I'm going to answer your questions in reverse order. First off, with regards to having the vacation time to hit a hundred coasters in a year, I actually didn't use that much up until the big September trip to CLT and MCO. Many of my trips were overnights, including the Germany trip from the second article (although given the overnight nature of the flight to Frankfurt, it did require one vacation day). I'd fly up the morning of my first day off and back the next evening.
As for the best places to go, where to begin? Living near BWI is great because you're within a 3-hour drive of 6 massive amusement parks and few smaller ones. Outside of Southern California and Orlando, you're not really going to get that kind of coverage out of one metro area. I hope that answers the bang-for-the-buck question, but in terms of my favorites, giving you a theoretical top 5, anything Disney (I'm sure you've got those airports down), Busch Gardens Williamsburg (ORF or RIC), Six Flags Over Georgia (ATL), Kings Dominion (RIC or a 2-hour drive from BWI), and Six Flags Great Adventure (EWR is closest, but PHL, LGA, and a 3-hour drive from BWI are all options).
Feel free to message me with any other questions you might have! I'm happy to offer whatever assistance I can!
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After a very quick break from the four-week stretch that I wrote about inThe Year of 100 Roller Coasters Part 2, it was off to one of our newer destinations—Atlanta. Georgia Scorcher twists alongside the entrance to Six Flags Over Georgia. Once in Atlanta, two of my “roller coaster connoisseur” friends and I went to Six Flags Over Georgia, and found ourselves staring at borderline non-existent lines and beautiful weather. We got to experience Goliath, a smaller version of the B&M hypercoasters; Superman Ultimate Flight, a flying roller coaster with a famous pretzel-shaped loop; Mindbender, a classic looping coaster from the 70’s; Georgia Scorcher, a stand-up coaster; and Batman–The Ride, one of the most relentlessly intense roller coasters ever built. Goliath riders get thrown out of their seats over and over along the ride’s many airtime hills. As soon as my visit ended, I started prepping for my biggest vacation of the year, which would begin the following weekend: Charlotte and Orlando. Carowinds park—in Charlotte—looked to be a similar trip crowd-wise to Six Flags the week before. I parked my car in North Carolina and began the walk to South Carolina to the entrance—the border between the two states runs right down the middle of the park, so you can stand in both at once right on the midway. Not that I did that or anything… Before going to the two coasters that I had been looking forward to, I went for a lap on Nighthawk, a ride that had eluded me during my one past visit to the park. Nighthawk was the world’s first flying roller coaster, and the last of the three built by Vekoma that I had yet to ride (I actually worked on the other two back in the day). It was cool getting to experience it, and it was definitely a very enjoyable ride. The first of the two coasters I had come to ride was Intimidator, yet another of B&M’s hypercoasters, and the last of those I would ride this year (unfortunately). Though big and fast like Intimidator 305 at Kings Dominion which opened the same year, Intimidator was more focused on airtime than the spine-crushing positive g-forces of its brother in Virginia. The second of the two was Afterburn, an inverted coaster like Georgia’s Batman–The Ride and Alpengeist at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. Afterburn was impressive as always, due to the fact that its inversions seemed almost violent in their intensity. In my opinion, it’s still the only inverted coaster that’s come close to besting Batman–The Ride. With my laps on each of the two completed, I darted off to the park’s other coasters to ensure I got all the credits I needed as crunch time had come for hitting one hundred on the year. After getting a lap on each ride I planned for, I still found myself with several hours left. Oh, what to do with such an empty park? Two words: power-ride. Power-riding is the fine art of riding a ride repeatedly without ever leaving the train (except to walk up or back a few rows to switch seats). It can be demanding at times, but one of my more bizarre super-powers is an extremely high resistance to motion sickness and general intensity. As such, I’ve had a few impressive marathons on various rides over the years, and I was going to break one of my records later in the day. I went to Intimidator first, figuring I’d keep going as long as I could. Power-riding was only permitted so long as there were empty seats left on the train (coaster non-revving?). I made it several laps before there was finally a train’s worth of riders waiting in the station, so I left for Afterburn with the intent of snagging a few laps on it before more Intimidator action. However, my intent and what happened were two very different things. Afterburn was even less crowded than Intimidator, so what was supposed to be a couple of laps became something else entirely. Going with the number 100 as the theme of the year, I decided to undertake a marathon of 100 inversions. With Afterburn’s 6 inversions, I determined I’d need to survive 17 laps. The six-inversion Afterburn stands guard at the southern entrance of the park. Halfway into it, I began to question my sanity. Eventually, though, I settled into my groove. Around lap fifteen, though, I decided that I had a rare opportunity. My longest marathon record to date to was 120 inversions. Seeing as I could hit the same number on Afterburn in 10 fewer laps, I decided to push for 20 laps total to tie my record. On lap 20, I decided that tying records was lame, so I tagged on a 21 st lap to break my inversion marathon record with a total of 126 inversions in a row. With my brain properly scrambled, it was off to Orlando. I was going with 98 coasters under my belt on the year. I could’ve hit 100 at Carowinds, but I wanted to save the honor for a coaster at my first stop on the trip’s second leg in Orlando: SeaWorld. Of course, what would a quest like this be without hiccups? A thunderstorm over pretty much all of Orlando saw Manta and Kraken, SeaWorld Orlando’s two major coasters, unable to operate in the lightning. I finally caught a ride on Manta during a break in the lightning for coaster 99. As soon as we pulled back into the station, I vaulted off for Kraken in fear that lightning would strike again. Kraken, a floorless coaster similar to Dominator at Kings Dominion, had been a favorite since I first rode it in 2006. I figured it would make a fitting number one-hundred. Then I saw it, a small sign posted right in front of the entrance: “Kraken is down for annual maintenance.” NO!! However, I had unknowingly left myself a substitute number 100 in reserve. During my February Walt Disney World visit, I had skipped Primeval Whirl at the Animal Kingdom. As such, when I moved on to Disney World for the remainder of this trip, I rode Primeval Whirl to hit 100. There was no fanfare, no screaming groupies, nothing—but I made it. My immediate family was there, though, so for not having experienced any of the other trips with me this year, it was good to have them present for the grand finale. So yes, I got a hundred coasters in during 2012. Mission accomplished! But wait, there’s more! A great rock concert always has an encore, and so did the Year of 100 Roller Coasters. Three, in fact. Encore one was a trip back to Hersheypark, where Storm Runner became the ride of the day. Encore two was a visit to Six Flags America, where I picked up my 2013 Six Flags season pass. Despite my AM shift the following day, I stayed almost until closing, grabbing laps on Batwing, Apocalypse, and Superman–Ride of Steel. My visit to Six Flags America actually took me to my year-end count of 106 coasters. As for encore three, I made one last quick weekend jaunt down to Orlando, to join my extended family for another round of Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster to close out the Year of 100 Roller Coasters. Apocalypse at Six Flags America once operated as Iron Wolf at Six Flags Great America. Oh yes, I promised you that I’d reveal my favorite ride of the year! After much pondering, musing, and other actions that are synonyms of those words, I declare my favorite ride to be…Batman–The Ride. It wasn’t the biggest, fastest, or most inversion-laden, but it was the most consistent in its intensity and the most unrelenting ride I’ve ever experienced. Leviathan took the cake as the best new-to-me coaster, WindSeeker the best non-coaster ride, and Silver Star the most underrated. Batman–The Ride is arguably the finest roller coaster I’ve ever experienced. Thank you so much for reading this series—I’ll see you in line in 2013!
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Well, it’s been a…productive…four weeks. Seeing as the pace at which I was riding roller coasters for the first half of the year wasn’t nearly quick enough to hit one hundred, I had to pick things up a bit.
So how have things gone since the last recap? I’m now sitting at seventy-six roller coasters on the year with a lifetime track record that now sits at two hundred and seventy-two. I basically went through a four-week rush to a number of different amusement parks in the United States, Canada, and Germany.
The first weekend in the tour was a trip I had been trying to take for a few years: a road trip to Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Kings Dominion, Virginia’s two major amusement parks. Alpengeist features a massive swooping first drop into a ravine
Busch Gardens Williamsburg came first. It’s an award-winning park not too terribly far from ORF. I hadn’t been to the park in six or seven years, so it was great to get back. There aren’t many coasters there, but if there’s one thing that the Busch Gardens/SeaWorld parks are known for believing, it’s that quality counts more than quantity. The five adult roller coasters at the park possess an average quality that few other parks can match. Three of them were at the park during my last visit: the towering out-and-back Apollo’s Chariot, the twisted, enormous inverted Alpengeist, and the classic Loch Ness monster, a ride whose interlocking loops are famous in the amusement industry. The new-to-me roller coasters were Griffon, a monstrous ride with a signature vertical drop (it actually holds riders in place at the precipice for a few moments to heighten the fear factor), and Verbolten, a ride with a goofy, bizarre theme and that also featured the signature drop of the ride it replaced, the Big Bad Wolf. Griffon riders plummet vertically two hundred feet to the ground below
Kings Dominion, located very close to RIC, came the following day, and with it some outstanding experiences of its own. The park possesses far more roller coasters than Busch Gardens, and it also has what may be one of the greatest entrance plazas of any park I’ve ever visited. The park, along with its sister park Kings Island, was built with a 1/3-scale replica of the Eiffel Tower (complete with observation deck), and in each case they stand at the far end of some beautiful fountains and cool-looking buildings. As far as the roller coasters went, there were a few highlight rides. There was Grizzly, a wooden roller coaster buried in the woods that was crazy fun. Another was the Backlot Stunt Coaster, formerly known as The Italian Job – Stunt Track, a smaller launched coaster with cool thematic elements from the movie (the movie reference was removed when Cedar Fair bought Paramount Parks). Volcano-The Blast Coaster was yet another, and it was a launched inverted coaster that blasted riders vertically out of a man-made mountain.
There are two other coasters at the park, though, that were real stand-outs for one reason or another. One was Dominator, which was actually previously located at Geauga Lake, the now-closed park which was the first park I ever worked at. The other stand-out was Intimidator 305, a ride that paid homage to Dale Earnhardt (hence the Intimidator) and that stood a jaw-dropping three hundred and five feet over the ground below (hence the 305). The name is appropriate for yet another reason, though, as it blew the doors off of just about every other ride I’ve ever been on from an intensity perspective. Read: turns that nearly induced blackouts. The enormous lift hill of Intimidator 305 dwarfs the nearby Anaconda and Rebel Yell
The next trip was the most unexpected, though. The day before I left for Virginia, it was suggested that I go to Germany the following weekend to join my uncle who was over there on business. Nothing like last-minute planning, eh?
Anyways, last-minute became the theme of the Germany trip. I flew over to Frankfurt, where my uncle picked me up to take me to Holiday Park in Hassloch, a little over an hour away from the airport. The park had very little in the way of roller coasters, but its signature ride, Expedition GeForce, had been on my ten-most-wanted-credits list. It has often been ranked as one of the greatest steel roller coasters ever built. I can safely confirm its awesomeness. Expedition GeForce features a tight, twisting first drop into a dynamic layout
Now, while driving to Hassloch, I had mentioned to my uncle another park located about an hour and a half further by the name of Europa Park. Between the two, I had picked Holiday Park for its relative convenience, but my uncle, who had already been in Germany for a while and hadn’t walked right off of a transatlantic flight into a day of coaster-riding, explained that he was in no way tired and wouldn’t mind checking out Europa Park. I didn’t take him seriously at first, but as we were in the midst of our Expedition GeForce riding, I began to realize he was not messing around. We decided during our fourth lap that we would call it a day at Holiday Park and go for the gold by going to Europa Park. Serious game-time decision! Two parks in a single day right after a transatlantic flight? Sure! What good are sane, rational decisions anyway?
With that said, I have never seen a park like Europa Park. First off, it was enormous. Secondly, the park and its theming reminded me of Epcot’s World Showcase on steroids. It also had some pretty epic roller coasters, from the twisted, wooden Wodan Timbur Coaster and its neighbor, the launched, looping blue fire Megacoaster (I’m not sure why “blue fire” didn’t have any capital letters, but whatever), all the way to the massive Silver Star, a hypercoaster (i.e. any roller coaster that has a hill two hundred feet or higher over the ground below or a drop of two hundred feet or greater vertically) that actually runs down the middle of the parking lot. Silver Star riders soar through maneuvers through Europa Park’s parking lot
With Germany completed, it was just a few days until the start of the Midwest tour: Kings Island first, Valleyfair! second.
Kings Island is a sister park to Kings Dominion and was another park I hadn’t been to in years. Located an hour and a half south of CMH (and I believe slightly closer to DAY?), into which I flew, Kings Island is easily one of the coolest amusement parks in existence. The highlight rides for me were The Beast, the world’s longest wooden coaster and an amazing ride in the dark (it, like Kings Dominion’s Grizzly, runs through the woods and is barely visible from the park); another Backlot Stunt Coaster; Flight Deck, a suspended coaster that runs through a valley and is crazy wild with its swinging cars; Firehawk, a flying roller coaster that was also a Geauga Lake relocation (and the ride I was primarily assigned to at that park, therefore leaving it a special place in my memory); and Diamondback, my third B&M (a Swiss coaster manufacturer) hypercoaster of the four-week rush (the prior two being Apollo’s Chariot and Silver Star) and a real airtime machine. Diamondback features a large drop of over two hundred feet that dives right over the midway
However, Kings Island was home to one of the most memorable experiences of my riding career. In the past two years, several Cedar Fair parks received rides that were all named WindSeeker. The ride consists of just over sixty pairs of seats arrayed in a circle, each attached by a metal bar to a cage-like structure wrapped around a tower. The ride “vehicle” climbs up the tower to a height of over three hundred feet in the air and swings around in a circle for a few revolutions before descending back to the ground. Now, as I mentioned in my previous article, I was afraid of most roller coasters due to what was ultimately a fear of heights. That fear still plagues me. I am able to overcome it on roller coasters because they spend but brief moments at their highest points. This ride sustained its maximum height. However, I decided that I didn’t want my fear to win anymore, so I rode it. I was still quite terrified even after I got out of the seat once it was over, though, but hey, it was a good time. WindSeeker takes riders three hundred feet above the precious ground below and, in this example from Kings Island, stands tall over the far turnarounds on the Racer
Anyways, I flew home, then turned right around the following day and flew to MSP to go to Valleyfair!, located less than thirty minutes away. Valleyfair!, whose name inspired the “Fair” in the “Cedar Fair” name, was home to such rides as the Wild Thing, a large, green hypercoaster; Renegade, a twisted wooden coaster; and Steel Venom, a launched inverted coaster with a vertical twist on one end and a vertical spike with holding brakes on the other with the train going back and forth between the two. Wild Thing is a massive steel coaster that runs along Valleyfair!’s perimeter
With the Midwest leg of the tour over, I was looking forward to the final stop in the four-week rush: Canada’s Wonderland. Located less than twenty minutes from YYZ, and probably a two and a half-hour drive from BUF, Canada’s Wonderland is an enormous park in the suburbs of Toronto and a former Paramount Park like Kings Dominion and Kings Island. As such, there were a number of similarities, including an International Street entrance plaza. However, where the Kings _____ parks had Eiffel Towers, Canada’s Wonderland received the man-made Wonder Mountain. As far as highlight rides, there was the Vortex, a near-clone to Kings Island’s Flight Deck, yet another fantastic Backlot Stunt Coaster, and what was easily the best one-two punch of the entire tour (and probably of any park I’ve ever visited): Behemoth and Leviathan. Behemoth, the largest roller coaster in Canada for several years, is still one of the largest in the world with a height of two hundred and thirty feet
Behemoth and Leviathan are both the exact same style of ride (B&M speed coasters, a la Diamondback, Apollo’s Chariot, Silver Star, etc.), but where Behemoth calls it a day at two hundred and thirty feet, Leviathan keeps on trucking to three hundred and six. Behemoth was loaded with lots of airtime, leaving me with a lot of opportunities to get to know my lap bar very well. As for Leviathan…holy shabungas, that ride was UNBELIEVABLE. Of course, it would have to be for me to make up words like “shabungas.” It had airtime of its own, but it also had the kind of speed that made the skin on riders’ faces flap in the wind. For the Spaceballs fans, you could say it ran at ludicrous speed. Leviathan, now Canada’s largest roller coaster, blasts riders through massive maneuvers at extremely high speeds
As a footnote to the Canada’s Wonderland recap, they also had a WindSeeker. I rode it at night. It was still horrifying. However, I’d ride it again, and that’s saying something as I’m not usually into too many non-coaster rides.
Anyways, I am now sitting just a scant two-dozen roller coasters away from the goal of one hundred as opposed to the eighty-one I needed when I first wrote to you. Will I hit the one hundred? Will I have completely lost my mind in my attempt? What rides were the best of the year? Stay tuned for the final stories, coming at the end of the 2012 amusement park season.
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I was 19 years old when I rode my 100th roller coaster. It was the now-defunct Big Dipper at Geauga Lake in Aurora, Ohio, just under an hour east of Cleveland. It was a huge milestone for me, cementing my passion for thrill rides that grew out of a deathly fear of them that plagued me for most of my life. It was only a few years earlier when I fully conquered that fear, but hitting the triple digits with my track record (read: the list of different roller coasters I’ve ridden) was pretty awesome in its own right. With that in mind, I decided to use the incredible flight benefits SWA provides us and repeat what took me 19 years in a scant 12 months. I decided to set a goal of riding 100 different roller coasters by the time the ball drops to bring in 2013. So how have I done so far? I am sitting at a whopping–get this–19. Yep. The year is halfway over, and I’m sitting at the big one-nine. It’s … uh … been kind of a slow start. I started off at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure back in January, having darted off to LAX after my first week of Leadership Southwest Style. I got to experience Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Space Mountain, two classic rides that help define Disneyland and serve as definitive Disney attractions. On top of that, though, I got to ride California Screamin’ and Goofy’s Sky School at Disney California Adventure, adding four new rides to my track record and experiencing the place where the Disney magic began. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad coming out of the tunnel Just over a month later, though, came one of those can’t-miss opportunities. I’m not sure if you all remember those commercials about One More Disney Day, but both Disneyland in Anaheim and the Magic Kingdom in Orlando were going to stay open for 24 hours straight to celebrate the leap year, opening at 0600 on February 29 and closing at 0600 on March 1. Now, what kind of amusement park fan would I be if I did not take advantage of such a wonderful opportunity? As my commemorative T-shirt states, “I took the leap and didn’t sleep.” My cousin, her husband, and I wound up hitting all four parks in Disney World within those 24 hours—my cousin and I even made it through without an ounce of sleep. I rode four of Walt Disney World’s roller coasters during that visit, grabbing rides on the Orlando versions of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Space Mountain, but also taking a spin on Expedition: Everest at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and one of my all-time favorite roller coasters anywhere, the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster (Aerosmith blasting in my ears while riding an epic roller coaster is one of life’s simple joys). Cinderella's Castle at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom Many months later, and truly on a coaster kick after entirely too much neglect of my hobby, I was able to visit a park that was home to many of my fear-conquering triumphs: the sweetest place on Earth, Hersheypark. For those wondering where to fly for a visit to Hershey, it is just under two hours north of BWI and slightly farther from PHL. I skipped on the chocolate this go-round, but I did ride eight of the park’s roller coasters, including such greats as the wooden Lightning Racer, the convoluted Fahrenheit, the hydraulically-launched Storm Runner, and the park’s new-for-2012, oh-my-goodness-that-much-airtime-should-be-illegal SkyRush. SkyRush whipping through an overbanked turn Just seven days later, though, came my most recent excursion. As a number of parks I plan on visiting this year are part of the Six Flags chain, I decided to get a season pass, as each park’s season pass gets one entry to all parks in the chain. Since I started with Southwest, I’ve actually picked up my season pass at five different parks over the years simply because I’d often get to one out of state first instead of the one closest to me. This time, it would be Six Flags New England, just a short 15 minutes from BDL, that would be the first park in the chain I’d visit. I confess, however, that I did not really go for the gold in terms of riding everything. I only had a limited amount of time, and the park’s signature coaster, Bizarro, was just too amazing for me to pry myself off of it and go ride other things. I rode the Gotham City Gauntlet: Escape from Arkham Asylum (as it was a new ride for me, taking my overall count to 237 different coasters) and Batman-The Ride as I’d discovered that hitting 100 coasters might be more difficult than I thought without getting a few extras, but Bizarro was the main reason I’d picked the park, and it was just too good. Bizarro screaming into its second tunnel So with that, I’ve grabbed laps on 19 different roller coasters thus far, but for me, the year is still young. At the end of August, I’ll check back in with you to tell you more tales of nonrev adventures and amazing roller coasters, as well as an update on how close I am to making 2012 the year of 100 roller coasters. Also, in October, we’ll see if I successfully pulled it off, and I may just reveal my all-time favorites to you.
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It's July 29, 2010. Thrill seekers at the eleven amusement parks belonging to Cedar Fair, L.P. all across North America have united themselves in a noble quest: to use their love of roller coasters for, of all things, charity. The objective at each park? To ride one of the park's roller coasters for hours on end in an effort to raise funds for Give Kids the World, an organization that takes children with life-threatening illnesses and their families on a cost-free vacation to their village in Orlando and to the parks around it. I attended the portion of the event, known as Coasting for Kids, at Dorney Park, in Allentown, Pennsylvania (because Dorney Park is where it's at!), joined by roughly twenty other daring riders. Dorney selected Steel Force as the ride we'd challenge for the day, which made my selection of Dorney as the park I'd attend that much more exciting. Steel Force is a two hundred-foot tall, more-than-mile-long monstrosity of a roller coaster that runs the length of the park and is one of the highest-rated coasters in the world. We had the opportunity to ride it as much as we wanted (or in same cases, as much as we could) during two marathon sessions. The morning marathon session lasted a staggering 31 laps, which took nearly three hours to complete. Having endured the entire marathon start-to-finish, I was a little drained and a little sore from bouncing out of my seat during the airtime-filled extravaganza. However, the morning marathon was little more than a warm-up. The afternoon marathon was even crazier, lasting a whopping 40 laps and taking well over three hours to finish. It had actually been extended past the original ending time to hit that milestone. How did I fare? I was able to go the distance during the afternoon as well, bringing my total count for the day to 71 laps, roughly six hours of riding, and a total distance traveled of over 75 drop-filled, airtime-packed miles. And again, this was for charity, not just for the love of the thrill. Regarding the totals, the event alone has raised over $30,000 so far for Give Kids the World, with donations still rolling in. As an aside, Dorney's attendees earned the distinction of being the most successful fundraisers on a per-person basis. I can honestly say I was really moved by the entire event. For starters, it was really cool to see how many people with a love for roller coasters were willing to put their passion to use for such an incredible cause. Not only that, but they went the extra mile to make sure their fundraising efforts were successful, allowing Dorney to take the title for being the most successful on a per-person basis away from Cedar Point, the park with, by far, the highest event attendance. In addition, it was really cool to see the diversity within the group that participated. There were everyone from the hardcore coaster enthusiasts to the family of season pass-holders (including an intrepid five year-old), all united in their efforts to raise money for these sick kids and their families. Right now, I'm still taking it all in, as it was a really, truly awesome event. Here's hoping for repeat performances in the future. For now, if I don't see you out on the rides, you can bet I'll see you in the skies. (Photos one, three, and four courtesty Carrrie Myers)
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