Rollercoasters take on a particular fascination for me. My mother won’t get near them. Quicksilver Express at Gilroy Gardens is somewhat deceiving. It’s camouflaged into the landscape and can gets lost in the park’s peaceful, family environment. That’s how we tricked Mom into riding. She has finally come around to talking to me again. As I become older, coasters seem to get better with a new initial, first-time or the next additional ride. The steel monsters produce an adrenaline rush, but they can’t do it for me like an encounter with a wooden beast. The sad fact is that the wooden roller coaster is going the way of the dinosaur. Roar was built in 1999 at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom and became extinct on July 16, 2015. It morphed into a hybrid. Wood meets steel now as its been renamed the Joker. I will say that the first drop (78 degrees) and three inversions are impressive. I don’t think Mom will ever fall again and get on this one.
The Girls are coaster fanatics! One of the rites of passage in the Arens’ household is to strap in after finally exceeding the minimum height requirement. It was a big deal for all three. Each had spent years walking up to the placard, standing on their tippy toes, and crying uncontrollably upon realizing that permission to ride was not up to me. It was a proud day for Dad when all three reached legitimacy; my youngest strapped in next to me and the other two seated behind. They laid it on thick as we inched our way up the launch hill weighing in heavy on their predictions as to the survival ability of the youngest. There is this fine instant at the peak where one becomes caught in limbo, moving in no particular direction, feeling somewhat composed. Then all hell breaks loose.
Most of the time, I will at last open my eyes to realize that yes, I am plummeting almost straight down, accelerating to 53 mph, and heading toward the “step-up under-flip inverted roll.” On this day, the usual pounding of my body between the seat and the restraints and the ever-present blast of the wind in the face also included an unusual element of blood curdling screams. I didn’t have the senses to tell if they were mine or not, but I did have the ability to glance next to me. No, not her! They originated behind us. The older two were losing it. Each time a new round of screams echoed, the more audible and amplified the giggling thundered beside me.
I would love to imprison life’s ups and downs to a roller coaster ride. My principles won’t allow it. We exist for life’s challenges; they are what define us. The trick is to become perfect. I don’t know how you feel; but my prayers, thoughts, and heart are with you. I stand stronger and taller knowing that I am not alone and thereby you aren’t either. What I do know, the lesson that little one taught that day at the end of the ride as she triumphantly lowered her hands from above her head and simply affirmed, “Again!”■
— Scott Arens is a lifelong resident of Arbuckle. To contact Scott email firstname.lastname@example.org