re: Wooden Warrior - it made my Top Ten this year. I went the day after ACE was there and the park was deserted. I rode it a LOT that morning. My experience on WW, however, was special for more than just the oh-so-fun rides on a spectacular little wooden coaster. Here's what I posted to Facebook that evening:
First of all, let me say that the Wooden Warrior coaster belies its small size. What a fantastic little ride! Because of small crowds, I got more than 20 rides in an hour. It's a top 25 coaster for me. If I get to specify row four, right-hand seat, on a full train, it might even be top ten. I haven't had that much FUN on a coaster in ages.
But someone loved it even more than I did. A 10 year-old boy was on the train with his dad. He missed the first two rides of the day because his leg braces make him very slow and he struggles to get around. Once in the seat, however, all of that disappeared. On the coaster, he went as fast as everyone else. On the coaster, the plastic supports on his legs didn't matter. He was just like the rest of us: huge smile, arms in the air, laughing and cheering. When the train pulled into the station, there was often an empty station and the ride operator would ask if we wanted to go again. Everyone did. Once in awhile, someone would be in line and the people in that row would have to get out and go around the queue again. Knowing the kid would miss a few rides making that trip, inevitably someone else would get up so the kid would just switch seats and stay on.
I rode for an hour, then got off to take pictures and head to the next park. The kid is still riding, still laughing, experiencing a joy he probably rarely gets to experience any other way. It moved me to tears several times and I sometimes forgot to savor my ride because I was watching this little guy have so much fun.
I sometimes see coasters as a separator, dividing the thrill-seekers from the calm-savorers. Today, the coaster was an equalizer, where even kids who have it tougher than most of us can fathom are our equals for a few minutes. They fly on rails with the rest of us, making memories that will last a lifetime.
I might not ever be the same, either.