SFMW (6/29) - Blech

Associated parks:

...or, how I learned to understand why people dislike Six Flags.

I went up to Davis, CA for a party, slept over at a friend's place, and decided I'd take the 40 minute drive over to Vallejo to see SFMW. Never been before, and I wanted to ride Medusa West to compare it to Scream, and it seemed like such a good idea.

At First! (dum dum dum)

First off, $10 parking?!? Yeesh, I thought $8 was industry standard, and still pretty darned high, but $10? For a parking lot where there's literally no-one guiding people to open spots or anything like that? I dunno, at SFMM, they generally guide people into each row, filling them, before sending people to the next row. It's nice, it gets you into the lot and parked quickly, and keeps people from meandering the parking lot looking for spots. Not here. Thankfully, I found a spot relatively quickly, and eschewed the tram for a walk that might even be longer than SFMM's parking lot -> front gate walk.

Get to the front where I sign proclaims "Sorry, Zonga is closed today!" Rats, I was looking forward to giving it a shot, but today it was not to be.

What they failed to mention so brilliantly, however, was that Roar and V2 were also closed. Roar was sending out empty trains every 20 minutes or so, but hadn't opened by the time I left. That essentially left three major coasters open, Medusa, Kong, and Boomerang. (B&M Floorless, Vekoma SLC, and Vekoma Boomerang, for those not familiar with the joint).

Thankfully, the season pass holder line was VERY short (compared to the 10-15 minute waits to get through the metal detectors at all the other gates) and I walked right in, round 'bout 11:00. Despite a lack of signs, I managed to find my way to Medusa without taking any wrong turns (If I can see it, I can get there, dangit), and find the line just past the entrance to the queue. Knowing the capacity machine that is Scream, I imagined that the wait would be short.

Again, I was wrong.

Walking from the lot, I figured by the timing that they were running single train operation, and when I got to the ride, I saw a second train sitting at the station with the restraints up, not doing a whole lot. I assumed at the time that they were putting the second train on (the third was in the shed with every wheel removed), but after watching for a while, I think this was just normal operation. I counted at least 4 times where the first train had returned to the station and stacked nicely before they even started letting people board the train in the station. Restraint checks seemed to take a ridiculous amount of time, and oftentimes, dispatches were taking 7-8 minutes. My home park is SFMM, and X running a single train can dispatch that fast.

About halfway through the wait the voice over the PA changed, which I figure must have been a shift change and things improved dramatically. Still not great (I saw them avoid stacking once in the hour and 45 I waited), but better. While waiting I was watching Kong. I've never ridden a Vekoma SLC before, but even just watching it I can see why people don't like 'em. Coming out of the first half loop, people were being visibly jostled VERY hard into the sides of the restraints. Yeesh! I knew I was going to have to ride it, so at least I could say that I'd ridden an SLC, and I wasn't looking forward to it.

Finally made it to the end of the line, and while they were assigning rows, apparently being a single-rider means you get to pick whatever row you want. Front row, please!

Overall, I'm impressed. I enjoyed the ride more than Scream by a pretty sizeable margin. Scream is fun, but this was definitely more fun for me. Better use of track for near misses, the straight drop was fun, and overall it felt much more forceful than Scream does. I got tossed around a few times on the ride...not in a violent way, more in like a "Hey...where'd gravity go?" kinda way. Very, very fun.

Then, it was off to Kong.

Right as I was leaving Medusa, she broke down. Employees on the lift hill, and people filtering out quickly from the line, also headed for Kong. Medusa conducted a couple more test runs while I was there, but never started running again. Leaving two Vekoma masterpieces being the only rides running, and making their lines extraordinarily long. Add to that what seemed like 8-10 minutes between dispatches on Kong and the front row of the yellow train apparently being out of order, and the line just did not move. After about half an hour and making it barely through the line, I gave up.

No first SLC ride for me.

Boomerang held little to no interest to me, and I left at about 1:30.

That's not all though. The parking lot doesn't only lack people pointing the way, it lacks ANY signs pointing towards the exit. It doesn't lack, however, roads that suddenly turn one way halfway down them, so you get to three point turn, roads that lead directly onto tram only sections with no warning sign (other than "TRAM ONLY" painted on the ground once you've made it that far) leading to more three point turns, and a huge mess of Schwarzkopf track lying in one corner of the lot. That part was kinda nice, actually, though I understand it isn't going to be reassembled at the park. Which is probably a good thing.

After a hefty 10 minutes of trying to find the exit, then trying to fight through the deluge of people, I finally got the hell out of there and headed back to my friend's place.

This was just sad. It was a busy day (lovely weather on a Sunday), and they had three rides running at opening, two by 1 o'clock. The ride-ops seemed inattentive at best, making operations just take interminable amounts of time. Employees outside the stations of the rides or manning food carts were non-existent, meaning I saw more people smoking in line inside of the station building on Medusa than I see smoking in line at all at SFMM. It bugged me, and I'm a smoker. Go fig. And they weren't just smoking tobacco...

I'm pretty sad that I wasted a good 5 hours of my day (3 1/2 in the park, then the driving) for my experience there. I'm glad I rode Medusa, but I'm not making any more trips to SFMW until I start hearing that things have changed there.

That's too bad, I've never had a day that bad at Marine World. In fact, it is rare one of the coasters (besides Zonga) is down that long. I guess all I can say is go again sometime during the week because the crowds are reduced and it seems like most everything runs.


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