Travel Note

19th August 2018

The final day of my US trip was originally supposed to begin with a lunch time flight from San Antonio to Atlanta, followed by a connection on to Dublin. This would have been the sensible thing to do, which was why I decided to book an early morning departure instead that gave me a nine hour window to experience the new coaster at Six Flags Over Georgia. Though I'd be visiting on a weekend I figured (correctly) that Sunday morning would not be a busy time in a part of the world where people take their religious obligations seriously.

 

Six Flags Over Georgia

19th August 2018

The entrance to the Six Flags Over Georgia parking lot routes past a boundary fence with an unobstructed view of Twisted Cyclone (#2496), and after dropping off my rental car I made my way there, much to the amusement of a friendly staff member who was convinced that I'd sleepwalked my way past the park gate. No trains were dispatched in the ten minutes that I stood waiting for the perfect photograph, and it was scarcely a surprise when I learned that my target was "experiencing a temporary delay". I decided to set up camp at the queue entrance, remembering what happened the last time I sat in front of a non-functional Rocky Mountain ride, and soon after my patience was rewarded when the ride opened.

Broken Restraint

The cause of the problem was immediately evident on arrival in the station. The restraints in the front row of the red train were tied together with what was almost certainly heavy duty electrical cable, complete with a bright yellow weatherproof plug that was wedged beneath one of the lap bars. With half the prime seats out of service I made a snap decision to wait there for my first ride, figuring that the wait would only get longer as the day progressed. This was the correct decision; the dedicated front row cattle grid had filled completely by mid-afternoon, adding at least thirty minutes to the wait time, and the operators were not allowing anyone else to join the queue.

The ride experience is broken into two different parts. The first half of the layout is a lively mix of inversions and twists, including a hill delivering what is probably best described as sideways airtime. This portion is both thrilling and rerideable. The second half however is a different animal entirely, as the intensity level goes to the top of the scale with a series of ejector airtime hills, and these were on the very edge of what I'd consider to be comfortable, especially on an empty stomach. The back of the train was slightly less aggressive than the front, but even still not something I'd want to marathon for extended periods. Though it's a heretical thought I found myself wondering whether I'd enjoy the ride more if it had a trim brake to tame the second half just a little; though I very much enjoy airtime I think that there's something wrong when a coaster leaves lap bar imprints in passenger thighs. (As a fun aside, there is a red-coloured wig hanging from one of the supports next to the brake run that presumably was shaken loose at some point. One suspects that it is only a matter of time before guests are asked to leave artificial hair in lockers before riding.)

After three laps I decided it was time to move to something slightly less extreme, and I joined the back seat queue for Goliath. The ride is one of the shortest of the fourteen extant installations of the B&M Hyper Coaster, but it still features almost a minute worth of momentum-driven coasting with seven airtime hills and a powerful descending helix in the mix. Today however the ride felt more like a vintage Arrow product than precision Swiss engineering, as the base of each drop brought with it an unpleasant crunching sensation that did my spine no favours. This was accompanied by some distinctly unpleasant vibration that I'm sure I'd have written about if it had been present on previous visits. The layout has a small drop onto the brake run that felt like a crash-landing onto concrete. Though it pains me to say this, once was enough.

In my four previous visits to the park I'd completely missed Monster Mansion, an elaborate dark ride dating from 1981 that could easily have served as the inspiration for the similarly themed Pixar movie introduced in 2001. Nine passenger boats pass through a themed environment with over one hundred animatronics designed by Gary Goddard Productions, a company made up largely of former Disney imagineers. Perhaps unsurprisingly the experience feels very much like something one would expect to find at the Happiest Place on Earth, to the point that I found myself subconsciously looking around for hidden mickeys. Even the catchy theme song felt very much like something produced by the mouse. The layout had a small splashdown part way around the course, though I can report that none of the water made it into our boat.

Monster Mansion

My next stop was at Justice League: Battle of Metropolis, an interactive dark ride added to seven parks in the Six Flags family between 2015-2017. The design is an upgraded version of a concept first presented at Warner Bros Movie World in 2012, and as with its ancestor it features a mixture of physical sets and 3D projections that guests shoot at from electronic blasters. The Six Flags version replaces the basic vehicles found in Australia with a motion base system from Oceaneering International that supports controlled rotating and tilting, and these constitute a significant upgrade; it is no exaggeration to describe the result as one of the finest dark rides I've had the pleasure of experiencing in recent years. I decided to go back for a second lap right away, which is something I would only generally do for a roller coaster.

The weather had closed in in spectacular fashion by the time I returned to daylight, though as with many torrential downpours in America it was short lived. Just ten minutes later I was able to join the queue for Superman Ultimate Flight, which remains a solid and thrilling ride sixteen years after it opened. It was interesting to review my trip report from 2005, which spoke positively about the pretzel loop element; as I've gotten older my enthusiasm for this particular moment of crushing intensity has waned considerably. For middle-aged me the ideal flying coaster consists of wide swooping turns, low to ground moments, and perhaps the occasional barrel roll; the experience is not improved by the sensation of having an African elephant walking across my body. For me the closest B&M has gotten to the perfect flying coaster remains Starry Sky Ripper; I'd be a very happy man if a clone of that was built a little closer to home.

At this stage with no particular agenda in mind I texted Megan to ask whether there were any other rides that I shouldn't miss. Her immediate response was Great American Scream Machine, a classic wood coaster from Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters. The physical appearance of what is now the second-oldest operating wood coaster in the Six Flags chain (after Thunderbolt) wasn't promising, with visibly cracked wood and badly faded paint, but it was riding remarkably well from the front seat at least, with only one dodgy moment at the base of the first drop after the turnaround. There was good airtime over most hills, particularly in the second half of the course, and the last hill had ejector air despite being tamed by a trim brake. To add to the fun, my train overshot the station brakes giving me a second ride for no extra wait.

There was a huge sign in the station for Batman the Ride indicating that no preferred seating was available, but with an empty station that was never going to be much of an issue. I chose back right, and from that location I was treated to a smooth yet powerful thrill that left my feet tingling in the same manner as its twin had done two days earlier. With that done I concluded my day in the finest way possible with a back seat ride on the classic Schwarzkopf Mindbender.