There is heated debate among roller-coaster riders over which is better: wooden tracks or steel tracks. Steel people cite smoothness and power. Wood people cite superiority of noise, the “classic” clattering sound wheels make on wood struts. Back in the '80s, Magic Mountain's wooden behemoth Colossus was the giant to conquer. It was the tallest, the fastest and the only coaster in the world with drops of more than 10 stories. If you could ride and survive Colossus without puking, you had bragging rights across the junior high playground. Those days are gone. On a staggeringly hot day at the park, while we waited for our turn to board the Colossus trains, an attendant could be seen forlornly duct-taping something on one of the cars before the ride was taken offline entirely for the next hour.

Enter Knott's Berry Farm's Ghost Rider. It is the longest wooden roller coaster on the West Coast, and you will run out of scream before the ride runs out of track, leaving you an insensate, drooling mess on the seat. The psychological term for this is “learned helplessness.” The airspace over the initial drop, I'm told, was covered with a metal roof when neighborhood residents complained about the screaming. It's a noisy, rough, exhausting, bone-jarring ride, and the deafening sound of the wheels over the tracks is the deathly rattle of a thousand angry, dancing skeletons.

—Gendy Alimurung

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