Following a refreshing night’s sleep in Charlotte, we packed our car and headed south towards Atlanta.The majority of the route we took brought us through South Carolina, which we stopped in only occasionally. Much of the drive saw us peering at billboards and signs for a variety of different things which we ultimately didn’t have a tremendous deal of interested in. Food ended up being the crux of most stops in the state; first at Waffle House, again later at a Abbott Farms location. There’s a number of them along I-85, and we made a point to purchase some hot boiled peanuts while we were in there. Neither of us had ever eaten them before, and found them pretty tasty. They end up being much more like a bean than we ever pictured peanuts tasting like, with a soft, salty taste to them. Gas was also astonishingly cheap in South Carolina for the present day; I haven’t paid $2.89 a gallon in some time, but I did there.
The 4 hour drive went pretty smoothly and we arrived at our hotel (Sheraton Perimeter North) just after noon. Check in went smoothly, we dropped our bags off, and admired the room’s soft bed and air conditioning for a short time. Usually we liked to sit in a room for an hour or two after arrival, but we were sneaking up on lunch and getting a little hungry. Six Flags was also on tab for the afternoon, and we wanted to get out there before the start of festivities in order to ride at least one thing (and perhaps others).
Lunch we took care of first: We made our way over to Flip Burgers’ Buckhead location, a 15 minute drive from the hotel we were staying in, in order to try their food. We had known about Flip for awhile, and actually intended to go their on our first go-round in Atlanta back in 2010. Flip is decidedly modern in terms of decor and choices. There’s a steak tatare burger, for starters. Fries are “proudly cooked in beef tallow”. A prix fixe lunch menu even exists. Obviously Flip has been very forward thinking, and the restaurant was doing quite well for itself at 2PM on a Saturday afternoon.
While burgers and milkshakes are not typical “haute cuisine”, Flip does its best to make them that way. After a lot of hemming and hawing, I went with the Classic, Meredith the Fauxlafel. We shared a side of broccoli rabe and each of us ordered a milkshake. I went with the burnt marshmallow and Nutella, while Meredith got the very similar S’mores shake. Both shakes were made using liquid nitrogen to provide a more smooth texture, as well as marshmallows singed by a blowtorch. The food was all very good and while we both enjoyed the shakes, I suppose the one complaint would be their size of a mere 16 oz. I’d certainly recommend Flip to others though; its a unique enough experience and the food is of good enough quality for a lot of people to really get a kick out of it.
Filled up with good food, we went to Six Flags Over Georgia. Parking has recently risen to $20; our admission as part of the ACE event at Six Flags was $20, included ERT, a meal ticket, preferred show seating, and parking. What a steal! We were confronted with the very real issue of heat once we exited the car and started our walk. It was absolutely brutal out there, well into the 90s for the 7th consecutive day of the trip.
-SIX FLAGS OVER GEORGIA-
We made an immediate b-line to Monster Mansion, our primary goal for the afternoon pre-ERT. Meredith is a big fan of the ride, and honestly, so am I. This is the sort of attraction that is exceedingly rare to find at a regional themer in the US. What makes Monster Mansion so great is that not only is it the kind of ride that’s exceedingly rare, but even compared to counterparts over in Europe, its done extremely well. Family friendly, adorable, well operated, looks great, solid capacity; all things you can say about Monster Mansion. It even has a cheery song. The Monster Mansion store nearby has been paired down quite a bit in terms of items available for sale. There’s still some remaining plush for the ride and a couple CDs and t-shirts, but not much else. We had skipped making purchases when we first came in 2010, but bought the soundtrack, a plush doll of the Sheriff, and Meredith got herself a t-shirt as well.
Lines were generally longer than we were willing to wait for, well, anything. The park was hot, really hot, and standing in line for 20-30 minutes for Ninja, Great American Scream Machine, et al wasn’t in the cards. We spent much of the afternoon just walking short distances, looking for shade, sitting in it, and moving on from there. One thing Georgia had a good amount of were shaded bench areas. There’s a couple long topiary tunnels to go through and find shaded seating on a hot day. We were highly appreciative. I found it an interesting comparison to Carowinds, who also had a topiary tunnel, but had since chosen to simply not grow the plants around it, and instead covered the top in plexiglass. Where there’s shade at SFOG, there’s a greenhouse at Carowinds.
The only other pre-ERT ride we found ourselves on was the old Riverview Carousel up on the hill. We lacked even the physical energy to ascend a horse, instead opting for a chariot. It was that kind of day. There’s also a bunch of rocking chairs up there to sit in, which we proceeded to do for, I don’t know, a half hour or something like that. The carousel there is still such a cool piece and still well maintained. I can’t think of a merry-go-round at any Six Flags park with as much character as that one. We broke from a good sit there to use our tickets on free pizza slices and drinks down below at Famiglia (about a $10 value) before making our way over to meet up with the group for our backstage tours at the old stunt theater.
The walking tour took us around to some areas where photo taking of Goliath, the log flume, Mindbender, and Daredevil Dive were a little unique, and I’m sure the shots I took are replicated on someone’s flickr account in pretty much the same level of detail. Its nice to do stuff like that sometimes though, and its really cool of the park to allow us to do that. Following the 20 minute or so walking tour, we grouped up and waited by the theater in which we’d be watching iLuminate, SFOG’s big new show for 2012. Meredith let me know later that this wait in unshaded territory was the peak of being “hot” for her; let’s just say this was a generally unpleasant way to spent 15 minutes, even if there were some interesting pictures to be taken.
iLuminate itself I thought was a good show. If you are unaware as to what it is, it has a rough storyline of robot characters, one of which is a queen or something, and she gets kidnapped by some like dastardly alien types, while this one plucky heroic dude saves the day. There dancing, much of it more “urban” in flavor (think breakdancing and krumping) and the lighting effects on the suits are actually really cool and lead to some mindbending choreography. I don’t know how the ACE people in general felt but you could hear people in the back wilding out over some of the stuff on stage, and that’s generally the response you want to hear with this sort of thing. Meredith apparently had a tougher time seeing the action because the back of Paul Blick’s son’s head was in the way.
After the show, we exited the building and took a seat for a half hour before going back into the building for our reception. There were free drinks (including beer!), snacks, and more goodies to take with us like mugs. The park GM (Melinda Ashcraft) came out and talked with us for a good 20-30 minutes to discuss the park and do a Q&A session. One of the questions regarded the possibility of changing paving from the asphalt in the park to concrete brick pavers or stamped concrete. She remarked that it would cost millions to redo all the pathways in the park, and so instead they have to go section by section when the funds allow. Meredith mentioned to me her displeasure with the answer later, seeing it as being similar to Bart Kinzel’s remark that Carowinds “can’t try Disney on a Carowinds budget because it comes out looking stupid”. Ultimately, we both see what they’re saying; infrastructure doesn’t draw people, rides do, and if you only have X amount of money and it can’t do both, you build rides. Its the ever present catch 22 of why so many parks turn into soulless, shadeless concrete beasts in this day and age. I’m not sure there’s any particular way to convince managers to give building infrastructure a chance over rides in this day and age because it seems pretty well ingrained in their fiber.
Luckily, Six Flags Over Georgia had pretty good infrastructure to start with. While they had to fight tooth and nail to keep rides like Monster Mansion operating, they succeeded, and the benefit is a very good park in most respects with a ride lineup that has some pretty good variation. We’d get a taste of this during our nearly two hour ERT with a bunch of different roller coasters, and we had seen it throughout the day just walking around. From the train, skyride, and carousel to the big coasters and thrillers, they have a lot of rides fitting a lot of different groups. That’s probably why its Meredith’s favorite Six Flags park, and easily in my top tier of them too.
ERT didn’t disappoint; the first 45 minutes opened on Batman and Mindbender, both of which ran two trains and consistently had empty seats going out. Once time ran out of them, we moved further into the heart of the park, where Georgia Cyclone, Daredevil Dive, Georgia Scorcher, Goliath, and Acrophobia had all be opened up for our group of roughly 200. No waiting whatsoever. Just great, great conditions.
Batman: The Ride: I rode this twice, which is once more than expected. I feel like discussing Batman the ride is so overdone. The Batman clones are all known for their intensity, where B&M just kept the foot to the floor and had element after element rather than break it up in the second half. At night, when you don’t see everything coming in quite the same way, the effect is pronounced. 20 years after these started to get built and we still marvel at how good a ride they are.
Mindbender: Meredith had a bad ride where I think the transition into the second loop threw her back at an angle and jerked her neck. Probably didn’t help that we were tired from the oppressive heat and repeated days of coaster riding/park visiting. I didn’t have as severe a jerk anywhere on the ride and instead chose to ride 3 times. This is still my favorite Schwarzcopf; it has an array of different forces, a terrain layout, powerful loops, etc. I guess maybe one day when I get to Camelot in the UK or that park in St. Petersburg, my opinion might change, but that could be a long way off.
Daredevil Dive (M#322/A#631): Gerstlauer’s new dive coaster style with lapbars. It seems like a strange installation at Six Flags Over Georgia because of its low capacity at a park with a lot of visitors, but I’m guessing long term this ride, like many others, will become part of the Six Flags ride rotation program put back in effect by present management and will appear at a Six Flags park closer to you eventually. The ride has a very freeform, modern, “different” layout that the cars go through very smoothly. The lapbars work great here and the ride is quite excellent. I’d be so, so happy to see something like this appear at Michigan’s Adventure, even if my expectations are set extremely low.
Goliath: I’ll admit that this B&M hyper coaster felt different from other’s I’ve been on. The airtime at the top of the hills definitely felt stronger this time than it did when we came on a much cooler day in 2010. I mean, way stronger. There’s some big, big pops here. The other way it felt different was that the train had a nasty vibration it picked up at the bottom of the first two hills. It wasn’t so bad that it made the ride un-rideable. By no means would I consider it that. Its just that you kinda expect these rides to be a certain level of smoothness, and when you ride it and it feels sorta like Magnum at Cedar Point does in an axel seat, I’m taken aback. I’m assuming its a track issue and not a train problem, but hopefully it isn’t foretelling something bad for the ride in the future.
Georgia Cyclone: Part of this ride has seen the topper track treatment developed by the people at Rocky Mountain Coasters, and you can feel how smooth those sections are (though where we sat, there wasn’t a lot of force behind anything). And where it hasn’t been done, you can really tell because the ride is horribly uncomfortable and rough. Its a heap of not good right now. Maybe further in the back rather than the middle that we sat at would provide a better ride on the first two hills, but after that its goddamned terrible and I wouldn’t want a more forceful ride through that.
Acrophobia: I’ve been on 3 of the 4 standup drop towers now in the world after going on this, and I think I’m probably good as far as those go. I may have said that after Movie World Germany, so I’d like to reiterate that now in text so I can read this in the future: I’m done with these. They’re uncomfortable, as you’re held 200 feet in the air by a bicycle seat. They’re also pretty terrifying, because the feeling of falling feet first towards earth is very unnatural. With the tilt element, I’m putting a lot of hope and faith in an Intamin restraint while also experiencing a ride that does a good job of simulating leaping off a building. Good thrill, I guess, though I walk like a penguin for a couple minutes afterwards.
Meredith refused a ride on Acrophobia because I had told her in the past that I thought it to be terrifying. Generally, that’s a good way to scare her off rides. If I don’t like it, she generally won’t either. She planned on sitting on a retaining rock wall to wait for me, but noticed (and pointed out to me) the giant cockroaches scurrying about in between the rocks. Disgusting. The park also seems to have some feral cats around too – we saw two small cats walking around underneath one of the buildings (possibly Las Banderas). They probably have a home under there and keep the mice population down, which means they have as safe a life as any feral cats are ever gonna have. Disneyland has ’em too – heck, we even saw some at BonBon Land a couple years ago in Denmark. It happens.
We had admired the local flora enough and didn’t care to get a ride in on Georgia Scorcher before leaving. I felt “done” – its kinda like being full and satisfied with your eating, but not so overtly full that you feel disgusting and unable to move properly. But in a coaster context. You know. Kinda. We left Six Flags having about the best possible Saturday afternoon day the park would be able to offer to us ever without a Q-Bot.
CoasterCon 2012 Saga: