Friday, 22 June 2012

Magic Mountain

Magic Mountain is one of the exception parks on this trip in that I had visited it more than once before, back in 1994 on my first ever holiday to the US. Since then the park had grown quite considerably to have 19 rollercoasters now. Even since the trip in 2002 the park had invested in quite a few rides so I was still looking forward to visiting this park.

The famous Wally World entrance is still in place, and still gives an impression of not being completed. One day they will get the roof in place.

The park is so safe that it requires it's own Sheriff's office. Not the best advertisement for park safety to have this immediately next to the entrance. I guess on the flip-side if you do cause trouble in the park it's not going to take them long to get to you.

The park had very kindly allowed us to have first rides on X2, their 4D rollercoaster but it meant we had to get their early and hang around outside like young girls outside Justin Beiber's house.

This is Viper, an aged rollercoaster that completely stole the skyline on my first trip here in 98. That silly looking loop was a wonderful beacon for the park and was at for quite a number of years the highest inversion in the world. It's since been beaten by the Skyloop coasters (see Discovery Kingdom later)

These days the park need a better coaster to steal your sight and they chose to put X2 in front of Viper. This is the ride we were getting first :)

The other ride that stood out over the treeline is Tatsu, a large custom layout B&M flying coaster that was one of the coasters I was looking forward to most.

Quite a busy day today, fortunately we'd arranged to get those Q-Bot devices that allow you to jump the queue as if you're a celebrity.

The X2 passed without a hitch except for having to leave my camera and glasses in a locker before getting close to the ride. A bit of a downer but park rules are park rules and I'm quite sure they know what they're doing.

So I only managed to get a couple of rubbish photos once the ride session was over. I had ridden the ride in 2002 when it was just called plain ol' X. Since then they'd given it a paint job, added some fire effects, changed the train and put a sound system in it. During our morning session we got the fire, and the new trains, but not the soundtrack. 

In the absence of any decent photos here's a video that gives you no idea of what the ride is like. Note that you're not above the track or below it but beside it and at some points you're on the right, and others you're on the left. Sometimes you're at the back then the front. It's all just very confusing but a lot of fun. In this clip the girl wanted to ride again, well I hope she had a Q-Bot as she'd be queueing for a long time otherwise. This ride has slow throughput on account of the jacket-style harness and thigh splitting seat, and where everyone heads when the park opens.

Time to get the Q-Bots now whilst the public were making their way over to the ride we'd just left (thankyou park!) As part of their training the park mascots have to be shown how to deal with troublesome staff and Daffy's Duck Fu does look weak but still better than Bugs's camp stance.

Whilst we were at Magic Mountain we arranged to celebrate the Queen's Jubilee by donning red, white and blue and then having a ride takeover where we wore Royal Family and famous Brit masks. A little bit of PR for the club, and the park, and an opportunity to jump the queue for us!

I'm David Cameron on account of him being unpopular with everyone else.
(Photo taken by Harvey Duff)

If you're going to come to the park and want to make the most of it you will want to consider the Q-Bot. It basically allows you jump the queue for a price. The big ride X2, and the new ride Green Lantern had an additional charge on top of the additional charge. Some might say Q-Bots are a cheeky way to make more money, the bolt-ons even more so...but if you can afford to pay them they make the day much easier.

Viper, the one time signature ride, is now resigned to the lower leagues. It still offers a bearable ride and is not as bad as I had anticipated. Next!

Most rollercoasters divide opinion with few pleasing everybody. Revolution is perhaps an exception as nobody likes it. It would be OK if the cars had their original lap bars rather than the retrofitted over-the-shoulder ones. It's also been braked in the wrong places completely killing the pacing of the ride. The best example of how not to run a Schwarzkopf coaster.

Onto Tatsu now and this was much better. Having just ticked off the 2 older rides it was time to get bang up to date with this massive flying beast of a ride. The layout is unique, the forces towards the end are very intense, and the car comfort makes the ride a wonderful experience, but there's a "but". I think the park missed a trick in not using the terrain properly. I can understand why the park chose to put the ride atop the hill, the views are amazing but I think having the ride dive down the hillside and buzz the ground would have been a lot better. Just my opinion and I still enjoyed the ride.

Ninja is one of a small number of swing coasters left (only 5 left geeks!). All of these have unique layouts and I quite like this one using the terrain better than the big orange coaster next to it. The days of these rides are numbered and it'll be interesting to see how long this one remains at the Mountain, for now it's running well.

If you get tired from climbing the hill on which the park is built and want to give the arms a workout too then there's a climbing wall, which I bet the park would love to call Spiderman but can't because they don't own the rights to do so.

The newest wooden coaster in the park is Apocalypse, a strangely themed ride that used to be themed around the Terminator storylines but having dropped that a while back is now associated with Falling Skies which I'm told is a TV show about communities surviving an alien attack. Nobody has yet been able what the bleak future storyline has to do with wooden rollercoasters; the new generation of wooden rides perhaps not having a bleak future at all. 

They're creepy and they're kooky 
They're coming back to telly
It will be a load of rubbish
Because Christina Ricci isn't in it
(Just a poster advertising a relaunch of a show the creative people are hoping you've forgot)

Goldrusher, the terrain hugging mine train that you can't easily photograph because it's hidden in the trees is a ride that I think is deemed to go with only the sentimental reason that it's the oldest coaster in the park keeping it there.

Not the most exciting of Go-Kart races admittedly but it's a decent looking circuit.

Obligatory skycoaster shot.

I absolutely loved Riddler's Revenge when I rode it in 2002. In 2012 I liked it still but not as much. In the 10 years since I'd last ridden it I Batman had done something to Riddler's ears as it's there that he's getting his revenge. I'm guessing the cars aren't quite gripping the track as they should as I did take a few knocks to the side of the head, not something you'd expect from a B&M. This ride also features a quite manic queue station, be prepared for a scrum as you enter a free-for-all where the only tip I can give is that the shorter queues are towards the back.

In the super-hero section of the park, in which Riddlers Revenge doesn't sit, I did like the comic book artwork. I'm not overly clued up on my DC though but this lot look like kid versions of the main heroes; like S-Club 8 to S-Club 7

The new ride in the park is Green Lantern, an Intamin Zacspin which I've ridden similar in Finland and Sweden. With a tiny foot print this is a ride that can fit in most parks and an easy means in helping the park get their ride count up (Magic Mountain is always competing with Cedar Point for that title). 

Like X2 the ride sits on the side of the track and the cars get to rotate around their axis. The rotation on these are governed by the weight of the riders and the layout of the track and not built into the ride like the big red machine we rode in the morning. That does introduce some re-rideability as no two rides are likely to be the same however there's a catch; get a ride where you don't spin at all and you're not going to re-ride ever again, and that's exactly what happened to us. Green Lantern? Boo!!!

The final coaster in this section of the park is the still very excellent Batman coaster. This was the new ride when we visited in 94 but the queues were too long on the day for us to ride it. It rode extremely well in 2002 and I'm pleased to say it's still running really well now.

A most excellent ride and quite rare for this park, a ride with decent photo opportunities. Of all the rides in the park I think this was the one I rode the most. 

Flash, a name that should be given to a launched coaster, is instead a small spin ride. Still for those with an aversion for rollercoasters you can make do with this.

and Wonder Woman is a ride that you'll have no chance of enjoying. The park do have a good mix of characters for photo opportunities with the Justice League being most of them. 

Batman was a little churlish when it was his time to escape the public.
"Batman, can I have my photo taken with you please?"
"I'll be back in half an hour"

Nickman was even ruder, not wanting to be disturbed from eating his energy-pizza. He'd just flip the bird at you if you wound him up.

In addition to Green Lantern the park had decided it was time for a new baddy-themed ride and they'd gone for Lex Luthor's Drop of Doom. In the centre of the park is Superman a launched coaster (which is why Flash got demoted to a spin ride) that shoots up a 400ft tower. The Lex drop ride was being built onthe side of that. It meant that Superman became the first elephant of the trip as it was closed whilst the construction continued.

Ignoring the elephant it was time to ride the next biggest coaster, Goliath. When I rode this in 2002 I loved the ride with its 250ft drop and powerful helixes in the second half.

The ride was still really really good and we milked the Q-bot to ride over and over again.

As with most of the rides in this park there was a but, the ride is now in 2 split parts; the big drops of the first half and the helixes of the second. The midcourse brake is heavily used almost stopping the train completely half way around. A shame as it would be great to have the helixes taken at full speed. 

Scream, another new ride since the visit 10 years ago was atrocious and a really bad example of the B&M floorless ride design. If I thought Riddler's Revenge hurt my ears then this one was much worse. I think they called it Scream because it's the only way you can communicate with other riders having just ridden it.

Onto Colossus, the old school wooden coaster that has been running since 1978. Although clearly aged, it still offered a really good ride, but (here we go again), with more brakes than MTV the pacing of the ride has been destroyed and if they opened half of them up I think the ride would be pretty special. Also on the days we were there only one half was running.

The park had given us vouchers for free lunches at a number of the food places around the park, but we chose to forego those and pay for a nicer meal in the lodge restaurant. A very nice establishment that offers plenty of shade.

10 years on and it seemed apt to have the recreate the stupid antler ale photo from 2002.
(first photo Justin Garvanovic, second photo Harvey Duff)

There used to be a log flume here but the land is being cleared for their new ride, which is rumoured to be a multi-launch number. Being away from the comic area I guess this means Flash is not going to get this ride either.

Everything in the park so far had been for the teenagers and adults. For the little kids there's a Loony Tunes area with a great little crib to chill in, just a shame the fridge was empty. There's also a better selection of rides than the main park which is really just coaster after coaster after coaster.  

Having said that there are still coasters here. Road Runner is a standard layout rollercoaster ride.

Magic Flyer is a tiny little thing and is nigh on impossible to ride if you're not a child. We tried countless times and were denied. Some you win, some you lose.

Canyon Blaster is the final kid coaster and one I didn't ride in 2002 but made up for this year. Tick!

I fancied testing their claims by offering to deep fry an unruly child, and I was asked to leave. I guess that's why the "almost" clause is there.

Special mention to their arcade hall which had a fully functional Harley Davison game, which I love, can complete and can't resist playing whenever I find it. 10 goes later and I had 6 top 10 scores but failed to knock the top scorer off. 

The German contingent take time to relax. Magic Mountain can be a nightmare park to get around, but the Q-Bot had taken the stress out of the day to the extent that in the second day not much riding was done. We'd gotten around all the running rides on the first day. This park is always a gamble, do you stay one day and risk not getting everything, or two and have a potential dead day if day one goes well. We were the latter but I don't think we minded one bit.

This was the only show that we saw on the two days we were there; a small group of singers who weren't bad at all. We did get distracted by what we thought was mice running in the gap beneath the stage but we all checked at the end of the show and found it was lizards. Yep, the group realised part way through the performance too. A nice bunch of folks!

Now of all the attractions in the park there is one that always has a bad rep, and on I don't mean Revolution this time; it's the observation tower, which is always closed. Not on day two however, it opened briefly in the afternoon and having an easy day I decided to take advantage of it. On the elevator journey up I did have a wonderful photo opportunity of Tatsu flying past but it was spoiled by a chinese kid throwing himself in the way...that aside here're some photos from the top.

Apocalypse, the new wooden coaster. This sits on the site of the old Psyclone coaster, a wooden coaster that most hate but I actually really liked when I had an excellent back row ride in the dark back in 94. Since then the ride structure had warped causing it to degrade significantly. The improvements in the wooden track design in the latest generation of wooden coasters should ensure this ride doesn't go the same way. In the bottom left corner you can still see the queue line from another removed ride, and in the bottom left corner you can still the queue line from another removed ride.

There's Superman and you get some idea of how big the drop is going to be on the tower, which actually copies the drop tower in Australia. One half of the ride still eludes me.

Riddler's Revenge and Batman. There aren't many parks that have 4 B&Ms.

Goliath, which by the end of the 2 days I'd decided was still my favourite coaster in the park. Tatsu and Batman were close behind.

Scream, one of the original car park coasters and a ride I'd happily never ride again.

The Revolution ride and this is the long straight before the loop.

Tatsu runs beneath the observation tower. From above the layout doesn't look overly complicated but with the twists along it's length riding it is a different experience to how it looks.

A train going through the final pretzel element which puts a lot of forces on the ribs of the riders. Don't try to hold your breath through this.

X2 and Viper in the front of the park.

Also up in the tower the park have a small number of old satellite images of the park through the years. Just a shame it's hidden all the way up here. What if you're really interested in park history but can't stand heights? What would you do?

The final ride of the day was the funicular railway that helps those too lazy to walk up the mountain a means to get to the top. Quite a nice gentle ride and still more thrilling than Revolution.

Back in the car park and looking at Colossus, Superman, Goliath and a little bit of SCREAM!!! to the right. This is how a park should look and I hate that with the exception of Blackpool we don't have any parks like this.

So did I enjoy Magic Mountain? Very much so! The park has a reputation for poor operations but I didn't really see that today other than the awful announcements at the end of the ride telling you to go and try another. "Thankyou for riding Tatsu, please try riding Scream" etc. Fair play to the guy taking the piss out of the rule on Riddlers who prompted us to try Dippin' Dots because they're were Dippingly Dotty. There was also a trace of "visual scans" on some rides, an operational rule introduced two years ago which I see no value in. The park has a very good selection of rides but whilst not all are running excellently visiting is still an excellent day out.

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