It?s roller-coaster time at America?s amusement and theme parks. Time to laugh in anticipation as the coaster takes its sweet old time clicking and clacking up the first incline and then shriek in mock terror as it seemingly hurls you off the edge of the earth into an abyss of steel and wood below.
But some newer coasters don?t click and clack at all. They go from a dead stop to 100 kilometers an hour in four seconds.
The total ride, which lasts two minutes max, includes loops and sideways dips and sometimes something called ?double helixes.? We don?t know for sure what those are, but we?re terrified just hearing about them.
Some wooden, rickety roller coasters are modest affairs. Then there newer monsters such as ?Son of Beast? at King?s Island in Ohio. It climbs 66 meters into the air at one point, and it hurtles 2,100 meters from start to teeth-rattling finish. If that?s the son, we?re afraid to ask how big Papa Beast much be.
Several thousand thrill-seeking coaster nuts - we use the term affectionately - are members of ?ACE,? the American Coaster Enthusiasts? club. One of its most attractive privileges is that, at every ride in every park in the country, you get escorted to the head of the waiting line.
These folks will ride the steel dragons seven or eight or 10 times in a day. If the track flips you sideways or upside down for a time, all the better.
Many coaster freaks tell us their favorite thrill is what they call ?air time? or ?hang time.?
As one fellow told us, ?You?re going over a hill, and you still have vertical ?G?s? from going up. And suddenly the car is pulling you back down. It lifts you out of your seat and gives you that belly feeling like you?re falling through space.?
That ?belly feeling.? Sounds . . . delightful.