“There’s nothing as frightening as Medusa—the tallest, fastest, longest and most technologically-advanced roller coaster in Northern California.”
That’s the billing for a thrilling ride I undertook on Monday. And I wasn’t even forced onto it or talked into it. I wanted to do it. Even though I suffered carsickness as a child and always got sick on roller coasters.
This whole trip started because my good friend with whom I play games every week invited me to join her family for a day at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, CA , a more than two-hours’ drive from our area. Her husband couldn’t make it, so I was his replacement. Like a character from The Godfather, how could I refuse this offer of fun with friends?
So off we went early Monday morning in two separate cars, with twenty-something children in the back catching a few winks before the games began.
The park wasn’t as crowded as we anticipated for a summer day, one that was cooler than the days prior. A nice breeze was blowing off the Bay to keep us from sweating.
We met another family at the park, one who had younger boys eager to run off to expensive snack bars and souvenir shops.
But first we got on the Sky Screamer.
This ride sounds much worse than it is. It’s actually a bunch of swings suspended from a tower that rises high into the air. I buckled my seat belt with my friend’s mom next to me. Now she’s a trooper, a real role model. Not only is she about twelve years older than me, but she’s gone through what I have: breast cancer and divorce. A double whammy of screamers. If I can go to amusement parks and ride ANY ride when I’m her age, into my seventies, I will consider myself a miracle child.
As the two-seaters rose into the air, we swung around in ever-wider circles. But neither of us screamed. My stomach did jolt a bit, but that didn’t justify a verbal outburst.
After that, we decided to do the Medusa, at least once, before lunch. Good thing we didn’t ingest anything beforehand.
This ride is named after the mythical creature Medusa , one of three Gorgon sisters. In classic Greek mythology, Medusa was once beautiful. But out of jealousy the goddess Athena turned her into an ugly being with hair made out of snakes. Anyone at whom she gazed would be turned to stone instantly.
The Medusa roller coaster is a “thrill ride”, one of several spaced throughout the park. The young adults in our party promised us that this ride would not disappoint. Unlike some others, it would not result in a headache.
The line for the ride snaked out to an area in the sun. This human coil probably extended beyond the length of Medusa’s locks, a wait of about 30 minutes. The kids all around us must have wondered what my friend’s mother and I were up to as we inched our way forward. Were we going to flake out at the last minute?
No, not us. We’d been through far worse in our lifetimes.
The Medusa was as good as advertised, and then some. The sharp twists and turns gave us more of a loopy feeling than the upside-down motions. I closed my eyes after the coaster got to the top of the hill. As we jerked and switched around, I just waited for the ride to finish.
After we disembarked and weaved our way to the exit, wondering if we would heave, my friend’s mom and I plopped ourselves onto a bench near another thrill ride that my friend and her children decided to try.
Medusa had had her effect. Our stomachs had turned to stone. I removed all my layers except one and waited for the waves of nausea to subside. It took about two hours, but my stomach finally told me its protests were over. I delighted in the knowledge that my chest pain was none the worse for embarking on this adventure. Nor did I suffer any neck pain or other nagging aches, nor increased arm swelling from a lymphedema complication.
As a large group, we had differing interests, but we didn’t let that separate us too much at the park. We certainly didn’t want to spend all our valuable time looking for each other. Some went to restrooms while others explored souvenir shops or snack places. Others of us relieved our legs by finding coveted seats, people-watching as we waited.
After our party had its fill of the thrill rides and money-hungry stores, we flew off to the butterfly exhibit, a wondrous tropical paradise in a greenhouse filled with moths and butterflies of every size and color. The last time I had explored this exhibit was 18 years ago when I took my two-year-old son and his older brothers to visit Six Flags, then called Marine World. My toddler screamed his head off in what he viewed as a torture chamber. The fear of butterflies landing on his shoulder far surpassed any fear he might have at a haunted house walk-through with its obvious fakery.
After that experience I wondered if I’d ever see the exhibit again. But lo and behold, there we were, delighting in butterfly flight, and marveling at the promise of pupae. I could identify with the caterpillars, slowly being transformed within their respective chrysalises to emerge as new creatures, ready for anything.
Everyone was snapping pictures except me. I’ve been scanning so many photos into my computer from photo albums that I didn’t even want to generate any more photos. I figure my friends could always send me some of theirs. Meanwhile, a blue morpho butterfly like this one crossed our paths several times.
After the butterfly experience and a rendezvous with the gift shop, we headed to some shows featuring trained dolphins, sea lions, and orcas. Because we weren’t in triple-digit weather, we avoided the guaranteed-splash seats of the stadiums. On the way we petted stingrays and enjoyed the antics of South American penguins.
Finally my stomach growled from hunger rather than nausea. Some of us had money to spare on the high prices of food in the park, but I was among the thrifty folk, the ones on a limited budget. So I snagged a slice of pizza and salad on which I operated for most of the day. A French Fry here or there from someone else’s plate made its way into my stomach on more than one occasion.
Our last stop at the park was at the elephant exhibit, where we learned how to distinguish African elephants from their Asian counterparts.
We left as the park was closing, facing a traffic jam in the parking lot as people exited from all different directions. My friend’s car broke down on the way home, but with a wing and a prayer we found ourselves on the road again after an hour’s delay. That night I had the most peaceful sleep I’ve had in twelve months.
Friends and fun. What could be better?
Six Flags really is a Discovery Kingdom. In that enclosed realm I found out who I really am–and acted accordingly. To tell the truth, I know what the Jan behind door #3 is capable of thinking and doing. In the amusement park I didn’t care if people were amused by my out-of-fashion fanny pack. It was practical, and unlike a backpack it didn’t require storage in a locker when I wanted to indulge in a ride. I’m a Jan who likes adventure and thrills and doesn’t beat to the drum of another. And no one can stop me.
Not even Medusa.
If you’ve had cancer, have you discovered anything about yourself that has surprised you? Have you found an adventure that rocks your boat?