5-30 and 31, 2003 - Darien Lake

Associated parks:

Sunday, June 1, 2003 9:43 AM
Okay, my book project has hit the big time. On May 30, I hit my first major theme park on the way to completion - Six Flags Darien Lake in Darien Center, New York.

I actually left Syracuse around 9:00 AM to head to Grand Island yet again. I arrived there around 11:30 to talk to the folks at Martin's Fantasy Island a little about the history of that park. I got quite a few interesting insights into their background and had an enjoyable conversation with the park's PR manager. They also clued me in to several other venues around the Buffalo area that might make interesting subjects for my book.

At around 1:00 PM, I left Martin's to head to Darien Lake. I stopped briefly in Buffalo to buy a stopwatch, a necessary item if I intend to properly get the ride and chain times of the coasters. I decided that I will round out times recorded in my book to the nearest :05 seconds since various factors change those times from ride to ride and year to year. This would be the best way to average the actual recorded times and keep things consistant throughout the book.

I also set a standard for myself for timing the rides. Each coaster time begins from the moment the air or mechanical brake releases the train to the moment the air or mechanical brake stops the train just before it enters the station. I consider this to be the actual ride time. Even though riders are still on board the train awaiting re-entry into the station, they technically are no longer riding. I've decided this to at least offer readers SOME consistancy when comparing coasters. Any comments from roller coaster fans are certainly welcome.

I arrived at Darien Lake around 2:30 and checked in at the Lodge on the Lake. I had never been inside the hotel and was pleasantly surprised by the rustic decor. I checked in and was assisted by several helpful front desk associates who endeavored to make this overnight stay a memorable one.

I ran up to my room and dropped off my bag then headed down into the park to ride a few coasters before I was scheduled to meet with the park's PR director. I headed around the lake past the Predator (got some great photos over there) then entered the park near the Boomerang gate. And figured, as long as I was on this end of the park, Boomerang might as well be the first coaster I would ride on this visit.

I have to admit, I do enjoy this ride, despite it's shortness. The first drop is totally unexpected and if you aren't ready for it, it can snap your neck back, like it did the rider behind me. What a rush, though, flying through the three inversions, first looking forward then blindly traveling the same track in reverse.

Predator was next. Wow, this ride has gotten choppy in the last few years. I still love this coaster but it kicks riders around a lot. That was the most frequent comment I overheard as I was exiting and I have to admit I agree with other riders...but what we all endure in the name of fun, right?

I went on the Giant Wheel after that. I figured this would be a great way to grab a shot or two of each coaster in the park. I nabbed some great ones of Superman, Viper, Mind Eraser, Predator and Boomerang but only time will tell which ones will actually come out well.

I headed over to the Viper, next. This coaster will always have a special place in my heart since it's where my love affair with coasters began 20 years ago. At 19, when I first rode this train, it scared me so much I almost didn't ride a coaster ever again. Two years later, though, a girlfriend dragged me back on and I haven't avoided any coasters ever since. In fact, these days I even seek them out...heh, heh, heh...

The lines, though, are shorter, these days, than they were 20 years ago. I waited less than 10 minutes for a seat in the front car. What a terrifically smooth ride this coaster still is. I almost feel spoiled that I can actually count this as my first coaster.

Mind Eraser has been around in the park since 1997 but I didn't ride it for the first time until 2001. This coaster is always closed in the post-season (October) and for the last several years, it seems like that's the only time I actually have available to go. It officially became my 100th coaster when I rode it two years ago. And it was about to become number 10 for the purposes of research for this book.

I was almost at the front of the line when the ride operators decided it was time to put the second train away. Since time was becoming critical and it seemed like it was taking forever for the mechanics to arrive to turn the key (and the wisecracks of the operators were starting to wear thin), I left the line to head over to the Superman.

I wanted to save the best for last, but in retrospect, I have to say I'm glad that Superman IS the 10th ride I rode for this book. It deserves at least that much of a distinction. When I arrived, the line was relatively short and I was able to board the front car in less than 20 minutes. Every year I forget just how much I love this coaster before my first seasonal ride...then every year I'm reminded just how much I love this ride after it arrives back at the station with smiles on the faces of just about every rider.

It may be long and fast, but Superman is one of the smoothest riding coasters I've ever been on. According to one of the ride operators, Intamin just refurbished the trains so they're actually 3000 pounds heavier than they were before and the wheels are running slower than last year, but I'd be hard-pressed to notice on that first hill. That nearly-straight drop staring right into the lake is enough to put the fear of God into any Atheist.

And the airtime on that third hill...does anyone EVER ramain in their seat on that one? What a RUSH!!!

Well, it was nearly 6:00 PM and dinner awaited with Lauren, the PR manager and I headed back to the hotel to freshen up. I and several other travel writers had dinner over at Beaver Brothers cafe (another great rustic venue) and the food was marvelous! (I highly recommend eating here if your budget allows for it...it can get a bit pricey, though, but the food is DEFINITELY worth it.)

Afterwards, we were escorted around the park for a semi-official tour. One of the daredevils in the group opted to try the Slingshot...I was invited to join him, but I excused myself. As much of a daredevil as I CAN be, I prefer my thrills to have tracks underneath them.

As we headed back towards Mind Eraser, I left the group to try again to ride this Coaster. This time, I had no trouble getting onto the ride in less than 10 minutes. I'll always enjoy the feeling of dangling your feet that you get from this coaster, but I hate the way it boxes your ears. I guess there had to be a trade-off. This is the only coaster I only rode once during my visit...no point in punishing myself too much.

I got one more ride in on Superman before the park closed for the evening - my companion in the seat behind me decided to zip his face up inside his windbreaker so he could ride the coaster blind. At the end of the ride when the coaster approaches the photo zone, I put my chin in my hand in a pose reminiscent of "The Thinker" and smiled for the camera. The resulting shot - with my pose and my "headless" companion - was amusing enough that I bought it for my collection and perhaps, if my editor agrees, it might be humorous enough to make a great cover photo for the book...any comments?

After Laserblast, I headed back to the hotel to retire for the night. I have to admit, after the long day, it was nice to just hop into a bed rather than drive all the way back to Syracuse.

The next day was not as nice. It was raining when I awoke but I still headed over to Beaver Brothers for breakfast. After eating, I went back and checked out of my room and headed around to the front of the park for early admission. ACE was there that Saturday morning and Lauren had let me in early so I could ride the coasters with them during their designated ride. I had the chance to hob-knob with several other coaster fans and I think some of them regarded me as an upstart. What gives me the right to think I could write a book that could possibly compete with Tim O'Brien's Amusement Park Guide?

I think some of the fans, though, accepted the idea with fascination. There's room out there for more than one book on parks and coasters and several fans expressed their interest in buying the book when it comes out. After all, this isn't a copycat of O'Brien's book... and it's more than just travel info about the parks. I want this book to complement O'Brien's guide, not overshadow it. O'Brien's guide is the "where and when" travel information about the parks. My book is more of a "what and why"...information about the history and and the coasters and reasons the parks deserve your patronage.

It was raining bullets on Superman and Boomerang. Viper was still fun even in the rain and Predator was faster and choppier than ever. Unfortunately, though, I didn't have all day to spend at the Park on Saturday anyway (I couldn't get the second day off from work) so I headed back to Syracuse around 12:30 PM.

All in all, though, I had a great visit with the park I probably DO consider my home base. I can't wait to finish the book so I can plan an autograph session there!

Writing a book about roller coasters sure has it's ups and downs...

Man, do I have a long way to go...4 parks down, 71 to go...

Coaster Count -- 11

Sunday, June 1, 2003 10:24 AM
Great Tr Report! S:ROS is truly a gem in the western Ny area, it has established itself as a legend in this area. The best coaster in the park.

I would like to ask a question though, did the PR Dept indicate if there will be anything new for next season?

Your Park only has 1 good coaster! That's too bad!

Sunday, June 1, 2003 10:35 AM
Good question!!!

All Lauren would say is that she didn't know what was coming up...but she would know by September. I do know this, though...she's rather upset by the fact that Darien Lake lost the distinction this year of being the Coaster Capital of NYS. Great Escape now has six adult coasters..more than SFDL...I have to admit, it irks me too...

I suspect there's a coaster in the works...but I guess we won't know that for certain until later this year...:-)

Writing a book about roller coasters sure has it's ups and downs...

Man, do I have a long way to go...4 parks down, 71 to go...

Coaster Count -- 11


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