Six Flags Great Adventure, Jackson, New Jersey, USA
Last year, Linette and I didn’t even get to SFGAdv, even though it is really our “home park.” It wasn’t anything against the park- for many years, I have been amongst the park’s supporters- it was just the plain and simple fact that we had so many other places to go last summer. Virginia. Maryland. Florida. Georgia. Florida again. Yeah, we missed Superman, a coaster that I was very excited about the park receiving, but we did ride the original at SFOG last August so in the end, it didn’t really matter. This wouldn’t be our first park of the year- we had been to BGT and Boomers in February, but we figured the beautiful weather would make a nice day for an amusement park. We wanted to ride Nitro- a ride which we both call our favorite steel coaster. We also wanted to get our season passes processed before we head to L.A. in June and drop by SFMM.
We pulled into the lot and had my wallet bludgeoned, thanks to the $10 parking fee… welcome to Six Flags.
The lot was pretty full for an April weekend, and judging by the length of the line for season pass processing (again in the former Right Stuff building), it seemed as though everyone had the same idea that we had. We decided to eat lunch, so we backtracked to Nathan’s. Two hot dogs, two medium fries and two drinks- what would cost about $10 at the food court in the local mall cost $20. Yep… this is Six Flags. Impressive though was the fact that, when the line for food got long, another line was opened, thus relieving the congestion inside. Not only that, but the people behind the counter were actually moving pretty quickly. Motivated employees? WTF?
After lunch, the line for pass processing was still close to reaching the Turnpike so we headed on over to Superman, which posted a 90 minute wait but had a line that looked like it would take half that time. And in just that, we were seated in row 5. The ride was just as I had remembered it in Georgia. I know people have talked about how the forces in the Pretzel Loop were toned down in this version- what kind of sh** are they on, anyway? Even in the middle of the train, the positive g’s at the base of that element were on the verge of punishing. Beautiful. I think people misunderstand these flying coasters by B&M. They seem to think that, because they feature one of the most positive g-intensive moments of any coaster B&M has built, the entire ride should be just as forceful. But its not. And perhaps it shouldn’t be. This is a FLYING coaster, and it does the whole “flying” thing quite well. I love the sweeping curves in the middle of the ride and I love the final turn that flows right into that inline flip. I like the combination of intensity and grace. Granted, its still my least favorite B&M coaster in the park, but considering the others are Batman, Medusa and Nitro, that’s not as severe a complaint as you would think it to be.
What I do have to complain about is the obvious cost-cutting that SF engaged in when building this ride. The queuing area for Superman is made of this flimsy aluminum fencing that is bending and sagging after just one year. It looks like crap! The majority of queuing rails at the park are steel pipes that people can lean on and sit on and not damage if they tried. The stuff used on Superman looked as though it was going to fall apart before the end of the season.
By the time we exited Superman, the line for pass processing had gone down, so we took care of that. The line moved very quickly, and within 15 minutes, we were lined up for picture-taking. When we got season passes in 2002, they took our pictures and made us wait about 20 minutes for the cards. Now, you get your card right after the snap your picture. Nice. Is this new this year, or was it like that last year as well?
To my surprise, both sides of Chiller were running when we headed over that way. After a dozen or so visits since the ride was added in 1997, I had only seen Chiller operate ONCE, and that was with only the Batman side running. I guess hell froze over or something. We thought it best not to tempt fate even though we were yearning to ride Nitro, so we decided to ride the Robin side, regardless of how long the wait was. But hell must have thawed and froze over a second time, because there was NO wait. After two launches, we were seated in the front seat of car 4.
You can tell that these cars were not designed for lap bars. There is no foot room whatsoever, and for someone as tall as I am (6’3”), that becomes an issue. I had to really push down on the bar to get the seatbelt to reach, which was something that I had to do on Flight of Fear at PKD last April but didn’t have to do on Joker’s Jinx at SFA just two days later. I wonder why the seatbelt was so long on the SFA ride but not on the PKD and SFGAdv launched coasters which use the same lap bar arrangement in the same vehicles?
The launch was great, the cobra roll/boomerang/whatever they call it element was fairly cool, as was the upwards mid-air inline twist. Smooth as a B&M, actually. Until we got going backwards, that is… then things got a little bumpy, especially between the twist and the cobra roll. Not an uncomfortable bumpy, just bumpy. Nice ride- short and intense- but not one of my favorites, that’s for sure. If I had waited an hour or so (like people say they do), I probably wouldn’t have been too happy. Not my favorite launched coaster, but still a worthy addition to the park. Especially if they continue running it.
Itching to get on Nitro, we headed over that way and were greeted by a very short line. Some kind of mechanical problem caused about 15 minutes of downtime, but we were still seated in the back row (our fave) in less than half an hour. Nitro was as good as it always was, and after a fairly decent hand-rolled pretzel (next to the stand that sells those awesome-looking butterfly potatoes) and a watered-down lemonade, we took another spin.
Nitro is, in my eyes, just about as perfect as a steel coaster can be. It has an incredible first drop that goes on forever. Its not vertical, but it might as well be. The mid-course helix features some of the most powerful sustained positive g’s you’ll ever come across. And the airtime- ahhhh, the airtime- hill after hill of beautiful floaters, made all the more wonderful by the most brilliant restraint system since the PTC buzz bar. Seats as comfy as your living room La-Z-Boy and nothing but a belly bar to keep you planted in them. No seatbelts to complicate loading (no wonder why the Nitro crew is a model of efficiency), no car body around you to make you feel confined- this restraint system should be standard on every steel coaster, regardless of what it does.
The experience is unlike any other. Close your eyes and you’re not on a coaster that’s confined to steel rails… its almost as if you were picked up by a heavy wind and are floating through the sky as you rise, drop and spin with the breeze. Instead of returning to the station with your knuckles white and your blood pumping, you come back relaxed- almost sedated- because of what just happened. There are many good steel coasters out there that emulate the balls-to-the-wall intensity of the finest wood out-and-backs (Superman @ SFNE and Magnum come instantly to mind), and that is all well and good, but if I’m going to ride a steel coaster because it behaves like a wood coaster, then why not go to Lake Compounce or Knoebels and ride a wood coaster? I ride steel coasters because they do things that wood coasters can’t do, and Nitro is definitely an example of that kind of ride. I know I’m in the minority amongst enthusiasts with that opinion- maybe I’m just looking at Nitro in a different light. I love Superman @ SFNE, but I love Nitro even more.
It was getting cold so we were thinking of heading out, but Batman, looking suave with its new paint job, was calling to us. Talk about an improvement. I always liked the way SFOT’s Batman clone looked with yellow track and I’m so glad that SFGAdv decided to do give their Batman a similar look. The coaster looks brand new! The yellow track is a different shade of yellow than the yellow on Nitro (Batman is like sunshine, Nitro is more gold) and the coaster actually sits far enough away from Nitro where the clashing of colors never becomes an issue.
Unfortunately, Six Flags did another one of their half-assed jobs with this one. While the actual coaster looks nice, the blue billboards that create the Gotham skyline in the “park” are in bad shape. They are warped, faded and the paint is chipping off… why spend all that time and money on the ride and not do something with the theming? And speaking of theming, the rest seems to have disappeared- the crashed cop car was M.I.A., as was all the junk that used to be scattered about. Its too bad, because all that stuff added to the atmosphere. When we were on Nitro, the bone yard was filled with piles of crap, so why can’t they take some of that and toss it into Batman’s queuing area? And why is one of those hi-striker games in the area where the Batmobile should be?
Batman was a walk-on. I couldn’t believe it. The coaster that I have ALWAYS waited no less than 30-45 minutes for had no wait whatsoever! The ride was typical Batman, full of positive g’s- this remains the only coaster that manages to make my legs feel weak (during that slow section of track after the second vertical loop and before the train plunges into the first of the wing-overs.) As we were leaving the station, the ride-op announced than anyone that wanted to re-ride could take an empty seat. We were freezing cold and wanted to get on our way, but I was impressed nonetheless. I’ve never heard a Six Flags ride op say that before.
As we headed towards the gate to leave, we decided to take a walk past Blackbeard’s Lost Treasure Train- a ride that we have avoided in the past because we could never justify waiting in line for a small family coaster. An interesting ride, to say the least. We sat in the last two seats of the train, meaning that we each had our own seat and had plenty of space to slide from side to side as the train kept changing directions. Since the train is so freakin’ long, there is a pronounced push-pull effect felt throughout the entire ride, adding to the fun of the experience. I can’t say that I’m in a rush to ride it again, but for kiddy/family ride, it is perfect. I can’t decide whether a Zierer coaster like this or a Vekoma Roller Skater is the more perfect small family coaster- they’re both good designs. I particularly liked the train whistle that blows before leaving the station!
We were all set to leave when we noticed that Houdini’s Great Escape had no line. Another ride that we had always wanted to ride but could never see waiting for. After a five minute wait, we were inside the pre-show. Kinda creative, but after spending so much time in the Orlando theme parks these past few years, it seemed kind of low-budget. It didn’t help that we could hardly hear the woman that was telling the story. The room was ¼ full at the most- I can’t imagine how hard she would be to hear if the room was full! The ride was quite interesting- it brought back many memories of Hershey’s defunct Frontier Meeting House. The ride is quite effective, even though its nothing more than the same special effect repeated over and over again. Once again, a fun ride, but not something that we’re willing to wait for to ride again.
Finally, a few notes: its obvious that the park is making strides when it comes to polishing their operations. There were sweepers walking the paths, attendants in all of the bathrooms and not once did we encounter an employee whose attitude was the least bit questionable. For what seemed to be a rather busy day early in the season (not long after the employees were just trained), the park handled the crowd very well. While some rides were closed (like the log flume and the Parachute Tower), all of the coasters seemed to be in operation, although I can’t verify that for sure as we never made it to the corner of the park where Rolling Thunder, Runaway Train, Viper and Medusa reside. And, as usual, we didn’t encounter any of the “gangs” that people claim to roam the park. Everyone was well-behaved with no line jumping to speak of (when there were lines.)
SFGAdv remains one of the most beautiful theme parks around. Huge shade trees and lots of flower gardens fill the park. Not only that, but the park seems to be engulfed in a quest to make a good thing even better. The stupid stage that has covered the entrance fountain these past few years has been removed and the grand fountain is once again flowing with water. Things seem to be getting painted, albeit very slowly. And more and more of the concrete pathways are giving way to carefully-laid paving stones which surely cost quite a bit to install. No concrete jungle, that’s for sure.
Nonetheless, there is still room for improvement. As is the case with most Six Flags properties, the theming sometimes leaves a lot to be desire. Why the hell is a Spongebob ride- obviously geared towards little kids- in a big grey military hangar? When the Right Stuff simulator was removed, why not at least paint the building yellow to make it look a little friendly. The park could also use another wood coaster- after they get proper lessons on how to maintain their existing one, of course. The park has an almost-perfect collection of steel coasters, so why not build a good wood coaster now?
Our day was limited, but we intend on going back rather soon. If last Sunday was any indication, its going to be a good summer down in Jackson, NJ. *** Edited 4/20/2004 7:37:54 PM UTC by Rob Ascough***
In particular, I really loved what you said about Nitro. It's weird, because even after riding Magnum two years ago and S:RoS last year, I still put Nitro at the top of my steel list, and I couldn't quite put into words why. But you definitely said it better than I ever could have -- kudos to you, and thank you!
Trust me, it took me a long time to put my feelings for Nitro into words. The ride experience really is unlike any other and its really hard to pinpoint why that is. I rode Apollo's Chariot last year and, realizing that they are the same type of ride, Nitro still feels different. That I can't explain. All I know is that Nitro is something I cannot get enough of. Especially night rides.
One man's trash is another man's gold so to speak.
To quote myself from a thread describing Nitro on May 20, 2003:
I prefer a powerful ride that tries to throw me off like an angry bull over one that caresses my buttocks as it gently floats me around like a child in the arms of his mother.
All the reasons you list as pluses are the same reasons I have little love for Nitro.
So much so that after my first experience with the ride, I posted a new thread specifically on "not getting it"
I really think it's the new Magnum in regards to its place in enthusiasts hearts. Love/Hate.
I can't discount the enjoyment many find in the ride, but I find it interesting when a coaster can pull opinions from such different end of the spectrum in mass quantity.
I love your Nitro descriptions...so true, all of it!
Antuan- No Medusa this time, we didn't have time to head in that direction. It was either Nitro and a chance to ride the Robin side of Chiller or Medusa. I have much love for Medusa, but it will have to wait until next time.
Rob Ascough said:
All I know is that Nitro is something I cannot get enough of. Especially night rides.
My good friend John, who is a CBer but rarely posts, put it best on Opening Day when he said, "Damn, that first drop...you never quite get used to it." Even when I rode Millennium Force, even though the drop was huge, I was always conscious that I was on a roller coaster dropping. But something about Nitro always brings on the feeling of falling -- truly falling. It's pretty surreal.
*** Edited 4/20/2004 9:39:55 PM UTC by Nitro Dave***
I think all of the B&M hypers (well my experience is limited to Nitro and Apollo) are *outstanding* additions to their respective parks.
If there is such a thing as a 'family" hyper, then these are it. The average park-goer looks in awe at a 230-some odd foot drop and hill after hill with those 'oh so open' cars and it just spells terror.
But then they ride and realize it's not bad at all and there's that sense of thrill and accomplishment - "I beat that big scary ride and it was fun" It's the perfect ride for the casual park visitor.
I can't fault any park for wanting a ride like that in their line-up. It foolproof from a guest satisfaction satndpoint. It's just those hardened enthusiasts that you can never please ;)
I find myself having the most fun on the 'smoothest' woodies and the 'forceful' steelies. I kind of think the two categories overlap a bit in ride characteristics and that's where I tend to fall in preference. Wood can leave me beat up and steel can feel over-engineered. Meet in the middle and I'm a happy boy :)
I was there on Sunday, and got 7 rides on the Chiller (5 on Batman, 2 on Robin). It was my first time on Batman. I liked it a lot better than Robin. And by the way, I think Chiller is also better than Nitro.
Love your thoughts on Nitro, although I must have been on something that day because I thought the tops of the second hill and the one that's directly opposite (like 6th?) had some of the best moments of sheer terror in coaster-dom ... being that high up, with that little restraint, being absolutely whipped around those weird-shaped corners more than a Wild Mouse ... that was my Nitro adrenaline rush that got me hooked ...
You know, I actually forgot about the top of the second hill. I remember that moment being quite unnerving on my first rides as well. You almost feel as if you're going to get "dumped" from the train if it happened to slow down.
I like it. Perfect description Rob.
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