A Cold and Wet (and Therefore Empty) Day at SFA: 4/21/02
(Composed at BWI Airport during a 2-hour flight delay)
Meteorologists are not so high on my list of favorite people right now. Originally, Saturday of my mini-weekend-vacation to DC was going to have my friend and I heading to SFA and then going around the city on Sunday, but we switched the two days around because the weather-people were forecasting for thunderstorms on Saturday with a slight chance of rain on Sunday. Turns out there was never a flash of lightning in the area on Saturday and it rained nearly all day Sunday. Oh yeah, and it was about 20 degrees colder on Sunday than Saturday, too. This led to some cold and wet roller coaster rides. Oh well, the result of going to SFA on Sunday was 1.) I got nice weather for my DC tour on Saturday (and got to see some pretty intense protests, too) and 2.) SFA was an absolute ghost town on Sunday. Our longest wait of the day was for Batwing (running 1 train), and even then, we only waited 2 trains. For the majority of the day, we were riding in half-full trains. Turns out we were able to hit all the rides a sufficient number of times and be out of the park in about 4 hours. Can’t complain. Great way to start the 2002 season!
As for the park itself, I was impressed. Being a first-timer, I went in expecting it to look like SFWoA, since the two parks made the Premier-to-Six Flags changeover at approximately the same time. I found that much more thought went into the theming at SFA (with the exception of the placement of a few of the superhero-themed rides and the fact that Gotham City is pretty rough around the edges). Still, the entrance area of the park is gorgeous, and Coyote Creek is especially well done (although I still can’t quite figure out how Two-Face fits into the Southwest Territory theme…did I miss the line in the Batman movie where he said anything about being from New Mexico???). The park was small, but very clean. The crews were nice, but VERY slow, and there were quite a few staplers out there, too. I noticed that the ride ops check restraints by pushing down on them, but then never pulling up…hmmm. Like SFWoA, there are a lot of dead-end paths there. I think the park should connect Coyote Creek to Gotham City to create a circle layout (and a huge park in the process); maybe we’ll see that some time in the future. I also hope the next coaster this park gets is a B&M…it’s got a lot of quality rides (lots of clones, though, for all that that’s worth). The wooden coasters at this park are very noteworthy, I should add.
Anyways, speaking of rides, here’s what I thought of them (in a general sweeping-across-the-park-order):
TWO FACE: THE FLIP SIDE (1 lap): Well I’ve been on one of these before, but still, this was a great way to start off the season (1st ride of the day). For the first time, since there was no wait, we decided to ride in the very back (front?), so we faced downward on the first lift (going up backwards) with nothing below us. That was a freaky experience. I must say, out of the 3 Vekomas in this park, this one easily gives the most pleasant ride. Massive Gs! We went back to ride again later in the day, but it was down. It looked like the lift cart on the first lift was stuck/stopped about halfway up, so I do not know what happened.
WILD ONE (3 laps): Was this ride REALLY built in 1917? I can’t believe it. It has to be one of the smoothest wooden coasters I’ve ever ridden. Out of our three rides, two were in the very back, and the last was in the ejector seat. I actually only felt full-blown, five-alarm, extreme, stand-up, ejector air on the return camelback in this seat. I really preferred the back on this one, especially for the more powerful lateral forces to accompany the airtime on the hills. Besides the helix, there are some powerful lateral forces on this ride! This baby definitely sped up throughout the day, especially as it got wet. Our 2 afternoon rides bordered out-of-control, especially on our second ride, when, in a moment when the coaster gods looked down favorably upon us, the pre-helix trim completely missed the train. The helix contained possibly the most extreme lateral forces I’ve ever felt in my life: it was like the Beast without the tunnel. Even with the trim, the ride is superb and cared for beautifully. It really is the “Pride of the Southwest Territory,” even at 85 years old!
ROAR (4 laps): WOW…this is one underrated woodie and certainly my favorite ride in the park! I was expecting a good ride, and I got a GREAT ride that holds its own against any CCI I’ve ever ridden. Some surprising laterals in a few parts, but I was especially surprised by the frequent violent ejector airtime. Who says GCI’s don’t have airtime??? Obviously, these people have never ridden in the back seat of ROAR. I must say that this is a backseat ride all the way. It is totally crazy back there, while I found the front seat to be kind of blah. In the back, the first drop is ridiculous. I thought I was going to get pitched out each of my 3 rides back there. The best part of Roar is at the end: from the pseudo-tunnel to the final brakes is absolute raging insanity…that sequence of hills and turns if just perfect—everything I love in a coaster: out of control feeling, air-lat combinations, speed, surprise, and power. When it started raining, ROAR kicked it in the next gear and just flew around its course making me think it was going to rip off the tracks. We’re talking serious hauling. A perfectly orchestrated ride from start to finish. I am debating if I like ROAR better than Villain or not, now that’s a tough call. Congrats to Mike B. for a fine ride!
Serial Thriller…oops I mean MIND ERASER (1 lap): Sorry I’m used to SFWoA. Speaking of SFWoA, Serial Thriller is nowhere near as rough as this piece of crap. OUCH! This ride did seem out of control and fast (we did ride it in the rain), but I couldn’t enjoy it because my ears were being slammed against Vekoma’s hated ear guards. Try once, add it to the track record, and never ride it again!
JOKER’S JINX (Closed): Oh boy, new trains…not like they had all winter to take care of that or anything…I don’t know whose fault the delay for the trains is (SF or Premier), but I just don’t understand how the ride can’t be ready in time for the opening weekends after an entire 5 months off. I really want to see what a spaghetti bowl coaster is like outside. It was nice to see what Flight of Fear’s twisted layout really looks like, though. This should be a GREAT ride once the new trains are ready to go.
SUPERMAN: RIDE OF STEEL (4 laps): Very impressive, I’m convinced Intamin makes a mighty fine hyper coaster. Although I could tell the early morning runs were cold—I could feel the train losing speed dramatically through the long straightaway before the third hill (just why is that section of nothingness there?) and the second helix, but it was going at a nice clip through the rain later in the day (so fast the rain drops stung). As for my impression of Superman’s famed third hill, WOW…especially in the back, it felt like jumping off a cliff and landing hard on the ground. Kind of unnerving. Needless to say, I loved it. On our one ride towards the front (seat 2.1), the airtime over the top of that thing was out of this world. The first helix was powerful (but not as powerful as that first turn after the first drop), and the second helix just petered out—it should have been designed with a tighter radius (this coming from someone who knows NOTING about engineering, so take that comment as you will). The non-inverting corkscrew is over-rated (fun, but not as crazy-insane as I thought it would be), and the last 2 camelbacks are good (although the second one is pretty slow because of the necessary trim). Speaking of brakes, why on Earth did Intamin make the final brake run so short? Would it have really have hurt to extend the station a little further? The stop at the end of this ride is just so sudden….and the shortness of the final brake run necessitates that trim that sucks the life out of the final camelback. Oh well…here comes the obligatory comparison to MF and Magnum. Almost as good as MF, with some better moments than MF(1st turn, 1st helix, 3rd hill) and nowhere near Magnum. As far as hypers go, I definitely liked Superman better than Raging Bull, though (the only B&M hyper I’ve ridden). I am anxiously awaiting the opportunity to ride more Intamin hypers…for I can tell that they are just great rides.
BATWING: (1 lap). OUCH…X-Flight was definitely not this rough last year, and I hope it isn’t this year! This ride did about as much shaking and bumping as Mind Eraser, no joke. It did seem very fast, though. The G’s through the loop seemed excessively savage. I must say that these Vekoma flyers are the last kind of coasters that truly scare the crap out of me anymore. Whenever I ride one, I always feel like I’m going to fall out and hold on for dear life. It’s nice to remember every now and then what it’s like to be genuinely scared on a coaster, for with me those days are gone for the most part. Although I could only stand one ride on this because it was so uncomfortable. While we were waiting in line in the station, a ride op almost left the train go out with a girl’s lap bar about 4 inches above her…thankfully, another ride op caught it and chastised the employee. This is about the only ride I know of where you want the restraints as snug as possible. Nice to see trains reclining on the lift…now if only it wasn’t so rough.
Overall, this is the extent of my short day at SFA. It isn’t often you can compile 14 coaster rides in 4 hours (with time for lunch and walking around), so it was a great way to start the season. I was impressed with the park and can’t wait to get back down to the DC area to check out PKD and BGW. If you’ve read this admittedly long-winded report this far, thanks!
I get the feeling there's a conspiracy over at King's Island to remove anything that has "K" or "C" in its initials.
*** This post was edited by MooreOn on 4/22/2002. ***
Nice Report! I hope to see Joker's Jinx up soon.
74 coasters and growing
Life is a roller coaster ride it!!!
Great TR! Didn't you do the excellent Michigan's Adventure/Indiana Beach one last year?
It's odd (althouhg kind of refreshing) to see someone who doesn't think Superman: ROS (any version, actually) is the greatest coaster ever. So those long stretches of flat track ARE kinda questionable after all?
The dude formally known as Coastergenius100...
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