SFOT - 7/16/09

This was a spur of the moment type of trip. Coming from a business meeting near Shreveport and having to catch a plan in Dallas the next day, I made it to the Six Flags parking lot a little after 6. Since I didn't plan this, I was ill-prepared. Luckily, I had cash to pay the insane-but-typical $15 parking fee.

Looked around, but I didn't find any those discarded discount coupons you find in a fast food joint. I had to pay full price, but because I was from outside the area, I was offered a discounted season pass that was about $5 cheaper than the full price. The cashier was sincere enough...take the voucher to the processing office and get a season pass good for any Six Flags park. A good deal for me, since I live only 2 hrs. from GAdv. The problem was that when all was said and done, the clock struck 6:30 and the processing office closed at 6. The voucher states, "good only at SFOT." Oh well. Couldn't get lucky.

It was Texas hot, about 105 degrees according to the radio. The park wasn't crowded at all, and even though I had jeans and work boots on, it wasn't as bad as it sounds.

Onto the rides:

Mine Train: Walk-on wait, 1 ride, last car, 2nd row. This started a trend in my observations. I noticed that in a lot of cases, Cedar Point, when they bought the same ride type that OT already had, either didn't have the money or interest to get something just as good. Take the Mine Train. I wasn't expecting this to be much better than any other, but I thought it was good enough to contend for the best. Mine Ride creaks, rattles, lingers, has one decent hill, one marginally good helix, and themeing that consists of a loading station and storage shed. Mine Train tried to be something out of a Disney park in the 60's. It reminded me a lot of Matterhorn in terms of compensating low speed with tight turns and headchops to make for a cool ride. I skipped Mini Mine Train for now and headed over to the Batman area.

BTR: 1 ride, 10 minute wait for the front. The only clone that's worth cloning, I think. I love BTR's more than probably any other inverted. It's the only one that has any force or speed. I don't need to feel like I'm flying on an airliner to have a great ride (see Talon, Silver Bullet, etc.). Inversions are meant to be g-force hogs, and I love how B&M in their early years didn't shy away from this simple concept. I rode in the usual front seat (doesn't it suck how 99% of the time single rides get screwed with the outer head-banging seats?), and I again realized something. A lot of times in the forums we poo-poo the B&M shake that their rides develop overtime. Yeah, BTR had it today, but it wasn't distracting from the ride experience. I have yet to have a B&M shake me so bad that it was uncomfortable. It's only age in my book. As long as I guard against the occasional ear pop against the horsecollar, especially in an outside seat, I'm good to go. This BTR wasn't any better than any other, but the model is still my favorite invert. Stacking was bad. The staff on all of the coasters now have to check restraints and then go back through the train to do a visual inspection. Huh? Why can't they do both at the same walkthrough? BTR ended up being worse than all the other coaster crews this day.

Mr. Freeze: 1 ride, both sides operating when I boarded, front row wait 10 minutes. Got lucky on this one and slipped up to the front with another single rider. Having done Chiller, FoF, I knew about the underwhelming Premiere-style launch, but I wasn't expecting what would follow. Airtime in the twists up and out of the tophat? Decent hangtime in the inversion? A smooth overbank? Yes to all! Who knew? Getting rid of the horsecollars a couple years back was and still is a brilliant move. The crowds got small enough that as soon as I exited, they started closing down one side of the platform and went to a single train operation.

Tony Hawk: 1 ride. Fun and short. Better than the Waldameer Steel Dragon type in regards to intensity for sure. In the world of spinners, Exterminator is still better in terms of amount of spinning. They were utilizing the single rider line which cut down the wait significantly, but this was the only coaster that took advantage.

Judge Roy Scream: 1 ride, 2nd seat, last car. What I expected from this ride is what I got. A large family coaster that's a stepping stone for elementary school kids stepping up from Kiddieland. A lot of jackhammering at the bottom of every hill. Very little airtime. Short. This ended up being the most painful coaster of the day to that point, which had me fear my upcoming Texas Giant circuit.

Yosemite Sam: 1 ride. I didn't know what this was when I got in line, to be honest. I thought it was a kiddie ride until I saw a bunch of teens get in line. Lo and behold, it ended up being a Looney Tunes boat dark ride. Kind of neat, I guess. Loved the section where the vibrations of the rollers coming off the small lift at the mid point were themed to be a boiler explosion. Only in Texas can a theme park get away with cartoon characters shooting guns and cannons at each other and the guests. Could you imagine the alarmist parents from suburban NJ freaking out if this was at GAdv??

I walked back to the Oil Derreck, but it was closed due to "high winds" even though there wasn't even a breeze from a butterfly this day.

Runaway Mountain: 1 ride, first row, last car. Another one that I knew little about. In a trend started from the Mine Train, this appears by me to be OT's Disaster Transport. No theming, just a coaster in a box. But it's a better coaster than a bobsled, in fact, MUCH better. I had a blast on this! Coming off of the midcourse brakes is a deep and sudden drop that is a surprise, and from that point to the end, the laterals and out-of-control feeling never lets up.

Log Flume: 1 ride, 15 minute wait. I had to ride this just to say I rode the world's first flume. Only one of the courses was running today, which was surprising given the heat. I quickly realized, that like any prototype, the ride's only built to prove a concept would work. The drop is small, the course mostly meanders with little in ways of drops and rapids. And the spritz of water in the splash was barely noticeable. Still, I appreciated the history of this ride and applaud Six Flags for at least keeping 1/2 of it running.

Texas Giant. 2 rides, walk-on both times. Here we go. The sign at the ticket booths still show this one being closed, but it was up and running at least since 8pm when I noticed it. Also strange was the first car blocked off on both trains. Now, I know Mean Streak. I know the horror. I had absolutely no hope for Giant. All I can say is that when my 1st trip around was over (2nd car, 2nd seat), I was left speechless, shocked, wide-mouthed, and stupified. I now understand what went wrong with Mean Streak. Giant represents the absolute limit you can take a Summers design. CP tried and failed to improve on it, and then had to neuter it over the years to at least get some return on a bad investment. Giant was insane. It's been awhile since I've been on a truly violent wooden coaster. I've been pampered by the Thunderheads and Ravine Flyer II's of the world. I re-learned, fast, the consequences of designing roller coasters with pencil, paper, and pocket calculators. The result is you'll probably get something you didn't expect, like airtime in places there shouldn't be airtime. Laterals with airtime that just defies coaster convention. Out of control speed, even when coming off of a hard-acting trim off the lift hill. I wish, oh so wish, I knew this coaster in 1990. I can't say it's my favorite (RFII still has more speed sensation and air), but this was definitely my biggest coaster surprise EVER.

Titan: 2 rides, about 10 minute wait per ride. First ride in the 2nd to last row, 2nd ride in the 2nd from front. Another HUGE surprice. I completely expected a Goliath clone, which was a disappointment for me during both of my previous trips to SFMM. I thought the spaghetti bowl off the midcourse brakes was a huge waste for a coaster that tall and that fast. Titan, on the other hand, didn't seem that way. That helix up to the MCBR's makes this coaster. It also gives the ride the transition it needed from a pure hypercoaster first-half to the twister 2nd-half. The first helix had to the the most powerful sustained positive G-forces I've ever experienced on a roller coaster. It gave a preview of what's to come in the finale. I still think that this coaster is missing 2 or 3 bunny hops at the end, but I'm really just nit-picking. The front part of the train was better than the back for the G's and airtime on the 2nd hill. In my list of hypercoasters, it's still behind Magnum and Phantom's Revenge, but light years ahead of Nitro, Steel Force, and Goliath.

Shockwave: 1 ride, walk-on, 2nd seat, 2nd car. For someone who's never been here before, this was a tough coaster to find. If not for a park map, I'd never find the entrance. Of all the directional arrows in the park, not one points to Shockwave, while some point to the Log Flume, Papa John's, and Coldstone. But regardless, I found it. And it's a cool ride. Reminded me a lot of a park-model Laser or a SuperDooperLooper-Looper. I love the forces in the loops there were pops of airtime over the hills.

La Vibora: 1 ride, 10 minute wait. Wow. CP got screwed again! The in-line bobsleds on LV definitely appear to be more mobile in the trough than Disaster's side-by-side model. Let me say this. If someone told me I could get airtime off of a bobsled coaster, I'd think they were nuts. Well, I'm a doubter no more. In and out of each S-curve was a little pop of air and lateral that felt that the car was on the brink of tipping over in the turns. A shock from someone used to the dark and boring Trip to Alaska. LV was faster than I expected, longer than I expected, and had more S-turns than I expected. But at the consequence of speed and air, the transitions into the brake runs were rough and hard. VERY rough and hard. If that could be fixed, then this could truly be a niche coaster people cheer about, like Eagle Fortress. Until then, it's just another link on the coaster credit belt. Still the best bobsledder I've ridden.

I never got back to Mini Mine Train, nor did I waste my time on Flashback. The Derrick opened around 9, but by the time I made it back after hitting all the coasters, it was near 10 and too late. I also wanted a spin on their Shoot Out parachute ride, but time just ran out. Their electric parade at 9:45 seemed pretty lame. You know they're running on a tight budget when the vehicles are clearly spare Arrow antique cars. The kids watching the parade were getting a kick out of Mr. Six's antics, I guess, so it served the purpose well.

By the time I left the park, it was still well over 95 degrees. Given the weather and amount of time I had to spend, my marathon trip to SFOT was as productive as it could've been. It's by far my favorite Six Flags so far. You expect the same level of mediocrity from MM or GAdv, but you're surprised at the strangest times. The park still has some theme. The rides are still running better than average. There's minimal stacking (except BTR). And props to the crews! On a really hot day, those folks were still friendly, fast, and did there job. That's a lot to say for a Six Flags park!

Maybe I'll have to return to GAdv and end my 5 year absence. If this is a company-wide change, I'll have to take advantage while they still care.

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