TR: SFGAdv Opening Day 2004 -- 4-3-04

Associated parks:


As anyone who avidly sees horror movies, reads mystery novels, or religiously watches 24 on Tuesday nights, a good rule of thumb to follow is that if something bad happens, or a series of bad events happens, they are often foreshadowing further badness that is yet to transpire. The lesson: cut your losses while you're ahead. Now, if we are to believe this idea to be truth, then by all accounts today's day at Six Flags Great Adventure should have sucked. Bad.

Being the lazy college kid I am, I slept in today till 1:00pm. (It should be noted that by my normal standards at home, this is ridiculously late; by Princeton standards, though, this was ridiculously early for a Saturday.) Around 1:15pm, I got the word from my buddy John (JFNJ) that he was on his way down. Got some brunch, threw on some clothes, BSed with the roomies, and before long it was 2:30 and he could be expected any time soon. So, being the impatient lazy college kid I am, I waited out on University Place for him to pull up.

But he never did. 5 minutes, then 10, then 15, then 20...and I figured a status report call was in order. Only then did I find out that he was waiting for the cop to show file the accident report for the three-car fender bender he'd been at the front of. Just peachy, eh? He didn't pull up to Blair until 4:00pm, 2 hours and 45 minutes after beginning what should have been a 1 hour 15 minute journey.

After approximately another half-hour of driving, we pulled up to the huge Six Flags sign at about 4:40 and parked, got into the gates, passed security, and bought a parking tag by 5:00pm. I was a little worried at this point that we'd only have three hours to enjoy the park on opening day, but I tried to remain optimistic.

As is to be expected, the season's first ride belonged to none other than Nitro. Barely any line (it was a walk into the station) and a fairly smoothly running two-train operation were both very good signs. The first ride was heavenly -- even after three years and 145 laps, that first drop, in John's eloquent words, is something "you never get used to". The floater air was phenomenal in the back three rows over the course of the day, and during the first three laps that we took in a half-hour, the ride felt incredibly smooth and actually much faster than last season. The hammerhead in particular seemed to have much more of a forceful, whipping quality to it, which seems more like it was intended to be. All told, my baby's still smooth, even faster, and still an airtime monster. S:RoS and Magnum may give it a run for its money, but today definitely proved that it's still the benchmark ride in my book.

After the first three laps, we decided to head over to Batman. I'd dismissed the paint job in an earlier news thread, but seeing it in person, it's not really so bad. I still think a Nitro-style paint job (i.e. ties/rails and spines two different colors) would've suited it well -- perhaps yellow spines and midnight blue rails and ties -- but all in all, the ride looks a lot better now. And when we took our two rides (in another empty station walk-on) a couple things stuck out in my mind: again, as with our first B&M, more consistent smoothness. Also, the rough, head-whipping wasn't so much in effect as it was at the end of last season. The annoying clanking (presumably of loose parts) wasn't to be found either. And most significantly, as with Nitro, the ride felt a hell of a lot faster. Off-ride, there's not much to notice, but once you get on, the train rolls along at breakneck speed, and the pacing is so intense through the pretzel-like second half that it almost felt like an unfamiliar ride. Whatever they did, they did right.

Much to our dismay, both sides of Chiller remained out of commission for unknown reasons (I've heard speculation, but nothing for certain so I won't feed the rumor mill -- I'll only cling to the hope that by Memorial Day, both sides will be running as promised) so we left Movie Town and headed for the Boardwalk to hit up Superman. I'd wanted to give first ride to this when we got there, but Nitro had taken precedence. It figured, passing it up when we had the chance, that it would be shut down when we got to it. I wanted to give The Great American Scream Machine a lap while we were there, but John didn't feel like having a headache, so we had a choice: ride GASM alone while John waited, or sit at a bench and each eat a candy bar. The 3 Musketeers handily won.

By this point, it was 6:15. We clung to the hope that S:UF would reopen and headed over towards Frontier Adventures. The first surprise we found was that Rolling Thunder's near side was open; the second surprise was that there was a line! Having never ridden that side before, we decided to wait -- and after 20 minutes and a squeaky, painful, forceless, seat-belted, bland ride, we realized we had just wasted a perfectly good half hour. Onward to Medusa to make up for it. (Viper, thankfully, was also closed...but walking past the Rodeo Stampede made me realize, as it always does, how badly i want a Two Per Cow sign of my own...)

(On that note: if any SFGAdv employee who may read this happens to find a Two Per Cow sign that's planning on being trashed, I'd like to stake a claim for it. :))

As twilight set in, we saddled up to Medusa. The station, once again, was practically empty (except for the usual crowding in the front and back rows). Taking this ride in considerable darkness was a pretty interesting experience compared to it during the day. Once again, the ride felt smooth and fast, though the pacing of the ride doesn't exactly allow for that breakneck feeling like on Batman. The one thing I did notice though was an unusual amount of rather rough headbanging on some of the transitions. One of the things I always loved about this ride was being able to hold my head stable through the transitions and not have my head rattle against the restraint. Methinks Medusa needs just a bit more TLC.

We skipped the Runaway Train and decided to hit up the Sky Ride back over towards Nitro for some night rides -- since, as is probably a surprise, I'd never had a Nitro night ride before. The Sky Ride provided one of the most interesting experiences of the night. As we flew overhead, a passing car began laughing at us...then John yelled "Ow!" and reached down, picking up a rock that had been thrown at us by the two asses in the passing car. From far away, we heard the sniveling punks in the next car-to-pass and correctly assumed they were in the same group and up to the same games. So when they began taunting us with "Hey you! Yeah, I'm lookin' at you, you f---in' losers! What the f--- are you lookin' at?" and such, John hauled off and whipped the rock at them. Instantly, the intimidation switched to, "Ow! Hey man, f--- you!" Of course, a rock soon clanked at my feet, but we had our revenge.

At the other end of the park, and at the 7:10 hour, we were ready for some night Nitro goodness. When we weren't being pelted on the Sky Ride, I'd noticed Superman cycling, so we decided to ride Nitro till 7:45 and then head over to Superman and try to score at least one ride. We ended up managing two night rides on the 'tro, and they absolutely took my breath away. Once you get past the runway lights of the lift hill, the entire ride is bathed in complete darkness. The speed seems even more intense, the forces even greater. My final lap of the night was also my 150th, and it felt great to have such an incredible experience be a landmark ride.

During the wait for lap 150, we ran into an employee of the park who'd just been trained and had finally gotten off for the day. He seemed to have abandoned his I'm-an-employee aura and was very (almost too) down-to-earth when we struck up a conversation with him. He was quite frustrated at Superman (his ride) breaking down 14 times that day, and was unusually vocal (and vulgarly so) about that fact. I'm not sure how much the park would've appreciated honesty that blunt from an employee, but the other riders didn't seem to mind -- one fellow rider agreed with him and said there are only two ways to improve Superman: a) paint it all yellow and rename it the lemon, or b) ram a wrecking ball into it.

Despite the disapproval, when 7:45pm rolled around, we hauled to Superman. To our surprise, the ride was, in fact, open, and with a station walk-in as well. It was only running one-train operation (our ride-op copilot had informed us that one of the trains was having problems with the mechanism that shifts the seats from loading to riding position), but the crew was doing its best to keep up. We locked in, got ready to fly, and soared. As usual, the pretzel loop is the highlight of the ride, and the forces at the bottom are simply incredible. As with the park's other Beemers, this one seemed to be running fast, and of course it was smooth as glass. Really a great way to end the day.

Looking over the coasters, in the end, there weren't too many disappointments. Superman has had its problems, no surprise there, but I would think after a year, it would've been broken in a little better and been more consistent (any SFGAm-ers or SFoG-ers experience the same problems?). Chiller's downtime, as well as downtime for a couple great flats and thrill rides (like Chaos, Houdini, and Freefall) were a bit of a disappointment -- and I was very distressed to see that the Flying Wave swings has just been uprooted (with the primary steel support still remaining surrounded by garbage cans) and removed without warning! This was a great family ride, and to take it out seems to go against the family-friendly image Six Flags seems to be going for this season. I didn't even notice Pendulum's absence, except that you can now clearly see The Chiller's station from the park entrance. I'm sure as the season goes on, its absence will become more noticeable.

On the customer service side, there were ups and downs, but on the whole, things seemed improved. The folks at Guest Relations were quick and helpful, and the folks working at the photo stand really seemed happy to be there (either that or were faking it well). The ops on Nitro and Batman were paced decently and probably still getting used to their new posts, but were really just doing their job, which I guess is cool. When we got to Superman to find it closed, two employees were waiting out by the fork in the path diverting people. None suggested riding GASM (and for good reason!) but were able to offer the suggestion of enjoying other rides and checking back later to see if it would run. The people operating the Boardwalk games were constantly talking through their mics, trying to get people to play their games and getting pretty enthusiastic about it. Rolling Thunder's and Medusa's ops weren't really spectacular in any way, and we later found Superman's ops (though probably frustrated as all hell) to be friendly and helpful, and still full of energy at the end of the day. And it was cool to see that each major ride had an op at the front checking heights (even if, as in one situation on Nitro, the first op didn't quite get it right), and when they weren't checking, they were sweeping up trash. Good to see the employees (for the most part) taking pride in the park.

The Sky Ride ops, though, were the customer service highlight of the day. Now, admittedly, there isn't much to operating the Sky Ride. But they had two things going for them. First, each op seemed to have a nice rapport with the other ops, as if they were all good friends. This kept the operation feeling smooth and comfortable, which gives a nice impression to the guest. Secondly, each op that came in contact with our party asked us how we were doing, had a brief conversation with us, and sent us away with a thanks and a "see you later." Now, at a large amusement park, you really can't expect every operator or employee to act like this, but when someone does, it puts a smile on your face. These are the "memory moments" a good park is trying to create. These kinds of guys know what "It's playtime" is supposed to mean. These guys get it.

In terms of the overall experience, it was a pretty good three hours. We got a lot in, got to see all of the park, and by the time we got back to Princeton, even poor rear-ended John had decided that, on a whole, it was a good day. A fitting start to what's shaping up to be a fine season -- so much for bad portends. But evil foreshadowing or not, one thing is certainly clear...

The offseason is officially over.

And damn it, it feels great to be back on the midways again. :)

*** Edited 4/4/2004 8:41:20 AM UTC by Nitro Dave***

[Nitro Dave -- Track Record: 231 coasters] [url=""]A Rapturous Verbatim[/url] & [url=""]A Tournament of Lies[/url] -- my blogs...they're blogtastic.
As far as I know, SFGAm's Superman ran nearly flawlessly last season. I think I personally only saw the ride go down once all year. I'm really wondering what's so wrong with the GAdv ride.


Nitro Dave said:

The Sky Ride provided one of the most interesting experiences of the night. As we flew overhead, a passing car began laughing at us...then John yelled "Ow!" and reached down, picking up a rock that had been thrown at us by the two asses in the passing car. From far away, we heard the sniveling punks in the next car-to-pass and correctly assumed they were in the same group and up to the same games. So when they began taunting us with "Hey you! Yeah, I'm lookin' at you, you f---in' losers! What the f--- are you lookin' at?" and such, John hauled off and whipped the rock at them. Instantly, the intimidation switched to, "Ow! Hey man, f--- you!" Of course, a rock soon clanked at my feet, but we had our revenge.
*** Edited 4/4/2004 8:41:20 AM UTC by Nitro Dave***

And folks wonder why they have removed most of the sky rides from so many parks? 'cause people act like asses, and can't control themselves....

One would think intelligent college students could behave in an adult manner...

I guess the same ole rule applies "when in the presence of an ass, act like one too!"


Sky Bucket ops were like very peppy!! Total nice and loud and excited!


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