Sheikra delivers thrills

I’m not the biggest roller coaster enthusiast in the world.   In fact, I’ve convinced myself that I’m too old to go whipping through the air and careening toward the earth at high speeds.   Nonetheless, I am willing to try a few things – at least once.

While at Bush Gardens in Florida, our cousins insisted that my husband and I explore the big rides, while they kept our kids company on the smaller ones.   We don’t get offers like that every day, so we disappeared before they could say ” Just kidding!”

As we headed toward the action, I spotted an attraction where the riders were perched high above the park for what seemed like an eternity! The platform pivoted slowly to position the hapless victims face down for a 90 degree  drop.  As I stood there with mouth wide open, fear, curiosity, and desire filled me all at once. I had to experience that ride.

So off we went to meet Sheikra.

As the line progressed through the crowd control barriers,  we watched videos from a camera perched on one of Sheikra’s cars. Every bump and turn of the tracks was revealed in a virtual trial run. My nerves began to unravel.

Finally, it was our turn. We strapped ourselves in and the car pulled away from the platform.  In a few seconds we were headed up a steep  incline with our faces to the sky.  We could hear the mechanism’s click, click, click, click.

By this time it was early evening and the sun was on its descent toward the horizon.  As we arrived at the top of the track, the highest point in the park, rosy streaks adorned the darkening sky, and the horizon in all its curved glory stretched out before us.   We towered over the trees and the entire park was at our feet.  Breath-taking!

Ever so gently, the platform on which we are seated tilted forward so that each row of seats had an unobstructed view of the impending 90 degree plunge.

We remained  face down atop the 200-foot precipice for several seconds.  People began to scream. Then, without warning, Sheikra plunged toward the ground at more than 70 miles per hour.  It whipped around the track, looping and twirling the entire way.  I sat in stunned silence as the car slowed on the flat part of the track.  I had survived!

However, instead of pulling into the platform, the car kept moving.  Why were we going up that steep, face to the sky incline again?  The view was still gorgeous, although the sun had slipped below the horizon.  And down we went a-g-a-i-nNNNNN!!!!!!!

We went, through the spin cycle a second time.  My brain was still doing loop de loops as the car pulled into the exit bay.  I had an Albert Einstein hairdo, and several hours later, I still couldn’t wipe that silly grin off my face.

TAKING THE PLUNGE-- Thrill seekers ride Busch Garden's Sheikra in Tampa, Florida. Photo courtesy of Busch Garden's press release.

Editorial note: this thrill ride took place in the spring of 2009.

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