Last week, Brian and I flew to St. Louis to cover SFSL's new Evel Knievel woodie (it'll be AT's cover story for AUG) ... then rented a convertible and drove to The Dells ... and finished up with an entire day at SFGam. It was his first visit to all three parks, and I hadn't checked out this trio in many years. A stop by Chicago's Navy Pier on the way to O'Hare completed the trip. We had a great time despite excessive heat/humidity and couple of cantankerous woodies that did their best to send us to the nearest ER. I'm just sayin' ...
Six Flags St. Louis
EK: What a sweet machine! With just a month of regular operation under its belt, the ride seems to be breaking in as expected. Though built on flat terrain and topping out at only 82 feet, we found it almost as aggressive and entertaining as Thunderhead ... even more so in certain sections. The M-Flyers (with a smart red/white/blue paint scheme) maintain their speed well, and the various airtime pops were most surprising. Jeff Pike has said this ride was originally designed for an Atlantic coast park, and that it was inspired by both CA Giant Dippers as well as the Cyclone Racer and Savin Rock Thunderbolt. I can see that influence in some of the lower swoop turns. I'd like to return at the end of the season to see how much faster the second half of the ride becomes, especially that series of rapid speed bumps just before the last turn. We really liked this ride!
The Boss: Though the layout is inventive and unique, especially that first drop/double-dip opener, the Boss could use some serious TLC. As it currently runs, riders take quite a beating. I was one of the few fortunate to experience the Boss when it ran the Eagle's PTC trains on media day back in 2000 (the G-trains were not … ready). I feel the PTCs handled the course with much less discomfort, but that was when the structure was all shiny and new ...
Speaking of the Eagle ... WOW! It was flying on Sunday night. We got several rides without leaving the train and I'd forgotten how wonderful this John Allen beauty could be. Sustained float-time, strong laterals on the turns and just plain fun. With no tracers or any illumination other than the glow from the park, we had a blast aboard the Eagle as it dove into those cool, dark wooded ravines. I wish we had more re-rideable coasters like this one.
River King Mine Ride: This remains one of my fav old-style Arrow mine trains. I would really like to have ridden it when both sides were operating. I find the remaining side to be much better than the ride they sent to Dollywood …
Thanks to traffic/construction, the corn field-heavy drive from St. Louis to Wisconsin took a bit longer than expected. We arrived at the Dells at sunset … just in time for the resort’s neon-splashed tackiness to burst forth in all its glory.
Timber Falls Avalanche: we were the only passengers on-board for our first-ever ride on this quirky S&S creation. Despite the $5.99 ticket price and the constant left turns, we LOVED this ride! That little three-car PTC train performed admirably well. The sustained momentum and absurd transitions made us laugh throughout the experience. Good stuff.
Pegasus: Although a junior coaster, this ride has a satisfyingly long layout. It was great to see little kids riding alone and loving it.
Cyclops: That last drop is STILL a show-stopper, and an excellent finale.
Zeus: Holy s***, Apollo … what in Hades happened here? I rode Z. during its inaugural season and found it a great out & back ride, but now … not so much. Potholes, unexpected slams and bruising jolts are not fun. Ouch x 7. One circuit was plenty.
Hades: This was our first encounter with the coaster from the underworld, and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Though we’d seen all the photos, videos and read everything about the infamous tunneled sections, nothing aside from an actual ride could prepare us for what happens under that expansive asphalt car park. Those light-speed transitions in blacker-than-deep-space darkness were disorienting and exquisite. Kudos to TGG for creating such a mind-blowing experience.
Six Flags Great America
Batman: When did this one turn yellow and lose its wheel covers? Still as powerful as it was in its first year.
Batman Dark Knight: Mouse-in-box with decent theming. I expect the park’s drama sect is not happy about one of their theaters being used for BDK’s queue/pre-show. Loved the subway-themed coaches.
Raging Bull: I was sooooo looking forward to this one. Though still an impressive operation, that one overly-tight trim on the upside of the third drop totally robbed the rest of the course of its intended speed. Boo.
: Haven’t ridden this bird in more than a decade, but found it more impressive than I remember. B. liked it as well. Even though the mid-course trims were in use and the giant descending helix was a rattling, shuffling blur (more speed might eliminate this, but probably not …), the Eagle still delivered a decent ride with a couple of enjoyable pops. The trims before the final helix on both sides made for a rather anti-climatic ending, but the ride still remains quite a bit of fun.
Viper: Who knew a Cyclone clone could be this good? Maybe it has something to do with the extra weight of the 5-car/3-bench PTC trains. Whatever the case, we could’ve ridden this one all night long. And to think, Viper was an in-house job …
Whizzer: Easily our favorite SFGAm coaster. I find it hard to understand why CGA got rid of theirs. With three four-car trains expertly dispatched for our entire visit, this Schwarzkopf/Stengel beauty had a long queue ALL DAY LONG. Guests, especially families and couples, adore it. Even with the redundant and unnecessary seatbelts, Whizzer is pure steel coaster joy. I sincerely hope SF does whatever it takes to keep this classic ride running for many years to come.
OK, now on to the visual portion of our presentation …