Thank Grog It’s Firday!
First of all, I am going to apologize for NOT suffering the same “Lag-Tastic” problems that so many of you are facing with this update. Unlike so many of you, who are unable to utilize the vast majority of the rides for Itchy and Scratchy Land, I am able to place and run all three of the major animated rides in my ISKLand, with no lag whatsoever.
I’ll wait...while you hate me.
I have no idea why I am not suffering…as I have a huge town…am bumping into the Item Limits, and should probably have a laggy, unfulfilling mess of lagging…But I don’t.
I think it is because, deep down, EA knows how much I love roller coasters. I love them…with all of my core. Coasters, in my estimation, are the greatest way to get a thrill that is needed to scare, exhilarate and forget your worries, like almost no other invention by modern man!
I love all kinds of coasters…including the new ones that use military grade catapults to launch you almost instantly to cruising speeds above 70 MPH. But, for all of the cool technology in modern coasters, I especially love the thrill, excitement and danger of a large, creaky, terrifying wooden roller coaster, like the one that “got my coaster virginity” when I was just 11 years old.
Growing up in Portland, Oregon, there was a place that simply exuded danger, intrigue and fun. Jantzen Beach Amusement park was the “go to” place for every kid who wanted to “live on the edge” a bit…and test their courage. It was billed as the “Coney Island of the West,” and lived up to its name. Yes, there were all of the regular amusement rides, loads and loads of “games of skill” (run by spurious carnies who knew how to keep you playing until your last dime was gone), along with an unending number of “food” booths serving carnival food that was deemed unhealthy at the time, but was far better for you than the plethora of strange “fair food” that we see today (deep fried butter? Really??).
There was a huge swimming area, that was fun mostly for its 30 foot “tall tower” where more than one kid faced near-death by belly flopping from that height. But we rarely got to swim there, as it was super crowded, and regularly had drownings each summer from kids swimming under the pier and getting disoriented…a clear design flaw by any standard.
But for me…there was only one reason to go to the park…”The Big Dipper.”
This fabled wooden coaster was renowned by Coaster enthusiasts, teens and pre-teens alike. Fast, rickety, tall and terrifying, its legend was bolstered by a history of a handful of deaths over its long run. This of course only made the coaster that much more alluring to “brave” young riders who were tall enough to ride.
“Tall enough” became a right of passage for all of us 5th and 6th graders at our grade school. Because there was a very strict height limit, enforced by what had to be a “former drill sergeant type” who seemed to take glee in measuring kids to the millimeter, and turning those who didn’t meet the 48″ requirement to ride.
This fact was the reason behind one of my earliest memories of disappointment, as well as one of my first forays into “sticking it to the man,” in my youth.
In 5th grade, we had an annual “end of year field trip” to Jantzen Beach, along with the 6th graders (who pretty much ignored us, as they were discovering the allure of pre-puberty). Being slightly “height challenged” at that age, on my first attempt to ride, I had been unceremoniously dismissed by the attendant, as being “an inch too short…see ya!” This was compounded by the fact that several of my friends, who had also been waiting in line for the last half hour, had passed the test, and had been allowed to ride. We had watched enviably as they had wobbled down the “off ramp” with looks of excitement, nausea and satisfaction.
I wanted to ride. Bad! I had never been on “The Dipper of Death” (as we called it) and knew that until I had ridden it, I was always just going to be labeled as “a kid” (the one thing that no kid wants in life).
Luckily for me, I had company, in the personage of my best friend Jack, who was almost my exact height, of what had been measured at 3’11” by the “gate keeper.” We instantly set about hatching a plan to “beat the system” and get our chance to RIDE!
Looking at our feet, we both realized that we were wearing Ked’s high top tennis shoes. Everyone wore Ked’s high tops back in the day, except for the unfortunate few whose parents insisted on “hard shoes” for school.
We immediately knew what we had to do…and set about finding as much scrap paper from the trash bins as we could find. This wasn’t as easy as it sounds, as we had to paw through layers of waste that was covered with the remnants of countless slippery, sticky, slathery meals of cotton candy, hot dogs, and corn on the cob.
Finally, after a half hour of searching, finding, and folding…we had enough packed material to put into our shoes, giving us at least another 2 full inches of height, while still being able to tie our shoe laces tightly. It took a while to practice walking with our newly-altered footwear…but, we were certain that our efforts were worth it.
As we made our way back to the line for the “Dipper of Death,” we were both buoyed by seeing that a shift change had happened, and a new “gate keeper” was working the entrance. Confident in our illusion, we strode confidently up to the measuring stand. With almost no hesitation, the new attendant barely gave us a second look, and simply said, “OK. Go.”
Jack and I both did our best to maintain our “coolest looks” (for me…a half sneer that I had perfected from watching countless Kirk Russel teen flicks, and for Jack, was more of a fear-addled grimace), and strode onto the platform to await the next set of coaster cars.
I have ridden countless wooden coasters in my life now. But, almost none have given me the abject emotional high of knowing that “this is it…I am going to DO this!” that I got as the coaster clicked up to the top of the initial drop. Sitting at the back of the stack of cars (where we mistakenly thought we would be more safe), we could already hear the kids in the forward cars start to scream before we had even reached the crest. But, in a flash…we were flying down the first drop…and I was already halfway out of my seat, the “safety bar” doing little to hold me tightly in place.
To say that I loved my first ride would be stretching the truth. I was terrified as I struggled to stay in place, with every turn, barrel roll and dip, as visions of headlines flashed through my mind,“Parkrose youth, lies about his height, thrown to his death on Dipper!” But, I made it…and found myself laughing uncontrollably when the cars finally coasted to a jarring halt.
“We have to do this again…NOW!” I said as I turned to look at Jack, who stood up, and immediately launched whatever was left of his lunch, into a sticky, puke-stained trash can nearby. “OK. I’ll go again…” he answered bravely.
And we did. Four more times, before we had to meet our buses to go home.
This single experience launched me on a lifetime of “oh…we HAVE to go there!” that hasn’t really subsided in old age. I have ridden coasters in more than half of the states in the union. And still secretly have a plan to ride one in every state, before I pass on to the great coaster in the sky. Unfortunately for me, my wife is prone to motion sickness, and is only good for one or two coasters a day. But, she is very understanding when I say, “I have to ride this one more time before we go.”
So…yes…The Tooth Chipper, and the Zoominator are in my ISKland park…and I will be expanding the Zoominator as long as they allow me to craft.
For those who are going to ask the obvious question…no, I haven’t had the chance to ride the Cyclone at Coney Island yet…but, it’s on my list for the next time I am out on the East Coast!
Sadly, as has been the fate of countless great amusement parks in the United States, Jantzen Beach is no more…replaced by a huge shopping mall…which is now failing miserably, due to the game-changing beast known as “Amazon.” The Carousel was placed inside of the mall, but I don’t have the heart to visit.
The Dipper was surrounded by huge parking lots, near the primary gate…but it was the FIRST thing you saw when you were driving to the park.
Just one of the many dips, turns and loops…designed to shake you loose from your seat.
Below…a local restaurant that purports to have huge tables, crafted from scrap lumber from “The Dipper” when she was dismantled. Again…I won’t go there…It’s like an open casket funeral for my youth.
Tell me YOUR Coaster tales! Are you a member of ACE? (American Coaster Enthusiasts)…that too is on my bucket list! These guys are nuts!