DISCLAIMER: I DO NOT OWN ANY OF THE PHOTOS IN THE POST. All the photos of the coasters were taken from Coaster Gallery‘s Carowinds page.
Okay, so those of you who pay way too much attention might notice that my “What I’m Reading” shelf hasn’t changed at all in the last two weeks. This isn’t due to a lack of ability to update it. I make a determined effort to keep that widget as accurate as possible. This is due to the fact that I haven’t read anything this week. Okay, I’ve listened to a bit of The Secret Keeper on audio but it’s so damn long I really haven’t even made a dent in it. Plus, it’s not something that’s grabbing my attention in that obsessive I-must-find-out-what-happens-next sort of way. It isn’t really the books fault. It isn’t my kind of book and I don’t know what possessed me to request it for review, but I did and I will make an effort to read and review it, if only to stand by my word. ANYWAY, there is a reason I haven’t been reading and that reason is I can’t concentrate. My thoughts have been so focused on something else that it’s impossible for me to read. Crazy, right? I mean reading is my #1 hobby and if I can’t do that, the world must be coming to an end, right? I have been so focused on this mysterious other thing that it has completely taken over my brain. What is this other thing, you ask? What could possibly distract you from the magical awesomeness that is books? In words that everyone will understand: roller coasters. In more specific terms: Cedar Fair’s amusement park Carowinds. For those who don’t know, Carowinds is an amusement park that is located in Charlotte NC/Fort Mill SC. It straddles the state line.
It actually takes a lot of effort for me to call it Cedar Fair’s and not call it Paramount’s Carowinds, which is what it was for most of my childhood.
Before I get into the rabid fangirl mode where I basically lose my ability to articulate how much I love rollercoasters, let me give you a little background. My mom is deathly afraid of heights. She was that parent that freaked out if I got a little too close to the ledge on my front porch (and heaven forbid I get anywhere near the edge of a balcony). But, somehow, she loves roller coasters and thrill rides in general. She even loves the Windseeker ride, which is a set of swings that are attached to a tower that pull you 300 or so feet into the air while twirling you around in a circle. She loves it. On the other hand, my dad, the resident daredevil who spent my childhood climbing mountains and riding four-wheelers (quite recklessly, I might add) absolutely hates roller coasters (and Carowinds in particular). Now, in his defense, he hates roller coasters because they give him really bad motion-sickness. He hates Carowinds mostly due to the massive crowds, something else he can’t stand. Either way, between these two, I was a entirely fearless child. I would ride anything in an amusement park they would let me on. I was driving a four-wheeler (a full-sized one, mind you, not the kiddie version) with a clutch and all before the age of ten. Hell, I flipped one and got right back on once they freed me from underneath it. I would regularly pull my trampoline up to the side of the trailer (yes, I lived in a trailer park) and jump off the roof onto the trampoline, a thought that now terrifies me.
The point is that I have loved roller coasters from a young age. I honestly couldn’t tell you what the first one I rode was or how old I was because I just don’t remember. It was young enough that the memory is jumbled in with all the rest. All I can tell you for sure is this, I remember waiting in line to ride Top Gun (now named Afterburn since the name was copy-righted by Paramount, tied to the film) the year it opened in 1999, which would make me 10. I know with certainty that it was not the first roller coaster I ever rode. I spent entire summers going to Carwoinds as many days as possible. I got a season’s pass every year and I used them well. The year I got my license, I spent the entire summer there. I probably showed up at least once a week, if not more. A gold season’s pass pays for parking and gets you in the door, so as long as you don’t buy anything, that’s all you need. I had endless amounts of love for this place. The summer before my senior year in high school rolls around and I get my seasons pass and force my boyfriend (now husband) to get one as well. We go and I realize that I am like my dad. The motion sickness hit me hard for the first time in my life (a curse that has gotten worse with age because I know get it just riding in a car for too long). That combined with the fact that Russell wouldn’t get on most of the rides with me killed a bit of the enthusiasm. I mean, I’ll ride by myself, it’s just more fun to share the experience with someone. The motion sickness made it impossible for me to enjoy the rides. It was a depressing thought, to say the least.
I haven’t been back since. As much as I loved roller coasters, I couldn’t bring myself to try again, especially considering the next year I was out on my own with no real “fun” money to waste on a super expensive ticket. I always missed the experience, but the motion sickness was debilitating and since I know it’s gotten worse, I figured the chances I’d enjoy any ride were slim to none. Guess what! I was wrong-ish.
The day before Independence Day, the urge to go to Carowinds hit me in the face hard. It was all I could thing about. Something I didn’t mention before is that going to Carowinds on July 4th was a bit of a tradition growing up. We went every single year because the park was dead. Everyone is off barbecuing or fishing or just hanging out with family and no one goes to Carowinds, except a few enthusiasts like us. The are no lines, there is no wait time, even on the big name rides. It was the perfect day to go and we took advantage every year. I don’t know why it hit me this year when it hasn’t in the past 5, but I had a desperate urge to go. I called my mom and found out she was going the day after and I decided to go. Russell decided to come with me, mostly so I wouldn’t be alone a lot. The plan set, I spent most of Independence Day bouncing with excitement for the coming day. I was going to Carowinds and I couldn’t wait.
The plan, because we all know I had one, was to meet at my mom’s and have breakfast before heading to the park. Carowinds opens at 10 am, so I planned to be there when they opened and leave at 10 when they closed. This is insane, but considering the tickets are $58 per person (plus $15 for parking), I wanted to get my money’s worth. It’s a little more than a half hour drive, so I planned to leave an hour early to compensate for traffic and the possibility of getting lost. We get to my mom’s a little after 8 and eat pancakes. At 9, when none of her crowd is ready to go, I leave and go anyway. This is the main reason Russell went with me, so I wouldn’t be alone when I wanted to go. It’s a good thing we didn’t wait because they didn’t arrive at the park until after 1, which is ludicrous in my opinion. We hand over our money and enter the park and I’m hit with a cliched sense of home. So much has changed and so much has stayed the same and I found myself smiling just to be standing on the bridge that enters the park.
Planet Snoopy is a new addition, taking over what was Nickelodeon Central, so all the rides there have been repainted and rethemed. I immediately want to ride The Indimidator, a monstrously huge hyper-coaster, but I know there is no way in hell Russell would ride it with me, so I opted, instead to find Ricochet, a wild mouse coaster and give it a go first, so we can ride together.
Then we go to ride Thunder Road, a wooden coaster, but end up at the Hurler instead, which is also a wooden coaster. I ride it while Russell waits. For whatever reason, he can’t get over the fear to get on it, so yay alone rides. Apparently I was on the last coaster to go because they shut it down immediately after I got on it. Woohoo for getting to ride it.
Then we go ride Goldrusher, the park’s oldest roller coaster, which is a kiddie coaster.
Motion sickness wise, I’m perfectly fine on these. I didn’t get a hint of nausea or discomfort. Right next to the entrance to Goldrusher is the Carolina Cobra, which is a new-to-me ride. I know it’s been there several years, but I haven’t been to the park since it’s arrived and I instantly want to ride that. It’s a boomerang type ride with loops.
This ride, though totally awesome, makes me a little sad. It’s in the space where the Flying Super-Saturator used to be and I really enjoyed that ride. It makes me pretty sad that they removed it, but what can you do? Anyway, I get on the Cobra and immediately as we go through the first loop, I feel nauseated. I get through (and mostly enjoy) the ride because it’s very short, but I now know that loops is what set off the sickness. Knowing this, we head for Thunder Road. Russell has ridden this coaster with me before, but once again, he can’t get on it. I ride by myself again and feel terrible. About halfway through the ride, I genuinely feel like I’m going to lose my breakfast and desperately want off the ride.
So, once set off by loops, nausea continues regardless of the ride. Gotcha. Fuck me. I call my mom and ask her to pick up some Dramamine on the way. I have been avoiding taking this because Dramamine’s #1 side effect is drowsiness. If it puts me to sleep, it kinda defeats the purpose. I take it anyway, hoping the adrenaline from the rides will offset the drowsiness. From there on, we make our way through park, Russell only riding one other ride, the Flying Ace Areal Chase (formerly Runaway Reptar).
I, on the other hand, rode everything else. Carolina Cyclone
Afterburn (formerly Top Gun) twice
The Intimidator, also twice
The only coasters I missed are Lucy’s Crabbie Taxi (which is a tiny kiddie ride), Woodstock Express (formerly The Fairly Odd Coaster, formerly The Scooby-Doo coaster) and Nighthawk (formerly Borg Assimilator). I didn’t ride Nighthawk because the line is always so ridiculously long and it’s a slow moving line. Where the Intimidator’s medium length line took less than half an hour, Nighthawk would have taken over an hour.
Dramamine helped a great deal. It’s not perfect and I did feel the drowsy effects once, but it works well for the purpose. It also doesn’t make it totally go away. I can still feel the nausea, but it is a much lower level and I love roller coasters enough to deal with that.
After an extremely satisfying day, I headed home and I have spent this week mostly reading through websites about Carowinds’ history and legacy. I have also been reading sites speculating about the new ride for next year. Cedar Fair announced last year that they are going to be putting in a $30 million coaster (as well as $20 million in other improvements) and the enthusiast community is full of theories and excitement over said announcement. I have been obsessed and I can’t stop. I want more. I want to know more. I want to see more. I just WANT.
I’m going back this weekend (well, it will be the past weekend by the time you guys read this) and I’m so excited. I feel like I have reconnected with a long lost friend and it’s an amazing feeling. I don’t know why I waited so long to try going medicated, but I’m glad I did.
The basic point it that I am too keyed up for my future trip to Carowinds to concentrate on anything beyond obsessing over it. I’m been doing everything from reading the history, to searching out pictures of the infamous White Lightnin’ a shuttle loop coaster that was there in the 80’s to just looking up POV videos of the rides to relive the thrills. Hopefully this weekends trip will get it out of my head enough to let me get back to my reading!
Have any of you guys visited an amusement park? Or Carowinds specifically? Any roller-coaster junkies out there? Let me know in the comments!