Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Before The Loop Was Lame by Jody Casella

The Loop, we called it. 

That's all it was. Not a roller coaster. Just one loop. A platform at the top (you had to climb six flights of stairs to reach the "beginning" of the ride). A steep hill straight down. A burst around the loop. A climb up the other side. 

I don't think there was anything mechanically controlled about the ride. Something that reminded me of a slingshot drew back (can this be right?) hit the train of cars so that they pushed forward--hopefully with enough momentum to make it around the loop and up the hill on the other side. 
The Loop at Riverside Park in Agawam, Massachusetts, later
renamed Black Widow


A ten second pause, another sling shot and the cars sped backward around the loop and up to the platform where they'd started. The End.

Ride over. 

The entire experience lasted less than two minutes. 

The first time I rode The Loop, I was twelve and freaked out just looking at the thing from the safety of the ground. A friend and I talked each other into doing it. We moved with the snaking line up the six flights of stairs, not knowing if we wanted the people ahead of us to move faster or slower.

We had no idea what the hell was really going on up there until we were next in line. 

It looked safe enough. People latched into seats. Shoulder harnesses clamping them in. We watched that group speed away. We heard the screams of terror. We waited 30 seconds and the screams began again. A few seconds more and there they were, the loop riders, panting and laughing. 

See? That wasn't so bad. 

Anyway, it's not like we could refuse to ride at this point. 

If we chickened out, everyone would know. The only way to exit was to cut across the train of cars to the other side of the platform and climb down a different set of stairs. 

Group peer pressure, basically. 

I let myself be latched into my seat. I pushed the shoulder harness as hard as I possibly could, testing it for safety. I had a brief moment of terror to find that I could lift it up an inch. Maybe it was supposed to be that way? Oh please, make it supposed to be that way.

Another moment of terror: What if the cars didn't have enough momentum to surge around the loop? (It wasn't a stupid fear. It happened occasionally. We'd see the train of cars stuck at the bottom of the loop, the riders latched into their seats and baking in the heat, sunburned and, horrifyingly, bored.)

Ah well. Too late now. We were off, moving too fast to see much. Flashes of metal track. Our hands clenched to the shoulder harness. 

Sky. 

Ground. 

Sky. 

Whew. 

We were on the other side, clawing hair out of our eyes. Breathlessly anticipating the second push. 

Backwards was scarier. We couldn't see the hill until we were falling. A squeak and the ride stopped and we were the ones laughing and panting, the objects of curiosity and admiration for those next in line. 

Dizzy and wobbily, we climbed out of our cars. We lurched down the six flights of stairs. 

We got in line to ride again. 

The Loop was awesome. And then, all at once, it wasn't. 

The next few years the park opened new rides. A roller coaster with a loop. A roller coaster with more than one loop. A roller coaster with cork screws and multiple loops. A roller coaster in total darkness. 

One summer we returned to find The Loop gone. 

We only missed it a little. 





3 comments:

  1. We had Lightening Loops at Six Flags in NJ, Jody. Same thing. It was only a single loop so I'm not sure why it was called "loops," but it's long gone now. Replaced with rides like Kingda Ka.

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  2. wonderful memories gentlemen, wonderful. Scary as heck for the early '80's

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