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.
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.)
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
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
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
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
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
Last edited by Condor on Fri Jul 12, 2019 4:58 pm.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
So with all the obvious candidates out of the running, what was my favorite coaster at Six Flags Great America?
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
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
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
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.
Last edited by LiftThrill on Sun Aug 12, 2018 6:55 am.
1. Fury 325 | 2. Millennium Force | 3. New Texas Giant | 4. Outlaw Run | 5. Maverick | 6. Twisted Cyclone | 7. Iron Rattler | 8. The Voyage | 9. Goliath (SFGAm) | 10. Time Traveler
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
This is Carlos. His home RMC is Medusa Steel Coaster. Impressive ride. But will he be impressed with Railblazer???
He's either cheering because Railblazer is great, or because he's happy that Medusa is still better. I think it's the former!
This is the sound I'm making during the following two on-ride photos:
And one more just to prove that I'm also capable of taking normal on-ride photos.
The Railblazer craft beer is a medium-bodied, citrusy IPA. It's pretty good. We had several.
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
Last edited by Condor on Fri Jul 12, 2019 5:04 pm.
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