by Paul Ruben
Ever since I was five years old I have enjoyed riding rollercoasters.
Over the years I rode more and more, until around 30 years ago when I decided to make a list of those I had ridden. It began as a handwritten list in a small notebook before moving on to a succession of personal computers.
As the number of coasters on my list grew, I found myself seeking new ones out, not that I’m compulsive. This Park World job has helped, getting me to parks I might not have otherwise visited. The grandkids think I ride coasters for a living. They want my job.
But riding new coasters isn’t always easy. Oh, the big ones are easy. Just get in line, take a seat and be thrilled. But the little ones are sometimes problematic. Yes, I ride small coasters, too. Kiddie coasters. You know why? Because they count! If it’s a coaster, it counts. As of the time of writing I’m up to 796 different coasters ridden, and expect to top 800 this year. My goal is not 800. My goal is to ride whatever new coaster I encounter.
But I digress. Kiddie coasters are often difficult to ride. The seats are small. Also, at some parks adults can only ride a kiddie coaster if accompanied by a child. I’ve had to rent a kid. That is, I have to ask the parents if I can ride with their child, explaining that I’ve never been on this particular kiddie coaster and really want to. Need to. How pathetic is that? Don’t ask what the kid thinks.
Most parks have signs by the coaster entrance that says you must be this tall to ride. But some kiddie coasters have signs that say you must be this short to ride. Most recently I was at Mt Olympus Theme Park in Wisconsin Dells, talking to owner Nick Laskaris, saying how much I enjoyed five of his six coasters, explaining I was barred from riding Little Titans, a 16-foot-tall Miler Coaster because I was too tall. Nick’s my friend. He said he would talk to the ride operator to allow me to ride. He did. I ignored the stares of derision. I have no shame. See me enjoying my ride on Little Titans?
On the same trip that took me to Mt Olympus for the first time I also visited Little Amerricka and rode four new coasters. Little Amerricka was the 321st different park I’ve visited. Yes, I count parks, too.
Little Titans isn’t the smallest coaster I’ve ridden. That honour goes to the single-seat ground-hugging Milagro Mine Ride that was in Park World contributor Gary Kyriazi’s front yard. The 456ft-tall Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure is the tallest. But the Giant Coaster at defunct Crystal Beach Park was the best, because it was the first for a five-year-old.