How to celebrate being forty? Try a bit of Immelmann Loops and 200 feet drops all at 70 mph.

30 Dec

Has it been 10 days since I turned Forty? Yes it has and wow, it does not feel like it, but there it is, I’m forty.  A forty year old woman!  Actually, a cool forty-year old if you ask me.

The planned celebration turned into a weekend celebration.  My best friends came down from different parts of the country and settle down in my town to harass me and to never let me forget that, yes god be dammed, I’m old.

Saturday was pretty easy day. I ran errands with the BFF, who made sure that everyone we spoke to knew I was old.  The supermarket clerk, the liquor stored attendant, the cake place owner, the lady parked on the street – EVERYONE!

That night a simple dinner turned into a mixture of new and old.  On one side of the table, I had my friends, my family.  On the other side of the table I had my future family, Tom’s mom, sister-in-law, brother and smack in the middle was me.  Basting on all the attention, because of course it was about me.  All presents were respectfully displayed and enjoyed.  And of course there was cake – a lot of cake!

So far 40 rocks!

So far 40 rocks!

The next day we decided that I we needed to feel young again, and we headed out to Bush Garden.  After a light breakfast we entered fake Africa and set out to find the scariest roller coaster in the park.  We started with the wooden roller (because the other smaller one was closed) Gwazi.  Let’s just say that I hated them before, and I still hate them now.  My insides feel like a blender, it took ups about 1 hour to feel normal again after all that shaking around.

After much debate we decided to go all out and ride SheiKra.  The park named it  after an African hawk that dives down for its prey, this roller coaster is the first vertical-drop coaster in the U.S with a true 90 degree vertical drop.

This is the BAD-ASS of the coaster world.

If this does not make one feel young, nothing else will.  We made the line and dragged the BFF shaking and howlering that it was not fair – Yeah, forty is NOT FAIR. – SUCK UP!

Instead of a train of cars, SheiKra uses single cars that contain three extra-wide rows of eight seats each. To accommodate the wide cars, the tubular steel track is also unusually wide. The “floorless” cars have no floors–or sides or backs. The cars are essentially seats bolted to a chassis.  The open design leaves riders especially vulnerable for the ensuing dives. (Told you, BAD.ASS)

Although the two back rows offer “stadium seating” and afford good views, the front row features the primo seats. With nothing above, below, or in front of them, the dives are all the more terrifying (in a good way) for those in the first-row.

We sat on the second road – the compromise for having dragged the best friend to this kicking and screaming.

As with other floorless coasters, once passengers are secured and the ride is cleared for takeoff, the loading platform drops away, and a gate in front of the car swings open with a dramatic flourish.  SheiKra rounds a bend, latches on to the chain lift, and chugs up a surprisingly steep (47 degree) lift hill. At 200 feet, the hill is high enough to provide spectacular views of the park and the city of Tampa beyond.

“Hey! There’s Tampa and…Holy SHIT!”

The car slowly navigates a 180-degree “carousel” at the top of the coaster and faces the drop. There is a slight jerk as the car momentarily stops, followed by a false start as it crests the top and hangs perilously over the edge for an agonizing 3-4 seconds.  At this point, you really have the  “HOLY SHIT.WE.ARE.GOING.TO.DIE” moment.  Especially when you look down and see nothing but air in front of you.  Then you hear the click of the break release and….

Eeeeeeaaaaahhhhhh! – (For real)

The 90-degree drop reaches a bone-rattling 70 mph and feels all the more bracing with the open, floorless car. SheiKra soars into a huge “Immelman” loop (a diving loop named for a German army pilot who performed acrobatic maneuvers).  It then swoops around, soars heavenward, and slows as it approaches a second 138-foot, 90-degree dive.  Instead of hanging over the edge, however, it drops without hesitation and enters into a disorienting, fog-filled tunnel.  Then it soars up and down before it skids over a pool of water (The coolest thing ever!) that sends huge plumes of water spray into the sky and onto midway spectators before it races back to the station.

It was an unapologetic 2 minute 20 second thrill ride.  No wimps allowed on this one.  I highly recommend it for any 40-year old.  While I posted Pictures… the Video (with very appropriate music for it) can give you a itzy-bitzy virtual ride.


I dare you to try it

The gang

The gang


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