News Column

Riders seek one last nostalgic thrill ride on Colossus

August 16, 2014

By Rhiannon Potkey, Ventura County Star, Calif.

Aug. 16--VALENCIA, Calif. -- VALENCIA -- Tita Mills felt like she was saying goodbye to a member of the family.

Mills drove overnight from Monterey to Six Flags Magic Mountain on Friday for one reason and one reason only.

She wanted to ride Colossus for the last time.

The iconic wooden roller coaster is scheduled to close on Saturday, and Mills felt compelled to relive a bit of her childhood.

Mills, 40, and her husband, James, packed their bags, took a few day's leave from their military jobs and left their six children behind for a thrilling getaway.

In a world of rapid change, Colossus always provided a constant for Mills when she visited Magic Mountain. The ride opened in 1978, and Mills never left the park without at least one spin on its dual track.

See also: Star reporter remembers Colossus on opening day

The Los Angeles native and one-time Oxnard resident hadn't experienced the thrill in nearly 20 years before returning on Friday.

As the train car descended the drops and whipped through the curves, Mills screamed and cried the entire way.

"This is really a nostalgic memory for me," said Mills, trying to fight back tears. "It definitely took me back to my youth. It's kind of like eating something your mom used to prepare and you don't have it again until she prepares it and it takes you right back. It was wonderful."

Mills was not alone in her trip down memory lane.

Thousands of park visitors have been trying to squeeze in a final ride on Colossus since Six Flags announced its closure in June.

Park officials haven't said what will take the ride's place. Six Flags intends to make an announcement Aug. 28 regarding plans for the 10-acre Colossus site.

There has been speculation the park could tear Colossus down and replace it completely or transform it into a bigger, better upgraded version of the ride.

When it opened 36 years ago, the $7-million Colossus was the tallest and fastest thrill ride in the world. It was also the first roller coaster with two drops exceeding 100 feet.

But Colossus no longer ranks among the top 10 in height or speed, and has been overtaken on the thrill meter with more modern roller coasters.

Michael McDaniel, 37, is hoping the park salvages at least a portion of Colossus.

The Lake Hughes resident was distraught when he heard about the ride closing.

McDaniel immediately bought season passes for Magic Mountain just to ride Colossus. He signed a petition to try and save the ride and donated a few dollars to the cause.

Friday was McDaniel's seventh trip to the park this summer, and he planned to return on Saturday to ride Colossus in a continuous loop from the time the park opens at 10:30 a.m. until it closes at 9 p.m.

To record as many last memories as possible, McDaniel brought a GoPro camera, two iPhones and a backup battery pack.

"I love wooden coasters and this one has been here so long," McDaniel said. "I just really hope they keep it. As long as some part of it stays, I will be happy. If they tear it down, I will probably never come back here again."

Not everyone was as sentimental.

After riding Colossus for the first time on Friday, Anthony Escobar, 16, felt the old coaster is ready to be torn down.

"It makes room for a new change," said Escobar, a Gardena resident. "The ride is a little bumpy and it can be painful for the elderly. If they bring something new, it could be better."

Although Oxnard residents Natalia Tapia, 13, and Estelle Miranda, 12, weren't visiting Magic Mountain specifically for Colossus, they planned to ride it at least once before leaving.

"I have never been on it, and I want to tell my friends I got to ride it before it closes," Miranda said. "My mom has ridden it and she said I should do it. It looks fun."

Jennifer Rothenberg grew up in Chatsworth, and went to Magic Mountain nearly every week with a season pass.

Rothenberg, 42, returned to the park for the first time in 15 years on Friday to ride Colossus and reminisce with two close friends.

"I feel like a part of my childhood is ending," Rothenberg said. "My brother and I used to ride it over and over again when they kept the park open all night and you could ride it backward. It was our favorite ride and it's still one of my favorites."

The ride's closing date on Saturday coincides with National Roller Coaster Day. Riders will receive buttons that say "Colossus. I rode the last day 8.16.14" with a picture of the 1,608-foot coaster.

Mills couldn't stick around another day for a button. She settled for a picture in front of the ride's entrance to mark the occasion.

Although her emotional journey required nearly 14 hours of driving, the 2 minutes Mills spent zipping along the wooden tracks of Colossus made every second worth it.

"There was no way I was going to miss riding this one more time before it's gone," Mills said. "It's just so sad this won't be a part of my life again."

Star reporters Wendy Leung and Carol Lawrence contributed to this story.

Colossus facts

Location: Six Flags Magic Mountain, Valencia

Type: dual track wooden roller coaster

Opened: June 29, 1978

Features: six drops; 14 hills

Top speed: 62 mph

Highest drops: 115 feet high; 105 feet high

Size: covers 10 acres

Length: 1,608 feet

Height: 125 feet

Each track: 4,325 feet

Ride duration: 2.5 minutes

Thrill level: moderate

Materials: 1.2 million board feet of Douglas fir and Longleaf yellow pine

Designer/builder: International Amusement Devices, Inc.

Owner: Six Flags Entertainment Corp., Grand Prairie, Texas; world's largest regional theme park company; $1.1 billion in revenue in 2013; 16 parks in the United States, one in Mexico City and one in Montreal, Canada; emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy on April 30, 2010

Featured in the following movies and television shows

National Lampoon's "Vacation"

"Zapped"

"Clifford"

"The Bachelor"

"My Life"

"Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park"

"Coming & Going"

"The Pickle"

"Step by Step"

"Melrose Place"

"Knight Rider" (rebooted version)

"Doogie Howser, M.D."

"L.A. Law"

"Castle"

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(c)2014 Ventura County Star (Camarillo, Calif.)

Visit Ventura County Star (Camarillo, Calif.) at www.vcstar.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services


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Source: Ventura County Star (CA)


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