I recently celebrated my dad’s retirement by launching him out of a canon…almost. If you’ve ever experienced The Incredible Hulk Coaster, you know what I’m talking about! We had decided to have a father/daughter day to do something we hadn’t done in years: ride roller coasters together all day long. And The Incredible Hulk Coaster was the perfect way to start our day. Most people look at the bent and twisted steel of a coaster and feel one of two things—an incredible adrenaline rush or absolute, paralyzing, wet-your-pants fear. For my dad and I, it was always the rush, which is probably why it became the center of so many special times together. I remember going to Circus World (later to become Boardwalk and Baseball) down in Haines City when I was growing up and absolutely loving the fact that my parents would sit side-by-side with me and my brother on all—and I mean all—the rides while we laughed, screamed and had the time of our lives. These were the times when it was ok not only for my brother and I to let loose and be crazy, but for my mom and dad to be kids as well. Unfortunately, I’m not a kid anymore—in fact, I find myself being too much of an adult far too often—but it was this day with my dad at Universal Orlando that brought me back to what’s important.
My dad had never experienced a floor-less coaster, so Dragon Challenge was next on our list. What I love about this coaster is that moment when the ground slowly falls away from your feet. It only takes a second for your brain to realize you are in for a completely different sensation—you are truly about to feel flight.
On one of our first inversions, I hear my dad laughing hysterically, which is completely infectious. I crane my neck to look at him and a huge smile is plastered to his face. It’s a moment only he and I could share.
Our day included my personal favorite: Revenge of the Mummy. This ride combines wonderful storytelling with incredible coaster tricks concealed by darkness. It’s absolutely brilliant! When the coaster [spoiler alert!] begins to move backwards, my dad summed the experience up succinctly: “Cool!”
And, of course, we made time for things like The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, lunch at Mythos and a Duff Beer at Moe’s Tavern in Springfield to close out the day. I mean, you can’t spend all day hanging upside down!
But it was those moments when we were rocketing through the air, screaming our lungs out, that took me back to being eight-years-old and grabbing my parents’ hands for dear life. Somehow, that roller coaster became a time machine and my childhood sprung back to life.
Every day I come to work and spread the news about all the amazing experiences you can have with your loved ones at Universal Orlando. My friends tease me that I spend my days riding coasters and eating churros, but I really don’t find myself in the parks as often as I would like. But after spending this special day with my dad, I have a renewed sense of why I do what I do every day.
The shared laughter, screams, and those one-of-a-kind moments you have together become some of our deepest, fondest memories; I know they are for me. But we have to make time to have those moments, to walk through the front gates, strap in, and take the ride.
It’s strange to think a huge mountain of intertwining steel coaster track is calling us to do just that.