Six Flags Great America 7-16 & 7-17-12 (a novel)
This has been the summer of re-acquaintences in G-Dog's world. Last month I went to Kings Dominion and BGW after not being to both in nine years and now I just got back from two days at SFGAm after a seven year hiatus. While there were new and new-to-me rides at all these parks it was always good to ride some of my old favorites again.
The weather was sunny and hot, with temps hovering around 100 both days and with SFGAm not being a park with big shady areas it was a struggle at times to get through the day. Thankfully, with my two day visit, I was able to pace myself and enjoy all the park offered without tiring out too early. I missed out on night rides as by 8-8:30 PM I was completely worn out and couldn't go on much further.
While I was prepared to use the Fast Lane program I didn't need to as the park was not crowded., despite the front parking area being pretty full on both days.
Just like my buddy drachen, likes to do, here is my coaster countdown (sorry no photos).
SFGAM COASTER COUNTDOWN
12. Ragin' Cajun - 1x
This was a coaster I had no intentions of riding but as my second coaster of the day on Tuesday and with a minimal line I went ahead and gave it a spin (pun intended). I was paired with a woman and her son, which unfortunately, made the car off balance. When we hit the spinning section, boy did we spin and my equilibrium was off for a bit when I exited the ride. Not a good way to start my day.
11. Little Dipper - 1x
You're probably wondering how I could rank a kiddie coaster better than a bigger spinning coaster. It's easy - it didn't screw with my head.
I had some reservations on Monday on riding this coaster. It is basically a wooden kiddie coaster and I'm not a credit whore who goes out to try and ride every kiddie coaster out there if I could but at the same time the ride reminded me a bit of Waldameer's Comet. It fits perfectly in the Yukon Territory area of the park (which is looking much, much less than the Yukon now that it has the relocated go-cart track sitting next door - bad move SFGAm) and you have to give Six Flags huge props for saving this ride from being destroyed two years ago.
I went ahead and rode it on Tuesday. The train is very similar to the aforementioned Comet. I was surprised at how roomy the seats were for a junior coaster train. The ride gave pretty much what you would expect for its size and is a very good starter coaster for the young enthusiasts.
10. Dark Knight - 2x
My experiences with Wild Mouse coasters in the past have not been very favorable. It seems every one I've ridden, except for Ricochet at Kings Dominion, seem to be braked so heavily that it kills the momentum of the ride. While waiting for my first ride on Dark Knight I was expecting the worst as it is basically a standard Mack model Mouse "in a house" but it really was a big surprise. This particular ride is insane - it is not braked at all!
"RANT" - I must say I am a bit disappointed in the sacrifice of turning Theater Royale into an indoor queue. The park needs more indoor entertainment, especially with how hot it was during my visit.
After going through the long queue you enter "Wayne Central Station" to board your subway car. Once leaving the station you turn right and you head up the lift hill. There are flickering incandesant bulbs above your head while you climb. At the top you make a right turn into darkness and begin the zig-zag portion of the ride. At the first tight right turn you see Batman. After the next left tight turn you go down a corridor with "HA HA" written by Joker in different colors projected on the walls. The next turn you see some of Joker's henchmen watch you as you go by. I forget what's there after the next tight turn but then you start to descend and the drops are in the dark. You cannot see them and you don't know when they are coming. After a few more turns and drops you see the Batman symbol as you brake before returning to the station.
9. Superman Ultimate Flight - 1x
I guess you know by now that flying coasters are not among my favorite coasters but if a park has one I will ride it at least once. This was my first ride on Tuesday so that I could get it out of the way first thing. When we got back to the brakes you heard an announcement, to paraphrase.
"Attention ladies and gentlemen, Superman Ultimate Flight is currently experiencing technical difficulties. We aplogize for the delay"
Being stuck in the flying position is not the most pleasant thing to experience and thankfully the delay was a short lived one, though my calves punished me for it when I got off the ride.
8. Vertical Velocity - 1x
I've always been a fan of the Intamin impulses but I wasn't sure if I was going to fit on this one. A little back story...
Two years ago I went to CP and took a spin on Wicked Twister. I had a bit of a problem trying to buckle the seat belt on it and was afraid I was going to do the walk of shame on it. Thankfully I was able to do it even though the restraint felt a little snug on me.
Fast forward to Tuesday morning and I decided to take a spin on V2. I hopped into my seat and was able to buckle the seatbelt with no effort whatsoever. So now I ask myself, did CP shorten the belts on WT? Anyway, V2 has the strong launch just like on our old Superman Ultimate Escape but at SFGAm they no longer use the holding brake on the straight spike. While it is still an awesome feeling of freefalling from the top of that spike it seems pointless now without that quick two second hold.
7. American Eagle - 2x
One of the park's signature coasters seemed to run a little bumpy, but of course I only rode the red side. On Monday they started the day with just the blue train running. By the time I got back to the Eagle they had just opened the red train so I hopped on instead of waiting for blue. On Tuesday they only ran the red side all day (just so you know how crowded it was).
Since the last time I was at the park they had re-routed the entrance to the ride to next to Daredevil Dive to make way for the former Wiggles World - and I absolutely hated it. While The Boss at SFStL takes the prize with its "Great Wall of China" length queue, AE's queue just seems just as long. Meanwhile as you are walking through the entrance you see the old cars from the Great American Raceway just sitting there rotting away (would have made better sense to have utilized these in the current location of the go-carts next to Little Dipper).
6. Demon - 2x
There's just something about classic Arrow loopers that I find fascinating. The look of the track and trains, the roar of the train in the loops and corkscrews, and the loud, easily identifiable clanging of the anti-rollbacks just add to the amusement park atmosphere.
Other than the corkscrews, Demon seems lost in the myriad of steel behemoths at SFGAm and has to rely on those loud anti-rollbacks to tell people "I'm still here". The ride did seem to run a little rough but it was tolerable. My favorite part is still the light tunnel after the second loop.
5. Batman - 1x
It's hard to believe the original Batman The Ride turns twenty this year and it still runs like a champ - it's still an intense coaster.
I was going to ride it Monday and just as I sat down and buckled my seat the ride goes down. It would be down for a little while but by the time it did start running again I didn't feel like waiting for it so I opted to wait until Tuesday to become "the caped crusader".
It was also nice to have air conditioning in the indoor queue and in the station, something both SFStL and SFOG didn't have.
BTW, I also did not have any issues in buckling my restraint on Batman so I do have to agree that Alpengeist's belts were shortened.
4. Whizzer - 3x
In past years Whizzer probably would not have ranked this high but there was just something about the ride this year that really struck a nerve with me. Maybe it's classic swoop turns hidden in the lush woodedness played games with me. Maybe it's the sound of the anti-rollbacks of the spiral lift that called to me. Or maybe it's because this ride is such a gem, being the last of its kind in the U.S., that I felt I needed to appreciate it more than I should. I'm glad I took the time to enjoy its unique family thrill.
3. Viper - 4x
This ride is generally my number two coaster in the park but it surprisingly wasn't running consistently on one of my two visits. On Monday Viper was squealing around the turns and ran sluggish along the course. While still a great under-rated wood coaster I was a bit disappointed in its performance.
I don't know what happened on Tuesday but the ride was back to its normal self, no longer squealing around the turns and burning up the course along the way.
2. X Flight - 6x
This was the main reason for being here and the reason why I postponed a trip last year to the park. When the ride was first announced, I drooled over it. When construction pics were being posted on the net, I drooled over it. When the first official POV was posted, I drooled over it. Now that I no longer had any saliva left there was only one thing left to do - get up there and ride it.
I was a little surprised, not sure why, when I first saw it that I thought "that lift isn't any bigger than Batman's lift". The train does look like it goes through the course a bit slow but it doesn't feel slow when you're on it.
I rode the back seat three times, the middle twice, and the front once, alternating sides each ride. My favorite seat was front seat, left side. Easily the best part is the twist and dive first drop, especially in that front seat, left side, as you twist over the track. The slowness of the twist reminded me somewhat of the jo-jo roll on Dorney Park's Hydra.
The ride is very smooth and quiet and while I mostly rode in the outer seats I didn't feel much vibration on it. The restraints have that rubber vest like harness that are similar to what is found on the flyers and the handles are so far from your head you don't get any headbanging.
My second favorite part is the elongated in-line twist through the keyhole and yellow jacket support. The keyhole is very effective in the front seat as it looks like you're not going to fit through it. The yellow jacket support has misters on it. There is a little bit of "force" in the helix that it feels like the restraint tightens on you but I didn't have much of a problem with that.
I really enjoyed this ride despite what many enthusiasts are calling a "forceless" coaster, a term I am beginning to hate, but I don't think every coaster needs "forces" to be flat out fun. After my first ride I overheard two women behind me call it boring but majority seemed to like it. I look forward to seeing the direction these wing coasters take in the future. There are a lot of possiblities this design can take (and we'll probably see something new on the rumored CP model next year).
BTW X Flight is one of the most picturesque rides out there. The queue is set within some of the best photo opportunities you'll get on a coaster. SFGAm did very well with the placement of this ride.
1. Raging Bull - 6x
Like I had stated at the beginning of this TR it has been seven years since my last visit to SFGAm and in that time frame I have visited several parks and have ridden many new-to-me coasters. Some have come close to toppling Raging Bull from my all-time favorite steel coaster list (I-305, SFOG Goliath, for example) but after my first back seat ride on this stellar coaster on Monday it was definite - Raging Bull is still my ultimate number one.
I'm sure I will get a LOT of replies from people who will easily disagree with me when I say that Raging Bull is B&M's finest design. While it's easy to point out the dreaded and much maligned brake on the large camelback, if you were to just look at the basic design of the ride you might understand my reasoning. Sure the brake kills the speed but it has never killed the airtime I get on this ride, and it's not all floater air either. And while there are some very good out and back hypers - SFOG Goliath, SFGAdv Nitro - you basically know what you're getting on these rides. RB is so different it stands out among the other B&M hypers.
SFGAM - OTHER RIDES
While I don't ride too many non-coaster rides anymore there are a few that I did go out of my way to ride.
Triple Play is the park's Huss Troika. It looks fantastic and runs like a new machine. They also give you a decent ride cycle. Just wish it wasn't in such an odd location.
Condor is a classic Huss Condor ride and not only is it rather relaxing it's also a good ride to get on if you're wondering how long Superman's line is.
I rode the [u}Scenic Railway at a time when I need to just get off my feet for a bit.
I thought Buccaneer Battle was a total blast even though cranking the water cannons can tire your arm out a little fast. The faster you crank the farther the water will go. I wonder why these Mack Splash Battle rides haven't taken off here yet (Dollywood and SDC are the only other parks that have one - Darien Lake in the future?). You also get a good soaking, on or off the ride, as the landlubbers can shoot water back at you.
Giant Drop was great as always. I made sure I faced Raging Bull as I like the view of the ride from on top.
I was surprised that both Yankee Clipper and Logger's Run were open on Tuesday as they usually only run one flume when the park isn't busy. Yankee Clipper was the only one open on Monday. I never knew Logger's Run was a soaker. One look at me and you would have thought I just got off of Roaring Rapids.
Of course no visit to Great America is complete without a ride on Sky Trek Tower and the top level of the Columbia Carousel. Not sure when they painted Sky Trek those colors but I sort of miss the classic white of the tower over the blue and red it currently has.
Last year the park was showing Screams and Dreams at the Pictorium and this year they are showing the second part. This was the first time I had ever been in that building so it was nice to get out of the heat for bit. It's a movie on the 35 years of Great America and this installment focused on 1985 through 1999. It showed old commercials and some ride footage from rides that debuted during this time included Z Force, Shock Wave, Batman, Iron Wolf, Power Dive as well as some of the shows and the beginning of Fright Fest. It also featured past and present park personnel and their reflections on those attractions. While I wish I could have seen the first part it was also a pretty cool flashback on the history of the park.
While I did not bring a swimsuit I did take a walk through Hurricane Harbor. The last time I was at SFGAm the water park was new but was closed for the season. I must say that HH is very impressive. Quite spacious and quite a few water attractions spread out. This was definitely designed to meet the masses that converge at the park. I will defintely have to partake of the attractions here the next time I can get back to Gurnee.
I ended up buying a souvenir drink bottle for $15.00. While that is high you do get free refills on the same day of purchase, which came in handy, and 99 cent refills the rest of the summer. I don't particularly like to carry these around all day since you have to put them to the side when you go on rides but what Six Flags was able to create were drink holders at all the rides. This idea is absolutely brilliant and I didn't worry about anyone trying to take my cup the whole time.
Also in the Carousel Plaza gift shop they have a model of the park as it was in 1978. Very cool and actually quite detailed.
In the end it was a great trip to the park and I am so thankful that I have had the opportunity to take these road trips this year and revisit some old friends. SFGAm is still my favorite Six Flags park and easily one of the very few parks that I would love to have as a home park. It probably has the most variety in rides and attractions compared to some of the other Six Flags parks I've been to.
If you've read this far, thanks for reading.
* This post was modified at 7/19/12 10:25:33 AM *
I love the one turn, where it banks left at the top of a hill. When sitting in the left end seat that turn is awesome!
I can't give you any hate for picking RB as your number 1. That's all your opinion and I feel like it's a better coaster than I-305 as well. RB sits at #6 on my all time list, and #5 on my steel list.
Nito is my number one though, RG needs more speed to be on par with Nitro.
Great TR as well! I enjoyed it very much. Can't believe you rode TDK twice!
157 Coasters -- Favorite Coaster -- Nitro (SFGAdv)
117 Steel -- 40 Wood -- Home Park: SFGADv
The only part that feels slow to me on Raging Bull is that turn you mentioned. It's almost like the ride is giving "hang time" on that part before diving under the lift. I actually like that sensation a lot.
* This post was modified at 7/19/12 10:28:13 AM *
* This post was modified at 7/19/12 12:28:24 PM *
Kids are huddled on the beach in a mist...
Just like my buddy drachen, likes to do, here is my coaster countdown
Please don't give me credit for something that I totally stole from you...
Great TR. I've been meaning to comment for a few days now, but I've been a little busy. I still need to get to all of the comments on my latest TR.
SFGA is probably my favorite of all of the Six Flags parks I've been to. The place is gorgeous, and they have a very nice, well-rounded selection of coasters.
I absolutely loved Raging Bull, Viper, Whizzer, and American Eagle.
I really liked, and appreciate the history of Batman and Demon.
I'll be at the park again in less than a month. X-Flight looks like a ton of fun, and I've been looking forward to it since it was announced. When the park opens, I'm heading directly for the front seat. That's got to be an incredible visual on those rides.
Coaster to Park Ratio: 4.79 / Steel to Wooden Ratio: 2.55 / Wooden Coaster Percentage: 28.1%
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