Who Has the Record For Most Roller Coaster Rides by a Texan?
Yvonne Janik, a Highland Park Middle School English teacher, holds the state crown — having ridden 923 of the world’s 1,600 roller coasters.
Q: Are you competitive about this?
A: Oh, yes. I’ve ridden all types of roller coasters, from kiddie rides to major looping coasters. No coaster is too big or too small. I’ve ridden all the major coasters and most of the small ones in the United States. The person in Texas with the closest number to my count has 820. Unless he goes to China for three weeks or Japan for two weeks, he can’t catch me.
Q: How do you rack up the rides?
A: On a trip to seven states, one province, and 18 parks, only nine out of 110 coasters were new for me. I’ll have to go to Japan, Australia, and back to China. In China, I went to 29 parks to ride 62 coasters. There are new ones that are being built in Sweden and the Netherlands that I’ve got to go on, too.
Q: What draws you to this?
A: It’s the air time, the sense of weightlessness, the negative G’s. A lot of people love the positive G’s, which you get on looping coasters. They make you feel as if you are compressed. I like the over-the-loops, the dropping of your stomach feeling, the flying out of your seat.
Q: Where does the thrill come from?
A: I think of coasters as safe danger. You get the sensation of going fast and flying without the feeling that something bad might happen. Only fun things happen. I don’t ever feel scared, except for that very first time when my dad put me on the Comet at the State Fair when I was 9. But after one ride, I loved it. I went a second time. Now I have a 2-by-4-foot wooden model of the Comet that sits on my dresser.
Q: How is wood different from steel?
A: The steel ones have a very smooth track, and the variations depend on the manufacturer. But the wooden ones, which can’t be as tall or as fast, have better air time. The wood moves and fluctuates, so you get a different ride if it’s raining or if it’s really humid or dry. The morning ride is different from the evening ride. Each wooden coaster is unique and can’t be duplicated.
Q: Are you a repeat rider?
A: I’ve ridden certain coasters 50 or 60 times—the Voyage at Holiday World in Santa Claus, Indiana, the Ravine Flyer II at Waldameer in Erie, Pennsylvania. My favorite steel is the Big FM Expedition Geforce at Holiday Park in Hassloch, Germany. They’re all out-and-backs, with a big hill at the beginning, a race to the end, then an 82-degree vertical angle, major air time, and lots of smaller hills on the way in. They have every element that a perfect coaster needs.
Q: Are you a coaster snob after going to places like China, Italy, and Scandinavia?
A: The reason I went to China was to ride Fireball, a wooden coaster outside Shanghai. There were 18 of us. It’s fun to travel with people who have a single passion for something. And since I plan trips for the European Coaster Club, I have friends all over the world. But I ride at the local parks, too. I’ve got a season pass just to go ride the Steel Eel in San Antonio. And I’ve always had a pass to Six Flags. For the 30-year anniversary of the Judge Roy Scream, I rode it 30 times, straight. Then the group of us rode as many times as we could in 30 minutes. My husband understands my passion. He waited for me outside the station for more than two hours. But he doesn’t travel with me. Typically, people don’t have the stamina. We drive to the park. Ride, ride, ride. Drive to the next. Get up before 6, in bed by 11. I might ride 17 times in an hour.
Q: How many actual rides have you taken?
A: It’s impossible to know. Some people count feet of track and turn that into miles of track, or they count minutes and turn them into days. All that’s obsessive and weird. For me, if it’s a coaster you really like, it’s just fun to go over and over again.