It's officially summer now, and as you can imagine given my disdain for winter, I'm beyond stoked about that (even if my hair is not). Aside from trying to get to the beach as much as possible, summer also makes me want to hit up amusement and theme parks. You would think this wouldn't really be my jam since it involves waiting in lines with the unwashed masses, and I must admit it was when I was at Hershey Park, assaulted by the stench of someone's body odor, when I had the thought, "OF COURSE humans descended from apes! Creationists, look around!"
But somehow, I love amusement parks. (Really, who wants to go? Like...now?!) Probably my favorite part of theme parks are thrill rides and rollercoasters.
Now, I'll try out different water sports or learn how to ski in a foreign country, but for the most part, I wouldn't exactly call myself a "daredevil." (Unless you count the occasional badass rule-breaking.) So maybe I'm not a true adrenaline junkie, but I do love me some high speeds at high altitudes.
I've never suffered from motion sickness, and I have a remarkably strong stomach for a Jew. (Really! I've never thrown up from being drunk! Not even last week!) I'll get a headache from a wooden rollercoaster or get nervous about getting stuck at the top of a Ferris wheel, but I have zero issues with getting sick on thrill rides.
This all changed a few years ago when I went with my family to Disney World for my parents' 30th anniversary. I love everything about Disney World and would go on any ride there, and when we went to Epcot, there was a new one since the last time I had been called Mission Space.
Mission Space is a simulated ride where you sit in a seat with a harness-type thing over you and it shakes you around a lot while you stare at a giant screen, meant to make you feel like you're in space or whatever. So when presented with the less intense option, my brother and I naturally chose the more intense option. Simulated rides I feel are on the low end of the "thrill" factor.
BUT HOLY SHIT THIS RIDE CHANGED ME FOREVER, AND NOT FOR THE BETTER.
You get in, four in a row. My brother Jeff and I were next to a guy and his young son. I was between the boy and my brother. We got strapped in and I noticed the signs saying to keep your head back and your eyes open and that would help avoid motion sickness. OK, whatever. Then each person is assigned a title. I think I was the lieutenant or something, and when (the lieutenant to end all lieutenants, Lieutenant Dan) Gary Sinise tells the person in your position to press a button, you press a button.
I don't know what happened. They did something weird to the air to change the "gravity" and make you feel like you're on Mars or some shit and I immediately started to feel like I had the meat sweats. I was cold and clammy and pretty sure I was going to vomit all over my dress and possibly the poor child next to me. I would ruin this kid's day! I'd have to go back to the hotel and change my clothes and maybe burn this dress which I happened to really like. Without even thinking about it, I started breathing the deep ujjayi breath I learned in yoga. My instructors would have been so proud to know it got me through violent nausea rather than simply a challenging Warrior 2.
I didn't dare to close my eyes. Not because I put ANY stock whatsoever in what the signs said but because a terrible thought occurred in my hyperventilated brain -- what if I missed when Gary Sinise said to press my button and it made the ride last even LONGER?
Mercifully, it eventually ended and I stumbled off the ride and found the nearest bench. I told Jeff to go find our parents and that I would be right there. I ducked my head between my legs and prayed for unconsciousness. Or death. I read somewhere that sometimes when people pass out, it's the body's way of protecting you from extreme pain. I've been in extreme pain and have never once passed out. It's like my body's saying "Toughen up, bitch. The worst is yet to come."
Finally, I lifted my head and looked at a group of summer-hired teenagers in their Mission Space uniforms eyeing me warily, and I thought to myself, "Jesus, Staci, don't be a pussy."
I found my family and trudged through the rest of the day, no more thrill rides to be had. And my stomach clenched on every simulated ride for the rest of the week (including Harry Potter World, so sad!). I figured maybe this is what it's like to get old. Then I read the Mission Space Wikipedia page and now I feel HELLA VINDICATED (but still old).
Do you know what a centrifuge is? When you get blood drawn, they stick the vials in a thing called a centrifuge that spins really fucking fast. So fast the blood cells separate. APPARENTLY, Mission Space is a giant centrifuge that they stick people in.
Honestly, fuck you, Gary Sinise.
Listen buddies, if you want a REAL thrill ride that isn't designed to send your brain cells to your feet, here are my top five favorites, in no particular order.
THE TWILIGHT ZONE TOWER OF TERROR, DISNEY'S HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS
"The Twilight Zone" is one of my guilty pleasures. I watch the SyFy marathon every New Year's (which, I guess if you believe that how you spend New Year's is how you'll spend the rest of your year, explains a lot). I love Disney's Hollywood Studios (nee MGM), and how everything has an old-timey golden age of Hollywood feel. Everything about the Tower of Terror is perfect; you wait in line and it's like going through a dusty, neglected hotel in the 1930s with jazz music playing in the background. Finally, you get on a super dark elevator at the very top, and it drops you straight down, stopping a few times, going back up, opening the windows out onto the park. It's different every time, and it kicks ass.
COAL CRACKER, HERSHEY PARK
Admittedly as far as log flume rides go, this is probably not the best. After all, Disney World has Splash Mountain, and Universal Studios has Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls (which I also fucking LOVE because Dudley Do-Right just takes me back, you know?). Hershey Park had a great river rapids ride, but they got rid of it, so log flume it is. Besides, this was probably my first true thrill ride that I ever went on with my dad as a kid, it has a decent drop with a more than decent splash, and it has a special place in my heart.
JURASSIC PARK RIVER ADVENTURE, ISLANDS OF ADVENTURE, UNIVERSAL STUDIOS
Unlike everyone and their mother, I'm pretty ambivalent about Jurassic Park, but I do love the Jurassic Park River Adventure in Islands of Adventure at Universal Studios. Damn near every ride at Islands of Adventure is an awesome thrill ride, and this one's no exception. It's fast and twisty, dinosaurs pop out at you, and again -- good drops to be had here.
LOCH NESS MONSTER, BUSCH GARDENS WILLIAMSBURG
Busch Gardens has its fair share of really good rollercoasters, but I'm partial to the Loch Ness Monster for a number of reasons, even though it's one of the older ones. For one, Wikipedia tells me it was the first rollercoaster with interlocking loops, so that's kind of badass. For another, it's in the Scotland section of the park, and we all know I love Scotland. And finally, it skims the lake below it and for some reason that's always stuck with me and makes this one a standout.
EXPEDITION EVEREST, DISNEY'S ANIMAL KINGDOM
The last time I went to Disney World's Animal Kingdom, it had expanded, and there were a ton of new rides, including the rollercoaster Expedition Everest. The idea is you are riding on an old-ass train through Mount Everest where the Yeti (is there only one or should I have written "a" Yeti? Yeti is like Bigfoot, no?) is lurking. The first part of the rollercoaster is awesome on its own, but then you get to a stopping point where it looks like Sir Yeti has torn up the tracks. Your train stops...and it launches you backward. This rollercoaster alone makes Animal Kingdom worth a stop.
What are your favorite thrill rides? Happy summer!