“I don’t want to do this. I HATE a free-fall.”
“It will be fine. It isn’t a free-fall. It’s a swing.”
“No. Look. These people free-fall and then it catches at the bottom and they start swinging. I hate the free-fall. You just look at the ground until your line catches. No.”
This has been the dialogue between me and Greg for the last two years regarding the Xtreme Skyflyer at Great America. We are lucky guests of GoPro for the launch of their new cameras (this year, the Hero4). I was so relieved last year that we chose not to wait in the 45 minute line to do this crazy free-fall “ride.” This year, we were basically bored with the other rides (you can ride Flight Deck and Gold Striker only so many times) and were willing to stand in line as long as we had full drinks.
My stomach was clenching the whole time. Greg was fine. It’s fun! It’s not as bad as you think it is!
We fiiiinnnnnaaaallllyyyy got to the place where they suit you up. Greg and I looked at each other with a slight lack of confidence when he couldn’t get his suit on correctly and the twenty-something worker used gestures instead of words to help. Then we got to the loading area. More instructions, including, “Put your hands on your harness and don’t touch anything else.” Then they put tension on the cord holding us so we were suspended in the air, face down. Instinctively, Greg reached out to hold the barriers around us.
First rule in whatever-the-fuck-this-is? FOLLOW THE RULES. They are about to drop us from 153 feet at 60 mph. Do as these twenty-somethings say! Hands on your harness, not the barrier!
It was our turn. I’m nervous. I had been nervous for two years. I need to pee. I disclaim that I might pee during the fall.
They start hoisting us up. And up. And up. And up. It’s SO. FUCKING. HIGH. By now, it’s also dark. Other than the “splat zone” below you and the roar of the Gold Striker coaster nearby, there’s nothing.
Over the loud speaker: BETA: 3-2-1- GO!
Greg pulls the ripcord and we — you guessed it — FREE-FUCKING-FALL 153 feet until the cable catches and then we start swinging.
I did not pee my pants. I also did not ever let go of the full nelson elbow-hold I had on Greg. He did not seem to want to let go of me either, so we were good there.
We got done with the ride (~2 minutes of “fun” for 40 minutes of waiting in line) and walked out of there. Assessing what just happened, we were talking over each other with the following:
Greg: That was WAY worse than I expected.
Molly: That was WAY better than I expected.
I couldn’t believe it! For me, the worst was them pulling us up to SUCH GREAT HEIGHTS on the cable. Falling was scary for sure! But since the catch wasn’t so jarring, the experience exceeded my expectations. Maybe it was that my anticipation of the free-fall-into-the-catch was going to be much more abrupt. Maybe it was that I had enjoyed a number of glasses of wine before going on this ride. The world may never know.
The real surprise was that Greg’s experience was so much worse than his expectation. Greg said he HATED the free-fall, looking down onto one spot on the ground at such a high rate of speed with no tension on the cord. For whatever reason (??), he did not think there was going to be a free-fall at all.
So, what I’m trying to say is: I was right.