Growing up in West Michigan in the 1980s, there wasn't much for amusement parks. Muskegon had a then lame amusement park known as Deer Park Funland. Now owned by the same company that owns Cedar Point and called Michigan's Aventure, it is lame no more.

At first I wasn't a fan of roller coasters. About all I could stomach was the Corkscrew at the forementioned Deer Park Funland.

That changed in the 1989 when while a carrier for The Grand Rapids Press, I won a contest which the prize was an all expense paid two day trip to Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio. I had been to Cedar Point once before in 1985 or 1986 with my parents but the most thrilling ride we went on was the Mine Ride.

My trip with the newspaper was with a group of about 40 other carriers and about four chaperones aboard a motorcoach.

Upon arrival at the park, a large roller coaster could been seen in the distance. That was my first look at the Magnum XL-200, the new ride for that year. One of the chaperones had discovered during the four hour road trip that some of us were not roller coaster fans. He threatened to drag us on the Magnum the next morning.

So that first day I psyched myself up riding Gemini, Blue Streak and Corkscrew.

Upon our arrival on day two, the group headed to the back of the park and we rode what was then the tallest and fastest roller coaster on Earth. My seat partner said my knuckles were white from grabbing the safety bar so hard but I had a smile on my face when we returned to the station.

This trip came in handy as my cousin got married later that summer in Cincinnati, Ohio. Cincinnati of course is home to Kings Island. And with this park's gates is the infamous Beast. My dad and I waited in line for over an hour to ride this legend. A wooden coaster with two lift hills and a mile of track. No wonder the coaster is still going strong 45 years after it opened.

In 1990 I was lucky enough to win a second trip to Cedar Point. This time I was the one dragging people on the Magnum. That year I am proud to say I also rode Magnum front row no hands.