I began day 27 of my trip with a review of the latest weather forecast. I’d intended to make relaxed visits to the various parks along the Jersey Shore over a two day period, but the remnants of Hurricane Ida made it obvious that I wasn’t going to be doing anything outdoors in the Garden State on Wednesday, and Thursday was a crapshoot at best. After running the various permutations I decided that my best option was to head to Jenkinson’s Boardwalk for the published 2:00pm opening and drive south until I ran out of opening hours.
I was having brunch in the new-to-me Hard Rock Café in Atlantic City when I discovered that Six Flags Great Adventure had unexpectedly reopened their new coaster after a manufacturer-ordered closure lasting several weeks. Adding in an additional stop meant that I’d almost certainly lose Morey’s Piers off the end of my day, but I rationalised this on the grounds that a brand new RMC single-rail coaster was likely to be somewhat more worthwhile than a Zierer family coaster and yet another SBF figure eight.
31st August 2021
The last-minute refactor meant that my route was now heading north instead of south, and as such my first port of call became Casino Pier. The Seaside Heights park became famous the world over in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which relocated its 2002 E&F Miler Star Jet into the Atlantic Ocean. The photographs of coaster track poking out from the water became some of the most iconic of the disaster as a whole. The ride in question was scrapped, which is a shame really; I feel the distorted rails would have made an interesting centrepiece for a museum somewhere.
The rebuilt pier is more or less the same size as the original, but it has been rotated ninety degrees; it now spans two city blocks instead of stretching out into the sea. The support structure is clearly visible to anyone walking along the beach, and it’s an impressive feat of engineering presumably designed to withstand future severe weather. With luck its efficacy will never be put to the test.
The latest addition to the park is Xolo Loca, a SBF Big Air coaster that made its public debut a little over two weeks ago on the day that I bravely consumed two back-to-back meals in Inedible Pizza chain restaurants in Oklahoma. In deference to the laws of coaster counting, however, it was out of service today, giving me a 50% miss rate for the type on this trip. I did like the way that it had been built around the perimeter of Hot Tamales, resulting in the amusement park equivalent of a Matryoshka doll; I suspect I’d have liked it even more if I’d been able to ride it.
The park’s main attraction now is Hydrus (#2956), my first encounter with what is (as of this writing at least) the smallest member of the Eurofighter family, the 320. The ride layout is virtually identical to the 320+ found inparksaroundtheworld; the only difference is the removal of a helix immediately prior to the brake run. This change cuts the horizontal footprint of the structure from 40 metres to around 25 metres, making it more suitable for locations where space is at a premium. One unexpected new feature is lap bar restraints, a significant upgrade from previous members of the family. The rolling stock is a little utilitarian in appearance, but it's comfortable, which is all that really matters at the end of the day. The ride experience was absolutely fine, though it was over too quickly, coming it at just thirty seconds from top of lift to brakes. I’m not sure if the missing helix would have made the difference given that it’s four seconds at best, but I daresay it would have added something.
As of this writing tickets cost $10 per lap, though two-hour unlimited wristbands are available for roughly $40 – the exact price depending on the day of the week. These are also valid elsewhere in the park with four defined exceptions: the Go-Karts, the Skyscraper, the Sky Ride, and the SkyCoaster. If I’d not been under time constraints today I’d probably have gone for one as I’m quite sure I could have broken even on the coaster alone.
31st August 2021
It took half an hour to cover the ten miles north to Jenkinson’s Boardwalk, mostly due to traffic; the area was rammed with people. It was scarcely a surprise to find the official parking lot full. The municipal lot across the road was also busy, though I managed to claim one of the last available spaces close to Baltimore Avenue. Once inside the park I found another lengthy queue at the ticket window, and was just about to join it when my eye was caught by a self-service kiosk that nobody else seemed to have noticed. Thirty seconds and one credit card swipe later I had an “Emusement card” loaded with the $6 required for a lap on the new coaster. I’d apparently started a trend; around a quarter of the people who’d been waiting in line followed my example.
Tidal Wave (#2957) was the first American installation of the new generation SBF spinning coaster with a Wacky Worm layout, and my third encounter with the type on this trip. There was a twenty minute wait for what proved to be a remarkably good ride, aided considerably by the fact that I ended up going over the main drop backwards on two of the three laps. I’d argue that this is SBF’s best design to date (though admittedly there’s not an enormous of competition for that accolade). Given more time I’d happily have gone back for another round.
On a peripherally related note, six examples of this design have been delivered to customers as of end-2021. Two of these have been called Tidal Wave, and two have been called Tsunami. Perhaps I'm overthinking this, but could it be that some customers felt that the complex three-syllable word was too much for their respective audiences?
Six Flags Great Adventure
31st August 2021
It took me just over half an hour to drive to Six Flags Great Adventure, and another five minutes to walk from my parking space to the main entrance. Before I got there, however, my eye was drawn to a large free-standing sign warning that Marijuana was not permitted on property. This raised as many questions as it answered, including:
Is drug use that much of a problem at Six Flags parks?
Is the sign aimed at guests or staff? Or both?
Is a sign really a deterrent to would-be users?
Are all such users able to read?
What was it that I smelled in the vicinity of the toilet block?
How on earth are people expected to enjoy themselves on Joker now?
The park’s latest attraction is Jersey Devil (#2958), a custom layout Raptor Track coaster designed by Rocky Mountain Construction. The new ride is located in an area previously branded as the Looney Tunes Seaport, behind Batman the Ride, Congo Rapids, and Nitro. The layout is long and thin, with a footprint stretching 200 metres (656 feet) from end to end but just 20 metres (65 feet) in width. I found myself wondering whether the design might have been created to compete with the Zamperla Thunderbolt, which requires a similarly-sized area.
Guests are expected to put all loose objects in a paid locker before entering the queue, though as of this writing enforcement is visual rather than with metal detection. It's also completely ineffective; I saw several people using mobile phones while I waited, including one doing so in plain sight of the operators who were apparently unfazed by what they saw. Seating is luck-of-the-draw due to a continuous loading system in the station; there is no facility to wait for a front or back, and indeed today I saw one group being divided between two trains.
I’m not quite sure what I expected from the ride experience, but I can report that my initial lap in car eleven was underwhelming. There was nothing wrong with the comfort level, the layout, or indeed the track quality; it just didn’t wow me in the way that its predecessor did. At the risk of being a little controversial, the experience felt like something I’d expect from B&M – engineered perfection and a reliable crowd pleaser, but not overly forceful. A second ride an hour later in car twelve was in an entirely different league, however. The difference was far beyond what I’d have expected for one seat, making me wonder whether one of the three operational trains might have been running slowly. The lap wasn’t quite at the Wonder Woman level of intensity, but it wasn’t far off. I can’t help but wonder if the ride is at its best in the evening after a whole day of operation; I’ll definitely be slotting in a late visit the next time I’m in the area.
Fantasy Island Amusement Park
31st August 2021
Fantasy Island is a park that I’ve been close to on numerous occasions over the years, but I never managed to fit it into an itinerary due to its 4:00pm opening time – I was invariably going past much earlier in the day. Between 1986 and 2016 it was home to a single helix powered coaster, and that just wasn’t a priority when there were more significant credits to be had in the neighbourhood.
For the 2017 season management elected to replace the end-of-life ride with a brand new figure eight spinner. Hang Ten (#2959) is located in the same space as its predecessor on the back right hand corner of the park, adjacent to some on-street parking. I managed to secure a spot less than ten metres away, though this was less beneficial than it sounds given that I had to walk to the far end of the facility to buy my $6 ticket!
Playland's Castaway Cove
31st August 2021
The area around Playland’s Castaway Cove was bustling when I arrived at 8:45pm, making it obvious that I wouldn’t be finished in time to get to Morey’s Piers before closing. This was not unexpected given my last minute detour past Six Flags Great Adventure, and in all honesty it came as something of a relief, as it prevented me from having to decide between the sensible option of heading to my hotel versus the prospect of a few more credits.
The park’s main entrance building and arcade was destroyed by fire at the start of this year. Luckily the outdoor amusement area emerged almost completely untouched; the only attraction damaged was the Balloon Ride, part of which had been stored indoors temporarily for maintenance work. A new entrance building is under construction, but will not be ready until 2023; for the moment guests enter the park via a secondary route adjacent to JiLLy’s Candy Factory.
There were two coasters on my radar tonight, and I decided to do them in order of queue length rather than in order of priority. That was how I found myself boarding Wild Waves (#2960), a custom family coaster from E&F Miler with two lift hills. The $6 ride operates with two trains, each of which can seat six passengers in three rows of two. Their ability with corners is marginal at best, but most of the layout consists of straight airtime hills and those are handled with grace. I hadn’t expected much, yet came away genuinely impressed at what turned out to be an unexpected gem. As good as the ride was, however, it was but a starter prefixing a delicious main course.
GaleForce (#2961) is the first and only compact-footprint launched coaster from S&S, and it's a top-notch ride requiring a bespoke $10 ticket. It operates using a single car seating twelve passengers in three rows of four. With profitability directly linked to throughput I'd have expected the loading to exhibit military efficiency, but that wasn't happening today as every passenger was being individually checked using a metal detection wand. In an ideal world this would have been done before guests arrived at the boarding platform; perhaps this happens when more staff are available?
The ride starts with an understated forward acceleration that I’d have trouble describing as a launch; it’s more like someone pulling away from a traffic light. The train rolls back and accelerates further in reverse, before stalling and rolling forward again. The second forward launch is where things really get going – the train kicks over the apex with plenty of speed to spare, and proceeds to negotiate its way through an intensely twisted route involving two drops from the heights down to ground level. There was a surprise on returning to the station; instead of stopping the train accelerated into a second lap that was every bit as thrilling as the first had been.
The experience is at the upper end of the intensity scale, but there's no violence involved; it's simply a forceful and aggressive thrill ride that delivers in a manner well beyond what its headline statistics might suggest. I decided that I wanted another lap, but sadly it wasn't to be; by the time I got back ot the ticket window sales had closed for the night.
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