Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Zen and the Art of Roller Coaster Riding

I loved cave tubing in Belize and snorkeling in Cozumel. Climbing to the top of Mt. Vesuvius? I didn't even flinch. In fact I took a little run along the rim.  Sky diving is on my list. But roller coasters...well, they make me nervous. My son and I were at Sea World Sunday and I was focused on shows and exhibits. Roller coasters really weren't on my radar screen. The rides however have become a big part of the Sea World experience. The moment you enter the park you hear screaming. Screaming always makes me a little uneasy. People don't tend to do it when everything is okay. People do it when they are terrified. It was apparent right away that this wasn't going to be the serene marine life experience I'd planned.

Here's why: if you give me a challenge, I'm probably going to take it. I'm weak that way. I can't bear the thought of arriving home and wishing I'd done something when I had the chance. So naturally, Sea World's newest scariest roller coaster had me in its sights.


We got soaked on our Journey to Atlantis!
Mr. Snarky and I stood underneath Manta and watched. Its signature moment is when the track drops near a pool and a carefully timed fountain spray gives the illusion that the riders themselves are skimming the water. My son and I looked at each other, studied the ride, and decided to go ride Journey to Atlantis. I needed to get my roller coaster vibe going on something a bit less thrilling. Let me tell you that you WILL get wet on this ride. A better word may be soaked depending on where you are sitting. At the exit of the ride there are family dryers available for $3.00, if you don't think the summer Florida heat is going to dry you fast enough. On a cool day, it might be worth it though.

Our hotel for this trip was the *Hilton Garden Inn at Sea World, which is within walking distance of the park. The hotel supplies a shuttle to Sea World which is nice, especially if you have little ones, but if you are traveling with older kids, teens, or in my case my college student being able to walk less than a city block to the park whenever you want is extremely convenient. One of the perks included in the price of your stay at HGI is Complimentary Quick Queue Unlimited (front-of-the-line access) at SeaWorld. A savings of $14.95 to $25.00 per person depending on the season

That front of line access didn't allow me all the time I wanted for hand wringing and worrying. That was probably a good thing. We walked in the quick queue line and right up to the ride. I had a moment of panic, but was determined not to be undone by fear.

My son and I sat down in the seats. I'm guessing that fighter jet pilots are not strapped in any more secure seats than exist on this ride. Just about the time I was thinking how secure this contraption was the ride started and the first thing that happens is that you go from a seated position to a face down position. The ride starts and you climb to a height of 140 feet. I opened my eyes as we neared the top and realized what a horrendous idea that was. I closed them and took some deep breaths. I allowed myself to experience the physical sensations of this ride and the powerful Gs it pulls. (I tried not to think about how that might be making my skin sag.) You know those pictures they take on these rides for you to purchase where everyone is smiling and screaming? In our photo my son looked like that. I looked like I was at yoga. Eyes closed. Totally relaxed. Zenning my way through fear.

I didn't open my eyes until I heard my son say  "It's over. Mom, you DID it!"

I wasn't sick. I didn't have an aneurism. My harness didn't come undone dropping me to a sudden death. I actually felt...good.

"Get ready Kraken, I'm coming for you."

I was suddenly feeling bold.

"Mom? Are you sure?"

"Oh yeah. I've got my roller coaster groove on now."

"Oh, you do? Well, let's go!"

Want a virtual ride on Manta? Click here to view the video compliments of Orlando Attractions Magazine.

*Our accommodations were provided by Hilton Garden Inn.

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