March 29, 2008

ATRA Tour Visits Wisp Mountain Ski Resort Park, McHenry, MD

ATRA members April, Dave and Pete traveled to far off and remote McHenry, in western Maryland to visit Wisp Mountain Ski Resort Park and ride their new Mountain Coaster!

April's report:

On Saturday, March 29, 2008, Dave and I set out for McHenry, Maryland, where the mountain coaster at Wisp Ski Resort awaited us.

We departed around 11:30 am and after a couple of stops, made our way through 4 states (Ohio, PA, WV (twice!!), and MD) to complete the approximate 4-hour drive to the mountain coaster, one of only four of its kind.

It was a beautiful sunny day with high's in the upper 40's. West winds at 50 MPH (kidding) Pete and I had planned to go a couple of times before in the last month but it never worked out because of either other plans or bad weather. (It seemed this winter is never going to end!)

We arrived at Wisp right around 4:40. Pete was already there, examining the coaster closely as we approached him. Now, since this is a "mountain" coaster and runs along a mountain, and you board at the bottom of the hill, you cannot really see much of the coaster from the boarding platform. Pete and I were very scared and did not want to ride it. Dave had been on the mountain coaster in Colorado so he sort of knew what to expect.

We headed over to the bathroom and then to the ticket sales window to purchase our tickets. Now, ladies and gentlemen, I am about to tell you the scariest part of this adventure: THE SIGNING OF THE CONTRACT! You had to fill out a form that basically stated you will not hold the resort responsible for any injuries or death that may occur while riding. This made Pete and I not want to ride it. In fact, after filling it out, Pete stepped back and said he was not riding it. But then after a little coaxing from me and Dave, we all decided to ride it. We bought the three-pack for $25 and headed up the hill to the loading platform.

Mine and Pete's worst fear was that we wanted to go slow on this thing and there would be someone behind us wanting to go fast and would run into us. You had the complete power to control your speed on these things using two levers, one on each side of you.

We told the ride operators about our fear and they allowed extra time between letting our cars go up the lift hill to assure that there would be no collisions.

The lift hill was the longest part of the ride, clocking in at approximately four minutes while the ride itself was about a minute and a half I was really scared going up the lift hill. Pete said he felt the same way. Dave was in front of me going up it and I kept yelling, "I changed my mind!" But, as soon as my car was off the lift hill, I was ready to go....

Now remember I said you could control your own speed? Well, needless to say, I used the brake a lot during my first ride. Especially around the tight turns. (Kind of reminds me of a GCI, do you see the resemblance?) Anyways, there I was, wind blowing through my hair, carefree, side-winding through the tress, hitting the double–down along one of the ski hills (the best part of the ride which provided some airtime), soaring through two tight turns, making my way back under the lift hill, a few more turns, until I hit the flashing amber light which said to slow down. Dave waited for me at the station with his camera going. It was exhilarating! Fantastic! Never had I ridden such a beautiful thing! I immediately wanted to buy another ticket and go again, not believing how I had been so scared to ride it.

Pete came soaring down a minute after me and he felt the same way. We could have kicked ourselves for not wanting to ride it! He immediately wanted to buy another ticket as well.

And so we bought another 3-pack for $25 (normally one ride is $9.50 a person but you save a couple bucks by going in on a three-pack. That was the ONLY downside of this whole thing – the price! Otherwise I would have ridden it 20 times that day!) We got a second ride on it, this time with only very little "brake-age." We knew we wanted a third ride on it but, thinking the ride closed at 9, I wanted a dark ride on it. So I said, let's take a walk to the lodge and look around and by that time the sun will have gone down a little. Well, come to find out, the coaster closed at 7 so a dark ride was no longer a reality.

After walking through the lodge and checking out the snow tubers and skiers and the fantastic hills (side note: I really wanted to go tubing and/or skiing but money and time were scarce), we proceeded back up the hill to buy our third and final pack of tickets to get one more ride on our new love machine.

This time, no brakes and I wanted to go faster, faster, than the thing was taking me. Dave said his third ride was his fastest, but I disagree. He said he really thinks it depends on the car you are in (which, by the way, I would say is a cross between a sled and a go-kart, with a mere seat belt to hold you in.)

After we bid farewell to this wondrous machine, we drove 30 miles to Ruby Tuesday's and had a nice steak dinner, and then proceeded home.

What a lovely way to celebrate the weekend before my birthday. We all cannot wait to visit the mountain coaster again


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