I wouldn't say that Californias Great America is a park that anyone has a huge itch to get to. Unlike some others in the Cedar Fair group, its investments are on the lower end of the scale. Flat rides are the name of the game and even its planned hyper that it was rumoured to get was given to another park instead (Orion).
Eight years ago, it was either this or Discovery Kingdom and bizarrely I chose DK. I thought that was a great little park, but this time it was CGA's turn. It's relatively easy to get to, sitting in San Jose and it took about two hours of train journey from San Francisco. I'd heard very little about this place before so upon arriving I didn't really know where anything was or what support rides there were. The entrance for example looks very similar to other Cedar Fair parks but also Six Flags Great America. I've since learned that and CGA were once owned by the same group.
Our first destination was Flight Deck which has the distinction of being B&M's first custom inverted rollercoaster. Built in 1993 the ride features three inversions and is a very old school B&M. It looks stunning in its bright red attire and the ride looked well maintained. My first reaction was how small the station was. It's very cramped and its the same with Patriot and many of the original gang of B&M's are the same (Batman clones tend to have tiny stations too). Also, for all the criticism I saw that Emperor has no station at Seaward, well.. there isn't a station here either. Geek, be consistent. Once getting on, after waiting one train off we went. Very positive G Force heavy, really nice inversions and a well paced layout. There is an odd bit in the middle of the ride where the train travels in a straight line over the station which felt at odds with everything else. The ending is particularly great with an intense helix over a small lake. There was no second train. Unlike Cedar Point which runs three trains to a fault or Silver Bullet which had its second train in bits scattered all over the break run, Flight Decks second train doesn't seem to exist.
This isn't an extra-ordinary inverter and neither is it a dud. It's a good, solid B&M which has clearly served the park well. It just made me so glad we have Nemesis. I know its very easy to compare every inverter to Nemesis but the reality is, Nemesis is outstanding. From a layout perspective, a theming perspective, an efficiency and capacity perspective. Every park could learn a lesson from our grubby white alien.
I next wanted to get on Patriot but we went the wrong way and ended up exploring all the park instead. Some of my favourite flat rides passed (KMG Afterburner, Huss Breakdance) before we just ended up getting lost. I checked the app and it said that Railblazer was 0 minutes. Staying cautious we decided to take a chance. Now this has two trains running. Which is good as at 8 people a train it has serious capacity issues. We ended up waiting half an hour which I was pretty happy with. To be honest, as good as it is, it's too fast. It zooms through the layout at break-neck speed and it feels very hard to take it all on board. Air time hills, inversions. it's like a blur. No major park should get the off-shelf model. It's too popular for what it is and it just cannot handle a park with crowds. The legend that is Josh C has been tweeting about Jersey Devil, so when he reviews, I'll be very interested in that one.
With that out the way we took a ride on Demon, an arrow looper. I like the old arrow loopers. Whilst rougher then most modern rides there's something about a ride with janky track design that just appeals to me. As they start to arrive at the end of their lives, I'm just glad to have got on some of them.
Next was Patriot. This used to be a stand up before it got converted to a floorless (like Rougarou and Firebird). Whilst I do get why parks are running away from stand up, I dunno. The floorless train doesn't add much beyond making the ride rideable? Maybe thats the point. My husband made the observation that if it wasn't for the height restriction, this would be an excellent 'starter' rollercoaster for an aspiring thrill seeker. And it got me thinking about rides like this and Daemonen at Tivoli Gardens. And he's so right in the observation. Very few inversions, mildly intense without being mind-blowing. Considering this is a B&M from 1991, its aged pretty well from what I could tell. Still, no second train to be found.
After lunch it was time for the wooden coasters. We started with the CGI Wooden coaster, Gold Striker. This had a second train! wow. This was a fantastic ride. Really fast and intense. And with most of the ride hidden from the walkways, it took me by surprise. It probably sits just under Wodan for intensity. Some of the turns it was doing, for a traditional woody, were fabulous. Heavily recommended and the best ride at CGA by a country mile.
And onto our final new rollercoaster Grizzly. Quite easily the worst operations I have ever seen on a ride. It took over seven minutes to unload, load and dispatch a train. Part of this seemed to be staff training, the other part was sheer incompetence. You're running one train around your mildly interesting rollercoaster. This shouldn't be that difficult. But it was. What looked to be a twenty minute wait ended up taking around 70. I was done after this, Didn't even want to attempt the low capacity Arrow wild-mouse which was displaying a 40 minute wait.
So instead we went on two flat rides including the breakdance. Every park should have a breakdance. They are the best flat ride by far. And we called it a day around 4pm. This park needs investment. On the surface everything looks fine. But it provides a middling day out in a state that has Disney, Knotts & Magic Mountain. Hard to compete, yes, but CGA isn't really even trying. It has great support rollercoasters in Flight Deck and Gold Striker but it needs that killer, triple A attraction to make the difference. And two trains on its rides.