Central Florida is on a roll with its coasters. Epcot’s new Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind ride marks the fifth addition to the local lineup in the past year, and according to the online Roller Coaster Database, the Interstate 4 lane is now home to 45 roller coasters, s stretching from Orlando to Tampa.
If you combine his numbers for Orlando, Lake Buena Vista and Kissimmee, you land at 29 options from top to bottom. I’ve been on all 29 at least once, though it’s been a while since I’ve been on the Pteranodon Flyers ride at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, a ride that in my amateurish opinion barely counts in a list of roller coasters.
I thought I had a great story to share about each coaster, but I haven’t yet discovered any new rides, like SeaWorld Orlando’s Ice Breaker, enough to experience anything unusual. Instead, here are five of my standard roller coaster tales, presented in the order in which they happened.
Picture it, high school group trip, Tomorrowland. Sliding through the PeopleMover we come into the Space Mountain stretch and the lights are on. Spirits blown. At the time, darkness was a big part of the mystique of the mountain, so it was a rare treat. It also made it a little scarier, if I remember correctly, and it looked like a big steel knot.
I have no photographic evidence of this. We lived in the moment and the cameras were not yet an extension of our bodies. But I’m always prepared with an unlocked iPhone on PeopleMover trips now.
Ah, the late great Dragons. The two-track ride, which used to be where Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure now operates, was a big draw for me, especially during the soft opening/passholder preview phase of IOA . Although not everything was open at the time, crowds were thin for several weekends before the official opening in 1999.
That’s when I rolled into the first row of Fire, the reddish rail, then crossed the empty queue/loading platform to ride the first row of bluish ice. It started to rain halfway through the second ride, but I didn’t care. Return to the Dragons action was unlikely to happen again.
(Sidenote: In a feature in Sentinel’s Calendar section titled “Letters to Cal,” a 1999 question was asked: Could you be “too tall” to ride Dragons because of the near-miss design with your feet on the passing trains? The answer: The “thrillmeisters at Universal might not want you to know this, but the coasters don’t pass as close as they seem. So even if you had, say, Shaq on Ice and Gheorghe Muresan on Fire, everyone would be fine.” Muresan, at 7-foot-7, was the tallest NBA player in history. Shaquille O’Neal was a “mere” 7-footer 1 inch.)
Hulk ate my cell phone. It was my fault for ignoring the lockers provided. I can’t determine the year, but I have two clues: it was before the metal detectors at the ride, and I was wearing cargo shorts.
I had put my phone in the side pocket, which was buttoned. Still, halfway through the ride, I thought “Wow, that was a bad idea”, but I could feel with my hand that the phone was still there.
When I got up at the end, the phone wasn’t there. Surprisingly, I was shocked by this. We peeked into the grassy area under the rail as if it could magically land without breaking. Then it started to rain. Lesson learned.
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The coaster was still new and a colleague was eager to try it. After we sat down in the overhead vehicles, they turned to me and said, “Oh, you should know, sometimes I pass out because of these things. Do not worry.”
Then, just like in the queue, the Manta sound effect went off and the seats tilted to the super-manta position and took off. I tried not to worry and consoled myself with the thought that if you’re going to pass out, Manta’s seats are better designed to hold you upright, sort of papoose style.
Happy ending: No smelling salt was needed after we got back to the station.
Yet another colleague joined me for a glimpse of Mako. We were seated in the front row for a video shoot. There was a delay and we sat there watching the high hill and also Kraken, who (falsely) appears to be tangled with Mako.
The tension mounts, but we are finally on our way. My co-worker is screaming bloody murder, and not in a “this is so much fun” sense. As we were walking back into the station, one of the techs said the camera wasn’t working and we had to go back.
My colleague said, and I’m going to paraphrase, “Oh, no! »
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