Six Flags Great Adventure, Jackson, New Jersey, USA
Where to begin...at the beginning! So, without getting too in depth with my life story, this year Liz and I were expecting our first son in late July, so I knew if any coaster trips were to be made in 2006 (one), they (it) would be solo and close to home. A couple months ago I asked my bud Jason if he'd want to join me at Kings Dominion on a weekday (to avoid crowds) at some point this season, and he agreed. I grew up going to KD...it's just over an hour down I-95 from my house, and despite Six Flags America also being really close by, I haven't had any desire whatsoever to set foot in that place for the last few years. Plus, I'd get to ride Italian Job for the first time, although to be honest I wasn't that excited about it.
Then, a couple weeks ago I had an epiphany: Six Flags Great Adventure is a bit more of a drive, but I could ride 3 new-to-me coasters and even hit some that I haven't burnt out on like I have with most of KD's, to a degree. Jason and I worked out the details--we would drive up to Jersey Sunday afternoon, crash at a nearby motel, and spend Monday riding our fool heads off. Which we nearly did, but I'll get to that in a bit...
I bought our tickets to Six Flags online, which were $40 each (20 bucks off full price), and looking for the cheapest possible lodging, I found the Econo Lodge in Bordentown with a rate of only $60 a night. Thank the Lord (Gonchar) that before I booked the hotel, I read his SFGAdv trip report from June beforehand, in which he described this particular Econo Lodge as "the single worst hotel ever to book a guest." I'm skeptical about the accuracy of this statement, as I'm nearly positive Liz and I stayed at a motel in lovely Trenton 5 years ago that would easily steal that title and make fun of the Econo Lodge for being so neat and tidy. At 55 bucks a night (wouldn't have been surprised if I saw hourly rates), we were blasted with the smell of piss when we opened the door, slept fully-clothed on top of the bedspread and balled up our sweatshirts to use as pillows, and showered with our sandals on the next morning. If you ever come across this place (I think it was called 'Motel'), do NOT stay there. But whatever, I didn't want to chance sleeping in another craphole, so I booked us a room at the Bordentown Comfort Inn instead.
Because my go-kart would be our means of transportation, we had to pack light. We left Jason's place in Arlington, VA around 5:30pm on Sunday, and, after a couple stops and an hour-long backup on the Turnpike, we arrived at our hotel around 10:30pm. Our room was functional and clean, which was all I really hoped for. One of our keycards didn't work and we had to get a TV remote from the front desk, but no big deal. Oh, and I got short-sheeted, which Jason found extremely amusing.
Next morning we were up at 8:00, grabbed some free continental breakfast action in the lobby and were off and to the park by a little after 10:00. Seeing Kingda Ka as we drove in was...ridiculous. Scream Machine looked so huge the last time I was there. Now? Not so much...
There was a slight drizzle when we first awoke but it had stopped by the time we arrived, and despite the sky threatening a downpour all day long, it never did. Upon entering the front gates, we of course were accosted by one of the photo takers, but Jason struck first, which caught her off-guard enough to allow us to pass through unscathed!
We started our day out small--Blackbeard's Lost Treasure Train (long name--and longest damn trains--for such a short coaster). We thought it was closed at first since the two ops were just sitting on the train shooting the breeze and they hadn't removed the chain blocking the entrance ramp. Jason had to get their attention, and they let us on. Good thing there were enough empty seats available.
Next we headed to Skull Mountian, but on our way there we got sidetracked by the remote control boats. These things are always more fun in your head than in reality, and on top of that the token machine ate one of Jason's dollars. Awesome. So, back to Skull Mountain--I recalled the couple times I'd previously ridden were in the front car, so we tried the very back. This is a pretty fun coaster because you have no clue where you're going in pitch darkness, but this time around was even better. Being in the back seat we were yanked over the crest of the first hill which produced a really nice pop of air--and of course the feeling was enhanced in the dark. It was so startling I screamed like an 8 year old girl, which had Jason and me laughing hysterically the rest of the ride. Good times.
Next coaster we spotted was Batman The Ride, which I hadn't seen with its yellow paint job. Looked nice, but I always preferred the black. Jason's favorite ride is Alpengeist, so I was psyched to see what he thought of Batman. We rode in the front (the only way I enjoy inverted coasters), and we were both loving the intensity. He even mentioned how much more 'snap' the inversions had compared to Alpengeist's. I still prefer Alpie, and that was reconfirmed as we hit the brakes and my head started throbbing. I hate to say it, but I'm starting to see that I can't take the intense ones like I used to.
"LATER, AT THE HALL OF JUSTICE..."
We stopped off at a souvenir shop to pick up some Aleve. It was called the Hall of Justice.
After passing the dormant Chiller, Jason saw the Autobahn and wanted to take a spin, and I certainly wasn't going to turn down bumper cars. These were pretty lame, however. Jason's car didn't go anywhere for the first 30 seconds or so of the cycle, until I was able to come around and rear end it. Overall the cars were too sluggish, and the ride cycle too short.
As we exited the Autobahn, we managed to catch The Flash, Robin, and a patriotic J-Lo walking by. Pretty cool to see after all the negative stuff going around about Six Flags skimping on the improvements implemented early in the season. In fact, we later saw Batman, Robin, and another hero I can't remember riding around the same area on ATVs, and later still they were gathered over by Superman - Ultimate Flight for a photo op and meet & greet, this time joined by Green Lantern. Over on Main Street we spotted Tweety and Porky Pig surrounded by very happy kids and parents, and there were signs advertising a parade later in the day. This is one park that seems to still be doing something right.
I was starting to get hungry, so we headed over toward the Boardwalk area to maybe hit Nathan's for lunch. As we checked out the Boardwalk I saw the entrance to Golden Kingdom, and I wanted to check it out, and also see if Kingda Ka was at least testing since I hadn't seen it run at all since we arrived at the park. I was really impressed with the theming of the Golden Kingdom--the whole area was very nicely done. While Jason made a pit stop, I looked up at Ka and caught a train flying over the 129-foot hill...and I mean flying. Holy bejeezus. And there were people on it...sweet. I suddenly forgot that I was hungry and convinced Jason that we should get in line, since it looked like it had just opened. The line didn't look too bad until I realized just how long and winding the queue was. We stayed in line for a good 10 minutes, watching in disbelief as each train launched at ungodly speeds. We decided not to wait since I still needed to eat, and Jason actually suggested getting a Flash Pass and coming back to Ka later. I had never taken advantage of Flash Pass before at any park, partly because I've always thought it was kind of unfair, and partly because I never wanted to fork over the extra cash for it.
We left the line for Kingda Ka and came across the Outpost Grill, where we stopped to get some food (completely forgetting about our original plan to hit Nathan's). After lunch we went to buy a Flash Pass. We split the cost of a standard pass at 23 bucks per guest (as opposed to 50 bucks per guest if we bought the Gold pass), and headed back to Kingda Ka. I scanned the pass to reserve our time and found that--no surprise to me--the ride was down for 2 hours! This was displayed on the Flash Pass, even. Pretty cool, except that I'd have to come back to rescan once the ride was back up, and while Great Adventure isn't the biggest park in the world, it's kind of long and narrow so getting from one end to the other is a hell of a walk. Part of this was our fault, as we didn't really concentrate on a section at a time; rather, we criss-crossed the park like seventeen times.
We decided to hit El Toro, and our reserved time was about a half-hour away. We passed under El Toro and watched the ride cycle. First of all, the profile of this coaster looks like a cartoon drawing, with super-steep drops and impossibly tall hills. The lift speed is crazy, and thus, the trains absolutely tear through the course. Like, inconceivably so. I was getting excited...but first we had some time to kill, so we crossed the bridge to Frontier Adventures and tried to find something else to ride. We didn't have a whole lot of time, so we just ended up observing rides like Medusa and the Log Flume, and found that, like the Chiller, Runaway Mine Train was closed for the rest of the season (this isn't going to be gone next year, is it?). Before we returned to El Toro, Jason spotted a guy who really loves his socks.
We got to El Toro's Flash Pass line and had about a 10 minute wait beginning halfway up the stairs to the station. Inside the station I found the line for the front seat was longer than I was willing to wait for, so we opted for second row (I heard the air toward the front of the train was better than the back). I'll forgo describing the ride in detail, and instead offer my impression of it...
HOLY FREAKING BALLS.
Air? Well, there technically isn't any 'air' on El Toro since everyone gets stapled by their lapbars, but the negative Gs on the first two hills are powerful enough that if there were no restraints, 36 bodies would be found somewhere near Nitro, or possibly Europe. The banked turns and direction changes were sick. After we got off the ride, Jason was elated, reminding me of how I felt after my first ride on Millennium Force. On the other hand, I was in complete shock. What the bloody hell just happened? This thing was RIDICULOUS. I still don't know where to rank it. Hell, I'm not even sure I can compare it to other coasters, wood or steel. Jason even suggested that maybe It's in a class entirely by itself (or at least with Balder and Colossos, the other Intamin prefab woodies). Butter smooth, but with blistering intensity that seriously does not let up for a second. It's not my favorite coaster, admittedly...I loved it, but there's something about it that left me...confused. I wasn't prepared for what I had just experienced. I wanted badly to ride it again, so I could truly 'get' it. Unfortunately, despite the Aleve my headache had just gotten a lot worse, and I was going to need a sizeable break from riding anything too intense.
We sat down and rested for a while, Jason had a smoke and made a phone call, and then he pulled out his camera to find that El Toro had busted the LCD. This bull meant business!
For our next ride I wanted to take it easy, and I remembered that there was a kiddie coaster here that I hadn't ridden...in fact I don't think I even knew it existed during my first two visits. Road Runner Railway is a typical Zamperla kiddie clone, but not as spine-crunching as Great Chase at Six Flags America, which--oddly enough--I appreciated. And I got an additional credit for the day that I wasn't expecting.
We were right next to Nitro, and I wanted to take a spin. I was looking forward to Jason riding this one since he raved about Apollo's Chariot, but he wasn't feeling up to it. The line was practically nil, so I went solo and grabbed a seat up front. I forgot how fast this was. I was loving it...smooth, graceful transitions...and then the helix came. Dammit. Still love this ride, but I just hadn't recovered from El Toro yet. The helix just intensified the magnitude of my headache, and the subsequent bunny hills started making me feel ill. You know you're getting old when NIT0R!!!1!1! does you in.
I met up with Jason and found a gift shop and bought some Motrin. We came across the remote control 4x4s, which of course we had to play, and 2 bucks and 5 minutes later we were 2 bucks poorer and had lost 5 minutes of our lives (when will I learn?). Then Jason wanted some ice cream, so I suggested Dippin' Dots, and thought that I would also get some as it might help me no longer feel like ass. It did help a little. We headed back to the Golden Kingdom to reserve our ride time on Kingda Ka, which was operating again (it wasn't even down for the full 2 hours). It was 4:03pm, and our ride time showed 5:03...we had an hour to kill, and our weary selves weren't feeling up to riding anything. What better way to recuperate than at Relaxation Station! This place had VIP leather massage chairs, aqua massage, and oxygen (aroma therapy). They had a $20 package deal where you can choose 2 of the 3 options for 15 minutes each, and the guy at the counter said we could split it between both of us. Jason wanted the aqua massage so I took the VIP chair, and we were both feeling pretty damn good afterwards. When we were back outside I saw that the Flash Pass had delayed our Kingda Ka ride time 10 minutes. We hit an arcade next door for a little while, and I wish I had seen that they had a machine where you could win a Nintendo DS earlier in the day, because I would have had more cash and more time to try and win it.
We left the arcade and again, our ride time was delayed another 10 minutes. We checked out the line for Superman - Ultimate Flight, and while it wasn't very long, it was long enough to possibly make us miss out on Kingda Ka. At this point Jason and I were almost at an impasse: he really wanted to ride Superman, and while I did, too, I would've kicked myself if I missed out on Ka. The problem was, the sky looked like a storm was about to hit at any minute. So, do we wait in line for Superman, and chance Ka closing due to rain, or do we wait another 20 minutes and then get in line for Ka, have it close down, and then not be able to ride either one? I convinced Jason to come back to Superman later.
Fortunately, as I mentioned earlier, the rain held off all day, so we all won. Plus, a few minutes after we left Superman's queue, the Flash Pass notified us that our ride time on Ka was delayed yet another 10 minutes, which gave us enough time to go back to Superman, and all the planets were aligned (except Pluto, but it doesn't count anymore) as there was now an even shorter line than before. I was worried about riding this coaster, as I still wasn't feeling 100%, and the pretzel loop has a reputation of being one of the most intense coaster elements ever. Holy crap, is that reputation justified. Only after my face returned to its 3-dimensional form was I able to enjoy the true flying feeling the rest of the ride offered. Unfortunately, Superman ended Jason's coaster riding for the day. We both felt like hell, but I swore aloud that I'd ride Kingda Ka if it killed me.
Finally, it was time to queue up for the tallest, fastest coaster on Earth. The wait ended up being about 40 minutes more, since I was dead set on riding in the front. Jason waited with me and then bailed (despite my annoying pleading that he reconsider) when I boarded the train. A single rider jumped in next to me, and we pulled up to the launch track. I can't remember the last time I was this nervous about riding a coaster. I knew it would be a minute or so before launching, and the anticipation was killing me. It seemed weird, even to me, that I would be this uptight...but I really didn't know what to expect. I've ridden Hypersonic a few times, and that is the single most intense launch ever (0 to 80 in 1.8 seconds), however soon I was going to be travelling at 128 miles per hour, and I have never travelled at 128 miles per hour in a vehilce that didn't have a big United or British Airways logo or something on it. Or without having a windshield in front of my face. Or...what the hell? Our train still hadn't launched yet...at this point my heart was pounding through my chest. And then I started to realize that we definitely should've launched by now...and I heard some other riders asking what was going on. And then I saw a maintenance guy down on the ground walking toward the station. Crud. I got this far and I'm not going to be able to ride. Five minutes later I overheard someone behind me say, "They're gonna pull us back into the station." And not long after that, the brakes disengaged and the train started rolling backwards...about a foot. Then it stopped. SWEET. Wait for it....Wait for it... *PSSSSHHHHHHHHHHHHHH*...music to my ears. And....
So, I think we were halfway down the launch track when my brain finally realized we were moving. It almost had the balls-out quickness of Hypersonic, but not quite...however, the damn thing just did not want to top out...we kept increasing speed all the way to the incline, where unfortunately I had to close my eyes due to my contacts being blown back behind my eyeballs...literally. I was afraid that if I blinked I was going to lose them. Dammit, I knew I should've brought my sunglasses in the park with me. With my eyes tightly shut, it felt like we were climbing forever. The wind noise was deafening. We slowed as we reached the summit, and I was able to squint a bit to observe my surroundings at 456 feet up, for about .3 seconds. We began the descent, my hands went up and I briefly saw the corkscrew before I had to shut my eyes because of our increasing speed. Mother of God. The drop was eternal, and the speed as we reached the bottom was blinding (well, it would have been if I wasn't already blind). I was able to squint again as we crested the second hill (yes, those arms you see are mine), and as we eased into the brakes I managed to blink enough to get my contacts to return to their usual location.
The guy next to me asked, "Ever been skydiving?"
"That's exactly what that drop felt like."
Nice, I thought. Too bad I couldn't see a bloody thing. I met Jason on the exit ramp and expressed my disappointment that I closed my eyes for half of a 20-second ride. Sure, it was silly fun, but I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I didn't spend it worrying about whether or not I would need to ask Jason to drive my car 4 hours back to Virginia because I lost my stupid contacts.
As Jason had a smoke in one of the well-hidden smoking areas, I called Liz to tell her we would be leaving soon. Jason still wanted to stick around and try to win something at some of the Boardwalk games. I suggested we both try one of the various skill-oriented things where you race other people to win the prize, and we chose the one where you roll the balls into the different holes (labeled fast, medium, and slow), and your horse (or clown, or baloon, or whatever the ridiculous theme was) moves a few inches or farther toward the finish line depending on what hole you dropped the ball into. I have no friggin' idea what these games are called, if you hadn't guessed. There were maybe 5 or 6 players, and I just barely pulled out a win, and let Jason pick out a really homely stuffed monkey. Then I thought it'd be nice to win something for Jake, my son, so we tried the water gun race, or whatever the hell it's called. My gun didn't work, but fortunately Jason beat everyone else, and I picked a stuffed Michigan J. Frog for Jake. I then argued with the attendant that my gun didn't work (she activated the wrong one), so I got another try, but lost.
We decided to eat before we got on the road, so we grabbed a dog and fries at Nathan's since we were already on the Boardwalk and we'd forgotten to eat there before. We ate outside, and I spotted the Guess Your Age & Weight game, and it was a requirement for me to play. I've always looked a lot younger than I am, so it's a guaranteed win for me. I figured I'd get another cheap stuffed piece of crap for Liz, too. It kills me to say this, but the dude that guessed my age shattered my perfect winning record, and my pride, all at once. Granted, he guessed only 2 years younger than my actual age, which means I lose, but the fact that his guess didn't have a '2' as the first number was gruesomely sobering. Ugh.
To top it off, I was craving chocolate as an after-dinner snack, and made a beeline for the M&M vending machine. Dropped a buck fifty in and pressed the Twix button, and out came...Starburst!
Bastards. Can't even fill a vending machine right. Few things suck more than lemon Starburst.
And on that note we left, quite satisfied with our day. The park was in better shape than I expected, especially after reading recent trip reports illustrating how crappy things have been. I didn't see it. There were some flat rides that weren't operating, and of course Chiller and Mine Train, but otherwise most of the rides were running, and all coasters were operating with at least two trains to keep the lines down, including Batman and El Toro. I initially came to the park expecting to reride all the major coasters, but I really didn't care too much that I missed out on Rolling Thunder, GASM, and even Medusa (which I thought was going to be a must). Honestly, I find myself more looking forward to when I can take Jake to his first amusement park and watch him ride the rides, and eventually take him on his first coaster.
The highlights of the day? Kingda Ka and El Toro, not in that order. Ka was a blast, Toro was unbelievable. If you'll pardon my redundancy, they are both, in a word...
After having a few days to analyze my El Toro experience, I think I've come to realize what's 'wrong' with it (if anything could be wrong with this magnificent phenom): it's almost...too fast. If the lift were just a few mph slower, the overall speed would be slower and the elements would be taken at a more...uh, 'human' speed, allowing for better (in my opinion) pacing...and in my mind it would be near perfect. As it is, it's an absolutely mind-blowing, beyond-wild ride that literally took my breath away; something a coaster hasn't done in a long, long time. So, trimming overall speed might make a more perfect ride, from an enthusiast's view (or at least my view), but if it meant sacrificing its currently insane properties, mabye not---might actually make it far from perfect. Quite the paradox.
But whatever...I just want to get to Great Adventure and ride The Bull again.
*** Edited 9/6/2006 2:23:02 AM UTC by Vater***
Sorry about the hotel. Under those conditions, I might have gone back to the lobby, demanded a refund and slept in the car somewhere.
Thank the Lord (Gonchar) that before I booked the hotel, I read his SFGAdv trip report from June beforehand...
You've been blessed, my son. ;)
Excellent TR. From what I read, you're definitely one of the few people I could see myself traveling with. You do parks/trips like we do.
Sure, SF has problems (any moron can see it), but if one can just detach themselves from worrying so much about what they're paying, a good time can easily be had. If you're traveling to parks like most of us do, 10 or 20 bucks probably isn't going to change your life, but constantly worrying about spending that money will certainly affect your day. Get over it and fun ensues. :)
Nah, I think that the "ludicrous speed" at which it travels separates it from the other coasters I have ridden.
The picture of the guys socks was funny. That actually is the style these days. I see it alot over here in sf.
Interesting title. I'm sure many Gadv haters initially were foaming at the mouth with negative things to say. Glad you had a decent time.
BATWING FAN - Nahh...don't worry. I'm on a mission to ride every coaster that has ever operated at KD, and I will ride Italian Job eventually. IJ and Taxi Jam are the only ones I have left, and I should be able to take Jake on that in a couple years (unless I can manage to borrow a kid before then).
Lord - Thank you. :) Oh, and if you ever need a riding partner while you're at a park somewhere within a reasonable distance from here, let me know (I'll be sure to take out a loan beforehand). ;)
Antuan - I agree, the ludicrous speed ("Ah, buckle this!") is what separates El Bullo from everything else in existence. But it's weird, it seems like the coaster wasn't designed to go that fast. It's kind of like taking a CoasterDynamix model and blowing it up to actual size...but not changing the ratio of speed:scale. One of these days I'm going to rank the thing...I do know that it's in my wooden top 10.
Oh, and I used to wear my socks like that, too...when I played soccer and had to cover up my shin guards. :)
As far as ET being "trimmed", I hope (pray!) that they do not. It may make each individual drop seem bigger or faster, but may take away from the extreme ejector air and "WOW" factor. I know that feeling you get when exit ET... I was like "HOLY (insert favorite noun here)!! That was like Phoenix times phifty with a touch of Twister!!"
SFGAdv is slowly but surely ironing out the kinks. What is, or why is, Runnaway Mine Trian closed? Did they not just get new trains?
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