Wednesday, August 1, 2012

American Eagle

In January, I crushed it with this post about Disney World. I've entered the travel writing canon. I'm on Frommer's speed dial. I'm doing it again.

Me and Kathy took a lil' trip to Six Flags Great America (formerly Marriott's Great America), and we saw many American treasures there. Gauged teenagers, smooching tweens, the overweight...all were in attendance.

We rode a new ride. It's called X-Flight, but I called it X-Force for most of the morning. Why did I make this error? The answer is because X-Flight is a generic coaster I'm sure will be dropped into every 6F across the country. The "flight" in X-Flight refers to the barely-there theme of supersonic air travel. Small trees and "state of the art" cars allow riders to feel like they're flying their own jet. I felt like I was on a steel roller coaster, which is to say, I didn't feel much, smooth and innocuous as they are these days.

Kathy and I wandered some more–past the juggalos and swaggering youth, past the one menswearer in attendance and past the Armani Exchanger–and we found ourselves deep in County Fair, at the entrance of the American Eagle.

The Eagle holds a special place in my heart. Back when I first started riding thrill rides, the Eagle was still a very serious draw at Great America. My dad lost his wallet while riding it. It was tallest and fastest in the world for 7 years. It greeted all visitors driving in from Chicago on 94. An impressive achievement, but does it hold up?

Of course it does, ya dummy, or why would I write a BLOGSPOT POST about it? The Eagle is one of Six Flags' elder statesman (along with Whizzer, Demon, and The Condor, obviously), and when you're riding upon its track, you will experience something truly special: the past. If only you look into your heart for it!

Because steel roller coasters don't jostle anymore. Because they hold their paint for 20 years. Because they last 30 seconds. Not so for American Eagle. The wear and tear is palpable. Chipping white paint is all around you. You doubt the track's sturdiness. You catch air, which is a phrase young people use to describe the sensation of flying off your seat. Almost everything about the Eagle is antiquated– from the helix, to the racing component, to the American theme. I asked Kathy whether she thought 6F would ever name something "American _____" again, and she said "probably, sure, why not, Pat?" But I have my doubts, as "American ______" is an inherently political name–a statement, even– and from a company that has gone the route of really macho names, like X-Force, Vertical Velocity, and Superman: Ultimate Flight. Besides, "American ______" requires some effort as far as theming goes, and we all know, 6F doesn't go for that. (There's a red, white, and blue spinner in County Fair called Revolution, which sorta contradicts my thesis, ah well).

Now that the Viper's in Southwest Territory, I certainly doubt we'll get another woody.

Visitors will flock to Gurnee forever. Each year, we'll fill in more with our imaginations. Fortunately, In County Fair, on that sweet old grandfather The American Eagle, we don't have to. A theme, thrills, nostalgia, short lines: JAH BLESS the American Eagle. I want to go back! I've bought a Twicket.