Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Roller blog.

Before I looked at the Six Flags company web site, I hadn’t realized that Six Flags Over Texas was originally divided into six themed areas, one for each flag. Six Flags Great America has eight distinct areas, including Carousel Plaza, Orleans Place, Mardi Gras, Yankee Harbor, Yukon Territory, Hometown Square, Country Fair and Southwest Territory. A major part of Yukon Territory is given over to a spot called “Loony Toons National Park,” which, as I will describe tomorrow, had the best attraction for us.

Not that these divisions were all that serious. Crossing from one to the other wasn’t like passing through Checkpoint Charlie, and most of them contained similar things: one of the park’s monster roller coasters, some smaller rides, an entertainment venue of some kind, a place or two to eat, and a host of carnie games and souvenir shops. Each area is vaguely decorated in its theme, but usually that means low-budget storefronts and phony facades. Six Flags, unlike Disneyland(-world), doesn’t go to extravagant lengths to tart up its parks.

One thing Six Flags does spend money on is roller coasters. As well they should, since I’m sure that’s what most people come for. No matter where you are within the park, you’re within sight of one or more of these amazing contraptions. I felt a little like Rip Van Winkle, since the last time I spent much time in amusement parks was in the late 1970s, at the dawn of intense, twisty, metal-tracked roller coasters. Back then, a thing called Greazed Lightning was hot stuff (at AstroWorld, I think; maybe it was “Greezed Lightning”). It consisted of a metal track with one loop; you took an initial plunge to build up speed, and went around on the loop, and then went up a ways, to the end of the track; and then you went around the loop backwards. That was it. The art of the thrill ride is light years beyond that now.

These machines also brought home the difference, as if it needed emphasizing, between being 17 and being 43. In high school, I would ride anything. The point of an amusement park was roller coasters. Now I wasn’t so sure I wanted to go on any of the monster rides. Fortunately, Lilly is still too young for most of them, so my mettle wasn’t tested, except once. Just before we left, we talked her into going with me on the park’s massive wooden roller coaster, the American Eagle, which she’s just big enough for. It’s long and creaky, with the standard slow crawl up to a hell of an initial plunge, plus plenty of twists after that. One thing that impressed me was its height. You have a fine long view of the plain of Lake County and the traffic on I-94 from up there.

I survived, and so did Lilly, though it may be years before she wants to go on anything like it again. Maybe when she’s in high school.


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