Rollercoaster Legacy

Joni turns three years old in a few weeks.

Ever since my slight obsession with Rollercoasters started in 1999 I have been forcing friends to come along to ride them with me. As a teenager I arranged for a bus day trip to Blackpool Pleasure Beach with five other friends that coralled two friends who didn't like rollercoasters to come along, and managed to convince a friend's father to pick us all up at 5am, an ungodly time of the day for a teenager. Later, Colin then I drove from Glasgow to Alton Towers and back with friends to go and ride the rides, two trips that sit as easily the most memorable moments of my teenage-hood. On the trip back when I was driving we came across a massive car accident on the M74 around Junction 15 that killed four people and gives me shivers every single time I drive past that point.

What I am trying to paint is that over time I've forced friends to come with me in my pursuit of rollercoaster fun. I regret not forcing friends to go to Magic Mountain in LA back in 2011, but I think that would have been a stretch too far. Ever since I became a father though I've eyed a holiday to a theme park as a goal that would later become a place to ride rides with my brood. Connie has various positions on rollercoasters; she used to ride them, but is unsure if she'd enjoy the rides as an adult, and that I can respect - even I had to pause when Colin and I went to Blackpool a few years back and I saw the height of the Big One from the rational mind that I now have as an adult.

Joni is now three basically and we went to a small family theme park in Bracebridge towards the end of the holiday called Santa's Village, themed around the fact it's Santa's summer home and southern branch office - and who wouldn't want to holiday is the Muskoka Lakes? The park is aimed squarely at the 3 to 10 demographic, the tallest and most thrilling rides being a 30ft ferris wheel themed to christmas baubles and a brand new spinning rollercoaster called the Peppermint Penguim Coaster that probably reaches a max speed of around 30mph.

My fear was that Joni wouldn't enjoy it at all - Connie had been there a few weeks earlier and said Joni had had a blast, but had postponed Joni's first rollercoaster ride until I was there, a gesture of sheer love and affection for my obessions that only my wife can truly understand and only I will truly understand how it made me feel. I was nervous that introducing Joni to a "big" ride, and worried it would put her off for life if it scared her shitless. Luckily, she actually, like her old man, loves being scared shitless. She's a wee adrenaline junkie and had no fear on any of the rides. The spinning rollercoaster was the only ride who had a minimum height restriction due to the over the shoulder restraints (OTSRs in technical lingo) and she was pissed off that she couldn't ride it - and despite it's diminutive size it packed a punch.

My memories of rollercoasters as a kid are great - I remember the Zipper Dipper at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, now known as Blue Streak in the Nickelodeonland area, a part of the park Joni would love. I also distincly remember, aged 9, refusing to go on Nemesis the year it opened at Alton Towers, and then again refusing in 1997 when they were building Oblivion, my dad going alone on the ride as we all waited. I remember going on the Big Dipper for the first time and realising how even the smaller rides can kick your arse (a fact I neglected to remember when I implored Colin and I to ride in the back row on our first ride at the park a few years ago, and it gave me a fright). I also remember going to Pac Asterix and riding the horrendous head banging mess that was the seven-looping Goudrix with my dad, who just shook his head afterwards, before we found the incredible Tonnerre de Zeus (still ym favourite rollercoaster of all time, actually) and rode it as the last thing before we left the park.

The fact that Joni and Etta, and Connie too, might join me on these rides in the future excites me - not just for bonding and the fun we might have, but the possible future of travelling in the North East of the US and Canada to places that have rides that are truly terrifiying, rides that I might not go on if it were just me - I realised that Cedar Point, home to some of the most famous rides on the planet, is only seven hours drive from Connie's home town whilst writing this post. If I'm to keep up appearances to my daughter or daughters, I will have no choice but to grin and bear the huge drops and racing speeds.

That's the kind of legacy I want.