You know, I was doing some introspective thinking the other day. I have a co-worker who went to Cedar Point when she was a little girl, and is terrified to this day of coasters due to a bad incident on Blue Streak. Hasn't ridden a coaster since, although she's been to Hersheypark and Knoebels since then.
We got to talking about my own coaster hobby... obsession... and then I told her about the basics (track records, the number of parks I've been to, etc). She seemed interested, until she stopped me, and asked me "What do you like so much about coasters?" I couldn't think of a good answer, beyond "It's fun, and the community is great." So I guess my topic is, what makes this such a great hobby, and what keeps us out there year after year? I don't know if I can quantify it myself.
Edit: I guess it should be called "What makes coasters fun?" I guess I can't edit the title? *** Edited 12/22/2006 4:25:28 AM UTC by Arson***
Air, speed and anticipation! That's all I need in a coaster. A coaster can turn all it wants but if there is no weightlessness, no speed, and no surprise, it's not going to be a good coaster; but that's just my opinion.
There's definitely the anticipation and adrenaline factor. But something more is involved, at least for me. It's very hard to put into words. Coasters are somehow more compelling than other types of thrill rides. Sure, Skyhawk is amazing and offers incredible airtime, but despite the endorphin rush it's still kind of a static experience.
Coasters are different. I've thought about this a lot, because I want to be able to explain to my non-enthusiast friends why I do what I do. As best I can figure out, here's my hypothesis: humans -- whether you believe we were created or evolved -- have a need for story. Our ancestors would go out on all day hunts, fighting nature and the elements, risking their very lives, to bring home sustenance for the clan. Over a roaring fire that night, they would retell the harrowing events of the day, the acts of bravery, the moments of absurdity on the way. And the whole clan would savor the story, absorbing and re-experiencing that visceral completion of human endeavor.
Must of don't hunt any more, and when we do there's certainly very little element of danger involved. But we still crave that experience, that sense of being in a story. And roller coasters are the best re-enactment of that dynamic we 21st century denizens have (or at least those of us who aren't fighting in our wars).
Think about it. Roller coasters have a beginning, a middle, an end. They have the slow, wary buildup to the chase, the sudden swift swooping on the prey, the twists and turns and exhilirating sense of controlled chaos that ensues. Roller coasters go somewhere. That may sound trite but play around with the thought a bit. And it also explains why shuttle coasters often don't feel as rewarding. It's not a circuit, not a full story...it's psychologically kind of a cheat.
One of my coaster books actually explains a possible scientific explanation of why people enjoy riding coasters. It explains that humans are naturally conditioned to fear certain stimuli, such as heights, speed, loss of control, etc....all things that a coaster provides. Whether we have a strong fear of these stimuli or not, when they are present a part of our brain, the amygdala, is aroused and starts sending signals to the rest of the body. These signals put our bodies in a heightened sense of awareness, pumping adrenaline through the body, increasing our heart rate and blood pressure, and causing rapid breathing. For thrill seekers this heightened awareness is almost like a natural high that we go after. The book also says that when the amygdala is stimulated it sends pain-suppressing endorphins throughout the body, almost naturally drugging the body to feel minimal discomfort. All of these things combined generate a euphoric buzz which is why we love riding.
Sorry to get so scientific on you guys there but that explanation always made sense to me. I know one other reason that roller coasters fascinate me is the structural factor. I have always found unique and interesting structures to be very cool. Roller coasters are some of the most unique, intricate, and beautiful structures out there. Also the fact that so much planning time and money is put into a structure solely for the purpose to provide fun and entertainment is very interesting to me.
There are several other reasons I love coasters which moosh's post covers basically word for word.
^ Yeah, it's a great community. I've met a few people on this board already, and when I went to Holiwood Nights this year (my first proper enthusiast event), I didn't feel left out of the loop. I haven't experienced too many "Coaster Snobs" out there ;)
I like what moosh said best, especially the shared experience part. I like going on a coaster and starting up a convo on the lift hill, then at the end talking about how cool it was or the best part, even if its not a "friendship" per se, its a bond for just those few minutes, everyones going through the same experience (ok save for the back seat vs front seat etc) at the same time, everyones on the same "track".
I was going to skip this thread but then started thinking about it and decided to put my two cents in. Sure there is the adrenaline rush and fear aspects and the sense of accomplishment when you get off the ride having overcome your fear. However for me those are small reasons. I work as an ER physician, so my amygdala/limbic system is in a constant state of excitement for 40 hours a week. The most important thing for me is spending quality time with my kids and making lasting memories together. It's all about the memories we'll carry with us through life until we die - which could be 30 seconds into the next ride if the train derails. :) My kids are 13 and 15, so we may only be able to do this together for a few more years and we're making the most of it. After my kids have grown up, I seriously doubt I'll be going to parks by myself.
For me it's all about adrenaline. As I've gotten older, I realize stuff like skateboarding down steep steep hills, driving fast, etc is stupid. Coasters give you that same rush - well, maybe not the same but similar - and are safe.
I like Ensign Smith's analogy. I alway feel it's more like a song or form of music. But either way, it is, to me, interactive art.
We love to interperet the forms and watch the trains dance along them as we wait for our turn. While riding, we discover it's character. As if it is a living thing.
And like a song, there are specific points along the way everyone who has the same experience knows. For example; a harmonic note in a guitar solo...the left turn at the far end that slams you latteral in the rib cage.