1. I find driving incredibly boring. However when there's an exception to the norm, I find it to be a blast (and my wife leaves fingernail imprints in the dash) - I got the chance to drive through Manhattan on our way to Coney Island. I likened it to a religious experience. On this trip I got to do the LA highway system. I liken this to a beautiful ballet of sudden turns, quick moves and a methodical speeding and slowing motion punctuated with a brake light firework show. It really was that great and overall I preferred the LA driving to the NYC driving. Now I just got to get to the Autobahn...
2. This trip to SFMM was not meant to be a "ride everything" trip. We had a handful of coasters we wanted to hit and I wanted to spend some decent time getting photos. We ended up riding 9 of the 15 operating coasters.
On with the show...
We got to the park around 10:30 or 11:00 - not quite sure of the exact time and found many more cars than we saw the day before at Knott's but still much less than I'd expect at SFMM on a Saturday. Not sure of how this crowd felt to locals but compared to my expectations, it was as good as empty.
We hopped a tram up to the main gate, flashed our recently renewed 2002 SFWOA passes (the online renewals are brilliant) and made our way through the metal detectors. I had no idea of what to expect from Magic Mountain. Let me go off on a bit of a tangent here...
We have had less than amazing (much less) experiences at every Six Flags park we visited. So much so that my wife flat out refused to return to one by the end of the 2002 season. I should mention here that our original plans for this trip west included only one day in SoCal and there was great debate over which park to visit. My wife was leaning towards Knott's (free entry with our Dorney Passes) and I was leaning towards SFMM (15 coasters, sucka!). A little alteration to our plans bought us a second day in SoCal. Now I had an arguement for a SFMM stop. I checked out the online pass renewal thing and armed with the fact that renewing our 2002 SFWOA passes would cost us only $10 more than single day admissions to SFMM, I delivered the deathblow that guaranteed my trip to Magic Mountain. Other than past SF experiences the only other thing I had to go off of was what I'd read other people writing about the park. The constant SFMM vs CP debates clouded my mind and I went in preparing to compare the two. (we've done CP every year since 1995) However the raving about X had me intrigued. I couldn't be in SoCal and not ride it.
So here I am entering the park with all these thoughts and preconceived notions running through my head. Logic dictated we check out the line for X. It wasn't running at this point and as we made our way up near Viper and the Panda food place we realized the line was roughly 37 miles long. We mulled over the decision to wait or jump on other rides while everyone else waited for a few moments. Our decision was get the other coasters in quickly and take our chances on this line a little later. My wife then remembered that wonderful Q-bot device we used at SFGAdv and we went off to see if we could make it happen here. We were disappointed to find the old skool Fastlane tickEts still in place (and for "B" level rides at that). We passed on those and headed back around the front of the park for a shot at Goliath.
Goliath - I didn't notice if it was one or two train operation but I did notice we walked on a middle of the train seat. Goliath is a coasters I expected to be totally "wowed" by. Instead I got a very good (almost great) ride that I wouldn't necessarily consider "top notch" but worthy of inclusion in my personal top 20 - probably around 15. My wife seemed to enjoy it slightly more than I did, but we were about even on our feelings for this one. A smooth, powerful ride made the name of this coaster seem very appropriate.
We continued our counterclockwise stroll of the park and found no line at Batman The Ride. I had only ridden B:TR at SFGAdv (it was my 100th coaster) and I really didn't care for it too much. I've been on 7 or 8 B&M inverts and SFGAdv's B:TR was my least favorite. Basically I wanted this one for the count. We had another walk-on - this time third row. I'm not sure what it was but I found SFMM's Batman to be far superior to SFGAdv's. This one felt powerful with quick snaps and nice speed. The only downside was some minor banging on the corkscrews. I actually enjoyed the ride a good deal. This was a great surprise and I still have no idea why I liked this one so much more than the one at Great Adventure.
Moving along we made our way to Riddler's Revenge. Our only other stand-up has been Mantis at CP and there's no comparison in layout between the two so this was going to be a seemingly new experience for us. We got our third walk-on of the day making the decision to not join the line for X seem wise. Riddler's Revenge was probably my biggest surprise of the day. I really liked this ride! The one thing that stands out in my mind the most were the moments of "lifting". It wasn't full blown airtime, but rather a "light on my feet" feeling at a few different spots. I really dug it. The ride delivered everything I'd expect a stand-up coaster to deliver. Smooth, fast, great inversions and that freaky semi-air. I loved it and it's another that would probably be in my top 20 if I kept a detailed list - right next to Goliath.
At this point I couldn't resist the huge tower poking skyward in the middle of the park. I had to try Superman The Escape. We made our way up Samauri Summit and while the hill didn't bother me, my wife acted like she was going to die. I taunted her a bit and that was that. Only one side was operating so I wasn't sure what kind of line I'd find inside that building. We entered the darkness and found a line that seemed a tad long (especially after 3 walk-ons) but stuck it out. Good choice. It was only about 20 minutes until we boarded. Third row. This is where I'm not sure if anticipointment takes over or not. I've heard things about this ride for years. 100 mph, over 400 feet tall, is it a coaster or isn't it? This is the big one out west that I honestly wasn't sure I'd ever get to see in person. Perhaps I expected to much from a ride that is essentially a giant "L". The only reason I don't believe that anticipointment was the case is because my wife isn't a coaster fan but hardly an enthusiast - she knows some rides, but basically follows me around from park to park and has fun riding - and she even said "eh" after we got off. The launch felt weak and we still wuestion the 100 mph claim - it felt no where in that range. The weightlessness at the apex was not nearly as much of an "experience" as I had thought it would be. The whole thing was over as quickly as it began and it left us scracthing our heads. An average ride at best and a relic in the history of rides. My official rating? Let me restate that previous "eh?".
Since we were already on the hill we decided on a spin on Ninja. Again the CP comparisons fly as our only other suspended coaster at this point has been Iron Dragon. We had to wait a short time as there was only one train running and it left just as we reached the loading platform, but other than that no one was in front of us. We opted for the generic "middle of the train" seat. With only one similar coaster to compare and contrast with this is what we decided. Ninja isn't better or worse than Iron Dragon -just different. The tradeoff is Ninja gives a faster ride (or faster feeling) but you get a slightly rougher, much jerkier ride. One didn't seem markedly better than the other. Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't.
We took the Orient Express (I believe that's the correct name) down the front side of the hill and decided to check back with X's line. We made our way to the queue and saw a still long looking line. The crowds nearby were murmuring about "2 hour waits" and it looked true. It was now close to 1pm and I still wanted to make time for photos. We decided to grab some egg rolls and spring rolls from the Panda Express and hop in line and hope for the best. Again this turned out to be a good choice.
As the line moved slowly toward X, we began to notice that many parts of the queue area weren't being used. This started to look good. As we moved even closer we noticed the line stopped below the station. From there riders were moved in groups to either side of the station. We soon realized this was going to be about an hour wait total. Something we could definitely be happy with. Finally we made our way to the crowded loading station and scoped the scene. As usual, the masses were bunched toward the first few lines. A quick assesment of everything and we figured if we stayed where we were, we'd be waiting roughly 8 trains for the back row, but if we slyly and without drawing attention, moved towards the front rows we'd have a much shorter wait. We excuse me'd our way past people who for some reason didn't see the very short line front row and had cut our wait from 8 trains for a back of the train seat to a 5 train wait for the front row. Yes, this keeps looking better. Two train operation, but it didn't seem to be helping much. It took forever to unload these trains for some reason. The first train would be long gone before the second entered the loading station and the first would return to the unload station long before the second left the loading area. Repeat process. So while I'm sure it helped a bit with wait times, it wasn't helping a lot. We finally got our turn and my wife chose the inside seat leaving me with the outside. The seats and restraints were neat, but a ride-op really tightened mine down - hard. No biggie, I'm a trooper. I'm not sure what to say about this ride. I'm sure someone, somewhere will get pissed when they read this, but here's my honest assessment of the ride - I'm glad I got a chance to ride it, but I won't feel like I'm missing anything if I never get to again. There - I said it. X was like nothing else out there, let's get that straight. It's beyond words - no description will justify the experience. It is indeed a very, very good ride and since I'm using the top coaster list to rate rides here I'd say (assuming I kept a detailed list of my favorites) that this might squeak in around 20. Maybe in the 22 range. It was fun, but it didn't give me that "I gotta do this again" feeling. My wife was just slightly more positive calling it something to the effect of "one of the best but not the best" translated into my terms that means bottom of the top 10 list. She probably would've gotten in line again, and I think she may have wanted to, but we wanted to hit other coasters and I still wanted my photos.
We moved on to Viper. We had a walk-on here for a middle/back seat. Maybe I'm the odd one out (I probably am) but I really liked Viper. It wasn't nearly as rough as I expected, and I got some neat "floating" going on in the corkscrews. As further justification, I'd like to mention that I also think that while Phantom's Reveneg is an incredible ride, that the original Steel Phantom was equally good. Viper reminded me a bit of SP. I liked it. I'd even go as far to say it might also squeak onto the top 20 - in the same range as X and just below Goliath and Riddler's Revenge. Your milage will probably vary on that one - my wife hated it.
Now it was around 2:30 and I knew I needed to get the camera. We made a quick stop at Revolution before heading to the car. Ugh. Nothing good here. Uncomfortable with some serious headbanging and inconsistant pacing. I rode it and I never will again.
We walked back to the car and I got my camera. We considered walking over to look at Scream construction but chose to admire from afar for a moment before catching the tram back up to the main gate. When we got off the tram we noticed filming taking place. Looked like scenes for a new commercial. We were held back a moment as they filmed a family walking toward a ticket booth. If you see a commercial for SFMM with a bald guy, his wife and two kids heading for the ticket booth - take pleasure in knowing I was just off camera when they filmed it. We got back inside the park and my wife chose to browse some shops while I went for X and Viper photos. At the entrance to X they were doing more filming getting rider testimonial about the greatness of X. I got some photos and found my wife and we headed back to the Cyclone Bay area of the park. I continued taking pictures. At Deja Vu we saw a one hour wait and with time running out for photos and my wife not wanting to stand in a one hour line we passed up a Deja Vu for the second time in 3 months (the other being last October at SFOG). I guess I'll ride one eventually. Psyclone wasn't even discussed. If you read my Knott's TR you know where we stand on woodies and I still was more interested in taking pictures. We continued around the back of the park. My wife mentioned taking a spin on Gold Rusher but with the sun now very low in the sky I declined and headed up the hill for Superman and Ninja pics - my wife waited this time at the bottom. We continued circling the park and I got a photo of the big "GOLIATH" letters just as the sky became too dark for more photos.
We noticed Flashback running and knowing the rep this ride had, I just had to tempt fate and try a ride. What can I say - this coaster has no redeeming quality whatsoever. If there is a coaster hell, it involves 4 hour waits for Flashback. We walked right on to the front seat and got a night time solo ride. A ride on Flashback or a punch to the groin by Mike Tyson? Heck, flip a coin. We decided this was the worst coaster we'd ever been on - even worse than RC-48 at Morey's (our previous "worst coaster ever"). The most twisted part of this whole ordeal? I'm glad I rode it.
We spent a little time checking out the kiddie area and slowly made our way towards the front of the park. At this point we thought it might be worth it to take one last peek at the line for X. It looked just a tad longer than it was when we there earlier in the day - this translates to just over an hour. We milled over it for a few moments. It was almost 5:30, we had to return our rental car at 9:00 and catch an 11:00 flight. Should we? It may be a long time before we get back (if ever). Do you want to wait? I don't care...do you? In the end we decided to leave. I think that solidifies our opinion of X. We both like it, but we didn't want to wait another 75 minutes for a second spin. Grabbing a bite to eat and getting to the airport seemed more important. In hindsight I might have waited if I could go back in time...maybe.
Overall we really liked the park as a whole. It was easily the best SF park we've been to (that list includes SFWOA, SFNE, SFOG and SFGAdv) and my wife enjoyed it enough that our 2003 passes will not be wasted. The rides ranged from horrible to very good/great. I'm not sure the comparisons between SFMM and CP are warranted. They're really not too similar in any way except number of coasters. Each has good coasters and bad coasters, both have a decent assortment of flats, each seems nice enough to walk around, each has it's own quirks.
I'd drive all over Los Angeles again without hesitation though. It'd have no problem topping my "fun nightmare places to drive" list. NYC would be a solid #2. Dance that beautiful bumper to bumper ballet...
*** This post was edited by Lord Gonchar 2/10/2003 4:50:03 AM ***
Glad to see some other positive comments about SFMM. I wasn't sure about this park after hearing so many bad things about it but I was very impressed with it. Definately better run than what I have seen at SFWoA, SFGAd, SFDL & SFA.
We were able too ride everything except Batman, Riddler, & Deja Vu (all were running--just ran outta time!)
I wished I could have seen the looks on your faces as you braved Flashback for the first time. And I agree with your views on Riddler's Revenge, it's the "ballet" of coasters, and classic B&M. Glad you had a good and "safe" trip to So-Cal.
In comparsion i found Knotts to be a overall better experience, the employee's i dealt with were friendly/the park was very clean and the ride-ops encouraged re-rides when availabe and no running of empty trains while people were waiting to ride. The shows at Knotts were good and Ghost town was nicley decorated for the x-mas season with a very good snoppy show for the kids!!
By the way good trip reports on SFMM and Knott's!!
*** This post was edited by Bob O 2/11/2003 12:04:12 AM ***
Great report, though, I can't wait till I get to visit SoCal(and for that matter, the rest of Cal as well)for all the great parks out there.
I just thought that even a SF park would have a x-mas in a park at x-mas time!!! No atmosphere in the park at all!!
As far as comparisons between SFMM and CP, I do have to agree that they are like apples and oranges. However, I would definitely say that CP does have the better collection (and way more) of flat rides.
Be polite and ignore the idiots. - rollergator
"It was like that when I got here."
"faster, cheaper, and more often" that's somebody's new sig -UpsideDawnGrrrl
The world's going to Hell, and Im going to bed.
Not a great coaster, but not as bad as i have heard and i didnt find it painful and rode it about 5-6 times in a row.
It isn't so bad. . .
Once you're used to it
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