Ride a Roller Coaster

The slow-moving car inches toward the crest, crystallizing my perilous predicament with its persistent click, click, click. As I prepare for the rush of speed, sweat pools in the palms of my white-knuckled hands. The tiny lap bar that I'm gripping seems to have little purpose but to cut off the circulation to my legs as I plunge screaming to near death. I'm trapped! And loving it!

It's the nature of amusement park roller-coaster rides that what passes for amusement should also be somewhat terrifying. And because each year brings a bigger and bolder experience, we went out like the fool on the fun ride hill and brought back the most bodacious rides in a number of categories. Here's five that should send shivers down your spine:

Kingda Ka: The tallest and fastest roller coaster on the planet, Kingda Ka (pictured) is what every thrill seeker is looking for in amusement park entertainment. Located at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson Township, New Jersey, it reaches speeds up to 128 mph in a mere 3.5 seconds and a gravity-defying height of 456 feet. www.sixflags.com/greatadventure/

Son of Beast: The world's highest wooden roller coaster, at 218 feet on King's Island in Cincinnati, Ohio. The acceleration will rattle your brain. www3.paramountparks.com/kingsisland/

Steel Dragon 2000: Perhaps the most expensive ever (earthquake concerns ran the price to $50 million), the Steel Dragon reopened late last summer in the Nagashima Spa Land Amusement Park in Japan as the record holder for track lengt (8,133 feet). /en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nagashima_Spa_Land

Griffon: Opened in May at Busch Gardens Europe in Williamsburg, Virginia, the floorless Griffon takes riders on a 205-foot 90-degree drop before inverting them and then dropping them a second time from 130 feet at 87 degrees only to be inverted again. Finish off with a splash of water and you have the all the makings of a roller-coaster classic. www.buschgardens.com/BGW/

Eejanaika: With 14 inversions, Eejanaika at Fuji-Q Highland in Fujiyoshida, Yamanashi, Japan, is sure to turn your stomach upside down. In this Fourth Dimension design, many of the inversions are caused by spinning in the seat instead of on the track. www.fuji-q.com

Sit down, strap in and feel the rush!