5 spine-tingling seconds later
ELYSBURG - Knoebels Amusement Resort is known for "fun, food and fantasy." I think Knoebels needs to replace one of those words with "fear" now that their newest ride, the StratosFear, is open to the public.
You can glimpse the tall white tower as you enter the park. It catches your eye in the way only a new attraction can. Driving in, I found myself glancing through the break in the trees and the structures to see what I was getting myself into. On the walk in, it was the same deal - twisting my head up and down, trying to see the monstrosity located near the Twister bridge from the parking lot.
Approaching the mechanical beast, I couldn't help but turn my gaze toward the heavens as the 12-person vehicle that forms a perimeter around the tower ascended into the clouds. My head tilted back so far that my sunglasses, which were perched on top of my skull, fell to the asphalt just as the vehicle was released.
I'm not saying the wind from the fall blew my glasses off, but I'm not ruling it out.
It was then that I felt a little nervous. The fall is said to be 47 mph from the apex of the ride to the bottom. That might not sound fast, but it sure looks like it.
I checked the height requirements to make sure I was eligible to ride. A rider must be 42 inches - I'm almost 70 inches. Still, at 148 feet high, The StratosFear is still more than 25 times my height. By comparison, the tallest hill of the Twister is 101 feet high and the Giant Wheel is 110 feet high.
Deep breath and go for it, I said to myself.
News-Item Photographer Larry Deklinski and I were escorted to the front of the line and were strapped into our seats safely. While the rest of our fellow riders boarded, he and I wrapped our camera equipment around our wrists tightly so we wouldn't drop them.
It's a slow trip to the top, and I spoke calmly to my camcorder, informing everyone who would watch later who I was and what I was doing. Talking about it made it appear less threatening.
As the people below became smaller and smaller, the view became better and better. From our position, we could see across the park in the direction of the Phoenix.
The most nerve-racking thing is not being able to twist around and see where the top of the tower ends. You just keep going up until you don't.
There's also no warning of the drop.
You just get there.
And then you're flying.
I lost my breath, screaming an elongated "WHOA!" as I plummeted to earth. I heard others' high-pitched screaming. I saw smiles. I saw fear.
It's a quick drop. Over in about five seconds.
But the rush of air and the tingling in the pit of your stomach stays with you long after you reach the bottom. There's also something else there, a thought in the forefront of your mind, a question that begs to be answered.
"When can I try that again?"