Mind-Blowing Roller Coasters

Buckle Up with Apps of the Theme Park King

Ironically, I am writing about roller coasters, even though I am scared to death to ride these seemingly threatening theme park beasts. Oh, don’t get me wrong. Awe overtakes my fear when it comes to the way these mechanical marvels work, and I am duly impressed by the architectural impact each has on the surrounding landscapes in which these contraptions exist. But getting on board to take the real ride? No way.

Or at least that’s how things stand today. A while back when my sons were young and adventurous (as opposed to now when they’re older and even more adventurous) I took an assignment that had us trying out roller coasters every weekend for a month. This is something that every kid who grows up in Southern California dreams of having their parent do because, of course, they are meant to be included on this particular ride. Make that rides.

The first weekend I gathered up the troops and we went to Universal Studios in Hollywood to try out what my kids considered a trainer roller coaster. It was a ride through the dark of Jurassic Park and I screamed my bloody head off throughout the excursion. I was so vocal that the boys told me to cool it the next time I went on a ride with them. They were embarrassed and so was my husband.

The next weekend we went to Disneyland and I rode another rather tame coaster called Space Mountain, which took our tribe to Tomorrowland and gave usan intergalactic experience I will never forget, and not necessarily in a good way. That said, I did not partake of California Screamin’, situated across the way from Disneyland in California Adventure, although I watched in horror as the cars on that thing dropped in a thrill ride taken on by the other members of my family that I was glad I didn’t have to endure.

With that experience under my belt, the next weekend it was on to Knott’s Berry Farm where the roller coaster possibilities seemed endless. This great app from this great theme park gives all the details — but to give you an idea, the names of these daredevil rides — like Perilous Plunge, Xcelerator, and Boomerang — give you some idea of what we were facing.

My crew (minus me) tried them all but were egging me on each time they queued up for the privilege. Finally, I acquiesced, or so I made them believe, because I lined up with them for a roller coaster ride on Montezuma’s Revenge. Yes, the title of this attraction does tell the tale, but I was really only waiting with them to then fake out my family by just pretending to take the plunge (and I do mean plunge) on this titan of all roller coasters that goes straight up and then straight back down from heights that make your nose bleed and at speeds of which would leave Superman in the dust.

Well, my best plans were spoiled when I was locked into the ride once I reached the the front of the line. Nobody waiting for the experience would let me go back where I started, and there were too many people metaphorically pushing me forward to take them on. In fact, it was at that point that I was told to put my purse on the cement at the station before take-off. What?

Before I knew what was what, I, too was taking this extremely daring experience with Tyler, Adam, and Paul. The boys sat in front of us, although I never saw them during the entire loop-y trip because my eyes were squeezed extra tight. The kids saw me, saying afterward that I didn’t even breath the entire time. I don’t know about that, but I still can’t figure out how their observance of me was possible sine the centrifugal force of this particular roller coaster would not allow for a typical person to move, let alone turn around to watch someone else while the ride was in process. Somehow, though, my boys overcame that obstacle.

Afterwards, I stumbled off the ride. Paul had to pick up my purse because I was already headed for the loo. I won’t go into particulars here (talk about TMI) but let’s say it wasn’t a pretty picture, and that was the end of our day of «fun» at Knott’s.

I didn’t even go to the park but rather asked for a report after the guys came home because I wasn’t chancing what happened at Knott’s happening to me ever again.

The reports were astounding. Of particular interest to the men in my family at Magic Mountain is Tatsu, a mighty steel runway that defies flying. Restraints are definitely necessary for this trippy experience that starts with riders lying upside down while suspended from a winding track through mountainous terrain. To give you an example of the experience, imagine that you are traveling more than 60 miles an hour in this position while getting a bird’s eye view of the ground below as you take on a so-called pretzel loop that has you seeing the track in front of you criss-crossing at the entry point and the exit point. Yikes.

That said, I did mention that, in general, I am in awe of how roller coasters are made and how they look. Of particular interest are the wooden versions of yore, throw-backs to a simpler time that are now making a comeback.

Consider the newest of this group: Outlaw Run in Branson, Mo. Now the second fastest roller coaster in the world and the only one that goes upside town, this is a sight to be seen, and for everyone else who has the guts, to be experienced. Be sure to take a virtual ride before planning to take a real one just in case you can’t cut it.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world from the United States in Fuiyoshida, Japan is the Fuji-Q Highland Amusement Park, which holds arguably the most unfathomable roller coaster of them all: Dodonpa. Its claim to fame is that this wild contraption holds the record for the fastest acceleration of any other coaster in the world. You go from zero to 107 miles per hour in a mere 1.8 seconds. Double yikes!

Not only do you take off, leaving only some smoke in your path, but you also get to experience what happens when a roller coaster fails to do what it’s expected to do. This is all a put-on but makes for some moments that has even the most daring rider worrying about his or her future as a living, breathing person. Accidents do actually happen on today’s roller coasters, like the woman in Dallas who fell to her death from a 14-story roller coaster called the Texas Giant in Arlington this summer.

That said, the statistics (about four a year out of nine-hundred million rides) for accidents to happen on this mode of transportation show that this situation happening is highly unlikely. Still, if you want a dry run before taking off, take a look at this iPad app that gives 101 rides on video for your personal inspection.

Also take a look at this other app that is all about trivia, roller coaster style.

And then take a peek at my favorite apps regarding this topic. These resources let you ride without actually being on the scene in any particular amusement park at all. Indeed, the primary purpose of these apps is to allow you to simply play games. Video games. After all, if you’re going to become a groupie of the roller coaster kind, you need to know your subject, so why not start with a fun and totally virtual experience or two? Really, nothing’s wrong with that. Honest.

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