Saturday, August 19, 2006

Riding the Cyclone

The Cyclone roller coaster, Deno's Wonder Wheel & the Parachute Jump - New Year's Eve, 2005

So out we went to Coney Island, and after we'd walked for a while, we came to Astroland Park.

"Is that THE Cyclone?" TQ asked.

"Yep" I replied - then after a pause & a very deep breath, rather like I imagine one would take before jumping out of a plane voluntarily for the first time - "Want to ride?"

"Sure!" he said.

And that was how I got myself to go on a non-kiddy roller coaster for the first time in over 30 years!

You see, I've been scared to death of rollercoasters ever since I was a little girl & was taken on some rollercoaster in Virginia Beach. I remember being completely terrified and screaming "Make them stop the train!" which of course they couldn't do! I believe that was the first and last time my parents took me on a rollercoaster - from that point on, I was permitted to opt out - which I did, because I simply could not imagine going on a rollercoaster without seeing it from the viewpoint of a terrified five-year-old (or however old I was).

This silly fear is not particularly one I've ever been terribly concerned about. I've never sought counselling for it, as I believe that a person can live a rich and happy life without going on rollercoasters.

However - well, here I have been living in Brooklyn for years, and I've walked by the Cyclone so many times, and I love the look of that rattly-bangy old coaster...well, it just seemed like riding the Cyclone would be a really cool Brooklyn experience. And really, it doesn't look all THAT scary from the ground. But when I'd think about riding it, I'd feel a little sick to my stomach - but the more times I walked past it, the more I started thinking that this was the same sort of thing I've felt before I've launched a kayak into surf, or a whitewater run, or even jumped off the platform at the New York Trapeze School - and busting through that initial "yikes" reaction in every case ended up being utterly exhilerating.

So I'd suspected that it might actually be fun - but I'd never had a really good excuse to follow through & give it a try. I wasn't really interested in going by myself - there are plenty of things I do solo but somehow riding a rollercoaster seems like something that should be a shared experience; my friends & I aren't big amusement-park goers & I would've felt funny asking if anybody wanted to come help me get over the silliest childhood-trauma-related phobia of all time when we'd all rather be kayaking. So although I'd given it much consideration, it hadn't happened.

But then TQ asked "Is that THE Cyclone?" with just the right tone in his voice to be the nudge I'd never had before. I knew when he asked him if he wanted to ride that if he said yes, there wasn't any way I was going to then wimp out in front of him.

I did at least explain the situation as soon as he said "Yeah!" - wouldn't have been fair not to. Just in case my inner chicken won out & I had a rotten time.

Being a smart guy, he was immediately ready to skip the Cyclone - no derision, no even mild arm-twisting. Even warned me that the old wooden coasters could be scarier in some ways than new ones - so much more rattling, banging, and boneshaking in the old ones. Advice heeded, and left to make the decision, I told TQ that I wanted to try it. Also told him that he was a VERY smart guy to leave it up to me so I couldn't blame him if I hated it!

Anyways, I'd been prepared to do it from the minute I'd asked. Like I said, it doesn't look that awful from the ground - and it's only a minute and 50 seconds and I figured I should be able to stand anything that long.

Off we went to the ticket booth. We bought our tickets and wended our way through the white-painted wire chute - no waiting on a Wednesday night - and there it was, the little train with it's snug-looking little red vinyl padded seats. TQ asked where I wanted to sit, noting that in back you get whipped around more, and in front's scarier 'cause, well, you're in front - I opted for the moderate middle. We got in, the operators shut the lap bar. They checked & double-checked everyone's lap bars, then the train gently pulled away from the platform & started it's clanking climb up to the top of the first hill.

Yikes. Committed. The butterflies in my stomach achieved the size of Canada geese.

I'd wanted to look around at the view as we went up - but I couldn't tear my eyes away from the shortening track in front of us. A young lady a couple of cars ahead already had her face buried in her boyfriend's shoulder. We laughed about that. We laughed about the sign at the "Don't Stand Up" sign at the top (OK, seems like a no-brainer but according to a guy did die on the Cyclone after, yes, standing up). Then we quit laughing as we PLUMMETED down the first drop. I swear that I have never before appreciated the word PLUMMET in the same way I do now. "Doesn't look that bad from the ground" did I say? Ha. Ha Ha. Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha. The Wikipedia article on the Cyclone lists the maximum vertical angle as 58 degrees - somehow, it feels more like 80! I didn't scream, but TQ & I were both clinging to the grab bar with white-knuckle grips, and I had my jaw clenched - heck I had every muscle in my body clenched, I think I had my TOES clenched - no hands in the air, here! And then we didn't die and the car was thundering up the next hill - feeling like it wasn't losing an ounce of speed - whipped around a bend and then again the train just PLUMMETS, "falls" just doesn't cut it, and on this time you just had no idea it was coming (as opposed to the first one where at least you know it's coming) - and so on and so forth, whipping through a maze of scaffolding that keeps you from really having any idea what's coming next...

But although the first drop was purely terrifying, somewhere shortly after that something else started sneaking through -

Yep. I had a blast.

I forgot to look at the view but I think by the end I was grinning like I have when I caught a wave surfing.

We did NOT opt to stay on for the four-dollar Round Two - nobody did! - but I walked off of that ride giggling like a 13-year old. TQ seemed like he'd enjoyed it too.

As we walked away, we heard the young lady who'd been in the car in front of us say to her boyfriend "I still love you, but I hate you for making me go on that thing!"

I leaned over to TQ & repeated what I'd said earlier - "You're a smart guy".

Excellent article about the Cyclone at NYCVisit - explains a lot about how it is that such a rollercoaster that doesn't look like such a big deal ended up being such a big deal. Those folks that built the thing back in 1927? THEY MEANT TO DO THAT!

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