I decided to travel to California this weekend during a business trip to Seattle in the hope of picking up some new roller coasters. The relatively short hop allowed me to fly into Burbank Airport in place of the godforsaken hell hole that is LAX, and the first flight of the day got me to the gate a few minutes ahead of schedule. In a testament to the benefits of small airports, I was driving away in my rental car less than fifteen minutes later.
Six Flags Magic Mountain charges drivers fifteen dollars for parking, which felt quite excessive for a space located over half a mile from the park entrance. Shuttle trams were available, but after two in a row passed full I decided it would be faster to walk. At the main gate, one has to queue for tickets, then again to pass through metal detectors, then again to get into the park. In total it took me three quarters of an hour to get in from the moment I paid the parking fee, somewhat longer than it took to cover the thirty mile drive from Burbank.
Once inside, however, things improved and quickly. Road Runner Express (#1735) had a five minute wait, and, much to my astonishment, Green Lantern (#1736) had a single rider queue, meaning that it took all of ninety seconds to queue for a ride I'd fully expected to wait an hour for. Unfortunately, the experience was just as violent as Insane last year, and not something I wanted to repeat even with the short wait. The problem was the same as last time; a ride which punches passengers in the stomach simply is not fun. On the plus side, it was good to see storage bins on the station platform; I'm given to understand that the mandatory locker policy that I complained about previously is being phased out over time.
My visit happened to coincide with a large scale enthusiast event, and during the catered lunch there was an excellent opportunity to meet up with some fellow enthusiasts. There were a handful of faces I recognised in the crowd, but not many, and it was slightly disconcerting to see that vast majority of those present were younger than me. It's probably fair to say that a day long event attracts those who live near the park, rather than those who pay for organised trips, but even still the demographic made me feel distinctly over the hill, pun intended.
I took a bit of time out to renew my acquaintance with Batman the Ride, now painted blue but otherwise unchanged, followed by Goliath and Gold Rusher. The latter was running just one train today, with two others sitting idle on the transfer track. The wait time was far longer than it should have been as a result, with a train going out about every five minutes. I'd have been there even longer if the family waiting in front of me hadn't asked me to go before them.
The most interesting part of the event from my perspective was a Q&A with park management held in the Magic Moments Theatre. This proved to be surprisingly entertaining, as Neil and Tim gave oddball answers to even more oddball questions, offering pieces of the now dismantled log flume for the best ones. They also showed some drawings and footage of the new-for-2012 drop ride, which is set to take the world record as the tallest such ride in the world. It will be interesting to see how the park manages queues for a ride that is going to have very limited capacity.
California is warm all year round in the middle of the day, but in the winter months it can get quite cold at night. After a particularly chilly ride on Ninja I decided it was time to get my coat and gloves from the car. They came into their own almost immediately when I went over to Apocalypse, which was running really well; the front seat was good, but the back seat was fantastic, bordering on insane.
As the park closed to the public we were left with four open coasters for ERT. Fatigue had begun to hit me at this stage, but I managed one ride on each of them. Viper was running quite well, and with a defensive riding technique I managed to enjoy it without any headbanging. The same was not true of the classic Schwarzkopf Revolution, whose awful overhead restraint clobbered both my ears independently at different points in the course. Tatsu would have been the ideal ride to finish with, being just as good as I remembered, but I made the mistake of concluding with X2 which did its very best to kill me.