I knew it had been a while since I had been to Six Flags and I wanted to get back there soon. Lately, their finances have been shaky and it wasn’t completely certain they would even be able to stay open this year. Jeb mentioned possibly planning a trip and after the cold rainy weather of last weekend, we decided to try this weekend (next weekend is the last one of the year). I asked Grant, but he couldn’t go.
We started the day by going to church at Holy Cross, which I thought would be good because it would make us start early (mass ending at 10), but after stopping at Mom’s to change out of church clothes and picking up coffee and lunch, then driving down to the park we got there a little after 11:30 (park opens at 10:30). Then I lost the tickets I had purchased and printed out at home the night before. We walked to the gate (parking was self-serve and there was only one tram which doesn’t seem to run that often) and a lady at customer service was able to re-print our tickets by using my credit card. The deal with buying at home was that you get kid’s price of $30 instead of paying $45. But if you paid $50 you would get a season pass for next year plus get in free the rest of this year.
One thing I will say at this point is that if they’re not going to run more than one tram, then they need to move the entrance closer to the parking lot. I think they used to have a closer entrance that was just off of the parking lot. It’s not a horrible walk, but most of it was just around one side of the park. The parking lot really isn’t that huge.
At the box office they said that the Wheelie and Sky Buckets were closed today. After we got in we went straight for Goliath, the newest roller coaster in the park (built in 2006). Goliath is a hypercoaster, meaning it is over 200 feet tall, has no loops, and has a lift hill. It really is big, dwarfing the nearby Mindbender and Scorcher coasters and then heading out of the park, across the tramway, over the lake and back in. And while you can see Goliath from just about anywhere, it was harder finding where the line started. I had to ask for help to find it. The line wasn’t too bad. Jeb and I met these two kids in line in front of us who were maybe 12. They were really funny. We told them we were brothers and they said they were like brothers because they were always at each others’ houses. We talked about Goliath since they had ridden it a lot and we told them we sometimes get sick on roller coasters (just kidding with them). They said they were going to ride in the front, but we said we would probably sit further back because the line for the front was usually pretty long. But when we got to the station they stood in line with us so they would be on our row (4 across). Instant friends, which is the great thing about kids. We talked about roller coasters a lot and I said they should have one where every seat was on the front row.
As were getting to the front of the line they had a technical difficulty (we asked the kids if they thought “technical difficulty” meant someone had died or just thrown up; we talked a lot about throw-up, I guess, which is always a popular subject with boys) and they told everyone loading into the cars to get out and pushed the line back. They said there would be a delay and that if we wanted to leave we had to go back out the way we came. They wound up sending the empty train partially up the hill and brought in the next trainload of people, some of whom seemed to have been crying. I wonder where they had been stuck? Then they sent the empty car around and loaded people up into that car, so the total delay was only fifteen minutes or so. That also meant we had to get the car that had been stuck. When it was our turn, our new friends gave us the outside seats in case we needed to hang our heads out the figurative window, so to speak. Those kids were great, but we never saw them again afterwards.
Anyway, Goliath was fantastic. They use parabola-shaped hills that make you go weightless as you go over the top. And for the most part the ride is out and back, so there aren’t a lot of jarring turns. The weightlessness is called “airtime” and Goliath is famous for it. In fact, over the last few years it has worked its way up to Number 4 on the list of best steel roller coasters in the country even though there are bigger, faster coasters. It has a 540-degree helix (a loop on its side) at the furthest out point similar to the Titan at Six Flags Over Texas where I had browned out, but this one isn’t as intense. I enjoyed it and Jeb was very impressed with all the air time, especially since the kids had told us that you would never leave your seat (maybe we were both kidding each other). Because you don’t go upside down there is no horse collar over your shoulders, just a puck on a stick that holds you down. Jeb didn’t like that if the puck came off of the stick, you would just float away. He didn’t agree with me that you might float but on the next hill you would just end up in your seat again.
Next we went on another new coaster (for us, it had been about 10 years for both of us since we had been to the park and the Batman ride was the newest thing then) called the Georgia Scorcher. This one is unique in that you stand up while riding, but this means you have to awkwardly straddle something like a bicycle seat plus the horse collar comes down over your head and chest. It was a pretty neat ride though. You can really lean into the curves on a standup coaster. Afterwards we headed back towards the entrance, past the Georgia Cyclone (which wasn’t operating, but it is so rough I don’t ever want to ride it again) and towards Acrophobia.
Acrophobia is a big tower with a ring of seats that is pulled up and then dropped from the top. Once we got there we realized that on this ride, all of the seats really were on the front row. There was almost no line, but we still got to watch the group in front of us go. As they dropped we could see their pants legs flapping in the wind as they hurtled downwards. And they were really dropped: there was one ring that hauls the other ring up and it comes down separately from the passenger ring. Apparently the part that drops is slowed by magnets and hydraulic sticks that it lands on. There was no floor so your feet just dangle, but you are on a seat with a horse collar on, so you are secure. As you go up, the whole ring rotates and you get to see all around you. Once at the top they started a countdown. Jeb said they would drop us at 4 to surprise us, but they dropped us at zero. I knew we’d get that sudden weightless feeling of being dropped, but after that we kept going faster and faster with not much in front of you to hold on to and then the legs of my jeans were flapping. It was two seconds of terror. They didn’t need to drop us at 4 because nothing could prepare us for that even when we knew it was about to happen. This thing isn’t to be missed! And the landing wasn’t real jarring or anything. Sometimes they don’t rotate the ring and other times the seats will tilt you outwards 15 degress when you’re at the top. We rotated but didn’t tilt.
After that we headed to the Dahlonega Mine Train. It was more for old time’s sake than anything, plus we figured the line would be quick, but it was actually pretty long (littler kids can ride it, so it is more popular with families, plus more and more people were getting to the park). Mom and Carol both called while we were in line. I told Mom we had ridden the log jam and gotten cold and wet, and that in retrospect we should have waited until the end to ride the log jam instead of being wet all day. But we never did ride the log jam and the weather turned out to be just about perfect. We waited a little longer to ride in the front car. What a silly roller coaster. There is no big downhill on it, just lots of little hills. And because we were in the front we would just creep down those little hills and not accelerate until we were at the bottom and had the rest of the train’s weight behind us. So it was a weird feeling. We had fun yelling sarcastically as we inched down these tiny hills. Then at the end there’s this kind of rough part where you go pretty fast and the ride is over. I’m surprised they can get the coaster to go so consistently slow in parts without coming to a stop.
Next we cut back across the park to the Batman Ride. The line here was pretty long, but there were signs up saying it was 90 minutes, 60 minutes, then 30 minutes to the front and typically we could walk all the way past the 30-minute signs (we could always bypass the back and forths). But for Batman, we hit the line at 90 minutes which I think is why a lot of people were heading back as we were going in. It turned out to be 30-45 minutes but partly because we decided to wait for the front seat again. Because the cars hang from the track above on Batman, I think it is better to ride in the front and get an unobstructed view. It was well worth it and Batman is a crazy fun ride that leaves you woozy.
By this time it was about 2:30 and I was getting really hungry. So we decided to go back out to the car and get our lunch, but since we were going to pass Mindbender on the way, we stopped there first and rode that. The Mindbender is really showing its age and rattles a lot, but it is fun going through those loops. Later on some girls who had ridden it six times in a row told us they determined the best seats were in the back, but we didn’t make it back again to test that out.
We got our hands stamped with invisible ink and walked back to the car for our sandwich plus Coke Zero and apples that Jeb had brought. Then we went back in, walked past Cyclone (now operating) and Dahlonega then crossed a bridge, went around the carousel hill and came out right near the Superman ride. This was the only other coaster we had never ridden, but this line was probably 45 minutes. That is probably okay because it let our lunches settle. It is a funny ride, suspended from above like Batman, but with the riders in a “flying” position like they are Superman. Only really they are in a sitting position rotated 90 degrees and their arms dangling straight down, so everyone kind of looks like they are on all fours. From the line you can see a big pretzel loop in the tracks and it is hard to tell whether the riders are upside down or right side up. As they go down the inside of the loop their heads are straight down and Jeb noticed an object fall as one train went past. We think it might have been a cell phone and then we noticed there were at least five cell phones on the ground under that part of the ride, plus all kinds of other stuff shaken out of people’s pockets, including keys. After the long wait, we decided we might as well wait for the front seat again and again I think this was a great call. You sit down at first with a horse collar over your head, but it has a sheet of rubber or vinyl inside that will hold you like a cot when you tilt. As the collar comes down, your ankles are locked into position too. Then the floor drops, the seats rotate and you are facing straight down. Once you have assumed the position, you start your way up the hill and see people’s shoes that have fallen off. They try to make the ride seem like flying and you swoop up and around and then low over the ground. It was pretty neat. You look out and just see space. Before the ride, I wrapped the stuff in my pockets in the map and then crammed the whole wad into my jeans pocket and didn’t lose anything. On this ride they even told you not to wear glasses (because Superman doesn’t wear glasses, I think), but mine stayed on fine.
After Superman we walked past the Great American Scream Machine (which hadn’t been operating at first, but was going again by that time) to Ninja which has five inversions. I had read beforehand that it was pretty rough, though I didn’t remember that from riding it before. There was almost no line and we could have walked up and gotten on the first train, but now we were used to riding up front, so we waited a couple of times for that. Ninja is pretty jerky and just seems kind of poorly designed, like taking a curve but it doesn’t have the right bank and you get slung to the side pretty hard. Afterwards we finally gave in to all the advertising for Snickers Fright Fest and bought a couple of Snickers bars to mark Dad’s birthday.
At that point it was about 5:00 so we decided to drop by Goliath again before heading out. The line was about the same as it was the first time, maybe even a little shorter and we didn’t have the delay of a “technical difficulty.” Once again it was a really good ride, but we didn’t wait for the front seat (sat closer to the back). Compared to Ninja, we just floated over the humps. In the helix this time I noticed just the very beginning of thinking about browning out and afterwards they hit the brakes so I think maybe we went through there pretty fast. Or I was tired.
After that I asked Jeb if he wanted to do Acrophobia again real fast, but he said no and that was the scariest part of any ride we had been on that day. On the way, out as we passed under the tracks of Goliath, we noticed all of the stuff that had fallen out of people’s pockets and into a net under the tracks: more phones, more keys, all kinds of stuff. There is no net over the part that goes over the lake so I don’t know if people ever get their stuff back. One girl said she was on Goliath and a cell phone went flying by her head and almost hit her. So the lesson is to really secure stuff in your pockets.
It was a fun trip. The park seemed like it was in really good shape, the staff were all nice, and the people we met were generally friendly too. It was a lot of fun. When I got back in the car and closed the door, I noticed the tickets I had printed out were in the door pocket. So at least I remembered to bring them, even if I forgot where I put them.