This past Thursday I had an opportunity to visit Six Flags Great
America. I think it's my first visit since the Con some years back,
among the longest times I've been away from that park.
It was about as ideal a day as I could ask for. There was heavy rain
early in the morning but it had dissipated by opening and it was more or
less dry all day except for one minor drizzle. Meanwhile, though, it
kept the crowds away. I could walk up to the station of nearly every
ride and right on the train of more than one. Longest waits were for
Viper with one train and inefficient operation, but still no more than
30 minutes. Short of that the mouse coasters had 10 minute waits, and
everything else--including the new X-Flight--was much less than that.
With the way that some of the lines require a long walk just to get to
the station, usually the walk was longer than the wait.
I'd covered every coaster within 3 hours without even trying to rush
terribly, and got plenty of rerides on the better ones after that. I
even did a few other things, such as the park train, Sky Trek Tower, and
Giant Drop. In one of the more "what the hell, why not?" moments, I
even did both levels of the carousel. If the flumes had been open I'd
have done at least one of them.
The park looks generally OK. They touted being ranked as the cleanest
park in the world. I don't know what survey they used for that ranking,
but it certainly was a vast improvement on my last visit when I remember
facing a garbage-filled parking lot at the end of the day. Hurricane
Harbor was also touted as being voted the best water park in America.
Where do they get these rankings? Not the Golden Tickets, surely?
One odd observation I had was about "operator culture". I haven't been
to another Six Flags park this year, but the way they do things is
different from my other Six Flags parks visits of the past few years.
For instance, Great Adventure has a "visual check" where the ops
ostentatiously shade their eyes while looking around. Great America's
version is "take 5", where they sweep one hand in front of them while
looking around. While checking restraints the operators on each side of
the train made sure to keep pace with each other. I can't remember ever
seeing them deliberately try to do that. Most ops had a rhyme of some
sort they recited on the dispatch. When we returned we were always
encouraged to check out some other ride in the park. All the ops I
encountered were friendly and pleasant.
One drawback to the uncrowded day was that many food stands were closed.
I wouldn't have minded this so much if not for the choices they made.
Did they really have to keep open so many redundant burger stands while
not having the BBQ or chicken places available? For my dinner I wound
up at "*** Cafe" in Orleans Place. This may have been about the best
option in the park. My sandwich was OK (though overpriced) and even
came with a fruit salad, probably the healthiest thing in the park! On
a less healthy front their donuts (really more like donut holes) were
not half bad either.
A few notes about selected coasters...
X-Flight: This is my first ride on this style of coaster since I didn't
get to the Con to do Dollywood's. It was all right, but certainly not
B&M's best. I rode four times, near front and back on each side, always
on the edge seat. For some reason the left side seemed to bounce a bit
more than the right. The restraints were OK, but did seem to cut into
my collar bone a bit when they were down too far. The ride didn't
really give much of a sense of speed, and the "no track near you" effect
doesn't seem to work nearly as well as on Griffon. The one thing I will
say is that the keyhole element is quite impressive. Easily my favorite
part of the ride.
Little Dipper: The second coaster that was new to me, at least at this
location. I was happy to see it there, though the Go Kart track nearby
makes it a pretty unattractive setting. They do seem to be taking
pretty loving care of it, even keeping the sparkly look of the
Dark Knight: The other credit I needed to get. Despite just being a
"Wild Mouse in a box" I was looking forward to it because I liked Great
Adventure's version. In the end I missed some of the effects from Great
Adventure, such as the truck horn, but found Great America's to be
faster and more intense feeling.
Viper: I wasn't quite feeling the love for this ride that day. In
addition to the slow operations, it just didn't seem to be quite up to
speed. One father and son pair compared it unfavorably in terms of
roughness to American Eagle, which isn't a good sign. It did feel like
it was getting a little more pep by the end of the day.
American Eagle: Speaking of the Eagle (only red side running all day),
I felt a bit more love for it on this trip than for some time. When I
was young I was enthralled by it since I hadn't a lot of other wood
coaster experiences to compare it to. As I traveled more widely, it
definitely paled in comparison. However, for what it is, I now find it
not so bad. The first part feels a bit weird; something about the
construction doesn't quite have a normal wood coaster feel to me. The
helix is an odd choice, but I got a better sense of how it fit into the
ride experience this time. The train slows down a lot at the top, of
course, but lots of classic coasters have slow spots like that. By the
bottom it has picked up quite a bit of speed, and since they braked it
lightly coming out, it actually does give a sense of building up the
energy level for the return run. Still no longer a real favorite except
for nostalgia reasons, but it acquitted itself well this time.
Whizzer: Speaking of nostalgia, I'm certainly glad this is still
around. I remember when I was young thinking the spiral lift was the
coolest thing ever, and it's still a pretty nifty element. Nothing
steep drop-wise, but the low-level helixes do give a good sense of speed
all the way through the ride.
Demon: I have never quite made my peace with the transition from the
old Turn of the Century, even after all these years. But at this point,
Demon itself is still quite a nostalgic experience, as plenty of
coasters from its era and even later are no more. They seem to play up
that aspect too, even playing the old 1980 song in the queue--a touch I
Raging Bull: I just never will like this hyper twister layout as much
as some of the other B&M hypers, but it certainly is a fun enough ride.
And there is no question in my mind that no B&M first drop is better
than Raging Bull's. That alone is worth several rides.
Batman: If anything it feels more intense than ever, though perhaps
that's more about me aging poorly than it aging well. I had many
opportunities for rerides but only took did so on one occasion.
Otherwise I wanted to get out and take a bit of a break.
All in all, various factors combined to make it a very productive day!
It's very rare for me to power ride like this any more; it kind of
brought back old times. And on an old times RRC note, I ran into Paul
Drabek and Bond there briefly. Paul, not sure if you're reading here
any more, but if you are nice to see you. I didn't hang out much
because I was kind of on a mission...but perhaps you had as productive a
day as I did!
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