My best vacation ever! pt. 1 MD to Waukegan, IL, pt. 2 SFGam

Associated parks:

June 11th & 12th–. My Best Vacation Ever! partner will be gowithgravity from Millersville, MD (near BWI) who I will just refer to as gwg throughout the report. Since some people like the journey there you can start below in the next paragraph. If you just want to get to the rides, skip down a while where I’ve posted an all caps bold header called RIDES.

Since I had to work until 1pm, gwg meets me at my job with way too much stuff, and I’m thiking “How are we going to fit all this stuff in my car?” Luckily, I remembered how much stuff he brought four years ago, so I’m prepared. I’m thinking modular and small and gwg is clearly not. I still had to get things ready for my job due to my absence during the week and then we were off to Chicago at 2pm. I take the first four hours behind the wheel.

We changed drivers somewhere in Pennsylvania, because after that we blew right through Ohio and we pass Cedar Point’s exit–and that’s not easy to do. With their twilight admission, we might have had an hour at best. We actually get out of the car in Indiana and I see a very strange site at the rest stop–multiple banks of pay phones. Not everyone has a cell phone (my parents for example), but do they really need ten or more pay phones anymore? We needed gas and we get off at an exit in South Bend, IN. We pass the headquarters of the Tire Rack, a place I bought my tires from off the internet, which is kind of strange.

One thing that gwg asks me at one point is if my lights are working correctly, because it doesn’t seem that bright. After asking if he bumped or changed anything, I finally realize that there is so little where we are driving, that it’s actually pitchblack dark out. We can see lots of stars, something we never see at home. And then the lighting slowly started to change. It was still black to our left, but to our right, a pinkish hazy light starts to appear. We’re starting to get close to Chicago now.

Once we pass into Chicago on 94, it seems like everyone must be blind, because it’s way too lit up! Do you people really need that many bulbs per lightpole? The city looks cool at night, and we get to do a flyby of the Sears Tower as well. On our way to the hotel, we keep seeing luxury car dealer after luxury car dealer. None of the dealerships are small, and unlike back home, each dealership seems to only carry one car brand. This must be the really good part of town, I guess. Around twelve hours later, we arrive at our destination. I’ll admit, I’m a little bit nervous about gwg’s hotel choice for the night because it only got one star.

Well, once we finally found the place at 2:30am in the morning–America’s Best Value Inn/Navy Inn (hidden behind an auto parts store)–it actually wasn’t that bad. We had an iron and an ironing board, which is unusual for lower cost lodging . We only find a few minor things wrong with the room and we had peace and quiet, which will be good for the second night we’ll need the hotel.

Thankfully, the Murray’s Auto Parts store in front of our hotel had bug removal liquid and sponge, because the windshield was an absolute mess from the night before. The Turtlewax stuff works great and the windshield is once again clean–for now. For less than $6, I recovered my windshield, and I used a towel from the hotel to clean off the mess.

Once we got to the park on Monday morning, it felt very surreal. A place neither one of us thought we would ever visit looms ahead of us four miles from our hotel. It reminded me a lot of seeing SFOT for the first time on the Coaster Zombie trip of 02’. The first thing we did was to grab a Smartecarte electronic all-day-access locker inside of the gate for cooler weather gear. It’s nice now, but it’s a little breezy. Gwg is waxing nostalgic for the Paramount version of Great America since that’s where he grew up, which eventually gets on my nerves. He keeps pointing out where certain rides would be if it was at PGA, gets angry over certain removed rides at PGA that still exist at SFGam, and finally I had to tell him to please stop–only it wasn’t that nice. It’s going to be a long day:)

On to the rides: gwg missed Whizzer at PGA, because he was too afraid of it as a kid. I’m also looking forward to it because I used to ride the similar-in-nature Jumbo Jet at Morey’s as a kid. Whizzer is a great family ride, and they’d be insane to remove it (it was once on the chopping block not too many years ago). It’s not too intense, and is the perfect substitution for a minetrain. With Mark Shapiro at the controls, I think it’s safe to say it’s staying. Next comes our big shock–Deja Vu is running! They’re playing a lot of cool 80’s music in the queue like Depeche Mode’s “Strangelove.” I’m singing along to the music to wake me up from a Lunesta ‘hangover’ which was a necessary evil the night before, and because I’m really excited. There was one temporary breakdown, but we were on in 45 minutes for the front row.

This is one of those rare rides that made me nervous because I don’t know what to expect. You have to put on your seatbelt first and not pull down your restraint, which gwg missed. He’s admittedly nervous too. After being safely strapped in, we get pulled up the vertical lift and it’s freaking both of us out. We’re then released into one of the most intense steel coasters and it’s smooth! The backwards part is just as great. The g’s are pretty strong. We both get off going “Wow!” Just watch your chin. I banged it a little looking down in the station, and gwg banged his on the station-side spike during the return trip to the station.

Our first impulse since S:UE at SFO, we were excited again by V2 until we were getting close to being next. It definitely has one of those “Why would anyone willingly subject themselves to this?” vibes as the train furiously passes back and forth. It becomes quite obvious that Great America is very spoiled as we’re on our second kick-butt ride of the day. We sit in the second row so we get the full effect of the spiral. The setting is absolutely beautiful too, as both ends are above water. V2 is just insane. We stop for a bite to eat right behind V2. I was happy to see an option besides pizza at the Papa Johns as I had spaghetti and meatballs for around $9. It wasn’t that hot and I didn’t need the soda, so I got away relatively cheap.

Next up is the original B:TR. Once we get up to the station, there is a young load op whose kicking butts and taking names. There’s only two load ops, and this one kid is flying. He would probably make any CP or Knoebels ride op look like they’re moving in slow motion. Trains are being dispatched at an insane rate. This Batman doesn’t feel as intense as the one at Gadv., but, the multiple stars I'm seeing through several of the last few elements tell me otherwise. We needed a breather and took a ride on Yankee Clipper, which is a fun log flume, but on the splashdown the boat bounced and I hit my butt pretty hard on the seat. That’s never happened before.

Onward we went into Mardi Gras and our only flatride of the day– a Top Spin called King Kaos. I’m pretty sure this is another portable version, as it closely resembles the version at a fair a few weeks ago, and at SFNE. The only difference is the bracing that floats it above the ground and the water in front. Can anyone confirm this? The program starts out well with several flips, but soon becomes lame with not a lot of action. But hey, check out that confetti paintjob! We move onto S:UF in Orleans Place? Hey, whatever, the themeing still looks good. We ride in the back and I agree that it’s much better than it was the last time I rode in 03’ at Gadv. I’m still not crazy about the ankle cuffs. The pretzel loop was cool, although I thought the turn afterwards was actually more intense.

We then took our first trip into the Southwest Territory and go for a ride on Viper. We both agreed that Viper isn’t a very good name for a woodie, but what a cool looking station. Viper was really smooth and fun, but not as out of control as the former Texas Cyclone. It was now time for our spin on the bull–Raging Bull that is. From the lift, I get my first real look at HH, and it’s huge! RB is very photogenic, has lots of curves, but I come off bewildered and comment “Great family ride!” The trim brakes just kill this thing. Every point where something exciting should’ve happened–it didn’t:(

An Arrow is calling gwg’s name and it looks cool due to the rock themeing. As we’re going up the queue, Depeche Mode’s “Suffer Well” is playing on the video monitors. I’m just hoping Dave Gahan’s not right, and luckily he wasn’t. Demon is a lot of fun, and the tunnel was a surprise too. We then took a ride up in the Skytower to take pictures. My anlalog camera’s battery finally dies at an inopportune moment–with the retractable lens fully extended. I look at the battery, and I’ve totally forgotten that the battery is not a double AA, which I have plenty of. Crap. We go to the gift shop, and no luck matching the battery, so I put it back in the Smartelocke. The rest of the pics tonight will be taken with the cameraphone.

Next comes one of those “Why are we waiting this long for something we’ve already ridden?” moments. Rajin’ Cajun (Zamperla spinning mouse) has one of those really long waits that isn’t a long wait queues. While we were at the bottom of the staircase, all of the sudden several employees and a cowlady come running up the stairs. One of the employees asks a kid to ring his cowbell and they leave just as fast. It was truly the “WTF?” moment of the day. RC has one of the funniest warning logos I’ve ever seen mounted inside the train by the grab bar. There’s this normal looking guy in black sitting properly behind the lapar on a blue background, and this not so normal looking stick-like figure with a red background in shock from hitting supports, I suppose. It’s kind of like a safety Yin Yang symbol and they should definitely put it on a t-shirt, because I’d buy it!:)

We next picked up the Spacely Sprockets credit which was almost a walk-on, and then move onto Iron Wolf. If there’s one thing I will never understand, it’s the stupid bicycle seat on any B&M standup. It’s entirely too wide for my legs. My legs are generally supposed to be next to each other. Both gwg and I expected a short ride, and were pleasantly suprised by a fairly long ride that was pretty good. Gwg then says “Do you want to ride an Intamin woodie?, and I’m like ‘Yeah!”

It’s kind of a hike out to AE, as you pass through this really cool arcade/foodstand place with a huge domed cover. It looks kind of outdated and very 70’s, but I like it! As we’re in the station for the blue train, I thought the ride ops were just fooling around since the train hadn’t moved in a while, and then the other train finally returns. I’m like “Whoa, that’s a long ride.” AE is awesome and the helices just blow me away, since you can’t really see them from inside the park. On the way back, there some good hills and a (probably) necessary brake before the last sloped helix turn back towards the station. We’ve got one of our rerides for Tuesday.

DV is still running, and we have to ride again. We catch a little bit of the fireworks show during our wait. We make a bad decision and pick inside seats. It’s very claustrophobic, and on top of that I don’t think the couple in front of us speaks English very well, because the girl keeps pulling down the harness and it’s frustrating the ops in spite of repeated announcements. Finally we’re on our way, and it’s still fun, but we should’ve picked the wing seats. We still had two more rides than many other enthusiasts, so we feel lucky.

We’re on our way towards the exit and gwg realizes he left his CP hat back at AE. So I told him I’d meet him at our locker since I had pulled a hamstring muscle after lifting a monitor or amplifier the day before. So, I got to check out some of the nightime parade, which was really good. They had lots of lighted floats with the WB characters onboard.

I get back to the Smartlocke and see a note that makes my heart skip a beat–A ticket is sticking out saying that we forgot to lock the locker. An older employee comes out who wrote the note and I tell him that he’s wrong. We both heard the lock engage after pushing the button and gwg pulled the door to make sure it was locked. Smartecarte will be getting a letter from me because I fully believe that our locker–no. 137–was not functioning correctly. Luckily nothing was missing, and this is why I don’t trust electronic locks. I’d much prefer to have a key with a loop on the end that I can easily attach to my fake carribeener.

Other notes: The only ride not operating was Revolution–the Frisbee relocated from Gadv. It was suspended by chains, and there were blocks underneath as well. V2 had about a two-hour or more breakdown. At some point we attempted to ride Logger’s Run (which intersects Yankee Clipper) but turn back once we saw how drenched people were. Due to the homogenization of America, there’s a WalGreens nearby the park, and I find the battery for my camera. Day one ends (to be continued). *** Edited 6/21/2006 3:59:22 AM UTC by Intamin Fan***

Well, sounds like you had a good start to your trip, I will be heading there Late July and hope to have a good day. Besides not getting a locker, which I never do anyway, what is your best suggestion for tackling this park. I have heard the layout is not the greatest, have they put something so you can go thrrough the middle of the park yet? Also, how rough is DV? I usually get a headache from Face Off at Kings Island, but I do fine on WT at CP. Finally, what does "taking names" mean? from " young load op whose kicking butts and taking names."
I actually thought the layout was great. You just go from ride to ride in a circle, basically. You can either start on the Whizzer side, which includes the additional sections Southwest Territory and Hurricane Harbor–which are off the circle to the right–or go counterclockwise and start with S:UF.

The park is super easy to navigate, as you can see most of the rides from a distance since the park is essentially flat. In spite of having twelve coasters, two log flumes, a white-water rapids ride, a shoot-the-chutes, many flats, and more–the park isn't really all that big–excluding HH.

As far as tackling rides, we just went with the "Let's hit the lower capacity rides like Deja Vu and V2 first before it gets really crowded, and then hit the other stuff with higher capacity like Raging Bull later" method.

Deja Vu is really smooth for a Vekoma. You shouldn't have any headbanging issues at all (no more than some B&Ms), as we didn't, and we rode in two different locations.

Hmmm...."Kicking butts and taking names" I'm not sure where this entered into American culture (it was probably a wrestler), but it basically refers to someone who is moving at high speed, and/or hurting a lot of people. I'll have to research that one.

I like SFGAm--it's one of the best SF parks that I've been to. Personally, I was comparing PGA to SFGAm in my PGA TR, so don't be too hard on gwg :)

I think S:UF and B:TR are both better at SFGAm than at SFGAdv. The rides themselves are close to the same in terms of feel, but the placement, landscaping, etc. of the SFGAm versions are just nicer to me.

My first ride on Deja Vu was also in the front seat. It is a fairly smooth ride there, but not really intense in terms of G force. The invertigos are more intense in that respect. Those trains are crazy though.

Yea, RC does have a slow-moving line--and it was short when we rode. I know the hydroflume (the non-double-dip one) gets you pretty wet at SFGAm. I didn't ride the other one there, but I rode it at PGA, and it wasn't as wet.

You actually LIKE AE? That ride doesn't really do much. It does look nice, though. Viper is definitely a good coaster to me, and it seems like they take care of it. I even rode in the back seat and it wasn't too bad. Definitely better than that piece of trash Psyclone at SFMM.

Revolution wasn't running when I was there the beginning of May, either. It's probably been down for a while. BTW, bugs on the windshield--we had loads the last midwest trip we took. We even took it to a carwash, and I got most of them off, then it got littered with more.

Haven't heard from you since before our trips--did ya check out my TRs yet? Only have 1 more to go (KBF).

I actually sent you some email recently. I just got my computer out of the shop, and I need to reinstall Outlook Express. I wonder if you're not getting the emails because it's coming from Earthlink's email instead. I have been reading your TRs. I read SFMM and SFMW today, and PGA the other night. It's hard for me to comment on parks I've never been to, but it sounds like you've had some bad experiences.

I've also been busy writing TRs. So, of course I liked American Eagle because I'm an Intamin Fan! What can I say, they were running pretty well. Gwg liked them too. Neither one of us found anything that offensive about it, which is a far cry from another ride I got on at another park. Sure it's not the greatest wooden coaster, but they're rerideable.

By the way Rablat5, did you know that all the Cyclone-clones are mirror-image? That's something that gwg told me. We figure it must be a patent thing.

American Eagle is takin care of obviously because for a huge woodie that is 25 years old, you aren't being rattled to death like some other big scale woodies out there.

Sure, the brakes tame the ride down from what it once was, but I will say at least the first drop doesn't have trims on it like Beast and Mean Streak. *** Edited 6/22/2006 5:08:17 AM UTC by Chitown***

My favorite MJ tune: "Billie Jean" which I have been listening to alot now. RIP MJ.

Glad you had a good time.

BTR's crew almost always kicks ass, rarely ever stacking. When Bull has a good crew running three trains that thing eats up people like you wouldn't believe....a wait with two or three queues open and a line out the entrance can be navigated up and onto row 9 in around 15 minutes....even though it looks longer. Note I said with three trains, and a good crew. It's really all luck whether you'll get these to align.

You must ride Viper in row 1.3 or 5.3, great air..especially in 5.3 on the double down.

Also, Iron Wolf uses Intamin trains (and Giovonola track), not B&M trains. They are different.

*** Edited 6/22/2006 7:03:25 AM UTC by Raging_Bull***

Kenmei's avatar
I'm surprised you didn't enjoy Bull as much as Vu. =( But to each his own. =)

I definately find Vu is best in the front or back rows, same as V2. I just don't enjoy the rides if I'm not dead last or first.

And again, the common theme with the breakdowns. *sigh* Kind of frustrating.

Watch out for flying maps!

Intamin Fan--No, I haven't been getting your e-mails. I would have responded sooner if I had. Well, AE isn't an awful ride, but it's not that great in its current condition to me. I wish I could ride it like it used to be.

Raging Bull--Are you usre IW uses Intamin Trains? Maybe those are just older versions of B&M trains, as it was their first coaster.

I wish the BTR crew at SFGAdv was kicking butt like that one.

Rablat5, he said Iron Wolf, not Raging Bull.

RagingBull, I've ridden Mantis, Chang, and Vortex at Carowinds, and I can tell you point blank, those are the same crappy B&M trains that I don't like. edit: I just checked RCDB, and it clearly says B&M made the ride. No mention of Intamin trains anywhere.

The only coaster that I know of that ran with Intamin standup trains is currently sitting in pieces at Darien Lake.

I might have liked Raging Bull many years ago, but then I rode S:ROS at SFNE, and everything else pales in comparison. I just don't think it needs all the trim brakes. This is where I think Nitro has a big edge.*** Edited 6/23/2006 4:42:56 AM UTC by Intamin Fan*** *** Edited 6/23/2006 4:47:49 AM UTC by Intamin Fan***

I can guarantee IW has Intamin trains...B&M designed the ride for Intamin way back in their early days. The trains are Intamin, and I'm 99% sure the wheels actually read Intamin on them as well. I'll check that in a day or two or whenever I go next,

But I double-checked with some ops/acers from the park and yes they are Intamin stand-up trains.

Also, I've riden Chang and Mantis, and the restraints are definetely different than IW's. They are more adjustable, and the shoulder harnesses' height can be adjusted independantely from the seat's height, unlike the IW trains in which the whole unit (seat and shoulder harness) moves at once. *** Edited 6/24/2006 5:53:33 AM UTC by Raging_Bull***

So is there a height limit on IW, since the harness can't move?
RB, it does't matter whether or not they're Intamins or not. Vortex at Carowinds also is a one-piece unit. Vortex requires you to hold down the whole seat until the train is locked. At the end of the ride after everyone has left, all the seats pop back up. Sound familiar?

The fact of the matter is that either Walter or Claude (again, don't remember or care who designs the trains) used to work for Intamin. So who do you think designed the bicycle seat that I hate so much?

I was talking about Iron Wolf, and I was addressing the user, Raging Bull--not the ride :)

Since when do B&M stand up trains have shoulder harness height adjustment separate from seat height adjustment? I just rode RR at SFMM, and it didn't have this. I fairly sure, since I'm pretty tall and would notice if this adjusted or not. What Intamin Fan said is how they are.

Perhaps the trains on IW are similar to Intamin trains, as B&M used to work for them and/or Giovanola. I've never ridden an Intamin standup, so I can't compare them firsthand. Or perhaps B&M purchased the trains from Intamin for their first coaster?

I've actually gotten to ride several standups (PCar Vortex, PGA Vortex, Iron Wolf, Mantis, Chang, and PKD Shockwave, RR), and they all are uncomfortable to a certain degree. RR is definitely the best, but interestingly enough, the "seat" on the Togo is actually more comfortable than the things on the B&M trains. I assume the Intamin ones (like the old B:TE at SFAW) feel close to the same as B&Ms.

Aw, I love Waukegan, IL. I used to live there. Not the safest town to grow up in, but had some great neighbors!

Yes, SFGAm and CP are my Fav. park.

The trains on Iron Wolf are definitely B&M. Compare Iron Wolf’s shoulder restrains in this picture to the B&M shoulder restraints on Riddler’s Revenge. Notice that the restrains are the same. Now compare that to the Intamin/Giovanola restrains on Shockwave at Drayton Manor. One can easily see the difference.
Colin, I thought Waukegan was slightly shady, but we had pass keys, and you had to use a pass key to get into the side door, so I felt "relatively" safe. It's some of the other motels that had the night check-in booths with a small access to pass back and forth items that had me a little bit worried. *** Edited 6/26/2006 2:45:56 AM UTC by Intamin Fan***

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