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Everything posted by Condor

  1. I rode Ghostrider four times now over this week so here are my thoughts. Obviously a huge improvement from what we've known for the last 10-15 years. My memories of Ghostrider prior to that are too vague for me to make a good comparison from when it was new. My first ride on the new Ghostrider in row 11 was not all that impressive. In fact I thought it felt tame, but at least it was fast and smooth. Rode another three times yesterday, all in row 12. I liked it a lot more, but I'm still not convinced it's the top 10 woody I prematurely assumed it would be. There's mild floater air on the first drop and two or three other hills, and good ejector air on "the drop" and the left-turning hill following. I'm impressed that GCI left the strong laterals intact on the two Beach Blvd turnarounds and the helix as I really thought they might neutralize them. Millennium Flyers are my favorite wood coaster trains and they run great here as expected. I might shift my opinion as it breaks in over the summer and I ride it more, but so far I don't think the new Ghostrider is quite as good as other CCI's I've ridden. It's a lot better than Boss, but for now I'd place it slightly behind Legend, Raven, Timber Terror, and Tremors, and well below Boulder Dash. I'm also not sure I even like it better than GCI's Thunderhead which I rode last month. So for now it resides just out of my top 10 wooden coasters. So is Ghostrider world class? I'm not sure yet. But as a SoCal local it's at least good enough to bring me back to Knott's on a regular basis for the first time in a decade and that's honestly enough.
  2. Thanks for the praise! These trip reports can sometimes take a while but I have fun writing them. And btw, Kings Island was part of my 2015 trip. Just used it for a couple of comparisons here. My list of hypers and gigas goes like this: 1. Skyrush 2. Intimidator 305 3. Millennium Force 4. Fury 325 5. Phantom's Revenge 6. Magnum XL-200 7. Goliath (SFOG) 8. Nitro 9. Superman The Ride/Bizarro (another one I owe another chance) 10. Superman El Ultimo Escape 11. Diamondback 12. Apollo's Chariot 13. Titan 14. Steel Force 15. Mamba 16. Intimidator 17. Goliath (SFMM) 18. Desperado
  3. Six Flags Over Georgia Saturday, May 7, 2016 This park is rarely talked about as the best Six Flags park. Six Flags Magic Mountain and Great Adventure get lots of attention and occasionally someone will mention Six Flags Over Texas or Great America, but practically no one heaps praise on SFOG. This is understandable because we often tie a corporate amusement park’s identity to its signature ride(s) and SFOG has no El Toros or Kingda Kas, no Superman The Rides or Wicked Cyclones, no New Texas Giants, no Twisted Colossi. If that’s the way you’re accustomed to seeing things, it’s not hard to understand how SFOG could be overlooked. My only prior visit was in seven years ago in 2009 and back then I decided that it was in fact my favorite in the chain. I still think so today. My first thought upon arrival in 2016 was, “Holy crap Georgia Scorcher needs to be repainted.” We in Southern California think coasters like Xcelerator and Tastu have it bad, but I’m sure Scorcher would gladly trade places with them. Its paint is not just badly faded, it’s rusted, streaked with black, and is literally peeling off and crumbling over the entire track length. It really detracts from the beauty of what is easily Six Flag’s nicest looking entrance plaza with lush greenery, a lake, and Scorcher and Goliath both zipping around. Fortunately this little standup still kicks ass so I almost don’t care. Now this won’t be news to a lot of you, but I’d like to take a second to compare the value of SFOG’s platinum Flash Pass with Carowinds’ Fast Lane Plus from the day before. Fast lane Plus included all major rides including Fury 325, Nighthawk, and Plants vs Zombies for $75 per person if purchased at the park, and since it utilizes simple wristbands, you don’t have to mess around with a redundant Q-bot that requires you to leave your ID/credit card/first born child behind as collateral in case you steal it. Flash Pass makes you do all of that, charges you $115 per person for the privilege of including all the major rides* (but not really – if you want a solitary pass for Dare New Devil Dive Revolution and the wonders of virtual reality you still have to pay another $10 for a total of $125 per person – which we did). As a pro free market, supply and demand kind of guy, I believe Six Flags has every right to charge whatever price for this product their customers are willing to pay. That’s just reality folks. But as a biased coaster enthusiast consumer, it’s impossible to argue that it’s as good a value as Cedar Fair’s alternative. “Oh, but Flash Pass Platinum allows you consecutive re-rides without leaving your seat!” This is true, but only when the coasters are running more than one train (which the park’s second best coaster, Mind Bender, was not) and I still feel just, so, so dirty every time I do it. Not that it stopped us or anything. I’m not going to walk us through the entire day this time and instead jump straight into the ride reviews. But first, what do I think is so special about SFOG that makes it my favorite of all Six Flags? I think it’s two simple things: The well-roundedness of the coaster collection and the atmosphere created by the lush topography and subtle terrain the park is built on. Like its sister, SFOT, this park has a lot of the old school details and charm absent from other parks that Six Flags acquired instead of built. And while I absolutely think Georgia Cyclone should be next in line to get RMC’d, there are enough quality coasters here from Goliath to Mind Bender, Scorcher, Batman, Superman, Dare Devil Dive, Cyclone, and GASM that the lack of a true world class standout doesn’t even matter to me. I almost forgot. While I meant everything I just said – dear lord does the staff at SFOG suck. I don’t recall what they were like last time in 2009, but in 2016 even Magic Mountain has better operations and service than this. It’s like they take all the people who didn’t pass interviews and drug tests at Carowinds and bus them here every day. Maybe I just had a bad experience, but this was the least inspired, unfriendly, most glum group of park employees I’ve seen in a while. Reviews: Goliath (x10) This coaster was a longtime mainstay in my top 10, but that was based on rides from seven years ago when I had less than half the credits I do now and before I had ridden countless Intamins and RMCs. Does Goliath still measure up? Not quite. It’s still very good, just no longer top 10. I think it’s the best of the B&M hypers and it absolutely mops the floor with Intimidator. The airtime is stronger, the pacing is uninterrupted and much quicker, and the setting is one of the nicest you’ll find for a hyper coaster. Second best coaster of the trip after Fury. (9/10) Mind Bender (x6) On the other hand, Mind Bender was actually better than I remembered it. I recall it pulling those awesome Schwarzkopf g’s and using terrain to great effect, but I did not remember that this thing has real airtime too! None of the drops with their shallow descents suggest airtime when you look at them. But they have it. This coaster is an all-around gem and I am so glad they didn’t apply VR to it. Moves up solidly into my steel top 20 with this visit. (9/10) Georgia Scorcher (x5) B&M’s finest standup and the only one that still rides like new (if only it looked like it too). Amazing contrast with the far inferior Vortex. This coaster is not quite Batman-level intense but it’s a lot more forceful than Riddler’s Revenge and any of the floorless coasters. Great, tight little layout that prioritizes swooping dives and twisty directional changes over inversions. I wish B&M made more like it. (8/10) Dare Devil Dive Coaster (x1) I did not ride with VR after finding it kind of disappointing on SFMM’s Revolution. I could not imagine waiting in the full queue for this thing with VR. With Revolution it’s tolerable because the capacity is naturally higher, but here the dispatches are much slower and it appears to break down often. VR element removed, I actually really liked this coaster. Nice and smooth with a good mix of forces and a fun layout. (7/10) Batman: The Ride (x1) Since I prioritize intensity above all else, you’d think I love these. But I just don’t and I can never completely figure out why. It’s not that I dislike them, I just don’t think the layout is that fun or exciting even though it’s relentlessly intense. (7/10) Superman: Ultimate Flight (x2) These are cool, but with Tatsu nearby at home they’re just filler attractions for me. I think the S:UF clones actually get a bit of a bad rap online that they don’t necessarily deserve. People often talk about them like they’re among B&M’s lesser efforts and I don’t think that’s true. I think the types of maneuvers flyers are relegated are simply difficult to pull off in confined spaces. (7/10) Great American Scream Machine (x2) One of the best John Allen wooden coasters. It’s bigger than Blue Streak, more scenic than Rebel Yell or the Kings Island Racer, and has more airtime than all of them. Only Screamin’ Eagle at SFStl tops it for me. (7/10) Georgia Cyclone (x2) The RMC topper track on the first two drops really helps. Big difference from last time, but later portions of the ride can still be kind of rough. I enjoyed riding this more than I thought I would, but it’s the obvious place to go for the park’s next big coaster. Great RMC potential here. (6/10) SFOG's entrance plaza gives Carowinds' a run for its money. This Batman's mother is not named Martha. In fact it has two mothers. Their names are Walter and Claude. They are both men. Goliath and Scorcher make one of the better B&M combos out there. I like to imagine Georgia Scorcher speaking in a wheezy, dying old man's voice: "Pleasssssse... If I could only have one... last wish... Please paint meeeeee........." Amazing what a great ride they packed into a small plot. This and Batman are the two most compact B&Ms I've seen. Dare Devil Dive has a pretty good layout. I look forward to trying it again in the future once VR is gone and it's hopefully more repeatable. Great American Scream Machine is the wrong choice for a RMC conversion. Georgia Cyclone is the correct choice. Last time I was here there was a piece of wood hanging by a single nail and swinging wildly back and forth near this drop. "Blue Hawk????" A lesson in why you never let the public name anything. Superman doing what Supermen do. Decent floater air on Goliath's larger hills. The ejector doesn't start until the bunny hops. A modest first drop for a hyper coaster. Things really don't pick up until the second. One of the all-time great out & back turnarounds. The only hill on the ride without airtime is this one immediately following the helix. A trim brake before it grabs you just enough to limit the speed at which you take it. If that trim wasn't there, the bunny hops after it would be a thing of legend. Mind Bender is one of Schwarzkopf's best. They layout is a little more innovative and varied than its cousin, Shockwave at SFOT. Nice abrupt pop of airtime here in the back seat dropping back down out of the spiral "third loop." I really, really like this coaster and had a tough time deciding whether to marathon it or Goliath at the end of the night.
  4. Carowinds Friday, May 6, 2016 This will sound harsh, but Carowinds has two coasters that are great, one that’s just okay, and a bunch that are basically junk. To use Kings Island as a point of comparison again, that park’s collection has the complete opposite problem in that nearly all of its coasters are average-to-good, none are truly great, and only one (Vortex) is objectively terrible. And Kings Dominion marries these two dynamics almost perfectly, perhaps why it’s also my favorite of the three. Considering how closely Paramount and now Cedar Fair adhered to similar acquisition strategies for them, it’s kind of remarkable how qualitatively different each park’s coasters feel to me. You might think this means I didn’t enjoy Carowinds or that I think it’s a mediocre park, but this is not the case. Well actually, the “Carobrew” honey lager I tried at Chickie’s and Pete’s was probably the worst beer I’ve had in years, so maybe. But I thought the park looked great and the operations were generally good, especially on the big three B&Ms. Carowinds is also very picture friendly. There are great views of all the major coasters from both inside and outside the park. Had I been a more devoted photographer and spent more time, or you know, used an actual camera instead of my iPhone, I probably would have 3-4 times the photos and not have reused any angles. We bought Fastlane to help bypass all the school groups roaming the park and headed first to the low capacity Nighthawk upon entering an hour after opening at 10. The ride crew was struggling with the restraints on the train in the station when we got there, so a one train wait ended up taking about 30 minutes for us to ride. Nighthawk is the flying Dutchman prototype so it’s not as mature a design as Kings Island’s Firehawk, but Carowinds has done an excellent job landscaping around it, so it at least passes the eye test for centerpiece attractions. One ride was all we needed. The nearby Intimidator was next and we got on right away in the back seat. I made sure to do this before Fury 325 as I was sure whatever charms Intimidator has of its own would be totally eclipsed by the giga coaster. I was even more right than I knew and I only felt the need to ride it once more later in the day. This was not the case at all with Fury. I we rode it more times in one day than any coaster on the trip and it was a no-brainer for my steel top 10. We tried seats all over the train and I liked the front and back rows equally well. After the awful Carobrew we decided to continue punishing ourselves with a lap on Carowinds’ only remaining, adult wooden coaster, Hurler. It actually wasn’t that bad and ran far smoother than I remember the one at KD did in 2014. Still in search of a beating, we then sought out the resident cookie cutter Arrow Dynamics looper, Carolina Cyclone. But it didn’t open until mid-way through the day and we moved on to Carolina Goldrusher, the Arrow mine train instead. It was around this time that I realized how surprisingly compact Carowinds felt. I don’t know the park’s acreage and it’s obviously huge if you count all the land taken up by the coasters around the rim of the park’s loop, but the actual walkable area did not feel as large as other parks we typically think of as similarly sized. The main midways wrap around a hub made up of Nighthawk, Vortex, and Carolina Goldrusher, with Intimidator, Afterburn, Carolina Cyclone, Hurler, and Fury around the perimeter. Maybe it’s just me, but I felt like we could walk the whole park in no time at all. We went outside the gates to take advantage of the plentiful views of the B&Ms from the parking lot and take pictures. Once we re-entered we finally made our way to Afterburn. It was a milestone for me because it was the last remaining B&M inverted coaster in the US I had not ridden. I truly saved one of the best for last. All I could think about was how much I wished Knott’s could trade Silver Bullet for this. I liked it even better the more I rode it and by the end of the night it had climbed up the ranks to become my third favorite out of the thirteen unique inverted layouts I’ve been on, only Raptor and Dueling Dragons Fire above it. We made quick work of the boomerang, Carolina Cobra, then Vortex, Carolina Cyclone, Flying Ace Aerial Chase, and Woodstock Express before devoting the remainder of the day to accruing laps on Fury 325 and Afterburn. Ricochet had either long lines (no Fastlane available) or was down the majority of the day, but we finally included it in the middle of our Fury marathon to close out the night. Amusing little story about Fury: With about 30 minutes to closing, Carlos and I rode next to two guys who were a little intoxicated. Once we hit the brakes, the guy seated beside Carlos vomited a stream of pure beer onto the back of the car in front of us. Having watched the Afterburn crew take forever to deal with the same issue earlier and cycle the affected train 5+ times empty, we did not want to miss out on any night rides on Fury and screamed at the two guys to NOT tell the ride ops about it. It was all pretty liquid anyway and the crew was preoccupied with dispatching trains ASAP, so they never noticed, the two guys stayed quiet, and we got three more night rides on Fury unimpeded. Reviews: Fury 325 (x13) Now my #6 steel coaster and top rated B&M. I hope B&M has at least one more giga coaster like this in them as the scale seems to force them to design the kind of exhilarating experience we all wish they would deliver regularly. Ejector airtime on the first drop and the final two camelbacks, plus-moderate-to-strong floater air on the middle hill with the trim. What I did not know to expect was how this thing is packed with positive g’s through all the low level curves during the first half. For a g-force lover like myself, this was a great surprise and puts Fury in the same club as B&M’s earlier stuff from the 1990s. But I do place it third out of the three giga coasters I’ve been on. Intimidator 305 is just a more visceral experience and Millennium Force is still an outlier that somehow gets away with breaking many of the “rules” we often use to determine a coaster’s quality. That doesn’t diminish Fury though. It’s plenty great in its own right. (9.5/10) Afterburn (x10) What a ride! As much as I was looking forward to what for me was the last of the truly old school B&Ms in the country, I did not expect it to surpass the likes of Montu and Alpengeist and land a spot in my steel top 20. As you can tell by now, intensity is my primary criteria for judging steel coasters and this one does it almost perfectly. The only way I can nitpick it even a little is to wish for a double helix finale à la Raptor or Silver Bullet instead of a single. (9/10) Intimidator (x2) I’m a fan of B&M hypers and even I really didn’t like this one. The others I have ridden are Nitro, Goliath @ SFOG, Apollo’s Chariot, and Diamondback. I have the former two firmly in my top 20 and regard the latter ones as still good, but with generally weaker airtime, which is exactly what I expected of Intimidator. No. I rode once in the very front and again in the very back and both times I came away feeling utterly indifferent about what had just happened. It’s like a giant California Screamin’ that actually has less airtime. I don’t like the staggered B&M hyper trains and I wonder if accommodating them has something to do with the more drawn out hills and transitions on this and Diamondback. So glad Mako is getting the straight across ones. I didn’t even bother returning to it later in the day. But I do have to mention this: Carlos loved Intimidator. Unlike me, he did go back to it in the evening and described a coaster that had transformed from earlier in the day with much stronger airtime. Is he right? Very possibly. I honestly should have given it one more ride after a full day of warming up, but I was simply having too much fun on Afterburn and Fury to care. I leave Intimidator as my ultimate “deserves another chance” coaster. (6/10) Nighthawk (x1) I’m actually a very big fan of Kings island’s Firehawk (Geauga Lake’s X-Flight when I first rode it) and I even prefer it to the B&M Superman: Ultimate Flight clones. Nighthawk doesn’t fare quite as well. It’s not rough, but just feels “loose” on the track to an even greater degree than the typical Vekoma. It misses out on Firehawk’s improvements like the ending helix and replacement of the double corkscrew with a double inline twist, and that detracts significantly from time spent in the flying position. (5/10) Vortex (x1) Blah. Another rough, old standup. It’s a little longer than its cousin at California’s Great America and maybe a little more comfortable, but still a one-and-done coaster. (4/10) Ricochet (x1) Actually pretty decent for a standard wild mouse. Minimal braking on the flat turns and you still take the sharp drops fast enough to keep things fun. I never know what to expect with these so this one being even moderately fast was a nice surprise. (5/10) Carolina Cyclone (x1) Simple double loop, double corkscrew Arrow. Another one Carlos seemed to enjoy but was painful on the neck for me. Really starting to miss Tennessee Tornado now… (4/10) Carolina Goldrusher (x1) Unfortunately one of the less inspired mine trains I’ve encountered. Certainly no Thunderation, but older ones like those at SFOT and Cedar Point best it too. No interesting terrain or landscaping at all. Good as a starter coaster for youngsters moving up from kiddie coasters and that’s about it. (4/10) Hurler (x1) Honestly not the abomination I was prepared for following my experience on the one at KD. I’m very interested to see what Cedar Fair does with that one since it’s closed for 2016 last I heard. I suppose these will both be RMC candidates sooner or later, but I question whether the lack of substantial support structure due to the low-lying nature of the layout makes them ideal for it. Perhaps a Ghostrider-style GCI makeover is more suitable? (4/10) Carowinds is a beautiful park for entirely different reasons than Dollywood. You can see most of the park's major attractions from almost anywhere in the park. Nighthawk, Vortex, Carolina Goldrusher, and Flying Ace are clustered in a central hub. Nighthawk doesn't ride particularly well, but Carowinds did and excellent job with the presentation. Based on aesthetics alone, this would be the park's second best coaster. Fury looks even taller than the other giga coasters. Perhaps because it is. Like Fury and Afterburn, you have to go outside the park to find many of the best shots of Intimidator. I found this coaster much better to photograph than to actually ride. The hammerhead is certainly no match for Goliath's helix turnaround at Six Flags Over Georgia. Fury 325 narrowly edged out Kumba's longstanding place as my top B&M. Just barely.... Great, ground-hugging g-forces through this section. Fury overshadows Intimidator in every way. Big, flat turns after the first drop have rarely proven to be a wise design feature on traditional wooden coasters. The Hurlers have such a weird layout. And they simplify much of what makes the very similar Thunder Run at Kentucky Kingdom good. Carolina Cyclone is far from the best Arrow looper... ...but also far from the worst. Vortex wasn't too rough until the second half of the ride. Afterburn is situated next to what I'm sure is a seldom-used back entrance. The batwing element on this and Montu is so good. It's a shame B&M used it so infrequently compared to the usually far inferior cobra roll. It has a nice kick on the first drop, same as Batman, Flight Deck, and several other inverts. I wish the US Navy still flew F-14s, but that's a discussion for another forum. Corkscrews aren't usually my favorite inversion, but this one is seriously intense. Great element. Carlos took a couple great shots at twilight. It's always satisfying to add a new top ten coaster.
  5. My first theme park vacation of 2016 marked my first visit to two parks that were new to me in Dollywood and Carowinds, and another that I had not visited since 2009 in Six Flags Over Georgia. The plan was to spend two, full, crowd-free days, midweek at Dollywood to really soak in all that the park has to offer, see a bit of the Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg area, and get as many re-rides as we could handle on a very particular and highly anticipated new for 2016 attraction. That plan was made in January. Had I known then what we all know about said attraction now, a single day at Dollywood would have sufficed and we would have included a fourth park instead, probably Kentucky Kingdom. Would Dollywood with its existing rides and no lines to slow down our pace be enough to keep us entertained until we departed for Carowinds and SFOG? That was an interesting question. Fortunately, the answer was yes. Dollywoood Wednesday/Thursday, May 4-5, 2016 “It’s okay, but Kings Island was a lot nicer.” -- anonymous. An interesting thing about traveling to parks with people who enjoy them but are decidedly not enthusiasts is the reactions that you simply would not hear from anyone in the enthusiast community. Since my birthday is the fourth, my parents joined me for the Dollywood portion of the trip. My dad has been to most of the parks I have, but my mom has only been to a few -- one of which was Kings Island the year before. Now I thought Dollywood would be the perfect park for them to enjoy specifically because it was not cut from the Six Flags or Cedar Fair template and would provide a more well-rounded experience (and cinnamon bread). My dad loved Dollywood, but my mom just didn’t get the place. Where most of us appreciate Dollywood for its attention to detail, theming, cleanliness, above average customer service, and modest, but quality coaster collection, my mom just saw lots of wooden buildings and stuff that reminded her of the things she dislikes most, namely the outdoors and all things old fashioned. Now while I’ve just spent two paragraphs painting her as some kind of indoor curmudgeon, she really isn’t and she still enjoyed the park for the time she was there. But in hindsight, perhaps Carowinds would have been the better park for her, though there’s no way I’d ever get her on Fury 325. And with me for the entire trip was my friend Carlos, who is every bit the enthusiast I am. He and I met by chance at Cedar Point two years ago and I later visited Medusa Steel Coaster and Carlos in Mexico City this past October. Like me, he had been to SFOG before, but Dollywood and Carowinds were new. He and I also tend to differ somewhat on the coasters we prefer, so comparing reviews and experiences is always fun. We entered the park at opening and made a quick left up the trail past Thunderhead to what I understood was the lowest capacity of Dollywood’s coasters in Mystery Mine for two quick rides. As it turns out, crowds were so light that it didn’t matter what order we rode anything in and everything was a 1-2 train wait or a walk-on both days we were there. Carlos and I both have 250+ credits, but Mystery Mine was still somehow our first Gerstlauer Eurofighter and our second was coming up at SFOG in a few days. I understand why some people find this ride uncomfortable, though I thought it was just fine (but I’m also the kind of person who finds Skyrush, Magnum, and The Voyage perfectly tolerable, so yeah… um, check me out) and we returned to ride it several more times. Next we backtracked to Thunderhead, which is my pick for the park’s best coaster pending the eventual opening of its younger wooden cousin up front… This was my ninth GCI and I think it’s one of the best. It’s not as smooth as the still-new Goldstriker, but it was comfortable enough and we rode it more times than the park’s other coasters. We looped around the back of the park to Fire Chaser Express and Wild Eagle which are conveniently across the midway from one another. Fire Chaser is the ideal family coaster in that it combines impressive scale and genuine thrills with cool elements, theming, and a friendly demeanor that lends itself to great re-ridability. Three rides on it over two days felt sufficient, but this is the kind of coaster I would have ridden all day as a kid. I suppose Silver Dollar City already has this niche covered with Thunderation, but if their next coaster is not a big thrill ride, I’d love to see them build something like this. Wild Eagle was the coaster at Dollywood I was most ambivalent about. Wing coasters are just not my favorite B&Ms. I like flyers and inverts much better. This one in particular doesn’t have any elements that create a wow-factor like Thunderbird or Gatekeeper, and in a park with a unique coaster lineup, this one was a little hard to get excited for. Carlos thought it was the park’s best steel coaster, but my opinion is more mixed and I’ll delve into that in depth later. We actually rode this quite a bit over our two days, second only to Thunderhead. Tennessee Tornado was down in the morning, so we moved on to Blazing Fury, still a top notch dark ride even if I’d like to see it get a Timber Mountain Log Ride style makeover, and then meandered through Craftsman’s Valley for cinnamon bread at the Gristmill and down to the front of the park for lunch. Next we all hopped on the Dollywood Express steam engine train. The visual of a full-on locomotive serving as a theme park attraction is impressive, but along with it comes the problem of soot blowing in your face the whole time if the wind is just right and you’re seated in the either of the first two cars as we were. And really, the steam engine itself is the coolest part of the attraction. The route it takes is not particularly scenic and honestly a bit short. Tornado opened up eventually and we walked right on into the back car. Wow. What a forceful, unique Arrow looper! It’s my pick for Dollywood’s best steel coaster and I would be just fine alternating this with Thunderhead and marathoning them both all day. Now I mentioned my father had been to quite a few parks himself. He’s in his sixties and still rides everything from Voyage to Kingda Ka, but Tennessee Tornado did him in for the day. The g-forces this thing pulls kind of wiped him out for a while and after resting, my parents decided to return to our hotel for the day. Carlos and I spent the rest of the time until closing exploring the nooks and crannies of the park and re-riding all five coasters. The park was set to close at 7:00 and by 6:00 the weather had settled into steady rainfall. So we did the only logical thing and rode Thunderhead eight more times until the rain stopped just before 7. Many of my most treasured theme park memories are of going lap after lap on some of my favorite coasters in the rain, uninterrupted by stuff like other people thinking they have the right to get in my way or something. Tremors, Timber Terror, Millennium Force, Magnum, and Dueling Dragons are all members of this special club. And now Thunderhead joins them. ___________________________ On our second day we only spent around four hours in the park. The weather was warmer and dryer, but crowds were still nonexistent so we got in several more re-rides on all five coasters before leaving to check out some local attractions outside the park. I’ve come this far without mentioning Lightning Rod by name, but I do have to address it briefly. We knew a few weeks out from the trip that our chances of riding it were basically zero. We hoped to catch it testing, but all we got to see were a few cars getting crane-lifted off the transfer track. Without it, Dollywood is still a great park in almost every way, but lacks a true world-class anchor attraction. Carlos and I bought season passes just in case we find it feasible to return to Dollywood for a day later in the year to ride it. After leaving Dollywood, we picked my dad up and drove to the Smokey Mountain Alpine Coaster only a few minutes from the park. I had never ridden an alpine coaster before and Carlos had only done a much shorter one in Colorado, so we were especially excited for this. There was still some rain, so the crew unfortunately had the “wet” cars with the windshields up in front running the course. I suppose it takes away just a bit from the full, open feeling you would otherwise get, but the ride itself is a blast either way. There were no brake-happy riders in front of our group either of the two times we rode it and for a fan of lateral forces like myself, this ride is a dream, especially in the two helixes. We made a stop at Pigeon Forge’s “The Island” outdoor shopping center to visit the Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine store for a free tasting. Ole Smoky has a great thing going with their moonshine tastings. You get to sample what amounts to about a 1/3 shot of 11 different styles of moonshine and 2 kinds of whiskey. So you definitely leave with a decent buzz going, especially if you haven’t eaten anything in five hours like us. Reviews: Mystery Mine (x5) I wish more parks outside of Disney, Universal, and Dollywood would build coasters like this. Not necessarily Eurofighters, but coasters that marry high-g maneuvers, airtime, and inversions to immersive theming. As I said earlier, I didn’t find it rough, but I can see why some of the transitions might be too abrupt and jerky for people. My favorite part was the sequence comprised of the first 90 degree drop halfway through the layout followed by the upward 90 degree banked turn. Nice moment of conventional airtime followed by lateral air. (7/10) Thunderhead (x15) My favorite GCI is American Thunder at Six Flags St. Louis. What I like about it that I don’t find in all GCIs is a sense of linear organization to the layout that helps build anticipation of elements to come and keeps it from feeling like a random series of directional changes. This is something that feels lacking from others like Goldstriker but present in Thunderhead (Apocalypse has it too, but with the slight problem that it’s elements mostly suck). When I look back at GCI’s portfolio, I find a dramatic change in how they designed their early rides from Wildcat in 1996 through the Roar twins in 1999 and how everything else is built from Kentucky Rumbler in 2006 onward. In between you have Lightning Racer, Ozark Wildcat (which I never rode), and Thunderhead. With these three they began to transition from big, single hills and wide, swooping turns into the more complex elements made of many smaller twists and smaller pops of air that together make the fast paced layouts we see from them today. I think what I like about Thunderhead is that it feels caught at the perfect point between old and new GCI. It has relentless pacing and real airtime, but also the big elements that stand out and don’t get lost in the layout like they do on Goldstriker. It’s still not as good as the best CCIs, Gravity Groups, Intamins, and RMC’s, but it’s good enough to be my second favorite GCI. (8/10) Fire Chaser Express (x4) After writing about Thunderhead I honestly have nothing insightful to say about Fire Chaser. But that doesn’t reflect negative on the ride. It’s exactly what it’s supposed to be: a big, moderately thrilling family coaster and it’s brilliant for it. (6/10) Wild Eagle (x8) The best part of this coaster was the unexpected airtime on the first drop. Wild Eagle’s hilltop setting makes it look like a hyper coaster from outside the park and going down the drop, it feels like one too. After that, I didn’t find it all that impressive. The rest of the wing coasters have unique features not found on other B&Ms, but Wild Eagle has zero. This layout could just as easily have been a sitdown, floorless, or invert with virtually no difference. It’s rougher than I remember Thunderbird or Gatekeeper being the year before and it’s also the only one of the three that still has vests that tighten during the ride. It’s still a fine ride, but B&M routinely does better. (7/10) Tennessee Tornado (x7) If only Arrow hadn’t relied on outdated technology for so long and started building coasters like this in the early 1990s. Then we could potentially have had an industry full of new-wave Arrow loopers competing with B&Ms for countless parks’ shopping lists. But instead all we have is Tornado. It’s unique, super intense, and frustratingly incomplete. If there was a camelback-corkscrew-helix sequence to round off the layout before hitting the brakes I think you’d see this coaster rank highly in many polls and maybe even land on a few individuals’ top ten lists. Unfortunately it doesn’t have any of that, but what it does have is still enough to make it my second favorite Arrow below Magnum and above X2. (8/10) Westayed at The Riverstone Resort just a couple of miles from Dollywood. Great hotel with reasonable rates. Not a bad place to stay for two nights. View of the real river. And of the fake one. For those who don't know, Dollywood is in "Pigeon Force" as Carlos likes to say. My favorite part of the ride. The only easy place to photograph Mystery Mine. Thunderhead lands just outside my top 10 wooden coasters. I'd love to see a Star Flyer in this spot. The drop coming down off the first elevated turnaround. Strong floater air over this hill. Everything in Pigeon Forge is apparently fire fighter themed. The whole area around Fire Chaser Express looks great. I believe the tightening vests are intended to represent the eagle's talons. Great airtime here, especially for a looping coaster. I didn't think the food at Dollywood was *that* special, but the cinnamon bread sure was. Amazing how smooth this Arrow rides. Major ejector air coming down the enclosed drop off of this lift. First loop is reminiscent of Yolo's. The second and third inversions are packed with g's. Well at least it LOOKS great. ........ I would not be denied my Lightning Rod experience. And who are YOU to tell me I didn't ride it? "Excuse me, will you be soft-opening later today?" Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster. I'll definitely seek out more of these when I travel. I encourage anyone who visits Pigeon Forge to stop here or the distillery in Gatlinburg. You get to try all of this for free. Cinnamon, apple pie, butterscotch, and Tennessee mud were my favorites.
  6. Two things about the reviews so far that surprise me: (1) The train slows so significantly on the wave turn, and (2) that the quadruple down is not quite what we all expected it to be. It will be interesting to see if the coaster speeds up much once its broken in by mid summer.
  7. Updated now that I've ridden Afterburn and had the chance to try Flight Deck and Silver Bullet again: 1. Raptor 2. Dragon Challenge - Fire 3. Afterburn 4. Montu 5. Alpengeist ___________ 6. Dragon Challenge - Ice 7. Fight Deck 8. Banshee 9. Great Bear 10. Talon 11. Silver Bullet 12. Batman: The Ride 13. Patriot I like Raptor through Great Bear all very much. I feel like there's a bit of a drop off after that.
  8. This looks like it combines some of the best parts of Medusa Steel Coaster and Twisted Colossus and still adds up to something unique among RMCs. Looks great!
  9. It's not hard for me to overlook roughness if the coaster delivers in other ways, which Rip Ride Rockit only *kind of* does. I honestly don't think roughness is even its biggest problem. How about the atrocious pacing created by the numerous brake runs needed to block all of the two-car trains? Or how the elements diminish in quality towards the end of the ride to an even greater extent than most coasters? I actually still enjoy it for the first drop, non-inverting loop, and treble clef, but it is definitely the weakest of USO and IOA's major coasters.
  10. This kind of reasoning is laughable. Delays like this happen in all industries, especially those with heavy emphasis on engineering and construction. Does anyone follow aviation? The Boeing 787 was delayed by over 2 years and the F-35 is currently 7 years behind schedule. Aircraft are obviously more complex and cutting edge than theme park attractions, but when you have companies like Lockheed Martin and Boeing going through the same type of problems, suggesting that we question RMC's reputation displays a clear lack of understanding. Problems can always arise before, during, and after construction even with the best preparation. As for Velocity Magnetics, I don't know much about them or why they were selected, but decisions like this are commonly made across industries for reasons of cost, willingness to take on risk, and even small technical advantages that competitors refuse or can't offer. As for me, I booked my Dollywood vacation for May 4-5 under the assumption that it would allow enough time for problems to be ironed out. Now it seems even that cushion might not be enough. Does it suck for us who planned these trips in advance? Yes, but that's just how it is and we move on. It's not fair to lay blame solely on RMC or Dollywood at this point.
  11. I think it looks great. And once more of us get to ride it, so what if it isn't Skyrush level intense? The other Intamin hypers aren't either and the majority of them are still world class.
  12. Riddler has two dive loops. I agree with you on Scream though, it was never one of the best B&Ms, but its aged into one of the worst.
  13. No Carowinds yet. I will visit it for the first time this May. 1. Cedar Point (Maverick, Millennium Force, Raptor, and Magnum make up 4 of my top 11 steel coasters (out of approx 200). No other park from any company can come close to that. And the rest of the collection is well rounded save for the glaring omission of a quality wooden coaster. Plus an unbeatable location, variety of flats, and top notch operations) 2. Kings Dominion (Second best coaster collection in the chain and generally good atmosphere and operations. Some of the better coasters like I305 and Volcano are fairly unique as well compared to other parks that have more typical collections) 3. Kings Island (Similar sentiment to KD with one major difference. KI does not have an elite destination coaster like I305/MF/Maverick and the lack of one hurts it. Banshee, Diamondback, and Beast are fine, but none of them are good enough on their own to anchor a park of this size) 4. Knott's Berry Farm (My home park for the better part of two decades so I'm partial to it. But until the refurbished Ghostrider reopens, Knott's is like Kings island in that it lacks a single elite coaster. By far the most eclectic and unique CF park with the best theming and Halloween event. Could jump ahead of KI depending on how Ghostrider turns out) 5. Worlds of Fun (Nice, smaller park with a well rounded, if unremarkable lineup of coasters (plus that Cloudpoofer indoor flat ride thing). What surprised me about this place was just how nice the landscaping and atmosphere was while I went in expecting Midwest Dorney. Needs a new centerpiece coaster) 6. Dorney Park (Equivalent coasters to WoF, but one of the more bleak, uninspiring settings I've seen at a major chain park) 7. California's Great America (The inverse of Dorney. A very nice setting with an underwhelming selection of rides. Flight Deck and Gold Striker are the only two I enjoy)
  14. 1. Six Flags Over Georgia (Best blend of atmosphere and rides. Goliath, Mind Bender, and Scorcher are some of the best of their kind, and B:TR, S:UF, and GASM are solid coasters that round out the collection. I haven't been since 2009 so I have not ridden Dare Devil Dive. Going back in May 2016) 2. Six Flags Great Adventure (Best 1-2 punch in the chain with El Toro and Nitro, and either the best or second best collection overall after SFMM. Atmosphere and landscaping range from "just okay" to "good" depending on the area) 3. Six Flags Magic Mountain (Better now that Twisted Colossus gives them a legit destination coaster. Everyone knows the service, efficiency, and upkeep issues that plague this park as well as lack of variety in attractions, but at least for me the coaster lineup is enough to counterbalance all that) 4. Six Flags Over Texas (Same feelings as SFOG but substitute New Texas Giant, Shockwave, and Titan. Same above average atmosphere and landscaping by chain standards, but I feel it's lacking another major coaster) 5. Six Flags Mexico (Best of the smaller SF parks. Second best 1-2 punch with Medusa and Superman. Best cleanliness, theming and Halloween event in the chain by a mile. Biggest problem is that the rest of the coasters are all clones and kiddie coasters) 6. Six Flags Fiesta Texas (My opinion is hampered slightly by a disappointing visit in December with Superman Krypton Coaster closed and one train operation on Iron Rattler restricting over half of my time in the park to the queue line. Otherwise a nice, unique park with some solid rides) 7. Six Flags New England (Pre-Wicked Cyclone. Great anchor in Superman/Bizarro surrounded by an otherwise middling collection plus an okay B&M, but none of the atmosphere of Six Flags Mexico or Fiesta Texas to make up for it) 8. Six Flags St. Louis (Nice looking park in certain areas with a decent, but not great coaster lineup. You can only go so far when a GCI (though in my opinion the best of them) is your top coaster) 9. Six Flags Discovery Kingdom (Don't understand some of the love this park gets. Medusa - a middle of the road floorless - and Superman (which I don't care for) are the only bright spots if the animal exhibits aren't your thing. Addition of Joker will help tremendously)
  15. SFMM's Batman: The Ride in 1997. But it was my rides on Riddler's Revenge when it opened the following year that started my sick, twisted mutation into a coaster enthusiast.
  16. Nice TR! My 2015 was a bit of an RMC expedition as well, though I didn't make it to Wicked Cyclone or Goliath. I agree with your assessment of New Texas Giant. The repetition in the first half dogs it a bit compared to its successors, but still a fantastic coaster. Looking forward to the rest and I'm curious to see how you rank them at the end. I'd go: 1. Medusa Steel Coaster, 2. Outlaw Run, 3. Twisted Colossus, 4. New Texas Giant, 5. Iron Rattler
  17. Goliath at Six Flags Fiesta Texas this past December.
  18. I wish this philosophy could creep over into the Cedar Point thread. The off season would be really boring if we didn't find excitement in watching the progress of construction at parks. Thank you! I don't understand why enthusiasts bash other enthusiasts that happen to like off season rumors, construction, and silly conversation. There is nothing wrong with being an enthusiastic enthusiast. With all due respect to those who feel otherwise, focusing on the minutiae of one topic is essentially the entire purpose of this site.
  19. 100%. The Legend is the only coaster I've ridden or can easily think of that provides the kind of experience that it does. Straining against the laterals in the helix and four corners finale is the very essence of the ride and neutering those turns in any way or trying to carve airtime out of them somehow will only make it a poor imitation of other coasters that were designed to do different things. I hope HW realizes there are still plenty of people who appreciate the uniqueness of this coaster.
  20. A brief photo TR from last month: SFOT was my fifth new park for 2015 and my ninth Six Flags. We went on a Saturday in early December so Holiday in the Park was in full swing with the expected heavy crowds. Sky Screamer, Batman and Mr. Freeze were closed, which wasn’t a big deal since we had ridden other installations elsewhere, and with Flash Pass we got all of the other credits except for Runaway Mountain. It can sometimes be difficult to get a true sense of a park’s atmosphere and geography when half of your first visit occurs in the dark, but from what I saw I think this place earns its reputation as one of the nicest looking and best themed SF parks. It’s probably my third or fourth favorite in the chain after Six Flags Over Georgia, Great Adventure, and possibly my local branch, Magic Mountain. The well rounded coaster collection is of course anchored by New Texas Giant and has two other standouts in Shockwave and Titan, but feels one solid B&M or quality wooden coaster away from competing with the best in the country. New Texas Giant: Prior to 2015 the only RMC I had ridden was Outlaw Run, so this year felt like a bit of an RMC expedition as I got to check out Twisted Colossus, Medusa Steel Coaster, New Texas Giant, and Iron Rattler. As what is essentially a prototype for the ibox track, New Texas Giant is more basic and straightforward than the ones that followed. The consensus opinion is pretty well known by this point: It lacks the dynamic directional changes, banking, and inversions of the others, but bests them all in track length and quantity of airtime. Out of the five RMCs I have ridden, I rank it fourth after Medusa, Outlaw Run, and Twisted Colossus, but just slightly ahead of Iron Rattler. I honestly think the first drop is the best of the bunch even though the others are all steeper (and taller in IRat’s case) because it has the greatest sense of prolonged ejector airtime. To this day, my favorite first drop is still Millennium Force and NTAG’s drop looks remarkably similar to it in profile and it feels almost exactly the same while riding. The biggest flaw with this ride is that the first half feels very repetitive with a series of three back to back, overbanked, left turns. If it was being built in 2016, you can be sure these would have had more complex banking or some kind of inversion built in to at least one of them. I know this is extreme nitpicking, but this kind of stuff is half the fun in comparing roller coasters for me and New Texas Giant simply feels like it wastes more track than its newer cousins do. Each one of them is still awesome though and the four that count as steel coasters all make my top 15 (Outlaw makes top 5 wood). Titan: This coaster was perhaps the surprise of the trip. SFMM’s Goliath is one of my home coasters and I have always found it almost intolerably boring. But somehow the effect of the added upward helix transforms Titan into a ride that feels much more complete. Goliath always had an okay beginning (the drop has no air), a middle where nothing happens at all, and a strong conclusion with the downward helix. Titan’s first hill feels taller. Being perched above an expanse of flat land with only stadiums and hotels far below you for as far as the eye can see adds to the illusion of greater height. Then straining against mounting g-forces not once, but twice, makes Titan feel like a something more than the sum of its parts while Goliath feels like something less than. And how is it that Six Flags has never reused this coaster’s name? We apparently need seven Goliaths, but only one Titan? Shockwave: My second favorite at the park and everything you want in a good Schwarzkopf: age defying smoothness, old school proto-heartlining that doesn’t quite neutralize everything, transitions that feel more sudden than they look, and politically incorrect levels of high positive g’s by today’s standards. Another thing that’s great about coasters like this is that the GP doesn’t see them as top shelf coasters anymore, so lines are rarely long even though they’re often superior rides to the ones now hogging all the attention. I still hold a slight preference for Mind Bender at SFOG, but what Shockwave has that Mind Bender lacks is three moments of pronounced airtime you never see coming. Judge Roy Scream: Even though I knew better, I rode in a back row wheel seat on a 1980s wooden coaster running three bench PTC trains. It wasn’t jarring, nor was it smooth, but it doesn’t offer anything like mild airtime or racing to make it worthwhile either. These little woodies are kind of frustrating in today’s industry. You can’t RMC them and they don’t justify the cost of new trains or a Ghostrider style rebuild either. They’ll just continue to receive the mandatory level of maintenance required to keep them running until the day eventually comes that they are removed for something else. They’re kind of coasters you can only accept for what they are and move on. Or maybe Judge Roy Scream is actually a delightful family coaster when ridden over a non-wheel seat and I have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about. I don’t know. I only rode once. Runaway Mine Train: Who knew the original Arrow Mine train was also one of the best? The POV I watched absolutely did not do this ride justice. It meshes with its setting so well it feels like a natural component of the landscape. This coaster gives the impression that it grew organically out of the ground and Angus Wynne Jr. simply stumbled upon it one day and decided to build a whole park around it. The layout is long like many mine trains, but it never becomes dull and monotonous the way so many of them do. It’s entertaining and visually interesting the whole way. I wish the park had been open for a full day so I could have ridden it more than once. Another version.
  21. The difference with Mean Streak is that it was never at any point the same class of coaster as Ghostrider. Ghostrider is a once great ride that is being restored to its former greatness. Even when it was fairly new back in the 1990s Mean Streak was only at best an average wooden coaster and not something worth restoring. If Cedar Point does anything at all with Mean Streak, it needs an RMC conversion to be a worthwhile investment, not a re-track with new trains and some profile tweaks.
  22. Definitely still Magnum. It clung to my steel top 10 for 14 years until it was finally displaced in 2015. After that, my other favorite Arrows would have to be X2, Thunderation, Loch Ness Monster, and Canyon Blaster in that order.
  23. A thought just occurred to me. After Valravn opens, Cedar Point could arguably claim to have both the best collection of B&Ms and the best collection of Intamins out of any park in the world. This is taking both quality and quantity into account. Of course not everyone will agree, but it's kind of a remarkable possibility. Out of parks with at least three B&Ms, the only ones I can think of with comparable collections will be the two Busch Gardens parks, Sea World Orlando (including Mako), Islands of Adventure, and Carowinds. The Six Flags parks with big B&M collections are all a little too clone-heavy for me. And then for Intamin you really only have Hersheypark offering an equivalent collection.
  24. I don't find Medusa and Twisted Colossus to be that far apart. The biggest difference for me is that Medusa comes at you with airtime and inversions at a much faster pace than TC does. The elements on each feel similar but TC is more relaxed and takes its time getting through them. Medusa is a bit more Intamin-like in its aggressiveness. If I said that Medusa was my #5 steel then Twisted Colossus falls just outside my top 10. And that's out of about 200 for reference.
  25. Medusa Steel Coaster is missing seat material on at least six different seats right now. You're probably half-right about the vandalism though.
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