Blade reporter Erika Ray, front left, conducts one of her multiple 'research' rides aboard Maverick during the media visit.
SANDUSKY - While standing in line to board Maverick at Cedar Point, the best place to be is at the front of the line to hop on the very back of a train.
This decisive conclusion was based on more than an hour of important, hands-on research that I conducted at the amusement park early - and I mean early - yesterday morning.
Cedar Point invited members of the media to hang out at the park from 5 to 8:30 a.m. to report on Maverick, the park's new, $21 million roller coaster, before it opened for the day.
Naturally, most of the journalists, me included, hopped on the 150-second ride multiple times in the interest of reporting as accurately and thoroughly as possible what riders will experience.
Maverick's debut was delayed two weeks after the park opened for the season on May 12 because four sections of its red steel track exerted excessive stress on the coaster's cars and needed replacing.
The ride opened to the public on Saturday.
Though I have been utterly intimidated by roller coasters since I was a kid, this one didn't scare me as much as I thought it would at first glance.
It's not that high - its first hill is a mere 105 feet tall. Compared to the mountain that is the 420-foot-tall Top Thrill Dragster, Maverick is tiny.
Maverick has a maximum height of just 105 feet, but the thrill ride offers two inversions and plenty of weightless time over the 4,450-foot-long course. Maverick is Cedar Point's 17th coaster.
But the ride more than makes up for its size, as I learned on my first ride, which was in the very front seat of one of the six, 12-passenger trains with Blade photographer Jeremy Wadsworth.
After pulling down the shoulder restraints and buckling our seat belts, the ride smoothly inched up the short distance to the bottom of the first hill.
The quick launch took me a bit off guard, but there was no time to be anxious because just as quickly, the train was at the top of the hill plunging 57 mph downward at a 95-degree angle.
That means that the track actually disappeared for a bit, leaving virtually nothing between my eyes and the ground below. But then the track reappeared and the roller coaster began its twisted path through the 4,450-foot-long course.
After several inversions and hairpin turns, the trains came to a screeching near-stop just inside a darkened tunnel.
There I was able to take a deep breath because I assumed the ride was over. But then I glanced to the left side of the tunnel and saw railroad crossbucks warning passengers to "keep head back."
This was good advice because within seconds, the ride took off again, whizzing through the 400-foot, dark tunnel at 70 mph past small white, blue, and yellow lights.
After I was thrown back into the sunlight, Jeremy and I got a burst of stinging water in our faces before being hurtled between rocklike terrain close enough to inspire fearful thoughts about bugs and windshields.
All in all, we experienced eight "airtime-filled hills," two inversions, and many feelings of weightlessness on Cedar Point's 17th roller coaster.
And it was awesome.
Subsequent rides were just as awesome - except for the stinging water, though Jeremy described it as "refreshing."
This, in part, is why my six rides of research have concluded that the back of the train is the way to go.
Riders in the back will have less of a wait, no water blasts, and those are the best seats to experience zero-gravity weightlessness while being whipped over the hills.
It'll totally be worth it.
Contact Erika Ray at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6088.