My life was changed forever by a lady known as The Blue Streak. She entered the world the same year I did, 1964, so it seems inevitable that our lives would be destined to cross. When she was presented to the public that year you could hear the collective gasp as people saw her for the first time. Few babies ever entered the world with such anticipation and astonishment. The years have passed now, dimming the luster and the memory of that moment, but for a brief time she was hailed as something special, the biggest, fastest, meanest wooden lady ever. Each year my family would make it’s pilgrimage to the shores of Lake Erie, to the great amusement park that still looms larger than all of them in my memory. Cedar Point, aged like Abraham and Sarah, had stood for some 94 years before giving birth to that special lady who would always be part of my life. An anticipatory pride filled the air with the arrival of the new child, and in those early years she was revered by all.
By today’s standards she’s nothing special, an old worn out relic of 57 years, but it was her freshness, her presence and her daring that breathed life for all who would come after. Now as the years have passed there is a revived interest in the simplistic endurance she has displayed.
Each year as we made our way to the park I would beg my father to let me ride that fearsome coaster. I was just a boy, a mere child, but inside there was a fire burning, longing to show I was a man, and that passion found its mark in the Blue Streak. She was a thing of exquisite beauty and as I watched year after year the happy faces of those who would board her with such glee and leave her breathless with excitement, I fell in love. My life revolved around the day I would be able to join her on the magic ride and feel the joy and love she would give me. But I was always too small, never quite reaching that required minimum height. My physical size seemed to be all that stood between me and happiness.
Finally, the day arrived. The lady and I were both seven years old. She had not grown any in those years, except in terms of reputation, but I had grown, and my day had come. We, my father and I, got in line and waited for what seemed like eternity. The moment arrived as we reached the front of the line. The great Blue car roared into where we waited. I watched in amazement as the bars released allowing her passengers to disembark, and opening the way for me to enter the place I had always dreamed of. The gates swung open, and I was barely even aware of my father next to me as we sat down.
After that I don’t remember much in the way of details. For some reason I have blocked it almost entirely from my mind. Occasionally I get vague images of us riding to the top of that first hill and reaching the crest, but the rest will not come to me. What I do remember is that when the ride ended I scrambled as quickly as I could to leave my seat, forgetting my father. Running down the exit ramp I could be heard screaming at the top of my lungs as I tried to get away from that dreadful beast.
The only thing that remains with me from that ride after all these years is simply this: Fear. Fear caused by the fact the thing I had wanted more than any had tossed me about in a way I had never conceived of, caring not how I felt as we hurtled through space together. As I child I don’t ever remember fear prior to my encounter with the Blue Streak. I remember jealousy as my sister was born when I was four, and pain when I slammed my thumb in the church door at age two, and I remember disappointment in missing the fire a school in the first grade because I was having my tonsils out. But prior to 1971 fear, unadulterated terror, and a world that could toss you about so mercilessly was alien to me. The Blue streak gave me that fear, and fear has never left me.
50 years later I’m not afraid of the Blue Streak anymore. Until the day my health said I could not ride anymore, I’ve ridden bigger and faster coasters, been turned upside down until I thought I was going to vomit. And found joy in the ride.
I even went back to that place and conquered the Blue Streak, but never have I come close to regaining the innocence I held when I first took the step of becoming part of her. I had looked at her with all the love and passion a seven year old child could muster. She was waiting for me patiently for those seven years until I grew to the point where I could ride her and when I came to her I knew she was going to bring me joy. But I was wrong, physical growth had not prepared me for the emotional ride, and as I plummeted down that first hill, not only was my stomach ripped away, so was my heart. She had betrayed me, or had she?
There never had been any promise that the journey would be smooth. In fact if I had paid attention even as I child I would have noticed that there were twists and turns, peaks and valleys, changes speeds. I would have seen that sometimes there would be long slow chugs to the top of the hill and the experience of being on top of the world, only to be followed by an intense plummet that took your stomach away.
In fact the only promise I can see, all this years later, was the promise that if I got on board and road the ride, then she would be under me, supporting me all the way to the very end of the journey.
Original Version: October 23, 1995
Revised: July 24, 2021