The Giant Dipper
I grew up in Santa Cruz, and visiting the Beach Boardwalk was often a weekly excursion during the summer. I loved riding the bumper cars, the carrousel and the cars. As we would walk through the carnival-atmosphere, I was regaled by the sounds of The Giant Dipper roller coaster: the great rumble as the cars swooshed down the wooden tracks, people screaming and laughing. It looked so fun! I couldn’t wait until I was tall enough to ride, so I could know what all the yelling and screaming was about.
If I sat and watched, I could see that the first hill was high, but it didn’t seem that bad from the ground. At last, the day came when my curly ponytail was above the hatch mark that divided the children from the adults. My time had come! It was mid-afternoon and I was there with my best friend and a bunch of our friends from youth group. We had ride passes for the whole Boardwalk and were making ourselves silly riding over and over again. I couldn’t wait to get on the Giant Dipper and eagerly pushed through the turnstile into the building where the cars were loaded.
There was no one in line, so we ran screaming up the ramp, through all the back-and-forth bars that contained the lines on busy nights. Since it was our first time, we sat in the very front car. My excitement began to die down as I looked ahead and realized that the first part of the ride would take us through the rest of the building. In the dark. The ride operator came through and checked our harnesses and then spun around and smacked the release button. We were plunging into darkness!!! I hated not being able to see where we were going and we were moving SO FAST. When we finally emerged into the light, we had this ridiculously enormous mountain of wooden tracks in front of us. The chains under the cars rattled and shook like they couldn’t hold our weight, and I had visions of our support just snapping and we would be rushing backwards through the darkness, out of control.
About halfway up, I stopped worrying about the chains breaking and started freaking out about how high up we were. It never seemed this high from the ground! Click click click click we drew higher and higher to the summit. I couldn’t stand it and started screaming like a crazy person. This was, of course, accompanied by laughter from the older kids behind us who had done this ride a few times before.
I wanted off. This had seemed like such a great idea before, a right of passage, a grand adventure, but we were above the Santa Cruz fog, for crying out loud! How much higher could this ride go? Then, sitting at the top, I had an awesome, terrifying view of the seemingly-vertical drop the tracks were going to take us. My first genuine cuss word was screamed at that point, a threshold I was not planning on crossing that day. The clicking of the upward tracks stopped and there was dead silence for an instant before the brakes released and we plummeted down the hill. I had stopped screaming and went to sheer silent terror at that point. We were out of control! We weren’t going to survive! Why had I thought this was such a good idea? The photo afterwards shows my best friend and I white-knuckling the support bar and looking like we were going to be sick.
The majority of the ride is based on inertia after the initial drop, and the hills get smaller as the cars move back to the end. It honestly was a great roller coaster. After the first Giant Dip.
Maybe the reason why so many people use the roller coaster metaphor is because there is just nothing else like it. It fits situations where the unknown is involved.
I had a first-time-on-the-Giant-Dipper-summit moment this week. There was so much work and effort involved in getting us up to the top, but right as the brake was released, I began to wonder if this was really a good decision after all. Teetering on the edge, about to swoop down on the ride of our lives, I’m putting my faith in the Builder of this roller coaster. He won’t let us fall.
Don’t freak out if you hear me screaming.
Today’s Song: “Whisper” Evenescence