Tag Archives: theme park

Six Flags Great Adventure

I’ve been to Six Flags Great Adventure four times in my life. The first was when I was fairly young and I don’t remember it at all. The next two times were in 2005 when the ride Kingda Ka was made. The first 2005 trip ended in a bad experience because Kinda Ka was having technical difficulties. I then convinced my Dad later that summer to take me and my cousin back with, essentially the sole purpose of riding Kingda Ka.

We went all the way back, a six hour drive down to New Jersey, only to find that once again Kingda Ka was closed! However it eventually opened towards the end of the day and after 3 and half hours in line, we had finally conquered the (at the time) tallest and fastest coaster in the world.

IMG_7280Kingda Ka/Zumanjaro

Cut to 2017 and it’s been 12 years since I’ve been to this park. After moving to NY I searched how long of a ride it was from the city to the park. As it turned out, it was only an hour and a half away. And so, last Sunday I hopped on the NJ transit bus from Port Authority in Manhattan to Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson.

We arrived at SFGA at ~10:00am and waited in a fairly long line to go through security. Being that I had my backpack, I had to wait in a longer line which took forever because that had to search everyone’s bag. When they got to mine, the security guy found the opened green tea I had been hiding. He told me I needed to dump it out into a bucket.

“If it wasn’t opened,” he said, “you could have kept it.” I was so pissed because I had only had one sip of the drink. Not only did it mean I no longer had my green tea, it also meant that had spent X amount of money which I was now literally throwing away, but it also meant waste of a perfectly good bottle of green tea. I hate wasting things. This was strike one.

After going through security I then had to wait in another line to get my ticket scanned. This was super annoying but at ~10:45am I finally got into the park. The first thing I did was to run to Kingda Ka. When I got there however, I was stopped by the fact that you could not bring bags or any loose items into the line. Instead you had to place your items in lockers.

This is already annoying enough but at least at other parks you go to that make you do this you get to put items in for free. At this park, you get squeezed for every dollar they can get and it’s a dollar each time you have to place your items in the locker. The locker is only good for 2 hours. After that it’s an additional dollar per hour. This is simply “highway robbery” because they know they have you by the balls. This was strike two.

I begrudgingly paid the $1 and got in line. To my pleasant surprise, the wait time was only ~10 minutes, a far cry from that first 3 and a half hour wait in 2005. After riding Kingda Ka, I got back in line and rode it again, this time with a ~15 minute wait. I then made my way over to Zumanjaro.

Zumanjaro is a simple elevator drop ride. It was built onto the front structure of Kingda Ka in 2014. It is, apparently, the tallest (at 415 feet) and fastest (at 90mph) drop ride in the world! I typically hate these rides because I really don’t like heights, but yet I love roller coasters… go figure. However, because this one doesn’t launch you from the bottom, it actually wasn’t bad.

Also, because it is attached to Kingda Ka, it somehow makes it feel less heigh. I took the age old advice of “don’t look down” and it truly worked. Instead, I looked up to see how close to the top we were. Once at the top I looked out over Six Flags before dropping five seconds later. All in all not bad.

IMG_7258El Toro

After that I retrieved my backpack from the locker and went over to El Toro. El Toro was being built the year we went to SFGA twice. It opened a year later in 2006 and has been voted the number one wooden coaster in the world two years in a row. I paid another dollar to put my bag in another locker before getting in line for the ride.

El Toro did not disappoint. It was by far one of the smoothest, if not the smoothest wooden coaster I’ve ever been on. It also has the second biggest drop of any wooden coaster at 176 feet and one of the steepest drops at 76 degrees. It’s also the 4th fastest at 70mph. However, what I thought was really cool was the speed of the lift hill. At 13mph it gets you to the top in no time at all.

After riding “the bull” I went over to Medusa, er, I mean Bizzaro. Formerly know as Medusa, Bizzaro is was repainted and renamed for the 2008 season and theming objects were added. It really does nothing for the ride but I can now say I’ve ridden this floorless coaster with two different names. B&M rides never fail to deliver fun, smooth rides.

I then grabbed my bag from the second locker and got overpriced Mexican food for lunch. After eating lunch, I made my way over to the Green Lantern coaster. Placed in the spot where The Great American Scream Machine used to stand, Green Lantern was relocated from Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom and renamed; it was formerly called Chang.

I was really excited to ride it because I’d never been on it before and because it was only going to be the third stand up coaster I’ver ever been on. However, upon my arrival, it was closed. This was strike three. I was pretty bummed about all of these things and though they may seem minuscule, they cumulatively made for a fairly bad experience.

Disappointed, I then made my way to the other end of the park where I put in my third dollar for the day. There I rode The Dark Knight. This is, arguably the best themed ride in the park. I say that very loosely because it is barely themed. It has a pre-ride show and, because you are supposed to be riding on Gotham City Transit, the queue is subway themed and the cars look like subway trains.

This ride is nothing more than an indoor wild mouse coaster with some lighting and theming objects. It replaced the defunct Batman and Robin: The Chiller for the 2008 season. Sadly, I only ever got to ride Robin in 2005, the Batman side was closed.

After riding The Dark Knight I went over to perhaps my favorite ride in the park, Nitro. Nitro is another B&M coaster, this one however is a hypercoaster with a 215 foot drop. Nitro never fails to be thrilling and enjoyable. After Nitro I rode Batman The Ride, a compact inverted coaster. The ride it so short that the long line did not really justify the wait but oh well, another one to check off the list.

Cut to a montage of me looking at the map, strolling around aimlessly and eventually taking the Skyway gondola. The thing that really sucked about having to pay for locker each time, on top of the cost, was the inconvenience. It was so annoying to not be able to just place your stuff on the other side of the track and pick it up when you got off.

IMG_7248Six Flags Great Adventure as seen from the Skyway gondola

I get that it probably messes with load times but it is ultimately an easier system. It basically made me not want to ride as many rides because I didn’t want to deal with the hassle. For example, I didn’t ride Skull Mountain because I didn’t want to pay a dollar to ride it. Its a fun stupid little coaster but it’s not worth a dollar. Being that going on rides is the whole reason I went to the park, it kind of put a damper on the whole day.

When I got to the other side, I put my bag in a locker… again, before riding El Toro one last time. At an hour and a half, this was my longest wait of the day. The ride was having problems, than ran few trains empty to test them and eventually they had to take 15 to 20 minutes to swap one of the trans off. This meant running a one train operation.

The down side to this was that ranter than loading on train while the other was running, they could only load the train once it was back in the station. This essentially doubled the wait time for the ride. However, as before, it delivered and I was glad I got in two rides on it.

After that I basically had to play the waiting game. The bus back to New York wasn’t set to arrive until 9:30pm and it was only about 7:30pm. I was essentially done for the day, tired and a little depressed. Eventually, after going back and forth for a while I bit the bullet an paid the $12! for a chicken sandwich.

As I exited the park with my overpriced food to wait for the bus, I contemplated dumpster diving through the recycling bucket for my green tea. I bet, if they hadn’t emptied the bucket throughout the day, that it was still in there. That said, it was probably sticky and gross so I decided against it.

As I waited for the bus, I reflected on the day. I thought about the fact that overall, I had a fairly mediocre experience. It really bummed me out because it made me think that I’m getting too old or too jaded for theme parks, something I used to love. Maybe if I’d gone with a friend or bought a locker at the beginning of the day or not had to throw out my green tea or spend so much money it would have been a better experience, I don’t know.

The last thing that bummed me out was that fact that I missed the first bus -my own fault, I refused to wait in the line- and so I had to get on the second one, which stopped in NJ first before going to NY, making the trip that much longer. On top of that, the driver didn’t even collect my bus ticket. Why did I bother paying for a round trip ticket if I could have snuck on for free?

Overall the day was fine, but it may mark the end of an era for theme parks for me, #sad.

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Japan – Day 3: Osaka – Day 3

Monday – April 10, 2017

We decided to mix things up a bit today, again getting out of the city to do something different. For those of you who don’t know, I used to be, and still sort of am, a huge roller coaster nerd. In the research I used to do, I would find theme parks in countries around the world and say to myself, if I ever go those countries, I am gonna go to those theme parks to ride those coasters.

As it turns out, Japan is one of those countries and located a few hours outside Osaka by train is none other than Nagashima Spa Land. Nagashima is home to several world class coasters, but the most famous is Steel Dragon 2000. Built in the year 2000, now 17 years old, I have been looking forward to riding it since I was 10.

Getting There

I woke up at 7am. After I got dressed I woke the other guys up at 8am and we were on the road by 9am. I was already a little upset because we were starting the day so late. Located in Mie Prefecture, NSL is a nearly 3 hour train and bus ride away from where we are staying. Additionally, because it is their off season, they have shorter hours; 9:30 to 17:00. I was afraid that the later we got there, the less time we’d have to go on all the rides I wanted to hit.

So for me, a perfect on the road time would have been 6 or 7. On top of that, the night previous, Dan started to question how we were getting there and was suggesting new/different ways than the ones I had painstakingly researched months ago. This threw a mental monkey wrench in my game plan, but also frustrated me because we have been executing our train rides flawlessly and I have given him no reason to doubt me thus far.

Because of this and the fact that I am really good a bottling and building my internal anger, the day started out with a lot of tension. We walked to Namba station took a train to Shin Osaka. There we switched to the Shinkansen to take us to Nagoya station. On that train, partially because it was crowded, partially because we hadn’t reserved a seat and partially because I was mad a them, Pete and Dan sat together and I sat by myself.

On the train I grabbed a drink and sandwich for “breakfast” and to break my 1,000 Yen note so I would have smaller Yen denominations to pay for the bus. At Nagoya station we we switched to a Kintetsu Limited Express train. This not only required us to tap on with our IC Card, it also required us to buy a ticked for that train. More money that I wanted to spend. We eventually figured everything out though, what train we needed to take, how to purchase the ticket, and got on a minute or so before it left the station.

Luckily ours was the first stop and it only took 16 minutes to get to Kuwana Station. There we were to board our final mode of transportation, a bus that would take us to the amusement park. However, we first had to make it out of the station.

I tried to use the card I bought to get on the express train to get through the turn style but all it did was eat the card and lock the gate. When I tried to tap my IC Card, it locked the gate again. Frustrated, I just walked through. Pete and Dan however went trough a different turn style, only tapped there IC Card and got through fine.

After figuring out where the buses were, we waited at our bus stop. We saw that the bus took IC Cards so we didn’t buy a bus ticket. When the bus arrived, I was the first to board. When I tapped my card, it made a weird noise and weird letters came up. When Pete and Dan tapped theirs however, they had no problem. This got me nervous that I would have a problem getting off the bus.

Being that there was still tension in the air, on our way to NSL I manned up and apologized to Dan and Pete for my shitty attitude. And though things were still sort of tense, I was forgiven.

When we arrived at the park I was the first to exit. I tapped my PASMO card and the screen said “Unable to use.” This bummed me out for two reasons, 1) I had to pay the fair out of pocket which took a long time and held up the line (something I HATE doing) and 2) it made me nervous I would have to forfeit my PASMO for a new card thus also forfeiting any money that was still on it.

Thinking of ways to rectify this situation was something that would plague my thoughts intermittently throughout the day. However, we were finally here and making our way towards the entrance so I couldn’t be too mad. We arrived at -near as makes no difference- noon.

Nagashima Spa Land

After paying 5,000 Yen (~$45) for a “passport” (unlimited ride) ticket and putting our things in a locker, we made our way to the crown jewel of the park, Steel Dragon 2000. As we entered the queue we found that there was virtually no line. We waited for the current train to come back, that train to board and were on by the third ride.

IMG_5610Acrobat (forground) and Steel Dragon 2000 (background)

I had not been on a gigacoaster (one with a drop over 300 feet) in a very long time, so by the time we got on the lift hill and started to climb, I was genuinely nervous. A feeling I have not felt on a coaster in some time. It was nice to have that “fear” again because I had gotten to a point where riding coasters was no longer thrilling to me.

In any case, we crested the 318 foot lift hill and dropped 306 feet to the ground below. We then went over the next hill and the helix and the bunny hops and 4 minutes later and over 8,000 feet of track (this is the current record holder for longest roller coaster in the world) behind us, the ride was over. We had conquered the Steel Dragon!

Psyched, any tension from the day subsided. We were all totally pumped on adrenaline. We ran back in line and immediately did it again.

IMG_5619White Cyclone

After re-riding Steel Dragon we made our way over to White Cyclone. Built in 1994, this wooden coaster is well known in the coaster community as one of the best reinterpretations of a classic wooden coaster design. Again we had virtually no wait for the ride and though it was rough, we all enjoyed it.

Next we made our way to the Looping Star, a cookie cutter single loop coaster. Though it was tiny and novice, it was smooth and a lot of fun. They placed cherry blossom trees on the sides of the track so it not only felt like you were going faster, but it added theming to the ride. Dan and I rode it again, there was no line, and Pete filmed us on it.

IMG_5625Looping Star

After Looping star, we took a break and grabbed a light lunch. We all got chicken tenders and fries. Once we were done it was back to action with the Shuttle Loop. Despite the fact that this coaster is basic with a launch and two inversions, one forwards and one backwards, because of the rapid fire action of the ride elements, it’s kind of intense.

We had been going hard since we got there and so after the shuttle loop we all decided we needed a break. We grabbed a drink at a classic Japanese vending machine and took a partial stroll around the park. Clearly we either getting old, or simply not accustom to these rides because the day was kind of kicking our ass in terms of headaches.

IMG_5646Shuttle Loop

We eventually made our way back to the Corkscrew roller coaster and checked it off the list. Pete then walked through the haunted house as Dan and I didn’t want to do it. Next we went to the locker to put stuff away and grab layers as it was overcast and chilly. We then banged out the Bobsled “coaster” -aka Bobkart- before walking around and exploring more of the park.

We then made our way back to the Acrobat, a flying coaster which is a carbon copy of Manta in Sea World. I let Pete and Dan do that one as I a) don’t really like flying coasters and b) though I’m sure I could have handled it, I was not feeling 100% enough to want to risk it.

IMG_5655I got a picture of them as they went swooping by

After Pete and Dan got off the ride, we all decided to do Steel Dragon one more time before heading back to Osaka. Riding that coaster was great every time. It felt like such and accomplishment and was the perfect ending.

Satisfied with our day, we started the journey home. First we purchased tickets at the ticket machine for the Mie Katsu bus. Then, since we had just missed one, we passed the time by going in the 7-11, getting snacks and hanging out. A few minutes later the bus arrived which took us back to Kuwana Station.

IMG_5687Steel Dragon 2000 flew by as we exited the park

There, Dan figured out that we could take a JR train, rather than a limited express train, to get back to Nagoya. Luckily, JR trains require the JR pass rather than the IC Card so my now defunct PASMO card would not be an issue.

However, before making it down to the platform, I tried an experiment. I tapped my PASMO on the same turn style card reader that Dan and Pete had when they were exiting earlier in the day. Low and behold, the screen read a balance and the curse had been lifted. All I had needed to do was to take the time and tap the right car reader. Oh well, the problem was solved and I was back in action.

We took the JR train to Nagoya and there switched to a Shinkansen bound for Shin Osaka station. We got on the first car and, because it was fairly empty, each grabbed a row to ourselves. On the way I listened to music, napped a little and tried to figure out the best plan of attack for the evening/tomorrow.

IMG_5729City Walk at Universal Studios in Osaka

Universal City Walk

After weighing my options I decided I wanted to go to City Walk, since I would no longer be going to Universal Studios to at least get my fix and to grab dinner. I pitched the idea to Pete and when we arrived at Shin Osaka, to Dan as well. Pete and I decided to go and Dan decided to head back to the room and grab dinner locally.

After reorganizing my backpack and giving Dan his personal affects, we parted ways. Pete and I hopped a couple of trains to get us to City Walk. Once there we walked around for a bit and took some pictures. Pete had been wanting something quick and easy; something he knew like McDonalds. I was hoping to get something a bit more Japanese. We found a perfect compromise in Mos Burger, Japan’s answer to Burger King.

After hanging around a bit more and looking at some of the shops and restaurants, we made our way back to the Air BnB where Dan let us in and we all went to bed.

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Future World

Tesla Enhanced Autopilot

Yesterday, Tesla announced the latest update available to their vehicles; Enhanced Autopilot. This is by far the biggest leap any car company has ever taken in the race for a fully autonomous (self driving) vehicle. To get a true understanding of what I mean, click the link above or, better yet, watch the video below.

Pretty crazy right? When I first started with Tesla in November of last year, Autosteer and Auto lane-change, along with the ability to self parallel park were, I believe, just being introduced. Later, in early 2016, the company introduced self perpendicular parking and the “Summon” feature which allows the car to come in and out of your garage or driveway all by itself.

Look at how much Autopilot has advanced from October 2015 to October 2016. In one year we went from Autosteer to Full Self Driving. Think about how refined it will be by the time the Model III comes out! This gives me hope that a very polished version of Enhanced Autopilot will be available by the time I take delivery of my Model III.

When I first heard mention that Musk wanted cars to be able to have self driving features, I thought it was cool but expected it to be years down the road. Little did I realize that perhaps as soon as early 2017, barring any regulations by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, we will see cars driving around parking lots looking for places to park all by themselves! Clearly, we are living in the future.

Westworld

For those of you who haven’t been watching, I highly reccomend you check out the new HBO Original Series Westworld. Based on the 1973 film of the same name, Westworld is a show rich in detail and shining in all categories. From writing, to cinematography, to acting, to costume design, every facet of the show is on point.

It reminds me of many things, The Matrix, virtual reality, a video game, and more that I’m forgetting but will come back to when I think of it. It brings up interesting topics touched upon in such films as Blade Runner which asks questions about humanity and what it means to actually be human.

The story so far is only three episodes deep but it is already layered in storylines and subplots. From the business side of Westworld and what is involved in keeping it from falling apart, to the hosts and how they interact with each other as well as guests in their daily lives, to the insidious and mysterious “Gunslinger,” to the hosts’ slow discovery of what they truly are and much more, the layers are deep and many.

On top of all this, the world building extends to our world. Just as was done with Jurassic World where they made a website for that “theme park,” HBO has not only made a website for Westworld the destination, they also made a website for Delos Incorporated, the company that created the “theme park.” It’s all pretty cool and makes everything feel that much more real.

Do yourself a favor and explore every facet of the “theme park website.” There are some cool easter eggs if you dig deep enough. Additionally, the most interesting part of the corporate site is the Corp Resources page. There, you will find two cool articles that show you how the corporate facility is laid out and how the “narrative loops” work for the “hosts” of Westworld.

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