Eighty-one years ago, hundreds of men sweat under the heat of the Coney Island sun to build, plank after wooden plank, the most influential roller coaster in the world. Even though it's had its ups and downs over the years, I somehow I think Vernan Keenan, the designer of The Cyclone would be psyched to know that it still kicks butt. And somehow I think that my dad, who rode this coaster more than 50 years ago, would laugh his butt off at the sight of me cowering in fear as I rode The Cyclone for the first time. (By the way, the Ricky Gervais look-a-like that I'm clinging to in the picture below looks more brave only because it was his second ride).
Even though the coaster is more of a landmark these days, it's still a master of thrills: anticipation swells as the car slowly ratchets up its 86 ft peak and then chaos bursts forth as it drops at 60 mph toward the sand. However, it's when the coaster propels itself back up and around the first hair-pin turn in the track, that Keenan's 1920's knowledge of human biomechanics becomes painfully evident. Heads snap, knees jerk and elbows slap against the car's metal walls.
"Wee!" becomes "Ouch..." but only for a minute and fifty seconds. In less time than it takes Joey Chestnut to eat 59 Nathan's hot dogs, the coaster comes screaching to a halt and the thrill of "I did it!" takes over.
As I sit here now with a nasty bruise on my elbow and a sore neck, I still say it was worth the ride. Not for the thrills but because on Labor Day Weekend it let me appreciate the longevity of a creative idea and the hard work that went into building and maintaining this history-making coaster. As a 2008 laborer whose creations are essentially disposable, I find it inspirational to think that something that can be dreamt up and built can thrill thousands, if not millions of people for decades.
And for anyone who's wondering, yes I also ate a few Nathan's Hot Dogs while I was out at Coney Island. And we also experienced these 3 other Never b4's.
1. We saw our first ever hot dog vending machine (and if a hot dog vending machine isn't strange enough, it also proclaimed to be kosher!)
2. We caught a bit of a Rockabilly music fesitival
3. We got a glimipse of the most creepy carni game I've ever seen -- "Shoot the Freak" in which you can shoot a man standing in a pen -- thankfully, only with paint balls
If you have any Coney Island or Cyclone stories of your own, I'd love to hear them. Or, if you did a Never b4 of your own this Labor Day weekend, don't be shy. Let's hear how you did. Simply click on the headline above, scroll down to the bottom of the page and add your thoughts in the comments section.