Dear Coaster Friends,
Do you have anxiety, fears, minor scapes, burns, difficulty sleeping, difficulty waking, do you feel lonely, sad, happy, frustrated, sneezy, burning when you pee, itchy teeth, difficulty concentrating, are you forgetful, do you breath in oxygen, or just want to have fun?! Then roller coasters may cure what ails you. This magic elixir has many positive benefits and can be the catalyst for your recovery and the key to healthy living! Do not attempt to cure yourself with roller coaster if; you are pregnant, believe you may be pregnant, have heart disease, recent head injury, recent surgery, or recent back or neck injury. Many people view coasters as something to conquer and riding one can increase their general confidence. Other look to roller coasters as a one step cure to a fear: of heights, danger, or simply losing control. Roller coasters can be a rite of passage to prove yourself or to signal a new stage of life, the possibilities are endless. Don’t take it from me check out the testimonials.
Our friend Brendon took roller coasters and found that it became the kick off of a healthier lifestyle. I am sure many coaster enthusiasts can identify with the difficulty of eating healthy especially when traveling, and traveling is a big part of seeking out new roller coasters. The seating and restraint systems often show us when it is time to make changes. Brendon used roller coasters as a motivation to lose weight, and make being healthy more rewarding since now he is more comfortable with himself both emotionally, and physically.
Our friend Mike had a stutter as a child, but the distraction of riding a roller coaster gave him the coping skills to recognize the cause, and self regulate. He recalls, “I rode my first roller coaster in August 1977. It was the Bavarian Beetle at King’s Island, so began my life long love of them. It was a perfect day I rode everything at the park, words are not enough to describe the joy I felt. Then my mom noticed and told me that I hadn’t stuttered all day. Then the fear came crashing back down on me I couldn’t get a word out after that. She told me to calm down and remember riding The Racer. I was better, but I still was stuttering. I rarely stutter now but it is still my go to exercise to stop it. I have no fear on a roller coaster I am relaxed and in total bliss while riding. I can escape all of life’s troubles, even the fear.”
Mike was able to learn about himself and roller coasters became a source of confidence, a juxtaposition of thrills and calm. Cedar Point became his childhood sanctuary, away from other children who would tease or taunt someone who felt self conscious about a stutter. It was a place where he was an anonymous part of a larger crowd all enjoying the park and the rides together. No fear, nervousness, or worries about daily life, just a place where everyone fit in. This escape from everyday troubles is a refresh for a mind young or old to be in a place of joy and togetherness. A feeling that lasted and helps the young fight off the external demons, while the old remember the fun of youth.
Our friend Amanda was trying to overcome fear, she enjoyed visiting parks, but the roller coaster became both the problem and the cure. She said, “My home park was Busch Gardens Tampa, and I think I was lucky for it. For many visits I wouldn't ride anything but Akbar's, but I went home determined that next time I would try a roller coaster. Each time we visited, I'd get a little braver. Two weeks after it's opening, I rode Gwazi with my mom and sister. Despite my horror and death grip on Tiger, I felt like I'd leveled up. I rode nothing else that day, but my little kid heart felt accomplished.”
Amanda continued her journey and told us, “I visited many other parks from that point and ended up continuing the same pattern. Loch Ness, but not Apollo's Chariot, eventually Kumba, and not quite SheiKra. But for each failure of nerve, I wanted to know more and more. I'd always liked theme parks for their atmosphere, the colors and names of rides, their history, and I wanted to learn as much as I could. I may have let myself down, but I just kept building on it with books, forums, and travel channel documentaries.
I knew by my next visit to Busch Gardens Williamsburg that I wasn't going to let fear win this time. Griffon had just opened a month prior, and I had to know what the hype was. I'd zipped through the park straight to the queue, but I still had that feeling of wanting to turn back. I was a little disappointed after so much preparation until the wise words of someone behind me in line said "screw it, do it." And for some reason following those profound words of Confucius, just that simply, I had my aha moment. I boarded the front left seat, and my fear dropped away with the dive.” Roller coasters have helped our friend Amanda find the right state of mind to persevere and conquer challenges in her daily life. Even if she does it in her own time, she knows she can rise to any occasion.
My family has used roller coasters as a cure in the past too. I had a struggle with a major injury several years ago. It was serious enough that I was afraid I would be a fragile man, forever concerned that stress or strain would cause me physical distress. After a long ten month recovery I made a plan, I would stress test my body, my nerve, and my new self on a roller coaster. We went up to Six Flags New England to see if I could defeat Superman: The Ride. I was very nervous that I could be losing something I was working towards, but when I reached the bottom of the drop and I survived the positive G’s I knew that I was ready for whatever was coming up next.
My wife and I both feel great joy and a sense of release on roller coasters. There was a time in the past when we were experiencing a great deal of stress because a loved one was going through a struggle with a terminal illness. In order to better cope we felt the best place to go for stress relief was Dorney Park. You can call it scream therapy or escapism, but it worked for us. It gave us a time without the weight of those troubles and offered us a chance to recover and leave as a stronger family ready to be supportive. We also bookended that struggle with a visit to Great Adventure, this time to heal ourselves and enjoy time as a family. We even hosted my parents, who in the past had brought me to parks. Even though it was our struggle and recovery we left the park refreshed, and filled with family memories. My mother never went on any roller coasters and remained nervous, anxious, and irrationally afraid even after we left the park. If she had only tried a roller coaster she could have been cured just like us.
Jeff Goodman, Amanda Kumba, & Mike Flynn
Dear Coaster Friends,
Are there certain obligations that come along with being an enthusiast? Are we defined by our enthusiasm, or is there a certain set of unwritten rules we must adhere to? The most contentious of these self imposed rules often deals with coasters, as you would expect. What counts as a coaster gets a surprisingly wide variety of responses. I think that is a condition of thinking about roller coasters and being an enthusiast. That variety is almost expected with so many peoples’ varied experiences. The desire to collect “credits” or build your “track record” is usually the catalyst for this conversation, but what if you feel the opposite?
I do want to build my experience, and with that comes a larger list of credits. However I am into having a nice day at the parks, and I don’t want to subject myself to something I feel will take away from the day. We are all friends, and I don’t want to upset you if you feel the exact opposite of me; I assume it is your version of fun. So here it is my confession, I skip credits. Not because the lines are long, or I didn’t have time; I just skip credits because I don’t want to spend my time riding a coaster I don’t think will be fun for me.
I was discussing going to new parks with some friends, and I realized there were some fundamental differences in how we looked at tackling a new park. Just as a background, I count racers as one if they have the same or mirror image layout. I make exceptions for rides like Lightning Racer at Hersheypark since I feel like they are two similar layouts that have distinct differences. The roller coaster that got the reaction was Racer at Kennywood, a park I plan on visiting this year. My friend told me to make sure I ride both sides, or it only counts as half since it is a mobius loop. My first reaction was to laugh and joke around, but then he kept saying you don’t want to have a half credit. My feeling was if I want to re-ride, then I probably would want to try both rides to see if one is smoother or if there was some reason to have a preference. Riding two identical tracks for some sort of obligation due to its unusual quality of it being a mobius loop seemed like a satisfaction of a requirement and not amusement. If you count racers as two, then riding each side is part of the fun, but as a requirement it takes something away from it to me.
A different conversation with another enthusiast - we were again talking about taking on a brand new park, but in the context that not every new ride is a new experience. I do like good rides that are clones, and there are others that are not really my favorite. The friend was advising me to run to a boomerang as my first stop in a new park since the capacity on any shuttle style ride is poor. I have been on a good handful of boomerangs, but they are not really something I look forward to. Think of some of the places you have visited, go ahead I’ll wait… Now think of your favorite ride: would you take an extra lap on it, something you enjoy, or are you jumping on a boomerang to get one more number? The same could be said of many familiar models. I am not sticking my nose up at clones, just ones that I already know I don’t enjoy. To me right now in my journeys I feel that a boomerang isn’t something I ride as much as something I endure, there are other rides I put in the same category. Not wild mouses, they are obviously a blast from the past that will not fade away. However, even though I do enjoy a wild mouse, if I have traveled to a place I may not revisit for many years should I ride a wild mouse to get a credit, or should I ride the unique experiences that I took the trouble to travel for?
There is another category of rides I feel needs to be addressed. I know I am going to sound like Sam I Am in Green Eggs and Ham, but what if I just know I’m not going to like it? There are rides that have reputations, both good and bad. Sometimes curiosity is just going to override my best judgement, but other times I get the vibe that a ride is pure pain. Old Arrows are major conflict for me. For so much of my childhood, those trains and tracks are what a thrilling roller coaster looked like. I want to have that nostalgic experience however I don’t want a headache that is going to ruin the rest of my day. So try them, try them, I may. Try them, try them the thoosies say. Stand-Up roller coasters are beyond not my favorite; the worst boomerangs are better than the best Stand-Ups to me. So I would not, could not with a fox; I would not, should not; my head will box. Then there are the poorly maintained wooden coasters, I have yet to refuse a new wooden coaster. There are a few I wish I never rode, so should I be treating them like the aged steel coasters? I would not, should not with a moose; I could not should not knock my fillings loose.
So, am I a bad enthusiast? Am I purposely diluting my experience? Part of the desire to travel and visit new parks is to have a broader view and be able to talk about this hobby with others who share my enthusiasm even if they don’t share my opinion. I also want to talk about things I have some knowledge of, and have a shared base of comparison. I want that experience to be positive, especially the first time or possibly the only time I visit a park. Feel like giving me an earful of how wrong I am? Send your rebuttal to firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear coaster friends,
Spring is about to be here and I just can't help but think about this year's coaster season too. I plan to hit the ground as soon as I can with a trip to our local amusement park, Adventureland. My family has been going there on opening day every year we can. I have a preschool aged daughter, and she has even been chomping at the bit this year to go on the rides.
Adventureland is a fun local place, but my wife and I have a saying that we always use when planning a trip. We always say we are going “weather permitting”. Often times, since we do have a child, we rely on babysitting so we can have a few days a year enjoying the parks together. So once we lock down a time when my daughter can have a sleepover with my parents, the “when” tends to be more important than the “where”. So we often change plans and go where the climate suits my clothes based on the forecast. This year I am trying to break out of that cycle, and go to some of the new for 2019 rides. So the new mantra has become we will be there to ride “maintenance permitting”.
Last year, I did get a taste of breakdown disappointment at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. It ended up working out in the end, but I waited three times for InvadR before I finally got a single lap on it. I also had a similar situation with Superman at Magic Mountain. It kept going up and down all day, so we ultimately decided it wasn't our day to ride it and spent our time doing other rides. New rides are sometimes temperamental, and ride crews need experience to get into a good routine.
So what's the plan? First stop, Carowinds: I plan on being there this month to get on Copperhead Strike, maintenance permitting. This will be my first time at Carowinds, so obviously there is a lot to look forward to. Up next will hopefully be Steel Curtain at Kennywood. I say hopefully because I don't have a set time, but I am hopeful I will be able to get out there right as it opens. I am assuming that will be this season, maintenance permitting. In July, I will be flying to Chicago for Maxx Force, at Six Flags Great America. Of course, maintenance permitting. I love hydraulic launch coasters, so I am very interested in seeing how a pneumatic launched coaster will compare. The final new for 2019 stop is Dorney! Just kidding; they don't build roller coasters. Prove me wrong Dorney. The last stop is actually a full park. That is the American Dream Mall, and their indoor Nickelodeon Universe. Since there is no opening day just yet, I will have to wait to plan that out, but weather won't be an issue for sure, so again maintenance permitting.
I do plan on going to a few other close to home parks this season, but I will decide those based on weather. However there is another new for 2019 experience and that is taking my daughter to some place new for her. She has only been to Adventureland, so we want to bring her someplace else that feels like she gets a road trip too. I realize that I have left something off my list: Canada's Wonderland. Yukon Striker looks like the safest bet against maintenance for the season, and the layout and ride look amazing. I wish it was on my itinerary, but I don't think it is a place I can drive to this year. But trust me I'll check it out eventually, weather permitting.
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A couple of weeks ago a fellow enthusiast and friend wrote a blog that I strongly agree with. There is an underlying toxicity in the enthusiast community. However there is also a underlying element that if you take the time to look for it is very rewarding. A true acceptance and sense of family!
I have been riding (loving) roller coasters for over 40 years, unfortunately I was basically alone with my family and friends. I mean they all like roller coasters for the most part, but I was the only one that truly had an enthusiasm for them. We would all go to Cedar Point together regularly, but whenever I would say “Let’s go to King’s Island,” or “Let’s go to Great America,” they would look at me like I was out of my mind. The response was, “Let's just wait until Cedar Point gets a new coaster.” Very frustrating to say the least, however I was able to talk them over the years to go to Kings Island ONCE, but that was it. There was even a couple of family vacations to Florida, but that was it for my coaster travels.
Over the years the internet became my way of finding new coasters. Several websites materialized in the late 90’s and early 2000’s and I was enthralled at the vast amount of coasters not only in North America but the world. Then when YouTube came along. Oh my was I overwhelmed at the amount of content that was now available to all. Still it really wasn’t completely gratifying, I would still go to Cedar Point and Michigan’s Adventure regularly, my home park. We stretched our wings with a trip to Holiday World, but something was missing.
Then about three to four years ago by accident I came across an episode of COASTER-net Uncut. Well like the classic line goes, “You had me at hello.” I couldn’t get enough of it, I started watching all the of the previous episodes it was fantastic. I wish I could tell you why exactly it just clicked with me. After that I started to follow the website and found the forums. I participated in them but sparingly, it was closer to what I was looking for but it was still lacking something.
Then six months ago I came across The Ride Warrior Discord. As the late great Harry Caray would say, “HOLY COW!” Words are not enough to say how awesome my Discord experience has been. It is special and unique and all other kinds of superlatives. I had no idea how this community would effect me in such a positive matter. I do admit I look forward to talking to the other Discord members. Whether they have over a 1000 credits or 10. I know I have made lifetime friendships. After thirty years of searching I found my coaster family.
Is COASTER-net (Ride Warrior Discord) the right place for you? I do not know. Each individual is different. Take your time, look, and get a feel for what you are truly looking for. Find your coaster family and new lifetime friends. I leave you all with a verse from the bible. John 11:35 is the most meaningful verse in the bible for me. Jesus Wept for his best friend. For me it shows how important friends are in one’s life. And man they most certainly are. Take care my friends and God bless.
I first rode Gwazi at the end of November in 2014, I knew the ride had a reputation for being a bit rough and at this time the the Tiger side had already closed with no indication that it would ever reopen. A bridge had been built across the track in the station and the track was very rusted over, showing that it had been a long time since the side was used. My wife and I were treating our niece to a day in the park and this was her first experience on a wooden roller coaster. Wow big mistake, as soon as we went down the first drop you could feel there was a massive issue. The sensation was that the train was running wheels shaped like octagons, it was beyond rough, it was hard to find any redeemable qualities I went from hands up to holding on for dear life. When we got off the train my niece was visibly shaken, she didn’t even say that she didn’t like it, that was plainly obvious. My niece turned to us and asked, “What happened? Did it break?” Even a kid who had never been on a wooden roller coaster knew this thing was more of an endurance trial than an amusement ride. A few weeks later the park announced that Gwazi’s Lion side would be closing forever and the ride would be giving out it’s last rides the following February. That made sense.
The park did not immediately demolish the coaster and the entire enthusiast community took notice. It was quiet and hopeful at first but the murmur of RMC, RMC, RMC started to be heard across forums, and social media. The thought was sincere, but we all knew the parent company was going through financial difficulties. The conclusion was that the park could not afford to replace or demolish the ride. As time passed and Gwazi stood silent, its fate was unclear, but just like in nature the useful resources started to be consumed. Wood was removed from Gwazi’s queue fencing and was repurposed as signage at Seaworld Orlando. Then we learned that the trains would be sent to Busch Gardens Williamsburg to be rebuilt for InvadR. The brakes and control system was also dismantled and sent to Williamsburg. These cost savings further illustrated the financial difficulties that the chain was enduring, but Gwazi’s structure still stood.
The more time that passed the more hopeful enthusiasts were that the park was saving the structure for a future purpose…. What else would make sense? RMC, RMC, RMC, the volume and tone was starting to change. The future of Gwazi seemed set but the silence was starting to be filled with this ever increasing chant. Then the trademarks started to be filed and even the most jaded enthusiast that can’t be bothered to speculate sat up and took notice. However it turned out that the park had plans to install a Premier Rides Skyrocket II model and the trademarks were for this attraction. The rumors that the area would be repurposed into a new land started up and the possibility the structure could finally be demolished seemed plausible. The chant continued, but the tone changed once more to desperation and pleading, RMC, RMC, RMC.
Then late last summer a leak from inside the Seaworld corporate plans for the whole chain. There it was a slide in a presentation that said a hybrid roller coaster was planned for Busch Gardens Tampa. RMC! RMC! RMC! Enthusiasts rejoiced, and started to speculate what could be done to this once loved ride that fell into disrepair. The possibility of dueling the two seperate sides, or created a mobius loop like Twisted Colossus were the main topics of conversation. However rumors started to rumble that this ride could be bigger than expected, and that the dueling element will be removed. We finally found out on March 1st that it was official, RMC would be converting Gwazi into a hybrid. The park is calling it the tallest and fastest hybrid in North America and it will feature the steepest drop on any hybrid in the world. Even though the details are vague and impressive there are still quite a few question marks.
The conversation quickly shifted to comparing this totally unknown layout to Steel Vengeance. Many seemed ready to declare this yet to be named roller coaster, that will surely mimic that natural motions of the yet to be determined animal from Africa, will best the king of the RMCs Steel Vengeance. We already know that Steel Vengeance was well received in its opening year. It was acknowledged as the best new ride by the Golden Ticket Awards, and conquered Fury 325 in the Ride Warrior Choice Awards and the Thrilling 32. This premature speculation lead to others to boo hoo the ride as trying to show up Steel Vengeance, and caused an odd defensive tone. I found the reaction odd, and I suspect it is fueled by emotions and not rational or objective thought. The success of any ride does not detract from another. To put it plainly if I like one ride more than another it doesn’t change the experience of either. It just offers another point of comparison, and another source of fun and joy. I think this project will offer RMC an unprecedented level of freedom to reimagine Gwazi compared to any other conversion that they have tackled in the past. They have the freedom to use both structures for one layout, with the added height and speed to put it into an elite class of rollercoasters. All of their other conversions had to follow a general path even if the elements and experience were going to be fresh. The amount of structure they can build off of and the amount of footers to build off of are what sets this project apart to me, and has my head spinning with different ideas. So what do I say? RMC, RMC, RMC!
Dear Coaster Friends,
Who is ready to crank up the tunes and head out on a road trip? I know I am, I am a real music lover and I lead a busy life. Long stretches in the car is where I can really listen to music and usually my long car trips lead me to the amusement parks. I know you cannot safely have headphones on when riding roller coasters, but I wish they could have a soundtrack. I do not want more on board audio, I just wish I could wear my headphones on a roller coaster in a safe way without violating park rule. If I could what song would each roller coaster be?
Maxx Force the new roller coaster being installed at Six Flags Great America is a brand new track, but I think it will be compared to other intense launch coasters. The one I thought of when I first saw the reveal animation was Storm Runner at Hershey Park. These rides are pure punk rock, maybe The Descendants or Black Flag? The extreme acceleration is the drum roll leading in, then it is just pure relentless energy. The launch coasters are sort of a counterculture movement too, “HEY MAN WE DON’T NEED YOUR RULES OR CHAIN LIFTS!” Of course like all punk rock it is over fast and you are left breathless, but ready for more.
Yukon Striker at Canada’s Wonderland I thought was the safest bet for a good time, but I have been surprised how unenthusiastic people have been about the prospect of the longest, tallest, and fastest dive coaster. What I speculated was that this could be a Cedar Fair trend, and dive coasters could get dropped across the chain. Why the lackluster reception? Why call these dive machines general public additions? I think you are embarrassed to admit you like it, why else would you turn your nose up at a 200 plus foot drop straight down? That must mean they are dance music like Lady GAGA or the freshest boy band. A big drop and then repetition on a theme, all the while your feet are moving about freely. Those new vest restraints must be like autotune, something that is supposed to make it better but it ends up just getting in the way.
West Coast Racers at Magic Mountain and Copperhead Strike at Carowinds don’t have that same look of being all about the launch. They both look like they will deliver different experiences but at the same time I want to look at them together. You will be able to enjoy each ride for a solid duration, and the pace of the ride changes throughout. These must be the prog rock tracks, maybe Yes or Genesis? The variety, the uniqueness, they even look polarizing. Also they are both coming from Europe and have the potential to be temperamental.
Another ride I am not hearing a lot of enthusiasts clamoring for it Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure. This has less to do with the details of the new track as no preview has really dropped, and more to do with Dragon’s Challenge. Dragon’s must have been a pure power ballad, solid, heavy, and as with any song about love, it contained two paths. I think that many feared that Universal was replacing Whitesnake with The Wiggles, but we don’t really know what to expect just yet. Hopefully it will end up being more of a singer/songwriter track like Jack Johnson or Paul Simon. I am looking for a good rhythm and a story I can connect with.
Kennywood has been working on a daring track that is going to set a new trend or leave everyone throwing up in the station with Steel Curtain. Steel Curtain is heavy metal, when I look at it I think Pantera or Alice Cooper. The quick changes in direction, the shear number of inversions, it even has a bridge! I can almost hear the screaming riders as the guitar solo. It is extreme, intimidating, and aggressive. I am sure many will stare at it from the ground thinking that anyone enjoying themselves on it must be possessed, and there is a potential for headbanging on this unknown chassis.
With all of these new tracks we have a lot of fun just around the corner, and I am ready to rock. I wonder though, if we loaded all these tracks into a jukebox and I gave you each one quarter what track would get the most play? I just can’t wait to hear the click clack of the anti roll back, the perfect intro to my favorite tune.