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Home » Roller Coasters » Guess who’s turning 35? Happy Birthday Loch Ness Monster!

Guess who’s turning 35? Happy Birthday Loch Ness Monster!

Loch Ness Sign

Can you believe Nessie will be 35 this year?  I can’t.  Of course, I am judging the ride’s age with my own as the Loch Ness and I practically are fraternal twins.  My birthday syncs up with the coolest, classic coaster in the world and who wouldn’t mind sharing their day with that?  I don’t.  In fact, I’m honored.

Well I am a wee bit older than the Loch Ness; but if Nessie can continue to look sharp and maintain a wow factor, then I shouldn’t be too worried about life in my thirties.  I mean, it’s not as if my hand crystal is flashing and it is time for me to be sent to the carousel for Renewal.  (OK kids; this is a reference to the classic cult film Logan’s Run; and if you think you are a sci-fi nerd and have never seen the film- I pity you and demand you see it. Off with you now!)

My first memory of the Loch Ness was a powerful one.  I recall sitting in my stroller and peering up to see a mysterious yellow metal beast way above the treetops.  I remember thinking it was the scariest and most exciting thing I have seen in my two and a half year existence on Earth.  These odd green metal snakes would climb up to the top and fall off the side towards the lake below.  It had to be some magic behind this and I wanted nothing more than to go into that sacred tunnel my mom and brother disappeared into in order to confront this astonishing beast-machine.

For me, it was “Access Denied”.   I was strapped to my little stroller like Hannibal Lector with a pacifier stuck in my mouth to silence my protests of not being included.  My dad, ever the fearful sort when it comes to heights, was my relieved guardian.  He would sit there, mostly sipping coffee with his 70’s style mustache and bell bottom pants, smiling at me.  He muttered, “Stop pouting.  You’re not missing anything.  We are safe here on the ground.” 

This reassurance did nothing to appease me.  It wasn’t fair.  I wanted to ride on that fantastical creature that defied gravity right before me.  To me, this was proof that magic existed.

After my mom and brother returned, my mom asked me what I wanted to ride and I pointed with a grunt to the Loch Ness Monster.  She laughed.  “No sweetie, you can’t ride that.  You are too young.  How about the Little Nessie?”

I looked over to the kiddie coaster called the Little Nessie.  It had a very small circular track that had these little Loch Ness Kiddie Dragon cars that connected in the center to a main hub.  The ride would bound around the track going up & down and I suppose for many kids this was a thrill.  I looked back at my mom with a furrowed brow.  Did she think that this ride would fool me into thinking I was not getting the shaft in this deal?  Really?

I shook my head and angrily pointed again to the Loch Ness Monster coaster way above me.  My mom, frustrated said. “No!  We are going to ride the Little Nessie.  Come on, you’ll ride with your brother.”  And so I did.

Little Nessie

During the entire ride, all I felt was anger.  I stared glaring out into nothing while my brother had the time of his life.  Not fair, not cool!  I was quickly learning that life wasn’t always sunshine and rainbows.

Later that same year, I strategically rode the Lady Bug ride in the old Grimms’ Hollow section of the park just so I could watch the Loch Ness Monster coaster cars fly above me.  Every time I saw the cars go by I kept thinking: If only I were older.  If only I were taller.

Lady Bug

It took forever for me to reach that elusive height requirement.  FOREVER.  Four long years of torture!

It was the beginning of the park’s operating season and upon arriving at the England parking lot, I could see the Loch Ness hill peeking through the trees.  Would I be tall enough this year?  Is today the day? My excitement was maintained as I remained skeptical about the possibility.  I knew just how deep the sting of rejection was upon standing up to be measured and being told the dreaded phrase: “Sorry kid.  Not this year.”

The whole experience mirrors that of Ralphie’s wish to own a Red Rider BB Gun in the movie Christmas Story.  As a kid you seeing that adults have all the power and control and you are just trying to navigate in their world the best you can.  Like the BB gun, the Loch Ness Monster was a right of passage; a graduation to the next level of respect and abilities.  You couldn’t study in order to pass this test.  Nope, you simply had to grow.

The question of my ability to grow from last year would soon be tested when my mom took me up to what I called “The Judging Pole.”  This lifeless piece of wood held the power to grant you access to the coolest rides in the park or to take them away.  Much like Gandalf’s staff, the wielder could make the decree that “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!”

You Shall Not Pass

I hated that pole; that stupid, evil pole!  I thought it magically caused me to shrink every year just to keep me away from my goal.   With that said, I nervously perched on the stand and the employee at the ride used the loathsome staff of doom to measure my height.  I vaguely heard, “You’re good.”

Whaaa???

For a moment I just stood there shocked and not sure if I heard the man right.

I’m tall enough?  I’m tall enough!!  Holy crap did you hear that?  My mind raced on the news I just heard.  “Mom, mom, mom I can ride it!  I can ride it!”   I screamed with joy and ran in circles like a dog waiting to go outside while you grab the leash.  Heck, I probably was drooling like a dog too.  Who knows.

Mom was thrilled for me and asked me if I was ready.  Ready? I thought.  Ready?  I have been ready for like, my whole life.  Duh!  Sheesh.   I didn’t say that.  It was more of a incoherent babble of “Aragah oh man.. ahhahh can’t believe.. heee… let’s go!”

I grabbed my mom’s hand and drug her into the line of the coaster.  I was SOOOOO excited at this point.  I could barely think.  Looking around the folks in line I felt so cool!  I was now a part of the exclusive club of big kids and adults!  My thoughts rambled something along the lines of: I made it, I made it!  Oh yeah. Doing my little jig right here in line. I’m cool, I’m awesome.

I felt so much older.  This was going to be the best day ever.

I cannot recall much about the wait in line other than going through the turnstile and seeing the rows for the first time.  So this is what the mysterious building looked like on the inside? I thought as the sound of the announcement spiel and the hustle of the ride attendants became mesmerizing.  As quick as people got in the cars and the harness came down, the quicker they shot off like rockets into the unknown.

My mom asked me what seat I wanted.  I had already given this some thought.  If you are going to go out on your first coaster ride, go big! “The front,” I nodded with absolute certainty.  Mom was hesitant.  I had to reassure her several times but she eventually guided me to the line to wait for the front seat.  Everything was cool until it was my turn to ride. The gates opened for me to take my seat and I began to feel nervous.  What if I hated this? What if all this wait is for something horrible?

It was too late to turn back.  I raised my chin high and walked through the gates to take my seat in the front car as if I’d done it a million times.  Inside my stomach was about to hurl, but I kept it in check.  No fear, no weakness!  I chanted this to myself and took a deep calming breath as the harness was pressed down onto my shoulders.

As if they were harnesses made of Kryptonite, the feeling of being a big kid-adult vanished; leaving me powerless.  I felt so small and insignificant in this exact moment.  I realized that I was no longer in control; that I have to trust this ride with my life and I was about to fly 60 mph over a 114 foot drop and even be turned upside down!  Twice!  I squeezed my mom’s hand.  “You can do it.”  She said with a calm voice.

I gulped.  The car took off, a slight dip out the station.  The little glide through the trees was peaceful and I began thinking to myself that this isn’t so bad.  However, when the first car hit the lift chain and I was looking straight up the hill, my thought quickly became:  OH MAN, THIS IS WAY HIGHER THAN IT LOOKS FROM THE GROUND! 

I started to have a mini panic attack.  I scanned left and right, keeping my eyes off the top.  I could see my dad below, sipping coffee and looking bored.  Higher, Higher… click click…clack..clack… Each sound bringing me closer and closer to the top of the hill I had so long wanted to climb back in my Hannibal Lector stroller days.

Upon reaching the top I gasped.  It was the most beautiful sight I have ever seen.  I was on top of the world!  I made it!  I was higher than anything at Busch Gardens!

Suddenly, I wasn’t nervous anymore- I was invincible!  “This is awesome!”  I screamed.  Mom told me to get ready and to hold my arms up.

This was it, this was the hill!  Over the edge…. My eyes widened… my mouth dropped… words escaped me at view below.  Then I felt a sensation of falling; the weight of the car pulling me down, faster, faster, until it all became a blur.

My body began to process this feeling and my brain quickly decided if I liked it or not.  I felt a smile starting to creep up on my face and suddenly I shouted out a loud “Wooo-hooo!”

The ride approached the second hill and first loop.  Down the hill the train went and then all of a sudden, I was looking at the world upside down.  This time I started laughing, the smile never faltered from my face.

Before I knew it the ride was over.  Done.

I did it!

The train pulled up to the station and stopped.  All I could feel was electricity.  I couldn’t speak; I couldn’t even process how powerful I felt.

My mom helped me out and we were walking up the walkway to exit when my mom asked if I enjoyed it.  My words exploded into a frenzied mass of syllables.  “It was the coolest thing ever!  Oh man, that hill… and the loops.. an uh.. and the tunnel was soooo scary!”  My dialogue remained on the Loch Ness Monster through six more coaster rides and for the rest of the week.

I will never forget the magic of my first ride on the legendary Loch Ness Monster.  In fact, I still have my “I survived the Loch Ness Monster” button and t-shirt as well as my plush Nessie toy I earned after my brave adventure that amazing summer day.

So Happy Birthday Loch Ness Monster! Thank you for all the years of joy and thrills you’ve given me and may you continue to create wonderful memories for decades to come!  Cheers!

My Big DayIMG_2074Medium-001Nessie Plush-001

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6 Comments

  1. Rich Smith says:

    I was a much more timid park goer than the young Nora was. I felt the joy and trepidation of your first trip down Nessie’s drop as well.
    It’s been a long time since then. I’m the dad in my familiy now, sans, the “70’s style mustache”. I was holding back tears reading much of your piece, its so well written and spoke to me on many levels. I too am the younger sibling, I too had to watch my older brother get to do everything first. The park holds memories for me, it’s like a archive of my childhood. Each time I go it touches something deep inside me. Like opening a beloved book I’ve read before, reliving the thrills and romance of my past. Yeah, so I’m a sappy old man so what of it? Please keep writing, the lump in my throught demands it. BTW, I’m “oldtimer” from the forums. My wife and two boys live near the park now and I get to work with them on occaision. I’ve never lost my sense of wonder and hope a never do. Because I know magic really exists. I don’t see it everyday, but when I do it resonates in me. If it’s not one of my boys, then its my own memories that well up in me. I can’t really put words to it, but you came pretty close in that last piece. I’m rambling now so I’ll close with a simple thanks.

    Thanks, Nora.

    Rich

    • noramarien says:

      Rich, I am so glad to have run across you in the forums and I am thrilled you enjoyed my story. I have been laboring over the upcoming Big Bad Wolf story for a while, I expect it to be quite an emotional tale as putting my emotions into words is difficult sometimes. By the way, I loved your story and memories above and it seems we shared very similar lives growing up at the park. I plan on sharing an excerpt from your post here on the Facebook page too. Thanks so much for reading my blog and I hope to keep updating this site often!

      Best wishes Always! ~Nora

  2. Neil Taylor says:

    Growing up, roller coasters were not something I was interested in. In fact, when my dad finally drug me on BBW I hated it (hard to believe, I know!). It was sort of a tradition that after we arrived at the park we stop at Pigs in a Kilt for corn dogs and soda with those horrible paper straws. My earliest memories of the LNM are of sitting outside of the clydesdale’s stables eating a corn dog and listening to the familiar click-click of the train going up the lift followed by the scream of the first drop. Also of playing in Grimm’s Hollow where (if my memory is right) there was a gingerbread house in a sandbox right under the other side of the drop, and watching the supports vibrate as the train passed by.

    But my favorite memory happened this past season. My daughter was finally tall enough to ride her first big coaster. Verbolten had not opened yet and as soon as I saw she was tall enough I grabbed her wrist and we made a bee line to LNM. She absolutely loved it! The loops were her favorite even though that was the part she was nervous about the most.

    I am so excited to see it continue to thrill generation after generation of riders!

    -Neil

    Btw I am also from the forums “jedijunky”. Love the old pics!

    • noramarien says:

      Awww! Poor BBW! I understand though; coasters are not for everyone. I loved Pig in a Kilt because i recall that the prices were the lowest in the park for the longest time. You could get a corndog, fry, and a coke for about $2.50 in the late 80’s. That was a deal! For you I went ahead and posted some photos of the Grimm’s Hollow, Eagles Nest, & Petting Zoo areas of the park on the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.156471664506354.36509.149401725213348&type=3 You will see the gingerbread house that you are mentioning there. I have some more photos, but I am in the process of organizing all of my BGW pics now; a Herculean task I may say.

      I am glad your daughter loved Verbolten and the Loch Ness. Like you, I am thrilled to see my memories “live on” in a new generation of coaster junkies. What a relief to know that so many will share similar experiences of something so wonderful! Best wishes Neil! I hope to write more soon!

  3. RD Sussmann says:

    Loch Ness Monster shares two honors with me- She is both my first love, and my first tattoo. Growing up with Nessie, it wasn’t till much later in my ‘riding’ history that I fell in love for the very first time. Since 1991, She has occupied my #1 spot on my list, and she always will. When it came time for me to choose my college, I chose a school not far from Nessie, and spent just about every weekend for six years with her. This year is special, and I hope to go back to visit her again on her 35th birthday.

    There are very few events in one’s life that you can remember so vividly, and you aptly captured the first moments you met Nessie. For me it is so very clear in my mind decades later. Thanks for a wonderful journey on this beautiful ride!

    • noramarien says:

      Thanks so much for your reply and I m thrilled to have been able to share my story with you. We have much in common it seems as my first tattoo is of the Big Bad Wolf! I love your story and hope to see you on Nessie’s 35th birthday this year. Best wishes always to you and yours!

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