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Day 5 – Waldameer Park

 

The 4-hour drive from Danville to Erie had me racing against the clock to beat an incoming storm. So I did just what you’d expect a California driver to do around all the Pennsylvania slow pokes and matched the speed of traffic while getting lost in my thoughts listening to the Joe Rogan Experience. This meant I walked through the entrance at Waldameer at the exact time the rain started POURING.

 

But this time I was prepared with a waterproof jacket and my feet were already taped up and practically mummified in gauze, so I avoided a repeat of my Kings Dominion experience. That “Good Eating Outside Theme Parks” thread actually came in handy big time as I simply got back in the car and made the drive down the hill under Ravine Flyer to Sarah’s where I dined on chili dogs and chicken strips surrounded by about three or four kids’ soccer teams. And the food was great! I figured I’d probably be there for a while, but almost as soon as I had eaten, the sky opened back up and I saw a train soar over RFII’s bridge, so back I went. I also went across the street to Shickalay’s for some IPAs later on. I think Philrad or somebody mentioned that one. Good advice!

 

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It doesn't look like it from these pics, but we had major rain here early in the day.

Waldameer is like a smaller Knoebels in some ways. Similar in scope and as far away from “corporate” as you can get, but it lacks the remoteness, ambience, good food, and quantity of attractions. You know, that’s really not a flattering description at all and it sells the park short. I had a great time when I went last in 2014 and made Ravine Flyer my 199th coaster, and I did again this year just the same. There's a few worthwhile non-coaster attractions like the ARM-Larson drop tower, a Music Express, and the skyride, plus a few others I didn't do this time. It’s still no Knoebels, but what they do have is an incredible Gravity Group that was easily the best wooden coaster on the trip (I had to get in just one more jab at Phoenix )!

 

Ravine Flyer II

If this woodie were anywhere else, there’s a pretty good chance it would run like crap. This layout asks those clunky PTC trains to do things they just shouldn’t be able to. It’s much like Voyage in this regard, only half as long. The park apparently still takes great care of it because it runs like a dream. You start out with one of the all-time great lifthill views and from there on its either long, sustained airtime moments or sudden directional changes all the way. One of my favorite parts actually comes right after the first camelback in the form of a sharp left-right transition that pretends its airtime. You get another great lake view on the crest of the far turnaround, then three more hills with strong floater air before climbing back up out of the ravine. It’s here where I find my biggest criticism.

 

RFII is a very front-loaded coaster. The first half is as good as you’ll find on anything, but the second half ranges from “still pretty good” in the front car to almost kind of “ho-hum” in the back. It spends much of the second half making banked turns over flat land on the main park level, and only dives into the ravine once more, but without any airtime. Instead, you plunge down after a 90-degree banked turn. I see why this element seemed very cool when it was built in 2008. Wooden coasters in general just weren’t doing all the crazy banking stuff yet. But now it’s just kind of there. Others may disagree, but if Waldameer ever decides to reprofile any parts of this, that turn is what I’d zero-in on. Tweak it to rise up a little higher and bank it slightly less with a sharp pull-over to give one more pop of air on the way down before the ride ends. Or we could just forget all that because Ravine Flyer II is still a top 5 U.S. wooden coaster. 9/10

 

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Steel Dragon

I don’t know what it is about these Maurer spinners people like, because every time I ride one, I don’t spin a lick. I totally forgot to write about Laff Trakk at Hersheypark and it was the same story there. And on Undertow at SCBB. Be it by myself or in a full, evenly balanced car, I might as well be on a wild mouse given the type of ride experience I always get. And I find this true for all Maurer spinners, not just these SC2000 clones. It took me 3 or 4 rides just to get friggin’ Winjas to spin better than an empty playground carousel in a light breeze. Whatever, I already had the credit so one lap just to remind myself was enough. 4/10

 

Comet

Don’t let the seemingly paltry rating dissuade you, this right here is the king, the granddaddy, the apex predator of kiddie wooden coasters. I don’t know if it’s the “biggest” one at all, I just know that it has these weird, fun little airtime pops with buzz bars and it all takes place under a nice canopy of trees. It’s actually a lot of fun and worth re-riding to try out different seats. This isn’t your average Woodstock Express. 5.5/10

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Excellent report, and so glad to hear that RFII is still running well. It was one of my top wooden coasters when I first rode it in 2010, but after hearing how poorly some other GG woodies have held up with age, I was becoming skeptical that it was still worth anything apart from the great view. Would love to get back up to Erie sometime to give it another ride.

 

Also, totally agree with you about Comet. I know my good memories of it must be greatly exaggerated, but I swear I remember it feeling more akin to Phoenix than to something like Woodstock Express/Ghoster Coaster/etc.

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Days 6-7 – Cedar Point

 

I went on a tour of Germany and the Netherlands last summer that included all of the major theme parks you’d expect. This was my first time visiting any parks outside North America and as tends to happen when you experience something from a new culture for the first time, the way you look at things you once thought you had a clear idea about can change. Cedar Point had been my favorite park for as long as I could remember, but some of these new parks had me questioning that.

 

It was fascinating to see how a place like Europa Park manages to bundle a vast coaster lineup with detailed theming, great food and beverage offerings, resort hotels, numerous flat and dark rides, and operations so efficient the average SFMM ride op could probably yawn and miss an entire Wodan dispatch. Then a stop at Phantasialand took the blend of immersive world building and thrills to an even higher level and Efteling had its own approach too. Was Cedar Point still my favorite park? I still said yes if anyone asked, but privately, I wasn’t so sure anymore.

 

Well I went back and guess what? It still is, dammit. As much as I loved those great German and Dutch parks, if I could only visit one park for the rest of my life, I would still choose The Point. I go once about every two or three years and while CP’s coaster collection still remains unequalled, over my last few visits the improvements to F&B, landscaping, and the overall presentation of the park (plus events like Brew and BBQ!) have left me feeling that the absence of a Euro-style theming/thrills blend doesn’t even matter. It turns out you don’t need elaborately constructed environments when you have a Great Friggin Lake all around, staff keeps pumping trains out of stations quickly, and you up your flower and shrubbery budget just a little where it really counts. Oh, and having 5 of my top 20 coasters all in one place will always be kind of cool too. So with all of that, and especially now with the king-kaiju itself, Steel Vengeance, lording over the coaster collection, my favorite parks are Cedar Point, Phantasialand, and Europa Park in that order.

 

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I stayed at Breakers on my last two visits, but decided on the Express Hotel this time given the cost of a longer road trip (I know, that's not very ostentatious of me. Sometimes I disappoint even myself). Seeing that I don’t go back to my hotel room during the day anyway, staying off the peninsula didn’t matter at all.

 

This was also the nicest 48 hours of weather I’ve ever had at CP. I don’t think the temperature got above 72F the entire time and it didn’t rain a drop. On one hand, that’s exactly what you pray for when you go here, but on another more obsessive (perhaps even slightly masochistic?) level I kind of wish it had been about 15-20 degrees hotter. The coasters didn’t feel quite as intense in the mild weather as they usually do in summer. Maverick usually leaves me feeling wiped out in the best way possible after two consecutive rides, but I could marathon it no problem this time. Likewise I didn’t gray out in MF’s big overbank, nor did Raptor feel like it tugged quite as hard at my feet. Then when you consider that I was riding I305 and Twisted Timbers in 102-degree heat just a few days prior, you might understand why the more demented side of me was yearning for CP’s coasters to run just a tick faster.

 

I took the boardwalk from the main lot up to the Magnum gate for early entry both days, but perhaps not surprisingly managed only a single ride on Steel Vengeance between the two. It was down until about 9:45am the first day and didn’t open until a few hours after that the second day. But it hardly mattered. With careful use of Fastlane Plus I managed twelve rides on it over my two days including four night rides. I’ll do a proper review below, but for now I’ll say that as hard as I tried to remain realistic, I came in with expectations higher than I’ve had going into any coaster before and somehow it actually managed to meet them. My 67 year old “mild enthusiast” father joined up with me for CP. His favorite coaster has been Millennium Force for the last seventeen years and nothing else has come close for him. Now he has a new favorite.

 

Maverick

Are there any two better coasters in closer proximity to each other than Maverick and Steel Vengeance? Unless Hersheypark goes full-Schilke one day and we get Skyrush literally on top of RMC Comet, I don’t think we’ll ever see CP’s new duo one-upped. Most people won’t consider Maverick Cedar Point’s headliner anymore, but it’s still a quality top 5 steel coaster in every way. It’s still the park’s most g-force positive coaster and the variety of things it does well is unmatched. The only thing I dislike about Maverick is how the trim brakes after the launch stifle any possibility of airtime on the hill that follows. The train obviously needs to slow down before entering the turns, but in an ideal world there would be some way to trim it over the water following the hill in question. It doesn’t matter much though. Maverick still beats 99.5% of all coasters out there. 9.5/10

 

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Millennium Force

No coaster adds up to something greater than the sum of its parts more than Millennium Force. My dad and I reminisced about our first rides on it in 2001, how it took me so long to build up courage to ride in the front, and how it took both of us even longer to finally put our hands up on the first drop. The intimidation factor is long gone now almost two decades later, but this will always be our “father-son bonding coaster” and we still have just as much fun riding it as we always have. Random observation – does anyone else miss those metal “Intamin giga-roller coaster” plaques that used to adorn the sides of the trains before they switched to fiberglass bodies several years ago? 9/10

 

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Top Thrill Dragster

Fastlane works much better on this now that it takes you right up to the station. TTD was also oddly reliable during my visit. I rode this four times over two days and not once was it already down when I showed up, nor did it break down while we were in line. Weird. I actually remember looking down at Steel Vengeance from the tophat and having the clarity of mind to observe a train and think, “oh, good, SV is running again, we should go there next,” before dropping down the other side. I’m such a purist for pacing, length, and well-rounded layouts that I had honestly forgotten how much I liked this coaster. 8/10

 

“Big” Intamin rankings (i.e. no impulses, old bobsleds, etc.)

1. Skyrush

2. Expedition GeForce

3. Maverick

4. El Toro

5. Superman the Ride

6. Intimidator 305

7. Millennium Force

8. Taron

9. Cheetah Hunt

10. Fahrenheit

11. Storm Runner

12. Top Thrill Dragster

13. Xcelerator

14. Kingda Ka

15. California Screamin’

16. Volcano

17. Superman: Escape From Krypton

 

Steel Vengeance

Where do I even begin? It lives up to the hype in every way. The airtime over that first curving camelback is a sensation unlike anything I have ever felt. At first it’s a similar feeling to what you get on the big ejector camelbacks on El Toro, then at some point your enthusiast mind tells you it’s time for your body to come back down into its seat, but SV just keeps pulling you up into that lapbar for longer and longer. I couldn’t stop laughing the first few times I rode it because of how truly alien the sheer duration of airtime on this one element was. Then you feel it all over again on the outward-banked camelback. Those two hills plus the first inversion provide the longest, sustained negative-g experiences I’ve ever felt. Even after 12 rides on this thing I still wasn’t used to it.

 

A word about the MCBR. I had two rides where it didn’t grab at all, one ride where it bit hard, and the rest had only mild trimming. The two untrimmed rides made the second half simply astonishing. But the difference between the heavily-trimmed train and the more “typical” experience was noticeable only on the drop off the MCBR itself. After that they felt exactly the same. Yeah, I wish it was a pure block section and nothing more, but overall I don’t think it’s a big deal.

 

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If I have one “gripe” about Steel Vengeance, it’s the ending. It suffers from a bit of Voyage syndrome where the last stretch of track (on Voyage it’s the final tunnel and last set of turns) feels a little repetitive and redundant. There’s just so much airtime on this thing that the final set of bunny hops isn’t the kind of satisfying finale it might be on another coaster. Ending with an elongated, Medusa Steel Coaster-style heartline roll past the queue line or a set of sharp s-curves might have been more interesting and given you a moment to celebrate and reflect before hitting the brakes. I want to put this into perspective. When your only critique is that the designer should have replaced one kind of awesome with a different kind of awesome just for the sake of variety and “narrative” then you know that designer has made a masterpiece.

 

Is Steel Vengeance my #1 now? At least for now I’ll say not quite. It doesn’t have the borderline violent intensity that puts Skyrush on another level for me. Even Twisted Timbers had a pair of holy sh*t violent moments that Steel Vengeance didn’t even though SV still beats TT overall. But then again, I rode TT when it was a full 30 degrees hotter, so who knows how SV might feel on a day like that. And as for Skyrush, riding it 23 times with no wait is the kind of experience that will simply never be possible on SV and it really cemented Skyrush for me. So SV is a close #2, but I could see that changing one day. 10/10

 

Updated RMC rankings

1. Steel Vengeance

2. Medusa Steel Coaster

3. Wicked Cyclone

4. Outlaw Run

5. Twisted Timbers

6. Twisted Colossus

7. Iron Rattler

8. New Texas Giant

9. Joker

 

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Valravn

Man I’m glad I skipped coming back for Valravn the last two years and waited for Steel Vengeance. I didn’t like this ride at all. I don’t like the new B&M vests and they hamper the ride experience on dive coasters in a way they just don’t on inverts or wing coasters. If your chest and shoulder dimensions are even a little larger than average, there’s simply no way to get any airtime at all on this thing. It’s got a great layout and offers epic panoramic views, but I wasn’t able to fully enjoy it. And it was nothing painful, but I thought Valravn tracked somewhat rougher than other dive coasters too. Give me Sheikra, Baron 1898, or Krake any day. 6/10

 

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Gatekeeper

My second favorite Cedar Point B&M and second favorite wing coaster. If I’ve been away from it for a couple of years, I seem to talk myself into believing it’s a lesser coaster than it actually is. Gatekeeper is far from the forceless lawn ornament some would have you believe. The first set of elements all the way through the keyhole section are all very good and the whole thing is about as much pure fun as you’ll have on anything else at this park. Too bad B&M clearly made no effort to end it on a high-note (read the next review for why this matters so much). 8/10

 

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Raptor

My favorite CP B&M and unless Katun or Nemesis finds a way to really knock my socks off one day, Raptor will always be my favorite inverted coaster too. I’m a screenwriter (nothing produced yet, so don’t ask) and I naturally look for the kinds of narrative patterns seen in film in other things as well. Coasters are a perfect example and Raptor has one of the best linear plot structures I’ve ever seen. Now no coaster follows a 3-act structure perfectly (except Kennywood’s Thunderbolt – now that coaster follows it perfectly), but I’ll make an attempt with Raptor.

 

You have an inciting incident to kick off Act 1 (quick little dip out of the station) followed by a steady build delivering the exposition you’ll need to appreciate what follows (the lift hill with views of the lake, Gatekeeper, and the midway), followed by Plot Point 1 where we, the riders/protagonists are forced into a dramatic new direction (the first drop with a kick out above the midway). Act 2 contains the bulk of the character conflict (the inversions) and is interrupted at the Midpoint with a false sense of security (MCBR) bookended by a rising and falling action mirroring what started the conflict (the counter-clockwise spiral up, and clockwise spiral down mirroring the loop). Then comes a new type of rising and falling action (two corkscrews on either end of a brief straightaway) followed by the Act 3 climax that takes what we have learned to now overcome the old conflict in a new way (the helix – it’s a loop turned on its side!) before a return to the status-quo in the station.

 

A lot of older B&Ms do this narrative thing well. But none of them have the kind of nuanced symmetry and compelling Act 3 climax that Raptor has. For a lot of people, this might mean absolutely nothing, but to me, it means everything and marks the difference between a good invert and the best invert. 9/10

 

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Rougarou

It’s not hard to see why it gets overlooked at this park, but I think Rougarou is CP’s underrated gem. B&M used to create some very nice, dynamic layouts that were less inversion-obsessed back in the day and this is one of them. My favorite part is the quick left-right slalom after the inclined loop. It really tries to throw you out of the train there. This has also become quite the intense little experience once the floorless trains allowed them to deactivate the trim on the first drop. 8/10

 

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Magnum XL-200

If I loved Skyrush, you just had to know I’d be a Magnum die-hard too right? “Ol’ Iron Thighs” they used to call me. Okay fine, maybe nobody ever said that, but I do wish more enthusiasts could appreciate this coaster. I’ll say it again – ride in the middle row of any car and it won’t be rough – you will not get hurt. If the airtime and lapbars are still painful for you, then I don’t know what to say anymore. What did you expect? The Phoenix or something? (I couldn’t help myself…) 9/10

 

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Gemini

I remember marathoning this coaster for an hour straight with little-to-no wait back in the years when you could always count on MF’s line to be 2 hours and Raptor and Mantis were consistently 90 minutes. Crowds are so much more spread out now that setting up camp at Gemini is no longer the draw it once was, but it’s still one of the most fun, most re-ridable coasters out there. Over time it’s become the perfect super-size family coaster than so many parks lack. 7/10

 

Blue Streak

I really wish I got to ride this in its original incarnation with buzz bars and no head rests. I have a feeling those who did might be romanticizing the experience a little, but what do I know? Today’s Blue Streak is the only Blue Streak I’ve ever ridden. Maybe the airtime was actually pretty good? You can see the potential all over this thing, but alas, it now fills pretty much the same niche Gemini does. Always worth a ride. 6/10

 

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Edited by Condor
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Great past two reports.

 

I know what you mean about Waldameer. It definitely has some Knoebels vibes, but it just doesn't have the breadth of attractions Knoebels has. But what they do have is quality and they have a true anchor in Ravine Flyer II. I wasn't sure how well it would hold up for my rides, but like you said, it tracks an extremely aggressive layout far better than you'd expect.

 

I really liked that last shot of Millennium in the day. I've never seen that angle before. Was that from Dinosaur's Alive?

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I really liked that last shot of Millennium in the day. I've never seen that angle before. Was that from Dinosaur's Alive?

It was taken approaching the tyrannosaur paddock...

 

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Nice reports! I enjoyed reading everything.

 

I really appreciate your more in-depth writing on the different coasters, and that analysis on Raptor was spot-on. Looking for a narrative and/or development of some sort in roller coasters is a big (nerdy) thing for me as well.

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Day 8 – Michigan’s Adventure

 

From the top of the Cedar Fair food chain straight to the bottom! But you know what? I hardly cared because I was beyond excited to ride one of my bucket list coasters going back almost 20 years. Some of you might remember those Discovery Channel Thrills, Chills, & Spills shows from the early 2000s. That was the best roller coaster footage available before sites like TPR and others with YouTube channels supplied us with the kind of nearly unlimited content we take for granted today.

 

I first learned about Shivering Timbers from this segment of Discovery’s Extreme Rides 2000. I had a bunch of VHS tapes that I recorded several years’ worth of Discovery theme park shows on and I’m pretty sure I wore all of them out from repeat viewings as a teenager. To this day I still remember some of them so well that I actually had this Paul Greenwald guy’s voice from the on-ride portion in my head while riding it. Skip to 15:11 for Shivering Timbers.

 

 

THANK GOD they got rid of that trick-track, huh? That looked utterly terrifying. I didn’t realize they had reprofiled it, so I kept bracing for it on the return run the first time I rode, then when we entered the helix I thought, “Wait, what? Where was it?”

 

Look, we all know that beyond Timbers, Michigan’s Adventure doesn’t have much. So I’m not going to write several paragraphs trying not to dump on the park while looking for ways to spin parts of it in a positive light. This isn’t a bad park, just a severely limited one.

 

But I will call them out for one thing. The operations across the board and on Shivering Timbers in particular were downright abominable. The park was pretty dead, but you’d still expect at least a modicum of effort, right? I honestly think I timed one Timbers dispatch at the approximate length of the Triassic Period. They ran two trains on it, which was a good start, but they stacked them with one train spending a solid 2 minutes on the brake run every single time. With only 8-12 riders per train. On a 5,400 foot-long coaster. Good night....

 

Shivering Timbers

Was it worth waiting two decades for? Yep! I loved it. It still hauls like a speeding freight train and never feels like it loses speed the whole way. There’s plenty of airtime, and while it’s not ejector air by today’s Intamin/RMC standards, it still delivers the force of approximately 1.45 Phoenix’s (Okay, I’ll stop. And look, it’s not that I don’t like Phoenix. It’s actually really good. Like seriously good. Like almost as good as the very best wooden coasters in the entire state of Pennsylvania!). Shivering Timbers is starting to get rough again, though. I’m not 100% certain, but I believe GCI retracked it in 2015 around the same time they did Ghostrider. The difference is that Ghostrider got Millennium Flyers and a couple layers of much denser ipe wood while Timbers didn’t. Three years later and Ghostrider still runs great, but Timbers now jackhammers in a few places. The ride is fine for now, but I’d be worried to come back and try it again in another year or two. Hopefully more track work is planned and maybe (yeah right…) a set of Millennium Flyers in the near future. Please? This would probably be a top 10 woodie for me if they did. 8.5/10

 

CCI wooden coaster rankings

1. Boulder Dash

2. Legend

3. Ghostrider

4. Timber Terror

5. Tremors

6. Shivering Timbers

7. Raven

8. Boss

9. Villain (R.I.P.)

 

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Wolverine Wildcat

Talk about a perfect RMC candidate (again, yeah right…)! It’s both rougher than Shivering Timbers and has none of its redeeming qualities! I could see this being like CA Great America’s Grizzly if it got a little extra care – a deluxe family wooden coaster that isn’t too thrilling or intimidating, but I can’t imagine Cedar Fair wants to pay more than the minimum level of attention to it. One and done for the credit. 5/10

 

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Zach’s Zoomer

Now this kiddie woodie is more your typical example than Comet at Waldameer. It’s another one and done ride for enthusiasts, but a good start for young kids. 4/10

 

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Thunderhawk

I actually liked this SLC pretty well when I rode it 15 years ago at Geauga Lake, not that it left much of an impression. After riding it again in its new home, I’d put it somewhere in the middle of all the SLCs, neither as smooth as Limit or SFNE’s Mind Eraser, nor as rough as MP Express or Kong. 5/10

 

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Corkscrew

It’s a little rougher that the original model now at Silverwood and doesn’t have as much airtime down the first drop in the back car. Like all the coasters here except Shivering Timbers, it’s just another credit. 4/10

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Mad Mouse

Maybe I’m weird but I actually kind of like these Arrow mice even though the banked turns kind of defeat the purpose. Only the second one I’ve done besides the one at CGA. Upon checking RCDB, there are apparently only three of these still operating. Wow, I guess? 5/10

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Edited by Condor
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  • 2 weeks later...

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Day 9 – Six Flags Great America

 

SFGAm had the minor distinction of being the last of what I’ll call the truly “large” U.S. parks I had yet to visit. There are still plenty of small-to-medium sized parks (Lagoon, Valleyfair, etc.) I need to see, but this was the last of the big boys. I was born in downtown Chicago and I’ve been back to the city plenty of times during my years as an enthusiast, but I’ve never felt compelled to go here. So… why, right? Now here’s the point where I risk coming across like a provocateur. SFGAm didn’t (and at the time of this post still doesn’t) have a single coaster I honestly cared about riding.

 

There was a point around 15+ years ago when I thought it actually looked like the best park in the chain. But as coasters like El Toro, Tatsu, and New Texas Giant went up at other Six Flags parks, in my opinion SFGAm seemed to fall behind. As someone who values things like narrative structure and pacing, even the addition of RMC’s Goliath didn’t interest me much. But I had one more day to fill after Michigan’s Adventure and with SFGAm and Indiana Beach as my nearest options, I finally bit the bullet and decided to have myself a Six Flags day.

 

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It turns out I thought the park was really nice. I remember reading some real horror stories about this place on here, but that wasn’t my experience at all. Appearance and upkeep place it in the upper tier of SF parks and operations and service seemed just fine for the most part. But those coasters… I’m sorry because I know this place has some devoted fans, but I have never felt so underwhelmed by a coaster collection at a park of this size. Every Six Flags I’ve been to has at least one coaster I’d be happy to marathon until closing after I’ve grabbed all the credits. I didn’t find a coaster like that here. I rode a few of them twice, and one of them three times, but that was enough. Even though my day was going well, by 7pm I had done everything I wanted to do and drove back to my hotel. I hope Six Flags bucks the trend and the 2019 addition is a game changer.

 

Joker

I don’t have a lot to say about these S&S free-spin models. I had two great rides on the one at SFFT, but my experiences on the others I’ve ridden since then have been mediocre. And as with my frustrations on spinning coasters, my inversion count on these things is almost always zero. 5/10

 

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V2

I had completely forgotten to get my once-per-visit ride on Wicked Twister a few days before, so I was kind of looking forward to this. Impulse coasters are not my thing, but I still enjoy them as long as the wait isn’t more than a few cycles. The launch is still good and the front spike is fun if you’re seated far enough forward. 6/10

 

Goliath

There just wasn’t a way this thing was going to impress me after experiencing Steel Vengeance and Twisted Timbers on the same trip, but it was still the presumptive top coaster in the park. At least that’s what I told myself. Unfortunately, Goliath wasn’t even that. Yes the airtime is solid. That’s all I can put in the plus column. I’ve never seen anyone else say this on here, but Goliath was rough. And I’m the kind of guy who has a high tolerance for roughness. I mean come on, Voyage is my favorite wooden coaster, so how bad could this RMC really be? Apparently rough enough to distract from the majority of the small handful of elements this coaster has. The pullouts from every element were jarring. That doesn’t mean painful, but at least on my two rides, Goliath didn’t offer enough for me to want to continue putting up with it. This can't be how this coaster usually runs. It didn't feel like an RMC at all.

 

I know plenty of people make the short length a non-issue, but going back to my Raptor analysis, I argue it’s actually a big issue. It doesn’t matter that Goliath’s track length is a 100-300 hundred feet greater than Medusa Steel Coaster or Storm Chaser. This is a taller, faster coaster that packs in a smaller set of larger elements. It’s a less “dense” layout and that’s why it has no sense of narrative or pacing. And pacing doesn’t just mean “how quickly it traverses its elements.” I mean it the same way a movie has pacing, in other words the appropriate high and low points spread over a variety of scenes/elements to create compelling sequences. The less dense a layout is, the more difficult this becomes. I’m surprised to say it, but Goliath isn’t even a top 25 wooden coaster for me. Now that I’ve endlessly bashed it, I feel like I need to point out that I don’t think it’s a bad coaster. It’s still “good” just not “that good.” 7/10

 

Updated RMC rankings

1. Steel Vengeance

2. Medusa Steel Coaster

3. Wicked Cyclone

4. Outlaw Run

5. Twisted Timbers

6. Twisted Colossus

7. Iron Rattler

8. New Texas Giant

9. Joker

10. Goliath

 

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X-Flight

My nominee for most annoying pre-recorded station spiel ever. That “Air Force colonel who’s also xtreeeeeeeeeme!” voice must drive the ride ops insane. The best thing I can say about X-Flight is that presentation of the ride makes it look awesome. I love how the midway and queue line make the whole layout so accessible. I’ve heard that this was a little on the rough side, but that wasn’t my experience. This wing coaster key-holes really well a couple of times and that’s about it. Nothing else about it does much for me. It’s a decent ride, but probably the weakest of the five wing coasters I’ve done. 6.5/10

 

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Raging Mine Train

This was the coaster I was looking forward to most. On paper Raging Bull might have the best hyper coaster layout B&M has done. I had heard all about “the trim brake…” (queue thunder and lightning here) for years, but I’m a big fan of Silver Star, which gets similarly criticized for trimming, and I remember Bill wrote a pretty positive review of the ride last year. So I was optimistic it would be a non-issue. Well I don’t know what trim-brake-ignoring super power he has, but I want it because as much as I hate to join the chorus, I think the trims absolutely ruin Raging Bull. The first drop is just as epic as you’ve heard, but after that it just goes too damn slow to be a thrilling coaster. You can see the glorious ejector incoming over that camelback and then… poof…… it's gone.The MCBR activating every single time doesn’t help matters either, but that’s on all B&M hypers. It’s sad because with this layout, Raging Bull is another coaster I could easily see as one of my favorites if they let it run unrestrained. 7/10

 

B&M hypers/gigas

1. Fury 325

2. Goliath (SFOG)

3. Nitro

4. Mako

5. Silver Star

6. Diamondback

7. Apollo’s Chariot

8. Raging Bull

9. Intimidator

 

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American Eagle

I didn’t have a lot of hope for this one. I figured it would be much like SFMM’s old Colossus and that’s exactly what it is. It’s not painful, but it definitely isn’t smooth and doesn’t run nearly as well as Rebel Yell is this year. Bad tracking and the excessive trimming required to make it tolerable reduce this to a lackluster coaster that still has potential if properly refurbished. I do like how both sides are slightly different. 5/10

 

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Superman: Ultimate Flight

These things always manage to have the longest lines at their respective parks. It’s got to primarily be a throughput issue, but guests here genuinely seemed excited for it more so than other coasters and I get the appeal. I really like these S:UF clones even though they can’t compete with the bigger flyers. I think they're some of the most underrated coasters out there. They’re intense and unlike some, I happen to find the seats comfortable. 7.5/10

 

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Batman: The Ride

Probably my favorite Batman clone not by virtue of being the original, but due to the setting. The landscape has grown in nicely around this one in a way it has not on most others so the on-ride visuals are better. Still the same intense whirlwind as always. 7/10

 

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So with all the obvious candidates out of the running, what was my favorite coaster at Six Flags Great America?

 

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Viper

This guy! Viper was the biggest surprise of the trip because it’s one of those coasters you simply never hear a word about. It’s also the first Cyclone copy I’ve ridden that not only tracks well but has airtime! It has a lot of the same blend of laterals and airtime that I liked so much on Twister, though not as intense. It starts out okay, but really finds its rhythm in the second lap where you hit three solid airtime moments in a row buried in the wooden structure. This thing has got to be a capacity beast too. I was impressed how well it tracks considering that they run five, three-bench cars per train on it. Viper managed to be the top 25 wooden coaster for me that Goliath was not. 8/10

 

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Demon

I appreciated the nostalgic 1970s lighting and music the park has maintained (or brought back) on this coaster, as its twin out west doesn’t have it. Is it even possible to feel nostalgia for something you never actually experienced in the past? Probably not, but I have no idea. Unfortunately Demon is still kind of brutal when you ride the thing. As I said with Anaconda, there’s probably a way to brace yourself to get good rides on it, I just lack the experience with it to do so. 5/10

 

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Whizzer

My second favorite coaster in the park and just maybe the best family coaster ever designed. As always, you’ve got to hand it to Schwarzkopf. Whizzer’s super unique, has retro appeal, a fun layout, and a perfect setting in the trees. I don’t know why considering how popular it is, but Six Flags does not include this on the Flash Pass. That means full queues all day, the only thing preventing me from going back for re-rides. 7/10

 

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See, I thought Viper was a perfectly average wooden coaster with some laterals, a coaster that tracks a little below "smooth" territory. It's amazing what opinions are, lol

 

I get the Goliath thing, its transitions are taken a little too fast and feel a little underengineered (in a way that even RMC didn't manage to pull off super well). Still an awesome ride.

 

If Raging Bull wasn't trimmed it'd easily be the best coaster in the park for me, but even with the trim I really enjoyed it. That might've been aggravated a little by my feelings on Titan, though, since Raging Bull is basically what Titan would be if it didn't completely suck in nearly every conceivable way.

Edited by LiftThrill
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Great in-depth detail and analysis as always Condor!

 

Your CCI ranking list got me thinking about mine too.

 

CCI wooden coaster rankings

1. Timber Terror

2. Tremors

3. Ghost Rider

4. Raven

5. Boulder Dash

6. Legend

7. Boss

 

Also, sure enough, all 7 are scattered throughout the top of my overall favorites. I wonder where Shivering Timbers would fit in for me?

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Thanks! CCI made some great wooden coasters in their time, though just about all of them needed (or still need!) major rebuilds to remain viable. I want to add Rampage, Tonnerre de Zeus, Cornball Express, and Silver Comet to my list sooner or later.

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  • 1 month later...

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CALIFORNIA'S GREAT AMERICA - August 2018

 

I got to thinking as I entered my second Great America in two months, “What would these places look like if the original owner, Marriott, still operated them?” I honestly don’t have the faintest clue what such a pair of parks might look like, even as someone with a hospitality degree. The only company owning and operating theme parks coupled in-house with first rate on-site hotels in the U.S. is Disney (there’s probably an obvious example I’m forgetting). Even Universal opted to work in conjunction with Loews Hotels to do it.

 

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But imagine if Marriott never sold the two Great Americas, went all-in on developing them over a period of forty years and somehow resisted the urge to repurpose the land into golf courses or whatever. Best case scenario (i.e. not in a million years) I can picture towering JW Marriotts spanning the entrance gates with a spa and elaborate pool complex on one end and attached retail and dining on the other. JW guests would have their own private entrance of course, and Marriott Gold and Platinum Rewards members would receive complementary fast passes for every day of their stay. Both Whizzers would still be there, and RMC’s Goliath would be a full 2,000 feet longer… Nah, who am I kidding. A more realistic scenario would see both parks looking much like the California park does now with the same dated, generic Marriott + convention center across the street… from the back of the park. Not the front.

 

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I think it’s remarkable just how much I like California’s Great America considering its actual history. While Six Flags scooped up the Illinois park, the California park was sold first to the City of Santa Clara—who outsourced operations to Kings Entertainment—who then bought the park outright—and was then subsequently acquired by Paramount—who eventually sold it to Cedar Fair. Whizzer left and new coasters like Tidal Wave, Invertigo, and Stealth came and went, and by the end of the 2000s it wasn’t unreasonable to question whether or not Cedar Fair even saw a future for the park.

 

I first visited in 2012 when the only worthwhile coaster in the park was the still-excellent Flight Deck. I made the rounds for a few hours then left. There just weren’t many quality rides to do. But despite that, I liked the atmosphere and greatly preferred CGA to Bay Area neighbor Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. Things have changed immensely in the last six years, all of it for the better.

 

A pair of elite new roller coasters, a revamp of an old one, and other smaller additions and refinements have turned CGA from a three-hour jaunt into a full day park. I also like it a lot more than former sister park, Six Flags Great America. SFGAm’s location and more stable ownership have allowed it to grow much bigger, but I think CGA hits harder pound-for-pound. I’ll take CGA’s top three coasters—Railblazer, Flight Deck, and Goldstriker—over SFGAm’s whole lineup any day.

 

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Goldstriker

This and Ghostrider are the great wooden coaster standard-bearers on the West Coast. I’ll flip-flop almost daily over which one I prefer, which is actually kind of maddening to a strict rankings guy like me. How did it run this year? Firstly, it has not gotten rough. It’s no longer opening day smooth, but there isn’t a single jarring moment on the ride. Lightning Racer and Goliath (SFGAm) both ran rougher than Goldstriker this summer. The coolest thing about this ride to me is how much speed it carries into the final brakes. It could go another thousand feet on that momentum, easily.

 

The weirdest thing about this ride to me is how the layout seems “elementless.” What I mean is that you can’t point to any one stretch of track and say, “Oh when it did __X__ it was great.” After the first drop and straight cammelback, the whole course is a series of rising or diving turns with little airtime speed bumps all over the place that blur together into a cohesive whole. On Thunderhead or Wodan for instance, you can pick out certain track elements by name or shape and easily discern them from the rest of the layout. You can’t do that with Goldstriker. Doesn’t make it any worse, just a little odd. 8.5/10

 

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Patriot

This was my first time riding since the standup days. I hated Vortex same as most and I think the floorless trains are a nice improvement. The scope of this coaster is too small for them to make the kind of difference they did in the transition from Mantis to Rougarou, but it turned a coaster you previously cared about only for the credit into one worth a couple of laps per visit assuming the line is short. I experienced no head banging in the front row or back. 6/10

 

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Flight Deck

Still the top invert on the west coast. We all know the details. It’s still short, still super-intense, still red, still needs a station roof, and still has a mural of F-15s overflying an aircraft carrier even though F-15s cannot operate from carriers. What took me by surprise this time is how it actually feels kind of drawn-out now in comparison to the new RMC across the park. Flight Deck and Railblazer are close to the same size, but Railblazer packs so much more into its layout even though it’s slightly shorter. That’s nothing to diminish Flight Deck, just a sign that CGA has finally grown to a point where an old (but excellent) invert need not be its best coaster any longer. 8.5/10

 

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Railblazer

This was the last of my four new RMCs this year along with Twisted Timbers, Steel Vengeance, and Goliath. It also meant I had completed Cedar Fair’s New-For-2018 set, also featuring TT, SV, and Hangtime. And as a guy who calls Knott’s my home park, consider me jealous. One of these RMC raptors in that compact Hangtime spot would have me visiting almost weekly because Railblazer is really, really good. Unlike Flight Deck, it doesn’t feel particularly short even though the stats say otherwise. Every inch of track is maximized for a particular kind of force. Four moments of trademark RMC ejector airtime, sudden, yet silky smooth directional changes, and I even grayed out from positive g's a couple of times in the front seat during the upward turnaround following the twisting camelback.

 

It was generally reliable for a new coaster on the day I went. They kept the line moving quickly with two trains most of the day and it still cranked riders through when it did eventually break down and go down to one train. I think it’s the best ride in the park if not decisively so (I can still make a case for Goldstriker) and I’d rank it a strong, mid-tier RMC, though it’s also the hardest to place. I could honestly put it anywhere in that middle grouping (see below). 9/10

 

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This is Carlos. His home RMC is Medusa Steel Coaster. Impressive ride. But will he be impressed with Railblazer???

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He's either cheering because Railblazer is great, or because he's happy that Medusa is still better. I think it's the former!

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Updated RMC rankings:

(top tier)

1. Steel Vengeance

2. Medusa Steel Coaster

3. Wicked Cyclone

4. Outlaw Run

5. Twisted Timbers

(middle tier)

6. Railblazer

7. Twisted Colossus

8. Iron Rattler

9. New Texas Giant

(lower tier)

10. Joker

11. Goliath

 

This is the sound I'm making during the following two on-ride photos:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OsFYPVxHKdc

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And one more just to prove that I'm also capable of taking normal on-ride photos.

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The Railblazer craft beer is a medium-bodied, citrusy IPA. It's pretty good. We had several.

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The last time I was at CGA, Gnome and I somehow got blackout drunk after lunch at the nearby Fault Line Brewery and then with a few more beers inside the park. The last thing we remembered the following morning was sprinting down the midway from Flight Deck to Goldstriker for no reason and we were so hung over that we almost didn't make it to SFDK that day. I was careful not to repeat that this time!

Demon

This was the first time I didn’t have an absolutely awful experience on Demon. Every other time I’ve visited I thought the entry into that first corkscrew would result with me leaving the ride with severe scoliosis. But that didn’t happen at all this time (or on SFGAm’s Demon this summer for that matter). I winced and braced for the corkscrew… then nothing. I felt intact and totally fine. On this occasion I actually enjoyed Demon about the same as I did Patriot. 6/10

 

Grizzly

I don’t even know what to write about this coaster that everyone doesn't already know. It’s slow, doesn’t do anything, needs new trains, and remains popular as ever as a full-size starter-coaster. 5/10

 

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Edited by Condor
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  • 9 months later...

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SIX FLAGS OVER GEORGIA + ALABAMA SPLASH ADVENTURE (RAMPAGE) - June 2019

 

This June I took a long weekend to the Atlanta area for Six Flags Over Georgia plus other sightseeing, along with a day-trip into Alabama for a certain, long sought CCI wooden coaster. Day One was Six Flags and I apparently ended up with the wrong Lyft driver on my way to the park because mine was pretty normal. Had I been content to wait until noon and arrived later in the day with my friend, I could have had his driver who extolled the virtues of “The Mushroom Ride” (Acrophobia. I still don’t get it), would have prepared me for the awesomeness of the “New” Batman: The Ride (blue paint), and could have told me to which ATL nightlife spots “all the Millenniums go.” I really wish I had been in that car.

 

SFOG has been my favorite Six Flags park ever since my first visit ten years ago. It has all the same operational and customer service issues as the rest of the chain, but the atmosphere has always felt a little nicer and the collection of rides more well-rounded. This was even the case without a stellar Intamin or RMC headliner. The one-two punch of Goliath and Mindbender was always enough for me. But last year they addressed this hole in their lineup by recycling their 1990 Dinn Corp. wooden coaster, Georgia Cyclone, into the 2018 “pocket RMC” Twisted Cyclone, the main reason for my return visit.

 

I actually liked Georgia Cyclone. It was always in need of more trackwork, but I never found it rough enough to make me avoid it and it wasn’t ruined by trim brakes like some of its Dinn contemporaries. It beat you up a little, but the high points in the layout were worth the grind. That said, with Great American Scream Machine still across the park (more on the fate of that ride in a moment…), the obvious thing to do was for Cyclone to go full-Schilke.

 

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Twisted Cyclone

I got to the front gate right before the advertised 10:30am opening to find that Twisted Cyclone had actually been giving rides for the last 30 minutes. Might have been a passholder/membership thing, I don’t know. Anyway, it was still a walk-on by the time I got to the station and it already felt nice and warmed up. The back row on both trains was closed off as was the entire back car on one of the two. Normally that would bother me, but this is RMC, so I there’s ejector airtime aplenty in any row.

 

I would describe Twisted Cyclone as a more refined version of one-half of Twisted Colossus. Its west coast cousin has a few parts that feel abrupt in a way that’s actually a little too quick to properly enjoy the airtime. The green side double-down and the double-up on both sides almost happen too fast. On Twisted Cyclone everything feels more fluid. Yes it’s short and yes I wish they had found a way to complete a third lap inside the structure, but I also didn’t feel like I really missed it. What the layout has is fine. The wave turn on this ride is one of RMC’s greatest singular elements, even better than the ones on Outlaw Run or Steel Vengeance. This coaster is exactly what SFOG needed, but it hasn’t claimed top spot for my favorite ride in the park. 8.5/10

 

RMC Rankings:

1. Steel Vengeance

2. Medusa Steel Coaster

3. Wicked Cyclone

4. Outlaw Run

5. Twisted Timbers

6. Railblazer

7. Twisted Colossus

8. Iron Rattler

9. New Texas Giant

10. Twisted Cyclone

11. Joker

12. Goliath (SFGAm)

 

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Goliath

Even with a new RMC nearby, this B&M is still the class of the park for me. I like most of the other B&M hypers, but wouldn’t call any of them outstanding coasters (not talking gigas). Goliath is different. It takes the big cammelbacks just a tick faster and the intense helix turnaround packs a punch the others lack. This one feels more like New Texas Giant or even Superman the Ride than it does just another big, out & back B&M. I had read about it developing a rattle this season, and while I don’t visit this park often enough to make a comparison, I could feel it on the pullouts of the three biggest drops, but didn’t notice it elsewhere. Rattle or not, it’s still an awesome coaster and I liked it even more than I remembered. 9/10

 

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Mindbender

Has SFOG made any adjustments to it this year? Mindbender was still good, but I felt like the two sets of trims came on harder than I recall. I actually don’t think the second trim activated at all the last time, leading to a nice burst of airtime before entering the second loop. This time they clamped down and the whole ride felt a little sluggish. I don’t know. This is still one of the most unique coasters around and I hope it achieves ACE landmark status one day, as I hope the park realizes what a gem it still is and keeps investing in its upkeep. SFOG truly would not be the same without it. 8.5/10

 

Georgia Scorcher

I miss the yellow, but thank god they finally painted it. The thing is, I can totally picture writing a TR where I say the exact same thing about Goliath in 2024 or something, so… yay SFOG? New paint or not, I think Scorcher is the best standup coaster ever built, and this is from someone who grew up with Riddler’s Revenge in his back yard. The light-on-inversions layout is a throwback to B&M’s early days but with the comfort and smoothness of their prime years. A great, mildly intense little coaster with fun, snappy directional changes that does its own thing in a sea of B&M homogeneity. 8/10

 

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Batman: The Ride

For whatever reason, all my best Batman laps have come on this one. It always seems to have an extra 5-10% more oomph behind it than any of the others. I often gray out on these coasters through the first loop and regain my senses exiting the zero-g-roll. But this time I grayed out a second time starting with the second loop and ending with the first corkscrew. It was the single most impressive B:TR experience I’ve ever had. This model is not usually one of my favorite inverts, however if they weren’t clones and SFOG’s was a standalone example, I could see myself rating it higher.

 

Here’s something I thought was weird. The crowds here seem to regard it as a marquee attraction in a way they haven’t at other Six Flags parks in years. It had as long a queue as anything else in the park and it’s even limited to one ride only on the Flash Pass. For Batman? From 1997? 8.5/10

 

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Superman: Ultimate Flight

Confession. I really like these coasters, especially this one, the original installation custom suited to the terrain. It’s easy to dump on them if you’ve ridden Tatsu or Manta because the S:UF clones just don’t do a whole lot, but I still thoroughly enjoy them. Maybe I’m just a sucker for any and all flying coasters. I mean, my third favorite coaster at Kings Island as of a couple of years ago was Firehawk, so.… It’s just too bad they still can’t seem to properly operate the thing. One train ops in a dual-loading station with a second train parked in the shed? I really shouldn’t be surprised by things like this anymore. 8/10

 

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I see you Ninja...

Blue Hawk

Wow! This was my first time riding it since its old Ninja days and whatever magic Six Flags and Vekoma did to the trains and track paid off in spades. It went from a once per visit kind of thing that you rode only to remind yourself of why you don’t ride it very often to a coaster worth multiple same day re-rides. I’m no engineer, but the improved ride quality felt like it resulted from some type of shock damping assembly on the wheel bogies. Regardless of how it works, I’d like to see SFMM get a couple of these trains to run on Viper. 7/10

 

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Dare Devil Dive Coaster

What a relief to see this thing running without VR again. Now the dispatches improve from abysmal to merely frustrating! Capacity issues aside, DDD is a fun enough Eurofighter that might very well be awful if it had OTSRs, which it thankfully does not. Gerstlauer has certainly done better layouts for these, but I enjoy this one just fine. It’s almost like SFOG thought, “Why don’t we build a deluxe family coaster with a beyond-vertical drop?” 7/10

 

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Great American Scream Machine

Why in the world did they feel the need to replace those wonderful 3-bench PTCs with buzz-bars with the 2-bench, ratcheting lapbar trains from Georgia Cyclone? Unless the old trains were becoming a maintenance headache I don’t understand it. First of all, this ride has never run faster. These trains flat-out fly and deliver better airtime than the old ones. Unfortunately they also track a whole lot worse and the roughness becomes painful and jarring in the back half of the train. If only they took care of GASM as well as Six Flags St. Louis takes care of Screamin’ Eagle. Then this could be a great, classic wooden coaster. 5/10

 

Dahlonega Mine Train

I nominate this and Hersheypark’s Trailblazer for worst Arrow mine train. Mine trains can be a lot of fun if terrain and scenery are built up around them, but Dahlonega has basically none. It’s just a starter coaster for kids and nothing more, which is fine, it’s just lackluster compared to a few of its counterparts. 4/10

 

Monster Mansion

This dark boat ride has got to be the single most anomalous ride in the entire chain. Every SF park should have something just like it. Who even needs Justice League? May it live forever. 10+++

 

It just occurred to me I didn’t even think to ride the new for 2019 Pandemonium. Guess I’ll make do with Crazanity.

 

 

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ALABAMA SPLASH ADVENTURE

 

Like my layover at Michigan’s Adventure last year, I can trace my first ever visit to the state of Alabama back to a Discovery Channel coaster special almost two decades ago. I first heard about Rampage from this episode of More Top 10 Coasters from 2001 (the video title states 2002, but I’m pretty sure that’s wrong). I recorded a bunch of these Discovery coaster shows on VHS tapes that I watched on what I’m sure must have been at least a weekly basis back then. The top 10 episodes in those days used the Golden Ticket Awards to select the coasters and in that year, an otherwise little-known CCI at a park then known as VisionLand claimed the #4 wooden coaster spot. Skip to 12:11 for Rampage.

 

 

Like Shivering Timbers (also featured in this episode), Rampage became a bucket list coaster that was difficult to acquire due to its remote location. There just aren’t any other parks around it. Compounding the difficulty of acquiring the Rampage credit even further is the fact that VisionLand went through several ownership changes and the coaster itself went SBNO for several years starting in 2012, the year I started really making an effort to travel to more parks. The park eventually ended up in the hands of the Koch family under the name Alabama Splash Adventure in 2015 and Rampage has been in consistent operation ever since. Once I knew I would be going back to Atlanta, I checked the distance to Alabama Splash Adventure and decided the three hour drive was worth finally landing my elusive Rampage credit.

 

There isn’t much to this place. The modestly-sized water park is the main draw and the dry side is little more than ten or so kids rides and a funnel cake shop. Rampage is the only true thrill ride in the park. It looks gigantic, looming over the kiddie rides from a hillside in the back of the park. The place is exceptionally clean and the service from every employee I met inside the park was great.

 

The weather forecast was clear and I was amped to finally ride this thing, but we arrived at the gate to learn that all the “tall rides” were down due to lightning nearby. We weighed our options for a few minutes, then had our minds made up for us when they announced that Rampage was up and running again. We quickly paid our admission and made it over to the coaster as the first of two test runs was completed. After the second test, they opened the air gates and let us board the train, but as they started checking restraints, the ride ops announced that Rampage would once again be closing for lightning. I WAS SO CLOSE…

 

And this remained the state of things for the next 2.5 hours. We remained in the park as the lighting grew nearer and all rides shut down until further notice. I was getting pretty nervous. We only got to the park at 3:00 ahead of a 6:00 closing time and Alabama Adventure is not exactly a place I’d be able to easily incorporate into another trip in the near future, so it was looking grim.

 

With no lightning for a while, we walked back to Rampage at 5:20 to check things out. And wouldn’t you know it, an employee came strolling down the entrance ramp to tell us that Rampage would begin testing again and opening again was looking likely. We chatted with the ride ops for a few minutes as testing commenced. They absolutely could not believe that I had come all the way from California to ride this thing. This is a common sentiment I run into when traveling around rural America. Park employees usually have little understanding of the significance of the coasters they operate and they always love it when I tell them. The day actually ended perfectly and I rode Rampage nine times before leaving. And to the park’s credit, they kept it open past 6:00 as the coaster was still running when I left.

 

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Rampage

It was well worth the wait. I’m a huge CCI fanboy and Rampage delivers on all the stuff they’re known for: select spots of jolting ejector air, rows of floater cammelbacks, big swoop turnarounds with lateral g’s, unbanked turns within the structure packing even more laterals. This really is the prototypical CCI in many ways, the ride that best exemplifies the full catalogue of what Custom Coasters could do. That doesn’t mean it’s CCI’s best work though. Boulder Dash, Shivering Timbers, and Legend have greater highs even if they’re more polarizing. Ghostrider, Tremors, and Timber Terror are smoother and more consistent. Raven is friendlier and more fun. But Rampage is still great and it’s in better condition than Shivering Timbers was when I rode it last year. Timbers had several rough sections I had to brace for where Rampage’s only problem spot was the first drop pullout. Other sections showed plenty of fresh wood, so it’s clear the park is taking care of it over time. I think it’s far superior to The Boss and probably The Villain, but I rode that one so long ago I hardly even remember it. Rampage isn’t the most convenient credit to get, but I recommend seeking it out if you can make the drive and want to couple it with SFOG or Dollywood. 8.5/10

 

CCI Rankings:

1. Boulder Dash

2. Legend

3. Ghostrider

4. Timber Terror

5. Tremors

6. Shivering Timbers

7. Rampage

8. Raven

9. Boss

10. Villain

 

This may seem low for a coaster I’ve praised so highly, but that’s only because I have so much love for CCIs in general. For perspective, Rampage is above all but maybe 3 of the 14 GCI’s I’ve ridden.

 

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On the cultural side of the trip, one of the attractions we visited was the excellent Atlanta History Center, a museum dedicated to Atlanta's part in the Civil War and the Civil Rights movement. By far the coolest thing at the center was the "Cyclorama." It's an enormous painting over 300 feet wide and 30 feet tall situated in a 360 degree wrap-around exhibit hall depicting the Battle of Atlanta of 1864.

 

This battle was significant because it occurred at a time when Abraham Lincoln was almost certain to lose reelection and the opposition party intended to sign a peace agreement with the Confederacy that would have left the country divided. But Union General William T. Sherman's Northern forces were victorious and captured the city. This victory lent Lincoln a much needed win and all but secured his reelection, insuring the war would go on until the South was defeated.

 

The Cyclorama itself was painted by German artists in 1886 and has been altered and restored numerous times - first to suit revisionist history and depict a Confederate victory - and then back to the artists' historically accurate original intention much later in the 1950s.

 

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You observe the Cyclorama from a raised platform for proper perspective. This photo also gives an idea of the size of it.

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It is actually a mixture of a 2D painting in the background and 3D plaster figures in the foreground. It looks almost seamless in person and practically imperceptible in photos. Since photography of the 1860s could not capture scenes on this scale, art like the Cyclorama was the most immersive way 19th Century people could see Civil War battles.

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The figure on horseback in the center is said to be General William Tecumseh Sherman who led the Northern forces to victory in Atlanta.

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Gone With the Wind actor Clark Gable came to view the Cyclorama once. Supposedly he stated, "The only thing it's missing is me." So they added him in. Here he is!

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Wow! I absolutely loved this report. You have such a great voice and format—I think I’m going to have to steal it in the future lol. That Discovery video brings back such great memories...I remember that Top 10 special almost word for word.

 

I’m itching to get back to SFOG. Mindbender is such an interesting coaster. From its unique terrain layout to its super cool trains and color scheme. Even if it’s not the “best” coaster in the world, that ride alone is worth the visit.

 

I would also love to ride Rampage someday. I’m a fellow CCI fan. Give me one of their big, sprawling, unpredictable coasters over a GCI any day.

 

Now to go back and take a look at your other reports!

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Loved the report as well! We moved to the Atlanta area almost 4 years ago, and I finally got my Rampage rides too

 

It is super worth the trip, isn't it?? What's not to love about big, classic CCIs?! This report just reminded I still need to get out to Idaho, they're some of the last ones I have left - and you might have very well convinced me to make the repeat trip back to Alabama.

 

Thanks for writing!

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so glad to see your thread roar back to life!

 

great report, and tho I've been going to Atlanta for over 25 years (Dragon*con), it wasn't until last year that I finally made it to SFOG. This year (Labor Day), I've already arranged with Friends that we are blowing off the Monday/Labor Day of Dragon*con and going to SFOG. Yeah, it will be crowded, but we're doing it!

 

so glad you had a good time, and I think the new paint on Scorcher looks amazing. Especially compared to what it looked like when I was first there last year.

 

3 hours isn't too far of a drive for Rampage, but not sure I'll be able to squeeze that in on my upcoming visit to Atlanta.

noting for future visits tho.

 

great pics, thanks for sharing.

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Wow! I absolutely loved this report. You have such a great voice and format—I think I’m going to have to steal it in the future lol. That Discovery video brings back such great memories...I remember that Top 10 special almost word for word.

 

Thanks! I figure if I can amuse myself writing it, it will be entertaining to read as well. And yes, those early 2000s Discovery shows were the best coaster footage you could find back then. They would be irrelevant now but I still kind of miss them.

 

so glad to see your thread roar back to life!

 

Thank you! I would have posted another Cedar Point trip, but almost the entire visit got rained out so I didn't have the pics to make a TR worth it. This might be my last until my trip to Japan in Oct/Nov.

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Like my layover at Michigan’s Adventure last year, I can trace my first ever visit to the state of Alabama back to a Discovery Channel coaster special almost two decades ago. I first heard about Rampage from this episode of More Top 10 Coasters from 2001 (the video title states 2002, but I’m pretty sure that’s wrong).

 

It is slightly wrong. That special aired in May 2001. If I dig around hard enough I still have the VHS that I recorded it on somewhere

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Fantastic report!

 

Last year, SFOG would open Twisted Cyclone a half hour before the posted opening to anyone. From your report, it sounds like they may still be doing that, which is an awesome bonus.

 

I agree Goliath runs faster than your average B&M hyper, but it does have a rattle in the valleys of the big pullouts.

 

I'm glad you got on Rampage. It really personifies everything CCI does best.

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