WATCH THAT FIRST DROP. Kimberly at Number 2 Pencil visits New Jersey's newest ultimate roller coaster. Six Flags' Kingda Ka is one of this summer's new arrivals. Closer to Cold Spring Shops is Mt. Olympus's new Hades, which the Roller Coaster Data Base describes as a "hybrid" coaster (wooden track, steel frame.)

Bear in mind that the Crystal Beach Cyclone and Comet are also hybrid coasters, with much of the Cyclone's steel, including the lift hill, serving the Comet at its new location in New York.

But I digress. What's neat about Hades? It features the steepest drop of any wooden-tracked roller coaster in the States. But that comes later. Mt. Olympus is located in a valley. The roller coasters take advantage of the terrain, although riders sometimes have to climb a lot of steps and ramps to board the trains. (Pittsburgh's Kennywood does a better job of siting the stations such that riders can board from midway level, and then exploit the terrain, although, to be fair, Kennywood was conceived as an amusement park from the beginning, and the Monongahela River bluffs are pretty much perfect for gully roller coasters and not much else.)

Hades offers the rider a figure-eight experience that would be creditable on a small amusement park's junior coaster. But that's out of the station, into the gully, BEFORE it hits the lift hill. Off the lift hill, there are some extremely fast but smooth elements in a tunnel that ducks under the parking lot, more air time in the turnaround, back into the tunnel, and more air-time and another figure-eight experience before it hits the brake run.

And I might have just created a monster ... this evening I mentioned to my eight year old nephew that he was big enough for some of the coasters at the Dells...

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