As the sun sets over a hazy day in the Los Angeles basin, I am not sitting on a SoCal beach such as Redondo or Hermosa, enjoying the fiery sunset into the haze. No, I am a few miles inland, being hauled up the lift hill on a rickety wooden roller coaster for my first coaster ride of Knott’s Winter Coaster Solace VI. Just as I am about to plunge down the lift hill…
However, before we dive down that lift hill, I suppose I better start at the beginning. My day had commenced at 4:05 AM Central time with the ringing of several alarm clocks. Shower, shave, and a handoff of the duty phone and key ring later, I am off to the city bus stop on Washington Ave. and Harvard St. Imagine my surprise when two others are standing there with rolling suitcases in hand. We ride the same city bus and LRT train out to the Lindbergh terminal, and have a nice chat for the ride to the airport.
In order to save money, my routing took me on Delta to Atlanta before going to Los Angeles. No holdups in either MSP or Atlanta meant that our flight into Los Angeles got in a few minutes of schedule. At the same time, a lot of the big 747s were being pushed back from the Tom Bradley International Terminal, ready to head to the Orient. This meant there was an epic traffic jam on the tarmac, and we took a long time getting to gate 52A.
I met Jerry Dorf, my partner in crime for the weekend at the car rental office, and with glossy maps in hand, we headed out for Orange County, and more specifically, the Knott’s Berry Farm (KBF) resort complex. This was my first experience of California outside airports in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and I must say freeway conditions on the 105 didn’t surprise me much. We stayed at the Radisson that is on-site at Knott’s, and as soon as we get squared away, both of us are down for the count, attempting to rest up for the several hours of ERT we are going to get tonight.
We make out initial walk towards the gate at around 5:00. Knott’s Berry Farm is not your average garden-variety theme park. Outside the gate is Knott’s California Marketplace, which is essentially a heavily themed strip mall. Several different shops and a couple of restaurants are outside the gate. To me, this was a rather unusual configuration, but I suppose any attempt to get money from locals who want to come shopping there is a worthy venture.
FRIDAY NIGHT ERT or THE BEGINNING OF A SPOILING
We had picked up our ERT credentials at the hotel registration desk, and couldn’t go into the park officially until 6:00. Jerry could have (he has a Valleyfair pass, which is good at KBF), but I would have been relieved of an unnecessary $45. 6:00 finally came, the flags in front of the park were properly removed, and the gates were opened to the out-of-towners who had gotten the package deal to stay at the on-site hotel that we did. Our first foray in the park was down to Ghostrider.
On this particular evening, Ghostrider was in a good mood. It ran (relatively) smooth, at least compared with some of my runs on Ghostrider the next night and on High Roller. Four words are my summary for Ghostrider: Hauls a$$, kicks a$$.
There was also a carny at heart working the mic on Friday night. He had the crowd worked up, getting the crowd to send off and greet each train with a rousing round of applause. Granted, you’re with a bunch of coaster diehards, but anyone who can get a crowd to do that every time a train comes into or leaves the station gets an A in my book.
After two passes on Ghostrider, we set off to partake in some of Knott’s interesting menagerie of coasters. The first one we came upon that was part of the ERT was Montezooma’s Revenge. For those of you unfamiliar with KBF, Montezooma’s Revenge is a Schwarzkopf shuttle loop. There aren’t very many of these shuttle loops left in the world. It is a unique ride and a powerful, G-filled launch and loop. At the time, Montezooma didn’t leave much of an impression on me. However, read on to see what happens.
After one trip on Montezooma, me and Jerry headed back to where the Supreme Scream and the station for Xcelerator are located. I have my personal issues with drop towers, so I passed on Scream, and headed for Xcelerator…
All I can say about Xcelerator is: WOW. I was quite jittery while entering the queue for Xcelerator the first time. I was fully aware that the intial drop was 90 degrees and the acceleration out of the station was crazy. Because of this, I endured some good-natured ribbing from Jerry about it. Jerry didn’t seem to be very enthusiastic about riding this, due to previous bad experience with the restraints on Top Thrill Dragster. However, restraints here were not a problem for either of us. Due to said crazy acceleration, this was an empty-your-pockets ride. Both of us had to leave glasses and pocket contents in nifty cubbyholes in the station, so we were literally “flying blind,” as we’re both very nearsighted. 60 seconds, 2.8 linear Gs, and a strange trip down from the top hat later, we were back at the station. The airtime on this ride in the first 3 cars was a different kind of airtime than on any other coaster I’ve ridden. Granted, that’s not saying much, but the point is there. I rode it again in the back row later, and THERE was the airtime. Overall, a great ride.
Dinner, then Learning How to Bite the Bullet
Knott’s treated the guests on Friday to a fantastic dinner. BBQ chicken, steak, grilled salmon, with a full salad bar was the menu, and we chowed down. It hadn’t helped that the only thing I had eaten all day was a piece of pizza in Atlanta 12 hours earlier. Needless to say, I did some damage. After dinner, a few dignitaries spoke. First was JP Morgan, general manager of Knott’s Berry Farm, thanking everyone for coming. Next, we got to the raffle. I would NOT have wanted to win one of the big 60-pound road wheels, as I had no way other than FedEx to get it home (I didn’t check any bags). However, I would have liked that weekend package for 4 Alas, it was not to be. Next was one of the guys from S&S. With all due respect to him, he should stay in the structural engineering business. The speech just kept going and going. The ride crew started sending warmup trains through the course towards the end of the speech, and that was getting EVERYONE’S attention. Some of the gasps that I overheard was how quiet it was for a B&M, or how fast it goes. As soon as the dignitaries were done, the stampede to the Bullet took place. Me and Jerry talked a bit with Chris Godsey of Rideworld, and then we headed for the front row queue of Silver Bullet.
The reason that we waited for a front row seat was that this was to be my first inverted coaster, and the first ride should be taken in the front row. I was not disappointed. The Silver Bullet is awesome from the front, and even though I couldn’t see much clearly, it was great in the front. Bullet is also very rerideable, to the tune of 6 more passes, including two just to get a better on-ride photo. Part of the package for the Friday ERT was a free on-ride photo at Silver Bullet. For all three of mine I looked at, I looked like I was about to fly into a brick wall. Jerry looked like ‘ol Cool Hand Luke in all three pictures. If someone can host the scanned photo, I’ll stick it below here.
However, after Jerry got his photo, the time difference was catching up to us. It was only 10:15 PM local time, but my body clock was saying 12:15 AM, and you’ve been awake since 4. As a college student, I am kind of used to running long hours, but I was running out of gas. Jerry and me staggered back to the Raddison, glad we went for the on-site hotel instead of trying to drive to an off-site hotel while groggy and tired. A very interesting day indeed, but more was yet to come Saturday.
Last edited by the_rock401 on Mon Mar 21, 2005 7:48 pm.
robbalvey wrote:I'm assuming that since this is one of your first events and you're new the whole coaster thing that this must be one of your first trip reports.
You are correct on all counts, sir. While I'm new to the coaster enthusiast bit, I'm no stranger to the amusement business. It's just that I started posting over at Matt's Carnival Warehouse, and it kind of progressed from there. But that's another story for another day.
And thank you for the complement about the TR. I figured I better get Part 1 up before everyone forgot about Solace. Parts 2 and 3 are forthcoming...
PAUL'S FAST-MOVING WEEKEND IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, PART 2
SATURDAY, MARCH 12, 2005
KNOTT'S BERRY FARM, BUENA PARK, CA
Saturday morning dawned bright and early, with ERT starting at 7 on the Jaguar, Montezooma, and the Boomerang. If this was supposed to be sunny California, then our weekend, the morning certainly wasn’t. I didn’t see a sunrise for either of the two mornings we were in California. However, on Saturday, things cleared up later in the morning, and the sun got kind of hot later in the afternoon.
We started on Jaguar. I had seen Jaguar go through the top of the pyramid, and it looked like there A) wasn’t much to it, and B) it didn’t go very fast. I was wrong on both counts. It is quite a long ride, very similar to the Ripsaw at Mall of America. The ride is also much better in the back. Sitting in the front meant there was a lot of sitting and waiting for the train to get over the top of the hill.
After the Jaguar as kind of a warmup, Jerry and I went over to Montezooma. This time, we must have taken rides in every car on that train. At first I thought the G-forces were worse in the front than in the back, but after learning that at one point in the loop, there is over 4 Gs on your body, rerides in the back and front found a substantial difference between the two, with the back being more forceful than the front. Monte is also hard on your body after a few launches. Still, it’s a classic ride with a big punch.
Prior to deciding between Boomerang and Montezooma, Jerry asked me if I wanted my headache now or later. After one pass for the credit on Boomerang, I know understand the validity of his question. This Arrow concoction administered a beating that up to that point, was the worst I had ever taken from an amusement ride. I had ridden Valleyfair’s Corkscrew, and was told that Corkscrew was a pounder. One quick side note: On Arrow trains, I have to ride in the front row, due to the fact that I can’t fit anywhere else on the train (I’m 6’4” with really long legs). If there was ever a one-and-done, this was it.
By that time, Xcelerator had opened up, and we made a few passes on it. It was during the wait for one of the cycles that I waited right in front of the world-famous Robb and Elissa Alvey. In fact, I attempted to sit along side Elissa one time, but it didn’t work out. As far as one-train operations go, I really couldn’t notice much of a difference in turnover rates between one and two train operations (I rode it again with 2 trains right before the night ERT). Wait times weren’t bad during the morning ERT. 3 cycles for any car behind the first car is fine by me.
After the park opened to the general public, Jerry and I wandered around to see what there was to see, as well as to partake in some of Knott’s selection of flat rides. First up was the Riptide, a clone of which Valleyfair is getting this year. I had ridden a Soriani and Moser Top Spin at the Minnesota State Fair last year, but this was the first time on a Huss version of this ride. The second round of flipping, we got 5 full flips, but couldn’t quite coax a 6th out of the gondola.
For the ERT people, there was a 2-for-1 on the Giant Swing. We tried this out, and I must say, looking down at the ground while at the top of the swing was a rather unsettling feeling. While this ride packed a nice little punch, it is a poorly-kept secret that the designer of this ride originally intended for it to be much faster than it currently was. As I was told, the designer said that “Knott’s neutered my ride.”
Another thing I noticed was that there sure seemed to be an awful lot of high school-aged girls wearing cheerleading uniforms in the park. After walking past the Charles Schultz Theater, I found out why. KBF was hosting the state cheerleading competition. At first I thought Knott’s was a rather unusual venue for such a competition, but after doing some research, the 2,100 seat Charles Schultz Theater would make for a fine venue for such a competition. Jerry also suggested that the Mall of America would love to host a cheerleading competition, but they don’t have a stand-alone auditorium or arena large enough to handle it. Sounds strange for the Mall of America, but sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.
Also, while I applaud Knott’s for going out and getting the actual songs to play in the Broadway area of the park, could you do us a favor and get some more good oldies to add into circulation? I think I heard “Chantilly Lace,” “Tequila,” “Sleepwalk,” and “O Little Darlin” at least 3 times just during the ERT. Don’t get me wrong, I like those songs, but if you were an employee, they could drive me crazy.
Lunch was served across Beach Blvd, in their picnic pavilion. Chicken, ribs, hot dogs, and all the trimmings were served. After everyone went through the line, GM Jack again thanked everyone for coming to their event, and they raffled a lot more stuff off. There was all kinds of miscellaneous junk out of the maintenance shed that they were raffling off. Included were some coaster wheels, Ghostrider lumber, the fronts from two cars of an old defunct kiddie coaster that used to be at Knott’s (Can’t remember the name), framed photos, pins, posters, even the Solace signs at the entrance. At the end, Knott’s donated one of the signs as a giant get-well-soon card for a Minnesota enthusiast, and everyone was signing it.
Jerry retired to the hotel after lunch for a siesta while I went to try my hand at coaster photography. Here’s a note for all of you photographers-to-be out there: Coaster photography is not a knack acquired with half-dead batteries in your camera. I got a few pictures of the Bullet and Montezooma before the camera batteries died. After this, I noticed that the queue for the Bullet was only to the bottom of the stairs, so I decided to get my front-row Bullet ride in daylight. I entered the queue, and half the park followed me. I only waited about 20 minutes for a front-row spot. I still like the front row of Bullet for the visuals.
I must have been more tired than I thought, because after going back to the hotel and reading the LA Times, I was dead to the world for 3½ hours. Awakening a little after 8, I grabbed my trusty Ambassador sweatshirt, and headed for the park. Re-entering the park, I met back up with Jerry around 9. He had gone back into the park at 6 and went on Perilous Plunge. According to him, the ride crew was bored. So they sent him around again. Upon returning to the station, they sent him off for a third time around. By the time he got off the third time, he was thoroughly drenched, and went back to the hotel to change clothes. So thoroughly drenched, in fact, that when we were leaving for Magic Mountain at 6:30 the next morning, the clothes (which he had hung in the shower to dry out) were still wringing wet.
We got two cycles on Xcelerator during the 9:00 hour, along with a lot of people hiding their Solace ERT credentials. Two trains were running at this time, and the difference in turnaround time wasn’t anything substantial. I did like the fact that there were two sets of cubbyholes at the platform, one for each train. When the other train came into the station, a sheet of plywood slid to the side, allowing each train’s cubbyholes to be kept separate.
SATURDAY NIGHT ERT
Ghostrider must not have gotten its afternoon tea, because it had an ATTITUDE tonight. For our first run, the general public had not cleared out of the queue, so this led to an approximately 30 minute wait for the first ride in the third car. The first ride was incredibly rough, and I almost picked up a big headache. Jerry then decided that the next ride was going to be in the back. Great. Just what I need. The back row had a ton of airtime but also delivered a head-bashing that would make any Arrow veteran quiver in fear. So much of a head-bashing that I had to get off Bullet after two cycles (we went there next) because I was starting to get tunnel vision through the helix. I rejoined the party on the Bullet about 10 minutes later, and was fine for the remainder of the evening.
The Bullet crew was FANTASTIC. In fact, one of the crew, a girl, for reasons I can’t recall off the top of my head, rode in the front row. I was just getting off after 2 straight cycles. Since the front row was empty, and I didn’t have anywhere else to go, what does any self-respecting, handsome, available, 20-year-old gentleman do? Hop in the neighboring seat. The train is dispatched, and while going up the lift hill, we have a brief conversation about how awesome the Bullet is. We then have a great ride, and afterwards, while in a fit of hysterical laughter, she says that she didn’t think Bullet moved so fast. Not wanting to be a buzz kill and inform her that if anything, the train was moving slower due to less passenger mass (the train was about ¾ empty), I just nodded and agreed. I am truly learning the ways of women.
Anyway, I was on the Bullet until ERT ended, and had a great time with the crew, as anyone who was there can attest to. I want to thank Knott’s for being such spectacular hosts for Solace, their crews for being great, and for their overall hospitality.
SUNDAY, MARCH 13, 2005
SIX FLAGS MAGIC MOUNTAIN
The day dawned cloudy and chilly (even by my ridiculously low standards) early again for myself and Jerry, who found it a little more difficult to wake up early today (we’re starting to get used to the time difference) for check-out and our run to Valencia and Six Flags Magic Mountain. After successfully checking out of the Radisson, we embark on the voyage to Valencia. The stretch of I-5 from Beach Blvd. into downtown Los Angeles is a very old freeway. I was excited to see the overhead light towers of Dodger Stadium for the first time as we went by. Further north, we passed through the junction with the Antelope Valley Freeway, portions of which had collapsed onto the I-5 during the 1994 Northridge earthquake. I also noticed a lot of earthquake retrofitting on overpasses.
The long drive to Valencia gave us a chance to talk about some things. I’ll use this time to talk a little about myself. I am Paul, a newbie in the world of coaster enthusiasts. Currently, I’m a junior at the University of Minnesota, studying civil engineering. How did I get involved in the coaster world, you ask? I’m a born-and-raised Minnesotan, and to me, the Minnesota State Fair was always the highlight of the year. Something about the midway always keyed my interest. I started posting on the Matt’s Carnival Warehouse (MCW) message board during my freshman year, and while on MCW, I met Jerry Dorf, another Minnesotan who is well-connected in the enthusiast circles. Last summer he asked me if I wanted to come to a coaster event at Valleyfair. Up until then, I hadn’t been a big coaster guy. I made my first rides on Valleyfair’s coasters that night, and I think I commented that Jerry was “trying to get me hooked on this coaster stuff.”
Earlier this month, Jerry was talking up this California trip on the MCW and the roller coaster IRC chat channel. Somewhat out of the blue, he asked me if I wanted to come along. A quick search of airfares to Los Angeles produced a reasonable enough rate for Solace weekend, and the rest is history.
But anyway, back to this trip report. The Six Flags California complex is set way back from the freeway at the Magic Mountain Parkway exit. If you were coming from the south, and you didn’t know that the park was here, it wouldn’t be easy to find out. The only indication on northbound I-5 that the park is there is a large “Six Flags California” sign on the west side of the freeway, similar to a McDonald’s sign. When we finally withdraw into the woody driveway back to the Six Flags property, we turned the corner and there it is. X. In all of its purple-and-gold glory (I know now that the paint crews are Vikings fans). We will be riding it soon enough. However, the visuals are incredibly intimidating as you drive in. And that is to a seasoned flatride veteran.
After being relieved of $9 by the parking troll (trolls aren’t completely vanquished off the mountain), we roll around to the enormous parking lots behind the park. The people there for WCB were among the first people there, so we parked directly behind Colossus. The sheer size of the parking lots made my head spin. I would NOT like to be at this park when all of these lots are full. Also, being here at the Uof M without a bike means that I am in pretty good walking shape. I needed it just to get to the front gate without the parking tram.
At the front gate were Rideworld’s fearless leaders, Chris and Natalee Godsey, handing out credentials and wristbands for the ERT. There were a lot of familiar faces from the previous days at Knott’s, and it was a reassuring sign that we heard the “clear the lift” horn from X while we were waiting at the gate.
Also, I was surprised to see metal detectors at the entrance of SFMM. I thought it was strange, but it was explained later that SFMM has had problems with violence. Metal detectors were their way of keeping weaponry out of the park. There is also a LA County Sheriff and Valencia PD sub-station near the park entrance.
X is like Johnny Cash. It doesn’t fit into one genre, rather it’s in its own league. It is not the most intense ride I’d ever experienced, not by any reach of the imagination. I thought that Ghostrider and some of my cycles on the Space Roller flatride were more intense than X was. It certainly is the most unique, though. However, X was a headbanger. Even in the front row, wheel seat, which is where I took my first run. All of the rides were taken on the right side of the train. The last maneuver was the worst. Major head-bashing on all three cycles from all seats, even with active counter-headbashing maneuvers in place. I had my fill of the head-banging after 3 rides.
I then headed towards the rest of the park and the other coasters that were open for ERT. Jerry suggested that because of my height that I pass on Riddler’s Revenge. He also suggested that Goliath is Wild Thing with an attitude problem. I kept that in mind as I meandered towards Goliath. Six Flags Magic Mountain is a BIG park. It’s also kind of difficult to make your way around unless you know what you’re doing. Anyway, I found Goliath, and was impressed with the theming in the queue. Queue theming is one department where SFMM does a very good job. Goliath was a fun and FAST coaster. No killer airtime in the back seat (there is airtime on the second drop), but I would not have liked to go through the helix on Goliath without the heavy braking on the second brake run. I was beginning to gray out as it was. Anyway, took 3 runs, enjoyed front car and back row.
Carefully deliberating Jerry’s advice, I decided to give Riddler a whirl. It was at the fluffy, fluffy bunnies filled with medicine and goo for this where I got the crap scared out of me. I had originally placed my stuff in a fluffy, fluffy bunny filled with medicine and goo. SFMM is a fluffy, fluffy bunny filled with medicine and goo park, which means you have to place your loose articles in fluffy, fluffy bunnies filled with medicine and goo at the bottom of the queue. I was going up the stairs when I realized that I had forgotten to put my glasses in the fluffy, fluffy bunny filled with medicine and goo. I return to the fluffy, fluffy bunny filled with medicine and goo panel to put my glasses in the fluffy, fluffy bunny filled with medicine and goo. I figure I’d eat 50 cents and keep my stuff in there. I open the fluffy, fluffy bunny filled with medicine and goo, put my glasses in, and go back over to the panel to rent the fluffy, fluffy bunny filled with medicine and goo again. Problem was, the panel didn’t give out the same fluffy, fluffy bunny filled with medicine and goo. And the door was locked, which meant I couldn’t get at any of my stuff. I had to go up to the platform and have someone open the fluffy, fluffy bunny filled with medicine and goo for me.
After this brief scare, I took a ride on Riddler. I had no problems with the standing restraints. With no offense to anyone who reads this trip report, the restraints adapt a lot easier to excess height than to excess girth. The ride is very much a B&M, both by the roar and the smoothness. Also, the bottom of the first drop pulls a LOT of Gs. Bear in mind that by this time I was still under the influence of a rough GhostRider and an X-tra large headbanging (sorry, had to throw that one in) from earlier in the morning, so I was having issues with my vision tunneling all day through high-G elements. That aside, Riddler is not compact and super-intense like it’s counterpart down the street, Batman, but it’s still a coaster that means business. It has moments of high-Gs, although high G loadings aren’t particularly appreciated by me on a stand-up coaster. I thought Riddler was very hard on the knees and quads. One ride was as much as I wanted for the rest of the day. For the rest of the day, we took one ride on all coasters mentioned.
After Riddler I went back up the bridge that goes out to X to meet Jerry, who had been riding X during the entire ERT. At this point, the line for X stretched all the way back to the end of the bridge, and it looked like you could be there a goodly portion of the day. We then started to make our rounds of the park. Going over the hill towards Psyclone and Déjà Vu, I noticed a portion of inverted track that used to be red, but now had some sections of track that had started to rust. That is a coaster named Ninja, and it wasn’t open when we were there. The ironic part is that the rusty track could be seen behind a wall with a Sherwin Williams paint advertisement.
Passing the large green lawn statue that is Déjà Vu, we came to SFMM’s take on the famous Coney Island Cyclone. Psyclone was a joke of epic proportions. Not only was it hard on the body (rough), it was also very hard on the ears. The trim brakes squealed like a stuck pig with a high-frequency whine that would make your ears bleed. Did anybody say WD40? Also, it was here that the differences between Six Flags parks and Cedar Fair parks (or at least Knott’s) became apparent. Six Flags appears to be in the game for the money. Knott’s M.O. was customer service. The reason that I began noticing this was that there was only 1 train on Psyclone. This could lead to ridiculous lines in the summer when the aforementioned huge parking lots were full.
After leaving Psyclone, I got to thinking. The crews on all the coasters I had been on seemed thoroughly disinterested in being there. What if you combined the ride staffing of Knott’s (fantastic) with the ride firepower of Magic Mountain? Now I am not slamming KBF for their rides. In fact, you could make a good case for KBF being on par with SFMM as far as thrills go. The setting for Magic Mountain is fantastic. However, it’s the customer service aspect of their operations that leaves a lot to be desired. Also, some of the physical plant at the park left a lot to be desired, namely the horrible squeaking in the trims on Psyclone and the rusty track on Ninja. Considering Magic Mountain is one of Six Flags’ premier properties, I was surprisd how crummy some portions of the park looked. I was also quite surprised at how fast steel corrodes in southern California. The queue railings on X looked like they had been there for 15-20 years instead of 3 or 4.
But anyway, back to the TR. After Psyclone, we headed over to Batman. Batman had the best queue theming I can remember. (Disclaimer: I have been to WDW, but I was 7 at the time, so I wasn’t paying attention to stuff like that) It is also a night-and-day difference from Silver Bullet in intensity. Line was less than 10 minutes. I rode in Row 2, and WOW! Lots of Gs, speed, and a lot more intense than Bullet? Being in Row 2, I couldn’t see what was coming, so it made the ride all that much crazier. Jerry wasn’t so lucky, however. The OTSR was ¼ inch away from the seat belt clicking shut. Alas, he waited for me from the exit lane. I can see why people were so quick to roast Bullet. After riding Batman a ton, I can see how Bullet could be a disappointment.
We then went down the big long hill to Scream. Scream is SFMM’s newest attraction, another B&M concoction, except this is a floorless coaster. After depositing my stuff in the fluffy, fluffy bunny filled with medicine and goo, we had a short wait for the front row. This is another very smooth B&M, and like Batman, gives a helluva ride. Being in the front row, and having obscenely long legs, I thought I was going to kick the track. Since I was in seat 2, and there was a little knob on the car below my feet, I placed my feet on it for the last run to the station. Call me a cop out, but the illusion was very convincing.
Next, back up the hill to eat lunch. The food was decent (I had chicken strips and fries), but the prices weren’t (it relieved me of the remaining cash I had brought with me into the park, and I vowed we weren’t eating dinner in the park). No surprise there, huh? It was here where the weather began to come into play for me. Since we were parked a very long ways away from the gate, I gambled that the sun was eventually going to come out, and left my sweatshirt back in the car. It was now about noon, the sun showed no signs of coming out, and it didn’t look like it was going to warm up any. Since we sat down for roughly 20 minutes, I had a chance to cool off from walking around. And when we got started again a few minutes later, I never really got warmed back up until we got in the car to head back to LAX.
Prior to lunch, Jerry had been eyeing up two blood-curling attractions in the back of the park, Verti-Go and the Skycoaster. Verti-Go is some combination of Ejection Seat and Skyscraper that was originally at Cedar Point. A long and detailed story later, and it ends up out at SFMM. Jerry bought tickets to VertiGo, and he was subsequently loaded into the vehicle. Well, lo and behold, no sooner was he loaded into the seat than the thing broke down. He was shown off and told to come back later. In the meantime, he went over to get his Skycoaster ride. The Skycoaster is quite a spectator sport, and “Holy Sh**” seems to be a popular reaction among those who watched the Skycoaster run. Jerry pitched heavily up and down while the cable was still slack, then after the cable went taut, it was your average garden-variety Skycoaster ride. This ordeal took about half an hour, and by that time VertiGo was running, so he went to redeem his flight.
At this point, we hiked up Samurai Summit towards the hilltop attractions. The name of the park is Six Flags Magic Mountain, and they mean mountain. If you don’t take the Orient Express up to the top of Samurai Summit, your quads get a very good workout. When we got up there, just about everything up there was closed. Ninja, Sky Tower, and the pizza joint were all closed, with no signs of opening. The only thing that vaguely looked open was Superman, and the queue was out the door onto the plaza. I figured that the wait was going to be over an hour, so me and Jerry split up, Jerry to the Superman line, and myself back down the mountain to the Gold Rusher. Gold Rusher is a quaint little Arrow mine train with manually-operated lapbars. The line for this was a surprising 40 minutes. Again, a one-train operation. There were two larger guys on the train right ahead of me who literally got stuck under their lapbars, and the operators had a fit getting them loose. After seeing what happened (I was in line for row 3 of car 2), I switched places with two smaller kids who were in line for the front row of the car after the gates were opened, and had no problem getting the lap bar to close. This was the only ride on which I have felt like needing to duck, for fear of losing the services of my head to low clearance underneath the log flume. This ride has a lot that is hidden. It’s a nice little coaster. Not worth a 40-minute wait.
Back up the hill to meet Jerry. Jerry reported that Superman’s launch was less intense than Montezooma’s, and that the wait was only about 40 minutes. Oh well. On our way towards the front of the park for Viper and Revolution, we stopped and talked to an enthusiast from Boston for a while. He had a similar opinion of things that I did. We then walked down to get our credits on Revolution.
All of you familiar with Revolution know the story. Those of you unfamiliar can go here: Anyway, the wait for Revolution was short enough, and I rode in the third car, first row. I had no trouble with the OTSRs bashing my head around. Then again, I’m tall enough where my ears are above the collars. The ride was very smooth, just as a Schwarzkopf should be. The way the greenery has grown up around Revolution makes the ride even better. You don’t know what’s coming, except for the long downhill run into the loop.
The line for Viper looked short enough, so we went over there next. There is one major problem with the queue for Viper. Once in the lower level of the station, the line splits into three lines, and where each line goes is not marked. Now, if you use logic, you can figure out that the line to the left goes to the front row, but that could be above the thought level of much of SFMM’s clientele. As for the coaster, I am tall enough where Viper, whose train design is similar to Valleyfair’s Corkscrew, is a automatic front-row ride, mostly because I can’t fit into anywhere else in the train. It is also similar to Corkscrew in that it is rough. Even in the front row, while taking evasive action away from the head-banging. There is no way that anyone is able to eat a banana while in the back row, like Donald Sutherland did in the movie Space Cowboys. Viper is all right. The front of the train has a lot of hangtime at the top of the corkscrews. Not zero-G hangtime, but lean-into-your-OTSR hangtime. Another one-and-done.
There was only one coaster left that neither of us had ridden so far during the day, and that was Colussus. The star of the park entry sequence of National Lampoon’s Vacation and one of the biggest wooden coasters around, Colussus is showing its age. Mostly, the paint job is what is showing the age. The left side of the train was the only side running that day, and it was only one train. The right side looked like it had not been used in a long time. The tracks had no grease/wear marks on them, and there was no trains on the right side. During this line, Jerry started filling me in on some of the details he had heard about what RideWorld and SFMM want to do with this event next year. All I can say is this: If the event is what the rumors say it is, every coaster enthusiast worth their salt should be marking their calendars. Something to the effect of returning the coaster record to Valencia. I know I am.
But enough with fueling the rumor fire. Jerry talked me into wearing my glasses on the ride. Big mistake. I should have left them back at the station with my hat. I was too concerned with making sure the wind blew my glasses onto my face to enjoy what is left of Colussus. Apparently it is a mere shadow of it’s former self. The ride is fairly smooth. No major poundings. Just a really long line for it.
At this point, it was 5:30, and we had ridden everything in the park that we wanted to ride. Plus, we wanted to be on the highway before the park closed. Also, I was now chilled to the bone. Put it all together and it means that our time at Six Flags Magic Mountain had come to an end. We started making our way back to the front entrance. We went by the previously mentioned Mooseburger, as well as the infamous Tweety Bird Cage kiddie ride. On our way out, we ran into Chris and Natalee Godsey, and gave them major props for organizing the event. Jerry also took a cute picture of the two of them. After that, we went out the gate and decided that we could walk to our car faster than the tram could take us there. We weren’t dragging yet, and we weren’t that far away.
After refueling at a Denny’s in nearby Newhall, me and Jerry started making our way back to the gargantuan zoo that is LAX. We return our car to Avis, and this is where I luck out. The previous day, Knott’s had given all of us souvenir “bullets” that were used as pens. The park director of operations said at lunch to not carry these objects on board the aircraft, as TSA frowns upon such things. Now Jerry and I were in a fix, as neither of us had checked any baggage. Jerry talked someone in Public Relations to mail his bullet back to Minnesota for him. I, however, had not done so. I was prepared to wander around LAX until I found the airport post office. Lo and behold, just before we turn into the Avis lot, voila! The airport post office is just across the street. After we get all the paperwork taken care of, I go over and mail the bullet. I guess today is my lucky day.
Anyway, there isn’t a whole lot else to say. Jerry and I part ways, he goes to the Northwest terminal to fly straight back to MSP, while I go to the Delta terminal to go to Cincinnati first. Eight hours, two flights, two hours in a Comair puddle-jumper, and a train-and-bus ride later, I stagger back into Frontier Hall, tired, a few hundred poorer, but having thoroughly enjoyed my fast-moving weekend in southern California.
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