Our group managed to arrive at Six Flags America more than an hour before opening, a rather embarrassing error of judgment given the location of our hotel; less than ten miles away. Fortunately for my ego this was absolutely not my fault, as I wasn't driving; I was simply told when to be in the car!
On entering the park, we made our way directly to the kiddie coaster, Great Chase (#451). Though there were only four of us on board, all adults, the operator nevertheless insisted that we sit on one side of each car, rather than rest the lap bar between our legs. This was not easy for me, but my troubles were nothing compared to how difficult it was for Martin to squeeze in. The ride is of the sort that could safely be ridden with no restraints whatsoever, making the charade over seating all the more ridiculous. Nevertheless, we were all eventually shoe-horned into the train and sent around the circuit for three laps.
Two Face: The Flip Side (#452) marked my third Invertigo credit out of four; the remaining model is in Sweden, which I'll hopefully get to at some point. While I'm a big fan of this design, particularly the face to face seating, it was impossible for me to enjoy thans to a ride operator who decided to put her full weight on my restraint, closing it one step further than what was comfortable. I've ranted about this sort of thing in the past, but it deserves to be repeated; applying too much pressure to a lap bar is dangerous, and akin to punching guests in the stomach. It would be nice if some manufacturer could come up with a restraint design that, when in the station, could automatically lock itself to a reasonable compromise between rider safety and comfort. I can dream.
Six Flags America is one of a handful of parks to have a train ride which provides scenic views of sections of the park that can not normally be seen from the walkways. Most of these rides have operators at paths who set and remove the barriers as required. Six Flags, however, has an automatically operated set, with one major oversight. Observe the height of the near barrier in the photograph; the far end of it is actually resting on the pavement. No doubt this would cause a lot of consternation from mice attempting to cross the tracks, but for your average human it doesn't really block very much. Fortunately, the train moves at no more than two miles per hour, making incidents unlikely.
Everything we had seen and experienced so far during the day was pointing to a disaster of a park run by people who were not particularly interested in any guests that should come through their door. However, the operators on Wild One (#453) rescued the day for us with enthusiasm, careful checking of restraints, and, much to our astonishment, immediate permission to use secured cameras on board. The ride was originally constructed at Paragon Park, though the final helix was destroyed by a fire in its final years of operation. The owners of Six Flags America, then known as Wild World, decided to restore the ride to its former glory. This was well worth doing, as the helix makes for an extremely intense finale to a superb classic wooden coaster. The operators allowed us to stay on for a second ride since there was nobody waiting for our seat.
The back seat on Superman - Ride of Steel (#454) was quite disappointing. There were several completely straight sections of track that were just crying out for small airtime hills. Worse yet, two very large helixes were almost completely forceless, quite unlike those on similar rides. Also, as with Two-Face earlier in the day, the operators saw fit to staple me firmly into the ride, though given the past accidents on the Superman hypercoasters this situation was hardly surprising. It should be noted, though, that the restraints on Superman have been improved from the original designs, with new plates at ankle height and an additional seatbelt.
Flying coasters are a particular favourite of mine, at least when done properly. Batwing (#455) was my second encounter with the production 1018m model from Vekoma. Like the other one, X-Flight, this model has a dual loading station which did not appear to have been used in recent times. This became particularly obvious when the train in our half of the station broke down, and rather than switch to the other one we ended up waiting for almost half an hour while maintenance sorted out the problem. The operators tried to keep us entertained while we waited, with discordant but well meaning singing and cheering over the PA system. This was a huge improvement on the standard line, we are experiencing a technical difficulty, and we do not know how long the wait will be. In due course the problem was sorted out and we were able to ride. The flight was just as fun as my memory had suggested it would be, with a special bonus; one of the passengers lost a quantity of change in the vertical loop, which provided an amusing visual for the rest of us!
Lunch was at the expensive end of fast food, and though edible was of distinctly indifferent quality. The same was true for the drinks; the coffee was apparently laced with too much sweetener, and the soft drinks were watery. For over ten dollars a head it would have been reasonable to expect better. I had made the spontaneous decision to go for a bottle of Gatorade, which turned out to have been a good plan.
Roar (#456), our second GCI-built coaster in two days, turned out to be a good ride. It shows signs of somewhat suspect maintenance work, not least bolts hanging out of the side of the track across the course, but the ride quality hasn't suffered much. Justin and Martin were both wearing GCI polo shirts, and courtesy of George's efforts ended up in a conversation with people who thought they had built the ride.
The only positive thing to say about Mind Eraser (#457), my thirteenth SLC, was that it added one to my list of ridden coasters.
We all decided to go our separate ways for a while, with a prearranged meeting later. I used the time to try the Tower of Doom, a relatively small Intamin Giant Drop (140ft), followed by a game of Dance Dance Revolution. For some reason a small crowd had gathered by the end of my game, though I'm really not sure why, as I was making far more mistakes than I usually do, probably the cumulative effect of ten days of not enough sleep.
The whole group met up again in front of Superman, and we decided to wait for the front seat. The difference compared to the earlier back seat ride was night and day; the front seat made for a much better experience overall. My earlier comments about dead spots in the ride, however, remain valid; it seems like the designers ran out of either imagination or money, ending up with a ride that could have been so much more than it actually was.
The Six Flags America park map says that the Penguin's Blizzard River is the tallest spinning raft ride in the world. Only Martin and I were prepared to ride it; everyone else felt that it would be too wet. Having two adults in one side of the raft and three children in the other half made for more spinning than I have ever encountered on a ride of that type. At any rate it didn't prove very wet at all, which was a pleasant bonus!
At this stage we had been in the park for more than seven hours, and the signature coaster had still not opened up. Fortunately it did so towards the end of the day. Although the ride operators had been hanging around Joker's Jinx (#458) for the entire day, nobody had thought to get a brush to clear the two inch deep puddle of water on the station platform. This covered most of the cattle pen area, and the ride operators were getting very irate if people climbed over some of the barriers to avoid getting wet feet. Justin made the effort to complain to one of the supervisors afterwards. The man would not take responsibility, and advised that the complaint should be directed to guest services. This was absolutely not on, and moments later the manager was off to deal with the situation himself, tail between his legs!
Waiting all day in anticipation for one signature coaster is a recipe for disappointment. While the launch sequence on Joker's Jinx was okay, it pales in comparison to some of the newer launched coasters from S&S and Intamin. The rest of the ride layout was quite simply dull and not worth the anticipation. It would be interesting to know if the launch power could be turned up slightly, as doing that, assuming the structure and track design could take it, would make the ride a great deal more exciting. Martin described the ride as like him; looks fantastic, but runs out of steam half way through. The reader is invited to decide; half way through....what?
As we were heading towards the exit, I enquired if anyone wanted to get a last ride in on the SLC. This was not, of course, even remotely serious, but Martin decided that he was up for it if I was. This led to an amusing situation of double chicken; neither of us wanted to experience such an awful ride for a second time, but at the same time neither of us was prepared to back down. In the end, we took our places in the fifth row of the train. The ride was so awful that I ended up laughing constantly throughout. For this reason, the experience was great fun, although I'll probably feel the bruises in the morning.