A Ride Warrior's Story - Gentle Rides to High Thrills

If there's one thing that gives me the most thrills other than music, it's theme parks. I'm a warrior: I'll go on just about anything that makes me scream and laugh; whether it loops and twists, spins and tilts, or zooms at a great speed.

But, it wasn't always like that. Growing up, I wasn't very open with rides. I was scared and felt like someone would make me go on something when I wasn't ready to face it. It turns out I never had to worry, and I ended up having a good time. Here is the story about how I went from being a scared little girl to a ride warrior and conqueror.

In the GTA, the closest major theme park was Canada's Wonderland (it was actually owned by Paramount Pictures when I first started going there). I was still quite young when I went for my first time there, so I found myself in the kid's zone riding spinning airplanes, carousels (even today, I still love a good swing ride or merry-go-round!), swings, and other gentle rides.

Rollercoasters were the hardest to overcome when I was a kid. I didn't know why at first, but when I look back, I imagined it to be how they were generally fast and bumpy with all the hills.

They must have changed the faces on the cars. That's not what they looked like when I rode this coaster. Maybe they wanted to make them look more "friendly" after I outgrew it.
Taxi Jam was the smallest coaster in the park; but since I was small too, it looked intimidating at first. After a few rides, I was able to enjoy it. At that time, both Taxi Jam and the small swing ride next to it were my favourites when I was a little pyjak.

My parents were always wanting me to try new things, so eventually they got me on Ghoster Coaster: a small wooden coaster. I didn't like it at first. Going on it for the first time felt like I was riding one of the bigger wooden coasters in the park, and wooden coasters are bumpy AF.

However, there was a time when Wonderland had two rotating rides next to Flight Deck; previously known as Top Gun when Paramount owned the park. Those two rotating rides known as The Fury and The Great Whale of China, were much faster spinning than what I was used to in the kid's zone. They were crazy fun rides, and perhaps my ability to enjoy them was hinting towards that one day I'd go further, faster, and higher. Whenever I stood in line with my family to ride them, I would gaze up at Top Gun and watch it run.

Watching Top Gun absorbed me with all its twists and loops, the people screaming, and even the sound it makes when the cars ascend the first hill remains in my head writing this. It looked really scary, but inside there was a thought brewing: Someday, I will conquer the high thrills. It won't be an easy journey, but I must find courage if I love this place so much. I mean, really, I wouldn't want to come to Wonderland if all I wanted to ride were just five things and go home!

Ladies and gentlemen: Flight Deck Jr.
A couple of years later, Silver Streak was introduced to the area of the park I spent most of my time in. To me, it looked like the kid's version of Top Gun. I was scared at first but eventually went on it. After waiting in line for almost an hour, I got on it, and something happened that I never thought would. When the cars reached the top of the hill, I started screaming as I was whipped fast around every turn. But, I wasn't screaming because I was scared, no, I was screaming because I was having fun. You could probably hear me if you were standing outside the exit. It was like a new-found love had blossomed. Then, overtime I was able to give Ghoster Coaster another chance and conquered it.

Many things happened as my parents would get season passes and we went multiple times in the summer. On one trip, we decided to explore the rest of the park. Along the while, I rode Swing of the Century, and today it is my favourite ride that relaxes me when I need a break from the high thrills. My mom eventually wanted to go on Minebuster; Canada's largest wooden coaster. I protested, believing I was not ready to go on the big things just yet. I was right once the ride started; I definitely wasn't ready. I came off the ride crying. 

If I really wanted to go from the gentle rides to the high thrills, I had to begin with baby steps: so, if that meant starting at the smallest coaster, and going with something medium next and working my way up, then it was the best way to go. You know what they say: "Don't skip any steps."

For the next several years, I didn't go to Wonderland. It bummed me out, but at the same time it also gave me time to grow up a little and realize that if I ever wanted to go back there, I would have to start broadening my horizons because eventually I would be too big for those kiddie coasters I loved so much at that time. You could say that my break allowed me to prepare for what would await me when I was to return.

By the time I went back. I knew it was time to start trying new things and continue up the thrill ladder. I started to go towards the midway area closest from the park's entrance and Klockwerks, eventually became a new classic favourite. Today it remains one of the rides in the park that I go on first when I arrive.

One of the rides I always go on first when I arrive
It took a lot of persuasion, but soon I was able to ride Thunder Run. I would wait in line for a long time and I came to love it afterwards. There was the sound of a heartbeat deep within the mountain; once the train went through, you could see it was a dragon, and the final tunnel had light-up arches. I would still hear the dragon's beating heart as I walked through the exit tunnel afterwards. Last time I went on Thunder Run, I didn't hear and now it makes me wonder if they ever fixed it.

I also overcame The Fly too which was another ride like Minebuster where I was too young to be ready for on the first time. Yet, I watched it every time I rode on the kiddie cars next door as well as the ones next to Wild Beast.

A few more years went by, and I think it was before I started high school and I went back to Wonderland with one of my friends whose father owned a cottage we would visit almost every summer before that. She stayed over at my house and we went to Wonderland on her last day. Eventually, she wanted to go on Vortex. I was reluctant, but went anyway because it was more fun to go on with a friend. I had no inside fears as I waited in line.



The moment we got on the ride I felt a wave of nostalgia; as Vortex was another ride I grew up watching. If we were heading out or deeper into the park and I saw the cars going up the first hill. I would run under the metal awning just a few meters ahead. Above it was the track of the first drop. I would stand there and watch as the cars zoomed down over my head. My heart raced as I sat in the blue boat of a car and we went up the first hill. This would be the first high thrill I had been on since Minebuster. I was less unsure of myself at this time; so perhaps inside I knew I was ready. And then come the first drop and I burst into screaming. I screamed the same way I did on Silver Streak. I was suddenly having fun again as the coaster whipped me around each tight turn. After that, I realized that I could overcome anything and became eager for more high thrills.

For the next few trips to Wonderland I started conquering almost every ride in the park. When I went with my cousin and family, I got on Behemoth; the first large coaster in the park with its massive hills, speed, and steep drop. I screamed my heart out, and the first time I remember I was scared to put my arms up because of the way the seats were but now, I do it with pride every time I ride Behemoth.

The truth is, I was never afraid of heights, so no wonder I had the guts to ride it!

All those years of watching you, and what did I get? A hurt head.
Yeah, I eventually got on Flight Deck; after all those years of watching it, intrigued. I felt like I was a little girl again as I waited a whole hour to get on it. It was also to be the first coaster in the park that I would ride that had loops and twists. I told myself I never wanted to ride anything that took you upside-down. But, well, times change. If I could handle something as fast as Vortex, and as high as Behemoth, how bad could this be? I once again got on the ride and went up the first hill with anticipation. Little did I know, I was to be met with disappointment.

I began to scream as it took me down the first hill towards the first loop with a twist in the center. But as the ride carried on, my head started banging against the restraints that kept me in place. Thus, it became harder for me to scream. When the ride was over I panted laughing and tried to forget about the ache in my head. Even the gentleman riding next to me could tell it was my first time on the ride! 

So, would I say that Flight Deck was a let down? Yes and no. If you take out all the head banging it's a fun ride, but I am definitely not the only person who was annoyed by that. I don't think it was the loops and twists that caused it. I think it was the design of the cars that made that. I haven't been on Flight Deck in years, but part of me wants to go back on it again to see if they've bothered modifying it after the complains of fellow riders hurting their heads! Apparently some people have offered tips online about how you can tolerate the types of coasters; which are known as suspended looping coasters built by Vekoma. So, this headbanging thing seems to happen with not just this SLC. Some people said: keep your head to the side, to the back, or the front. I don't know, it's been a while since I've rode this coaster so I have no idea if I tried to do that last time or what I should try next time.

Despite that slight let down, I wasn't planning on giving up on any rides that inverted. I went on Dragon Fire and screamed so loud, I think I hurt the ears of people sitting near me. Ha! Then I got on Skyrider, and some fun rotating rides like Nightmares, Shockwave, Psychlone, Orbiter, and Sledge Hammer. They're all great fun.

Have to put Shockwave in here because it's a classic and a favourite! Then there's that dream I had recently with it in it!
I still remember the ads I saw for Shockwave and Psychlone when they were introduced. I'd say of all the higher thrill rotating rides in the park: Shockwave is my favourite with all its simultaneous spins and tilts. It always makes me scream and laugh. Nightmares also comes quite close along with Sledge Hammer. Sadly, there were a few years (and even today still), that Sledge Hammer still suffers malfunctions from time to time. This year a ride called Soaring Timbers; similar to Shockwave was built, but after riding it, it'll never top Shockwave.

In the summer of 2011, I had pretty much rode almost everything in the park that I wanted to try. By then, my friends and I would show up early and get on Behemoth multiple times in a row before it got too busy. We would even ride it after dark before leaving, and that made it even more thrilling. I was enthusiastic as hell to try something new, whatever really thrilled me. I also had conquered Minebuster and Wild Beast too by then, but they were always difficult to ride because you know how wooden coasters are! I did have my limits though. The drop tower didn't appeal to me; not because of how high it was, but because you would sit up there for almost a whole minute before the drop. The only coaster in the park I never rode was The Bat. I had heard stories that it had a lot of technical difficulties despite me never seeing any myself. I might go on it someday though, but most of my friends don't like it.

So, anyway back to summer 2011. I remember I started to see track pieces behind a fence. They were aqua and I knew something was coming. A few Facebook posts later after the park closed for the fall and winter, and I discovered they were making another massive coaster: Leviathan. Everyday I checked Facebook to see if there were any new photos of the construction progress. It was said to be taller and faster than Behemoth! The first drop was also going to be eighty degrees! My parents thought that was insane, but I thought it was intense! I got even more stoked when photos of the finished coaster were revealed.

Come summer 2012, I was ready for Leviathan. I was super excited more than I was to try any new ride. I had never had this feeling for anything in Wonderland in all the years I had been there. The first time I saw Leviathan complete in person, it was MASSIVE and I suddenly wish I could just cut to the front of the line. If I loved Behemoth, I knew this coaster wouldn't disappoint. They're both named after mythical monsters!

Right away before you've even entered the park, you can hear it calling your name and saying "Ride me!"
I waited a long time, but thankfully not a whole hour. I was so shaky when I got on the ride and it ascended the first hill. But the moment the steep drop began, I burst into a loud scream with my arms thrust in the air. I did not stop until it came reached the end. When it was over, I was laughing and wanted more. Now, I make a habit of getting on Leviathan more than once every time I go to Wonderland; just like Behemoth. There were even a few years where I got a season pass and early entry into the park allowed me to ride Leviathan more than twice before the park began to fill up. Then I would also ride it after dark too. One time I went to Halloween Haunt and rode it with my friends. It was chilly up there! But, unfortunately, Halloween Haunt wasn't as scary as Screemers!

I'm still looking to conquer more rides of any kind. This summer I went with my girlfriends to Wonderland, and we were roasting in the heat, so we went on Whitewater Canyon. At first I was reluctant to go on something where I get wet if I didn't have a swimsuit on, but once I actually got splashed, I realized I needed it after all. I never felt cooler!

So, this story pretty much leads up to today. It's always been fun for me to write these stories. I've been going to Wonderland for years; some rides were fun, some were a let down, and there's still unexplored waters out there. However, I also do hope to go to another place. Six Flags Darien Lake maybe, then this conqueror can begin another journey.

Theme parks are just another one of those places that I love to go to where I can cut lose, have fun, and not worry about anything. Wonderland and I have so many memories together and visiting there again this year inspired me to write this. I felt now was a good time to let the story out. I hope that one day I can go beyond that place and start anew at another park with rides just as intense and memorable.

👽Emily

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