Six Flags Magic Mountain

22nd June 2004

Every coaster enthusiast has a list of parks that they would like to visit some day. The top entry on that list tends to be limited to a very small number of places, chief among them Cedar Point. For me, however, the number one park on my radar has always been Six Flags Magic Mountain, thanks to what is arguably the most interesting looking collection of roller coasters in the world. Consequentially the reader can only begin to imagine my emotions at the thought of spending a day there at last.

Six Flags Magic Mountain

The planning for this trip proved complicated, as I did not want to have to hire a car; while some day I will have to learn how to drive on the wrong side of the road, this trip to Los Angeles didn't seem the ideal place to start. Fortunately, the wonderful Gloria had agreed to collect me up from my hotel and bring me to the park for the day, returning the favour from a little over two years before.

It is a sad reflection on the state of American society that we had to pass through metal detectors before we could even join the queue for park entry. I'm not about to suggest their removal, but it is nevertheless a great pity that they are even necessary. Once clear, we were surrounded by an army of Six Flags staff armed with PDAs, attempting to collect survey information from the waiting multitudes. Some of the questions were decidedly intrusive, but rather than tell the staff that I decided instead just give them random numbers. One cannot help but wonder why they bother irritating their guests in this fashion, as I'm sure I wasn't the only one giving useless information.

The opening of the gates led to the inevitable running of the bulls, as everyone in sight started accelerating towards the only fourth dimension roller coaster in the world. They need not have bothered; the ride was down for scheduled maintenance work, and was not expected to open until noon at the earliest. Needless to say there had been no indication of this prior to park entry. We'd been in the park less than five minutes, and already we had a sour taste in our mouths.

One of the advantages of visiting parks with local enthusiasts is knowing the optimum order for riding the coasters. Gloria suggested that our next port of call should be at the far side of the park, despite there being plenty of other credits en route. This proved to be an inspired recommendation, as we were the first people to arrive at Déjà Vu (#258), eliminating a potential wait which, apparently, can often exceed two hours. This ride is one of just four Vekoma Giant Inverted Boomerang coasters built to date, and it was running very well. It is a pity that more have not been sold.

We found our second closed coaster of the morning in the guise of Psyclone, one of two wooden coasters in the park. There as no sign of activity anywhere near the ride, which ruled out the possibility of there being a technical issue. It seemed instead that it was not running to save money; after all, the guests in the park had already paid their admission, so it wouldn't matter. Gloria did say losing this credit was no great loss, but it was hard not to be disappointed at missing out on the only wooden coaster in the world with B&M trains.

The park known to some as Tragic Mountain makes a great deal over the fact that it is home to sixteen roller coasters. However, Flashback only runs in the winter season, and Superman: The Escape apparently hasn't run in months. Given this, surely it would be more honest for the park to advertise its fourteen coasters. However, the plot thickens; apparently it's not unusual for at least two of the remaining rides to be inexplicably closed. As such, perhaps the line should be the park with at least a dozen roller coasters! But I digress.

A quick stop on the utterly average Gold Rusher (#259) brought us to the first truly excellent coaster of the day. Riddler's Revenge (#260) is the sixth stand-up coaster to be built by B&M, and it somehow manages to solve all the problems that effectively ruin the model built the previous year. The harnesses are comfortable and the tracking is butter smooth, a particularly important feature for male riders given the bicycle saddle between the legs. The original version of Batman the Ride (#261) next to it was also outstanding. However, both of these rides were operating a single train, seriously restricting throughput and increasing the queue length dramatically. Welcome to Six Flags.

The newest ride in the park is a third B&M, in this case a floorless coaster named Scream (#262). Much to my surprise two trains were in use, though they were shuddering quite badly as they made their way around the course. One might have hoped for at least a small amount of landscaping around a new coaster, but it wasn't to be; this ride was built on top of a parking lot, and the original white stripes were left in place. The overall experience felt distinctly average, and certainly not up to the standard set by Daemonen a few short weeks ago.

The second wood coaster in the park was originally a dual track racing coaster. However, the left hand track on Colossus (#263) is now in a sad state, with no chain on the lift hill and various bits of broken track. The right hand side was running fairly well despite all appearances, but it was still not a coaster I wanted to repeat.

After two mediocre coasters it was a relief to get back to a decent one. Goliath (#264) is arguably the best roller coaster in the park, a particularly amazing feat given that it was the first installation of a hypercoaster to be designed and built by Giovanola. It is a gloriously intense ride, with riders being firmly pinned into their seats throughout. Six Flags management were evidently fairly pleased with what they received, given that they bought an extended version a year later for their Texas park.

Goliath Jr is reserved for children only, but Canyon Blaster (#265) is open to all who wish to ride it. It cannot be described as a comfortable experience for larger people, but one sometimes has to make sacrifices for ones credits. From there, we took the funicular railway up to the mountain top to ride Ninja (#266), easily the best suspended coaster I've been on to date. It was interesting to see the lift hill at the end of the ride rather than the start, something only possible with mountainous terrain. The name of this park is indeed apt, though as a guest I'd probably have been just as happy with Six Flags Flat Piece of Land.

The current condition of Revolution (#267) is a travesty. This ride was the first modern looping coaster, and it carries a plaque from the American Coaster Enthusiasts to signify this. However, its designer, Anton Schwarzkopf, would be turning in his grave to see it now; it has been retrofitted with utterly unnecessary over the shoulder restraints, which cause severe head banging as the ride bounces around the track. The ride ran for many years without these restraints, so I find it hard to believe that they're necessary now, especially when so many other Schwarzkopf designs don't have them.

Our last stop for the morning was on the Arrow Looper. Once was quite enough on Viper (#268); anyone who can ride this multiple times would be advised to see a specialist. In fact, I advise them to see two specialists; a chiropractor and a psychiatrist. On disembarking we went to have a look at X, but the wait was completely unrealistic. We decided to leave the park for a while and come back to it later.

 

Universal Studios Hollywood

22nd June 2004

Universal Studios Hollywood

We had a single goal for our brief visit to Universal Hollywood, namely getting into the preview of the new roller coaster which had gone into technical rehearsal in the previous week. I felt a little ashamed about making a trip like this just for a credit, given that I'd never been to a Universal before, but one doesn't have the opportunity to try out a brand new ride every day.

The staff made sure that we read the warning sign before entering the queue, which seemed utterly redundant to me; is it really necessary to warn patrons that guide dogs are not permitted on a roller coaster? We were also advised that the ride could close at any time, and indeed it did just that after we'd been waiting just under an hour. Much to my disgust, the staff elected to clear the entire queue area rather than allow people to wait in the shade. As things turned out, though, this worked in our favour; when the ride reopened there were no more than a dozen people in front of us. Universal requires that all loose objects be placed in complimentary lockers, which makes a lot of sense. The lack of any charge for this facility encourages everyone to use it rather than risk losing something.

Revenge of the Mummy (#269) has been designed to run with Disney style efficiency, featuring six simultaneous sixteen passenger trains. We got to watch over thirty empty trains being sent out before we were allowed to board, but eventually we were seated. As the train began to move I felt a real sense of excitement; surely this ride would be something special. Unfortunately, it wasn't; the coaster was distinctly average overall, and certainly not a ride that I'd have waited for a second time. The launch section did catch me by surprise, and I made the rare decision to buy the on-ride photo for that reason, but other than that I felt distinctly nonplussed overall.

 

Six Flags Magic Mountain

22nd June 2004

An hour later were back at Tragic Mountain and at the end of a very long queue for X (#270). The first thing we saw was a poster board proudly proclaiming a ride capacity of one thousand six hundred and eighty passengers per hour, which is, in a word, fantasy. The trains on this ride seat twenty eight people, which means that figure could only be achieved with a dispatch every sixty seconds. During the excruciating two and a half hour wait I timed the interval between trains. The single best time was just under seven minutes, with the worst breaking the eleven minute mark. The average time seemed to be about eight minutes, making for a capacity of two hundred per hour; in short, utterly pathetic. It is said that good things come to those who wait, and so it was here. It has been a while since a coaster really amazed me, but the first drop on this ride did the trick. The experience was pretty jarring, but truly unique thanks to its rotating seat design. Hopefully more fourth dimension coasters will be sold in the future, preferably to parks which know how to operate their rides.

On disembarking, we headed across to the far side of the park following a tip off that Psyclone (#271) was now running. The only positive thing that could be said for this ride was that it was another credit; it was otherwise awful in every sense of the word.

Six Flags Magic Mountain has some fantastic coasters, but it lets itself down badly by not running rides to capacity (if at all) and cutting back on maintenance. On the whole I had an enjoyable day, but it's hard to envisage coming back here in the near future as the probability of a ride I want to ride being available is far lower than at any other park I've been to. A little staff training and some investment in maintenance could fix this park. Will they do it? I wish they would, but I can't say I'm hopeful.

2004


Six Flags Magic Mountain

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Universal Studios Hollywood

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