Wednesday turned out to be a fantastic day. I can sum up why in two words: Roller Coasters!
I do love roller coasters, and on Wednesday I went to a theme park I’d never been to before: Six Flags Great America, outside Chicago. It was a blast. I went with my sister Laura and one of her friends that Laura dubbed “Incognito Friend X” for her own protection, since Incognito Friend X didn’t tell her boss where she was going. So shhhhhh… don’t spill the beans!
My history with roller coasters, and my love of them, has been very well documented on this blog. I spent a good solid decade avoiding theme parks because I was simply too fat to ride them – I couldn’t fit in the restraints. My very first blog post chronicled a trip to Six Flags Magic Mountain, which was a reward to myself for losing my first 100 pounds. I got to ride coasters for the first time since college. I wrote, in that post: “There were moments during the day where I felt like crying when that harness clicked into place.” Read the whole thing here. It was a powerful day.
Even more powerful was returning to Cedar Point the next summer. Cedar Point was the setting of one of most painful and humiliating weight-related moments of my life: when, in 2001, a ride operator very rudely kicked me off a coaster (read the full story here). For 10 years I stayed away from Cedar Point, which was one of my favorite places to visit growing up, but in 2011, I returned and rode everything with no problems at all. I replaced a bad memory with an incredible one, and that felt amazing.
I now go to a theme park a couple times a year, and I’ve blogged about my visits to Knott’s Berry Farm, Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, and a return trip to Magic Mountain. I’m proud that I’ve gotten to a place where I can walk around a park, go on whatever ride I want, and never ever even think about my weight. That’s what happened at Six Flags Great America, and it’s a testament to how far I’ve come. What used to hinder me is simply no longer a concern, and when I reflect on that, I get a rush that’s not unlike the one I feel during a 100-foot drop on a coaster.
Speaking of coasters…. I should get back on track, because I just went to Six Flags Great America, and it was awesome!
We arrived before the park opened, and were part of the crowd that stampeded along the midway as soon as they let us. Our strategy was to head to the back of the park, a strategy that a shockingly low number of people employed. We ended up on the very first train of the day on X Flight, which is the coaster in the first picture of this post. X Flight is the newest coaster at Great America, and it’s a winged coaster, which means the seats are out to the sides of the track, instead of above or below. The ride is fast, twisty, and full of inversions – phenomenal.
The great thing about going to theme parks with Laura and Incognito Friend X is that all of us have the same priorities: hit the coasters, with no dilly-dallying. The coasters were the priority, and with the exception of the occasional bathroom break, we wasted no time – just one coaster after another. From X Flight we headed next door to American Eagle, the park’s largest wooden coaster.
American Eagle, when it opened, held the record for tallest and fastest wooden coaster, and it didn’t disappoint. We ended up being in the first train of the day for that coaster, too!
Then we hit Demon, a looping, corkscrewing coaster. It was jerky and uncomfortable, but we only waited about 5 minutes.
Next up was Laura’s favorite coaster, Raging Bull. Laura’s on the left, and Incognito Friend X is in the center:
This photo is at a weird angle (I took it while waiting in line), but Raging Bull is the tallest and fastest coaster at Great America, topping out at 208 feet and 73 mph.
You don’t go upside down on Raging Bull, but you fly all around, including some wonderful high-banked turns (see a video here). There’s a fun tunnel at the bottom of the main drop, when the ride is racing along at its fastest, and the coaster is pretty long, with lots of airtime where your butt is lifted off the seat.
Raging Bull also marked where our luck with lines started changing. We waited about 40 minutes for Raging Bull, and we waited similar amounts for the rest of the major rides we went on. Forty minutes isn’t too bad in the grand scheme of things, but we were glad we knocked out our first three coasters in under a half-hour.
Laura and I couldn’t resist being Mardi Gras king and queen:
After Raging Bull, we hit Viper, a tightly wound wooden coaster. Visually, Viper is the coolest ride in the park, because the track dives and weaves through the wooden supports, so you never really know where you’re going. After that came Superman: Ultimate Flight, a coaster where, in the station, they rotate the seats until you’re in the classic Superman flying position, with your chest and head facing the ground. There’s some good turns and swoops on Superman, but it’s a short ride, and it wasn’t one of my favorites (those honors go to X Flight and Raging Bull).
Right next to Superman was The Dark Knight, an indoor coaster that’s mostly in the dark, except for some lit scenes featuring the Joker. Laura thought I looked like a movie star under the lighting in the line, so she snapped this picture:
I’m wearing my sunglasses indoors because they’re prescription, and the only glasses I brought. Do I look like a movie star? I’m taking it as a compliment… who am I to argue?
Our last coaster of the day was Batman: The Ride, a coaster where you sit in chairs hanging from the track, like a ski lift. Great America currently has the chairs facing backwards – a rare occurrence that they’re heavily promoting – and it was terrifying. You have no idea how high the lift hill is, or where you’re going. Add in 5 inversions, and it makes for a thrilling experience.
For food, I ended up buying one thing in the park. Can you guess what it is?
According to this website, a soft pretzel is a theme park “diet disaster” because it contains your entire daily allowance of carbs, but at the time I thought it was a pretty good choice, because it wasn’t deep-fried, made entirely of sugar, or covered in cheese. I brushed off most of the salt and ate the whole thing, which, according to that same website, had 527 calories, which I also don’t think was too bad. I basically considered it my lunch. Breakfast that day was fruit, a piece of bread, and a baggie of green pepper slices, and dinner was a big Subway turkey breast chopped salad with just about every veggie and topping they have available.
Our last ride of the day wasn’t a coaster. It was the Sky Trek Tower, a mild ride where you sit in a cabin that slowly rotates and ascends a tower 250 feet in the air.
It offers great views of the park – and even the Chicago skyline, 50 miles away – and I was able to snap pictures of all the coasters we went on that day:
That’s eight more coasters I can add to my list! Plus, I got in a couple miles of walking, I’m sure, and ate well too. It was a great day. See ya next time, Six Flags Great America!
Keep it up, David!