But, things started to look up when I saw they had a Kingda Ka preview on Fridays during October. And then the really bad rains came. Everytime I would check the weather channel website, the hopes that I would be getting any dry weather looked fairly slim. Since it’s a long (and expensive, more on that to come) drive from Baltimore, I decided to stay home. Well, the stars finally aligned yesterday and it was calling for cloudy weather and no rain! Yeah, I’m going, except there’s only one problem–I hadn’t counted on it being so damn cold. Weather.com said it would feel like 35 degrees at night, so that meant going home and grabbing more clothing, light gloves, and a winter hat after work ended at 1pm.
I knew doing this would probably cost me the preview ERT, but I persisted anyway. My only fear was of running into rush hour traffic. So naturally the only place I really had any problems was in my own backyard. The Ft. McHenry Tunnel was quite backed up at the toll plazas, and I don’t own one of those Eazy Pass things. I certainly wasn’t going to take the Towson side of the beltway on a Friday afternoon. So I’m already out $2. So lets’ see, I shell out another $3, then another $5 (which luckily is only going north) at the toll plazas and then it’s time to pick up my New Jersey turnpike ticket. One thing I see along the way is kind of scary–there’s no gas for a 42-mile section of the turnpike. Luckily, I had filled up my tank recently.
Getting off at 7A, I was happy to part with another $2.15–which seemed like a bargain. Finally arriving at the Great Adventure parking lot around 4:45, I shelled another $10 on parking. So that’s $22.15 before I’ve even ridden anything, not including gas. My first view of Kingda Ka actually didn’t shock me that much. I think if anything, the hill after the tower looks more impressive. But that was before I saw a train launch up the tower and I saw how small it looked. I was very happy to see very few cars on the parking lot. In fact, I parked right near Superman Utimate Flight.
Naturally, I picked the security line that sucked. There were only three people in front of me, but this lady’s stuff kept setting off the detector. Finally, she gets through and then this guy was wearing pants with about a million rivets in them. So he had to be manually scanned. So I get through and turn to the left to be met with a huge crowd of people in front of Houdini’s Great Escape waiting to be let loose for the running of the bulls. I figured there had to be some separate entrance for season pass holders, so I gently pushed my way through up to the front, only not to see anything. Damn, I missed the preview. After they let people through, I had to make an urgent trip to the rest room. I asked the guy at the games next to the Golden Kingdom where the closest bathrooms where and he pointed me towards Scream Machine, which I already knew about. So after running up there and back, what do I see when I turn the corner going towards KK? A brand new bathroom. Oh well, I guess I should’ve been more specific about where I was heading.
So I come up behind a whole crowd of people waiting to cross over to get to the station. I knew something wasn’t quite right when a cement truck kept passing back and forth to get to the new construction site. Sure enough, security was escorting people out of the area due to a breakdown. You know how rumors get started and how everyone starts disseminating information that may be incorrect leading everyone to leave the area. So me and about four other people decided to wait it out. The poor security guard had to keep answering the same question over and over again–“What’s wrong?”, “When will it open?”, “Do you plan on opening it tonight?” Of course, she had to keep giving the same answers “maintenance”, “I’m not sure when it’ll open”, “We hope to open it later tonight.” Even before I made this trip, I had fully prepared myself that KK might not be open, and that it might breakdown at some point if it was open. We watched a guy in an elevator take the trip to the top. That was something you don’t see everyday. The ride crew passed us and exited the Golden Kingdom which left me slightly pessimestic, but I wasn’t budging an inch, and neither were the four other people. After the guy came down the elevator, they started testing trains, which brought a lot of people back over into the Golden Kingdom.
After a period of time, the ride crew passed us again, going back towards the station. The anticipation was killing me. The main guy I was talking to had made it as far as one of the seats earlier in the season, so we were both itching for a ride. An older security named Bob put the fear of God into about ten 10 to 12-year olds who were trying to get to the front by passing on the right side overtop some of the landscaping. “Gentleman if you don’t go back to behind everyone else, you will be removed from the park.” So we walked through the queue and they had us go to the left side of the station in the first train. We thought we’d be on the first train out, but they sent out the two trains in the right-side station first. Sure, it was irritating, but I’m a patient guy. Finally, we make it out on the track and I’m feeling fairly nervous inside. Sure, the ride sounds similar to Storm Runner with the rollback and click before launch, but there’s none of the hearbeat or radio-station guy telling you to get ready, here we go!. Nope it’s just your nerves and that horn that let’s you know that you’re about to experience something completely insane.
Holy crap! We’re flying and damn the windchill is ridiculous! We make it up the tower and all is good until you realize–Oh no, we have to do it again! After dropping down the tower and hitting the overgrown hill, I don’t think my butt was on the seat ever. KK is truly insane. I’m not sure that anyone even entertaining the idea of going any faster than this has all their marbles in place. So since the night was relatively young, I decided to seek out some other rides. First up was Medusa, which had a very manageable four-train wait. They were only running two trains, but who cares with a wait as small as this. While in the same area, I picked up Runaway Mine Train with a one-train wait. It was pretty fun in the dark. This is about the only good ride to get a good look at the new construction area. There really isn’t anything worth looking at yet.
I headed through the Lakefront area and thought about riding Blackbeards Pirate Train, but skipped it to watch a little bit of the Kiss tribute band. Of course, I pick a lame moment in the set when the guy’s singing the well known ballad “Beth” (sorry to any Kiss fans out there). I thought I’d get back to Blackbeard, but never did. Instead, I went to Skull Mountain. The wait was fairly long–about 1/2-hour, but the payoff was the lights that they added for FF. You could literally see ALL the track as you rode around. I picked up Nitro next, which had a full, but fast moving queue. With three-train operation, we didn’t stay standing in one spot for long. I struck up a conversation with a couple behind me after overhearing him saying they should have a fast-pass for KK. I said they do and that it’s open, and I realized for the first time that a lot of people were unaware that KK was even running.
The people in front of me offered to make me part of their threesome (I know, that sounds wrong), but they wanted to wait for the front row. I said thanks, I’ll just wait for the second row. I don’t know what it was tonight, but Nitro just didn’t do a darn thing for me at all. Nitro should be called Sparkler, because that’s about all the energy I felt. The only good part was the helix. My decision not to wait for the front row was a very wise decision indeed. We come back into the brakes and we get stuck with two trains in front of us. I struck up a conversation with another bunch of teenagers who had no idea that KK was open either. We waited about fifteen minutes or more and then they made the people get off the first train and back into line. Whew! Coming down the exit ramp, we passed a whole bunch of people waiting with either q-bots or who were handicapped.
I checked out Chiller two different times–before I got onto Nitro and after. The line looked awful both times and a sign out front confirmed it–90 minute wait. No thanks, there’s always next year. So, I headed back towards Boardwalk, intending to give S:UF another shot after I dismissed it two years ago. As (bad) luck would have it, everyone was coming out of the entrance since it just brokedown. That makes two B&Ms who had problems tonight. I then joined the fallout to ride Great American Scream Machine, which had a wait. I’m guessing I waited around 30 minutes or more. I scored a front row seat since all the rows seemed to be equal. I actually had a really good ride without any headbanging, and man does that new paintjob look nice! Now, if they could only refurbish the trains to look as nice.
It was starting to get late, but I figured I’d head back into the Golden Kingdom to push my luck for another KK ride. To my suprise, they hadn’t cut the line off yet and there was no one in the queue before the station. I once again wound up in the left station and rode in the back train this time in row two. I loved hearing the ride operators taking their job seriously. The main op was calling out to each side when their interval was approaching, and they were more than eager to make these intervals. This time they were sending out both trains from one side of the station at a time. My second KK ride wasn’t as shocking as the first, but it was still amazing. On my way out, I considered riding the Top Spin (Twister), but I had a long journery in front of me. Of course I had to stop at the information center (to the right of the ticket booths) to watch the extended El Toro video--four times. I loved my silent reaction and another mans outward reaction when the train reaches a part of the track where it twists and then there’s a sharp drop off. The only bad part of my evening was not being able to find my car. They really need a numbering system or Looney Tunes characters etc. so you can remember exactly where you parked your car. All I could remember was “parked somewhere near the S:UF station.” When it’s late and you’re tired, that’s the last thing you want to fool with.
I had a really good night, line-jumping was minimal, crews were good and I got two KK rides. If only it were about 20 degrees warmer, it would’ve been as good as to be expected. The only depressing part is realizing I spent almost $70 to get up and back, including gas and a stop at a Roy Rogers at one of the rest stops. The next time I go, there will definitely be other people to share the bill.
Unfortunately, that never happened. First, even though they were running two cars, the ride was crawling. I timed it on my watch several times. They only launched one car every five minutes. Two cars would leave the station after loading at the same time. The first would take off fairly quickly, the second just sat on the track and waited a full five minutes before launching. I have no idea what the purpose was but it was annoying to say the least. Second, shortly before 5 they made an announcement that the ride was out of service and they didn't know for how long. I noticed no visible problems with the ride before they made the decision to shut it down, other than the slow launch time. I've read the ride frequently breaks down for 15 to 30 minutes clips, so I figured I'd just wait it out and still get at least one ride in before it got too crowded.
After about five minutes of waiting, a surly white-haired security guard walks up and screams at everybody to leave the station, that the ride is closed. No warning announcement, no explanation, no apology, no nothing. Needless to say, I'm more than a little disappointed. Six Flags is run by clueless idiots. Forget for a moment that they advertised all up and down the tri-state area about a ride that didn't work half the summer. They advertised ERT for one hour for season pass holders on Fridays during Fright Fest on their website, supposedly to help make up for this summers debacle, and once again they fail to deliver. First they start the ride half an hour after the advertised time. Then they run one car every five minutes. Seeing how a car has 9 rows of two people, and they ran the operation for only 30 minutes before shutdown, maybe 150 lucky people actually got to enjoy what was advertised. Talk about a scam. I guess I can thank the geniuses at Six Flags that chose to install and heavily promote a high maintenence ride prone to frequent breakdown that they obviously don't have the staff to maintain properly like Cedar Point does. I was unaware that they even started up the ride again later in the night, I just assumed it was shut for the night after they ordered everybody out of the station and I didn't hear the telltale launch horn again that night. The rest of the park was okay and most of the rides were operating, but I still feel ripped off. Thanks for nothing, Six Flags.
See, here's the funny thing, I heard the security guard say that you can hear the horn all over the park, and my friend confirmed it last night. He said he heard it over by Nitro during the summer. I never heard it beyond the Golden Kingdom. It could've been because of all the noise for Fright Fest, maybe the cold air was stifling the sound, or maybe it was turned down. In any event, why didn't you bother to check later on in the evening? I will give you one thing and that's that you really can't tell if the ride is running at night, unless you're looking for it. It's that quiet. To me, Great Adventure is guiltless. With a park as big as this, there's no way that you can ever know when every ride is working or not. And it would be silly for them to make a page--"Attention all riders in queues for other rides, KK is now open." It's just not practical.
To answer the "How long was the wait for KK without anyone in the queue and only in the station?"--about 20 minutes and that's because I didn't wait for the front seat again. They were pumping out the trains.
I did get to ride Kinga Ka once this summer, so I can say that the volume on the horn has definitely been turned way down since the summer. That day I got on was August 19th. Kinga Ka didn't run all day. Inexplicably it opens up at 8:30 PM, about 90 minutes before the park was going to close, and after most of the days guest had already left for the day. Seems they know the ride breaks down constantly after a few hours of operation and they were trying to save it for the weekend crowds. I had a Q-bot so I ran over there and got one ride in fairly quickly. The line was still short so I got back in line for a second ride, of course the ride broke down after only about 30 minutes of operation and I didn't get a second ride. At least that night they gave everbody the option of waiting it out, I wound up leaving, but wouldn't you know it, the ride was back up again within 30 minutes by the time I got back to my car. Seems like they did the same thing last Friday night, waited until late in the evening to open the ride. I'm glad you got two rides in but consider yourself lucky. Hopefully Great Adventure can work out the maintainence issues with Kinga Ka by next season. As it stands now the ride is barely operable. I still think Nitro is a better coaster anyway. Kinga Ka is a thrill but its over in about 30 seconds and isn't really a coaster in the tradional sense.
Where's the value for my time and money?
But SFGAdv really is a great park.
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