In common with the rest of the parks in its family, SeaWorld San Antonio is about animal life rather than amusement rides. They have just half a dozen of the latter, and only two are scheduled to open with the park; the rest all start running in a staggered fashion as the day progresses. Given that, it might have been reasonable to assume that the times advertised on the park map would be honoured. Unfortunately this was not the case; the morning test runs had yet to be completed on any of the major rides before guests had arrived for the day. Consequentially it was just before noon when the last coaster opened, and the beleaguered staff in guest services were saying that the log flume would not be opening until the afternoon.
The only coaster to open before eleven was Shamu Express (#1170). This is a much smaller ride than its Orlando cousin, but just like that one it has shark fins moulded into the seat in a fashion that only serves to disembowel larger riders. One could legitimately argue that this is a coaster designed for children, but having said that just about all of them were being accompanied by a parent, and this being Texas, the majority were persons of size.
The Great White (#1171) was one of the relatively early installations of the standard layout B&M inverted coaster best known to enthusiasts as Batman the Ride. This model was running particularly well, particularly towards the end of the ride when the forces were strong enough to send blood rushing to the tips of ones toes. As an aside, we were fortunate to make it out on the first train of the morning; the signature roaring noise was only audible every four to five minutes at best, which doesn't say much for the loading speed.
The water coaster had still not opened at this stage, but we could see test trains cycling on Steel Eel (#1172). It opened minutes after we arrived, allowing us once again to get on the first train of the day. This ride is the smallest hypercoaster design Morgan ever built, and as such it was quite a surprise to discover it had far more airtime than is the norm. This might have made it my favourite such ride were it not for the landings at the bottom of each hill, which could best be described as sore, particularly in the back of the train. Clearly this is a ride that requires a certain amount of extra, er, padding to enjoy fully. We took a second circuit in the front seat which was much better.
We finished up the morning on Journey to Atlantis (#1173). Unlike the version of this ride at Europa Park this model has operators standing at both turntables on the top level of the ride, presumably to hit the emergency stop button should they see anything untoward. It is a sad reflection on the American legal system that this is even necessary, but on the plus side it clearly provides additional employment for local people!
Six Flags Fiesta Texas
27th May 2008
As an enthusiast it can sometimes be difficult to comprehend decisions made by park management. One such decision is to take a ten million dollar roller coaster and install it less than fifteen miles away from where your immediate competition has had an identical ride for more than a decade. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but nevertheless any even moderately well informed guest will know that Goliath (#1174) is just the another clone.
It is perhaps a testament to the quality of the designs created by Bolliger & Mabillard that only two have been moved from their original locations, in all cases due to the closure of their parent parks. In an odd twist of fate, this model has been relocated twice; it opened first in Odakyu Gotemba Family Land in Japan, before being moved to Six Flags New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina marked the end of that park, and the star coaster was salvaged for a new home in Texas. Given its somewhat chequered history it wasn't surprising to see that this ride isn't quite as smooth as one might typically expect for this design, but it was still highly enjoyable. Additionally, the shiny new paint job makes it look positively stunning.
A largely deserted park meant that it took less than an hour to do one lap on all the other coasters in the park barring the wood; memories of Texas Giant were still very fresh in the mind. One of these was new to me, namely Tony Hawk's Big Spin (#1175), a straight clone of the model ridden yesterday. We also took a quick spin on the Scooby-Doo dark ride, choosing to trade the oppressive Texas heat for the rather irritating noise made by the fright lights.
27th May 2008
Three days ago we accidentally found our way into the local branch of iT'Z, thereby picking up a junior coaster credit. We decided to call into its sister outlet in Houston this evening purely on the grounds that we needed to stop for dinner somewhere en route, and this place seemed ideal at only twenty miles in the wrong direction. The existence of iT'Z Express (#1176) was of course a completely unexpected bonus.
27th May 2008
The Kemah Boardwalk was largely deserted by the time we arrived, shortly before nine. This didn't stop it taking nearly fifteen minutes to buy ride tickets, thanks to the majority of patrons feeling the need to discuss their life histories with the single ticket seller. The queue had increased ten fold by the time I reached the front, to the point that it seemed doubtful whether all those present would have enough time to purchase tickets before closing time.
The Boardwalk Bullet (#1177) is now the only adult roller coaster in the Houston area, and it is wild. The design and layout is viciously intense, taking an impossibly twisted layout at breakneck speed. There are a few dead spots on the course but these provide a welcome respite from the assault on the senses generated by the rest of the ride. Given that this is only the third coaster from the Gravity Group (after Hades and Voyage) I can't wait to see what they come up with next.