Both the Six Flags parks can definitely be done in a weekend as well. Next time I think I'd rather spend more time at Fiesta Texas rather than Over Texas, but for first timers I think Over Texas takes longer to get through since they have more coasters and it's a more spread out park.
Sandy Lake Amusement Park Day 2 of my sudden Texas trip began was centered around Six Flags Over Texas. But before I made my way to the first park in the Six Flags chain, I planned to stop at Sandy Lake Amusement Park to try their classic dark ride (I swear that was the reason and not that they had 2 credits). The two parks were only a half hour apart and Sandy Lake opened a half hour before Six Flags so it seemed like a no-brainer to stop there.
Well I was a little tired on Saturday night after getting to the airport at 3 am the day before and then running around all day in the Texas heat. I left a little later than anticipated from my San Antonio area hotel (planned to leave at 6, didn't leave until 8:30) since I lost the battle with my alarm clock. But that was probably a good decision considering it was a 4 hour drive to Sandy Lake.
About 3 hours into my drive, I spied a Carl's Jr. on the side of the road and immediately pulled off. I loved that chain when I was in California for a summer and hadn't seen one outside of California before. As far as fast food burgers go, their thickburgers reign supreme. My stomach was happy and after another hour of driving, I reached Sandy Lake.
I'm not in California and found a Carl's Jr. Today will be a great day.
It's great being able to receive a patty this big and juicy from a fast food restaurant.
Despite being a tiny little park, they actually had really good signage off the highway. As I pulled into the lot, I learned Sandy Lake may have the record for the cheapest theme park admission in the country at $2 per person. After handing over two George Washingtons, I searched for a parking spot in the massive lot. While most parks have clearly marked parking spaces, this was a giant dirt lot with absolutely no markings. I figured as long as I didn't crash into one of the many picnic pavilions, I was all set. The parking lot and picnic pavilions probably take up about 80% of the park.
I found Sandy Lake Amusement Park!
Actually that sign probably just meant Sandy Lake since the amusement section is tiny compared to everything else there.
Picnic pavilions everywhere.
I planned to go on four rides: the Pretzel dark ride, the rare Rock-O-Plane, and the two kiddie coasters (they were only $1.50 each and I was there anyway). Like the admission, tickets were cheap. It was $0.50 per ticket. The major rides were only 4-5 tickets, which was an incredible deal. The most expensive thing in the park was the mini golf course and even that was only 6 tickets. Compare that with the $7-10 rate at like any other mini golf course.
I didn't see how much the real life pony ride cost. Only in Texas.
I began with the Rock-O-Plane since it was adjacent to the ticket booth. I could immediately tell that lines weren't an issue since operators would walk along the midway and then man a ride when someone got in line. I've only seen that on kiddie rides at FECs or carnivals, but never on major rides at an amusement park. Weird, but not a problem since the operators were plentiful and in full sight.
I had only been on one Rock-O-Plane before at Santa Cruz. It's a fun ride, but it's one heck of a work out. Because Sandy Lake ran a long cycle, I was huffing and puffing like an NFL lineman until I ran out of steam 2/3 of the way through the ride. I got a few full flips in, but I more got extreme rocking. Think of the Joker clones at the Six Flags parks. You want more flips, but really only get 2. 7 out of 10
What a workout.
The park had a solid collection of older flats such as Bumper Cars, a Paratrooper, and even a rare Space Shuttle swinging ship. One other noteworthy attraction was a train. The station is smack dab in the middle of a parkway, but the course appears to leave the amusement area and circle the pavilions. But I was sticking to my agenda for the day and skipped all of these.
So many older flats.
This was an easy pass since there would have been no one else to bump.
I've seen so many spider flats lately and that's fine by me.
Every classic amusement park needs one of these.
Something felt off with this station's placement.
Next was kiddie credit one, the Dragon Wagon. I hadn't been on one of these powered Dragon Wagons since I was a kid and it was socially acceptable to do so. The park does have a maximum height restriction on the ride, but it's a general blanket statement of "Adults may ride if they fit properly." After seeing that sign, I figured I would have to ride spread eagle and have my knees against the car. Nope, worse than that. I had only one butt cheek on the seat and had to tilt my legs sideways. But I was able to get the lap bar down so I was free to ride.
We got 5-6 laps and it was a pretty long ride. I remember being bored by the tiny Dragon Wagon at my local carnival when I was 4-5 and it was much of the same here. I'm just proud of myself for getting in and out of the car without getting stuck. 1 out of 10
This was the tightest fit I've ever had on a coaster, but I had one butt cheek to spare.
Afterwards was the park's big coaster, the Little Dipper. Whenever a ride called the Little Dipper is the "big" coaster at a park, you know it's not exactly a thrill destination. I recruited the operator from Dragon Wagon to run the Little Dipper so he was probably wondering at this point what was wrong with me, which was a fair question. These vehicles were like riding on a private jet after riding in the Ryanair esque seats on Dragon Wagon.
I got two laps and I have to admit, it was a really fun kiddie coaster. The second hill gives a surprising pop of air and had a scary headchopper with a tree inches above my head. I'll throw my hands up on RMCs and Phantom's Revenge despite the tight clearances, but I genuinely think I could have hit the tree here since I probably wasn't in the targeted rider group when the coaster was designed. It was bumpy on the turns, but fun for what it was. 3 out of 10
This one had room for both my butt cheeks on the seat.
Look at that second hill. That's one heck of a scary headchopper.
I saved (what I thought would be) the best for last in the Pretzel. I remember learning about the ride on one of those amusement park shows and it looked like a wonderful classic dark ride. The ride's building looks like it was constructed of pretzel rods. I'm not sure if that was intentional or not, but it looked quirky and had that going for it. The monster with the bloodshot eyes over the ride's sign also looked fantastic.
But when I reached the station and saw hoses (yes green garden hoses) serving as the restraint bar on not just my car, but all of them, I was a little worried. On one hand, it's kind of awesome that they literally use a garden hose as a restraint. On the other hand, I questioned how much budget the park had available to maintain the ride's effects. Then again, the station had pretty good theming so I'm sure my concerns weren't warranted.
Now it wasn't 106 degrees out again, but it was still a steamy 95 out. Once the vehicle entered into the building, it felt like an oven that could light itself on fire at any moment. I was hoping for a series of classic effects to distract myself from hell's inferno, but I just had a ride through complete darkness. I believe there were effects since I'd hear a faint sound at most of the turns but couldn't see a dang thing. Did they not replace the ride's light bulbs or was I missing the point of the ride? On about a third of the turns I could barely see a monster, which was barely illuminated at all.
I think there could have been a good ride in there, but I just couldn't see it (literally). I hate to bash a classic ride at a small park like this, but in all honesty it wasn't good at all. The only good parts about the ride are the classic ride system and building exterior. I honestly had more fun eating a super pretzel at the park than riding the pretzel which is a shame. 2 out of 10
This classic was supposed to be the highlight of the park. But it sadly wasn't good.
The outside looked promising.
The garden hose restraints were a sign of what was to come. Almost none of the effects were visible or there weren't even any there.
Those really do look like pretzel rods.
I can't justify returning personally with their current ride collection and with how great the nearby Six Flags is, but if you're in the area and have some extra time, Sandy Lake is a step back in time and worth checking out for an hour since the prices are very reasonable. I really hope I just caught the Pretzel on a bad day since the ride was worse than most carnival dark rides. Yes those tacky dark rides. At least on those, I can actually see monsters (no matter how bad they look).
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