Posted on December 19th, 2012 by csladky in Off Track - Chris's Blog

I found a roller coaster today that I thought was interesting enough to share, mostly because it was actually in North America, and most roller coasters like it are in Asia. Called Sky Streak, it was a Sansei Yusoki Co. coaster, and it’s very similar to what we’ve seen from Golden Horse, Beijing Shibaolai, Senyo Kogyo, Togo, etc.

Among the more amusing parts of it are the super-angular lift hilla turnaround that appears to completely lack any banking whatsoever (and is followed by a laughably abrupt transition), a bunch of great transitions at the tops of its hills (ouch!),  and what was probably the most entertaining part of the layout.

With some coasters, it’s just more fun to make fun of them than ride them…

Day 4 of our Northeast trip

Posted on August 22nd, 2012 by csladky in Features, Trip Reports

Today we went to Six Flags New England, our first major park of the trip, containing 11 coasters – singlehandedly making it the day with the most rides and coasters on our trip so far. That said, it wasn’t either of our favorite parks, and there were quite a few disappointments. While the rides are definitely high quality, there are negative aspects to this park that are either new since the last time I’d visited or temporarily forgotten in the time since. This was my second visit to this park, and my first since Superman was rethemed as Bizarro, they added a new wild mouse, and they got a Vekoma Giant Inverted Boomerang coaster (courtesy of Six Flags Magic Mountain).

The parking fee ($20) was the highest I’ve seen at a park, and as we entered the parking area, the number of people joining us was already sort of a bad sign. Even so, the entrance is rather a pretty one, and security was mostly efficient. The main street is nicely themed, although it could probably use just a smidge of TLC to cover up some peeling paint, remove a couple gaudy ads, etc.

After we were inside, our first order of business was getting in line for Goliath, the Vekoma Inverted Boomerang. These rides aren’t exactly known for their high capacity and reliability (quite the opposite), and so we wanted to get our rides before the line built up during the day. It was good to see this one being operated efficiently, and we didn’t see it down during the day – a dramatic difference from what we normally experienced at Six Flags Over Georgia (and their former GIB, Déjà vu). We got on the ride in about a half hour using the single rider line, which is definitely a new record. Unfortunately, I had a rougher ride than the ones I’d had at Magic Mountain, getting my head bumped quite a number of times – but the drops are still quite fun. I also really liked the new paint job; that bright green is very photogenic, and I like how they chose to color some parts of the supports, etc. green that are not on the others.

Next up with their standard boomerang – placed, totally inexplicably, next to the GIB. It really makes it obvious that they have two similar coasters, and it makes the smaller/traditional one much less appealing, being in the shadow of the larger one. To that point, it was basically walk-on, although this was our first experience with a complaint that would last throughout the day – not being able to choose the row to sit in, even though there was very little reason for it. In our case, the front row was open, and no one else was coming up the line…but we were told we had to sit in row 3. Neither of us could figure out any harm this could have caused, and unfortunately this would be repeated on nearly every coaster in the park. As for the ride itself, it was one of the rougher boomerangs I’ve done, even in row three, despite that it had the newer-style, more curved boomerang trains.

After the boomerang, we tackled Pandemonium – a Gerstlauer spinning coaster that is the same layout as some of the Tony Hawk coasters (among others). It was reasonably fun, and about on par with the Tickler at Coney Island – it didn’t spin quite as much, but it did have more speed and a more dynamic layout. Then, it was off to the catapult, an S&S Sky Swat, one of two in the world. This was one of my favorite flat rides last time I rode it, and it had another great performance this trip as well. I really enjoy the sensation of hang time, and Catapult provides plenty of it.

After Catapult, we headed back toward the center of the park, stopping to have lunch at Panda Express. Here we ran into another slightly annoying part of the park – the difficulty in staying properly hydrated. It took a couple of tries to find a place that had cups of water, and they are quite small – and you have to wait in line each time to get a refill. This wouldn’t be too much of an issue, but we also had difficulty finding water fountains. Six Flags did successfully get both of us to buy a bottle of water, but I would rather not have done so.

After lunch it was time for Thunderbolt, a quite classic and enjoyable wooden coaster from the 40s. Here again we ran into the problem of not being able to choose our seats. There was actually a very annoying situation wherein we were first in line, and we chatted with the ride ops about which seat was the best. We decided we’d try the back, and went for that queue…only to have another ride op tell us we couldn’t. By that time we’d lost our spot as the first in line, and we were forced to go a few rows back from the front. That aside, this is a very enjoyable coaster. It’s both much smoother and more exciting than most classic coasters I’ve been on; despite the peeling paint, the coaster itself is holding up very well.

Following that it was off to Bizarro, for Brian’s first time on it and my first time since they added the onboard audio (no longer functional), flame effects (no longer functional), repainted it, added some theming, etc. One change they made, I particularly appreciated  – the restraints. They modified the restraints to remove the middle pillar and the shin-pieces, and it made the trains so much more comfortable, even for someone like me who isn’t overly large. One other nice aspect was that we were allowed to choose our seats on this coaster, so I could actually try both front and back.

Bizarro is a really excellent coaster with a layout far more interesting than your ‘typical’ airtime coaster. It’s full of strong airtime, good speeds, and intense valleys. My own personal opinion of it is that it is definitely in the very upper echelon of coasters, but I don’t subscribe to the viewpoint of many, who feel it is the world’s best coaster – it is not in my top 5. It’s excellent at what it does, but there are other coasters I find more fun. I did find myself changing my position on which seat is the best , as well– last time I liked the back better, but this time I preferred the front. It afforded nearly as much airtime as the back, though slightly less strong, but it also added a lot of visibility and that wonderful nice wind-in-the-hair feeling.

After Bizarro, we headed to Gotham City Gauntlet: Escape from Arkham Asylum, a Batman-themed wild mouse. This isn’t the Batman-themed wild mouse that SF:NE had originally wanted (they were originally slated to get a Dark Knight coaster like Six Flags Great America or Great Adventure), but a Maurer that originally was located at Kentucky Kingdom. This was actually one of the nicest surprises of the day – it had some of the best operations of any mouse I’ve ever seen, and even more impressively, that was with basically a single employee working both load and unload. The ride itself is a very good mouse, and it had hardly any braking on the top section of switchbacks.

That was followed by another pleasant customer service experience – SF:NE will refill water bottles at their restaurants. Combined with the speedy, attentive employees at Asylum, this leaves some hope for the operations aspect of the park.

Then, we hit Catwoman’s Whip, a large Tivoli kids’ coaster with the typical gigantic train. These are hilarious simply for the weirdness of the extra-long train; the first car is starting down the first hill before the last car is even out of the station. It just looks hilarious. Ride-wise, they’re fun but neutral, nothing notable. Their SLC, Mind Eraser, was our next stop, and it was rather painful – one of the worst SLC’s I’ve done, though not the worst (that one comes later in the trip, at Canada’s Wonderland).

Batman: the Dark Knight was our second-to-last coaster, and it’s a very solid floorless coaster, especially for its somewhat short (117-foot) height. Again here we weren’t allowed to wait for a row, though at least we were allowed to go to the back after we asked. The beginning of this coaster is very enjoyably intense, though I noticed a rather unpleasant amount of vibration and rattle in the later parts of the ride.

On the way back to Cyclone, the remaining coaster we hadn’t done, we hit their Top Spin, Twister . Top Spins are one of my favorite genres of flat rides, and I do enjoy that there is such variation in cycles/ride programs. In this case, that variety played against me – it was unfortunately a boring cycle, and it was the first time I had my head whacked on a Top Spin.

We also wanted to ride the rapids, but super annoyingly, there are no lockers for the rapids ride, and no lockers nearby it, even. We asked the ride host what to do with our belongings and were told to just take them on board. It’s rather frustrating that Six Flags requires lockers at rides that could live without them (e.g. Bizarro and Batman), but they don’t have them on the rides that need them. We would have gladly paid for one here, as opposed to un-gladly paying for one at Bizarro.

That brought us to the final ride of the day – Cyclone, a classic-feeling, though not particularly old (built in 1983) wooden roller coaster that has the best airtime in the park. It is not going to beat Bizarro any day soon – there are only two spots of such airtime – but it is absolutely incredible. Brian had an awesome grunt of “Whoa!!” when he first experienced these. Sit in the very back to get as much as possible – and thankfully, this was one two coasters (the other being BIzarro) where you could actually select your row.

On the whole, our day at Six Flags New England was enjoyable, though this was mostly due to the quality of the rides. There are customer service and operations concerns that kept it from being a particularly pleasant experience, but hope remains that these wrinkles could be ironed out to bring the park experience up to what it could be.

Day 1 of our Northeast Trip

Posted on August 19th, 2012 by csladky in Features, Trip Reports

Today we kicked off off day 1 of our 9 day, 18 parks, around 80-ish coaster trip that will take us through the northeast, into Canada, and back to New York. Unfortunately it started with a bit of a disappointment, but it quickly turned into a very fun, full day. The main theme of the day was small, unpolished (in the sense of copious uses concrete, metal fencing, and questionable yet oh-so-charismatic theming), but extremely charming parks. They had a very different type of appeal than major, heavily-themed parks, but nevertheless an extremely valid one – the best word I can think of is authentic. These parks are not pretentious; they’re about great fun, classic rides, and even a little silliness.

You can see many pictures and more detailed comments in the photos, but here is a good summary.

Bowcraft

First stop was Bowcraft, a small, family-oriented park with a twist – a Zierer Crossbow, an intense (judging by appearances), tightly-twisted small coaster. There is only one other like this, and it’s in Germany. Unfortunately, it turned out this ride hasn’t yet opened this season; they said they were waiting on parts, and it would probably open in a few days – not soon enough for us to get back and ride it, though.

The silver lining, though, was that we still got to explore the whole area, including the station. This was where I was also presented a rather extreme temptation that it’s unlikely I’ll see again – a coaster with an empty station, the key in the operating panel, the panel on, and the dispatch button flashing. It took a lot of willpower to overwhelm my urge to start playing with it and see what I could do / how far I could get before they kicked me out. I also had to wonder how long that panel had been sitting there, on but unusued.

Otherwise, their Wisdom-built kids’ coaster, Dragon, I found reasonably enjoyable for the size it was – the helixes press you up against the side quite well, and we got 4 cycles. Brian, however, disagreed. There weren’t really any other rides of note, and the only other thing we rode was a tilt-a-whirl.

Keansburg Amusement Park

After Bowcraft, it was off to a small, seaside park in Keansburg that featured a classic Schwarzkopf Wildcat, a Miler kids’ coaster, and a variety of interesting flat rides.

With the removal of Cedar Point’s Wildcat, there was much nostalgia to be had here. This one has a rather interesting unique feature, though not a positive– they don’t use any block sections on it. I don’t know if this because the brakes aren’t hooked up (quite possible since none of them grabbed during the course), but it means that the capacity of this ride is much diminished – one car has to finish the entire course before another can be launched. It didn’t help that there was only one operator, as well, and that wildcats seem to require people to manually push cars from the exit station to the entrance station (I seem to remember this from Cedar Point’s as well, except they had a number of employees operating it). Operations aside, Wildcats are always very enjoyable, classic rides that pack a lot of punch into a small footprint. Their tight hills and turns create very enjoyable, if not extreme, forces – and the last helix and brake run can be quite forceful, in a good way (just make sure you’re paying attention). Oddly, given that the brakes are off on this one, I seem to remember Cedar Point’s and the Puyallup Fair’s Wildcats as being more intense, but there is some possibility that was just a fond memory overplaying it. I’ll try head down to the Puyallup fair next month to verify.

Their kids’ coaster, Sea Serpent, and its three cycles were not a lot to speak of – it was somewhat jarring, and not particularly enjoyable. Their flats, however, were much better. Of particular note was the Eyerly Loop-O-Plane, an extremely “classic” inverting ride that was clearly from an earlier era. It was fairly easy to see how it operated, and also the lack of modern safeguards (e.g. redundant latches and safety cables – though it is certainly debatable if that’s necessary; we both believe this ride is more than safe) and modern sizing (all of the cars are quite snug for even average-sized people, which means many American adults probably wouldn’t fit). We got a fantastically-long cycle on this, and inverting with only a lap bar to hold you against the seat was quite a sensation (for those wondering about the use of a lap bar on an inverting ride, you’re basically in a cage as well; there’s very little risk of you falling out).  I would say for me, this ride was actually the highlight of Keansburg, and it’s a real shame there aren’t more of these around.

There was also a Chance Chaos, one of the few that are still operating. I had the chance (pun intended) to ride Cedar Point’s (which had been one of the longest-lasting ones before it, too, was removed), but I rode alone that time, and the flipping wasn’t as good. Riding it with Brian definitely improved the inversion count and intensity, and it made the ride much more disorienting and enjoyable. I even got Brian to admit that he might get sick if he rode it again (Brian insists I qualify this with a reminder that he hadn’t eaten all day). While I wouldn’t classify this ride as exceptional, it was definitely good, and certainly worth doing since there are so few of them remaining.

Lastly, there was the S&S double shot. These towers are more fun in their shorter variants, and this was no exception – good airtime at the top. After that, and some fried Oreos and snow cones, it was off to New York’s most famous park and what is arguably the world’s most famous roller coaster.

Coney Island

Coney Island is actually more like a district than a park; it’s a number of smaller parks that make up a larger whole. There’s also a very cool – and busy – boardwalk area adjacent to it, including a beach leading up to the bay.

The first thing we did upon arriving was head to Deno’s and ride the Wonder Wheel. This is a classic old Ferris wheel that has moving/swinging cars; as the wheel turns, they move along a track within the wheel itself (having a look at the pictures may make this easier to understand). The only other Ferris wheel I know of like this is at Disney’s California Adventure; Deno’s Wonder Wheel was the inspiration for that one. Deno’s feels much more classic, and there’s a very cool effect I didn’t notice on Disney’s, where the car slides forward and then swings out past the structure, making you feel like you might be launched off of the wheel. Our next step was to ride the Sea Serpent at Dino’s, which, like the one we’d ridden earlier that day, was mostly unremarkable, although this one was a mite smoother. Then, we moved on to the most famous part of Coney.

Astroland – at least by name; much of Astroland was lost when it closed a few years back – contains the Cyclone, which I’ll assert is likely the world’s most famous roller coaster. Sure, Santa Monica Pier gets a lot of screentime in the movies, but no other coaster is as well-known, as historic, and as iconic as the Cyclone. Six Flags even opened up “inspired by” wooden coasters at a variety of their parks, although unfortunately Psyclone (Six Flags Magic Mountain) and Texas Cyclone (Six Flags Astroworld) are now defunct.

So, how has this historic coaster held up with age? It has an endearing, exciting rawness to it that modern rides don’t – there are spots where the airtime in the back is, simply put, amazing. It grabs you out of the seat and shoves you against the padded lap bar with surprising, almost painful strength. At the same time, I’m very glad that they’ve padded the trains until they’re almost like overstuffed couches – each dip reminds you that this is no young ride, rattling and shaking you forcefully. It is awesome, but I will never understand how coaster enthusiasts marathoned this ride.

It is currently being refurbished by GCI in a multi-year process, and I’m glad that we got in on the early part of that. I trust GCI to make this great ride even better, but I also wanted to know what it felt like in its more ‘historic’ condition. I’ll be looking forward to going back once they’re finished, and seeing how well it’s improved.

After Cyclone, we headed back over to Luna Park and Scream Zone, a pair of parks run by Zamperla. Here, we rode the Tickler, an oddly named but quite fun spinning mouse, which really takes advantage of the spinning aspect. On many spinning coasters, the spinning is limited, but the spinning on this one was quite extensive and took place throughout nearly all of the ride. After that, we hit the Circus Coaster, an interesting but small kids’ coaster. Its most unique attribute was two rather delightful pops of airtime from a very shallow pair of hops just before the train returns to the station.

Following this, we grabbed some of Nathan’s famous hot dogs at his original location, although I have to say I probably liked the orangeade most of all of the items I got. This break was a great reminder that the character present in the parks permeates all of the Coney Island area, including the restaurants and other attractions. I’ll skip any in-depth food reviews, unlike certain amusement park review sites, but it was an enjoyable part of the trip that helped complete the Coney Island experience.

Next up was Soarin’ Eagle, a Zamperla Volare flying coaster – the first of three on our trip (thanks, Brian).  Volares are not exactly known for their exceptional smoothness, but they are at least fun, compact coasters. I enjoy them quite a bit, although they can be a bit jarring. Of the ones I’ve done, this was middle of the road – fairly smooth for much of it, but with a few jarring parts, and a restraint that felt more restrictive than the typical Volares.

After that was Steeplechase, a launched Zamperla (seeing an obvious trend?) MotoCoaster. This was my third of these (after Darien’s and Knott’s), and it’s the best I’ve ridden. Its layout is far more engaging than Knott’s, and it felt much faster than Darien’s – to be confirmed at the end of this trip when we are there. Actually, the difference between Darien’s and this one was enough to validate in my mind that Zamperla’s MotoCoaster might actually be interesting to see in larger form, at larger parks…

That was the last of our coasters to ride, but there is one other ride worth of mention – Air Race. Air Race is an interesting flat ride that involves many inversions – rather than attempt to explain it in words, it’s best to just see the pictures. Air Race was very enjoyable, as well as fascinating to watch, and I would love to see this model start to appear in more parks.

After our extremely full day, we set off to our hotel on Long Island, and Adventureland the following morning…

Kind of…a Bummer.

Posted on April 3rd, 2012 by csladky in Off Track - Chris's Blog

I have a chance to go to California next weekend, which is sort of a great opportunity…except nothing’s open yet. What gives, California?! At least I have another opportunity to go back in June. It certainly is an exciting year for California, though; here’s what we’ll have to look forward to:

  • Superman Ultimate Flight at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, a crazy new Premier coaster (“Late Spring”)
  • Transformers: The Ride, a new 3D ride based on the same technology as Spider-man, at Universal Hollywood (bet you thought it was Six Flags with that name) (sometime in May)
  • Lex Luthor, the world’s tallest drop tower, at Six Flags Magic Mountain (Late May)
  • Manta, a new Mack launched coaster (the first in the US), at SeaWorld San Diego (May 26th)
  • Cars Land and Main Street Rehab at California’s Adventure (June 15th)
  • New trains on Matterhorn at Disneyland – not necessarily a good thing, but Space Mountain in Florida turned out OK (actually, better) with new trains (June 15th)

And of course, like the neglected puddle it is, California’s Great America has nothing new to share.

Any preferences on what you guys would like to see “under construction” pics of? I’m leaning toward Superman Ultimate Flight.

UPDATE: I couldn’t resist sharing a little more about California’s Great America, given my comment. Their newest two coasters in the park right now are a wild mouse (added in 2001, more than 10 years ago) the Taxi Jam kiddie coaster (added in 1999). Their most recent major coaster, Flight Deck, was added in 1993, nearly 20 years ago. They actually used to have two newer major coasters than that (Invertigo and Stealth), but both have since been removed to other parks. What says “we don’t value your park” more than moving its two newest major coasters to other parks? There was another park in the Cedar Fair chain that saw something similar happen – Geauga Lake. Thankfully, California’s Great America seems to have a brighter future than that, but here’s hoping that GCI project comes to fruition; it would certainly help the park feel more loved.

Seattle Giant Wheel Construction

Posted on March 13th, 2012 by csladky in Uncategorized

Ever since Fun Forest (which was debatably fun, and plainly not a forest) left, Seattle has been a little barren as far as amusement rides go. Fortunately, there is a new ride coming in – and it will even be on the downtown waterfront. At a planned 175 feet, the Ferris Wheel on Pier 57 will be a big one, and it should provide some incredible views – especially when it isn’t raining.

I caught some pictures of the construction recently, and while it’s not vertical yet, there was clear activity, with workers and cranes onsite. It will be fun to see this come together over the following weeks and watch residents start to realize what’s rising from the construction zone. The wheel will be positioned sensibly, too, near the existing carousel.

Still no sign of the Ferris Wheel planned for Seattle Center, the area near the Space Needle. Given the lack of news after this article, which warned that it might not come, I think it’s safe to assume it’s been canceled.

Wild Waves Photo TR

Posted on May 25th, 2011 by csladky in Trip Reports

This past weekend I spent a great afternoon at the Wild Waves Theme Park located south of Seattle. Check out the photos (& videos) in the gallery page for the full TR. They’re posted in chronological order; follow along with the comments along the way. Apologies in advance for the quality; they were all taken with an iPhone 4; next time I’ll bring a nicer camera.

Thoughts on the coasters:

  • Wild Thing – Wild Thing is especially fun for a basic Arrow LoopScrew. The first drop does an admirable job of surprising your stomach, despite its shallow (by modern standards) angle. The loop is smooth and not overly forceful, and through to the end of the corkscrews this was one of the smoother Arrows I’ve been on. There are certainly the normal Arrow moments where the banking is questionable, and especially on the exit from the last corkscrew into the turnaround into the brakes, it creates a set of unpleasant back-and-forth forces that push your head into the restraint.
    Overall: quite fun; well maintained; and a reminder that simple Arrows can be quite fun.
    Interestingly fact: it’s braked for only one train.
  • Timberhawk – Timberhawk is amazingly smooth, which is particularly surprising given the creator, S&S’s history in coasters (ask anyone – myself included – who’s ridden Hypersonic; it was tooth-ratting, and that was a steel coaster). It reminds me of what I would think a B&M wooden coaster would feel like – very smooth yet keeping that wooden feel; airtime but mostly floater, rather fast, and seemingly nice to maintain (it’s still smooth 7 years later). Sadly, B&M’s also frequently loose points for being, well, a little too engineered, and this coaster is a bit of the same. It’s a great coaster for non-enthusiasts, but it doesn’t have quite the airtime, speed, change in direction – the force – to be a stand-out. (It is stand-out as one of only 4 S&S wooden coasters in the world).
    As I rode it, I did begin realize one thing – the typical jerks, vibrations, and general chatter of most woodies are all still there – they’re just much more muted and cushioned. I have a hunch this coaster uses the “premium” PTC trains, and I love the feel – it combines the classic feel of a PTC train without the typical cost to smoothness. The best  seat is, interestingly, 1-3.
  • Klondike Gold Rusher – pretty much a standard, average wild mouse. Relatively smooth; not overly braked but not particularly forceful. Not really any airtime to speak of, either. Beware because despite the recent build date, the cars are still quite small; two average adults will be cramped if put next to each other.

It was the second weekend for the park and the last weekend when only dry rides are open (the water park opens next week) – leading to very small numbers of guests and high ability to reride. Unfortunately, the cold degraded the overall experience, which kept me from my normal indulgence in rerides of fast, smooth wooden coasters.

Vegas Trip Report + Pictures

Posted on January 16th, 2010 by csladky in Trip Reports

In the first of many to come, I’ve posted a Trip Report from Vegas in 2009 to Coasterforce (link). A number of pictures from the same trip have been captioned and added  to the Gallery; check those out here [hint: if you view pictures that have a caption, it will appear on the right].

Trip Reports Coming Soon!

Posted on January 15th, 2010 by csladky in Trip Reports

As per the title, a bunch of backlogged trip reports from 2009 are on their way. Parks from Florida to California will be featured (and added to the Gallery)! Watch this section; we’ll make a note of the updates here.

5 in ‘10, 5 to Ride from ‘09

Posted on January 7th, 2010 by csladky in Off Track - Chris's Blog

Inspired by Brian’s post, I thought I’d put together a list of the new coasters I was most excited about in 2010. It could also double as a list of the rides I’m most excited for. Thinking about this also brought to mind some of the rides from 2009 that I think are still new and interesting enough to merit mention – and that neither of us have ridden yet. I chose to leave out stars people were familiar with, like iSpeed, Fireball, Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit, and El Toro and focused on some of the more interesting, less ridden ones. Both lists are in ordered by excitement (most cool #1), though these are the ’short lists’, so they’re all very notable. Follow the break to see the lists:

Read the rest of this entry »