Our first impressions of Six Flags New England were not altogether positive. We had limited time available to us thanks to an early evening flight, so we elected to take the uniquely American choice of preferred parking, namely a space within five minutes walk of the park entrance. For this privilege we were stung for a rather frightening twenty five dollars. On arrival at the gate, all the security booths were closed, so we joined the queue for one. Twenty minutes later, some of the booths opened, causing a near stampede from those who had been waiting in the lines for gates that were still shut (including us).
Visiting a major park on a Saturday is never a good plan, especially with an unmovable time limit. For this reason, we elected to bite the bullet as it were and invest in a gold flash pass, a small device which allows people who pay more money to skip lines. My views on this are well known; I think it is not at all appropriate that those who have already paid a lot of money to enter the park will end up waiting longer because of a few people who are prepared to spend a packet more. It is quite a lot of money, too, costing seventy five dollars for two people to use for one day. However, it seems highly improbable that we would have gotten more than half the park done without it, as I overheard later in the day a staff member remarking that today was the busiest day of the year. Not an ideal time to visit, in other words!
After spending all that money on a flash pass we were, not to put too fine a point on it, slightly miffed to discover that we could not in fact make a ride reservation with it at 10:05am. The device simply said use regular line. It seems that, although there was already a thirty minute wait for Superman - Ride of Steel, our pass would not allow us to reserve a time to ride yet. Guests should really be advised on purchase that flash passes don't start working until later in the morning to avoid irritation. Rather than wait, we headed across the park looking for something else, happening upon Poison Ivy's Tangled Train. Though there were operators up on platform, the ride was not open yet as they were waiting for a key. A hint to Six Flags management; guest satisfaction goes up if you make sure your rides are ready to go before guests get to them.
We had at this stage been in the park half an hour, having paid one hundred dollars already (in addition to our season passes), and had ridden precisely nothing. Yet the fun was not over yet.
Line jumpers annoy me. While we were waiting for Batman - The Dark Knight (#878), which incidentally was also still testing trains when we got to it, a woman pushed her way through quite a bit of the queue up to join someone up ahead of us. Her child, who was further behind, wasn't going to follow her from the sound of things, but the mother yelled at her to just say excuse me and barge through. George and I decided that this was not on, and decided to block progress. This resulted in a loud shouting match between the woman and us, watched by a staff member, who asked us to let the child push through. For the benefit of those reading, the following is the stated policy as found in the park map supplied to every patron:
Line jumping/line cutting or holding places in line is strictly prohibited. Guests are not permitted to save places in line or exit the line and return for any reason. Guests who violate this policy may be ejected from the park without a refund.
This policy should probably be amended, as based on our experience, guests who violate this policy in the full sight of an operator who then gets told about it by two other guests will, rather than be evicted, be moved up to the front of said line. While we were busy creating this scene, the other guests who were waiting made us feel very awkward, with nobody standing up for our attempt to enforce posted park rules. One person actually going to far as to say just let them through, despite the fact that they had been pushed past also. The woman in question shouted us that she was a teacher in the state of Connecticut and that she'd never experienced anything quite so rude as us. Perhaps she had never bothered to look in the mirror.
This whole charade put yet another damper on our morning. Fortunately the coaster in question turned out to be particularly good. The queue jumpers had altered the line to the point that we got a front seat, a rare occurrence since the park does not allow guests to wait for individual rows. From this location the ride provided some excellent floating sensations that only a good B&M can provide. George commented that it was a good ride, if lacking only in duration; it would have been nice if it had been a little longer. This is, however, a nitpick; Batman is still an excellent coaster.
Poison Ivy's Tangled Train (#879), otherwise known as twisted train (depending on which sign you read) was one of the two coasters not on the flash pass system, and as there was no wait for it we decided to get it out of the way. This proved to be a sound judgment, as when I passed it later in the day the wait had hit half an hour. Nobody should ever have to wait that long for a Tivoli coaster.
As we approached Mind Eraser (#880) a friendly ride operator told me that the ride was currently down. Rather than the usual spiel, he explained that it had been out of action all day yesterday due to exactly the same problem, and that operations would likely be sporadic today, as a dodgy sensor kept shutting the ride down and needed replacement. If we timed it right, however, we should be able to get a ride in. This is exactly the sort of information that guests should be given; it helps them make a much more informed judgment than a bland we do not know how long the delay will be. Lo and behold, another operator yelled down that things were up and running again, and we were able to ride. The coaster still hurt a lot, but given that it was an SLC this was hardly surprising!
An altogether more pleasant experience was provided by Thunderbolt (#881), one of two classic wooden coasters in the park. It was nothing, however, compared to the signature attraction, voted best coaster in the world from 2000-2002, the magnificent Superman - Ride of Steel (#882). We elected to take first available seating for our ride, as the front seat queue looked to be ten trains long. The air time and sustained forces, however, suggested to us that there would be no bad seats anywhere on the ride, and indeed this was proved to be so later in the day when we tried it out in both front and back. This is another inequity of the flash pass system, as in six hours in the park we were able to ride an attraction with a ninety minute wait on three occasions, while still getting in the rest of the park too.
We were able to bypass another lengthy wait for Mr Six's Pandemonium (#883). Though this was technically the same model spinning coaster as we rode on two occasions in May, it provided almost no spinning motion, and while it was not a bad ride even so it would have been so much better if the car had managed more than three complete rotations over the full course. We followed this with the obligatory credit on Flashback (#884), which brought with it an interesting surprise, insofar as it had the first train we've ever seen on a Boomerang that had restraints that fitted us properly. It seems that this model has larger overhead bars than normal. Unfortunately these didn't solve the problem of excessive headbanging so prevalent on these rides.
Nobody was waiting for front seat when we reached Cyclone (#885), which was another nice bonus; those responsible for wood coaster maintenance in this park apparently do know what they're doing, with two classic wooden coasters operating just as well as they would have originally.
One of the two new attractions in the park this year was relocated from the now defunct Six Flags Astroworld. This ride, Catapult, marked my first - and last - ride on a S&S Sky Swatter. Why anyone would consider this attraction fun is simply beyond me. The restraints close extremely tightly, to the point of acute discomfort, and the ride motion causes heavy nausea without even the slightest amount of entertainment.
The only coaster left for us was Great Chase (#886). There was no requirement to ride with a child, although George was joined by one anyway. The resultant positioning of the lap bar meant that the poor kid was hardly restrained at all, although he probably still enjoyed the ride more than either of us did! Rather than finish the park on a kiddie coaster we elected to finish on a high, with a front seat ride on Superman - Ride of Steel. This proved an inspired decision, as it marked one of the best coaster rides I can remember. It will most likely be several years at least before I am back in this part of America, so it is nice to have a memory of a truly great coaster to look back on.