Press-Republican

June 25, 2011

A ride that was all downhill

BOB GRADY
Press-Republican

---- — Walt Disney World in Orlando is a place where you can pay more than $100 a day for the privilege of sauteing in 90-degree heat while you stand in line 98 percent of the time, waiting for something to happen the other 2 percent.

We spent a couple of days there to celebrate the fact that the thermometer topped 90 with high humidity — ideal conditions to wait in line for a ride.

And what rides they have.

My favorite was called Thunder Mountain Railroad. My wife had gotten wind that this was tame enough for her to spend an hour in line waiting for a seat. The way she figured it, it was a piece of the Old West, wherein miners deposited the ore they'd hacked out of the mountain into a slow-moving rail car for transport down to flat land to take to the assayer's office. The ride would probably last two or three days for the entire journey, as those trains didn't travel very fast.

So we stepped to the back of a line we couldn't see the beginning of. Anything to make my wife happy, that's the way I look at it.

Come to find out, the train didn't turn out to be so pokey after all. In fact, the Thunder Mountain Railroad was ahead of its time. It was a roller coaster disguised as a train.

Old Thunder Mountain RR reached speeds estimated, by my wife, at several hundred mph. Just as you were reconciled to going that fast in one direction, the contours of the hill would come into play and you'd be heading practically 180 degrees opposite.

We had no idea there was any big hurry in getting that ore to the assayer's office, but apparently there was. If in the 19th century gold were being yanked out of the mountain and delivered to Fort Knox by this conveyance, it's no wonder our country prospered.

My wife and I got off the Thunder Mountain Railroad train as soon as it reached the station and she could properly align her feet under her. I suggested we go back up the hill and do it again, as she'd enjoy the sights more if she kept her eyes open this time. But, she was worn out from all that yelping and squeezing my arm, which had turned mauve, I noticed.

As for her complexion, it was pure white, which was curious, as we'd been spending so much time in the sun. I guess it just takes her longer to get tan than most people.

We also went to the Universal Studios theme park so my wife could get on the Harry Potter ride. For that one, you could saute even longer than at Disney and for a little less money, which made it a particular bargain.

The Harry Potter ride was especially popular, since it was still new and was based on the craze the books and movies created.

My wife, who'd read the books and then cemented the stories in her mind by seeing the movies, was very eager to take the ride.

As for myself, I'd neither read the books nor seen the movies, but, as I said, I'm just here to make my wife happy, so if she wanted to ride to the moon on a broom, I'd gladly go along.

We took our seats in what looked like one of those merry-go-round carts. But the ride didn't act like one. For one thing, they had us strapped in as if we really were going to the moon, and it's a good thing.

The lights went out and those carts started bobbing and darting in all directions. I thought for a while my head had come off from all the jostling. I reached up to find out and, in a sudden change of direction, punched myself in the eye, satisfying myself I was for the most part intact.

They were flashing all kinds of action and scenery around us designed to terrify us. You should have seen all the exciting things we were in the middle of. My wife should have seen them, too, but her eyes were closed again.

If you haven't been to these attractions, you don't know what you're missing. This is also true for certain people who have been there.

Bob Grady worked at the Press-Republican for about 40 years, as a reporter and then editor. For 20 of those years, he wrote a weekly column. He retired in February 2011.