Roller coasters 101

Roll, Dive or DropWith It

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Sunday, May 29, 2005

Paul Ruben, 68, is a lifelong roller coaster enthusiast and historian from Penfield, N.Y., who's ridden nearly 700 coasters. Since 1989, he's been the North American editor for the amusement park trade publication Park World. His advice: "Enjoy the feeling of being out of control." With theme park season upon us, we asked Ruben for his picks for the top new coasters awaiting summer visitors -- and what makes them special. -- Samantha Sordyl

J2

WHERE: Clementon Amusement Park and Splash World, Clementon, N.J.

BRAGGING RIGHTS: Holding the record for the steepest drop in a wood coaster in North America, J2 sends its riders squealing down a 105-foot drop at 56 mph.

THE EXPERT'S OPINION: "It's like controlled mayhem. When careening around a curve, it's taking the curves too fast. The pacing is exquisite. One element comes after another, without a moment to regain your composure. . . . This is a very aggressive coaster. I usually ride with my hands in the air; I'm embarrassed to say that I actually grabbed for the bar."

INFO: 856-783-0263, http://www.clementonpark.com/ .

Kingda Ka

WHERE: Six Flags Great Adventure, Jackson, N.J.

BRAGGING RIGHTS: It's the tallest, fastest roller coaster in the world -- reaching 458 feet (45 stories) and hitting 128 mph in just under four seconds.

THE EXPERT'S OPINION: Though Ruben hasn't ridden this monster yet, he expects "a rocket sled launch that will press my back against my seat. My momentum will carry me to the top of this 458 foot tower; we will slowly roll over the top; head straight down; and do a 360-degree corkscrew as we drop."

INFO: 732-928-1821, http://www.sixflags.com/greatadventure .

SheiKra

WHERE: Busch Gardens, Tampa, Fla.

BRAGGING RIGHTS: The SheiKra is the world's tallest dive coaster, which is a coaster with a 90 degree drop. It's 200 feet tall with a 70 mph plunge.

THE EXPERT'S OPINION: "It's the best diving coaster yet. It has two major drops. The second drop [about 80 degrees] leads you into a mist-filled tunnel under the lake. As it exits the tunnel, you splash down through the lake, sending up twin rooster tails of water."


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