Friday, January 25, 2013

Space Mountain

Should I try it or not?

Back when I was about 10 or so, I went to Disneyland with my parents.  I have a lot of good memories from my Disney trips from those days, but the roller-coasters were kind of scary for me.  I do remember riding Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (a runaway mine train style ride) a few times, and being torn about whether to repeat the experience at any given time.  It was kind of fun, but also kind of scary.  (Yes, I've already copped to being a wimp.)  I think I went on the Matterhorn as well, although I more clearly remember being on a knock-off of sorts called the Alpine Sleigh Ride at Astroworld in Houston.  But Space Mountain was the "big" coaster for Disneyland: An indoor roller-coaster in the dark, with stars and asteroids projected to create an outer-space theme.  It was also one of the most popular rides.

Should I go?

When I was on that trip at a young age, I did try Space Mountain.  I can't remember much of the ride, but I can remember clinging for dear life to the lap bar and any part of the car I could get my hands on, being whipped around, certain I was going to be flung to my doom at any moment.  I was crouched in the seat so that mostly what I saw wasn't stars or asteroids, but my own shoe.  (It was an interesting shoe.)  After riding once, I knew that was a ride (unlike Big Thunder) on which I was sure I did not want to ride again.  And I avoided it ever since.

Should I get on it anyway?

Up into my adult life, I've mostly steered away from anything that would count as a "thrill" ride.  And Disney parks do have lots of stuff to do for those of us who are what is technically known as "ultra-wimpy," although they have been steering towards having more thrills over the years.  I remember going with my partner on a driving simulator called Test Track at EPCOT (which was the precursor to the Radiator Springs Racers I talked about previously).  While not up to par with a roller-coaster of any sort, it did feature some high speeds and simulating "skidding" which kind of panicked me.  My partner has a picture of me in the car; I think you can tell that I have a death grip on the bar in front of me.  The only thing I could think on seeing the picture was "How can he be calm enough to take a picture?!?"

It is just right over there.  It would be over pretty quickly, too.

But over the years, I seem to have mellowed.  I did manage to ride a few thrill rides, and about three years ago, I finally found myself absolutely loving Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, although it took some time to get used to, and the Matterhorn.  Plus the already mentioned racers in Cars Land, and the Indiana Jones adventure, in which you careen at high speeds on a jeep through the ruins of a temple.  But three years ago, even 'though I was enjoying all of these things, I didn't manage to work up the nerve to try Space Mountain again.  I knew that one was worse.
Spoiler Alert:  The fact that I was able to take this picture means that I was in line.
But here I am again, and I've been thinking about it again.  Should I try it?  It's the end of my second night, and I've seen the fireworks and had my cookie and hot chocolate, and I keep going back to these exhilarating high speed rides that I never thought I'd like, as if I'm psyching myself up for the big one.  I circle back a few times to Space Mountain.  There it is.  Should I do it?  I obviously don't have to do this, but I think maybe I should.  The wait time says 45 minutes, and the park closes in 30, which means it would be the last ride of the night.  No chance to go back through "It's a Small World" a few times to calm my nerves.

What the heck, I'm going in.

I'm wending my way through the line, a little worried.  There's a lengthy exterior line, which finally leads to an entrance to the main building.  I overhear two young men behind me:
First:  "It's pretty long on the inside, too, if I remember."
Second:  "That's what she said."
I about fall over, and make a mental note that the gentleman has just made the all-time best unprepared use of that line.
Almost time.
Finally, I'm in the loading area, then boarding a rocket and sliding down the lap bar.  (Is there still time to go crazy like Marge Simpson on a plane, and start jumping up and down yelling "Let me out! Let me out!  Let me out!"?)  And here we go, turning a corner amidst flashing lights, climbing a lift hill, then into a star field in the darkness, a soundtrack welling up around me.  I'm tensed at this point for the sudden acceleration, but we turn around and start another lift, hearing a countdown from ten begin.  Finally: "...3...2...1!" And we're off!  I'm tensed, but after a few moments, I start to relax.  This is not too bad; I feel the acceleration as we round turns, climb, and dive.  I hear a driving soundtrack swelling up from the speakers behind my back in time to the motion, and I feel the rush of wind through my hair as I seemingly rush through an inky blackness studded with projected stars.  I can sort of tell that there are tracks and girders around by the way the "stars" show up, but I can't reliably even make out the people in front of me.  I feel myself grooving with the motion, and finally (before long), we whip around another corner into blinding strobes, and lights which give me the strangely disorienting feel that I'm suddenly moving backward... and the rockets glide back into the launch bay, ready to unload us and pick up the next round of passengers.

That wasn't bad.  That was fun! And kind of exhilarating. And oddly, it bothered me a lot less than a lot of rides that I think are actually a lot milder.  (At some point later, it occurred to me that I would have been a lot more terrified if I could have seen what was going on.  As it was, it was just rushing wind, a feeling of acceleration, a soundtrack, and mostly darkness.)

And since Disney does like to take pictures to try to sell (remember the sudden flashing strobes at the end?), I have some evidence that I survived my first flight, and that I seem to have enjoyed it:
I'm in the back.  It's a picture of a picture, so
the quality is a little lacking.
I went back, too.  (A total of ten times in this trip in fact.)  All the pictures of me look about the same: slightly awestruck, but happy.

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