Sunday, July 20, 2008

Six Flags Great Adventure - Kingda Ka

This is the world's tallest and fastest roller coaster (at the moment). To some people, that actually means something. Philistines. Honestly, to me it's like saying a car is the world's fastest or a building is the world's tallest - so what? Roller coasters are like pizza; it's not about having the most of anything, it's about getting the balance right. So I didn't care much before today about trying this thing, except to be able to say I'd done it.

Also, last time we went to Great Adventure, we made the mistake of riding Batman & Robin: The Chiller, which mercifully no longer exists (replaced by The Dark Knight). That ride was similar to Kingda Ka in that it shot you out like a bullet at high speed, then put you into some high-G maneuvers. We both felt like our brains had been detached from their stems after riding that thing, and Kingda Ka, about twice as fast and four times the height, obviously looked even worse to us.

We actually debated as we stood in line whether we should leave. We finally decided it would almost be like a defeat if we did; we'd feel like losers.

Kingda Ka is one of those rides that's almost all about the intimidation and anticipation. You stand there and watch the craziness of other people hitting 128mph in 3.5 seconds, then climbing a 465 foot hill and going over and down at 90 degrees, and you think "holy fucking christ!" That's the ride; that fear. They milk that for all its worth; they maximize the views of the ride as you're in line, then they make you sit on the track waiting to launch for like 40 seconds, then they have you fall backwards for a few feet before you launch. It's all designed to heighten the fear. (The fact that a few trains end up doing a rollback at the top of the hill each year might be orchestrated too.)

My wife shot this video from the line:

Incidentally, this was all apparently exaggerated even further as the ride was originally designed. But during testing, there was an accident that sent shrapnel flying through the original line route, so the line was redesigned to stay outside of the track area at all times.

The actual ride is nothing. A lot of buildup for a big letdown. I mean it goes by so fast, both in terms of duration and speed, that you barely even notice what's happening. The speed and acceleration are so ridiculous that you really can't even physically look anywhere but straight ahead, so all you see is the track. You don't really get a sense of any great height. Going down from the top of the hill is kind of a rush, but it's over in literally 3 or 4 seconds. The last hill at the end of the ride really adds nothing - I didn't even realize it was there.

Obviously not everyone agrees, but Kingda Ka is a novelty, and it'll wear off.


  1. I went to Six Flags as a senior in high school on a class trip. My best friend still has a picture of me on a carousel there riding a giant chicken. That's me, a giant chicken.
    We live near Busch Gardens Williamsburg so we go there once every couple of years. I'm not a big roller coaster person. I like Big Bad Wolf but I hate those big drop coasters. They send me into hysterics and I nearly hyperventilated on Apollo's Chariot. They have a new one but I forget what it's called.
    I prefer fast coasters like Avalanche and silly stuff like teacups and swings.
    If you ever come this way, you'll enjoy the coasters at Busch Gardens!

  2. I've been to Busch Gardens! But it was when I was a little kid, so I don't remember much. Anyway, I'm sure they've changed it all around by now.

    I've been big on roller coasters since I was little. My dad liked them, so he basically forced me to ride with him as soon as I was tall enough to make the minimum height - and I was like 5 feet tall when I was seven years old.

    The only thing I am afraid of on roller coasters is that something will break. I'm not afraid at all of the sensations of riding them (though I almost changed my mind about that after riding The Chiller, as I described and linked to above). But as I'm writing in my upcoming post about Nitro, I constantly hold on to the restraints with all my might because I do have a little fear in the back of my mind that it's going to unlock at the top of a hill and send me flying out of the car if I'm not holding on. That's the only thing I'm really afraid of... that or a wheel falling off. Final Destination kind of stuff. Nothing you can do if that happens, though.

  3. Thanks for the link! I generally agree with your take on the ride...I think the anticipation really is what makes it - whatever it is.


About This Blog

This is increasingly not a blog about Alphabet City, New York. I used to live in the East Village and work on Avenue B, but I no longer do. Why don't I change the name if I'm writing about Japan and video games and guitars? Because New Yorkers are well-rounded people with varied interests, and mine have gone increasingly off the rails over the years. And I don't feel like changing the name. I do still write about New York City sometimes.


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