Who Am I?

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A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

25 February 2009

Viva Las Vegas! Part II: The Rides

Imagine if you will a 160-foot tall square steel girder, mounted vertically. It's got rails on all four sides that run to the top. And on each side of this girder, attached to those rails are outward-facing seats, situated so the occupants cannot see anything - not each other, nor any bit of the apparatus to which they are attached – they're just staring out into oblivion. These seats, with said occupants in them, are then rocketed up the rails to the top. Pretty neat all by itself, eh? I mean, you'd pay to go on a ride like that at an amusement park, no?


Well then, now imagine that this whole contraption is atop a 900' tall, small, round building out in the middle of the desert – like say, oh, the Stratosphere Hotel in Las Vegas. Someone with just such a perverted imagination did that and came up with the Big Shot Thrill Ride.

And yes, it is.

I don’t know how I let Matt talk me into these things, but I often do. In this case, my weak excuse was that it was his bachelor party, and I didn't want to spoil his fun. Jamie had no such problem, however. He was smart; for this outing he stayed back at the hotel.

So we climbed on. Be a wuss in front of Matt? No way! And no turning back now either. One minute, we were seated there, all strapped in. I was having second, third, and fourth thoughts, wondering if this thing was really safe…pretending to be casually chatting with the ride attendant. He was saying something about something, but I couldn't really hear due to the sound of rushing blood noise in my ears. All of a sudden...BAM! WHOOOOSH! Up we go, no countdown, no warning, no opportunity to brace (clever bastards!).

The closest thing I can relate it to is sitting in a little chair on top of a big rocket, then having somebody else light the fuse and run away. Yeah, it's like that. Incredible.

There is the usual negative-g at the apex, of course, which brings the heart further up into the throat if that's possible, and a couple of rebound bounces on the way down just to keep it interesting. If you like rides that get the adrenaline pumping, the Big Shot will do the trick. In fact, I may have left a little adrenaline on the seat. Well, maybe it was adrenaline...or some other bodily fluid. The Big Shot is that, um, “thrilling” (they did not lie). Oh, by the way the view from the top is spectacular. Or so they tell me.

But you know we just had to up the ante. It was Vegas, after all, a place where antes routinely get upped. And it was Matt and me, and we are stupid. And on the roof of the Stratosphere is another poop-your-pants ride called the X-Scream.

Basically this is a very short roller-coaster in which the car, instead of following a track, gets launched into space over the side of the building. It stops, of course, but you don’t know exactly when, which adds to the fear factor once underway. When the car finally, dear-mother-of-God does stop, it lingers there, teetering about 850 feet in the air. Suddenly, the arm the car rides on drops heart-stoppingly until you are pointed at an angle that seems straight down. It then retracts, and you get to do it all over again. It is only slightly less scary the second time. Even though we had watched the thing go through a couple of cycles before our ride, the first-person experience was pretty intense.

The XScream at the end of its run. It does not look like it's going to stop.

Here, the XScream has dropped. It is not, let me emphasize, a slow and/or gradual drop. It is like a freefall. (The woman in the blue sweater to the right looked as if she was going to be sick. And she wasn't even going on the ride!)

Matt went on the third ride, a little tilt-a-whirly thing called the Insanity. You sit in seats suspended under an articulated arm. The seats begin revolving and the arm moves the whole shebang out over the edge. The arms that the seats are attached to are hinged so that centrifugal force causes them to swing outward. You end up facing down at a pretty good angle. Being prone to vertigo (and averse to dying), I passed on that one.

Matt, about to meet his maker before being flung to his death 900 feet below. You'll notice that I had forgotten to ask him for his wallet and watch. Hey, I wasn't thinking straight!

One of these people may or may not be Matt. I had my eyes closed when I took the picture.

We had planned on eating in the revolving restaurant a couple of levels down from where we were. But at the time, my knees were a little wobbly and I wasn't really in the mood for eating. So we headed just up the street to the Sahara Casino where they were advertising $1.00 margaritas. We parked ourselves on a couple of stools and got good and buzzed for about $5.00 apiece.

You've got to love Vegas. It’s just one big adult amusement park. Even if you don’t like to gamble (which I don't) there are plenty of other things to do. Something for everyone! If you go, I highly recommend that you ride the Big Shot. I'll be the guy taking your picture.

From street level.

Stratosphere Hotel Website


Redlefty said...

Ha, the pilot terrified of heights...

Bob Barbanes said...

It's funny, and more than a little ironic that I know plenty of pilots who are afraid of heights. But actually, it's not so much the fear of heights. I was pretty cool with being up there. I just wasn't so thrilled by dangling over the side while hoping the proper maintenance was done on those rides. I know they haven't had any accidents, but there's always a first time...

Hal Johnson said...

I like roller coasters, and I like thrill rides in general. But I dunno. . .

Anonymous said...

It makes you feel alive!!!