GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado - Usually I'm strategically positioned next to someone I can bury my head into on a roller coaster. Being so scared I'm can't watch the descent and the twist and turns is all part of the fun, right?
Wrong. This is Glenwood Springs, home of the new Cliffhanger Roller Coaster that sits at the highest elevation of any in the U.S. There's no hiding my eyes on this thrill ride. It would be an outright shame to miss out on this view.
Positioned 7,160 feet up Iron Mountain at the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, the curvy 50-foot-tall Cliffhanger Roller Coaster is what it sounds like. The red-and-blue steel coaster has an eagle eye's view of the Colorado River as it zig-zags from afar through Glenwood Canyon. The best view is from the right side of the coaster's car, as it reaches the top of the ride's highest ascent. Before dropping into a mish-mash of curves and loops, I couldn't help but take a look down to see the beautiful landscape. So that's what a 7,160-foot view looks like.
Thank goodness for those safety bars that lock tight before the ride begins.
The first time I rode the Cliffhanger - and yes I rode it two more times after that - I admit I had butterflies in my stomach. I wasn't sure how comfortable I would be at that height.
I'm not completely scared of heights, but I'm not exactly signing up to bungee jump anytime soon either. If somehow I became fearless enough to bungee jump, I'm sure the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park could oblige. The park added a bungee jump this year to its list of highly elevated thrill rides.
"The only way I could bungee jump is if someone pushed me off," said Post Independent photographer Rachel Curry.
"The only way I could bungee jump is if a mountain lion was chasing me and the only option was to jump or be mauled to death," I thought to myself.
I may be somewhat of a thrill seeker, but I couldn't be paid enough to freefall with only an elastic cord to prevent me from hitting the ground. That is what bungee jumping is for, I suppose - to test our limits of fear and to achieve the ultimate thrill of a free-falling adrenaline rush.
I'll stick with the Cliffhanger.
For my first ride on the Cliffhanger I rode in the last car and sat on the right - I got the tip before taking the tram up to grab that side for the view. The front one was taken, which was fine by me. Remember, I like my adrenaline but I was riding solo, without someone next to me to bury my face into when I was scared.
Yes, I am that much of a chicken, as my dad would say.
I've been on some big coasters in my day, so I wasn't too petrified. Growing up in the Midwest, I have conquered the Beast multiple times. This infamous ride at Kings Island, outside of Cincinnati, Ohio, is the longest wooden roller coaster in the world covering 35 acres, lasting over 4 minutes and dropping 135 feet into an underground tunnel from the start. I was just fine with the Cliffhanger not dropping 135 feet.
The key word there is cliff.
I was told I had a perma-grin on my face throughout the ride. I believe it. I was having more fun than a dog with his head stuck out the window riding the Cliffhanger. Each turn and dip had to help my body produce more serotonin that adrenaline because this girl was happy.
As directed, I kept my hands and arms inside the car, but I did put my arms up a few times to feel the rush of that look-ma-no-hands kind of feeling. I was all smiles, that's for sure.
If we had more bugs in Colorado, they probably would have been stuck to my teeth.
So of course I had to ride it again. And again. The second time I picked the front car, on the right again. I couldn't help myself. I loved that view down to the river below, because I so love to raft. And I really appreciated the feeling that I was so high up in the air, yet safe enough not to fall off the cliff. Being that I knew what to expect, I was all smiles as opposed to white-knuckled on the handle bar.
Call me a serotonin junkie.
I highly recommend riding in the front car of any roller coaster, especially the Cliffhanger. This is protocol for my dad, who loves roller coasters almost as much as he does tarantulas. Talk about no fear. The front car of a roller coaster is the best view anyway. If screaming ensues - I let out a few mixed in with laughter - the people riding in the back begin to experience the ride before even feeling it.
Maybe I should pursue a career in roller coaster riding.
The third time, I persuaded the 22-year-old Curry to join me because she - wait for it - had never been on a roller coaster. This information was shocking to me because I know for a fact I was riding roller coasters as soon as I was tall enough.
Did I mention my dad loves roller coasters?
For the third ride we chose the middle, and quite honestly, I had the most fun in this section. I can't scientifically explain why, but I felt more of the loops and the stomach drops. That could be in my head, or maybe the serotonin at this point had so conquered my central nervous system that I was happy no matter where I sat on the coaster. I was really having that much good-old summer fun.
Having a bad day? Take a ride on the Cliffhanger and call me in the morning.
The Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park also added the Soaring Eagle Zip Ride this year. Of course Rachel and I had to give this ride a whirl as well. For anyone out there working on a fear of heights, in a safe manner that provides a beautiful view on the way down, and up, go this route. This zip line buckles in passengers in a seated position and heads 625 feet down the side of Iron Mountain.
It's not a bad way at all to see Glenwood Springs from above and to descend down a Colorado mountain. I especially enjoyed this one because I liked that feeling of hanging and gliding, without actually hang-gliding.
Perfect for a serotonin- and thrill-seeker like me.