08 August 2015

Riding On Rails

Today I took Tosca, my fixed-gear Mercian, for a ride.  

Sometimes people who haven't ridden a track bike or a "fixie" ask me what it's like.  One description I've given is that--if you'll pardon me a cliche--it's like "riding on rails".

Perhaps that's what, subconsciously, led me along the South Shore of Nassau County, Queens and Brooklyn to Coney Island:

Now, if you want to talk about "riding on rails", you have to think about the Thunderbolt.  

If you ask most people to name a roller coaster on Coney Island, they'll say "Cyclone", with good reason:  Few amusement-park rides, anywhere, are better-known.  Even if you've never been to Coney Island, you've probably seen it in movies (such as The Wiz and The Sting II), Beyonce's video XO or in Grand Theft Auto IV (in which it's called The Screamer).  Roller-coaster aficionados still rate it as among the best; it's almost certainly one the most thrilling rides to be had anywhere and one of the best remaining examples of a wooden-car roller coaster.

The current Thunderbolt, by contrast, opened only last year.  It's more like a modern mega-amusement park ride, with its twists and turns.  What most people under a certain age don't realize is that there was another Thunderbolt, which opened in 1925 (two years before the Cyclone) and closed in 1982.  The Cyclone very nearly met the same fate in the late 1960s, when attendance at Coney Island's amusement parks and beaches declined sharply with the opening of newer parks and beaches, accessible by expressways, and the deterioration of the neighborhood around the roller coaster.  (In the 1980s, Coney Island was often referred to as "Crack Island"; since the late 1990s, the area has been rebuilt, bit by bit.) Today I saw crowds like I've never before seen; kids of various ages screamed with terror or squealed with delight as the the Thunderbolt rose and dropped.

Speaking of dropping:  For the past half-century or so, the Parachute Jump (the "umbrella" you see in the background) has been closed.  There have been rumors about reopening it.  Perhaps there could be some way to connect it to the Thunderbolt:  When it reaches the peak of the loop, riders could "bail out".  

Hmm...I wonder what the city Parks Department would think of that.

As for me:  I'll stick to "riding on rails"--on Tosca.


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