Where: Six Flags St Louis, Eureka MO
When: Monday, June 26 - 7pm to 9pm (Closing)
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Arrival: Michele and I left southern Indiana sometime midmorning and arrived in St.Louis sometime midafternoon. Before we continued toward Eureka, we stopped at the Gateway Arch. Interesting looking monument, nice museum underneath, great view from the top. If you are claustrophobic you might have trouble with the “bubble” elevator system that takes you to the top. Think being inside of a Sears Kenmore clothes dryer with 4 other people… they are that tiny! The Arch and the view was much more memorable than my first glimpse of the Mighty Mississippi. Nothing too special about this river as it flows by St Louis. The mile wide (though only about waist or chest deep) Susquehanna River that you cross on Rt.30 between York and Lancaster PA is more impressive to look at (though you certainly could not float a barge or river boat on it.)
Anyway, after getting something to eat for dinner and checking into the Holiday Inn in Eureka that sits just across the road from the park it was around 6:30pm. Closing time for the park was 9:00. I toyed with the idea of just taking it easy, but decided to make a “preview” visit to the park for the next day. Chele didn’t feel like going along, so I was on my own. Rather than take the free hotel shuttle to the park, I decided to pay the parking fee and take my own car so I wouldn’t be held to the shuttle’s schedule… plus I wasn’t sure when the next shuttle was and I wanted to get to the park as quickly as possible to make good use of what little time I had that night. Besides, with a season pass… I don’t mind just spending the money for parking.
At the park I found a parking space fairly close to the entrance. While the LARGE poster sized map they give you is nice, I didn’t want to carry it with me through the park, so I familiarized my self with where the coasters were (just the general areas of the park where they were located) and left it behind in my car. By 7pm I was through the front gate and heading off toward the south east side of the park to…
Batman The Ride (part 1): 1 ride, two or three train wait for a front seat. While the Gotham Park theme for the first part of the queue of this ride is certainly nice to look like, it is kind of maddening that on a day when there is no line for this ride, you still have to walk the entire length of this snake path as it meanders aimlessly through the “park”. I guess the normal cattle shoot switch backs (that wind around each other like a maze but can be “re routed” to shorten the route) work for the “industrials / hazmat” theme once you leave the “park” area of the queue, but not for the tranquility of “Gotham Park” itself.
But onto the ride. Finding a relatively empty station, I was surprised to see one train leave the station and a second train enter the station behind it. I wasn’t expecting a two train operation with this light crowd.
As for the ride itself… based on Batman at Six Flags Great Adventure, I wasn’t expecting very much. I was surprised. Not as impressive to look at as some of the higher and longer B&M inverts that followed, Batman the Ride was certainly more intense than some of them. I suppose it has to do with packing that many elements into a course that is that short. Anyway, it was a fun ride. However, since I wanted to see how many of the coasters I could get done that night, I moved on to…
Ninja: Two rides… 1 in front part of train, one in back part of train. Relatively empty station (and another two train operation)… but there were people waiting for the front seat, so I walked into the empty row for Car 2, Seat 1. I could have picked seat 2 of the train, but I would rather be a few feet behind the back of a coaster car, than a few inches behind the back of a seat or the back of a head. Can’t say I really enjoyed this ride. It was rough at spots and did a number on by neck and jaw (those cursed OTSRs) but since the station was empty, I gave it a second chance closer to the back (Last car, first seat). OUCH. Rougher than up front. I had enough of this one. No third ride was needed to convince me of this.
River King Mine Ride: 1 Ride, back of train. With out a map, it took a little doing, but I soon found my way to River King Mine Ride. Again, no line, so a walk on to a back seat ride. I’m not much on mine trains, but I always give them a ride when I am at a park (well, with the exception of Hershey’s Trail Blazer which I have ridden who knows many times over the years). River King kind of surprised me though… for a mine train it was pretty good… up to that time the best that I had been on (not counting Great Adventures’ which I don’t really remember that much about considering the last time I rode it was in 1978). But it was still a mine train, and I had two wooden coasters ahead of me, so I only took the time for one ride.
Screamin’ Eagle: 2 rides. 1 front seat, one last car, first seat. I saw all kinds of pictures of this coaster, both from ground level and satellite (so I knew the out and back layout... I love out and backs)… and I was really looking forward to this coaster. Was I let down. I’ll get to the operations in a moment. The ride itself has potential… if it would have different trains. I have never been on more cramped PTC trains in my life. When the bar came down, I literally could not move… it was wedged tightly against me and pinned me in my seat. My knees were also up against the front of the car. I notice that this has high backed seats with head rests, and the padding of the seats seems to push you a bit more forward. Is this the reason? Or are the trains just a little smaller. Anyway… what would have been a great out and back course through the woods with plenty of moments of air was just “average” being pinned into these tight seats. I did do a second ride however testing out the back. Eh… as average as the front. I can only imagine what this coaster would be like running more “standard” PTC trains. Sigh.
Now about operations. What good is a two train operation (which is what Screamin’ Eagle was running) if you have operators that a) don’t care about efficiency, b) are more concerned about socializing with a group of teenage girls hanging out at the exit ramp, c) are more concerned about socializing with each other, and D) are more concerned about how long it is until quitting time? This describes the horrible, terrible, rude, crew on Screamin’ Eagle that night. The worst part came when the one girl simply sat down on a ledge and propped her head up in her hands while two other ops walked down the exit ramp chatting, only to return about two minutes later… all while a train was waiting to load and another was stacked on the break run. Good news, while this lack luster and useless crew would have been indicative of Six Flags in the past, this year, under the new regime, I have found that this band of useless beings was the exception to the three SF parks that I have visited so far this season and not the rule.
My bad experienced was only enhanced for my first ride by the four pre teen or early teen BRATS who were waiting in line behind me for the front seat. Obnoxious, annoying, behavior, foul and explicit language, pushing, shoving, and just general pains in the a$$. I could just picture their mother picking them up at closing time in her Dodge mini van (complete with soccer ball magnet on the back gate) after using the park as cheap child care while she and a few other of the desperate housewives in her subdivision all went out for a night on the town. Good thing that the railing was high when you topped the ramp at the station… Only that, and not wanting to spend the next 20 or so years incarcerated, kept me from grabbing one or more of these little obnoxious brats and hurling them onto the tracks. Of course, considering how much they were annoying the other riders waiting in line, and how inattentive the ops were to what was going on around them, one could probably gotten away with it.
Suffice it to say that my experience with Screamin’ Eagle was not what I had hoped. Let down by the coaster and its tight trains, disappointed by the p*** poor ride ops, and annoyed beyond belief from the Brood from Hell behind me for my first ride, I decided that it was time to move on.
The Boss: 3 rides. 1 in second seat, 2 in last car / first seat. It took me a while to find the entrance to this coaster (considering I had abandoned my map in the car). I should have known that it was an intense / rough ride by the queue. I think they designed that long queue the way they did (meandering with no switch backs to block off, long, and all up hill) to test the riders. If you can make that up hill hike, you are strong enough to ride the coaster.
I cringed when I saw the Gerstlauer trains, but I climbed into the first seat of the back car anyway. What a ride. I love the layout, especially the first drop and the section following it that sends you through a long straight run through the superstructure of the coaster, only to send you into another drop before turning. That was great, as was the rest of the course. The train slows you down just enough on the hills to let you catch your breath and get your bearings before sending you into some more punishing drops and twists. IF only it were running more comfortable trains instead of those cheap fiber glass / plastic pieces of junk! They look great, but ride like crap.
In a way its good that the queue is that long… the hike gives your brain time to stop rattling around your skull between rerides. First re ride was in the second seat. MISTAKE! When will I ever learn NEVER to ride in the back seat of a Gerstlauer car? Not only was my brain rattling around my skull after that one, I think it flew out of my ear, hit the head rest, and popped back in on one of the laterals.
My third and final ride on the Boss was the best. Again, front seat of the last car. The difference between this and the first ride… it was done in the waning twilight… as close to a night ride as you could get with out being there at closing time. The visuals on this third ride made it even better.
Contemplating a fourth ride, I decided against it. It nearing 9pm. I decided to head toward the front of the park again and get one final ride of the night on Batman. On my way there, I passed the closed Mr.Freeze, down that night, and down all day according to conversations I over heard.
Batman the Ride (Part 2): 2 rides, 2nd row. I walked as fast as I could from The Boss in the back of the park to Batman in the front of the park and entered the queue at 8:59. The ride pre show was very entertaining. Well, it wasn’t an official pre show… it was two kids who decided to run and jump across the railings of the queue to cut out parts of the winding path way… and the employee who chased them down like a hawk on a rabbit and yelled “You two, in the red and blue shirts… turn around, go back to the exit, and WALK through the entire line”. Amazing… not only was a Six Flags employee catching two line jumpers… he was catching two line jumpers who really were not even doing any harm to any other riders, just simply breaking the rules… yes, we have entered a new era.
In the station there were empty gates all around except a small line for the front car. I decided not to wait and filed in to row two with two other riders. Restraints were locked, checked, and we were off. Another fun and intense ride, made even better by the near darkness. When we returned to the station, there were three people waiting for the front seat, but no one else was there. The girl who was loading the train said to the three of us in row two “You can stay on if you want… this is the last train of the night.” So… we all stayed on for a re-ride. After loading the new folks in the first row, our restraints were rechecked, and we were sent out again. Always a good day at a park when you can close down one of their coasters for the night with a “stay in your seat re-ride”.
After this last ride, I joined the crowd that was making its way toward the exit.
Guest Relations: I was pretty certain I knew the answer to this, but I just wanted to check. Before exiting, I went up to the Guest Relations window and inquired about the status of Mr.Freeze… specifically, would it be running tomorrow, or is this a long term shut down. The girl there said that she couldn’t’ say exactly when it would be open again, but she was pretty sure that it would not be the next day. I mentioned then that I thought that was the case, that I had heard there was some sort of problem with those Premier coasters like that. When she heard that I sort of had a clue what I was talking about, she went into a little more depth saying that one ride similar to that at another park had problems, and to be on the safe side, all have been shut down until repairs can be made… they were waiting for a part basically. I thanked her and headed toward the exit.
As with SFKK two days earlier, there was a group of employees, management types and costumed characters standing near the exits waving and wishing everyone a safe drive, thanking them for coming, saying they hope we had a nice day and had fun, etc etc etc.
It wasn’t long until I was back in our hotel room in the AC with my shoes kicked off and my feet propped up, aching as they were from my whirl wind walking tour of the park. Having hit all the coasters during this visit, we decided not to return the next day. Instead, we would start on the return leg of to PA and use the day as a travel day to our final stop in Kings Mills OH.
Wrap Up: The only real disappointments of the visit were the situation with Screamin’ Eagle (uncomfortable trains and TERRIBLE operations) and the fact that Mr.Freeze was down. Other than that, I thought SF St Louis was a fairly nice park. It was the end of a long day but yet the park seemed clean, and the people working there were pleasant (again, except for the dolts working Screamin’ Eagle). With the exception of Mr.Freeze, all rides that I noticed were up and running, and the operations on the coasters (again, with the previous mentioned exception) were good, with two train operations even in the face of light crowds. Can’t comment on food since I didn’t eat at the park.
I don’t know the state of SF St Louis under the former Six Flags regime, but I came away from my visit there quite pleased with what I saw.
IF only they would put some good PTC rolling stock (Good PTC’s… not the type on Screamin’ Eagle) on The Boss…. they would then truly have one great coaster on their hands.
*** Edited 7/13/2006 4:10:19 AM UTC by SLFAKE***
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