Friday, May 26, 2017

ILLINOIS ADVENTURES: The Coasters of Six Flags Great America

Another high ranker on my trip's to-do list was a day at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee. Ginger and I both love roller coasters, and I've ridden everything at my local (save for InvadR, which I'll hopefully tackle soon). I've never been to a Six Flags, for one... and for two, I'm always hype to try new rides.

We didn't get in every coaster, as the Superman one was closed due to high winds and the Joker one was closed off for a commercial shoot, but we sure as hell got in a bunch of others. So... here we go.

The Dark Knight Coaster

An indoor Wild Mouse themed after Nolan's Batman trilogy. I absolutely loved the theming on this one, which places you in a damaged Gotham City Rail car during an attack by a Ledger-era Joker. News screens in the subway tunnel show reports on the state of the city's public transportation, which eventually devolve into re-cut film clips and, finally, the Joker's own grim imagery.

The ride itself is an out-of-control train car for two, taking you around sharp angles, down dangerous dips, and around the Joker's minions as they hack away at the tunnel. For adrenaline junkies, it's more of a five-hour energy shot than a double espresso. The exit was a bit awkward, with the car leveling out and a Christian Bale voice clip playing to let us know the day had been saved (apparently?), but it didn't ruin the experience of the ride itself.

Fun, but mostly aesthetically pleasing.


Straight from one batty ride to another. BATMAN The Ride is significantly older, which one can tell simply from the theming (and the fact that it's just named after the franchise), and it's also the world's first suspended coaster with an outside loop. It clocks a top speed of 55 mph and contains 2700 feet of track.

To say it felt a bit like Alpengeist isn't fair -- I should probably say Alpengeist feels a bit like this. I had the usual problem I have with pre-21st century coasters with shoulder harnesses, which is that I get my head knocked around rather unpleasantly the whole time. My own existing health conditions aside (my friends don't report the same problems I do, so this is an isolated problem), it was definitely a fun one, and felt a bit like home.

American Eagle

And here it is: baby's first wooden coaster. This mother was built over 40 years ago, and it's held up extremely well. I had no idea what to expect, as my greatest exposure to wooden coasters so far had been touring the construction site of InvadR. This was something amazing.

I love how it's its own structure -- no, that sounds dumb. I mean how wooden coasters are just this amazing nest of rafters that you plunge into and through and under, to the point that half the time I couldn't tell where the track was ahead of me in the mess. The roughness of the ride wasn't the same neck-jerking and head-pounding I get on older steel coasters, but something that felt more intentional and far less threatening.

Seriously? Wow. After one go on this, I did not need to ask why people make such a big deal of wooden coasters. Thus, it was on to...


Billed as the world's tallest, fastest, and steepest wooden coaster. But they left two bits out: smoothest and weirdest. As we watched Goliath's cars take off, we were both a bit spooked by how silent they were. Turns out this was very much on purpose, thanks to a layer of grout in the track.

So other things about Goliath. Your restraint is a sort I've never seen before. You get a lap bar, but you also get a very tight padded restraint around your calves, which made no sense to me. Why would a wooden coaster need that?

That would be because they just straight-up flip you over. Yeah. You go upside-down. On a wooden coaster. With no shoulder harness. And no warning. (Unless you count the ride operator's joke about "taking you to the Upside-Down").

This is potentially my favourite coaster ever. Though I am open to challengers.


So here's the story of Demon. Back in 1976, it was called "Turn of the Century." Five years later, it was rebranded. The story? The park had lapsed on its payments, and so the devil had repossessed the ride. As you stand in line, Hammer Horror-esque audio clips tell the story. With all that in mind, plus the extremely Eighties logos and flames everywhere, I so wanted to like this ride.

Sadly, like BATMAN before, it was mostly just hell on my neck. And for a late-in-the-day park goer who was slowly coming down with a cold and already rattled, it didn't do me many favors. I'd like to give this a go at the front of the day and see if it treats me better, but it just wasn't much for me fun-wise.

Raging Bull

My first thought when I lowered the lap bar for Raging Bull was "This is Apollo's Chariot." The cars looked like Player 2 versions of the Apollo's Chariot cars, and the ride followed a similar pattern of drops, hills, and twists.

Later research showed me that the two coasters were both made by Bolliger and Mabillard within a month and a half of each other, so that clears things up.

Main differences? Raging Bull may have come second by a handful of weeks, but it is overall bigger. Its big drop is more than 300 feet higher and it's got about 200 feet more of track. Also, Apollo's Chariot was responsible for Fabio getting goosed in the face.

All things considered, I love both takes on the coaster, and it was fun to experience a different park's take on an old favorite.

Unsurprisingly, by the end of this day I was pretty wiped and extremely dizzy. But damned if it wasn't worth it. I'd love to head back someday to see what else the park has on offer. For now, though, it's Ginger's turn to try out some Busch Gardens coasters.
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