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Photo TR: Andy's Texas/Midwest TPR Tour


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85 roller coasters in two weeks. Really, does life get any better than that?

 

Welcome to my trip report for the 2013 TPR Texas/Midwest tour. This may take me a few months to complete, but an epic trip like this one deserves that kind of effort!

 

Day -2 and -1 -- Welcome to San Antonio (Page 1)

Day 0 -- Schlitterbahn (Page 1)

Day 1 -- Six Flags Fiesta Texas (Page 3)

Day 2 -- SeaWorld San Antonio (Page 5)

Day 3 -- pt. 1 -- Six Flags Over Texas (Page 7)

Day 3 -- pt. 2 -- Summer Adventures in Fair Park (Page 10)

Day 4 -- Magic Springs (Page 12)

Day 5 -- Silver Dollar City (Page 13)

Day 6 -- City Museum (Page 16)

Day 7 -- Six Flags St. Louis (Page 17)

Day 8 -- pt. 1 -- Mt. Olympus (Page 17)

Day 8 -- pt. 2 -- Timber Falls and Little Amerricka (Page 20)

Day 9 -- Six Flags Great America (Page 21)

Day 10 -- Cedar Point (Day One) (Page 22)

Day 11 -- pt. 1 -- Cedar Point (Day Two | First Half) (Page 23)

Day 11 -- pt. 2 -- Cedar Point (Day Two | Second Half) (Page 24)

Day 12 -- pt. 1 -- Cedar Point -- (Day Three) (Page 26)

Day 12 -- pt. 2 -- Cedar Point -- (Day Three / Last Night) (Page 27)

Day 13 -- The End of the Trip / Final Thoughts (Page 27)

 

The Prologue

 

I originally registered for the TPR forums in February of 2006. I didn't make my first post on TPR until November 2012, but I kept up with the emails and followed along with all the tours. They looked like an absolute blast, and something I wanted to try. It was just a matter of finding an empty spot in my vacation schedule, and convincing myself that a week or two with a bunch of people I'd never met before would be something I could handle. It was early in the morning of November 28, 2012, when an email from Robb came in to advertise the Texas/Midwest trip. Somehow, in the haze of having just gotten home from my sixth midnight shift in a row, it finally clicked -- this is it! I registered about a month later, and the rest is history.

 

That history has already been shared in a few other trip reports -- TPR has some very skilled photographers and writers, and I can only hope to supplement some of the fantastic images and stories that have already been told. I'm going to do a couple extra things with this report -- sharing one lesson learned for each day, perhaps as guidance for future trip participants, or just as a humorous recollection of things I wished I'd done differently. I'll also share some of the artifacts I brought home from the trip -- keepsakes from a fantastic two weeks, and relics of the generosity of our various amusement park hosts.

 

The Texas/Midwest trip gave me several important coaster milestones (and combined with a visit to Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Kings Dominion earlier in the year, 2013 doubled my coaster count and then some). Of the 85 coasters on the trip, all but 14 at Cedar Point were new to me. In all, I had a total of 176 roller coaster rides, with 288 inversions. But enough of the math -- it's time to head to San Antonio!

 

A note for those of you who were on the trip: I have a ton of pictures of TPR members and TPR-specific events from the trip, which I posted a link to in the trip forum. Those are being made available just to the participants. Give them a look if you're interested.

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Day -2 and -1 -- Welcome to San Antonio

Saturday, July 27 and Sunday, July 28, 2013

 

Lesson of the Day: Don't try to rent a car without a scheduled return flight or a credit card. You can't do it. A debit card isn't good enough, and you probably don't carry enough cash to cover the deposit (unless you're crazy). So, my first-ever attempt to rent a car was unsuccessful, because I'd never learned this simple rule. I was very fortunate to have TPR members there to bail me out and get me where I needed to be!

 

Artifacts:

Nothing yet from the parks, obviously, so I'll share a few general items I picked up along the way -- many of them courtesy of TPR.

 

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Every trip participant got their very own lanyard/nametag. With over 90 people on the trip, most of us kept these on until the last day -- it really helped with learning names and hometowns!

 

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The official TPR shirt (front icon / full back design) -- worn proudly by all TPR members at least once on the trip (probably more than that for some of you...)

 

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We received a pack with numerous TPR items, including this towel, which I really should have used during those blistering hot days in Texas. I won't make that mistake again! Among other items not pictured: TPR backpack, luggage tags, luggage handle, and plenty more.

 

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Seen here is a well-worn copy of the trip itinerary, fully detailing all of our adventures and arrival/departure times. Also pictured: the official TPR lip balm.

 

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So, we got a few wristbands along the way. Yes, that's the understatement of the year. This picture is proof that Robb and Elissa are singlehandedly keeping the wristband industry afloat! Can you believe there were people who tried to keep every one of these on for the entire two weeks? /That/ is some ambition to be proud of! I think they all eventually gave up, but...

 

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I'm a stickler for details, and kept scorecards to list out every ride at every park we visited. The complete set, in mint condition, is priceless!

 

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Finally, I have to share a special gift from Yin (gerstlaueringvar) -- this is just awesome, and I have it hanging on my wall now! I'd love to learn more about it, Yin, if you can share!

Day -2 and -1

 

Day -2 (Saturday, July 27) started at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW) North Terminal, headed south to Dallas / Fort Worth (DFW) for a connecting flight to San Antonio (SAT). My flight from DFW to SAT was delayed by about an hour, but the aforementioned rental car issue was the biggest change in plans for my day. I headed back to the airport, meeting up with Neil, James, and Stacy G -- who graciously (thanks Stacy!) brought me downtown to my hotel, the Drury Plaza. We met up later in the evening to explore San Antonio's famous Riverwalk, and then again the next day (Day -1, Sunday the 28th) to see the Alamo and the Tower of the Americas. Along the way, it was great to meet several other trip participants -- Doug M, Doug H, Dan, Victor, Stacy H, Thad, and probably several others! Thanks to all of you for making my pre-trip days a breeze and a lot of fun.

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A dreary day at DTW.

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Cool lighting in the terminal!

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The journey is just getting started.

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My ride to Dallas is here.

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No problems on the first leg of the trip -- several nice photo ops out the window.

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Flying over Springfield, Missouri. We'd travel that highway on the right (east) side of the city just about a week and a half later.

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A nice view of Fort Smith on the Arkansas River.

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DFW airport with a cloud-hat.

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Boats on the lake.

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An interchange near the airport -- hey, it was a three hour flight! Cut me some slack, I was practicing for the roller coasters. :-D

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Arrival in the Dallas / Fort Worth airport, and near-immediate news of a flight delay. No idea why, either.

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Don't know where he's going, but I hope they have cinnamon bread.

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So, it was time to pass the time at DFW with photography.

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Airport art is ... interesting.

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Every airport needs a castle!

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...and a lighted escalator.

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A good idea for an airport in northern Texas.

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T-Express or Formula Rossa?

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What's that in the distance? It looks to me like /foreshadowing!/ Six Flags Over Texas -- and our hotel is even visible on the left.

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Taking off from Dallas..

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...passing over Arlington, with another view of a park I'd be visiting in less than a week.

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Finally, arrival in San Antonio.

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I stayed downtown on the 21st floor of a hotel made out of a 1929 Art Deco skyscraper -- hard to beat that.

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Nice view of San Antonio (too far to see the parks, though).

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What /is/ that big red thing, anyway?

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Tower of the Americas, one of several observation decks on the trip (officially or unofficially).

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The famous Riverwalk!

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The weather nerd in me likes this shot.

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The lobby of the hotel, which was actually the first Drury I'd ever stayed in. Not the last, as they are a favorite of TPR trips, and as I'd learn, for very good reason.

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Looking up!

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Really enjoyed a relaxing evening with some TPRers on the Riverwalk.

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As I recall, we did consider jumping this boat, but we were hungry at the time.

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What happens at dusk in San Antonio? BATS!

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Under the bridge.

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Riverwalk again.

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Riverwalk again -- lots of TPR people made their way down here, as it's pretty famous.

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The Cathedral of San Fernando, perhaps my favorite building in San Antonio (sorry, Alamo!)

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I found the end of the Riverwalk!

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Mexican Consulate -- aka CULTURE CREDIT!

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Yeah, San Antonio is a haven for photo ops.

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The Alamo -- an important history lesson we probably forgot by the second day of the trip.

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No photography in the building, unfortunately -- out of respect, I obliged.

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Count 'em!

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For those about to rock...

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The Alamodome to the east.

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Downtown to the west.

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MORE FORESHADOWING!

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Pictures that caption themselves.

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After parting ways with our Riverwalk group, I headed back to the airport to meet up with another great group of TPR arrivals -- Daniel, Matt, Andrew, Jay, and Alexis. Buoyed by the generous honesty of a shuttle company employee (saving us a ton of money by suggesting a taxi), we headed to the official TPR hotel for the first few nights of the trip -- a Drury Inn within viewing distance of Six Flags Fiesta Texas. Somebody (sorry, it was me) had the brilliant idea to walk along a busy stretch of the Texas Route 1604 frontage road to go over to the La Cantera outdoor mall, in search of ice cream or something to do. Simply crossing the street from the hotel to the chain restaurants was a challenge enough! Despite it being just 9 PM, almost everything at La Cantera (except the playground) was closed. Thankfully, our efforts were not completely wasted, as we got a great view of the Lone Star Nights fireworks from SFFT -- a show we'd have front row seats for just two nights later.

 

(Bigger photo sets from the first couple days: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8)

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Six Flags Fiesta Texas, left side.

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Six Flags Fiesta Texas, right side.

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Braving the walk across Leon Creek, trying not to get hit by cars, and discussing the finer points of our first days in Texas.

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Home!

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A scene from La Cantera -- I just imagine battles breaking out in the walkway between these two stores...

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Our first taste of Lone Star Nights!

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Up on top of the quarry walls, La Cantera is probably a solid 100 feet (if not higher) above the main "ground level" of the Six Flags park.

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At least we got a free fireworks show out of our walk.

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Oh, Iron Rattler, why do you torture us?

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Leaving La Cantera for the night -- we'd be back the next day.

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Of course, this was in the hotel lobby -- curse you iRat!!!

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Day 0 -- Schlitterbahn

Monday, July 29, 2013

 

Lesson of the Day: You're going to need proper footwear for the unshaded concrete at a water park. Ouch. Ouch. Ow, ow, ow, and ouch. My feet didn't completely heal from the burns for several days.

 

Artifacts:

 

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Our admission ticket to Schlitterbahn was this wristband, and the magnet (now proudly affixed to my fridge) was one of several gifts from the park.

 

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This photo album was another gift!

 

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Good news / bad news here. The good news is that this was far and away the most /practical/ gift I received -- I used this water bottle for the rest of the trip. The bad news is that I ran it through my dishwasher and it warped itself into this odd shape. RIP, Schlitterbahn Water Bottle, you served me admirably in the hot Texas sun.

Scorecard:

 

This is from memory, as I couldn't really carry around a pen and notecard at a water park.

 

Master Blaster

Master Blaster

Black Knight (Left)

Black Knight (Right)

Wolfpack

Han's Hideout

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The Deluge

Dragon's Revenge

Boogie Bahn

Backsplash

Backsplash

Backsplash

Kristal River

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Downhill Racer

Raging River Tube Chute

Tunnel Tube Chute

Der Bahn Speed Slide

Cliffhanger Tube Chute

Double Loop Body Slide (Lower)

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Boogie Bahn

Backsplash

The Falls

Torrent River

 

Day 0

 

We had about half of the TPR crew (one full bus load) in Texas a day early, hitting the road to Schlitterbahn for the pre-trip add-on day. Schlitterbahn is one of those world-famous amusement destinations I knew I had to visit some day -- now, I know I have to visit again! Schlitterbahn New Braunfels is actually two separate parcels connected by bus transportation, and each section has its own distinct feel and charm.

 

We began the day at the Blastenhoff section of Schlitterbahn East (the newer park), feasting on a nice breakfast spread (which I believe included pork tacos) before heading into the warm pool for our first TPR group shot of the trip. From there, it was time for ERT on Master Blaster, which has to be one of the most famous water rides on the planet. I had no idea just how important that ERT would be for us, but while in line for my second go, the resort guests began literally running to get in line for it! Our ten-minute ERT queue ballooned into what I would estimate was a two-hour wait, and it remained that busy for the rest of the day. I finished off the other slides in the Blastenhoff complex, and then we all made our way to be the first riders on The Falls / The Deluge, transporting us to the Surfenburg section of the park. There, we got the first rides of the day on Dragon's Revenge, before splitting up and heading to check out the rest of the park.

 

After seeing a little more of Surfenburg, I got on the bus to head to Schlitterbahn West (a.k.a. The Original Schlitterbahn). While Schlitterbahn East is a very modern-looking park in all respects, the other side of Schlitterbahn is almost completely different. Situated on the steep banks of the tree-lined Comal River, this side of Schlitterbahn is known for its tube chutes -- seemingly-endless artificial rivers that flow across the hillside. Unlike the heated and chlorinated water of Surfenburg and Blastenhoff, the original park draws its water directly from the river -- and because of that, it's darn cold! Not even temperatures of about 100 degrees could keep the chill away from a small guy like myself. Some of the tube chutes do flow into the Comal, and though we were cautioned against dropping all the way down to the river, I kind of wish I'd have tried it. Of course, if you get carried away, you'll end up on a days-long journey rolling over a few dams, eventually floating over the Guadalupe River into the Gulf of Mexico's San Antoino Bay (which is nowhere near San Antonio). You might have caught back up to the group by the time they hit Cedar Point.

 

After several enjoyable hours at the original park, I headed back to Surfenburg, taking the other side of The Falls / The Deluge back to our home base in Blastenhoff. We left the park at about 4 PM, but I would have loved the chance to stay there all day. To ride every slide and chute in the park, it really would take a full day's effort. I missed a few of them, including the infamous Congo River Expedition that so many other TPR members spoke either fondly or infuriatingly about. The crowds were a little heavy, as could be expected on a hot day in the summer. This tended to lead to some backups on the tube chutes (including one collision in which I thought I'd given myself a concussion after snapping my head back onto the surface of the chute). Thankfully, I survived, marred only by a few patches of sunburn and a little bit of waterlogging. Overall, I can only give Schlitterbahn very high marks -- this is a unique water park with an incredibly wide array of things to do, and it's well worthy of its renown.

 

Reviews of some of the major attractions:

 

Master Blaster: This was my first water coaster, and I think it would be fair to say that most first-time TPR riders found it just slightly below expectations. Those expectations were probably impossible to live up to, given how famous the ride is. There isn't much airtime, but it's fun to jet around the elevated structure of the ride, powered by water and gravity the whole way.

 

Dragon's Revenge: It's not as well-known as Master Blaster, but it's the park's other water coaster, and I actually enjoyed it a little more. The hills aren't as steep, but it's a longer and more consistent ride experience, with a few special effects along the way.

 

Boogie Bahn: Other reviews of Schlitterbahn's surfing simulator are spot on. This thing just behaves differently than the typical Flow Rider, as I'd come to find after receiving Flow Rider ERT on two occasions later in the trip. My two attempts on Boogie Bahn were abject failures, as I never could find my balance on this very difficult attraction.

 

Backsplash: So simple, but so much fun! The water from Boogie Bahn is recycled into a swift-moving flow that empties into the Surfenburg lazy river. The entire surface is padded, with a current so strong that you're left with no option but to just tumble along as the water pushes you ahead.

 

Downhill Racer: A typical three-drop mat slide, but it occupies one of the highest elevations of the original Schlitterbahn park. I caught some good air on the third drop.

 

Raging River: As the longest tube chute at the original park, it probably took about a half hour to get through the entire thing. It winds its way ingenuously past the famous Schlitterbahn castle, between the tracks of the mat racer, under the main deck of the park entry building, and down the hillside past numerous other attractions. Like most of the other tube chutes, it's generally a relaxing flow, with a few drops and narrow sections along the way.

 

The Falls / The Deluge: I have to admit that I'm not sure which segment of this ride matches with which name, but the end result of the experience is that it forms a complete loop between Blastenhoff and Surfenburg, with a giant AquaVeyer conveyer lift that gains the elevation necessary for the whole thing to work. In many ways, it felt like an expanded, modern-day version of the tube chutes -- several relaxing sections punctuated by rapids, drops, and turns. I can see how easy it would be to just ride this around for several cycles and lose track of time -- though you'd have to go on a less-busy day when they aren't turning people away from the conveyer lift!

 

TPR Welcome Dinner

 

After returning to the hotel, the enormity of our full group began to gather, as we prepared for the official welcome dinner. My attempts to meet the other trip participants incrementally had been mostly successful, even up through our day at Schlitterbahn. However, as a group of 40 suddenly became a group of 90, it was obvious that it couldn't be done in one night! We loaded up in our two buses and headed over to Grimaldi's Pizzeria in La Cantera. That was the trip's best pizza, without question! We received our welcome packages and got to know each other a little better, as we prepared for the first official day of the trip. By the end of Day Zero, I had already met people from the US, Canada, China, Australia, New Zealand, France, the UK, and Germany -- at least eight of the ten nations (add on Belgium and The Netherlands) represented on the trip! Day 1 had not even started, but I felt easily at home with this large and friendly group of amusement enthusiasts.

 

My photo set from Schlitterbahn is very limited, since I really only had time to take some pictures of the Blastenhoff area at the beginning and end of the day. The official TPR thread has a bunch of good pictures, as does the trip report posted by Marcel here.

 

(A few more pictures from Schlitterbahn here)

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The first big curve on Master Blaster.

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The main beach area at Blastenhoff.

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After rides on Master Blaster (twice), Black Knight, and Wolfpack, this is what the tower looked like. Absolutely packed with people the whole way up.

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Lounging by the beach. No time for that on a TPR trip -- too much of Schlitterbahn left to see!

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A play area in Blastenhoff.

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This wave pool is connected to the Torrent River, which runs around the island that contains the big tower in the middle.

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Rocketing up one of the hills on Master Blaster.

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Floating down the Torrent River in the rather extreme Texas sun.

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A TPR banner hanging at the top of the Blastenhoff tower!

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The giant water release point for the Torrent river -- sending out waves several feet high that really fly around the trench.

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Another view of the tower.

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In all, I heard that there were six TPR banners hung by the Schlitterbahn staff. They really made us feel welcome, with the ERT, gifts, and banners!

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A final look at the Blastenhoff tower as we headed back to San Antonio for our first dinner with the whole group.

Edited by The Great Zo
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This has to be the most detailed TR so far on TPR. I look forward to reading your thoughts/opinions on the parks. Especially the first couple we visited. Great, Great TR so far.

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Always fun to relive these fun times. Still have your map as one of my backgrounds although i guess its time to change it to the 2014 map. Keep going can't wait to see more.

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Thanks for your comments! Really happy to share this stuff finally -- I know I'm months behind, but if I can get this done before next summer's trip I'll be happy .

 

Day 1 -- Six Flags Fiesta Texas

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

 

Lesson of the Day: Enjoy the downtime. Although TPR trips are known for their quick pace, our visit at SFFT was a little more relaxed than most. Every tour is sure to have some long and tiring days, and they'll likely be among the most exciting. On the other hand, taking it a little on the easier side can also be good. Take more pictures of the park, and settle down for some conversation.

 

Artifacts:

 

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The official park map, and our TPR-exclusive ticket to the park. You can all fight over what they're calling iRat if you want to!

 

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We are very important people!

 

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Our schedule for the day, which actually ended up being even better than what was printed on the lanyard.

Scorecard:

 

Superman: Krypton Coaster (x7)

Poltergeist (x2)

Scooby-Doo Ghostblasters

Pandemonium (x2)

Scooby-Doo Ghostblasters

Kiddee Koaster

Bugs’ White Water Rapids

Boomerang

---

Goliath

Road Runner Express

Gully Washer

SkyScreamer

Scream

Iron Rattler Tour

Whistle Stop / Fiesta Texas Railroad (Full)

---

Whistle Stop / Fiesta Texas Railroad (Full + 1/2)

Road Runner Express

Goliath

Lone Star Nights

SkyScreamer

Superman: Krypton Coaster (x2)

SkyScreamer

Superman: Krypton Coaster (x4)

 

Day 1

 

At long last, on my fourth day of the vacation, the official TPR trip was about to begin. Six Flags Fiesta Texas was within viewing distance of our hotel, so it was just a quick five minute drive north to ... miss the turn into the park, and have to loop back around La Cantera to find the back entrance!

 

Although I've never been a particularly dedicated coaster enthusiast, and haven't ever planned entire lengthy vacations around theme parks before, it was still surprising to me that I'd somehow managed to avoid ever going to a Six Flags park. Based on chain-wide reputations, I had an idea of what to expect -- wildly inconsistent theming, disinterested employees, and advertisements all over the place. Aside from that last point -- face the intensity! -- I couldn't have been more impressed (and pleasantly surprised) with our experience at SFFT.

 

Let's get the obvious out of the way first. Six Flags Fiesta Texas was dealt an absolutely rotten hand by the incident that occurred four hours north on I-35. Their marquee new attraction was down for the count due to no fault of their own, which was disappointing for everybody involved with the trip. They wanted to show off their shiny new iRat to a group of thrill-hungry TPR members, and were unable to do so. The TPR brass had made the three RMC coasters a big selling point of the trip, and watched powerlessly as three turned to one. However, if any group is going to make the best of a situation, it's this one. Still, we'd need a little help from the park, and SFFT delivered outstandingly, rolling us the red carpet and providing an outstanding day at the park.

 

After gathering outside and meeting Jeffrey Siebert (SFFT's marketing director), we headed straight to Superman: Krypton Coaster for our first roller coaster ERT session of the trip -- and, along with our time on Master Blaster at Schlitterbahn, my first ERT sessions ever. It's hard to put the feeling to words -- our lead train climbing the lift and circling down the first drop. I guess that's when it struck the trip had really started, with the whole group unified and doing what we do best -- riding coasters and having a blast, just like all the pictures and videos I'd seen from previous TPR tours.

 

After our ERT on Superman, we got the first rides of the day on Poltergeist, where we first really noticed the inspiring implementation of the visual scan. After launching our way through a couple rides, we followed this up by making our way to Pandemonium for another ERT session. Getting Pandemonium open for us was a huge bonus, and the park recognized that its low capacity made it a priority for all of us to get our rides in. As if that wasn't enough, another of the Fiesta Bay Boardwalk attractions -- the Scooby Doo Ghostblasters shooting dark ride -- was also made available to us before the rest of the park attendees were able to get in. Thereafter, most of us reported directly to the Kiddee Koaster (RIP Schlitterbahn water bottle) for our first shameless "not intended for adults" credits of the trip.

 

Morning ERT on four different rides really helped soften the pace for the rest of the day, and getting Q-Bots to help manage our wait times was another big piece of help. It was my first experience with the Q-Bot system, and I was really impressed with its simplicity and utility. I felt quite fortunate to end up in an awesome Q-Bot group with Victor, Stacy H, and Tim K -- we made a great team, not only of SFFT, but of all the rest of the Six Flags parks we ended up visiting.

 

SFFT provided us a good spread for lunch, and followed that up by letting us sign up for 12-person backstage tours of Iron Rattler. Even though the ride wasn't operational, the park wanted to ensure we were able to see it up-close. We squeezed into a white van, and Jeffrey drove us up to the top of the quarry wall. From up there, we were able to get some spectacular photos of the middle section of the ride, with the rest of the park as a backdrop.

 

A portion of the big group went back to the hotel for some R&R in the mid-to-late afternoon, but I opted to stay in the park. With all of the credits out of the way, it was a good opportunity for photography, giving me a chance to do a "full" photo set from the park. SFFT is a medium-sized park, which was most evident in contrast with some of the parks we visited later in the trip (SFGAm and Cedar Point in particular). Without iRat running, I'd say that SFFT perhaps wasn't quite a full-day park, unless you're visiting the water park or are a photographer. I actually didn't mind that, as it was nice to have the chance to get some good pictures -- the pace was quicker for most of the stops on our trip, making it more difficult to leverage ride time and photography time. SFFT is worth finding that balance -- the setting at the floor of the quarry was really spectacular, and not at all visually restrictive. The way the quarry wall is built into the design of the the park is very natural, and the biggest rides (such as Superman, Sky Screamer, and iRat) are tall enough to tower over the upper level, providing great views of the park, La Cantera, and the northern sections of San Antonio. Even though the wall isn't going anywhere, there appears to be plenty of room for expansion on the quarry floor -- big enough for one or two major attractions, I'd say.

 

The quiet middle part of the day also provided an opportunity to get out of the heat and enjoy some conversation in the park's Sangerfest Halle -- the big Festhaus-like dining and show area. While being entertained by one of the most astoundingly remarkable shows we'd experience on the entire trip, it was also a chance to chat with a few more trip participants, and help ease the comfort level of this fish-out-of-water traveler. Thanks Rox, Hans, Chris L, and the Kiwis -- you helped the new guy feel welcome!

 

Did I mention the heat? The official high temperature for San Antonio was 103 degrees F -- only one degree shy of the record, and seven degrees above normal. That was par for the course for the Texas leg of our trip, but I'll be honest -- I'll happily take that over getting rained out.

 

Our entire group reconvened for the Lone Star Nights show at closing time, with the park providing us some of the best seats available. I went into the show with few expectations, but was actually rather impressed. You've probably already read about the overflowing Americana, Texas pride, and utter cheesiness in some of the other trip reports -- qualities that make the show so endearingly kitschy. From a technical standpoint, I thought it was a pretty nice blend of projection, lasers, and fireworks. I don't know that I've ever seen lasers and projection combined like this before, with the lasers serving to highlight and outline images and words from the film. I definitely want to thank whoever the first person was to decide "we should show a video on this giant quarry wall" -- brilliant idea! I also want to thank whoever included the TPR wordmark in the pre-show, though it was only displayed for about five seconds, and I couldn't get my own camera ready in time!

 

After the show, our night was not yet complete -- SFFT re-opened Superman and Sky Screamer for a double shot of night ERT, providing a really great end to our day. Yes, the first official day of the trip was already setting some pretty big expectations for the 11 days to come.

 

Reviews of some of the park's attractions:

 

Superman: Krypton Coaster: Having just ridden my first floorless coaster in June -- Dominator at Kings Dominion -- I had a point of comparison for Superman. Although I think I prefer the layout of elements just slightly on Dominator, this is a perfect example of how setting can make a ride. Superman's interactions with the quarry wall are quite fun when moving at a high rate of speed. I found the ride to be just the right amount of forceful, where you get some intensity along the way, but can stay on the ride over and over again without feeling sick. I did just that during our morning and evening ERT sessions, racking up 13 total rides (my second highest count on the trip, after 14 on Millennium Force). This isn't going to end up on any best-of coaster lists, but it's a solid #2 for a park with iRat next door.

 

Poltergeist: I'd been on both Flight of Fear rides, and found this to be a similar experience, with the added bonus of having no mid-course brake run. I don't think I could marathon this coaster, as it's relatively forceful in places, and a little bit on the rough side. I probably enjoyed this ride slightly less than the consensus of the group.

 

Scooby-Doo Ghostblasters: Referred to as "Air Conditioning: The Ride" by several TPR trip members, I found it to be a pretty average shooting ride.

 

Pandemonium: This was the first of three identical Gerstlauer spinning coasters on the trip. I found this coaster to be a little bit more fun than I had anticipated, especially once our Q-Bot group got the car unbalanced. I like the small pop of air near the end, and find it amusing that the car can sometimes go up the lift hill crooked.

 

Kiddee Koaster: A real thriller. The kind of roller coaster that can bring a grown man to tears. Also: my first counted kiddy coaster credit. I think we all probably know and accept that we rode some coasters in our youth that we can't remember, and that a coaster count is going to be limited by our memories. So, this one gets a special place on the list, and I don't know how I could have done it without the TPR takeover.

 

Bugs’ White Water Rapids: The Dragon will go down in TPR folklore as one of the biggest villains on the entire trip, but the real key to enjoying this ride was not sitting in the front row. It wasn't the big splash at the end that soaked those at the fore of the boat, but rather, the gentle drop off the lift. I was fortunate to be in the second row, where I enjoyed a relatively entertaining ride. My compatriots in the front suffered from an unacceptable amount of wetness. Though not a traditional log flume (this one had two-aside seating and a slightly wider trough), it started my half-attempts at flume credit counting.

 

Boomerang: It's a boomerang.

 

Goliath: Having never been to a Six Flags park, this was my first Batman clone (a mirrored version) -- and yet, it was my fifth invert, after Montu, Raptor, Great Bear, and Alpengeist. The quick, tight pacing was obvious in comparison to those four. I'm not sure that automatically makes it a better ride (I definitely think Montu, at least, is superior), but I know that's the popular opinion of most TPR members.

 

Road Runner Express: This was a very pleasant surprise! We would end up riding a lot of mine trains on this trip, but this early favorite was perhaps bested only by Thunderation at Silver Dollar City. The ride has a few drops and pulls some force in a helix or two, and its setting in iRat's shadow is a good place to be.

 

Gully Washer: Usually, on days when I'm not water-park-prepared, I try to avoid the round-boat rapids rides. I decided to give this one a spin, however, and came out only mildly wet. I was fortunate! Outside of hitting the only waterfall on the ride, this was definitely not one of the TPR trip's biggest soakers -- and there would be some later on that easily qualified. A word of advice for this one -- if you're holding on to the padded center bar, you may want to wash your hands when you're done.

 

SkyScreamer: I do not possess a fear of heights. In fact, I'd say it's quite the opposite. SkyScreamer, thus, was a ride I immediately enjoyed. It never saw it as a "thrill" ride at all. Rather, it was an excuse to circle around at 200 feet and enjoy one heck of a view, especially at night.

 

Scream: This was my first S&S combo tower, and though it's shorter than some of the other towers I've been on, it was nice to experience a lift and drop in the same ride cycle.

 

23 total coaster rides was my second highest daily total of the trip, with 31 on our second day at Cedar Point on top. Thanks to the 13 rides on Superman, this day gave me the most inversions by far, with 102. The full day at Silver Dollar City came in second for inversions, with only 29.

Edited by The Great Zo
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Pictures from Day 1

 

Additional pictures and bigger versions of these images can be found here and here.

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TPR gathers at the main gate. It was a little bit strange to be among the first people in a park, before the place had even opened!

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Absolutely shameless! Look at these people!

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These people don't know what they're in for.

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Delicious intense! Very boomerang! So Vekoma!

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Goliath, and it's right-turn drop.

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Goliath down the first drop from a distance. Yup, only seven rows on the train.

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Superman appears over the quarry wall.

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In case you were wondering where Scream came from.

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Our group of 12 gathers for the iRat backstage tour.

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Enter at your own risk? Yes please! Where do I sign up? How quickly can you get this thing running again?

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As visible from the iRat entry area, Road Runner Express is a far-above-average mine train.

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iRat's venom is looking a little watery today.

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Heading over past Gully Washer on the iRat tour.

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I still remember the excitement of seeing pictures of this last winter, knowing (at least, I thought so) that I'd be riding it in late July.

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Barrel roll close up. What a screwily-awesome mesh of steel and wood.

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TPR people on the edge of the pond, photographer considers how easy it would be to accidentally slip down the embankment.

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First drop view -- and who doesn't like the big IR logo?

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Twisted track above the park.

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Is coaster track supposed to bend that way? And what lucky people get to live in those buildings behind the ride?

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Now you can steal all of RMC's construction secrets! A couple pieces of metal, some bolts, wood...

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More iRat twisted track.

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Iron Rattler and Neiman Marcus, because those are two things that it's perfectly normal to find in the same picture.

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iRat towers above even the upper level of the quarry.

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A rattler in the wilderness.

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Back on the ground level, and time for a ride on the train. I could never figure out if it's actually called "Whistle Stop" or "Fiesta Texas Railroad."

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Waterfalls off the quarry wall.

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This couldn't have been just a simple thing to put together!

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Superman's /huge/ loop.

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Kiddee Koaster looking very green.

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Sigh.

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The only potentially-drenching spot on Gully Washer -- the waterfall!

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Three waterfalls on the quarry wall, with a tunnel for the train underneath the one on the left.

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SFFT is a pretty good looking park. This is an area near the big amphitheater in the center. Awesome view, marred only by that painful-looking blue thing sticking up over the hill.

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SkyScreamer in full flight.

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I guess I'm not the only one who hates Top Spins. There were lines for most of the park's attractions, but this was running almost on empty!

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The swings.

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Rockville High School, part of an Americana-themed section of the park, complete with working traffic lights and a road grid. They not only built the school, they put a statue of "J.P. Rock" out in front, creating an entire story for the fake town.

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Superman's cobra roll, as seen from near the Fiesta Bay Boardwalk.

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The "drencher" boat ride, which actually travels up on a ledge of the cliff wall.

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Poltergeist goes through the "spaghetti bowl" elements.

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Tony Hawk's Pro Pandemonium Spin, or something along those lines. Amazing how much skateboard theming is still in place.

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A colorful Ferris wheel.

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Bugs' White Water Rapids, but this isn't the wettest part...

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...nor is this, despite the splashdown.

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Here it is -- the dragon, caught red-handed at the scene of the crime! He's remarkably accurate, and he'll follow your boat the whole way around that curve.

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The Goliath entry plaza.

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Zero-G rolling.

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Breaking out the zoom lens for the giant Superman statue on top of S:KC's loop.

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In case you forgot where we're at.

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"So, is it 5-4-3-2-1, or 1-2-3-4-5?"

"I don't know, but I have a sudden craving for hair gel."

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iRat in the sun.

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SkyScreamer riders way up high.

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Alright, here it is -- "Looney Tunes: We Got The Beat." I was almost rendered speechless by this show! Confused as for how this is playing in 2013, I later learned that the show debuted at some Six Flags park as early as 2004!

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Yes, the shirt says "Tweety Say Relax," but rather than Holly Johnson (Frankie Goes To Hollywood), Tweety was going full-on Boy George with a rendition of Culture Club's "Do You Really Want To Hurt Me."

 

And I have video of it! This has to be seen and heard to be believed!

http://www.thegreatzo.com/photos/video.php?set=20130730b&vid=0437

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Getting set up for the Lone Star Nights show.

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Windmill at dusk.

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Somehow got another camera flash in this shot. What a bunch of tourists!

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Lone Star Nights begins!

 

I have one short video segment, which I admit I only took because I wanted to remember they were using the Emerson Lake & Palmer version of Hoedown...

http://www.thegreatzo.com/photos/video.php?set=20130730b&vid=0489

 

...but Matt (mightypotato) got most of the show on video!

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There must be some sort of explanation that would put this image in context, but I can't figure it out.

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The fireworks begin -- I remember the percussive nature of the blasts matching up well with the guy on horseback.

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Coaster track! Bonus points to anyone who can identify the ride (because I can't).

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Foreshadowing! That's the entry sign to SFOT.

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More foreshadowing! Not sure how many people caught this one, but that's the Texas Star Ferris wheel from Fair Park in Dallas!

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This weather guy has to post a picture of the tornado segment, which was focused mainly on the proud recovery efforts.

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Your face is a moon.

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Near the end of the show, the fireworks really get going! Some of the blasts looked familiar, having seen part of the show from La Cantera two nights prior.

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San Antonio! Hey, that's us.

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The Alamo! I've been there now!

 

This picture is a good example of the laser effect I mentioned -- lighting up and outlining key parts of the projection.

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I AM TEXAS!

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Fireworks continue near the end of the show.

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Bravo, SFFT!

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Our two rides for night ERT -- SkyScreamer and Superman.

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One last shot of Goliath on the way out of the park. Thanks for a fantastic day, SFFT!

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