April 12, 2003

Magic Mountain

For those who aren't familiar with the Los Angeles area, Magic Mountain is the local Six Flags amusement park. It first opened six or seven years after I was born, as a simple little amusement park. There was one roller coaster, the Gold Rusher, which sprawled over one side of the mountain, and had no steep dips or drops; there was the Log Jammer, your basic flume ride, on the other side of the mountain; there was a sky ride, like a gondola-style ski-lift; a carousel; a bunch of prettied up carnival rides; and a weird sort of ferris wheel thing called the Galaxy. At the top of the mountain was the "Sky Tower", with an observation deck at its crown. A funicular railway went to the top the hill, and a simple monorail called the Metro travelled around the park. The park had a vaguely German/Alpine theme to it, and was presided over (in lieu of Disney characters) by a wizard and a bunch of large rotund trolls covered with pale blue fur.

One of the first times I went, they had a deal where you could get a special shoulder patch called "The Red Badge of Courage" if you went on five of seven scary rides. I don't recall what they all were, but given what the park has become, I find it rather ironic.

Over the next few years they added additional rides, including (in 1976, tied in with the U.S. Bicentennial) the Revolution, the world's first looping roller coaster. (Last night I heard two guys discussing which coasters they'd ridden on that night, and how many times, and consequently how many loop-the-loops they'd ridden through. I believe the total was 54.) Later they added Colossus, at that time the world's largest wooden coaster--and that, in my mind (though I'm no coaster enthusiast) is when Magic Mountain's destiny became clear. How was Magic Mountain to survive against the competition of Disneyland and Knotts Berry Farm? It became coaster city.

Since then it's been bought by Six Flags. They've added a water park, Hurricane Harbor, next door; and with the addition of Scream, a brand new coaster that opens today, they have sixteen roller coasters.

The last time I'd been to Magic Mountain was before most of the new coaster were built, something like eight or ten years ago. Jane and I had thought about going a couple of times in the last few years, but as she's carried, delivered, and nursed three babies in the last six years it hadn't really been possible. But this week I got a bright idea.

See, this past week was Spring Break for my older son, David, who is in kindergarten. Since Jane wouldn't be needing to get David to and from school, she decided that it would be an excellent week to get our younger son potty-trained, which I'm sure he'll one day be ecstatic to know was discussed publically on the Internet. Obviously we wouldn't be going out and doing anything exciting as a family, but it would be a definitely help if I could get David out of the house for a while.

And, for some reason, I thought of taking him to Magic Mountain. I did a little research on line and verified that yes, they still had enough rides he'd like to make it worth while. I also discovered that season passes were really not that expensive--the same as two adult admissions. Ho, I thought. I go, get myself a season pass, and then on our next date night, Jane and I go together. She gets a season pass, good until the end of the calendar year, and then if we went even one more time after that, the passes have paid for themselves. And the park is close enough to our house that going there in the evening for even just a couple of hours is reasonable, provided you're not paying full price each time.

So I've been to the Mountain twice this past week, once with Dave, and once with Jane, last night, and we frequented entirely different parts of the park. 'Twas wonderful; it's still the beginning of the season, and with the new coaster not opening until tomorrow the park wasn't very full on either day. We pretty much walked on to most of the rides without waiting.

Both Jane and I enjoyed reflecting on all of the changes we've seen take place at Magic Mountain during the past thirty years. The trolls are long gone, and mostly forgotten, replaced by Bugs Bunny and friends; the kiddy rides are much better than they were when I was a kid; and while some of my old favorites are gone, most remain: the Log Jammer, the Gold Rusher (still a darn good coaster), the Funicular, the Metro, and the Carousel.

Posted by Will Duquette at April 12, 2003 07:53 PM