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Sunday, June 20, 2021

Jersey Devil Thoughts and Overall Great Adventure Trip Report, June 2021

We were able to get a visit in to Great Adventure for the first time in many years, dating back to the Summer of 2010 to be exact, when rumors were swirling about the demise of Great American Scream Machine. It had also been about that long since we had gone to the Jersey Shore as well, so this year we changed all of that. We had a great vacation in which we split a day's worth of visits over a Sunday and a Thursday. It was a vacation of pretty great surprises with all of the parks that we visited, and lots of changes overall. 

Nitro powered its way into being one of my absolute favorite steel coasters. I remember it being a great ride, but it really felt like it was particularly terrific on this visit, with ridiculous airtime on every hill and that midcourse helix feeling super intense. I do not really keep a top ten, but rather a running list in my head of my favorite coasters. When it comes to steel coasters, the real top tier standouts for me are Magnum, Phantom's Revenge, Superman at SFNE, Alpengeist, Steel Vengeance, Fury 325, and as of this past week, Gale Force at Playland's Castaway Cove in Ocean City, NJ, and Nitro, with all of them in an unbreakable tie because I just enjoy them so much. Nitro had always been a mid tier steel coaster for me, along the lines of Diamondback, Thunderbird, Apollo's Chariot, Raptor, the Superman twins at Darien Lake and Six Flags America, Lightning Run at Kentucky Kingdom, Sky Rocket, and more. Nitro powered its way into being one of my absolute favorite steel coasters. 

Superman also looks incredible and is running terrific to boot. That coaster still runs like new and the new paint job looks fantastic. I hope they follow suit and paint Batman and Nitro. Batman was also running really well. Both of them round out my three favorite and most enjoyable coasters at Great Adventure.

Additionally, on the positive side of things, ride operations and rider throughput were excellent across the board with minimal train stacking, especially on Nitro, Kingda Ka, and El Toro. 

Equally surprising was just how poorly El Toro and Kingda Ka have aged. El Toro was still enjoyable, but those trains just do not seem to be tracking well on that track, with high speed shopping cart style shuffling, but the airtime and laterals are ridiculous enough that they overcome the roughness of the ride. The trains feel like shopping carts going over that track. I still enjoyed it, and its greatest moments, the first three hills and the turns heading back to the station feel like a junior version of Voyage, sans trains that track well and a layout that just seems to quit way too quickly. 

Kingda Ka has aged horribly, with it being almost unrideable and rough. I do not think the coaster will be sustainable in its current condition and I would not be surprised to see the coaster get removed at some point, or have something drastic done to it, such as a track replacement by Intamin to their heavier duty track like they used on Intimidator 305, or to see a whole new concept be used utilizing the tower structure. On the flip side, this visit was also the first time that I rode Zumanjaro, which currently retains the title of "world's tallest drop tower." To me, rather than riding like an intense drop tower, it felt like going down the park's parachute ride or even an observation tower. I know the advertised speed is 90 MPH, but it really did not feel that fast. The views are cool from it and it is relaxing and seeing a Kingda Ka train launch at the same time was pretty cool. 

This visit was my first time riding a 4D Freespin coaster with a ride on Joker, but for as much of a rush it was for me, it was definitely a one-and-done ride. These coasters feel like a tracked and less fun version of a Huss Top Spin, and not really in a good way. They are a definite rush though. 

This was also my first time riding Green Lantern, and while my second generation B&M stand-up credentials are limited without having ridden Georgia Scorcher or Riddler's Revenge, I have to say that I definitively like this coaster better than Mantis (prior to conversion) in regards to mid 90s second generation stand-up coasters, and I absolutely despise the first generation B&M standup coasters. Green Lantern is absolutely huge and it could be great if it had vest restraints instead of those horse collar head banger restraints that it currently has. Several of the transitions are pretty rough and a more forgiving harness could make that coaster decent. Did it have those transition problems when it was at Kentucky Kingdom?

As always, Great Adventure was rough around the edges. The theming that came with the additions of Kingda Ka, El Toro, and Dark Knight, and the addition of theming with the repaint of Medusa/Bizarro were admirable and a nice change in at least attempting to do theming. Over the years though, that theming has not been refreshed and the additions of the Joker and the Jersey Devil Coaster are swift departures from having at least some theming or stuff that adds to the ride experience. Even close calls that add character to the ride or at least landscaping help out the ride experience so much, think of the boulder covered ground on Hydra at Dorney, the Key Hole thing over Cedar Point's entrance with Gatekeeper, or the barn thing on Thunderbird at Holiday World. 

The oldest sections of the park, in and around the Boardwalk, main midway, Frontier Adventures, and the Ferris Wheel area, retain the original shade trees and decor and they are the primary areas of the park that feel like they have the soul of an amusement park. The lake area adjacent to the entrance for the Skyride (a true Von Roll masterpiece) and El Toro is such a serene place to take in the park. Throughout the rest of the park though, on a hot day, you are in for sunburn when visiting the park, and waiting in line for Superman or Green Lantern feels like standing in a parking lot, devoid of shade and much of any theming. I feel like the park is missing opportunities to enhance the feeling of speed and disorientation on Superman. Some sort of "close call" theming could do so much to enhance the ride experience and the queue line experience. I also feel that the lakeside setting of the park is not used to its fullest potential. The area in between the Joker and the lake, all the way down beyond Jersey Devil, could be a terrific midway area with picnic tables, games, some flat rides, and more. 

Since our last visit, the park is down to only one pre 90s coaster, and it was pretty weird to not see Rolling Thunder and Great American Scream Machine. Strange seeing how a queue line and grass replaced Rolling Thunder. Hopefully that land gets used for something big again someday. 

ANYWAYS! Back to the new ride, Jersey Devil. On the first day of this trip, the ride did not operate at all, which seems to be a trend with RMC additions. We went right at opening to see a couple of mechanics working at the top of the lift hill. We waited in an overflow line about 300 feet from the queue line entrance and decided to head out because things did not look promising. The ride did not end up opening that day, but we jetted over to the other side of the park and snagged two walk on rides on El Toro. We went right at opening on the next day that we visited, later in the week, and waited about 40 minutes, with a 20 minute breakdown when were about 50 feet from entering the station. In the times that the ride was open, the line really seemed to move. The trains slowly move through the station as it loads, and the speed on the lift hill adjusts to account for the blocks on the coaster, so if the prior train has not cleared the mid course block brake, the train on the lift hill significantly slows down until it has passed. Four trains go at once because of this system, but it seems like this adds a technical hangup that produces a ton of downtime for the ride. Until they get this timing straightened out, any theoretical efficiency gains of this new system are offset by its downtime. I would not be surprised to see them go down to three trains to cut down on these ride faults. It is nice to see RMC attempt to make efficiency a priority though, because most of their rides have dismal rider throughput.

Aside from ride operations, my thoughts on this coaster is that it is fun and fills in a niche in the park as a gentle family ride. It joins Dark Knight, Runaway Mine Train, and Skull Mountain as an excellent family addition to the park. I do not think that this is a thrill machine akin to Nitro, Batman, or Superman, but it is a decent middle-of-the-lineup coaster for the park and an excellent family ride. The first drop and the second element have okay airtime in the back, but the rest of the ride seemed to blend together. If I had closed my eyes, I would not even be able to differentiate anything about the elements. The elements mostly felt oddly rampy and gradual with almost no snap to the transitions. Each element seemingly involves a long stare down a relatively straight piece of track and aside from the first element, the other two inversions involve a long and gradual straight track rise with the inversion visible from a distance. It was strange. The trains also have a fishtailing shimmy to them as they go on the track. Watch any video POV and you will see it illustrated. 

Additionally, the trains felt like they were crossing over door thresholds, bumpy spots on highways, or speed bumps at a high speed over some of the track transitions. A brand new coaster should not feel like that. I can only imagine how rough those track spots may feel a few years down the line. With all of this criticism though, I do not think the ride is bad, I just think that the layout is more geared towards being a family ride instead of a high thrill ride. While the ride is underwhelming as a thrill ride, it is definitely a decent family ride and a great addition for the park.

I was really pleased with this visit, with Nitro running much better than I remembered, to the point that I consider it a top tier ride now. As always, my favorite non coaster ride at the park is the Skyride, and Superman and Batman have aged really well and give fantastic rides. 

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