Getting Brave

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By Teresa Pitman

If you’ve done Expedition Everest twice in a row, or spent your entire time at the Studios doing the Tower of Terror over and over, this article is not for you. This one is for wimps like me, who think the drop in Pirates is plenty big enough.

One of the reasons I love WDW so much is that someone who is scared of thrill rides – and that would be me – can still find lots to enjoy. I’ve been perfectly happy venturing onto the milder rides and waving to my kids from the ground as they soared past on the more adventurous ones.

I’ve also sometimes taken advantage of the “chicken exits.” Don’t know about those? Well, thanks to Disney’s attention to detail and desire to make every part of your theme park visit entertaining, many of the queue areas are full of cool theming and interesting objects. If you’d like to just see that part – Tower of Terror and Expedition Everest are two great examples – but not experience the actual ride, it’s easy to do. Just tell the CM that you don’t want to ride and they’ll show you “the easy way out.”

This is also an alternative if you have children who are braver than you, but you’d sooner not leave them alone in the line-up. You can go with them right until they get on the ride, then make your unthrilling way to the exit in time to meet them as they come out.

That system has worked fine for me for years. But recently, I’ve felt the urge to get a little braver and try something new. I’d hear friends and family excitedly talking about Expedition Everest or the Tower of Terror, and I started to feel that just maybe I was missing out. Where to start was the big question. I settled on Splash Mountain, because I knew it only had one big drop (although it is a BIG drop) and I’d long wanted to see the whole inside part with the story of Brer Rabbit. A few years ago, I almost managed it. I actually lined up with my kids, stepped into the log – and stepped right out the other side. I just couldn’t do it.

Last October, I decided to try again.

My route to Splash Mountain began when my grandson took me on Barnstormer. While I was nervous the first time (yes, I was nervous about Barnstormer – stop laughing), I thought I could probably handle the one drop and quick swoop. I actually found myself laughing as we rode together, and laughing harder afterward at my grandson’s imitation of the startled chickens in the barn.

If I could handle the single drop in Barnstormer, maybe Splash would be okay. Once I made up my mind to try it, I decided to go first thing when we arrived at the park, so I wouldn’t have a lot of time to fret about it. I also brought a change of clothes in case we got wet, so that I couldn’t use that as an excuse to back out at the last moment.

When we took our seats in the log, I had a strong urge to jump out the other side, but this time I made myself stay put. I kept reminding myself “little kids do this!” and it wasn’t long before I got caught up in the story being played out alongside my boat and the jaunty music surrounding us. Each little drop along the way made me a little anxious, but I’d say to myself “just like Pirates!” and relax again. Finally – and boy, it can seem like a very long ride when you’re worried about that big drop – our log emerged from the dark tunnel into the daylight at the top of the drop. I grabbed the bar tightly – and whoosh! We were at the bottom.

I was laughing! I was happy! (I was wet, too, and glad I’d brought a change of clothes!) We bought the photo so that I could prove I’d done it to my more skeptical family members.

The proof — Teresa and her son are in the second row.

I was also glad that I’d done Splash early in the day, because it gave me plenty of time to do it again and again. Yup, from being a ride I was scared of, Splash has become one of my favorites. Zip-a-dee-doo-dah!

What if your child is the one feeling nervous about a ride? You should probably ask my son Matthew about that – he’s the one who spent 45 minutes on a recent trip squatting beside his son Sebastian and patiently trying to encourage him to try Test Track. Sebastian had seen the videos of the ride at home and was eager to ride until the loud noises and the banging machines in the queue area scared him. Matt calmly talked to him, reminded him about the things he’d been looking forward to in the ride, and reassured him that we’d be sitting ride beside him. Sometimes Sebastian would take a tentative step or two forward, only to freeze again. Matt didn’t let that worry him. He kept talking.

And – only 45 minutes later – he finally decided to give it a try. And, just as we knew he would, he loved it! At the very next attraction, we were given Dream FASTPASSes – and naturally Sebastian insisted that we run right back to Test Track so he could do it again.

I know that parents often feel tempted to just scoop up their wimpy kids and put them on the ride. Sure, you figure, he’ll be scared for the first minute or so but then he’ll realize how much fun it is. As a scaredy-cat myself, I can tell you that’s not a good plan. For me as a kid, the fear of potentially being forced onto a ride I wasn’t ready for would ruin the whole trip – and certainly didn’t do much to enhance my relationship with my parents. And I’ve heard way too many kids crying in fear through the entire ride to believe that this method really works.

When you muster up the courage to do a scary ride on your own, it helps you have more confidence about your next challenge. With another trip just a week away, I’m feeling inspired to try something else new. Maybe Big Thunder Mountain? Maybe Space Mountain? I haven’t quite made my mind up yet, but I’m definitely feeling braver.

If you’re a wimp, too, but wanting to stretch your wings a little, Disney offers lots of opportunities to start small and work up. If you’re not sure you can handle drops, start with Pirates and then try Kali River Rapids. Do Dumbo before you try Astro Orbiter.

If you’re not sure what’s involved in a ride, ask one of the cast members working on that attraction – or do a search online for a video before you go. Sometimes just knowing what to expect takes away a lot of the fear.

Check times. It helped me to know that the big drop on Splash would only last a second – even if I didn’t like it, I figured I could get through it since it was so quick. I felt the same way about Barnstormer. I’m working up to the longer rides.

And don’t worry if you decide to stick with the slow and gentle rides. That’s certainly allowed. Disney magic touches wimps and non-wimps alike.

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