AUSTELL, Ga. -- The red cars rumble by on wooden tracks covered in peeling white paint. With a steady clink, clink it climbs 95 feet in the air, then plummets into a curve, jerking the riders sideways as they squeal with delight. There are no loops, no special effects, no virtual reality. This isn't the ride of the future, it's the roller coaster of our past. And it's about to come tumbling down.
If you grew up in Metro Atlanta, your Georgia Cyclone memories are entwined with that magical feel of summer. The cyclone opened in 1990, back when summer break stretched out for a glorious three months and anything seemed possible. It was built to mirror the iconic Coney Island coaster. As the cars reached 50 mph, you could feel the tracks shake beneath you, but you couldn't hold on with both hands because everyone else had them reaching for the sky.
In the 27 years since it opened, 8.7 million riders rumbled over those wooden tracks. In that time, roller coasters got faster and higher. They added more loops and virtual reality. The Georgia Cyclone will close on July 30, and we can't help but feel a little nostalgic.
We complained the ride was too bumpy, the seats too hard, the curves too jerky. Now, we cling to those complaints because we can say, "In my day, they made roller coasters out of wood. Wood, I tell you!"
With just a few weeks left in her roller coaster life, the Cyclone will likely see a surge of popularity. Jump on; she's a dying breed of wooden roller coasters with uncertain futures. As the clink, clink sound fills the air, throw your hands up and feel that shaky rumble. You might never feel it again.
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