Alright, time for part 2.
It was sort of crazy to me that we had managed to wait until late afternoon to ride the park's star attraction. It wasn't for lack of effort, but between Flash Pass reservation times making it impossible to resist the urge to ride absolutely everything else along the way and leaving the line to get a Flash Pass that was supposed to be available on the ride but wasn't it just didn't ever work out.
Finally though, we found ourselves in the back seat of a coaster universally considered to be way too short and the weakest RMC out there. Despite the fact that tons of enthusiasts have come to that consensus, I couldn't help but be skeptical after seeing the ride in person. I'm generally skeptical of enthusiast opinions anyway (after all if I listened to enthusiasts then I'd never be able to declare Mystery Mine to be one of my favorite steel coasters anywhere ever and that would be a god damn tragedy, haters keep your boots on and shut the f*ck up
) but I was really skeptical this time. I was totally hyped for this and my expectations were absolutely through the roof.
A few minutes later (as anticipation continued to build) we were given the all clear, made a 180 degree turn out of the station and began our ascent. The journey up the lift offered some great views of the park and of the crazy twisted mess of track we were about to experience. I do remember thinking about how strange it was that every single tall coaster lift in the park faced north which was a shame since you'd think you could get a cool view of the Chicago skyline otherwise (I know it's visible from Sky Trek tower) but I didn't have much time to ponder such trivial crap because before we knew it we had reached the top and were thrust down the amazing first drop that provided insane ejector air all the way to the bottom. OMFG!!!
Once we finally landed back in our seats we were treated to a high speed trip through a tunnel and a super cool turnaround before blasting over another hill that delivered another dose of insane, sustained ejector airtime. Not to repeat myself, but OMFG!!!! At this point I was already in love with the coaster, but little did I know the two best parts of the ride were still to follow.
After that insane, high speed ejector hill we rocketed up another hill that proceeded to flip us upsidedown and then take a massive dive through an endless sea of wood supports and cross braces.
I didn't think much of that dive loop going in (is that the proper term? ah who cares) but it was one of the most unique coaster elements I'd ever experienced and one of the coolest moments on a ride that's jam packed with cool moments. Once you flip over you see nothing but wood supports and as you dive down it seems almost impossible that there's enough room in there for a train to pass through. The dive seems to go on forever, and the entire time I was mesmerized by the insane visuals. I wanted to put my hands up, but I couldn't make myself do it even though I knew the clearance envelope was obviously fine. The POVs don't do this element justice. The amount of headchoppers here is nuts. It's really one of the most amazing elements ever.
If the ride ended there it would have easily been one of the best wood coasters in the world, but it had a few more tricks up it's sleeve... the next of which was my favorite part of the whole ride.
I don't really know how to even begin to describe the zero g stall. The term "zero g... whatever" is thrown around all the time but it never really feels like you're experiencing zero gs. Kumba has one of my favorite zero g rolls ever, but it doesn't feel like you're weightless. It doesn't feel like you're experiencing zero gs. It feels like you're experiencing 150 million gs and the ride is actively trying to kill you and everyone else on the train and throw it's riders all the way to Cuba which is why I love it so much but the element feels the exact opposite of what the name would imply. This thing lives up to it's namesake though. This thing feels like you're floating on a cloud.
Since it's such a unique element I didn't really know what to expect from it but I didn't expect this. When you flip upside down it feels like time just stands still. It's totally surreal. Everyone puts their arms up (or I guess down since you're upside down the entire time) and you experience a coaster hill with no forces whatsoever. That sounds like it's a knock, but it's not... it's awesome. The sky is the ground, the ground is the sky, you're on a coaster, everyone has their hands up and you feel like you're floating for a ridiculously long period of time. I know I sound like I'm on heavy drugs right now but I assure you that I'm not into that sort of thing, this element is just a total mindf*ck and any attempt to describe it without sounding like I'm under the influence of the good sh*t wouldn't be appropriate because of how completely f*cked and how completely awesome it is.
After you finally flip back over and gravity starts acting normally again you immediately blast through another tunnel (well, I guess the same tunnel) through a wonky but fun turnaround that provides some nice sideways floater on the way out and up into the brake run with a hill that provides one more pop of impressive airtime.
Thing is absolute insanity! I guess it's objectively a short ride, but it doesn't feel short when you ride it. It feels absolutely perfect. It definitely feels different than the other RMCs in that everything it does is very fluid. There are no ridiculous transitions, outside banks or any of that patented, crazy RMC stuff. The ride flows really well and everything it does feels really natural (which is odd for an RMC and the fact that other RMCs are so screwed up is what makes them awesome) but it works here and the ride delivers tons of insane airtime and features two completely amazing elements with the zero g stall and dive loop. The ride is relentless from start to finish and is absolutely, without-a-doubt one of the best wood coasters I've ever ridden. Wow, all I can say is wow.
We exited the ride on a complete Goliath high, still not exactly sure what it was we just experienced. My first thought was that I had no clue how whatever we rode next could ever follow that, and then a few seconds later I remembered that I had a flash pass in my pocket telling me that it was time to ride our next ride. Nothing would have been able to follow Goliath but it was almost comical that that task fell onto the lamest B&M flying coaster in existence... Superman Ultimate Flight.
I guess I'm being harsh. Obviously we have a Superman clone at Great Adventure and it's a fun ride. It's no Manta or Tatsu, but it's fun. I have no complaints.
Interestingly enough their Superman clone is in a pretty similar location to the one at Great Adventure to the left of the front gate in the very front of the park. Unlike ours, this one wasn't built right on a parking lot so it did have some trees around the ride which made it look a bit nicer. We approached the entrance, scanned the Flash Pass and bypassed the absurdly long line full of people who should have been in line for Goliath instead. Seriously, why did this thing have the longest line in the park all day? Why?
We got to the station and (after seeing the long line for row 1) hopped in line for the back. A few trains later we were on the ride, making our way to the lift hill over the familiar faded peeling catwalk littered with chewing gum.
I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised with this ride. Superman is always a fun coaster, but this one was much better than the one at Great Adventure. I know the ride was designed for Georgia, but this one comes very close to the trees on multiple occasions and really feels like it fits here better than it does at Great Adventure. The layout is fun even in an open field, but the nearby trees really add an extra level of thrill to this ride and when we hit the brakes we both enthusiastically gave it the seal of approval.
We were getting pretty hungry at that point, so while in line for Superman I had pulled up the website to see what was available and was happy to see that (like SFNE) they had a JB's smokehouse over by Ranging Bull. We had yet to venture over to Southwest Territory but seeing this I decided to reserve Raging Bull so we could make that our next stop and then we could eat while virtually standing in the hour long line for Viper backwards.
After Superman we slowly made our way over, admiring the New Orleans style theming by Superman and thanks to Flash Pass reducing Ranging Bull's 90 minute wait to 30 minutes for some reason it wasn't long before we found ourselves scanning in.
Ever since Raging Bull opened I've heard nothing but complaints about this ride. It's universally written off as the worst B&M hyper by enthusiasts everywhere, everyone says it's trimmed to death and lacking in airtime and because of this we had probably made it less of a priority than I normally would have. I figured it would be good, but if it's really comparable to the Carowinds Intimidator like everyone says it is I figured I was okay in saving it for late in the day and blowing it off.
As we made our way through the queue, we noticed that (as usual) the station area and queue area were really nice for a Six Flags park. We approached the merge point and found that they were pulsing the line so within 5 minutes or so we were in the station. One thing I learned from Apollo's Chariot is that when you encounter a B&M hyper with a pre-drop you need to go to the very last row so we made a point to do that here. A few cycles later we boarded the train, knowing the ride was guaranteed to be fun no matter what but hoping it was better than it's reputation would have you believe.
On that note...
prozach626 wrote:Bill, your appreciation for mediocre B&M hypers **cough** Apollo's **cough** Chariot **cough** makes me curious about how you're going to review Raging Bull, which still has one of my all time favorite drops.
Yeah, let's talk about this. My single biggest takeaway from the entire day was how ridiculously underrated Raging Bull was. What in the actual hell are people b*tching about?
Ejector airtime isn't a term I like to throw around all that often, especially not when talking about a B&M because enthusiasts get really pissy but there are a few instances where B&M manages to deliver honest-to-god ejector airtime and Raging Bull's first drop is one of them. Like Apollo, the pre drop gives this ride a great little boost which sends riders in the back row catapulting out of their seats all the way down the drop. We had just ridden Goliath about an hour prior so the bar had been set pretty high for airtime filled first drops but Raging Bull goes toe to toe with Goliath in that department. After the drop, the ride flies through a tunnel, through a turnaround and then makes it way into the single most b*tched about element on any coaster this side of the Raptor snap... the dreaded trimmed third hill.
I felt the trim, it definitely slowed us down a little but seriously? That's what everyone's b*tching about? Really? Intimidator 305 (which is universally loved) trims WAY harder on an airtime hill than Raging Bull does and nobody bats an eye. Despite this trim, we experienced great sustained floater airtime all the way over and down the drop. Sure, I wish it weren't there but give it a rest. It's not THAT bad.
Next, Raging Bull performs some patented B&M swoopiness (I just decided that's a word) before it hits the midcourse (which does next to nothing) and then careens down another awesome drop that delivers some of the best airtime ever on a B&M followed almost immediately by another hill that's also loaded with great airtime before the ride concludes with some fun, low to the ground turns that are really unique for B&M and really enhance the feeling of speed before finally hitting the brakes.
As soon as we hit the brakes, Brit looked at me excitedly and said "Oh my god, that's so much better than Nitro" and you know what... I love Nitro but yeah. It is. And it has much more airtime. For a ride that everyone says has no airtime, it's definitely got more airtime than the vast majority of the B&M hypers and when you throw in the unique layout and great tunnel it makes for a pretty spectacular ride. I'm not about to sit here and rank B&M hypers but this is definitely one of the best I've ridden. It's a completely kick a** coaster from start to finish and I have zero complaints. Zero. Raging Bull is a blast, and it's easily one of the most underrated coasters I've ever ridden. It's probably not as good further up in the train, but if you know that then don't f*cking ride it there.
After Raging Bull we were pretty hungry and thinking about how whiny enthusiasts were was driving me to drink so we decided to kill two birds with one stone and grab some lunch at JB's. I never really tell Brit what the consensus is on a coaster before we ride it since I don't want to sway her opinion so while waiting for our food I told her how much everyone complained about Raging Bull (now that we'd both decided we loved it) to which she replied "what trim brake" and then proceeded to laugh. That's definitely the appropriate response.
On to the food...as is generally the case, JB's was great. We both went with the pulled pork sandwiches and by Six Flags standards they were both excellent. I grabbed a beer and I think Brit made some crazy concoction with the Coke Freestyle machine but I don't remember. That definitively hit the spot, though I have to declare the JB's in New England to be better as this one didn't offer Boom Boom sauce which (for those unfamiliar) is f*cking delicious and probably the best thing about JB's.
Is it hypocritical for me to bash enthusiasts for complaining about something as stupid as a trim brake and then immediately complain about a lack of Boom Boom sauce? Probably, but if you've had Boom Boom sauce you understand. Anyway, while we're on the subject of b*tching let's talk about our next ride... Viper backwards.
I've heard great things about Viper for years and was definitely excited to ride it. A few weeks prior it had come to my attention that Six Flags was dicking around and running it backwards for some absurd reason but luckily it was supposed to be forwards again by Labor Day weekend. I sort of forgot about it, but much to my dismay when we were walking up to the front gate that morning I saw Viper testing a backwards train. ugh
Viper was sporting an hour plus line, but since we reserved it as soon as we scanned in for Raging Bull and then we went to eat lunch it was time to ride once we finished eating (and drinking) and we reluctantly headed over.
Viper is in a weird location for sure, it's really tucked away from everything and the Flash Pass queue branches off from the nearby waterpark entrance which is even more weird. We passed a ton of people and Flash Pass was a lifesaver on this ride, but the merge point is definitely pretty far up and the station is really deep so we still had about a 30 minute wait once we merged in.
In true Great America fashion, the theming on the station was excellent. There were small little details everywhere and a copious amount of rubber snakes that weren't nearly as tacky as you would think. We settled for the row with the shortest line which was somewhere near the front of the train (or back since it's a backwards train... I don't know, lol) and hoped for the best while bracing for the worst.
We turned out of the station ascended the backwards lift, went down the first drop (so far so good), went up the next hill and...
OUCH! For the remainder or the ride, everyone on the train seemed to be questioning their life choices. The 2 rows behind us yelled an impressive (even by my standards) amount of obscenities. For most of the ride all you could hear were constant screams of "F*CK F*CK F*CK SH*T OW F*CK F*CK F*CK OW SH*T" and things of that nature. That ride was a miserable pile of sh*t and should be burned to the ground immediately. I've ridden some bad coasters, but very few have ever approached such historic levels of suck. It felt like the thing was actually tracking pretty well and I don't doubt that it might have been fun going forwards but Viper Backwards is terrible and whoever thought of this awful idea should be forced to marathon it until it's been properly beaten into them that this was a terrible idea (that should only take one cycle).
After popping a few Aleve, we figured that since we were already suckers for punishment we might as well head over to our next reservation, Demon.
I knew Demon was a bit of an icon for the Great America parks, and I bored Brit with the whole "Turn of the Century" story on the way to the ride in an attempt to make her overlook the inevitable beating we were about to receive and actually try to like the thing. I was optimistic but she generally has no tolerance for Arrow loopers so I figured it wouldn't hurt to talk it up a little.
We scanned the Flash Pass, walked through the super weird queue line and found a seat in the back car of the train. I didn't expect much, but after ascending the lift, going down a pain free drop and heading through two well themed and super fun vertical loops we were feeling good about things. We were feeling even better when following the loops we went through a tunnel that surprised us with an insane amount of rave lights that made us think we had just ended up on Cash Cab (does the one in California do this?, if so next time they film "Cash Coaster" for FUN TV they need to film it on Demon). This ride was weird as sh*t, but we were totally digging it.
After the rave tunnel the ride went up into a mercifully slow turnaround (sorry Arrow, but you guys suck at turning so the slower the better) and concluded with another cool tunnel, some corkscrews and some coat hanger sh*t that all-in-all sucked but could have been worse.
Demon definitely beats you up a little but it's not too bad for an Arrow and while we were in no hurry to jump back in line, the sheer weirdness of it made it pretty enjoyable despite the crappy finale and we both agreed that we sort of liked the thing. Thumbs up for Demon! We approve of your weirdness.
I hadn't run it by Brit yet, but when going through the Demon queue I had done some soul searching and realized that with only 2 coasters left to ride, it was time to stop depriving myself so I scrolled down to Log Jammer, saw the 30 minute wait time and excitedly hit select. It was clouding up a bit but it didn't seem too bad yet so I figured it was a perfect time to ride (then again, is it ever NOT a perfect time to ride?).
When we got off Demon I told her what our next ride was and she reluctantly agreed to go along with it. Yes, score one for me! We had some time to kill, and not wanting to let the day go by without hitting some of the park's more unique rides we figured this would be a perfect opportunity to ride the train over (we would have walked over and hit the Condor but it was closed for the day, bummer).
The train is actually really cool with the track going above the midway near Whizzer and again near Superman and the train station actually raised up on a hill in between those two areas. We walked up to the nice open station which gave us some great views of the surroundings from it's nice perch on the hill and we couldn't help but notice the death cloud that was moving in. I pulled up the radar and realized that it was definitely headed right for us but at that point I still had hope that we could knock out the flume before the inevitable downpour.
A few minutes later our train pulled up and we hopped on board. It was actually a really nice train ride with someone on the PA system talking about all of the nearby rides and attractions as you passed by. I was really impressed, it's not every day you see a Six Flags park with a nice train ride.
When exiting the train, we couldn't really deny the fact that it was looking really dark outside and those clouds were moving in fast. We had 2 coasters left to ride, one of which was the Dark Knight so weather was a non issue and the other was American Eagle which wasn't on Flash Pass but did happen to be nearby. It was time to ride the flume, but we decided on the fly that just to be safe we should really ride American Eagle now just in-case the rain hung around longer than expected.
When you spend enough time on coaster message boards you notice that there are a lot of recurring topics that keep resurfacing over and over again. "Favorite coaster", "best coaster stations", "best coaster drop", "favorite inversion on a coaster", "best all you can eat gravy buffet", "favorite coaster patch jackets", "why wearing deodorant is bad" and finally... "worst coaster queue".
When that last one comes up, there are always lots of answers but the one coaster that comes up over and over and over again is American Eagle. Now that I've ridden it, I firmly believe that that thread is split into only two groups... people who have never ridden American Eagle (who say things like "Zumanjaro Drop of Doom" and "The Bat" and people who truly, truly understand what it means to walk through a queue line so f*cking ridiculous that it makes you audibly question "what the f*ck" out loud on at least 5 occasions.
I won't spoil the queue, because much like a great dark ride it shouldn't be spoiled ahead of time. This thing really is in a league of it's own though and I really feel like TPR needs to film a f*cking POV of it just so we can re-live the experience.
5 Hours later (after a nap and a trek across the wild plains of Illinois) we approached the station for the coaster that I was starting to believe was just a figment of our imagination and didn't actually exist at the end of that long, drawn out journey and were amazed to see that the coaster was not only running both sides but actually racing! I forget what side we picked, but given the weather we ignored any potential seat preferences, picked the shortest line and within a few minutes we were all clear and ready to race.
I didn't expect much of anything from this ride, but it was actually really good. It was super smooth, provided some great airtime and the racing aspect was great. Most importantly, this is one of those coasters that's honestly just a spectacle to look at. Rides like Raging Bull and Goliath surpass it in height, but when you drive up to the park or walk up to this ride (and you'll be walking up to it for awhile) this ride has an incredible presence and really makes you say "wow". I feel the same way about this ride as I did about Mean Streak, a lot of this ride's appeal was in the journey through this beautiful and amazing structure. The airtime and fun elements was almost secondary. American Eagle was great and I'm really glad we got to ride it while it was racing.
After exiting the coaster and hiking 7 miles uphill both ways back to the midway we decided that we weren't big enough whores to ride the other side and count it as two credits and decided to plan our next move. The Log Flume was reserved but the sky looked like it was ready to dump buckets on us at any minute. Brit had no intention of riding and suggested we do the intelligent thing and book Dark Knight but knowing it was Six Flags I assumed that since it was so late and the temperature was dropping so much they would likely close the flumes and never reopen them once it started raining (I would end up being correct in that assumption).
Going into the day I had hoped to ride 2 flumes and I had already accepted the fact that I wouldn't be doing that, but the thought of riding zero flumes really wasn't jiving with me so I asked if she'd care if I rode it solo. She (appropriately) gave me a look of "okay dumbass, have fun with that" and I excitedly made my way over to Log Jammer. We've all got to die someday, if I die by drowning on a Log Flume then so be it. At least I'd go out doing what I loved.
The confused looking ride op scanned my Flash Pass and asked where the other rider was so I explained that the other rider was much smarter than me and she bailed. He just laughed and directed me to a log. About halfway through the turntable I heard a noise that sounded like a fighter jet was about to crash into the park but a few seconds later I realized it was just the sound of rain pounding the roof and looked to my right to see that it was raining almost as hard as it could possibly rain.
I looked over to see that the ops had turned everyone on the steps back and closed the ride for the day and I knew I still had a solid minute to minute and a half on the turntable where I could have easily exited if I wanted to. Unfortunately I also knew that if I did that I'd never get to ride, so for some reason I reasoned that "maybe by the time I get to the front of the turntable the rain will die down and it'll be fine".
The log left the turntable and immediately went under a wall of water caused by the downspout from the flume roof being located directly over the trough. The next few minutes were spent weathering a complete deluge of water in a slow moving log but for some weird reason, kind of enjoying the experience just for the sheer stupidity of the whole thing. I was soaked long before heading down the drop, but I had a blast. The drop itself was actually really awesome as it was sort of a weird double drop. I wish I could tell you if there was a big splash at the bottom, but there was already so much water that I wouldn't have known the difference anyway.
After exiting the log, I walked through the exit and found Brit hiding out under a tent. She asked if I was proud of myself, to which I (of course) responded yes.
The rain was relentless, so for the next 30 minutes or so we stayed huddled under the tent watching the radar and trying to avoid the annoying Sunshine Vacations people (or whatever they're called). Seriously? Of all the tents to huddle under you pick these guys? Are you sure there's not a Jehovah's Witness tent nearby we could stand under that might be less annoying? God, I think I'd rather drown in the rain.
Slowly but surely the rain eventually started to let up. We had Dark Knight reserved, but it would have been really stupid not to take advantage of the lines that would all be completely cleared out by the rain so as soon as it started to let up, we made our way over to Goliath where a line had started to form.
A few test cycles later our strategy was handsomely rewarded with a short 10 minute line for Goliath. We grabbed the back seat again and were treated to another unbelievable ride. It also managed to dry me off a bit which was a nice bonus. This ride is absolutely outstanding.
Riding high from another awesome Goliath ride we figured it was time to finally make our way over to the last coaster of the day, Dark Knight. We have one of these at Great Adventure also and I have to say that ours is in much better shape. While I do like the indoor queue on the Great America version, their pre-show no longer works and a lot of the effects on the ride are also out of commission. Still, it was a fun little ride and (after hopping off the wrong side of the car out of habit... oops) we got off the ride feeling accomplished at managing to hit every Great America coaster in a day despite the crowds and rain.
After Dark Knight we only had about an hour left in our day, but by that point we had basically ridden everything so we could use most of that hour for re-rides. Every ride was posting a 5 minute wait after the rain so we no longer needed the Flash Pass but just to be safe we reserved Raging Bull and decided to head over towards Southwest Territory.
On the way Brit noted that she wanted to ride Columbia Carousel. Normally I never ride Carousels (unless I'm at Knoebels of course), but this one was really cool so I didn't really need much convincing and we made our way up to the upper deck right as the ride was loading.
The ride itself was actually really nice. I'm no Carousel person, but this one was stunning to look at and the upper deck actually provided a great view of the park. Unfortunately half way through the ride it also provided a great view of the rain that once again enveloped the park, dashing my hopes of riding Whizzer again on the way to Raging Bull.
Luckily the rain quickly lightened up and stayed at a constant drizzle for the rest of the night so while it was enough to close Whizzer, the other major coasters kept going. We made our way over to Raging Bull and scanned our Flash Pass for absolutely no reason since we were greeted with a complete walk-on.
Once again we went for the back row, and once again the ride delivered the goods. The light drizzle wasn't enough to be uncomfortable and if anything the drizzly, cool misty night actually served to make the ride even better. Just like before, Raging Bull was flying, delivering boatloads of airtime and making me question the sanity of the enthusiast community. What a spectacular coaster!
After Raging Bull we were down to our last 15 minutes and were forced with the task of deciding how to end the night. On one hand, Goliath was easily the best ride in the park but on the other hand it (aside from Raging Bull) was the only ride we had already managed to snag a re-ride on. It was really between than and X Flight but in the end we decided to go with X Flight since it was much closer and we might have time for 2 rides if we went that route.
The ride was a complete walk-on for most rows, but we wanted to end the night right so we made our way up to the front. Once again, the ride was awesome and riding it in the rain at night really helped to enhance the sense of speed and the awesomeness of those keyholes. The train returned to an eruption of cheers from the hearty souls that waited out the rain and (thanks to 2 people still in the station on the other side of the platform) we were all allowed to stay on and get a second ride. What an awesome way to end an awesome day!
Despite some of the negativity surrounding this place, we thought Great America was an absolutely fantastic park. It's really nice, the theming is some of the best we've seen from Six Flags and their coaster collection is absolutely magnificent! I highly recommend this place to everyone and I can't wait to go back!
Up next: A day in Chicago!