By Amy McCollom
I remember my very first roller coaster ride so well. I was six years old, and my good-hearted Uncle Bill took my sister and I to a little amusement park for a fun day of rides and treats in Paris, IL. It was the first ride of the day. It wasn’t a very tall roller coaster, but to me it might as well have been a mountain, because I was a tiny little twig of a kid. Uncle Bill sat on a bench by the exit and waved at us as we were loaded on.
I got fastened in on the left side of the car, and my sister was on the right. We were in the very first car, and the coaster was a train-of-sorts, and we were in the engine. Our feet were under, and there was a rounded surface of the body of the train in front of us. I think it even made a choo-choo whistle sound as it started to leave the “station.”
I had never been on anything like this. It didn’t take me but about three seconds to figure out I didn’t like it. Up over the hills, and around the curves, faster and faster! I cried out, and wanted off of that thing! I just knew it was going to crash! It even tilted and my sister sloshed over on me when we went around the corners. I looked down and all I could see was green grass, and that’s when I decided my plan.
I somehow managed to unfasten my seatbelt, and climbed up on my seat, and waited for the right moment. My sister kept yelling at me, then she started grabbing at me and hitting me, but I didn’t let her deter me. I was getting off that crazy thing before it killed me!
Carefully, when the train started to go up the next hill, I leaned up onto the body of the train and got one of my feet on top, and belly- crawled onto the top of the train car. I was holding on for dear life. I knew I could jump off when we went around the next curve and land in that soft green grass, then I would be safe.
But my darn sister grabbed my foot! I kicked, and yelled, and she smacked my bare leg and wouldn’t let go of me! I was getting angry! I needed her to let go before the next curve so I could jump! Time was of the essence! Couldn’t she see that!?
I finally wriggled out of my shoe and was free, but then the train was slowing and came to a stop, and next thing I know, the attendant was plucking me off the top of the train and carrying me to Uncle Bill. I didn’t get to jump, but at least I was able to get off that crazy train. I was so happy to be off of there I didn’t care if people yelled at me.
Fast forward 17 years, and John takes me to Six Flags for the very first time. I was 23 years old and this was my first time in a real full-size amusement park. I had told him I was afraid of roller coasters, but he was determined I would ride one with him. He promised to keep me safe, and I was crazy in love.
As soon as we got through the gate, he grabbed my arm and ran with me straight to the entrance line of a roller coaster ride. I can’t remember the name of it, but it went upside down and looked terrifying. I was afraid to ride it, but I knew he wanted to ride it really bad, so I decided I would just close my eyes and take one for the team. He knew if I had time to think about it, I would change my mind, so that’s why it was the first ride he took me to, so there we were. The first riders of the day on the hottest, fastest, most daring roller coaster in Six Flags that year. It was a very quick ride. Good thing; my heart couldn’t have handled a long ride like that.
I survived, thankfully, (but I never did put all of my weight on it.) I didn’t breathe during the ride either. Apparently we went upside down a few times, but I just scrunched up into the fetal position and tried not to die. Thank goodness it was over in a matter of minutes. I did not try to get out of my seat on that one.
After that ride, while I was still in shock that I was alive, John grabbed my hand again and ran with me all the way to the entrance gate of the iconic Screamin Eagle. That is a very, very tall wooden roller coaster at Six Flags, for those of you who don’t know.
I balked, I was trying to talk him out of it, but then our turn came up and the attendants were too quick and I found myself buckled into the seat and there was no turning back and no unbuckling my seatbelt from there.
I tried to scrunch, recoil, shrink, or melt down where I could hide from the experience, but the seats being the way they were, you had to just ride with pride and face it head-on. I did think I was going to die a time or two, and my stomach was left on the top of those tall hills, but I endured to the end. I actually opened my eyes a couple of times and felt like I was flying like an eagle, which was cool, but closed them again when the bottom dropped out of my stomach.
Would I do it again? Nope. I have too many things that can be jostled loose and broken now, like my spine, my gizzard, my heart, intestines, GERD, and bones that are barely held together with weak ligaments and worn out tendons. My eagle flying days are over. I wouldn’t even ride that little train coaster, even if my sister didn’t ride along to hold onto my leg so I couldn’t jump off.
Nah, I get queasy if I drive under an underpass too fast these days. My thrill-seeking days are gone. Life is a roller coaster enough just making it from day to day. I’m just fine watching the fun from a shady bench now; just like Uncle Bill was all those years ago.