Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

TR: Coasterville Con 2009 - Six Flags St. Louis (8/7/09)

Trip Report: Six Flags St. Louis
St. Louis, MO
August, 7, 2009

Welcome to day 3 of Coasterville Con 2009. Today we go to an all new to me park: Six Flags St. Louis. We did better at getting out of our hotel this morning, in fact even with a stop at Denny's for breakfast, we got the park at 11AM on a 10:30 open.

First impressions of Six Flags start as you approach the park and look down into the valley and see splendors the park all laid out before you. We eagerly exited the interstate, another sign you are in the right place is the park side of the interstate is lined with the Six Flags. We made a right off the interstate and quickly found ourselves in a full access road almost all the way back to the interstate. Our luck of going to parks on very crowded days seems to be continuing. At the other end of the access road we had to stop and pay an exorbitant $15 for the right to park the car. After two days of free parking, this is really going to hit hard.

So after paying $15 we are led all the way around the perimeter of a paved, but in poor condition parking lot. Sure there are closer spaces but it seems like the entire center section is reserved for those who like to pay an obscene $25 to park their car. We are then left to find a space for ourselves. We manage to find a spot in the first row behind the RV lot on the waterpark side. Then seeing no trams, we have to hoof it to the front gate. And' we're paying $15 for this?

We get to the front of the lot, and I get the feeling the waterpark was a park expansion directly into the parking lot, which means what was probably a symetrical entrance place is cut in half. They have made use of the approach by putting the security checkpoint there. Not too much to report getting through the security checkpoint. Since Eric had a season pass, and I had acquired a discount ticket from Six Flags website itself for only $25, we bypassed the ticket booths and went up the ramp and through the front gate. I note the ticket cans have been modifed with a second long narrow slot to deposit the print at home tickets.

You enter the park into the proverbial main street, in this case 1904 St. Louis to coincide with the world's fair. The area is a big oval with shops and restaurants along the outer edges, as well as the access points to the various themed areas. In the center is the parks main theater, with its front doors facing the center of the park, and thhus the side closest to the main gate has more gift shops. I reallt liked the flags they had hanging from the main street like area. I suggest getting a Flashpass (Q-Bot) given the size of the crowd pouring into the park, but we decide to defer that decision.

Now we headed to the left, and the first path to the left would have let us to Evil Kenevil, the park's newest rollercoaster. You may be stunned to learn we passed that one up. Eric and I have a game plan when it comes to visiting large crowded parks where we still need to get the credits. That is to ride the low capacity coasters first, then the rest of the coasters, then if time allow we might move on to selected flat rides and repeat rides. It was with that in mind that we headed directly to Mr. Freeze. Taking a look at the full queue for Scooby Doo did not ease my fears about the crowd in the park.

Mr. Freeze sits in a superhero themed area of the park, and next to Colossus, the parks giant ferris wheel. I noted full cages have been added to the gondolas on the giant wheel. We headed to Mr. Freezes Ice Cream factory tours. At least thats what the facade said, the facade and the ride are worls apart. Once through the facadeyou walk back along walkway to the actual ride itself, and I mean long. Part of the walk is to get you up and over the parks river rapids ride, but I was just glad to keep passing the wait signs as we flew through the empty queue area outside. We got to the real queue area next to the station building and it too was empty. We walked up to the entrance door and passed through a turnstile to enter the building. We decided at the fork in the road to take the path to the furthest station. Rounding the corner Eric said, and here is the coolest part of the ride, as we walked past a big air conditioning vent. We walked up the stairs to find maybe a 3 train wait. Not bad for a shuttle coaster.

The really cool thing about Mr. Freeze is it is a shuttle coaster with two trains. Two trains and a double loading station even. It is so cool to watch, what happens is this: When a train returns from the main ride, it is brought to a stop on the final brakes in the station. Once the train has been brought to a complete stop, the entire track section containing the train slides over to its home loading station. The fins and such slide neatly under the load station floor, leaving a gap no larger than that in a regular coaster installation. Mounted to the moving track on the other side of the train is a mobile unload platform. When the track is lined up with the loading deck, the exit on the unload platform is lined up with the exit gate, so people exit to the movable platform, then exit out the gate at the rear of the station. Station gates them open and people move from the regular load platofrm into the train. There are loose article bins on the mobile unload platform, making them perhaps some of the safest storage bins in the park. Once the bars are checked, and all the staff members are totally off of and behind gates from the mobile track and platform, assuming the main ride is clear, the track section will slide back over to line itself up with the main track. The station lights even dim during a launch. In easier terms, you basically board the ride on the transfer table. But they did it even cooler than that, you see each station has its own semi-dependant tranfer track. I say semi dependant, becuase it can't move if the other station is using the main track, but if the other side is in the load position, and they are havng a delay in loading, the other side could, theoretically be ready again and could shoot another train into the main track without having to wait for the other side to cycle. It also means they can take one station down if need be.

Now, I admit I have torubles fitting into Flight of Fear, which is another Premier rides launcher that was converted to lap bars. I had been told the seatbelts were a Paramount Parks thing, and not to worry about Mr. Freeze. Well, Mr. Freeze is just as bad as, if not worse than Flight of Fear , as far as short seat belts go. Luckily for Eric and I we had two very helpful loaders who were able to convince the seatbelts to fasten. Then it was out turn to slide over to launch, then we launched and this is a no nonsense ride you launch directly into the top hat element, a mini Dragster if you will, but when you come out of the top hat, you do an element that reminds me of an overbanked turn as you loop around to the back of the top hat for the reverse spike. NEaring the top of the spike you can definitely feel its effects as it catches the train and pushe it up to the top of the spike, then you get to di it all again backwards. I have to admit that's a pretty neat ride, even if we didn't feel the need to ride it again. I note the ride has also received a new paint job with a darker shade of blue. Some time for photos, then we headed out the exit ramp that runs right alongside the entrance ramp.

We then headed through the parks arbor, it was nice to see they retained that, and headed up into a medevil themed section of the park. I was excited to see Excalibur, which in a rare Evolution flat ride, but remember flat rides come later in our touring strategy. We headed for Tony Hawk's Big Spin. This is a Gerstlauer spinning mouse. It is evident the area they use for the queue was minimally converted from a show venue. A fan shaped area, you enter by walking down a set of wooden stairs that look like an after thought given all the concrete around it, the fan shpaed area lends itself naturally to use as a queue maze. The area does have some displays and videos about Tony Hawk to keep you occupied. For us it was about 45 minutes for the first ride on Tony Hawk. When you get to the end of the fan shaped waiting area another wooden stairway takes you down to a short tunnel where you duck under the brake run, then turn and go up a set of boarding stairs alongisde the brake run. Operations here are like a perpetual motion machine. There is always one tub waitng to go into the station, but before it can go in the next tub has returned and the homing mechanism has been able to stop and realign it to its home posiiton. Then two cars go out of the station onto the ride, at about the same time the next two tubs start rolling into the station. They then flush load (yes they have the crew to do it) two cars at the same time. No sooner than you are seated and bars checked, they start sending you out. As such the line for this really moves at optimal speed, unlike say a similar ride at Indiana Beach.

So we enter the station, and I note the single ride line starts AFTER you get through the turnstile making it perhaps the most useless single rider line, even more than Mavericks. I noted no use of the single rider line. When you pass the turnstile you are assigned seats and move to the seats, this is seential in keeping people moving. It also has to help things when you realize the cars have no seatbelts, just lap bars, which are large rider friendly. I'd ridden a Gerstlauer spinner at Mall of America, and this is, at the very least a mirror image, but I think its even more custom than that. Its full of just the right kinds of turns and dips to ensure the cars keep spinning. As the people we were paired with said "Why do we get the fastest car, I hate spin rides!" Meanwhile I am trying to contain my excitement. The queue area seems to have been retrofitted from a prior use, but the land the coaster sits on seems to be terraformed just for the ride. I think there is even a walkway that goes under it, and the parks train ride may even duck under a part of it. We exit the ride, and I see the exit ramp has been divided so there is a dedicated Flashpass entrance lane. You come out a fair distance from the ride entrance, requring you to walk around the carousel and through a games midway to get back to the entrance.

We decide to head towards the Boss instead. Near the entrance to the boss is a food cart located directly outside a restroom building. While that may be disturbing in and of itself, there is a stench in the area that I noticed that would have repulsed me from the food cart. I had trouble staying in the spot long enough to read what the medevil style banner next to the food cart said (Restrooms). However, I don't think the stench is from the restrooms themselves, it smells more like a grease disposal tank might be located nearby.

As we head into the Boss's queue eric quips "Here comes the pain!" Boss is one of those rides that has not been getting rave reviews lately. The entrnace for the Boss resemlbes a castle forecourt but thats where it ends, once you are inside the castle gates (or maybe outside the castle gates since you are out of the medevil themed area) you come to the railroad track. Here those entering the ride must go up stairs, cross over the track, then walk back downstairs. Exiting riders just cross over the tracks at ground level (with the help of a park attendnat stationed there of course) From here you are near the rides helix, and just like Mr. Freeze, the entrance and exit ramps run side by side for a long, long, long, long, long way. when you get to the top of the hill, you cross over two bridges that go over the go kart track then you are at the station. For our first ride theline was back to that covered gazebo like thing right before the final section of bridge. When you get to the station you come right next to the exit but you have to walk around the permiter of the station (yes walking up and down stairs to get over the coster track) to get to the other side. We headed to the back seat. It took a bit longer than expected since the back seat in one of the cars was closed off.

Call me strange, but in some ways its nice to be in a Gerstaluer train. Sure it might not have padding, but its got acres of room, and very accomodating restraints. Owing to the lack of seatbelts, they can really get this one loaded pretty fast. So we exit the station, go throug the transfer table where I see one train sitting there. A quick turn to the right to go up the lift. I like the Burma Shave style signs advertising season passes on the way up. Only when you start climbing the lift do you see that mess of coaster track off to the left. Is that all part of the same ride? Well, yes it is. You get to the top of the lift turnaround, and dive down towards that coaster structure, slicing your way in through a small opening, then just when you think you are about go go back up, it hits you with anther drop, and then I think maybe even one more just for good measure before you climb the second hill. Turnaround and here you have a more tradition coaster section with hills and dips that form an impressive structure concealing the first drop trick. Looking for airtime, the ride has plenty of it, like laterals the ride has that too. After finishing this section of trackwaork, its time for the mid course brake, then you cut away from the structure to alongside the back of the ride, roughly paralel to the load station, this leads you into the helix finale. where you go into a long station approachthat wraps around the go kart track. This is another case where I think the ones who complain about this ride are wimps. Sure its intense, sure its got laterals, sure its tosses you around, sure its got airtime. For some reason Voyage does all the same things, and people love Voyage, and at least here you do get a brief respite to catch your breath. That said, I still rank Voyage higher, before you come with at me with the pitchforks and flaming torches.

We then hike the long trail all the way back to the park. I'm not sure, but I think The Boss might actually be located in Celebration City, connected to Six Flags by a long walkway. From here we start summiting the park. I may have mentioned the park sits down in a valley, well the front gate is at the lowest part of the valley, and as you work your way through the park, the further back you go, the higher it gets. We passed a kids area that is themed to a national park and then came to the area that houses Screamin Eagle, that is apparently themed to M&M World as the stairs up into the area are painted to look like a mountain of M&Ms. "It's the big rock candy mountain!" (Please tell me I don't have to embed a link to a YouTube of "Big Rock Candy Mountain")

At the base of the M&M stairs, there is clearly visible a disused queue maze, a Screamin Eagle sign, and another smaller sign pointing the way to the ride entrance. To get the ride entrance you go up the M&M stairs, and come to a games area that houses the Parks Giant Drop front and center. Its a Superman Power of Tower, and it was closed all day. They weren't even working on it, we did note the installation is no frills, and very compact. We found the entrance to Screaming Eagle tucked in the back of a row of games joints, where it is right next to the exit ramp. Another small sign marks the entrnace. Unfortunately for us, there were peole streaming out both the entrance and exit, as the ride had just gone down.

We backtracked and started heading back down the hill as we passed the Rush Street Flyer (Falling Star with a custom streetcar theme), a Yo-Yo, bumper cars and we came to a shoot the chutes rides. The point being the park still has lots of flat rides scattered about it. We were getting overheated about this point, so we decided to go stand on Tidal Wave's exit bridge to get an instant cool down. At first it appeared our plan would be foiled by one of those rotary turnstiles that used to appear at the entrance doors of discount stores everywhere, but quick observation let us know the thing will freely spin in both directions, meaning its totally useless. So we went up to the bridge, got about two or three drenchings (front and back) Ahh, that feels better. We then remembered the mine ride, which is located in about the center of the park.

We headed for the River King Mine Train, and uh, oh, this ride is closed as well. We headed to the Gotham City section of the park. We pass a round boarded up building and Eric tells me "Last time I was here there was a spinning barrels ride behind that fence just wasting away". We eventually make it to Ninja. Upon entering Ninja, I was glad to see the first queue house was entirely cut off. and the second queue maze was empty the line was just to the bottom of the steps. It's not a surprise that Six Flags likes to sponsor out its rides - Boss has the Mircale Whip sunscreens all around the station, Screamin Eagle has the M&M steps and signage, Ninja is Hinez Kethup. The sponsorship sign at the bottom of the stairs is a no line jumping sign in disqguise. "Patience is a Ninjas strongest weapon"Okay, so they gain points for incoprataing the rides theme into the sponsorship but lose it again by showing a now uncommon glass bottle of Heinz Ketchup, you know the ones that have almost all but vanished, owing in no small part the public's lack of patience in getting one of those bottles started. Strike the numbers boys, strike the numbers.

The ride does have some minimal theming in the name of two ninja statues flanking the entryway. We get up to the station, and one of the middle of the train rows is clearly marked "SINGLE RIDERS ENTER HERE" I thought maybe it led to a holding pen for single riders, but no its just a normal ride line. I guess they don't tolerate singles on this ride, depsite it being a high capacity ride. This is one of those Vekoma muli elements that would easily trick you into thiking its an Arrow ride. We climb into the back seat, and pull down the bright orange shoulder bars which have the "Don't Sit On Me!" super size grab bars. The ride itself is your standard 1980's multi element, you have the vertical loop, two corkscrews, a sidewiner, and the bad transitions you have come to expect.

We walked around the area, and is that a Joker themed swinging ship ride, thats a novel theme. We come around to Batman: The Ride, and Eric reports that after his recent experiences with Batman the Ride at Six Flags over Georgia, he's not even going to try this one, and I shouldn't have tried it either having just recently being denied Raptor a month earlier. But being bull headed, and needed the coaster credit after all, I headed into the queue. I had worn a Xavier shirt to the park, and yes it was a calculated move as St. Louis is home to A10 rival, St. Louis University. Entering the Batman queue was the first time that somebody both noticed the shirt and spoke up. Yes, the shirt drew attention, but at least judging by the people who spoke up, it seemed to draw positive attention, as Xavier is respected out in St. Louis, apparently. The Batman greeter being the first to speak up.

So you enter the ride through Batman City Park, and its another of the parks patented long non adjustable queues, this one has the added feature of having no straight sections as it seems to twist and turn and wind itself up the hill to the ride. There is no picking up speed here, then you exit the park area and go through the junkyard, industrial like area. I was glad to see the qaueue stay empty, take the shortest bath, and the line streched only back as far as right when you go inside, right before the giant box fan. I was glad to see they did not go with the big sweat box warehouse queue that Six Flags over Georigia went with.

We got up to the station, and first I held back to see if Row 4 or 5 had any Big Boy seats, but no such luck there. So knowing my chances for rejection were equal in any seat, I headed right for the traditional B&M "Hot Seat" which is the rear left corner. I sat down, lowered the bar and the bar locked, thn I started to attack the seatbelt, and my intial reaction was "Not a Chance!, Not even close!" The first ride attendant didn't have much luck either, but she called over this other ride attendant, who literally pput both hands on the shoulder bar, then jumped up in the air putting all his weight into the shoulder bar. Click-Click. Now that seatbelt reached. I thanked the man, and if you were allowed to tip ride operators...

Now onto Batman, the Ride, or should I call it eriR ehT: namtaB, as this is the mirror image. version. Well, I get to add another Batman to my collection, already having collected the rides at Great Adventure, Georgia, and Magic Mountain. It's the standard B&M Inverted coaster.

After riding Batman, we decided to head to the car for refreshments, since we were already so close to the front of the park. We headed back to the main street like area, and I like how they put the waterpark gate right inside the main gate, no needless treking all the way throught the park here. We got our hand stamps and walked back to our car. Not only did we enjoy refreshments, we also enjoyed an extended session of "Air Conditioning: The Ride" Looking around the parking lot, it was not an ERT on Air Conditioning: The Ride as others were also clearly enjoying 15 minutes or so of A/C. Turn the A/C on max point the vents right towards you and "Come to Papa!"

After our Air Conditiing session, we re-entered the park, and took a walk through the gift shops. We saw some things that had minor interest (Mr. Six Bobblehead anybody?) but we never did make it back to actually buy anything. We headed to River King Mine Ride, and would you know it, we saw it running while we were on Ninja, but its closed again.

We decide to take the train ride. The train has one of those classic entrances where you walk through the train station. The station itself has amenties like a cell phone charging machine, though I noted the iPhone connector was broken off. Take a while to read the arrivals and departures board. It has stuff like " Train 3: Arrives ; When it gets here. Leaves: Sometime Later. Train 5: Arrives: Looking of missing cabosse Leaves: When its found." The train cars look a lot like the ones at Kings Island, which makes sense, the parks about the same age, and they are both Crown. A local PBS station has bought adds on all the seatbacks. From what I understand they have only one train now, but they offer a nice ride. You start out by the entrance to River King Mine Train, cross the midway and go behind the scnees alongisde Mine Train where your train enginer will let off any excess steam, you then go behind Ninja and circle the Gotham City like area, so at one point you have Batman to one side, and the waterpark to the other side, you then cross back through the center of the park and stop close to theater in the center of the park. Wait for people to load or unload then continue along, past Colossus and Scooby Doo, then it circles around the area with the Antique Cars, Evil Kenevil, Log Flume and Boss. Did I mention the train ride is a coaster enthusiasts dream? You get to go past the train barn before cutting under Tony Hawk and passing alongside the kiddie land before returning to the station nearest Mine Train. I like how the kiddie land is themed to a national park and has a Mt Rushmore parody with loony tunes figures. One thing we had noted, almost every ride over spiel plugged the Glow in the Park parade, tonight at 9:10, the queue line televisions kept plugging the parade, and so did the PA announcements. We decided we are just going to have to watch this parade to see what the fuss is all about. Of course, we soon also realized this would mean eating a meal at the park, which wasn't exactlly an appealing prospect.

At this station you exit away from the station, up the stairs, and through the kiddieland. We headed back around to Screamin Eagle. The good news is it was running this time. We entered the queue area where first you walk around a paver that has the ride logo engraved in it. I then noted the disused hillside section of the queue. I was glad the lower queue house was also disused, but the line reached back almost to the queue house. From there you go up a series of switchback ramps up into the station.

We got to the station, and owing to a bad design, you enter at the front of the station, which means the congestion around the front car leads to near empty seat queues for the back car, once you squeeze your way through. Also of interest in the station, is not only does the ride not have lockers, it has enough storage cubbyholes for every seat on the train, not only that they are color coded for the train, and the columns are assigned by car with large arrows directing you fro your seat to your cubbie. We headed to our usual spot, the back seat, where else? Well, the seatbelts aren't quite as short as Thunder Run, but they were a struggle for me. All fastended in we head out of the station, up the lift, around the turnaround. The ride is basically an out and back design by John Allen. However, the ride is a terrain out and back, almost like a Voyage 30 years before Voyage. By theat I mean the drop off the lift hill is okay, the second drop is a small one, but then you cross over the lift approach and go down drop three into a ravine that was obscured from view by the loading station. Excellent, airtime to be had as well. You continue along like an out and back, but 2 or 3 more times, just when you are expecting a hill, you get hit with another drop as you go further and further down the hill. The ride squeals loudly on th efar turnaround, and then its the peppy return back to the station. Yes, a classic series of bunny hops, and such. This is a great coaster, maybe one of John Allen's best for number of airtime moments.

After sucessfully adding Screamin Eagle, the parks patriotic themed coaster to our list of accomplishments, we headed back to River King Mine Train, I mean third time's the charm, right? River King Mine Train is the parks original rollercoaster, boarding in almost the center of the park. It started like with two similar tracks, and was the scene of an early failed stand up conversion on one of its two tracks. That track was quickly restored to traditional mine car seating, and lasted until the late 80's when it went to Dollywood. I mention this becuase I had ridden that half at Dollywood before it headed to Magic Springs. Now it's time to ride the other half.

We entered the queue and after a short path entered a large station house. The station is roughly traingle shape and I think it probably once originally served both tracks, till they walled off the side where the missing track would be. Eric suggested they should go ahead an totally redo the station house. The problem with it is the ride loads the old fashioned way. There are no seat queues, instead when you come around the final turn of the queue you have an area barely wider than a queue lane that people walk down and stand behind gates. I think the idea is that you start with the front seat and fill the train front to back, though they do seem a bit tolerant if you are choosy.

The ride itself is classic old school arrow mine ride, you have the first lift and a twisty section near the front of the ride, then another lift hill and an out and back like section that runs alomst to Ninja and back, and then a third lift hill. The third lift hill leads directly into the mine tunnel, which conceals the biggest drop on the entire ride, which is the last drop. We exit the ride, and there is a bridge where you cross over the front part of the ride to exit into a cul de sac between mine ride and the railroad track. They have those rotary turnstiles to try to make it a one way path, except of the two, one of them is busted and spins the wrong way, so its pretty much unuseable. We had so much trouble finding the mine ride open, we went and rode it two more times while we were in the area. On one ride we overheard a hillarious guest comment. Realize that River King Mine Train and Ninja run right alonsgside each other at one point, and both feature black arrow style track. One one ride the riders in front of us looked over and said "Are we going through THAT!!!??!!!" Classic.

After River King Mine Train we decide to ride the railroad back around to the front of the park. But first, we stop in the restroom in the area. Okay, the door clearly says MEN, we walk in and the restroom is done in shades of pink and rose, but more importantly is missing a key piece of furniture that is essential to any self respecting mens room. That's right, no urinals. We do a double take, even go back outside to check the sign again. While we were in there, we noted we werewn't the only ones to do a double take,. At least the parks restrooms are clean, air conditioned, and they do a good job at keeping the floors dry. What more could you ask for?

We rode the train around to the other station, and then headed towards Evil Kenivil. I do like the original Screamin Eagle train coming out of the side of the gift shop. It even has its old style lap bars. We headed to the front of the park, and took a path under the railroad which comes out by the antique cars, and then we passed some sort of Nintendo sponsor pavillion where you could try out the new Wii Sports Resort. That's right, free video games in a Six Flags park. This area has the Antique Cars, Evil Kenevil, and the log flume. I understand this may have been the original kiddieland before it got moved to a more central location. That would follow the pattern for parks established in the early 70's to have its kiddieland off to the side. Now parks are starting to either put them near the center of the park, or scattter the kids rides throughout the park so the parents don't get 'stuck' in one spot all day. There are a couple kids rides in the area still, and Shazam, which is an interesting name for a Scrambler. HOwever, we are here to ride Evil Kenevil.

The first part of the queue is traditional Six Flags St Louis exit and entrance run right next to each other, then the entrnace line splits off and goes further back the path. Luckily for us the queue stretched back to just where you start to walk under the structure. Through the line they have displays all about Evil Kenevil, and the ride also has a patriotic theme, just like a classic Evil Kenievil costume. When we got to the front of the line, we headed to the back of the GCI train, knowing the troubles we have with their shared seat belts, we move to seperate cars. That amkes getting the belt fastened a lot easier, though Eric reported problems getting the lap bar down, but in the end he was able to get it locked all on his own. The ride, like a lot of GCI's is a midsize ride, not too big, in fact I think its the shortest wood coaster in the park for height and length. What the ride does focus on is numerous curves and cross overs. Thats not to say the ride doesn't have airtime, it does, not powerful like Boss or Screamin Eagle, but nice floating air nonetheless. It's not a bad ride at all, and I do think its better than Renegade, but for recent GCI's I have to give the nod to Kentucky Rumbler.

Sound the trumpets, we have now completed phase 1, ride all of the parks coasters. Time to head to second tier rides, and so we headed to Scooby Doo. Scooby Doo and the Scary Swamp or something like that. The ride has a facade of a victorian house along the midway, and the queue is outside in the gardens and appears to run alongside a creek. We walked throught he long straight part of the queue to the back alright, and the line was back to about the 45 minute wait sign, though we think it took closer to an hour. The other half of the garden queue back to the front is very windy so as to hide its true length. When you get to the front, you walk alongisde the front of the house and go in the front door. There is a very short section of indoor air conditioned queue before you go out the back door of the facade house that fronts the ride. At this point you go up some stairs, cross over the waterway, and read some instructional signs. Unlike most Sally dark rides, this one requires both accuracy and timing. That is because the targets can be lit in three different colors, Green worth 500 points, Amber for 750 points, or Red for 1000 points. Some targets cycle with green being the most common state, and others progress through the cycle by repreated hits. A far cry from the "All targets score 30" system I am used to. At the end of the bridge you go downstairs to a boarding platform set in the middle of a trough split, much as is used on traditional log flumes. I think they say the boats seat 4 in two rows of two, but getting more than 2 adults in there would seem to be a stretch. We board the boat, and I don't know if its the slow moving boat based ride system, but the ride aeemed to be much longer than your standard Sally dark ride. It had all the scenes I am used to from Scooby Doo and the Haunted Castle, but it had more scenes besides. I think this may be the best of the Scooby dark rides I have ridden, and I'm not just saying that because I won. At the end of the ride you exit to the center, up the stairs, across the trough, down the stairs and then back through the victorian house facade.

As we passed Mr. Freeze I was curious about a large sign placed in it's plaza. Apparently the ride was down to just one station, I'm sure glad we rode it earlier. We then were hungry and headed to Mooseburger Lodge. Mooseburger Lodge was bad in just about every respect, the prices were high, the service was slow, they didn't allow refills, and the burger was dry, I mean dry as in a liberal dousing in mustard and mayo didn't help the dry taste in my mouth, and thats besides the stale bun. To be fair you do get both fires and onion rings, and those are provided in a very generous quanitity. This is one of those meals you get to enjoy all night, if you know what I mean. They have Marty Moose and other hunting lodge type heads on the walls, along with a button to start the show. Don't be expecting animation, I think the show is just an audio recording, and you can imagine the figures come to life.

After dinner, Eric decided to run out to the car to try to remedy that bad meal, and I head to Screamin Eagle, a ride or two later, and Eric joins me for a Screamin Eagle ride. All rides taken in back seat thanks to the station setup. On oneof those rides, I rode with a cute girl with a St Louis University shirt on, that was a classic moment, as I was decked out in Xavier gear.

We then headed towards Boss, but when we came to Excalibur, we noted an empty queue area and the ride being loaded. We hurried through the empty queue area and got on the ride. First off, I reliaze the ride name Excalibur fits in with the medevil theming in the area, but it seem slike the statues closest to Excalibur are of archers, not knights with swords. Also the ride itself looks more like a catapult or trebuchet than a sword. The ride looks like an old Frisbee ride, except instead of a continuous ring of seats facing out, you have several four passenger cars facing outward. Also the main boom in the center of the ride extends up above the support structure to form a counterweight. We get loaded into the cars which feature a low fence along the front of the car so you keep your legs and feet in the car, and shoulder bars. They also feature on board audio, so you can hear the operators directions and spiels as if he were in the car with you. The ride is noteworthy as there are only three like it from this manufacturer in the hole world, and might, in fact, be the only one in active service. That doesn't excuse them from running it in a very wimpy program.

What happens is the ride starts spinning, causing the seats to tip back so you are looking up towards the sky as the ring of cars spins faster and faster, then after some build up the ride operator says something about catapulting you around, the ride then does a pretty slow revolution, it doesn't swing back and forth, it makes it all the way over and around on the first try. Once you complete your one revolution, the main boom stoops and the ring of cars slow down. That's it, this is a ride thats bark is much worse than its bite. The cars suggest they could flip upside down, but I don't think they really do, not for any appreiciable time anyway, when all the way up at the top, you pause for a few moments, but the cars are upright as they spin around.

We then head to Boss, this time the line is just back to the turnstile, so its getting shorter, we also noted they added the third train, which is helping thigns out. We had another great back seat Boss ride, and would have loved to power ride, except for the long long hike to get to and from the ride. It's especially frustrating as there is a cut throught hey could use right by the station, and the entry line wasn't even back to the cut through. I do note that they put the machine to activate your FlashPass all the way down by the midway, so even if you have Gold Flash Pass it would appear someone in your group still has to make the long needless hike between every cycle to reactivate their Q Bot.

We exited the ride and I noted they had a Schwarzkopf style Enterprise ride. I had ridden many HUSS Enterprise rides, but never a Schwarzkopf. Eric indicated he would be on Tony Hawk when I was done. Highland Fling (the Enterprise) happend to be a walk on, and so I walked right to a car. The HUSS version has the cars that seat two in an in-line fashion, though you usually only see one in a car anymore as people aren't fond of sitting in antohers crotch on rides anymore. The HUSS is identified by having tubs with mostly open sides to them, with the excpetion of a metal grillwork on the sides, with the panel on the outisde edge on a sliding track so it can move out of the way for loading.

The tubs on a Scwarzkopf have a more solid side with a small window on the side, and a door like opening towards the front. I don't know if you are meant to put two in these tubs as instead of the seat cushion being mere inches off the floor, the ride has a normal height seat with a footwell. That explains the more solid car sides. The other distingushing feature is the cage opens up like a grill cover, meaning the top flips up, hinged on top of the inner side and when you you lift it up the metal grillwork that fills in the window and door opening on thhe outer edge of the car also move up out of the way. I'm not sure if the car roofs actually lock or if the forces of the ride pushing down on them is sufficient to prevent them from beng opened mid ride. I found the tub much harder to get into, and not as comfortable to sit in as the HUSS ride, but once the lids are closed, the ride experience is pretty much the same, you start spinning around on a horizontal axis, then the ride raises up until you are spinning almost on a vertical axis, then lowers back down. I'm glad I got to ride this version, but I still think I'll take the HUSS version.

I got to Tony Hawk just as Eric was about to board, he rode, exited, and then both of us got in line, it was only about a 15 minute wait or so at this point. Whee, fun spin ride. We noticed it was getting pretty dark out, but we figured we have plenty of time, like almost a half hour until the parade. We head to Boss. Boss is almost a complete walk on at this point, so we walk onto the back seat, and we each ride solo. I think we have a contender for best night ride here, riht up there with Voyage, that is becuase there is very little lighting out on the course. So take an intense coaster I'm not too familar with an add disorientation due to darkness. I love it!

After ridign the Boss, we start to walk the parade route, we would like to think of ourselves as being seasoned park goers. We reflect this by grabbing spots that are as close to the front gate as possible, with no obstructions, usch as the parade route itself. We end up waiting by a smallish arcade that has all merchandise prize games inside, and doubles as the FlashPAss rental center. Well, they start out like Disney, they clear the parade route, they erect a rope and stanchion barricade, they start dimming the lights in phases before the actual parade. We were honestly expecting a short tacky 5 minute parade after which we would make some cracks about live entertainment at Six Flags. What we got was much more impressive. The parade runs about 25 minutes long, and has numerous floats that are well decorated, a cool sound track, and all kinds of walking pieces like the giant kinetic animal puppets, a real honest to goodness marching band (it wouldn't be a parade without one), Mr. Six riding like a dignitary in one of the parks antique cars to start the parade. From our vantage point we could see not only the parade appearing to come almost directly right at us (before turning) but also up into the park and every time we though the end was coming, we'd look up the hillside and see more parade coming. You can bet all the park characters also got a part in the parade, and iftting for a Six Flags park it ends with the big Looney Tunes "That's All Folks!" float.

As soon as we saw the last float, even though we had about 15 more minutes of park time,we headed to the park exit, and givin our planning we were out the gate, through the parking lot, and into our car before the crowds started showing up. I did note they park took down the Six Flags dislay right outside the park gates, but no the one lining the highway. Getting out of the parking lot was a lot easier, basically you head to the center, then the back, then te side opposite where you entered, then a roadway takes you back up along the highway to the main road. It was particuarly more pleasant than entering as it did not involve a $15 fee.

I was someone surprised Garmin gave us directions to our hotel that included how to exit Six Flags parking lot. Now, Garmin had told us our hotel was 20-30 minutes from the park, so we were surprised when it seemed like we had only gone a few exits and it told us to exit, then go several miles down a 55mph road. We were skeptical, but decided to put our faith in Garmin. We were downright worried when Garmin directed us onto a dark, twisty, 25mph road through dense woods. "I don't like the looks of this one bit" But she said we were almost to the hotel. We come out alongside some sort of general aviation airport and then yep, there is the hotel. We never doubted Garmin for a second, yeah right.

We get checked in and before heading to bed, we run out to a convenience store to restock on drinks, particularly Gatorade. You know you are in a nice part of town when you see two luxury cars in a convenience store parking lot. We get our 6 pack of Gatorade "You guys must be thirsty", though I think he was more surprised we didn't buy any beer from him.

We then headed to our room, and with a light schedule tomorrow, we can sleep in, somewhat.

Next up: The St. Louis Gateway Arch

Watch for it!


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