Travel Note

30th August 2021

Day 26 of my trip began with a self-guided walking tour of Washington DC. I headed from my hotel to the United States Capitol, then strolled down the length of the National Mall. I’d hoped to get a close-up look at the White House, but discovered that the southern side of the building overlooking the lawn has been a restricted area since April 2017; the best view I could find was from the hill alongside the George Washington Monument, from where the below photograph was taken using the limits of my zoom lens. The north side is more accessible for the moment at least, though it remains restricted; a park on the far side of Pennsylvania Avenue is as close as members of the public are allowed to get.

White House

I had lunch in the Hard Rock Café, which is right around the corner from the J. Edgar Hoover Building housing FBI Headquarters. As I walked past I heard the distinctive sound of the Spice Girls’ Wannabe blasting from an upper balcony. While the background sound effects suggested a fitness class, I’m choosing instead to believe that the track was being used as part of an enhanced interrogation process. Scary would no doubt approve.

Later on I found my way into the National Air & Space Museum on the mall, before meeting up with my friend Cy for a separate visit to the associated hangar at the Udvar-Hazy Center. Several of the more interesting exhibits were under protective sheeting today as a result of ongoing maintenance work, including Concorde F-BVFA, but I did get a close-up look at the Space Shuttle Discovery, the Enola Gay, and an unnamed but still extremely interesting SR-71 Blackbird.


Six Flags America

30th August 2021

It was still daylight when we finished up at the museum, and rather than go for an early dinner I decided I might as well head to Six Flags America for a few hours in order to scratch off the two coasters added since my last visit in 2012. I asked Cy if he wanted to come with me, but his response was an emphatic negative – a definite reminder that I was heading to a park not entirely beloved of coaster enthusiasts. I dropped him off at a convenient train station along the route.

On arrival I made my way directly to Ragin’ Cajun, a standard model Reverchon spinning mouse that once operated at Six Flags Great America in Chicago. As befits America each side of the car has a retrofitted seatbelt in addition to the standard lap bar, though this only impacts loading speed as it isn’t noticeable during the ride. There was no queue whatsoever, and as I was the only guest in sight I ended up having a car to myself. I sat in the middle for balance reasons, and that worked out well; I got some good spinning.

The other must-do was Firebird, a B&M stand-up coaster modified to use floorless trains in 2019. In its previous identity of Apocalypse I noted severe head-banging, and I’m sorry to report that the new trains have not solved that problem. I’d been warned ahead of time that the ride “wasn’t good”, but to describe it in those terms does a fierce injustice to all the ordinary “not good” coasters out there. It’s perhaps kindest to say that the experience wasn’t quite up to the high standard achieved by early Hebei Zhongye coasters in China. I’m honestly amazed that it’s allowed to operate in America in its current state; you couldn’t have paid me enough to have ridden a second time.


With both essentials done and an hour or so to spare I joined the short queue for Superman Ride of Steel, an Intamin Mega Coaster added to the park at the turn of the millennium. What should be (and arguably is) the park’s signature ride starts out well with a drop, a 90 degree turn at ground level, and a respectably tall second hill. Unfortunately that’s where the designers ran out of imagination; the next 40 seconds of coasting features a 540 degree helix, several seconds of perfectly straight and level track, an understated hill, and another 540 degree helix. The series of airtime hills at the end breathe some life back into the experience, but they can’t quite make up for the fact that the rest of the layout is boring.

I finished my night with a lap on Joker’s Jinx, a classic Premier Rides LIM Coaster, and my first encounter with the type in more than five years. The ride was running well; the launch was enjoyable, and the tracking was smooth. I still remember how impressed I was with the acceleration when I rode the Kings Island Flight of Fear twenty years ago; two decades on it remains a good experience, but it’s definitely not Maxx Force!