Dear Coaster Friends,
I have been riding roller coasters since I hit the height requirement, all without encouragement. My parents and my sister hate roller coasters, so no help there. Roller coasters, especially while on vacation, were a big part of my youth and I love that they have become a major interest of mine as I navigate each stage of my life. Even though there are plenty of old roller coasters out there the riders are mostly teenagers, but I am not. I’m actually not even close but I’m in pretty good company I was born the same year Gemini at Cedar Point, Loch Ness Monster at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, and Shockwave at Six Flags Over Texas were introduced. My age has let me experience different rides that aren’t easy to find anymore like Dinn woodies, Arrow shuttle loops, and some of the first true launch coasters. In total I have ridden about 20 defunct coasters that were either scrapped or have been reimagined by RMC. Even though roller coasters will eventually get to a point where they will break down, I don’t want to suffer the same fate.
When you get older you see your friends fade away sometimes; I have written about some of my favorites in the past like Hercules, The Great American Scream Machine, and Batman & Robin: The Chiller. However the rides aren’t the only thing getting rough I am too, I even have had to have spare parts installed. While rides like Batman: The Ride seems to never age other coasters once loved you find yourself bracing yourself for now, like the Predator. I have to be an adult, but I want to have carefree fun like when I was a kid. How do I strike a balance? A little planning and self control can help you really enjoy the day, but as you get older these might become more and more of a necessity. So if you used to charge up the steps into the station and now you pull yourself up asking your riding partners, “Did it always have this many stairs?” this is for you.
The first thing I learned was the sun is strong, stronger than anyone young or old. The longer you sit out and fry in it the earlier in the day you are going to run out of energy. Wearing a hat is a simple way to fight back against the sun, but the best way is to stay hydrated. I know many of us have a souvenir cup for soda, but that isn’t really helping us. You need to drink water, staying hydrated will obviously give you more energy and prevent heat exhaustion. Most parks have a policy that if you ask for water at a location that sells food they will give you a small free cup of water, take advantage of this policy. If you are prone to headaches or feeling nauseous the problem could be dehydration or heat exhaustion. Sipping a nice cold drink out of the sun is a great way to recharge. I also personally like to ride attractions that create their own shade around 2:30 when the sun is really strong. So maybe hop on the train for a lap, ferris wheels with covered seats, and skyrides often offer a nice breeze and a shady seat too.
Be active, not just at the park, just be active. If you sit around wearing an ass groove into your couch all year and expect to pop up and spend a majority of the day on your feet walking around that isn’t a realistic expectation. My wife and I wear fitness trackers so I have a general idea of how far I walk per day, but when we spend a day at an amusement park we add a lot of steps compared to the norm. So instead of listening to that podcast about roller coasters on your couch pop on a pair of headphones and take a walk, it won’t be a shock to the system if it is a regular part of your life. Most parks have a normal traffic flow but if you do a walk from one side to the other you could be going about a mile, if you navigate that path a few times those miles will add up. I know that we typically walk three to four times the distance of a normal full day in just a few hours at a park.
Always be prepared, ok I got that from the Boy Scouts but it applies. Know the locations of water fountains, dress in comfortable clothes for the time of year, have shoes that are easy to walk in. I know this seems like common sense, but sometimes it's best to not assume. Visiting the parks as you get older isn’t a chore or an endurance trial unless you make it one. Visiting the parks when you are older is a treat and the best treat is being the host and sharing the experience.
We have already established that we are no longer teenages, so you might be the parent. Some of that planning ahead may need to be aimed at the kids no matter what their age. Make sure they are following the same advice and that you are setting them up for success. Otherwise your lack of a plan will end with you dragging a half dead walking zombie of a child back to the car. Hopefully they haven’t puked on themselves or you. Motion sickness isn’t a problem that develops when you are old, in fact the people who are most affected by surprise motion sickness fall between the ages of 2 and 12. I have a toddler and I get really excited at the parks to ride the roller coasters, but when I am taking a young child I need to slow down to their speed. The day is really their day to have the experience, and you may not be able to do your normal thing marathoning your favorite rides. I also have a niece that I take to the park and she is a teen, and the park is really built for her so my task is to step it up and keep up with her. Sometimes you have to know yourself and suck it up and wait on line with the kid and help them get pumped only to step through to not over do it and end their day. As the adult you may take a bit longer to recover from the dip, turns, and inversions compared to a teenager.
There are advantages to not being a teenager, you can decide the budget. I know the fast lane systems are sometimes a controversial topic, but they are widely available at different parks across the country. They do all work differently but the idea is the same, pay for the experience you want to have. I enjoy having the option to buy fast pass because it allows me more time to be leisurely, I don’t skip taking care of myself, and most importantly I am not stuck in a cramped uncomfortable queue. While you have that credit card out think about booking a hotel close to the park so you can take a break in the middle of the day, or just not have to travel home. Bonus points if you book one with a hot tub, that is my favorite way to unwind and recover after a day at the park. The goal is always longevity for me personally, and that doesn’t matter if we are talking about the day, the season, or my lifetime. I said at the beginning I was happy to have roller coasters in every stage of life and that is what I am looking forward to. Heading out to the parks with my daughter when she is ready for thrill rides. Enjoying the flexibility of retirement and choosing the best time to visit. And, dare I say it? Bringing grandchildren to the park?