Thanks for your comments! Really happy to share this stuff finally -- I know I'm months behind, but if I can get this done before next summer's trip I'll be happy
.Day 1 -- Six Flags Fiesta TexasTuesday, July 30, 2013Lesson of the Day: Enjoy the downtime.
Although TPR trips are known for their quick pace, our visit at SFFT was a little more relaxed than most. Every tour is sure to have some long and tiring days, and they'll likely be among the most exciting. On the other hand, taking it a little on the easier side can also be good. Take more pictures of the park, and settle down for some conversation.Artifacts:Scorecard:
Superman: Krypton Coaster (x7)
Bugs’ White Water Rapids
Road Runner Express
ScreamIron Rattler Tour
Whistle Stop / Fiesta Texas Railroad (Full)
Whistle Stop / Fiesta Texas Railroad (Full + 1/2)
Road Runner Express
GoliathLone Star Nights
Superman: Krypton Coaster (x2)
Superman: Krypton Coaster (x4)Day 1
At long last, on my fourth day of the vacation, the official TPR trip was about to begin. Six Flags Fiesta Texas was within viewing distance of our hotel
, so it was just a quick five minute drive north to ... miss the turn into the park, and have to loop back around La Cantera to find the back entrance!
Although I've never been a particularly dedicated coaster enthusiast, and haven't ever planned entire lengthy vacations around theme parks before, it was still surprising to me that I'd somehow managed to avoid ever
going to a Six Flags park. Based on chain-wide reputations, I had an idea of what to expect -- wildly inconsistent theming, disinterested employees, and advertisements all over the place. Aside from that last point -- face the intensity!
-- I couldn't have been more impressed (and pleasantly surprised) with our experience at SFFT.
Let's get the obvious out of the way first. Six Flags Fiesta Texas was dealt an absolutely rotten hand by the incident that occurred four hours north on I-35. Their marquee new attraction was down for the count due to no fault of their own, which was disappointing for everybody involved with the trip. They wanted to show off their shiny new iRat to a group of thrill-hungry TPR members, and were unable to do so. The TPR brass had made the three RMC coasters a big selling point of the trip, and watched powerlessly as three turned to one. However, if any group is going to make the best of a situation, it's this one. Still, we'd need a little help from the park, and SFFT delivered outstandingly, rolling us the red carpet and providing an outstanding day at the park.
After gathering outside and meeting Jeffrey Siebert
(SFFT's marketing director), we headed straight to Superman: Krypton Coaster for our first roller coaster ERT session of the trip
-- and, along with our time on Master Blaster at Schlitterbahn, my first ERT sessions ever
. It's hard to put the feeling to words -- our lead train climbing the lift and circling down the first drop. I guess that's when it struck the trip had really started, with the whole group unified and doing what we do best
-- riding coasters and having a blast, just like all the pictures and videos I'd seen from previous TPR tours.
After our ERT on Superman, we got the first rides of the day on Poltergeist
, where we first really noticed the inspiring implementation of the visual scan
. After launching
our way through a couple rides, we followed this up by making our way to Pandemonium for another ERT session. Getting Pandemonium open for us was a huge bonus, and the park recognized that its low capacity made it a priority for all of us to get our rides in. As if that wasn't enough, another of the Fiesta Bay Boardwalk attractions
-- the Scooby Doo Ghostblasters shooting dark ride -- was also made available to us before the rest of the park attendees were able to get in. Thereafter, most of us reported directly to the Kiddee Koaster
(RIP Schlitterbahn water bottle
) for our first shameless "not intended for adults" credits of the trip.
Morning ERT on four different rides really helped soften the pace for the rest of the day, and getting Q-Bots to help manage our wait times was another big piece of help. It was my first experience with the Q-Bot system, and I was really impressed with its simplicity and utility. I felt quite fortunate to end up in an awesome Q-Bot group with Victor, Stacy H, and Tim K -- we made a great team, not only of SFFT, but of all the rest of the Six Flags parks we ended up visiting.
SFFT provided us a good spread for lunch, and followed that up by letting us sign up for 12-person backstage tours of Iron Rattler. Even though the ride wasn't operational, the park wanted to ensure we were able to see it up-close. We squeezed into a white van, and Jeffrey drove us up to the top of the quarry wall. From up there, we were able to get some spectacular photos of the middle section of the ride, with the rest of the park as a backdrop.
A portion of the big group went back to the hotel for some R&R in the mid-to-late afternoon, but I opted to stay in the park. With all of the credits out of the way, it was a good opportunity for photography, giving me a chance to do a "full" photo set from the park. SFFT is a medium-sized park, which was most evident in contrast with some of the parks we visited later in the trip (SFGAm and Cedar Point in particular). Without iRat running, I'd say that SFFT perhaps wasn't quite a full-day park, unless you're visiting the water park or are a photographer. I actually didn't mind that, as it was nice to have the chance to get some good pictures -- the pace was quicker for most of the stops on our trip, making it more difficult to leverage ride time and photography time. SFFT is worth finding that balance -- the setting at the floor of the quarry was really spectacular, and not at all visually restrictive. The way the quarry wall is built into the design of the the park is very natural, and the biggest rides (such as Superman, Sky Screamer, and iRat) are tall enough to tower over the upper level, providing great views of the park, La Cantera, and the northern sections of San Antonio. Even though the wall isn't going anywhere, there appears to be plenty of room for expansion on the quarry floor -- big enough for one or two major attractions, I'd say.
The quiet middle part of the day also provided an opportunity to get out of the heat and enjoy some conversation in the park's Sangerfest Halle -- the big Festhaus-like dining and show area. While being entertained by one of the most astoundingly remarkable shows we'd experience on the entire trip, it was also a chance to chat with a few more trip participants, and help ease the comfort level of this fish-out-of-water traveler. Thanks Rox, Hans, Chris L, and the Kiwis -- you helped the new guy feel welcome!
Did I mention the heat? The official high temperature for San Antonio was 103 degrees F
-- only one degree shy of the record, and seven degrees above normal. That was par for the course for the Texas leg of our trip, but I'll be honest -- I'll happily take that over getting rained out.
Our entire group reconvened for the Lone Star Nights show
at closing time, with the park providing us some of the best seats available. I went into the show with few expectations, but was actually rather impressed. You've probably already read about the overflowing Americana, Texas pride, and utter cheesiness in some of the other trip reports -- qualities that make the show so endearingly kitschy. From a technical standpoint, I thought it was a pretty nice blend of projection, lasers, and fireworks. I don't know that I've ever seen lasers and projection combined like this before, with the lasers serving to highlight and outline images and words from the film. I definitely want to thank whoever the first person was to decide "we should show a video on this giant quarry wall" -- brilliant idea! I also want to thank whoever included the TPR wordmark
in the pre-show, though it was only displayed for about five seconds, and I couldn't get my own camera ready in time!
After the show, our night was not yet complete -- SFFT re-opened Superman and Sky Screamer for a double shot of night ERT, providing a really great end to our day. Yes, the first official day of the trip was already setting some pretty big expectations for the 11 days to come.
Reviews of some of the park's attractions:Superman: Krypton Coaster:
Having just ridden my first floorless coaster in June -- Dominator at Kings Dominion -- I had a point of comparison for Superman. Although I think I prefer the layout of elements just slightly on Dominator, this is a perfect example of how setting can make a ride. Superman's interactions with the quarry wall are quite fun when moving at a high rate of speed. I found the ride to be just the right amount of forceful, where you get some intensity along the way, but can stay on the ride over and over again without feeling sick. I did just that during our morning and evening ERT sessions, racking up 13 total rides (my second highest count on the trip, after 14 on Millennium Force). This isn't going to end up on any best-of coaster lists, but it's a solid #2 for a park with iRat next door.Poltergeist:
I'd been on both Flight of Fear rides, and found this to be a similar experience, with the added bonus of having no mid-course brake run. I don't think I could marathon this coaster, as it's relatively forceful in places, and a little bit on the rough side. I probably enjoyed this ride slightly less than the consensus of the group.Scooby-Doo Ghostblasters:
Referred to as "Air Conditioning: The Ride" by several TPR trip members, I found it to be a pretty average shooting ride.Pandemonium:
This was the first of three identical Gerstlauer spinning coasters on the trip. I found this coaster to be a little bit more fun than I had anticipated, especially once our Q-Bot group got the car unbalanced. I like the small pop of air near the end, and find it amusing that the car can sometimes go up the lift hill crooked.Kiddee Koaster:
A real thriller. The kind of roller coaster that can bring a grown man to tears. Also: my first counted kiddy coaster credit. I think we all probably know and accept that we rode some coasters in our youth that we can't remember, and that a coaster count is going to be limited by our memories. So, this one gets a special place on the list, and I don't know how I could have done it without the TPR takeover.Bugs’ White Water Rapids: The Dragon
will go down in TPR folklore as one of the biggest villains on the entire trip, but the real key to enjoying this ride was not sitting in the front row. It wasn't the big splash at the end that soaked those at the fore of the boat, but rather, the gentle drop off the lift. I was fortunate to be in the second row, where I enjoyed a relatively entertaining ride. My compatriots in the front suffered from an unacceptable amount of wetness
. Though not a traditional log flume (this one had two-aside seating and a slightly wider trough), it started my half-attempts at flume credit counting.Boomerang:
It's a boomerang.Goliath:
Having never been to a Six Flags park, this was my first Batman clone (a mirrored version) -- and yet, it was my fifth invert, after Montu, Raptor, Great Bear, and Alpengeist. The quick, tight pacing was obvious in comparison to those four. I'm not sure that automatically makes it a better ride (I definitely think Montu, at least, is superior), but I know that's the popular opinion of most TPR members.Road Runner Express:
This was a very pleasant surprise! We would end up riding a lot of mine trains on this trip, but this early favorite was perhaps bested only by Thunderation at Silver Dollar City. The ride has a few drops and pulls some force in a helix or two, and its setting in iRat's shadow is a good place to be.Gully Washer:
Usually, on days when I'm not water-park-prepared, I try to avoid the round-boat rapids rides. I decided to give this one a spin, however, and came out only mildly wet. I was fortunate! Outside of hitting the only waterfall on the ride, this was definitely not one of the TPR trip's biggest soakers -- and there would be some later on that easily qualified. A word of advice for this one -- if you're holding on to the padded center bar, you may want to wash your hands when you're done.SkyScreamer:
I do not possess a fear of heights. In fact, I'd say it's quite the opposite. SkyScreamer, thus, was a ride I immediately enjoyed. It never saw it as a "thrill" ride at all. Rather, it was an excuse to circle around at 200 feet and enjoy one heck of a view, especially at night.Scream:
This was my first S&S combo tower, and though it's shorter than some of the other towers I've been on, it was nice to experience a lift and drop in the same ride cycle.
23 total coaster rides was my second highest daily total of the trip, with 31 on our second day at Cedar Point on top. Thanks to the 13 rides on Superman, this day gave me the most inversions by far, with 102. The full day at Silver Dollar City came in second for inversions, with only 29.