Knott's Berry Farm

21st May 2014

Our first Cedar Fair visit of the year began with a remarkably efficient visit to the Season Pass Processing office, located outside the park entrance, where both of our Platinum Passes were processed in less than ninety seconds. This gave us an unexpected twenty minutes to wait before park opening, which we spent people-watching as a large group of children arrived with haggard-looking teachers in tow.

Coast Rider

New for us today was Coast Rider (#2043), a mouse coaster added to the park last year in the spot that once held Perilous Plunge. We'd been expecting a thrill ride, but this was nothing of the kind, thanks to four separate magnetic brake sections that kept the maximum speed strictly in check. The ride started out well, with a fast lift hill that slowed markedly at the top, followed by a powerful first drop. From that point on, however, the overall experience was more reminiscent of a Big Apple than a roller coaster in a major park, with the hairpin turns being far too slow to be thrilling. Perhaps the best comparison is against the smaller version of the same ride at Disney's California Adventure yesterday, which was considerably more intense then this one.

We were lucky enough to get a front seat on Xcelerator, which really got the blood flowing (no pun intended). Intamin's finest looks decidedly shabby at the moment thanks to several years of California sunshine, but the lack of paint hasn't affected the on-board experience of what is still one of my favourite launched roller coasters.

We'd allowed ourselves a maximum of two hours in the park, and that left us enough time to enjoy a private ride on the Sky Cabin tower, followed by laps on both Montezooma's Revenge and Jaguar. Megan commented that the prime selling point of the latter was the view of the launch mechanism on the Schwarzkopf, making me wonder, not for the first time, which one of us is the bigger nerd!

 

Six Flags Magic Mountain

21st May 2014

Six Flags Magic Mountain is currently in the process of adding its nineteenth different roller coaster, an impressive statistic and not one likely to be broken by any other parks in the foreseeable future. Today there was no sign of any track for Speedy Gonzales Hot Rod Racers, but the construction boards in the park indicated that it should be open by June and standard model family coasters only take a few days to assemble.

Last year's addition was Full Throttle (#2044), a custom designed launched coaster from Premier Rides that took the record for the world's tallest vertical loop from Superman at Six Flags Fiesta Texas. Only one train was on the track today, but a prominent sign in front of the queue area explained that the second train was under maintenance, allowing oncoming riders to gauge the potential waiting time. Those looking at the queue area from the midway should be aware that there are two sections; a large shaded portion in front of the ride, and a smaller area behind the station. The smaller area represents about twenty minutes of waiting time with single train operation.

Full Throttle

The ride is operated with a strict policy of no preferred seating, and while this does aid efficiency it was disappointing to not be able to queue for a front seat. The ride station wasn't overly spacious, but I'm confident that the designers could have managed dedicated front and back seat queues if they'd wanted to. Separately, taller riders should be aware that the seats are quite cramped; I suspect that those taller than I am (6'2") might have difficulty fitting on board.

The train launches directly out of the station into the vertical loop, which gives fantastic hang time at its apex. From there, a climbing turn takes the track into a tight inversion and into a tunnel where the train is brought to a stop. Riders are then launched backwards into the same inversion, before a forward launch pushes them over top of the loop with a nice pop of airtime that leads directly to the brake run.

The overall experience feels a little short, with a total time from first launch to final brake of just fifty seconds, at least five of which are spent stopped in the tunnel. The enthusiast in me can't help but wonder why the designers didn't do more with the potential energy they had after cresting the top of the loop on the return journey; it seems very wasteful to have a drop from 160 feet straight into brakes, and that's before you take account of the rider discomfort caused by an abrupt stop from seventy miles per hour. Having said all that, Full Throttle is very good indeed and well up there with the very best coasters at Magic Mountain; I just wish there was a bit more of it.

Park management added seat belts to Goliath last year in response to a widely publicised accident on New Texas Giant, a different design of coaster built by a different company with a different design of lap bar. The unfortunate decision to mutilate a highly acclaimed roller coaster after over a decade of incident-free operation meant that the staff today were unable to keep two trains moving efficiently on a ride that used to handle three with ease. On the positive side, the new restraints have at least been fitted in a fairly unobtrusive fashion and do not impact the ride experience, which is still absolutely top notch apart from the car crash as the train hits the final brakes.

Lex Luthor Drop of Doom is currently the tallest drop ride in the world (at 400 feet), though this record will be lost in the very near future to a slightly bigger model under construction at Six Flags Great Adventure. Queueing for the ride was torture thanks to someone in front of us who really needed deodorant, but in due course we were able to board. It quickly became apparent that the restraints on Lex were extremely open, unlike other large drop rides, leaving riders feeling extremely vulnerable. There was an audio recording prior to the drop, but honestly I didn't hear it; I was too busy reconsidering my decision to ride!

Psylossus

Today was my sixth visit to Magic Mountain, yet only my second time riding Colossus, which says something about the impression it made on me when I last tried it out over ten years ago. Today the left hand track was in use, running backwards for a limited time. The regular trains were parked on the transfer track in favour of the B&M rolling stock that once operated on Psyclone, and while these have good back support and lots of leg room, one only has to board them to realise why only a single set were made!

We weren't quite sure what to expect from the ride as it left the station, and were thus pleasantly surprised when the first drop and climb out were handled well. However, these had given us a false sense of security; the first turn around proved hideously rough, and from that point on each drop was marked with a bone-crushing impact that was as hilarious as it was uncomfortable. When the train pulled into the station at the end of the course, the operator asked over the PA system if anyone enjoyed their ride, shortly adding okay, one person enjoyed that!

My rough notes for today's trip report commented that there were few problems with Colossus that couldn't be solved with judicious use of a flamethrower. As it turns out, however, this will not be necessary; shortly after our visit, Six Flags Magic Mountain announced that the ride would be retired in August after thirty-six years. While I'm normally sorry to see the end of a wood coaster, I can't say I'll be shedding tears for this one.

Batman the Ride was also being run backwards today, using a special chassis that is being moved between different parks in the Six Flags chain. An operator was assigning seats, and fanny packs were not allowed, a not entirely positive change in policy that guests should bear in mind as there is no storage in the ride station. We were allocated the front row, and while riding there was interesting, the view was basically non existent. Furthermore, riding backwards was quite hard on the neck as there was no easy way to brace for inversions. I think I prefer the forward facing ride experience.

Batman Backwards

The longest wait of the day was almost an hour in line for Superman: Escape from Krypton, due to a combination of sluggish operations and use of the left side track only. The cars on this ride were turned to face backwards in 2011, and the result works very well thanks to a truly spectacular view from the ride apex. The launch was powerful enough today to take the car to within a few feet of the top, a definite improvement over my previous visits, and the noise from it was loud enough to be heard clearly from all around the park.

The suspended coaster from Arrow Dynamics has always been one of my favourite designs, and as such it pains me somewhat to note that several versions have been retired in the last few years, including Big Bad Wolf and the legendary Eagle Fortress. Only five remain as of this writing, and Ninja is one of the best of them, thanks to a terrain hugging layout with lots of twists and turns that interacts closely with the Jet Stream log flume below. Once in a while riders will get just a little bit too close to the water spray, as Megan discovered to her cost!

A well-endowed female wearing no bra was having the time of her life rearranging herself in the queue line for Tatsu, all while discussing boob jobs with several of her friends, both male and female. The show was a little off-putting, honestly, but I feel compelled to document it as an example of the complete lack of decorum one sees in society from time to time, and as an example for those who complain about the lack of respect for women in society. The ride itself, the coaster, that is, was a lot of fun, but I really wish it didn't have a pretzel loop as the forces inflicted there are just that little bit too intense.

Nobody wants to ride Viper any more, and we only boarded it today because Megan felt that it might be retired in the near future. The first part of the ride wasn't awful, but the corkscrew elements were special for all the wrong reasons, with horribly rough jolts accompanied by a very disconcerting grinding noise. The best bit of the ride was, as expected, the brake run. Shortly after our lap, we went back for a reride on Full Throttle, where the operator recommended that disembarking guests should go ride Goliath, Superman, and, er, Viper if you really want to!

We concluded our visit with a ride on the Grand Carousel, a classic attraction built by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company dating from 1912. The operator was adamant that I should buckle my seatbelt, though I honestly doubt it would have held me in if I'd somehow lost my grip on the horse.

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