Back in my teen years, I became addicted to something that had my mother threatening to take me to a therapist. And now, about 100 years later, I still have the same addiction – and probably still could use a good therapist.
I’m talking about roller coasters. I’m hooked on them. I love the feeling of anticipation and the chinka-chinka sound they make when they climb that first big hill. I love the way my stomach ends up somewhere around my eyeballs by the end of the ride. I love screaming non-stop while my white-knuckled hands clench the safety bar.
But my addiction is solely for the old-fashioned wooden coasters – the ones that do nothing but go up and down hills. I don’t like the ones that have corkscrew tracks or big loops that have you hanging upside down so often, you end up feeling like a vampire bat. No, I’m strictly a lover of the old-fashioned coasters.
Back when I was young, there were three great wooden coasters in the area: Salisbury Beach, Canobie Lake Park and Pine Island Park. The one at Pine Island Park was the first one I ever rode on…with my grandmother, who also was a coaster fanatic. So I blame her for my addiction.
My favorite roller coaster during my teen years was the one at Salisbury Beach. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, I headed to Salisbury every Sunday for the sole purpose of riding that coaster as many times as my budget and stomach would allow.
To this day, I still don’t know what kept that coaster standing. It was old and rickety with weathered wood that constantly was exposed to the damp, salty ocean air. It made creaking and popping sounds during the entire ride, which always made me fear it was going to collapse into a pile of rubble while I was on it. But I loved the element of danger – the adrenaline rush.
An added bonus was the breathtaking view of the ocean from the top of the first hill. Of course, I could take only a brief glance at it, right before I plunged downhill to my impending death. The Salisbury coaster was so rough, it tossed its riders around like rag dolls in a clothes dryer. I’d usually end up with bruises in places I’d never had bruises before…yet I loved every minute of it.
But sadly, now there is only one wooden coaster left in the area - The Yankee Cannonball at Canobie Lake Park. The ride lasts only 60 seconds and isn’t as high or as fast as the one at Salisbury was, but it still provides just enough thrills to satisfy my addiction.
A few years ago, I dragged my husband to Canobie Lake because I wanted to ride the coaster. He, however, didn’t share my enthusiasm. In fact, the only way I finally got him to agree to take me to the park was by promising to keep him supplied with cheeseburgers, fries and ice cream all night. So while he sat on a bench and stuffed himself, I rode the roller coaster.
The first ride, I waited in line for an hour and 23 minutes. By the time I finally set foot on the coaster, I knew the life’s history of just about everyone in line. Then, to my disappointment, after all of that waiting, the ride was over in a flash. Not satisfied, the minute I got off the coaster, I headed back to the end of the line so I could ride it again.
An hour and 15 minutes later, I had my second ride. Still, I wasn’t satisfied. But I was tired of standing in line. My feet hurt, my back hurt and I was hungry. So I did something I never would have done if I hadn’t been desperate. I noticed there was only a short line at the steel loop-coaster. Without pausing to think about it, I headed over to that one. After all, I was seeking thrills, and it was better than nothing.
The moment I sat in the car of that coaster, I knew I’d made a mistake. The attendant came along and pulled this hinged harness down over me. It had padding on each side of the head area that squished my ears flat against my skull. Immediately, I felt a stabbing pain as the posts of my pierced earrings dug into my skin.
Before I could open my mouth to complain about the discomfort, the coaster started to move. That’s when I spotted the sign that said to remove earrings before riding. It was too late. I was impaled like a rotisserie chicken.
With each turn and dip, my earrings dug deeper into my flesh. I had visions of emerging from the ride with my head looking as if I’d been the victim of a dart-gun ambush. And when the coaster made its upside-down loop, I was pretty sure my ears had been torn off and I’d find them lying on the ground somewhere underneath the tracks.
So I definitely will stick with the old-fashioned wooden coasters. This means if I want to ride one, I’ll have to go back to Canobie Lake Park. The trouble is, I don’t want to go alone. But whenever I mention it to my friends and relatives, I get comments like, “Are you crazy? You’re not a young kid any more. You’ll end up in traction!” or “I’d really like to go with you but I’ve been having a lot of trouble lately with my (insert any body part here) so I’m really not up to it.”
But I think I might have found the perfect solution to my addiction. I recently saw a guy on TV who built his own private roller coaster right in his back yard.
And I have eight acres of land…