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Photo TR: SF Great America 6/30

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FRIDAY, JUNE 30, 2006




Last week I made my annual visit to the Wisconsin Dells, and when I was there, somehow the seed got planted on pushing on another few hours to Six Flags Great America. I spent the next week trying to contact friends who live in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, to no avail. So I bit the bullet and got the cheapest hotel on Expedia within driving distance of SFGAm, which was the Microtel Inn in Racine, Wisconsin. Racine is about 35 minutes north of Gurnee.


I took off at lunchtime on Thursday from my normal job at MnDOT, and after goofing around a bit, headed east on I-94. I have a newfound respect for U of Minnesota students who come here from the east coast of Wisconsin, because the drive was a pain in the butt. However, making the Ho-Chunk Nation pay for some of your expenses en route doesn’t hurt. I get to Racine intact, but exhausted, and don’t stay up very long.


Friday morning, after jamming myself full of IHOP pancakes, I took the free highway down to SFGAm. I paid the $15 (gulp) to the troll at the toll plaza, and parked front and center, which was considerably closer to the front gate than the $20 preferred parking lot. I got there about 9:10, and by 9:30, the area between the ticket windows and metal detectors was filled with people. Being used to the size of Valleyfair, where a crowd like this at T-minus 30 minutes usually meant a very crowded park, I thought that was going to happen here. The metal detectors opened up at 9:40, and let the crowd fill in the front plaza. At 9:50, the pre-open show started with a perfect way to open the long 4th of July weekend, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” A family from Sedalia, Missouri had been taken up to the upper deck of the carousel to be the official “first ride of the day. This took place to much fanfare, and promptly at 10 AM CDT, the rope dropped, and the crowd took off.


Having read the SFGAm tip thread, I took off for Superman: Ultimate Flight (coaster credit #44), as well as half the crowd in the front plaza. We arrived at the entrance to S:UF, and stopped. And waited. The line kept getting longer and longer, and by the time the queue opened, 20 minutes later, the crowd was all the way back to the carousel. Since I was close enough to the front of the line, I decided to go to the front row, since there was just about no one else in the front row line.


When I got to the front of line, three trains later, I emptied my pockets to the cubbyholes, and sat in the very comfortable seats, but then the seats turned forwards. This was my first flyer, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from the restraints. They were very unusual in that your butt is completely out of the chair during most of the ride. The flying sensation is awesome, and then you hit the pretzel. Holy crap, was that fun. After that, the ride just fizzles out. After we got back, the line was already back into the queue mazes near the front. When I was waiting impatiently outside the line at the open, my logic was either wait 20 minutes now or wait for 2 hours later.


Keeping in with the tradition of hitting the low-capacity stuff first, I headed over to Vertical Velocity, but along the way I got my credit on Rajun Cajun (#45). Standard Reverchon spinning mouse, as in it spins like a crazy dude. Then over to V2 (#46). Same ride as Steel Venom here at VF, but with a slightly different belt configuration. I was enlisted as a partner for a group of three where one rider didn’t want to be flying solo. V2 seemed to have a little stronger kick of air than Venom did in Row 4.


Next on the circuit was Iron Wolf (#47), a primitive B&M standup. This ‘ol boy was no Riddler. It has not aged well. Back on Revolution, I was tall enough to sit over the top of the OTSRs. On Iron Wolf, I had the exact opposite problem. I was tall enough to get my ears boxed out. Also, the trains were not exactly aesthetically pleasing. One and done.


Since I had seen Déjà Vu (#48) running, I figured I better get that credit before it goes down mechanical. The station for this looks like the starting gate at your friendly neighborhood horse racing track. The operations were such that the line was long, but they were doing a good job of cranking people through the ride. I had no problems with height (I’m close to the 76” listed maximum height). These Deja Vus get kind of a bum rap as far as the ride goes. It’s a fun ride, I had no headbanging, and it was doing a good job of chewing through a line.


After the Vu, I headed over to the Great Southwest for some B&M goodness, Raging Bull (#49). The line was back to where the queue goes down the steps. It looked like it was going to be a long wait, but boy was I wrong. The line was one of the fastest moving ones I’ve ever seen, and I was through the ride in less than half an hour. As for the ride itself, wow! Lots of kick and floater airtime, smooth as glass, and a great crew! If this isn’t a Top 10 steel, it’s a rotten shame.


I’ve cleaned up the steel credits, so it’s time to get the woodies. Since Viper (#50) was close by, I headed there. The line looked very long, though. But I was proved wrong again. This was another fast-moving line. I sat in the very back, and the ride was nothing too spectacular.


Next came the long, long walk back to American Eagle. This is the one of the longest queues I have ever seen. It’s a long hike out to where the line splits for the Red and Blue trains. LONG hike. I started on the Blue side (#51), and got a ride a lot like Viper. Kinda smooth, fast, but not much in the way of either floater air or kicks of air. Same with the Red side (#52). However, contrary to reports seen here on TPR and elsewhere, my second ride on the Red train actually ran racing against the Blue train, and it wasn’t until this happened that I noticed the trim on the Red side going into the helix. Either way, either side of Eagle wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t SO DAMN FAR TO GET BACK TO THE LOADING PLATFORM!


It’s a hot day, and I’m thinking about going over to SFGAm’s new Hurricane Harbor waterpark. But first, I decide to go over to the original Batman: The Ride (#53). I notice that unlike the queue out at SFMM, which is themed like a disaster area, the theme for the SFGAm queue is a construction site by Gotham Public Works. The line had some great techno music in the queue, until the CD ran out. Next CD up: the batman soundtrack with “Kiss from a Rose” by Seal on it. It was a bit unusual hearing “Kiss from a Rose” in the queue line for a major roller coaster. But the ride was just as I expected it to be: fast, forceful, and fun. Rode in Row 2 first, then row 8. Great ride.


After this, I decide to get Demon (#54) out of the way before heading to the car to change equipment. Semi-standard Arrow looper, except in the very front, where for some reason, the nose cone has been closed off part of the way. There was still plenty of room for my legs, though. I liked the lights in the tunnel after the second vertical loop, but otherwise, nothing too spectacular.


The crowds up to this point hadn’t been too bad, and I soon found out why. I then went to the car and grabbed my trunks to head to Hurricane Harbor, the waterpark. I got there, and holy cats! The place is a nuthouse! I change, and go over to the waterslide tower with the two body slides, two raft bowls, and two other raft slides. I first go up the body slide staircase, and experience the second-longest wait of the day. There seemed to be some confusion on trying to get people to both slides. I got back down to the bottom, and I grab a hold of one of the double tubes, and I head up the stairs. The line on this side of the tower is almost as long as the body slide line, but faster moving. While in line, I somehow get to talking to the foursome in front of me. We have one of those fun but brief waiting-in-line conversations, and they split up to go down the bowls.


I got through the bowl, and as I scrambled out of the pool, dragging the twin tube along with me, here come two of the foursome over to the tube pile. They ask me if I want to go on some rides with them, and since I’m there myself, I gladly take up their offer. We introduce ourselves, and we get to talking. They’re from Battle Creek, Michigan, they had some campground/hotel problems last night, and they get to make the 4-hour drive back to Battle Creek tonight after leaving SFGAm. We decide to ride the big tube slide, and of the two on the tower, we go for the purple one, the one with the long airtime run. It’s a great time talking with these folks on the way up. We have to split into twos to ride the slide. Me and Tyler, the other guy in our group of five, opt to go last. We come out of the tunnel absolutely flying, and we get some MONSTER air. So much air that had we all gone in one tube, as had been originally suggested, we would have likely been scraped up somewhere around the Wisconsin border. The lifeguards get SOAKED, and we all collapse in hysterical laughter. We got so much air that Tyler hurt his shoulder on impact.


After we change, we split up. I have to go out to my car to get some of my stuff (camera, phone, wallet), so we exchange phone numbers so we can meet back up after I get back in the park. After making the swap, I call Tyler’s phone about a dozen times, to no avail. By this time, the sun is going down, and I get some inspiration on what to shoot for video and pictures. One of the songs that just came on the park’s background sound is “Shadow Dancing” by Andy Gibb. I started shooting lots of sundown footage with this inspiration. After circling the park getting lots of footage, I run into Tyler and company by accident. They are getting tired, and are ready to head back to Michigan. It was very nice meeting you all. If you are reading this TR, message me.


Anyway, after bidding the Michigan Four adieu, I shoot footage until my camera battery dies, and then I start taking night rides. Viper really came alive as the sun went down. I rode in row 6, and it went from a “meh” ride in the back row to a “Wow!” ride in row 6. Had it not been so damn far back to Eagle, I’d have gone back there to partake in some more wooden madness. I went on two more rides on Raging Bull (rows 8 then 9), with the ride getting better and better.


At this point, it’s 9 PM. Apparently there are going to be fireworks and a show near the one train station at 9, so I wander over to see what it’s all about. The show is unwatchable, so I start positioning myself for a fast run over to Superman after the end of the fireworks, thinking that people are going to start pouring out of the gate after the end of the fireworks, and will draw people out of the park. The fireworks were decent enough, and as soon as the last shot is fired, I walk very quickly over to the Superman queue. The line has indeed shrank (it’s been back in the queue mazes all day) to about half the distance to the station, but it still takes half an hour to get up to the platform.


When I get up to the station, I go to Row 7 of the train. Lo and behold, I line up along side the same three people I’d ridden in the front row with way back at the open. We make lots of comments about how the day is best book ended by rides on Superman. The flying sensation is still great in row 7, but going through the pretzel I thought I was going to black out. Force, force, and did I mention force? A great final ride of the day before I decide to quit it.


I get back to my car, then I start making my way back to the Microtel in Racine. That open-faced turkey sandwich at the Perkins at Kenosha, WI never tasted so good. The remainder of the trip featured stops at the Wisconsin State Fair Park/Milwaukee Mile in West Allis, the University of Wisconsin in Madison, and Lake Zumbrota in rural Wabasha County, Minnesota. All in all, a fine trip to celebrate America’s independence.



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Oh, no. Oh, no, no, no, this simply will not do. You forgot to ride Whizzer?!



Glad you had a nice time though, despite missing the last remaining Schwartzkopf Speed Racer in the United States.

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Yeah, I forgot to ride Whizzer. I plan to go there one more time before the season is over.


And now on to some photos...


Hey Marvin!


I thought this was pretty damn cool


Batman at dusk


Rajun Cajun


Pepe Le Pew trying to fumigate the place


Most of today's pics came around nightfall


The non-exclusinve, exit line shot of Superman diving down the first hill.


Superman testing is a good sign.


You know you're in Wisconsin...

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And the rest of the photos. If anyone wants high-res version of these photos, please let me know.


Me and the Michigan Four (me to the left)


That's as full as the lot got today.


Much of Great America's coaster firepower






The Vu

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