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  • [Review] California Great America Trip Report

    Trip Report
    California
    Sunday, September 13th, 2009
    Weather: Sunny turning cloudy, mid-70s
    Crowds: Light





    On the whole, Great America is a perfectly lovely park. Along with its Six Flags sister park in IllinoisMagicMountain


    Currently the park is the least desirable of the drastically expanded Cedar Fair Empire. Their battles with the city of Santa Clara, local business and the potentially new 49er neighbors belie a park that has an uncertain future, and nothing stagnates investment and improvement like uncertainty. One need only look to the dismantling of the historic GeaugaLake to see the lengths Cedar Fair will go to in the interest of the bottom line.


    SixFlagsDiscoveryKingdom, which first moved an entire park across the bay to cheaper land because of escalating property taxes, and then became property of the city it moved to after defaulting on public debts. And that was all before Six Flags came to town, so no blaming them.


    In the spirit of full disclosure, Great America has been headed downhill long before Paramount





    Without having to make a long trip, and not at all worried about crowds, we left home not too long after 9:30am for the 10am opening, leisurely arriving at 10:15








    Between that, the completely empty queue, and unnecessary two train operation, we were able to stay on for three rides in a row. I suppose the DorneyPark








    Paramount licensing, Drop Zone has now become the awkward and suspicious DropTowerSilicon Valley and providing a gut-wrenching fall. We stayed on for multiple drops.










    We found a less rowdy crowd on the StarTower, and old fashioned slow-rotating observation tower ride. I mildy prefer the oil derrick/free standing platform versions where you can sightsee at your own pace, but this still offered a nice view. The unfortunately grimy windows made for sub par photographs, but the strong gust of air conditioning made the experience more than tolerable.





    We had to stall a bit before the rest of our group would be arriving, so we headed into the Sports Bar. How was this place not packed? The opening day for the NFL, and more flat-screens than I ever thought an amusement park would pay for. We had the place to ourselves, along with a couple of beers, a pretzel, and finally those ice waters.


    Our friends had finally made it to the park just after lunchtime, and we were off to show them around. Of course the first stop would be Top Gun, though we had to settle for a single ride thanks to a breakdown. We moved onto Firefall, which enticed us with its fog and fire effects. The ride itself was pretty unremarkable, your standard Huss TopSpin with an average program, but it was nice to see the special effects running so late in the season, and for such a small audience.





    The group wanted to give Delirium a try, and we were happy to ride a second time. Unfortunately we seemed to once again be stuck in the area of seats that never spun around the peak of arc. Still a fun ride, but we spent most of the time trying to figure out how that was even possible. The Santa Cruz Boardwalk version seems to be much more evenhanded.


    To humor the less thrill-inclined among us, some of us hopped on the 3D simulator theater attraction showing SpongeBob. I am absolutely certain I had seen this attraction before, though I struggled to remember where. Either way, it was a tolerable experience, given my mild appreciation for SpongeBob et. al., the story is fine, though the motion is a little on the manic side.





    Aside from up our group being split up, we enjoyed the ride as much as one could. The terrain is quite flat, so a small lift to start provided the momentum to travel at ground level, through the decently sized water park. A large lift led to the second half of the ride, which was as much bobsled as it was log ride, thanks to a low water level. The double down drop was a nice change of pace, and no one exited in any sort of dampness-fueled tantrum.








    Confounding logic, DropTower


    Continuing the loop, I talked everyone into Berserker, a rare Schwarzkopf Bayern Kurve. I had never ridden this old school flat ride, which is something like a powered coaster on a circular track simulating the layout of a Himalaya. It was oddly overbanked in some areas, and then underbanked in others, not providing a smooth or really a fun ride. I apologized.


    Heading back to the front of the park, the others wanted to ride Vortex, and did so while we enjoyed a trip to the candy store. In addition to a caramel apple (sans peanuts), I picked up a gigantic pickle. By far the best purchase of the day, a great value at $1.39, and something I wish I saw more of at amusement parks, whether oddly located in candy stores or not.




















    www.gregscoasterphotos.com <- Go there, it's good!

  • #2
    Re: California Great America Trip Report

    Not to nit-pick, but the Demon is not the park's original coaster. It was originally the "Turn Of The Century" and had 2 bunny-hops where the loops stand now. It was re-designed in 1980 with the addition of the loops and the pretty decent theming (which has now all but disappeared)

    For me personally I find it one of the less rough arrows I have been on. In fact, it is probably the second smoothest (First being the one at Circus Circus. Being in that dome seems to help!)

    Great America has certainly gone downhill it seems. Their neighbors seem intent on getting the place ran out of town, even though the park was there first.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: California Great America Trip Report

      Hi Brian, thanks for the information, that's news to me! I suppose it doesn't make sense to call Demon the first coaster, even though half of it still technically is.

      Wow, I'm not sure which Arrows you have been on and when you last rode Demon, but it was just plain awful. It had a heck of a lot more in common with the now ancient loop-screws than it does even the modern multi-loopers (which aren't all that pleasant themselves). I'm curious which ones you think are worse. X/X2 is up there, but more tolerable by virtue of its insanity.

      I agree, it's kind of unfortunate that "I was here first" doesn't hold much legal credence, but I can understand why.
      www.gregscoasterphotos.com <- Go there, it's good!

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: California Great America Trip Report

        Originally posted by sarki7 View Post
        Hi Brian, thanks for the information, that's news to me! I suppose it doesn't make sense to call Demon the first coaster, even though half of it still technically is.

        Wow, I'm not sure which Arrows you have been on and when you last rode Demon, but it was just plain awful. It had a heck of a lot more in common with the now ancient loop-screws than it does even the modern multi-loopers (which aren't all that pleasant themselves). I'm curious which ones you think are worse. X/X2 is up there, but more tolerable by virtue of its insanity.

        I agree, it's kind of unfortunate that "I was here first" doesn't hold much legal credence, but I can understand why.
        I rode the Demon last year, and it was nowhere near as bad as X/X2 or the Viper at Magic Mountain.

        I have ridden the following Arrow coasters: Demon (Ca and Illinois), Viper, Ninja, X/X2, Mine train (Texas), Goldrusher, Matterhorn, The Corkscrew (both at Knotts and in Idaho now), Gemini, Corkscrew (Cedar Point), Iron Dragon, XLR8, Vortex (Kings Island), Shockwave (Illinois), Adventure Express, Canyon Blaster, Desperado, Psycho Mouse,Wacky Soapbox Racers, and Magnum XL-200.

        Arrow coasters tend to not age well, but ones that I did not consider overly rough would include Canyon Blaster (probably the smoothest out of all the "traditional" style arrow coasters, and both Demons. Viper is in the lower middle, with the Mine train coasters all at the bottom of the list, and Gemini at the very bottom (it felt like it bottomed out on every valley)

        The suspended coaster all felt smooth.

        Both Desperado and Magnum were rough, with Desperado being much more rough than Magnum.
        Last edited by PinBrian; 09-23-2009, 05:30 PM. Reason: Forgot the racers!

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: California Great America Trip Report

          I agree not too much thrills here. I mostly just missed SFDK when I'm there.
          Mostly excited for the haunt it was really good last year.

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: California Great America Trip Report

            We pretty much dropped our GA passes after they shipped off Stealth in such a stupid way, preferring at that point to drive 3X as far to 6FDK. I didn't know until they had it in the papers, without any "last ride" ad campaign. In fact, when I went for my last ride, I passed a truck hauling a piece of the track. It wasn't the best of it's kind, but it was historic fun.

            Like the OP, it's the closest park to us, but we'd usually finish for the day before noon. I do like the lake skim on Top Gun, or Flight Deck, or whatever they're calling it this week. Vortex is always an afterthought for us, one of the few I sek out the front seat and not the back. I think the Demon has held up well, but I miss the lights in the tunnel. Invertigo is fun when the chain isn't breaking; looks like I've been wise to always be in the backwards seat for the first drop. Psycho Mouse is better than DCA's MM, which remains one of the saddest comments I've ever made about a Disney attraction.

            The boy claims that Griz is not so rough, but I have my doubts since historically it feels like there are speed bumps on it (and I rode before the public ever did at an employee preview in 1986; it's been awful from the start). Desperado is sliding towards a roughness that will be a shame if allowed to continue, and it was so great my first ride in 2002. That monstrosity at NYNY though........first time I've just wanted a coaster to end since I was 5 years old.

            A bientot.
            Remember
            What the dormouse said
            Feed your head!

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            You've read it; you can't unread it!

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: California Great America Trip Report

              Agreed, Psycho Mouse is a pleasant surprise, so long as you do expect TOO much from it. Also, my worst coaster encounter was continually Viper at SFGAdv, not coincidentally another TOGO creation.

              Originally posted by PinBrian View Post
              I rode the Demon last year, and it was nowhere near as bad as X/X2 or the Viper at Magic Mountain.

              I have ridden the following Arrow coasters: Demon (Ca and Illinois), Viper, Ninja, X/X2, Mine train (Texas), Goldrusher, Matterhorn, The Corkscrew (both at Knotts and in Idaho now), Gemini, Corkscrew (Cedar Point), Iron Dragon, XLR8, Vortex (Kings Island), Shockwave (Illinois), Adventure Express, Canyon Blaster, Desperado, Psycho Mouse,Wacky Soapbox Racers, and Magnum XL-200.

              Arrow coasters tend to not age well, but ones that I did not consider overly rough would include Canyon Blaster (probably the smoothest out of all the "traditional" style arrow coasters, and both Demons. Viper is in the lower middle, with the Mine train coasters all at the bottom of the list, and Gemini at the very bottom (it felt like it bottomed out on every valley)

              The suspended coaster all felt smooth.

              Both Desperado and Magnum were rough, with Desperado being much more rough than Magnum.
              I may be a weirdo in that I'm more willing to tolerate roughness if there is more thrill involved. For example, I can objectively acknowledge that X2 is considerably more jarring than Demon, but it's so unbelievably unique and thrilling, I am willing to go through it. Whereas Demon isn't as awful as far as roughness, but the pathetic thrill just isn't worth it.

              Actually, I rode both Viper (SFMM) and Demon this year, and my personal assessment was the latter was slightly more unpleasant, but at least it was over quicker. Sad to hear about Gemini. I rode it first in 1996 and most recently in 2004, I definitely saw degeneration but still managed to enjoy it the last time around.

              Thankfully the suspendeds had aged well - Ninja at SFMM is a sentimental favorite. And if you want a recommendation for a GREAT intense looper that is almost B&M smooth - check out Tennessee Tornado at Dollywood. That was SUCH a pleasant surprise.
              www.gregscoasterphotos.com <- Go there, it's good!

              Comment

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