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March 24, 2001: A drive down to Great Adventure Theme Park this weekend revealed a tempting look into what is in store with the opening of Nitro on April 7th. Although the park has not yet opened for the summer season, Six Flags is offering limited weekend access for season pass holders who wish to validate their certificates and receive their photo IDs before the park opens and the crowds descend. Access to the season pass validation center is through the service and employee entrance of the park, conveniently adjacent to the site of the almost complete B&M coaster. What a great opportunity for a close look!

Nitro does indeed appear to be cut from the same cloth as Apollo's Chariot. Although no trains were in view, the track seems complete, making it easy to imagine the high-speed thrills in store over the stretches of ultra-tall, smoothly arching hills, and the steeply banked diving turns of several direction changes. A tight upward-swooping helix leads into the mid-course brake run, followed by a string of low, bouncing "bunny hills" that lead back to the station. The lift hill and the first drop itself is massive to behold, very, very tall and very, very steep! Check back here for photos of the structure in the next few weeks.

I believe that this is finally going to be the awesome coaster that we've been waiting for in our local NJ getaway. A special event on April 6th will herald the opening of this coaster, followed by the official season opening of the park on April 7th. The park will be open for 10 straight days afterward as a preview to the summer season, and will then settle into the normal spring "weekend" schedule until summer arrives.


On Easter Sunday of 1999, I hopped in my car and drove to Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey, to see if the eagerly anticipated Medusa coaster was running, or at least get a look at the new great beast under construction (the park was open that day to season pass holders). The 1999 monster is one of three (!) new coasters added by the parks new owners for this season.

Medusa is visible from the parking lot, its large, lime green loops peaking over the top from the far distance past Rolling Thunder and Viper, to the left of the easily visible Scream Machine. It certainly enhances the park's "skyline" when you first arrive!

The ride is indeed open... and I can now say with no reservations that Great Adventure has finally done something completely right. The new ride is very large. Theming and landscaping is quite good also... you approach the ride passing Viper, and enter between the legs of the cobra roll, which is directly overhead. The boarding line stretches parallel, and very close to, a fast length of track that starts at the exit to the diving loop, and you watch as the train speeds past you and up into the zero-G roll, followed directly ahead of that by the cobra roll. You also get a good view of the first large loop, facing it straight on while you are on line. The views and proximity to the actual running trains while you are waiting are bested only by the line layout on Mantis, which I find by far the most stimulating and exciting coaster to watch while waiting as the speeding train surrounds your view on all sides.

Boarding the train, you are looking off the loading platform straight back at the entrance... i.e. watching as the preceding  trains take the fast cobra roll almost at eye level. Exiting the station, the train circles back almost 180°, toward the large lift hill, where you can get a glimpse of that great portion of the ride previously out of view: the two intertwined corkscrew rolls and the high speed, high-G spin.

In terms of layout, the ride is most similar to Busch Garden's Kumba, with a little bit of Mantis flavoring thrown in for good luck: Large vertical loop; diving loop; zero g roll; cobra roll; midsection brake run; dive into a spiral turn; intertwined corkscrews; turn to hit the final brake run. The double corkscrew is a bit different from Kumba's if my memory serves me correctly; but on the end seats the zero-G roll has that same stuttering pull that I've experienced before only on Kumba (and which I found one of the most fascinating elements of the ride... does anyone else know what I'm talking about?). The train also has a bit of that great side-to-side/up-and-down flipping effect you get when the track twists on Mantis, but not as many times and not as fiercely (although that might have a lot to do with the fact that you are standing up on Mantis). Overall, it's one of the smoothest, fastest, and most exciting rides I've experienced on a B&M coaster in recent times. No head banging! (However I rode that day strictly in the front car, so there might be more head banging to be felt in the rear seats.)

The trains and cars certainly are unique. There is no front leader car (sad, because I love watching the leader twist to follow the turns of the track while riding Mantis in the front car...) but the floorless seats sit high on their support posts open on all sides. The seats themselves look and feel just like those on B&M's inverted coaster trains, but these seats are mounted to supports which ride the rails below the train rather than above. When the floor drops out from under you and the train begins its journey, you're legs dangle with nothing around you below, above, or to the front or sides. Quite a stimulating experience!

Technologically, a major change had to be made to support this new style of ride. Although as to basic construction, the track and trains seem less than revolutionary, incorporating design elements from all of B&M's previous designs; the boarding station seems to have required a major overhaul to accommodate boarding of the new trains. On B&M's inverted trains, the boarding stations feature a long length of drop-away floor that rises under the trains allowing passengers to embark and disembark. Once seated, the floor sinks about 12 inches to clear the riders feet before the trains starts to move. Since the train tracks are high at the top of the station, with the trains themselves hanging below, nothing obstructs the train's movement over the floor of the station, which can simply rise and lower once the train is "parked". But with the tracks of Medusa riding below the level of the station floor, B&M's engineers had to devise a new way to gives riders a flat surface high enough to allow them to safely and easily board the trains. The result: the boarding station floor, rather than being one piece the length of the train, exists only as sections in front of each row of seats. Once passengers are seated and locked in, each segment of floor drops a bit, then splits down the middle and folds off to the sides of the train. They then pull sideways out of the way, clearing the path for the train to exit. It's quite an elegant bit of problem-solving; fun to watch while you are close to boarding, and also well viewed from the front car while you are pulling into the station and watching the train ahead of you being released. Fun to watch, at least, if you get off on watching how these technological marvels tick as much as I do!

All in all, Medusa is a Class A ride... FINALLY at Great Adventure. I think this will turn out to be one of my favorite coasters, but still not replacing Raptor and Mantis as my all time #1s. I'm beginning to suspect that  it will take one helluva new coaster to shake my love of these two rides given my history with them and my fondness of the ambiance of Cedar Point in general.

A lot of additional improvements have been made to Great Adventure: I spotted lots of new rides (mostly of the spin-ridiculously-until-you-puke variety) and some new eateries, not yet open. Looking at the new park map, I spotted the new kiddie coaster in the new "Looney Tunes Seaport" section of the park, and another new steel coaster near the dolphin show area! I don't know how big this coaster is, or even if it is open yet, because I spent 100% of my day there riding and reveling in Medusa, up until the time my ears fell off (it got quite cold in the late afternoon) and I left to head home. Another trip will be necessary soon!

With the addition of Medusa, I thick I've finally completely shaken the lack of enthusiasm I've held for Great Adventure in the past. In years gone by, the park's nearness and convenience to my home were probably the only reasons I would visit. Typically home of a load of really boring coasters, Medusa, along with several other additions in recent years, have come to turn the park into a don't miss experience.

The first step toward Great Adventure's resurgence as one of my favorite parks was the addition of Batman, one of the early B&M inverted steel coasters. This is a pretty fast and wild ride, especially at night. After Batman opened, we would typically go to Great Adventure, and skip just about all of the other attractions to ride Batman exclusively. Though I still like Batman, the novelty is beginning to wear off in the face of the new, much larger inverted coasters B&M has been building. You can find identical Batman rides at several of the Six Flags parks across the country.

Just as the excitement of Batman began to wear off, Great Adventure added it's next treasure with Batman and Robin: the Chiller, a small twin-track linear-induction forward-and-back style coaster. Built in 1997, the ride did not open until the 1998 season due to "performance issues". I originally did not hold out much hope for this ride, especially after riding King's Dominion's Outer Limits. I was also put off by "forward-and-back" style of the ride (the Outer Limits is a complete circuit which can accommodate more than one train) as these rides typically take forever to load and unload passengers, guaranteeing a long wait.

Well, never judge a coaster by your anticipation. Upon finally riding Batman and Robin, I can say that this is a thrill not to be missed by any coaster lover! With two tracks to split the line of riders, and good teams getting people into and out of the trains quickly, the line does indeed move at a fairly fast clip. Although riders are exposed to the train launches for a much longer period than on Outer Limits (where you don't get to see anything until it's practically time to board), it does not really detract from the thrill of that incredible launch. These trains experience quite a bit more acceleration than Outer Limits, (0 to 70 m.p.h. in 4 seconds!), but more importantly, the acceleration lasts much longer than on Outer Limits. You can see the long stretch of track laid out before you when you board the train, but surprisingly, the train accelerates over this entire length of track, letting you free of its grasp only as you reach the upward curve of the first loop. The rest of the ride is short and extremely sweet, dropping you back at the station barely in time to catch your breathe. Seasoned coaster fans will have to try out both tracks (they are slightly different), I personally prefer the "Batman" side for the twist and dive straight into the onrushing ground.

One suggestion I would have for Great Adventure staff is to institute a policy of checking for riders with earrings as they enter the station. As with many looping rides, riders with earrings will not be allowed to ride, lest they impale themselves to the over-the-head harnesses during the rough turns. On a ride like Batman and Robin where only one train is on each track, stopping to make people take off their earrings after they are seated in the trains brings the whole line of waiting passengers to a standstill. Other parks have employees situated at the turnstiles to the boarding stations to check for earrings, making riders remove them before they can enter the station. This prevents the necessity of delaying a launch when riders don't listen to the announcements!

Also at Great Adventure is Skull Mountain, a moderately fun indoor coaster (though most of my friends hate it, I enjoy it if there's not a long line), the Viper (this slow ride with a "barrel roll" has a harness system that hurts my shoulders. It goes much faster at night, but also hurts more.) Rolling Thunder (a large but not-very-exciting racing figure-eight woody, though the trains rarely, if ever, actually race) and the Great American Scream Machine, a large Arrow built Steel Looper. I cannot describe how slow and boring this ride is, despite its listing as one of the fastest coaster on record. Maybe it reaches high speeds on the first drop, but the remainder of the ride is so slow it's laughable. We ride it once every few years when we need a nap or a good laugh. Finding "Scream Machine" to be a horribly inappropriate (and not very original) name for this ride, we have officially re-christened it the Lullaby.

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