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Those Were The Days...‘Ripcord!’ PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, August 31, 2013 12:28 AM

One of our most memorable family vacations occurred in the summer of 1980. My wife, Janie, and I took our three children for a two-week vacation with most of it spent in Florida. We went to an Atlanta Braves game and took pictures of players like Dale Murphy. We spent a few days at Daytona Beach and thought it was really cool to get to drive onto and park our Chevy Impala on the beach there. We also spent time at Clearwater Beach and have lots of pictures of our time spent at those beaches. However, the highlight of our trip was our time spent in Orlando at Walt Disney World. I was recently looking through our photo album of that great vacation and our time at the Magic Kingdom and remembering “those were the days.”

We took in the sights, met Mickey and some of his friends and went on a lot of rides. The ride I remember the most was Space Mountain. We got in line and noticed the warning signs about needing to be aware of potential problems for people with heart problems. There were also age/size limitations but our kids were also old/big enough to qualify for the thrill ride. Only two people were allowed in each “car” so Chrissy, 7, and I were in front, Mike, 11, and John, 8, were two cars behind us, with Janie and one of the cameras in the car between the rest of us.

We didn’t realize it but back then Space Mountain was like an indoor roller coaster ride in the dark. You couldn’t see which way you were going to turn or drop next so it was impossible to brace or prepare yourself for what was about to happen.

Janie spent her time hanging on and yelling at the rest of us to make sure we were doing alright. I spent my time hanging onto Chrissy and silently praying that we would all survive the ride. I remember telling the Lord that if we made it out of Space Mountain alive, I would never ride on another roller coaster. We did make it and I’ve kept my word – no more roller coasters/thrill rides for me.

Flash forward to a few weeks ago when our daughter, her husband, their three children, Janie and I spent a day at “Michigan’s Adventure” thrill ride, entertainment and water park. We all agreed that it was OK for me to “sacrifice” not going on any of the rides, but that I would take pictures and movies of the rest of the family having fun. Remember, I made a promise to the Lord…

Our grandchildren Jaynah, 12, Johnny, 9, and Jamey, 6, were fearless as they joined Brian, Chrissy and Janie on thrill rides that would have caused most mere mortals to pass out or become sick. No roller coaster or ride that turned them upside down and inside out was too tough for them. I marveled at their enthusiasm and eagerness to go on ride after ride after ride. They were having a great time. It was thrill enough for me to be privileged to be with them and get to record some of their adventures that we could later look at and enjoy for years to come.

Yes, I was doing fine until we arrived at The Ripcord. It is a “special” ride. So special that each person has to pay an extra $15 to get to go on it. Brian offered to pay and dared any three of our family members to go on The Ripcord. Much to his surprise, Janie was the first one to take him up on it. Jaynah was quick to say that she wanted to go with Mamaw and Johnny insisted he also wanted to go. The rest of us had to watch as they each signed a “disclaimer” that if they died of a heart attack or were killed/injured in any way that Michigan’s Adventure was not responsible.

We watched as they waited in line and then had help putting on their harnesses/equipment needed for the ride. I watched through the lens of the camera as they hooked them up and began lifting them into the air. My legs got a little weak as they lifted them higher and higher and finally stopped at 180 feet above the ground!

My legs were getting weak, there was a lump in my throat and my eyes were tearing up as I watched. Jaynah pulled the ripcord as she had been instructed and they plunged head first into a dive toward the earth at a speed of about 80 miles an hour! It was with great relief that they started flying like Superman before hitting the ground. Back and forth they went above my head until the ride was over and they were unhooked from the ripcord. They smiled and waved at the camera as they arrived safely back on the ground.

You may think that it sounds like I’m a bit of a chicken. Actually, I’ve taken a lot of risks in my life. But when it comes to thrill rides … not so much. There are a number of things I hope to accomplish before I meet my maker. But The Ripcord is not on my “bucket list.”


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