Monday, May 3, 2010

v2, d55: Top 7 Coasters

Earlier, I said I was going to try to do some more "regular features" this time around. Let's see if I can swing the occasional Top 7 list.

For those of you who don't know this about me, I am a roller coaster FIEND, despite the fact that I haven't had a chance to ride any roller coasters in the last five years except for the Disney rides in Anaheim. Part of that is because there are no theme parks around me anymore, and part of it is that when I go to places with coasters (again, not many options, but Kemah has one and Sea World in San Antonio had one) I'm not with anybody else who'll go with me and I hate to make the rest of the crew wait. Nevertheless, for about ten years or so there, I absolutely lived for scream machines.

With that in mind, I'd like to do a video tour of my top 5 coasters. I'm not going to say I've had a terribly extensive coaster-riding career, and I know most of my experience is limited to southern California (without, somehow, ever getting to the Coaster Capital of the Coast, Six Flags Magic Mountain), but I've ridden enough to have a pretty solid Top 5 and at least a relatively exclusive Top 10, if I really wanted to. So I'll meet in the middle and go with a Top 7.

Besides, I've always liked the number 7.

#7: Queen of the Prairie
Joyland Amusement Park, Wichita, KS

#7 is partially a nostalgic pick, but the fact is that this was actually a dang good ride. It was an old, old, old school wooden coaster from 1949, one of only 33 of the 44 original American Coaster Enthusiasts' specially-christened "classic" coasters. The park is closed down, but the Queen still stands tall, and that first drop is still plenty capable of lifting you out of your seat. Now, admittedly, the thing is in dire need of repair and may have been for the last several years of its operation. The whole place has been shut down since 2005.

Also: until I looked this up on Wikipedia once, I was unaware that this coaster had a name. The sign simply read "Roller Coaster". Even that was more description than most of the rides were given at Joyland.

#6: Medusa
Six Flags Discovery Kingdom--Viejo, CA

Discovery Kingdom was Six Flags Marine World when I knew it (and Marine World/Africa USA before that, but there weren't any coasters there then). Man, watching this video makes me want to ride this ride. It's tall, it's fast, it spins and flips you every way possible without making you sick, your feet dangle giving it the feel of an inverted coaster without the less-than-comfortable over-the-head harness, and it's lime green. Amazing.

#5: Timberwolf
Worlds of Fun--Kansas City, MO

I think I might actually prefer a well-made wooden coaster to most steel ones. You don't have the thrills and the tricks on the wooden tracks; all you have is speed. A well-crafted wooden track banks hard, dips fast, and builds speed with every twist of the track. A poorly-crafted track batters you back and forth and shakes at every turn. Those suck. But when it comes to coasters, I'm all about speed and environment, and a wooden coaster takes you out of one world and brings you into its own, wrapping around and dipping under itself for the duration of the ride, drowning out the sounds of the world around you. Awesome, awesome, awesome.

Anyway, I only rode the T-wolf once, and it obviously left an impression. There's a reason it was ranked #2 wooden coaster in the world for something like ten years.

#4: Mamba
Worlds of Fun

Staying with Worlds of Fun for the moment, if you look closely you can even see #5 on this list cowering beneath the might of this monster. The SECOND drop of the Mamba is twice as high as the Timberwolf. The first hill is a full 205 feet, and it reaches a speed of 65 mph on the initial drop. It's a really intense, really short ride. After the first two hills, there's not a whole lot left for you, and that's part of why it's only #4 on this list. Still, the initial thought as you come over the top of the incline and look straight down 200+ feet to the ground is...well, the guy on the video clip pretty much nails it:

#3: Flight Deck (formerly Top Gun) at California's Great America (formerly Paramount's Great America)

The switch from Paramount's Great America to California's Great America meant that the few rides that had movie tie-ins had to drop them. That's okay, the Top Gun element to this ride was kind of lame, but the ride was awesome. It's a suspended coaster that really whips around its curves, and I always preferred to sit in the back because this sucker REALLY felt like you were flying when its back cars whipped around the tight turns and barrel rolls. I would ride this five or six times per visit, because as the park opened newer, fancier, gimmickiers coasters, this one kinda got left behind. Definitely my favorite of the Great America bunch, though.

#2: Roar
Six Flags Discovery Kingdom

Everything I said I liked about wooden coasters above? It's all wrapped up in this monster. When you're riding it, it feels like you shouldn't be able to go that fast on a wooden coaster. It's so much fun. You're never not turning. You're banking pretty sharply on every drop to add to the speed. It's just fantastic.

#1: Millennium Force
Cedar Point--Sandusky, OH

Of course, you can't keep the roller coaster capital of the world out of this kind of list. I'm fortunate I got one chance to visit Cedar Point, even if my ride on the Mangum XL-2000 had some safety issues that made the ride a little less enjoyable and a little more terrifying, and even if Top Thrill Dragster was closed. This is easily the king. It's kind like Mamba on steroids. (And better design. And more variety. And tunnels) Speed increases exponentially as you fall, so add another hundred feet or so to the first drop on Mamba and you literally feel the force of the wind pushing your cheeks back. My hair was shooting straight back when I stepped off this ride both times. Wait the extra fifteen minutes and ride in the front for your first experience. Then try it again and sit in the back.

Do it.

This post made me HAPPY.