There I was, strapped in with no way out. Despite the crowd, I felt a certain silence accompanied by an ominous breeze that had me regretting every single decision that led me to this moment. Had I really just waited an hour and 45 minutes for a 17 second death sentence? We slowly rolled forward, stopping right before the 4 flashing lights that would signal the beginning of the end. I stared ahead in agony with a death grip on my restraints, wishing for it all to be over. All of a sudden the lights whizzed on and I was catapulted forward, screaming for dear life.
Let me tell you how I got here.
I'd always had somewhat of a one track mind, and when it came to hobbies I was nothing but dance, dance, dance. I was comfortable with doing something I loved with the girls I'd grown up with and, tempting as it was, never really cared to take the extra half hour trek to my school in the name of the Ping Pong Club. But over time, I realized I was missing out on the opportunity to meet new people, so I cowboyed up and joined the flag line!
My first day at band camp was a little demanding. The flags we had to spin were taller than I was, and every day I'd come home with my arms feeling like jello. But I really enjoyed learning a new skill and even got to help choreograph some of the dancing in our routines. All the while, I was making some great new friends.
But let's flash forward to where the story begins.
Our band director had signed us up to march in a parade through a nearby amusement park, Cedar Point, A.K.A "America's Roller Coast". Everyone had been looking forward to it because after the parade, we were free to roam around the park doing whatever legal actions our hearts desired!
We all had to stay in groups of four, so I eagerly joined a group with two other flag girls and a majorette. Only later did I find out I had nooooo idea what I was getting into, and that's a 'no' with five O's. We're talking serious business here.
As we made our way through the park, the others started raving about how we were going to ride all the biggest and fastest and loopiest coasters the place had to offer. The little warning siren in my head started going crazy. Roller coasters? Big? We? What?!?! Clearly I hadn't thought through the possibility that these new friends might not share in my love of merry-go-rounds and the crazy bus. I looked around for another group to join, but it was too late, I was in for the ride of my life.
I decided to make the most of it though and figured maybe we'd start out small and work our way up! Nooooo we did not. As we got into the first line, I looked up at "The Mantis", in all its horror. Loops, spins, near-misses, it didn't even have seats! My first roller coaster outside of the "Junior Gemini" and I'd be facing it standing up and upside down. Oh boy.
When we got to the front of the line, they strapped us in and sent us off with the usual ride warnings. I closed my eyes and said my prayers, but when we finally took off, I didn't feel the absolute terror I'd been expecting. I felt like I was flying! It was amazing, nothing could compare to the thrill I felt, whooshing by in the wind and over the water. When it was over I was brimming with excitement. I wanted to ride it again!
Our day kept going in the same way. We'd move onto the next roller coaster and the next one after that, each one bigger, faster, or loopier in its own way. Every time I had something new to worry about until we got on the ride where I felt the rush I was growing to love. There was one roller coaster though that we were saving for last. One that taunted my newfound confidence, silently laughing at me each time we walked by.
The Top Thrill Dragster, Race for the Sky.
It goes from 0 to 120 in less than 4 seconds, sending you straight up and straight down a ridiculous 420 feet in the air, the second tallest roller coaster in the world, all in a simple 17 seconds. I could've cried just looking at it. A part of me had hoped we'd be so busy riding all the other rides that there wouldn't be enough time to make it to "The Dragster", but it just wasn't my day.
Getting back to the screaming and catapulting forward, I was almost 200 percent positive that I was going to die. Legend had it there were people who tried putting their arms up on the ride that had to go to the hospital because the ride went so fast, they dislocated their shoulders. That was close enough to death for me.
The car screamed forward and, aside from my squealing, I didn't dare move a muscle for fear of serious bodily injury. Before "I THINK I'M GONNA DIE!!!" could escape my lips, we were paused at the top of the 420 foot hill, overlooking the entire park and the nearby lake. I could only admire the view for a little bit though because from where we were, there was only one way down.
We started rushing off again, this time straight down, dashing to the finish line. The car stopped just as abruptly as it had started and while all the riders started clapping and cheering, I breathed out a sigh of relief. I did it! Just that morning I was convinced I couldn't even ride a baby coaster, and now I had conquered the worst 17 seconds the roller coaster world had to offer.
Today I love roller coasters and am as eager as ever to hit every single one an amusement park has to offer. Aside from my new found love of thrill rides, I learned a lot that day. Sometimes in order to make great new self-discoveries, you have to put yourself out there and take a chance. Waiting in the wings, you'll soon find that life will quickly pass you by. Had I never joined my school's flag line, I never would have made my great new friends or learned that I really like roller coasters!
I also learned that sometimes, peer pressure can be a good thing! I'm not suggesting you all go out and try drugs or jump off a bridge, but your friends can be a great help with facing your fears or taking a risk. Sometimes a little push is all you need to start your race for the sky.
Author's Note: Sources: http://www.coastercommunity.com/photos/var/albums/Parks/Cedar%20Point/Top%20Thrill%20Dragster_002.jpg?m=1326326504