SATURDAY, MAY 14, 2011
SIX FLAGS OVER TEXAS
Last Saturday, I broke a 2-year coaster trip hiatus to go to Dallas-Fort Worth and Theme Park Review’s New Texas Giant Bash at Six Flags Over Texas. The last coaster trip I made was to Kansas City for Opening Day of Prowler, way back on the first weekend of May in 2009. The last visit to any park was a miserable Friday night at Valleyfair at the end of October 2009. The cold, sideways rain kept the crowds away from Haunt, the trim brake on High Roller cranked down, and closed operations on Renegade 20 minutes earlier than schedule. Between that and some other stuff, coasters and theme parks lost most of their interest on my end, and I took 2010 off.
Fast-forward to this past April. I had been itching to get out of MSP for the winter after what is, by any reasonable measurement, the worst winter in recent Twin Cities memory. A cheap airfare and a coaster event later, and I’m booked to Dallas.
It is here that I must pause briefly to acknowledge fate calling in a marker. Since my Price is Right/West Coast Bash 2007 trip to California, I have had a 4 year run without any major travel issues. Considering that I flew enough to make Northwest WorldPerks Elite for a year while tooling about the Northwest out of my Seattle base of ops, that’s no small feat. Anyway, my AA flight from MSP deposited me on the curb outside Terminal D at the enormous DFW airport. I call the hotel (which may or may not remain nameless, depending on what Robb/Elissa thinks of it) and they say that a van is making the rounds through the airport. I wait a while, and keep waiting, and keep waiting. An hour and a half and three phone calls to the hotel later, I get word from the desk to take a cab and they’ll reimburse me for the fare. Upon arrival at the hotel, I quickly found out why the hotel van never arrived at Terminal D. The van pulled up behind the cab and expelled no fewer than 20 young teenagers, on a run to somewhere-or-another.
None too amused, I go up to the desk to check in. The desk lost the reservation of the TPR person in front of me, and I was fully expecting for them to lose mine as well. However, my reservation is in the system. I take my keys down the hall and find that they don’t work. Someone runs to the desk to change the keys. The next set of keys work, but when we open the door we find that the handle across the door that serves as a second deadbolt has been closed, leaving the door locked from the inside with no way to open it without taking the door off the hinges. I’m thinking that the hotel is booked up and I’m royally screwed. Instead, it’s back to the desk and I’m switched to another room. The gal even got me a beer out of the bar. By the time I stumble over to Humperdink’s, it’s 11:50 and the place is closing down. After four years of snag-free travel, fate calls in the marker.
Back to regularly scheduled programming. Saturday dawns sunny and surprisingly chilly for Texas in May. I put in the first set of contacts in, run to the gas station for a pair of ZZ Top sunglasses (cheap), and load up on the breakfast that comes with the hotel. Shortly after 8 AM, the crew walks over to the SFOT gate and the TPR registration table. Everyone seems to just be wandering about the place killing time to the open. It is not a reassuring sight when no fewer than six school buses roll by from the Mesquite Independent School District, full to the gunnels with kids. The group finally gets the nod to go in through the hidden gate, underneath La Vibora. I had forgotten about how the security is at six flags park, and it’s a rather epic production to get me through.
The group is escorted to the enormous queue for the New Texas Giant. Our group isn’t all that big relative to the staggering size of the queue. Even when everyone up to the train to load it, we barely get down the first set of stairs immediately adjacent to the station. We load up the train, and I’m fortunate enough to be on the first train out of the station. Let’s just put it this way: HOLY SHIITE!!!!! NTG revamped is an absolutely insane roller coaster. The second hill is a violent airtime jerker, and the tunnel’s foggers are a very chilly surprise on this brisk spring morning. Since the track is steel, this means the Giant is now a steel coaster. Figuring out where to rank the Giant is going to be a difficult proposition.
About 9:30, word comes that Titan is ready for ERT. I high-tail it over there and get on the first train out. Titan’s is the nearly-identical twin of SFMM’s Goliath, with the same train stoppage in the mid-course. To the surprise of no one, it’s just as forceful through the helixes as Goliath. Even when riding as aggressively as I can, I am still getting tunnel vision from the intense G-forces. I have my fill of this after one ride.
Back to the Giant for a spin, and then I am part of the group of TPR folks headed to the front gate to get FlashPasses. On our way up to the Flashpass processing facility, we are met with security escorting an absolutely huge throng of school kids, cheerleaders, and whatever hangers-on are mixed in. The group is solid, all the way back to the entrance plaza. The guesses of park crowding were spot on.
There are a group of 7 that end up tagging together to form two groups. We were one of the first random Q-bot groups that Robb took a picture of. The first of the coasters we came to was the Big Spin. The line is out of the queue house, which is a symptom that would be repeated all day. Fortunately, our FlashPasses get us to the front of the line post haste. I’m not normally much of a fan of FlashPass/Q-bot (I’ll be using both interchangeable throughout this TR). However, on days like today when the park is stupid busy, it’s a lifesaver, particularly when you’ve got enough to fill a full train.
Big Spin is just like Fairly Odd Coaster/Timberland Twister. If you don’t have the car loaded correctly, the only time it gets any spin is in the brake run. Sadly, we didn’t have the car loaded right. After big Spin, the other guys want to go to Superman
Next stop is our first run on Mr. Freeze. This launched coaster is one of the most intense things I have ever ridden. The first time through I ride in row 2, and it’s a blast. However, one of the guys in our group doesn’t handle it very well. He's visibly shaken, and doesn't want to try holding anything down when we go over to the food court by the entrance. Instead, he heads back out to his car to lay down in an air-conditioned car.
We end up wandering about the park for much of the remainder of the afternoon. Perhaps I haven't made it clear that the place is PACKED PACKED PACKED PACKED PACKED. Here are my thoughts on the remainder of the coasters at the park:
Batman: Well, it's a Batman.
Judge Roy Scream: Perhaps the name is supposed to be a tribute to Jodge Roy Hofheinz, brainchild of the Astrodome, but this coaster has aged like Timber Wolf. In other words, not well at all.
Shockwave: 'Ol Anton actually built a coaster that isn't solely described by FORCE FORCE FORCE. After the double loops, there's actually some nice kicks of airtime. It's too bad that my 6'5" frame can't fold into his sardine-can cars. With my knees wedged against the front of the car, the bottom of my feet are a good 3 inches off the floor.
Runaway Mine Train: For a coaster that is 50 years old, it sure is a fun little thing. The drop out of the saloon completely caught me by surprise.
La Vibora: Someone said that this is the equivalent of an adjustment by the chiropractor. I didn't find this tobe the case. It's actually a really fun bobsled ride, and with our group in the bobsled, it felt like it was quite out of control.
Runaway Mountain: This Windshear inside the warehouse was the longest line we waited in all day. The ride itself had a lot of force, and was rather uncomfortable for us tall guys.
The 30 minute wait for Runaway Mountain takes us into dinner. Having eaten far too much bad park food over the years, seeing beef brisket on the menu meant that I went in there fully expecting to eat shoe leather. However, I probably should have remembered that I was in Texas, and they take their barbecue quite seriously. The end result was brisket as it should be: tender, tasty, and unable to hold together long enough to pick up intact with the fork. While we're feeding our faces, Robb breaks out a session of TPR Trivia. This is my first attempt at it, and it's very, shall we say, interesting.
After dinner, I'm gassed. I head back to the hotel to switch contacts and take an hour nap. Don't laugh too hard at the "switch contacts" bit. The last time I had contacts in for a full day at the park (Opening Day for Diamondback at Kings Island), one set was in for almost 18 hours and I could hardly pry them out at the end of it. Two sets of contacts is perfect for an all-day campaign at the park.
The park itself had a very similar feel to Six Flags Great America in Chicago.
Upon return to the park, I get some sunset shots, then meet the guys again as they come off of Superman. We ride Runaway Mine Train again, and the tunnel is really dark after nightfall. The Q-bots get us to the front of La Vibora again, and we find a large stuffed dog in the exit line that has had, well, an "accident." After this, the Q-bots are returned, and we head for Shockwave for the start of ERT. Previously, we have been informed that we would get a full hour of ERT on NTG after the general public was cleared out of the queue, so to bide our time, everyone was sent to Shockwave. The operator (who is on the TPR forum) had quite the sense of humor, but I could only stand one ride on Anton's sardine can train. I hung out at the bottom of the exit ramp with Elissa, Guy, and a gal wearing a North Mesquite HS Marching Band shirt.
Around 10:40 word came that the Giant was ready for ERT, so we all headed over and rode the daylights out of it. I think most of us got between 8 and 10 laps in during the night ERT. By the time it finally ended, it was almost midnight, and most everyone had their fill. I know that by the time it was over, I was just about screamed out.
Robb and the TPR gang put together some fantastic events, and this one is no exception. A big thank you to all the folks at SFoT for putting up with all of us coaster nuts.
I know this is Robb's picture, but this is our group for the Q-bots.
This is a big-ass cake!
This is not a reassuring sign.
Steep drops and lightning, very very frightening...
From here the wait for Giant was 3.5 hours. Did I mention the park was packed?
Obligatory artsy shot
Ummm, plane? The crowd's over here, not at the Ballpark or Cowboys Stadium
Two trains in the same frame!
Can anyone identify what airline this is?
Six Flags Over Sunset!
Here comes the Judge...
Sammy calling for the cleanup crew...