Floorless. Peerless.

Great Adventure has seen both good times and bad. Designed by flamboyant restauranteur Werner LeRoy and built by Hardwicke Companies Inc. in 1974, Great Adventure had a look and style all its own. At its inception, the facility was divided between a drive-through Safari Park and a theme park called the Enchanted Forest. The Forest's main thoroughfare, Dream Street, was a phantasmagoria of color and fanciful ice-cream confection architecture. The psychedelic Strawberry Fair contained most of the standard flat rides, including the surreal Pretty Monster. Rootin' Tootin' Rip Roaring was the theme park's Wild West area, but attractions like the 100-foot-tall Super Tepee and oversized Conestoga Wagon food stand lifted this zone well out of the ordinary. And two of Great Adventure's biggest rides, the 150-foot-tall Giant Wheel and the Log Flume, were the world's largest when the park debuted.

Mr. LeRoy's plans for the future were even more ambitious. They included a record-breaking rollercoaster and a series of Fantasy Lands filled with "fantastic voyages" through nature's wonders: a "sea spectacle incorporating tidal waves, typhoons, and a panoramic display of sea battles... Volcanoes with fireworks... The tremors of an earthquake..." He was a man ahead of his time and sadly, those plans were left unrealized. The park changed hands and Great Adventure went through a rough patch. A tragic fire in the Haunted Castle walk-through, trouble with rowdy guests and a general physical deterioration damaged the park's reputation and the crowds began to stay away.

But like a stalwart prize fighter, Great Adventure hung in there. Six Flags eventually became the park's new owners, and that organization set about making things right. Today, those dark days are just a distant memory. After years of a steady rebound (thanks to such heavy-hitters as Batman: The Ride and The Chiller), Premier Parks (Six Flags' parent company) has committed to making Six Flags Great Adventure the Northeast's 400-pound theme park gorilla by adding $42 million dollars worth of new attractions in 1999 alone. This season, the park welcomes us with open arms and 25 new rides including several major spin 'n spew attractions (the massive Time Warp pictured under construction at left; the sea-monster themed contraption pictured at right); Looney Tunes Seaport, a second kiddieland; and Houdini's Great Escape, a Vekoma-designed rotating house of illusion.

Of course, that's all just icing on the cake; Great Adventure is now home to thirteen individual coaster tracks (more than any other park on the East Coast), courtesy of three new machines. There's the Road Runner Railway kiddie koaster at the Seaport, Blackbeard's Lost Treasure Train, a Zierer-designed family coaster (seen at right nearing completion) and a little something in Frontier Adventures called Medusa, Bolliger & Mabillard's first "Floorless" coaster.

Great Adventure has never been greater.

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Call me a stickler for detail, but if I've one nit to pick, it's this: a ride themed to a snake-headed monster from Greek mythology seems mighty out of place in an area otherwise devoted to the early American West. To be fair, the park does make an effort to tie it all together with a coda to the original tale. See, they claim that Medusa, after her defeat by Perseus, was banished to an isolated frontier gold mine where she's been laying low since, waiting to strike again.

Let's face it, Six Flags parks aren't really about cohesive theming anyway (and, yes, I'm well aware that I should get a life). Besides, those petty concerns flew right outta my skull when I first got a peek at this gorgeous lime green and royal purple toy from the parking lot. The wickedly twisted track just screams "Bolliger & Mabillard" from miles away and that's all anybody needs to know.

Trotting over to the far end of Frontier Adventures, towards the Northern Star Arena, you pass by coaster after coaster after coaster. The Great American Scream Machine, Rolling Thunder, The Runaway Mine Train, Viper... and finally, around the big Fort, there it is: a stop-you-dead-in-your-tracks Cobra Roll.

We get to walk right underneath this delicious element on the way to the boarding station and here we see what makes Medusa such an awesome new player. There goes one of her floorless trains... Like Apollo's Chariot before it, this coaster breaks the mold with a never-seen-before passenger vehicle. Essentially, B&M has taken a leg-dangling inverted coaster train and reworked it to ride over, rather than hang from under, a pair of tubular rails. Before taking a single ride, it's clear that Medusa is another stroke of genius from a company that makes genius an everyday affair.

While snaking through the exterior portions of the queue, we can check out the first, second and third of Medusa's inversions: a vertical loop, a towering dive loop and, way up above, a glorious Zero-G roll. If you're a fan of Kumba, Busch Gardens Tampa's wondrous sit-down coaster (and who among us isn't?), a glow of recognition will warm the cockles of yer heart.

But it's not until we've entered the "Medusa's Mine" station and mounted the stairs that we get to see just how unique this sucker really is. An arriving train pulls to a stop and retracting metal panels rise up from beneath either side of the platform. Ooooh...

Once the cars are emptied, we hop on board, pull down the harnesses, and buckle 'em in place. Then, when it's all clear, those panels drop and fold away in two smooth motions. As train dispatch procedures go, this one is definitely among the coolest.

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When it comes to inverted coasters, my preference has always been for the front row and the same goes for Medusa, but for a completely different reason. Not that riding the rear seven is chopped liver; after all, we're talkin' B&M here. And if you're of average adult height, there's an unexpected surprise you'll discover when traveling aft of the lead car: as the train curls through an inversion, you can extend your leg and touch the back of the car in front of you with your tippy-toes. That's something I've never been able to do before.

But the front row is where Medusa's train and track configuration hits you like a sledgehammer. Imagine, if you will, that riding Kumba is like racing through the Alps in the driver's seat of a redlining Ferrari. Now imagine that instead of sitting behind the wheel, you were perched on the car's front bumper... No foolin', kids. Medusa's front row is that much more intense.

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Just before the train gets moving, a pair of metal gates hanging over the tracks swings open. We glide forward and make a left-hand turn onto the lift hill. Right now, the lack of any protective shell around our lower extremities may not seem like much, but just wait...

On an early Spring morning, we're headed right into the burning Sun and as we attain the peak, 146 feet above the firmament, we're looking down at the green acres of the Safari Park. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! The view is fleeting, but it's a beaut.

Our attention is soon wrenched away from those earthbound critters. We plummet down Medusa's first fall with the track's metal cross-sections whipping just inches beneath the soles of our shoes like they wanted to chew us up and spit us out. Logic should tell you that no one would never design a coaster capable of ripping off a limb, but right now your brain's logic circuits are totally fried. Sixty-plus miles per hour, as close to any rails as you'll ever want to get - Hoo-doggies!

We slam into the base of the vertical loop and the rails bend up to grab at our Keds. With the weight of the train pulling us back and slowing us down, there's some gnarly hang-time past the apex of the inversion, but the pace only slackens for a heartbeat.

Right outta that element, we soar into the 96-foot-tall dive loop. Up, up, up, and bending to the right, we invert and nosedive straight down, nearly going subterranean before we surge into what is Medusa's singular moment - that awesome Zero-G Roll. On any B&M loop coaster, this particular maneuver is perhaps the sweetest single treat Claude and Walter have bestowed upon us. Mmm, mmm, good!

Next up is the 78-foot-tall Cobra Roll, never more appropriately named than it is here. We drop out of the Zero-G Roll, or "heartline camelback," and then rise up into one inversion, pull out, curl to the right, get twisted upside-down again, and plunge. Wham, Bam, thank you, Ma'am! Only the most trusting will maintain any sort of normal sitting posture with their calves so close to high-speed amputation.

A mid-point brake-run allows us to make sure our toes haven't been ground into hamburger - yep, they're still there. But for a beast long given up for dead, Medusa's in fine form and she ain't through slapping us around yet.

We race off the platform and scream through a nearly 90-degree-banked spiral, towards a pair of interlocked corkscrews. Like Kumba's double barrel-roll assault, we don't take them one right after another. After whipping through the first, the train navigates a 180-degree turn and then plows through the second.

Finally, she heads for home. And back in the station with the platform magically reappearing, we can stagger free, glad to be fully intact.

Medusa may not have the Scream Machine's height, the Chiller's acceleration, or Batman's nothin' beneath ya freak-factor, but she does them all one better with these new trains. And the Viper? That coaster's a garter snake compared to this seething nest of serpents.

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There's plenty of high-intensity entertainment, too. The Gotham City(TM) Carnival of Chaos, opening Memorial Day weekend, should prove to be a butt-kickin' stunt show, with daredevil performers earning their keep on " the space wheel," high atop "the sway poles" and inside " the globe of death." If fireworks are your bag, you'll want to hang around till the sun goes down for the Quest for Camelot(TM) Nights at the Grandstand, a production that also includes live actors and the East Coast's largest water screen. Back by popular demand, the Peking Chinese Acrobats will do what they do best: Jar Juggling; the Tower of Chairs; the Human Pyramid; and the Dragon Dance. And the Lethal Weapon Water Stunt Spectacular, one of Great Adventure's most popular action-fests, will run from May 14th through September 6th.

Let's see, more than two dozen new rides, including a multi-million dollar rollercoaster, and all that live entertainment... ticket prices must have gone up, right? Wrong. A 1999 adult park admission will cost exactly what it did in 1998 - only $35.99, plus tax ($39.00 plus tax to see the safari as well). And tickets for children 48 inches and smaller will be half price - just $18.00 - all season long ($19.50 for a two-park ticket). Gotta love that.

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  • TRACK LENGTH: 3,985 feet
  • TOP SPEED: 61 Miles Per Hour
  • MAX. HEIGHT: 146 feet
  • MAX. DROP: 132 feet
  • RIDE DURATION: Approx. 3 minutes, 15 seconds
  • CARS: Three trains composed of eight cars. Each car accommodates four passengers across.
  • CAPACITY: Approx. 1,600 guests per hour
  • MANUFACTURER: Bolliger & Mabillard, Monthey, Switzerland

Medusa logo artwork © 1999 Six Flags Great Adventure. All rights reserved. SIX FLAGS and all related indicia TM & © 1999 Six Flags Theme Parks, Inc. BATMAN, ROBIN, MR. FREEZE, GOTHAM CITY and all related characters, names and indicia are trademarks of DC Comics © 1999.





© Robert Coker.
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