That First Drop is a Doozie!

The look up

Recently I climbed an extremely long and lofty stairway to heaven..well, it wasn’t quite that profound…but the countless steps did take me to the top of what will (for now) be Canada’s tallest roller coaster. The Leviathan, at Canada’s Wonderland just north of Toronto, is the kind of attraction designed to defibrillate even the most jaded roller coaster nut. From the top of the first climb you plummet at an angle of about 80 degrees at a speed of 90 mph. At this velocity, screams don’t actually emit from the human form. They simply turn around and dive back down the throat.

I have no personal goals or ambitions to climb anything high. I may want to sail an ocean someday but there’s no overwhelming drive to escape the earth’s atmosphere. Everybody’s got their thing, right?

I did the prerequisite amount of climbing when I was a child and, frankly,  it brought me nothing but pain and discomfort. I remember clambering up a very high tree once to get a look at the eggs inside a hawk’s nest. The problem was I didn’t know how to get down. My father eventually found me by tracing my steps to the trunk and spent an eternity talking me out of my wayward perch.

I also recall ascending the rickety steps into a friend’s treehouse only to suddenly impale the top of my scalp on a protruding (and rusty) nail. I just hung there, stuck on the nail with blood streaming down my face, until a neighbour (who happened to be a nurse) came to the rescue. Truth be told, I was far more fearful of the ensuing tetanus shot than I was of the head injury.

And then there was my journey to the edge of Mexico’s famed Copper Canyon. I was producing a documentary and wanted the cameraman to get a shot of me peering over the edge into the most unimaginable chasm. (The Copper Canyon is four times the size of the Grand Canyon.)  The shooter set up the camera from about half a mile away and gave some hand signals to start me moving, but once I got to within a yard or so of the edge, I froze….and my knees began to buckle. We got the shot and I stumbled back as fast as I could but I always consider that this moment could have been my very last appearance on camera…just a long steady shot of a tiny man pitching into the abyss.

Cameraman Filmer ready at the Copper Canyon

So, I don’t get any kind of high from being on high. I don’t how many steps there were to get to the 306 foot pinnacle of The Leviathan. My thighs were on fire. My hamstrings twanged. It was a fantastic view, that’s for sure, and apparently I will be one of the first media people aboard the first day of the coaster. I’m not a coaster kook. I’m not one of those people who will go out of their way to lose their lunch on the latest version of a vomitron.

The look down

Once you’re strapped into one of these things you’re basically just hanging on to your entrails. It’ll take a little more than three minutes to do the circuit. How hard could it be?  Once you hit the top and hurtle like a peregrine falcon toward earth, the hardest part has got to be over. Right?  Anyway, I’ll give it a shot at the end of the week and give you an update.

You know, there is really nothing quite so reckless as an old guy with very little to lose.


12 Responses to “That First Drop is a Doozie!”

  1. Hey, whaddya mean ‘nothing to lose’? Don’t sell yourself short there Dave! I don’t envy you having to do this roller coaster ride. I loved the thrill of a scary ride when I was a kid but at the age I am at now I can live without it.

    I saw the footage of you and the gang climbing those steep steps on this new ride. When you told Liza, I think it was, to “just put one foot in front of the other” it seemed very profound. Mabye you were reliving that moment when you got stuck up that tree so long ago?

    My family and I hiked up Mt. Royal in Montreal on a whim. We didn’t realize it until we were almost at the top but we had chosen the wrong side. All of a sudden it was like a wall of solid rock. My husband had to push me from behind because when I looked down my legs froze. It was at that moment that I realized I was afraid of heights. I should never have looked down.

    Just want to add here Dave that I was really touched by last Fridays show watching you view your son’s message. It’s funny how feelings can just take over. I find as I get older my guard is less and less. Hope you and Lisa had a great weekend away. Okay, now go ride that beast! (not Lisa, the rollercoaster!!)

    • Ok Gail, I’m gonna hang on for the ride. I remember walking up to the so-called Tea House in the mountains beside Lake Louise. It took absolutely forever..and , believe me, the last thing I wanted when I got up there was a cup of tea!

  2. gkirkland Says:

    Hi Dave: I was at a party last year and a macho type was talking (at length) about his prowess on the Grouse Grind. He boasted that his best time was 47 minutes but fiat he threw up at the top. I said that I have two steps up to my front door and my best time was 47 minutes, but I puked at the top.

    BTW I went to elementary school in maple. Canada’s Wonderland is on the land a friends family dairy farmed.


    • Hey Gord,
      This thing is so tall that you can see it from miles away. It’s now a landmark..a signpost, I suppose, for people who don’t trust their GPS.

  3. I walked that long trail up to that teahouse in Lake Louise. I am afraid of heights. Even as a child. The most I could tolerate was the ferris wheel. After reading your story on the roller coaster, I thought, no way I would do it. Good luck on the ride.

  4. kelly nodwell Says:

    I envy you Dave! I wish that I could go on a ride like that, but my stomach won’t let me. I can’t handle a schoolyard swing. Years ago I went to Darien Lake with my sister and she talked me into going on a coaster. I was afraid that I might get sick, but she she assured me that I wouldn’t. She said that the ride is so quick that you don’t have time to get sick. I can’t believe that I fell for this logic, boy was she wrong! I look forward to watching the footage of this event. Good luck Dave!

    • Thanks Kelly. Understand, I don’t really want to do this so that’s why I’m going to do it. I’ve done just about every crazy thing you can do for television…this should literally be a no-brainer.

  5. F.M. Smith Says:

    Hey Dave, I watch the morning show everyday (almost) and get on the live blog if time permits (@frBurlington). I think you are so brave for doing this ride. No way I would do it … you could not pay me enough … just don’t have the stomach for it. When you all did that climb, it reminded me of our climb up the twin peaks in SanFran … no problem climbing up but my legs froze when it was time to get back down … had to have someone right in front of me to guide me. Sad but true. Anyway good luck and I look forward to the segment on monday. I also enjoy reading your blog by the way… good writing.

    • Many thanks…for your comments and for watching the show. I simply could not believe how long that first drop from 306 feet took…and I’m sure the footage, shot from a tiny digital camera attached to the front of the ride..about 6 feet in front of us, will reflect that. For me it was something to endure..not relish. One of our producers, though, went on the damn thing three times!! Kids!

  6. Mike Taggart Says:

    I presume you are washing your own underwear on wash day 🙂

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