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A visit to Six Flags Magic Mountain

los angeles sunset

Depending on the time of year you ask me, I have one big regret about moving to the Pacific Northwest. If you ask me during winter, it’s winter: the short days, the long dark, the dreariness, the relentless soggy wet-hem shoe-leaking mold-growing constant drizzle glasses-spotting hair-frizzing dampness of the season. If you ask me any other time, it’s the lack of roller coasters in the immediate vicinity. Sure, there’s a couple at Wild Waves (missing bolts and all!), but it’s first and foremost a water park. I used to practically live at Six Flags Great America in the summer. With a season pass, I had very little incentive not to. After all, it’s not like you can feel face-rippling g-force induced exhilaration on the couch. At least not easily.

When I lived in California, the nearest Six Flags park was Magic Mountain. The two hour drive to get there (with no traffic, and when is there ever zero traffic in Los Angeles?) plus college, plus two jobs meant that I generally made it to the park once or twice a year at most. The last time I went was in 2010, and the entire day was an ordeal, to put it lightly. This time, I was hoping for a better experience.

It was indeed better than last time, but that would not have taken much. The visit got off to not a great start when we pulled up to the parking lot and were informed that their credit card system was down, and we’d have to use their on-site ATMs to pay for parking, buy our tickets, etc. With the cost of two adult tickets plus parking, we were already bumping up against their ATM withdrawal limit, which meant that we were blessed with being able to pay their exorbitant ATM fee more than once.

six flags magic mountain

The first ride we hopped on was X2. It has seats that pitch forward and back on a separate axis from the track, and the result is a ride that’s incredibly intense. This ride used to be my absolute favorite, and I don’t know if it’s that I’m getting old or less used to coasters or what, but after the first drop, when it pulls you up backwards, it was almost too much for me. I felt like I couldn’t breathe, and not in an “I’m having so much fun” sort of way, more in a “I think I might be dying” way.

Our next ride was Viper, and we were able to hop right on the ride with zero wait. It’s the last remaining Arrow Dynamics Megalooper coaster in the world. This is a more standard seated coaster with an over the shoulder harness; it reaches speeds of 70 mph and turns riders upside down seven times.  I remember its former twin, Shockwave, at Great America, and it had the same drawback–it rattles your head between the shoulder restraints like those mixing beads in a can of spraypaint. The only way to sort of deal with it is to press your head as hard as you can against one side of the restraints to minimize the amount of times it crashes into the other side. With better padding, this ride could be as awesome as it used to be.

Hands down, my current favorite coaster at Magic Mountain is Tatsu. This coaster has you sit down, restraints lock in your upper body and your legs, and the seat is then pulled up so you’re looking at the ground. It’s like flying in the claws of a giant eagle. On every roller coaster, you’re trusting your life to the machine–Tatsu feels extra scary because it’s more evident than ever that the restraints are all that’s keeping you from an unpleasant splat on the pavement.

The one ride I’d urge you to stay away from at all costs is Green Lantern. It’s another ride where the seats pitch on a separate axis from the track, which is back and forth in a ribbon pattern. They need to rename this ride The Migraine Machine, because it gave me one of the worst headaches of my life. Jason ended up having to backtrack halfway through the park to find a kiosk that was selling aspirin, while I waited around because the thought of walking with my head pounding so badly made me want to barf. So instead, I scoped out a small area of shade and basically prayed for death. In other words, I don’t recommend it.

gotham city park magic mountain

We ended up riding nearly every roller coaster that was open that day, which was a far cry from my previous visit, when I rode only a couple due to high winds closing the rest. The only one I took a pass on was Superman, and that’s because the line was ridiculous and didn’t move once in ten minutes. Very few of the other coasters had extended wait times. Some were so short we only had to wait for one or two cars before riding. It was one of those rare sorts of days where buying a fast pass wouldn’t have been worth the added expense because you wouldn’t really save any line time. We walked straight on to Batman: The Ride, which is always exciting for me, because I remember when it was hot shit in 1992 and you had to wait for five hours to ride for 45 seconds and it was still totally worth it. I loved it then and I love it now.

burned collossus six flags

The thing about remembering what Batman: The Ride was like when it was new, and the park in general in its heyday is that it is beyond evident how much it’s declined since then. So much of the stuff that’s supposed to create an atmosphere now serves to create a very different atmosphere: one of disrepair and neglect. Things are broken, tagged, falling apart, trash is everywhere, and even some of the rides operated in a way that suggested penny-pinching, which is not what you want to see when you’re trusting the park literally with your life. It shouldn’t be that way, especially at a park that boasts the largest number of roller coasters in the world. Clearly they’re making enough money post-bankruptcy to continue building; it would be nice to see some of those funds diverted to upgrading and maintaining what they already have. They’ve already stopped dropping millions for temporary licenses like Terminator, so that’s a start.  Although I can’t directly compare Six Flags to all of the competing parks in the area (I haven’t been to Disneyland for over twenty five years, though I have read that their park standards are by far the highest), I’ve been to three different Universal parks in the last few years, and Universal Studios blows Six Flags out of the water in terms of creating a clean, welcoming, functional atmosphere that sometimes feels downright magical. In every way, Six Flags is trying to compete with these other parks–they’re charging a comparable ticket price, they’re selling similarly expensive food and souvenirs, they’re licensing properties to widen their appeal, they’re even expanding their Fright Fest offerings to try and go toe to toe with Halloween Horror Nights and Knott’s Scary Farm. But they’re just not there. Right now, they’re only pulling ahead in the “rides that spontaneously and mysteriously light on fire” category. I love roller coasters, and I have a lot of love in my heart for Six Flags and the time I’ve spent there, but with two mediocre visits in a row, I don’t see myself making the effort to go back to Magic Mountain.

 

Pumpkin Stabbing 8: Hands of Fate & October Wrap-Up

reddit secret satanThe gift I sent out for the reddit trick or treat exchange. Another satisfied giftee!

pumpkin spice tonicI didn’t know if this would be a nom or a vom, but I gave it the old college try and was pleasantly surprised. It was like a gently spiced cream soda, not in-your-face pumpkin.

gross cauldronI took a cheap-o plastic cauldron and made it completely gross and somewhat dangerous with a number of coats of rust antiquing solution. I’m not 100% satisfied with it, but at least it looks somewhat spookier.

skeleton attack

skeleton dogs are jerksI don’t know how many trick or treaters saw this little joke, but it made me happy every day.

spooky living room or regular living room

plate of gross foodFor party food this year, I went less overboard with homemade stuff–it’s always been too much food in general and absolutely too many sweets and I hated having so much left over/going to waste, especially after so much work. So instead I gave gross names to dried fruits, because, let’s face it, people are still more likely to eat a “swollen spider body” than they are a prune.

punkins

orgrimmar pumpkinJason’s WoW-inspired pumpkin

eye of sauron pumpkinI thought it would be a great idea to make an eye of Sauron pumpkin, but I didn’t realize until I’d finished that it basically looked like a huge glowing vagina, so that may or may not have something to do with us not getting a ton of trick-or-treaters this Halloween.

As usual, October flew by in what felt like a minute. This year marked the 8th pumpkin carving party that I’ve hosted, and the first that didn’t involve a trip to a pumpkin patch, which worked out for a couple of reasons: one, it was late enough in the season that the pumpkins left in the fields would have likely been rotten, two, it was pouring outside so it wouldn’t have even been fun, and three, it is so much work to organize a party that meets at two different locations, with some people only coming to the second half. I didn’t end up taking many pictures of the various goings-on at the party because, well, basically I am terrible at remembering to bust out the camera when there’s socialization to do.

This is the second year in a row I haven’t made a costume–I couldn’t decide what I wanted to be, and even when I had some vague ideas, I couldn’t work up the motivation to actually make them. I don’t know if it’s general malaise or what, but I refuse to let this particular tradition carry on three years in a row. Next year, I will have a costume and I will go somewhere, damn it, and lord help us all if I decide to go as a classic (ie, nude) witch!

Hearthstone Fireside Friends

If you haven’t heard of Hearthstone, it’s a free-to-play collectible card game made by Blizzard. Recently, they released an app so you could play on ipad, and also announced “Fireside Friends” gatherings–official gatherings where people could meet up and play with one another, and those who participated would be given a special card back to show everyone that they have real-life friends. Well, screw that noise. I don’t have a laptop OR an ipad, and since it looks like they won’t be developing a Windows RT app any time soon (or ever, which is a shame, because it would be so much fun to play Hearthstone in my hammock instead of at a desk), I decided to host a Fireside Friends gathering at my house so I could actually play without lugging my PC around like I’m still living in the heyday of the LAN party.

To commemorate this occasion, I made some themed food with modified Hearthstone card labels, because theme parties are my jam and it’s a sad day when I can’t photoshop a joke about balls.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s also not a party without a fart joke.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI had never made spring rolls before. They were such a pain that I may never make them again.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese are grapes wrapped in goat cheese and toasted pistachios and they are amazing.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI was so not lying about having a cotton candy machine.

We had fun, got our card backs, and best of all, we didn’t have to interact with strangers. If you play Hearthstone, add me as a friend! My BattleTag is DrStinkbeard#1437.