9/30 How many maintenance people does it take to fix an El Toro?

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Monday, October 2, 2006 1:07 AM
Is it too late to change my screen-name? Because after yesterday, the two rides that caused us the most grief were made by Intamin! If you're only interested in reading about El Toro, please skip down to the header.

I had no intentions of getting to Great Adventure this year in spite of great pressure from two other enthusiasts to ride El Toro. The problem wasn't desire, it was money. It's gotten very expensive to make the trip north, due to all the tolls, gas and such. But then several good things happened: 1) gas prices took a nose dive ($2.12 when I filled up) 2) I got an unexpected cut in my car insurance bill due to having good credit and 3) I got a bonus check for almost $400 from work due to us being under-budget last year. Hello, Jackson N.J.!

This is one of the few weekends that I'll get off from work this quarter, so I might as well go. I asked my younger sister Cindy if she wanted to go, since she hasn't been in years and has missed four of the last coasters. She's not an enthusiast at all, but does enjoy coasters and parks. After a stop at WaWa, we pulled into a relatively empty parking lot at 11a.m.. Yes! Saturday's at G.A. can be hell, but I kind of figured that people would come later for Fright Fest.

I made our trip a late birthday present as well, which she didn't know until we arrived. I told her she'd get in for 1/2-price, but she didn't know that I'd pay for it. She got a free safari coupon as well, but we never had time to go do it. One of these days…

INTAMIN hell #1—Kingda Ka
We went to Kingda Ka first, and that was a huge, huge mistake. It was only running two trains, which I knew ahead of time, but I didn't realize how slow those trains would be dispatching. The first train would come out o.k., but then the second train would sit there for two minutes or more before launching. We waited through the whole switchback (but luckily not the overflow switchback), and somewhere around the middle, it broke-down. A maintenance guy comes out and walks to the very end of the launch track and disappears for a while. Thank goodness he doesn't take the elevator to the top like the guy last year.

After a while, he reemerges again, and the ride is back in business for a little while. It was probably about row nine of the switchback that a train refuses to launch. So they pull the train back into the station mechanically. They do something and it's up again. But it's when we get out of the switchback and over by the lockers that something awful happens—dark clouds start rolling in and it starts to drizzle. We make it past the lockers, turn our tickets in to the security guy, and the drizzle becomes a steady rain. We make it up into the station and then KK is closed down due to inclement weather. We wait it out for a really long time, and we're both thinking the same thing a) who knows when the rain is going to stop and b) it's almost 3p.m. and we haven't ridden a damn thing. It's getting really depressing watching multiple other rides operating.

Around 2:45, we make the decision to bail. Both of us needed to use the bathroom, and there was no end in site to the rain. So while in the bathroom, my sister heard that the ride re-opened. It doesn't matter. It would've been easily another 1/2-hour before we got on and since there are no port-a-potties in line, we would've soiled ourselves anyway. Thank God the park is open until 11p.m. We were also hungry and headed to get some food. We settled on the Best of the West restaurant which looks out at the backside of the Sawmill Splash. It's now 3:30p.m. and we haven't ridden a thing. So we try to rectify that.

I'll list the main rides in some kind of order with brief comments, and then I'll let it fly later on for El Toro:
1) Medusa-Cindy had this credit from back in 99', but since it had been so long, I think she was really impressed by the ride, and especially how long it was. With little wait, we opted for the front row. Medusa has always been one of my favorites and I'm always impressed by how powerful it is, say compared to a newer floorless like Hydra.

2) S:UF-The wait is normally very long, but it was only around 1/2-hour. I mentioned that the pretzel loop was cool, but I forgot:) to mention how strong it was at the bottom of the loop. Cindy reacted very strongly at this point. Oops:) She did like it better than Batwing, and being a female she definitely appreciated the lighter vest.

3) Parachute Training Center Edwards AFB Jump Tower-In spite of multiple visits to G.A., I've never ridden it. They only had two "parachutes" working, but I estimated the line at around twenty-minutes. One thing I noticed that wasn't making me happy was a stopped train on the lift of El Toro. Cindy noticed a few minutes after I did and I said "Could this day get anymore depressing?" So I was only off by a few minutes for the wait. It's a cute ride, and it gave a nice view of El Toro.

4) GASM-no line and definitely not a Cindy favorite due to it being an Arrow (I'm kidding about the last part). Seriously though, she didn't like the transitions too much.

5) Blackbeard's Lost Treasure Train-Cindy felt a little bit embarrassed about riding, but she changed her mind once we rode. She was impressed that it had some speed. I was just glad that they got rid of that obnoxious braking noise.

Intamin Fan sidenote: I recently pulled out one of my America's greatest videos and they showed a clip of the Zamperla-made Jolly Rodger flat ride. I realized I've never been on it, which is odd for a flat-ride junkie. Naturally, it was closed. Maybe next year?

6) Skull Mountain-It wasn't an long wait, but it does get humid in the queue. Cindy and I both were met by our first moron of the day. Some dork was mock-screaming throughout the ride. Loser. At least it was dark this time.

7) B:TR-The line wasn't bad, but I still hate the claustrophobic queue once inside. Both Cindy and I were getting annoyed by the soundtrack and sounds that were hitting certain frequencies that were ear-piercing. Needless to say it was a relief to get into the station. Quodos to the park for having no gum on the walls anymore. Were we won't give any respect is to the sluggish crew. The SFGAM crew would've destroyed this team. We sat in the last row, and while I didn't feel any pins or needles that have been mentioned in the recent thread, the last half of this ride was very intense. Cindy described it is at brutal, I believe (I think that was a compliment).

8) Nitro-The overflow queue wasn't in use, but the line was still long. I'm positive that they've moved the queue so it goes under the track coming out of the station. Am I wrong? Anyway, they were running two trains, but Cindy sees something that puts her in a bad mood—she sees a continuous flow of Flashpasser's ascending the staircase. "That sucks" comes out of her mouth several times. I decide to keep things civil, so I have us go toward the front row to keep her away from the Q-bot'ers who are ascending a staircase near the back of the station:)

We waited longer for the very front row of course, but it wasn't that bad. Cindy asked me why I had us wait for the front row, but I think it really made a difference in the ride enjoyment. By this time, it was totally dark and cooler, so I really have to give props to Nitro tonight for actually wowing me. I think Cindy was very surprised by the never-ending lift hill and of course the first drop.

Intamin Fan sidenote: The main ride op was hilarious at times. An Australian named Adrian had some funny comments about people who people who are losing car keys and cell phones. He said he'd like a BMW, but he'd take the Volvo keys he found earlier:) He actually expressed over the P.A. that he was annoyed by people carrying those objects. One kid actually came back in the station holding a cell phone of someone who had just lost theirs'. Cindy couldn't believe that someone could ride on top of a cell phone, but the B&M seats are big of course.

10) Runaway Mine Train-This is my first time experiencing the new lapbars, and I've got to say that I liked them. With the heavy padding, the bunnyhop that I normally dread wasn't bad at all. I think if you're a bigger person though, you may not succeed in riding.

INTAMIN hell no. 2—El Toro

The first drop of ET had literally been scaring me all day long. The first bunny hill looked insane as well. There was one moment when I looked over from KK and someone's brochure or map went flying straight up in the air on that element. I was like "whoa." So I was glad that when we got into line that I could only see the bunny hill and the first drop had practically disappeared from view.

Both switchbacks were full and the line wasn't moving very fast. As we got into line, we soon learned that the line wasn't moving because they kept letting the freakin' Flashpass people in front of us. We got through the first switchback o.k., and then we were met with the second switchback, and then it happened—Breakdown no. 1.

While we were standing there, not moving for fifteen minutes, I saw a ride op with an orange vest go out towards the hill. Eventually, they got the cable moving again. So, still waiting in the bad line, as least my sister was able to get a steaming-hot 16oz. cup of hot-chocolate for $3.50. It was while in the second switchback that I was getting steaming-hot due to all the stupid Flashpass people who kept passing us. One guy actually had the nerve to yell suckers at us from a train, and in retrospect I wanted to yell back "F. Off!," but I promised myself I would be on my best behavior.

We finally were allowed to go into the station and were met with the same stupid setup from Viper days. My friend gowithgravity promised me that we had to ride in the back seat at least once, so since this would that one time, that's were we headed. We had to wait at least two trains before we could make it towards the back. So we get all the way in the last row, and it happens again—a train gets stuck at the lift again. And this is when the calvary showed up. I've never seen so many maintenance people come to fix one ride. There might have been eight or more.

Once the train came back to the station, a kid said that they literally had to push the train up the hill. Since I couldn't see exactly what was happening, I'm not sure if the kid was being literal or not. So once again, it was lock and load time as the ops had to buckle all the seatbelts and push down all the restraints to send the train out for a test run. Thankfully, it caught the cable this time. The one op said he was going to keep his vest on because the moment he takes it off something else will happen.

Since we had to wait a while while things were being fixed, we got to hear the warning announcement, which is unlike any warning announcement I've heard before. It went something like "Due to the negative g's, and strong upward lift of this ride, your restraints will be placed snugly against your lap." And now in enthusiast speak—"Due to the strong ejector air of this ride, you will be stapled." :)

We sat down in some really comfortable seats. Unlike a traditional wood train, there were bucket seats. The seatbelt is a combination of the traditional Intamin belt with gold clips and the S:ROS belt on the end so the op's can pull tight. And then they push the lapbar down after making sure all the seatbelts are tight. I actually found it very comfortable, but I'm thin so it didn't bother me at all. I'll take it any day over a PTC, Gerstlauer, or Millennium Flyer train lapbar which will at some point staple me and it won't feel good.

There aren't many coasters or rides that make me trully nervous anymore. Deja' Vu was the last one that really got to me earlier in the summer. Heading out towards the lift, I'm brought back to how fast MF was as we ascend the lift in about twelve seconds. We round the turn and it's "Oh crap!" as we go over the edge. Every hill has out of control airtime, and there's no way I'd ride it without being stapled. The turnaround back towards Rolling Thunder is crazy, but really smooth. So a little bit later, we do the jump over R.T. and into the craziest twister section I've ever experienced on any coaster. It whips you around so damn fast that I had absolutely no idea what was going on.

My review: Way, way out of control. So is it a wood coaster? I don't know. It's not like any other woodie I've been on before. It has polyurethane wheels. The structure doesn't noticeably shake. The seats keep you in place. It tracks immaculately. Is it fair that people have been comparing El Toro to the Voyage? Regrettably, I'd have to say no. They're two different animals. Ok, so only one's an animal:) One thing if for sure—Great Adventure got a winner. Now, if they can only get the thing working reliably! Let's hope that some other park in the midwest or west coasts can get one so they enjoy the fun. Back to the rest of the park.

11) Kingda Ka-Yes, believe it or not this was my sister's idea. The line had considerably died at Rolling Thunder, but once we saw the line at the bottom of the stairs on the red train side, we decided to kill that idea, so back to the Golden Kingdom it was. The line was noticeably shorter for KK, mainly because the switchbacks weren't in use. We still waited easily another fifty minutes to hop onboard. What was really hurting capacity was that they would load the first train when it came back into the station, and it would have to wait for the second train to come back into the station to also load before they'd send both trains out. Remember, I pointed out that the other train was a good two-minutes or more behind the other train. Still, I think it worked out better psychologically that it had gotten dark, because Cindy wouldn't be able to see much once at the top.

We waited for the second row of the first train, which again I think worked better for Cindy. Had she waited in the second train which sits out on the launch track for so long, I think that would've been bad. We took off and it was cold. The way out wasn't bad and I didn't notice any abnormal vibrations, but coming over the bunny hill on the way back, we definitely got rattled a little bit.

12) Houdini's Great Escape-A great way to cap off the night, we probably caught the last ride of the night on this Vekoma Mad House. Since I hadn't ridden it in two years, I had forgotten how forceful the ride is, especially in the beginning with the initial swings.

Last comments: I was surprised that things weren't toned down in the Fright Fest department. There were a lot of characters roaming around Main Street and the bridge that connects from Frontier Adventures into Plaza Del Carnaval. And in the Boardwalk section there were a lot of clowns. There was a heavy use of fog too in two of the sections, so keep your eyes peeled! Lastly, it's a real shame that Batman & Robin the Chiller wasn't open. I would've loved for Cindy to have ridden either or both of the tracks with lapbars. Oh well.

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Monday, October 2, 2006 2:32 AM

Intamin Fan said:

1) Is it fair that people have been comparing El Toro to the Voyage? Regrettably, I'd have to say no.

2) One thing if for sure—Great Adventure got a winner.

3) the two rides that caused us the most grief were made by Intamin!


1 & 2-Agree. It's difficult to compare El Toro to anything. It's difficult just to describe it! A wooden Nitro? A gigantic smooth Phoenix? If SF gets this bull running consistently, IMO you will see this coaster on top of many Top-10 lists.

3-Agree and Disagree. Yes, ET and Ka are made by Intamin, but the grief was brought on by SF, not the coaster!

Good TR, overall it seems like you turned a bad day into a good day. Any day you can go to SFGAdv and ride almost all the coasters is a good day! ;)

How many maintenance people does it take to fix El Toro? 1001. 1 to hold the screwdriver and 1000 to turn the coaster. In all seriousness though, just give them time. It's SF maintenance's first wooden coaster in over 25 years, I'm sure they will get better. Now if they are still having the same problems at this time next year then we'll talk!

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Monday, October 2, 2006 7:12 AM

Intamin Fan said:

I'm positive that they've moved the queue so it goes under the track coming out of the station. Am I wrong?


Its always been that way.

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Monday, October 2, 2006 8:07 AM

T-W-I-S-T-E-R said:

Intamin Fan said:

3) the two rides that caused us the most grief were made by Intamin!


3-Agree and Disagree. Yes, ET and Ka are made by Intamin, but the grief was brought on by SF, not the coaster!


Then why does Dragster still have issues? In KK's case it is Intamin's problem. Toro may be questionable as we don't get much info from over in Europe.

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Monday, October 2, 2006 8:10 AM
Nice to see they didn't tone down Fright Fest and run the park like the website says. Thrills by day, Chills by night.

El Toro has rocked my world when I have rode it. I am looking forward to riding it again but I have officially started my GAdv boycott. Due to operational issues with the park. One of which you quoted. Nitro's Flashpass queue. IT'S FREAKING UNMONITORED! That is why people keep walking up it.

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Monday, October 2, 2006 11:07 AM
"8) Nitro-The overflow queue wasn't in use, but the line was still long. I'm positive that they've moved the queue so it goes under the track coming out of the station. Am I wrong? Anyway, they were running two trains, but Cindy sees something that puts her in a bad mood—she sees a continuous flow of Flashpasser's ascending the staircase. "That sucks" comes out of her mouth several times. I decide to keep things civil, so I have us go toward the front row to keep her away from the Q-bot'ers who are ascending a staircase near the back of the station"

Oh, the Flash Pass stuff at SFGAdv bothers me! And I don't know if they always monitor that Nitro FP queue. Nitro should chew through people, but thanks to SFGAdv's crummy operations at times, it doesn't always do that.

And Nitro's queue has always gone under that track, at least as long as I've been riding it--since May 2001.

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Monday, October 2, 2006 11:23 AM
Yes, we definitely made a good day out of a bad one, although I would have liked to have left a lot earlier-like say around 9-9:30p.m. I forgot to mention that we lost easily an hour-and-a-half at El Toro. I'm getting less enthralled with night driving after a long day, unless I have a good back-up driver. I was pretty exhausted, and Cindy's not a talker late at night. Luckily, my sister got some sleep on the way back to Baltimore and she took over for about an hour of the trip.

I was definitely playing the "What if?" game with KK after the first failed attempt. What if I hadn't stopped to put air in my tires before we left? What if we hadn't stopped for fifteen minutes or more at WaWa? We would have gotten into the park earlier and maybe gotten on before the rain. I had seen the Weather Channel breakdown from the day before and they did call for rain around when it happened.

I also knew from the previous year during Fright Fest that Kingda Ka kind of disappears out of view during the night and people "forget" about it. But, I didn't want to gamble with the ride actually being operational later at night. But again, it's playing the what if game. I'll definitely take twelve rides without a Q-bot on a Saturday at Great Adventure.

Thanks Sugart for confirming the entrance to Nitro. I waited in the full queue last year, but for some reason don't remember the bend in the queue.

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Monday, October 2, 2006 11:31 AM
Thanks for the report. I am going at the end of the month for a Friday/Saturday combo. Would you say the ride lines died down more at night during the Halloween activities?

I honestly am not entirely looking forward to it, I have had great experiences and terrible experiences. Its really a toss up. But we have the Six Flags pass, and are not renewing next year so this is it for at least a year and I want to ride El Toro like no other ride.

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Monday, October 2, 2006 8:21 PM
Not to hijack your thread Inatmin, but I have to agree. I made it out to Holiday World (no TR this time, busy) and I loved The Voyage, but I couldn't compare it to El Torro at all, and if I had to, I'd put El Torro ahead SLIGHTLY. Simply put, I felt that El Torro had the intensity and crazyness of The Voyage, but not so much so that it's overly exhaustive and nuts. I love how smooth El Torro is yet still has the rumble and charm of a woodie.
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Monday, October 2, 2006 8:57 PM
Eightdotthree, I'd say that some lines definitely died down later in the night. For example, Runaway Mine Train was a one or two-train wait, while during the day it was much longer. Rolling Thunder's line significantly dropped at night. We could've had Twister (Top Spin) all to ourselves when we left KK, but a) the ride program isn't very good and b) I didn't want to put the two guys through all that work (ok, that's what they're paid for, but still).

As stated in the TR, people "forget" about Kingda Ka at night because they can't see if it's running from other parts of the park. It's also relatively quiet. Even from El Toro, the only way to really know is to watch the lights at the top of the tower--if they temporarily disappear in sequence, it's running.

I'd say that overall that the crowds were very well behaved. I don't remember any blatant line-jumping and there were only a few people we didn't want to be around. Of course, having the ticket system at Kingda Ka helped, as did the three or more security guards at El Toro.

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Tuesday, October 3, 2006 4:16 PM
How many does it take to fix an El Toro?

Well, first someone has to call maintenance. Assuming they call the right number and not Barbs Bashful House of Pagan Desires, they'll go to dispatch. Dispatch will in-turn, contact park MGT and from there it gets channeled thru Security. You might ask: why Security? Well, when you have a lot of tiny little battery operated cars, you've got to drive them somewhere.

After security gets called, maintenace gets notified once again. This is a second request to make sure the first request is being acknowledged.

Shapiro gets called on his BatPhone, but only an automated voice tells the dispatch caller that the 'mailbox is full' and cannot take anymore msgs.

Dispatch, having made several calls already, notifies the local Rescue Squads as a precaution.

The repair crew arrives but brought the wrong equipment to fix El Toro. Maint' men, at that point looking tired and hot, call dispatch and say: Did you say El Toro or El Dorado?

All told, about 30 people will have a hand in the fixing of Kingda Ka. (and that ride wasn't even broke that day.)

El Toro will never be fixed as it has the Mexican Coaster Curse.
:)

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Thursday, October 5, 2006 12:55 PM
I am still waiting for the punchline. ;)

Oh wait, my bad. I thought this was a joke as in "how many people does it take to screw in......"

Nevermind. ;)

-Tina

*** Edited 10/5/2006 4:57:34 PM UTC by coasterqueenTRN***

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