The combined effect of a six hour time zone jump and a late arrival into our hotel last night made it exceptionally difficult to wake up this morning, but in the end the prospect of a new roller coaster was enough to do what an alarm clock alone would have failed at. It was only once we were on the road that we realised that a higher than expected speed limit would have allowed us an extra ten minutes in bed, but on the positive side, at least we had plenty of time!
I've been a member of various theme park enthusiast groups in my career, but I've let most of them lapse in recent years for various reasons. Be that as it may, I'm still an active member of both the European Coaster Club and the American Coaster Enthusiasts. The latter has a special arrangement with Six Flags Fiesta Texas, allowing members who arrive prior to park opening to be escorted directly to Iron Rattler (#1906) for the first ride of the day.
We were met at the park gate by two friendly representatives from Six Flags, and one of them turned out to be the nice lady who handled the group event I took part in with the Roller Coaster Club of Great Britain almost ten years ago. As we walked across the park, she talked enthusiastically about their new attraction, and tacitly agreed with me when I remarked that the original Rattler wasn't the most comfortable experience out there (to put it mildly). I couldn't help but remember how on that day the vast majority of enthusiasts chose not to ride more than once!
The problem with the old ride was maintenance related. Wood coaster track takes a lot of punishment from trains full of riders, which causes it to warp over time. Rider comfort is maintained by replacing sections on a regular basis, but the amount of work required (and thus the overall cost) grows exponentially with taller and faster rides. The original Rattler was reprofiled a number of times during its career to reduce its maximum speed, and thus the wear and tear on the track, but even still the ride did its best to kill me. Rather than continue to pour money into a losing battle, Six Flags decided to hire Rocky Mountain Construction to redesign the ride using steel track bolted on to the existing wood structure.
We had very little idea of what to expect from Iron Rattler, given that it had only opened to the public two days before and neither of us had seen a review. For this reason, we decided to take the front seat for our first circuit, figuring (correctly) that there would be a much longer wait for front over back later in the day. To our delight, the ride proved to be absolutely excellent, beginning with a stunning first drop and continuing with an abundance of airtime, strong forces, a fog-filled tunnel, and an effortless zero gravity roll. The track work was completely smooth, with no bumps whatsoever, and the pacing held all the way through to the brake run. We took two further rides in the back seat which were even better, and good enough to comfortably put this ride into my favourite steel coaster list.
While writing this diary, I decided to investigate what Six Flags' web site had to say about Superman Krypton Coaster. In addition to a tedious platitude about nerves of steel (give me a break...) the web site claims that we made it faster by removing the floor. This is an interesting assertion, not least because the only coaster in history to be converted from normal trains to floorless trains is Sheikra, and the change there did not affect the overall ride statistics. One presumes that the writer of that site, much like the writer of this one, ran out of interesting things to say.
Our next stop was at the Crow's Nest Ferris Wheel, followed in short order by the Scooby Doo Ghostblasters dark ride, which I'd ridden five years ago to the day but somehow forgotten entirely. My fright light proved almost entirely incapable of hitting targets, but as with my previous visit the blissful air conditioning more than compensated for that. Once back outside, we headed to Poltergeist, where we managed to score a back seat ride which really delivered.
In the planning stages of this trip we attempted to strike a reasonable balance between park time and general tourism, and with that in mind, we took the decision to leave Six Flags early in order to enjoy a pleasant walk and an evening meal at the San Antonio Riverwalk. On our way to the park exit, however, we spotted an empty queue line for Goliath, allowing us to finish our day with a truly classic B&M.