Sunday, March 22, 2015

Why I Don't Ride Carnival and Amusement Park Rides.

There are two reasons why I will not get on carnival and amusement park rides. Besides generally being unsafe and not fit for humans, I had a couple of terrible experiences in my early childhood. In short, I refuse to become a statistic.

The first incident involves a type of ride that's known in the carnival industry as an Octopus (SDC Polyp Variety). A half dozen cars hanging on beams are positioned around a center axis. The cars will go up and down as they spin around. The speed at which the cars travel steadily increases. To make matters worse, at some point, the cars slow down for only a brief moment, then go quickly in reverse! I had the displeasure of riding this sort of attraction with my parents. I must have been four years old because my brother Joshua hadn't even been born yet. We were at the South Central Fair in Chase City, Virginia. I sat between my mom and my dad in a ride car. As the speed got faster and faster, the centripetal force of the ride caused me to get squished like a sandwich. It took all the air out of me and I simply couldn't breathe. When the ride was over, I tumbled to the ground and immediately vomited everywhere. If I remember correctly, my dad lost his glasses as well. All in all, it was a terrible evening.

The second incident involves the long defunct Smurf Mountain ride at King's Dominion, just outside Richmond, Virginia. This was a train-style ride that carved its way through a man-made mountain. In the tunnels that the train passed through were various animatronic scenes depicting the Smurfs in a plethora of scenarios. I would have been approximately eight or nine years old at the time. As the train pulled its way through the tunnel, it suddenly came to a screeching halt. Myself and the rest of the passengers sat motionless in the dark for a few minutes. Eventually, a park attendant told us that we'd have to exit the ride and walk out of Smurf Mountain. It wasn't as simple as it sounds, though. Because of the way the ride was designed, there weren't any escape doors or hidden passage ways to leave the mountain. I had to walk on a tiny ledge along the train track pathway in the dark. The attendant told us not to fall onto the track because it was electrified. With my back against the tunnel wall, I walked sideways ever so carefully. All along the way, the robotic Smurfs, evil wizard Gargamel and Azrael the cat were moving and reaching towards us. I was the very last person in line and absolutely terrified. Eventually, I made it outside and into the light. It was one of the most horrible things I ever experienced as a child. Afterwards, I learned that the ride had a major mechanical failure, never to be repaired. This was partly due to the declining popularity of the Smurfs -- it just wasn't worth returning to operation. As such, I hold the distinction of the being the last King's Dominion visitor to ever ride Smurf Mountain. It sat dormant for a few years before receiving a total upheaval. Smurf Mountain became what's now known as Volcano, the Blast Coaster and is still in operation to this day.

Here's a video that illustrates what Smurf Mountain looked like on the inside. Please excuse the poor image quality -- this is obviously a promotional video recorded in the 1980's.

So there you have it. My two reasons for not ever setting foot on a carnival or amusement park ride ever again (except for the reasonably secure carousel or bumper cars).

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