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Witchfinder finally gets to the Point – US Trip, Sep/Oct 2022


Strata Poster
Sure, it’s not doing a lot layout-wise – it’s a load of straight track and a few corners, but add all those tunnels, the mega helix of doom at the end and a bunch of riders that are just absolutely loving it and this is something really special
The funny thing is I still have no idea of the layout, I haven't watched a POV of the ride ever, my only experience was with @Howie in the pitch black. I remember there being 2 lift hills and a really long slantly descent into what seemed to be darker... darkness, but actually not a clue if/when we turned anywhere o_O


Hyper Poster
The next day we began our journey back towards Chicago and had to drive about 6 hours from Pigeon Forge up to Indianapolis. So not much happened on this one other than seeing lots of nice Fall foliage from our car on the Interstate.



We also made a couple of interesting food stops. For lunch we stopped in Corbin, Kentucky to visit the Harland Sanders Café and Museum, also known as the birthplace of KFC. I love a good KFC and assumed the quality of it would be decent here but it was no different to anywhere else to be honest. The museum was good though!











When we got Indianapolis we visited another cool place for our evening meal. The Garage is a former Coca-Cola bottling plant that has been regenerated and turned into a funky food hall, where I had my first and probably only taste of Chinese/Mexican fusion food!








Hyper Poster
On to our final park day of the trip, and we left Indianapolis in the morning to drive up to Gurnee and Six Flags Great America. This was a 3-4 hour drive but we had the advantage of the time zone changing which meant that we had an extra hour to get to the park for the 5pm opening time.

Along the way we stopped off at Old Joliet Prison, probably most famous for being the filming location for opening of The Blues Brothers and doubling as Fox River Penitentiary in Prison Break. We didn’t have time to do the full tour so were just planning to take some photos of the exterior, but we popped into the reception/gift shop and the staff kindly gave us a small, free tour of one of the cell blocks, which included Jake Blues’ cell from the aforementioned movie.






We also got some shots of the gate that was used in the film, and the walls that featured prominently in the escape scenes from Prison Break. A very cool place to visit and well worth checking out if you’re in the area.





All of that and some slow Chicago traffic did mean that we ended up arriving in Gurnee later than intended, and after quickly dropping off our bags at our AirBnb we headed over to Six Flags, just about arriving at opening time.


Cred anxiety immediately set in because this was going to be a slog. I’d drawn up another plan based on historic queue times, and with up to 15 coasters to ride in just six hours, every minute lost might be critical. It was also bloody freezing – we’d got used to 20 degree temperatures further south over the last few days and here is was more like 12 degrees with added Chicago wind chill. The locals were generally dressed in warm jackets, hats and gloves and we had none of those. 🥶


After some security and bag check faff, we were in the park by about 5:20. The plan was to loop around the park, hitting all the major creds first in the hope that the queues would be short until about 8pm when, historically, it gets a lot busier. If all went to plan then by that time we’d be moving on to the less desirable stuff that typically gets shorter lines.


Already 20 minutes behind schedule, the first stop was the newest coaster in the park, which generally gets an hour-long queue within the first hour of opening – if it opens at all!


Good fortune was with us, as Maxx Force was running and only had a 25 minute wait. We managed to get the back row and were soon ready to experience our first compressed air launch coaster.



Oof, that launch is good and powerful, and was easily the best launch on any coaster we rode on this trip. Beyond that you get about 20 seconds of ride time as you’re thrown through a variety of strange inversions that oddly didn’t really feel like inversions for the most part. I can’t really remember much about it now but I recall that I did enjoy it. It’s too short to be a contender for a high place in my rankings, but it was alright.



One ride down, and from there we began an anti-clockwise loop around the park and the next stop was this big ol’ B&M.


Blissfully, no queue had built up for this yet and I pretty much walked on to the back row. I was quite impressed by the recorded announcements in the station which urged riders to be ready to leave in less than 30 seconds. People diss Six Flags for the operations but that’s a cheap but effective way to stop people faffing around in the station!


As one of the earliest B&M Hypers this is well known for having a rather more experimental layout than many of the ones that followed it. The pre-drop leads to a pretty impressive yank of ejector on the back row, but after that there’s not a great deal of airtime, with just one camelback and otherwise a lot of twisting corners as the ride wraps around itself in its relatively small plot. Interesting to try, and certainly enjoyable, but not one of the better B&M Hypers that I’ve ridden although it still gave a smooth ride after more than 20 years of service.


From one B&M to another, next up was X-Flight, our third wing coaster of the trip.


Seemed like most of the park visitors hadn’t made it to the back yet as this was another fairly short line, though we did wait a little longer for the front row. We chose the left side on the basis that most people are right-handed and would more likely choose the right side. 🤷‍♂️



Despite being older than Gatekeeper, this was certainly a much smoother ride, and without doubt it was the most intense of the wing coasters I’ve ridden. After the predictable wingover drop I felt like the sequence of elements was more interesting than some of the others and the near-misses through various bits of theming were good too. Would definitely have re-ridden if we’d had more time.



Speaking of time, we’d been in the park just over an hour and ticked off three of the major rides, so it was going well. Next up was the fourth and final of the “must not miss” creds from this park.


We only had to wait 20 minutes for our third RMC of the trip, and were allocated a row fairly near the front. By now the sun was pretty much set so once again we found our first ride on an RMC to be virtually a night ride.



As one of the earlier RMCs, Goliath doesn’t have any of the crazy elements that we’ve seen on later installations, but the elements it does have are all great, and let’s not forget this is the fastest woodie in the world, having reclaimed the title from Lightning Rod after its retracking. The first drop is a monster and throws you out of your seat all the way down. It’s followed by a great overbanked turnaround and airtime hill before you go through the dive loop and into the amazing stall.


After that it’s another turnaround and I was all geared up for a series of ejector hills to finish the ride off, but it crests a hill and then abruptly slams into the brakes. Oh, OK then. It comes to an unexpectedly bland end and it’s all over just as it was getting good. That shortness puts it at the bottom of the list of RMCs I’ve ridden, even though it is a really good ride.

It was now properly night time and from this point the pictures will be a bit naff as my phone is generally crap with photos in the dark. Having done the most intense woodie in the park, next up was the tamest.


No queue for this so we were straight on for a cute little kids ride with a ton of history. This was a bonus really as I wasn’t expecting it to be open that evening and I love the fact that Six Flags bought this when it was in danger of being lost forever, which is a very un-Six Flags thing to do.


Time for one more ride before grabbing some food, and my first chance to try an Intamin Impulse coaster – the recently re-branded Flash: Vertical Velocity.


Anna didn’t fancy this one so I rode alone on the back row, and found the whole experience fairly unpleasant. The forward launch was OK but the backwards one combined with being flung up the spike was quite gross. At least now I’ve ridden one of these I can say that I’m not a fan! 🤢



We’d been in the park two hours at this point and managed to ride six coasters including all the must-dos, so the plan was going really well but we were really cold and the biggest priority now was to get indoors and eat something hot. We headed to a place serving pizza and pasta, and I have to say that the pasta and meatballs I had was one of the most welcome meals of the entire trip simply because it was warm and plentiful.

After we’d eaten, a check on the queue times showed that the park had got a little more busy but probably not as bad as we’d expected, so things were looking good for continuing the evening’s cred run. Given we’d stuffed ourselves with hot food and it was not getting any warmer out there, the next cred chose itself by virtue of being indoors with a 30 minute queue and not especially intense.



I was fairly impressed with the theming on this, both in the queue line and on-ride. It is in essence just a typical wild mouse but you have to appreciate the effort and again, it was nice to be inside for a while.


Back to the outdoor creds then, and my next one would be my 350th so I was intending for this to be Batman: The Ride, hoping to maintain a trend having ridden B&M inverts as my 100th and 300th creds. However, the queue for this had shot up to 45 minutes so we skipped that for the time being and instead my 350th cred would be a woodie - Viper.


To get to this we headed down yet another crazily long queue line – what is it with this place and almost every queue to get on or off a ride being insanely long? Once we negotiated that it was another walk-on. I’d heard good things about this mirrored clone of the legendary Coney Island Cyclone, but either we picked a bad row or the cold weather wasn’t helping, as it was a fairly shaky ride with very little airtime to speak of. Nevertheless, it was another cred off the list and we moved on to the next one.


That next one was the iconic Whizzer, and having seen on queue-times that this had a 25 minute wait, I decided to splash out on one-shot Flash Pass for this - $5 each seemed a fair price to pay to skip the line on this one to save some time and standing out in the cold. It took a while to find the entrance because the ride had been renamed “Biohazard” for the Halloween event, with the new logo over the top of the usual one – not ideal when you’re a newbie to the park! We entered the Flash Pass queue and made our way to the station, only to find the that the coaster was walk-on for the standby queue. Annoying, and possibly a bit naughty for Six Flags to be upping the queue times artificially, but it was only $10 wasted so not a big deal.


This is the only photo I took of this ride! It was fun to get on this classic Schwarzkopf whose trains and spiral lift hill gave me nostalgic Black Hole vibes. It’s quite jolty in places but has a nice, long layout that sends you rushing through the trees with plenty of banked turns and a pretty intense helix towards the end. Definitely a classic.

We were well on the way round our second anti-clockwise lap of the park, and now darkness had descended, all the Halloween decorations and scare zones were in full effect.




Keeping in the scary spirit, the next coaster to ride was another old-school one – The Demon.


This was lit up brilliantly with red lights throughout the queue line and in the station and the brilliantly cheesy theme song playing. It was another walk-on, so I grabbed the back row and braced myself for the inevitable headbanging that comes with an old Arrow looper.




I was fully expecting this to be just another +1 but actually this was one of my favourite rides of the night. Sure, it had some jolty moments but the combination of the ride, the lighting, the music, the darkness, the trees and the tunnels made for such a fun ride that I was grinning all the way through. It was a brilliant experience for the spooky season and I was tempted to immediately go around for another ride, but there was still plenty to do.

The only photo I took of the ride in action, earlier in the evening.

After another short break to buy and construct some Smores and more importantly spend some time near the fire warming up, it was back to the coasters and the last remaining woodie in the park.



American Eagle had been renamed “Black Widow” for the Halloween season and had some appropriate decorations, but first I had to reach it. If some of the other rides in the park had long queue lines, they were just a warm-up for the ridiculous pathway for this ride that takes you across an access road and effectively out of the park.



This was another ride I was half expecting to be closed that evening, and to be fair I was half right, because the red side wasn’t operating. The queue was surprisingly one of the longer ones of the evening, not helped by the amount of time it takes to get to the damn ride. Once I got into the station I just grabbed the first empty row, which was a wheel seat fairly near the front.


Once again, no pics of this in action but what can I say? I bet it was ace when it was opened 40-odd years ago, because it has height and speed stats that are still impressive now for a woodie, and there were some great airtime pops, especially in the second half. Unfortunately it now jackhammers around most of the layout and was easily the roughest wooden coaster on our trip. Please retrack or knock it down and use that space for something better!

After riding, I made the long trek back to the park and headed for a second ride on a much smoother woodie, using the single rider queue that got me near the back of the train, oddly riding alone which kind of negates the point of a SRQ. 🤷‍♂️


Not much change of opinion on the second ride. Great coaster, great elements, too damn short.

Anna had been keeping warm in a variety of gift shops and arcades while I mopped up some of the remaining creds, but after Goliath I found her and we headed for what would be our final ride of the night.


The queue had thankfully dropped down to 10 minutes so we didn’t have to wait long for a ride on the OG B&M Invert. Nice theming in and around the queue line, by the way.


I’d already ridden the Batman at Over Georgia back in 2017 so I know what to expect here. Intensity. Anna had not ridden that one so this was her first time on a Batman, and she hated it. I wasn’t much of a fan myself either – they are almost too intense to be fun, and that combined with some roughness that comes with age and the low temperatures, it was just a bit of a chore to ride. This was another Invert I didn’t get to ride at the front, but I don’t think it would’ve helped much in this case.


It was now about 10:30 and there were still two creds I hadn’t ridden – Joker and Superman – but enough was enough. We were cold, tired and I’ve ridden other variants of those rides in the past and not really enjoyed them, so it was time to go. Two creds missed that I could have got, but would my life have been any richer for riding them? Nope!

Quick snap of the iconic two-tier carousel on the way out, and that did it for our final park visit of this trip.


This was always going to be little more than a cred run, and a challenging one at that. 12 creds and a re-ride on Goliath in 5 hours is quite the achievement, so I was very pleased that once again my plan was executed to perfection and I got on all the rides I really wanted to. We were lucky that the park was quieter than expected and I expect the temperature played a part in that, though the ticket price of $50 for 6 hours in the park probably helped as well.

We never really got time to properly take in what the park has to offer, but overall my opinion was positive. The circular park layout is easy to navigate aside from the crazy long queue lines everywhere, the landscaping seemed nice and there were some reasonable attempts at theming in areas and even on some rides. Staff were fairly enthusiastic and operations were good, with almost all creds running two trains if they were able. That was probably because they were expecting bigger crowds, but I’ll take it as a positive anyway. The Halloween theming was good and they had a decent amount of scare actors and zones, though that’s not really what we were there for.

As for the rides, they have a very impressive selection of rides that would be the envy of most parks, but oddly nearly all their top-tier rides were “worst in class” for me. Raging Bull is decent, but the worst of the Hypers I’ve ridden. Goliath was excellent, but the worst of the RMCs I’ve ridden. Batman was disappointing and the worst B&M Invert I’ve ridden, X-Flight was middle of the road, and the other woodies were fairly average. I guess the rides are victims of being amongst the first of their type, with later versions of the same hardware being superior. None of that should stop you going to this park because most of those rides are well worth your time, but just don’t expect too much from them if you’re well-travelled or have been to Cedar Point and Kings Island a week earlier. 😆

In terms of how I’d rate the park, it’s a very good Six Flags park, second only to Over Georgia of the ones I’ve visited. I would like to see what it’s like on a warm summer day, though having seen what the queues tend to be like, I’m glad I’ve ridden all the one-and-done creds already. Of all the parks visited on this trip, this may be the one I’m most likely to revisit, simply because of its proximity to Chicago, and yet it was arguably the worst of the four. Go figure. 🤷‍♂️
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Donkey in a hat
Bonus cool points for the Blues Brothers credit, very jealous of that. Love that film!
Really enjoying this trip report. Excellent work 👍


Hyper Poster
Let’s get this trip report finished off then. After the trip to SFGAm, we had another two days in the US and I will briefly summarise that for anyone that is interested, along with a few photos.

Saturday morning, we went for a walk on the beach on the shore of Lake Michigan, then drove up to Milwaukee, stopping at the Mars Cheese Castle on the way, which is a huge and diverse food store that has nothing to do with the Mars confectionery company.









Once we got to Milwaukee we chilled for a bit and then went to see Chris Stapleton at the Fiserv Forum. This was Anna’s bucket list thing to do on the trip and she loved it. To be fair, the man can sing and the show was decent, even if it was just to see how crazy some American country music fans are.



The following day, we spent a couple of hours wandering around Milwaukee, checking out the street art in Black Cat Alley and seeing a few other sights.





We then headed back towards the suburbs of Chicago to check out two locations from 80s classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. First was Cameron’s house, with the famous glass garage on stilts. Unfortunately it was quite hard to see through the trees!


The second location was much more recognisable – the high school steps where Principal Rooney waits with Sloane for her “dad” to pick her up. This is surprisingly accessible considering it’s a school campus and we were able to stand on the steps and park our car in the spot that Ferris parked the Ferrari.


With a few hours still to kill before our flight, the final stop was the Galloping Ghost Arcade, one of the biggest arcades in the world, to indulge one of my other passions which is retro gaming. I recorded a video tour of this for my YouTube channel so you can watch that if you’re interested in this kind of thing.

One thing we also did on Sunday was finally test negative for COVID. Just in the nick of time! 😁

Aside from flying home via Dublin, that was all for our big US trip. Roughly 2000 miles covered across 6 States, 4 big parks visited with 37 new creds obtained (plus the 4 in Ireland), and almost the whole time infected with COVID. Job done!

It wasn’t without drama, but overall it was a fantastic trip and it was great to finally visit some of the biggest and best parks in the country, riding some of the greatest coasters in the world. For me, the best park was Kings Island and the best coaster by some distance was Steel Vengeance, but what made this trip particularly good was that almost every coaster was worth riding. There were no wacky worms, spinning mice or Vekoma boomerangs, just a great range of cutting edge thrill coasters, old-school woodies and classic steel creds with unique layouts. They weren’t all great, but they were all worth a ride. Both my steel and wood top tens have been seriously shaken up by this trip and that says all it really. On that note I will bring this report to an end – thanks for reading. :)


Donkey in a hat
Both my steel and wood top tens have been seriously shaken up by this trip

Well? Let's see 'em then?

More bonus cool points for the Bueller credits - some good movie sites on this trip Mat, not bad going at all, but have you been to Nakatomi Plaza tho?
No, you haven't.
Dave wins. 😉


Hyper Poster
More bonus cool points for the Bueller credits - some good movie sites on this trip Mat, not bad going at all, but have you been to Nakatomi Plaza tho?
No, you haven't.
Dave wins. 😉
Only because I haven't been to LA yet :D
I could break out all the LOTR locations I've been to in New Zealand here, but I won't ;)

As for the top tens, I think there is a thread for that somewhere which I'll post in when I get around to it.

Edit: here you go
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Giga Poster
Very good read that mate, thanks for sharing!

I am still yet to experience a US roadtrip, but the thought of one is tantalising!

I think you made the correct decision in keeping the number of parks relatively low and having a mixture of other experiences tagged in. I'm also a sucker for a film location visit, so I'd probably do something similar to you there.


Hyper Poster
I think you made the correct decision in keeping the number of parks relatively low and having a mixture of other experiences tagged in.

That was rather forced on us since most parks were closed during the week while we were there ;) I'd have liked to have sneaked Holiday World or Kennywood in but it wasn't possible. That said, I do think it's important to have rest days or days doing other stuff. I think a lot of people that have done US trips that see them visiting a park every day have probably burned out at some point along the way.

You should definitely do one though, driving over there is so easy and the quality/density of parks is good in certain areas so you can seriously up the cred count with not that much effort.