Reporting Bob Roberts
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GURNEE, Ill. (WBBM) – Six Flags Great America is celebrating the 30th anniversary of its “American Eagle” roller coaster by sending it backward.
Because of that, all of the riders on the blue trains of the two-track roller coaster face backward — and have no idea what is about to happen. Some say that makes it far scarier of a ride, while others say it just makes it more fun.
“I was terrified,” said Cari, a mother of two from West Bend, Wis., who said she held onto her 11-year-old son Thomas as she screamed for the whole ride. Thomas said he found it to be fun, but not scarier.
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“I love it backwards. Oh my goodness, it’s the best,” said Kailin, a 15-year-old from Bloomingdale who came to Great America with three friends. “Because you can’t see what you’re doing and where you’re going. It’s more suspenseful and it’s just way more fun.”
Some tried, with varying degrees of success, to occasional crane their necks so they could see forward, but Great America spokesperson Jennifer Savage said that’s “cheating.” She said there’s not much anyone can see no matter how hard they try.
Cari said she just closed her eyes for most of the ride. Others said they kept their eyes wide open and just let the screams erupt.
“It makes it more suspenseful and you don’t know what’s coming, so it’s scarier,” said Carissa, a west suburban 16-year-old.
Sending the roller coaster’s blue trains in reverse also sets up races between the red and blue cars, which normally take off in the opposite directions. That means double the screams going down the Eagle’s signature 147-foot drop, which careens from 15 stories high in the air to beneath the surface in a matter of seconds.
In either direction, the roller coaster reaches a speed of 66 miles an hour, with those who ride traveling over a series of hills, making several 360 degree turns at an elevation of 117 feet.
The backward ride is not a first for the Eagle, but the last time it was done was briefly in 2005. This time, the blue cars will run backward until Sept. 17.
Great America says the American Eagle is the tallest, fastest and longest racing wooden roller coaster in the world, and has given more than 45 million rides since 1981.