A Word.

I’ve been coming across a few people in the past few days that actively avoid roller coasters.  The last encounter with this type of person was when I was about to watch the last Harry Potter installment with my co-worker, Mikey.  I told him that on my one day off this week, I would love to go on the wooden roller coaster I’d seen off the side of I-95 up near Hollywood, Florida when he informed me that he gets nauseous on coasters and can’t stand them.  I was floored.  It was worse than him telling me he was a fan of Sarah Palin (which he did a few months earlier).   Never will I understand this point of view (both of them for that matter).  I have never once gotten off a roller coaster and felt the oncomings of nausea.  I absolutely understand the fear of roller coasters, the fear of heights, the fear of the train disconnecting from the track, but you get SICK?  I don’t buy it.  Man up, get a steel stomach, and enjoy the flight.  I’m probably being ridiculous and just choosing not to understand, but this is one argument I feel like I can win.  Roller coasters are designed to be smooth riding and having your body work with the centrifugal force, although some don’t pull it off as flawlessly as others.  I just want people to enjoy it as much as I do, I reckon.

 

What are your thoughts?  Do you buy this malarkey?

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Steel Force

Huge.  Can I just end this post there?  Steel Force is in Dorney Park (Allentown, PA).   It has been with Dorney Park since 1997, and is an absolute staple.  You can’t really skip it when you go to the park.  This big, ominous, steel structure just pulls you in begging you to ride it.

No, seriously.

When I first went on Steel Force, I was pretty intimidated.  I mean, this thing is beyond enormous.  The first drop is 205 feet. JEEEEZ.   The track may look tame with just a bunch of airtime hills, but it’s the longest coaster on the East Coast to this day at 5,600 feet long.  Plus, the logo for the coaster is pretty creepy.

The dude who trained the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?

Traditional train, with a standard lap-bar seating two across.  Standard for Dorney Park.  After taking 70 years to get to the top of the lifthill, your heart starts pounding.  How are you going to survive this drop?  Riders experience 2.5 G’s just from this one drop.  While sitting in the front row (as you always should)  looking down the hill, there’s a tunnel you have to go through.  How the heck are you NOT going to get your head chopped off?  In fact, thinking back, there were numerous times I was in fear of decapitation on Steel Force.  After two huge lifts and drops, you go through a 510 degree helix turn which just means you’re turning right for what feels like an eternity and you’re being slammed into the person next to you.  LOVE IT.  After the helix, you go through a bunch of little airtime hills which are just hills flying up and down with no need for a lifthill, you know.  The hills that give you the willies.  HEH.  And then the ride is done.  I think the best part may be looking at it from the ground and seeing the true size of it.  I don’t know what’s more intimidating, being on the top of the hill about to fly to the ground or looking at it from the ground realizing you’ll be up there soon.

This POV doesn’t even bother filming the lifthill.  It’d just take eons.

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Superman: Ultimate Flight

Being that it’s the 4th of July, I decided to go with an amazing, all-American coaster.  This roller coaster absolutely blew me away.  It may be my favorite behind my all-timer, which I am saving for a special day to chat about.  I’m sure everyone’s heard about Superman.  The technology alone is mind-blowing.

Epic.

My friend, Steve, came to visit me in Chicago last year and we saved this coaster for the very last.  Best decision ever.  Superman is a suspended coaster where the entire train flips up sitting the passengers parallel to the ground. Now, I’ve had an experience with this type of coaster technology before in Canada’s Wonderland on “Time Warp”.  I was so excited for that coaster because I had never ridden that type of train before and let me tell you, it was a horrendous experience.  My head was thrashing around the harness, my arms got chewed up by the arm rests.  It was pretty terrible.  Superman, on the other hand, is a work of masterful genius.   The waiting line for this ride is also pretty educational.  There are plaques talking about all the superman characters, starting with all the villains, their specs and then the GOOD guys. Supergirl, and some kid.  Superkid?  Sure.

Let’s talk harnesses.

Are you seeing that?

The harness is made up of three parts.  A relatively soft foam over the shoulder harness is the first, then a lap bar and then ankle braces.  You sit down, strap in and before leaving the loading platform, the coaster flips you up to a horizontal “flying” position.  Climbing up the lifthill, Steve and I were freeeeeaking out.  I mean, this is the POINT of riding roller coasters; to feel like you’re flying with ease through some sort of obstacle course of turns.  This coaster achieves that with no effort.  It is absolutely imperative that you sit in the front row for this.  It’s always important to sit in the front in my opinion any way, but being able to fully immerse yourself in this flying experience will make your mind explode.

So up the lifthill you go, heart pounding.  Take your first plunge flying over the waiting line you curve OVER into a FRONT loop. WHAT!? YES. It is absolutely amazing and feels slightly wrong because you’ve never experienced it before.  Make a few switchbacks like Superman would, with the track feeling like it’s been lubed with butter spray and into a corkscrew that lets you out into the brake run.  Yes, the track seems pretty short, but Iguarantee you, it will boggle your mind.  I’ve never felt like I was flying so much on a roller coaster than on Superman.  We left feeling like we had a completely successful day at Great America.

So good:

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Batman: THE RIDE

This ride and I go back a long time.  It’s in Six Flags: Great America which is about an hour out of Chicago.  The first time I encountered this ride, I won’t lie. I was terrified.  I must have been around 7, visiting one of my best friends, Lindsay, when she lived in Cary, Il.  She was cool and I was not and she wanted to go on the coaster and as we discussed before, I was terrified and mostly FOOLISH.  I was PRAYING that we wouldn’t be tall enough to get on it and to my relief, we weren’t.  She was pissed, I was elated. It wasn’t until years later, when I moved to Chicago myself at 21 that a friend from Orlando came to visit me and we went to Six Flags and I got a chance to confront the Dark Knight one more time.

While we’re here, let’s get this straight.  At Great America, there is also a Dark Knight Coaster.  I’m not even going to WASTE an entry on that piece of junk because I have no tolerance for roller-coasters-in-a-box.  Batman: The Ride and The Dark Knight Coaster are NEVER to be mistaken for each other. Moving on.

Batman is a suspended coaster, which we all know is not only my favorite but THE GREATEST.

Six Flags doesn’t waste money on creating a cool, immersive waiting line experience like Universal and Disney do, so let’s just say you wait through a million switch-backs and FINALLY get onto the loading platform. Sick. Strap. In. Standard over-the-shoulder harness and you’re out the gate.  Off the lifthill, making your first left turn you shoot into a single loop and right into a tight corkscrew and back into a single loop. Fun? Yes, sir.  A nice horizontal loop comes next and slingshots you into a wide corkscrew, which leads you into ANOTHER tight corkscrew and that’s the last bit of awesomeness before you reach the brake run.  Let’s just sit and think about that for a second.  Is there anything greater than corkscrews?  BETTER than loops, I say, they’re so tight and fast and make your head spin.  Delicious.

Lot’s of HOLY SHIT’S on this. Hilarious.

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Rock ‘n Roller Coaster

This. is a quality coaster. The line is always years long, but the first time I went on it, I had the time of my life.  This is located in Disney’s MGM Studios. …Or Hollywood Studios as it is now called. Whatever. It’s still MGM to me.  This is the only roller coaster in the park and it’s also an indoor coaster.  The coaster is based on the work of Aerosmith, quality rock band that is all-encompassing.  It’s pretty easy to like Aerosmith and their music so I get why Disney chose them to base their coaster off of.

Walking up on it, there’s a HUUUUGE guitar outside, which is only the start to the typical musical stereotypes and puns you’re about to experience inside.

So when you walk inside, you wind around “G Force Records”. Heh, very clever.  Actually, there are a lot of cool old microphones, tape machines and audio gear that audio nerds like me are obsessed with.  For me, the waiting line is extremely entertaining.  Before you get out to the loading platform, a certain sized group is forced to watch a screen of Aerosmith inside a control room of a recording studio.  For some reason: a) You are inside the live room….as if you are the musicians and b) Aerosmith is “recording” “Walk This Way”.  So they jabber on about the song, realize there’s PEEEEEOPLE watching and welcome you.  Their “manager” walks in and scolds them for being late for a show and ushers them outside into a limo.  But Aerosmith, being the good guys they are, ask the manager to let the FANS…us…to come with them in a separate limo.  Joe Perry babbles on about how the band feels about their fans and blah dee blah.  He is smokin’ hot though.

I'll take him.

That part is what I believe makes the line so long every time.  Anyway, you get rushed out of there to the loading platform. FINALLY.  The train is classic style, fits two across with an over-the-shoulder harness, which is extremely liberating to your head.  You will NOT be smacking into huge, hard foam harnesses and the seat has two speakers next to your head. Uh…yea, that’s what makes this coaster AMAZINGGG.

So before you take off, you have to sit for what feels like honestly 5 hours watching a screen telling you that there’s congestion on the freeway, and “get ready to merge like you’ve never merged before” and “you’re gonna ROCK ‘N ROLL OUTTA HERE”.  All humorous.  The theme here is you’re driving to Aerosmith’s show and have very little time to get there so you’re taking all these detours and driving all CRAZY because that’s what rock ‘n roll is ABOUT, right?  So, you shoot out, immediately into a loop, which is a pretty big deal.  I’ve never been on an indoor coaster with inversions, so out of the gate I was pumped.  If I’m not mistaken, this is the only Disney coaster with an inversion.  Maybe Everest changed that. I’ll have to check on my facts. ANYWAY.  All the while, Aerosmith songs are playing right next to your head.  We got some “Love in an Elevator”, “Walk this Way” and “Dude Looks like a Lady”.  So while you’re flying through the air, you’re jamming out to awesome music, the first time I rode it I was dancing and singing more than enjoying the track.  You fly by a bunch of goofy road signs, painted with black light paint and you fly through the HOLLYWOOD sign which is entertaining.  Bunches of hills and turns and a slight corkscrew and you end up at CONCERT EVENT PARKING in the VIP section and it’s over.  The track is pretty tame but it’s the buildup, the speed and the music that make this coaster for me.  I’ve waited around 2 hours for this ride and it’s been worth it every time.

This video is a Roller Coaster Tycoon version, which is necessary in this case since the track is almost completely in the dark.  It’s a pretty good rendering though.

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Behemoth

Ah, Behemoth. A giant, smooth-as-butter coaster located in Canada’s Wonderland.  The theme park is REALLY called that.  A friend and I were in Toronto for work two July’s ago and me being me, I searched out the closest theme park as soon as I got to Toronto.  What I found was Canada’s WONDERLAND. Mwahahaha.  About an hour or so out of Toronto, this park wasn’t bad!  The line for Behemoth was astronomical and while we were waiting we saw the Indian dude from Sum 41. Oh, Canada.  ANYWAY.  This coaster is a floor coaster and the seating is something I had never experienced before.  For one, it seats two across, but the seating is separated so everyone has a decent view.  In the front row of the coaster, two seats are next to each other and the second row the two seats are far apart so you can see around the first row and so on and so forth.  Another revolutionary thing is the lapbars.  Sweet Lord, these things are amazing.  Its a stick that sits between your legs with a hefty amount of plasticy/foam that rests on your lap keeping you secure.  What’s amazing about this lapbar is the freedom you feel when you’re flying down the first drop.

What fun.

It almost doesn’t matter if you’re in front because every row has a good view!  So you strap in, head up the first lifthill, which feels like AGES because this coaster is a monster.  In fact, you can almost measure how high you’re getting because Behemoth is situated next to a huge wooden coaster called The Mighty Canadian Minebuster, the largest wooden coaster in Canada.  As you climb the lifthill, you tower over the Minebuster and start getting nervous.  You got up this lifthill and now you have to get down.  Seeing the first drop seems almost physically impossible.  It looks BEYOND a vertical drop.  But the feeling you get flying down it is bliss.  Back to the genius of the lapbars.  They allow you to lean forward and have it feel EVEN MORE like you’re flying, which is the point, is it not?  This was the first coaster I had experienced this lapbar on and I’ve been hooked ever since.  You’re free to truly put your arms up and lean away from your seat since there’s no shoulder harness stopping you.  So the track is pretty tame, hills, three turns and a bowtie, going back and forth, but the reason this coaster is such a success in my eyes is the sheer size and lapbar technology.  I know I keep yammering about that but it seriously blew my mind.  I don’t know that I would make a trip to Toronto for this coaster, but if you find yourself nearby, definitely make the effort.  It’s like being on top of the world.

Half of this video is going up the lifthill. HAH!

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Thunderhawk

Yesterday was my grandma’s 78th birthday and in honor of that, I am featuring Thunderhawk!  Thunderhawk is a wooden roller coaster in Dorney Park (Allentown, PA) where my grandma is from.  My Dad took my uncle on this coaster when he was a kid, so there’s a bit of history here for me.

I think we all know wooden coasters are terrifying.  And not just the oh-I’m-going-so-fast terrifying.  It’s more the this-thing-might-fall-APART terrifying.  Thunderhawk was built in 1923 originally with a track that went out, had a few hills and then turned back. Exciting!  It was also originally called THE COASTER. Hah! After Hercules was built, it got a new, more twisty track and was renamed to Thunderhawk.  Dorney Park doesn’t waste much time in creating a cool waiting line for any of their rides, which kind of sucks, but to each his own.  Thunderhawk is a floor coaster, seating two across with a simple foam lapbar.  The lifthill is chain operated, which doesn’t feel so secure, but then again, what DOES feel secure on a wooden coaster?  When you finally get to the top and make the first drop, it’s pretty tame, but come on! It’s a super old school wooden coaster!  A few hills later and you make your first turn.  It feels treacherous because the wood supports on your left feel dangerously close to decapitating you.  Then, back you go, over the hills the other way and lastly, through more wood supports that force you to put your hands inside the train for fear of dismemberment.  It’s a simple, old school, rickety coaster.  When my cousin, Emily and I went on it, we could not stop talking about how much pain that coaster inflicted on us.  Just from the rickety-ness!  I’m not a huge fan of wooden coasters, but I do like the novelty and history of them.  So there we go.

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