Loopy lingo

Special to baltimoresun.com

The weather is blessedly humidity-free, the lines are surprisingly short and you're ready for a day full of barrel rolls, dog legs and headchoppers. Before you board that imposing and intriguing coaster, make sure you know what these and other terms mean.

First, ask yourself these questions:

1) You just rode a launch coaster that made you experience negative Gs as you went over a camelback. What happened to you?

A. You experienced weightlessness as a result of being flung at 80 mph over a series of small hills.
B. You experienced motion sickness.
C. You experienced being completely disoriented in less than two seconds.
D. All of the above.

2) During a night ride on a stand-up hypercoaster you go through a series of inversions and under a headchopper. What just happened?

A. You rode a 200-foot-high stand-up roller coaster at night.
B. You were turned upside down several times.
C. You went under a bridge and had the sensation that you might be decapitated.
D. All of the above.

If you didn't answer D to both of the above questions, use this list of 20 words and phrases to help understand what may happen to you on your favorite ride.

Airtime: The sensation of weightlessness while riding a coaster. This usually happens when going over a hill or during a drop, and is also known as negative G forces, or coming out of your seat. Apollo's Chariot in Busch Gardens Williamsburg is one of only five coasters in the park, but its 73-mph speed and multiple opportunities for airtime make up for it.

Barrel roll: A complete sideways twist that sends a train into a 360-degree roll, taken from a jet-fighter maneuver. Six Flags America's newest coaster, Storm Runner, features a barrel roll.

Camelback: A series of two or more hills, each one smaller than the last. Paramount's Kings Dominion's Hurler thrills with two camelbacks.

Dark ride: A roller coaster that is completely enclosed, enhancing the sensation of the ride since you can't anticipate its dips and turns. Kings Dominion features the Flight of Fear, an alien-themed dark ride that is sure to scare you out of your skin.

Dead spot: Part of a coaster ride where the train loses all momentum and intensity and just rambles along. Too much of this can ruin a coaster. Often, it exists as a long, straight and flat piece of track. Although the Rebel Yell at Kings Dominion has a few dead spots, these do not ruin the ride -- you need them to catch your breath.

Dog leg: A sharp bend in an otherwise straight track. The Wild One at Six Flags has a number of these turns.

Drop: A downward slope on a roller coaster. First drops are often angled at 50 degrees or more. Superman Ride of Steel at Six Flags boasts a 190-foot first drop. That's nearly 20 stories.

Dueling coaster: A twin track coaster where both sides appear to make several near-miss, head-on collisions. Duel it out at Hershey Park on the Lightning Racer.

Flat turn: A curve in which the track remains practically flat, causing severe lateral forces at high speeds. Many parks have rides that feature flat turns. One of the best is Hershey Park's aptly named Wild Mouse.

G forces: The various forces your body encounters on a coaster ride, such as negative G ("airtime" or coming out of your seat), positive G (being pushed into your seat) and lateral Gs (being pushed to the sides). Two Face: The Flip Side at Six Flags maxes out at five Gs.

Hairpin turn: A sharp 180-degree curve. Another "wild mouse"-style ride brings you hairpin turns: Kings Dominion's Ricochet.

Headchopper: A section of a ride that goes under another section, giving the feeling that the rider is going to hit the higher section with his or her head. Head to Six Flags and hop on Roar if you can ride it without losing your head.

Helix: A spiral section of track through which the train either ascends or descends. Take a ride on Apollo's Chariot in Busch Gardens to experience a helix.

Launch coaster: A roller coaster that, instead of a lift and drop for initial speed, has a section of track that accelerates the coaster. The Joker's Jinx at Six Flags launches you from zero to 60 mph in approximately three seconds.

Motion sickness: Illness caused by sudden direction changes and disorientation. The Hurler at Kings Dominion just might make you hurl.

Side slammer: Name for a less-than-adequately banked turn that results in the riders being slammed into the sides of the cars. Many of Kings Dominion's wooden roller coasters feature side slammers, but The Grizzly's turns are so rough that only the most avid coaster riders will find them bearable.

Speed bump: A small hill, taken at high speed. Creates airtime. Also known as a speed dip or bump. While it is a smaller coaster designed for younger riders, Kings Dominion's Scooby Doo Ghoster Coaster has a number of speed bumps that will make your stomach flip-flop.

Stand-up coaster: A style of coaster on which the riders stand up during the ride, rather than sit down. The Shockwave at Kings Dominion was the first stand-up coaster on the East Coast.

Suspended coaster: A coaster in which the cars hang underneath the track. This type of ride simulates the sensation of flying. For a smooth, thrilling ride, try the Batwing at Six Flags or Kings Dominion's Volcano: The Blast Coaster.

Vertical loop: A 360-degree turn in a vertical plane; it turns the riders upside down. Hershey Park's Sidewinder has six loops: three forward and three backward.

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