Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
Ross Murray
is editor and publisher of the Stanstead Journal.
Posted 08.07.01
Stanstead, Quebec


I'm getting too old for this

Bungee jumping, skydiving, big-game hunting. None of these exploits have ever beckoned to me as "must-do" activities. I feel no urge to drive Formula One. I marvel enough at life's fragility crossing Main Street in Ayer's Cliff. As far as I'm concerned, the "extreme" side can remain unexplored.

Which is why I no longer seek out thrill rides at amusement parks. Having reached a certain age, I face my mortality on a more or less daily basis. I don't need to have it thrust upon me on rides named The Churn-inator.

Nonetheless, a visit to La Ronde in Montreal was thrust upon me last week, part of daughter Emily's birthday present. Just her, a responsible grownup, and a friend. With normally thrill-seeking Deb taking care of the newborn at home (damn that breast-feeding!), the responsible grownup role fell to me.

It has been some years since I've been to La Ronde. Back then, I wouldn't have cared that, should by chance one of the rides fail, my obituary would read, "Death by centrifugal force." But now, my demise would leave behind four little ones, who would be forced to face the embarrassment for years to come that their dad bit it on The Boomerang.

Not much has changed at the Montreal amusement park except its size. More rides have been added. These rides appear to be NASA rejects, inflicting more and more G-force on you, taking you closer to that extreme edge. In short, they're meant to scare the living crap out of you.

Emily, Erin, and I arrived bright and early to get a spot at the gate before opening. I paid our entrance fee by credit card. (Incidentally, that same day Visa announced it had topped the $1 billion sales threshold in Canada for the first time. I expect a thank-you card from the company any day.) Then, we headed in. After a quick butt-cracking blast on something called OVNI (UFO to square-heads like me), I made a quick mental note to make a chiropractic appointment and we headed to the classic ride at La Ronde, The Monster. This is the world's tallest twin-track wooden coaster. It's an architectural marvel. I was thinking this as we started off on our route towards the summit, admiring the wiring, the sturdiness of the framework, the symmetry of it all, and how gravity runs the show, and, oh look! a tanker in the St. Lawrence, and -


Is this any place for a grownup? I thought to myself, trying to keep my head from slamming into one of the flimsy plywood beams holding up this poorly designed deathtrap.

By the time we were off The Monster, the park was packed. With a wait of at least 30 minutes per ride, this meant some relief for third wheels like me accompanying their children. (Not only parents, though; I saw a number of adults without children frolicking about the park enjoying rides. Why?)

During this time in line, we could participate in other cheap thrills like "The Second-hand Smoke Asphyxiation." Or there were games of chance like "Guess How Many Bra Straps I'm Wearing With My Tank Top?" And as far as extreme activities went, there was none better than the "How Short Can I Make My Shorts?" competition.

The girls loved the rides, though they shied away from some of the newer nosebleed inflicters. This was fine with me, though of course as any good father should do, I called them chickens.

Often as not, though, the girls were just as content to play the games of chance in the hopes of winning a stuffed puppy or dolphin. And then there was the food and drinks - $3 for a Power-Ade drink. Now that's extreme.

I came away from La Ronde poorer, sorer, and dizzier. But I had two happy tired girls with me. They're growing up, I realized, ready to face new thrills, keen to push their bodies to the limit. And me, I can see faintly in the future grandchildren with whom I can share the extreme thrills of the merry-go-round.