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Montezuma's Revenge

Through a Google Search, I've discovered that Montezuma's Revenge is either Travelers Diarrhea or an Indiana Jones video game. Well, my story of Montezuma's Revenge is neither, but could possibly be the inspiration for both. It's also listed as a Bluegrass music group, a 24 hour ultra-endurance mountain bike wilderness race, and Wikipedia states that the term comes from...
Moctezuma (c. 1466 – June 1520), also known by a number of variant spellings including Montezuma, Moteuczoma, Motecuhzoma and referred to in full by early Nahuatl texts as Motecuhzoma Xocoyotzin and similar, was the ninth tlatoani or ruler of Tenochtitlan, reigning from 1502 to 1520. It was during Moctezuma's reign that the episode known as the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire began.

Well wherever the term came from, it's Hell on wheels.

Knotts Berry Farm was the first place in the world I ever tried Chili Cheese Fries, now a staple in my weekly diet it seems. Mom had never heard of them before we moved to California, so we decided to try them out when we saw them on the menu. They were wonderful!! We ate every last bite. Shortly afterward, any fond memories I may have had of Knotts Berry Farm were quickly wiped out with the simple motions of one very nasty roller coaster and the harness that failed to do its job.

We all hear the horror stories around the world about something going wrong on a roller coaster. Some kid falls out of a Ferris wheel because he's screwing around, another teen gets his arm ripped off because he didn't listen when they said to keep hands and arms inside the car at all times. It happens. That's a fact. But we never think it will happen to someone we know, or to someone we're riding with, or even worse, to us.

Montezuma's Revenge, or at least the one I'm talking about, is a roller coaster at Knott's Berry Farm. We went there back when I was about 8 or 9 years old, so it was in the late 80's, about the time we first moved to California. Mom liked the looks of it, and I was still young enough to not be afraid of anything but Lima Beans, which I still don't like. She wanted to go on the ride, and she wanted me to go with her. Instantly I agreed.

It looked simple enough. It had a loop in the middle and two dead ends on either side. We watched as the roller coaster would back up one of the dead ends, then get a fast start at the loop. It would go up and over the loop, all the way to the other dead end, and then stop. It would then go backwards through the loop, all the way back to the first dead end, then coast back to its starting position. It even paused a little in the center of the loop. It looked like a lot of fun to us. We got in line and couldn't wait to get on board.

We climbed on and took our seats. Clearly I remember my mother being to my left. We were both so excited. The harnesses came down over us and locked in place. The coaster started to back up. My heart was racing. I was thrilled to be going on such an adventure ride with my own mother. There was a lot of room in my harness, but I didn't think much of it. I was always a really skinny kid. I met the height requirements, so they let me on. That was all that mattered.

The coaster backed up to the dead end and we hung there in silence waiting for it to release. I grabbed the handles on the outside of my harness, waiting for that weightless, silent release of the coaster surging forward. I looked at Mom by poking my head out of my harness and looking around at her. She grinned ear to ear. Suddenly the world began to move forward in slow motion.

The coaster released and I hung in mid-air for a moment, weightless and excited. It raced past the platform of waiting riders and reached for the sky. It flipped over and slowed down just at the top of the loop. All of this happened in seconds, but it felt like an eternity to me. Suddenly I started to slide in my seat. I looked up and saw the ground below us from my upside down position. I slid further, grabbing at my harness with every ounce of strength I could, screaming out for my mother to help me as I felt my shoulders slide right between the shoulder pieces of the harness. There was nothing holding me in but my weak childhood forearms. I remember screaming bloody murder for my Mom to help. She turned and looked at me. She knew from my voice instantly that something was wrong. She reached over for me and pulled with all her might. She's a terribly strong woman when angry or filled with adrenaline.

My body slid back between the shoulder harness pieces, though my butt was still far from the seat of the coaster. I brought my arms back inside the harness and pushed up on the shoulder pieces with every ounce of strength I had, though I still could feel myself sliding. The coaster moved forward again and I slammed forward into the harness on the way down. It screamed past the platform on its way to the other dead end, my mother screaming as loudly as we could for them to stop the ride. They didn't hear us.

We flew upward toward the other dead end, my mother openly praying to God to save her only daughter. I don't know if she remembers doing that. I remember her crying out and holding on to me, screaming as loud as she could "God, please save my child," as I clutched her with all my might. She never loosened her grip on me for even a second. In vain, she screamed out to stop the ride again and again. Tears streamed down both of our faces as I sat there in horror, knowing what was coming. As that weightless feeling came over us again, there were no smiles between us this time. There was nothing but pure horror written over both of our faces as we plunged backwards towards what could have easily been my death.

I've never had much upper body strength, even when I was in the best shape of my life. I've never been able to do a pull up, and to this day I don't know where my strength came from. I braced my knees under the bottom of the harness as we plummeted back towards the Earth. By the time we screamed bloody murder to stop the ride past the waiting crowds, I had braced my arms inside the harness, pushing hard on the shoulder catch to hold my body to the seat. I hunched over and gripped the heels of my feet under the tiny lip of the seat I was on. Mom grabbed my shoulder as much as she could and pushed down with every bit of strength she could manage.

We screamed backward up into the loop, slowing just as before near the top. Then the coaster came to a complete stop once more. Silence filled the air around us. My back began to slide down the seat.

My ankles throbbed from gripping the seat under me so tightly on the very small lip I could hook them to. Mom couldn't get a good grip on me and had to let go. She grabbed my shirt instead and pulled towards her with all her might. She screamed at me to hold on. My arms didn't have the strength they needed to keep me inside the harness. My legs slipped and my knees were no longer braced against the bottom of the harness. I began to slide more. My shoulders reached the harness and started to slip through. I bent at the waist, dangling my legs in front of me over the shoulder harness. I hung like a rag doll upside down in a roller coaster I was supposed to be tall enough to ride. My body swung, a pendulum in the breeze, any second capable of finding death.

"HANG ON, MANDA!" My mothers words echoed in my ears every time I saw a roller coaster for years after that. I hung on for dear life.

Finally, after what felt like an eternity, the coaster started to move again. My body slammed to the back of the seat and slid slowly down the hard plastic surface. My feet let gravity take them to the floor once again. Mom didn't loosen her grip on my shirt, but I was OK with that.

We reached the dead end behind us at long last, and Montezuma's Revenge coasted to the bottom. I was weak from fear and could barely stand up to get out, while my mother was so pumped up with adrenaline that she practically dragged me out of the coaster and towards the ride operator. She screamed and yelled in his face, though I have no idea what she said. That could have been the relief in me blocking out whatever she was saying, but something tells me he really didn't understand her words either. She was completely hysterical, screaming and crying.

She told me later on that the second I shouted out to her, she got an instant migraine. It was instinctive for her to grab on to me, knowing something was wrong. She and I both thought I was going to die that day. As far as we know, nothing was done with the harnesses on that ride for several years, until a teen in the 90's slipped through the harness and died.

For years I was terrified of roller coasters. Then it became coasters that went upside down. Eventually I got over that and have only been afraid of slow moving heights, like a Glass Elevator, or the slow incline of a roller coaster in the beginning. Now that I remember the story of Montezuma's Revenge clearly, I believe this is and always has been the source of my Glass Elevator fear.

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