The Newest Tallest, Fastest, and Longest

Designers are constantly pushing the envelope of roller coaster construction, so that pretty much every year there’s the announcement of a new “tallest, fastest, and longest” coaster.  This year, the honor goes to the Canada Wonderland theme park in Ontario, where the Yukon Striker coaster will be opening.  (Given the weather this winter, it’s probably going to be a few months before the grand opening, so coaster fanatics have got time to make their travel plans.)

maxresdefaultThe description of the Yukon Striker ride in the attached article sounds, well, pretty intense.  For one thing, it’s 3 minutes and 25 second long and covers more than a half mile of track.  The ride will reach top speeds of 80 miles per hour, has one drop of 245 feet — that’s more than two-thirds of a football field — and an underground tunnel that, according to the photo, opens in an amusement park lake.  The article states, somewhat breathlessly:  “At the top of the drop, you’ll be held for three seconds over the 90-degree drop before you drop down into the underwater tunnel, and there’ll even be a complete 360-degree loop for an extra adrenaline rush.”  (Like that will be needed!)

Oh yeah — the ride also has four different “inversions,” where riders are turned upside down before being turned right-side up.

The Yukon Striker won’t achieve the fastest speeds of any roller coaster in the world, an honor that’s currently held by a coaster in Abu Dhabi, but it will be the fastest “dive” coaster, “where there’s a straight vertical drop which sees riders facing down.”

I like roller coasters, and it’s interesting to read about the newest advances in coasters, but I really wonder whether we’re reaching the point where coasters are eclipsing normal human tolerances.  A more than three minute ride that jets you along at speeds faster than the speed limit on most highways, puts you through 360-degree loops, plunges you straight down into an amusement park lake, and then flips you over and back four times sounds like a lot more than my psyche — and stomach — can stand.  I also think that, in their zeal to be the highest, fastest, and longest, roller coaster designers are ignoring other creative design elements that make coasters exciting and interesting without torturing riders and exploring the limits of human endurance.

I’m sure there will always be thrill-seekers who want to ride the newest “tallest, fastest, and longest” coaster, but it will be interesting to see whether, after a ride or two, most visitors at the Canada Wonderland park pass on the Yukon Striker and try to find their amusement park fun somewhere else.

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Belle Isle

Belle Isle is the little island in the Detroit River, which separates Detroit and Windsor, Ontario. It’s filled with pretty spots, one of which is the Conservatory and its fish pond.

The Santa Claus Killer

North of border, a grisly story of mass murder is unfolding.  In Toronto, police and shaken residents are dealing with an apparent serial killer who roamed in their midst, an apparently pleasant gardener, landscaper, and flower arranger by day and a violent, allegedly homicidal sadist by night.

15267796_10154189330693528_3900810531768579684_n-e1516319633635The accused, Bruce McArthur, has been charged with the murders of five men.  Police are investigating properties where McArthur evidently buried the dismembered remains of his victims in the planters, lawns, and gardens he tended for unsuspecting clients — a story line that is similar to the plot of Stephen King’s short story The Lawnmower Man.  Police believe that McArthur roamed the gay district in Toronto, looking for submissive men who would help him act out violent sexual fantasies — fantasies that apparently sometimes ended in grisly death.  There is growing concern, too, that the investigation will uncover many more victims.

And by the way, McArthur also once served as the Santa Claus at a Toronto-area mall.  I wonder if the parents who learn of that creepy fact will ever put their kids on the lap of a mall Santa again?

As seems to so often be the case, his neighbors and his clients describe McArthur as a jovial, helpful person who liked to bake and design flower arrangements.  They didn’t suspect his apparent double life or dark side.  It really makes you wonder how many murderous people are out there in the world, acting out their disturbed impulses — and also makes you feel lucky that you haven’t encountered them at the wrong time on a darkened street.

 

Not Third World

I disagree with Donald Trump about pretty much everything, but I think he’s right about one thing, at least:  many American airports are pretty crappy.  Describing them as “Third World” in quality may be unfairly insulting to our friends in the Third World.

You realize this when you leave the States.  Consider the Calgary airport, for example.  The E concourse looks newly built, and is spotlessly clean and spacious.  Compare it to, say, some of the cramped, beat-up, and overcrowded terminals at, say, LaGuardia, and you get the President’s point.  It’s sn embarrassing comparison.  We should be able to match our neighbors to the north in the airport department.

Maple Syrup, Anyone?

The duty-free shop at the Calgary International Airport features booze and the other items you awaits find in a duty-free shop . . . and maple syrup.  Lots of maple syrup.  Shelves full, and in decorative maple leaf bottles, too.  So much maple syrup, in fact, that they’re actually running a buy 3, get 1 free promotion.

So if you need four decorative bottles of maple syrup, perhaps because you want to clebrate Canada’s 150th birthday as you eat your pancakes, and don’t want to pay any duty on it, I know where you can go.

Or, you can pick up some Mrs. Butterworth’s in your local supermarket.

Fairmont Banff Springs

We’ve spent the last few days at the Fairmont Banff Springs, a colossal old-line hotel that sits on a bluff above the Bow River.  

It’s one of those sprawling complexes that is a bit of a maze — and at the same time full of surprises as you wander around trying to get your bearings. One day I was trying to figure out my route to the conference center for a meeting when I ended up in a room where a woman in medieval garb plucked away at a full-sized harp while two guys played pool.  When I apparently looked quite lost, she stopped her playing and helped to get me back on track.  And there appear to be different restaurants, shops and bars on every level, as well as meetings rooms galore.

We’ve enjoyed our stay in this beautiful part of the world.  How could you not like a hotel with a patio that offers a jaw-dropping view like the one below?

Around Lake Louise

Yesterday we drove to Lake Louise, which is about an hour away from Banff via Canada highway 1, the Trans-Canada highway.  It’s a pleasant ride through more of the towering peaks of the Canadian Rockies.

One of the locals told us that Lake Louise is the most photographed place in Canada.  If that bit of local lore is true, it’s not hard to see why.  The water in the lake is a brilliant turquoise color, like you might find in the Caribbean, and the lake is surrounded by craggy mountains with glaciers at the far end.  It’s a fantastic, beautiful place.


We followed a walking path from the grounds of the Fairmont, which anchors one end of the lake, down toward the glaciers.  The trail runs for about a mile and a half along the rim of the lake.  We shared the path with lots of other gawkers and some trail riders.  


There is still snow melt running into the lake, and the water is icy cold.  At the far end, there is a beach and then the lake becomes a kind of marsh, with the glaciers hovering on the mountaintops far overhead.


I’m not ashamed to say that I took my share of pictures of this wondrous place.  I’ve helped to add even more credibility to that bit of local lore about Canada’s most photographed spot.