The Desperado, a ‘Speed Demon,’ offers the extreme for National Roller Coaster Day

We embrace the crazy. It is part of who we are.

The marketing industry has caught on.

Aquafresh Extreme Clean! Sure! Give me a slightly mintier toothpaste!

The Heart Attack Grill! Mmm! A burger joint!


This is, of course, how National Roller Coaster Day got invented.

That’s much more extreme than toothpaste.

Which is why Sierra Helms, 15, and her friend Jamie Anderson, 13, talked Helms’ mom, Deborah, into driving them an hour outside of town on Friday.

They were seeking the crazy. The extreme. The fun.

“Cuz it’s like the biggest drop in Vegas,” Helms said. “Plus, it just looks amazing. And I love roller coasters.”

The girls were the first in line at The Desperado, the massive, almost 20-year-old roller coaster at Buffalo Bill’s in Primm, out on the California state line. Neither girl had ever been on it.

The Travel Channel, which runs lots of shows featuring crazy things around the world, recently named The Desperado a “Speed Demon.”

That declaration coincided nicely with National Roller Coaster Day. It gave the hotel’s marketing people a good excuse to offer free rides all day long Friday.

“The drop,” said Helms. “I really want to do the drop.”

A tall, lanky teenager walked up. “Is this the line for the roller coaster?”

It was, they told him. “It’s free today,” the girls said.

“Are you serious,” the guy said. “That’s awesome. That really is awesome.”

Oliver Lackner, 19, and his folks were in town from Germany, traveling all over the southwest, visiting national parks.

They were driving from southern California to Zion National Park in Utah on Friday. He had heard there was an extreme coaster somewhere out there in the desert between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

He whipped out his phone and Googled it.

Wait, said his mom, pointing. “What’s that?”

It was the hulking mass of The Desperado, 209 feet tall, towering over everything. They stopped.

He said his friend back home was going to be jealous. “He’s really not going to be my friend anymore,” he said, smiling.

The ride opened up then, and the few dozen people in line filed up the stairs.

The girls got in the front seat, Lackner in the back.

“Welcome to The Desperado,” said the video playing on the TV screens. “Prepare for the most exciting two minutes and 43 seconds of your life.”

It warned of the speed: 85 mph. It warned of the drop: 225 feet. It warned of the “spine-tingling, twisting, 155-foot spiral drop.”

The girls screamed. Especially Anderson, the 13-year-old.

“Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god,” she said as the ride took off.

“That was scary. I’m shaking,” she said once it was over.

They talked about what to do next. Go on the log flume?

Chill out for a minute? Hang around the arcade?


Not extreme enough.

They got back in line to ride The Desperado again.

Contact reporter Richard Lake at or 702-383-0307.

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