Day 75: Interstate Tour 2018
Long ago, before I went into music full-time, I had decided that working in theme parks was a good career option. I enjoyed the work, loved the atmosphere and there were benefits as well as better pay for management positions. In 1992, I began working at Six Flags Magic Mountain, first in retail and then later in ride operations and it was here that I began thinking seriously about that whole climbing up the corporate ladder thing.
Six Flags was in the process of adding parks to their roster with an eye towards being “a day’s drive from anywhere in the country.” They began acquiring established parks left and right, looking to beat both Disney and Cedar Fair at their own game. One of the parks they scooped up was Riverside Park in Agawam, Massachusetts, a classic little family park that opened in 1870 as Gallup’s Grove and was rebranded, after a long and colorful history, in 2000 when Six Flags took over the park.
It’s the oldest of the Six Flags parks and, at 235, one of the smallest. Its compact layout, bordered on one side by the Westfield River, is narrow and is comprised of a winding midway that is entered in the middle of the property and terminates at both ends.
I’ve been to a good number of Six Flags parks, but this one would be a whole new adventure.
The weather forecast promised a continuous deluge from about 1 pm on - so I got the Flash Pass, allowing me to skip lines, and decided to aim for the roller coasters that would be entirely new experiences. Production-line knock-offs like Flashback (a Vekoma boomerang), Goliath (a Vekoma inverted boomerang) I’d avoid while I’d already ridden versions of The Joker (a S&S 4th dimension coaster) and Pandemonium (a Gerstlauer spinning coaster.)
With time of the essence, I set my sights first on the oldest operating coaster at a Six Flags park, the classic Thunderbolt. Built in 1941 by Joseph E. Drambour, this figure 8 wooden roller coaster is a timeless trip back into another age. It was a little rough, but who isn’t at 77 years old?
One of the parks’ marquee coasters was next. Wicked Cyclone, built by red-hot coaster company Rocky Mountain Construction, is one of the latest in a series of hybrid coasters with wooden supports and steel track. Though not as wildly inventive as some of the other RMC creations I’d ridden (like Outlaw Run and Steel Vengeance), this was a zippy, fun and crazy little ride that left a big smile on my face.
The plan was to hit the star of the park, Superman The Ride, after this, but it was experiencing downtime, so I continued on to Batman: The Dark Knight, a Bolliger & Mabillard floorless coaster with a sweet dark purple paint job. B&M are legendary coaster geniuses, but this tame and rough little entry from 2002 was merely a good time-killer and nothing really to write home about. (Or YOU about.)
Even if I had wanted to ride the Vekoma boomerangs, neither of them seemed to be in operation (and, indeed, some discussion on the sub-Reddit r/Rollercoasters shows this to be a normal state of sad affairs) nor did The Riddler Revenge, which is another Vekoma creation. Vekoma has done some good stuff over the years, but they are largely derided as a cheap alternative to coasters by more reputable designers. Having their three coasters at the park all non-operating only underscores this.
So, I doubled back and saw that Superman The Ride had begun cycling again (albeit with only one train) and hurried to get in line.
Built by Intamin AG in 2000, it’s a megacoaster that features a 221 foot drop, over 1 mile of track and a top speed of 77 miles per hour. Painted in the DC superheroes’ signature colors of red and blue, it’s an imposing and impressive-looking beast. Arched camelback air-time hills on one end and a terraced spaghetti-bowl of terrain-hugging track on the other. Designed by legendary coaster God Werner Stengel, Superman The Ride has been honored by the Golden Ticket Awards numerous times as one of the Top Steel Roller Coasters, snagging 1st, 2nd and 3rd place rankings over the past several years, so I was pretty excited to finally catch this one after “riding” it via YouTube videos.
I was not disappointed.
The air-time, those lovely moments of zero-gravity bliss where your ass lifts up off the seat, was incredible; the speed, fabulous; and that wham-pow-socko ending, with its quick turns and tunnel dives, made for a Grade A coaster-lovers experience.
As I stepped off the ride, the first drops of rain began to fall. Having ridden everything that I truly wanted to, I headed out to the parking lot and heading back to Chicopee for another night at the Walmart Resort.
I got some editing done on an upcoming Drone Zone segment and reviewed the footage that I shot at the park earlier in the morning. With a couple of days before my next gig in West Dover, Vermont, I was back on the hunt for solid WiFi and electricity. That hunt would have to wait until tomorrow.
It was a great day, though I am glad that the music finally took hold and that this is what I do for a living. It’s so much more fun going to a theme park and not feeling like I should be picking up trash off of the ground or giving directions to lost tourists.