After hearing Vinny talk about roller coasters on the latest Bombcast, I was reminded of my own terrifying experience. For the record, I love riding roller coasters, to the point where they’re usually the rides I head to first when at a theme park. This particular experience happened back in 2005, when I was in Florida.
We were on holiday for two weeks, doing all of the theme parks you can think of in and around Orlando. At this point we’d done Universal Studios, some of the Disney parks and Discovery Cove, and we were now heading to Seaworld. Most people are coming here to see the killer whales and the other marine life on show, but come on, it’s all about the roller coasters! Seaworld may not have been jammed full of rides like most of the other places we’d been, but it was home to the intimidating Kraken.
This roller coaster is a monster, and fifteen-year-old me had a hard time convincing my brothers to ride it with me. At the time, Kraken was known as “the tallest, fastest, longest and only floorless roller coaster in Orlando,” and while that almost certainly isn’t the case any more, it’s enough to get the younger me pumped full of adrenaline.
After an hour or so of queueing, we were strapped in and slowly ascending to the top of the 150ft ride. Slow is also an understatement, as I’m pretty sure you spend most of the time on this ride actually reaching the peak. As you’ll probably already know, the mind can race when you’re at this point of no return.
“Why am I doing this?”
“We’re not even half-way up yet!”
“Yeah, I really am afraid of heights.”
But this isn’t the terrifying experience. This is par for the course as far as roller coasters are concerned, and I’ll still get jittery on a ride’s ascent. It gets your adrenaline going and it’s as much a part of the experience as all of those loops and corkscrews.
When we were a little over three quarters of the way up, the ride stopped climbing. The incline is around 45 degrees, so when we stopped going up, it felt that we were about to roll back on ourselves. I know this is meant to be safe and all, but fifteen-year-old me was pretty certain we were about to die.
After half a minute or so of mass panic, we heard the attendants’ voice over the speaker system.
“If you can hear me, wave your hands!”
Okay, good. They’re doing something about it. There’s no way in hell they’re getting me to walk down from this high up, though. I’d probably pass out, fall down the steps and bowl everyone off the side before reaching the bottom.
“Can the man on the front row please put away the cell phone. It could fall out of your grip and hit someone.”
I’m not a violent guy, but there’s never been a time quite like this when I was fully prepared to push that fucker off.