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