KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Halfway up the 264 stairs leading to the top of the world's tallest waterslide, it was clear this was the most breathtaking ride I'd ever encountered.
And that was before I ever stepped foot in the raft.
Two-thirds of the way up the circular stairs is a sign that says I've reached the height of the Statue of Liberty. A few dozen more steps and I've reached the level of Niagara Falls — and the relief that despite being a little light-headed, this 50-year-old former smoker was going to make it to the top of the ride called "Verruckt" — German for "insane."
From a distance, the waterslide at the edge of Schlitterbahn Waterpark, about 15 miles west of downtown Kansas City, Missouri, doesn't look so scary.
Even from just below the 168-foot-tall structure, it's easy to dismiss the steepness of the first plunge if you've not been to the top and watched nervously as the gate opens and your raft starts creeping to the edge.
But the steady screams of grown men and women clinging to their rafts as they nosedive through bursts of water are proof this ride is anything but tame.
Before being allowed to climb the stairs to Verruckt, two or three riders at a time step onto a scale to make sure their combined weight isn't over 550 pounds. A park worker then reads a two-page list that's as much a warning as it is a disclaimer that Verruckt isn't for the faint of heart (or anyone who is overweight, has a history of back problems or is pregnant).
At 250 pounds and a frequent patron of the chiropractic arts, at least I'm not pregnant.
Among the warnings delivered to riders before they start their ascent is that one of the possible hazards of going down the waterslide is ... death.