Rock n Roller 17: California’s Great America

I arrived at California’s Great America at about noon after a long drive from west of Sacramento. I would be attending this park on my own since my coaster buddy Michele was back in Alaska holding down Forto’s Fort. I was in Northern California for the weekend to race in a triathlon but I had to get a coaster or two in while I am here right?

California’s Great America is in the heart of the the famous Silicon Valley, the home to tech giants, Apple, Google and Facebook, to just name a few and in fact the park is in the parking lot of the brand new stadium for the San Francisco 49ers. Levi’s Stadium is going to host the 2018 Super Bowl. I wonder if the theme park will be open then too for all the festivities of Super Bowl Week?

The line to park was long and by the time I worked my way up to by a ticket to enter the theme park it had been almost an hour since I arrived. The weather was nice, in the high 70s and I got a kick out of the ‘locals’ wearing jackets and beanie caps in this heat. High 70s is about the hottest we get in Alaska so this was very nice weather to me.

I made my way through the entrance and passed the double-decker merry-go-round and through the New Orleans area of the park to the first coaster, Flight Deck.  This “incredible suspended jet coaster” used to be named Top Gun at the top of the movie’s (of the same name) popularity. Riders soar through a 360-degree vertical loop, two 270-degree afterburn turns, a full-circle wingover and a zero gravity roll. If that’s not enough, you take this 50-mile-per-hour flight in a floorless coach, suspended below the coaster’s steel track. This coaster was not much to brag about but fun none-the-less. After the ride I grabbed a 14 buck lunch on some mediocre pizza and a coke and made my way over to Patriot.

Patriot is brand new to the park and a fun ride. It just opened this year but surprisingly the wait to get on was pretty short. I only had to wait a couple rotations and soon I was sitting in the front row with a group of three young teenage boys who by the time we were done were giddy with excitement. This was their first time ever ridding a coaster in the front and they could hardly contain themselves as we walked our way down the exit planks.

From the website:

Patriot, the first floorless coaster in the park’s 41-year history, emerges from the retired Vortex coaster, one of the oldest stand up coasters in the United States.

Patriot takes riders to a 91-foot height before plummeting them into a 360-degree loop at 45 miles per hour. Patriot’s position in the park makes it a dynamic visual from three different sections of Great America.

The inspiration for the coaster’s name was taken from the fact that the ride is nestled adjacent to All American Corners within a park whose name celebrates America.

The transition from a stand up to floorless ride includes state-of-the-art blue and white trains positioning guests with their feet dangling above the blue and white track.

I headed next over to the old school Arrow Development coaster that has been in the park for decades. Michele remembers riding this one as a kid. It is amazing how steel coaster technology has changed over the years. Michele calls these coasters ‘concussion rides’ for a reason. They are a little rough around the edges and you a liable to get your head banged on the sides of the restraints.

Grizzly was up next and it was the longest wait of the day, well over an hour. A wait like this is why it is worth the 50 to 100 bucks to buy a fast lane pass that will allow riders quicker access to the rides. Sort of like first class treatment in a theme park if you will. It took so long because they were running two trains but one of them was empty, so it took twice as long for each rotation.

It was a great woodie and I enjoyed the speed.

Psycho Mouse was up next as I made my way through the water park portion of the park and on towards the 4D Mass Effect: New Earth ride. The ride attendant/actor was a bit over the top has he took us on a journey to another world. This guy seemed to love his job and played the part of the captain of the ship. I have grown to like these types of rides over the last couple of years with m favorites being the new Justice League ones at Six Flags parks and even the Angry Birds ride at Kentucky Kingdom.

My last coaster of the day was Gold Striker and boy did I save the best for last! This woodie now ranks up there on my top-ten wooden coasters in the country. It is wicked fast and has all the elements for a great ride. I sat in the back car and the air time is awesome. It had just enough whip to keep your lunch down but still leaving you at the end of the ride going, ‘what the heck just happened’? This is dubbed the fastest and tallest wooden roller coaster in Northern California with a height of 109 feet and almost 58 miles per hour.

I was out out of the park by 4pm and made my way to San Francisco where I will be spending the rest of the weekend.

Our big coaster tour is up next as we visit parks in several states including here in Cali, Idaho, Colorado, Utah and even the east coast. Stay tuned!

Up Next: San Francisco and the Summer of Love

Coasters to date on the tour: 13

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