first time at Great Adventure, 7/25/07

Associated parks:

We started out for our first visit to Six Flags Great Adventure knowing that El Toro had gone down for unknown reasons on Sunday, but hoping that they would have fixed it in the past two days. (Six Flags website was of no help -- they don't even note that Chiller is down, and that's been since what, mid-June?) When we arrived just after opening, it was still listed as down at the gate, and we had decided that Kingda Ka wouldn't be a priority, so we started at the other side of the park intending to get the smaller number of coasters out of the way first.

We didn't even bother walking over to look at or take pictures of Chiller. When the park announced that the rolls would be replaced by "humps", little did they know that the ride would truly be, in the vernacular of Joss Whedon's Firefly, humped. I don't know what the problem is, but at some point they're going to have to either fix it for good or tear it down. When Chiller is down, do people even visit whatever else is in that corner of the park? There didn't seem to be a lot of traffic in or out.

First up, then, was Batman: The Ride. This looked pretty similar to a mirror image of Dorney's Talon, but with a highly-themed station. I'm not a fan of themeing, and I would have hated to see how hot the fully enclosed station got later in the day. Since Talon is closer and cheaper, we only rode Batman once, in the front row. The landscaping, if you can call it that, was ugly, but it was nice hearing that B&M roar that Talon doesn't have and it was interesting turning to the left since both Talon and Great Bear turn to the right. It also seemed to be smoother than Talon. (It's slower, which I didn't know at the time, and shorter than I thought.)

Next we went to Skull Mountain. This is the only dark coaster we've been on other than Kennywood's Exterminator. This is no Exterminator, but it seemed to be doing some pretty tight helixes at a pretty good speed for a small coaster. The big problem is that it was completely dark, there was no scenery whatsoever. Is there supposed to be?

After a quick look in the direction of the Road Runner Railway, which required no time at all to decide that we weren't that desperate, it was time for Nitro. Even though we didn't hit it right at opening and it only had 2 out of 3 trains running, the line wasn't yet very long for one of the best coasters in the park. We had been on coasters this big before without OTSRs, but they had had conventional trains. These were sideless, and in the outside seats they might as well have been floorless. In addition I ended up in the left outside seat, which is the side that the first and seemingly the majority of the banked portions leaned toward. In the front row this was pretty effective. From the first drop I was as scared as I was the first time riding Stormrunner, but with the addition of only having the weird lap restraint to hold on to. Then came the bunny hops, which were also effective with no seatbelts under the weird restraints -- and I normally hate seatbelts.

Heading across the back of the park, we thought we might as well up our coaster count with Blackbeard's Lost Treasure Train -- we've been on worse. But we saw no train on the track for so long that we didn't even think it was running. When we passed the station, we saw the problem -- it looked like they were loading the ridiculously long train (seriously, is this a record?) one seat at a time, by individually measuring kids and then walking them back to their car! Since there was more than a trainload of people in line and we had better coasters ahead, we decided that we weren't desperate enough for this one either.

The next coaster we came to was the Runaway Mine Train. There was no line so we rode it. This wasn't a bad mine train, it kept its speed up and the little turn over the water was a nice touch. It certainly beats Hershey's Trailblazer.

Next up was Medusa. At first I thought this was just a bigger version of Dorney's Hydra, minus the JoJo Roll but plus the roar. Walking through the hammerhead was a nice touch. Then I saw the vertical loop. It was a good ride, but it vibrated a little more than Hydra everywhere except in the loop, and I didn't experience the little spots of backseat airtime that Hydra has on a good run. A plus: the line wasn't bad. A minus: it's in an out-of-the-way corner of the park. Maybe there's some connection here.

After getting out of that corner and walking around the end of the still not running El Toro, where we did spot some workers walking the track, we went to Rolling Thunder. At random we entered the right side. Earlier we had noticed the trains racing. By the time we got through the line for the front seat, they were no longer racing. In fact, they had two trains on the right side and one on the left side. Not only that, but they weren't even managing to dispatch the trains simultaneously when there did happen to be two in the station at roughly the same time. They were having huge difficulties, worse than anything else we'd ride all day, getting the trains locked and checked on a timely basis. Several times we saw one train stopped on the lift, but they sent it along either before or after the other one caught up. We were puzzled at the time, but now I realize that given the delays in the station they were probably waiting for the other train to clear the block. Still, I don't know why they couldn't have taken the opportunity to give them a race.

As for the ride itself -- ugh. The right side, in the front seat, was very smooth. So smooth in fact that there was no airtime to speak of. It was less than the Hershey Comet on a bad day! So when we went to do the left side, we figured we'd try the back seat and see if that could salvage the experience. After a long wait, which included a kid in the Flash Pass line asking the attendant if it went upside down, we boarded. I left lots of space in my seat belt in hopes that something would happen. What happened was that the attendant pulled the belt tight. Evidently my PPP shirt wasn't going to get me any enthusiast treatment. (Joke.) So then we got out on the track, and this time there was airtime. Unfortunately there was also hammering. There was more hammering than the Flying Turns construction crew. There was so much hammering I don't know why they don't re-theme the ride to Woody Woodpecker, given their Looney Toons fetish. In fact at least half the ride was continuous hammering. It was very exciting, but if I was any older than I am it would've probably been very painful.

We were to end up riding two fiascos back-to-back, but only after seeing El Toro testing. So we walked over to the entrance, and we were told that it would be opening later but they didn't know when. Rather than wait, we decided to go for one more credit. We didn't want to wait in Kingda Ka's line because it didn't seem to be pushing out trains very fast at the moment, and we weren't keen on the idea of a flying coaster, so that unfortunately left The Great American Scream Machine. Walking over to it, we saw a lot of people heading for El Toro but we figured we'd be smarter than them and not wait all afternoon. It took a while to get to GASM because there was a lot more stuff on the ground than there was on the map -- in fact we somehow completely missed Kingda Ka's station, where we wanted to check the line length! This park has taken the #1 spot from Hershey in the "how do I get to the station of this ride that's right in front of me" category. The map from their website, which I was carrying folded up on a letter-sized sheet in my pocket, shows the Plaza del Carnaval, Golden Kingdom, and Boardwalk as being far more open than they really are, and the map given to us at the park, while it shows a few more shops and whatnot, is far too big to carry around and also looks like it was drawn by a child. I can't imagine why Amusement Media Inc. has a monopoly on drawing park maps, because I've seen too many that don't work for me.

Then while we were finally most of the way to the station in GASM's line we saw people riding the bull. We decided not to bail out but to just get in the shortest line in the station. Everybody says that this ride is rough, but we weren't worried because we've been on other rides that people say are rough and they didn't bother us too much. We probably should've worried that the loop supports shook while we were in line. We probably should've worried that the loops looked random. We probably should've worried that the train shook while travelling on the straight and level track in the station. But no, we rode. OK, you all win, this one is rough. Continuous headbanging. Not exactly painful, but it took all the enjoyment out of the ride.

So we went back to El Toro. The line was up to the 90-minute sign, but we rode twice with an hour wait each time. This coaster really lives up to its reputation! Completely smooth, great negative G's (especially in the back seat of course) that made me not care about the extremely tight restraints, fast banking changes. The 76-degree drop went so fast that it seemed as if it was straight down. The only thing wrong was that large groups of Flash Pass users kept showing up, which made the line go slower than it should have. They were running two trains, but with a moderate number of delays to tighten someone's restraints or remove a loose object. (Not as long as the other wooden coaster though, which was just stupid.) They didn't get all the loose objects, because a hat and a pair of glasses came off while we were watching the excellent view of the second drop from outside the station.

While we were waiting for our second ride, they announced that if anybody at the end of the line was interested there was only a 5-10 minute wait at Kingda Ka. So after we got through the line, we headed over there, again having trouble finding it. Although the line wasn't insane, it certainly wasn't a quick wait anymore, and we wanted to get as many more Nitro and El Toro rides as we could, so we backtracked all the way out of the Golden Kingdom, pausing to view the tigers, then headed across the park to the Panda Express to eat.

After our meal, we went to Nitro. We rode the back row three times, with huge airtime. (As with El Toro, I'll make an exception to my rule that airtime has to involve actually getting clear of your seat.) I mostly got over my fear of the banking, but the first drop was still scary with its intensity. They had all three trains running now, and the operators were enthusiastic. The line started at at least the 60 minute mark, but the actual wait time, except for the front, averaged 30 minutes.

I would've been interested in a nighttime Nitro ride, but we didn't want to cut into our El Toro time, so we headed back there after walking by the carousel. Not only did we think it was far too small for such a large park, the paint on the animals was in terrible condition. I know a lot of people must ride it (although there didn't seem to be too many at the moment), but for some reason nobody else's looks like that.

Back at El Toro, people were still packing in continuously, but dispatches seemed a little faster and the line was down to the 60-minute mark. It took about that long for the front seat, which we hadn't rode before because we were happy to be able to ride at all, and then only about 30 minutes for front-of-the-back-car rides. The operators were super-enthusiastic, getting cheers from returning riders and beating anything I've ever seen by far except the Phoenix veterans (who have much easier jobs!) and the unbelievably maniacal Steel Force crew I saw a few weeks ago but didn't report on yet. (Who also have easier jobs.) They were trying to keep people moving by telling them to get rid of any loose objects, and telling them to move to the back rows if they weren't waiting for the front (you enter the station at the front row, which is stupid given how long the line for that row gets outside the railings) and saying that the ride was better in the back anyway. (The airtime certainly is, and when the drop is that steep you can still get a good view without being in the front, thanks to the high seats!) High points were having one of the crew, on seeing my PPP shirt, say that he had been there 8 years in a row, hearing another one later ask him if he had seen my shirt, hearing the guy at the microphone say that El Toro was better than Kingda Ka "because it works", and last but certainly not least, seeing two guys in the front row do a Homer Simpson and flash their chests at the camera.

On the way out of the park, another staff member yelled "Love the shirt! Go Phoenix!" -- so it looks like it deserves its #4 spot in last year's Internet Wood Coaster Poll.

Jim S. said:

Next we went to Skull Mountain. This is the only dark coaster we've been on other than Kennywood's Exterminator. This is no Exterminator, but it seemed to be doing some pretty tight helixes at a pretty good speed for a small coaster. The big problem is that it was completely dark, there was no scenery whatsoever. Is there supposed to be?

Skull Mountain, for as long as I can remember, has always been completely (or almost completely) dark inside, with no theming. So what you experienced was the ride as how it's supposed to be.

Unfortunately there was also hammering. There was more hammering than the Flying Turns construction crew. There was so much hammering I don't know why they don't re-theme the ride to Woody Woodpecker, given their Looney Toons fetish. In fact at least half the ride was continuous hammering. It was very exciting, but if I was any older than I am it would've probably been very painful.

I (or anyone else on these boards) could definitely have told you to avoid that piece of crap ride ahead of time. I'll never get on it again...tried three times to have good rides, three times, my back was suffering afterwards.

Haha no I'm not giving Patrick the finger

Cool trip report. If you think the Batman station is confined now, you should've seen it before. It was WAY more "themed" before and almost pitch black. It looks spic-n-span now in comparison. Also, the queue was "themed" to look like a back alley, but it was really just a huge pile of junk with lots of weeds growing in it. I believe all the Batman rides at SF parks have been "cleaned up" to better reflect the "family atmosphere" Shapiro is aiming for.

Also, I think there used to be theming inside Skull Mountain, but I can't be certain. There's something that appears to be an alien near the end, but I only saw that once when the light from the transfer track was infiltrating the entire ride. Trust me, you want it pitch black in there. Otherwise the ride is lame.

It sounds like you had a pretty good day though. I'm glad El Toro opened for ya. That thing is a beast as you well know. :)

The Batman queue has been devoid of the "back alley" look for a few years now, way before Snyder and Shapiro took the ship over. I personally enjoyed the theming, which also included the original Batman soundtrack and sound bytes from the movie playing over loudspeakers in the queue line.

Skull Mountain has very little theming inside because it's meant to be a dark ride. The "alien" near the end is actually a skull that is supposed to make noise and light up. There are actually supposed to be colored strobes on inside the building, but that may be reserved for the Fright Fest weekends.

Sounds like you had a fairly decent day and I'm assuming crowds were only moderate. The place is a nightmare when it's extremely crowded (i.e. during Fright Fest).

I found it very interesting (as have others) your comments about Skull Mountain. I'm not trying to harass you, but didn't you know it was just an in-the-dark coaster? There are many such coasters across the states (and elsewhere), that are strictly about running a coaster train through darkness. My favorite is Runaway Mountain by Premier Coasters at SFOT.

Many are off-the-shelf coasters that are enclosed. For example, both Flight of Fears are cloned coasters in the dark. There's no scenery, and when they first started out, there were no colored lights either.

You passed-up a really good coaster in Blackbeard's Lost Treasure Train. Yes, those Zier/Tivoli trains are really long. There are five of them in the States (SFDK, SFNE, SFGAdv., Geauaga Lake, and Santa's Villiage) and one at Six Flags Mexico. Worldwide, there are thirty-four according to RCDB. It may not look like much, but my sister who can be cynical about riding such a kids-oriented coaster was surprised at the kick the coaster has.

Chiller is staying. They are waiting on a part according to an interview with the GM on an unofficial site. They say if it doesn't reopen this season, then it'll be back up next year. Trust me, I want to get back on really bad.

I agree that there isn't much going on in that area without it open, especially with the removal of Stuntman's Freefall, no shows at the Movietown Stunt Arena, the removal of the Enterprise, and several years ago removal of the Frisbee. Since the GM said that next year might bring a Pandemonium ride, I'm thinking they might install it where Stuntman's Freefall used to be.

You ask the question of why Amusement Media doesn't have a monopoly of doing themepark maps? The answer? Because to use them as your map designer you have to agree to use their clients as your promotional and advertising tools. This could be a major conflict for a Six Flags or a Cedar Fair who use other advertisers and promotional partners.

Jim, I was at GAdv. last Wednesday, 7/25, as well... sounds like overall you had a good day. Don't remember seeing anyone wearing a Pheonix shirt. Did you happen to see someone wearing a green-ish Kingda Ka shirt? haha

A couple of things:

First, we got to the park at about 11am, and El Toro, our first ride of the day, was running fine. We were on in no more than 25 minutes. Now obviously I wasn't watching it all day, but whenever we passed it or saw it from another section of the park I saw it running... when exactly in the day was it down? Because we also got back to it later that evening and it was fine, again only about a 20 minute wait.

It seems like you and whoever you were with got stuck in more lines than we did. The longest we waited for anything was about 30 minutes for S:UF in the late afternoon. However, whenever I go to GAdv. (I'm from Jersey), we head to the left side of the park first to hit KK, Toro, etc, then the other side of the park later in the day, when the wait for B:TR and Nitro were still only about 15-20 minutes max. I think you did the opposite.

So you didn't get to ride KK? When exactly were you there during the day? We hit it around noon, and even with a breakdown when we were in the station, we only waited 15 minutes. Whenever we passed by the Golden Kingdom, the wait for Ka was never more than about 20 minutes, even though employees suggested otherwise. There were quite a few breakdowns throughout the day, though, including two back-to-back breakdowns the stopped us from getting another ride at night. Its all about timing...

Also, shame you didn't get to ride "Nightro." If you think Nitro is awesome during the day, a night ride is truly spectacular.

^^^^^BigJim4Life: You could've told us that RT was rough, but we would still have wanted to see for ourselves :) We're big wood fans, we expect them to have rough spots. Besides, I just read a new trip report that claims the opposite experience with respect to the two sides, although they rode different seats than we did.

^^Intamin Fan: I didn't know anything about Skull Mountain other than that it was a coaster. After riding Exterminator, and hearing about Expedition Everest, I just assumed that there might be some scenery in there besides what's in the station.

I heard they were waiting for a power controller for Chiller, but I've also heard rumors that there's something wrong with the trains. It sounds like that coaster is a maintenance nightmare, so I hope they really do get it right the next time.

^CC676: I wasn't there Wednesday the 25th, I was there Tuesday the 24th, that's why our experiences don't match :) What I can't figure out is why I found such long lines (other than El Toro's late opening), because other trip reports I've read say that lines were no big deal on weekdays lately.

Some parks have weird patterns when it comes to crowds. Go to Cedar Point on a Wednesday, and you might experience large crowds. Go on Thursday (which I've done twice after a Wednesday--once in 2000 and this year), and the crowds are much lighter.
^ That's what I've found as well. I always go in the middle of the week in the summer (Tuesday, Wed, Thurs) and usually crowds are not too bad, but every once in a while there will be a bad crowd day.

Jim, the only thing I can think of with lines specific to GAdv. is that you did what I used to do when I was a relative newcomer to GAdv. as an enthusiast. I used to hit the right side of the park first to get to Chiller, Batman, and Nitro, then the left side of the park later in the day. I've changed that now, I always head left first because KK, El Toro, and Superman consistently have the longest lines. Across the park, Nitro and Batman lines can sometimes get up there, but B:TR is a short ride and Nitro is a very very reliable and quick-dispatching ride. The waits never seem to be long for them, no matter what time of day.

Also, if you remember, last Monday was terrible weather in NJ. Maybe people who might have been planning on going on Monday moved their visit back a day to Tuesday? *** Edited 8/3/2007 2:32:12 AM UTC by CC676***

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