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Random Thoughts

Roller Bawl

Hudson Cooper
Posted 6/17/22

Growing up, I had dreams and ambitions of becoming an astronaut. I envisioned blasting off and orbiting in a space capsule. I watched films of astronauts training on all sort of challenging …

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Random Thoughts

Roller Bawl


Growing up, I had dreams and ambitions of becoming an astronaut. I envisioned blasting off and orbiting in a space capsule. I watched films of astronauts training on all sort of challenging equipment. Zipping around to see how they stayed calm in a speeding centrifuge looked exciting. However, any desire I ever had to be a spaceman came to a halt the first time I rode a merry-go-round.

I never got to try reaching for the brass ring sticking out of the dispenser as my ceramic horse zoomed by. Pardon my colloquialism, but the only thing I wanted to reach for was a “barf bag.” When the ride started to slow down, I pried my hands off the connecting pole and waited for the opportunity to dismount and put my feet on terra firma. I hit the pavement and wobbled to a nearby bench. I decided that the closest I would ever come to being an astronaut was when I had a glass of Tang for breakfast. Tang was a powdered, orange-flavored sugary mix that was advertised in the 1960’s as the drink of choice of America’s astronauts.

My inability to handle the spinning merry-go-round, did not stop me many years later for attempting an even more intimidating amusement park ride…the roller coaster.

My first and only experience on a roller coaster was memorable. I was dating a woman who had a ten-year-old son. We went to the Great Adventure Amusement Park in New Jersey. For myself, it turned out to be a not-so-great adventure. At that time, the park’s main attraction was a coaster called “Rolling Thunder.” Staring up at the ride and hearing the eardrum shattering screams of the riders, I told my date and her son that there was no way I would join them. Her son called me a chicken and my date “double dared” me to go on the ride with them. I begrudgingly agreed.

Since it was the park’s big attraction, luckily for me there was an hour wait to ride the beast. I was relieved and elated when she decided that we would try later. We left the line and started walking away. Her son shouted as he pointed to a sign that offered a different way to ride the coaster. I followed them and soon found a line with only a dozen people. There was no waiting time. I got in the seat behind them and the attendant strapped me in. A bell signaled the start of the ride. The coaster began to move up the ramp…backwards! Cresting at the top there was a slight pause before we raced downward testing both my fear and sense of nausea. When the ride was over, I wanted to kiss the tarmac and made a mental note to never go on a roller coaster again. Now when I join friends at amusement parks, I never go on the coasters. I opt instead for a peaceful overhead tram ride followed by corn dogs and cotton candy.

The history of roller coasters begins in Russia in the 18th century when they created twisting and turning ice ridges during their brutal winters. They became so popular that in 1784 Catherine the Great had one built for the summer that was a cart with wooden wheels that rode on tracks. Over the years roller coasters switched to steel tracks which opened up the possibilities of inverted loops and sharper twists and turns all designed to make you scream and queasy.

The only power source to drive a roller coaster is the mechanism that pulls the coaster up its initial climb. Unknown to most riders, the laws of physics are at work. During the climb, the coaster is storing potential energy. Once the coaster begins its first descent it is converted into kinetic energy. That exchange between those two energies continues until the ride comes to an end.

If you ever go to an amusement park with me, you can witness a display of my stationary energy as you ride a coaster with a threatening name like the “Fast Track to Hades.” I will be sitting on a bench near the roller coaster’s exit checking the park’s map for the nearest location of a corn dog concession.


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