SF AstroWorld 05/27/05

Associated parks:

My wife had a class reunion to go to in Houston over the Memorial Day weekend and was she excited to meet up with some old friends. The school she attended was actually overseas but every couple of years, the company that ran the school (ARAMCO) has a reunion in a different city around the country. So, I was excited to have the rare opportunity to travel to Houston (from Maine) and check out AstroWorld, a park that I ordinarily wouldn’t get the chance to see.

We stayed in the Galleria section of Houston and headed for the park around 9:30 AM. The first thing that catches the eye when you hit the southern part of the 610 loop heading east is Reliant Stadium. This place is massive and is visible for miles. It dwarfs the Astrodome which is right next door. The theme park is right across the street with the Texas Cyclone catching the eye. I read on the Buzz earlier this month that parking was a problem there and I saw right away what they were talking about. You have to park in the stadium’s parking lot and cross a foot bridge (that takes you across the 610 Loop) to get to the park. We paid the $8 and fortunately got in the second row of parking places that leads to the park. I bought tickets on line and basically got a buy one get one free deal.

First up was Serial Thriller, a standard Vekoma inverted coaster. The line was about 15 minutes long . This is not a coaster that is going to blow you away… but it’s ok. It is a bit of a headbanger though.

Next came Viper which had no line. This Schwarzkopf coaster reminded me a lot of one of his other creations…. Scorpion at BGT. A great little ride and best of all… no OTSRs.Plenty of re-rides without even getting off the train.

Mayan Mindbender came next… Great theming with it being inside a pyramid and the queue is neat too, but once on the ride and inside the main section of the pyramid, it’s pitch black. I expected some kind of theming but I guess they were going for the total black out effect. A family ride that’s a bit on the quick side. (quick as in way too short!)

XLR-8 was next on the list… an infamous Arrow suspended coaster with a twist. The front half of the train faces forward while the back half faces backward. (At first I thought I was seeing thing when I saw this from a distance) We did both front and backwards a few times with backwards being more fun. Being an Arrow suspended you get the standard feeling that the thing is picking up speed nicely and heading for some sustained speed… only to slow down again. Not a bad coaster though. It is what it is.

After a quick bite to eat in the Western Junction, it was off to Greezed Lighnin’. This was one coaster I really wanted to ride. No.. it’s not the biggest or tallest or fastest coaster in the world… but a classic ride none the less. This is a coaster from an era where looping coasters were fairly new and launching coasters were unheard of. Greezed Lighnin’ most certainly delivers with it’s 0-60 MPH/4 sec. launch. You then travel straight though the loop, up an incline, and then backward though the coarse but this time flying though the station, up an incline on the opposite side and then down into the station. A great ride!!! You get an excellent view of the Astrodome from the inclines of this ride. Wow!! A classic coaster from the 70’s looking over to a one of the classic sport icons of the 70’s. I kept waiting to see Nolan Ryan or Dickie Thon run out at any time in those funky multicolored uniforms. Or better yet, see Kelly Leak from the The Bad News Bears. But hey.. what a coaster. Another true gem from Anton!!!! There is a nice plaque from A.C.E. in front of the ride commemorating him and his achievements. A true touch of class.

Next was to be Batman: The Escape, but there was an empty train stuck on the incline so it looked like this one may be a no go. I wasn’t too upset though as I had actually ridden this coaster in it’s previous incarnation as Shockwave at SFGAdv. in 1992. So next came Ultra Twister… which interestingly enough is another coaster I had ridden 18 years earlier at SFGadv. Let’s see, riding 2 former SFGAdv. coasters which are side by side in Houston Texas…. How odd is that? The line for Ultra Twister was the longest of the day due to the low capacity cars (6 per) and the ride is pretty much how I remembered it. A little rough as is a trademark with TOGOs.

Next was the Texas Cyclone. The line was a bit long since there was only one train in operation. It’s also near the front gate so it must be first on a lot of people’s lists. If all that weren’t enough, someone was bleeding on the ride (I don’t know why) and it took 20 mins. or so to clean that up. So after a wait of 45 mins.,we finally got to ride. It is a great woodie indeed. The ride doesn’t really let up from start to finish. We would have loved another ride but the wait was going to be even longer.

After this I traveled back to the car to get the camera to get some pics of the park. A little later on, Batman was open and we got to ride. A bit rougher than I remember it…. But I was glad to ride it once again.

Serpent was last. I originally skipped this kiddie coaster but then later when I went to get some snapshots of it, I noticed it had no line… so I said what the heck…. It’s a great little ride with nice landscaping…. I guess there is just something about those coasters that are about as old as I am.

Other rides: Dungeon Drop has to be one of the quickest drop towers anywhere but you get one quick drop and it’s over. No bouncing. SWAT was fun and shouldn’t be passed up if you get the chance to ride it.

Overall AstroWorld is a good park and I’m glad I got to see it. With Houston being the 4th largest city in the US though, you would think the park would be a bit bigger with at least one huge coaster. But then again, it was Memorial day Friday and I expected the place to be packed but the lines were very short. maybe attendance is an issue??? Upon exiting the parking lot, we got to see how fouled up the parking situation can be. It took over 20 mins. to exit and I have a feeling we were really lucky. I can’t imagine what happens when the Texans are playing and the park is open! *** Edited 6/3/2005 3:55:41 PM UTC by lauer***

Word has it that they were supposed to get Mr. Freeze, but it was sent to Over Texas instead. As I'm sure you're aware, Astroworld isn't exactly full of land to develop on unless they can buy out the car dealership next door. Either that or they'd have to be really creative about fitting something big into the park.
Your thing about Mr. Freeze is correct. Was the spinning rapids ride operating?

John Moore

Yes... Diablo Falls was up and running. It looked pretty cool (no pun intended) but we didn't do it.

I believe (by looking at photos) that Diablo Falls and SWAT are on the same spot where Texas Tornado used to be. I really would have liked to ride that Schwarzkopf creation too.....

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