In years past, we used to get annual passes to Brookfield Zoo and take the kids on day trips to the zoo all the time. Our kids learned all the animals, where they were from, key traits and characteristics. Now that we’ve entered into the teen years things have changed a little. The kids still like animals, but weekly visits to the zoo don’t have the same appeal. So, when Six Flags offered a season pass early in the spring (that cost the same as a single day ticket) we couldn’t pass up the deal. We figured if we even went twice we’d be ahead of the game financially. Little did we know it would turn in to a “Flags-A-Palooza” summer.
Our first visit was to pick up the hard copy passes we’d purchased online. This has to be done at your local park, so we took a Friday “Family Night” and drove over to our local Dallas Six Flags (actually in Arlington, TX). Being good parents who prep for all possibilities, we assumed the park might be busy on one of the first Fridays of summer and told the kids we’d stay long enough for each to pick one ride. As it turned out, the park was virtually empty and we could walk right on to any ride we wanted. We rode all the coasters that evening, and a couple other rides. We even convinced Deana, the non-rider in our family, to join us on the last coaster of the night, the Judge Roy Scream. It’s a moderately-sized wooden coaster. Deana was a good sport, but when we got back to the beginning at just past park closing (9:00 pm), the employee offered to let everyone stay on and do one more ‘after hours’ ride. Everyone, or most everyone, cheered and the employee hit the “Go” button. As we started to move, my wife shouted, “You didn’t ask who DID NOT want to do this!!!” Her agreed upon ONE ride, turned into TWO!
A week later we were on vacation and arrived in Chicago, where we did our annual trip to Six Flags in Gurnee with the Kotschi family. We’ve been doing this together since the kids began getting those free tickets from school reading programs when they were younger (and back when Deana was getting the free teacher ticket). The kids consider this their “home” Six Flags. We used to ride all the small and kiddie rides with the kids, then Mark and I would disappear for a couple hours and ride the “dad rides”. This year, I think we rode one ride by ourselves because the kids now ride everything. Actually, some combination of kids ride everything. All of them don’t do every ride, but at least one or two tried everything we rode. Mark and I did get to have one to ourselves, the Iron Wolf, but that’s only because the kids were all riding something else at the time. One of my favorites at Six Flags in Chicago is the Superman ride, which is different than Superman at most other Six Flags. The one in Chicago flips you once you’re strapped in, so you’re face-down, held in only by a strap for the feeling of flying like Superman. Amelia and Jacob both decided to join us on it this year. I’m “super” proud of them. They both would have gone again, and we’d have too except lines are waaaay too long for it. Here’s a video glimpse of what they did. (Video from YouTube and isn’t mine. Listen for 2 things: “Please put the camera away” and the screams by the guy running the camera.)
Six Flags in Gurnee is more about hanging out with friends for us. That’s typically what Deana & Angie do. Well, back in the old days, they did a lot of holding cups and snacks and jackets and hats, and doing some of the kiddie stuff while Mark and I would sneak away for the big rides. But, now that the four biggest kids ride everything (and Michael and I ride a lot of stuff together) the moms do a lot of sitting, snacking, talking…yeah, it looks pretty much like the picture. It’s a relaxing day for them. Unfortunately for Deana, she used to love going and sitting through all the shows, but no one wants to go sit through the girly shows anymore. In all fairness to the moms, they do ride some of the rides. They always do the Whizzer roller coaster. They also ride the Merry-Go-Round, the swings if needed, and anything else that doesn’t go more than 10 feet off the ground. I think they’re a little sad Michael is the only one left who rides the Spacely Sprocket roller coaster in the kid area. However, they did find the new Little Dipper coaster they actually rode twice with Michael!
But, Michael is still my buddy. He and I get to do a lot of rides together. He’s the only one who can get me to go on anything that spins anymore. (I don’t know what it is about getting older, but I just can’t handle all those spinning rides I used to love. My stomach spends the rest of the day trying to recover.) We have fun riding whatever he’s big enough to ride, which is getting to be almost everything. We had a blast!
We always have a picnic out at the cars when we visit this Six Flags. Both families typically bring food and beverages and we share and swap – as kids are prone to do. With us going as out-of-towners now, Angie has taken on the task of packing food and cooler. This year she even made chicken salad, which is what Deana always made at my request for those Six Flag trips. No matter where I go, I’m always getting spoiled. (At least that’s what my wife tells me.) Michael and I enjoyed our picnic in the back of the van. It wasn’t too hot, nor too cold the day we were there.
We had great fun at the Looney Toons portion of the park that doesn’t show up on any of the online maps. There’s a Looney Toons Lodge in the back of the kid’s area that has the new Little Dipper coaster. This lodge in an indoor playland on steriods. It includes thousands of those foam balls and places to load them up and dump on people. Also, lots of guns to load and shoot those foam balls at others. Put Jacob & JJ behind guns and you have a war. Again, I was Michael’s partner, so we had fun collecting our bags of foam ammunition, then shooting at the boys, or Amelia & Laura, and even at Michael’s mom and dad and Miss Deana. I think we spent about an hour in this place tucked back in a corner of the park seldom visited by most. It was most fun when kids and adults were shooting at each other (at least when Michael and I were shooting at the other adults!). We probably could have stayed in here most of the evening and the boys would have thought it worth our time. But, alas, we had a whole group to satisfy, so off we went for more rides.
It was a great day at a great park. We ended with the parade at closing, then a trip to a nearby McDonald’s for supper and about an hour drive back to Elgin. Everyone was still pretty wound up at McDonald’s, but settled down quickly and drifted off to sleep as soon as we loaded up in the vehicles to drive home. Well, at least our van got quiet with Michael and the girls sleeping.
We surprised the kids with a stop at Six Flags in St. Louis, Missouri, on the drive back to Texas. Since we had the passes, which included parking, it wouldn’t cost us anything to stop for an hour. Our stated plan was to hit up to three rides – one pick for each coaster rider – and get back on the road in a hour. Fat chance!
We walked into the park just before noon and passed several very large groups heading out to lunch on the grassy areas along the parking lot. This ended up a huge benefit to us because we walked right in the park and onto our first coaster, the Ninja, with no wait at all. That immediately got my blood pumping and convinced me we should go for as many rides as we could get in…in an hour. Seriously, 5 minutes in the park and already through one ride; this was gonna be great! We had two things working against us – first, the incline of park. I’d forgotten how hilly this park was. Everywhere we walked we were going up or down a hill. Second, nostalgia. This was the park of my childhood, so I had a desire to ride a couple rides with my kids that I had enjoyed at their age. This forced us into at least one ride line that was long.
We rode the Mine Train (one from my childhood memories). I also picked the Screamin’ Eagle. It was the big, wooden coaster that used to scare me to death. The Screamin’ Eagle was introduced in 1976, and at the time was the fastest wooden coaster in the U.S. at 62 mph. At one point it held the Guinness World Record for a coaster. It’s been dwarfed by many others, including the Texas Giant, but was a thrill to ride it with my own kids. We waited in line a long time, but Amelia & JJ loved it, so it was worth it to me.
Deana picked the Scooby Doo ride, which is similar to the Buzz Lightyear ride at Disney Studios in Florida where you shoot a laser gun and get points against other people in your car. After this we got in line for the Boss coaster which looked great. Unfortunately, the car broke down. Seriously, one of the cars stopped at the top of the track of this newer wooden coaster. Another car was stuck just outside the loading zone. It was really interesting watching people sit in those cars on the tracks. We even saw 2 employees climb all the way up to the high track to talk to those stuck up at the top. (It was high enough one of the employees had to stop and catch his breath 3/4′s of the way up.) Lots of people left the line, but they kept saying it would be going momentarily, so we tried to stick it out. I finally told the kids we were on borrowed time and needed to get back on the road to Texas. We were pretty close to the front of the line, but started walking back through the crowd. Right as we got to the very back of the line the crowd cheered because it started going again. (I personally could have kicked myself, but we really did have to get back on the road.) We still went ahead and did the Evel Knievel coaster, which was a blast. Suffice it to say, after 3.5 hours in the park, we finally left. I had some very happy kids who were thrilled with dad, and it was worth not getting back to our home in Texas until 3:00 am. Here’s a video look at the Screamin’ Eagle. Notice the rusty tracks, screaching sounds, and old look of this 34-year-old coaster.
Back home from vacation, we hadn’t even rested a day when we learned a good friend we hadn’t seen in probably 20 years was going to be in Dallas with her family. Dawn (Jackson) Vogel and kids were coming north to Dallas with her husband, Ken. Dawn had been in our wedding, but we’d never met each other’s kids. Since she has boys, and they were staying over near the Six Flags Arlington, we thought that would be a great place to get together. What I didn’t know was they aren’t big thrill-park people. Who thinks of those details? Keep in mind this park is the original Six Flags location, and is known for some major coasters. After all Six Flags Over Texas is home to the Titan coaster which is in the international top 10 coasters in speed (85 mph), height (245 ft), and drop (255 ft – goes into a tunnel). The Titan subjects riders to 4.5 G’s of force during the ride. Needless to say, we didn’t ride the Titan this day.
However, we did ride La Vibora right at park opening. La Vibora is a bobsled-type coaster that doesn’t run on a track, it runs in a bobsled course. We road both the big and small Mine Train coasters. Also drove the cars, rode the Boots, the Batwing, etc. Here’s a video of the La Vibora. Notice the car is NOT attached to any tracks, it just rolls in the slide.
The biggest coaster we got Dawn, Garrett & Andrew on was the Judge Roy Scream. Sure it’s a wooden coaster, but fairly mild. It’s not a Texas Giant (another Texas Six Flags record holder, but currently being refurbished) or even the Screamin’ Eagle in St. Louis, it’s a “baby” wooden coaster. (OK, not as small as the Little Dipper in Chicago.) It still goes fast, is bouncy like all wooden coasters, and does have a great first drop. We decided it would be the top end of the coasters for the Vogel family, maybe this video explains why.
Andrew can proudly tell his dad that he rode this coaster!
The one type of ride I always refuse to ride is the water rides. I don’t like to get wet and spend the rest of the day feeling soggy, and I don’t like to ride home in wet undies. So, I always say “No thanks” to those rides. However, while there with the Vogels, it started to rain a bit. We all got wet. Since I was already wet, I gave approval for a water ride and we rode the log ride. We got sprinkled a bit, but not really wet. It rained some more, it was humid, we were soggy, so I agreed to do the river raft ride with several people on one shared, circular raft. We ended up getting really wet. By now it was starting to sprinkle again and one of the boys wanted to ride the log ride again. They were close to their hotel; and we’d brought another change of clothes, so sure. However…by the time we got to the log ride it was definately past a sprinkle of rain. We loaded up (Garrett, JJ & I in one log; Andrew, Dawn, Amelia & Deana in the other) and began moving as it started to pour. Well, there’s nothing to do once you’re out in the open in a log ride except go. By the time we reached the big drop at the end, it didn’t matter if we got splashed because we were all soaked to the bone by the rain. I’d have typically been grouchy in those circumstances, but it was such fun and we laughed so much, who could complain?
Just enjoying the ride…
***PS. None of the videos are mine, and I tried to screen them for foul language and select only vids that were devoid of swearing. I apologize if you hear any innappropriate language I didn’t catch before posting. If you do, let me know and I’ll remove it.
Posted: July 10, 2010
Filed under: Amelia, Deana, Denton Family, Jeff, JJ, Pictures, Video
Tagged: Amelia, Deana, Illinois, JJ, Missouri, Pastor Jeff Denton, review, roller coasters, Six Flags, Texas, vacation
Comments: 2 Comments