tckma: (NE Regional Statemeets Coordinator)
[personal profile] tckma
I should probably go to sleep, but if I don't write about this now, I will forget.

I am simultaneously exhausted and hyped up on caffeine. This is not good, and I'll probably go into work late (again) tomorrow. A 12 hour drive will do that to you.

But anyway... I'm going to talk at great length about the...



Anyone who has known me for any length of time knows that there are a few things that I am irrationally scared of. I know these fears are irrational, yet I have them anyway. The two biggies are bees (and, really, any flying insect that buzzes), and roller coasters. The latter generally causes me to have a horrible time at amusement parks, with the company I go to said parks with dismissing me as lame and making fun of me.

I'm not going to blame my parents for my fears, because that's only a small part of it, I think. Sure, they refused to take me to any amusement park, citing statistics that were more than likely made up about how many people die each year on coasters. Sure, they refused to let me go on the fieldtrip to Great Adventure with my physics class to measure forces and suchlike on rides -- they said I'd die and I'd hate it, not necessarily in that order. But, there must have been other factors, since I've never listened to my parents about shit like that. I'm not sure what those other factors are or were.

Regardless, coasters frighten the ever-loving crap out of me.

"Why," then, you might ask, "drive 12 hours each way to an amusement park?"

Well, there are a number of reasons for this.

First, I love long road trips. This goes without saying.

Second, I don't end up at amusement parks very often. When I do, however, coaster fear has become annoying enough for me to want to do something about it. Jen tried, and failed, to get me on some rides at BoardieCon 2002. Angie was a coaster fanatic and promised to try and help me with a trip to Canada's Wonderland, but that trip never came to fruition. Other times, well, I just went with friends and refused to go on anything.

Third, I generally know within a week or two of adding someone to my friends' list whether or not I'd like to meet them in person. The concept of [livejournal.com profile] statemeets didn't really get too far off the ground, as the New England meet was the only one that happened, and was fairly poorly attended. Given that [livejournal.com profile] justaredherring, the Midwest [livejournal.com profile] statemeets coordinator, is a coaster fanatic, and consistently talks about Cedar Point to the point that other [livejournal.com profile] statements-ers have said that she has an "ambition to live there," I knew that any Midwest statemeet would take place there. Also, given she still lives at home and is fairly young, I also knew that meeting her anywhere but a public place close to her wasn't going to happen.

Preparing for this eventuality, several months ago I began talking to her about how I had irrational coaster fear, and if she had any suggestions for me, and that sort of thing. We worked it out pretty well. I decided, eventually, to bite the bullet and set up a weekend where I'd try and finally confront my fears. I sent some e-mails around. I got pointed at some ride-view cameras on Cedar Point's website, and I pointed out which coasters I might try immediately, which I might try later in the day given how I felt, and which were a definite no. I sent the call out among my friends, but, in the end, it ended up being only [livejournal.com profile] justaredherring, [livejournal.com profile] backroomdealer, and myself -- only one of whom represented the Midwest region. [livejournal.com profile] backroomdealer's attendance was in question for a time given a family emergency of hers that came up earlier this week. Perhaps this is selfish and insensitive, but I would have felt strange going alone. I'm glad she was able to come with me.

This weekend proved to me that my irrational fear of roller coasters is conquerable, if not immediately, at least gradually. This is a good thing. I'm glad I went. For the first time in my life, I enjoyed myself at an amusement park.

I drove to Albany and AJ's apartment on Thursday night, slept until about 7:30, and worked from her apartment while she went and did family things. We had expected her to return by 3:00 PM, but she didn't get back until 5:30. We left at 6:00. This put us in Sandusky at roughly 3:00 AM. I wasn't pleased about that, but what could I do? I wasn't going to get upset over it.

The hotel room was unbearably hot at first. They'd put the heater on max temperature and high fan. I switched it immediately to air conditioning, and we went to sleep. About halfway through the night, I was cold (the A/C was working), so I got up, turned it off, went to the bathroom, and went to sleep.

[livejournal.com profile] justaredherring showed up at the hotel about an hour later than we'd planned, however, this was OK by me as I appreciated the extra time to sleep and partake of the free wireless connection.

We all drove off to CP, having lunch outside the park first, and waited on line for tickets.

I'd forgotten the names of the coasters I'd said I'd try first, so when Kendall rattled off some names, I picked a ride called Disaster Transport. I'd gotten it confused with another coaster I'd seen the video for. Portions of that ride were in the dark. I was told the ride would last something like 2 min 40 sec, and steeled myself for that length of scary ride.

When the cart started to move, and I saw it moving into dark areas, I panicked. The first drop came and I could not see where it was going. Bad news. I gripped the safety bar with a white-knuckle death grip, screamed a few choice four-letter words despite the presence of small children behind me in the coaster car, and wrenched my legs out -- all involuntarily. Reaction, mostly. Since I was a little too tall to fit in the car, this resulted in my foot turning in a way that it wasn't meant to go upon hitting the front of the coaster car, which in turn resulted in me getting a massive charlie horse in my left leg. Somewhat counterintuitively, this helped a lot. I was now concentrating on the massive pain in my leg, rather than the feeling of GOOD GOD I AM ON A COASTER IN THE DARK AND I CAN'T SEE WHERE IT'S GOING I'M GOING TO DIE which tends to take over whenever I attempt a ride like that. Instead of looking in front of me, I looked at my leg, as if that would somehow stop the pain. I wasn't concentrating on the coaster dipping and turning, in fact, I couldn't even feel it doing so. When I realized that staring at my leg wasn't helping the pain any, I looked up, discovered my eyes had adjusted to the darkness, and I could now see where the coaster was going. About a split second later, I discovered that I wasn't actually feeling my stomach float up to the roof of my mouth, nor was I really affected by the turns. "Hey," I thought. "That's pretty nifty that I can turn that feeling off, because I've never been able to before." A funny thing happened then. The stimuli of the coaster dipping and turning clicked back on in my brain. Knowing I could turn it off, even if I didn't really know how, caused me to actually start enjoying myself on the ride.

I couldn't believe it.

When the ride came to a stop and the announcer said to get out of the car, I limped out on my pained leg, and my first thought was "there was NO WAY that was two minutes long. It seemed to be about thirty seconds." My second thought was "That's it? Shit, I can do this." My third thought was "Hey! I can DO this!"

All this because I wrenched my leg pretty badly, and turned off the coaster stimuli temporarily. I enjoy skiing and motorcycling because I'm always in control. If I ever feel out of control, I can go slower. I had determined previously that a large part of my coaster fear stems from the feeling of being out of control. Here, I'd somehow generated a false feeling of being in control, and that turned all the fear off, instantly.

My leg is actually still in pain, having taken some Advil for it on the drive home, but I don't care. That pain MEANS something to me. Something good.

The next ride we went on was a spinning sort of carnival ride. I'd gone on a similar ride at BoardieCon 2002, on which I believe I gave Jen bruises from grabbing her arm so tightly. Didn't happen. High off my newly discovered ability to ride a coaster in partial darkness, being on the car-spin ride didn't phase me at all. I even tried to put my hands up, but I was jammed in that car so tightly that I really couldn't.

After that, we went to Cedar Creek Mine Ride. On this one, (TMI alert) the safety bar locked in place directly on my bladder. The car rolled up the hill to the first BIG drop (there were a few small ones that didn't phase me). I looked at the angle on it, said to myself OH GOD I'M GOING TO DIE, and then said aloud "This drop will be over in two seconds." And so it was. And I didn't even feel it much. On subsequent drops, I was enjoying myself. I even took my hands off the grips and threw them up in the air. Yes. If you'd told me even three days ago that I'd be doing that on a coaster, I'd have told you that you must have been thinking of someone else. The end of the ride was a downward barrel roll that I really enjoyed.

I was surprised, and very proud of myself. I bragged that I enjoyed it, primarily because I was damn surprised that I had. However, my bladder having been recently released from the safety bar, I had to duck into the bathroom for a second.

My newfound cockiness on the subject of coasters then got the best of me. We debated riding Gemini for a bit. I have to admit that I was a little bit skeptical about whether I could handle it. I waffled back and forth for a bit. But, I saw the track from far away. Given that, my previous two coaster rides, and the fact that this whole trip was about getting OVER irrational fears, I decided to give it a go.

On the line, [livejournal.com profile] justaredherring said something to the effect of "when this was first built, it was the tallest and fastest coaster in" (something. The country? The state? The world? I forget.) Anyway, it didn't help. It made me a little nervous, but I chose to ignore that feeling. Once we got to the head of the line on that one, the announcer started rolling off the specs of the ride -- how high and how fast and all that, and I couldn't ignore the fact that I was scared shitless any longer. I called out to the guy, "please stop saying those things, you're not helping." Of course, in my little mouse voice, he didn't hear me, and even if he had, he probably wouldn't have stopped. Which was just as well. AJ and I got on the red train and Kendall got on the blue train, and we left together.

I think AJ saw I was nervous. The stupid thing kept going up. And up. And up further. And I couldn't see the top. AJ attempted to distract me by pointing out the pretty scenery, and wasn't the rest of the park gorgeous from this height, and all that. It worked for a while, and I have to admit it was a good idea. Unfortunately, I caught on to this trick just before the top of the first hill.

I wish I hadn't. I REALLY wish I hadn't. I wish I'd just been all "hey, that IS pretty and look at the way you ca... OH MY GOD I'M GOING TO DIE" because then I would have been pumping far less adrenaline.

The next thing I knew, I was being lifted out of my seat. This was NOT a voluntary action. I fucking panicked. I say "fucking panicked" because there's just no other way to describe the sheer level of panic and fear of imminent death that I was experiencing without using profanity. I felt I was going to fall out of the car and SPLAT onto the pavement below. Logically, I knew this wasn't going to happen. Emotions and adrenaline were overriding my logic, however. I screamed some choice phrases, punctuated with "THIS IS HORRIBLE!" Then up again and another drop, just like that. I couldn't take it.

The coaster rounded a bend on a flat surface and I caught my breath. I saw Kendall reach out her hand and sort-of high-five other people on our train, so I put out my hand as a kind of "high-five, I'm alive, thank God." But I couldn't reach.

After that, everything was pretty much fine. The subsequent drops were less intense, and enjoyable to me. At this point, I gave a second high-five, more of a "high-five, the worst is over" this time, and actually executed the high-five. The barrel roll towards the end was really nice, but I was experiencing a strange mixture of "this is kinda fun now that the worst is over" and "I feel like I'm gonna throw up." I can't really describe that juxtaposition of feelings, only to say that it was strange.

The car came to a stop, abruptly, just before the unloading station, and I put my head down. I had my head down for what felt like about ten minutes, but was probably far less than that. I lifted my head up, and finally the car moved into the unloading station.

I undid the seat belt and safety bar faster than I have ever done so on any restraint system I've used in my entire life. I started pushing AJ and screaming "OUT, OUT, OUT." At least I think that's what I did. Biting my fingers until one of my cuticles started to bleed, I went down the exit ramp. I proceeded to dart across the path, sit on the edge, curl up in a fetal position, and rock back and forth.

I was pleasantly surprised at what happened next. I'm not sure why, but I expected to be relentlessly teased. Instead, [livejournal.com profile] backroomdealer and [livejournal.com profile] justaredherring were absolutely amazing. Seriously. You guys rock.

I didn't feel much at that point other than an extraordinary urge to throw up. I wasn't sure who asked, because I was caught in my own little scary place, but I got asked if I needed a drink. Fearing that sucking down anything would make me puke instantly, I refused. I continued to rock back and forth. I got asked again if I wanted anything to drink. Now I felt like I was going to puke instantly if I didn't drink something. I asked for a Sprite. I handed AJ a bill out of my wallet. It could have been a $1 bill. It could have been a $50 bill. I didn't know or look. I had no idea.

AJ went off to buy me a drink, and it seemed to take a long time. I calmed down a bit and tried desperately to analyze what about that ride freaked me out, because at that point I didn't know. Personally, I was curious to know only so I could figure out which coasters I could ride and which to avoid. Kendall and I got to talking and we figured it out. I get freaked by sudden drops where I feel like I'm going to fall out and hit the pavement. Unfortunately, this is a prime reason coasters are built, and ruled out about 90% of the coasters in the park. I fail.

My drink arrived, and I sucked it down. To me, it seemed I sucked it down pretty slowly. I don't know. I got some change back with my drink that I didn't bother to count because I was still too frazzled. Like I said, I could have gotten a $1 back from a $50 bill to buy a stupid Sprite, or AJ could have had to pony up some extra cash. Either way, I would neither have known nor cared very much.

I decided that I could actually ride Gemini again, given that I now knew exactly what to expect, however, I was not going to do so that day.

I was a little bit saddened by this, because I had hoped I would get on one of the big coasters that take your picture by day's end. I wanted a picture of the three of us on a ride together, partly to prove I had conquered my fears, and partly because I just wanted a picture of the three of us. However, it was not to be this time, because I was not ready for any coaster that had a camera on it. (And no, not a kiddie coaster.) I'll just have to go back, I suppose.

I don't know what happened next. I think we wandered around the park a bit and took the train around the park to try and calm me down. There was a shirt that was looked for to purchase and not found, if I recall correctly. We made a plan. The plan involved getting dinner and wandering around the Halloween-y areas of the park. The plan involved my two companions riding progressively scarier coasters that I now knew I wanted no part of.

Once we'd eaten, we went through the fright zones, which were completely lame. We went in and watched a play of "The Tell-Tale Heart" that was good.

Then, we crammed into another ride-around-in-a-circle type ride. The centripetal (centrifugal?) forces pushed me out into Kendall, squeezing her against the side of the car. I wasn't sure if she was laughing or squeaking in pain because the music was loud. I tried to move closer to AJ on the other side of the car, but due to physical forces I could not. After that ride (I think), we split off.

I wandered around for a bit, getting lost, looking to go into one of the haunted houses. I found one, but the line was a 2 hour wait. I figured that was probably not worth it, and got back on line for Cedar Creek Mine Ride, since I knew that one was no problem for me. I'm not sure what happened, but my second time on the ride, it felt completely lame. There were more young children there, since it was night and a Halloweekend, so perhaps they were running the coaster a little more slowly. Perhaps because I'd been scarred for life on Gemini, Mine Ride was now No Big Deal. Perhaps it was a combination of those two things. In either case, I didn't notice the big drop I'd noticed before. The coaster felt much slower, and even though it was now dark out, I felt disappointed. I got off the ride thinking "Good Gorb, that was lame; the first time was far more enjoyable." Perhaps that is a good sign? I don't know.

I wandered around some more, bought myself some overpriced water, and debated giving Mine Ride a third try. I decided against it because it was a 30 minute wait. I wandered up to Mean Streak and met with Kendall and AJ just as they were getting off the ride. Turns out that's the only one they went on, due to excruciatingly long lines. They got a keychain picture of themselves on that ride, and I was kind of jealous of that, because, well, like I said before, I'd wanted a picture of the three of us on a ride.

[livejournal.com profile] justaredherring went to get coffee. [livejournal.com profile] backroomdealer and I went on the Ferris Wheel. (No, we did NOT make out.)

The night ended with me waiting in line with [livejournal.com profile] justaredherring and [livejournal.com profile] backroomdealer for Raptor, and getting some really dirty looks from the ride operators as I walked straight across to the exit to wait for my companions to finish their ride.

In sum, I'm glad I went. Kendall and AJ are both awesome and wonderful and really helped. (Really. Thank you both. You have no idea. Well, maybe you have SOME idea.) I think I could go again, and progressively tackle some more coaster fear. Who knows. If I keep going, maybe I'll be able to ride the über scary coasters some day. One can only hope.

I'd prefer, however, to go to Six Flags Over New England or Canobie Lake for that, as they are much, MUCH closer to home for me. I don't know anyone who would go with me to those parks who would be as patient with me, though. I'll just have to trek out to Ohio again someday, which wouldn't be too bad. Though I love to drive, the 1400 miles I put on my car this weekend, and the 12 hour drives on either end of the weekend took their toll on me. I need more time at my destination -- two or three days instead of one. But I'm not sure when I'll have that at a time when anyone else would.

For now, I'm off to bed. I have some pictures (not too many), which I will post later in the week, most likely.

Date: 2007-10-16 03:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] justaredherring.livejournal.com
The thing at the end of Mine Ride and Gemini is actually called a helix (http://americacoasters.com/CoasterInfo/photos/helix.jpg) (a barrel roll (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barrel_roll) is a type of inversion). ;)

I'm glad you had such a great time! I was a little worried a few times (namely after Gemini, and then when we split off), but it seems to have worked out. :) It's too bad the Fright Zone and CarnEvil weren't better, but I guess the success of those really depends on the group and how many people are in them (I don't think there were enough Screamsters for the number of people). =/

In 1978 when it first opened, Gemini was the tallest and fastest in the world with a lift hill of 125' (initial drop of 118' at a 55° angle) and a top speed of about 60 mph. I know you probably didn't notice, but my blue train beat your red train. ;D We may have to have a rematch at some point.

We may one day get you onto Dragster. Or maybe not, as I know a lot of people who would not even get into the queue for it. But maybe Maverick? ;)

Date: 2007-10-16 05:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tckma.livejournal.com
Aww... thanks for worrying. Talking to you after Gemini actually helped calm me down. Especially trying to figure out what freaked me out so much, and using that to create a plan as to what I could ride after that.

The worst thing that happened to me after we split up was that I got lost a few times (even with a map of the park in hand!). After I got off Mine Ride, I got your text message that you were still on line for Mean Streak, so I decided to try and find that ride and wait until you finished riding. But I couldn't FIND it, and I got lost about four times. So, I got frustrated and wandered around looking for cheap water, and debated another Mine Ride. I saw the wait was a half hour, and so I sat and drank some water, and decided instead to try to find Mean Streak again. I found it, walked back across the track, saw the insane line for Maverick, texted you about it... debated Gemini again VERY briefly, quickly deciding that to try it again would be insane with no one to hold me, hug me, or buy me a soda afterwards. So I walked back and saw you guys on the other side of the tracks. So I only went on one ride where you guys didn't come with me.

Heh. Sorry for being boring with that last paragraph, but that's exactly what I did and what went through my head.

I agree, the Fright Zone/Carn-evil had too many people in them and not enough park workers in costume. It's also extremely difficult to scare me in that type of a situation. I suppose, like you said, it's more fun if you have at least one person in your group who's easily scared.

I noticed your Gemini train finished first, right before I put my head down. I didn't really care. I'm not sure why we stopped just outside the unloading station (it felt like they jammed on the brakes and weren't expecting to have to stop the train). Anyway, I welcomed the opportunity to, well, put my head down and catch my breath without having to stand up and walk anywhere first. I was certain if it had just stopped at the unloading station, I would have collapsed into a pile of jelly.

Some day, I do actually want to be able to get on Dragster (there, I admitted it). I'd definitely try Maverick first, though. I've got to build up from small to insane -- that seemed to work well this weekend. Dragster will be a few to several years away. I'll get there eventually, I think.

July 2008

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