It’s hard to believe no one else has blogged about our big time at Six Flags on Friday. Ian works for Pepsi/Frito Lay and they hold an annual employee picnic where they rent out the whole park which is otherwise closed to the public. The employees can invite friends, etc so we pay what amounts to regular (~$30) for tickets, which includes $10 in park cash (“Daffy Dollars”) that we usually use to eat dinner. As an added bonus, there are stations throughout the park offering free bags of Frito Lay products and cold Pepsi products. So we gorge ourselves on junk food and ride the rides. This year’s group consisted of Bobby & Ian, James & I and Layton.
First it should be mentioned that James doesn’t do the rides, and he and I (I think) are both okay with that. Of course, I always do the childish “watch me watch me watch me” thing. The challenge this year was that he managed to get his back out of whack the other day and it was still sore, so walking around a place like Six Flags for 6 hours wasn’t really something he relished. He was so sweet to come along and join in the fun regardless. Ian and I managed to do all the rides we wanted to and, surprisingly, we ended up leaving by about 10 or so. Tradition calls that we close the place down and ride Batman or Mr. Freeze ten times in a row. But, I think we were all ready to go after arriving on time for a change (5pm) and getting to ride everything without much of a wait.
Six Flags overall just doesn’t impress me any more. We always have a great time with Bobby & Ian on Frito Lay night, and we always look forward to it and will continue to do so (presuming they even ask us back again). Some of the rides like those mentioned, and Superman and Titan are a lot of fun, but I just can’t see waiting in line for very long to ride them. The only real wait we had was about 20 minutes to ride Superman, and that was because they only had one of the three towers operating. We joked about how when a company rents out the park, Six Flags probably has a whole “a la carte” option, such as, it costs more to have certain rides operate, or maybe you can save a little money by using the less experienced staff. Stuff like that. It makes sense, I guess, to only operate one of the three towers, because 12 ride at a time and there probably were only about 50 people behind us and the line wasn’t really growing. I bet they would have opened another one if there was a bigger demand. Anyway, I don’t see paying $30 to go there on a regular day and spend the usual wait time, which can be over an hour, on these rides. They’re fun but they’re not THAT fun.
Six Flags doesn’t seem to have done a very good job of maintaining the park overall. I hope they are properly maintaining their rides, but the older areas of the park really look old. Every now and again you’ll see these little stuffed dummies that are supposed to be either people or ghosts. Six Flags has the “Fright Fest” going on, which is meant to be quasi-scary I guess, to celebrate Halloween. The dummies are pretty badly done to begin with, and each has a lot of chicken wire exposed and stuffing coming out. All the material making up the dummies is severely sun faded. It’s no big deal and no one comes to the park to see something like that, but if you’re going to display them it’s kind of a turn-off to see them in such bad shape.
The highlight of this visit, was an adventure on the very first ride that Ian, Layton and I went on, the “Wildcatter”, which is sort of an elevator car you sit in, it lifts the car up 10 stories then drops it down. I remember when this ride was first introduced about 20 years ago, it was called something else at the time, and it was highly innovative. Now it just seems rickety. Ride Superman instead, it’s much smoother. Anyway, we were lifted to the top and then the whole ride suddenly stopped. So we sat there at the top, fortunately not pushed out onto the lip quite yet, for about 15 minutes while the engineer and electrician fixed the ride. There was another car on the tracks below us where we would be heading. They said there was a proximity switch that failed, and that this sort of thing happened a lot. One of the ride operators, a kid, climbed the 10 stories by stair to talk to us and, I suppose, keep us calm while they fixed the ride. He was nice and did a good job, because even though we weren’t necessarily interested in talking to him, he kept asking us polite questions, I guess to keep our minds off being stranded at the top of this ride. He probably could have gotten us out, but we didn’t really feel the need to. So we just cut jokes until the ride started again. You know, part of the fun of these rides is being scared by them, but the ride is supposed to go through a set cycle and the whole thing usually only lasts maybe a minute or two. It’s not designed for you to sit in this contraption for 15 minutes and contemplate what could go wrong! Ian made a good observation, I think it was after the Superman ride, which was that they aren’t so scary when they are moving. Neither of us likes the part of Superman where it takes you to the very top of this 325′ tower and you sit there for about 20 seconds before you start a free fall. You know the free fall is coming, just not exactly when. The sudden drop is part of the thrill, and the anticipation gets your adrenaline going. But, when the ride is actually moving (and even during the free fall) you can feel that the machinery is in control, and that is reassuring. When everything is stopped, you’re left to wonder is something is broken.
As this blog entry was being prepared, I noticed Six Flags doesn’t even do a convincing job of maintaining its website. It still says Mr. Freeze is the fastest and tallest ride in the southwest (introduced in 1998, it is 238′ high and goes to 70mph). The “tallest” honor goes to Superman, introduced in 2003 at 325′ and the fastest goes to Titan, introduced in 2001 and 85mph. Titan is also taller (at 255′) than Mr. Freeze. I guess I’m surprised it doesn’t advertise Judge Roy Scream as “new”.
Thanks to Ian and Bobby for organizing and inviting us. If you hope to get an invite next year, it wouldn’t hurt to start sucking up to Ian now.