I know that each and every one of you was tracking my flight at alaskaair.com, waiting with overwhelming anticipation and baited breath for me to share my thoughts about my recent trip.
Well, wait no more. It is time, finally, for my trip report.
For those who haven’t been playing along at home, I spent the last 6 days in California, with plans to visit Six Flags Marine World, Six Flags Magic Mountain, Disneyland, Disney’s California Adventure, and Knott’s Berry Farm. Well, early on, my plans went to Hell in a handbasket and I managed to visit three of the five places I’d hoped for – thanks to both friends and flights that like to leave late. See, I’m a compulsive planner and an early-riser. I don’t create an itinerary as such, though I like to be aware of all of the options that are available to me while on vacation. I’m a nervous-sort, really, and have some psychotic need to be prepared for nearly everything.
My friends are not. They’re from California, after all.
My flight to San Jose departed about an hour late because they “wanted to make sure the cabin would pressurize.” Given the nature of the delay, I wasn’t about to complain too much. I also thought it really important that the cabin pressurize, so it was nice to see that Alaska Airlines and I were on the same page with that. Because of that and because of the “family obligations” of my friend, Marine World was immediately cut from my itinerary upon arrival. This didn’t feel like a terrible loss, but was problematic because I’d purchased a season pass for Marine World online and needed to exchange my paper voucher for the season pass – but would not be able to.
The “family obligation” turned out to be a trip to San Francisco to see The Shins perform in concert. My friends are related to their lead singer, it seems. It was, sadly, the first concert I’d ever been to. It was fun and getting to see San Francisco was a welcome, interesting replacement for Marine World.
I’d hoped to leave early the next morning to start the drive down to the LA area, but I was unceremoniously informed that they don’t get up that early – so, instead, we left San Jose at about 10 am. We arrived at Magic Mountain late in the day; right about 3 pm or so.
Guest Relations – It was almost like a ride! I called Guest Relations before getting to the park to see what might be done about my season pass situation. I was told, repeatedly, that they wouldn’t process my Marine World pass at Magic Mountain and was a bit disappointed to learn that. It’s all the same chain; what’s the big deal? Upon arriving at the park and going to guest relations once more, I was surprised to see that the person I spoke to on the phone wasn’t terribly great at communicating with me – and while I couldn’t get my pass processed, I was able to show them the paper voucher and receive a complimentary ticket to the park. My friends came in with me and sat on a bench at the entrance. They don’t like roller coasters.
X – I waited about 45 minutes at midday, so this was an indication that the park wasn’t too crowded. I’d have waited another 20 or 25 minutes if I hadn’t ducked beneath some railings and nabbed a single empty seat. The ride is fun, exhibiting occasional symptoms of familial headbanging. It was disorienting, especially, but not the second-coming of roller coasters as some people made it out to be. Phoenix is still better ™.
Goldrusher – This is a nice Arrow mine train from back in the days when the company motto was “There’s no such thing as too many lift hills!” It takes good advantage of the terrain and foliage, though, and was fun to ride. It wasn’t as thrilling as Great Adventure’s single-lift mine train, but was just a bit more fun.
Riddler’s Revenge – I could count the number of people on the midways on my two hands. Why, then, was the wait for Riddler’s Revenge close to an hour? One train. That’s why. Again, a fun ride with a unique ending. I remember liking it more than Mantis and Georgia Scorcher, but I didn’t like either particularly much. The B&M stand-ups seem to lack the intensity that makes the inverted coasters fun and the airtime that saves the floorless from monotony.
Goliath – Two trains and no line! Woo! The midcourse brakes practically dragged the train to a halt, and with that, the helix was still exceptionally intense. It seemed short, on the whole, however.
Colossus – My last ride before the park closed at 6 wasn’t wasted – but I wonder if another ride on Goliath may have been more worthwhile. I’m happy I can say I’ve been on it, but I’m unhappy that there’s very little else to say about the ride.
With those five rides, my three hours at Magic Mountain came to an uninspiring end. The park was a ghost town and the park operations were absolutely dismal – I can’t imagine what things might be like on a crowded day. A tip to the ride operators there: Don’t talk to your friends while you’re supposed to be doing your job. It’s stupid.
The next three days were spent at the Disneyland Resort. Saturday, we were planning to go to Knott’s Berry Farm, but we didn’t go as my friend landed an internship with the House Science Committee in Washington, D.C. and needed to head back home to back and fly out east. So, I just spent the half-day at Disneyland instead.
In no particular order –
Indiana Jones Adventure (7 rides) – Thank goodness for single rider lines! Even when the standby line was stretching to 60 minutes, I never waited more than 10 or 15 minutes to hop on to this ride. It quickly became my favorite in the resort. It’s rich with detail, pseudo-random and thus, repeatable, and just a blast to ride. It’s the same exact ride layout as Dinosaur in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, but used much more effectively. It was obvious that not all of the effects are working, even after a lengthy rehab, however. The giant snake, in particular, was motionless. In spite of that, it really was a showcase of Disney talent and I’d have a tough time deciding between this and The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman as the best dark ride ever. That Indiana Jones Adventure is five years older than its competitor is a testament to its incredibly immersive experience.
Matterhorn Bobsleds (3) – The first Arrow mine train doesn’t suffer from the “too-many-lifts” syndrome since its track layout was designed by Disney. I was expecting a tame serious of curves, so it was surprising to see how much speed the ride manages to accumulate on its way down. This was a great ride, with incredible capacity, and really a gem that may be overlooked by people because of its age.
Splash Mountain (4) – The last time I visited Disneyland, Splash Mountain has just begun construction. In the years following, I’ve ridden Splash Mountain at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom countless times and it’s among my favorite places to be on Earth. It’s not among just my favorite rides – but my favorite places to be, ever. Anywhere. Disneyland’s Splash Mountain is markedly different from the ride I love in Florida and, at first, I was turned off by that. As I rode it more, though, I began to appreciate the subtle differences. The shows scenes are quite a bit more generic, thanks to the appropriation of audio-animatronic figures from America Sings. The ride also seems considerably shorter. That works to its advantage, however. It seems as if, as the ride grows darker, the speed of the flume increases to complement the tone. You get deeper inside the mountain, things get darker, and the log just keeps moving faster and faster. The second and third “drops” follow one after an another in rapid succession, further reinforcing the idea that you’ve lost control and may be in over your head. The additional show scenes not found in Florida of the mothers warning their children not to follow in Brer Rabbit’s footsteps are solemn and an appropriate ending to the spiraling darkness. While I’d still rather be on Walt Disney World’s Splash Mountain, I wouldn’t mind taking a spin on this ride nearly as often. Also, single rider lines rock.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (4) – Walt Disney World’s ride is better. The ride here is fun, but Florida’s is more fun. It has more airtime. It seems faster. This one – not so much.
Soarin’ over California (4) – This simulator is utterly incredible. The feeling of flying is breathtaking and I was really surprised that I liked this quite as much as I did. Again, thanks to the single rider line, I was able to ride a lot more than I might’ve otherwise and really came to appreciate the serenity of this ride. It doesn’t need violent motion or for something to “go horribly wrong.” It just lets you glide over California, taking in the amazing panoramas. I’m afraid of heights and this was so effective that it was really making me nervous to glance at the bottom of the screen – both because the illusion was so effective and because I knew that first row has to end up pretty freakin’ high in the air, screen or not.
California Screamin’ (2) – It’s a fun ride filled with pops of airtime here and there. The loop is surprisingly forceful and among the best parts of the very, very long ride. My first ride was without the soundtrack. The soundtrack makes the ride considerably more enjoyable. Each and every time I planned to go ride this, is was broken. Without fail. Thus, only two rides. I grew tired of walking to the back of California Adventure for nothing. The rest of the rides back there suck.
Mulholland Madness (1) – Debit or credit? I’ll take credit, please.
Maliboomer (1) – The attendant wooed me with his sultry single rider line. What can I say? I’m a sucker.
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (4) – Dare I say that this ride seemed better than its Florida counterpart? The drop sequence itself, since it isn’t yet random, was weaker, of course – but the rest of the interior of the ride is far and away better than in Florida. The new show scene is quite a bit more interesting to look at than the Fifth Dimension scene that was omitted here. The drop immediately upon seeing the ghosts disappear catches everyone off guard since they’re expecting first to climb up out of the show to drop. The star field in the load/unload is awesome. The hotel itself seems out of place in the park, and its shocking to see how prominent it is in the surrounding area. Still, the ride more than compensates for the adequate appearances.
Like I mentioned earlier, the trip was cut a bit short by my friends immediate need to be on the other side of the country – and I don’t begrudge him for that. I spent a lot of my vacation alone, despite traveling with two other people. We met mostly for meals after the day had ended. That was a bit disappointing, but, at the same time, I’d probably have waited in many, many more very, very long lines if I didn’t have the autonomy to go off when I wanted and to use the single rider lines to the point of abuse.
So, yay for the start of my season. Now, I wonder what the chance is that Enchanted Village will also let me into the park with this neat little paper season pass voucher. There’s no way I can get to Marine World to have it processed this season. Oh well.
The next time I go, I'll have Xcelerator and Silver Bullet to look forward to as well as the rest of Six Flags Magic Mountain -- if I can get over how poorly the park was run.
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