“You’ve never been on a roller coaster??!”
I have no idea how many times I was asked that question, but it must have been double figures.
No, I had not been on a roller coaster.
People seemed genuinely shocked when I told them, as if I had missed out on a childhood rite of passage or something. Unlike other parts of world, New Zealand doesn’t have a roller coaster culture. When I was growing up there was only one place in the country you could do it, a couple of thousand kilometres away on a different island. That might still be the case, as far as I know.
I know, we’re strange like that.
That was all about to change, however. I was in Denver, Colorado for a travel blogging conference, and had chosen the ‘adrenaline’ option from the list of pre-conference excursions. A great idea when booking it a few weeks earlier, not so good when waking up early with an altitude-induced hangover from a beer-tasting event the night before.
The bicycle ride from the convention centre to Elitch Garden’s amusement park didn’t seem terribly adventurous, and taking pretty photos from the observation platform seemed like the perfect type of adrenaline sport for someone with a headache and vague waves of nausea.
And then we headed for the roller coaster.
Strapping ourselves in amidst much whooping and hollering, I started to doubt the wisdom of what was going on at exactly the moment the carts started to clatter forwards. Perfect. Well, there was no backing out now. We climbed slowly away from the starting point, up an incline, paused briefly … and then, with a stomach-spinning lurch, we were off.
What followed was possibly one of the least pleasant minutes I can recall. Unsure whether to shout, scream or throw up violently on the person in front of me, I opted instead for loud cursing and willing my stomach contents to remain on the inside.
I really shouldn’t have had that last beer the night before.
After at least 18 million hours we finally completed our loop, coming to a sudden halt that just about finished what the rest of the ride had started. “Would you like to go round again?”, inquired our host. I suspect my attractive shade of green may have answered the question.
Walking unsteadily away from the ride, I wondered aloud what lay in store. A nice cup of tea, perhaps, coupled with a very long nap?
“Oh no”, came the reply.
“You’re going on another roller coaster.”
I think I may have let out a small whimper at this point. Perhaps a solitary tear rolled down my cheek.
Just to make things more interesting, this sadistic torture device fun ride was much older than the previous one. Much whiter. Much … woodier. And a hell of a lot more decrepit.
We crawled slowly skywards, chattering nervously as my stomach attempted to climb out of the cart and return to ground level. Somebody came up with the bright idea of holding our arms above our heads for the entire ride. Well, at least it gave me something else to think about other than whether a selection of Colorado’s finest ales would taste as good the second time around.
Round and round we hurled, as I alternately screwed my eyes shut and then snapped them open in case we were about to fly right off the tracks. This. Was. Not. My. Idea. Of. Fun. I waved my arms around in the air, partially in solidarity with my travel blogging colleagues and partially to signal for help to anyone who might be watching.
If I thought the previous ride took forever, the length of this one was measured in geologic time scales. Generations passed. Entire galaxies were born, lived and died in the time it took to complete one loop of that damn roller coaster.
Staggering towards the restrooms, someone with an overly-cheerful smile stopped me in my tracks.
“So, that was your first time on roller coasters huh?”
I nodded grimly in reply.
“How was it?”
Quite possibly the worst experience of my life.
Thanks for asking.