Valdosta Daily Times

Local News

June 18, 2014

Wild Ride!

Catching the ups and downs of roller coasters

VALDOSTA — I love roller coasters, always have. I remember the first roller coaster I rode in my hometown of Cumming at the Cumming Country Fair and Festival. I remember, it was a short ride sitting in those caterpillar-shaped cars; I remember a lot of ups and downs, no loops, no cork screws, and no inverted turns, but in my 7-year-old mind, the thrill was out of this world.

Wild Adventures offers something for the whole family; there are concerts, thrill rides, children's rides, attractions, a variety of exotic animals, and a refreshing water park for the

brutal South Georgia summer months, and this visit was my first time attending the theme park.

Laurie Windham, Wild Adventures public relations manager, walked around the park with The Times to show us the ins and outs of the theme park. We did not ride the water rides, so this is both a first-  and second-hand account of the dry attractions that the park offers.

The first ride we checked out was the Ant Farm Express. Here, we met McKenna Marsh, Lilly, Lucy, and Catherine Roach. March babysits the Roach sisters, and they were taking a summer trip to Wild Adventures, and this ride was Lilly's favorite.

Ant Farm Express is a family ride that lasts about 45 seconds. Wild Adventures describes this ride as, “Not too big and not too small, this coaster is just right to deliver gentle thrills for all ages.”

After the ride, the Roach sisters said the best part of the ride was, “The thrill. When the air hit my face, and the last turn.” Even though they had ridden the ride before, the drop still took them by surprise.

My first ride was Go Bananas! This ride is considered a thrill ride by Wild Adventures, but it is a fun ride for the family. The minimum height requirement is 46 inches and the maximum height requirement is 75 inches. The ride lasts about one minute and 45 seconds. It goes about five miles per hour.

After a steady climb, Go Bananas! goes through a series of hairpin curves which gave me a sense of relief because it seems as if the track ahead was abruptly ending. Then the four-person cart goes through several drops and hills before ending back where you started.

Boomerang is an extreme thrill ride that pulls the riders backwards to the top, then drops them straight down. After the cars careen through the boarding station, the ride makes you face the sky as you go through its vertical loops, six inversions and two hills, before you slow down.

But wait. What's this? We're not at the exit. Why are we climbing? Then it dawns on you, this is why they call it the boomerang. You realize you're about to do the entire ride in reverse.

“I'm not ready for this!” I cried. The ride ascended a little farther before it dropped me backwards, reaching speeds of 50-60 miles per hour. Like driving around a new town on vacation, I had no idea where I was going, but I was enjoying the ride.

The Boomerang came to an abrupt stop in the place where you once sped through.

After the ride, David Tucker, who was chaperoning a small group of eighth-graders, said “It was fun, it racked the brain a little bit. The best part was doing it backwards. It was a good time, and I'd definitely recommend this ride.”

David Escalera, one of the eighth-graders, described the Boomerang as "amazing," and said the best part was going backwards, too. However, Christian Vonesh, another eighth-grader said the best part was the first drop, but maybe it's best if you decide for yourself.

The Cheetah is Wild Adventures' wooden coaster, and it is only the third wooden coaster that I had ever ridden. I was not a fan of wooden coasters because of my previous experience, but the Cheetah has renewed my love for wooden roller coasters. In the past, I thought wooden coasters were too jerky, but the Cheetah runs extremely smooth.

As the cart pulled me up, I reminisced over the clicking and clacking of the greased chain pulling me to the apex of the coaster. At the top, I had a great view of the theme park, but that does not last long. From there, physics takes over and the maximum potential energy quickly turns into a lot of kinetic energy.

Wild Adventures describes the Cheetah as a “90-foot-tall, 3,000-foot-long wild beast, sure to give wooden roller coaster enthusiasts something to scream about,” and they hit the nail on the head. This coaster hits speeds of 50 mph, or more, taking riders through deep plunges, sharp turns, fast speeds, and exhilarating hills.

Clay Fussell rode in the first car of the Cheetah with his son, James. Clay said, “I love the Cheetah. That's the main one I like. That and the Boomerang. The Boomerang is a blast.” The Fussells have regularly visited Wild Adventures four or five times a year, for the past 10 years.

Jacksonville residents Stephen Schumacher, 15, Seth Schumacher, 13, Macey Lee, 15, and Tyler Lee, 10, rode the Cheetah, too. It was Stephen and Macey's second time riding the Cheetah, while it was a first for Seth and Tyler.

“It was fun. I really liked the first drop. It was the best. I did not remember the fast turns,” Stephen said. “We have season passes so we are going to try and come as often as we can.” Macey said she would recommend the Cheetah to all roller coaster enthusiasts.

Tyler Lee said, “It was very fun.” Seth said, “I didn't know how fast it was. I didn't expect that. The first drop was the best part.”

After the Cheetah, we walked to the Twisted Typhoon. On the way, I tried to speak with a family about their day at the park, but they did not want to comment because they said, “Didn't want to take any time away from riding rides.” Which is understandable. But the good news is, when I was there, the rides moved people through quickly.

The Twisted Typhoon is another extreme thrill ride. It is an inverted coaster, meaning the track is over your head, and your feet are hanging …

I know. Breathe. Stay with me.

You know the old adage, “It's OK, as long as you don't look down?” Well Twisted Typhoon forces you to look straight at the ground as you are diving towards it. Will you hit? You do not know. You can't see the track too far in advance because it is over your head.

The ride reaches speeds fast enough to be cited on most road ways, 60-70 mph, and you go through thrilling loops, corkscrew turns, and blazing fast turns, all in about one minute and 30 seconds.

Because Wild Adventures is a Lowndes County staple, the park has two rides named after the two competing high schools, Whirling Wildcats and Viking Voyage.

The Whirling Wildcats was getting a makeover, so I could not ride it. But the Viking Voyage made me want to grab a giant steel sword, ride into battle, defeat my enemy, then gnaw on a turkey leg for dinner.

From the ground, the Viking Voyage does not look too high, but then the ride keeps climbing and climbing until you are five stories high, it takes a 90-degree turn to the left, to show you the scenery, but the peace quickly ends because you take a slighter turn to the left, but the tracks drop you down, nearly to the ground, leaving your stomach at the top. You climb again, then traverse through a series of twists, turns, and drops at speeds up to 40 mph.

My final ride was Swamp Thing. It is another inverted coaster, but it is much less intense than Twisted Typhoon because Swamp Thing only reaches speeds up to 30 mph.

Swamp Thing is a ride that made me feel safe and secure, oh, until the time I felt like I was being dropped into a habitat that housed Wild Adventures' 15-foot, 1,000-pound alligator, Twister. Although I knew I was never in danger, I did lift my feet higher than I did on any other ride because they were dangling as Twister bait.

“Guests will love this smooth, fun introduction into the world of coasters. With a minimum ride height of 44 inches and no loops, younger guests will get all the feeling of the big coasters,” is how Wild Adventures describes Swamp Thing and I agree; it makes a much better first coaster than a tiny caterpillar coaster at a local fair.

After all of the thrilling roller coasters, we rode the Safari Train, and I would not wish it to end any other way because this ride is entertaining and relaxing. I saw more exotic animals on this one ride than I have in my entire life, such as antelope, zebras, giraffe, elephants, elk, water buffalo, black buck, and bearded hogs.

The animals had huge spaces to roam and to play. I saw them do both, in the open train car with only a small chain separating me from the animals. The train went no more than five miles per hour, and took about 10 minutes.

As I waited in line, for the Safari Train, I met Marvin and Gussie Smith and their grandchildren, Lance and Logan McCulley.

Gussie, Lance, and Logan visit Wild Adventures about every two weeks, and Marvin was celebrating having the day off at the park with his family.

“The kids have ridden about every ride here, today,” Gussie said.

“We did the bumper cars!” Logan added.

Gussie said, “They did the bumper cars, multiple times; they played video games in the arcade; they did the Swamp Thing, the Rattler, going to the Cheetah after the Safari Train.”

“They like the water park the best, and that's where we are working our way to,” Marvin said. “That's why I came.”

Marvin said he enjoys the animals and the water park the most.

“It's just a regular thing; they have season passes,” Gussie said. “It's good clean summer fun, no mosquitoes.”

Even if you have a trip planned to Wild Adventures, and rain is in the forecast, the park offers Stay n' Play. This is designed for days at the park when it has bad weather, and it has to close rides, and parts of the water park.

“We have sidewalk chalk, game, story time, movie time,” Windham said. “It's a great opportunity for our team members and guests; it gives them the opportunity to have fun together in a safe place. The idea behind it is that so many times in the summer, when we are seven days a week. So many times those showers are just passing through, so it's a matter of a few minutes, and you want to be in and out of the rain, so that is what we came up with. Once the bad weather passes, we'll go back to opening up the rides and everyone can go back riding the rides.”

If the thrill rides are not your thing, then you can spend time with the animals on the Safari Train, the Alapaha Trail, and the petting zoo, and after that you could relax in the park's wave pool, Catchawave Bay.

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