Last Call: Astroworld (10/16/05)

Associated parks:
None

Monday, October 17, 2005 2:52 PM
Ever since I moved to Texas three years ago, I'd been meaning to visit Astroworld. Procrastinator that I am, I waited until yesterday to finally go.

Astroworld always seemed like a quirky park to me. It's got the entrance spanning 610, it's got all those hand-me-down rides, some of which are now one-of-a-kind in this country. It just seemed to encapsulate all the weirdness of the '60s/'70s gaudiness and "futuristic" concepts. I'd heard all the negative reviews of the place, but I'm glad to say I had a really good time there.

Made the early-morning 3-hour trek from San Antonio and arrived around 11:30. I love driving up to parks... I still get a little giddy when I see rides spring up on the horizon. Only I barely noticed Astroworld as I drove up to it. Reliant Stadium just steers your attention to the north side of the highway and makes your jaw drop a little. That thing is huge.

Not knowing what rides would be open and when, I decided to work my way around the park counterclockwise and test my luck.

First up was the Texas Cyclone. I loved that the station sits inside the ride's layout. It really gets everyone's attention in the station every time a train roars by. The ride itself was mild... very Colossus-like. No airtime, but no roughness either. I know this ride was a beast when it first opened, and I could see how it was a few reprofiles and trims away from that original insanity. I'm just glad there were no coffin cars.

Next was Ultra Twister. Boy, there's no chaos like the chaos on that loading platform. People didn't quite get the 6-people-to-a-car thing, despite the fact that the station is readily visible to the people waiting in line. The ride itself was surprisingly fun. The first drop was fantastic. I have no idea why there weren't more of these built in the U.S. They very much reminded me of the Deja Vu trio (and not just the color scheme). Sure, the restraints are horrid, but it was a really unique experience.

Batman was next, and I'm surprised to say that I survived quite unscathed. The loading procedure was awful (stand up, sit down, stand up again), and the ride felt like it might shake itself apart at times, but I'd still chalk it up to a slightly better ride than Iron Wolf. I loved the angled turnaround after the loop. Better than the Mantis/Riddler/Chang inclined loop, if you ask me. Great layout, even if the ride isn't the smoothest.

Ah... the crown jewel of the park: Greezed Lightnin'. This was the biggest reason I wanted to visit Astroworld. I loved Tidal Wave up at SFGAm, and I wanted to experience some more of that Schwarzkopf shuttle-looping goodness. It'd been 14 years since I last rode one. It did not disappoint! It was clearly a crowd favorite, too. There was one kid who had to get measured before launch, and the whole station cheered when he just made the height limit. Just an outright fun ride. I wish Intamin would make one of these with a LIM launch. Classic.

XLR8 was the last notch in my belt for suspended rides in the U.S. Excluding the Bat, I've now been on all the Arrow suspended rides in the country. XLR8 would probably rank at the bottom of the list, but it was fun nonetheless. Everyone loves that ride. No wonder it had the longest wait of the day. Not the most inspired layout, but it hinted at what suspendeds could do, and it must have looked pretty cool and unusual back in '84.

I take that back... the longest wait of the day was for a hot dog. Cripes... if park service has always been like it was yesterday, I can understand why Six Flags would just give up on it.

After lunch, I took a spin on Viper. I came primarily for the other Schwarzkopf, but this one ended up blowing me away. I couldn't believe that this ride, one that was over 25 years old and had been relocated, would be so much fun! Smooth, fast, airtime, headchoppers... it was nuts! How were there so few built in this country? Honestly... this blows away the ol' Arrow corkscrew/loopscrew rides anyday. Arrow was all about the loop, and Anton appreciated everything besides the loop. The difference shows. What a great ride... my best ride of the day. I mean, how often do 25-year-old rides get applause in the station when a train comes back? This one did.

Finally, I closed out the day with my first hang-and-bang, Serial Thriller. It wasn't B&M smooth, that's for sure, but I once again avoided head trauma. And dare I say it... I actually liked it more than the cloned Batman layout. There... I said it! It's out there. Can't take it back. Yes... I really liked it. See, I can't stand the B&M 4-across layout on inverts. I'm prone to motion sickness (even while taking Dramamine), and I can't really sit anywhere other than the front row on B&M inverts because of the obstructed view on the interior seats. Vekoma solves that issue with traditional 2-across seating. And I much preferred it, and I couldn't believe what an intense and wild ride it was. I may be in the minority, but I think I would definitely ride another SLC at another park after this one (of course, I realize SFAW's was one of the better-maintained ones). And lest you think I'm insane and/or a coaster novice to have enjoyed an SLC, know that it was my 116th coaster.

Overall, I had a great time at the park, and I'm really glad I got to go one time before it rides off into the sunset. I loved the quirky selection of rides, I loved the layout, and there was definitely a charm to the park. I know it's had poor operations, among many other issues, but it's still a shame to see a park of this size and stature fall to the wrecking ball. In another area, in another time, or in another chain, this park would have done well.

So long, Astroworld.

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Monday, October 17, 2005 3:25 PM
Nothing wrong with liking an SLC. I don't love them by any means, but I still always take a spin when one is available.

Next Saturday is my turn. Hopefully I wil get in plenty of rides before the big Frightfest crowds show up Saturday night.

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Monday, October 17, 2005 4:06 PM
Curious, did you not sit in the back of Texas Cyclone? There's quite a bit of airtime on this ride but you need to be in the last few rows. It's not ejector air like the Georgia Cyclone, but it's there. It also helps to ride after its warmed up a bit.

Hopefully you rode XLR8 backwards, since that's a unique experience to AW still. No other parks run their suspendeds in reverse. Also sounds like you missed one of the adult coasters, Mayan Mindbender is hidden back near Thunder River past the log flume.

*** Edited 10/17/2005 8:10:57 PM UTC by Fierce Pancake***

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Monday, October 17, 2005 4:19 PM
I sat in the second-to-last car of the Cyclone... I'm sure it hadn't warmed up yet. They were only running one train at that point, and it had probably done only about 5 or 6 laps since the park opened.

I rode XLR8 forwards... I'm a sucker for nostalgia. And I intentionally skipped Mayan Mindbender. Every other ride there had a specific appeal to me... except that one.

I should mention that SWAT was not running, nor were many other flat rides. Not surprised... I'm very glad they decided to use the limited staff for the coasters.

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Monday, October 17, 2005 4:36 PM
The only SLC I've hated was SFKK's T2. SFEG's model from rows 3-4 actually rates among my favorite inverted coasters, period.

Mind you, I've only been on three (SFWOA/GL's SLC rounding out the pack) so your mileage may vary.

-'Playa

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Monday, October 17, 2005 5:58 PM
I was at the park yesterday, SWAT opened sometime after 6pm and I took my first ride of the season on it.I'm not a big fan of the ride, but figured it's going away so I may as well give it a spin.

XLR8 is much more fun going backwards. Very dull going forwards.

I didn't see any other flat rides closed. The Astroway and Thunder River have been down for the last month and Tidal Wave's usually closed however. I think they're just trying to save money by not running Thunder River and Tidal Wave, TR has the highest operating cost in the park. What few flats are there (scrambler, troika, yo-yo, carousel, looping starship, dungeon drop) were operating.

*** Edited 10/17/2005 10:01:48 PM UTC by Fierce Pancake***

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