I wake up to my phone buzzing beside my bed. Groaning, I roll over and peek at it, reading the two messages on the screen through bleary vision:
Hey, let’s do something today. Sent at 9:09am. And the second message, sent about an hour later reads:
Wake up! Let’s go to Wonderland.
The messages are from Irina. I sit up and rub my eyes, ignoring the persistent beckoning calls from my bed. There’s only so much lazing around that I can do in one day. And besides, I haven’t been to Wonderland since the previous summer, which feels like an eternity ago.
It’s a Tuesday morning and the lines aren’t unbearably long. Neither of us has a season pass, so we opt for the price of a regular ticket (about $70 CAD), which includes a second day free of cost.
“We should definitely make sure to go on Leviathan before we leave today,” I comment as we walk through security and into the park, “I’ve never been on it.”
“Neither have I, and I agree,” She replies, “But let’s build up to it. You know, do some easy rides first.”
Easy is a relative term. The first ride we go on is Flight Deck, which is a winding, inverted roller coaster that makes for a head-banging ride. Quite literally. Last time I was here, which was the summer of 2014 with my brother, we promised that we would never go on that ride again. As I emerge from it, rubbing my temples, it’s easy to remember why.
Not long thereafter, we find ourselves lining up for Behemoth, formerly Wonderland’s king coaster. It features an initial drop of 230 feet and reaches peeds of 128km/hr. The line moves fairly quickly and it isn’t long before we’re boarding the coaster. That’s when I feel my first few pangs of anxiety.
“There’s like, almost nothing to hold on to,” I mutter to Irina, who chuckles nervously. I slip my hands into the handles on the device that’s holding me in place on the ride and lean back, trying to relax. The climb up to the coaster’s summit is the most unnerving part of it all. I feel my body tilting backward and I close my eyes as we climb over the hill. My stomach drops in tandem with the coaster. Screams erupt around me and, in the row in front of us, I see riders throw their hands up in the air. Crazies.
The coaster zooms rapidly toward another peak and I close my eyes again. This time, I take notice of a curious, floaty feeling. The sensation persists with each hill that we go over. Gradually, I loosen my grip on handles of the seat. I don’t ever let go, but by the end of it, I start thinking, this is actually kind of fun.
We spend several more hours enjoying other rides in the park before we even consider getting in line for Leviathan. We get rattled and shaken about repeatedly on the Wild Beast, a rickety wooden coaster that barely anyone lines up for. Hence, we go on it over and over again, until I feel my back and neck start to ache. The other wooden coaster, the Mighty Canadian Minebuster, is fun too, though the lines are longer. We try out Night Mares, which is a stand-up coaster that undergoes a 90 degree tilt and loops repeatedly.
“It’s centripetal force that keeps you in place,” I say as we get into the cage of Night Mares. Pause. “Though I never really understood centripetal force, so that’s hardly reassuring.”
The lines for Leviathan are always long. Our current waiting time is 15 minutes, which we were told by a lady that was lined up with us at Drop Tower is fairly fast. So, no excuses, I guess. Irina and I don’t talk much, we just follow the path of each new set of people that emerges from the building and climbs up Leviathan’s famous peak.
Leviathan does its namesake well, as its height renders it one of the few Giga-coasters (300ft+ roller coasters) in existence: it is the eighth tallest steel roller coaster in the world, and has the sixth longest drop. The build-up to that drop is absolutely nerve-wracking, for first timers like us.
“Enjoy the 306-ft drop!” One of the attendants calls to us as the roller coaster departs. I roll my eyes. Admittedly, I’m a skeptic.
It seems to take forever. I hold on dutifully to the handles of the seat and stare out at the skyline of Toronto in the distance. I try to point out the excellent view to Irina, but she’s leaning back against her seat, eyes closed, humming to herself. The coaster creaks along and I eye the staircase to the side of it, briefly entertaining the possibility of wildly waving my arms and having this whole process stopped, and descending down the dependable set of stairs back onto ground level. Honestly, I don’t even know what I’m afraid of, but I am nonetheless.
As we round the peak, I catch sight of the near vertical drop. It feels surreal. I prepare for the inevitable stomach-dropping sensation as we begin to pick up speed…and feel nothing. This is, by far, the smoothest ride that I have ever been on. We race downward to ground level and then pick back up again, twisting and weaving and turning, and I can’t help but release my hands and throw them into the air a few seconds after the drop.
“Holy crap, that was amazing,” Irina breathes as we screech to a stop. I nod along, grinning widely. Mission accomplished.
The rest of the day floats by languidly. There is no sense of lingering tension in anticipation of something fearsome to come. We’ve conquered Leviathan. Nothing more to do but truly enjoy the day. And go on Leviathan again, which we do end up doing. Leviathan is the type of ride that makes me wish that we’d invested in one of the atrociously expensive Fast Lane passes.
As sunset approaches, crowds start to ease up. We take a peaceful stroll through the park, intermittently going on the occasional ride.
Eventually, we make for the exit of the park. We stayed for a good eight hours or so, and there is a satisfying soreness in my limbs to speak for it. I take a few more pictures as we head out, admiring the soft pink glow that the fading sun casts on the park.
As we walk out into the parking lot, our newfound favourite ride bids us farewell, looming high in the distance.