Friday, March 26, 2010

Intimidated? You should be.

Thrill-seekers who got a sneak peek Friday at the Carowinds’ brand-new Dale Earnhardt-themed “Intimidator” ride weren’t just on a literal roller coaster, but an emotional one as well.

Among the feelings elicited by what’s billed as the tallest, fastest and longest coaster in the Southeast:

Regret. “About halfway up, I thought we’d made a mistake,” said Rock Hill resident Mike Daly, 62. The ride starts with a long, slow climb to a huge initial drop, which measures 211 feet and dives at a 74-degree angle.

Disgust. “I had to close my mouth because I wasn’t feeling too good,” said Colton Clyburn, 11, also of Rock Hill. (He ended up reboarding at least two more times after that.)

Fear. Said Kelsey Peigler, a 17-year-old Olympic High School student: “I thought I was gonna fall out of my seat!”

The $23 million steel coaster – which boasts almost a mile of track and surges to speeds up to 80 mph – is being unveiled today, when Carowinds opens for the season.

Oh, and just remember: Once the safety restraint locks into place and the train begins to glide forward, you’re not getting off the ride for another 3 minutes and 33 seconds. No matter how much or how loud you scream.

Carowinds theme park is open from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. today and from 10 to 6 Sunday. Tickets are $22-$55. Details: 704-588-2600;