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Thursday, July 28, 2005

Roller Coaster Virginity

Belmont Park’s New Beach Blaster Touches Writer’s No-No Spot.

The safety harness is one of those over-the-top, strap-you-in, this-is-all-that-stands-between-you-and-flying-through-the-air-into-the-cotton-candy-vendor types. Prior to being clamped down, it blocked my direct line of sight. Upon gazing downward, only the toothpick legs of three pre-teen girls dangled, too short to even touch the bottom of the ride that was about to hurdle all of us through the air. They seemed giddy. What were they thinking of me, or at least what they saw—some hairy Jewish legs long enough to be firmly planted on the solid Earth below? Pedophile? Perhaps. At the very least, someone Mom told us to stay away from--the lonely roller coaster rider.
Prior to Friday’s trip to Belmont Park, the punctuation mark at the end of Pacific Beach, marking the beginning of the man-made monstrosity that is Mission Beach--I was a roller coaster virgin. Despite growing up near Santa Cruz’s famed Beach Boardwalk (a larger, and less sanitary version of Belmont Park) and a smattering of Northern California amusement parks, the experience of riding a rollercoaster eluded me. Much like heroine and bondage, any benefit to be gained from roller coasters always seemed…well…too much trouble. There are certain activities one is suppose to experience at certain ages. Drinking? 16ish. Rollercoasters? 12, I’d say. But what happens when you are 21? You can’t very well go for the first time at that point—you should keep the streak alive, making your lack of experience a point of uniqueness and eccentricity.
Belmont Park is certainly worth the trip. Smelling of an ideal carnival (cotton candy and popcorn, with workers who are friendly and freshly bathed, unlike those I recall from my youth) it is a delightful, truly family friendly park open to all. While rides cost between three and five dollars, the games and treats are a nice change from the beach it borders. Re-opened by the same folks who run the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk in 1990, Belmont has since added more rides for the older set to go along with its famed Giant Dipper wooden roller coaster. The machine chosen to end my streak of amusement chastity was the Beach Blaster (insert pithy sex joke here). Opened as of May 27th, the ride was described as “unfinished” by Belmont’s General Manager, Wendy Craine. “Unfinished”, I informed her, is an unfortunate choice of adjectives for a rollercoaster—I would not drive an unfinished car, nor fly on an unfinished plane. She assured me all of the important aspects of the ride were in fact finished—the cosmetic touches were all that was lacking. Seeming more upstanding than your run of the mill carnie, I careless placed my life in the hands of her newly purchased ride, ready to do what it may to me after I was strapped into her unfinished machine of doom.
What happened next is, literally a blur. Not exactly a roller coaster, imagine your body as a cantaloupe placed in a plastic supermarket bag. Then swing the bag around in circles, being careless about the direction or speed, and certainly the cantaloupe. That is the Beach Blaster. I contend I am no longer a roller coaster virgin. While I may not have had the typical, missionary style, classic first time experience, certainly I left something at the Beach Blaster last Friday—and if I were you, I certainly wouldn’t sit in the seat three in from the right.