I Created A Rollercoaster Monster

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Sometimes I think people come up with daily holidays just because they have too much free time, or maybe they work for Hallmark. I’m not sure of the actual process for declaring a “National Day” for something, but there are many websites (like www.nationaldaycalendar.com) dedicated to identifying and promoting each day, week and month for something.

In August, there are daily celebrations for things like coloring books (Aug. 2), watermelon (Aug. 3), fresh breath (Aug. 6) and even waffles (Aug. 24). If you like ice cream, there are five individual days to celebrate everything from the popsicle to banana splits.

On Aug. 16, we are celebrating a holiday that is close to my heart—National Rollercoaster Day. There is only one place to ride a real rollercoaster here on Long Island, and that place is Adventureland in Farmingdale. This year marks their 55th in operation.

In July of 2015, Adventureland introduced a new rollercoaster, “Turbulence,” with seats that rotate while it travels along the track. It’s the only coaster of its kind in the Tri-state area. Just recently, they saluted their one millionth “Turbulence” rider in less than three seasons of operation.

Since the early 1960s, Adventureland has been a favorite for teenagers. Remember the first time you were on your own at Adventureland? You bought a ticket book and had to decide how to shrewdly use the coupons. You couldn’t keep going on the bumper cars or the Music Express (which no longer goes backwards) because there wouldn’t be enough tickets left over to ride the rollercoaster. You couldn’t even fathom leaving the park without at least one ride on “Galaxy,” which was replaced by the “Hurricane” coaster in the early 1990s.

As we grew older, we introduced our small children to the excitement of rides at Adventureland. At times, we would coerce them onto the Lady Bug, a kid rollercoaster, to get them acclimated into the world of thrill rides after spending way too much time on the carousel.

When he was a young teen, my son James never rode the rollercoaster. Like most Long Islanders, we visited Adventureland many times, but I could never convince him to try it. One trip, after riding the “Hurricane” by myself, I persuaded him to give it a try.

I detected fear in his eyes as the attendant strapped us in, realizing there is no backing out. The car begins the long, slow climb up the track (click, click, click), advancing us higher and higher into the darkness. Finally reaching the pinnacle, a brief pause allows you to lock eyes one last time in a “What are we doing this for?” moment, before gravity takes over, plummeting you down into high speed twists and turns, screaming and laughing all the way. Your body releases endorphins and adrenaline as a reward for surviving the ride.

Although hoping he would enjoy the experience of his first real thrill ride, I was surprised his reaction was mediocre, at best. He said it was “OK,” but wasn’t interested in going again.

Fortunately, the layout of Adventureland requires a stroll past the rollercoaster numerous times while traveling between attractions. Each time we walked past it, I would whisper in his ear, “It’s calling you, James…” or “Come back and try me again, James…” Finally, by the end of the night, I had induced him to join me one last time.

As we exited “Hurricane,” he was a different person. He wanted to go on it again, and again, and again.

Many of our future family vacations took us to destinations like Disney World, Universal Studios or Dorney Park, each of those having at least one thing in common, rollercoasters. The bigger, the more outrageous, the more terrifying, the better for James. I had created a monster.

Maybe spending National Rollercoaster Day at Adventureland isn’t such a bad idea after all. Let’s see, what special day is it tomorrow? Aug. 17 is National “I Love My Feet” Day. Wonder if I can get an appointment at Happy Feet for that celebration?

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