Princess: Buy the ticket, don’t take the ride

Alison Berkley Margo

Never again.

No, I’m not talking about the Holocaust, I’m talking about that psychotic Giant Canyon Swing ride at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park.

Our 10-year old niece, MacKenzie, was in town for the Fourth of July, and I found myself doing things people with kids must do every day, which was more exhausting than riding my bike 60 miles or doing 30 Bikram yoga classes in 30 days or running a half marathon.

Don’t get me wrong: I love Kenz more than anyone. She’s not your typical 10-year-old. She’s probably more mature than the rest of us put together. She’s an only child and is around adults all the time. If anything, she’s the one who’s used to being on our program, not the other way around.

That’s probably why I agreed to go down to Glenwood on Friday when the temps were probably topping out around 100 degrees to go to an amusement park. Plus, I covet these experiences with Kenz, knowing they’re memories in the making. And let me tell you, this was one day we won’t soon forget.

As soon as we piled into the gondola, I was sweating it already, like, literally. It must have been 200 degrees in that thing, and I was doing my best not to have a major panic attack every time it stopped, like every two minutes. Of course I’m thinking something’s wrong, the gondola is going to break, we’re going to be trapped here without water and it’s going to end up in the paper — how I climbed out and tried to jump and they had to call the Fire Department to come out and put one of those big trampoline things to catch me when I fell.

“Can you open the window?” I asked as my throat began to close.

“It is open,” my mother-in-law said.

So I sat, madly texting my friend Sarah in an effort to distract myself from the ensuing panic.

“Why are you on your phone?” Ryan chided. “You’re always saying how you hate it when people are on their phones when they should be enjoying their time together.”

I shot him a look that said, “You idiot, can’t you see I’m having a nervous breakdown but don’t want to tell anyone?” But I don’t think he got it.

And that was only the beginning.

Once we got to the top, I drank two beers in, like, 10 minutes to calm my nerves and to prepare myself for the cave tour, where I expected I’d probably feel a bit trapped, what, two miles in the ground with no light or air, among the bats and the mildew.

We had some time before the claustrophobia tour, so my brother-in-law thought we should go do some of the rides. It just so happened that the big canyon swing thing was the closest. This ride is basically a giant pendulum that swings out over the edge of the canyon and the river thousands of feet below and then drops, then swings and then drops. The hydraulics make this horrible sound as the ride swings to and fro, like the gasp of a giant monster, a train that’s about to hit you or a factory that smashes body parts and turns them into dog food or something like that.

“No way,” I said, arms folded across my chest. “I am so not doing that.”

“Chicken,” my brother-in-law Aaron said, mocking me like a bully on the playground in grade school. “Bok-bok-bok-bok!”

I shook my head vehemently. “No.”

“Come on, Auntie,” my adorable, perfect little angel of a niece said.

“Yeah, honey. Come with us,” my seductive, ever-protective, loving husband said, extending his hand.

“Oh, all right,” I said, taking his hand, out of habit or maybe temporary insanity.

I allowed myself to be buckled into one of the four seats, restrained like a prisoner or a mental patient.

As soon as the ride started moving, I knew I was in trouble, as my heart literally stopped beating. I’m pretty sure I was technically dead for a second as my life flashed before my eyes. I immediately wanted off, but it was too late. The ride went higher and higher. I tried to shut my eyes, but that only made it worse, as my brain somehow shook loose from my skull and started to slosh around like a half-dead fish flopping around in the bottom of a boat. When I opened them, I saw flashes of the river below at a totally unacceptable angle, all sideways and wrong and difficult for my mind to process. Higher and higher we went, and I screamed like I was being stabbed to death.

When the ride finally ended, the teenage attendant, with his red hair and fire-red cheeks, turned the ride on again. “How about one more time?” he said, sneering and snickering and smirking like someone had hired him to personally torture me.

“Let me down! Let me down!” I screamed, kicking my feet and pounding my fists.

He thought that was hilarious, so he pushed the button and started the ride again. A few long seconds later, just as I began to dry heave, he stopped it.

“Ha! That was hilarious!” he said as he unshackled my hand and foot restraints. “I’ve never heard anyone scream like that!”

Everything became distorted and disturbing after that, like a scene from a horror movie just before someone gets their head chopped off. That didn’t stop me from doing all the other rides, just to prove to myself that I could. But by the time we stumbled out of there, I felt like I’d had a lobotomy or maybe just electric-shock therapy. My head hurt.

I’m not sure what I learned from that experience, except that maybe if you’re going to have kids, you’d better be ready for one hell of a ride.

The Princess is madly in love with her pug. Email your love to


WineInk: The 2023 vintage

“2023 predicted to be the Vintage of a Lifetime in Napa Valley,” proclaimed the headline this week in a press release sent out by the Napa Valley Vintners, the trade organization that represents the growers and producers in America’s most famed wine region. If there is anyone more optimistic than winemakers, it is the group that represents them.

See more