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Ride the ‘Top Thrill 2?’ No thanks, I’ll stick with Santa Cruz’s Giant Dipper that turns 100 in May
The Great Dipper at Santa Cruz Boardwalk turns 100 years old on May 17, 2024.

The roller coaster wars are reaching new heights.

And given the cost of a ticket to places like Cedar Point in Ohio that is now $86 a pop, so is the cost of a minute or so of thrills.

Strike that.

It’s not as much thrills as sheer terror.

Cedar Point is where they have unveiled the tallest and fastest ride ever built.

It starts with a 420-foot rise. And it reaches a speed of 120 mph.

Dubbed “Top Thrill 2”, it is one of three roller coaster beasts debuting this year.

One is the Iron Menace at Dorney Park in Pennsylvania. It’s claim to fame is it will suspend riders 160 feet in the air before dropping them back down to earth at a 95 degree angle.

The other is “The Georgia Surfer.”

The creation at Six Flags Over Georgia takes riders backwards up a 144-foot “pole” while spinning them in circles. You can only imagine what the descent is like.

Admittedly, I’m not a fan of roller coasters.

I’ve been on a few despite my better judgment, including one that is approaching its 67 millionth rider.

It also happens to be turning 100 years old this year.

It is none other than The Giant Dipper at Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

The Giant Dipper’s first run was on May 17, 1924.

There are 100 plus wooden roller coasters in the United States.

But the granddaddy of them all is a 95-mile drive from Manteca.

And you can actually see it up close and personal without having to pay admission to the boardwalk.

A ride will set you back $8 against the backdrop of the Pacific Ocean.

Compared to “The Thrill 2” it is a pipsqueak coming in with a 70-foot climb as opposed to 420 feet.

As for top speed, at 55 mph, The Giant Dipper is only in the heart attack category.

“The Thriller 2” that reaches 120 mph is in the massive coronary region.

One wonders what the late Arthur Looff would think of “The Thrill 2.”

Looff created The Giant Dipper.

In doing so, he wanted a ride that would “provide the thrill of a plunge down a mine shaft, a balloon ascent, a parachute jump, airplane acrobatics, a cyclone, a toboggan ride, and a ship in the storm.”

It cost $50,000 to build that vision.

He could have saved a lot of money if he made the mistake I did one time when I was in Chicago in 1987 with friends Jack and Gail Vaughn.

We promised the cab driver a $20 tip if he got us from the Sears Tower to Wrigley Field before the first pitch.

The Giant Dipper has 327,000 feet of lumber held together by 743,000 nails and 24,000 bolts supporting up a 2,640-foot long track.

All of that delivers a thrill in one minute and 52 seconds.

I’ve been on The Giant Dipper twice.

The only other roller coasters were once upon three different times in Anaheim.

Perhaps six or so times on Space Mountain.

And 18 times on the Matterhorn Bobsleds, including 14 over a 63-minute period.

Perhaps I should explain that.

In 1976, I took my mom and sister to Disneyland.

We stayed at the Disneyland Hotel for three days.

It was a bit pricey, but it came with a few perks.

You could hop aboard a monorail at the hotel to access the park.

And, back then at least, hotel guests were able to enter the park an hour before the general public.

On the first day, Mary — who was entering 8th grade that year — fell in love with the Matterhorn ride. We ended up going on it twice that day, after the prerequisite 20 to 35 minute wait in the line.

She decided the next day that we needed to catch the monorail at 8 a.m. so we could ride the Matterhorn for an hour or so before the park got crowded.

I figured we’d get in four runs.

I was off a bit.

We were the first riders. In fact we were the only riders.

That put us in the front car, Mary in front of me.

Without additional passengers, it was a wild ride as at times it felt as if we were literally going to go off the rails.

That started the marathon.

After we ended the ride, we stayed in our seat.

The operator waited a minute or so in case someone else showed up and then we’d be off again.

Ten times we were the only ones on the ride. The other times there were 2 or 3 other people.

I honesty wanted to stop after the fourth or so time.

But it didn’t lose its charm.

That’s because  my sister absolutely loved it as only a 13 year-old could.

I don’t recall her ever laughing as much.

And certainly not with a non-stop grin for over an hour.

Mary talked about it for a week or more.

Mainly because people kept asking how she got so heavily bruised on the front of her legs.

Because of the lack of weight in the car, she literally was thrown into the seat bar.

And because we were the only ones in the car most of the time our drenching each time we hit the water was easily twice as what it was the day before.

My first rollercoaster ride was on Space Mountain.

I was working as a reporter at The Press-Tribune when Cliff Lee, who was once a circulation manager at the Manteca Bulletin before I was aware it existed, was the circulation manager.

He asked me to help chaperone part of the carriers that earned a trip to Disneyland during a subscription contest.

I was also going to take photos for a newspaper spread.

Since I was representing the paper, I was required to wear a suit and tie.

I also was assigned to chaperone the youngest group of carriers, five kids ages 10 to 12.

As luck would have it — and having no idea what it meant — I got the front seat with a 10 year-old carrier.

I had a very expensive Nikon F-2 camera on a strap around my neck and a camera bag between my feet.

The operator advised me to hold onto the camera.

When we took the first plunge in complete darkness, a bit of panic set in. The inertia as we hit the first turn not only made it feel like the camera was about to fly off even with the strap, and my holding it but it also felt as if my eye glasses were going to be ripped from my face.

That’s when the kid started yelling, “This is the greatest thing to every happen to me!”

He must have repeated those 10 words a half dozen times as we spiraled downward while I was clutching my glasses and camera terrified that I was going to lose one or both.

You can keep “The Thrill 2.”

I’ll stick with The Giant Dipper.

This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at