I just love a good roller coaster. Turn me upside down and shake me and I am a happy camper. I would have called myself an ‘aficionado’, but then I found out that I fall far short of achieving that title.
My friend Alex disavowed me of that notion real quick. Alex is the real deal. He can spout heights of the tallest peaks on the twenty highest coasters in the world. He can name the top speeds achieved by each kind of propulsion system and refers to coasters as classified by their builders. It turns out I am only a mere ‘fan’.
Apparently, when it comes to the world of “Coaster Enthusiasts” – as they like to be called – I have another problem. My rankings of the ‘scariest’ coasters are way off from everyone else’s.
Here are my rankings of the three scariest amusement park rides ever.
(If you want real ‘Aficionado’ rankings check out ThemeParkReview.com)
#3 – Tatsu. Magic Mountain. LA.
Don’t get me wrong, being scary doesn’t keep me off this ride. I love Tatsu, but there’s something about the restraint system . . . okay, here’s exactly what it is: though you initially sit on a bicycle type seat with a pull-down shoulder bar AND ankle clasps, you are immediately swung backwards so that the coaster tracks are behind your spine. It’s not that you can’t see the tracks (or where you are headed) 90% of the time, that gets me. What creeps me out is that you are consistently being thrown against the restraint system.
In a normal coaster, the seatbelt is a reasonably redundant system. The majority of forces push you down into your seat and the coaster works with physics rather than against it. I think Tatsu pushes you into your seat only once. The majority of the time you are thrown against the shoulder restraints. Which means the majority of the time on this ride, I am praying that my seatbelt holds and planning how to best stay attached to the car against multi-G forces should that restraint system fail. While I ride, I recite statistics that remind me that riding a coaster is safer than riding in a car or an airplane. It’s safer even than walking away from Tatsu and down the hill at Magic Mountain.
Yes, Tatsu gets my heart going.
#2 – The Scrambler. Location unknown. Dreams still haunting.
Just about every park has a Scrambler. It’s a flat ride with three arms and cars that spin around each other and a central anchor. I like the Scrambler; it doesn’t even make me want to barf. But this particular Scrambler disturbed me no end.
While waiting in line, I watched the people in front of me spin round and round. But what I saw was that the cars were out of alignment. See, in a normal Scrambler the same cars pass each other at the same point in the turn each time around. Yes, check it out next time, this ride is a mathematical thing of beauty – except when it’s not.
This time the cars passed different cars each time around and the arms rotated at different speeds. I asked Alex, who was with us that day, if the arms ever disengaged and swung on their own momentum. Alex said ‘no’. I got out of line. I will not ride on that. Ever. I waited all day for the park sirens to go off because one of the Scrambler arms broke free and went rogue. It didn’t happen. But next time you’re at a Scrambler, look at the people in the line, I’m the one checking the mathematical alignment before I ride.
#1 – Silver Bullet. Knott’s Berry Farm. Anaheim. In the rain.
It’s not that the Silver Bullet is scary. It’s not. For coaster junkies it’s the equivalent of a bassinet and a lullaby. That is one smooth coaster. This is what made it scary that day:
It had been raining. And lightninging (that’s a word, right?) The Bullet had been closed for an hour, but the lightning had stopped and things had started to dry out. The coaster team opened the doors again. Alex and I were first in line. In fact, we were the only ones in line.
The coaster crew ran a blank (unmanned) car in front of us. Then they strapped us into the front two seats of the next car. The problems begin here: The crew was talking to each other. As there were only two guests in the ride, there wasn’t a lot for them to do. I felt they were a little lax in checking our restraints – I don’t think any of them ever looked directly at either of us. Also, the first ‘test’ car had not come back when we were launched. So, though a test had been run for safety, we were sent out before positive results were obtained. Alex laughed at me.
Then, just as the doors opened and our car began the ride, it started to rain again. Already in motion, we were committed. I realized that if the first car didn’t come back, we were toast. Also, what if Alex and I just disappeared? No one had paid us enough attention to remember to look for us if our car came back empty! Or even not at all.
Though I know the aficionados will disagree with me, and I know they will call me ‘wuss’ til my dying day, that was the scariest coaster ride ever.
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