SFA Labor Day-Running on a String and a Prayer, or how to alienate another potential customer

Associated parks:
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Tuesday, September 5, 2006 1:17 AM
Since everyone lately has been picking out theme songs, my song will be Radiohead's "Let Down," off of O.K. Computer.

My friend Mike asked me several weeks ago if we could go to a themepark since he had some vacation coming up. I originally was thinking that SFGADv. might be more impressive to Mike than SFA (which he had been to before), but with operations being the way they are right now, I decided that was a bad idea.

So it was SFA on Labor Day and I had a free pass for him. Mike and I convened at the end of the Light Rail, which is parallel to Rt. 97. Since it was a holiday, they were running on their Sunday schedule, which meant we couldn't meet up until after 11a.m. and the park opened at 10:30a.m. So much for getting to the park when they opened.

Of course, Mike got all happy when he found out which way we were traveling (heading straight on rt. 301) as he knew there was an Arby's on the way. So we lost about another twenty minutes while he ate. Arriving at the park at 12pm approximately, it was nice outside but not exactly real hot.

We decided to go to Hurricane Harbor first, but from the parking lot it was kind of hard to see if much of anything was happening. Finally, I notice some action at the Tornado. We headed straight into HH, and got a locker—a locker too small for both of us. Damn. Oh well, I sprung for another locker which had a tempermental lock.

We headed straight for the Tornado and picked up our green Whirly Wheel (built for two). Since Ernesto stopped in the other night, I had a feeling the water would be cold, and one step in the water to confirmed that. Climbing the tower, I saw a sight that sucks when you want to show someone something new at the park. Bahama Blast had water running, but no people coming down the slide. The situation was the same at the Paradise Plunge and Reef Runner next to it. Crocodile Cal's Caribbean Beach House—completely closed.

Getting to the top in no time, I was the one who went down backwards, but Mike still freaked out. He liked it a lot and decided we should do it again later. There weren't many options available, so we went to the speed slides next door. Again, from the stairs we got a look at the dormant Catastaway Creek area.

So we started out with the green slide, which has the awesome double-down, and then went back up for the orange slide in the dark. I had to pee, and that took us over to the wave pool (no, I didn't pee in the wave pool), which oddly enough, had no waves. I got an upfront look at the carpet and determined that yes, it does need a bad vacumming.

So we venture into Hurricane Bay, and it was definitely warmer than the waterslides. That's one good thing about having a large body of water. Mike was all excited to experience some waves, but there were none coming. He asks a lifeguard about the waves and he says they're broken. Venturing on…

How about we hit up some of the old-school slides on Hurricane Mountain? How about you only have one choice (out of four), and you better like the blue slide? I'm starting to get a little agitated, not because I'm surprised, but because this is Mike's day off and I'm trying to show him a good time and the usual Six Flags b.s. is getting in the way. We went back to get another Tornado ride and one more green slide run. Still no sign of life at Bahama Blast or Paradise Plunge and Reef Runner and it's time to change.

Walking into the dry park, we see a sign that would become a running joke of the day—The Octopus is closed due to inclement weather. Umm…o.k. There is a chance it's going to rain, but it's perfectly sunny right now. I suggested we walk into Coyote Creek to find out when one of the last performances of Magic Quest was, and we stopped at the Rodeo first.

Since we went to the Maryland State Fair the day before, and rode the Technical Park "Extreme," a.k.a. "Street Fighter," Mike wanted to know if The Rodeo was a "good" ride (i.e. fast and crazy) since he hadn't seen it in operation yet. I assured him that it was. Several of the cows were out of order, which was to be the theme of the day. Mike enjoyed the ride in our graffiti-laden cow very much.

We stopped in the Saloon and Mike found out that Magic Quest was still on for 3:45 p.m. Excellent. We passed the closed Renegade Rapids and rode Mind Eraser. The things you'll do with a non-enthusiast…To be fair, Rablat5 and I rode it last week as well. On our way back we got on The Tilt—one of the oldie-but-goodie flats. Your standard Tilt-A-Whirl, we had some trouble getting revolutions to happen due to uneven weight-loading, but when things did happen, it got crazy!

We then hit up Roar. Mike made the interesting comment before boarding that it was like a combination of The Hurler and Grizzly. It was one of many moments today where I said to my brain—"Enthusiast commentary-Disengage." From the back row of the station, we got a great look at the dry as a bone Typhoon Sea Coaster. I believe it was from the lift hill that I counted all fourteen boats sitting out in the field. Roar was great today and had some pops of air. Of course, I sat us in the last car (both trains) which always gets the most defaced every year.

Normally, I don't ride High Seas. Pirate ships just aren't what they used to be to me, but with no line, sure why not? Going up to the gate, the control op in the booth motions Mike in, and he says "I guess you seat yourself?" with a laugh. I thought it was pretty funny too. Technically he was right, someone should've opened up the gate for us. Sitting in the last row, it was painfully obvious that the ride is in dire need of a paint job. It can't decide if it's red or brown. Like I said, the pirate ship isn't what it used to be.

We next walked through the land of removed rides, and headed towards The Flying Carousel for a spin. Again, after all these years of riding the more extreme flats, it just didn't appeal to me anymore. We then headed back to the Saloon for the Magic Quest show. All the illusions were the same, and I think I figured out one of them—not that I could reproduce it for you in person or anything.

I purposely had us stand near the back of the saloon for the last illusion—one of those "I'm in the box, now I'm not and I'm now somewhere else in ten seconds, while my lovely assistant takes my place in the box" illusions. I thought I'd catch the guy red-handed this time. Of course, I get distracted, and the magician sits down right at the table in front of us! This young guy could have a bright future.

We still had a lot of major rides to conquer, but first I was really hungry and it was about 4:20p.m. or so. I suggested we go back to H.H. and get our bags since we wouldn't be needing them anymore and leave the property to get something to eat. So as we head back into H.H., we see a sight that makes both of us angry and has Mike proclaiming "That [expletive] sucks." Bahama Blast is now running, and so are the Paradise Plunge and Reef Runner. We both decided that it would be a waste of time to change back into swimsuits again, and the lines were pretty long as well.

We headed to the Jerry's down the street and lucky us, they had a large pizza special that started after 3p.m. on Monday's for $4.99. Yes! It was about the only thing that was going to sit in my stomach properly at this point. Back into the park, we got a much closer spot since they weren't using Premium Parking, and it was starting to rain somewhat. I stopped off at the bathroom on Main Street, and there was no soap in either dispenser. So much for watchful bathroom attendants. I quickly stopped into Guest Relations across the way and performed my "civic duty" of the day.

The rain wasn't particularly heavy, but it was enough to drive a lot of people out of the park. Yeah! We to the Southwest Territory and rode Two-Face first. This wouldn't have been that long of a line, except for several seats being out of order. We finally got a ride in the very back row, and it was very smooth today. Mike also like its smoothness.

We then headed to Wild One, where surprisingly, nothing was out of order. Mike asked me if they'd ever get rid of W.O. to which I said no, but then thinking about it now, the answer would be "If they ever leveled the park, that is." Mike liked the helix a lot. Again, a ride I normally don't get on that much is The Falling Star. The ride op seemed particularly grumpy I must say. The cycle starts out and is was kind of bland, but when it kicked in, the laterals where very good. I still miss the negative-g's of the Huss Rainbow though. We cleared the Southwest Territory with the two-sides-out-of-three Tower of Doom.

Mike asked for a time-check, and it was about 6;25p.m. I assured him we had plenty of time to finish the park. We got in line for Joker's Jinx, where again, nothing was out of order, but where was the yellow train? That's o.k. to me, one-train beats no ride at all. We walked onto Penguin's Blizzard River and it looks like they need to replace or reseat some of the square pads that make the boat spin. We spun, but not like last year.

We passed the working Avalanche and headed for S:ROS with two-train operation, which is good. What wasn't so good, was that there were multiple seats out of operation. For example, the last four rows on each train were all tagged. It appeared that some of the front seats were out of order as well. This is real bad. Mike joked that they were out of order due to the rain. Anyway, we rode toward the back and it was quite good. There was only one last order of business, and I warned Mike that it might be our last…

Yes, we headed to Batwing. He optimistically thought the line wasn't bad from when we exited S:ROS. I told him to not be deceived. We put our loose items in the locker and joined the queue, which really wouldn't have been bad, if a few things worked in our favor: 1) If they were running more than one train 2) If they had more than three people working the ride making for really long dispatch times and 3) If the ride hadn't broken down while we were in the station.

Upon return to the station, one of the rows didn't come up with the rest, but did come up. The next passengers loaded, and that row stubbornly wouldn't go down. I'm no Batwing expert, but i could see that the lights on the side of that row were not matching the lights on the other rows. Someone in line suggested using the train in the other station, except that the train had more problems than this one. Some rows had "bowed-down," and some stayed up. After several attempts, maintenance was called, and just about everyone bailed except for a few stupid people like us.

So what was the logic behind waiting? Mike had never ridden it, and I wanted him to experience it. It's kind of like the tourist attractions in your hometown that you never go to, but when relatives are in town, you go there to see it through their eyes. Eventually, a blue shirt showed up and went to work. I was pretty sure at this point that we weren't going to ride (Mike was hopeful), but there's that techno-geek part of me that likes to see things taken apart and worked on.

One of the two back-panels was removed from the malfunctioning row, the multi-pin connector removed between the two panels and another inserted. A power box with basic controls was hooked up (which removes it from the computer), and he was having no luck. The multi-meter came out for what I'm guessing was to check continuity between contact points, and that wasn't working either. He got on the walki-talkie to base and then the clock clicked down and that was the end of our day.

Sigh. I knew not to expect miracles today since it was Labor Day and all, but this was really bad. One of things I didn't mention yet was how messy the park looked, not from trash, but from all the leaves thrown around by the remnants of Ernesto. I was out in the storm on Friday night, so I know how awful the winds and the rains were, but couldn't someone have taken a leaf-blower and gone around the really bad areas? Oh right, they can't afford to fix broken seats. Even the Sky Coaster was closed for the second week in a row.

Finally, my favorite comment of the day came while waiting behind a 50-ish woman in H.H. [paraphrased] "They're charging all this money to get in, but a lot of it's not working. Shouldn't they be charging half-price? I bet parking will be $20 next year."

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Tuesday, September 5, 2006 11:42 AM
Sorry to hear your day was rough, but can't say I am surprised. All the SFI parks are scuffling to get to the finish line this season. Especially those that are "on the block" like SFDL and SFEG. SFA may be one of those too. I think Snyder and Shapiro found out that running a major amusement company isn't as easy as they said during the winter.

Sounds like you managed to salvage the maximum from the day despite the SFI problems and made a good day for your frined.

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Tuesday, September 5, 2006 12:03 PM
Your TR is just fuel for the anti-Six Flags fire :)

This company SERIOUSLY needs help. Shapiro and Snyder have a LONG way to go to fix some of these places.

All those closings and broken seats are unacceptible. Six Flags' ways of appeasing guests may only go so far (such as free admissions and/or coupons given out at guest relations). Who would want to come back even for free, if so many of the rides and seats are closed/broken?

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Tuesday, September 5, 2006 12:37 PM
You should've stayed in SWT toward closing I-Fan,Wild one was EMPTY! I managed to snag six laps in a row in car two,middle row yesterday without having to get off the train.

I was over at avalanche watching the ride cycle earlier in the afternoon & noticed they were running a forward/backward cycle,anyhow they stopped the ride just before going in reverse giving an announcement that the ride was not over & this kid tried getting out oif his seat! the ops were just seconds away from firing up the ride before the kid's dad stopped him from getting out but what w as worse is had he not done so the opse wouldn't have seen it as it happened on the sisde facing the midway completely out of view of the panel op as well as the op standaing by the exit gate of the platform.

They seriously need to think about modifying the passenger restraint system on that ride so as to prevent this from happening again,either put some sort of automatic restraint<ie OTSR> in or a secondary locking device on the restrain that the passenger can't reach from inside the ride....either that or just remove it from the park entirely.

Supes was having problems in the red train<all four seats down in the front> & my restraint wouldn't even lock properly on ME...not even a single click! Good thing that it managed to self staple during the course of the ride,otherwise I would've gone flying outta the train.

Roar was running like crap as usual,you know,I'm wondering...in addition to better trains that can track properly if they could consider re-tracking the ride completely in tubular steel?Just have intamin come out there & re-track it & stick some mega coaster trains<ie El Toro> on it & then it'd be good as new.

It's truely a shame that this once enjoyable woodie has become yet another piece of unenjoyable firewood on my list.

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Tuesday, September 5, 2006 12:51 PM
As far as the yellow train on JJ- in the shop for rehab. Not being an apologist, but SFA's my home park, and, after 11 visits this season (oh holy season pass), I've seen it run great and run badly. This time of year, a lot of staff is gone back to school or whatever, so there's the staffing problems we all know about. Many rides do open later in the day. I don't like it, either. Somewhat ironic that the Wild One, 90 years old next year, is the most trouble-free ride the park has Typhoon SeaCoaster has been closed most of the season (I'd call it SBNO now), and is rumored to be on the way out. A shame, too- dumping the money into it to fix the problems it has, and restoring it to the glory it had when it opened, would make it the most kick-ass ride in the park. But, I understand it's the park's new official Maintanence Nightmare (with the departure of Iron Eagle), so its days are likely numbered.

I do agree about the cameras, though. It does bug me sometimes. I just say no, thanks, and everything's cool. I usually go for the on-ride photos on Roar. Wish Joker still had the cameras up.

Us SFAers are just waiting to see what happens in the off-season. I know I'll be there next opening day to check out any changes.

btw, I was there yesterday from open till about 2. Don't know about stuff in Hurricane Harbor (didn't bring my suit, darn it), but by the time I left everything except for TSC and Renegade Rapids (also drained) was up and running. *** Edited 9/5/2006 4:55:17 PM UTC by ilovethewildone***

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Tuesday, September 5, 2006 12:58 PM
^^ ROAR being firewood? Dude, have you ever ridden SoB? Roar is way better. Sure, it could use a retracking, but don't put it in this class.

As for your Mind Eraser incident, if your restraint didn't lock, then why did you even sit in that seat? Or is there something that you're not telling us? If your restraint doesn't lock, the ride ops should catch this and not let you sit there. Please elaborate.

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Tuesday, September 5, 2006 2:55 PM
Everytime I read a report like this, I'm reminded - and pleased - that we Mid-Atlantic folks have one of the Good Six Flags.


SFOG rules.

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Tuesday, September 5, 2006 3:39 PM
Intamin Fan said:

I originally was thinking that SFGADv. might be more impressive to Mike than SFA (which he had been to before), but with operations being the way they are right now, I decided that was a bad idea.

I went to SFGAdv on August 2th, and operations were very good.

- J

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Tuesday, September 5, 2006 4:36 PM
^^ Interesting. I would consider SFA and the surrounding area to be "Mid-Atlantic". I would consider SFoG to be the "South" or "southern".

Basically, we Mid-Atlantic folks have a crappy Six Flags park, and you southern folk have some of the better ones (SFoG, SFoT, SFFT).

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Tuesday, September 5, 2006 4:59 PM
I meant to say Mid South. As in, not the Deep South (LA, MS, TX).
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Tuesday, September 5, 2006 5:23 PM
ErinGoBraugh, you went on August 2nd, which is over a month ago when they still had plenty of employees. Things have radically changed according to other's trip reports.
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Tuesday, September 5, 2006 7:51 PM

rablat5 said:
^^ ROAR being firewood? Dude, have you ever ridden SoB? Roar is way better. Sure, it could use a retracking, but don't put it in this class.

As for your Mind Eraser incident, if your restraint didn't lock, then why did you even sit in that seat? Or is there something that you're not telling us? If your restraint doesn't lock, the ride ops should catch this and not let you sit there. Please elaborate.


It was locked,but not real tight & instead of clicking how it normally does when the restraint lock is activated it simply sort of just squealed while pulling it down. I tried getting the ops attention but they'd already given the thumbs up to dispatch so basically I was stuck riding,had I managed to get their attention I definitely would've asked to be let off.

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