At long last, winter is fading away (though she made a spectacular exit) and coaster riding season is again upon us. After a thorough inspection of available destinations for a March coaster trip, the winner was Six Flags over Georgia. I'll put my general trip stuff first, followed by a park review.
Some random thoughts:
If you are travelling to Georgia from the Northeast, take I-81 instead of I-95/I-85. I-81, while somewhat longer (50 or 60 miles), is a much more satisfying route visually. For most of the run through Virginia (which is a big state when you drive through it diagonally) you have moutains off to one side, and pleasant vistas to the other. I-85, on the other hand, has pine trees from Georgia to Richmond, VA. Lots of pine trees. Hundreds of miles of pine trees. And road construction. Joy.
I think it is a good idea that some parks have stopped giving out straws with their sodas. It's good for the environment. I think it is a bad idea that parks give out basketballs as prizes for their games. I can't stand listening to a half dozen people bouncing their basket- balls while waiting on line in an echo-filled wooden structure. Boing. Boing. Boing.
* Note - I am still in the novice stage of coastering, working my way up. I've visited 7 parks, and only ridden about 20 coasters. Forgive my superlatives, and any blatant flaunting of ignorance. (This was back in 1993 - I've now ridden over 230 coasters and visited most North American amusement parks - KD)
Six Flags over Georgia, located on I-20 a few miles west of Atlanta, is home to 5 rollercoasters, some of which are truly outstanding. Admission to the park for the 1993 season is $25 per adult, with Season Pass prices about $60. Season Passes purchased at SFoG are good at any Six Flags park. Parking at SFoG is $5.
All coasters let you choose your seat, which is a nice change from my other Six Flags park, Great Adventure.
I visited the park early in the season, the weekend after the Blizzard of '93. Crowds were minimal, and temperatures were in the 50s/60s. I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of metal detectors and security guards at the front gate, as compared to entering SF Great Adventure. The park opened promptly at 10:00, and we rushed to the coaster closest to the entrance, the Georgia Cyclone.
I can see why some people rate this as their #1 wood coaster. The Cyclone is one out-of-control ride, lots of speed and some amazing airtime. The front seat offers some good air cresting 2 or 3 of the hills, and is a lot smoother than the back (I guess that goes without saying). If you are looking for air, though, head for the back. You'll get a small amount cresting the lift hill, but hang on - the bes is yet to come. Almost every drop on this ride will have you off your seat, some of them will convince you you're not going to make it back to the station. I made the mistake (?) of riding in the evening after a short rain, in the next to back seat with my arms up. One of the drops nearly threw me out of the car - the people behind me thought I was a goner. We talked after the ride, and they swore only my ankles were still in the car (I'm exaggerating, but only a little =:->).
They were running two trains, a red and a blue, both PTC. As for safety devices, they had headrests, seat dividers, seat belts, individual orange ratcheting lap bars, leg irons, etc. Well, no leg irons. Fortunately, the crew that was working that day was not too particular about the lap bars. I would fasten the seat belt (very loosely), and pull the lap bar down just a little but (maybe 8-10" away from my actual lap). The attendants just made sure the bar was secure, and didn't try to push it into my gut. If you do this, be advised that it gives you a lot of room to fly - and you will fly on this ride. Thankfully, there were no brakes on the ride. The framing is white, with blue/grey trackwork and turquoise railings - quite a nice combo.
Drop #7, which occurs a bit after the third turnaround, is awesome from the back seat. I have never had better airtime, and suspect I never will. Any more air, and you leave the car. One fantastic ride!
Absolutely no line for this Arrow mine train, which should have told me something. First time I've heard the 'taller ride boards first' rule. Any help on the reason for this? They were running two trains.
This was your standard mine train, although a very slow one. I was expecting a bit more from it, given the favorable comments in 'Guide to Ride', but it disappointed me. I though I had mistakenly boarded the kiddie mine train. Oh well, on to bigger and better things.
SFoG bills this as the 'Black Belt of Rollercoasters', and it is pretty intense. While viewing this ride from the lakeside, one can't help notice how twisted its structure looks. It's almost impossible to follow the convoluted trackwork packed into such a small space over the lake.
The Ninja, a Vekoma multi-element steelie relocated from Wildwood, New Jersey, has 5 inversions. They were running two trains, both black, with ugly orange shoulder harnesses. I don't think they had seat belts. The station is Ninja-themed, with Japanese music playing and the ride operators dressed appropriately.
The ride is fast, short and smooth. Arrow could really learn something about smoothness from this ride. There's a lot of twisted trackwork and transitions, yet there's none of the typical Arrow head-banging. There are some great fine del'capo effects, with trackwork that comes really really close overhead. Not much more to say - another looping steelie.
Possibly to increase attendance during the spring weekends, SFoG is running the GASM trains backwards. It seems to be working, as this ride has the longest lines (20 mins) of all the coasters in the park when I was there.
The GASM is a dogleg out-and-back woodie, partly situated over a lake, and is quite a beautiful coaster. White framing, with red and blue trimming completes the American theming. The two PTC trains were mixed red and blue cars, with standard lap bars and seat belts. The entrance turnstyle to the station proper is located right next to the line for the front (back?) car, and the line got bunched up a couple of times because of that. I rode in the back seat, so I got to watch track recede in front of me as we rode - pretty cool. I had previously been on the Rebel Yell in King's Dominion backwards, and knew this seat would give an interesting ride.
There's some pretty good airtime to be had on this ride, particularly after the second turn, the only 180 degree turn. The GASM runs fast, has nicely paced drops, and is only slightly rough. Later in the day, after the light rain, it was running faster and giving much more air. Nothing compared to the Cyclone, but still quite a lot of fun.
Twice while we were waiting in line they had to stop the train on the lift hill. Once, someone appeared to be trying to stand, and the operator jogged up the hill but didn't seem to do anything in particular. The second time, the operator ran up there to double-check someone's lap bar.
This is the other ride I was really looking forward to at the park, and it did not disappoint. One of the few Schwarzkopf coasters around, its a thrilling steel double looper. The line to the ride winds through the woods in two parts, with the left side heading for the front half of the train and the right side heading for the back of the train. Two trains were running, with just lap bars (except in the back two cars, where they were supplemented with seatbelts). In pictures and videos I had seen in the past of this ride, it was painted a dull green color, but SFoG repainted it with an even duller brown, which looked at first to be the perfect shade of oxidized metal. Joy.
The announcement as you board the ride cautions you to keep your head against the head rest and your hands on the bar. I've heard this before on other rides, so I paid it little mind. When you leave the station, you notice how thin and frail the trackwork looks. The first drop into loop #1 is fast, and you get some pretty strong positive G's. If you're in the front, you'll get some air coming to the top of the next hill. The next thing up is the spiral loop (for lack of a better term), which gathers a lot of speed and generates a lot of positive G's at the bottom. Too bad other steel coaster makers, who shall remain nameless, don't like to incorporate any strong G forces - they're quite a lot of fun. A couple of drops and a turn-around later, and you come up to the 3rd loop (or 2nd, if you don't count the spiral). I learned a lesson about small loops and high speeds. I had my hands up and my head was off the headrest (I guess) when we entered the loop. By 2/3rds of the way through, my head was forced into my lap and I could barely keep my hands up - awesome! The pullout from that loop is very strong, giving the ride a nice finish. Overall, the ride is very fast, very smooth, and strong positive G's in some spots. A great Steelie!
As for other rides, well, they had a Looping Starship ride, a swinging pirate ship ride, a free-fall ride, some water rides, cable cars (sky buckets), and others. I apologize for not being able to give a more detailed report on other rides, but most of these I could ride at SFGAd, close to home, and I didn't want to waste precious time that could be used on the Georgia Cyclone.
The carousel at SFoG is a 1908(?) PTC that was originally located at Riverview Park in Chicago. According to carousel books, this is one of the best out there, one of only 5 5-row PTCs.
That's about it. If anyone has any questions, or would like to make any comments, please feel free to send mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy the rest of the season!