A student group of whom I am an alumnus went to Hershey Park this past weekend, and I experienced probably the best roller coaster ever built.
First things first, on another ride in the park I was amused when I saw this sign posted at the entrance to the line: "Approx 1 Hour wait from this point when queue is full." Only the true computer geek would understand the humor in their use of the word queue vice line. Alas, I only noticed it on the one ride.
I would not call myself a roller-coaster enthusiast. I dont hop from park to park each summer just to see what new thrill has just been built. But I do enjoy the big bad coasters and make sure to ride them when I am visiting an amusement park. Hershey had so many we didnt actually get to all of them. But this one, Storm Runner, just had to ridden.
Storm Runner is Hershey's newest big ride for the season, and what makes it unique is that the ride does not utilize the traditional big climb up a hill to the opening drop, rather it uses a series of electro magnets to throw the train from a dead stop into the first incline.
The ride for me actually started before getting in line. Getting off one ride led us to a spot where you walk under the tracks and see the riders take off. We noticed other members of our group on board about to become the latest victims, er, riders, and watched them get thrown into the ride itself. We quickly walked to the line, which started on the other side of the loading dock, and saw a train pulling in and noticed the same people on board. The collective thought: "Are they done already?"
After watching a few trains pull out and return, we clocked the meat of the ride to 28 seconds from launch to when the brakes are hit at the end. The "brakes" were actually magnetic plates that bring the train to a dead stop, but very silently unlike conventional coasters. In fact, the most noise other than the screams were the pistons that moved pieces of switchtrak on each side of the loading dock, allowing the two trains to each have their own loading platform.
Finally, we board. We get brought out into the launch area. A pair of speakers provide a deep male voice reminiscient of an old horror flick. What the voice says at first I could never figure out, except that it pauses for a few moments during which a heartbeat is sounding, and then that stops suddenly. A few clicks from below the track and the train begins to roll backward very slowly. The voice says, "Now get ready, here we go!" and not a moment to spare later, you're sent down this long straight and horizontally level section of track about a football field long into an incline that goes straight up.
According to the brochoure to the park, you're moved from 0 to 72 mph in 2 seconds and go up an 18 story-tall tower. The tower is shaped like an upside-down U, so when you go straight up, you come straight down. The ladies are screaming bloody murder. Myself, I'm shouting in enjoyment, at one crying out "This is f*ckin' brilliant!!"
A loop, a corkscrew, some fast hills and a close call with the underside of the monorail track later, and you're finished. Your heart is thumping and even your eyes have begun to water. Anyone silly enough to wear their hats have long lost them, and possibly even some sunglasses that weren't tucked away.
If you visit central PA this summer, make sure you try this out. For us, it was only about a 45 minute line the two times we rode, and it was well worth it. The computer-generated preview movies on the Hershey Park website are decently representative of the ride, but just dont do this thing justice. It must be ridden.