Unlike its cousin the carousel, the roller coaster experienced a rebirth when Walt Disney opened the nation's first theme park, Disneyland. In addition to speed and new heights, Disney's roller coaster provided a smooth ride using a new tubular steel that that attracted entire families, not just eccentric thrill seekers. Other theme parks would follow Disney's lead, each including new rides with broad appeal. And by the 1970s a "coaster boom" was underway which used computers and teams of engineers to design and construct new rides.
"The roller coaster is a vigorous reflection of the American spirit," writes Adams, reflecting on the survival of the roller coaster. "Our dreams have always been focused on the future, with visions driven by speed and the conquest of space. A roller coaster ride leaves one with a sense of pride in mastering a challenge and allows everyone to experience briefly the gravity forces endured by astronauts and jet pilots."
In The Roller Coaster Lover's Companion, Steven J. Urbanowicz writes that the roller coaster boom shows no signs of letting up and notes the 50 new rides that open each year. "It takes much more than an engineering degree to build a great coaster," he writes. "An acute sense of drama and intimate knowledge of psychology must also be employed."
Whether its theatrics, dreams or just plain speed, today someone will get off a roller coaster and immediately hop back in line for that two minute ride aboard the Screamin' Eagle, the Steel Phantom or the Raptor. Actually, she will likely finish a pound of fried dough first, washing down with a pint of malt liquor. Egad!
–Marcus McGraw is a freelance writer at Information Please
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