I cheated on the Cyclone this weekend. I had one too many at Ruby’s and decided to ride The Thunderbolt, which opened Saturday on the very lot where the original Thunderbolt sat from 1925 to 2000.
When the zombie Thunderbolt was announced a year ago, its operator, Zamperla, promised it would rise 125 feet (compared to the Cyclone’s 85 feet) and travel at speeds of up to 65 miles per hour over about 2,000 feet of track. So, yeah, it’s slightly shorter than the Cyclone and isn’t nearly as fast as more extreme coasters, but it’s definitely faster than traffic on the Belt Parkway on a weekend. So I bought a $10 card and got in line.
According to an attendant, the ride went through 500 cycles of testing before it opened to the public — which doesn’t seem like a lot. I asked him if any passengers had freaked out yet and he said, “Yeah, one. We sent them to the hospital.” Before I could ask him what for, the line moved (the wait was about 15 minutes, if you’re wondering).
The most unnerving thing about this coaster is the initial climb. For about 20 seconds, you’re at a 90 degree angle, facing nothing but sky. Look to your right and you’ll see the Coney skyline, surreally sideways. It’s like someone took that new 3D-printed model of Luna Park and turned it on its side. As you climb, periodic clanking sounds leave you convinced the wheels are going to come off the track and turn you into something resembling a shot-up Freak.
And then, just like that, you’re over a hump and jetting straight downward. The fall doesn’t last much longer than the Cyclone’s, and isn’t that much scarier, but it curves up into a 360-degree loop that leads into a barrel roll, a couple of twists, a couple of humps reminiscent of the Cyclone’s finale, and then one last unexpected barrel roll. A couple of times, I felt like I was floating between my seat and the lap bar, but — for better or worse — the ride doesn’t throw you around anywhere near as much as the Cyclone does.
I disembarked with a few more butterflies in my stomach and a lot more blood in my head. Fun enough, but will I ride again? Probs not. My heart still belongs to the Cyclone.