I hadn't been to Great Adventure in 5 years, but with the addition of the first Intamin prefab woodie in the states, it was time for a return visit. The annual Coaster Celebration looked like the right time to go, and indeed it was; in spite of some strangeness and confusion, it was definitely a good event.
The first bit of confusion involved the tickets. Coaster Celebration is a pre-registration-only event, and the park ships tickets to you. Unbeknownst to us, this meant via FedEx a mere two days before the event. While this "merely" caused us an inconvenience (Tim picked them up on Friday from his FedEx center on the way to NJ -- talk about cutting it close...), it was a real potential headache for anyone traveling longer distances. Indeed, the park had a table set up at the gate handing out tickets to those who hadn't gotten them in the mail. One wonders what the point of shipping tickets out was when they had to resort to that anyway. Surely they can come up with a better system.
But first, lets step back to parking, because even there confusion was the word of the day. Tickets and wristbands in hand, we were at the park nice and early on Saturday. So early, the cars were lined up on the highway outside. No biggie, we were soon lining up at the parking gates instead. Initially every lane was lit green, indicating we could go in, except nobody was moving. Then all but two turned red. And we sat. And then, cars started moving, except nobody was collecting the tickets, cars were just going in at random. Um, ok... Not that this was BAD for us, but it was a hint at the kind of "we're winging it" feel the event would have.
At the front gate we also noticed that most people had orange wristbands, while our group had pink ones. Weird, but fortunately this was not be an issue.
Morning ERT was shuffled around a bit from the previously published schedule, but this wasn't a bad thing -- the adjustments were to accommodate for coasters that were ready to run, AND putting Kingda Ka on the morning schedule definitely worked out in our favor. Our tally for the morning ERT was a ride on the Mine Train, two on Medusa, two on Kingda Ka (that's one or even two more rides on Ka than I'd hoped) before we lined up for El Toro. The Mine Train and Medusa were both about what I remember from my last visit -- Medusa is a great ride. I would have been happy to take a few more spins on Medusa, but after those two rides we saw Ka trains testing and decided it was wiser to grab that credit. Oh, I believe Rolling Thunder was available for the morning ERT as well, but we opted to pass on that pile until later.
Kingda Ka was "new-to-me" out of that set. To be honest, I prefer Dragster. Ka has a nasty shake that just isn't as evident on Dragster. I don't know if Dragster just doesn't shake as much, or if the restraints on Ka make it more obvious than on Dragster, but the difference was clear. For the second lap, we were even joking "Only at an event like this do you turn around and line up for a second ride on a coaster you didn't really like, but that means we don't have to ever ride this again..." I mean, how often does one wait 10 minutes for Kingda Ka?
By this point it was getting close to park opening, so we went over and lined up for El Toro. A few test trains went out, and we were allowed in the queue. Tim and I lined up for the back row. I'll comment more on the ride later, but...wow. This ride really does pack a whopping amount of airtime, VERY good ride. There are a few quibbles to be had with the operations, though -- if you're going to insist on the slow "we'll push all the bars down for you" method of loading, at least put a larger staff in the station (I've heard the park is having problems FINDING sufficient staffing, though -- any locals able to comment on that?) Two trains wouldn't have helped dispatch times, they would've just stacked like crazy. For that matter, while I understand the park wanting to be careful with the airtime this ride delivers, the absolute STAPLING is a bit much. I don't mind when I'm sore from airtime pops, but it shouldn't hurt before we even start rolling...
After our lap on El Toro, the line was completely full. Not wanting to wait that line out again (especially with the uncomfortably loud music the DJ was blasting -- 3 hours of that would have been worse than any concert I've attended...) we set out on a credit run. First up, Rotting
Lumber, er, Rolling Thunder. I don't know if this ride is really in worse shape than last time I was there, or if a certain adjacent new coaster just makes it LOOK pathetic, but Rolling Thunder these days really is, well, sad. Not even in the "useful addition" category anymore. Please, someone, do SOMETHING with it.
After Rolling Thunder, we grabbed lunch at the Cantina by El Toro. This was actually pretty decent (more importantly, the corn-based tacos were something I could EAT).
After lunch consisted of a single lap on each of Blackbeard, Nitro, Roadrunner, Skull Mountain, and (after dinner), Superman. Janna and Dave also rode Great American Scream Machine, since Janna needed the credit, and we also rode the non-coaster Parachute and Houdini. Once again showing a "wing-it" feel to the event, in the middle of the afternoon some Nitro staffers spotted our wristbands and came over to us asking if WE'D been hold how the evening ERT was going to work, because THEY hadn't been told anything yet. Yikes...
Tim and I took a break from riding before dinner to collect our cameras and take some shots of El Toro. The slow dispatches continued, but we were able to get the shots we wanted.
Dinner consisted of a decent lineup of BBQ chicken, salad, burgers, and the like -- I'm always prepared to get food I can eat elsewhere, but there was enough for me to eat. The park handed out a number of prizes, and then FINALLY announced how the evening ERT would work. The park, which was closing at 10, would work to clear out the lines on the rides, and the official ERT would start at 11:30, but we were free to line up for any of the ERT rides as long as we showed our wristbands.
You'll notice I hadn't mentioned Batman in the list of rides we knocked off during the day. When we'd lined up for it, the line was moving very slowly, and we knew we'd be getting the ride in the ERT, so we'd decided to hold off. This was a WISE decision. The Nitro and Batman lines had been cleared out by 10pm, meaning we now had an ERT from 10:00 to 12:30! Well, sort of -- some GP was still slipping into to those lines after 10pm too. Not a big deal, I won't begrudge them slipping in an extra ride or two, but it was amusing to see. One woman on Nitro was actually rather irate when she was told she had to leave, not taking "they paid extra for a special event" for an answer. This as an interesting, if somewhat chaotic, way to handle the ERT, but not one I'll complain about because we got a LOT of extra rides.
5 laps on each of Nitro and Batman later (front-row Nitro rides into absolute pitch-black night is an AMAZING experience), and we decided to head over to El Toro. The GP was still being cleared off of this one, so we were held under the sign for a little while, but by 11:30 we were lining up for our own rides. Tim and I went for the back row of the front car, and were impressed, but decided that we really needed to try the very back row again. We were also able to squeeze in one last ride, the final train of the night, in the front row of the back car.
So, what can be said of El Toro at midnight? Holy crap! That's about all I can say. The airtime on that ride is flat-out unreal on the first three hills, and on the Rolling Thunder crossover. The twisting section has some good laterals. Overall, El Toro is an incredible, solid ride, one I could easily marathon without growing tired of it (growing tired, perhaps, but not tired OF it). It really feels more like a steel mini-hyper (and a wild one at that) than a wooden coaster.
But for all that, I honestly DO prefer Voyage if I have to compare them. El Toro, for all that it does, just seems a tad too short. Just when you're waiting for "one more surprise", it's the brake run. Voyage is a full fine banquet, while El Toro leaves you feeling that you forgot to order some part of the meal. You're not even quite sure WHAT you forgot -- the salad? The dessert, perhaps? Whatever it is, El Toro is an awesome ride, and one that will bring me back to Great Adventure...eventually.
Gradv does suck with ETs Qline I waited 2hrs during the afternoon and only moved like 50ft i decided to give up and wait for ERT to get my first rides on it. The DJ sucked and kept playing the same crap rap over & over.They only put up 2 tarps over 2 switch backs and no mistfans which made people miserable in the heat.
I have been to every CC since it began in 1996 and this year is by far the worst planned one yet.
Though they had some poor planning at somethings, nothing is every perfect and I still have a great time.
PS I love golden Q bots.
Quick question that probably is rhetorical... If you were a teenager and lived in the area, would you rather be working there or riding there?
Great report on a day I wish I could have went to the park but "Life got in the way". Maybe I should head up tonight and get a few laps after work. Maybe not only open til 8 tonight. :-(
Some of my favorite rides on any coaster have been late night pitch black rides on Nitro. That coaster just screams through the course late at night. *** Edited 6/20/2006 12:41:28 PM UTC by dragonoffrost***
I'm curious as to which row you rode in on KK. I'm guessing the back half, because rows 1 and 2 have no roughness and no vibration, at all.
SFGAd was awesome enough to open up Kingda Ka for evening ERT as well (until midnight) but since it wasn't scheduled, most people were still over at El Toro - so we got something like 6 rides on Kingda Ka during ERT - crazy!
And definitely El Toro has the sickest airtime of any coaster - it makes all the blood rush to your head and your eyes bug out from the pressure (more so in the back seats), almost like being on a Zipper or some ride that hangs you upside down... insane in a good way!
It was a great event and I'm still not quite sure why more people didn't come...
As Keith said, Ka was also running for the evening ERT (although at first we thought it was still just cycling out GP ;) ), but we chose to stick with Toro.
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