Six Flags Great Adventure made the headlines towards the end of last year when it announced the addition of Kingda Ka, the tallest and fastest roller coaster on earth. This ride was to be built by Intamin, and was based on the same technology as Top Thrill Dragster, which broke down so many times in its first year that many dubbed it Top Thrill Disaster. This new installation tested on many occasions today with water dummies, though it did not open to the public at any stage. Fortunately there were more than enough coasters to keep us occupied.
The first of these was Nitro (#459), which many people consider to be one of the best coasters on the planet. It is one of four existing B&M hyper coasters, and the other three are all excellent rides if somewhat lacking in imagination. Martin had advised me to throw away my list of favourite coasters before riding, but after a single circuit in the back row I was left at a loss as to why. There is no question that Nitro has the makings of a top class coaster, but for me at least it was largely spoilt by noticeable vibration, several trim brakes, and an almost complete lack of airtime. Perhaps I caught it on an off day, but based on the one ride it would not have made my top twenty, unlike Batman the Ride (#460) which easily would, behind the magnificent Anaconda.
Batman and Robin - The Chiller (#461) is the only example in the world of a twin track launched coaster where the two tracks are not identical. The launch system uses linear induction motors, which are very expensive to operate, and for this reason we were not surprised to find that the Batman side was not running. Articles on the Internet indicate that both sides have been seen running this year, but throughout our visit the only side seen running was the Robin track. Seeing track flying past you is all very well, but the ride would have been so much more exciting with both sides in operation.
One quick credit whore on Blackbeard's Lost Treasure Train (#462) left me needing a break from coasters for a little while. The Big Wheel fit that requirement nicely, all the more so given that it was right beside the next stop, Skull Mountain (#463). The theming on this coaster is its strongest point, with a huge skull on the front of it with waterfalls coming out of its eyes. It seems that the construction crew may have angled the falls incorrectly, as they splash into the queue area behind the building facade. The coaster itself takes place in complete darkness and considering the height made for a reasonable attraction, but a few light effects would certainly make things more interesting.
We were lucky enough to get in the Sky Way while it was running, as shortly afterwards it closed down and did not reopen all day.
There are many awful coasters in this world. Among this number is Runaway Mine Train (#464), the tenth such ride built by Arrow. The layout itself is fine, but it is marred by appallingly uncomfortable trains that left all of us wincing in pain. Martin was particularly vocal about the ride, describing it later in words which are completely inappropriate for this diary. I received a particularly hard knock to the right knee which was still sore an hour later. Considerably better was to be found right beside it in Medusa (#465), my second floorless coaster in less than a week, and my eighth overall. It is the only floorless design to have been cloned, with me experiencing the copy before the original. In this case, the original seems to have had better maintenance, with none of the vibration that the Magic Mountain version suffers.
After a lunch break, we moved across to Rolling Thunder, a twin track racing coaster which opened originally in 1979. Each side was built to run two twenty-four seater trains, supplied by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company. The placard in front of the ride proudly proclaims a capacity of over one thousand riders per hour, which is certainly achievable if the ride is run as designed. Six Flags, however, appear to have had other ideas. On this visit, only one of the tracks was in use, and that was running just one train. To make matters worse, the single train was in a sorry state, with a five of its twelve rows out of commission, including the front seats. The net result was that a maximum of fourteen passengers could ride at a time, a paltry 14% of what the ride was built to handle. As luck would have it, the ride broke down completely before we were able to board, and did not reopen all day.
Six Flags purchased three large looping coasters from Arrow in the late 1980s; Shockwave, Great American Scream Machine (#466), and Viper. I narrowly missed out on riding Shockwave, as it closed permanently a few weeks before my first visit to Six Flags Great America. Now that I have ridden the other two, though, I have realised that I probably didn't miss much. The model here was better than that at Magic Mountain, though such a comparison is equivalent to comparing two 1988-vintage computers; technology has moved on. A lot.
I needed some time to clear my head, so I separated off from the group to take some photos. This was for the most part successful, even if I did end up taking the same shot several times. It didn't take too long before I felt like another coaster, though, so I joined the queue for Superman Ultimate Flight (#467). Though the sign indicated a two hour wait the queue inside looked to be about thirty minutes, and in fact it turned out to be twenty five. The ride was largely the same as the model seen a week before, though with an extra car on the train. This change meant that the back seat would probably be extremely intense, so with that in mind I went directly there. I was not disappointed.
My brain was sufficiently fried at this stage that my feet seemed to be walking aimlessly in their own direction. It was in this frame of mind that I found myself back at Medusa. I spotted an empty seat in the back row as I approached the station, and was able to leapfrog the queue accordingly to take it up.
Superman Ultimate Flight had made enough of an impression on me that I had to ride it again, especially since the wait time was down to ten minutes. On disembarking, I remembered my mental note from earlier and headed back over to try Nitro again, reasoning that it would be at its best after a full days operation. This might well have been true, but to be honest, the experience overall was still dull, suffering badly from excessive brake use. The only bright point was the location of the sunset, which allowed me to take a spectacular photograph of the ride at night, and one of my best to date. It took five attempts to get right, but the end result was well worth it.
It may have been after park closing, but the park had not shut off the queue line to Superman. I took full advantage of this blunder to get on what turned out to be the last coaster train of the night anywhere in the park.