Malcolm's America Trip

A report on my recent trip over a lot of the Eastern half of America.

Saturday, July 01, 2006


The Summer of 2006 saw the European Coaster Club travelling to a large number of parks around the Eastern half of the United States. The trip would take us from New York, up to Cedar Point in Ohio and then south to Georgia, taking in nine states and about 25 parks.

One of the problems I had with the trip itinerary was that no time was spent in New York except at parks, and as I had never been there before and wanted to incorporate some sightseeing into the trip I decided to stay in the US and make my way back up there.

Fortunately I had a friend in New York who was happy to spend some days with me travelling up from Georgia to his home town. As if 20-odd parks wasn't intense enough, I decided to visit a few more on the way back to New York.

So here's a report of the entire trip, which I hope you will enjoy.

Please take this report in the spirit intended. If you're unhappy with anything I've written let me know and I might change what has been said but based on negative feedback the last time I did this I have no choice but to be a little more careful with some of my observations.

Also, should you like the pictures I've posted and wish to have high-resolution ones then I'm happy to share as long as the reason is a good one!

Lets start at Coney Island

Coney Island

Within an hour of finally making it through American immigration (always one of the longest queue lines on these trips to the states) we had arrived at the first park of the trip Coney Island. Actually Coney Island is the area, Astroworld and Deano's are the two parks situated here. The temperature was very hot for the time of year, something that would accompany us for most of the trip. We had also arrived on memorial holiday weekend so there were plenty of people in the parks, fortunately this didn't continue for much of the trip.

We had come to this park because the Coney Island Cyclone is perhaps the most famous coaster in America and because the trip organisers liked the idea of being in a park within an hour of the flight touching down, something that you can't do in most countries.

This is a view of the parks that met us having stepped off the coach. We were also met by the local ACE rep who distributed free ride tickets and information packs on the Cyclone. We also had a radio station broadcasting from the park that interviewed a few of us.

This is the Coney Island Cyclone, which is now an American landmark. I hope this ensures its future. Its a shame we can't do the same with the scenic railway coaster in Margate (a coaster that is under the threat of demolition even though it has been listed). To be honest I didn't like this coaster at all, it was a little too rough for me. Although the station operations were very efficient at getting the trains out of the station, they were very rude and perhaps fitting with the preconceived ideas I had of New Yorkers. Not an environment I wanted to subject myself to for too long.

The parks here also had a good number of dark rides, something we would come to miss at other parks on the trip. The ghost houses, of which there were three, were all pretty good in the classic ghost train style.

There were also a good number of spin rides, although having just stepped off the plane I gave them a miss, preferring to let my body adjust to the change in time zone. Considering the number of people in the area, the rides were being run very well and queues were being kept to a minimum. I think this was because the rides make their money on the more people they get through them, so they're run better. The big parks that work on an entry fee have your money once you've paid to get in so there is no incentive to run their rides well; something we'd come to realise.

Here's Deano's Wonderwheel, which it claims is the only one with moving cars. Maybe when it first opened they could claim that, but on the last trip to the U.S. we rode another one at Disney's California Adventure. In the UK we have the Pepsi Max Big One still claiming it is the biggest coaster in Europe and that isn't true. So this wasn't the first time I'd seen this.

This was actually the first coaster I rode on the trip. With the majority of the club heading over to the Cyclone, a small number of us chose to head the other way and do some other rides first. This kiddy coaster differs from most in that it has a turntable station and two trains, again probably to move the paying punters through it quicker.

Coney Island is on the Atlantic coastline and being the tourist I am I had to have a quick dip in the sea, if only to say I've been touched the Atlantic at both sides! Considering it was a holiday weekend I was expecting the beach to be swamped with people and although there were a lot it was still empty in places. Perhaps they were finding the heat too much.

There were two other coasters in the area. We were allowed to ride this one, Deano's Serpent but there was one called the Dragon Wagon that we found but couldn't ride because we were too grown up, in size not mentality perhaps.

A shot taken from the Wonder Wheel with the tenement blocks and the Cyclone in front of them. If it wasn't for the observation tower, this may have been a nice shot!

The Coney Island Cyclone! Just look at the pandemonium on the station platform. Where do you stand, it just looks like a free-for-all, which I found out was exactly what it was.

Interesting sign #1
"Your Mother doesn't work here. Please clean up your own mess".
Well its to the point and in fitting with the New York Stereotype and to be honest seemed to be working, as there was no mess in the station. To be honest there was no time to do that as they were moving you through the ride so damn quick!

One of a few coasters on the trip where you didn't need air gates to keep the people back. The aggressive tones of the station staff was more than a replacement.

Once you had finished your ride you could immediately pay another four dollars to move into the front seats before the train loaded up with more people. I don't know if this is a good way to do this or not, again I wasn't around long enough to see if it worked or not. When the queue got to a long length (and having seventy-plus enthusiasts turn up at once would do that) they very quickly put on the second train.

Interesting sign #2
"Don't even think of parking here"
Succint and too the point! They don't even tell you what will happen if you do. No mention of towing or clamping or anything. Perhaps the tone implies the worst and your car will be stepped on by the Staypuft Marshmallow Man. I watch too much movies.

Having ridden it three times and coming to the conclusion it was a piece of crap I chose to take some pictures of it instead.

Interesting Sign #3
"Big Ass Prize"
Only in New York!

This was the first time I had seen a train in New York and one of the things I had wanted to see here was the graffiti that had made the city famous in the 80s, particularly the painted trains. Alas as I was to find out later the city has spent a fortune on plants designed to clean train carriages and in doing so has all but won the battle with the graffiti artists, which is perhaps good for the city but bad for the fans of the art, which is what I consider it to be.

Interesting Sign #4
"Bump Your Ass Off"
This was actually advertising the dodgems, which makes a lot of sense when you understand the context.

An absolutely stunning paint job on this bike. I have a dream to ride a Harley across America so I'm attracted to amazing bikes like this. The rider who was close by didn't mind me taking pictures but did have a "bloody tourists" expression on his face.

Just along the boardwalk from Coney Island is the world famous Nathan's, home of the hot dog world championships. To be honest I found them really bland but I guess if you're trying to eat four-hundred in a minute or whatever it is they do here, then they're not going to be spending enough time on your palette for you to taste anyway!

OK, here was another place where you weren't supposed to park but the sign was clearly being ignored. Perhaps the wording wasn't blunt enough, after all there weren't any parked vehicles by the other sign.

Having spent a couple of hours at Coney Island it was time to head out of New York and into New England. Its great to see parks, if you can call them that, thriving like this but I don't know if it was coming to the park immediately upon landing or not but I wasn't ready for riding. Maybe I was being unkind to the Cyclone, the majority of people enjoyed it, it just wasn't my cup of tea.

Lets travel North to Six Flags New England

Six Flags New England

The first of the big parks was Six Flags New England in Massachusetts. The Six Flags chain has recently taken on a new CEO, Mark Shapiro who has started making changes to these parks to appeal to a more family orientated audience. As it happened he was actually visiting this park on the same day as us. From an enthusiasts point-of-view the Six Flags chain gets a negative perception for their poor operations and cost cutting ,so it would be interesting to see if the parks had improved compared to the last time I was in the U.S.

The park had allowed us to ride its Superman ride before the public were allowed into the park, but before doing that we all had to be given season passes. We had thought this would be a nightmare doing us all at once but they proved us wrong moving us through the processing centre with military like precision and getting us to the ride ahead of time, Great stuff!

Even better was that they then started the ERS (Exclusive Ride Session) earlier too. This park definitely had their customer focus hats on today. Superman has been ranked by fans as the #1 steel coaster on the planet so we were all looking forward to this coaster a lot, and boy did it not disappoint. Really smooth, lots of airtime and fun to ride.

The only downside to having such a great coaster at the beginning of the trip is that it could be forgotten in all the other rides we'd be doing later. However I think its fair to say this wouldn't happen this time around.

This morning ERS actually served as a taster of a second ERS the park was giving us, as when the park closed we were being allowed to stay and ride it some more! It was already going at great speed at this time of day, we couldn't wait to see how it rode at night.

Although the train looked empty, the majority of us remained on the ride for the ERS. The park had put on two trains for us and we did have to run around the exit lane to re-ride. Some people liked this ride so much they were sprinting back to the station hoping to jump into the train they'd just left, and in most cases they managed it!

If you want a good stomach work out try to hold a flying position over the front of the car. Ouch!

One of Shapiro's first changes was to introduce costumed characters into the parks. I felt sorry for whoever had to do this as it was way too hot to do this for any length of time. It would be interesting to know how much weight is lost doing this, if its a lot I might volunteer!

With the park open and the public heading over to Superman, we took the opportunity to start nailing the rest of the park. First up was the Batman coaster, which unlike most Six Flags parks where Batman is an inverted coaster, here its of the floorless variety.

Fortunately with no queue we could avoid cattle grids like this. One thing we were noticing with this park was that there was very little places that offered shade. Could you imagine being stuck in this for an hour with the sun shining down on you?

It was nice to be in a park with some nice steel coasters instead of crappy old wood. As much as I like wooden coasters (some not all) I much prefer big steel monsters like this.

Because there was no queue the opportunity was taken to ride in the front, where the floorless effect works best. Jeff and Andy give it the thumbs up.

No thumbs ups from these guys, just jazz hands!

Actually I liked it too, a pretty decent ride for its type. The loop was nicely intense for first thing in the morning.

Another criticism thrown at Six Flags parks is that there is very little theming and coasters are often just plonked on the land. In their defence at New England this isn't that prevalent an issue and there is some nicely themed parts to the park.

This is "The Great Chase", which is the park's kiddy coaster. What you're chasing isn't made clear and thinking about this kept me occupied for all of a minute.

This is Mr. Six Pandemonium, a coaster that is likely to feel the Shapiro effect more than any other. He apparently doesn't like the Mr. Six character and has ordered its removal from the park, which I agree with; a creepy pensioner isn't going to attract people to anything, except a creepy pensioner convention. However Shapiro does like this ride, saying it appeals to the family demographic more than any other in the park. So expect to see more of these pop up in other parks.

Thunderbolt is the parks baby wooden coaster and surprisingly a very good one. Like the Cyclone it follows a figure of eight layout. Unlike the Cyclone its fun to ride and comes into the station with so much speed that you want it to keep going.

Here's a photo of Superman taken from the one shady place we could find that wasn't indoors. If I could suggest anything to improve this park it would be to provide more cover. In fact thats exactly what I did do, following a quick trip to customer services. The black asphalt was starting to melt in places; that's how hot it was!

During lunch we had the central pavilion to ourselves. This is a lovely area in the middle of the park with eating areas and a stage, which was going to be used later in the evening for an American Idol gig of some sort. Today was Justin's birthday so the park had got him some stuff and made him stand on a table to celebrate.

In an attempt to cool off we made our way en mass to the park's rapids ride. Given the temperature we wouldn't have minded getting a little soaked.

Interesting Sign #5
"Your gonna get soaked on this ride".
Gramatically incorrect. I like the way someone had gone to the trouble of scratching the correction into it. If I had heeded the warning instead of picking up on the grammar I may have not have ended up as soaked as I did. This was a very wet rapids.

This was the park's big wooden coaster, named rather unimaginatively "The Cyclone". I can't remember much about this one other than it wasn't as good as the Thunderbolt, but I'm sure it would be better than its namesake.

The ride underwent some design changes and the first drop is not now as steep as it used to be.

It would appear that given all the rides this park has to offer, some club members still longed to ride Superman one more time.

Somewhere in the world there exists a perfectly smooth boomerang coaster. This isn't it.

Is this my favourite coaster? I'll hold judgement til the trip is over. Its still early days.

This was our first stunt show of the trip and to be honest it wasn't that exciting. I don't know if the threat of litigation has meant they can't do as much as they want but the show left me a little bit empty. However shortly after I took this one of the cycle riders clipped a plant pot during a jump and fell in spectacular style. Having checked this with other people who saw the later show, I think it was unintentional and as such the best stunt of the day.

The other kiddy coaster, which is like all others of this type. Very long, quite nosey and not too bad to ride at all.

Riding this again in the evening I decided I did like this a lot. It was crazy fast later in the day and everyone was coming off laughing, before going back round for another go.


Six Flags New England was a great park with friendly staff and very good operations. If this was a sign of how Six Flags had turned the corner then I wouldn't be having any bad words about the company from here on. However as we were to find out SFNE was the exception and not the norm.

Lets head a little bit south to Lake Compounce