Hailed as the world’s tallest and fastest drop ride, Zumanjaro: Drop of Doom opened at Six Flags Great Adventure on July 4, the park’s 40th anniversary.  It seems only fitting that this extreme ride is attached to Kingda Ka, another extreme ride and the world’s tallest coaster.   Although I found Zumanjaro somewhat intimidating, I decided that it was a must ride.  With an entrance to the right of the entrance to Kingda Ka, it actually has a single rider lane, an attribute that pleased me no end.  As a single rider, I was able to make it to the head of the queue in almost no time.

In the loading station riders are directed to one of three gondolas seating eight across.  The restraints consist of overhead harnesses attached to seat belts.  Once the riders are  secured, catch cars descend from overhead and attach to the gondolas prior to dispatch.   Riders are then lifted 415 feet up into the air.   Initially the ascent is slow but as the gondolas get closer to the top they pick up speed.   At the top the riders hang there for a suspenseful 10 to 12 seconds or so before the inevitable plunge.  This is the part of the ride that I found to be the scariest, being suspended at that altitude with my feet dangling and everything in the park, except for the top hat on Kingda Ka, far below me.    The gondolas rock and dip slightly and a second or two later the three cars plummet almost to the ground at a speed of 90 mph.  Awesome drop!  And what a jolt!   This is pretty intense stuff. 

 The only disappointment is that contrary to what was stated in the park’s press release, the Kingda Ka trains did not launch toward the riders during any of my four rides on Zumanjaro.  This gives rise to speculation as to whether it’s a safety issue, due to the danger of things falling from overhead.  Whatever, Zumanjaro is an aggressive thrill ride and a great addition to the park’s stellar ride lineup.



This highly anticipated, record-breaking coaster originally scheduled to open on Memorial Day weekend finally opened to the public on June 19.  Goliath is the fastest (72 mph) and steepest (180-foot drop at an 85-degree angle) wooden coaster in existence, featuring an overbanked turnaround, dive loop and zero-g stall.  Despite a wheel malfunction on June 18 and a lightning strike on June 19, the coaster opened to rave reviews.  Score another victory for Rocky Mountain Construction, whose Outlaw Run was arguably the best coaster to have opened in 2013.  Video courtesy of Six Flags.


The event at Dorney Park, a perk for those who had worked hard to raise funds for Give Kids The World Village, went off without a hitch.  (Coasting For Kids took place on June 7 and 8 at nine other parks owned by Cedar Fair; the event had to be postponed at Cedar Point due to a water main break that forced closing of the park.)  By 9:30 am the participants had been checked in and given their Coasting For Kids T-shirts.  It was on to Possessed for a warmup before we took on Steel Force, one of the three coasters featured in this event.  Lunch, catered by the park, was followed by the awards ceremony for top fundraisers.  The group at Dorney managed to raise more funds than those at all but one other park, coming in second only to Kings Dominion.

 The coasting agenda for the afternoon began with the awesome Talon, followed by Hydra.  For each of the three coasters, one train was dedicated to the Coasting For Kids group.   And none of this would have been possible without the professionalism of Buddy Rumble, Dorney Park’s ride efficiency manager, who is not only very good at his job but also a great guy.  In fact the entire staff at Dorney was phenomenal.  Kudos to Carrie Basta, Dorney’s communications manager, and Pamela Landwirth, president of Give Kids The World Village, who graced us with her presence.   The event was an unqualified success.



A water main break in Sandusky on June 7 forced the “roller coaster capital of the world” to close for two days.  Because the primary water supply was severely compromised, not only the park but also adjacent resorts were forced to shut down operations.    Cedar Point reopened on Monday June 9.  The Coasting For Kids event originally scheduled for June 8 has been rescheduled for June 22.  Photograph courtesy of coasterimage.com.




Coasting for Kids will take place on June 8 at eleven theme parks owned by Cedar Fair: California’s Great America, Canada’s Wonderland, Carowinds, Cedar Point, Dorney Park, Kings Dominion, Kings Island, Knott’s Berry Farm, Michigan’s Adventure, Valleyfair and Worlds of Fun.  The purpose of this coaster-riding marathon is to raise funds for Give Kids The World Village, a nonprofit storybook resort in Kissimee, FL that provides weeklong fantasy vacations for kids with life-threatening illnesses and their families.  It’s a worthy cause.  Online donations may be made at http://support.gktw.org/site/PageNavigator/coastingforkids.html.  I will be participating at Dorney Park, where the lineup includes Steel Force, Talon and Hydra.  Video is of Talon, a seriously underrated coaster and one of the best inverts I’ve ridden.


Originally scheduled to open on Memorial Day weekend, Zumanjaro: Drop of Doom is now expected to be up and running sometime in June.   The brutal winter delayed completion of the world's tallest free-standing drop tower, which will hoist riders 415 feet in the air - purportedly making it possible for them to glimpse the skyline of Philadelphia 52 miles away - before dropping them at a breathtaking 90mph.  Photo courtesy of Six Flags.



The eagerly anticipated Banshee, the world’s longest inverted coaster, opened to the public on April 14.  Featuring a 150-foot drop, 7 inversions and top speed of 68 mph, this new record-setting B&M creation looks like a real winner.  Early reviews are wildly enthusiastic.  The park’s $24,000,000 investment, its highest ever, has already drawn a reported 44,000 riders within the first couple of days of its opening. Traffic was backed up for miles outside Kings Island and the average wait time to ride Banshee was about three hours.  Video courtesy of CoasterForce.


Six Flags Great Adventure opened for the 2014 season on Saturday, April 12.  Since my last visit to the park, there have been some significant changes.   The most noticeable of these are the addition of the three Zumanjaro drop towers to Kingda Ka and the absence of Rolling Thunder.   With Rolling Thunder gone, El Toro, whose track was partially obscured from view by RT, is now completely out in the open.   A remnant of Rolling Thunder is still in place, visible in the foreground of the first photograph.  This gives rise to speculation as to whether it will remain permanently in place, perhaps as a memorial?

 Kingda Ka was not operating for reasons evident in the second photograph.  It’s scheduled to resume operation when Zumanjaro opens on May 24.

 There has been a major change in the season pass processing procedure.  Historically, season pass holders were photographed and the photographs were on the passes.  No more.  This season, pass holders get a plastic card with no photograph; they will be identified by fingerprint.  Upon entering the park, pass holders will show the card and have their index finger scanned.  Another change is that whereas season pass holders previously received a book of discount coupons, the coupons are now available only on line and must be uploaded onto the passes.

Six Flags staff went out of their way to make opening day a success, and it was, with a few minor glitches.  El Toro, Nitro and Bizarro all experienced “technical difficulties” while I was waiting to ride them although park personnel did a good job of getting them back up and running.  A Superman train is rumoured to have gotten stuck on the lift hill, forcing evacuation of riders, but this is unconfirmed.  All in all, a good opening day.





Firechaser Express, the country’s first dual launch family coaster and latest addition to Dollywood’s stellar ride lineup, opened on March 21 amid considerable fanfare.  Dolly Parton, dressed as a very sexy firefighter, was on hand to make a presentation and give a great rendition of Great Balls of Fire.  As to the coaster, dedicated to firefighters in the Smoky Mountains, it looks like a winner.  It features both forward and backward launches out of the station along with both visual and audial special effects.  Video courtesy of Coaster Force. 


Knoebels Amusement Resort is actually getting a steel looper, scheduled to open in 2015. Manufactured by Zierer (Verbolten at Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Cobra at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom among others), IMPULSE will feature four inversions including a cobra roll, loop and in-line twist.  With a maximum vertical angle of 90 degrees and height of 98 feet, this will be the most extreme coaster in the park as well as an interesting addition.  I suppose it’s a sign of the times but interesting or not, this type of coaster seems somewhat out of character with both the two wonderful wooden coasters (Phoenix and Twister) and down-home ambience of Knoebels.    It would seem similarly incongruous if Holiday World were to add a steel looping coaster to their ride lineup.  Anyway, that’s progress!  What do you think?  Photograph courtesy of Knoebels.



New supports have been added to the Kingda Ka tower in preparation for the installation of Zumanjaro: Drop of Doom, which will feature three tracks and drop riders 415 feet at 90mph.  The drop tower will be connected to the back of Kingda Ka and because the Kingda Ka trains are to whizz over Zumanjaro, the operation of the two rides will presumably have to be synchronized to some extent.  And yes, those orange pieces on the ground are components of Zumanjaro.  Photo courtesy of Six Flags Great Adventure/NewsPlusNotes.


Six Flags over Texas has sued Gerstlauer, the manufacturer of the trains on New Texas Giant, in connection with the accident in which a woman fell from the coaster to her death last summer.  Six Flags claims that the train involved in the fatal accident was a “defective product that was unreasonably dangerous in design, manufacture, distribution and promotion."  The lawyer representing Gerstlauer claims that Six Flags failed to follow proper safety procedures and that the coaster “was built according to the specific design specifications and was reviewed, tested and approved by Six Flags.”  Of course, the family of the unfortunate victim filed a lawsuit against Six Flags.  What do you think?  Photograph by Brandon Wade, special to the Arlington Star-Telegram.

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Banshee’s first train has now been installed on the track.  Now that’s progress!  We’re getting closer to the opening of this female-named B&M looping coaster with a ride duration of 2 minutes 40 seconds.  And here’s a look at the restraints.  Photographs courtesy of King’s Island.



The brutal winter weather hasn’t halted construction of the record-breaking (longest and steepest drop, fastest speed, dive loop and zero-g roll) wooden coaster scheduled to open this spring.   Rocky Mountain Construction’s second wooden coaster – the absolutely fabulous Outlaw Run was their first – will replace Iron Wolf and use the same loading station. This looks pretty exciting!  Will it be as good as Outlaw Run? It seems only fitting to include videos of both the ongoing construction and the finished product as conceptualized in animated form.  I just wish that Six Flags could have come up with a name other than Goliath, which is becoming redundant to say the least.


The largest coaster ever to come to China will be built by Great Coasters International at the Wanda Culture Tourism City in Nanchang and is scheduled to open in 2015.  This wooden coaster will feature a 164-foot lift hill and 4,921 feet of track, making it the 9th longest in existence unless another new coaster overtakes it in the meantime.


The 335-foot drop tower under construction at Busch Gardens Tampa has now reached the 300-foot mark.  Scheduled to open in 2014, Falcon’s Fury will offer a breathtaking view and rotate riders 90 degrees before plummeting them straight down at 60 mph.   This ride will be a record-setter.   A vertical drop face-down from that height should be pretty sensational.   Photograph courtesy of Aerial Innovations, Inc. Tampa, FL.



Having posted my best ride experience of 2013, I thought it only fitting to post my worst.  Of all the coasters I rode during the past year, one stands out as egregiously awful.  I’ve ridden some headbangers  - a couple that come to mind immediately are Anaconda at Kings Dominion and Flashback at Six Flags New England – but Mind Eraser at Six Flags New England takes the cake.   This coaster looked innocuous enough and even pretty interesting, and while I can’t say that the ride wasn’t interesting, I can say that it was pure hell.   OK, so it was different from other inverted coasters I’ve ridden in that it doesn’t follow the standard layout of an initial drop followed by a vertical loop.  After the initial drop it proceeds into a roll over – an element I’d never experienced before - which was brutal.  The other inversions – sidewinder and double in-line twist – were equally rough.  I found myself being knocked about mercilessly, and not only my head but also my neck and shoulders were getting roughed up to the point at which it became agonizing.   This twisted mass of steel was twisting me out of shape and I couldn’t wait for the ride to end.   My ride on Mind Eraser is one that I’d like to erase from memory. What’s your worst ride experience of 2013?




2013 was an exciting year for coaster enthusiasts, with the emergence of both new and revamped coasters – although I got to ride only two of them, Outlaw Run and Gatekeeper.  I missed Iron Rattler by two weeks, having booked a flight to San Antonio in anticipation of its being open by the time I got there (it wasn’t and the airline was going to charge me $300 to change my flight) and missed Hades 360 because the airline changed my itinerary at the last minute.  (As a result I gave up on the idea of going to Wisconsin Dells and instead went to Kings Dominion, where I got in 20 roller coaster rides in one day, a new record for me.)  

As to my best ride experience of the year, this was a tough one and a toss up between a new coaster (Outlaw Run) and an old one (Boulder Dash).   While both are pretty spectacular, Outlaw Run gets a slight edge for both the novelty and thrill factor.  From the effortless ascent of the lift hill to the delectable double barrel roll, Outlaw Run proved to be a real winner and justification for going all the way to Branson, MO.  The record-breaking first drop – a record which will be broken when Goliath at Six Flags Great America opens in 2014 – was as good as anticipated and the rest of the ride was a blast.   The overbanked turn early on in the ride came close to an inversion (I don’t agree that there are three inversions, as hyped) and the double barrel roll almost blew me away.  One thing I remember as clearly as if it happened yesterday is racing through open terrain, literally holding onto my shirt, which was practically flying off over my head; the airtime was that good.  It doesn’t get much better than this.  What do you think?  What’s your best ride experience of 2013?

See what Joel from The Coaster Critic,  Arthur from About Theme Parks Guide, Brian from Domain of Death and the Coaster 101 team have to say about their best ride experiences of 2013:


Joel: http://www.thecoastercritic.com/2013/12/what-was-your-single-best-ride-experience-of-2013.html

Arthur: http://themeparks.about.com/b/2013/12/27/best-ride-experience-of-2013-iron-rattler.htm

Brian:  http://www.domainofdeath3.com/most-memorable-ride-experience-of-2013-freezing-on-nitro/

Coaster 101: http://www.coaster101.com/2013/12/31/favorite-moments-2013-part-2/



Mitch Hawker's wooden coaster poll for 2013 is now open for voting.  Deadline is January 24, 2014.   The main page of what I presume to be the official website is somewhat confusing with a long list of instructions, so here's the shortcut: http://hawker.stationbrakes.com/build   The past year has seen the resurgence of wooden coasters.  Yay!  I just cast my ballot and my top five are 1) El Toro 2) Outlaw Run 3) Boulder Dash 4) The Voyage and 5) Shivering Timbers. What do you think?



Hersheypark has announced that three new family-friendly rides will open in 2014. First, located in Music Box Way, is a family coaster designed to introduce youngsters to the coaster experience and accommodate those who do not meet the height requirements of the bigger coasters.   Second is Tea Cups, a type of ride almost omnipresent in theme parks, and third is Happy Swing, a simple swing ride that can be enjoyed by guests of all ages.  Tea Cups and Happy Swing will be in The Hollow, where Comet and the breathtaking Skyrush are located.  Photograph courtesy of http://www.hersheypark.com/