Did you know they now call rollercoasters “aggressive thrill rides”? I didn’t either, not until confronted with the sign posted just inside the cattle corral that wound back and forth in front of Skyrush, the tallest, fastest and longest coaster at Hersheypark. Completed in 2012, Skyrush towers over the park, the large golden arch demonic in its glory. I should have known that when I said “one rollercoaster” to my husband that he would pick that one.
I should have known.
Shuffling through the turnstiles, I battled with the usual pre-coaster jitter. Holy crap, I’m going to die. The rails would buckle and twist just as my car hit that crucial turn. My harness would fail. My heart would slam to a stop and refuse to beat—ever again. I wished I’d had surgery, or that I was pregnant. Anything to get out of the ride. Beside me, Husband bounced on his toes, gripped my hand and smiled that smile he smiles when he’s really, really pleased.
I had to go on the ride.
Here’s a description of what awaited me within a double locking harness:
After climbing 200 feet into the air, you’ll touch the sky before flying downhill at 75mph in the winged seat coaster train. Skyrush will take you to the very edge with four high speed turns, five zero-G airtime hills, and the highest drop in Hersheypark!
I don’t know what sounds more awful: the two hundred feet, the seventy-five mile-per-hour speed or the five zero-G airtime hills. Even the winged seat coaster train sounds terrible. Why did it have wings!
Mercifully, my impending death came quickly. The line was short and after a mere twenty minutes, we were seated. I turned to the woman next to me and apologized in advance for deafening her. I was going to scream. I knew I would scream. I wondered if I’d be able to talk afterwards—if I hadn’t fallen from my harness, reached the stratosphere in a free-soaring “winged seat” or simply died after the first drop.
The ride to the top of the two hundred foot drop is pretty quick, which is a good thing. One of the worst parts of a rollercoaster ride is that clack, clack, clack to the top of the first rise. Too much time to worry about falling backward or wonder what will happen after the crest. Here’s what happens at the crest of Skyrush’s big climb: the track disappears. It’s, like, gone. You cannot see it. For a split second, you are poised, mid-air, with no view of how you’ll get down.
I might have died in that moment. Then my body plunged forward and I yelped. And then I shut my eyes because, holy mother of God, if I wasn’t already dead, I would be by the time we hit the first turn. Beside me, my husband began a litany.
We left out seats. I rocked up to meet the harness, catching air for the first of five THRILLING times, and then gravity caught a hold of me again, pushing me into the seat with the force of seventy-five miles-per-hour. I’m sure there’s a formula out there to calculate that force. He said it again, “Oh, fuck”, and we slammed to the left, or maybe the right. The world rolled. I thought about opening my eyes and managed to slit them, just a bit. Wind tugged at my lashes and threatened my contact lenses. I squeezed my eyes shut again and gripped the handles at the front of my harness with everything I had in me.
We rose up and slammed back.
We whipped left and right and around and around.
When would it end?
See the expressions of my companions? They’re not smiling. They are GRIMACING. Air is pulling at their faces, tugging their lips wide. They are not having fun. They are convinced, like me, that we are all going to die and it’s going to be the messiest, most painful death in the history of amusement park rides.
We didn’t die.
But I did have a little trouble walking when we got off the ride. I’m pretty sure that if my bladder had been full, I would have wet myself. As it was, I stumbled on rubbery legs toward the exit. One of my knees buckled. Later in the day, my legs would start to hurt from the tension of that interminable sixty seconds of aggressive thrills. Husband’s legs hurt, too. And his arms. He might have kept his eyes open (so he could announce every looming thrill with an “Oh, fuck”) but he was as
thrilled terrified as I was the entire time.
He bought the official photo, of course (see above). He has a collection of these. He always gets the keychain and delights in showing his wife’s terrified face to anyone and everyone. While my knees were buckling, he was sharing the “after” picture on Facebook (see below).
We celebrated the fourteenth anniversary of our wedding this past weekend. I… I just don’t have a comment for that.