Trip Report: SFGadv Opening Day 4/5

Six Flags Great Adventure: A bumpy ride, in more ways than one.

From Mike Gallagher
Posted April 6, 2012 at 3:17 PM
Met my friend Jen Jen a little past 10:30. She lives much closer to the park now, but ran into a back-up at the parking booths. I thought it was a nice touch that the parking attendant who checked my pass referred to to me as Mr. Gallagher in wishing me a good day. Minor, but nice. I still find it odd that not only does the park's name not appear on the pass, neither does the year.

There's a new security checkpoint to go through before you even get to the ticket windows. They wouldn't let me past there with my food, and I had to put it in Jen's locker. They relocated some of the lockers to a site outside this new security checkpoint. Oddly, the checkpoint was not staffed later in the day, and items could then be brought to the lockers closer to the gate. Maybe this new checkpoint is just a morning thing.

Jen had to get her pass processed. Although I already had mine, I was gonna pick up my coupon book. I had understood they weren't doing the books this year, but must have changed their mind. Jen's processing was smooth as butter, and we both got our books.

Jen had previously offered to treat to a Flash Pass. I really didn't think we'd need it..I expected the park to be pretty much dead. Nope.

We rode Green Lantern first with about a half-hour wait for the front seat. I'm actually getting to like it, now that I've figured "how" to ride semi-comfortably. I'd still be leery about anything other than front. We had seen Kingda Ka testing, which, along with her customary churro a bit later, put Jen on Cloud Nine. Ka was not open yet,and Toro already had a nasty line and appered to be running only one train. That thought was later proved false..the Stride gum ads have been removed from the one, so it was hard to tell until we were in the station later.

We hit Bizarro for two rides, poaching separate seats for the second with a non-existent line. Great rides as always, but unfortunately, the audio was working

Since Ka hadn't opened and Toro's line was long, we took a spin on Rolling Thunder before heading to the other end of the park. Would you believe me if I told you RT was quite enjoyable? I wouldn't call it smooth, but it ran much better than recent years. The turnaround didn't lose much speed, and it wasn't as screechy as usual. That was a nice surprise.

We prepared to head over to Nitro. We split up at that point. I've developed some breathing problems, and yesterday was the first time I was gonna put my body to the amusement park "test."
I actually didn't do too badly. Since Jen took some smoke breaks, that enabled me to rest occasionally. I was coughing some, but not as bad as it sometimes gets. So I was mostly OK. But at that point, I did not feel up to walking to the other end (for those who haven't been, GAdv is a rather large park.). So I headed over for a lap on Runaway Train to be followed by the Skyride over to Nitro. Since Jen doesn't like skyrides, she headed off in search of a churro and we'd meet at Nitro.

Well, the best laid plans of Mike and Jen... (apologies to Steinbeck..liked that one, huh?)
Skyride shut down as I approached the Train station, and then the ride broke down while I was on the platform. So I ended up walking anyway. I was pretty beat by the time I met Jen, and the feeling was made worse when I saw the MONSTROUS line for Nitro. The park had gotten quite crowded.

At then point, Jen decided to go for the Flash Pass. While she picked it up and went through the process, I rode Blackbeard's Lost Treasure Train, a family coaster...veerry slow dispatches.

Trekked back over to Nitro and used FP. I think it was at that time that somebody vomited on one of the trains while we waited on the platform for the back seat.. They sent it off empty two or three times after cleaning it, and we finally got our ride..on THAT train. They were only running two, unusual for Nitro. Third was nowhere to be seen. Ride was terrific, and we reserved another one immediately. While we were headed to the FP stairs, FP alerted Jen that KA had finally opened. She made a reservation, and we went to eat our lunch, then headed to the Golden Kingdom. They've moved the FP entrance back near the lockers. Just as we got on line, the big guy broke down. We thought they only had one train. After about a half-hour, it started up again. We were ready to board about a half-hour after that, and realized they were running three trains. We of course waited for front seat. Ride was flying, no real roughness. Worth the wait.

Not sure of order of things after that. We had two excellent rides on Toro in the late afternoon. I've lost a tiny bit of weight, but that wasn't gonna matter with this new crew. They were making no effort to really push down on the lap bar, resulting in more "walks of shame" than I'd ever seen. Dispatches were literally taking up to 10 minutes. Our plan was to have Jen push my bar down then get herself set. That worked well..she did a good job. Last year our friend Paul got turned away after having already rode, due to the approach of the attendants. I hope this is just an Opening Day thing, and not a trend.

Ka broke down again when we were about 15 minutes away from our second ride. We did get a ride on Batman to finish our day at about 7:30, but one train ops and slow dispatches came into play.

So there were a lot of bumps along the way. I'm very appreciative to Jen for springing for the FP, but she certainly didn't get her money's worth. Slow operations and mechanical issues were themes of the day, along with multiple coasters not running to max capacity, which is unusual for GA. I stopped on the way home for fresh orange juice and White Castle. Incidentally, I wasn't too hungry, but popped into Panda Express to ascertain, as some have informed me, that they do sell orange chicken, and how much it was. They had run out, but do have it. I'm not sure I'll spend the money for it, but it's good to know I have another in-park food option. I also scoped out a Coke stand that has over 100 flavor combinations. I may get a souvenir cup and use it there, since they do have several appealing diet options (Vanilla Coke Zero, anyone?)

SkyScreamer appears to be mostly finished (that's for you, David L!), swings are attached, but the area around the base is a mess of construction materials and junk. I guess landscaping is what mostly remains to be done. The space for the Scrambler is nearby, but is just a hollow concrete bowl. We were trying to figure out where the new bumper cars will go. Jen thinks it'll be on the wide open flat concrete area where the Wave Swinger once resided. I wouldn't be surprised if they removed the remote control boats and put the bumper cars next to the Jolly Roger.

Thanks for reading, guys and gals.

From David L.
Posted April 6, 2012 at 9:13 PM
Great Trip Report! Did you do Skull Mt? I have never quite figured out how that is as a coaster. I really want to get to this park some day...However, I will be there on SkyScreamer's opening day to cover it!(assuming somebody can get my family and me plane tickets from ATL, a nice luxury hotel for 5 nights, a nice Mercedes rental car, and free food...) Unfortunately, I don't see a New Jersey trip anytime soon :(

From Tony Duda
Posted April 7, 2012 at 7:20 PM
You didn't mention anything about shows. You may not go to them, but are there any? I remember they had the dive show, the water stunt show, hypnotist show, and some others when I went a lot in the 90s.

Their web site has nothing listed for shows.

From Mike Gallagher
Posted April 8, 2012 at 3:03 AM
David L:

We skipped Skully, but it's in the vein of Space Mountain. Indoor dark coaster with no inversions. Not much theming (it IS Six Flags after all) and just an okay ride, but I'd still ride it over Dark Knight.

Tony: The few shows GAdv has stary later in the season. There ain't many, but I'm not interested in them. I love dive shows, but GAdv doesn't have theirs anymore..I don't think.

My buddy Mike is picking me up after Mass to head down today again.

From James Rao
Posted April 8, 2012 at 4:20 AM
Thanks for the report, Mike. I'll be at Silver Dollar City in a few weeks, so this was a nice primer, and a reminder to do some extra walking to get the whole family in park touring shape!

One question: is the soundtrack at Bizarro the same as the one at SFNE? Cause, I love that sound track. I felt it added a lot to the ride and was disappointed whenever I rode and it was not working. I especially loved coming into the station at the end and the line would come on, "That JUST happened" and they would start singing "Bizzaro, Bizzaro".

Powder Keg at SDC, when the speakers are working, has about four lines of audio throughout the course of the ride, and for some reason those few lines make the ride more immersive ("hey you, you're too close to that nitro!"). I felt the same about the on-ride audio on Bizarro at SFNE. Seriously. What don't you like about it?

And please, don't eat at Panda Express (I hear they use the meat of endangered giant pandas in all their recipes...hee hee). It's almost as bad as Awful House. Ugh.

From Mike Gallagher
Posted April 8, 2012 at 3:23 PM
James, since I'm partly deaf, the soundtrack is mostly annoying white noise to me (although people who have joined me on the ride with normal hearing tell me it's practically indecipherable and awful. Based on your quote, it appears to be the same soundtrack..the ending at least. I rode Bizarro NE only twice, but I honestly don't remember a soundtrack..only that I liked the ride a helluva lot less than its immediate predecessor.

From James Rao
Posted April 8, 2012 at 6:33 PM
Odd... and I thought we were becoming kindred spirits. Imho, Bizarro at SFNE was a great ride, certainly in the argument for best steel coaster - however, I never rode the original version. Regardless, I thought the soundtrack really added to the experience. Maybe the one at your home park is just not as well maintained?

From Mike Gallagher
Posted April 9, 2012 at 2:30 AM
Even kindred spirits can disagree. And the key words in your reply are "I never rode the original."

IMO, Superman at SF America is the paragon of the Superman coasters of that type.

I don't know if it's a maintenance issue with the soundtrack on "my" Bizarro. They take pretty good care of the ride overall, but it's a different ride..floorless, built in '99(? I didn't check) as Medusa, the first floorless. There are rumors this could be its last season. I hope still gives a great ride, audio not-withstanding.

From James Rao
Posted April 9, 2012 at 6:29 AM
Gotcha...but they didn't change the layout when they rebranded the SFNE coaster did they? Just the theming, right? Not sure why a theme change would diminish the experience, since SF themes are minimal at best.

Still, Bizarro at SFNE is an excellent coaster, so if what you say is true (and I have no reason to doubt you) its original incarnation must have been astonishingly great!

From Mike Gallagher
Posted April 9, 2012 at 10:05 AM
James, I'm not a big technical guy, but I don't believe changes were made to the layout. All I can say is that when I rode Bizarro, it felt like a different ride. On most coasters, for me, it's a feel, a vibe, if you will. Granted I only rode Superman once before the change. Maybe I've romanticized it in my mind, but I considered it the best steel coaster I'd been on up to that point.

From James Rao
Posted April 9, 2012 at 11:50 AM
Okay, next time I get sent to visit our client in Hartford you and I are gonna jaunt over to SFNE for a Bizarro fest. I guarantee you'll be breakin' to the theme song in no time!

From Mike Gallagher
Posted April 9, 2012 at 12:24 PM
I'll take you up on that. And "breakin'?" The only breakin' I'LL be doing is my bones.

From D-Man O'Connell
Posted April 9, 2012 at 2:36 PM
^ I live right near SFNE and I agree with Mike. I've ridden superman dozens of times, and bizarro a bunch of times too. Superman has that feel that makes it better, I dont know If it's the color or whatnot. I'm heading down to SFGAdv on Saturday the 21st, I hope they have their maintainence down better when I visit

From James Rao
Posted April 9, 2012 at 3:22 PM
I am curious as to what has changed, D-Man? Back in 2009 when Bizarro first opened your wrote the following in your review:

"I have had the pleasure of riding Bizarro at SFNE last Wednesday, and boy did it pack a punch. Six Flags took the world's best steel roller coaster, and pushed it over the line. Now, you will be trembling with excitement before and after you get on/off the ride."

I guess the new coaster smell has worn off or, like Mike said, we tend to romanticize the old rides?
Bizarro! on Twitpic
Either way, Bizarro is still a great coaster, IMHO, and well worth a visit to SFNE if you are a steel coaster fan.

From D-Man O'Connell
Posted April 9, 2012 at 3:56 PM
Oh I completely agree with you, it's still fantastic. And yes, in that review I was so hyped up over the fire and excellent audio effects the ride had. Recently, it seems they discontinued the fire (cost?) and the audio is scratchy and only works sometimes. But yes, also the icon of that big red hill swooping down as the backdrop to six flags just doesn't seem the same with the dark purple version

From James Rao
Posted April 9, 2012 at 4:10 PM
Tough but fair, D-Man. It is the curse of Six Flags, and really all theme parks, that they build great stuff and never maintain it. Although the mist effects are still working and they are pretty cool. Not sure why the fire is gone.

Mike, back to the New Jersey park, how is the cleanliness of the place? The Six Flags parks in New England and in Dallas/FW are well tended, but the one in Saint Louis is a pit. Where does New Jersey fall in the spectrum of "beauty"?

From Mike Gallagher
Posted April 10, 2012 at 3:01 AM
I've been to the following Six Flags parks:

Great Adventure
SF America
SF Kentucky Kingdom
(I think that's all)

I think all except KK did a good job of keeping the park clean, and I wouldn't say GAdv is better or worse than the others. However, it is a much bigger park, so that comes into play. Some stuff could use a coat of paint at all these (currently operating) parks, but I wouldn't call them dirty. I wouldn't call NE dirty, at least on my two visits. St.L, I've heard that others, too.

From James Rao
Posted April 10, 2012 at 12:07 PM
The STL park has been improving slowly, but there is just a long way to go. I am not sure it will ever be up to the standards most folks expect from good parks these days. I had presumed all Six Flags were pits until I hit Over Texas and New England last year and found them to be at least as good as most of the Cedar Fair parks I've visited. It is nice to hear the New Jersey park falls into the latter category.

There is no excuse for having a filthy park, if you ask me. Heck, if a small park like Holiday World is can be one of the cleanest in the nation why can't the big national chains keep pace?

From Mike Gallagher
Posted April 10, 2012 at 1:50 PM
Your answer is in your reply. Holiday World is a much smaller park, with (relatively) smaller crowds. Less people in less space=less trash.

From James Rao
Posted April 10, 2012 at 3:19 PM
Hmmm... I think there is more to it. BGW is about the same size as a normal Six Flags and pulls quite a bit more people... Yet it is considered one of the most beautiful parks in the world. It depends on how park mgmt prioritizes basic cleaning and maintenance. Pulling weeds or taking out the trash is not that it?

Another example: Silver Dollar City. Pulls about 2m a year in a park about the same size as any other. Immaculate.

Some parks care, some don't, and some half way care. It is the only explanation.

Back to the New Jersey park, how would you rank the coasters on the TPI 1 to 10 scale?

From Mike Gallagher
Posted April 10, 2012 at 3:59 PM
I keep my own lists, mostly in my head...Lord knows there's room. I don't rate rides on TPI, but if I was to rate GAdv's coasters on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the tops:

El Toro..10
Superman: Ultimate Flight..7.5
Green Lantern...7.5
Kingda Ka..6.5
Runaway Mine Train..6
Rolling Thunder...5.5
Skull Mountain..5.5
Blackbeard's Lost Treasure Train..5
Road Runner Railway..4
Dark Knight...1

I think that's all of them...

You should try to make it out here, James..I think you said you haven't been, right?

From James Rao
Posted April 10, 2012 at 4:31 PM
I would love to visit, but haven't yet found a way to fit the excursion into one of my work trips. SFNE is right near my main client, so it is an easy extra day, but New Jersey would take some doing.

Maybe next year when all the kids are above the 54" mark we'll plan a vacation that includes Kings Island, Cedar Point, Hershey Park, and Great Adventure. We'll see. New Fantasyland might be done by that time, and my Minnie Mouse heart shaped locket reminds me that Disney takes priority over coasters!

Incidentally, I have never given a coaster a perfect 10 on this site, even the Voyage. It has to have that story element to get the top grade as well as the unique thrills. I considered Revenge of the Mummy and Expedition Everest (when the Yeti worked) but ultimately they both lacked a little on the thrill side.

I am still waiting for that 500ft indoor/outdoor coaster with 17 inversions, audio animatronics, and a kick butt story to earn that 10/10. Someday...

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