North East Coaster Trip (Park 4: The Great Escape)

Associated parks:
None

Thursday, August 28, 2003 10:15 AM
Monday, August 18 (Day 5, Park 4)

Weather: Hot, but (almost) Tolerable

We arrived in the Lake George area around 9:30 AM and proceeded to the park after stopping by a very tacky and touristy souvenir shop about a three miles away to buy two cans of Coca Cola that each could be used for $7 off entrance to the park ($6 really if you consider we paid $1 for each can). After parking the car, we headed toward the entrance of the park to turn in our cans and buy our tickets. As we neared the cashier’s window in line, I noticed a sign that listed several rides that were “down” that day. There were about 6 of them, but the only one that I remember at this time was Alpine Bobsled. From reading other posts on this forum, this came as no real surprise to me, but I must admit I was hoping that it would be up and running.

We cleared the metal detectors and entered the park 53 minutes (I timed it) after we first got in line to buy our tickets, even though the lines were not exceptionally long. While waiting to actually enter the park, we saw several people deposit their bottled water to the side as instructed by security. Now I know the park has a “no out side food or drink” policy… but it was funny to listen to other individuals in line. “They can’t be sure what is in those bottles,” one woman behind us commented to the people in her party, “so they make you leave them out side the park.” Mmmmmm partially right. The stand selling bottle water just inside the park entrance makes my cynical mind believes that there is a less noble reason than “security” for doing this.

Once inside, we looked at the map and saw that Boomerang was off to the right. Since there was relatively nothing else in that area of the park we wanted to do, we headed there first. Michele decided to sit this one out (head banging on boomerangs and her do not get along well), so I went to get in line. I entered the queue and started walking up the winding path when I was met by a group of people. “It broke down,” someone said, so like the rest, I turned around and exited the queue. Moments later, after the queue was empty, an employee put up the yellow chain across the entrance. While it did not affect us (since we had no desire to ride it) the near by Train Ride also broke down at around that same time.PppAgain we consulted the map and saw Ghost Town was home to three coasters so we began walking in that direction. The first coaster we came to was Canyon Blaster. An older Arrow Mine train, but “New” to Great Escape, I will admit that it looked good with its fresh paint and its desert landscaping. We got in line… and 45 minutes later we were boarding the train. Best way I can sum it up… I have finally found a mine train that is even more boring that Hersheypark’s Trailblazer…. Or, as I overheard another rider ask while walking down the exit ramp, “We waited in line for that?"

Next door sat Nightmare at Crack Axel Canyon. I knew it was an enclosed Schwarzkopf that had a very slow load time, but that is all I knew. As we approached the entrance, I noticed a sign that said “2 hr wait from this point” and a very short distance later “1 and a half hour wait from this point”. That seemed odd. Once in line, I soon realized that was correct. I am not sure how long the line was… The line started at the entrance to the building (it was not out side of the building) and made one turn and then onto the loading platform. I am going to guess no more than a 200 feet of queue was in use. Using this estimate of distance, we moved 25 feet every 10 minutes… for a total of 1 hour and 20 minutes in line. The coaster itself was a fun coaster… seemed very fast and very intense for its size (the darkness could have enhanced that sensation) but, being a Schwarzkopf, was not at all painful. It was one that I would have considered a re-ride on, had it not been for that queue line which, by the time we exited the building, had reached the “2 hr” wait sign.

We then decided to grab some lunch. Not sure the name of the place we ate at… its right across the way from Condor and the entrance to Steamin’ Demon. I opted for the Wings and fries, while Michele chose the more traditional Chicken (maybe?) Nuggets and fries. Upon paying, Michele went over to the little “wagon” that had the salt, pepper, mustard, etc on and found that many of the spaces were empty… including Mustard and Barbecue sauce. She politely asked the girl at the register if they had any more. The girl, for whom English was a second language (not being sarcastic... English was in fact her second language), told Michele “Its all there” and made a broad waving gesture to the “wagon”. Michele explained that it looked like some of the items were empty, to which the girl responded “Its all there” and again made a sweeping gesture. A third time Michele tried to explain that some of the items on the “wagon” had run out. This time the response was “Its all there… Go away.” Chele was taken a little aback by this.

And then… enter Roberta (queue menacing music). Roberta was obviously someone in some sort of supervisory role. She snapped at Michele, “What’s wrong?” (not “May I help you?”…. “What is wrong, M’am?”… just growled “What’s Wrong?”) and Chele explained that some of the items (in particularly Barbecue sauce needed to make the SawDust Nuggets edible) were empty. “What do you need?” Roberta yelled. Chele told her Barbecue sauce and Roberta made her way toward the kitchen. We watched as she went up to a man working there and gave that finger wave toward Chele that said “The customer is a b****” and made this sort of scrunched up face (kind of indescribable) that also conveyed her distaste that either Chele had bothered her or (more probably) that she actually had to do something, anything, to help a customer. Upon realizing that we were watching her, her expression went blank and she grabbed the other employee by the arm and disappeared around a corner. A few moments later another young girl was sent up to the “wagon” to refill the missing stock and also personally delivered the requested items to Michele. More on this later.

After lunch, I headed off for Steamin’ Demon. Nice first drop, nice loop, but the most painful corkscrew elements I have ever encountered. One ride was enough for me.

There was only one coaster left… the Comet… the main reason why I wanted to visit this park. We looked at the map and made our way to the back of the park. Passing very close to Boomerang, we saw that it was now operating again. I grabbed a quick ride on it. Not bad for a Vekoma Boomerang… smoother and seemingly faster than most. I debated a re-ride, but the line, while not very long, was very slow moving, so we continued toward Comet.

The line for Comet was moderate in length, but actually moved quite fast by any park’s standards, lightning fast when compared to the other lines we had experienced at Great Escape. Now I know there are some out there that say Comet is a “reprofile” of the old Crystal Beach Cyclone. Granted… while much of the structure was at one time in the Cyclone, it was redone and reworked and reconfigured in such away that the Comet is basically a different coaster in its own right. (To me, saying that Comet and Cyclone are the same is like saying that if you tear down a house and then use the bricks again to build a garage, it is the same building). Anyway… Fast and air time filled, I found the Comet to be a great coaster. But what else would you expect form a Herb Schmeck design? There were some spots where it was a bit rough (I minded the last turn the most), but nothing brutal and nothing that took away from the ride. As stated, this was my main reason for wanting to visit Great Escape, and I was not disappointed. But after 3 rides, I decided to call it a day.

On the way out we decided to stop at Guest Services just to let them know about the “service” we received at lunch. The woman behind the counter was polite and called someone named Chris who worked in the food service area of the park (When she called to him on the radio, we were a “code 17” I think). When he arrived, we explained the events that unfolded at lunch. He knew who the girl was at the register (“Go Away” girl) and he said that she was normally pretty good and those actions seemed unusual for her. We also agreed with his assessment that it sounded like it was more out of her frustration of not understanding what Michele meant and a slight language barrier than out of rudeness. He said he would talk to her to simply have her “customer service” skills sharpened a bit (and that’s the reason why I have not mentioned her name here… in her case it seems like it was an honest mistake out of frustration). But that brings us to Roberta (and I do not hesitate to use her name… because her actions were done out of out right ignorance). We explained the events to Chris. Michele described the “face” that Roberta made and Chris commented, “Yes, I know that face.” He was very apologetic and offered us vouchers for free food. We were planning on leaving so would have no use for them so we politely declined. As we told him, we simply wanted to make someone aware of the service we received so that it could be corrected for future visitors. He thanked us and repeated that he would speak to “Go away” girl about customer service and he also said that Roberta would be spoken too and “written up” for her actions.

I found Great Escape to be a simply an “okay” park. It was relatively clean, and most everything was in good repair. There was lots of shade and places to sit (a bit weak in that area around Comet) and the landscaping was nice. Customer service though left a lot to be desired. Our incident with Roberta at lunch aside, the ride crews were less than spectacular. They were doing what they thought was the best for capacity I guess… calling for Single Riders and sending out trains full.... but if you spend 3 and a half minutes (again, I timed it) looking for single riders to fill a train on a coaster that takes only a minute and a half to go through its course, wouldn’t it be better to let it go out with one or two empty seats instead of wasting all that time trying to fill 100% of the seats. Another annoying thing… on Canyon Blaster, Steamin’ Demon and Boomerang you could not pick your seat. They only left enough people in the station to fill the train, no more, no less. If you were first in the station, you got your pick… if you were last, you got what was left. If they found they had some more room, they would let more people in the station. If they had single riders in seats, they would tell those riders to move to other seats with other single riders to fill up more seats. All of this took TIME and made the waits even longer. The sole exception to this trend was Comet. You could pick your own seat by lining up at the gates, the crew didn’t worry if a train went out with one or two seats empty, the crew was prompt and efficient and actually looked like they were enjoying their work… and amazingly… the dispatch times were the quickest of any ride there.

With a few exceptions, there is nothing that has labeled the Great Escape as a Six Flags park except for athe logo on the park map and a few other minor things as well. To most of the people there, the closest Six Flags parks are in Agawam MA or Darien Lake NY. However, the lack of customer service… the closed rides… the closed shops… etc… shows that this is falling right in line with other parks that have been already been “branded”. The experience at this park was not terrible… but it was far from good… and it could have influenced our decision to ease up on our travel schedule and give the other Six Flags park we had planned on visiting, SFNE, a miss on this trip. Comet was a shining bright spot in this park. As for the rest of the coasters or the experience… nothing exceptional and certainly nothing spectacular.

Finally, I Normally do not comment much on “Stupid things heard at parks”… I let those threads go. However, I do have to comment on some here:

While standing in line for Canyon Blaster and seeing the orange train running while the blue train was sitting idle, a man behind us stated to his wife, “They are probably only running one train because it’s not structurally sound enough to run two.”

Over heard a person looking at Boomerang tell his companions: “This used to be a really huge steel coaster, but it was damaged so they tore down all but the first drop, turn and loop and now they run the train through it forward and backward.”

And the winner…. While waiting in line for Boomerang, a kid behind me asked his father “What are those things?” (pointing to the breaks and / or sensors at the base of the loop and at the bottom of the second “hill”) to which is father responded, “Those are magnets to help hold the train on the track.”

Would I stop at Great Escape again? If I had coupons or a pass, yes… and then head straight to the back of the park and spend the visit doing nothing but riding the Comet. The one thought that comes to mind… glad that the Comet was saved when Crystal Beach closed… but sad to see such a great coaster in such a mediocre (at best) park.

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Half of the people surveyed agree, half disagree and another half are unsure.
*** This post was edited by SLFAKE 8/28/2003 2:27:43 PM ***

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