Wednesday, September 4, 2002
Hassloch, Germany Windburned and weary after 104 days of gut-churning rides, American Richard Rodriguez proclaimed a record Tuesday for continuous roller-coaster riding ï¿½ his latest in a 25-year passion.
Alternately enduring temperatures of 102 and pouring rain, Rodriguez spent at least 10 hours a day ï¿½ or at least 1,040 hours ï¿½ on the punishing climbs and 203-foot drops of the "Expedition Ge-Force" MegaCoaster at the Holiday Park in southwestern Germany.
The record ï¿½ recognized by amusement parks and roller coaster producers but not by the Guinness Book of Records ï¿½ breaks the 100-day record Rodriguez set last summer at the Six Flags Over St. Louis amusement park in Eureka, Mo.
"It was the most difficult challenge by far," Rodriguez said Tuesday, stepping out of the bright yellow cars he has ridden since May 23. "I wasn't sure I would be able to stay on ï¿½ the designer of the coaster gave me only 10 days."
The 42-year-old doctoral student in psychology at Loyola University in Chicago has been setting roller-coaster riding records in the United States, England, Canada and Germany since the late 1970s.
Although his latest feat had too many breaks ï¿½ five minutes every hour ï¿½ to qualify for the Guinness Book, Rodriguez said he still was sending a log of his ride to its editors.
Officials at the Guinness Book's London offices could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
A team of doctors observed Rodriguez's rides, monitoring his pulse and heart rates.
"It was interesting to see what the constant mechanical impact does to the human body," said Dr. Friedhelm Baisch of the European International Space Institute.
He did not expect Rodriguez to have any long-term health problems from his rides. After his final round, Rodriguez said he was suffering from nothing more than muscle fatigue.
He also thanked the coaster's crew for bringing him coffee and schnitzel and making sure he was safe.
Eventually, Rodriguez became part of the ride's attraction, said Judith Tchaheu, 21, who runs the coaster.
"There were kids who would ask me, 'Is he normal? Why is he doing this?"' she said.
Rodriguez said he would return to Chicago to finish his doctoral thesis. But before he heads back, he wants to vacation in Germany.
"I want to walk through the countryside that I've seen from the top of the Ge-Force," he said. "But first, I'll go for one more ride."