I tend to grade the stomach-dropping, skull-spinning, corn dog-hurling strength of a roller coaster by the extremes of uncontrollable profanity it causes me to blurt.
For instance, Disney's Rock 'n' Roller Coaster is an awesome trek, but my exhalations are family friendly. Maybe an "Oh man!" here, a "Sweet mama!" there. Nothing too ear-ringing. Busch Gardens' Montu is entirely more adult, a PG-13 exercise in lower-grade four-letter doozies.
And then there's Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, the iPod-as-steel-coaster thriller at Universal Studios. The park has had a brutal time getting this 3,800-foot-long state-of-the-arter going. At one point, the "anti-rollback system" reportedly had to be overhauled, sending the cost of the ride, designed by German company Maurer Sohne, to more than $45 million. Rockit was supposed to open in the spring, as a way to compete with SeaWorld's new Manta coaster.
Although a moving walkway wasn't, um, moving when I was there, and only four out of a possible seven trains were in transit, Rockit was finally cruising. Universal had me out for a couple spins. How shocking was my profanity? Read on:
All of Rockit's top thrills come in the first 40 seconds, including before you even roll out of the station. On the safety bar that wraps around your gut you'll find an easy-to-use music player, a cool lil' gizmo on which you select one of 30 songs to soundtrack your ride, from hip-hop to techno, from Kenny Chesney's Living in Fast Forward to Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive. This is an absolutely brilliant touch. I went with Motley Crue's Kickstart My Heart, mainly because of Mick Mars' switchblade guitar line. (My second trip I chose the Allman Brothers' Midnight Rider. Great song, but way too slow for the ride.)
Rockit is the rare coaster where the initial lifthill - 167 feet, seven stories, all in 16 seconds - is the freakiest part of the ride. Instead of crawling a slow incline, you zip straight up a line, on your back, 90 degrees - the music cranking in your cranium. (In a marvel of sound management, you'll only hear your music, no one else's. The coaster is designed to be quiet, so your song better juices the journey.) At the top of the lift, you'll be higher than on any other coaster in Orlando. But without slowing, you hit that fast, tight apex and plunge 65 mph into the world's largest noninverted loop: 136 feet tall. In a first-ever design trick, you ride the outside of the tippy-top of the loop. It was during that part when I screamed "Holy (bleepin') (bleep)!" Oh yeah. That good.
Although the ride features two more unique maneuvers - you ride through a treble clef; you manage a jump-cut negative-gravity move - Rockit is relatively benign after that yowza start. Also a bummer: There are cameras mounted everywhere, inside and outside of the car. The purpose is to create a $30 music video to purchase upon exit. But my vid featured scant actual footage of my fat screaming head (although it did catch the f-bomb). Even worse, the video uses cheeseball computer graphics of the coaster. Hopefully they'll tweak all that when every facet of the ride is fully operational.
The best seat
I rode in the front right seat and the back right seat. Always go right side, especially for a cool "crowd-surfing" moment at the coaster's end. The front seat offers a beautiful view of the park and the ride's dazzling architecture. But hoo boy, that backseat, especially when you whip over the first hill, is mind-scrambling. Go for it.
The barf factor
With zero upside-down time, your chances of hurling are relatively low. Yes, your heart will pump, but your lunch is safe.
The first 40 seconds of Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit are bleepin' excellent. Hooray for bad words!
Sean Daly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
See Sean scream
For a bleeping fun video of Sean Daly on the Rip Ride Rockit, go to his Pop Life blog at blogs.tampabay.com/popmusic.