Reeking of chlorine, my fingers puckered and pruney, I ascended the 58th step and looked down the 300-foot yellow beast known as the Tubular Twister. With a yellow inner tube in my hand, I stepped into the water, enduring another look of ridicule from the lifeguard and a question of “what number is this?” I answered unenthusiastically, “Twenty since lunch.”
Four hours earlier I arrived at Whirlin’ Waters at Wannamaker County Park slathered in SPF 45 with the biggest grin on my face. My challenge? To ride a water slide all day long. Though 25 years old, it wasn’t hard to remember being young enough that an assignment like this would seem like heaven. With my friend Bud in tow, we looked at the map and contemplated which water slide to attack first. We started with Riptide Run, a 347-foot slide with six racing lanes, and then moved to the Big Splash Tree House where every eight minutes a giant bucket filled with 1,000 gallons of water dumped onto the screaming crowd of children. From there I spotted my Mt. Everest — the Tubular Twister.
I gazed at the water slide, knowing that I’d be riding it all day, when I was bumped by a crowd of eight-year-olds trying to get to the stairs first. After a pushy climb to the top, I had to choose between the red, orange, or yellow slide. I rode them all, and decided that the yellow, with its sudden drop at the top and at the end, would make for an exciting day of riding.
The rides started out great, and I was loving every minute. After the seventh ride, I started to feel fatigued and heard the bell letting everyone know that the 1,000 gallon bucket was about to tip. I decided in order to keep my sanity I needed to mix it up a bit. From then on, if I heard the bell when I reached the bottom of the slide, I would walk quickly (“NO RUNNING”) and wait for the 1,000 gallons to smash my head. Then I would return to the Tubular Twister.
Lunchtime came around, and I had gotten a good 10 rides in — I felt good about the day. I decided that getting 40 rides all day would be a respectable goal. I rode it every way possible: regular, tandem, backwards, sideways, turning 360s, eyes closed. You name it, I tried it. I fell off the tube only once, smashing my elbow on the flume. That was enough for me.
I was on a first name basis with all the lifeguards, and they rolled their eyes every time I climbed into the station. “Wait for the toilet-flush sound and then you can go,” they recited over and over, in case I’d forgotten.
After 30 rides, my friend left, and I had to pursue my goal solo. It was 4 p.m., and I was ready to throw in the towel (or use it to dry off). I was averaging 10 minutes per ride when I made it to 40, and I had 45 minutes to spare, so I upped my goal to 50. The lines faded away, and it became me versus the clock. I had a new kind of energy helping me make it up the stairs in rapid time, taking two steps at a time. My smile and inner child returned. I knew I would reach my goal.
I made it to 49 and knew 50 was only minutes away. My last ride was just as fun as the first. I went down backwards and tried to do as many 360s as possible, then splashed into the pool. I breached the water, and with my first breath I tasted — SUCCESS.
As I threw the tube onto the pile, I realized everyone had gone home — no one applauded my feat of endurance, and I celebrated in silence.
Hearing the now-infamous bell, I knew how I wanted to end the day. I ran to the Big Splash Tree House, and with no one around, raised my arms in triumph and received a 1,000 gallon bucket of water to the head.