Six Flags Great Adventure30th July 2006
The idea of hitting a huge park in less than half a day may seem on paper to be bordering on the impossible. However, when all that you are interested in is the new for this year coaster, it begins to border on the feasable. This lasts until you remember suddently that this new ride is in a Six Flags park, so expecting it to open when the schedule suggests it should is probably unrealistic.
The financial costs of visiting a park like this for us were, fortunately, almost negligible. Season passes for the whole chain made for free entrance, the only caveat being the absolutely extortionate charge of fifteen dollars for parking. Better yet, the truly American can pay an extra five dollars for preferred parking, which, broadly speaking, means that you only have to walk three hundred feet to the park gate instead of five hundred. When you consider that there is basically no such thing as public transport in this part of the country, it does seem a bit much to charge quite so much to park your vehicle.
At any rate, the target coaster for the morning was naturally enough the new wooden coaster, El Toro (#828). Having arrived into the park just before opening, we heard the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 countdown before being absorbed into the running of the bulls (pun intended). Though we could see roughly where the new ride station was we nevertheless managed to make one wrong turning en route, the net result being more than two hundred people in line in front of us by the time we arrived.
Moments later, a large additional batch of guests piled into the back of the queue. These people had charged towards Kingda Ka, only to find that it was not ready yet and probably wouldn't be for a while. Moments later it became clear that the same was true for El Toro. The good people in Six Flags had pulled another blinder, with both of their star attractions being unavailable first thing on a weekend morning.
In the first twenty minutes of waiting, we saw one train dispatch and complete the course, completely empty. The queue length had reached somewhere around a thousand people byt he time a security guard made an announcement; El Toro is not currently running; we do not know when it will open. In short, the usual jive heard in parks around the world. About half those waiting left, including quite a few people who were near the front of the line. Less than sixty seconds later, the ride opened, and the same security guard was heard yelling at people that you've left the line; you must reenter at the end. It is eminently fortunate that there are metal detectors on the way into the park, as the aforementioned guard may otherwise have had cause to cash in on his life insurance policy.
As it turned out, however, the opening was short lived; one train with passengers was sent around the course, only to seize up in the brake run. Ten minutes later, an empty one went out, only to get stuck half way up the lift hill. This came back, allowing a second train of guests to go out. This made it back, but must have tripped a sensor of some kind, as nothing happened for a while. Then the startup klaxons were sounded, indicating a ride reboot, and the next test train got stuck on the lift hill.
While we waited, we got into an interesting conversation with a staff member who was manning the flash pass merge point, otherwise known as the point at which those with more money can pay to skip lines that the proletariat must wait in. She told us that staff do not get discounts on drinks and the like, and that they are only allowed enter the park free of charge on weekdays (though, to be honest, I can't imagine they'd want to if they spend their work time in there anyway).
Eventually, more than ninety minutes after we joined the ride queue, we boarded the back car of the fifth train of the morning with guests in it. Probably half of those who had gone out before us were paid line jumpers; I'll leave the moral implications of this to the reader. At any rate, the ride proved massively anticlimactic for us. Sure, it had a very fast lift, a great first drop, and some moderate air time, but it felt ridiculously smooth, not at all what one expects a wowod coaster to be, and the restraint design didn't help. All in all, it was not a bad ride, but it wouldn't even make my top ten wooden coasters, and is not even remotely up to the standard of The Voyage.
With the new ride out of the way earlier than expected, we decided to spend a few more hours in the park on our favourite coasters. A quick look at the Superman queue was all we needed to see that we wouldn't be getting on that one today. We found two more coasters out of commission; Skull Mountain and The Chiller. The reader deserves a brief reminder at this point; for our morning so far, we had found three coasters out of action and a ridiculously long wait time on two others. In short, another fun filled day at Six Flags. Fortunately, we found one ride with a workable queue, namely Batman the Ride. The air conditioned station area provided a brief respite from the temperature, which by this stage had exceeded one hundred fahrenheit.
Our morning was rescued, however, by the decision to go for a front seat ride on Nitro. It was, as the english operator remarked, the tallest, fastest, steepest, working coaster in Six Flags Great Adventure. He kept the crowd amused with his running commentary, and even managed to make the drab station announcements interesting; when the train comes to a complete stop, push down and pull up on your restraint, exit to the right, piss off (!), drink plenty of water, and have a great day at Six Flags Great Adventure! I doubt that any local could get away with that particular turn of phrase, but with an English accent the only people who would have understood what he said probably found it just as amusing as we did.
When we finally boarded, it seems that people a few rows behind us were having difficulty with the concept of going all the way to the far side of the train, filling every available seat. When they finally worked it out, the comment came; that's right, it's not rocket science. Before I knew what I was saying, I replied; it isn't, but they're Americans. The operator started to laugh... okay, I'm saying nothing! Good times.
We took the opportunity to try out the Houdini dark ride, an attraction that had been closed during our previous visits. As a haunted swing attraction the ride motion was as expected. For enthusiasts it is the standard of themeing (both visual and aural) that makes or breaks these attractions, and in all honesty both fell short here. To be fair, though, everything ends up being compared against the magnificent Villa Volta, which is so good that nothing even comes close.
Casino Pier30th July 2006
It goes without saying that the prospect of two coasters by Miler Coaster Inc in one place wasn't our primary reason for visiting Casino Pier. The Wild Mouse (#829), however, broke all the usual rules for that company, being fairly smooth to ride, even if the ride was heavily braked throughout. As for the other one, Star Jet (#830) could actually have been great if it wasn't for the cornering ability (or lack thereof) of the trains. Good air time and some decent drops were between them not quite enough to make up for crushing impacts on every turn.
Fortunately, the place was rescued completely by a superb kiddie coaster, Hot Tamales (#831). It seems that L&T Systems has come of age in the last few years, with all their recent coasters being excellent rides in their own right. This company is definitely one to watch over the next while.
The pier was also home to a superb haunted house, by the name of Stillwalk Manor. The latter had several moments which made me jump, and high quality theming throughout. Of particular note was the end scene, where I could see an actor reaching out to startle those in the car in front of me. There was no way that I'd fall for this gag, as I could see him. I did not realise, however, that there was a second one on the other side who I had failed to see. Very nicely done.
Though it was not technically on the pier, it would be remiss of me not to mention the Shoot the Paintballs attraction along the Seaside Heights boardwalk. The main sign carried the above name, though one below it gave the true intent, namely Shoot Bin Laden. Patrons were given loaded paintball guns in which they could shoot one of the staff members who danced from side to side while wearing body armour and a Bin Laden mask, complete with long muslim beard. The word tacky doesn't do the affair justice, and to it made me seriously wonder about the personality of those behind it.
Funtown Pier30th July 2006
We were not altogether enthusiastic about our first encounter with an Interpark coaster, reasoning that if they were any good there would probably be more of them. Fortunately we need not have worried; Looping Coaster (#832) was pretty smooth, with some powerful helices. Interestingly, the clearance between the cars and ride supports was minimal, making it not at all difficult for riders to reach out and hit supports. This is probably why there was a sign in the station expressly forbidding this practice and disclaiming all responsibilty for potential injuries caused by breaking this rule. Perhaps that's why more of this model don't exist.
It seems that the operator on Funtown Family Coaster (#833) was himself a coaster enthusiast, as he spotted us in an instant. Apparently the fact that adults wanted to ride without children was a dead giveaway. He was justifiably proud of his "typical Miler", which oddly enough rode far better than many of the other Miler built attractions out there. Whe we disembarked he immediately launched launched into a tale about a gentleman from California who rode yesterday; apparently it was his 979th coaster. We were trying to decide if this individual was somebody we knew; if he or she is reading this, perhaps they might get in touch?
Mighty Mouse (#834) did not look like a lot of fun from the outside, but in this case it was a mistake to judge the book by its cover. Other than very low capacity (one vehicle on course at a time, seating at most two) the ride was great fun, although it would be nice if someone took the time to paint the steel.
To conclude, it would be remiss of me not to mention the positively astonishing Sponge Bob dark ride, which must truly rank as one of the classic attractions of all time. The shell is that of a converted haunted house, complete with loud noises and lights that flick on for one second at a time. Instead of frightening scenes, however, one encounters Sponge Bob and friends, or rather mediocre quality prints of same. The budget for the ride has to have been well into three figures, and it shows. Nevertheless, if you're looking for something to make you laugh yourself silly, it is highly recommended.
Jenkinson's Boardwalk30th July 2006
Jenkinson's Boardwalk is a small kiddie park on the New Jersey coast, with nothing outstanding about it at all. It's not a bad park for small children, but anyone over the age of ten would do well to look elsewhere. We rode both the powered Tornado and the third Flitzer (#835) this week, and with nothing else compelling one way or another we decided to get in the car and head for New York.
Astroland30th July 2006
Astroland is home to what is quite possibly the most famous roller coaster in the world, the Coney Island Cyclone (#836). Though I had seen it before, my visit had been out of season and thus the ride was not operational. Since then I had been itching to make a return visit, as trying it out is almost a rite of passage for the card carrying coaster enthusiast.
People had warned me that it was not a beginners coaster, but this had somehow slipped my mind when I boarded. Perhaps the extensive padding on the seats should have given some form of hint. Either way, the ride turned out to be bordering on the brutal, with a bone-crushing impact at the bottom of the second drop. It didn't seem at all surprising that re-rides are offered at a discounted price to first time admission; the number of people prepared to ride more than once in a session has to be minimal, and those probably need the money saved for their chiropractor.
Also in Astroland was a particularly unusual Big Apple (#837), designed for two train operation using a turntable system. It also had slightly deeper drops than usual in the top portion of the ride and only minimal braking, which made things a lot of fun. Though such a remark is arguably superfluous, I'm going to say this anyway; the Astroland model is probably the best Big Apple I've ridden!
Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park30th July 2006
Low battery had kicked in in style by the time we walked next door from Astroland to ride another kiddie coaster, the Sea Serpent (#838). Surprisingly smooth and fun for a Miler ride, it couldn't beat the fatigue we were both suffering, and to that end we decided to make our exit without heading further down the street for the additional kiddie coaster. Coaster counters take note; occasionally even I choose sanity over the prospect of another credit!