New Jersey, 1998

Back in 1998, John and I went to visit a couple of our best friends - Jean and Jill. They live in New Jersey, and we usually refer to them affectionately as "Jean and Jill from Jersey". The alliteration is just irresistable!

The point of the visit was to visit Six Flags Great America in New Jersey. They were "introducing" a roller-coaster which had actually been open for a year already - "Batman and Robin - The Chiller" - it had twin parallel tracks, so it seemed to the management that an ideal promotion would be a Twins Days at Six Flags, to promote their Twin-Track roller coaster.

The coaster was rough, BRUTAL even, but John and I jumped at the opportunity to:

  1. Spend a few days with our friends
  2. Take a cool trip
  3. Spend a day at Six Flags for free. A free day at the park, with free lunch and free parking! All we had to do was get our butts from Minnesota to New Jersey. Wow, did we scan the budget-basement-bargain bins for the inexpensive travel opportunities! Ultimately, we drove from the Twin Cities, MN to Chicago, then flew to Newark.

While visiting, we stayed at Jean's place and at one point we dragged them from idyllic Lake Hopatcong into the rucus of New York City (John was dying to show it to me -- Jean and Jill were dying to stay away but gamely strung along to show us how the hell to get there!).

Here are some pictures from our little visit:


First off, here is the view from Jill's front yard.On the morning we drove over from Jean's house to pick up Jill. It was a cool, foggy, May morning, and we were tired and cold. Upon arrival at Jill's place, there was no action from her place. John and Jean went in to rouse her, and for some reason I hung out at the car waiting. After a long time went by, I decided to entertain myself with taking pictures. Looking off her dock, I got a couple of nice photos - one which I scanned, and one which I can't find right now. Here's one of 'em, anyways.
Foggy Lake
Aerial shot of "The Chiller"
Here is the object of our trip. Two different tracks - one red, one blue. The blue track shoots out from the domed building in the middle, goes straight up, straight down, and through a corkscrew before ending up 150 feet or so up in the air at the right-hand edge of the screen. The RED track does something similar, but rougher.
Here's a closeup of the left-hand end of the photo above. The red track clearly does some funky stuff as it comes out of the station. The cars in the photo are headed from right to left, as they finish the loop and will soon start shooting up the hill to the right. They're moving at about 70mph right now, and the passengers are not too comfortable (the biggest failing of the ride).
Train flying through the red "Robin" track
Top of the "Top Hat" maneuver
This is a closeup of the so-called "Top Hat" move which the blue track (called "Batman") takes after exiting the station. You hit a basically vertical track, shoot straight up and over the top, then straight down before heading up the hills to the right. This is MUCH more comfortable and cool than the red ("Robin") track. Click on the photo for a closer view!
The cars in this photo are in about the same position as the ones two photos above. You can see the fins sticking out from the side of the car - these are used for the electro-magnetic launch and braking. Do these passengers look comfortable? It's a way-cool ride, but I couldn't recommend it for more than a couple rides a day. Call me a wimp, I don't care!
Are these people having fun?
John and Charles in their "Think" shirts
For the day in the park, Jean found the coolest shirts in the world. Jean, Jill, John and I wore 'em. On the front, they stated simply: "Think". That's me on the right, John on the left.
On the back of the shirts, they say "Think Again". So, we'd be walking through Six Flags, and some yokel would call out: "Think? Now what should I do?" and all we'd have to do was turn around and show 'em our backs. Cute, eh?
Think?  Think again!
The four of us atop the Empire State Building
So, after a day in the park, we were exhausted. We took a night to recoup our strength before John and I DRAGGED the two of them out to the train station to make our way to NYC. Naturally, for all their disdain of the city, neither of them had ever made a trip to the Empire State Building. So here was their excuse. We paid their way up and that helped. Here are the four of us enjoying a nice sunny May day on the observation deck of the Empire State Building. Geez Louise, the lighting is bad! I THINK this is me, Jill, Jean, and John. I might have Jean and Jill mixed up in this one -- they'll kill me!
Later, as we're heading up the elevator to the TOP floor of the ESB, we start making small-talk: "Gee, I wonder what's on all of these floors BETWEEN the top and the observation deck?". The elevator operator responds, while hitting the control lever: "You wanna see?". There were only six of us in the elevator: John, Jean, Jill, Me, the operator, and a tourist who clearly wished we hadn't asked the question. He stopped the rig in mid-floor and opened the door. There was a metal grid walkway, which you could see through for many floors up and down, and some wire-reinforced glass on the outside walls, with colored lights installed nearby. We walked around for a while, looking around and thinking: "Here's someplace that not every tourist gets to see!". After a few minutes (the other guy inn the elevator never even got out) we took a picture to document our visit. I hope the elevator guy doesn't get in trouble!
Inside the ESB