6.09.2018

RailBlazer - The Full Experience



It's been nearly a year since "Project SR-1" was teased to the public. RailBlazer, one of the first Rocky Mountain Construction "Raptor" models to debut at a park (along with a mirror image in Texas under a DC Comics theme). The pair of these Raptors were a first ever for the RMC team. The concept of the ride besides being a skinny single-rail is to pack a punch in a small, affordable package by featuring a bunch of unique elements. Did Rocky Mountain Construction knock it out of the park once again? With over 30 laps on this coaster I feel comfortable enough with making a review for the attraction. Let's take a look.

Theme:
California's Great America wanted to theme their Raptor to the great outdoors along the California Coast and going on an offroad adventure. The ride definitely lives up to its adventure vibes.

The queue goes over a waterway and past some of the rocky ravines the ride dives into and around as it snakes its way through the belly of the coaster, followed by a small section of switchbacks before going up the final stretch. Due to the low clearance of the brake run, part of the queue dips into the ground under the brake run before going back up to the station platform.

Experience:
Riders climb into the single file 8-passenger ATV-themed vehicles. They're fairly easy to get into but do be cautious not to bump into the restraint bar as it is kind of in the path. After a few rides, you'll get used to it. Once seated and harness pulled down (there is something satisfying feeling it click into place), area scans are performed and you are sent on your way.



Before we discuss the play-by-play elements, we want to bring up the restraint system first. As you know, it uses an over the shoulder lap bar with a flexible heavy duty fabric (like a car seatbelt). Around the shoulders are some rubber pads to help alleviate pressure that can (and will) be felt during the course of the ride. Also unless you have been heavily stapled, the restraint doesn't really dig into your thighs or stomach...plenty of breathing room!



And...dispatch! Your adventure begins on a 45-degree incline up 106 ft. To the left you have the view of the wooden hand rails, to the right, you get some nice views of the park. Once up top, you whip around the 180-degree turn over Hometown Square (Got some great views of the Red, White and Brews event taking place down below) before you go to a near crawl over the crest. If you're in the front, you're already dangling over the edge of the drop much like a dive coaster but without any holding brakes. In the back, you slow down before you even incline back up. Suddenly it feels like the train just gets yanked down the drop. In the front, the airtime is present but milder. In the back, you are out of your seat the entire time. Also keep in mind it's impossible to keep your feet flat on the floor unless you're really tall, prohibiting much movement. Being of an average height, I was fully airborne coming down the drop. You come to realize the bulk of what holds you in is the collar restraint.





Diving through the ravine comes quick and before you know it, the late raven turn comes to greet you. In the front, you are shot skyward and you're out of your seat until you are nearly inverted heading back down. Honestly, it hardly feels like an inversion but it is still a crazy element I'm still trying to wrap my head around. In the back, the airtime is still present (and strong) but ends a little sooner.



Off-axis airtime hill has to be one of the strongest moments of air on the ride. In all rows you are thrown upward and pinned against the collar until you are just about at the bottom coming out. Followed by the extreme airtime moment is probably the most disorienting part of the ride...the upward spiral and s-curve combo. If you're in the front you could begin graying out much like on Flight Deck.



Once you've began getting tunnel vision, the midcourse drop sneaks upon you. In the back, the airtime is just about as strong as the off-axis but not as long. Still packs a whallop.



The cutback and zero-g might be the the "breather moment" of the ride, both providing some nice inverted moments. Coming out of the zero-g (or corkscrew) you feel like you're going to collide with the nearby ravine surrounding the initial drop before facing the final, sharp overbank. During the corkscrew, especially toward the middle you get a nice floaty hangtime. The ride ends with a final reminder of the crazy air with a quick, strong pop into the brake run.

Aftermath:
It took about 6 rides to finally process what even happened as everything happens so quick. The ride is only 1800 feet long, statistically on the shorter side but the length feels about right with what the ride has to offer...especially with its intensity.

Now keeping in mind, I don't have a firm grip yet on capacity/efficiency yet as the bulk of my ride sessions were during a private CGA staff event (as I'm part of the CGA team!), and lines were minimal (about a 3 train wait at most, and as little as 2 back to back rides, break, 2 more back to back...). Several friends waited about an hour throughout the day with the queue about half full. Hopefully the ride crew will get their groove. Seemed like trains were cranking out pretty quick today.



RailBlazer looks stunning at night even if it has a simplistic lighting package. The track color makes the ride pop at night, and especially striking just at dusk (blue hour) as the vibrant orange pops/contrasts against a deep blue sky. The ride itself is also great at night. While it isn't really darkaround the ride, it's definitely a different experience to be had. Coming out of the cave you are blinded by the onride camera...by the time your eyes adjust from the sudden lighting, the raven turn sneaks right upon you and can catch you off guard. Looking down the drop at night is something else too and we recommend trying row 1 at night, followed by row 8 (which is by far our favorite row).



Rocky Mountain Construction really created something solid in such a small footprint. I can see more smaller and mid-sized parks getting these models in the future. This ride is very well worth checking out. I'd be prepared for a wait in a lengthy queue as this makes its debut...pack your patience, do your restroom runs before getting in line as well as getting any drinks/snacks and getting your group together as there's nothing worse than being that guy who irritates the rest waiting in line because they want to "meet up" with their group...and don't want to be that guy who faces possible ejection from the park for doing such acts. We've experienced this on the last coaster's big debut (Gold Striker) and have witnessed guests getting ejected from the park after pulling a similar act.

Are you not one for coasters? The neighboring new show, RailBlazer Big Basin Bluegrass Band made its debut and is worth swinging by before taking on RailBlazer or relaxing after your crazy experience.



Did you get to experience RailBlazer this weekend as a passholder or last weekend as a CGA associate? What were your thoughts on the attraction? We can't wait to get back on it!

4.05.2018

RailBlazer Construction Update 4/5/18



We're just a couple weeks into the 2018 season and RailBlazer is blazing along at a rapid pace as far as construction goes. Unfortunately we no longer have that cool view on the bridge as fencing has been put up obscuring much of the view. Opening weekend we were able to walk right up to the bridge handrails and got a clear shot of what was all happening.

Disclaimer: All of these photos were taken within the park's midways that are accessible to the public. Please don't enter restricted areas, construction zones or climb up on park structures to obtain photos (yes we've seen guests climbing up on park benches and even go as far as climbing onto the back rests...and we've heard of guests getting corrected by park security for doing such too! Remember, it's for your safety!)






Moving along, one of the most notable things is the rockwork...and it looks gorgeous! Much of the scaffolding has been removed around the drop tunnel/canyon and while it's significantly shorter than the rendering, we are still delighted to see it as we all know "final product may vary." It will still provide that nice head chopper, followed by a narrow clearance between the drop and the overhead brake run. Other rockwork that is currently being painted is in the area just before the upward helix.





Another noticeable thing is after a small hiatus, the lift handrails continue to take shape again. Crews have been up on the lift installing the necessary components. Also, beneath the crest of the lift is more bracing for some catwalks to access the cogs and such.



Last but not least, construction around the ride perimeter continues to take shape. This includes the small photo booth that guests will pass by upon exiting the ride. Hope everyone has their all-season Funpix!


A few other small updates around the park include:
-New "Main ID" signage for White Water Falls, Hometown Square (Replacing the printed one that was produced last year), and fresh new lettering on the Orleans Place brick pillars (replacing the old weathered letters)
-New furnishings over at Pizza Orleans
-Maggie Browns is now open with the interior slightly re-routed - there are now 4 kiosks, doubling the capacity of taking orders
-New restrooms by White Water Falls is now open. Hoping the Orleans restrooms open soon as that's quite a distance between Patriot and Delirium restrooms :)

The new lettering installed on the brick portal over at Orleans Place, the previous lettering lived a good life!

A new 3D painted sign replaced the old flat printed one that kicked off re-establishing
that Hometown Square identity last season

And a new 3D painted White Water Falls graphic replacing the weathered "1990s" era sign,
 fitting with the theme of the area

The new entry area into Maggies has made things run a lot smoother

Maggies now doubled the amount of kiosks (though one was down on this visit) and everything just flowed much better!

Turkey legs

My go-to Tri-tip sitting in the tray behind, perfect to dip in the BBQ sauce!

New to Maggies was the roasted potatoes, they were great!

Noms...

Have you made it out to the park during Spring Break? Have you gotten to try out what we're calling "Maggie's 3.0" yet? Let us know in the comments below!

3.26.2018

Opening Day/Weekend at California's Great America

It's been a brief 3-month slumber for California's Great America and now the park has reopened for its 43rd season! Opening day kicked off on a cold and rainy March 24th as the park celebrated their iconic coaster Flight Deck's 25th anniversary.




The celebration included free dog tag souvenirs, continuous screenings of Top Gun in the adjacent Theatre Royale, a photo op with a Tom Cruise look-alike, a nifty Coaster Dynamix model of Flight Deck in the Theatre Royale lobby, and special food items at the adjacent remodeled Pizza Orleans.

Flight Deck is ready to take on riders despite the poor weather

Flight Deck Model in the Theatre Royale lobby


The park was giving out these 25th anniversary Flight Deck dog tags


The park spruced up the queue and fixed the lighting in these vignettes during the off-season


Another returning element for the weekend was the fog spewing out from the retractable floor

And ride attendants decked out in flight suits modeled after the originals

We took a photo with the Tom Cruise look-alike after our ride


Typically opening days tend to have a few operational kinks but everything went rather smooth once the weather cooperated. We had actually kicked off the CGA season with a front row on Flight Deck only to have a sudden downpour as soon as we disengaged the lift...made for an interesting and intense experience!

CGA Marketing team took a spin as well on Flight Deck



Foods-wise, options felt initially sparse but it is early in the season and there's some good things coming. Maggie's is undergoing a refurbishment and should be opening soon. Sierra Creek Lodge appears to have a little ways to go as well as the new French Quarter Funnel Cake. Funnel Cake lovers, you can still pick some up over at Sweet Treats in Planet Snoopy! We did try out the offerings at Pizza Orleans and were very satisfied with their offerings! Their pizza now uses fresh dough made from scratch. Yesterday we had tried the "Maverick" and today the "Goose" pizza. 

French Quarter Funnel Cake will soon rise behind these walls

Orleans Candy Kitchen also coming soon - previous home to Trending Now shop

Maggies is also undergoing an extensive refurbishment. The new pavement and ride really make this park look fresh!


We had to try out the limited time offerings at Pizza Orleans.

Maverick Pizza was a meat lover's pizza with Canadian bacon, ham, and pepperoni. 

And our favorite, "Goose Pizza" which had BBQ sauce, chicken and red onion

Planet Snoopy and surrounding area looks quite different this year as there are a lot of construction walls up. Access to Peanuts Playhouse has been blocked off as the outdoor theater gets demolished. With this said, the Peanuts Meet and Greet has found a new home right in the heart of Planet Snoopy!

New home for the Peanuts Gang!

Sierra Creek Lodge make-over taking place beyond these walls

Hi Schroeder! 


Switching gears here and probably the moment everyone's all been waiting for - RailBlazer! 



This attraction is really twisted and just gorgeous to look at. Now that the park is open, we've been able to get some great views of construction that's taking place. One thing to note: photos taken were from behind perimeter fencing from ground level - please respect the park and don't attempt to try and enter restricted areas or climb on park structures to get your construction photos of the attraction as both are a safety hazard and against park policies.




A clear view of the tunnel/canyon that's being formed around the initial drop. It's a tight fit!


Overview of RailBlazer, aka the view as shown in the renderings


These next couple shots give you an idea how compact this footprint is


The queue is beginning to form

And ride lighting is being installed

More rockwork as you sweep into the upward helix


Entertainment-wise, the early season starts us out with 2 Peanuts shows - a revamped Peanuts Block Party with a new music routine and a brand new show at the Peanuts Showplace, Snoopy's Dog Days of Summer! Come summer season the rest of the shows will begin making their way into the park, starting with the new R&B Boys kicking off Memorial Day Weekend. The park has put up a billboard highlighting upcoming shows and shows that are currently running. 

Active shows and shows coming soon

Nice to see the stages promoting the upcoming shows!

Even the Great America Theater is promoting its upcoming "Elevation Extreme" show!


Lastly, we just need to say this: Great America looks gorgeous! We just couldn't get enough of strolling the new midways, which span from RailBlazer all the way to the first part of Orleans Place. Visually, our favorite area is Hometown Square with its pavers that's been meticulously placed over the past few weeks! 







Did you make it out to opening weekend? What did you think of the park? Are you excited for RailBlazer? Let us know in the comments below! Stay tuned for the next park update!