My 100th Roller-Coaster, Part 5

This report chronicles my unforgettable two week trip in June,
where I visited 12 parks and rode 42 roller-coasters, including my 100th.

Six Flags Great Adventure

"Don't go there...."

I can't go. Yes, you can. I can't make it. Yes you can! It's only Six Flags, everybody says don't go there! You can go, you're going. But I...... You'll regret it if you don't, now get up and get going.

And with that, I made the decision to ignore everything my body was telling me as well as all the advice I received about Six Flags Great Adventure.

Don't go there, they said. It's a concrete jungle. A wall-to-wall, gang-infested, graffiti-covered, trash-ridden dumpster of a park. The line jumpers alone will cost you an extra hour at each queue. The rides are full of rust and the woodie has no grease. The prices for parking and food are astronomical. The employees are just as rude as the guests. The devil himself lists Jackson, NJ as his summer home.

In the meantime I was trying my hardest not to let this injury put an end to my trip, now in its fifth day.

I was losing the battle.

Each day was getting worse. All that jostling about on roller-coasters made everything that much worse the next morning. I was getting 3-4 hrs. of sleep. The Flexural I had taken the day before gave me some much needed relief, but the pills were too strong to take more than two per day. The excitement of being in a park kept me going, but I still felt the fatigue associated with these heavy duty muscle relaxants. A long drive after the park closed would have been disastrous, so I was lucky to have made reservations near Knoebels last night.

Tonight I would not be so fortunate.

This was scheduled to be my big "drive day" where I would go from Knoebels to Fredricksburg, Virginia. I needed to be in Virginia by nightfall so that I could meet Jeff Tolotti the following day at PKD. There were lots of options for me on this "open day." I could take a leisurely drive to Gettysburg and check out a couple of diners along the way. Or I could drive through Washington, D.C., which I have never seen before, on my way to Virginia. I could have visited Hersheypark a few days early, but I wanted to see it for the first time with my girlfriend, Susan, who I would be meeting in D.C. on Thursday night. I could have visited Williams Grove, then Gettysburg, then Virginia. I also considered driving all the way to Wildwood, where the Crazy Mouse sounded like so much fun.

But I chose to go out of my way a little bit to visit Great Adventure. Why?

Well, I don't really know. I just *had* to see it. I *really* wanted to ride The Chiller for one thing. For another, I had never been to New Jersey and I wanted to see what it was like. I also had a Six Flags season pass, and this would probably be the only time I'd ever consider going to this park. And I just HAD to see this park, it intrigued me.

I couldn't believe it was as bad as people said it was. And I wanted to see the people first hand for myself. You see, in Minnesota we don't have anywhere near the kind of crowds like those described at Great Adventure. You go to Valleyfair! on a typical summer day and you will see an all-white crowd (and my God, do I mean white!), no line jumping, no smoking and no one being disruptive. People do not feel compelled to write their name on the walls, nor are they prone to picking fights. It is an extremely reserved, well-brought up Scandanavian crowd.

New Jersey sounded colorful. The Philadelphia and New York crowds would surely scare the daylights out of me, forcing me to confront my prejudices. It would be an eye opener and a good lesson in looking at people who are different from me.

Plus I wanted to see prison in the form of a park. I swear, people made this place sound like a federal penitentiary. As I pulled into the parking lot I grumbled about the $7 parking fee. But then......

The next five hours were a revelation for me. A revelation in that everything I had ever read or heard about this place was untrue. From the moment I walked through the entrance and heard the sweet sounds of classical music being played over the PA system, I KNEW.

Photo courtesy of Brian Lamendola
This is a wonderful, beautiful park.

I could not get over how pretty it was. The fountains, the landscape, the large open walkways which were clean and uncluttered. The buildings, which were so fanciful and cleverly designed. The promenades, which were full of hanging baskets and beautiful music. The Character Cafe, which looked like something out of Willy Wonka. The wonderful lakefront, providing a peaceful and welcome respite from the noise and excitement of the park. The theming, the flowers, the people, the staff.

All these things were wonderful. I enjoyed myself so much at this park I would continue to talk about it to anyone who would listen for the rest of my trip. I just can't understand how it could have earned such a horrible reputation. With the exception of the food, which was indeed so overpriced that I refused to purchase any, everything I had been told about Six Flags Great Adventure was a lie.

I walked around for awhile and soaked up the atmosphere, completely stunned by the irony of this place. Here I was, feeling just *this* side of sushi, yet I was overjoyed to be in a park so charming, so beautiful. The crowd was NOT large at all for a Tuesday afternoon in June, yet this park was supposedly swamped no matter what day of the week.

Photo courtesy of Brian Lamendola

Photo courtesy of Fred Biedermann
I walked over to The Chiller, which could be heard over a great portion of the park. It's very impressive looking, and impressively themed. The Batman side did not appear to be running, which was a disappointment because I wanted to experience a top hat. The wait for a front seat ride was only 45 minutes, and what a rush! I did not experience the unbearable roughness I had heard this ride delivered. Instead I found the launch exhilarating, the boomerang fast and smooth, and the hangtime through the inversion *incredible.* I wished the spike had gone straight up, but that's only quibbling. Robin is a great ride and it exceeded my already high expectations.

The rest of the day I never waited more than 10 minutes to ride. Batman was not themed as impressively as SFOG, but I also did not see a ride in shambles as I was led to believe. There was some rust, but it was not in disrepair.
Photo courtesy of Fred Biedermann

Photo courtesy of Fred Biedermann
I walked over to Skull Mountain. I LOVED the design of this thing. The waterfall through the skull is just so cool. If I were a kid I would enter this ride very afraid, and come out a coaster enthusiast in the making. This ride was just as thrilling as Kip Ross claimed. I did not ride in the back - as a concession to my ribs I elected to ride only in the front where possible. The first drop *IS* great, Kip! And the rest of the ride ain't bad, either! I had a very fun time on Skull Mountain and actually wanted to ride it more than any of the other coasters in the park!

Next I went to the Mine Train. I loved this area of the park. It had a BIG feeling to it, much like the good old west. And the Mine Train at Great Adventure is awesome! It is second only to my namesake, SFOT's Runaway Mine Train. As we entered the helix our train inadvertently chased a mallard, which skimmed along the lake and flew *inches* in front of our train for the longest time!
Photo courtesy of Alex's Place

I walked over to Viper, which was closed, just to see what it looked it like. Two ride ops were coming out of the queue, which was closed, and asked me if I was a coaster enthusiast. Now why would they think that? Just because I'm wearing a Desperado t-shirt, RRC button and a couple of coaster pins? They stopped and talked to me for a good ten minutes, which really impressed me. They were every bit the enthusiasts that I am, and they showed me where the new-for-99 B&M coaster would be built. They also made it a point to ask me if I was enjoying my day at their park and wished me a good time during my stay.

Photo courtesy of Joyrides
Next I went to Rolling Thunder. Now I had heard what a mess this coaster is. I also heard all the names it's been called. What I hadn't heard about were the awesome ride ops. They were incredibly friendly and really seemed to enjoy their jobs and interacting with people. All day I encountered ride ops who went beyond professional in their attitude and efficiency. They were actually friendly, and none more-so than the ops on RT.

The ride, unfortunately, was a nightmare. Not so much the ride itself, which really didn't feel that bumpy. But my God, the noise. THE NOISE!!! A terrible, horrifying screeching sound that snapped my very last nerve and continued to torment me throughout the entire ride. I was grateful not to be banged around as I expected, but there was no noticeable airtime on the ride at all, and the coaster seemed to just trudge down the track. It could not end soon enough.

After I got off I was in a daze. Loud noises really bother me, but this experience made me sick. I laid down on a bench just outside the entrance to the station, and curled up in a semi-fetal position. I felt like I was having a bad acid trip.

About ten minutes later a woman walked up and asked if I was alright. I told her I had a headache and she walked away. But I realized right then I was in terrible shape. I needed to leave the park as quickly as possible. I felt cheated that I couldn't stay as long as I wanted, but at least I got to see the park and find out what it was like.

Woops. One more ride. The Great American Scream Machine stands proudly near the front of the park. I HAD to ride it just once, it looked so big and so fun. So I walked over and noticed they were running three trains, no waiting. Man, this park really has GREAT ride ops. Two kids riding in back of me asked about my coasterwear and one of them talked to me non-stop when he found out I was on a coaster vacation. This was a white kid riding with a black kid. Neither of them used foul language and they both were friendly and polite.
Photo courtesy of Alex's Place

Photo courtesy of Fred Biedermann
The GASM is my favorite Arrow looper. It's amazing! It's big and fast and totally smooth. The inversions are extremely high. The kid behind me went "Oh, MAAAAN!" when we passed through the mid-course brake which slows down the ride considerably. Still, there was plenty of energy left for a good finish. This coaster is No. 10 on my steel list.

I'm so glad I went for one more ride. It gave me a little bit of a boost, and I needed it. I stopped by Guest Relations to offer my compliments to the park, and psyched myself up for the drive. The Flexural had kicked in and my body was screaming for sleep! I dreaded the drive to Virginia, but I didn't feel I had any choice. I had no way of contacting Jeff and I didn't want to leave him stranded at PKD tomorrow.

So I drove to Fredricksburg, Virginia. It was THE most difficult drive I have ever had. I felt myself nodding off many times. I was terrified at the thought of being so out of it in this traffic, which is TERRIBLE, by the way. I was really surprised to see empty stretches of land between Delaware and Baltimore. For some reason I expected this part of the country to be continuously populated. Anyway, I fought to stay awake the whole drive.

Four hours and one tension headache later, I made it to the Econolodge in Fredricksburg, Virginia. I was a WRECK. My ribs and back hurt so bad I felt like I needed a bigger shirt size. I called Susan and asked her to e-mail Jeff for me. I couldn't meet him as early as we'd planned. Of course she tried to talk me out of going altogether but I would hear none of that. There was no way I was going to let this kid think I didn't want to meet him. But even though I was only half an hour away from the park, there was no way I could get myself up and around and together in time. I told Susan to tell him I would not be able to meet him as early as we had planned. I told her to tell him I was sorry and I hoped he got my message and I would be at the park a few hours later.

It would take a miracle to get me there.

Next up: Paramount's Kings Dominion

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10


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