July 5, 2008

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    My friend Doug, his brother and I went to Six Flags Great America on the Fourth of July weekend. I expected the park to be crowded, but it wasn't too bad. We paid the cheaper parking, which was still a ridiculous $15. For $25, you can park closer to the entrance. No thanks.

    I brought a can of Coke, which saved me $15 on the ticket. Not bad. It was a little crowded getting to the ticket booth, but most booths were open. We went to the Southwest Territory section of the park, home of Raging Bull. This area is themed pretty nicely. Raging Bull was my first B&M hypercoaster since I rode Apollo's Chariot in 1999. I had forgotten how comfortable the seats are. We walked down the long queue and waited near the stairs for a little bit while the ride host there held the line. I'm not sure why they do this if no one with a Flash Pass is coming.

    We walked up the steps and went to the last row after a wait of maybe 10 minutes. Getting in and out of these trains is so simple. There's no stepping over anything, the restraints are out of the way. It's great. And the seats are so comfortable. I'm in love. The restraints are huge but comfortable and still allow some movement. We left the station and went up the lift. There's good airtime down the first drop. The tunnel is a good highlight. The turn is cool and really high up. The third hill has so much potential, but the trim brakes on it really leave a lot to be desired. I don't know why they're there. They really kick in and even made me move forward in my seat a little bit. But there's airtime down that drop.

    The next drop is really good. It's steep and drops into a little dip in the terrain. The swooping turn is fun and really intense when the train exits it. The block brake only trims a little speed, and there's airtime exiting it. The next camelback has some airtime in it. The finale is fun. The high turns have good G-forces, and the low turns are great and hug the ground. It's twisted with a few pops of air. Raging Bull is a really good coaster and definitely the best coaster at the park. 8/10.

    There are some warning signs around the low zones. They look fairly new and are held on with zip ties. I wonder if they were put up in light of the accident at Six Flags Over Georgia.

    We went to Viper next since it's right next to Raging Bull. The wait was about 15 minutes. We went to the back seat. The lift hill slows down at the top, which was a little disappointing, but this ride's good anyway. It's my favorite Cyclone. There are some small pops of airtime around the ride, but other hills provide good, surprising airtime. My favorite hill was one parallel to the lift hill, which had airtime at the top and then quickly turned to the right, so there are lateral G's while you're floating. The only real criticism I have of Viper is the padding on the sides of the seats. It's not soft like the rest of the seat cushion, so the laterals hurt my ribs a little. But that's not too bad. It's an excellent ride with some surprises. 8/10.

    Demon was next. We waited about two trains to get on, and we just sat where the shortest line was. It's got a tunnel out of the station to the lift hill. Apparently, this coaster is worth the wait, like ketchup. This is a pretty typical Arrow coaster. Lots of bumps and shakes, strong G's in the loops. The entrance to the first corkscrew was painful, and I banged my head. The tunnels and rock formations around it are pretty cool. 4/10.

    Then I stood by a statue of a woman holding a shovel. Weird.

    We went to American Eagle, which has the craziest line ever. You enter near Wiggles World, walk up a few ramps, walk down an insanely long path, walk over a road, walk down more path, turn around, walk some more and up some stairs into the station. This park has really long queues. We went to the back of the red side first. The trains have odd padding on the sides. I don't know why it's there. The red side's lift hill runs slightly faster than the blue sides, so red heads down the drop first. The first drop is really cool. It's farther down than the height of the drop. The train vibrates at the bottom of the drop, which is a weird feeling. It doesn't jackhammer. It's like when it hits the bottom of the drop, all the wheels get cracks in them. The rest of the ride isn't bumpy like that.

    The first two hills have some good airtime. There's a single brake that really trims speed off the ride before the giant helix turnaround. It seems a bit necessary because the train bumps around toward the end of the helix. The return run is filled with small airtime hills. There's another brake before the helix ending, but that seems needed. The train enters the brake going really fast, so if it weren't there, we'd be tossed to the side and thrown around in that last helix. American Eagle is a good ride, but it could use a little bit of track work. We exited down the LONG path and went back up the LONG entrance to ride the blue side. They run about the same. 6/10.

    We headed to Iron Wolf, which is B&M's first coaster. I thought that was pretty cool. We waited about 15 or 20 minutes to get to the back seat. This is an odd coaster. It's got a weird support in the first turn, and there's a section of track that looks like it was for a block brake, but nothing's there. There's a lot of headbanging on this ride. I bashed my right ear pretty good before putting my head back and trying to hold it still. I wasn't impressed with this coaster, but I'm glad it was the start to such a great company. 5/10.

    We tried to get on Spacely's Sprocket Rockets, but it said you need a kid to ride. So we skipped it.

    Next was Vertical Velocity. I rode Superman: Ultimate Escape at Six Flags Worlds of Adventure, so this wasn't new to me. The wait wasn't too long and only went around the outside of the queue switchbacks. Doug and his brother went to the back row, and I got in two rows in front of them. The next to last row was closed. This is a fun coaster. I like the holding brake a lot. 7/10.

    B&M's first inverted coaster was next. Batman The Ride is really good. The fire hydrant at the police car was on. I didn't expect that since Magic Mountain's hasn't been on the last few times I've visited. We waited maybe 20 minutes for the back row. It runs two trains, one of which didn't have the wheel covers on. I had forgotten how well these run. It's an extremely smooth ride from start to finish. It's really intense and pulls high G-forces. I like the Batman clones. 8/10.

    We went to Ragin' Cajun, the Zamperla spinning wild mouse. It's got a low capacity. We waited 50 minutes in the nearly full queue. The spinning on this ride starts about halfway through the ride. The first half is a typical wild mouse with hairpin curves and lateral G's. The spinning starts off really intense with a quick turn. We really spun around! There are a few places with odd turns. One part before the final brakes has a quick turn at ground level where you're tossed around and spun a bit. That was cool. I wish it had a higher capacity and better shade in the queue. The only shade is some trees that you get to near the end of the line. 6/10.

    We got hungry, so we headed to Mooseburger Lodge, which we saw earlier in the day. I was excited since the Mooseburger at SFMM is really good. I was disappointed when I went in this one because it's more like a cafeteria-style place. We left and looked for a buffet. We found the Crazy Buffalo Saloon. For $15, we got a mediocre buffet. We didn't pay for drinks, so we got cups for water instead. I was a bit disappointed. The buffet isn't too large, and the food wasn't that good. The chicken breast was dry, and the churro was cold. The chicken bits were the best, though they weren't too great. Toward the end of our meal, Scooby-Doo entered the restaurant and got some pictures with kids. Weird.

    We went to The Dark Knight next, and I got a lemonade before getting in line. This is the new ride for 2008, but it's not too exciting. It's an indoor wild mouse themed to the new Batman movie "The Dark Knight." Most of the queue is indoors, which is great because we waited more than two hours for this. Sheesh! It looks like it's pulling in some crowds, but it's just a wild mouse with some basic theming. The line has some TVs in it, and it's pretty annoying to see the same ads and videos over and over and over for an hour and 40 minutes. I'm sick of seeing "More Flags! More Fun!"

    We finally got to the preshow room, which was OK. I like that Six Flags is trying some theming. You stand in a room and watch a video of a news conference. The Joker takes it over and edits it so the person doing the conference says they're corrupt or something. It's kind of neat. Then the room goes dark, and lights shine on the walls saying "HaHa" and "Let's put a smile on that face." Doors open, and we're back in line. We walk down a long hallway that has a cool video screen at the end that changes your face to a mask worn by Joker's henchmen.

    We finally got on. The lift hill is really fast and even speeds up toward the top. But it's just a wild mouse. Hairpin turns in the dark. Eh. The theming is pretty minimal. There are "HaHa" lights around and some flat buildings with clowns on them. One part has holograms of clowns on it, but they turn off when your car passes by. There's some airtime in a few places. It's not worth the wait. 5/10.

    Superman: Ultimate Flight is right next to The Dark Knight, so we got in line. I had never ridden a B&M flying coaster before, so I was really excited. A security guard gave us boarding passes at the entrance to keep line jumpers from getting on. That's a good idea. Again, there's a long line leading to the station. It gives good visuals as the coaster winds over it. There are some cutouts and signs featuring the superheroes and villains while you wait in line. One I saw had Superman flying, and someone stuck gum next to his head.

    We went to the back row. I like the restraints. They're comfortable. The leg restraints lock when you pull the harness down, which I thought was cool. The tilting was fun. We saw a lot of coins on the floor. The lift hill is quiet and quick. The first drop is cool, and I really like the visuals you get in that position. The pretzel loop is definitely the best part of the ride. The G-forces in the bottom are completely insane. The rest of the ride is pretty simple, but I liked it. The sensation of flying was cool. The twist at the end was fun, and the brakes aren't crazy and make you slam into the restraint. This is definitely better than the Vekoma flying coasters. They stacked the trains a little when we got to the area before the station, but I didn't mind. I wasn't facing the sun, and the padding is really soft. 8/10.

    We only had one coaster left, Whizzer. We went there and waited for the back car. People seemed a little confused boarding, so we waited a little longer because people in front of us were trying to ride in the same car. It's got odd seating. One or two people can sit in a seat. I sat in the back seat by myself. I really like these seats. I was able to recline a lot and just relax. The only restraint is a seat belt, which rules. The lift hill is a spiral lift hill, which was pretty cool. Whizzer has some weird inclines. A few of them have kicker tires that I assume are there in case it may roll back. They didn't feel like they were on when we rode. The ride is a series of drops and quick turns through lots of trees, and Doug said that's why it's great at night. The sun was setting, so we decided to go back when it was dark. Whizzer is really fun. 7/10.

    Doug and I rode Bench: The Ride.

    Since we'd ridden all the coasters and only had about an hour left until closing, I wanted to ride Raging Bull and Viper again. We went to Viper, which was running well. I really enjoy that coaster. We went to Raging Bull and rode in the back seat. We were given boarding passes this time. It was running a little faster since it was getting darker. What an excellent ride. I can't wait to ride another B&M hypercoaster. I absolutely love these trains.

    We walked around to Batman and rode that in the back row. I chose the right outside seat because you whip around in the first drop. Wow, I love Batmans. It's so insanely smooth. What a great design.

    We only had about 10 minutes left, so we went to Whizzer. The sun had set, and it was flying. The drops through the trees are nearly totally black, and it's a bit colder there. This ride is really good at night. I'm glad a park with so many modern rides has something a bit older. How fun.

    I was a bit disappointed that we didn't get to ride the double carousel. The Dark Knight really ate up a lot of our time, and the park got a little crowded as the day progressed. The park has a sort of odd layout, but it's not too bad. This park has three outstanding B&Ms and a great wooden coaster. I wouldn't mind if this was my home park. I wish the queues and exits weren't so long. It would be a little difficult to get numerous rides on the coasters because the queues are so long and far away from the exits. But that's not too bad. It just seems like bad planning.  I hope to visit again and experience more of the park on a day that isn't so crowded.

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