Derek and Doug Perry got bit by the roller coaster bug early.
“Our mom really loves roller coasters,” Derek recalled. “On our summer vacations, we would hop in the van, and we would go driving around to different theme parks.”
“(Our dad) didn’t love them as much as the three of us did, but he was always a good sport about it,” Doug added. “He would hang out in the theme parks, and he had fun still.”
As adults, the twins have taken that love to the next level, riding more than 1,100 different roller coasters around the world, often together. Last year, they road every new coaster that opened across the U.S. and hope to do the same this year.
“I know, it’s an obsession,” Derek laughed. “People think, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ But it makes me so happy.” And they aren’t alone.
“I remember one time being a kid, there was an amusement park book, and our mom would read us pages from it like as a bedtime story,” Derek said with a smile. He still loves park statistics. “We just retained all this information.”
“Then I remember I was talking to my mom one day about EPCOT and the different countries that have (pavilions), and she was like, ‘If you focused this much on your school work, you’d be getting straight A’s,’ ” he added. “But my passion was theme parks.”
The brothers vividly recall their first “big rides” at around age 10. They were at Six Flags Great Adventure, the first stop of theme park road trip, which also included Hershey Park, Kings Dominion and Busch Gardens Williamsburg.
“We’re looking at these big rollercoasters, and we’re thinking, ‘We don’t want to go on, and we’re too scared to go on.’ Do you remember?” Derek said, turning to Doug, who immediately agreed. “And our parents said, ‘Well, if you’re not going to ride the big rides, we can just go to museums for the rest of the trip.’ “
“They’re not going to spend all this money going to these theme parks,” Doug chimed in. Even back then, tickets weren’t cheap, but nowadays, the starting price for daily park admission ranges from $39.99 at Kings Dominion, with its Early Days Deal, to $109 at Universal Studios Hollywood.
“And we’re kids,” Doug said. “We don’t want to spend our summer vacation in museums, so that forced us on the rides. And as soon as we did go on the big rides, we fell in love.”
Being a kid again
“When you’re on a coaster, for me, I’m not thinking about anything else. All my cares from the world, from the day, they go away, and I’m just living in the moment, which is hard to do nowadays,” Derek said. “For theme parks, same thing. It reminds me of being a kid and just being blissful and happy.”
“I feel exactly the same way, and I just love that fake fantasy world and just the themes,” Doug chuckled. “It’s an escape.”
The brothers aren’t the only ones willing to go the distance. American Coaster Enthusiasts describes itself as the “world’s largest club of amusement ride enthusiasts,” and many members are willing to travel for their shared love.
Derek serves as the group’s communications director. Doug joked that he’s Derek’s assistant, but he really helps with ACE’s social media and other areas. “it’s like a full-time job, but it’s all volunteer,” he said.
Derek and Doug have met some of their closest friends through ACE events, which include exclusive ride times on attractions before or after theme parks open to the public.
“It’s like a dream come true being at a park when there aren’t lines, and you can just sit on a roller coaster and go on it over and over and over and try all the different seats,” Derek said, joking that their early Rocky Point days prepared them for that.
Favorite roller coasters
Derek says his favorite roller coaster is “always the roller coaster that I’m currently riding,” but noted appreciation for traditional coasters like Leap-the-Dips, which Lakemont Park bills as the “oldest wooden roller coaster in the world,” and newer ones like VelociCoaster at Universal Orlando Resort.
“Maybe Derek’s are off the record,” Doug laughed. “I have so many.” Doug’s favorites include Superman at Six Flags New England, Iron Gwazi at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, X2 at Six Flags Magic Mountain and Leviathan at Canada’s Wonderland.