I suspect that for many of us, there's a ride out there somewhere that you love for reasons that have less to do with the ride itself and more with what that ride has meant to you during special moments in your life. For me, that ride is the Loch Ness Monster at Busch Gardens Williamsburg.
This Arrow coaster opened in 1978 at what was then called Busch Gardens: The Old Country. Theme parks around the country were adding roller coasters with inversions in the late 1970s, following Magic Mountain's success with Revolution - the first modern vertical loop steel coaster. Busch Gardens raised the stakes, though, as the Loch Ness Monster featured two vertical loops, which interlocked.
Hey, it was a big, big deal at the time.
I first rode Nessie in October of 1979. That was my very first "upside down" roller coaster, and the only reasons I summoned the courage to try it were (a) I was obsessed with Scotland and the Loch Ness Monster back then, and couldn't stand with myself if I'd skipped a ride with that theme, and (b) the ride's loops were over water, so I figured if I fell out at the top, splashing down into water would better than dying by falling onto hard earth.
Nessie's loops seemed all the more impressive back then. Not only was I bit shorter than I am now, the trees surrounding the rides were quite a bit smaller back then, too.
Plunging through the first loop surprised me. I never felt like I was "upside down." I stayed exactly where I'd been since leaving the load station - sitting on my seat in the coaster train. The blood didn't rush to my head like it did when I hung upside down from the monkey bars at school. But I was amazed that the water I'd expected to protect me after my inevitable fall was up there in the sky. And that the trees appeared to be growing down, instead of up.
Physics, for the win.
But as much as I loved the loops, Nessie won me over with an unexpected tunnel. I thought I was getting a roller coaster, but here I was enjoying a few seconds of a dark ride as the monster flew by me - bright lights in the pitch-black.
After it was over, I ran around to the entrance to go one more time. But I wouldn't ride Nessie again for another 30 years, on our first big, family cross-country roadtrip. This time, my daughter Natalie joined me, for what would be her very first trip on an "upside down" coaster. Sure, she was a little apprehensive. But I told her about my first trip on Nessie, and she was ready to try.
We didn't see the lights in the tunnel, though. But she loved the loops every bit as much as I did, when I was a kid. As we pulled into the station, she held her hand toward me, and extended her little finger for a pinkie shake.
"Coaster buddies," she said?
"Coaster buddies," I replied. Then we ran around to the entrance to go one more time.Tweet
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