97 Degrees and Falling Fast

June 17, 2010
By Justin Mills BRONZE, Mantua, New Jersey
Justin Mills BRONZE, Mantua, New Jersey
3 articles 0 photos 0 comments

When I took a seat in the back of the truck, I began to meditate. I knew that in just a while, I would be falling at exactly 58 miles per hour from several hundred feet in the air. I couldn’t think about anything else. My dad kept trying to convince me, “Nothing’s going to happen,” and I knew that, but the ‘What if?’ kept popping into my head. I wondered what would happen if my harness came undone, and shivered. I commanded my wild imagination to be silent, and I tried to get lost in my music. But I couldn’t. The thoughts were there and they were ravaging my consciousness. I was being assaulted with ‘What ifs’ and ‘Maybes’. Just thinking about the coaster made my stomach tie itself in knots.

Then, as we approached the park, I saw the coasters rising above the horizon. The Fahrenheit loomed above us as we entered the park; it seemed to laugh at my terror. I witnessed a group of people plummet down the enormous first drop, and I could hear them scream and wail in horror. My stomach dropped, for I knew that I would be in their position in a small amount of time. My mom nudged me along. We walked through Hershey to rent a locker, and all the while I was staring wide-eyed at the tremendous, bright-orange beast, the Fahrenheit, my heart pumping.
“We should get in line while it’s still short,” my dad suggested, but I refused. For a while I tried to block out my thoughts of the Fahrenheit, but soon gave up. To be honest, a part of me kind of wanted to ride it, just to get it over with, but the other part of me, obviously, didn’t.
After we rented a locker and got our bracelets, my dad and I started toward the line for the Fahrenheit. The line had gotten much longer, and I figured it was at least a 45-minute wait. Watching everyone descend the colossal 97° first drop every 2 minutes wasn’t exactly helping my terrified state-of-mind. People were piling in behind us to ride the Fahrenheit, and there was no turning back now. I came to the conclusion that I was just going to have to ignore my survival instinct and do precisely what I had wanted to avoid. My common sense was telling me to get out of that line, to run away and not look back, but I had already reached a decision. The line moved slowly forward, and I crept closer to my inevitable fate. Thoughts were still racing through my head, telling me that I’m crazy, telling me that everything’s going to be fine, remembering the last time…
When I was younger, around the age of 6, maybe, was the last time I went to Hershey Park. I didn’t remember much, except the Comet. The Comet was my first “real” coaster, and I wasn’t exactly looking forward to riding that, either. But, even so, I got strapped in and off we went. We ascended the first drop, and the whole time I was clutching the safety bar as hard as I possibly could, crying about how I didn’t want to ride the roller coaster, that I was scared. We slowly proceeded over the edge, and went down, and I cried and cried. We were going so fast, I wasn’t used to that. The forces working against my tiny 6-year-old body made me want to vomit, and my mom screaming in my ears didn’t help in the slightest. I bawled for the whole ride, and for a while when we finally got off. I was nearly traumatized, and I vowed to never ride another roller coaster again, for as long as I lived.
The line was shorter now, probably only a 10-minute wait. I was still being tormented by the screams and shrieks of the passengers of the Fahrenheit. The line was growing smaller and smaller, and my heart was pumping faster and faster. We were inching slowly towards the menacing coaster, until finally, we were next. We got in line for the front seat, despite my pleas, and waited silently for the train to pull up. An employee unlatched the gate in front of us, and my dad and I sat down in the very first car. I pulled my harness over my head where it came to rest on my shoulders. I didn’t want to fall out of the car, so I made sure the harness was as tight as possible. The employee walked around and pulled on everybody’s harness to make sure they were secure.
Then an automated voice sounded over the loudspeaker and said something like, “Please keep all arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times, and enjoy your ride on the Fahrenheit.” A few moments later, our train began to move. As we began the ride, I waved my mom goodbye, just in case. We ascended the first drop, which was 90°, perpendicular to the ground. My stomach was turning over and rolling up, and my heart was beating faster than ever. It was too late to turn back, and I knew that. We slowly crawled up the track, the anticipation nauseating me. We reached the peak of the Fahrenheit and advanced over the edge, while my heart throbbed in my chest. All at once, the train plummeted over the 121-foot high drop at 58 miles per hour. The feelings and forces that I experienced at that moment in time were like absolutely nothing I’ve ever felt before. The adrenaline coursed through my veins, and it felt incredible. I felt the wind in my face, flowing through my hair. I felt like I was flying, like I was free. My body was being thrown around like a ragdoll, through twists and turns and loops and rolls, and I couldn’t even really tell which way was up. All I could see before me was the bright-orange blur that was the track of the roller coaster. Throughout the entire ride, I experienced points where the g-forces on my body made me four times heavier, or totally weightless. It was awe-inspiring, like nothing I’d ever done before. We soared through huge loops, barrel rolls, zero-g loops, and cobra elements at extremely fast speeds before screeching to a halt at the end of the coaster.
I lifted my harness and stepped off, onto solid ground. My hands were shaking with thrill and excitement, and I felt great. I was actually disappointed that it was over, but I felt relieved, as if a weight was lifted from my shoulders. I was very proud of myself, for I knew that I had conquered my irrational fear of roller coasters. I was brave enough to look my greatest fear straight in the eye, and I overcame it. As soon as I stepped off, I started toward the next roller coaster, my head held up high.

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