Monday, September 01, 2008

Ridin' the rolly coaster!

What was the first roller coaster you rode? Do you remember?

I was 10 (a late bloomer in my opinion, but I was a short kid), and my parents took my brother and me on a trip to Great America, which at the time, had recently changed from Marriott's Great America to just plain old Great America.

Now I wish I'd have been able to compare that 1985 version to the classic version of my early youth, but since, as I said, I couldn't ride much of anything, everything was fairly new to me, except for The Demon, which I decided I would ride as soon as I was able.

But The Demon wasn't my first coaster. My first coaster was The Whizzer, formerly Willard's Whizzer. It was a fairly pedestrian family coaster with a spiral lift and some nice twists and turns.

I'd have to say that it was the perfect coaster for me to start with; not too scary, not too boring. From there, I went on The Demon and anything else I could legally get on.

Here's a video of The Whizzer at Great America's former sister park in Gurnee, Illinois:

I've been thinking about theme parks, and old-school Great America in particular because I've been writing a story in which a theme park plays a role. But in my not-even-humble opinion, Great America hasn't been a true theme park for years now. Now it's just an amusement park.

Oh sure, there are some great rides, but there was something cool about how you knew where you were based on the names of the rides or the style of decor. I mean, some of the names were cheesy as hell, but at least there was a theme, you know?

Now, it's California's Great America, which to me, sounds a bit odd, but they've got some new stuff planned, and it would be awesome if there was some effort made at some actual theming for the rides since they have to change the names anyway now that they aren't a Paramount park.

What particularly frosts my Popsicle is that my two favorite rides were Loggers Run and Yankee Clipper, only one of which still stands. Back in the day, the rides were like conjoined twins; at a few points, the tracks were close enough to see the other riders. In one spot, you were close enough to fling water at them if you happened to bring a cup with you.

But Yankee Clipper departed this plane a year before Joe DiMaggio so they could put in Stealth, the "flying" roller coaster. Don't get me wrong, Stealth was a cool ride--though my already long wait in line was made longer to rig a camera for some chucklehead from 98 Degrees to get pics taken for Tiger Beat or somesuch and they made me take my glasses off, so I saw a whole crapton of blurry nothing--but after only a few years, they took it out and moved it to another park. My Yankee Clipper had died in vain!

I know, I should just chill. Loggers Run is still there, I know.

But my brother and I had our own little name for the Yankee Clipper; one that I'm not at liberty to divulge, but should I finish and publish this novel I'm working on, you will discover. We had alternate names for most of the rides, as we had a lot of time on our hands with season passes in the summer of 1994. And we were dorks.

Good thing I grew out of that.