Originally posted on Multiply 25th May 2008
Back in 1996 I travelled to the US for the first time, and being a rollercoaster fan and a big kid at heart, it was off to Florida and all it’s attractions. At the time I was still married, so the party consisted of me, Vicky and my mom and step-dad. I still can’t figure to this day why my parents wanted to come along, it was just so not their thing (as they kept telling us all through the holiday LOL). As well as visiting all the main Disney parks and other attractions like Busch Gardens and Sea World, I’d also wanted to try out one of the famous ‘water parks’, as back then they were not a common thing here in the UK. After some discussion it was decided that we’d try the water-park called Blizzard Beach, one of Disney’s water-fests. The big attraction of this park was a monster water-slide called the ‘Summit Plummet’. It’s the world’s highest and fastest free-fall water slide, at 120 feet high, with a near-vertical drop. Some riders have been clocked up to speeds of 55mph. Well, I was fascinated to see what it was like, but not really sure about going on it. I’m a fan of rollercoasters, I’ll go on the biggest, fastest, tallest. No problem. Thing is, I have faith in the technology. On a water-slide….it’s just you and the slide. No technology to help you out.
So, on that day, we were up and out early and caught the service bus from the hotel to the park. We got the early bus, so arrived before the park was open. We had about 20 mins to wait until opening time, so loitered amongst the small but growing crowd. As with all Disney-owned operations, there was entertainment to keep you amused while waiting (they don’t want you getting bored and going somewhere else!!). There was a comedian, who kept up a running banter with the crowd. As it got nearer opening time, he started asking questions of the crowd. Who’s here from Germany? A few hands went up. Who’s here from Australia? Another few hands. Who’s here from England? Quite a few went up, including my own. Ok, says our host, who out the English crowd is here for the first time? Only a few hands now, still including my own. I got this sinking feeling as the hosted pointed to me and said ‘Sir, would you mind joining me here at the gate?’ Over I wandered, trying to look unenthusiastic (which went totally un-noticed). ‘Sir, we’d like you to do us the honour of opening the park for us today’. Well, that didn’t sound too bad. I had visions of cutting a ribbon and smiling to polite applause before continuing on with the day. How wrong could I be??? ‘Sir, what we want you to do is ride our big attraction slide. We give you a count-down and as you come down the slide, the gates open and everyone comes in’. Oh shit!! I looked around and figured there was no way I could escape through the crowd before being caught, so I bowed to the inevitable. With a weak smile and even weaker knees, I allowed myself to be led off to the changing rooms.
The scene cuts now to the slide itself. After an interminable climb to the top, with several stops for oxygen and a change of sherpa guides, I looked down. I was now convinced I was going to die. The slide actually does not have a pool at the end of it like most water-slides. It just ended in a wall and some false but genuine-looking rocks. The guy in charge at the top gave me the standard banter. Cross your arms over your chest. Cross your ankles. Do NOT uncross either while in motion. And…….HAVE FUN!!! I nearly said ‘Yeah, right, you’d be having fun if I threw you off the top huh?’ But I kept my mouth shut. Ok, it was time. I sat on the lip of the drop. I heard the count-down over wise-guy’s radio. As it hit zero he yelled “GO GO GO!!” like a manic American version of Murray Walker. Unfortunately at this moment my ass had developed Velcro and steadfastly refused to move, even though I was reluctantly trying to push myself off. No problem, my best friend with the radio came to my aid with a hefty shove in the back. The acceleration of near-freefall is incredible. I was sure I heard a sonic boom about half way down. Unfortunately, at this point my ankles decided they weren’t friends and parted company. The resultant ice-cold water enema was the template for the entire trade of colonic irrigation. The spray coming up off my feet had already blinded me, I couldn’t see anything. I felt my body go from vertical to horizontal. Relief, it was nearly over. But why wasn’t I slowing down?? I was still going far too fast. I had visions of the wall and the false rocks rushing towards me and I let out what I though was a deep roar “arrrrghh”. It actually probably sounded like a girlie shriek. Finally I came to a stop and sat up. Wiping the water from my eyes, I saw that the end of the ‘roll out’ was still a good 10 meters away. I looked at the smirking faces of the first groups of people coming into the park and summoned up my best nonchalant tone “That was great!!”
Needless to say I didn’t go on that ride again that day. Give me a 400 foot high, 100mph rollercoaster any day. They are a lot less scary!!