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Roller-Coaster Madness

Fanatic Fantasy

Posted: February 5, 2009 5:00 p.m.
Updated: February 6, 2009 6:00 a.m.

Jodi Malone and her son Josh Malone on X2 at Six Flags Magic Mountain.

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The most apt comparison might be "like a kid in a candy store" - but it hardly does justice to the experience I shared with two of the world's most avid roller-coaster fans last Saturday.

The three of us were set free at Six Flags Magic Mountain to ride any and all roller-coasters - without having to wait in any lines. And you thought your job was cool.

Of course I was scared. It had been more than 10 years since I'd taken one of these thrill rides, and, while I used to love them, time and bad habits had done a number on my head, if not my body.

The thought of riding a whole bunch of them, one right after the other, gave me grave doubts about my ability to keep all my parts together and my breakfast down.

So, I met the day with forced confidence and a weak smile.

My friends for the day were Jodi Malone and her 13-year-old son Josh Malone. The Malone family, including husband Mark Malone, has lived in Valencia for 13 years. Though Mark did not join us on the day, all three of them are roller-coaster fanatics. They actually take family vacations around the country to ride roller-coasters.

I think you'd have to say Jodi Malone is the ultimate fanatic. She has loved roller-coasters since she was 6 years old and said when she met her husband she took him on roller-coasters to test his suitability for a relationship.

 Jodi said she has ridden 457 different roller coasters over her lifetime, some of which no longer exist. She said she visited five major amusement parks while Josh was in utero, as she didn't know she was pregnant at the time. Consequently Josh had a very early start in the coaster-biz.

While Jodi's business is The Musical Mom online music store (www.themusicalmom.org), she is writing a book about roller-coaster riding from a woman's perspective. She will turn 50 in July, and she feels age is no limit to going on thrill rides. "Don't use the ‘old' word with me. The greatest part about this place (Magic Mountain) is that you only have to be tall enough."

Josh Malone likes to ski and ride bikes and is a Boy Scout, working on his first class rank. But roller-coasters take up a lot of his time and attention. In his short lifetime, he has ridden almost 200 different roller-coasters.

As you might expect, he's been riding all the coasters at Six Flags Magic Mountain regularly since he was tall enough to get on them. And it's no surprise he wants to be a roller-coaster engineer one day.

The Malones are good friends of the folks at the park, but get no special treatment (except for this day). While the family may purchase The Flash Pass now and then to avoid lines, Jodi said they "wait in line and buy season passes like everyone else." Jodi actually enjoys waiting in lines as she makes new friends every time. With her coaster enthusiasm it's no wonder.

Both Jodi and Josh are members of American Coaster Enthusiasts and she is also a member of the European Coaster Club. She is a five-foot-one-inch tall bundle of energy and a bubbling encyclopedia of coaster information. Among other things, she can tell you the best seat to sit in on any of the roller-coasters at Six Flags Magic Mountain.

Thus I was assured of the ultimate experience.

Our friendly guide for the day was Connie Lujan, assistant public relations manager at Six Flags Magic Mountain. She and Jodi planned to start with the more moderate roller-coasters and work up to the more extreme. I was whole-heartedly in favor of that.

Terminator Salvation:
The Ride

Our first stop was the easiest of all. We would visit the construction site for Terminator Salvation: The Ride. At the site we were joined by Sue Carpenter, public relations manager; Jay Thomas, the park president; and Tim Burkhart, the general manager. All of them were very enthusiastic about the roller-coaster-to-be and anxious to get the word out about its features.

Terminator Salvation: The Ride is scheduled to open this summer and, not coincidentally, the movie "Terminator Salvation" is scheduled to open in theaters about the same time. It will be the fourth movie in the "Terminator" series. Burkhart said this will be the 16th roller-coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain, and that elements from the movie will be part of the ride.

Terminator Salvation: The Ride will be a wooden roller-coaster, built by Great Coasters International, Inc. "It's going to be beautiful. They (GCI) make such pretty coasters, with lots of curves," Jodi Malone said. In the early stages of construction now, the curves and beauty she alluded to were already visible. The wooden "bents" which will support the track were lining up like they were part of a sculpture, and more were already put together and waiting for placement.

Burkhart noted that, for an added thrill, the "train" of this roller-coaster will fly through the station, 12 feet above the heads of those waiting to board it.

"It's a great addition to our family," Carpenter added.

"We definitely have the greatest rides around," Thomas said. Compared to other theme parks, he said, "It's a better experience, better value and closer to home."

Goldrusher
Our first ride on a roller-coaster was aboard the venerable Goldrusher. Introduced in 1971, it has a top speed of 35 mph and the Web site puts it this way: "Experience a rush of dips, dives, twists and turns on this runaway roller-coaster."

Josh said he'd been riding this one since he was very young. I remembered riding it back in the day and knew I could handle it.

The ride was just the right warm-up for bigger things. It was a blast and had all three of us smiling afterward. People were screaming the whole way and one guy lost his hat, which whizzed right by our heads. This caused Jodi to remark that she actually caught someone's cell phone once when riding Colossus. Now there's a good reason to ride with your hands up!

Colossus
The Colossus Web site description goes like this: "For a colossal good time, think big. Take a giant ride on a classic dual track wooden coaster. There are 14 hills, two gut-wrenching drops of more than 100 feet each, and a climactic triple jump." This one reaches a top speed of 62 mph and the high point is nearly 13 stories up. Colossus has been around for awhile, too, having been introduced in 1978.

Josh said Colossus was his first "big" roller coaster and he still loves it. He especially likes riding on Halloween, when they "race" two trains on adjacent tracks, one of them backward.

I remembered having good times on Colossus, too, and had no fear. Even so, while holding my hands up to get the most out of the experience, I couldn't help but yell "Oh yeah!" as we went over that first drop. It was a great ride and by the time it was over I was already starting to feel younger and better about myself for making it in style.

Scream
"Scream sends you racing at intense speeds while strapped in a ‘flying chair.' Its unique floorless train design gives you the feeling of soaring in air with no track above your head, nothing below your feet. Scream through seven 360-degree inversions and twists-and-turns for a three-minute rush."

Scream was the first "maximum" thrill-rated ride of our day, and Jodi and Josh climbed in their seats like the old pros they were. I was fine until the floor separated and moved out from under us. This was my first "foot-free" coaster ride and I felt a bit unnerved at the start. Now remember, I had to keep my arms up as well, because I had to keep up with those two, and they did that on every ride.

If shoulders could become hands, mine would have. As we spun and turned with our arms up, my shoulders clamped on the harness because it really felt like I was going to go flying out sideways if they didn't. Even so, Scream was a great ride and I found myself laughing hysterically through the whole thing. And no, I didn't scream - though on this and every other ride we took many of the ladies did.

X2
So, now our easiest-to-scariest plan took a left turn. Our photographer would have to leave us after one more ride, and, since both Jodi and Josh said that X2 was their favorite ride at Six Flags Magic Mountain, he wanted to get shots of them on it. So we took on X2 next, which Josh said was "the wildest, craziest, most insane roller-coaster ride in the park."

Oh joy.

The Web site reads: "Unlike traditional coasters where trains only parallel the track, X2 sends riders screaming around its 3,600-foot maze of steel track aboard massive wing-shaped trains where the seats extend off of the track to the sides of the vehicle, allowing them to independently rotate you head over heels, forward and backward, creating a one-of-a-kind ‘don't know what to expect next' sensation."

I'm glad I didn't read that before I went on it.

Josh said that he loves the first drop on X2. "It's amazing. It feels like you are parachuting out of a plane and facing the ground." He also loves how the sound track played near your ears goes from jazzy to heavy metal, "and fire blasts right at your face - and yet you are safe."

Well, that whole sound track thing was cool. You've got a mellow crooner singing as you start upward, and then Metallica cranks in to let you know things are going to get serious. I was tapping the arm rest and rocking to the music when we went "over the top."

With feet dangling and hands up in the air, that first drop, backward and flipping, took me to the limits of my thrill-dreams. I was totally not ready for that much "fun," and feared greatly for the rest of the ride. However, the first drop was the worst drop and all the other twists and turns were a blast. I hardly noticed the fire shooting past my face.

Still, when Jodi and Josh were going to stay on board and ride X2 again, I had a moment when I nearly chickened out. But I couldn't be thought of as a coward and so I rode it again. This time I enjoyed things the whole way. But this ride really gives you a sense losing control. It's like being the ball in a game of handball. You are going where you are sent, and how you are sent, and you can't do a thing about it.

It was rude treatment and I loved it.

Tatsu
With X2 under my belt I was on top of the world and ready to take on anything. So, we jumped over to Tatsu.

The description reads: "Aboard the wings of Tatsu, you'll fly at speeds in excess of 62 mph through deep plunges, huge spirals and sharp dives that send you flying through the park's mountainous terrain."

Jodi said Tatsu is "like a flying dream." Josh said "It's such a great ride because it feels like flying over the Magic Mountain woods. It feels like you are part of the dragon and it's taking you around the park."

Now I love a good flying dream, and Tatsu is the closest thing to one. Face down, hands and feet outstretched, you really do fly over those woods, and through loops and turns, too. It was a wonderful experience. That is except for the one backward loop when the G-forces cut loose my sinuses and the inside of my nose burned like I'd gone upside down in a swimming pool. It was a small price to pay.

Revolution
The description reads, "When it comes to amazingly cool looping coasters, the Revolution starts here. Get ready to be whisked through a fast and furious series of steep, daring dips and dives. Revolution's spine-chilling loop is 90 feet high and 45 feet in diameter - the first loop ever built into a roller coaster."

I remembered Revolution as one of my favorite coasters. It was like flying a stunt plane through aerobatics. And, at the time it was first introduced (1976), it was the smoothest roller-coaster ride I'd ever enjoyed.

Well, times have changed. While Revolution is still a great ride, compared to the newer thrillers, it now seems tame. And, truthfully, the over-the-head harnesses that have been added since I last rode it are annoying. I couldn't keep my head from bouncing back and forth between the pads.

Goliath
"Got a need for speed? Goliath has your answer. Towering 255 feet above earth, this massive steel superstructure hits speeds of 85 mph, making it one of the fastest and tallest roller coasters around. Enjoy a three-minute, high-speed adventure over 4,500 feet of steel track."

Jodi said she loves to go weightless on rides, and that the camel-backs on Goliath are great for that. Josh said he loves to ride in the front seat. "The air blowing in your face is such a cool feeling."

Goliath was a great ride for me. I loved the weightlessness, too, and the G-forces generated in some of the loops had my up-stretched arms feeling like I was pushing weights. When we dived into the tunnel I couldn't keep myself from ducking. "They call that a head chopper," Jodi said.

The Riddler's Revenge
"Here's a riddle: which roller coaster is worth standing up for? The Riddler's Revenge, of course. It's a blazing-fast coaster with a twist: You'll stand, not sit, as you race at 65 mph head-over-heels six times over nearly one mile of twisting, looping, inverted steel track - for nearly three minutes."

Josh likes The Riddler's Revenge, too. "Standing is a lot of fun. I like being in front on this one. I did it once in the rain," he said.

I'll have to say, this roller-coaster was one of my favorites. Standing and rushing smoothly through loops and sharp turns, it was both thrilling and relaxing at the same time. I imagined this is what X Games skiers feel like as they do their flips.

Y'all come back
While we could have gone on more roller-coasters, Jodi and Josh assured me I had already gotten the full Magic Mountain experience in that department.

I had come, seen and conquered, and there was really no need to push it.

I knew I'd be back to try Terminator Salvation: The Ride in a few months. But I'd bet the Malones beat me to it.

We said good-bye, bonded forever by our day together. As I drove away, I felt like I'd just come off a week's vacation in another dimension - one I hadn't visited for a long, long time.

And Jodi's words came to my mind: "That's the benefit of a place like this. It's a moment away, for however many precious moments you have."

After a perfect-weather day at a perfect place, doing the kind of things teenagers usually do, I was renewed and so was my confidence. You can take the last 10 years off my driver's license now. But you won't be able to get the full-wide smile off my face.

Six Flags Magic Mountain is currently open on weekends and school holidays. Visit www.sixflags.com/magicmountain for more information on specific days and hours or call (661) 255-4100 or the Spanish information line at (661) 255-4854.

 

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