Six Flags over Texas (5/18/07)

Associated parks:
None

Friday, June 1, 2007 5:57 PM
In case anyone is interested in reading about the rest of our "Clubs 'n Coasters '07" trip to Texas (including Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio), you can read those entires on my blog ( http://coasterdude318.blogspot.com ). Following is the rather lengthy excerpt regarding Six Flags over Texas.

-Nate

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We hit some bad traffic between Fort Worth and Arlington, which really sucked in the heat. I don't know if we ever found out what the source of the delay was; it was probably just a random and unnecessary lane closure. Six Flags over Texas must be one of the most difficult major parks to get to, especially for literally bordering the freeway. I think I drove around on city streets, following signs to the park for at least three miles before we pulled into the parking lot. I had to turn at least fourteen times while circling the entire park at least once. I don't know why, especially since getting back to the freeway was quick and painless. I can't imagine this in 10am park opening traffic. The only good part was some very impressive views of Titan when first exiting the freeway.

$15 parking sucks. I was prepared for it, but it's still kind of a shock to encounter it for the first time. I remember when $10 parking was steep. The large poster-sized park map may have made up for it if it hadn't been drawn by a three-year-old.

SFoT also has one of the most bizarre parking lots I've ever seen. Most of it is incredibly narrow (25 cars at most) and it stretches on for quite a ways. Still, it seemed like a very tiny lot for such a big park. I figured there must be more lot somewhere else, but I couldn't figure it out. There was also a random gas station plopped down right in the middle of the lot, but it seemed to be closed. Odd.

I used the bathroom right outside the gates and it was trashed. There was water and paper all over the floor, and no towels in the dispensers. Wasn't restroom attendants one of the things Six Flags has been pushing for? Don't tell Mark Shapiro! (As it turns out, this isn't the only area in which SFoT has blatantly disregarded Shapiro's new initiatives, but more on that later).

We had no trouble getting through the gate with our $50 "out of area" season passes that were purchased online, and processing the passes was a breeze. We literally walked in, they took our pictures, and we walked out. Nice system.

The entrance plaza for this park is just gorgeous - lots of fountains and flowers surrounding their carousel. It was crazy crowded here later as the park was closing, so I'm glad I enjoyed it early. Not being very familiar with the park and knowing we were a bit pressed for time, we decided to head to Titan first.

As you're probably aware, Six Flags over Texas was the first Six Flags Theme Park, and originally contained six themed areas based on Texas heritage (the "six flags" that had flown over Texas throughout its history). Over time more themed areas were added (Tower section, Goodtimes Square, Gotham City, etc). Sadly, the "theming" is little more than ancient history at this point. Some of the areas still looked nice; in particular, Spain and Mexico were rather well done. The rest of the park just kind of seemed thrown together, with some occasional "old west"/Texas themed buildings. There are certainly bigger offenders out there in terms of theming, but I was disappointed here.

SFoT is an older park, and it shows. There are lots of tall, shady trees throughout the older parts of the park, and it's generally well-landscaped. I loved the area around the log flume most. The rides here are so well integrated into the landscape, which is something rarely seen. Unfortunately, because it's an older park, there are parts that look a bit run down. Even more unfortunate is the fact that nearly all of the paths are incredibly narrow, and none of them make much sense.

I've complained about getting lost in other parks before (Six Flags St. Louis, for example) but this one was ridiculous. I can't count the number of times I was forced to dig the park map out of my pocket to try to figure out where we were, or had to turn around and start heading in the direction we had just come from in order to turn onto a nearly invisible path. The older sections of the park were the worst (those to the left of the park entrance), but this was a constant problem. There's something to be said for not being able to anticipate what's waiting around the next bend, but things have gone too far when you can't even figure out where the hell you are.

Titan (2001 Giovanola Hypercoaster), which was impossibly difficult to find, by the way, had just a few switchbacks of people waiting so we decided to go for it. I think we ended up waiting a half hour for a ride in the back seat. They were running two trains here, but could have probably used the third. Disappointing, but judging by the semi-frequent stacking of trains, I don't think the crew could have handled it. Relatively speaking, Titan is an extremely simple attraction to load, so there's really no excuse for this, other than that it's fairly early in the season. Ride-ops were friendly, often making conversation with those waiting in line, which was impressive. The attendant manning the load side of the train had to carry a small wooden box with her whenever she left the dispatch area, and I couldn't figure out why. At first I thought it was some proximity thing, but given that the ride has a dispatch enable button, I doubt that's what it is. I don't know how Giovanola lapbars release manually, but I doubt it was for that purpose either. Any ideas? The attendants were also muttering "check" every time they checked a lapbar, which seemed strange to me. I'm not sure I see any logic in that.

Anyway, Titan was my first Giovanola hypercoaster, and I decided the back seat would be best. The first drop is indeed rampy - even more so than a Morgan hypercoaster. There was a slight pullover feeling in the back seat before the ramp took over, and overall the drop felt like a fast downward escalator. *Yawn*. The tall banked turn felt nice - definitely more forceful than Raging Bull's - which was good. The airtime hill is decent. There's some impressively long float here, similar to Wild Thing's second hill, but I still much prefer ejector air. I loved the upward helix, as it caused me to grey out a bit. Good stuff.

Then came the real deal breaker. I'm not one to incessantly complain about trim brakes, but this was just ridiculous. Not only was the train brought to a dead stop on the midcourse, but it was slowly *lowered* down the following drop as the brakes continued grabbing the last few cars of the train. Is this trying to be a hypercoaster or a family ride? The last few turns of the ride were fun enough, I suppose. The downward helix (the one everyone talks about) is certainly good, and I still grayed out a bit. I with the midcourse had not grabbed so damn hard. I don't think this ride ever needs to run without any trims (I cannot begin to imagine what that helix must feel like), but it's beyond excessive at this point. I like the way the trains rode; it was a very smooth ride that felt much more like a roller coaster than a B&M hypercoaster. I wish there was more airtime, of course, but Titan clearly wasn't built for that. Overall it's a good ride with some operational problems. 7/10

The Texas Giant (1990 Summers and Dinn wooden coaster w/ PTC trains) was basically next door, and we could see that there were very few people waiting in line. I think we waited all of about ten minutes for a ride in the second-to-last seat. Even so, that was ten minutes too long. This is easily third worst wooden coaster I have ever ridden, behind Lost Coaster and Son of Beast. Not only is it boring, ridiculously overbraked, and lacking in any airtime, it's rough, jerky, and suffers from some of the most offensive tracking problems I've ever seen. Has this even been maintained since it was built? Tear this piece of crap down already. 0/10

Heading further into the park (and after getting lost yet again), we arrived a coaster I have always wanted to ride - Runaway Mountain (Premier indoor coaster). I'm a big fan of indoor coasters, and I'm also a big fan of the Hurricane model coasters, so this seemed like a win-win situation for me. The line looked a little long, but we decided to go for it anyway. Big mistake. We waited at least an hour for this thing, and it was probably longer. Ugh. The queue was nicely themed (I loved the steaming ponds and the waterfall), but an hour for something like this is ridiculous. Once in the building it became clear why - only two trains of twelve passengers each running, a poorly-set up Lo-Q system, and a slow-as-molasses crew working the ride.

Honestly, this is probably the greatest ride-op position in the park, since it's air conditioned and (again) easy to load. A dispatch every two minutes is inexcusable, especially when the reasoning for this is that the employees were more interested in chatting with each other. I don't know how many trains SFoT owns for this ride, but I know that it's blocked for more than two. I'd hate to see this line on a day that the park was actually really busy.

The ride itself is good, and definitely much smoother than the other Hurricane models I've ridden (Old Town, Santa Cruz, Rye Playland). I don't think there was a bump or jerk on this thing. It's really a great family attraction, and it's too bad Premier didn't build more of these. Operations aside, it scores at 8/10 from me.

At this point it became abundantly clear that, although not packed, the park was getting progressively busier as hundreds of rowdy school children piled in. I know that bouncing basketballs is a common complaint in parks, but this is the worst I've ever seen it. At least 70% of the kids had basketballs, and of course nobody can keep them in-hand. Terrible. Nick wanted to go back to the car to get something to eat, but after waiting an hour for Runaway Mountain, I was getting worried about being pressed for time. So, we decided to tough it out, skip lunch, and head across the park to Gotham City.

Both Nick and I were determined to ride Mr. Freeze (1998 Premier shuttle coaster), so that's where we went. This ride is much better themed than its St. Louis counterpart, with a nice indoor queue through "Snowy's Sno Cone Factory." Unfortunately, the line winds forever, and it's impossible to know how long the wait is. This was probably my #1 complaint about Six Flags over Texas, and it apparently goes against a mandate issued by Six Flags corporate that all major attractions should have posted wait times. It's just poor customer service, plain and simple, and what irks me most about it is that since SFoT uses the Lo-Q system, they *must* know what the wait times are! Why those times can't be posted at the entrance is beyond me, especially for attractions like Mr. Freeze and Batman where the queue isn't visible from the ride's entrance.

We scored a front seat ride on Mr. Freeze. It was as good as I expected (even though I continue to believe that anyone who thinks the Premier launches are better than the Intamin rocketcoastes must be on crack ;) ). I don't know why they painted it red, though. That's just weird. 9/10

I didn't want to miss anything that was original or unique to Six Flags over Texas, so we decided to hit up Judge Roy Scream (1980 Bill Cobb out and back wooden coaster w/ PTC trains). It was basically a walk-on, probably because nobody could figure out where the hell it was. Even knowing it was actually located outside the park, it was a challenge to find it. One ride in the back seat confirmed that all of Six Flags wooden coaster budget is being spent on this ride. This is a very nice family coaster. There's little to no airtime on this ride, but it's extremely smooth, and very rideable by the whole family. And it's in a cool location, too. 8/10


Shockwave was the only other coaster I was determined not to miss, but seeing that the Mine Train (1966 Arrow mine train) was a walk-on, we decided to jump in line. A one-train wait still took at least five minutes due to a long ride cycle and manual lapbars. If this coaster doesn't have more than two trains, it certainly should. The ride itself was fast, fun, and surprisingly smooth. It reminded me a lot of the mine train at Six Flags St. Louis. Certainly not the best mine train (Disney, SFFT, PKI), but certainly not the worst (Cedar Point). I especially liked the lift into the saloon, complete with animatronic harlotry. You can't beat that on a family ride. 6/10

We trekked across the back of the park, past what must be the largest sign ever constructed for a rapids ride, and got in line for Shockwave (1978 Schwarzkopf double looper) . A few people have raved about this thing like it's the second coming of Christ, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I think it's downright terrifying how much the track of this ride shifts when the train passes. I've obviously seen track that flexes and sways (Intamin impulses for example), but nothing approaching the way Shockwave does. Scary.

We took a ride somewhere near the middle of the train. I can't say I feel in love with this ride, but it definitely has its strong points. The airtime is quite incredible - I'm sure it's even better in the back - and the loops are as forceful as any Schwarzkopf coaster. The setting sucks. This area of the park is, quite frankly, butt ugly. I liked the Oil Derrick along the water, but this coaster basically sits in a ditch along the freeway. The queue was hot and unshaded. Trees please. That gripe aside, the coaster was fast, smooth, and fun. It's not a top ten entry or anything, but certainly a solid attraction. 7/10


Park closing was rapidly approaching, and we had three coasters left (Batman, La Vibora, and Flashback). I'm not the credit whore I used to be; I was okay with skipping a boomerang, and I knew La Vibora was bound to have a long wait for a low-capacity ride. Thus, we headed back to Batman (1999 B&M inverted coaster). Again, no wait time posted and no way of knowing how long the wait was. The end of the line was just outside of the first tunnel, which ended up taking about 30 minutes. None of the nicely air conditioned indoor queue was being used; instead, we were forced to wait in hot, crowded, smelly storm drains. I think this is the only Batman clone with a themed indoor queue, and even though it was rather hot out, it was roped off. Somebody please explain that to me. While you're at it, explain why the "Gotham City Park" section of the queue doesn't have any shortcuts through it, so you're forced to walk the entire path as it winds back and forth.

Batman was Batman - always a good ride, but I've been there, done that more times than I can count. It wasn't the most forceful Batman ride I've taken, but it was just fine. It baffles me why Six Flags preferred to plop most of these down over gravel pits instead of landscaping, though. I think SFGAm's is the only one with grass under it. SFoT's has the nicest-looking station of all, but their Gotham City is pretty ugly and lacking in landscaping. 8/10

Upon exiting Batman, we walked through the largest theme park gift shop I've ever seen outside of IOA for Nick to get a shotglass. We definitely would have had time to jump in line for La Vibora, but we were both hot, tired, and starving. In all, I had a good time at SFoT. There were definitely some positives here: costumed characters were everywhere, new signage provided misters for people as they passed (I believe these are a chain-wide addition this year), multiple train operation on all coasters, friendly ride-ops on Titan, zero problems with line jumping, smoking, or trash, and tons of nicely-themed flat rides. There are also some major faults here: narrow pathways, poor landscaping around Shockwave and in Gotham City, dirty restrooms, slow operations, and no posted wait times.

To be honest, it felt like a pretty typical day at Six Flags to me. I left satisfied, but not wowed. If I had been burned by Six Flags in the past, this visit would not have changed my mind. It also wouldn't have turned me away from Six Flags as a brand either. It seems like some things are working and some things are not. It's early in the season, so I can excuse the slow operations, but not the lack of posted wait times. I don't know what the answer is to all of Six Flags' problems, but some of this seems like it should be obvious. I don't think I'm being overly critical here; I'm usually a Six Flags defender. This is how it was.

Six Flags over Texas is a nice park. It's not my favorite Six Flags park, nor is it my least favorite. It probably falls somewhere in the middle for me. Operations were average. Landscaping in the older parts of the park were generally above average. Theming was average. Flat ride selection was above average. The pricing doesn't bother me; $50 for a season pass is a steal that shouldn't be happening (to be honest, all of their season passes are being sold too cheaply). Even if I had paid $45 for one day, I would feel like I had gotten my money's worth. The coasters here are good, but there's no stand-out attraction that would make me (as an enthusiast) feel like I need to return. I'm impressed by the number of family-oriented coasters (Mini Mine Train, Canyon Blaster, Judge Roy Scream, La Vibora, Runaway Mountain, Mine Train). I think their best bet for a new attraction would be either a large B&M looping coaster or some kind of water attraction. Above all of that, though, I'd prefer some maintenance on the Texas Giant. It's embarrassing to display a "World's Greatest Wooden Coaster" banner in the station of such a pile of junk.

EDIT: I guess I forgot to remove the swear words. :) *** Edited 6/1/2007 9:58:37 PM UTC by coasterdude318***

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Friday, June 1, 2007 6:10 PM
Wow Nate. Harsh words for my beloved Texas Giant. It's easily top 20 wood for me, maybe higher. I can't imagine it changed all that much since the fall of 2005. I got some great airtime in the backseat.

Shockwave is all about the backseat. Definitely top ten steel for me.

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Friday, June 1, 2007 6:25 PM
Too bad about the bad points, and Very very too bad about the Giant. When that thing opened it was top notch, but not for very long before it tore itself apart. (This is what CPoint saw, and is why the Mean Streak has 1/2 the number of hills in the same amount of space).
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Friday, June 1, 2007 6:51 PM
Interesting about the Texas Giant. I have no doubt that it was, at one time, a good ride. The Golden Ticket in the station doesn't lie. But then it must be a pretty pale shadow of what it once was.

Perhaps someone more familiar with the ride could be more exact, but there are at least four or five places where the ride is trimmed, and perhaps more. That, combined with the fact that the train seems to constantly be hunting for the track, kills any and all airtime. It's now just incredibly rough, slamming you from side to side when it isn't coming to a near dead stop at the top of several hills (thank God for anti-rollbacks).

If it was good in 2005, then they probably haven't maintained it since, which is really too bad. It's a huge ride, and I'm sure it's not cheap to take care of it. I know I'm not the only one who hated it, though. Nick said it was the worst coaster he's ever ridden, period. And a manager from a certain other Six Flags park who rode it a week or two earlier also found it to be a POS. It's really too bad.

-Nate

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Friday, June 1, 2007 7:07 PM
I only remember two trims when I rode it...the block brake and entering the lame helix (lame because all the fun is trimmed out of it), but other than that, the train was speeding across the top of all the hills and. It was very shaky and a bit rough, but a very exciting ride for me. The return leg was the closest thing to Voyage before Voyage. My taste in wood coasters isn't exactly typical (I love Texas Giant, Georgia Cyclone, Gwazi, Riverside Cyclone, Hershey Wildcat and J2 more than most), but it sounds like the ride isn't running the same now. I hope it's what I remember when I get back down there in late July.
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Friday, June 1, 2007 7:29 PM
Re: the two rides that really MADE the park for me.

My ride - Shock&Awe (steel entry): "A few people have raved about this thing like it's the second coming of Christ, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect." My tastes are obviously my own....but yeah, to me it IS the second coming. Unless I convert to Judaism, in which case it'll move up *another* notch. ;)

Far and away my favorite looping coaster... :)


My ride Part II (wooden entry): I guess I got the same rides AV Matt had, only a seson earlier. I was *wowed*, and left the park thinking "TrEmOrS has some company". Yeah, I was WAY impressed. I even remember saying "THIS is what CP should have gotten for/from Mean Streak". Made my top-5 Golden Ticket ballot that year. Apparently, it's no longer in that condition.

Runaway Mountain is a REALLY good ride, woulda been better for me too if it had better capacity. Couldn't get enough of that thing.

Oh, and I'll take Freeze over the Intamin rockets (save for StormRunner and *maybe* Maverick) - I like layouts. ;)

Thanks for the TR....does surprise me sometimes how places that impress others leave me wanting, and vice versa. When I left, SFoT was a park I'd take over virtually any other. Good thing I'm agreeable to disagreeing...LOL! :)

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Friday, June 1, 2007 9:07 PM
You were definitely one of the people I had in mind when I mentioned people raving about Shockwave, and that's cool. I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about it, but I liked it overall. I do like the larger B&M loopers more, but there's something about those forceful little Schwarzkopf rides that I love. I'd definitely be disappointed if they decided to remove it at some point.

I would certainly take Freeze over any Intamin rocketcoaster (again, Stormrunner excluded). I was specifically referring to the launch when I made that statement. Freeze obviously has a much better layout than TTD or Kingda Ka, but to argue that the launch on Freeze is better is silly, IMO. :)

-Nate

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Friday, June 1, 2007 9:22 PM
Yeah I have gone to SFOT for the past three days and am planning on writing my TR in the next few minutes. Texas Giant looks like some retracking might have been done on the account the first banked turn doesnt sway anymore.
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Saturday, June 2, 2007 2:17 AM
^ On the wooden box....IIRC, if it CAN slide between retraint and car, there's too much room and you can't ride.
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Saturday, June 2, 2007 2:46 PM
I'm sorry to hear that you had mixed review of our home park. As the Six Flags chain goes, we feel it is one of the best.

There is an exit right off of I-30 to Six Flags drive and that leads straight into the park. My guess is that somehow you missed the signage that is there and turned right onto Copeland Rd. instead of going straight through the light. Once you exit either I-30 or SR 360 it's a forward shot into the park. If you did turn right on Copeland I could see you having a difficult time getting back to the park entrance. The parking lot starts narrow just after the toll plaza, but after the gas station it gets much larger. You can see most of it from Titan. I would imagine that it has expanded over the 45 odd years since attendance has grown since those early years in the 60s. The gas station usually opens later in the day.

I'm really surprised you had to wait for Runaway Mountain for so long. With the Mine Train being a walk on it doesn't sound like the park was too terribly crowded, I think you might had hit it at a bad time. It does typically run three trains so if they were down to just two I'm sure that slowed things down quite a bit.

The park can be tricky to navigate. even after living here for 8 years, I'm still never quite sure of the best route to get from point A to point B. The walkways typically get resprayed with a fresh coat of gunnite in the Spring to keep them looking nice, but so far they haven't been recoated. I hope this is not something SF Inc decided to cut back on.

The Giant does get a lot of maintenance but being an oversized Dinn & Summers, it is never enough. There are some sections that are really rough this year, and I'm afraid it's only going to get worse. It still claims some loyal fans, but others remember its glory days and don't hold it in such high regards anymore. There are trims on the first drop, at the mid course block, and at the entrance to the helix.

Gator is right, the wooden box on Titan is used to check the gap between the side of the car and the lapbar.

Overall I like our park a lot but I always avoid the days that are apt to have lots of school groups. I typically get there early in the morning and leave when the crowds pick up so I never have to deal with long lines under the the blazing sun.

It's always interesting to see how an occasional or first time visitor views the park. With 12 coasters, Six Flags has a diverse collection, and it is interesting to see what favorites first timers develop. We love Shock Wave as one of our favorites, but others are more drawn to Giant. The Mine Train often seems to be the surprise. It's a real jewel. Even with near twins elsewhere, Titan and Mr. Freeze add a signature to the park. Hopefully the new Six Flags leadership won't keep a new coaster away from us for much longer.

*** Edited 6/2/2007 6:48:43 PM UTC by Jeffrey Seifert***

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Saturday, June 2, 2007 11:19 PM
I was at the park Friday,the 11th. I was very impressed with a 3 train operation on both Titan and Giant. The Giant looks like a great coaster, but was so rough that I was eagerly anticipating the final brake run. I wish I could have ridden it in its glory days before all the trims and lack of maintenance made it unrideable for me. Fix it or replace it.
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