The new ‘Wheel of Terror’ debuts Thursday at Pike Outlets

Long Beach on Thursday will debut a renovated Ferris wheel at the Pike Outlets. (File photo.)
Long Beach on Thursday will debut a renovated Ferris wheel at the Pike Outlets. (File photo.)

The Ferris wheel at the Pike Outlets reopens Thursday night with the sort of fanfare that attends groundbreakings and ribbon-cuttings in this town. City leaders will speak, no doubt comparing this one ride to the bygone glories of the original Pike which the wheel practically satirizes as an overpriced ersatz homage. You could spend a week at the old amusement park with the $4 ride on the new Ferris wheel, although, to be fair, a 2017 $4 bill is equivalent to a 1968 60-cent piece.

There’s dancing to the tunes of a silent DJ and fireworks and, of course, rides on the new Ferris wheel.

By “new,” we mean pimped out, bedazzled with the addition of some 2,000 LED lights and a new paint job. Otherwise, it’s the same wheel put up in 2005.

If we sound less than enthusiastic, we’re not. We’re terrified, because the 90-feet-tall Ferris wheel is a ride, and we don’t like rides.

Our first, and perhaps only, trip on a Ferris wheel was back in, maybe, 1959, when our stepmom was dating our dad. She took us on a Ferris wheel – we don’t recall where – and when the thing began spinning wildly, we started screaming. “MAKE IT STOP!” we might’ve yelled, but it was certainly words to that effect. We kept up our howling until the whiskey-addled ride operator lowered us and let us out to live another day, which we squandered by going on more terrifying rides.

Nobody knows why we put ourself through them. We actually went on the old Pike’s Cyclone Race in its waning days in 1968 when we were pretty sure the park wasn’t throwing away any more money on the ride’s maintenance. Huge hunks of the track broke away and fell to the ground (we imagined) as we whistled along the track high above the Pacific Ocean with our eyes clamped shut and our face twisted in silent terror like Munch’s “The Scream.”

We went on Disneyland’s Space Mountain when it opened in 1977, thinking how scary could a roller coaster be if it’s pitch dark? Too scary for us. We whipped through every turn screaming like the lady in the Japanese film who first spots the sea creature tramping through downtown snapping skyscrapers like pretzel sticks.

Even the Matterhorn, which, to thrill-seekers, is the “It’s a Small World” of roller-coasters, turned us to salt with fear, and, look, we’re gonna be honest: Even Disney’s Dumbo ride gives us the shakes. We can handle it, but we’re not happy about it.

Needless to say, there is nothing we can do at Knott’s Berry Farm or Magic Mountain except buy a churro and a bottled water.

But a Ferris wheel scares us? Yeah. Remember the movie “Mighty Joe Young”? OK, not everyone saw it, but the movie’s fiery amusement-park scene was filmed at Long Beach’s Golden Shore Boat Launch. A Ferris wheel comes adrift from its axle and rolls through the park, squashing its hapless riders and untold park visitors. It was horrible.

Advertisement

Now, we’re not saying Thursday night’s re-opening will be that grisly. More than likely, no one will get squashed. It might just be a lovely evening of lights and dancing, marred only by speechifying by Pike Outlet and city officials. But, still, why take a chance if the best case is nothing goes wrong?

Contact Tim Grobaty at 562-714-2116, tgrobaty@scng.com, @grobaty on Twitter.

Click here to subscribe to Digital & Home Delivery - 50% off

About the Author