Saturday, September 04, 2010

The Roller Coaster

Back in 1990, I was an avid member of the American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE). It was a nationwide club of roller coaster geeks who would travel around the country riding roller coasters, meet at conventions and enthusiastically talk about new coasters, statistics, and endless details.

Total coaster nerds. I loved it.

I lived in Dallas at the time and the Six Flags park (the ORIGINAL Six Flags Over Texas) was building a record-breaking wooden coaster, the "Texas Giant."

Oh my gosh, us coaster nerds were NUTS about the Texas Giant being built there. During 1989 while it was being constructed, I and my coaster buddies, Tim, Gary, and Byron would drive out to the park every weekend to watch the construction, piece by piece.

Mind you, this was before the days of the internet or cell phones or texting. We actually had to go there -- and then actually call each other, breathlessly,  -- on a land line telephone, to report the progress. We took photographs of every board being nailed -- with a camera containing film -- developed the photos and gathered together to share the photos.

This was only 20 years ago.

It was wonderful.

One day during January of 1990, my coaster buddy, Tim, and I were parked outside Six Flags taking photos of the nearly-completed Texas Giant coaster. It was a cold, blustery day and we noticed that the workers had left the service entrance open. So, we wandered into the park so that we could get some close-up photos of the big wooden coaster.

We were able to walk right up to it and noticed that none of the construction crew were around -- none at all. So, we climbed onto the new, wooden track. Oh my gosh, this was so cool!! We were actually standing on the wooden track of this new coaster! We took notice of how many layers of wood lay between the rails and the base, how often the rails were screwed into the wood, etc. (Yes, we were total coaster nerds.)

Then, we noticed that there was nothing inhibiting us from climbing the lift hill all the way to the top. We were dying to see what the first drop looked like, so we started up.

Mind you, the Texas Giant was the world's tallest wooden coaster at the time, so it was quite a ways up there. On a cold, blustery day in January. Up and up  - - and up we went.

Finally, we reached the top! None of our other coaster-nerds had ever seen this coaster from the top of the lift hill, or could have imagined what it would be like, but there we were! I doubt that Sir Hilary had felt nearly such exhilaration when he reached the top of Mt. Everest.

My coaster-buddy, Tim, snapped a photo of me standing, triumphantly, at the top of the world.

(Even though we were dying to see what the first drop looked like, we were afraid to venture down it -- it was just too steep and scary.)

A couple of months later, we got to be some of the first passengers on this record-breaking coaster when it opened. (They test it with sand-bags and then put us coaster-nerds in.)

That was an incredibly exciting time.

The thing is, wooden coasters were never meant to be built that tall or fast. A seven-ton vehicle screeching down a 150-ft drop on wooden track at 65 mph is an incredibly rough event. Over the past 20 years, the roughness of this monster just got worse and worse.

So, for the 20th anniversary of the Texas Giant, a slick new steel track is being installed. It's being re-designed to be taller, faster, smoother, and much more exciting. The first drop has been raised higher and features a nearly 90-degree angle. No other wooden coaster has ever undergone such a reconstruction.

The old coaster-nerd in me is awfully excited. I'm back in touch with my coaster buddies, Tim and Gary.

Only now, we don't have to call each other or meet to compare photographs. Six Flags Over Texas has installed a daily time-lapse photo update of the reconstruction -- we can email each other, oogling over each piece of track that they'd lain, can discuss the angles of every drop, and once again, breathlessly anticipate what the ride will be like.

The first drop has just been completed and here it is:

I was standing on top of that drop 20 years ago. I would never have believed that it would someday look like this.

We may not be calling each other on land-lines anymore -- and I think "texting" is the digital equivalent of sending smoke signals and also believe it to be the absolute annihilation and destruction of the English language  - -
- - However, this would definitely be one instance when I would text "OMG!!!" to Tim and Gary.

I'm re-joining the American Coaster Enthusiasts simply because we'll be getting to be the first to ride this puppy once again when it opens in March of 2011.

I definitely think that Tim, Gary and I should get the first ride.

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At 8:48 AM , Blogger Bob said...

How cool to be able to walk to the top like that!
I love a good roller coaster, though Carlos is more fond of :::yawn:::merry-go-rounds.
It's a battle.

At 8:52 AM , Blogger Mom said...

WOW ! I am a roller coaster scardy cat, but I love your enthusiasm - it is infectious. I am anxious to hear how the new giant compares to the ride 20 yrs ago.

At 11:24 AM , Blogger Barb said...

OMG! That is so cool. I love that you were brave enough to climb up there in the first place and look at you all cute in your jeans!
I love a good roller coaster ~ Can't wait to hear all about this one.

At 11:38 AM , Blogger John said...

I'm terrified just LOOKING at that thing! How on Earth can you do it? Go down that steep drop I mean... Total insanity... have a wonderful time!

At 1:20 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not so much the speed or the angles that scare me, it's the height. But I believe we've covered that.

At 10:50 PM , Blogger Miss Healthypants said...

I love that picture, dude! That is so cool! :) But yeah, you are a total coaster nerd. *smiles*


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