Day 9 -- Six Flags Great AmericaWednesday, August 7, 2013Lesson of the Day: Don't wait for premium seating during ERT.
At least, don't do it right at the beginning of an ERT session. The big benefit of ERT is the ability to get on trains quickly, without interruption, which was fairly easy to accomplish at most of TPR's exclusive sessions on the 2013 tour. However, the front and back rows often had people lining up to wait for them. I found that the best strategy was to see if those lines got shorter late in the ERT session, or even to simply hold off and go for the front or back during regular operating hours (perhaps with the aid of the park's line-skipping program).Scorecard:
Raging Bull (x4)
Spacely's Sprocket Rockets
American Eagle (Blue)-- Lunch --Backstage Tour
Superman: Ultimate Flight
American Eagle (Red)-- Enter Hurricane Harbor --
Surf Rider [FlowRider ERT]-- Leave Hurricane Harbor --
Batman: The Ride
The Dark KnightDay 9 -- Six Flags Great America
Our long, three-park day in Wisconsin finally came to an end just after 11 PM, as we arrived at our hotel in Gurnee, Illinois. Any plans to quickly get to sleep were scuttled by a fire alarm, which forced everybody outside for a while. Apparently somebody got a little too friendly with one of the washing machines (or dryers), but I don't know that I ever heard the full story.
That slight disruption didn't come at a great time, as the upcoming day at Six Flags Great America would prove to be the most challenging and busy of the entire trip, at least for me. That's based solely on my experience as a first-time visitor to a park with a huge amount of attractions, and 14 coaster credits to acquire. In addition to the coasters, I had several other things I wanted to do, not the least of which being TPR's special activities for the day. I figured it would be easier to come back to the park to ride a roller coaster (if necessary) than it would be to take a backstage tour or get ERT on a FlowRider! What I didn't know at the time is that I'd indeed be making plans to revisit SFGAm in 2014 as part of another TPR tour, and I'm certainly looking forward to a slightly more leisurely visit at the end of July.
We arrived to the park at about 9:45 AM, making our way first to Raging Bull
for about 20-30 minutes of ERT. From there, we were ushered to X-Flight, where we got in line for the first rides of the day. As both of those rides would have some of the longest waits in the park later on, the head start was a big help. After riding X-Flight, TPR was turned loose before noon with Flash Pass Q-Bots in hand. We also received two more pieces of good news. We'd have the ability to add one more X-Flight ride to our Flash Passes, and we'd be given a "really good deal" on wristband Flash Passes for the water park. While my group didn't have time for another run on X-Flight, we did take them up on the water park offer, which was just as awesome as advertised.
During the rest of the morning, we worked our way primarily through credits that were not available on the Q-Bot Flash Pass, getting the park's smaller coasters out of the way. One of our longest waits of the day was on Ragin' Cajun, the spinning mouse that has since been relocated to Six Flags America. We waited 30 minutes, but watched in amazement as several groups
of park guests used the "single rider line" to skip ahead of everyone else without splitting their party. It was one of the more bizarre loading procedures I've ever seen.
The skies briefly began to threaten by about 1:30 PM, as I unwisely skipped a ride on the red side of American Eagle, only to find it not operating later in the day. After that, we headed for our lunch break, and it was one of the best lunch spreads we had on the entire trip! What was that stuff with the beans? It was fantastic. It was a huge improvement from the limited-option vouchers we received at the last two Six Flags parks on the trip. From there, we met up with Brandon Bruce for our backstage tour. Brandon worked in public relations at Six Flags Great America through the 2013 season, and is now the marketing manager at Six Flags Over Georgia. We were led on a tour through several indoor and outdoor storage locations
, and passed through the greenhouse area where landscaping work is prepared. We ended the tour along access roads near American Eagle and Raging Bull
, obtaining rare views of those two coasters in action.
The credit run continued after lunch, and as the park had become rather crowded, our Flash Passes helped avoid hour-long waits on Superman and Viper. Demon had been down for a while, but I noticed it was running while we were riding Viper, so we quickly went there for our next ride. While on Demon, I noticed that American Eagle's red side was running again, so I made a quick departure to pick up that credit (which I had missed earlier in the day).
At 5:00 PM, I headed over to Hurricane Harbor, the water park attached to SFGAm. Even with a day as busy as this, I thought it was worth spending about an hour on the wet side of the park -- including the first capsule-drop slides I'd ever been on. Of even greater importance was another round of FlowRider ERT -- our second session on the trip, after Summer Adventures at Fair Park in Dallas, Texas. That was too much fun to pass up!
Upon leaving Hurricane Harbor, it seemed like a good time to finish off the dry park's water rides, before working through the remaining coasters. We were starting to get pressed for time, but I had no intentions of being denied my goal of finishing the credit run. Along the way, I hit another big milestone I hadn't initially anticipated. I rode my 100th coaster at Six Flags Over Texas (Judge Roy Scream), but calculated that I'd likely come up just short of #150 by the end of the trip. Thanks to our surprise stop at Little Amerricka -- giving me a four-credit boost -- I was able to nail down #150 on Whizzer at SFGAm.
I made the sign rather hastily at the front desk of our hotel, but it gets the job done! Huge thanks to Andrew Samitz (darque) for the picture!
After a ride on the park's 2nd-gen Intamin drop tower (too good to pass up) I was left with one credit to go -- and only 20 minutes with which to obtain it. Thanks to some shuffling of the Q-Bot (in order to get it back to Robb before closure), I was able to get in the short line for The Dark Knight, finishing my day on the park's not-so-good mouse-in-a-box. I got off the ride with four minutes to spare before the park closed, with my biggest goal for the day complete!
This is also where I want to give a huge thanks to my Q-Bot group -- Tim, Stacy, and Victor -- as we'd now finished the last of our four Six Flags parks together. Great group of people to spend four days with. An extra thanks to Victor, as without his help, I probably wouldn't have finished off the credits at SFGAm.
The park offered night ERT on Viper to TPR and passholders, and by all accounts, this looked like a ton of fun -- a dance-party atmosphere on an above-average wood coaster. I might somewhat regret the decision, but ultimately I decided to skip the ERT and walk back to our hotel area for a decent dinner. I admit that I'm not a huge fan of riding coasters backwards. I was also pretty well exhausted, and ready to turn in for the day.
Although I don't feel like I ever had time to truly stop and enjoy my visit at Six Flags Great America, I do think it's a good park, and I'm glad I'll be able to revisit the place next month. Simply put, it's a huge property with a ton of attractions, and just about any guest should be able to find something they enjoy. It's also not a bad-looking place -- still some classic charm, and the main entry plaza is among my favorites from any park I can think of. I was also impressed with the water park, which is pretty large and contains a really strong mix of slide types. The coaster collection was the one place I thought SFGAm was slightly lacking, even with such a large number of credits (14). There are a lot of B-grade coasters in that lineup, and several clones -- good rides, maybe even very good, but the park seemed to be missing that one knockout coaster to put them over the top. I know some people would probably put Raging Bull in that slot, but I don't think it quite rises to that level. In 2014, this may all be a moot point -- Goliath could very well be the A-grade coaster that really tops off the ride collection.
The busy schedule meant that outside of the backstage tour, I didn't have much of an opportunity for pictures -- at least not a comprehensive featuring of everything in the park. I even had to skip the observation tower! That's near-blasphemy! That may be priority #1 for this year's trip.
Reviews of the attractions at Six Flags Great America:Raging Bull
: We all know about the trim brake, and after riding Raging Bull, I'm just as mystified by it as everyone else. It's not a bad layout -- a combination of hills and twists -- but I had to go to the far back of the train to find any airtime. This is a fun ride, but it promises more than it delivers.X-Flight
: I was pretty disappointed by X-Flight. The wing seats just didn't add enough to the experience of what was otherwise a rather plodding and uninspired B&M layout. I just didn't find it to be comfortable enough (or fun enough) to warrant a second ride, and we didn't really end up having time for it anyway.Ragin' Cajun
: Our group had the brilliant idea to unbalance our car to maximize the rotation on our second spinning mouse in two days, and we got more than we bargained for. The speed of the spin was almost unbearably quick, to the point of being uncomfortable on the ride, but it was worth the laugh afterwards.Vertical Velocity
: Wicked Twister is one of my favorite coasters at Cedar Point, so I was looking forward to V2 at SFGAm. Vertical Velocity felt a little weaker, and without something extra to increase the thrill level on the back spike -- either a holding brake or another twist -- I can't say I enjoyed it as much as its cousin in Ohio.Little Dipper
: Little Dipper is an obvious sibling of Meteor at Little Amerricka. The rides are virtually identical, but I have to admit that our exclusive event in Wisconsin made that one a little more fun.Spacely's Sprocket Rockets
: It's a kiddie coaster, but an easy credit, with no problem letting adults on the ride.American Eagle
: The queue is about ten miles long, but it's worth the trek. American Eagle (either side) was one of my favorite rides of the day. It's kind of big and drawn out, and not particularly intense, but ultimately it's just a fun ride. I also like that the two sides aren't strictly mirror images -- the cross-over just after the helix is an interesting design element.Superman: Ultimate Flight
: I found this ride to be significantly more comfortable than Firehawk (Vekoma flyer at Kings Island), giving Superman some easy credit against its closest competitor. The short and mostly-tame layout isn't much to speak of, but the signature element -- the pretzel loop -- is unlike anything else. It's worth the experience by itself. It does increase my interest in riding a better flyer, such as Manta -- hopefully in 2015.Viper
: I'm really not a fan of riding coasters while facing the wrong direction, but one of the big marketing items for SFGAm in the summer of 2013 was that Viper would be running backwards. That was disappointing for me, because I actually thought it was a pretty good ride, and quite smooth for a wood coaster with almost 20 years to its credit.Demon
: Demon is a not-too-painful Arrow looper, certainly better than the Arrow/Vekoma contraption at Six Flags St. Louis (Ninja). This one has an interesting tunnel after the second vertical loop. The rock work is interesting, as is the corkscrew over the train tracks.Batman: The Ride
: Are we done with these? Finally? Batman clones are definitely fun, but after five on the trip, I was ready to move on. To SFGAm's credit, this was probably the best decorated of the three Batman-themed coasters that we rode.Whizzer
: This one is a strange classic. It starts with a spiral lift, and heads into a mix of shallow drops and near-ground curves. It probably gets a little bit of the Anton Schwarzkopf popularity boost among enthusiasts, but it's a pretty unique coaster with very few remaining peers in operation.The Dark Knight
: A non-spinning mouse in a building with half-effort special effects? Definitely one of the least-impressive coasters at the park.Giant Drop
: Giant Drop has been around for over 15 years, but there's still nothing wrong with these Intamin 2nd generation freefall rides, because weightlessness is fun.Logger's Run and Yankee Clipper
: SFGAm's two log flumes intertwine across a pond on the east side of the park. Though similar in some ways, there are key differences between the two. Logger's Run uses traditional logs, and the final drop features a double-down. Yankee Clipper uses canoe-shaped boats, and has one long drop with a small hill at the bottom. Both were fun, and a little on the wet side.Roaring Rapids
: A feast-or-famine big-raft water ride, I barely got wet at all, but the guy next to me hit the back of every wave. Overall, it's a fairly average rapids ride.
Reviews of the attractions at Hurricane Harbor:Mega Wedgie
: It has been years -- maybe a decade -- since an amusement park attraction gave me a feeling of unease. This was my first time experiencing a drop-capsule slide, and it was unnerving! Once the door opened, though, I really enjoyed the feeling of restraintless freefall. There's nothing else quite like it.Dive Bomber
: While Mega Wedgie features a straight drop, Dive Bomber goes from a drop capsule into a helix. This one wasn't as fun, primarily thanks to the rough seams on the surface of the slide.Wipeout
: This big-raft slide goes through a course of multiple small funnels. I thought it was pretty slow, but not a bad ride for a small group.Bahama Mama
: Bahama Mama and Bubba Tubba are the large multi-person raft slides. We rode Bahama Mama, which has a series of curves on the way down (Bubba Tubba is a straight drop). What I remember most from this is being absolutely frigid in the stiff breeze while waiting in line at the top of the tower! Otherwise, this was a fun (if unspectacular) slide.Wahoo Racer
: I gained a new appreciation for the classic mat racer during this trip, after riding a couple that provided some decent air time on the final bump. This one behaved just as expected, but has the added bonus of starting off with an enclosed helix.Surf Rider (FlowRider)
: After starting ERT at Summer Adventures in Dallas as a complete FlowRider novice, I ended our second session in Illinois with a degree of balance and confidence I had not anticipated. No longer struggling just to keep a minimum of control, I had figured out how to kneel, balance without the use of hands, steer, and hop. A couple attempts at more advanced maneuvers (a 360-degree turn, for example) were not successful. I'm hoping for another round or two of FlowRider ERT on this year's trips!