Saturday, June 1, 2013

Amusement Park Rides for Retirees

Summer is almost upon us and TV is replete with soft news about the latest amusement park rides, or classic rides that are being refurbished. We don’t hear much about amusement park rides that have been designed (or redesigned) especially for retirees. Good news. I’m addressing that in today’s post.

I grew up in a lake community that was about a half hour from a quaint amusement park called Bertrand’s Island. Several times each summer, a handful of chaperones took a bus full of kids there on Nickel Night. Just as it sounds, every ride cost only a nickel, except for the wooden roller coaster, and that was a dime. The line for the coaster was always long, but once on it, you could pay another dime and stay for another spin. I once rode that coaster 26 times in a row, and it wasn’t even on a dare.

Back in my heyday, one of the favorite rides of teenagers with raging hormones was the Tunnel of Love. You cuddled in a little boat that drifted through dark, winding waterways that eventually whooshed you back to the dock where you began. The ride never lasted long enough. Retirees are welcomed to the Tunnel of Vision, where the boat hustles you through a tunnel that is pitch black on all sides. A blinding light in the middle leads the way out, and you can’t get there soon enough.

One ride I never understood until I started working full time and needed to release some aggression was the bumper cars. Predictably, these have been replaced with Bumper Scooters. If you thought bumper cars were an extreme sport, wait until you’ve taken a spin on Bumper Scooters. The seniors who drive them are so vicious that you need to wear helmets and sign a hold-harmless agreement to go on this ride.

Young girls were especially susceptible to the Fortune Teller’s charms. We knew it was hogwash, but who cared? As long as we were told we’d find true love and live happily ever after. Female retirees are more likely to be lured into the web of the Misfortune Teller. She’ll predict all the physical ailments that are going to befall you and members of your family. Tip her generously and she just may inform you that her “crystal ball” (read: smart phone) malfunctioned. WebMD says things won’t be that bad after all.

Not every amusement park had a Lost Continent ride, but every park for retirees has a Lost Continence. This is not so much a ride as an attraction. It’s a centrally located area with private booths where you can refresh your adult underwear. Vending machines are conveniently positioned inside the doorway. Can’t find it on the park map? It’s near the Lost Memory station, right next to the Lost Eyeglasses booth.

One of my favorite rides was The Whip. I remember once trying to talk my friend into going on it with me. The only way I could convince her was by paying her fare as well as my own. She was, as we say, “a big girl,” and unfortunately, I sat on the wrong side of her. When the Whip got going full bore, centrifugal force pushed her full weight on top of me. I had to pull myself out from under her, fighting the force, to get to the uphill side. The retirees’ version of this ride is The Whiplash. Enough said.

No amusement park worth its salt would be without a Ferris Wheel, and the retirees’ park is no exception. While most wheels today are built taller and taller (think the Millennium Wheel in London, or the Dubai Eye), the one for us seniors suffers from the same height and movement challenges as we do. Every year the Ferris Wheelchair gets a little bit shorter and moves a tad slower. When last I checked, it stood just thirty feet tall, had six chairs on it and took twenty minutes to make one full rotation.

One ride that mercifully has changed very little since our youth is the Carousel. Sometimes now called the Horseless Carousel, the only difference is that there are no animals that go up and down and give us vertigo. Or more accurately: exacerbate our already-existing vertigo. The ride now has just those beautifully painted chariots with tufted leather seats, but you can still reach for that brass ring.

Ah, yes. Nothing says Summer like a trip to the local amusement park. And I don’t mean those Six Flags extravaganzas. I’m talking about the ones with a manageable number of relatively simple rides and attractions. And especially ones designed with retirees in mind. Ticket, please.

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