I have been doing a bit of reflection recently and I started to think about my early influences, so here is a first 20. These are not my favorite rides, but they set me on my way and some hold a major bit of sentimental affection, in some cases only viewed through rose colored glasses. I am going to omit all kiddy coasters, and I will be combining some into a single category just so we have more variety of interesting roller coasters to talk about:
20. Galaxy at Adventureland: This will be the placeholder for all Galaxi models many parks I visited as a kid had one, they were like the wild mouse of the 70’s. Adventureland was my first park and Galaxi was my first, from my point of view as probably a five or six year old, big coaster.
19. Hurricane at Adventureland: This roller coaster replaced the Galaxi and was the first and only roller coaster I road with my little sister, I was only able to get her to go on one other thrill ride with me, a log flume, both rides produced a lot of tears.
18. Big Thunder Mountain at Disney World: I am going to use this as a stand in for all mine trains. This is the first time I saw a themed ride where the roller coaster interacted with scenery, and really took you on a journey. It was so much fun I didn’t even mind the three lift hills. Even as an adult I appreciated the nice ride that is designed for literally everyone, perfect roller coaster for a full family to enjoy together.
17. Space Mountain at Disney World: This was probably the first time I waited a seriously long amount of time for a roller coaster, not really a surprise at Disney, this was such an anticipated ride my level of excitement was off the chart and I freaked out over it. This ride was revisited as an adult and was such a let down I wish I had only rode it as a young child.
16. Steamin’ Demon at The Great Escape: This was my first Arrow, the first roller coaster I saw get stuck, and the first time I went on a roller coaster with inversions. I think this is probably also the first roller coaster I went on by myself. On family vacations for a while my Dad was the one who would ride with me, but at the time I didn’t know he was scared to death of heights.
15. The Comet at The Great Escape: This was my first wooden roller coaster, and what a fun one. This was really my best introduction to airtime and I remember being really excited by this coaster.
14. The Great American Scream Machine at Great Adventure: Holy Shit, this was a whole new level of roller coaster, a former record holder. This was a rite of passage for many kids from my area because it was such a dynamic and iconic ride at the time. I still remember my first ride on it, with my Dad, when we went over that main drop and started to curve and drop I heard my Dad scream and curse for the first time in my life and I just laughed and laughed the whole time. That was one of the last roller coaster rides he ever went on and I think his only ride on The Great American Scream Machine.
13. Lightning Loops at Great Adventure: This was after the interlocking loop was removed, so maybe it should have been named Lightning Loop. This ride was one of two Arrow shuttle loops that I got a chance to ride, the other would come later at Riverside Park called Black Widow. This was before launched coasters so the push you got off the edge was the first roller coaster I rode where it got energy from more than simply gravity and what a cool sensation. Since it was a shuttle coaster, this was also my first chance to go backwards on a roller coaster too.
12. Stuntman’s Freefall at Great Adventure: This might be controversial, but in 1991 when I first went to Great Adventure I considered it a roller coaster. At that point a drop tower wasn’t really a thing so for this purpose we will call it a roller coaster, if you don’t like that then we can discuss it on a Larson Loop or a Disco. This ride was another rite of passage ride, and part of the ritual was to place a penny on your knee at the top before the car was released and to watch it hover for a moment as you drop. I would have never done that every time I ever rode the thing since it was against park rules, and safety for myself and other riders was a top concern. At least that is how I’m remembering it.
11. Rolling Thunder at Great Adventure: Well after the Great American Scream Machine this was a big let down and left me saying, “Wood coasters suck!” At least until the following summer. I gave Rolling Thunder many chances over the years, and it was generally a boring ride and it never delivered airtime, the way I expected after riding The Comet.
10. Shockwave at Great Adventure: The first coaster I ever hated, nuf said.
9. Laser at Dorney Park: My first Schwarzkof, I remember the double loop on this thing being just pure fun. I really appreciate how well the other Schwarzkof coaster I have ridden just feel well put together and thoughtfully designed. I wish I could get another shot a Laser, and even though back at the begining of my coaster riding GASM was the big boy, I can admit while I also miss it it did not give good rides at the end of its useful life.
8.Thunderhawk at Dorney Park: This might not be a big coaster but it is really fun. If anyone thinks redoing a ride’s layout is a new trend I always point at Thunderhawk a very old survivor in a state littered with fun wooden roller coasters. It was originally designed as an out and back, but it was turned into a figure eight with a twister section. The layout is fun, the ride feels faster than it really is going, and it had buzz bars. What else could you ask for?
7. Hercules at Dorney Park: My faith in wooden roller coasters had been restored! I am the last fan of Hercules, the main drop was so good and the turn ripped out over the lake and was just so fast and crazy at the time. This is the ride that I know I am viewing through rose colored glasses, since it was nicknamed by many, “Hurt-Your-Knees” . It had the record for the longest drop on a wooden roller coaster at a time when hypers didn’t exist and it went 65, a fast speed for a modern wooden roller coaster. I have to admit I never rode this coaster towards the end before it was dismantled, so my memory of this ride was while it was on top. Dorney became the goto park in the 90s for me because of Hercules and I took countless laps on this larger than life coaster.
6. Batman at Great Adventure: This was such a dynamic shift it was totally insane. I remember the line was over two hours long and when I stepped off I got right back on line, I probably spent most of my time on this visit back in the summer of 1993 on line for Batman. This was my introduction to B&M and first invert. If you are reading this you have most likely ridden a Batman no matter where you live. The ride quality was so different from everything else, and the ROAR! That sound that the box beam under the track and ride vehicle created was shocking and different. Before I road it waiting in the highly themed queue that sound was dare I say it, intimidating. Unfortunately most of the queue scenery has been removed, but thankfully the ride quality has really maintained for so many years. I can hop on that ride 25 years later and have a great time.
5. The Comet at Hershypark: I remember that on my first trip to Hersheypark this was the first coaster I went on, it is also the first coaster you pass when entering the park. It was the last coaster I went on, and the star of the trip. At this point my Dad would typically keep me company in the queue and then send me off on the coaster solo, but on one of the many rides I took I convinced him to ride it, I still didn’t know he was scared of heights. I think this ride still holds up as a classic coaster, while it isn’t a favorite it is a fun ride. I have never been to Hersheypark and skipped this ride.
4. Sidewinder at Hersheypark: Did you think we could make it through this without a boomerang? While I don’t look forward to hopping on a boomerang, and I typically do skip Sidewinder when I visit Hersheypark one of my favorite places to go, this was a thrill and a half the first time I was confronted with it. I was about 13 or 14 when we first visited and I remember going home and telling my friends about how cool Sidewinder was, times have changed.
3. Sooperdooperlooper at Hersheypark: This ride is a fun ride but my first impressions of it were a bit of a let down. In my mind I was thinking about Great American Scream Machine & Laser and this didn’t have the same first impression as those two. I have come to appreciate Sooperdooperlooper as a landmark for the park and region, and it is also another ride I never skip when I visit Hersheypark.
2. Thunderbolt at Riverside Park: This ride has the best ride entrance sign, an awesome neon giant throwback to the past. Unfortunately the sign is actually the best part of the ride, when I was a kid I remember thinking it was boring, and as an adult I find it surprisingly rough.
1. Riverside Cyclone at Riverside Park: I am ashamed to admit as a proud NY’er I rode this cyclone before I rode THE cyclone as in the Coney Island Cyclone. This ride was great, on my first visit to Riverside park I went with a summer camp group, and it steadily rained starting a few hours after the park opened. The park promptly emptied and our group of barely supervised kids went nuts riding everything in the rain. It was a blast and I think the poor weather made it even more exciting! I remember doing laps between Black Widow and Cyclone and just having a such a great time totally soaked to the bone. We had such a run of the place the staff let us go on waterslides fully clothed wearing sneakers! I am happy that I still have a very similar game plan when I visit now Six Flags New England. I typically do laps trying to get as many rides as possible on now Wicked Cyclone, and the big steel coaster, now Superman: The Ride.
If you are still reading take a walk down memory lane and tell COASTER-net what your early influences were in the forums or on Facebook.