Underwater Programming Laboratories

Warning: Don not attempt to perform or recreate any of the activities or actions in this story. Riding an amusement ride/attraction may expose you to forces or experiences beyond what you are capable of safely mentally or physically withstanding. Always observe and follow posted warnings and restrictions before riding any ride/attrition and always follow all instructions given by ride/attraction operators.
My first ride
"If you're falling off a cliff, you may as well try to fly. You've got nothing to lose."
J. Michael Straczynski

I started following Yukon Striker even before it was officially announced as rumours and pictures started surfacing on the internet. People were speculating on the possibilities of a new coaster and what kind of coaster it would be. Suspicions about a coaster and a possible part of the layout grew when a tunnel was constructed between Vortex’s turn around in the pond Vortex runs over and the hill across the pond from where SkyRider once stood.

Another big clue was when an aerial photo was shared showing a piece of track partially covered with a tarp in the bone yard on the East side of the park. It resembled track used by coasters from Bolliger & Mabillard, the company that created Behemoth and Leviathan. It was bigger than a hyper or giga coaster track leading people to believe a dive coaster could be coming to the park.

Once it was officially announced, I enthusiastically followed the construction updates as they came out. Mostly with excitement and sometimes with fear as some of the details like a record breaking 185 ft first inversion was revealed. Not a pleasing thought for someone with an issue with heights.

When season pass holder preview night arrived in 2019, I attended and met up with a group organized by a You Tube channel that covered the construction of Yukon Striker with regular updates. While waiting for the rope drop at the bottom of cookie hill, I looked across at the station for Yukon Striker and noticed a line of security personnel standing across the path leading to the station entrance. I wasn’t hard to figure out it was not going to open after the rope drop. Sure enough, right after the rope drop, we were informed that due to high winds, Yukon Striker was not operational.

After going for a ride on Cyclone, we joined the forming line for Yukon Striker and it didn’t take too long before they started sending out test trains to the excitement of the people in line. When we saw a crew member riding in the front row between the water dummies the excitement grew. When we saw them dump the water from the dummies, people started cheering. And then the announcement that we were all waiting for came. Yukon Striker was now operational.

Making our way through the queue I noticed the transfer track, the section just before the station that moves sideways to transfer trains between the main track and the barn where the trains are stored when not being used, start to move. They were only running two of the three trains and now they were bringing the third train into service to cheers from the guests in the queue. Finally we made our way onto the platform and boarded the train in the third row wearing our winter parkas and snow gloves. It was cold that night. Everyone was excited as the train rolled out of the station and headed up the lift. About a third of the way up a thought suddenly ran through my mind. “What have you just done”.

Rewind a few years to spring 2008 when Behemoth first opened. Behemoth was Canada’s Wonderland’s first B&M coaster and first hyper coaster. Hyper coasters are coaster over 200 ft. When you ride Behemoth you don’t sit in the coaster. Instead each car has a flat deck with four bucket seats each on a pedestal and if you are sitting in an outboard seat, you can lean over and look straight down with nothing obstructing your view. On my first ride on Behemoth, while approaching the 230 ft summit of the lift, I made this mistake of leaning over from an outboard seat and looked straight down over 200 ft to the ground. I thoroughly enjoyed the drop, the, speed, and all the air time hills. That over 200 ft glance straight down unfortunately left its mark. I had never had a problem with height before and now I had one.

I still went on Behemoth and enjoyed it. I would just sit back in the seat and close my eyes until I felt it going over the top and then open them to prevent from looking straight down. Fast forward four years to the spring of 2012 when Leviathan, a 306 ft B&M mega coaster opened at Canada’s Wonderland. Mega is a coast over 300 ft. Leviathan is so big that it leaves the park twice. After 45 minutes of flip flopping about weather I was going to go n it or not while waiting in the queue, I decided I was going on. The train for Leviathan is eight rows of four seats and I picked a seat that did not sit n the edge. I rode all the way up sitting back in the seat with my eyes open this time because I could not see directly down from one of the middle seats. The drop was crazy high, the speed and air time hills were amazing, and I was glad I did it. Every trip I made to the park I made sure to ride it at least once as a form of therapy to get used to heights. I still avoided looking straight down over the edge though for fear that it may mess me up again.

With all the excitement and not being able to see Yukon Striker up close from the queue, I hadn’t really given much thought to the gravity of what was to come. A third of the way up the lift it hit me. The feeling you get when you realize you have just done some something horribly wrong. Fortunately it only lasted a few moments and I was back to being excited. We made our way up the lift began our approach to the drop. The train slowed to a crawl as it crept slowly over the brink and then slowed again to almost not moving. The sun had set by the time we left the station and it was now pitch black. Yukon Striker has three rows of eight seats. The first two rows were already hanging face down and the third row where I was sitting was still mostly upright as it had not passed over the brink yet. What came next was an experience I was completely unprepared for.

The drop chain released and the train rapidly accelerated. Because the third row was not already facing down, we experienced a whip action that felt like I was being thrown upward out of my seat. Immediately after that, all I could see was the track 250 ft straight down to the bottom. At this point, to quote Harold Ramis, I’m terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought. The three seconds it takes to get to the bottom seemed like an eternity as we fell through the darkness into the tunnel at the bottom. Gravity came back fast as we tore through the tunnel at 130 km per hour. I don’t remember much about the first or second inversion as my brain was still trying to process what was happening. Coming out of the second inversion I was able to orient myself and enjoy the rest of the elements. The train powered through the record breaking vertical loop and third inversion coming to a pause in the mid course break run. After we started moving again, it was a second drop followed by a zero G air time hill, 360 degree helix, and the final break run before returning to the station.

Still riding the adrenalin rush, I made my way down the exit ramp and headed over to the view area for the drop to get a good look at what I had just done. I watched a few dive down that 90 degree drop and then headed home. One ride was enough for me that night, but I would be back. Little did I know then the adventure that was to follow.

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