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10 of America’s Most Thrilling Roller Coasters

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Roller coasters are exhilarating—they get your heart beating and your adrenaline pumping. But not all roller coasters are created equal. Here are 10 of America’s most thrilling roller coasters, based on their speed, height, unexpected drops, and inversions.

1. VIPER // SIX FLAGS MAGIC MOUNTAIN

Location: Valencia, California

After you board Viper’s green snake train, the ride promptly drops you 171 feet. And with its seven loops, one after the other, Viper doesn’t give you a moment to catch your breath. The red steel tracks cover more than 3800 feet, and you'll travel up to 70 miles per hour during the two and half minute ride.

2. BANSHEE // KINGS ISLAND

Location: Mason, Ohio

As the world’s longest inverted roller coaster—it has over 4100 feet of track—Banshee provides a uniquely thrilling experience. The blue and red steel coaster features seven inversions, speeds of up to 68 miles per hour, and the free-floating feeling of having your legs and feet thrashing about during the spins.

3. SKYRUSH // HERSHEYPARK

Location: Hershey, Pennsylvania

With fast turns and five zero-gravity drops, Skyrush is Hersheypark’s most intense ride. The maximum speed is 75 miles per hour, and the rollercoaster takes you as high as 213 feet. For an extra thrill, grab a spot in one of the end seats, which hang over the sides of the track (rather than directly above the track).

4. CANNIBAL // LAGOON PARK

Location: Farmington, Utah

If you want to ride up to 70 miles per hour, experience three inversions, and feel a g-force of 4.2, Cannibal is the ride for you. Lagoon Park rates its year-old Cannibal’s thrill level as "extreme," which makes sense given that riders drop 140 feet and experience vertical free-fall.

5. THE THUNDERBOLT // LUNA PARK

Location: Brooklyn, New York

Coney Island’s Luna Park offers two minutes of drops, loops, rolls, and turns with The Thunderbolt. The roller coaster’s steel track, which extends for more than 2200 feet, provides riders with a 100 foot vertical drop, an 80 foot zero-gravity roll, and a 90 degree plunge. And, a gorgeous ocean view to boot.

6. KINGDA KA // SIX FLAGS GREAT ADVENTURE & SAFARI

Location: Jackson, New Jersey

Want to tell your friends that you’ve experienced the world’s tallest (and second fastest) roller coaster? Head to New Jersey to ride Kingda Ka, a behemoth that measures 456 feet high. You’ll start the ride by accelerating to 128 miles per hour in a shocking 3.5 seconds up an actual vertical track, then you’ll drop a staggering 45 stories, making it feel like gravity doesn’t exist.

7. GOLIATH // SIX FLAGS GREAT AMERICA

Location: Gurnee, Illinois

If wooden roller coasters make you nervous, you might want to skip Goliath. But if you’re looking for a truly thrilling timber experience, Goliath is the fastest, tallest, and steepest wooden rollercoaster in the world. The 72 miles per hour ride has two inversions, drops you 180 feet, and features a 180-degree zero-gravity roll twist.

8. MAXAIR // CEDAR POINT

Location: Sandusky, Ohio

The aptly named MaXair thrill ride keeps you spinning, swinging, and jostling around until you lose all sense of equilibrium. As you sit around a big spinning ring, you get swung around at speeds of 70 miles per hour. And at 140 feet high, the far-reaching aerial view gives you an amazing vantage-point for scouting out the next ride.

9. APOLLO’S CHARIOT // BUSCH GARDENS

Location: Williamsburg, Virginia

Apollo’s Chariot may look like a straightforward steel roller coaster, but it has a few tricks up its sleeve. A slow, creaky beginning leads to a series of nine fast, steep drops that feel as if you’re gliding in the sun god’s chariot. Try to sit in the back of the “chariot” to get the most smooth, flight-like experience.

10. AFTERBURN // CAROWINDS

Location: Charlotte, North Carolina

Afterburn only lasts 2 minutes and 47 seconds, but the roller coaster will make you feel like a fully trained fighter pilot (albeit one whose legs are allowed to dangle outside the jet). The ride features speeds up to 62 miles per hour, a 113-foot drop, and six inversions (including an Immelmann turn—an actual aerial combat maneuver named for a WWI pilot).

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The Real Bay of Pigs: Big Major Cay in the Bahamas
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When most people visit the Bahamas, they’re thinking about a vacation filled with sun, sand, and swimming—not swine. But you can get all four of those things if you visit Big Major Cay.

Big Major Cay, also now known as “Pig Island” for obvious reasons, is part of the Exuma Cays in the Bahamas. Exuma includes private islands owned by Johnny Depp, Tyler Perry, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, and David Copperfield. Despite all of the local star power, the real attraction seems to be the family of feral pigs that has established Big Major Cay as their own. It’s hard to say how many are there—some reports say it’s a family of eight, while others say the numbers are up to 40. However big the band of roaming pigs is, none of them are shy: Their chief means of survival seems to be to swim right up to boats and beg for food, which the charmed tourists are happy to provide (although there are guidelines about the best way of feeding the pigs).

No one knows exactly how the pigs got there, but there are plenty of theories. Among them: 1) A nearby resort purposely released them more than a decade ago, hoping to attract tourists. 2) Sailors dropped them off on the island, intending to dine on pork once they were able to dock for a longer of period of time. For one reason or another, the sailors never returned. 3) They’re descendants of domesticated pigs from a nearby island. When residents complained about the original domesticated pigs, their owners solved the problem by dropping them off at Big Major Cay, which was uninhabited. 4) The pigs survived a shipwreck. The ship’s passengers did not.

The purposeful tourist trap theory is probably the least likely—VICE reports that the James Bond movie Thunderball was shot on a neighboring island in the 1960s, and the swimming swine were there then.

Though multiple articles reference how “adorable” the pigs are, don’t be fooled. One captain warns, “They’ll eat anything and everything—including fingers.”

Here they are in action in a video from National Geographic:

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This 1940 Film on Road Maps Will Make You Appreciate Map Apps Like Never Before
Douglas Grundy, Three Lions/Getty Images
Douglas Grundy, Three Lions/Getty Images

In the modern era, we take for granted having constantly updated, largely accurate maps of just about every road in the world at our fingertips. If you need to find your way through a city or across a country, Google Maps has your back. You no longer have to go out and buy a paper map.

But to appreciate just what a monstrous task making road maps and keeping them updated was in decades past, take a look at this vintage short film, "Caught Mapping," spotted at the Internet Archive by National Geographic.

The 1940 film, produced by the educational and promotional company Jam Handy Organization (which created films for corporations like Chevrolet), spotlights the difficult task of producing and revising maps to keep up with new road construction and repair.

The film is a major booster of the mapmaking industry, and those involved in it come off as near-miracle workers. The process of updating maps involved sending scouts out into the field to drive along every road and note conditions, compare the roads against topographical maps, and confirm mileage figures. Then, those scouts reported back to the draughtsmen responsible for producing revised maps every two weeks. The draughtsmen updated the data on road closures and other changes.

Once those maps were printed, they were "ready to give folks a good steer," as the film's narrator puts it, quietly determining the success of any road trip in the country.

"Presto! and right at their fingertips, modern motorists can have [information] on any road they wish to take." A modern marvel, really.

[h/t National Geographic]

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