As this summer is ending far more quickly than I would like, I thought it would be fun to continue reflecting on reasons why I enjoy the season so much. The only experiences I’ve really written about thus far are attending summer camps and old-time traditions of ice cream and car-cruising with the family. For the next few entries, I will talk about my trips to amusement parks, public pool jaunts, and standing beside the awe-inspiring Atlantic Ocean.
Have you ever been to an amusement park? It’s hard for me to imagine that one hasn’t, especially in the US and I guess most European countries. With that line of thought, I wonder exactly how many amusement parks there are.
In my hometown of Charlotte, we have Carowinds. I think I saw in an article that someone wrote about his experiences with the Thunder Road and White Lightning roller coasters that this park opened in 1976? It is built right on the North Carolina/South Carolina line, which creates a fun photo opportunity of shooting oneself while standing in both states. I think many of the coasters traverse the line as riders hurtle along as well.
The first time I can remember going, I was probably 7 or so. I think back then, they’d give out vouchers to attend the park for kids who had achieved perfect attendance at school. This is likely the only way our family of seven, including my cousin; my mom, dad, and Aunt could have gotten into the park at the same time.
We would stop by Bojangle’s to procure giant boxes of chicken and biscuits that we would leave the park to consume around lunch time, in lieu of the expensive fare provided inside. Better make sure the stamps on our hands could clearly be seen!
Back in those days, we had a big hatchback, and so a lot of us kids would squeeze in back with the trunk flung wide open, trying not to be sucked out by the roaring wind. I wonder if that sort of thing could even be done today? Probably a bit crazy, but fun.
Man, was I ever the cry baby back then. And it didn’t help that my biological father would pick on me constantly about it, calling me “sissy” in particular. He kept urging me to try riding Thunder Road, even though I was probably too short to do so then anyway. Not to mention terrified just by the sound and screaming people! Back in those days, I enjoyed smaller stuff like the Octopus, Metiorite (“Enjoy your flight, on the Metiorite!”) and swings that more like sucked you high into the air and spun faster and faster while doing so.
I eventually did try the coasters though, probably at age 10 or so. All that anticipation builds while standing in line, and I nearly got sick before getting on.
It’s probably more of an adventure for blind folks, as we can’t see what’s going to come beyond that hill. I was always amused by the clicking sound it makes as we slowly work our way up.
“Ah, I don’t think this is gonna be too bad.” I thought.
Till we leveled out, and woosh! Down we flew, with screeching metal and the shrill roar of voices reverberating off of the tunnel walls until those sounds became indistinguishable from one another. I felt the bar press toward my lap as I rose a bit from the seat and pulled the bar down towards me. There would be a few seconds of reprieve, allowing me to think it was over, then off we shot again! After that, I couldn’t get enough.
On that day, I rode Thunder Road, the Carolina Cyclone, (first time I’d even gone upside down on a ride,) and the Carolina Gold Rush. I was never brave enough to ride White Lightning, because I’d heard about it jumping the tracks and getting stuck a few times. I think they eventually shut that one down, if I’m not mistaken.
The ones that really terrified me though were the water rides! See my previously mentioned fear of water. There was one called the Waterlog, which would bump ominously against the side of its enclosure as we raced downhill toward the pool there. The sides were so low that I feared losing an arm or plain being thrown from the boat. In retrospect though, I suppose I enjoyed it.
At both Carowinds and Six Flags over Georgia in Atlanta, I rode what is basically the same stand-up coaster. At our park, it’s known as the Vortex, while down there they called it BatMan. A sighted person showed me how frighteningly close we come to the ground on one of the big turns on that thing.
Probably the most unnerving experience I know of someone having on that ride happened to my sister. She squeezed on the bars as the ride sped around the bend, and the bar came up as if unlocked! This caused her to hang in the air for the remainder of the ride, hoping she’d have enough strength to hold on until it stopped. Thinking of that makes me feel queasy. I think stuff like that may be why they’ve installed belts on most of those rides nowadays to offer additional security.
So which parks have you visited? What were the names of your favorite coasters? Do you know if they still exist?