Once again I've somehow survived a very long and painful off-season. Lucky for me, next year this won't be the case, since my lovely home park Six Flags Great Adventure has decided to give a shot at a Holiday event later this year, leaving the park closed from only January to April 2016. Score!
After being consumed by many real life responsibilities lately the opportunity finally presented itself to visit the park for their annual passholders night, Coasters After Dark, with my fiance Dawn, work buddy Mike, and life long friend and fellow ride junkie Joey. This is my 2nd year in a row for this event and is my favorite night of the year at the park. They hardly advertise the event, leaving the park mostly empty except for a few coaster die-hards that use the opportunity to marathon and power-ride some of the biggest and best thrill rides on the planet.
We needed to process our season passes at some point before this weekends deadline in order to add our free season parking and gold member benefits, which we did upon entry, and that turned out to be much easier than last year. We arrived at the park around 5:30pm, simply swapped our online vouchers for our season pass cards and all our benefits were added right there. We simply had to sign our passes. No processing center, no fingerprinting, no photos, no waiting. We asked multiple employees to verify we wouldn't have to do anything else and were told we were all set.
So after a quick stop at the bathrooms, we were on our way for our first rides. As we wandered into Main Street we walked past the many groups of Physics Day students on the way out from their annual daytime visit that always happens the same day as Coaster After Dark.
Of course, for my first coaster ride in 6 months, I had to ride The Bull. As always we cut through the arcade next to the Tea Cups and just like last years Coaster After Dark, we walked right up to a one train wait and we saddled up and off we went.
We sat toward the back and as expected the ride was amazing. Total coaster nirvana - it just doesn't get much better than El Toro. Of course I can't ride just once, so Joey and I stayed put for a second spin around the course. Ahhhhhh feels good to be back!
We returned to a still-empty station and stayed seated for a second front row ride. All of the effects were on - mist, lighting, and fireballs that felt nice and warm against the chilly night air.
One of my only gripes with the night reared its ugly head here: the ops had a very unnecessary 3 trains cycling on this ride, leaving us to sit on the break run for 5+ minutes while they checked the restraints on the empty trains sitting in the empty station in front of us. Lame!
Mike's goal of the night was to ride Kingda Ka, as every time he has been to the park in the past the ride is not working. We had seen it run a bunch since we arrived so off the The Golden Kingdom we went. Amazingly, we walked through a completely empty queue and into a deserted station.
We boarded the third row and off we went. As always, this ride is insane. Once again, we returned to no one waiting for our row and for some irrational reason I agreed to ride it again. I think I was so blown away by not having to wait I couldn't pass up the chance to again be shot from 0-130mph in 3.5 seconds up 456 feet into the air only to drop straight back down at the earth a second time.
Joey summed it up best midway into our second launch: "SECOND RIDE MIGHT HAVE BEEN A BAD IDEA!!!" As I have in the past after this ride, I woke up the next day with light bruises on my collar bones from the shoulder restraints jabbing into me during that maniacal launch.
My goal of the night was to get Dawn onto Zumanjaro: Drop of Doom, since she was always a fan of Stuntmans Freefall and years ago goaded me onto Morey's Atmosfear drop tower (which at the time, I hated). I've since come around to drop towers, and Zumanjaro is in a class of its own. I don't find it a physically demanding ride - it doesn't really throw you around at all, but the height mindfuck and the insane speed and duration of the drop make it quite an experience. I had a really good feeling she would like the ride, we just had to get her on.
Just like with El Toro earlier, we literally had to almost physically place her on the ride. On our ascent, she was on the verge of tears, eyes closed, white-knuckling the grab bars, cursing everyone around her and begging to get off the ride. After we dropped her first words shocked me: "OK, I'll do it again!" And so we did.
That second ride was my first time sticking my feet out AND not holding on, and it was amazing. Just floating through the air 41 stories down. It's extremely re-ridable and just flat out mindblowing, even after riding it as many times as I have now. One of my favorites in the park, easily. Nothing like it.
As we were exiting we caught some great views of El Toro's drop and also spotted a mama cat with kittens in the brush next to Zumanjaros exit queue. We almost stole one of them!
My 2nd goal was to get Dawn to try Superman: Ultimate Flight, since she has yet to ride any flying coaster so we headed that way, and not surprisingly were greeted by yet another ghost town station. The ride was great as usual, there is nothing like that pretzel loop. Dawn's assessment was that it "was weird" but she seemed to like it. Mike hadn't ridden yet either and all agreed the restraints are very comfortable and it is a very unique experience flying underneath the track.
This was a one and done as it was now starting to get dark, and with an hour left until closing so Joey and I had the tough decision of whether to go power-ride Nitro or El Toro. We hadn't done Nitro yet, hadn't even made our way to that side of the park, but we both really wanted to ride El Toro again. Not to mention it was closer.
Mike and Dawn hung back as Joey and I saddled up for some more bull rides to close out the night. During that last half hour or so we managed to clock in eight consecutive rides, including the last train of the night, bringing our total for the night to TEN RIDES, my new record. I've now ridden The Bull 38 times. My only gripe during this marathon was that the trains were not full and since the temps were now in the 40's, the ride was running slow. Because of this the ops were forced to ask everyone to sit in the front of the train so that it wouldn't valley on the last few hills. (Yes, it was really running that slow - but even then, its still the best coaster on earth.)
For our last 5 or so rides we stayed seated in the 3rd row. While the drop is nowhere near as amazing as in the back of the train, the ejector airtime you get over the first two massive camelback hills is brutal and intense, slamming you into the lapbars. My thighs were screaming for mercy by the end of our rides. Hurts so good.
What an awesome night and start to the season. I cannot express how much I appreciate that Great Adventure does this for passholders. It is quite literally park wide exclusive ride time for four+ hours on some of the best coasters on the planet. Amazing!
El Toro 10x
Kingda Ka 2x