Warning: Salty and adult language appears in this post to convey emotion.
Longtime readers and friends know one of my favorite things to do is go to amusement parks with my nephews. “N” is 17-years-old, he’s on my husband’s side, and we began our theme park adventures when he was nine. “N” and I add new rides and coasters we’ve ridden to our life list as we can, and at the end of last season, we rode 78 different coasters together at 13 different parks, including Six Flags Great Adventure, Point Pleasant Beach and Seaside boardwalks, Dutch Wonderland, HersheyPark, Knoebel’s, Dorney Park, Land of Make Believe, Nickelodeon Universe, Six Flags America, Busch Gardens Williamsburg, King’s Dominion, and Dollywood.
My brother’s middlest, “I”, just turned nine last Friday and is my mini-me, no doubt. Last summer, he entered the ranks of amusement park enthusiast and joined our tribe. “I” and I began our list last year and our coaster list stood at 12 at the end of last season. So far, we’ve visited Point Pleasant Beach and Seaside boardwalks, Six Flags Great Adventure, and Nickelodeon Universe.
The non-stellar weather forecast couldn’t keep us away from Six Flags Great Adventure’s opening day last Saturday. We donned our raincoats and hoods and made the best of a mostly empty park, happy to escape the real world for a few hours.
After storing our drink cups and wallets in a locker, we checked the park app but found many of our favorite rides were either temporarily closed or closed for the day.
“N” and I deferred to “I” to choose the first ride of the day out of the handful that were operating.
He chose Wonder Woman Lasso of Truth, which is a massive pendulum ride neither “N” nor I have ever even considered riding before. The ride reaches heights of more than 170 feet and a speed of 75 miles-per-hour while riders are rotated clockwise during the 17-story rise-and-dive rotations.
The novice park enthusiast “I” has no fear.
“N” and I do, but we sucked it up for “I” and rallied to ride the goliath.
It actually wasn’t as bad as I imagined, although we could have done without the stinging rain drops pelting us during the ride.
“I” chose Cyborg Cyber Spin as our second ride, another ride I never rode before. The park’s website describes the ride as a “thrilling anti-gravity experience like no other.” To me, it felt like I was trapped inside a washer during a load of laundry without the water. It wasn’t bad, but not a ride I’ll rush back onto.
Ride number three was Green Lantern, mostly because it was the only roller coaster open at the time. Green Lantern is a stand-up coaster with 5 inversions, a 154-foot initial drop, and a top speed of 64 miles-per-hour. It is notorious or headaches as it shakes your head back and forth between the padding designed to soften the blows. This go-around, however, resulted in less of a headache because I didn’t keep my head planted against the back of the restraints.
We checked off three circuits on Skull Mountain, an inside coaster, and two rides on Jersey Devil (my favorite) before lunch, then we hit Dark Knight for a rather disappointing experience because none of the interior lights or themed sounds were functioning. A wild mouse in the dark? Nothing really fun about that.
The skies brightened, and within a few minutes, one would never have known the day began with storms as there wasn’t a cloud left in the sky.
“I” was ready to cross off another coaster from his list, so we headed over to Superman: Ultimate Flight for two rides. With quite possibly the longest queue I’ve ever walked, this coaster is a face-down head-first ride, with a doozy of a pretzel-roll and a very unique experience designed to emulate flying.
We went to get our things from our locker after our second circuit, ready to pack it in for the day because we rode almost ride that was operating, and we noticed Kingda Ka was running.
I immediately knew what was coming, and no sooner than I could think it, I heard it out of the mouth of the fearless “I”.
“I want to ride Kingda Ka!”
“N” and I looked at each other and shook our heads while agreeing to take a walk over to the tallest rollercoaster on Earth and the fastest coaster in the country to check it out.
Mind you, neither of us had any intentions of stepping foot in its queue, let alone riding the beast. Sure, we’ve conquered many a rival coaster, the tallest and fastest to date being Intimidator 305 at King’s Dominion last summer.
A quick Kingda Ka tutorial: it is a launch coaster that reaches speeds of 128 miles-per-hour in 3 seconds, which catapults the train straight-up to a height of 456 feet. It can be seen for miles, with some people claiming they have seen while boating on the Atlantic Ocean, which has to be at least 20 miles away.
It is a truly terrifying green goliath, and yes, is the tallest coaster in the world and the fastest coaster in the United States.
I’ve gone on record several times saying I would never ride it, not even for a million dollars in cash.
But “I” wanted to ride it.
No doubts, no question, no hesitation: “I want to ride Kingda Ka.”
“N” and I hemmed and hawed, and after observing three of the ride’s cycles, we weren’t yet sold on crossing this behemoth off our coaster list.
I looked down at “I,” so impressed with his courage, and I realized I was being a baby. A chicken. A nincompoop.
What the hell did I have to lose? It was the kid’s birthday, for crying out loud, and it was time I walked the talk I so often use when encouraging others and believe in myself.
“Okay,” I nodded. “Let’s do this.”
“N”’s eyes bulged with disbelief, but then said that since I was riding it, he would, too.
Then we kept asking each other if we were really doing this on the walk through the queue.
“Yes! You are!” “I” kept exclaiming, pushing us from behind closer to the line with every hesitation.
Less than five minutes later, “I” and I were seated in Row 2 with “N” behind us in Row 3, all of us buckeled and strapped in for the ride.
Shit. Shit. Shit.
The train pulled away from the station, then paused on the track to wait for the blast-off.
Shit. Shit. Shit.
There was no going back.
I closed my eyes and held onto the handle in front of me for dear life. I cringed at the sound of the hydraulics signaling that launch was imminent.
Then, HOLY SHIT.
My cheeks spread like icing from the front of my face onto the sides of my head, and we were halfway up the climb before I even knew it. I heard “N”s screams quickly change from “Oh, my God!” to “We’re doing it! We’re doing it!”
I opened my eyes just as we reached the top and looked down.
We WERE doing it!
My shrieks of fear turned into squeals of excitement. “We did it! We did it!” I cried through my laughter and my tears as we returned to the station safe and sound less than a minute after our initial catapult.
However, we were different people than the ones who pulled away from the station.
We conquered Ka, dammit! The three of us, together, did something I never imagined we’d do, and the fact we did it together… well, it was just perfect.
On the walk out of the queue, I thanked “I” for showing me what courage is and for making me brave.
I bought us all matching shirts and magnets to honor our wild accomplishment, and “N” purchased an ornament for me to mark the occasion when we did the impossible, a symbol of victory that will forever be the centerpiece of my Christmas tree.
A nine-year-old taught me I never have to fear anything ever again.
We freaking rode Kingda Ka.
Sidebar: later that evening, the area in and around Six Flags Great Adventure suffered severe weather, including two confirmed tornados, and the park has not opened since. My thought are with those who were impacted by the weather.
Thank you for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you are here.
With light and love,
“Ka’s Vanquish” was posted on jillocone.com on April 5, 2023. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any of my employers. Copyright 2023, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.