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Everything posted by Condor

  1. Fun fact. Don't know if you realized this, but these two pictures are of the same location. Godzilla destroyed that very train in 1984. So nice job!
  2. That's quite a nice Millennium Force impression Goliath is doing in that fourth photo. I didn't think I'd like the blue at first, but it's growing on me. And I'll finally get to ride this beast in August!
  3. Your experience on Montu almost inevitably hinges on the mid-course. If the train is light enough it won't grab you too hard and the second half is still pretty decent. Why I prefer Kumba is that the braking makes absolutely no difference. It always grabs you at least a little but you still fly through the second half no matter what.
  4. As the tallest coaster in China, you don't get a sense of speed at all and the entire layout is very forceless. I want to believe that Wanda asked for something like that from Intamin or designed the entire layout and ask Intamin to build it out. It almost gives the impression that Wanda requested something like Millennium Force and that's what they got. Only smaller and lacking the setting and intangibles that make MF more than the sum of its parts.
  5. I'll borrow chickenbowl's format. 1. Skyrush (1) - Most of us can probably do a good job of maximizing our ride experience on coasters by knowing where to sit and how to position ourselves and the restraints. Skyrush is different. It says, "No, human. I'M IN CONTROL, NOT YOU!!! Your tricks will not work!" The most intense and exhilarating experience I've ever had on any ride. 2. Phantom's Revenge (9) - As smooth or smoother than anything else on the list along with some of the best airtime, plus extra points for the terrain and unique layout. 3. Magnum XL-200 (10) - I still don't understand the criticism this ride gets. Like a wooden coaster running 3 bench PTCs, all you have to do is sit in the middle row of any car and it will not be rough, and even if you don't, it's not like the moderate roughness it can have is painful. Excellent airtime, a classic setting, and just the right amount of old school Ron Toomer quirkiness. 4. Goliath (SFOG) (15) - The fastest paced and least trimmed of all the B&M hypers. Only the last few bunny hops have what I would call real ejector air, the rest have nice, strong floater. This coaster is good enough I don't even mind SFOG's lack of an Intamin or RMC. 5. Nitro (16) - Very tough choice between this and Goliath. I deduct a couple of points from this one for the MCBR and less ideal setting. 6. Superman: The Ride/Bizarro (21) 7. Mako (22) 8. Superman el Ultimo Escape (23) 9. Diamondback (36) 10. Apollo's Chariot (37) 11. Steel Force 12. Mamba 13. Titan 14. Intimidator 15. Goliath (SFMM) 16. Desperado
  6. This one is much larger but I got some Grona Lund Twister vibes watching that video. This coaster looks really good and gives us some more much needed Gravity Group in the states.
  7. SFMM: 1. Twisted Colossus 2. Tatsu 3. X2 4. Riddler's Revenge 5. Batman: The Ride 6. Scream 7. Ninja 8. Goliath 9. Full Throttle 10. Superman: Escape From Krypton 11. Revolution 12. Apocalypse 13. Viper 14. Goldrusher 15. Green Lantern Knott's: 1. Ghostrider 2. Xcelerator 3. Montezooma's Revenge 4. Silver Bullet 5. Sierra Sidewinder 6. Jaguar 7. Pony Express 8. Boomerang 9. Coast Rider
  8. I treated my trip to IOA earlier this month as my goodbye to the Dragons just in case this came to fruition. Dueling or not, I will sorely miss them if they are removed. Fire in particular has long been my second favorite invert and together they are two of my favorite B&Ms overall. The presence of high quality coasters is one of the few characteristics differentiating IOA from Studios, and since the likelihood of Universal replacing Dragons with a new coaster rather than another dark ride is probably very low, it would leave a serious void in the park. That said, I completely understand the business behind the removal for something better tied into WWoHP. I just don't have to like it! What would completely mitigate their potential loss for me would be the addition of a clone or near-clone of Universal Japan's The Flying Dinosaur. But I presume anything like that is unlikely for a myriad of reasons.
  9. Busch Gardens Tampa Friday September 30, 2016 I remember one of my visits to BGT back during my time in the WDW college program in 2009. One guy in the group I visited with was a drama queen who spent all day railing on how terrible he thought the park was. He was full-on Disney cast member intoxicated in the worst way and was just beside himself how unlike Disney, he could see buildings from the outside world while in the park, that there were no ride operators assigning rows, and that employees weren't going out of their way to socialize and interact with guests enough, and how there was no equivalent to Disney's pin trading. I bring this up because as much as I hated the guy’s harping on the employees, there was perhaps a grain of truth to it. In my experience the BGT staff have never been generic Six Flags lazy, but always lagged behind their colleagues at Disney and Universal. However, on this visit in 2016 I found them to be pretty good! The park was not busy at all, but the ride ops always ran at least two trains on everything and pumped them out as fast as possible despite rarely having a line. All of the staff I dealt with were great. Wait. Except for the Howl-O-Scream bartender that had apparently never served a drink before. I asked for a rum and coke and the guy poured the coke in first with no ice then simply dumped the shot of Captain on top and handed it to me like nothing was wrong. He sucked. We arrived just before opening after the drive from Orlando and went straight to Cobra’s Curse which immediately broke down. Okay, good, we’ll just go next door to Montu then. Wait, no, it’s not open yet either. Still testing. So things didn’t start out great, but Cheetah Hunt was close and we got right on with a one train wait and the day was pretty great from that point on. I had forgotten how much I liked Cheetah Hunt. Over time I let myself believe it was less thrilling than it actually is and it slipped from my top 50 steel coasters for a while (I keep track of steel up to 50 and wood up to 20). It instantly reminded me of how Intamins don’t all need to be intensity monsters to be world class rides and Cheetah Hunt now resides comfortably in my #33 spot. In the Blackpool thread someone brought up how their 2018 Mack launcher has definite Cheetah Hunt vibes. After riding it again and comparing the video, I think this is exactly right. Then it was time for Cobra’s Curse. Busch did an excellent job with the presentation of this one. It’s the equal of Sheikra and Cheetah Hunt in this regard. Spinners of any kind aren’t my preferred type of family coaster (except Raton Loco in Mexico City—that one is awesome) because the spinning element is rarely used to its full benefit and that is again the case here. But it’s a popular idea and people love them, so in Cobra’s Curse BGT has a people pleaser that looks fantastic and is worth at least one ride per visit when I go. Great addition even if it’s not my kind of thing. Next up was Montu, a ride I always struggle to make up my mind about. On paper it should probably be in my top ten because it’s supposed to have everything I look for in a steel coaster, but there's something about it that's hard to place and keeps it just outside my close circle of favorites. I haven’t seen Montu with a line in years and we rode three times before moving on to Pantopia to ride the hugely impressive Falcon’s Fury. First of all, this area of the park looks great. An impressive new ride and a flashy coat of paint can do wonders for a stale, old section. As for Falcon’s Fury, once this thing tilted it became the first time since my first ride on Top Thrill Dragster in 2004 that I was actually alarmed on a ride. It was genuinely scary and then genuinely euphoric once it dropped. A fantastic drop tower and exactly what BGT needed. Kumba was calling. Even though it’s the oldest non-Disney major coaster in Central Florida, it’s still the king. It’s crazy to think how two decades of B&M loopers can trace their DNA to Kumba, yet in the opinions of many enthusiasts, none have topped it. Like Montu, it was a walk-on all day, so we rode it three times to start. I was impressed that the Busch staff let us stay on for consecutive rides when empty seats were available. In 2011 they didn’t allow this. Continuing our circle of the park we arrived at Sheikra for three rides of its own with single train waits. I haven’t been on Valravn yet, so I can’t make everyone’s favorite comparison of the year. I have been on Griffon though, and I maintain that Sheikra is better. Griffon’s second immelmann doesn’t do anything for me and Sheikra just creates this impression of being a natural part of the landscape, like it sprouted out the ground organically one day. Storm clouds were brewing so we walked back to Kumba to ensure at least a few more rides on our park favorite in case the weather turned for the worse. We ended up getting four consecutive, three of them in the rain. There are few things better than riding great coasters in the rain, especially when there’s no wait involved. It can sometimes be an endurance test depending on the severity of the raindrops and speed of the coaster. A few frigid-cold rides with a soaked through t-shirt and no jacket on Millennium Force, and getting pelted in the face with humongous Idaho raindrops on Tremors come to mind. That wasn’t the case this time. Rainy Kumba was just a blast. We also got one ride on Cheetah Hunt in the rain, an almost magical “Rainy-Magic-Hour-Sheikra” experience, and one more lap on Cobra’s Curse before we had to head back to Pantopia to pick up our Howl-O-Scream wristbands that allow you to remain in the park until the event begins. Busch’s wristband system works well for a separate ticketed event. After regular park hours they simply do not let you on any attractions without the wristband. No need to close the park down and re-enter or use holding areas. We hadn’t ridden Scorpion yet and it took us longer still because the whole park shut down due to lightning as soon as we got in line. So we simply sat down and waited it out in the station, chatting with the ride ops. One of them gave me a questionable reason for why Gwazi has not been torn down despite Busch’s initial proclamation that they would do so. He says the wood is soaked in arsenic, which means they cannot legally burn it. Okay. But why would they burn it at all? Scorpion was not among the rides scheduled to stay open during Howl-O-Scream, so we got a little nervous as it grew closer to event time and Scorpion was soon to close without giving us a ride. But they got clearance to reopen with under five minutes to go before closing and we were on one of only two trains dispatched for the rest of the day. I don’t remember the flow of things once HOS started, just that we hit all of the houses except for the shoot-em’-up Zombie Containment Unit 15. It was the only house with a line and that just would not do when there were night rides on Kumba, Montu, and Cheetah Hunt to be had. Oh, and Sand Serpent. It’s a decent night mouse. We rode it. Reviews: Kumba (x10) One thing that makes Kumba so great is how it doesn’t waste a single foot of track. Let’s compare it to Kraken. Both have seven inversions and fairly similar layouts. Kraken is 14 feet taller and 200 feet longer, yet actually does less with its greater track length. Kumba manages to squeeze in an upward helix to cap off the ride where Kraken wastes valuable track with a long, sweeping 180 degree curve from the cobra roll to the MCBR, a slow, drawn-out hill with no airtime, and a long, shallow ramp from the corkscrew to the brakes. Kumba does none of that. Transitions between elements are quick and tight. Every inversion is packed with positive g’s and a few unique features of the layout lend Kumba a personality that began to disappear from B&M designs around 2000. This ride is obviously getting older and there was one rough spot on the pullout from the drop off the MCBR. Otherwise Kumba is still just about perfect. (9.5/10) Montu (x6) Can some of the BGT regulars help me out here? Is it just me or is Montu not trimmed as heavily as it used to be? I remember trains routinely coming to a near stop on the MCBR and barely crawling through the rest of the course on my 2002-2009 visits. Then in 2011 I noticed the brakes seemed a little more forgiving and the train lost only around half its speed instead of almost all of it. Thankfully it still apparently runs like that today, which means a more intense second half. Some of this may have to do with slightly cooler October weather and the occasional half-empty train. I’ve always really liked Montu, but found it less dynamic than Kumba and my favorite B&M invert, Raptor. Montu is revered for its intensity, though at least to me that’s mostly due to the super forceful batwing. The rest of its inversions lack the snappy character I like that is found all over the place on Kumba, Raptor, and the Fire Dragon. This all probably sounds harsher than how I really feel about Montu. It’s still one of the best B&Ms. (9/10) Cheetah Hunt (x5) When did this ride lose the flags surrounding the elevated figure-eight? Doesn’t matter. Anyway, Cheetah Hunt walks the fine line between thrill coaster and family coaster better than any other (probably because the balance is weighted about 60/40 in favor of thrill coaster!). As much as I would like it to barrel out of the station and plow through everything like Storm Runner, it just wouldn’t be the right type of experience for this park. Cheetah Hunt is part Maverick-lite and part safari-scenic railway. It’s the ultimate “have fun without straining yourself” coaster. (8/10) Sheikra (x5) Since I prefer long layouts with real pacing and flow, dive coasters are not my favorite type of B&M. That doesn’t mean they can’t be amazing rides and Sheikra certainly is, just that no dive coaster sits near my top 10 like they do for so many others. If you look at Sheikra element by element, it does a lot of things very well. The first drop just might be my favorite. The view + suspense + ejector airtime is tough to beat. The immelmann is smooth and graceful and the second drop through a tunnel is almost as good as the first. The turnaround leading into the splash pool is nice because it gives you time to reflect and enjoy yourself in the moment before connecting with the water. (8/10) Scorpion (x1) I really want to be able to rate this one higher as I don’t want to give any Schwarzkopf a middling score. Scorpion is just too limited compared to coasters like Mind Bender or Triple Loop in Mexico. Even the usually awesome Anton vertical loop on this one doesn’t give the gut-wrenching sensation of the loop on Montezooma. But Scorpion’s awkward intensity still has charm. (6/10) Sand Serpent (x1) An old school mouse that isn’t ruined by trims. That’ll do. Some great lats and even a little sudden airtime to be had. (6/10) Falcon’s Fury (x2) A near-perfect ride except that you don’t get any airtime once it drops, but that was never the point of this design. This is almost strictly a visual experience and I can’t think of anything that does it better. The only drop rides I like as much are the little ARM-Larson Super Shots and they’re the complete opposite of Falcon’s Fury in every way. (9/10) Cobra’s Curse (x2) I don’t have much else to add about this one, except that I think it would have been more effective if the cars spun for the whole ride and they didn’t break it up into three sections (forwards, backwards, and spinning). Each segment is over before you really get the chance to enjoy it. (6/10) Houses: Unearthed (x1) Nice use of Gwazi’s station and queue. A few of the scare actors really got me and I remember it had some nice large-scale, moving props. (8/10) Deathwater Bayou (x2) I thought this was the best house out of both HOS and HHN. Great, creepy atmosphere, impressive set design, and I got jump-scared more times than any other house this year. Reminds me a lot of the excellent Voodoo house Knott’s has used the last three years, only Deathwater Bayou was darker and more ominous. (9/10) Motel SHellburn (x1) Another impressive house. I didn’t get startled by anything in this one, but there was more of a story at work and the attention to detail was great even if the scares were just okay. (8/10) Circus of Superstition (x1) 3D clown house. Like I said before, these things are great if you dig all that clown hysteria stuff and actually find it creepy, but it does nothing for me. (4/10) The Black Spot (x1) I was a little let down with this one. The theme and storyline sounded great, but the sets were weaker than Bayou, Unearthed, or Motel and I thought the scare actors were just going through the motions. (6/10) Zombie Mortuary (x1) A great concept that I thought could benefit from a little more money and attention. I thought it felt a little more sparse than some of the others. Certain parts of it were evocative of scenes in “The Further” from the first Insidious film. (7/10) Montu always builds anticipation from the parking lot. Egypt is much livelier now that it has a second major attraction. I've never noticed how the two-across Intamin trains have staggered seating. The forward seats of each car are closer together than the rear seats. Cobra’s Curse is BGT’s most highly themed coaster to date and it looks great. I don’t know why they had to get so complex with an elevator lift. So many parks/manufacturers insist on complicating ride systems more than necessary and all it leads to is more downtime when a simpler solution would have sufficed. A ride op said the elevator is the number one cause of Cobra downtime. Decent spinning through here. Great color scheme too. It blends the Egypt and Edge of Africa areas nicely. It’s hard to tell unless you view it in profile, but Montu has the most elliptical loop I’ve ever seen. I love the slight bank to the left in the tunnel following the loop. The immelmann is huge but not as intense as either of the two on Fire Dragon. Montu carried nice speed all the way through to the end this year. One of 4 nice moments of airtime on Cheetah Hunt. The interaction with bridges, trenches, rivers, and paths is fantastic. The strongest spot of air is this hill on the return run. The sneaky barrel roll I always forget about. This area looks so much nicer as Pantopia than it did as Timbuktu. After a Google search it looks like Pantopia is a word BGT created. Maybe it's supposed to mean “Pan-African Utopia?” Loading procedure for Falcon’s Fury was relatively quick. North America’s tallest and best looking “freestanding” drop tower. Anton was doing the pre-drop thing waaaaaay before Walter and Claude. The bulk of the tower blends almost perfectly with the sky. “As you can see, following the 90 degree drop, immelmann, and MCBR, the large orange and blue coaster proceeds through the tree line into a tight web of helixes and a small vertical loop.” The polar opposite of Montu’s loop in size and shape. You don’t see a true, triple-helix very often. It’s interesting how the tops of the supports actually bisect the spine. As usual when I come here, Kumba took a giant dump as soon as I got in line. Dive loop paradise. Like Sheikra, the way Busch landscaped Kumba makes it feel like an organic part of the landscape. I love the slight "speed bump" leading into the cobra roll. The only first drops that equal Sheikra for me are Skyrush, El Toro, Intimidator 305, Millennium Force, and Fury. This park needs a better beer selection. Sam Oktoberfest is always decent and I tried Florida Brewing True Blonde as well. Not bad. One of my favorite coaster stations. Kumba feels like it hardly slows down at all through its inversions. I decided against taking the ubiquitous “head on interlocking corkscrews” photo this time. The train loses more speed in the MCBR than I’d like, but the second half is still so intense it barely matters. One of the scare zones before HOS kicked off. It worked pretty well at night with the fog machines. Just after our “Rainy Magic Hour Sheikra” experience. Great airtime up front entering the figure-eight, and in back exiting it. My favorite haunted house in Florida of 2016. Very impressed with the quality of HOS, this house in particular. The event is not on HHN’s level as a whole, but it is in parts. Entrance to Deathwater Bayou. The ghost of Gwazi lives on as a HOS house. Entrance to The Black Spot. Nabbed a quick ride near the end of the night on Sand Serpent after Zombie Mortuary. No better way to finish a day at BGT than a trio of Kumba night rides.
  10. Islands of Adventure Thursday September 29 and Sunday October 2, 2016 After riding Gringotts and Mummy over at Studios, we disembarked the Hogwarts Express into IOA shortly after opening. First up was Skull Island: Reign of Kong with a five minute wait that meant I had to bypass the by now famous queue line that some say might be better than the ride. Well that had to be some queue because I thought the ride was actually pretty good! Sure Kong is the quintessential example of the “park you in front of a giant movie screen and rock the vehicle a bit” dark ride I just finished criticizing and I won’t attempt to defend it. It’s both a case of entering with modest expectations and the fact that I’m a person who chose to adorn my living room wall with a six foot high, framed poster of the original 1933 King Kong film. Next up was a couple rides on new Hulk. The old Hulk was always an afterthought in B&M’s portfolio to me, but for a number of reasons the rebuilt version really impressed me. Speaking of impressive, this was also my first time to experience The Amazing Adventures of Spider Man with the improved HD projections. I think this is still the best dark ride Universal has and now it’s even better. I am not and never have been a water ride person. If I want to get wet, I’ll go to a water park. I’ve been on all three of IOA’s water rides in the past and they’re some of the best of their type. But I prefer the Knott’s Timber Mountain Log Ride variety that doesn’t soak you, so ones like Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls or especially Popeye & Bluto Bilge Rat Barges are usually no goes for me on all but the hottest summer days. And Jurassic Park is fun, but it couldn’t overcome the magnetism of a pair of excellent B&M inverted coasters pulling me around the next corner. Dueling Dragons have been my favorite Orlando attraction for years and we rode them twice each the first day and four times each the second. The transition to Dragon Challenge has never bothered me the way it does others. Of course I’d rather Universal let up on their chronically risk averse policies and let them duel again, but the dueling aspect only really made a difference in the front row and I almost always ride in back. I feel similarly about Twisted Colossus. I read some reviews where people are just beside themselves over how much less fun they supposedly have when it doesn’t duel. It’s not a big issue to me. The RMC airtime and everything else is unchanged, dueling or not. The same applies to Dragon Challenge. After a round of butter beer we hit the single rider line for Forbidden Journey, my pick for the second best dark ride on Universal property. By then it was time to head back to Studios to prepare for night one of HHN, so we rode Hulk once more on the way out and called it a day. Our second day at IOA was much the same as the first so a play-by-play isn’t necessary. As someone who enjoys ranking all my favorite parks and coasters and their various sub-types, it’s a little irritating that I have a hard time figuring out how to place Islands of Adventure. I want to look at the sum of its parts and declare it the strongest all-around park in Florida. It has the best of everything from great coasters to elite dark rides, plenty to do for younger kids, and mostly good theming. But I always have this weird feeling when I’m in the park that this image is a façade and not its true reality. I have a few theories as to why: (1) Disney’s shadow looms large over Marvel Super Hero Island. Despite the agreement in place over Universal’s rights to usage and the fact that they just REBUILT The Hulk, something feels like it’s screaming, “This won’t last!” This is obviously purely psychological and in reality nothing is likely to change, but it exists in a more tangible sense elsewhere in the park. Such as… (2) Seuss Landing. It probably won’t ever be in store for new attractions and The Cat in the Hat dark ride is not up to Universal’s standards. It feels cheap and rushed and could use an overhaul. Plus I wonder about the relevance of the Seuss characters today outside of the Grinch. Dr. Seuss only has one book left in the top 30 best-selling kids’ books for 2015 and it’s a coloring book. Universal doesn’t utilize them as park mascots the same way that Disney does either. (3) Much of what was said about Seuss Landing could also apply to Toon Lagoon. Disney gets away with letting themed areas go largely untouched for years and even decades because the themes are often timeless, unlike Universal which tends to rely instead on the “timeliness” of its IPs to create compelling attractions. Who honestly has an attachment to any of the characters used in this land, even Dudley Do-Right or Popeye? I bet the number is very small. But then again I’m quite sure most people have even less of a connection to characters like Br’er Rabbit and that hasn’t harmed Splash Mountain’s ridership, so maybe this isn’t even a problem. (4) Jurassic Park might as well be called “Temperate Rainforest Island” because the presence of anything dinosaurian is so hidden. The amount if greenery is great, but there’s so much of it that it can at times feel like a placeholder for new exhibits or attractions we’re still waiting on. (5) The specter of Dragon Challenge’s rumored demise. Above all else at IOA, for me these two coasters have always been the anchors. I would liken it to Disney Parks removing any of their Space Mountains. Sure your enjoyment of the remaining attractions would theoretically be unchanged, but a key piece would be missing and its loss might dampen enthusiasm about the rest of the park for many people. Hopefully it doesn’t go anywhere and all this sentimentalizing is for nothing. (6) The remainder of the Lost Continent is like IOA’s vestigial organ. As much as I like the theme, with no major rides remaining or likely coming, all it does is serve as a reminder that the park is still in a great state of flux. I don’t know which of these two perspectives is more accurate, if either. It just feels weird to find myself constantly going back and forth between them on my way around the park. Reviews: The Incredible Hulk (x5) I always thought the old Hulk was the weakest B&M in Florida and it drove me crazy to see it ranked #1 by Discovery Channel voters and other polls a decade ago. It often rode rougher than its contemporaries and I felt the layout was all style with no forces to give it substance. I couldn’t feel more differently about the new one. Maybe what’s changed is me, after all the layout/track profile is exactly the same. I’ve tripled my credit count since last riding Hulk in 2011 so it might be that I’ve learned to appreciate things in coasters that I didn’t before. I can only state my observations and unlike the old Hulk, the new one had me graying out in the cobra roll and not recovering vision until after the first vertical loop. I found it smooth and intense all the way to the end. The post MCBR section still isn’t great, but like the first half, the maneuvers felt packed with g-forces I didn’t remember. I love that I love this coaster now. (8/10) Fire Dragon (x6) Long my second favorite inverted coaster and still my favorite coaster in Orlando (only Kumba tops it if we include Tampa). It’s the perfect B&M looper in so many ways, only lacking a zero-g-roll to make it complete, but I suppose they had to leave something for Ice. The pacing and flow from one element to the next is perfect and without the formulaic repetition seen in other inverts. The wraparound Immelmann is in my all-time pantheon of great inversions with Tatsu’s pretzel loop, Montu’s batwing, Storm Runner’s flying snake dive, Iron Rattler’s zero-g-roll, and Montezooma’s vertical loop. The snap at the top is great and it just piles on the positive g’s from there. (9/10) Ice Dragon (x6) I used to rank Ice well below Fire in the middle tier of inverts like Great Bear, Talon, and (for me) Banshee. But like Hulk, I found more to like about it this time. The first drop has more of a kick to it than Fire’s does and it has one of those ultra-fast zero-g-rolls where the rate of rotation alone feels like it wants to throw you from the train and the cobra roll is one of the few that I really enjoy. Ice suffers in comparison to Fire with its ending. It kind of meanders back to the station through a pair of banked turns where Fire dives low to the ground to finish with a second snappy corkscrew. (8/10) Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (x2) As I alluded to earlier, I think this is by far the superior Potter ride. Where Gringott’s feels like riding a hovercraft to a series of mini-movies, Forbidden Journey is a complete experience that expertly blends a thrilling motion ride with screen projections and a whole host of animatronics and other physical props. It’s a tough call between this and Spider Man for me, even though I know next to nothing about the Potterverse. (9/10) Skull Island: Reign of Kong (x2) Here’s where I contradict myself because all Kong is, is a giant wrap-around mini-movie. However, it’s a “giant mini-movie” uniquely suited to me because I grew up with giant monster films. Godzilla and King Kong are like my Star Wars and Batman and I pray to the amusement park gods every day that Universal finds a way to replace T2:3D with a Godzilla dark ride (Who would the amusement park gods actually be anyway? Walt Disney for sure. LaMarcus Thompson? Fred Church? Ed Morgan? Angus Wynne? Anton Schwarzkopf?). The wraparound projection screen is more immersive than anything on Gringott’s and the digital Kong looks even better than he did in Peter Jackson’s film that is somehow already eleven years old. The animatronic Kong is great too, but feels more like a Kongfrontation homage than a natural part of the new ride. I wish they could have incorporated it into the action somehow. (7/10 + 1 for my Kong fanboyism) The Amazing Adventures of Spider Man (x2) I risk getting too repetitive with all my talk of blending screen projections with physical environments and the motion of ride vehicles, so I’ll just say that Spider Man does all of it better than any other. It’s still the blueprint the rest are trying to follow. (10/10) Have I been wrong about Hulk all along or is the new one actually better? All I care is that this one is awesome! Hulk’s New for 2016 Gray-Out Zone. “I can’t see anythiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing!” I really dig the new zero car design. This coaster was the worst choice to fill with sand. The B&M roar is just so… hulky. Not exactly a HHN costume, is it? Still the best dark ride I’ve been on. It’s so nice to be able to count Hulk among my favorite steel coasters now. No B&M looper starts stronger. I don’t usually like cobra rolls much. For all their visual pomp, the rider experience doesn’t live up. IOA happens to have two of the good ones. No lie, I honestly forgot Dr. Doom was even in the park until looking at this picture. I didn’t think about it once the whole time I was there. I hear there are VOLUMES written about this place. They make a great backdrop for Hogsmeade. One of the most intense inversions ever built. Look at that snap at the top. Nowadays they’d design it so that you already bank 25 degrees before even reaching the peak. Some angles remind you of just how much open space IOA still has. Foliage has grown up nicely around the back of the castle. It used to be that from Jurassic Park you could easily see the plain white show building hanging out in the open above the tree line. Now it’s much more hidden. I’m a regular, non-frozen butter beer purist. No dueling? No problem. They’re still great on their own. Like all the 1990s B&Ms, both of them absolutely haul through the entire course. But Fire feels like it hauls just a little bit more. Some of the old photo ops from the Dueling Dragons days are now gone, obstructed by buildings or trees. There are plenty of new ones from the train station and some classics like this still remain. Lots of near-empty trains to be found at all of the parks I visited this week. B&M invert trains are so much more interesting to photograph than sitdown or floorless ones. I forgot how much of these coasters are over water. Two of the all-time great coaster straightaways. If there are any all-time great coaster straightaways.
  11. Universal Studios + Halloween Horror Nights Thursday September 29 and Sunday October 2, 2016 I endured two marathon 16 and 17 hour days at Universal Orlando Resort on this visit. I’m positive these are the longest two days I’ve ever spent a park. We went from 8am to 1am on a Thursday and 9am to 1am Sunday. I’ll deal with Islands of Adventure separately to focus on Studios and HHN for now. My last trip to Orlando was in 2011 so Diagon Alley, Transformers, and the expanded Simpsons area were all new to me. We entered through the front gate on opening at 8am to ride Escape From Gringotts as early as possible. We got on right away with no wait at all. My first thought on entering Diagon Alley is that it was even more impressive in scope than Hogsmeade at IOA. This carries over into the queue line which I honestly wish I had more time to examine and appreciate. I assumed this would be the first of several rides on Gringotts, but somehow due to circumstances I don’t recall ended up being the only time I would ride during my two days here. After Gringotts we quickly walked onto Mummy, still one of my favorite all-around attractions, and took the Hogwarts Express over to IOA to ride Kong after opening before it could develop a line. An odd thing about me since I am a film buff and a screenwriter is that I have only seen one Harry Potter film and I don’t even remember which one it was. I still have no satisfactory explanation for this. I’ve never read a single page out of any of the books either, so the extent of my Potter knowledge comes almost entirely from theme parks, so many of the characters and nearly all of the references found in the attractions are lost on me. Despite this it’s easy to immerse myself in the environment and I really enjoy all of the world building and attention to detail. We returned to Studios from IOA around 2pm and hit Transformers, Men in Black, and Mummy again before HHN. We booked a table at Finnegan’s Pub to take advantage of the stay and scream privileges and wait it out until the event started. Our plan was to hit the super popular American Horror Story house right away, but what I didn’t know is how they keep the barricades up to funnel people from each stay and scream holding area into the nearest 1-2 houses only, leaving us to Walking Dead (which I’m sick of…) and Ghost Town, a house I was really anxious for as it was one of only two with original concepts this year (I don’t count Chance’s Lunatics Playground. All of those 3D clown mazes are the same to me). With the first two houses done and the barricades down, we decided to write off AHS until our second night as the wait had already ballooned to something horrible like 2 hours even though the event had just started. So first up was Walking Dead, which I remember nothing about, and then The Exorcist. Exorcist was the house based on established IP that I was most excited for. The reverence for the film was great and they did justice to most of the iconic scenes, but I didn’t find it scary. The debate over houses using TV/film IP versus original themes has been run into the ground by now, but I have to comment on it: I think the original ones are almost always better. When you confine yourself to adapting established material, your priority invariably becomes reproducing iconic moments and characters from the source material rather than creating an environment of genuine suspense and mystery. Haunted houses rely on fear of the unknown to scare people. You ideally won’t know what to expect around the next corner and the suspense of what may or may not jump out at you is the main way to generate fear. With something like The Exorcist, unless you haven’t seen the film, you know you’re going to see possessed Reagan or the demon Pazuzu in every room. In Halloween or Texas Chainsaw Massacre you know you’re going to see Michael Myers and Leatherface twelve different times and a hot chick in pajamas with blood coming out of her back. You lose the element of the unknown and without it the mazes simply aren’t as scary. Next we hit Lunatics Playground, still a step ahead of the crowds. We bypassed the nearby Texas Chainsaw house to do Halloween and the second original house, Tomb of the Ancients, which as you can probably imagine, I quite liked! One of those two empties out next to Texas Chainsaw which by now had our second longest wait of the night at around one hour. We took a break from the houses to wander the scare zones a little more thoroughly and take part in one of my favorite Orlando alcohol rituals: Drunk Mummy. We were all probably three souvenir cup refills deep by this point in addition to whatever we had at Finnegan’s and we rode twice using the single rider line. I think. After some food we finally got around to Texas Chainsaw and our last house of the night with the longest wait at 90 minutes, Krampus. By then HHN was drawing to a close and we still had AHS, Bill & Ted’s, and Rip Ride Rockit left to do our next day. When Sunday rolled around we started in IOA this time and after a stop at Toothsome Chocolate Factory, got to Studios around 3pm, and hopped on Rockit with a 15 minute wait. We deliberately chose the front holding HHN holding area closest to American Horror Story and we were so of the first few into the house once the gates opened. Our round of houses tonight meant repeats of Tomb of the Ancients, Ghost Town, Lunatics Playground, Halloween, and Texas Chainsaw. We didn’t see either of the show our first night so we caught both of them this time. Academy of Villains was decent for a straight musical show, but nothing stood out to write about. It’s been a few years since my last Bill & Ted’s so I can’t refer back to the quality of recent shows, but I was a little disappointed with the lack of a narrative this year. The first time I saw it was in 2009 and I remember a relatively cohesive script that wove all the pop culture references together about as well as you could hope. This year’s didn’t seem like it had that. I realize expecting a real plot in a show like this is asking a bit much, but if I’m going to offer any meaningful critique, this would be it. I thought the music and dance numbers this year were pretty good though. Reviews: Revenge of The Mummy (x5-8ish) Still my pick for the top ride in the park and best indoor coaster in the country. I’ve had some epic marathons on this in years past and everything about it hits all the right nostalgia buttons for me. The big airtime moments and crazy twisty bits are all just as I remember them. However some of the effects are beginning to show their age. That said, Mummy could continue to soldier on for a decade with no changes and still remain a top tier attraction. But the upcoming 2017 Mummy reboot starring Tom Cruise(!) is a prime opportunity to update the special effects and queue line. If the movie doesn’t turn out to be trash, I hope that’s exactly what Universal does. (8/10) Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts (x1) I fully planned to ride this more than once, but with the way our two days unfolded it somehow didn’t happen. I don’t know what the general consensus on this ride is around here, but it felt to me like Universal just going through the motions. All it does is park you in front of a giant screen where you watch a 20 second movie, then the coaster car drops underneath or spins around the screen to another one where you do it all over again. The theming in Diagon Alley and the queue line actually feels like a step up from Hogwarts and Forbidden Journey which is why I was so surprised when the ride itself felt like a step down. Sure I had fun on it so it’s not like I thought it was a complete letdown, but perhaps with a few re-rides I would have found more to appreciate. (7/10) Transformers (x1) A nice counterpart to Spider Man at IOA, but not necessarily a better one. The visual effects and storytelling are great and surpass both of the Potter rides. Where I think this ride falters is the connection between the events on screen and the motion of the ride vehicle. Transformers has a bit of the problem I had with Gringotts in that I always felt like I was parked in front of screens watching something cool instead of being immersed in it. The narrative actually tries pretty hard to connect you with the action, but I don’t think the fusion is quite as good as what Spider Man accomplishes. Still a great ride. (8/10) Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit (x2) God they need to update the music selection. There may be more to it than I realize, but I’d think adding a handful of new songs and classics every year or two would be a simple and obvious update for this ride. Same for the characters and dialogue in the queue line video package. Man is that thing going to feel dated in another ten years. The coaster itself is still one of the most polarizing I’ve ever ridden. Back when it opened I really enjoyed it despite its flaws and constant downtime. Then my last rides on it in 2011 felt awful with no airtime and a rougher ride than I remembered. Now in 2016 I actually liked it quite a bit again. It wasn’t uncomfortable at all, felt plenty forceful, and had three strong airtime moments. The pacing still sucks with the layout’s four mid-course brake runs and middle stretch that does absolutely nothing, but it felt more like the Rockit I remember from opening year. And the best thing about Rockit might be how it breaks up the B&M hegemony in Central Florida. Sure they’re some of the best B&Ms built, but Rockit is sooooooo different from them and there’s still nothing else like it in North America. (7/10) Houses: American Horror Story (x1) Easily the best of the film/TV IP houses. Drawing material from three different seasons helps this one out because the constant variety keeps the illusion of the unknown alive a little more. The sets were fantastic but much of it felt too brightly lit. Hope to see this return with three new seasons adapted next year. (8/10) The Exorcist (x1) I love the film so as a movie buff I was happy to see how faithfully executed the house was. But as a HHN goer I didn’t find it particularly scary for reasons I expressed earlier. I’d love to see another demonic possession house that takes inspiration from The Exorcist rather than adapting it outright. (7/10) Ghost Town: The Curse of Lightning Gulch (x2) Gulch. What a great word. It just sounds so Halloween. This was a very solid house that made me think of some of Knott’s houses on a larger budget for obvious reasons. No great jump scares that I remember but the atmosphere felt genuinely creepy. (8/10) The Walking Dead (x1) I remember absolutely nothing about this house, so the only conclusion I can draw is that I must have thought it was incredibly lame and that Walking Dead needs to retire from HHN. Lunatic’s Playground 3D – You Won’t Stand a Chance (x2) Hands down the best rotating tunnel I’ve ever seen. Genuinely had trouble staying upright through it, which never happens. Otherwise, it’s the same as every other like-themed 3D neon maze throughout the industry. I also have no phobia of clowns whatsoever, though I can see why this house could be legitimately terrifying to those who do. (5/10) Tomb of the Ancients (x2) My favorite house this year because it was the only one that invoked genuine suspense and successfully jump-scared me more than once. This one is the antithesis of everything I bemoaned about established IP houses that sacrifice fear of the unknown for familiar characters and scenes. Hope to see it back. The ancient ruins theme is versatile enough to reuse again and again with only slight changes to keep it fresh. (9/10) Texas Chainsaw Massacre (x2) and Halloween: Hell Comes to Haddenfield (x2) Both of these are interchangeable to me. Neither one had atmosphere invoking any kind of dread because the settings are too relatable. You’re inside a traditional American home for the majority of each one and the scares are repetitive from room to room. “Oh crap! It’s Michael Myers!... And there’s Michael again… And again… And… yep… Oh, wait, he’s coming at us with a spatula this time!” It works on film where the inverse is true and relatability can actually be scarier, but I don’t think that’s true of a walk-through experience. A lot of people really seemed to like these two houses, maybe because they have difficulty separating the idea of films they like from what does and does not create an effective attraction. If that’s what people want, then great. I just can’t relate to it. (5/10) Krampus (x1) Like the film, this house walks the fine line between horror and humor. That also means that it never quite got the point of being as scary as it could have been. It also felt different than all the others, so for that it was fun. (7/10) Passing through CityWalk on my way to either gate always feels like coming home. Some things change, others stay the same, but it’s still home. Am I remembering things incorrectly or was Rockit originally supposed to be a CityWalk-specific attraction and technically not part of the park itself? It seems I neglected to take any pictures inside Diagon Alley. This is apparently all I’ve got. If you draw a straight line from here to Fun Spot, Optimus is directly threatening the Freedom Flyer guy. No, really. The non-inverting loop is a great element. Rockit starts so strong yet finishes so weak. I wonder which coaster holds the record for most feet of track taken up by block brakes. Rockit is certainly a contender, maybe even the favorite. I didn’t gray out in the treble clef this year, which is unfortunate. HHN offers interesting angles of the coaster you don’t ordinarily get. I liked NBA City, but this place is a huge upgrade. I’ll make a point of eating lunch or dinner here next time. Our selection of shakes. I must have undone at least twenty-nine hours of cardio with my diet on this trip. It begins... What all the HHN switchbacks look like when you’re the first group inside. You still walk through every single one of them. Two actors play Chance in her scare zone every night. One of them spoke—like with her vocal cords and mouth. One for some reason, did not. The entrance to Texas Chainsaw. Dead Man’s Wharf was my favorite scare zone this year. The Survive or Die: Apocalypse scare zone is themed to a city overrun with Mad Max-level street violence. So like Chicago right now, but not as bad. Vamp ’55 scare zone was fun. Vampires crash a 1950s high school prom. They should make a house out of it some year. Rockit is best ridden at night. Meet my friend Josh. Josh declined to join us for Walt Disney World, Busch Gardens, and Sea World. He spent an ENTIRE WEEK at Universal and went to HHN four nights in a row. That’s just the kind of guy he is. So while we were at Epcot, he had a scare actor lunch with some of Universal’s creatives that included a daytime tour of several houses. I didn’t find out about this in time to attend. Photos were not allowed in the featured IP houses, but Ghost Town was fair game. Here’s what he took:
  12. Fun Spot USA Wednesday September 28, 2016 This was Day 1 of a week-long rendezvous with a couple of friends in Orlando that was fortunately timed just right to avoid Hurricane Mathew. One of these guys is every bit the coaster enthusiast I am, while the other is pretty much a Disney/Universal only person who visits twice a year. The last of us arrived around 7pm an after checking into our first hotel, we stopped for dinner at a restaurant that California sorely needs, the utterly fantastic Miller’s Ale House. The closest one to where I live is in Las Vegas so I can’t exactly get up and drive there for lunch. Though sometimes I’m almost tempted to. We also visited Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, Busch Gardens Tampa, Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot, and Sea World, but first was Fun Spot. I think we spent about two hours, though we easily could have stayed longer and tried to ride more of the flats. I would have insisted on it had I done my research a little more thoroughly beforehand and known of the apparently insane programs some of them are said to run. I also had my first Yuengling here. That may sound incomprehensible to beer drinkers who grew up on the East Coast, but it simply can’t be found anywhere out west. I didn’t expect something on the level of a great, craft brew or anything, but Yuengling is certainly better than any of the macro-lagers out there. If I was an Orlando local I’d probably be at Fun Spot all the time. Cool coasters with short to no waits and decent cheap drinks are absolutely my thing. And if I had not just last month learned to be extra cautious about over drinking ahead of more parks the next day I probably could have shuttled between White Lightning and the bar all night. Reviews: White Lightning (x6) This is the coaster Florida badly needed. B&M country finally got its own GCI and it’s a pretty good one. Like its brothers White Lighting zips along effortlessly never losing speed and hitting the brakes with enough momentum to go another 700 feet of track at the same pace if it wanted to. I got decent floater airtime in all rows but this was hampered some by the fact that the trains were never more than half full, often empty aside from my car. The same thing happened on Kentucky Rumbler so I unfortunately don’t think I got to experience either coaster at its best. With a heavier train I can only assume this one rides like a miniature Goldstriker with strong floater pops along the course. (8/10) Freedom Flyer (x3) My first of the modern variety of Vekoma junior inverts equipped with lap bars. I had heard this coaster packed a punch for its size and I actually think that might be an understatement. A few of the early banked turns and especially the ending helix feel more forceful than plenty of full size coasters and I’d gladly ride this over something like Hydra at Dorney Park. Hopefully a few more US parks get these. (6/10) A lot of cities would be fortunate to have a small park like this one. Another GCI lands in my wooden top 20. It’s in the lower half but could rise if I get to ride with full trains. It was hard to get photos with trains running because there was only one crew of operators who ran from one ride to the next depending on where the few customers went. The park was nearly empty. Nice selection of coasters and classic flats here. I wish I rode more of them. One good thing about White Lightning is that it should be easy to maintain. At its low height and speed the stress on the track can't be much. I caught a little air on the double up/double down and a few other hills, but again, it just wasn’t going fast enough tonight to really show what I’m sure it can do. The lighting package nicely completes the white structure. Freedom Flyer Guy – Freeing Fun Spot of expensive intellectual property since 2013.
  13. Another great TR! Hershey has my second favorite lineup after CP and Skyrush is my #1 overall so it's great to see more converts to it. I think now I'll have to fit Troeg's in when I go back in 2017. Place looks perfect.
  14. From my experience a couple of weeks ago Mako's trim after the hammerhead only activated when the train was over half-full, which unfortunately will usually be the case. I went on a slow Monday when often only 2-3 rows were filled so the trim barely affected it. But when it did the difference was huge.
  15. ^Don't underestimate Kumba. Many people here consider it the best coaster in the park, myself included. It was also my top B&M for a decade until Fury 325 finally bumped it. You'll love BGT. Have a great time!
  16. I rode Kraken this week as well. My last rides on it were 5 years ago and I could notice a marked difference in how it tracks. There's no headbanging or jarring transitions so I wouldn't call it rough, but this is not the same Kraken I remember from 2002-2009 I used to marathon 20 times in day. I don't get to ride it with the same frequency I used to, but based on my rides on all the Florida B&Ms this week I think Kraken is aging the worst. I had no such complaints about Kumba, Montu, or Dragons, all of which are older and probably more highly cycled than Kraken. Also I loved Mako. It finishes weak, but the first half might be some of the finest work B&M has done.
  17. Nice, insightful TR. Looking forward to the rest. I've always been curious about Valleyfair, but I'll continue waiting for one more major coaster before I take a trip to it. Is there any airtime on Wild Thing's second hill? I agree with pretty much everything you said about Worlds of Fun. I did the whole park in about four hours back in 2013. I was really looking forward to Prowler as well, but after riding I put it in my lower tier of GCIs. I rode American Thunder two days later and found it smoother with stronger airtime.
  18. Six Flags Discovery Kingdom Saturday August 13, 2016 San Francisco needs a better park. The city is too big, too influential, and too much fun to have a pair of third tier Six Flags and Cedar Fair offerings. Stephen and Aisha Curry deserve better. Why isn’t there a Six Flags Over Texas or Kings Dominion here instead? We can’t expect a Cedar Point/Magic Mountain/Great Adventure (I mean, the city isn’t THAT awesome…), but really? Discovery Kingdom? This place? I guess it’s okay enough. Kind of. San Francisco is certainly no Houston. Now those people got screwed. I guess Oakland is here too. Forgot about them. Whatever. Even the Warriors are moving in 2019. So where was I? We drank a few too many Kolschs (a great style, more people need to brew these) and IPAs the day before during a break from California’s Great America. Our plan was to wake up at 8am and be at the park by opening at 10. After recovering from our previous day, we finally got there at 1pm, so we only had a little under seven hours to explore the park. I got all the old credits in about four hours on a much slower day in September 2012, so I wasn’t concerned with riding everything this time. We wanted to ride Joker as many times as possible, plus Superman: Ultimate Flight, Medusa, and V2 at leach once each. The park was just crowded enough that we didn’t even make it to Superman. It had a 90 minute+ line all day and waiting for it would have meant two or three fewer rides on Joker. I know there are examples of certain parks on specific days that probably debunk this, but I honestly feel coasters like Premier Sky Loops are too low capacity for most Six Flags and Cedar Fair parks. They have more GP appeal than other shuttle coasters like Intamin Impulses and I just don’t think the ride experience is worth the wait it creates. I say leave them to the Lake Compounces of the world. We ended up riding Joker four times, Medusa twice, and V2 once. That’s all we had time for. Part of the inefficiency of the average day at SFDK is that I don’t think the park has the infrastructure to handle the crowds it gets and that goes back to the pre-Six Flags Marine World days where the developers could never have anticipated it turning into a coaster park. The layout has no flow, there aren’t enough dining locations, and the ones they have lack adequate seating. They have this gigantic tent for restaurant seating and there are only enough tables to fill half of it. There were more people standing and eating than sitting down. I didn’t write reviews for CGA, so I wanted to make sure I did so here. The Joker (x4) This was my sixth RMC and my top 20 list is starting to get awfully crowded with them. SFDK now has the signature coaster it needs to make it a repeatable park. It has a few improvements made from earlier RMCs. The small bunny hops from station to lift hill on Twisted Colossus are too abrupt and don’t create satisfying airtime. On Joker, they’re more gradual and have real airtime without being uncomfortable. Likewise, the only weakness on my favorite RMC, Medusa Steel Coaster, is the slow speed you take the final inversion. It doesn’t have any interesting positive or negative forces and is just a bit of a letdown after a near-perfect layout. Joker’s last inversion is even lower to the ground and has a slight upward trajectory, making it more of a barrel roll than an inline twist. It has some nice forces and is quite fun. The first drop is very good, but not amazing. There’s ejector air to be had, but to me it’s RMC’s weakest first drop. Keep in mind that’s like saying Russell Westbrook is the worst of the top five best players in the NBA. Loved the step-under flip. It will be hard to include this on many iron horse conversions, but it could easily become a fixture on RMC’s new-build wooden coasters. The turnaround following the stall was okay, but not as dynamic as the ones on Twisted Colossus. The right-banking camelback delivers more ejector, as does the double down. The final bunny hop has what is probably the strongest airtime on the ride and then you hit the brakes with the perfect amount of momentum. It doesn’t feel like it ends 500 feet too late like New Texas Giant, nor 1,000 feet to soon like Iron Rattler. I didn’t ride it as many times as I wanted to, and I have difficulty discerning why, but The Joker is my least favorite RMC. As I pointed out, that means it is still very much a top-flight coaster, but there must always be an order to things and nothing about Joker elevates it above the others for me (9/10). Here’s how I rank them: 1. Medusa Steel Coaster 2. Outlaw Run 3. Twisted Colossus 4. New Texas Giant 5. Iron Rattler 6. The Joker Medusa Parking Lot Coaster (x2) Back in 2012, Medusa was it. This big B&M floorless was as good as it got at SFDK and it just wasn’t enough to make me come crawling back. Now with Joker leading the charge, I find it easier to appreciate Medusa. I noticed the same thing at SFMM when Twisted Colossus was built. Before 2015 I thought Magic Mountain lacked a true elite coaster. Now that it has one, I can more easily enjoy Tatsu, X2, and Riddler’s Revenge because that niche has been filled and they are alleviated of the burden. So since Medusa isn’t Discovery Kingdom’s flagship any longer, I feel free to appreciate the ride for what it is rather than holding it up as a standard bearer. And it’s actually pretty good. The first half is basically Kraken, my favorite floorless. Nice floater air on the first drop and moderate intensity through the first three inversions. I don’t really like the sea serpent roll because B&M stretched the element out too much rather than just mirroring half of a cobra roll. On a hot day, Medusa holds its speed enough that you plow through the midcourse brakes unimpeded and take the twin corkscrews at a good clip (8/10). Now the floorless coasters: 1. Kraken 2. Superman Krypton Coaster 3. Dominator 4. Rougarou 5. Medusa 6. Bizarro 7. Batman: The Dark Knight 8. Scream 9. Hydra V2: Vertical Velocity (x1) As I alluded to earlier, I don’t like a lot of shuttle coasters. Speed: The Ride (RIP) and the Schwarzkopf shuttle loops have always been the apex of shuttles for me. Otherwise, give me a full circuit coaster any day. Unless it’s Yolo. Impulses were interesting when they first came out around 2000 and anything with LIMs instantly became cool, but I don’t think time has been kind to the concept. The standard ones are boring, Wicked Twister is only a little better, but this one, this city ordinance-created, Frankenstein impulse is kind of cool. The angled, inverting front spike is infinitely more thrilling to me than a 90 degree vertical climb. I’m glad Intamin has moved on from building these because there are other models that offer more thrills in a similar footprint. Still a fun coaster if the wait is short (6/10). Medusa is an impressive sight from any angle. I don’t know if I should be surprised or not that B&M never attempted another sea serpent roll, because, well, this one isn’t great. But there are a lot of shitty cobra rolls out there too. Kraken and Medusa have the best dive loops. They don’t take them quite as slowly as some other loopers. You can’t even tell it’s a parking lot coaster until you board the ride. I guess all you need are palm trees and a wooden fence. SFDK’s entry plaza builds so much excitement being surrounded by all these coasters. They should have pulled a Maverick with The Joker and named its trains Heath, Jared, and Jack. I think the twist robs Joker of just a bit of airtime. I wonder if this is less of a factor on taller coasters like Expedition GeForce. The step-under flip is almost a fully inverting version of the stall turnaround on Outlaw Run. I’ll have to wait until next time to ride Superman again. Kyle really likes it so I probably owe it another chance. Last time I just didn’t understand the ride. Legitimate airtime before the lift hill. Joker has a great visual sprawl to it. It looks like a jungle of wood. Which is technically all jungles. The entrance to this turnaround is the only part that fails to produce air. Rode the boomerang last time. Thought it was one of the better ones. Like CGA, SFDK now has a nice one-two punch with Medusa and Joker. From off ride you’d seriously have no idea Medusa is a parking lot coaster because it’s disguised so well. Then once you climb the lift and look down, you’re all “ohhhh….” From this angle they could almost call it Medusa Terrain Coaster. Six Flags has told bigger lies. In 2012 I decided that Kong was the worst of the Vekoma SLCs. Our Lyft driver told us Kong was a “must ride.” Cool. Glad I asked a local. I still can’t bring myself to bother with Larson Loops. Are they any good?
  19. California’s Great America Friday, August 12, 2016 I made my pilgrimage to CGA to say goodbye to standup Vortex this August. Wait, sorry, I can’t lie to you people… I don’t actually care about Vortex. I first visited the Northern California parks in 2012 in what was little more than a four hour credit run through Six Flags Discovery Kingdom the morning before a wedding and an even briefer cameo at CGA the next day before I drove home to Orange County. At the time I felt that CGA was a park with a very nice atmosphere, but an abysmal selection of rides outside of the super-intense Flight Deck. I visited again in 2015 to ride Goldstriker, which gave CGA the one-two coaster punch it sorely needed. This time I went with my friend, Kyle (Gnome) with the intention of spending a full day really exploring both parks. It didn’t quite work out that way. A few thoughts on CGA: - Flight Deck and Goldstriker complement each other perfectly and I can ride them all day without bothering with a single one of the park’s other coasters. You have a timeless, steel g-force machine with inversions, and a smooth, wooden airtime generator that hits the brakes with enough momentum to hustle through another 1,000 feet of track if it wanted to. - Out of the 13 unique inverts in the US I rank Flight Deck sixth. I love everything about it except the short length. Another corkscrew and a second helix could make it elite. This is not likely to be a popular opinion but I prefer it to Banshee. - Goldstriker is my third favorite GCI after American Thunder and Thunderhead. I love the relentless speed and constant pops of floater air. The only negative is that there’s no defining moment on the ride. - Vortex can still be tolerable in the first two rows, even as a standup. I fear the layout is too limited for it to become as transformative as Rougarou became with floorless trains, but I’m curious enough to come back in 2017. - Demon is not all that brutal by Arrow standards aside from one thing. The pullout from the turnaround into the first corkscrew occurs at what must be a 45 degree bank that just about kills me every time. - I didn’t ride Grizzly this time, but in 2015 I actually enjoyed it pretty well. A lot of people, myself included, have called for RMC to do their thing, but if that never happens it serves very well in its role as a “big” family coaster. - Mass Effect is a great attraction. I’m not a gamer and I don’t know the first thing about the franchise so I was unsure about doing it. If you are having similar thoughts, don’t worry. The storyline is simple and clear, and the graphics and 3D are top notch. A lot of fun. - I wonder how my perception of this park would differ if Paramount and Cedar Fair had not pillaged it of some key attractions over the decades. With Stealth, Invertigo, Tidal Wave, and Whizzer still there, CGA would feel like a complete park instead of “Flight Deck + Goldstriker and???” Nowadays, Goldstriker has more airtime on its first drop than Ghostrider does. Has anyone stopped to consider that the #shed on Mystic Timbers is there to accommodate the Prudential office Kings island will be installing for 2018? I really hope we get one of the 4-5,000 foot long GCIs that keep cropping up in China. Goldstriker finishes with the momentum to do it. I always gray out at the top of Flight Deck’s upward spiral. It’s a near-constant build of g-forces from the drop pullout, through the loop, and into the spiral. Love it. Pond Skimmer: The Ride There’s a wonderful little “pump” the train navigates exiting the corkscrew that you’d never find on a newer B&M. Many of the early 1990s ones are full of quirks like this that lend coasters a bit of personality. Does any park have a collection of smaller B&Ms than CGA? Grizzly can actually look impressive from some angles. Like it's the Phoenix or something. Mmmm… So impressive…. I’d honestly rather see Demon removed for a new coaster than Grizzly. But there seems to be enough room around the perimeter behind Demon, Grizzly, and Whitewater Falls to build an out & back coaster of some kind. After 40 years, Demon has become an almost seamless part of the landscape. Yep, it’s come a long way. It’s hard to see where all the airtime comes from by looking at Goldstriker. None of it is Intamin/RMC extreme, but it’s everywhere. I wish Goldstriker had one or two standout elements I could remember vividly. Some wooden coasters have them, others don’t. After roughly 20 rides over two years, I still can’t recall much of the layout even though I really enjoyed it. It still runs great in its fourth year of operation. This already shows that it’s holding up better than Apocalypse. Vortex’s tight layout could honestly be a lot of fun when you don’t have to brace yourself entering every curve. But why is Patriot going to be entirely blue? Because Flight Deck is now red? It hardly matters, but red trains or supports would have been cool. Maybe Patriot’s station will get a ROOF to go along with its shiny new retractable floor? Flight Deck is ageless. You’d never know it’s 23 years old. It runs smoother than many younger B&Ms. The zero-g-roll doesn’t create much zero gravity. The rate of rotation is so quick it’s more of a lateral-g-roll and it feels awesome. Great element. I’ll still gladly trade my home invert, Silver Bullet, for it. By 2017 only five of the seven original B&M standup coasters will be left, and hopefully soon just four if Carowinds’ Vortex also goes full-Patriot. Just don’t touch Riddler’s Revenge and Georgia Scorcher. This is a warning to everyone: If you have important credits (Joker…) to get the next day, DO NOT think it is safe to get absolutely wasted the night before. Kyle and I took a Lyft to the nearby Fault Line Brewery for lunch where we both got flights of 10 different beers, then capped that off with shots of Jameson and some 16 oz IPAs. Still feeling good, we also had a few more IPAs once we got back to the park. I regularly drink in parks where craft beer is available, but this was on a different level. I’ll be honest, I kind of blacked out after that. We both vaguely remember sprinting down the midway to Goldstriker for no apparent reason. So there’s that. But when I woke up the next morning I was so hung over that I honestly thought I couldn’t make it to SFDK. This would then mean that I took TWO trips to parks with new RMCs in 2016 and rode NEITHER (Lightning Rod was closed when I visited Dollywood). Unwilling to accept this, we loaded up on Gatorade and Advil, took a long nap, and finally made it to SFDK three hours later than we wanted to. Oh well. At least we got our Joker credits. Disaster averted. This time.
  20. Rode Joker for the first time last week. I noticed it had the same "RMC roar" that Medusa Steel Coaster had when I rode it last fall, but was absent from the others. It definitely has something to do with the type of wheels being used as I observed Medusa had no less than three different types of wheels at the time and was even louder than Joker is right now. The roar also seems to coincide with a slightly more sluggish ride experience. As absolutely crazy fast as Medusa ran for me, my friend in Mexico City said it was actually a bit slower than what he was used to, and that several months later it was running quietly again as well as a bit faster as they continued tinkering with the wheel configuration. Difference is that while Joker indeed felt like the most sluggish of the six RMCs I've ridden, Medusa is so balls-to-the-wall insane that even "sluggish Medusa" is still my top RMC. New rankings: 1. Medusa Steel Coaster 2. Outlaw Run 3. Twisted Colossus 4. New Texas Giant 5. Iron Rattler 6. The Joker And Joker is still a top 20 coaster for me. Even the weakest RMC is elite.
  21. CP was always building tallest/longest/fastest long before Millennium Force. Mantis in 1996, Raptor in 1994, Mean Streak in 1991, Magnum in 1989, and Gemini in 1978 were all the tallest/fastest coaster in the world or largest of their type when built. So the way I see it, nothing about Cedar Point's MO has changed. It may just seem like it because we no longer think of many of those rides as big record breakers in retrospect. And was there anything particularly "not sterile" about any of those additions? I would say not. Honestly, starting with Dragster and Maverick, I think CP puts more effort into the presentation of their coasters now than they did pre-2000.
  22. Why didn't you like Gold Striker? I rode it and I would place it as my top wooden coaster 1) Gold Striker (CGA) 2) Mr. Twister (Elitch Gardens) 3) Grizzly (CGA) 4) Apocalypse (SFMM) 5) Pre-Refurb Ghostrider (KBF) Look at his list then look at yours. He has been on El Toro, Phoenix, and Boulder Dash, three that are perennial top 5 in the world. Placing Goldstriker behind those, Comet (once a top 5-10 coaster itself if you go back a decade or so), and a recently retracked Cyclone is not bad at all. I personally think Goldstriker is great and my 2nd or 3rd favorite GCI, but it's just not as good under most criteria as the best CCIs, Gravity Groups, Intamins, and RMCs.
  23. A few changes since last time. 1. Skyrush 2. Voyage 3. Maverick 4. Boulder Dash 5. El Toro 6. Phoenix 7. Intimidator 305 8. Medusa Steel Coaster 9. Millennium Force 10. Fury 325
  24. I actually thought that hill was the second best part of the ride even in its new form. Didn't make much difference to me.
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