or "Davey Does Dallas" :shock:
July 11th - Six Flags Over Texas
I made the long and arduous trip from the hotel to the park (ok it was just the other side of the freeway but I still had to drive about 2 miles to get there!).
$9 to park (thats more than Alton's £3), but then the first pleasant surprise of the day; regular season pass price is $70 odd, but since I
don't have a US zip code and I'm apparently from "far-away" I get a bargain $45 pass - fantastic, never got that before.
Hang around for the dropping of the rope and the running of the bulls, easily get to MrFreeze (thinking that it'd be a good idea to get the shuttle
out of the way when the queues built up) before the locals and help myself to a couple of rides. A good coaster indeed, a mirror image of the
one at StLouis that I had a few rides on 2 years ago - StL one was well placed on an island, this one is squeezed in between Batman, the mine
train and the freeway - indeed the kiddie mini-mine train winds its way around the base of MrFreeze to some disconcerting effect.
After MrFreeze, a quick ride on Batman at the front; its a Batman, its really good great coaster, only a shame that its the sixth different version
of the exact same ride (apart from StL's mirrored version) that I've been on... and I've got the SeaWorld version to come. Oh, its yellow and you
can almost see into the rooms of my hotel from the lifthill.
There is a boomerang - Flashback - hiding in a corner nearby, so I have a quick ride for the sake of it, painful as usual; only time I've really
enjoyed one of these is the first time I went on one and thats only because I didn't know better. The exit brings me out by one of the parks
many drop rides, this one a parachute one, quite relaxed.
Had a quick go on the mini mine train - front row, made the ops laugh! Interesting ride around the footers of MrFreeze, but not much else to say.
Next door is the real thing, the grown up Mine Train, a pretty good one, probably not quite as good as Georgia's but good nonetheless. Finishes
with a drop through a lake into a (smelly) underground / underlake tunnel.
Wander past the park's antique Schwartzkopf, Shockwave. Actually very good - I'm not a fan of back-to-back loops (evil nasty g-forces greyouts
in the past (Laser @ DP)), but this is good, and some nice air in places too. They should definitely keep this antique up.
Now I've warmed up its onto the serious stuff, make my way across park to Titan, its stuck out on a limb out the side of the park and a surprisingly
hard to find entrance! A short queue and we are off. Great first drop and turnaround, identical to Goliath at SFMM so far, violent stop at the
MCBR, ruins the pacing somewhat and sitting on the blocks for 30s doesn't help either. But the drop out of the brakes is great, really slow
and twisting to the left so that you are hanging facing straight down for a moment or two, then you are off again. Cool, and the helixes only caused
some minor greying out!
Time for some chilling; get the blood back to my brain after Titans G-forces. Wander about the park do the indoor coaster; pretty good,
similar to the one at SFGAdv but can't be sure ('cos they are in the dark - D'oh), definitely didn't Q for as long as at GAdv, a walk-on here even if
the Q line is a bit convoluted!
Try to get up the oil derrick, but its strangely shut due to the weather (the significance of which was lost on me, but not for long as this would all
come back to haunt me later on). Circuit the park on the train (you just have to) and by then the tower is open... The op says that there used to
be slide from the 50ft level - cool!
Top views from the top of the park, my hotel, Dallas skyline in the distance through the haze. Its also just about the only place you can see
the size of the Texas Giant and Titan from, and take a few pictures as you do. Watch the rides for a while from on high, very pleasant.
Back to the serious stuff now...Superman Tower of Power beckoned. Surprisingly this is a combo tower which I didn't realize (the other S&S
tower rides I'd been on were either/or jobs), an efficient single rider Q gets me straight on and its a blast - still scares me preparing for the drop part,
but as long as I don't think about it too much (or look UP), I'm ok. So OK that I have another go straight away. Thats 2/3 drop rides done
and I'm going to pass on the other one; Wildcatter, a 1st gen intamin - I don't like them at all.
Superman, with Mr Freeze and Batman behind
Last big one to come, been saving the woodies for the afternoon (indeed Giant didn't open until noon) - and make my way back to Giant. Now this
is big, bouncy, rough and evil wood - sit near the front and gets thrown around something rotten. Excellent though. The big drops are great
especially the one after the MCBR, which seems almost vertical for a few yards. Decide that this has to be redone at night.
Texas Giant, with Titan behind
Only a couple of coasters left now, having done the big wood I made my way over to the small wood, Judge Roy Scream; oddly located for a ride
that been at the park so long, its not in the park at all, you have to go under the park entry road to get to it. Picturesque location alongside the
lake for this quite fun old woody. Not too much air though.
And now the bad stuff started to happen…. as I get off Judge Roy, the ops tell us that the ride is shutting along with most of the other rides in the
park; "due to weather". Now the day so far has just been hot - very hot, 100° hot. But there are some storm clouds in the distance, so that must have been the issue?
But what then transpires is that everything is down for the next 2 hours, and the weather just doesn't change at all. Theres only so long you can
wander around aimlessly or watch the dubious wild west show or picking up my bargain season pass, after a while I'm getting quite demotivated.
Finally decide to go back to the hotel until the (still non-existent) storm passes, so wander over to guest services to see what the deal is and they
say - to the by now close to revolting masses - that they've just lifted the closure - so I hot foot it to the last coaster on the list, the bobsled La
Vibora. After a bit of a queue (obviously everyone else piled into the Q just at the same time), get to ride, pretty good actually, a good sense of
speed and some high banking makes a good ride.
All the coasters done its time to re-circuit the park, back to Titan for some reriding...but then when in the Q... RIDES CLOSED AGAIN. Boo. Texas
Giant still running, so get in that Q for a few minutes, but then they close that down too. Boo boo boo.
Quite hacked off by now with it all so I storm off - pausing only to buy a dodgy SFoT tee shirt (with photos of the coasters at SFMM on!?!)
- back to the hotel via some fast food for a rest.
After a dull 2 hours of dinner, shower and a Simpsons episode AND STILL NO STORM head back to the park, despite no rides running. By the time
that I get in 10 minutes later though, they are starting up - excellent timing!
Now where were we? Off to Titan - great again, next the Giant in the fading light for a couple of rides, again good but I can't take any more
bashing after a long day. Decide I haven't given their Batman a good show yet so head off that away, but get distracted by Shockwave, which
is looking very pretty lit up in the twilight, and since there is no Q, the ops let us reride. Carrying on back to Gotham I reride the minetrain,
which is even better in the dark. Get to Batman with about 50 minutes left of the day and DISASTER - there is a Q! Probably the biggest of the
day so far and you can't tell until you are way inside the structure. I wait it out, 20 minutes and then a pretty good ride at the back for Batman in the dark.
Right then, 25 minutes to close, quick go on MrFreeze and then I'll close out the day at Titan I think... BUT DISASTER again, another Q and this
one is hardly moving. Oh well, at least I'll get the last ride on the coaster I started the day on for some symmetry. Good in the dark,
especially launching up the spike towards the stars, quite emotional really.
Return to the station for MrFreeze with 6 minutes left - I can do this! Leg it off the platform, elbowing small children in my wake, I run right
across the park (and I don't do running) and make it into Titan's Q with a minute to spare - what was the rush?
Get my dark ride on Titan, excellent again, as we leave the station for that last ride the ops tell the last few peeps on the platform that the next
train is the last so thats it... get back after an excellent ride and get off. BUT whats this, the nice ride op asks us all if we want to go again - do we
ever! Fantastic, extra ride and she sends the last train around again so its probably 15 minutes past closing as the last peeps wander happily
back through the dark deserted theme park.
A good day after all.
(and that storm never turned up)
July 13th - Six Flags Astroworld
The park that time forgot.
Get there for opening; the staff and bugs bunny are all doing a dance while we wait for them to open the gates - the way into the park is over
the freeway and you don't get the usual 6 flags rope drop business.
Don't really have a plan of action so head over to UltraTwister as its the only coaster I'm intrigued by. But it isn't running straight away, so wander
next door to the Batman standup, despite my tardiness I appear to be on the first train of the day (along with a whole 2 other peeps). Not
very inspiring, but not awful. Certainly the B&M standups are more comfortable and do more - Batman has one loop and some wandering around,
but thats about it. Well themed though - has a BTR-esque Gotham park to walk through and an odd mountain queue bit that looks
like it used to be a ride, but wasn't even being used.
Walk around a bit to find something else thats running - they don't seem too keen to get stuff running here at all...again this will become much
more apparent later in the day.
XLR8 is running so get a ride on that - quite good for a suspended. Seemed better than CP's but not as good as BGW's. Notice that they run
half the train backwards, very bizarre, so give that a go...don't like that at all! Ridden plenty of woodies backwards and they've been fun,
but this just made me nauseous - guess that the woodies are mainly just up and down whereas this was quite twisty, maybe thats the problem?
Anyway SWAT was running, so have a go at Thorpe's elder brother - makes all the blood rush to your head something rotten, but pretty
Thorpe fans may recognise this?
No queue so leap onto Diablo Falls, which I'd seen a version of before at SFA but not ridden - looks pretty tame, but was I surprised -
extremely spinny ride, came off feeling quite dizzy!
Viper is next up, somewhat reminiscent of BGT's Scorpion, good ride though, fast and tight with an oddly enclosed first drop.
Find myself near the Mayan Mindbender which has a QUEUE of all things! 10 minutes later I'm inside - it appears to be a full size train, with bobsled
like seating. Another uninspiring ride, just goes around in a few circles and ends. "This sucks" yells an enlightened American youth as we finish the ride - I agree.
Next up is the SLC - again its a walk-on and I prepare myself for some Vekoma pain with a seat in the middle of the train. Surprisingly a pretty
smooth and enjoyable ride with little banging at all! All enthused I race around for a reride at the front - and I get banged around all over the
shop...that first ride must have been an aberration after all!
From the lifthill I could see that oddly the rapids ride had no queue so nip onto that even though I don't normally bother with these.
Swiftly discover why it had no queue as its by far the dullest rapids I've ever been on!
By now I've done a circuit of the park so I make my way back to UltraTwister and a short queue. Odd ride, complicated mechanics with moving
tracks, reverse loading, seemingly vertical drop etc. Clever bit of kit for such a short ride - odd lifthill, drop, hill, twist, reverse, 2 twists and
you are done. More interesting to watch than to ride through!
UltraTwister, twist-ing and ultra-ing away
I'd been neglecting the shuttle loop, so make my way through the maze like park layout to Greezed Lightning. Been there, done it before, but still
a great ride, lovely Gs and 2 spikes of lovely air - big fun. Ride op lets us stay on as well since theres no queue - top.
Thats all the coasters apart from the woody which I was planning on saving until later, but given the weather forecast decide to get it in now.
Pretty rough cyclone copy, not the best, not the worst, nothing special though.
I have only got the drop ride left out of stuff I want to do, decide to grab some lunch first (a remarkably decent pizza). Then the heavens opened.
I took shelter in themed Nottingham (of all places) while the monster thunderstorms worked through. About 90 minutes watching the SLC
disappear got a bit boring. At least they were running their rides almost up to when it started (take note SFoT).
What do you mean you won't run it in the rain? Its only spitting!
However when the rain eventually stopped they didn't seem to be in any rush to get stuff running again. Took them about 45 minutes to try to
start anything and then slowly the rides came back up. Frankly I got bored of waiting and wandering for hours and after my goes on the drop
rides I left.
Even leaving the park 2 hours after the rain stopped, most rides were still not running. Pretty poor really.
Overall the park was a bit rubbish. Very convoluted layout, Swat and Diablo Falls looked like the only rides less than 10 years old
(ok the SLC isn't that old but still...), place was mostly deserted, staff were disinterested, the park that time and Six Flags forgot!
Overview - Diablo falls, Swat and XLR8 in the background
July 19th - Six Flags Fiesta Texas
Excellent place - RCT comes to life!
After a slightly abortive start involving a wrong turn coming off the freeway and ending up heading back the way I came, get into the park a
little after 10. This is later than planned and in the panic I fail to pick up a map....no problem just head for the big red B&M up on the quarry wall....
The park is pretty picturesque, 3 sides enclosed by quarry walls (the fourth by the car park and the approach), the place kindof looks like a
well built RCT park, its also very clean and neat (plenty of maintenance guys employed obviously). Seems very well run too.
...back to Superman. By the time I've managed to charge past the ride entry in my haste (its cunningly disguised as a shop) and found my way
in, I was met by people walking back up the line in the wrong way - not a good sign! So with Superman broken and
The Rattler apparently not running either (an overheard conversation - and no sign of any trains running on the big pile of wood at the far side of the park) I make my
way towards my 3rd choice coaster in the park, the Premier LIM/spaghetti bowl thing; Poltergeist. Pausing only to ride the Wave
Swinger ('cos they are fun) and the S&S combo tower Scream (not as big as SFoT's, but pretty good, and some good views of the park)
I manage to find Poltergeists also slightly hidden entrance. Only its down
too and the entrance is chained up.
Starting to have that Six Flags feeling; 3/3 coasters closed so far - not a good start to the day.
In desperation I decide to get the Boomerang out of the way - evil coasters - and this one is given pride of place in the park, right in front of
you as you enter, bang in the middle of the place (unlike SFoT's, which is safely hidden away up a deserted corner where it belongs)! And theres a queue
...for a boomerang...don't these people know better? I guess everyone had tried the other coasters like me, so I bear with it. 15
minutes later and with a bit of defensive riding I actually have a pretty good ride on it - things are looking up.
Rattler appears to be working now so head that away. Just before I get to it I encounter the Roadrunner Express - which to be honest I'd kind of
forgotten about and had dismissed from my thoughts entirely! It actually looks a bit better than I'd thought so I take a ride. Pretty good actually -
its described as a mine train, but the train isn't particularly mine train-ish, much more regular looking really. The ride is pretty fast and in
places winds its way through the Rattler's enormous wooden superstructure. Quite a bit of theming as well, lots of ACME stuff dotted around the ride.
I was actually impressed with the ride, tame as it was. Things are definitely looking up.
Next door is The Rattler, after a slightly odd queue line (very narrow and working back and forth up a wooden structure to the station) and a
pretty short wait, I'm on. The short drop from the station to the lift hill is a bit rough - not a good sign. The enormous lift hill takes you way
above the park and the quarry walls and then the pain begins. The first drop isn't too bad, fast and big, dropping back down into the quarry,
then the ride makes its way up out of the quarry again into a giant circle structure. The train traverses this circle 3 times from the top level down
- its pretty neat how the train picks up speed as it spirals down, but by the time you are
on the second level, the train is bouncing around so much you are in constant pain and doing
your best not to break too many ribs. Finally it makes its way out of this rattler pit of pain and onto the MCBR. We then
drop back down into the quarry, spectacularly diving right down to almost the floor and then through a tunnel through the quarry walls
themselves - cool. After the tunnel a bit more pain as the train makes a couple more turns (including flying right past the station at one point) and
we are into the brake run and safety. A spectacular coaster, but filled with pain - possibly the roughest big woody I've been on.
Rattler - Its BIG. And do you fancy one of those apartments behind it?
But the RCT maintenance men have fixed Superman by now so back there I go for some B&M smoothness.
A short queue gets me into the station, but its a bit of a mess in there. Fight my way (not literally) into the front line queue and manage to jump
into a spare single after 10 minutes or so. Floorless coasters are good, but if you aren't in the front row, they are pretty pointless, just a gimmick
and presumably B&M can charge more for them than for a standard coaster. Anyway, again the lifthill takes us up above the quarry
walls, where we do a little pirouette, twisting back under ourselves into the spectacular dive down the quarry walls, then into a huge loops
(with a plastic Superman a-top) and back up on top of the quarry we go. Another twist and drop takes us back into the quarry and we are
into familiar B&M territory - zero-g roll, cobra roll, MCBR, interlocking corkscrew finale - all good of course, but done here there and everywhere.
Superman Krypton Coaster - its BIG too
Nip around for a quick reride in the back (where of course you only really notice you are on a floorless because of
the cool floor loading business in the station).
At the cobra roll end of Superman there is a shoot-the-chutes, which cleverly uses the quarry walls as part of its supports - I like that. I also
like the Boardwalk part of the park - an entire section thats all above ground on a big deck. Here is a medium sized Ferris wheel that gives a
bit of a good view and a Frisbee - which makes me feel ill, so I bravely take on Scooby Doo and help him solve the mystery of the haunted
mansion (or whatever), just to get a bit of air-conditioning for a while! In
the boardwalk there is the rather sad sight of the removed Joker coaster - the facade and all the footers are still there, along with the
boardwalk queue lines - just no coaster. How odd.
Its a hot hot day - so I take in the Xcelleration show - bunch of kids on bikes and boards. OK but not quite the "best shows" I was expecting.
Also saw some rock'n'roll high school show later which was a bit painful - but thankfully the country music show was dark that day!
Time for Poltergeist which has started by now, a short queue (usual scrum in the station though) and a good ride. The same (?although I
could swear that there was a brake run on Joker at the top somewhere?) as SFA's Joker and the Flight of Fears, but its still a clever layout and very
good with it.
Rest of the day taken up with reriding the coasters; first reride on Rattler (I figured it may have lightened up by the afternoon) wasn't too bad,
so I tried another (in row 2!) and this was worse worse worse. I came off bashed and bruised! Queues died down in the afternoon too,
so rerides on Superman were easy too.
Left at around 7 - could not do the 2 hour wait for the fireworks!
Overall, probably the best "smaller" Six Flags park I've been to - comparing this to the similar sized Astroworld is like chalk and cheese!
A good day - the park is well recommended!
Not your run of the mill Six Flags "Themeing"
July 20th - SeaWorld San Antonio
I wasn't quite sure what to expect from the Texas branch of the SeaWorld chain. I'd been to San Diego's about 3 years ago,
Ohio's (well OK it was really SFWoA at the time) 2 years ago and Orlando's last year so I had a good idea of the SeaWorld "product".
Driving up to the place you couldn't help but see the enormous Steel Eel structure on the skyline, even from miles away on the freeway you could
see it - promising!
So I get in at 10 (as a good park go-er should), grab a map and head towards where they keep the coasters..only to find that they don’t
open that bit of the park until 11. Stupid. So kill a bit of time in the RLStine Lighthouse thing (which I'd seen before at BGW last year),
but the 3D is distracting for a while - still its hyper corny, but a lot better than Pirates4D I guess!
I wander around for a bit after the show, waiting for the ride bit to open. The whole place isn't as big as I'd expected - I'd read that it was the
largest of the SeaWorld parks, but it really didn't seem as big as either SanDiego or Orlando - perhaps this was just marketing speak - if you
have 5000 acres of space in your park but only use 10 acres, can you still describe yourself as a 5000 acre park?!?
Theres a bit of a dash to the rides at 11, but Steel Eel is only a short walk into around the central lake and I'm on the second train out of the day
(they only ran 1 train all day, but in fairness it was only in the morning that you ever had to wait for a ride). Anyway, I rather liked this coaster.
Its big, good view of the (tiny) park from the lifthill, a decent first drop onto the edge of the lake, a few big hills with some airtime on the
"out" part, a fast turnaround after the MCBR at the end and a run of smaller airtime hills on the "back" part. Nothing too heavy, scary enough to keep
the thrill seekers happy but not too intense to stop anyone not going back for more. Pretty much a well placed ride for the park - not going to
break any records but its big and impressive and keep the masses (and me) happy.
Steel Eel towering over half the park
After a couple of rides on the Eel (and partaking of the Sea Lion show), I wander around to the other side of the lake for a go on Batman, I mean
Great White. Its Batman with a white train. Not much else you can say - although I did feel that this ride is out of place at a SeaWorld. The
intensity would put off many people from reriding like they might at Steel Eel? I dunno, suppose they might have got it cheap or something?
Batman, no sorry Great White.
That’s it for the coasters at SeaWorld - a few rerides on Batman later in the day (walk-ons) and quite few Steel Eel rides later. Otherwise a fairly
relaxed day watching the shows.
I didn't think that their Shamu show did as much as the SanD or Orlando shows (although it is very clever how they manage to synchronize all the
shows so that Shamu can race across the continent from park to park to perform at all 3 parks).
The dolphin show was a bit lame too - maybe I'm not being fair, the show was good, but it was a lot of people doing stuff (ala Cirque Su Soleil) with
a couple of dolphins thrown in rather than a dolphin show.
However I was very impressed with the acrobat show they had on (no fish, just peeps) - some really impressive stuff going on there (bit not
exactly "Sea" themed I would say)
The water ski show was corny, but very well done - I even watched this twice, once from the stands and once from the end of the lake where you
could kinds watch "backstage" as they set up the stunts.
The park also has a dolphin "petting" pond, a penguin encounter and a combined coral reef pool and shark pool exhibit, which were all good,
especially getting up close to the dolphins and sea lions - but I could help but think that either SanDiego or Orlando just had loads more "stuff"
going on. Oh theres a water park bit as well which I didn't go near.
Overall a good day out, but a bit confusing of what the park is trying to be, its not a SeaWorld as I see it, nor an amusement/theme park, nor a
water park but a bit of all the above. A bit odd really!
Aside from the parks, Texas was OK - the folks were pretty friendly, it was generally VERY hot 38C-ish, and humid with it.
Spent a few days in Dallas (quite interesting - JFK and all that), although the Aquarium was pants. NASA was interesting at Houston
(but Kennedy was better), Galveston, which I thought was going to be a cool beach place, was a bit rubbish. San Antonio was excellent -
the downtown is one of the nicest US cities I've been to.
And now the down side.....
Supposed to fly from Dallas to Chicago to Manchester on Saturday, getting home Sunday morning. Only the Dallas - Chicago flight is
delayed so I miss the connection, so I have to stay in Chcago airport for 24 hours (ok they gave me a cheap hotel out in the sticks
somewhere) and get delayed a day...only got back Monday morning.....and because of the general screw up...my luggage is somewhere else, possibly Chicago,
possibly Tehran, I have no idea. And I've got to be in London with work on Tuesday morning. So even if my luggage turns up in Manchester on
Tuesday, I'm not back here until the weekend.
But I'm too tired to worry about that.
The view of SFoT from my hotel window (panoramic). I can count 8 coasters there.
Spot the difference;
Six Flags version of the Alamo
The real Alamo