden roller coaster. It should have been billed as the world’s largest chiropractic recruitment. After a ride on that thing with its severe jolting turns, I don’t think there was a single vertebrae above my lumbar region that was still where it was supposed to be.
I never became a roller coaster junkie, speed freak or thrill seeker but I did introduce my children to a pleasure they still enjoy from time to time.
I’m not sure that I’m going to try the new world’s tallest water slide at the Schlitterbahn in Kansas City. But if I do, it won’t be the first time I’ve made myself do something that scared me silly. That’s sort of how I got started helping out hitchhikers.