Riding roller coasters: for a pastime we all know how to enjoy and that scares the heck out of us, we certainly put a lot of trust in the hands of a process we know little about.
We trust in guys like Michael Reitz, an engineer at Six Flags. He is somewhat of an "imagineer," part of an outstanding team that comes up with an idea for a ride, like Kingda Ka at Great Adventure in New Jersey, and then makes it happen. Only, it is a little more complicated than that.
Reitz showed us the process by taking Fox 5 into restricted area after restricted area and into a room outsiders simply don't get to see: the brain of Kingda Ka, built to be the tallest ride in the world and the fastest. To get you up to the top, the train carrying you needs to go from 0 to 128 mph in 3.5 seconds.
Hydraulic pressure builds up, nitrogen pressure is added from the missile tubes, and once released thousands of horsepower pour on to drive the big wheel, or wench, which pulls the double cables up top that pulls a metal slat, called a car, and you launch off on the train and lose your mind.
Not only has the launch of the ride evolved, but so has the way it stops. Would it comfort you to know that none of these rides have brake pads? Not even the tallest drop in the world, called Zumanjaro, where you're going 90 mph by the end of the 415 foot drop. But Michael is not worried because he has you sitting on magnets.
The final ride we learned about is El Toro, which is built to look like the old wooden roller coaster. It is a visual trick. El Toro's technology is state of the art.
Sitting in the back, I though we were just going for a nice ride, a little quality time for a relaxed chat with Michael when suddenly i forgot whatever it was I was thinking as we went down the drop and I told Michael that I don't like him at all. I was kidding, of course, because we really like Michael.
Legs wobbly, I looked to regain my pride by accepting Michael's challenge to take the Zumanjaro drop.
Michael dedicates his life to pushing the limits of imagination, physics and engineering to deliver to you, a thrilling yet safe human experience.