USA 06/23 – Six Flags Fiesta Texas
Having crashed in San Antonio for the night, our first major park of the trip was just a quick drive down the road. As a self-proclaimed Texas’ next big up-and-coming city, there was construction and roadworks absolutely everywhere in the vicinity, but these thankfully failed to hamper proceedings. Things continued to run smoothly when we arrived at what would otherwise be a $30 sting for parking. A wave of the papers indicating that we would be picking up season passes got us through without a hitch and, astonishingly for an establishment of this nature, we were able to park up mere metres from the main entrance just before opening.
Day 2 – Six Flags Fiesta Texas
Initial impressions from the outside are that this is easily one of the nicest looking parks in the chain. An out of character cliff, waterfall and signage greets drivers before entering the car park and, once inside, the ‘quarry’ element of the surroundings is on full display. A well-painted car park B&M catches the eye, alongside a nicely styled entrance plaza through which we headed in order to process said passes. Having flashbacks to that fateful day in St. Louis, where we were issued the wrong pieces of plastic, the procedure this time could not have been simpler. No queue, papers, (Diamond, Platinum, VIP? I’m not even sure) passes that worked. They may have changed the options since the old days, and it may well be killing the popularity of the parks, but it suited us just fine.
Onwards and inwards, the turnstiles were open prior to commencement, allowing us to take a walk through the main street until just past the freshly painted (and newly trained and braked) Boomerang that lurks on the far side of the front plaza. While waiting at a rope drop area that would lead off towards a certain star attraction, we were offered the chance to enter a competition and win a picnic cooler. Not having a sufficient plan to transport said prize home on a plane in the event of winning, I declined and continued to wait in the shade. Yes, Texas was going to be hot of course, and vampire mode was already kicking in.
At the allotted time, the reasonably sparse masses were unleashed into the remainder of the park and we hot-footed it to the entrance of #1 Iron Rattler. Here we were held once again, forming a small queueline under the sign and past the test seat, ending up waiting another 15 minutes or so past ‘park opening’ before the ride itself was ready. This appeared to be happening on the majority of attractions we could see from the vantage point. A certain buzz filled the air as we headed up towards the station, one that tends to occur in the presence of an RMC. I appreciated the little back-story plaque in the queue, along with the ‘world’s largest painting of a rattlesnake’, both of which gave off a certain air of self-awareness. Appreciated less was the endless uphill zigzag of the queue line, given the temperature, but at least it’s shaded and about 1% as bad as The Boss.
We boarded one of the first trains at the back, and first experience with the Gerstlauer rolling stock (no, that’s an Arrow pictured above) was positive. The restraint is a little more simplistic than the usual RMC faff, easier to operate and with far less lower leg impedance. The surroundings and seat itself lend themselves to a rather more ‘exposed’ feeling as well, which is always a plus for me too. Soon, the snake was off. A simple downhill corner kicks things off before the lift hill, demonstrating that company designs hadn’t yet gone full wacky by this earlier point in time. This start however is highlighted by a pleasant interaction with the neighbouring mine train which, on several occasions, managed to line up its own train thundering around and under us, while we prepared for the climb.
And what a climb, the steady pace allows for plenty of appreciation of views out over the rest of the park, aided by the as yet unnoticed terrain aspect of the lift structure. While distracted and not really yet fully contemplating that I was back on holiday riding world class coasters, the train plummeted from under me. And what a drop, it definitely hits hard even for an RMC. There’s a slight left kink to the entry and then a pull out to the right that give it that extra edge of insanity. The speed at the bottom, enhanced by a corrugated metal shelter, is quite something too.
A ton of momentum throws you up onto the cliff in a great surprise double-up type airtime moment that culminates in a poppy overbanked turn. As you accelerate back downwards and sideways out of this, the speed builds once more through another, faster banked turn, eventually plunging back down to the ground at immense pace. The base of the dip here delivered a significant amount of positives, an amount I’m not entirely accustomed to on such hardware and it was a very welcome difference in style. From there, the one and only inversion hits, executed to perfection as it gently flops you headfirst over the top of the cliff once more.
The terrain of course is the Iron Rattler’s signature move. After the large, fast paced elements, you suddenly find yourself going through some motions as if you were in the dying moments of a layout, with some short and punchy airtime hills straddling another couple of small sideways twisty bits, all low to the ground while still 100ft in the air. If I were to take any issue with this ride, and I’ve always got to find something, it’s that these sideways elements in particular felt a little pedestrian to the more seasoned RMC experiencer in me. Maybe in 2013 they were as-yet-unseen and kicking all types of ass, but of everything in this layout they did the least for me.
Not to worry, the airtime is smooth and powerful out of this section and into what my limited, spoiler-free knowledge led me to believe is the legendary cliff drop. Moments like these are always a luxury in a coaster, the sudden discovery of more potential energy than you had before, a ramping up of pace in the midst of the inevitable ramping down of resistance. A big, stonking ejection out of your seat off the side of the rock and back towards station level leads into another low, fast turn and a surprise tunnel through said rock. I had no idea that this existed and loved it. Rushing through the dark and cooling temperatures in hardware like this is entirely unlike anything else in the world and while it’s just another simple corner in itself that doesn’t do much, what happens next is rather epic too.
Violent, sideways and skywards ejector into the brake run. There’s a ton of energy that the snake has left to give as it all comes to an end, but it goes out with a bang and perhaps the most vicious moment of the entire layout. I can’t really argue with that. Overall Iron Rattler went down an instant classic. It’s only really mid-tier RMC, but of course whenever we talk about these things that’s still some ridiculous praise in the grand scheme of worldwide rollercoasters.
The ride has bags of character and I love the many unique aspects it manages to bring to the table. Even though I’ve done a stupid amount of them by now, the fact that their third-ever creation delivers such special moments is testament to how game-changing this stuff was at the time, and still remains to this day. God damn Iron Rattler.
Our first mistake was going round for a second lap, with still just a 10-15 minute queue. After another long walk up to the station, it was announced that ‘essential cleaning’ was required while procedures were already under way and some guests in front of us left immediately. The snake had already kicked someone’s ass this early into the day, also impressive. Through fear of having a ‘Six Flags day’, or rather the Rattler going down at any other time during our visit, knowing we definitely wanted more goes on it, we opted to wait this one out.
The waiting was painful, endlessly torn between leaving and hitting up the rest of the park, understanding there were a lot of creds ahead of us, yet being a mere couple of trains away from another cheeky lap on what was undoubtedly the highlight of the lineup, and one of the primary reasons we were here in the first place. The process was more painful. While I’ll never criticise the meticulousness of the actual cleaning we witnessed, the lack of visible progress became frustrating when the entire ride team would stop wiping, pack everything up, begin cycling the train again, only to then get all the kit out once more and start the routine again, several times over.
I estimate that around an hour passed before we finally got back on it again. By no means too long of a wait for such an attraction, but at the same time most likely entirely unnecessary. The ride delivered once more as it had before, but now it was definitely time to rack up the ol’ coaster count, via the gift shop.
Where I took a liking to this imagery in particular.
Over the way, having been screaming “louder, LOUDER, AHAHAHAHA” at us all morning, was #2 Dr. Diabolical’s Cliffhanger, the parks latest addition, and a B&M described by many as a sign that the company were finally getting a bit more fruity again in their old age. I was intrigued, I think that’s certainly needed in order to keep myself entertained at this point. Heading straight into the indoor section had us queuing in a dimly lit corridor with some artistic shots of the ride itself, a small window to the outside world in very close proximity to some coaster track, for some intimidation, and a perky little tune on the speakers.
The doors at the far end opened and preshow #1 began, with a staff member awkwardly standing in the midst of the scene in a lab coat. While it’s certainly nice to see Six Flags going down a more theatrical route, the show itself felt dated and redundant, which is impressive given the age of the attraction. Apparently we were there to sample a new youth-retaining elixir but, as the good Dr. is a bit of a D, this is a lie.
As we move through a hidden entrance in a bookcase (not seen that one before), we hit preshow #2, in which we learn that we were actually there to have our fear extracted in order to raise an army of creatures. The nature of these creatures is never revealed and while I somewhat appreciate this being left to the imagination, I feel the environment probably warranted some visual indicator as to what the end goal was.
The reality is that some loud, annoying noises go off and we head back outside into concrete, sunlight, lockers and a big B&M. All semblance of theming vanishes and you’re completely detached from the story aside from a single piece of station audio, muted by the open air aspect of a barren loading area and standard ‘enjoy your ride on the Dr. D’ Six Flags operations.
Never mind though, maybe the coaster will be a highlight of the genre? I thought to myself as I boarded the outer back seat of the highly unusual 3×7-seater row cars. Sad to say it was baaaaad. I’m no ride engineer, but something’s happening with B&M. This coaster rode incredibly poorly, and it’s not the first brand new B&M this year to display signs of this. The flexing in the outer rows is jarring and uncomfortable as it bounces and lurches you through what would traditionally be smooth and forceful track elements.
If I had to guess, and it’s only a guess, this is part of some stress-relieving, life-enhancing endeavour (oh look, that fits the ride theme!) to make the hardware last longer, to help make a sale. Whatever it is, it makes things less rigid, perhaps there’s less wear and tear on the track and the trains, but instead those flexing forces are transferred through the riders and it quite simply isn’t a pleasant experience.
I found no redeeming features whatsoever on this 150ft chunk of steel, other than how it looks, you can’t deny the sexy curves of their track design. The drop is marred by juddering about uncomfortably, the inversions are marred by jolting around uncomfortably. The audio is abrasive and annoying, especially as it can be heard park-wide.
The second half of the layout is Boring and Mild at best, with the only evidence of that aforementioned fruitiness of B&Ms latest and greatest designs being a steeper than usual airtime hill which, to be blunt, rides like a bad Gerstlauer. The attraction was about as unpopular as the 23-year old B&M on the other side of the park, not good for the new girl. Let us never speak of it again.
Speaking of the 23-year old B&M on the other side of the park, that’s where we headed next, via more waterfalls.
#3 Superman Krypton Coaster here has another bit of a legendary status for quarry related antics. I’ve become rather jaded to the whole multi-looper ride type over the years, but was excited to see if what was basically the last hurrah of this particular ride type for me could deliver anything special.
Yes and no. While visually I liked what was going on, it doesn’t quite use the terrain in the way I had imagined it might. Unlike the Rattler, it just drops from the top of the cliff and you’re done with that aspect (it’s also quite weird to see just normal civilisation at the top of this particular cliff, rather than some wild frontier).
It’s an unusual, big curvy drop that is rather fun. There’s a bit of a rattle going on at the higher speeds as you power into the massive loop under Superman’s ass, which is par for the course. Things do get a little wild in the mid-section, with some semblance of that old school violence that can be found in certain transitions. A snappy inversion here, an airy lurch out of a mid-course there, it delivers the cookie cutter element sequence once more but goes about doing so in a slightly unorthodox way. I guess I kinda liked it, one of the better of its type for sure.
Speaking of the better of its type, Wonder Woman was last on our major hit list and I was intrigued to remind myself about the insanity of that OG Raptor layout after the hilarious disappointment that was the Jersey Devil. The ride had other plans however, it appears to be destroying itself rather quickly and was only able to run one out of three trains, the others undergoing repair, with constant downtime. Arrival at the queue saw what would have become the most significant wait of the day (essential cleaning aside) had we sucked up the single train operations and just gone with it. However we decided that this was the best opportunity to play the ace up our sleeve, the season pass we had earlier acquired came with 4 free line skips per customer.
How to use these was a different matter however, the online portal for the pass gave no answers. We headed back to the centre of the park and found the flash pass kiosk, asking the guy outside how it worked. A different, convoluted website was involved that needed bar code scanners and the registering of multiple passes onto a single login. Once that was dealt with, a simple selection of the ride was needed and a QR code was generated, which could be shown at the ride at any time that day. Spoiler: it never was.
For geographical reasons we took the opportunity to break for lunch here before heading into the park again. The wrong #4 Goliath, or Batman as it’s more commonly known, sticking out like a big, blue, sore thumb just around the corner, became the obvious next tick off along route. The queueline was hideous, though mercifully empty, consisting of endless uphill switchbacks with not a drop of shade in sight. That new holiday heat was really starting to get to me already.
Flashbacks to Dorney Park in the station, they were running this Invert like absolute trash too. Meandering about between restraint checks and other procedures, arguing with guests over shoes on, shoes off, fanny packs on, fanny packs off, all while train #2 was sitting uselessly on the brake run getting everyone else sunburnt and annoyed. Let’s just get this over with – standard Batman fare, a little rip on the feet in the heat, but otherwise I’m over it.
#5 Poltergeist was next on route in the clockwise direction and we sidled up to the decent looking haunted house façade and pleasant spooky station decoration. Now don’t get me wrong, I love what they’ve done with the place, I just wish it wasn’t just another Premier spaghetti bowl.
A little bit of thrilling and fun in the sun, but otherwise I’m over it.
Things went bad again upon re-arrival at Wonder Woman, it had ceased operation. The queue had mostly dispersed, beyond the point of the fast track merge at the very least, though they were still allowing guests to head in and wait it out, sitting forlorn on the floor. Two engineers were at the front of the station faffing around with the drive tyre that takes the train up onto the chain lift. The tyre was clearly on its last legs, frayed, cracked, split and bare. A measurement was made with a gauge. Apparently it still met the specs and was still good to go in that state. The coverings were re-covered and the operator was given the all clear. Except that it was too late.
Phase 1 of ride shut down for inclement weather had begun. There were now storms in the area. Wonder Woman should have been back in action, but could no longer operate, nor could anything with a height above 25ft until the storm had passed, according to the staff there. It was time to bail.
Taking the 25ft rule to heart, we assumed the next necessary course of action was to hit the smallest cred in the park – a miniature Vekoma Junior by the name of Streamspiter. It was blocked off by a cleaning bucket, which we initially believed to be a blatant disrespecting of the weather rules, but it later appeared that the stupid thing never operated at all during our time on park.
Talking of stupid spites, they were supposed to build these kiddie coasters across the chain for the ‘summer season’, but haven’t even started yet. Construction, get excited, I guess.
Now, the only thing worth riding that was also still open was Pirates of the Deep Sea. This dark ride was great, containing a lovely, cooling queue line with some really nice details. The first scenes of the ride itself with all the rain effects and storms brewing (just like outside) was really atmospheric. It got a little more cliché as the sections went on, with many ghost train throwbacks to other, similar attractions and obvious hints of the old Scooby Doo theme it used to have still shining through, but otherwise solid fun and a welcome change from the usual Six Flags fiasco.
Gave that a couple of goes before ending up on bench: the ride for a couple of hours, waiting out a storm that never truly hit the park that hard. The threat of lightning was such a tease, having killed the operations.
With the opening hours dwindling, eventually some signs of life were seen from a few nearby coasters. A lot of guests had already retired by this point in the day, so all credit to the park for not pulling a New England. They actually bothered to get things going again.
Well, they were trying to at least, we rocked up to Pandemonium only to find that they had immediately broken it. Come back later.
Time to get the dread out of the way, of yet another S&S Freespin, the actual #6 Batman The Ride of the park. It seems my love- (Arashi) hate (Dragon Slayer) relationship with these has reached both extremes and this one fell squarely in the middle – inoffensive.
We wasted sooo much time in these dying moments. Went to the Boomerang for a double dose of bad clones, only for it to break down the moment we reached the station. Not another one.
#7 Road Runner Express was doing fine and was a welcome break from the mess. A punchy little custom layout with some good speed, wild turns, two lifts and the previously mentioned bonus interaction with the Rattler.
Boomerang was still spiting, so it was back to #8 Pandemonium. We witnessed an engineer jump in a car for a final test run before giving it the thumbs up and then managing to complete our own lap. In the hurry, I forgot to care that this is the almost-best Gerstlauer spinner layout.
#9 Wonder Woman Golden Lasso Coaster was accepting guests again, and then went down immediately AGAIN as we batched ourselves into the station. It sounded like an absolute wreck from off-ride, I know the track shouldn’t be that noisy. We sat it out, again, they looked at the front drive tyre, again, they gave it a thumbs up, again. Finally, finally I hopped into the back seat, ready to see if it lived up to old Railblazer.
Upon departing the station it begin juddering violently, and slipping on that front drive tyre, barely, barely making it up onto the chain lift, all while the operator was giving a nervous glance to the engineers still present, his hand hovering dangerously close to the E-stop. We sooo very nearly didn’t get this lap, it was a total miracle. Should probably take another look at that tyre.
And the result? It rode about as badly as it sounded, and kinda like Jersey Devil did after 5 minutes. These things clearly don’t age well, or the parks are very bad at looking after them. But crucially, it completely affirmed my feelings for Railblazer. The evidence of the ridiculously killer ejector moments from that back seat was all still there and it still managed to absolutely haul through the wonderfully Raptor-specific stylings of the layout. A candle in the wind, perhaps.
With only minutes left on the clock we ran back to the other side of the park to close out on the Rattler. In a very satisfying manner, we saw Wonder Woman now stuck on the lift hill, from our own lift hill, before enjoying yet more snake-based elation.
In a very unsatisfying manner, they had to go and Six Flags the day right at the very end though. We entered the still-open queue one final time for the night, making it all the way up into the station only to be shouted at by ride staff that “IT’S CLOSED!” A train full of riders was yet to be despatched, along with half a trains worth also waiting in the air gates. I half attempted to point out that there would still be seats free anyway on their next load, but it was met with another instant rebuttal of “IT’S CLOSED!” Perhaps, most annoyingly of all, some of the other guests in those air gates began to back him up by also shouting “IT’S CLOSED!” at us. Why did they care?
Our only option was to walk the long way back down the queue, to eventually find that they had chained off the entrance behind us.