Coasterville Commentary

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Wisconsin Dells

Wisconsin Dells
September 3 and 4, 2005

"Where else can you look forward to a trip to Hades?"

Looking at the Wisconsin Dells brochures and from Jerry's own practical experience, we knew that it would be about a 4 hour drive from Jerry's house to the Dells, we also knew that Mt. Olympus opens at 10AM.  Therefore we got up at an insanely early time of the morning, and arrived at Mt. Olympus shortly after 10AM.

Last time I went to the Dells, the park now known as Mt. Olympus was known as Big Chief Kart and Coaster World.  Big Chief promoted itself as an FEC that had a few rides, mainly wooden roller coasters thrown into the mix. About a year or so ago, the park decided to promote itself as an amusement park, and became the Greek themed Mt. Olympus.  That's not to say there wasn't a Greek theme at Big Chief, just that its now more pronounced.  Then earlier this year, Big Chief's purchased the neighboring waterpark, which had already promoted itself as two waterparks in one since they had an outside waterpark, then a hotel resort based indoor waterpark. Thus was born "Mt. Olympus Water And Theme Park"  Okay they now want to market themselves as a mega park, so this means I have to discard the easier "FEC Rating and Evaluation Sheet" and go for the much tougher "Theme Park Rating and Evaluation Sheet"

Mt. Olympus' coaster skyline can be seen as you round the corner for the park, and zip past the Washington DC themed haunted attraction.  Hades can be seen right away for the gimmick that the coasters turnaround sits out in the parking lot alongside the road, with some Greek temple theming surrounding the drop where it ducks back underground.  The rest of Hades and most of the other coasters can be seen just past the parking lot.

We pull into Mt. Olympus' parking lot where I am happy to report they are not collecting a parking fee.  Not only that but the parking lot has been moved and freshly paved and striped, and to seal the deal they have parking attendants to guide you into a parking space.  So, the parking lot is currently above the standards I would expect from a theme park.  

We park the car, make final preparations, and head to the Rides Side gate.  Yep, now that Mt. O views itself as a theme park, they have erected a fence around the park, and instituted a general admission charge.  The park has gone and applied a Greek temple façade to most park buildings, with classic columns and all.  We walked up to the ticket booth that had the shortest line and proceeded to ask about 2 Day admission tickets   In 2005, a one day wristband was $32 and the two day wristband was $48, so we figured on a $16 Hades wake-up call tomorrow morning. From their website it looks like the 2 day offer has been eliminated for 2006, which is just as well considering how much they discouraged its use.

So we ask the ticket salesperson about 2 day tickets to learn that not only do they not sell 2 day tickets at her window, they don't sell 2 day tickets at either the Rides Side gate or the Water side gate.  To get a two day ticket, we have to go to the park offices, specifically the Group Sales office.  We ask where we can find the Group Sales office.  We learn we have to get back in our car, leave the parking lot, drive down the street, and pull in the driveway to go to their waterpark parking lot.  Which we do. But the Group Sales office is more located across from their resort hotel, and we can see the parking lot is quite a ways back.  Figuring we would need about 10 minutes at the office, we park in the hotel parking lot and are promptly confronted with parking lot security on the way to the Group Sales office.  After explaining that we were NOT parking for the day, only long enough to conduct business with the parks office, he reluctantly let us park in the hotel lot.

We walk up to the small plain building labeled Group Sales and let ourselves in.  It was like walking directly into somebody's office, and those of us who have private offices at work know how much we love strangers barging into our office.   The Group Sales person was, however, friendly and when our turn rolled around, she sold us the 2 day tickets.  The two day ticket consisted of today's wristband and the cash register receipt upon which she wrote "Two Day Pass - 9/3/05".  Ready for the next piece of bad news, we were told that when we returned tomorrow that we would have to return to her office to exchange the cash register receipt for that days' wristband.  I was starting to get fed up with the inane way they handle park admissions at this park.  Wristbands affixed to wrists, and receipts in hand, we dash out to our car before the parking lot guard has second thoughts and decides to tow our car.  We dash out of the hotel parking lot, and drive back to the rides side parking lot where we were to begin with.

After having parked our car for the third time, we walked up to the front gate, and past the ticket booths. We see the disused bank of front gate turnstiles, with the large gate next to them opened up.  Admission gate security apparently consists of one bored employee sitting on a folding chair overseeing people walking into the park.  This is manageable since everybody gets a wristband, even Grounds Only tickets get a wristband.  Of course the grounds only wristbands are a different color.  Speaking of Ground Only admission, the POP wristband is $32, the Grounds Only wristband is $10. $10!!! Mind you there are no shows, limited shopping and limited food.  This in a city where FREE admission is the expected standard.  Then again, another common theme with Dells attractions, is to offer pay-as-you-go plans that are specifically created to be BAD deals, at Mt. O. the Grounds ticket is $10, and then ride tickets are $4, so if you plan on taking 6 or more rides  the wristband is the better offer.  (And in 2006 it looks like the ride tickets are going up to $6 each!) Okay, we proceed to walk down the ridiculously steep hillside down to the park.  I feel for those who visit this park with strollers, wagons, wheelchairs or the like, because the hillside from the parking lot to the park is extremely steep and long.  I think its created so that if you think about leaving for lunch, you take a look at that hillside and have second thoughts.  While most of the park is pretty flat, the end that houses the wood coasters is on a steep hillside.  Luckily the park has maximized the use of their hilly terrain in the design of their coasters.

At the bottom of the steep hill, is a cluster of buildings consisting of a gift shop/coffee bar, snack bar, ice cream parlor, restrooms, and a ride ticket booth.  These more or less surround an entrance plaza where the American flag and the Greek flag fly proudly.

One of the things that the park has done in its transformation to a theme park is to redo a lot of the midways so that they aren't plain blacktop walkways, and for some reason the park decided to go with a streets and curbs style midway, where the outer edges of the midway have raised curbs and sidewalks.  This kind of path construction works thematically if the area looks like a streetscape, lined with buildings and such.  Here, though it looks like an unneeded extra expense and in some places they just look silly, and they create an unneeded tripping hazard.

We take the first right at the bottom of the hillside, and walk past Cyclops, past Dive to Atlantis, past the pathway leading to the Cyclops service area, which is not fenced off, and merely guarded by an "Authorized Personnel Only" sign, past Poseidon, past Zeus, and follow the blue and yellow signs pointing they way to Hades.   Hades is located at the far end of the new coaster midway area. We note that Hades has hours of 10am-9:30PM, remember that, it plays a role later on in our little story.  

We enter the rides queue area through a short tunnel located underneath the rides first drop, and proceed to walk uphill on a paved path that cuts through the center of a gravel filled infield for Hades, the path then turns and gets steeper until it curves around and we reach the bottom of the great staircase.  Contrary to common thought about Hades the large stairway to Hades leads UP not down. In fact there are 43 stairs on the stairway to Hades, broken into 4 flights of stairs. The flights occurring all in one long row with a landing every so often.  We climb the stairway, and not too much longer are climbing aboard Hades.  Hades is the first full fledged roller coaster project to come out of Gravity Group, Gravity Group was formed by several former CCI designers, and while they have done some consulting work, ride renovation, and non coaster related jobs, this is their first roller coaster under the Gravity Group nameplate.  

Hades runs one 5 car 2-bench PTC train, the train is red, but it’s a darker red, not the fire engine red usually associated with PTC trains.  The rides name is written on the front of the lead car in yellow, and the cars come equipped with seatbelts, ratcheting lap bars, seat dividers, but no headrests.  The seatbelt situation is interesting, in that there is a mix of two different seatbelt styles on the train.  Most of the seats have push-button buckle, however on a few seats, lift-latch style buckles are used.  It should be noted that on most of Mt O's coasters, lift latch style buckles are used.  It should also be noted that on newer PTC trains, it seems that PTC has switched from the lift latch buckles to push button buckles, including the new train on Raven, and the train on another newish coaster I will ride later today. I wonder if Hades train shipped with push button buckles, and as the seatbelts need to be replaced, Mt  O is replacing them with their stock of spare seatbelts, which happen to be of the lift latch variety.  (Who else but coaster enthusiasts could write a whole paragraph about a ride's seatbelts)   It is also noted that some of the trains upholstery, especially the unload side of the back seat looks to be in rough condition.

Hades is mostly of an out and back layout, with some interesting elements thrown in at the beginning and end.  The ride experience is as follows: The ride begins with a drop directly out of the station, after which you curve to the right and climb up a short hill.   This is to set you up for the double down  to begin what is basically a circular loop that sits next to  the queue area and serves as the rides lift approach, so after the double dip, you proceed to take one more small dip, effectively creating a triple down with three short dips alongside this circular bit of track, which provides some nice pops of airtime.  After the third small dip, which is the rides fourth drop, you finally start curving to the left and approach the chain lift that more or less runs parallel to the station. It is to be noted that the lift chain does not extend all the way to the bottom of the lift hill and at that the train climbs several feet up the lift chain before it engages. Yep you just experienced 4 drops and at least 3 airtime pops and you haven't even gone up the lift yet.  This part of the ride seems to have been dubbed the "pre-lift show"  You then proceed to climb the 140' chain lift. At the top of the lift, you have a brief moment to look out and take in the beauty of the Dells area.  You then start to look down and you see the turnaround sitting on the other end of the parking lot, then you usually see a group of spectators standing just at the edge of the parking lot right above the tunnel entrance. You then feel a sudden urge to raise those hands high in the air, at least for the big drop into the tunnel.  Hades has one big long tunnel that runs underneath the parking lot, in fact it’s a double wide tunnel so that it can accommodate two tracks, and serve ass both the outgoing and incoming tunnel.  You drop into the pitch black tunnel and soon learn that this is not your ordinary coaster tunnel.  You will learn that there are two curves and at least one drop inside the outgoing tunnel.  This drop apparently makes the total spread from the top of the lift 160'.  After the drop you go through the rides signature 90 degree banked curve.  Too bad its totally in the dark, because it goes by so fast that unless you were trying to find it, you'd never notice it.   The 90 degree curve leads to a short rise to take you up out of the tunnel, then you double up a larger hill to crest the turnaround curve.  The turnaround is a curving drop that runs alongside the road outside the park, you then go up a hill, and go down an airtime filled diving drop through the greek temple columns and back down into the tunnel.  Two more curves in the tunnel, and a short uphill pop before you come back out right next to the first drop.  You crest another large hill, where you dive through the support beams of the lift hill structure creating some nice headchopper moments as well as airtime.  You crests another hill for the station fly by, then enter what amounts to an elongated figure 8 section of track that surrounds the ride queue area and serves to get the train back up to the final brakes.  It is in this figure 8 section that the train experiences some shuffling, but nothing major.   Yet, even though the brake run is so high in the air, the trains till comes in with tons of energy.  The train is then stopped, then allowed to coast down one final dip into the station area.   What we have here is an excellent ride.  And I just crossed a Coaster Enthusiast Track Record Mile Stone: Hades was Coaster #250 for me!!!!!!!

We proceeded to take 4 more rides on Hades, each time having to walk down 43 stairs which end in a midway that serves as a joint exit ramp for Hades and Zeus as both rides exit stairs end at the same place.  Another thing the park eliminated in the transformation from FEC to theme park was the famous Big Chief Double Ride, you now get one lap just like practically every other park. In my first 5 ride session on Hades, I determine that I think I like the ride better in the front, and oddly enough row 2 seems to have roomier seats than row 1. This means that I took most of my rides in row 2.  I'm also happy I stayed away from looking at many photos or any video of Hades so that the ride could surprise me, and I could have a really fun ride without the risk of anticipointment. After our 5 ride set on Hades, we moved on to see the park.    

Moving next door, we took a ride on Zeus.  When a Greek themed ride decided to call an attraction Zeus, it had better be one of the top experiences the park has to offer.  When Zeus was built, it was the greatest ride experience in the park, but that title has since gone to Hades. By now Hades' line was about halfway down the stairs and Zeus was waiting for people to come ride.  We climbed the 42 stairs to Zeus, and got into the front seat.  We learned that the shared seatbelt in that seat was  too short so we split up.

Zeus is a traditional out and back coaster, and features a series of hills and valleys with nice gentle floater airtime throughout the ride.  It is not a bad ride by any stretch, but its location right next to Hades will mean that Zeus has been eclipsed.  So I got in and took what would be my only Zeus ride of the trip.   Zeus starts with a curving drop right out of the station, then up the lift, a turn to the left and you go over the outbound series of hills and dips, turnaround then back the inbound series of hills and dips.  As I said its mostly an out and back coaster.

Well, after a 4+ hour commute, dealing with the park admissions process, and taking 6 airtime laden coaster rides, we decided we needed to take care of some business.  I am happy to report that the park finally did something about the awful restrooms they had in the Big Chief's days.  I was a bit concerned when the sign on the fancy looking restroom building read "RESTROOM" but rest assured its now a nice clean high capacity facility.  Larger than some I have seen at some parks, in fact.  Upon leaving the restroom we noted the statue right next to the snack bar.  It’s a statue of a hot dog that is squirting mustard and ketchup on itself.  

We decide to see the lower end of the park, since we are this far, so we go down the much shallower hillside, past some go-kart tracks and the Little Titans kiddie coaster.  Little Titans is your standard Miler Coaster Co. kiddie coaster, and I already have this credit, so we can move right past it. If one were to follow the midway now, they would wind up right in the lake.  I mean there is a sudden end to this path.  You have to jog to the right to continue along the midway, past the batting cages and into an area that a long time ago was Crazy King Ludwigs.  CKL was another go-kart FEC type operation that long ago was bought by the Mt. Olympus empire.   In the parks transformation CKL's castle has been transformed into the Greek style of architecture, and no longer has a go-kart track racing around it.  In fact, unless I am mistaken it seems like the park has removed some go-kart tracks, as well as abandon their other go-kart only location.  

But the former castle building is now park of a boardwalk themed area, okay maybe a boardwalk in Athens, but still, a body of water on one side, and a row of shops, eateries and arcades on the other, with a couple rides lining the waterside.   The eateries have cute names like "My Big Fat Greek Pizza Joint", and yes there is a gyro stand mixed in there.

We stop at the first ride along the boardwalk, which is a Zamperla Disk'o. Disk'o and Skater share a lot of characteristics in that they are both built on an oversize Rockin Tug frame.  The ride vehichle travels back and forth along a curved track in a pendulum motion, while the vehicle spins.  Whereas Skater and Rocking Tug have rows of seats like a traditional pirate ride, Disk'o featured a large round car as the rides name suggests.  The riders face outwards along the outer edge of the round car.  The seating is unique in that the seats look like motorbike seats, so you sit down on one, and your instinct is to curve your legs back, with your chest leaning up against the front of the seat.  On a rider with centrigifal forces, like this one, that ought to be enough.  To make sure you don't come out the restraint bar pops out from its hidden pocket in the back of your seat almost at the base, and curves up and then tightens against your back to form a backrest.  It’s a unique idea and quite effective.   The ride starts spinning, and maybe Mt, O, runs their Disk'o for a decent length of time, maybe because it spins at a nice rate of speed, and maybe since they let the ride spin in both directions, but I much favor the Disk'o to the Skater.  Then, I liked it so much, we rode it again. (And duly note that with ride 8 of the day over with we have made even on the Day 1 wristband)

We continue down the boardwalk, and I peek in the arcade, and we come to the other ride along the boardwalk.  The RoboCoaster.  RoboCoater is basically a robotic arm with a couple of seats mounted to the end.  It’s a low capacity attraction at only 2 riders per cycle, but its customizable with the rider being able to select between 5 different ride programs.  Your wristband includes Level 1 which is the tamest program, to ride the more advanced programs you have to pay a $2 fee, per rider.  Seeing that people have not found the RoboCoaster yet, we watch a few cycles, then its our turn, we pay the $2 each and ask for Level 5.  Unfortunately for us we could only get two clicks on the shoulder bars, and I think the ride required 3, and they will not shove down for you. So the operator apologized, gave us our money back, and we took the walk of shame.  

It should be noted that the end of the boardwalk area by the Robocoaster also marks the start of the waterpark area.  This makes this area a wise choice for the park to have its high concentration of food stands as people make their way from one activity to another. The long building also houses changing rooms, locker rental and more restrooms.  I also note that the area around RoboCoaster is lined with coin operated waterguns, which have the range to hit the Robocoaster.  I feel a sudden urge, and insert a quarter into one of the waterguns right as the ride was starting.  I took out my frustrations of not being able to ride by mercilessly soaking someone who could.  And as a bonus, it seems that Mt. O has set the timers on these coin operated waterguns so they more or less work for about the same length as a robocoaster ride cycle. To paraphrase Shooty and Bang-Bang on the TV version of Hitchhiker's Guide, "I didn't enjoy that at all".

We stop by the candy store and get some cold drinks.  I believe I had the Raspberry Lemonade.  Ah. Time to head back up the shallow hill back to the coaster area   We head towards Cyclops.  Cyclops is the parks original wood coaster, and is a short coaster,  but it packs a punch. It also only has about 11 stairs to ride, and it looks to be the only coaster in the park to which some attention was paid for special needs guests.  To be quite clear, Mt. Olympus, is not a wheelchair friendly park, I offer that as an advisory for those who may be in that situation.  Several major rides there are accessible only by stairways, some in the neighborhood of 4 flights of stairs.
Anyway, we enter the Cyclops boarding area.  In the station there is a part of the queue where you go down an abrupt ramp then back up an abrupt ramp, for no apparent reason.   The only thing I can think of is maybe this is to discourage running in line. We enter the platform and proceed back to the 18-and-over car.  Cyclops has had a long standing rule that the back car is restricted to riders who are 18 and over, and yes we saw this rule being enforced.  We climb into the back seat, fasten the shared belt, drop the traditional style double lap bar and away we go. A quick right out of the station to go down a short dip and then up the lift hill, then you turn to the left and go down a "train oulled out from under you" sudden airtime moment as you go down the first drop, then through a turnaround to the left, a couple more dips, then you come to the crest of the tallest hill, again overlooking the parking lot.  In a land of tourist traps, you want your major attractions to be clearly seen by passer-by.  You pause for moment to reflect on the natural beauty as the train turns to the right.  Then suddenly you go down the BIG DROP where the seat is YANKED away from you as you experience one of the single greatest airtime pops on a coaster.  (Well if you are 18 and over anyway, the big airtime moment seems to only occur to back car riders) Then just as you are landing back into your seat, the train makes a sudden curve to the right as it flys through a trench right alongside the midway.  Just as you are waiting to see what the ride does for an encore, you circle the loading station and come to a stop on the brakes.  You then make another slow turnaround back into the station. As I said the ride is very short, but it has that one airtime moment that makes the whole ride worth it.   In fact, we unload, and get right back in line to have another dose of Cyclops in the back seat.

After Cyclops ride 2, we head over to ride the parks other wooden coaster, Pegasus.  On our way to Pegasus we noted the parks original entrance has been sealed off such that you can't really tell it was ever the main entrance.  The Trojan Horse go-kart track has been reconfigured now that it no longer has to tunnel under the parking lot.  We also note that Mt, O still does a thriving go-kart business with the go-karts easily having longer lines than all the coasters except for maybe Hades and Dive to Atlantis.   Also in this part of the park is their kiddieland with an assortment of children's rides. Pegasus is the parks junior wood coaster.

We follow the windy pathway under the lift hill and around past an abandoned go-kart station to come to the stairs up the loading area.  Continuing with the theme that this is a junior coaster, the handrails on the stairs are at a child's height. But yes there are stairs, it would not be a Mt. Olympus wood coaster without stairs. There is even a theory circulating that the park deliberately has long stairways and steep sloped midways to discourage repeat riding.   We enter the station and wait a to ride Pegasus.  We note the queue gates are in sets of three and the ride runs 2 bench trains, leading credence to the theory the ride used to run 3 bench cars, but that train did not work out for them.  Contrary to the fact that it is meant to be a junior coaster, it uses full size PTC 2 bench cars.  Capacity is somewhat diminished in that experienced riders all want to ride on the unload side of the train.  In the train I was on I think for 4 or 5 rows straight there were single riders, all on the unload side.  This should serve as a warning for what is to come. We exit the station, make a curve to the right and up the lift hill.  The ride has no big drops to speak of, it just sort of meanders its way down.  The top of the coaster structure serves better as a nice flag pole rack for several international flags.  Well it adds color and motion to the coaster anyway. What the ride lacks in sudden drops, it gains in laterals.  For some unknown reason the ride acts like it is squaring off the turns, so that every turn is abrupt and slams the riders into the left sidewall of the train.  Yep, every curve is to the same side.   I just don't understand it, I don't understand how the ride gets speed without any big drops, I don't understand why the curves are so brutal, I don't understand why CCI could make a coaster that is so awful, I don't understand why I rode this coaster this year, after not really enjoying it on my last visit.   Apart from being a great flagpole holder, the ride does score some coolness points in the station in that the mechanically activated lapbars are controlled by a big lever in the station, placed at the downtrack end of the station.  In fact, it looks just like it should be a Big Old Brake Lever.   The exit stairs also have the short handrails and lead right next to the snack bar.  I quickly run over to ride Cyclops for some reassurance.   Hey that Cyclops ride is ride #12 of the day and 12x4 = $48, I have now made good on the whole two day pass investment.  Time to pull ahead.

We go over to Hades, and by this time the line is to the bottom of the stairs so that’s about 45 minutes. Hey this actually helps as I am not out of breath when I reach the top of the stairs.  We proceed to take a few more rides on Hades, finishing up around 3:30 or so. It is time to set in to motion a very carefully timed sequence of events.  It's time for dinner.  We head back around to the main plaza, and hike up that big tall steep hill to the parking lot.  We climb into the car and proceed to drive to the Moosejaw Lodge. The Moosejaw is, according to its full name a pizza shop and microbrewery.  Don't let that stop you they actually offer a pretty robust menu.  Moosejaw must be a Canadian chain (The Canadian flag in the vestibule should have told you…), that and the servers pronounce "?" as "Eh"   Moosejaw  looks like a hunting lodge inside with stone fireplaces, animal heads on the wall, lots of light woods in their construction, drinks served in mason jars.  Also, in addition to microbrew beer, they also make their own house brand soft drinks on site.  I proceed to have a super gigantic black angus cheeseburger with all the trimmings, and a mountain of French fires.  Very generous portions, and the pizza we saw go by looked to be of the very deep dish variety. Overall it was a very satisfying and relaxing meal.  To remind yourself you are in a tourist trap zone, their delivery car has a moose head on top.  

We finish up a nice relaxing lunch/dinner, and proceed to take care of our hotel arrangements.  We had made reservations well in advance but figured that now would make a great time to make sure everything is as planned.  We proceed to the Best Western Ambassador Inn   I'm happy to report that after a brief painless check in procedure we learned that everything was up to specifications, and proceeded to move our bags into the room, which would spare us that chore late at night.  The Ambassador Inn is conveniently located by all of the Dells roller coasters, and offered us a comfortable room at a great price, and offered the right set of amenities. Though we did not take advantage of it, I noted the rustic themeing of the indoor recreation area which consisted of a pool, game room, and exercise room, the on-site Denny's restaurant, free internet access, a great brochure rack, and the interior corridors to access guest rooms with access security. In keeping with the ambassador theme, the front drive to the hotel is lined with various international flags.  So after making sure our room was in order, we note that its just about 5pm.  What did I say about that careful timing.

We left the Ambassador  and proceeded just a few doors down the street to Timber Falls. Timber Falls is an FEC.  It was primarily marketed as a miniature golf and games that used a log flume ride as its unique hook.  Today, I think the rides have eclipsed the mini golf in their brochures, not that 72 holes of mini golf is anything to sneeze at. Today the FEC offers 4 mini golf courses, bumper boats, game room, the namesake log flume, Skyscraper, and a wooden roller coaster.  Timber Falls is a textbook case for proving that a midsize wooden coaster can be a fantastic ride, and that you don't need a large area of vacant land to build a wood coaster.  This installation will remind you of the Indiana Beach school of amusement ride construction, in that the coaster is sort of built on a second level above the rest of the FEC, and is built so that it circles around the perimeter of the Timber Falls log flume.  Avalanche is an S&S product, which should seem strange since S&S is best known for shot and drop tower type rides.  Yet, when CCI folded, while some of the principals of CCI went on to form Gravity Group, some others joined the S&S crew to form S&S' wood coaster division.  I admit I wasn't that impressed when I first saw the ride as we were pulling into Timber Falls parking lot, but we're here and I have heard lots of good things about it.

It also just so happens that Timber Falls offers an after 5pm discount rate. (Careful timing, I tell you!) While Timber Falls normally charges $6 per ride, or $20 for the POP, after 5pm the POP can be yours for only $13.  We eagerly pay the $13 at the clubhouse.  You see, Timber Falls is setup like the typical FEC, with a multipurpose building in the front center of the park that contains the ticket office, snack bar, arcade, restrooms, and such.  The ticket booth is front and center when you enter, and also handles the souvenir sales.  To the right is the snack bar, to the left is the arcade, if you walk around the side of the building to the far left you will come to the well hidden restrooms.

Having seen suitably banded, we head towards the right and up the stairs to a big wooden deck that serves as the parks second level.  It contains some picnic seating, access to the 2 miniature golf courses that lie within the log ride (the other 2 mini golf courses are across the street from the park, but then it is hard to tell whose mini golf is whose as there is Pirates' Cove mini golf next door) Once we reach the upper deck, we proceed up the series of ramps to the coaster station.  In the coaster station we see a ride operator, an empty PTC train and ourselves.  Now THIS is what I call Exclusive Ride Time!  Avalanche runs 1 3 car 2 bench PTC train, red exterior with cream color upholstery and equipped with ratchet bars, seatbelts (push button buckles), and seat dividers.  We climb into the front seat ant a short bit later we are departing the station.

Avalanche rides like a classic profile out and back coaster, except that instead of being straight its wrapped around the perimeter of the park. Out of the station and a quick left turn, (like all turns on this coaster) and we are heading up what RCDB claims to be a 88.5' lift hill.  At the top of the lift, the train dives down, crests another dip, then makes a left turn, the rest of the ride can be summarized as, the train turns left, the train goes through a few drops, the train turns left, the train goes down a few drops, then train crests for the billboard turn, the train turns left, the train dips one the train flies over the park entrance and performs a station fly by, then another left turn more dips, another left turn still more dips, another left turn, and a few more dips before coming into the final brakes.  Yeah, it’s a perfect profile, and it is designed to provide nice quality airtime on just about every drop, and nice laterals on every turn.  The park should have called this ride Heaven to be the counterpart to the other parks Hades.  I mean this is more like my ideal wood coaster. It's airtime heaven!!!

We return to the station, and we are still the only riders, however unlike Mt. Olympus, the Avalanche crew allows us to stay on board.  Yep, I'm in coaster heaven, somebody pinch me, I must be dreaming. We take a total of 5 rides in the front seat without getting out of the train until some more potential riders arrive. We move to the back seat without having to walk around.  We start having to shift seats every now and then, but we do at least 16 rides straight before we have to exit the station.  As an added bonus touch you have to love a park that flashes "NO LINES" on their electronic billboard, and means it..  

Since we had to exit the coaster, I decide  to try out the parks namesake signature Timber Falls Log Ride. I'm sure most of you are familiar with a gimmick that certain parks engage in where they route a ride exit through a gift shop, arcade, on ride photo booth or other gift stand.  Timber Falls may be the only ride that you have to walk through the arcade to get into line. It's a nice shortcut so that you don't have to walk clear around the building, as the loading dock for the log flume is directly in back of the ticket booth.  Jerry decided he doesn't need to experience Timber Falls, so I walk through the arcade, and get into the line.  Well I watch the people in front of me get into a log, and by the time I make it to the loading dock its my turn.  The park uses a continuous system where the logs never stop moving.  I climb into a log and proceed to head out onto the course.  On the way to the lift I am a bit concerned about the pool of water that has formed inside my log. I leave the loading dock, turn left, where you go up the first life, then down the first drop, you then go through a series of tunnels and rock formations that are really quite well done. The ride even has a volcano in the center that uses real flame fire effects to simulate an eruption every now and then.  Impressive, I mean how many big time parks risk using live fire effects. After curing in and out of rock formations, tunnels, and the mini golf courses, I arrive at lift 2, then the big final drop, then one last turn into the load/unload area.  I am happy to report that I much enjoyed the log ride, without getting more than just slightly moist.  In fact I was just about dry by the time I met back up with Jerry who was observing the bumper boat operation.  

Timber Falls bumper boats are just outside the perimeter formed by Avalanche.  The pool is nothing special, just a plain rectangular pool, and the boats are a bit interesting as they have onboard water guns. What caught Jerry's attention is that due to the low crowd conditions, the usual timer based operation was suspended and in effect was a "Climb in a boat, have fun, come back to the dock when you are done" relaxed style of operation.

After the Timber Falls Log Ride, we head out the parking lot.  Sitting in the parking lot is a Gravity Works Skyscraper.  While the Skyscraper is not included in the POP package, the Skyscraper crew is willing to make special deals with Timber Falls POP customers.  Half off, to be precise, which gets it down to $10.  Jerry and I proceed to purchase Skyscraper tickets, then instead of heading to the Skyscraper we head to the car to secure all loose articles. We then head back to Skyscraper, tickets in hand, where we walk past the bleachers that have been setup for spectators and enter the "Rider Lounge"  The Ride Lounge is the holding area for ticket holders who are waiting for their ride.  The area is filled with benches for you to sit and relax while you wait for your ride, and you are separated by a fence and gate from non-riders. The ride seems to have a crew of two, one operator/loader and one ticket seller. The loader does a good job at calling people up to the ride when its their turn, and pairing up singles.

For the uninitiated a Skyscraper is a ride that is kinda like being strapped to the end of a propeller blade, a propeller blade that is 160' long and spins at 70mph. As if that wan't enough the chairs are mounted on swivels and are free to roll forwards and backwards, which means yes you can, and usually do go upside down.  Its kinda like an oversized Roll-O-Plane, but with an extra surprise element.  The loader had fun with groups of squeamish girls by flipping their chair upside down right after loading them,

We waiting for some time and finally it is our turn.  We are called to climb up the stairs to the ride deck.  The ride deck consists of the loose article bins, operator console, and the access way to the ride itself.  We step off the wood deck onto the metal platform and then hop into the chairs provided.  It takes some time to get ready to ride Skycraper thanks to the complex harness arrangement. After the operator makes sure you are sitting all the way back in the chair, no slouching, he proceeds to strap you in.  The harness system on Skyscraper is similar to but not totally like having two 3 point automotive harnesses, one located on either side of you.  They key difference being the belts are not on retractors and are manually adjusted. So I sit down and the operator pulls two thick pieces of black padding out from the sides of the seat and ask me to hold them over my lap.  He then reaches over my right shoulder and proceeds to cross that strap across my chest so that it fastens into to a clip/buckle mounted on the left side of the seat, this is also connected to a lap belt.  He proceeds to tighten this until it is snug but not tight. He then reaches above the left shoulder and pulls out a similar looking belt that runs diagonally across your chest and fastens to a clip located on the right side of the seat.  This means the two shoulder belts form a large "X" across your chest, and you effectively have double lap belts for added redundant protection. The operator proceeds to pull these belts snug but not tight.  He then takes a moment to make sure everything looks to be correct with the safety harness, and then goes in and yanks on all the adjustors with all of his might to get all the belts as skin tight as he can get them.  You then realize those two big black pads sit directly under the buckles and adjustors and they protect your legs from any nasty gashes from the buckles.  This would also be a good reason to make sure your pockets are empty to make sure the thick straps don't crush any hard objects into your legs.  The last step is to take the anti sub strap and to affix it to the front center of the lap straps.  Men are thankful this belt is not tightened.  He proceeded to step next chair and harness Jerry to his seat in the same manner.  After all the harnessing the operator takes a step back to make one final visual inspection while thinking "Now I have you two right where I want you, you guys aren't getting out of those chairs until I let you, so for the next few minutes you belong to me and whatever I can dish out"

Well, now that we have let some stranger strap us tightly into this ride, we may as well enjoy ourselves, so we start rocking the tub back and forth while the loading platform is pivoting away to the side.  Then the ride starts, and they way the ride works is you make several revolutions in one direction, pause briefly at the top to enjoy the view, then several revolutions in the opposite direction.  The more revolutions you get, the better.  Normally you can count on getting maybe one flip per revolution, that’s where rocking the chair comes into play.  Remember all those warnings about not rocking Ferris Wheel seats because the tub might flip over, well here that’s exactly what we want to cause happen.  With aggressive tub rocking we got way more than just 1 flip per revolution, and we even got some neat flips where we stalled out upside down, almost in the Superman flying position soaring above the earth, well except that our head was lower than our ankles. At least once, this happened on the downswing of the ride, so we got the added bonus of seeing the ground rushing up at us.  Total coolness! It also seems that we developed some play in the shoulder belts, I guess from the constant abuse, but the lap belts held.  It was just enough to be disconcerting but not dangerous. After awhile our play time had to end, and we were brought back to the loading platform, the loading deck pivoted closed. The ride operator came around and I releases the belts and lets us get reacquainted with our deep old friend, the ground.

After our Skyscraper ride, we stop at the main park ticket booth to shore up our evening plans.  According to our meticulous research, Mt. Olympus was set to close at 10PM, and Timber Falls at 11PM, which would suggest that we could get night rides on both coasters.  Unfortunately that plan appeared to have crumbled when the Timber Falls office did not confirm an 11PM close, and instead informed us that they were going for a 10PM close tonight.  Well, if we have to decide between night rides on Hades and night rides on Avalanche, Hades wins.   We start regretting that two day ticket to Mt. Olympus, as that extra $16 would have put us well on the way to more Timber Falls action in the morning, but what's done is done.  We go up to Avalanche and take a few more rides, and proceed to ride marathon style till about 7:20.

We then make our way back to Mt. Olympus. We pull into the parking lot, park the car, head in the gate, down the hill of doom, around the corner, and continue all the way back to Hades.  By now the Hades line is about 45 minutes long.  Our first ride would be in twilight, and our second two rides in darkness.   While waiting for Hades we learn that Mt. Olympus attracts its share of obnoxious patrons.  The smoking is out of control, line jumping is an issue, but what took the cake was the group of guys who were playing with lighters, while standing on a wooden stairway, surrounded by a wooden coaster.  I'm not just talking about lighting and relighting them, I mean goofing around with lighters,  

So we got our first ride of the set in around 8:10, the second around 8:50, while waiting for the third ride of the set, we met up with some fellow coaster enthusiasts that were apparently told flat out that 2 day tickets don't exist.  That scores well for a park when you can't trust information given to you by an employee, we also talking about Hades closing policy.  The signs clearly state "Ride closes at 9:30 PM"  But in the world of amusement parks, that sign still manages to be ambiguous, I mean does that mean the line for Hades closes at 9:30, so that the queue can clear out without keeping the ride open too long after hours, or does it mean, this ride ceases operation at 9:30PM, no matter how many people may still be in line.  Unfortunately, all of us had received conflicting reports on this issue, so the answer is still unclear.  I recall reading a report where they had loaded the train, locked the lapbars, the clock struck 9:30, and they unlocked the bars and mae them exit without a ride, not to mention the line of people on the stairs.  We clearly did not want to get into a situation of waiting only to be told "Sorry guys, you can't ride because of the asinine way we run this park", we also did not want to risk getting stuck in the middle of an angry mob scene, if they pulled that kind of hard close. I thought the best way to get a direct answer of exactly what would happen tonight would be to ask the Hades crew.  So as we passed through the turnstile I asked the ticket taker "Does the line close at 9:30 or does the ride close at 9:30" All I got back was a grunt of "9:30 close"  Thanks that really helped. I would not class the Mt, O employees as rude, mean or nasty, but I would class them as indifferent, unfriendly and unhelpful.  They seem to go about their duties in silence, and your just another body they have to get through the ride.  We started out ride at about 9:15, and so at about 9:20 or so we were standing at the point of getting back in line, or heading elsewhere.  We noted the queue entrance was still open at 9:20, we could also see the ride still had a sizeable line.  We decided that instead of risking a potential really negative experience, that we would use the final half hour to get those Avalanche night rides after all.  I'm still happy with the Mt. Olympus experience overall,   I figure I got 11 rides on Hades, 3 on Cyclops, 1 on Zeus, 1 on Pegasus and 2 on Disk'o. That’s 18 rides at a value of $4 each comes to $72 value.  Throw in the $10 gate charge we would have had to pay for pay as you go, and its an $82 value, a little less than the value I got out of my last Big Chiefs visit, but that was only a one day wristband, and that was with double rides that were worth $6 each.  And hey I can get some more rides in tomorrow!

So we drove back to Timber Falls, parked, and climbed up to the coaster station.  Wow things have changed here, they now have enough riders to fill every train, so while the wait is only 1-2 trains long at most, there are always enough people waiting so tht walking around every time would be needed  The ride even managed to pick up some speed since this afternoon.  Don't pinch me!!  I don't want this dream to end! This may well be the perfect midsized ride!  We rode a few more times, it got to be 9:45, we start running down the exit ramp and running up the entrance ramp. 9:50, RUN down, RUN up, its 9:58 as we board the train, we are sure its going to be our last ride of coaster heaven.  The ride ends, we RUN down, the queue entrance hasn't been blocked, we RUN up they let us into the station.  Its 10:03 we take another ride. We exit, we run down, we see the log flume trough is drained, we run back up.  We score another ride.  We hold our breath as someone mentions "I thought you were closing at 10PM"  Coaster operator responds with "That's news to us! We thought we were scheduled to run till 11PM"  Cheers erupt. Soon after the crowd starts dying down and marathon riding can resume.  Jerry and I are chanting lap numbers as we go through the station.  When it was all said and done, we managed to get 35 rides in on Avalanche this evening . And let me tell you what, Avalanche is the perfect coaster in another way.  We took a lot of those late night rides in the middle car.  On a lot of three car wood coasters, the center car is notorious for being dull.  Not on Avalanche, they seemed to have learned something about short trains, in that every seat on the train has the great airtime and great laterals.  Its perfect I tell you!!!  Counting my ride on the Timber Falls Log Ride, and my $10 Skyscraper discount, for $13 I received 36 rides at $6 each that’s $216 value + the Skyscraper discount.  $226 value out of a $13 after 5 wristband.   I think that almost qualifies as Pay-One-Price Wristband abuse.

We calm down and head toward the Ambassador Inn, where we surf the web, we watch some TV, I watch Robb Alvey's Hades video clip that I had been denying myself.  You did a great job on that one Robb!  We then get ready for bed, and take a well needed sleep.

Day #2

We awake nice and early, pack the bags, load up the car, check out of the hotel, then go have breakfast at Denny's.  We have calculated this morning to get us to Mt, Olympus at around 9:30AM.  The timing was great, the Group Sales office was open but the Treasure Island parking lot guard was not on duty yet.  There are those that have conjectured that while in general the Mt, Olympus employees that have a Big Chief heritage are generally unfriendly, those that came from Bay of Dreams or Family Land Waterpark are generally very friendly.  I think this may be the case, as the group sales office is on the Family Land side of the operation, and the two people in the Group Sales building may be the friendliest employees we saw in the whole complex, with the candy shop clerk being a close second. We walk into the Group Sales office, and are greeted with a hearty "Welcome back guys, you're here on a two day pass, right?"  We exchange receipts for new wristbands, go out, climb back into the car and drive over to the rides side parking lot.  That was fast and so we are into a parking space at 9:35. We figure there is no need to get out of the car just yet, the park clearly isn't open yet, and besides we can watch the wood coaster maintenance crew working on Hades first drop.  Wait! They are working on Hades first drop, I sure hope they get it ready by opening.  At around 9:42 we head up to the front gate just in time to exchange morning pleasantries with Nick L. , as in the general manager/owner of the park. At 9:45 the gate opens and we head directly back to Hades.  We camp out on the benches just outside of Hades entrance.  The crew is still working on Hades so we expect someone will be by to tell us when the ride is open.  Shortly after 10:00 the crowd starts heading for Hades, and since the chain blocking the queue is open, we decide to stay ahead of the crowd and enter the queue, up the stairs, where we are held at the turnstile as we watch the morning test runs take place.  Which puts us into the front seat on the first train of the day. It  has to warm up again, but its still a nice ride even early in the morning.  We proceed to take advantage of the lack of lines and manage to get 4 more rides in before the line got back down to the bottom of the stairs.  Nick had warned us that he was expecting a very busy, if not the busiest day of the season.

We started walking towards the other coasters and I note that Dive to Atlantis only had about 8 people in line. I decide to ride Dive to Atlantis, and Jerry, decided to sit the water ride out.  Dive to Atlantis, well you know those log flume rides in early versions of Roller Coaster Tycoon?  The ones where the logs move at about 1mph, or agonizingly slow.  Well Dive to Atlantis is THAT log ride.  But let me back up, Dive to Atlantis is NOT a log ride. And you will not see logs anywhere on it.  Dive to Atlantis is a watercoaster, as evidenced by the fact the boats leave the water to traverse a dry section on steel coaster track.  Mind you the out of water section consists of the lift hill, a turn, the first small drop, the second hill, another turn, and the big drop, but it still counts as a Water Coaster.  In fact that makes it Coaster #252 for me.  The entrance is a Greek column and capital, with the rides name and a graphic of people riding through  a flooded out city  in a hewn out section of a Greek style column, complete with cracks.  The ride vehicles on the ride are white, and look more or less with a little imagination like chunks of stone columns, with the cracks painted on them to match the sign.  I also not ethat signway must have originally been somewhere else because you can make out the remnants of the old sign "PARK ENTRANCE"  

I wait for some time and then I join 2 other riders and board my column section. We depart the station, make a turnaround to the left, and cruise past the observation deck.  The park must know the ride has an obnoxiously low capacity as they have taken away a lot of what looks like it was meant to be the queue area for the ride. As we travel alongside the observation deck, take notice of that pipe and nozzle pointed directly into the center of the trough.  Not only is that were the water reenters the trough from the filters it also serves as the rides only water-element, other than the big drop.  There aren't even any coin operated water guns on this ride, and they seem like they would be a perfect fit. After the water spray, it’s a turnaround to the right, and you then start to realize how slow the boat is going.  Somebody get me a pair of oars or a gondolier's pole! This is agonizingly slow.  I mean you go straight back, then a turnaround to the right where you come very near the station, then a turnaround to the left to head to the lift hill.  I am NOT kidding when it takes 7 minutes to go from the loading dock to the lift hill.   This would be fine if their were exciting water elements, scenery or an ingaging theme, but none of those were present.  The trough looks homebrew, more like something you would see on a lazy river attraction.  At least they somehow manager to have the boats stay on a steady course, which is more than I can say for Hopkins rides.  After about 7 minutes, you finally leave the water and head up the lift.  It kinda feels like riding in a Jet Star car, and it feels just as vulnerable, sitting high above the rails.   We climb the lift, we turn to the right, we go down a short drop, then we go up a short hill, and by golly, they managed to have airtime on this ride!   You realize the vehicle is moving at a rapid rate of speed and then you hit what feels like a trim brake, or is it something to make sure your vehice stays on the track, the upstops hitting perhaps, at least I HOPE there are upstops.  Anyway with a slight diminished speed you go flying around that next curve to the right at a speed that proves this is no log ride, then you go down the DROP.  One huge drop straight down into the splash pool below.  And yes, splash pool is quite the right term.   This ride needs no other ride elements, as this splashdown finale is more than enough to make sure that every rider gets off totally soaked.  You sail past another observation deck and at this time are thanking Zeus, Poseidon, and Triton all for the lack of coin operated water guns.  You meander around alongside the midway, the back into the unload area  Another check of the watch reveals that the whole ride took just under 15 MINUTES.  Folks, they only have 5 4-passenger boats, and that’s only on busy days. That’s 80PPH!!!
Whose to blame?  According to the dataplate, we can blame this one on the Miler Coaster Co.

Well, after getting totally drenched the next thing to do is to head down to Disko to dry off.  We take 2 Disko rides and that combined with the nice warm weater gets me mostly dry.  We head back up the hill to Cyclops.  We realize that even Cyclops is going to be a bit of a wait today, but wait all we have to do is get into the station and then we can leap back to the 18 and up car.  Which we do, for a total of two rides, yes walking around between rides.  By this time I have dried up enough, and the lines are starting to get out of hand, so we bid farewell to Mt, Olympus.  As we leave Mt, Olympus, I note one of the Dells several Ducks rides.   A duck ride is an amphibious land/sea vehicle that are popular in touristy areas as they allow both a city tour, then you can dive right in and explore the nautical beauty of the area.   In fact I had ridden a duck just a couple months prior in Biloxi, MS. Even though I did not ride the duck in the Dells, the operation is nothing short of a well oiled machine, with a whole fleet of ducks loading at very regular intervals from a custom built station that allow for level access into the duck.  

We stop past Riverview Park on our way out.  Riverview park is your traditional amusement park.  Its lined with go-karts, carnival games, carnival rides, an ejection seat, and a waterpark.  Also true to the Dells pay as you go is a raw deal compared to the wristband.  Although they had some interesting stuff: Spinning Ferris Wheel, Catch N' Air, Galaxi, they just didn't have enough to make the POP investment seem worth it, and at almost $4-$5 per ride, we decided to just pack it up and head back to Minnesota.

We enjoy the ride home listening to the NPR version of Star Wars: A New Hope.

Catch you later for TR's on Valleyfair! and Camp Snoopy.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Minnesota State Fair

Minnesota State Fair

September 1, 2005 and September 5, 2005

"The All-American State Fair meets Germany's Oktoberfest"

In recent years, I have made a mini-tradition of going to the Minnesota State Fair to see their exciting exhibit of amusement machinery. Last year, I took a year off to do my Coasters of the Southeastern United States tour. However, I had several good reasons to revisit Minnesota this year, namely in the form of 2 major wooden roller coasters to try in Wisconsin Dells, and a new coaster at the Mall of America. Oh, and that expo of amusement ride machinery had some fascinating new exhibits.

"Getting there is half the fun" I know I have used that line to start several TRs, and at this point I must acknowledge the assistance provided by Nell and Lee Ann the morning of my departure. It seems that due to unexpected circumstances my usual airport transportation would not be able to drive me to the airport. It looked like either an expensive taxi ride, or a very early bus ride, but Nell and Lee Ann tag teamed to get me to the airport, and got me there in plenty of time. Thanks!

Okay so I arrived at the airport where I checked in, got through the TSA checkpoint with no wait at all, and arrived at the terminal in plenty of time to grab some breakfast at the airport. I watched some hurricane Katrina coverage on CNN and was soon loaded onto the aircraft for an on time departure to Minneapolis. Approximately two hours and just under two episodes of Dukes of Hazzard later I safely touched down in Minneapolis. I picked up a Coke at the Minneapolis airport for only $1.25 a bottle, and waled out the airport exit where Jerry's car was waiting right where we had planned.

We exchanged greetings and small talk and soon thereafter arrived at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. We pulled into the parking lot and were able to park in a reasonable row F. Parking at the Minnesota State Fair (MNSF) is up to $9, but they are willing to cut some slack by letting you turn in a presale gate admission in exchange for the right to park your car. Using this approach, you can park for only $7. Yes, we took advantage of the $7 parking. Another promotion the fair has eliminated is the former carpool promotion. The carpool promotion said that if you had 4 or more in your car, you parked for free, that was totally eliminated and I saw a couple cars get to the parking area and turn around because of it.

We proceeded to walk to the front of the parking lot, then through the park and ride area to the entrance gate. There I turned in another $7 presale admission ticket and walked through the gate. We then crossed the bridge over the major road separating the fair from the parking area and were then officially on the grounds. We walked around the Coliseum, where I noted the brand new look for the all-you-can-drink milk stand. We walked down the roadway that goes between the animal barns, and a couple turns later we had arrived at the Mighty Midway

As near as I can tell, the Mighty Midway forms a cul-de-sac at the far western edge of the fairgrounds, such that there is really only one point of access. Right in the middle of the entrance to the Mighty Midway is the prime location where they usually put what they think will be a headliner ride. I looked over, and sitting in the #1 spot is one of this years new rides, the Mondial Fighter. You will hear much more about the Fighter later in this report.

I looked into my fanny pack and discovered that I am the owner of 7 sheets of advanced sale ride tickets. (Yes, that’s 140 tickets, yes that’s $70 worth, no that won't be enough). Before I get into the rides, let me cover the administrative details. The MNSF is strictly a pay-per-ride show, there are no POP specials. What they do have are bargain ride days, where they reduce the price of each ride by 1 ticket. Full price for major rides would run from 4-6 tickets, which meant they would take 3-5 tickets during discount times. Single tickets are 75 cents each, but better offers could be had by purchasing ticket sheets either at the fair or in advance. Purchasing in advance got the per ticket price down to 50 cents, the best on the grounds offer is a 54 sheet for $30 which gets it down to 55 cents a ticket. Tickets may be used on either the rides or the games. MNSF runs an independent midway as opposed to having one traveling amusement company in charge of the midway, so it truly is an exhibition of the finest in traveling amusements.

I started by taking an orientation tour of the midway to get the lay of the land. Now, I realize that some of the regular readers of my trip reports are probably expecting me to launch into to an ultra detailed blow by blow account of the day, unfortunately this is NOT going to be that type of trip report. I mean the majority of the report could be summarized as "We rode a lot of rides then went home" and honestly I could not tell you the order in which we rode the rides if my life depended on it.

Thus here is the midway list annotated by my commentary:

Crazy Mouse - Reverchon Crazy Mouse- 6 Tickets

I took two rides on this, once with Jerry, and once with Jerry, Paul and Cameron. We were able to get some nice spin action out of this mouse. One moment of note is the ride where Jerry and I rode and the operator advised us that if our car should stop midcourse to remain seated and he would be up to give us a push. Fortunately that was not needed.

Top Spin - Sorani and Moser Loop on Top - 5 Tickets

I took a total of three rides on this Top Spin. It was running a nice long program that offered about 15 flips per ride cycle. I found the restraints to be more comfortable than those on the standard HUSS Top Spin, but then HUSS has improved on them for their Giant and Floorless models. For some reason this ride was being shunned by the fairgoers with very minimal amounts of riders.

Whitewater Flume - Log Flume - 6 tickets

Sorry, didn't ride the Log Flume. Looked to be your standard portable log flume ride.

Space Roller - Mondial Top Scan - 6 Tickets

Okay, I took numerous rides on this one, hey its only cardstock right? It's still one of my favorite rides at the fair, with the ability to spin you around and flip you without warning and without mercy.

Extreme - KMG Fireball (Afterburner) - 6 tickets.

Rode this one twice. I found the shoulder bars on this ride to be especially tight, with me just barely being able to ride, in fact at the end of both rides my bar did not automatically release at the end of the ride and had to be manually released. It's not nearly as good as Delirium at PKI, but seeing as I haven’t been on Delirium since April, it felt good to get on a swinging spinning pendulum ride.

Cliff Hanger - Dartron Cliff Hanger

Sorry, didn't have any interest in riding this one. Perhaps if it were a POP show.

Storm - Wisdom Storm - 5 tickets

I took a few rides on this one. Storm has one goal and it does it well, that is to spin you without mercy. Its ride action is very similar to the old Watkins Tempest except that on a Storm the tubs are geared and motorized so the spin action is more controlled. The rides bally states that it pulls 3.5g's sustained. I was glad to see the mic man from 2002 return, as he has a lot of enthusiasm.

Avalanche - Pinfari Zyklon - 6 tickets.

We took one ride on this one, it was our usual "Let’s see how much weight we can cram into this coaster car ride." To give you a hint, we blew through all the trim brakes, even the ones that were closed, and those magnetic brakes at the end of the ride, well they didn't slow us down. We got the "All hands on deck grab on to this coaster car and stop it before it rams the car in front" braking action. Yes, they got us stopped before we rammed the car in front.

Magnum - Mondial Shake - 6 tickets

I got two rides in on this one. The Magnum is not running as good as it has in years past. It seems to have gotten a lot harder to get the cars to flip over, and it takes a lot more work on the part of the riders to get the cars to flip. Would someone hand me that tube of lithium grease to squirt the bearings of my tub before I ride, I want that tub to be able to flip and pummel mercilessly.

Techno Power - Tivoli Remix - 5 tickets

The Techno Power is still running great. It runs smooth and fast. I believe I took 3 rides on this.

Eclipse - Fabbri Contact - 5 tickets

We took three rides on this. It has been described as the Tilt A Whirl with hyperactivity disorder, and that would just about describe it. The seats are meant for giants, and even after lowering the shoulder bar as low as I could get it, the ride still leaves a lot of room for you to get tossed around. Of course it didn't help that we purposely made sure the tub was as out of balance as we could possibly get it. Wicked insane changes of spin direction.

Skater - Zamperla Skater - 4 tickets

The ticket price should say it all. I took 1 ride on it. Its an oversized Rocking Tug, and not that much more impressive About the most interesting thing is watching the loading platform fold down to the ground.

German Fun House - walk through

I toured this piece in Ohio, no need to tour it here.

Zipper - Chance Zipper -
I have learned from past MNSFs that I don't fit on this particular Zipper, particularly after they cram someone else in with me.. Shame as I like to ride the Zipper.

Mega Bounce - 5 tickets

I took one ride on it. I was warned that it was a pointless ride, but since I had not seen one I decided to go ahead and ride it. Waste of 5 tickets. This is another in a series of recent rides that tries to reinvent the Flying Coaster/Kangaroo Ride experience, and for some reason or another just doesn't do it. This one manages to recreate the ride action (constantly raising and falling tubs) without recreating the airtime that made the original ride a success. Add to it, the ride it set to only bounce the arms that have riders on them and the ride just looks dull from the midway, and rides dull. During the time I was at the fair, this ride spent most of its time sitting still waiting on riders.

Skywheel - AH/Chance Skywheel - 5 tickets

Call me a softy, but I had to take a ride on the Skywheel. The Skywheel is a midway classic, that unfortunately is getting very rare. Whenever I come across one, I have to take a ride on it. The feeling when you are sitting at the top of the top wheel, and wind up at the bottom of the bottom wheel is one of those great midway moments. Add to that the fact that this Skywheel looks, sounds, and rides fresh off the showroom floor and it’s a must do.

Bumper Boats -

Nope, didn't do this one.

Skooter - Majestic Skooter

Nope, didn't do this one, maybe if it were POP I might consider it.

Thunder Bolt - Chance Thunder Bolt

Nope, missed this one too. - Again it it were POP…

Starship 3000 - Wisdom Starship

Missed this one as well, add this to the if it were POP list.

Giant Wheel - Nope

Tilt-A-Whirl - Nope

Scrambler - Nope

Though I remember a comment made on MCW that nobody was showing off any photos of the Scrambler, so I'll toss in two to make up for it.

Super Shot - Drop Tower - 5 tickets

From the name I was expecting a ride that shot riders up like a space launch, but instead its just a freefall ride. Mind you it does a better job at the freefall ride experience than most park installation of a free fall. I can't get over how short the ride experience is for the price. Wound up riding this twice, however.

Spin Out - KMG Spin Out - 5 tickets

Rode once, I personally like the Spin Out, it’s a great ride, but I fear its days are numbered as evidenced by the general lack of ridership I noticed.

Moby Dick - Wisdom Moby Dick - Nope, never got around to giving this one a try.

Wave Swinger - nope

Spider - Eyerly Spider - 4 tickets

I rode this once, hey I like the old time Spider rides. While this Spider spins, it doesn't spin at nearly the quality as the one at Holiday World. Not a bad ride, and it delivered some quality spinning.

Downdraft - Darton Downdraft - 5 tickets

I rode the Downdraft once. Its not one of my favorite rides, but the group wanted to go so I took a spin on it. I think I prefer the older Hurricane rides.

Wisdom Tornado - 5 tickets

We got three rides on this one. It’s a spin ride fanatics home for obsessive spinning. We had our tub spinning clocked at up to 45 RPM. That’s what you get when you put 4 spin ride obsessed insane riders in one tub. (That is we started a count when we saw the center spindle and got past one second but could not get to 2 seconds before passing the center spindle again) And, we were all able to contain our fun!!!

Oh yes, there were several back end pieces which I summarily ignored : Arabian Daze, Mardi Gras, MTV Video Funhouse, German Fun House, The Dark Side - dark ride.

Which brings us up to the feature attraction - The Fighter!! - 6 tickets.

We took several rides on this. It’s a fairly unique piece from Mondial. The ride looks like a swing ride from a distance, but just wait till you climb aboard. The ride contains 4 arms that hang down from top, each arm having 5 seats on it arranges in a circle, each seat containing 2 people, secured only by lap bars. The ride act likes a swing ride, the ride starts the center raises up, the main ride frame starts spinning, then the individual arms start spinning, as if that wasn't enough, the arms contain a hydraulic mechanism to push the arms out and in. Believe me, this is one ride whose bite is worse than its bark. And that's saying something considering that it has a sound system that may be worthy of that great rock group "Disaster Area" of Hitchhiker's Guide fame. Add to that a great light show, great artwork, and a lot of flash. (Hey the main ride frame features 4 very well endowed female figures)

Now, just so those whose interest is more into the games of the midway, I don't want to leave you out. Although I played exactly zero games while at the MNSF, I did note that on offer were the usual assortment of racing games, Bust a Beer Bottle, Bust Em and Run Em Pool, Bottle Up. Machine Gun and a lot more games. I give my blue ribbon to the game with the best flash to the Skeeball trailer. That thing is magical at night. Okay, the scene, at night the trailer is lit by ultraviolet light, the lanes are coasted in UV reactive paint as are the balls. There is a fogger running full blast, and purple neon cords hanging down. Impressive.

The MNSF midway is very particular about wanting to present a clean, unified image, despite the fact that it is all independent. To that end all the workers on the midway wear the same uniform, have the same type ID badge, then if the ride or game uses flags as part of its decoration, the flags are almost always replaced with MNSF Mighty Midway logo flags. I did spot a couple pieces slip an American flag through, or some very small solid color pennants, but for the most part the standard MNSF flag is in use. Speaking of the games, I rekon that if you operate a stick joint at the MNSF, you have to rent the tent from the fairboard. I say this because all the stick joints had one of two very distinctive canvas tops, and they were laid out in a very orderly fashion with the goal of presenting a very neat and orderly midway when viewed from the air. Also the stick joints were all of the same construction with metal poles that were painted with a fresh coast of the exact same shade of blue. One last note on the midway as a whole, we spotted a bench that read (in part) "Courtesy of the Bossman family!" I wonder if there is any relation to the MCW poster.

So Jerry and I arrived at the fair around noon-ish, and started with a solid 1 hour ride session in order to make the most of the Early Bird ride special prices. We then took a tour of Adventure Park, which is the fairs extreme attraction zone. This year Adventure Park contained: Skyscraper, Spring Shot, Skycoaster, Cyber Sez, Trampoline Thing, and Fear Factory.

Fear Factory is a ropes course. A portable trailer mounted ropes course, manufactured by a well respected ropes course manufacturer. I admit before I arrived at the fair grounds I was all gung-ho about walking the ropes course. However taking a walking tour around ground level was enough to scare me out of that notion. I think I was fine with trying it until I saw that leg where you have to walk a length of tight rope with NOTHING to hold onto. Athleticism and agility are not my strong suits, and I know that. But then only $5 to try. Hmmm. Jerry was able to dissuade me from trying the ropes course (which was not getting any business during this time) with a very persuasive reason. Chiefly on Thursday the fairground experiences strong winds (up to 30MPH) Jerry pointed to a flag and asked "Do you really want to try to balance on a thin rope with winds blowing against you like that?"

After touring Adventure Park, we returned for more riding on the Mighty Midway. I noted an Avalanche car got stalled out on the course, and the Skywheel had closed for wind. We took some more rides, then went out to the car to get cameras. We took some photos of the DNR park, the fairgrounds, and the Mighty Midway. We went over to the Kidway to see if there was anything interesting over there.

I wonder how the new gravel surface instead of grass is doing. I didn’t ride anything on the kidway, but I did look at a couple rides. The Zamperla Flying Tiger, which is basically a suspended kids Whip ride with airplane themed tubs looks real cool. I wouldn't mind seeing an adult sized version of it. Zamperla also wins the "Ah isn't just so adorable" with their Fire Brigade ride. On Fire Brigade the kids stand in cages on the back of fire trucks. The fire trucks make slow circles around a building painted to look like it is on fire, and as the trucks go around the center the cages attached to the fire trucks ladders go slowly up and down, and the rider gets to aim a fire hose at the center tower as if they were fighting the fire. Too cute!

Jerry and I then returned the cameras to the car and met up with Cameron and Paul on the Mighty Midway. We talked a lot, we rode some, we had Philly Steaks at Andy's Grill We stayed and rode rides till about 9:30, with a stop to go get Frozen Chocolate Dipped Key Lime Pie on a Stick. Yummy!.

At about 9:30 Jerry and I left the fairgrounds.

We returned to the fairground on Monday September 5, which is Last Chance Day, last day the fair is in session for 2005. "All good things must come to an end". We got lucky enough to park in row A of the lot, and made our way into the fair. Jerry and I started with an early morning ride session, then took a tour of Pioneer Village, which is the fair's historical district. A lot of historical exhibits, including one on the history of the fair, with some of bally canvas from side shows, old fair advertising posters, old ride cars, and all sorts of fair memorabilia. They have about a 2" section of bungee cord from the 1992 bungee jump sitting out as an exhibit. It did not reassure me as to bungee jumping.

Through the day we did a lot more riding, we took a walk up Machinery Hill, had a Walleye sandwich and took a nice walking tour of the fair. It is noteworthy that the temperature was up in the 90's which is hot enough to suck the enthusiasm right out. At least we were thankful that there was a slight breeze. I also saw the official MNSF gift shop, a post office that was open on Labor Day, a bank that was open on Labor Day as well.

In the afternoon, we started to eat our way through the fair with Saratoga Chips, Pizza, Lemon Shake-Ups, Spumoni Ice cream and more involved. What's more impressive is we did this in the midst of the ill-fated Operation Get Cameron Sick. While I am happy to report that no one became ill, the mission must be deemed a failure because the intended victim did not get sick. Oh we tried to throw a whole wide variety of the spiniest and flippiest rides the fair had to offer, in quick succession, but it did not work. The highlight of this failed operation was The back to back rides on the Tornado. At first the operator split our group into two different tubs due to balance issues. Ah well, at least Jerry got Cameron prepped. Then the next cycle the ride operator said he could accommodate us all in the same tub. This was the ride that hit 45RPM. Oh, I feel I should mention that Cameron pulled the old "I'm fresh out of tickets" routine as we headed to the Tornado, that ploy didn't work. We go out of our way to entertain our victims.

We spent the evening walking the fair, talking with various friends on the midway, some in the biz and some not. Cameron needed to get his 1 millionth Andy's cheesesteak of the fair, so I decided to run over to the All You Can Drink Milk booth. Well the price of milk doubled to an even buck, but hey they did have those gourmet cows up in the red barn that produce chocolate milk.

We still managed to go ride a lot more rides on and off throughout the day, eventually needed to buy additional ride tickets. We finally wound up enjoying the fireworks while standing around and enjoying a nice HOT fresh bucket of Sweet Martha's Chocolate Chip Cookies. Is there a better way to end the fair for the year?

At the end of the fireworks we joined the sea of people heading to the parking lot. However we noticed theat the vast majority of the sea of people were content to wait at the light and use the crosswalk, so we were able to express our exit to the parking lot by using the less popular crossing bridge.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom

Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom
October 2, 2005

"Toto, I don't think we're in Indiana anymore"

Yesterday, we had spent a wonderful day at Holiday World, so today as a way to take a break on the trip back home, we decided to stop by Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom (SFKK). SFKK is not really a destination park, and really isn't worth going far out of your way for, but since we were practically going right past it, why not stop by?

We started the morning with a leisurely breakfast at our hotel before heading to the park. We were quite a ways from the park because the way out hotel was situated the mapping software we used had us driving right past Holiday World. We took it slow and easy and didn't wind up showing up at SFKK till almost 2pm. Once there we pulled into the Kentucky State Fairgrounds were we paid a fairgrounds employee $5 to park in the state fairgrounds parking lot. We drove down the road that separated SFKK into two unequal halves, and proceeded to find a space in section 39 of the lot, which happens to be right next to the front gate. We looked for but did not see section 42.

Before we could enter the park, I had to purchase a ticket as I am one of those enthusiasts that does not have a Six Flags season pass. Using a coupon I picked up at work, I was able to enter the park, only $24.99 later. It seems that the park has its Fright Fest Halloween event going on and the first sign is the fake cobwebs all over the big SFKK sign over the entry way. We entered the park and found out that the big fountain at the front of the park has been transformed into a graveyard scene and a couple signs told us about all the Halloween happenings.

We made a right after entering the park and headed to Hellevator. There was some talk when Six Flags purchased the park that this rides name would not survive, but it in fact has. Rideman paused before entering the queue to observe that apparently Six Flags has outsourced their ride safety signage to Cedar Fair, I mean these signs are dead ringers for the signs found at Cedar Fair parks. Start the rumors now that Cedar Fair is taking over Six Flags, and they have already started to replace the ride signage.

We entered the queue area for Hellevator and found that we were able to walk right aboard and take our seats as the ride crew was just standing around waiting for someone to decide to ride their ride. This ride is one of the first 2nd generation Intamin Giant Drops. They have made some changes to it since then, new seat molds, and new seatbelts. Recall this ride originally did not have seatbelts, then for a while it ran with homebrew seatbelts that were literally tied onto the ride. It looks like they decided to go with the S&S method of rigidly mounting the male tongue of the buckle onto the bottom center of the shoulder bar, and then have the seatbelt fasten onto it. It looks very well done, and as a bonus the ride appears to have been painted recently. We took a very quick but effective freefall ride, and noticed the "If you liked this ride, may we suggest trying these rides" sign along the ride exit path.
We continued walking along the path around the front of the shop, past the gift shop, games and food stands. We next came across a Breakdance, which as the sign out front told us, was closed today. Hey, it’s a Six Flags park, you don't expect every ride to be open on the same day, do you? We continued walking towards Road Runner Express. The Road Runner Express at this park is a wild mouse type ride, I believe an early Mauer Shone model. The line for this was so short they were directing everybody through the Fastlane entrance. In fact again we headed right up to the platform and hopped into a ride car. In this case a mine cart themed car. We noticed that they are using an L-shaped metal ruler as a platform gate. (Hey, it doubles as a height measurement device!) They also don't let the next group of riders climb the station stairs until their car has arrived. So we sit down, fasten seatbelts, lower lapbars, and away we go. This particular Wild Mouse gives a very violent ride, almost as violent as the old time wild mouse rides, the difference is this wild mouse has no padding whatsoever, and the lapbars have a support column in the center of the car pinning your legs into a small space. The ride is brutal on those legs! It's not an experience I care to repeat today.

We exit the ride and head off towards one of the parks infamous cul-de-sacs. This pathway used to head to a picnic grove, and was anchored by the Vampire boomerang coaster, which was designed so that it deposited riders at the far back end of this long dead end walkway. Well the Vampire is gone with its space being taken up by the Road Runner Express and a Skycoaster. Skycoaster was open, but I didn't see anybody fly on it the whole time I was there. Little wonder as SFKK has not yet discounted their Skycoaster. We walked around the Skycoaster and a children's train ride (teeny tiny train that travels a small oval at slow speeds) and after a long hike, we come to a pirate (swinging) ship ride. Not surprisingly the ride was not seeming to do much business. The entrance queue was unusual in that it has a push gate to go through to enter the queue. We were able to ride in one of the end seats on the next available cycle. They only needed to use 2 and a half seats on the whole boat. Someone could be swabbing the decks as the boat itself needs some cosmetic attention. We had a mediocre swinging ship ride and then backtracked back to the main loop of the midway.

Continuing along the main loop, we next arrived at Greased Lightning, which is a Schwarzkopf Shuttle Loop. We proceeded through the empty queue area, up the stairs, into the nearly empty station and into the back car. We lowered the lapbar and waited a bit for them to decide to run the ride. The launch was great, the forwards loop was great, the forwards spike, the backwards loop. Ah, it's a great ride, spoiled by the sudden application of brakes on the return pass through the station. The brakes don't care much for it either as evidenced by the stench of smoldering brake linings. This meant that the trip up the back spike was less than stellar. We return to the station where we are informed that despite the empty station, everybody must exit and walk around. We dutifully exit and unlike the majority of the park guests, we don't hop over the single fence that separates the entrance path from the exit path. I tell you someone is going to get hurt hurdling that fence. We reenter the queue and take a seat towards the front of the train. The ride was about the same except we had a better view of a ride operator who out of a fit of boredom was beating on the track with a wooden pole, more alarmingly he seemed to playing a game of chicken with the oncoming train seeing just when to remove the pole. It's nice to know they take ride safety so seriously here.

Somewhat disturbed we continue our trip around the park. We glance in on the parks kids area which looks pretty much the way it did the last time we visited. I note that the "Turkey" Leg stand is very careful to put quotes around the word "Turkey". Be afraid, be very afraid. We come to the spot where the bumper cars usually sit and we find the bumper car arena has been boarded up. That's not an unusual event in Northern Ohio where parks seem to think bumper car arenas make great locations for haunted houses, and in fact the Road Rage Cage, as the stenciled signs on the yellow and black boards called the attraction was listed as a Fright Fest special. Luckily, its still bumper cars, in a dark building with strobes and flashing lights. To top it off the cars run halfway decently, have adjustable seatbelts that actually fit, and are run demolition derby style with no center pylon and no "One Way Only, no head on collisions" rule. I must say Road Rage Cage is a hit, and is actually a decent bumper car ride, as evidenced by the fast that we actually had to wait a cycle before riding.

After a trip to the Road Rage Cage, we headed to the Huss Rainbow. On out last trip to SFKK, the HUSS Rainbow was not operating normally, that is to say it had developed a nasty forwards/backwards shake, which is strange because the ride is supposed to go up and down and back and forth, but not forwards and back. We walk right onto the ride, and fasten the seatbelts which are attached to the ride using knots, then the bars come down. I can report that the forwards/backwards shaking behavior is gone, and the ride is once again running the way it should.

Next door is the Enterprise, we have to wait for the cycle in progress to finish up, and then we board. I climb into a car, close the door and am awarded with a hand full of grease. Huh?? This in not a unique incident on this ride as I know it has happened to others. I note the tub cage has fewer bars on it than say the one at Valleyfair, and I'm not too wild about the way the safety strap from the cage door is fastened to the door release lever. The ride does run pretty fast, and it gests up pretty high, about the closest to vertical as I have seen on an Enterprise in awhile. Shame that it has developed a bit of roughness and a shake to it, but all in all a fun ride. The ride starts to lower and slows down, then once it hits the ground it revs up to full speed again and spins for a bit before slowing back down for the final stop. Weird.

We exit the ride and I head to a wonderfully air conditioned restroom building to both cool off and wash the grease off my hands. About half a dispenser full of soap later, my hands look to be mostly clean. We then decide to skip Stargate as we don't have much interest in motion simulator attractions, but it looked like they had at least one shows full of people waiting in the outdoor queue area. We instead head to the parks Himalyah. The Himalyah's ride fencing is badly covered in rust, and the itelf looks pretty beat up what with the ripped seat cushions and all. We board the ride, and look into our seats (we sat separately) and there are no less than 6 straps coming out of the back of the seat, to form three seatbelts per seat, one for each rider. The Himlayah has its problems though that haven't been addressed, such as the major pinch point that is waiting to bite at somebodys toes, and the lap bar mechanism which juts out into the seat compartment. The Himalayah runs a long enough cycle, it just spins a bit slow.

After the Himalayah, we decide to make our first crossing of The Damned Bridge. I never did like that bridge. The bridge takes you from the nice compact original Kentucky Kingdom area, where the adult rides are laid out along the outer band of a big loop, with the kids area in the center, to the more freeform expansion area. The expansion area is also basically in a loop, just not compact, and it has the waterpark in the center of its loop. Some visitors might even remember when the ride park and the water park were separate gates, located on opposite sides of the parking lot entry road.

At the other end of the Damned Bridge we continue to go straight and to the left so we are heading towards the Giant Wheel. On the Giant Wheel we noticed that rides have a red/green pole at the entrance. If you fall into the red zone you are not of the correct height, in the green, you are cleared to ride. On rides without height requirements, the sign is a yellow smiley face that says "Family fun for everyone" In this case the Giant Wheel is a Vekoma wheel. We decide to ride the Wheel, which required us to undergo the rider eligibility test. See it’s a portable model wheel, and the queue area is made out of metal grating. I guess you could say that it standing on the very open metal grate of the floor of the queue area causes you concern you may not want to get onto the ride. We board and take a relaxing ride on the Giant Wheel, and confirm that the park is as dead as we think it is. I mean I know its Fright Fest, but they are taking this whole ghost town thing a bit seriously. We exit the Giant Wheel and notice the attractive retro style ride fence that surrounds it. Too bad that fence needs a serious repainting. We continue around the park past a children's activity area for Fright Fest, then past the pay extra zone with its go-karts, climbing wall, and trampoline thing. I must say the food court they have added near the entrance to the waterpark looks quite attractive, and far better than the older food court which was made up of carnival style grab joint trailers. Hey wait that row of carnival style grab joint trailers is still there up the midway a bit. They all sit disused today.

We veer off to the left and enter the queue area for Chang. The queue area for Chang needs some work as the weeds and plant life are starting to overtake the queue path, however to the parks credit they have finally put some canvas shades over the queue area. Not that we would be needing the shades as we walked right up into the station and onto the ride. Well, both of us walk onto the ride, Rideman claims his seatbelt would not fasten, so he does not partake of the ride. Chan is a B&M stand up coaster, and runs pretty quiet for a B&M, and also runs pretty smooth for a ride in this park. About the only problems with this ride is the overgrown weeds in the queue area and the paint job that they have tried so many times but just can't get the paint job to hold up. I rather like Chang, and soon we pass a ride photo booth who opertor is making zero effort to sell photos to the small crowd, then we go through the gift shop as we are forced to do. The gift shop is laid out such that you have to zig zag through the displays to get to the exit. You know the kind of layout that you want to just stretch your arms out and take out a few displays just to annoy the park as much as the forced visit to the gift shop annoys you. Actually judging from the security guard stationed inside the store, I wonder if this forced exit through retail is causing them more problems than its worth.

Continuing on our way, we both have to stop and just laugh so hard when we see Chaos. The Chaos at SFKK, like most Chaos rides in this nation is closed this season. The park has decorated it up in fake cobwebs, or were those real cobwebs), and a big giant plastic inflatable spider sitting on top of it. It looks wonderful in its own way. Also in this area is an overgrown children's car ride, of the sort were they sit in cars and go around in slow circles. There are no buzzers to play with on this ride, but only one steering wheel per car, and it does function to a point in that you can steer your car so that it pivots to face left, right or straight.

We continued our tour of the park by going into what was clearly meant to be Gotham City. You see the parks inverted coaster, T^2 is sandwiched between the Gotham City Arena and Penguin's Blizzard River. T^2 was even painted black, and the pop machine for the T^2 queue has a batman front on it. Either way we walked through another queue area that is getting overgrown with weeds, past some nice misters that don't get the ground wet, up the stairs and into the front seat with no waiting. After that ride we got back in line and took a back seat ride. It’s the standard Vekoma SLC layout, and I belive this ride was the United States debut of this ride. Five inversions in a very tight layout, which leads the ride to exhibit qualities that have earned it the nickname "Hang N' Bang" I must say the back seat is slightly better than the front seat in terms of ride smoothness. The most interesting thing about this particular SLC is that the park has let the weeds and brush underneath the lift hill run rampant, so much so that if you don't pick your legs up the bottom half of your leg will drag through the brush and weeds, even more so if you sit on the left. I sure hope that wasn't poison ivy. The ride exit path also has a totally unneeded fence that was serving the purpose of sending everyone through a bottleneck past a closed ride photo booth.

We continued on along the main path past the airbrush booth and came to Penguin's Blizzard River. I have been wanting to take a ride on Blizzard River, it seems the ride is always either closed or the line is long whenever I am there. It was the longest line I waited in all day and that was with the line just to the door for the indoor queue area. Rideman sensing that riders were looking a bit on the drenched side decided not to ride. I persisted and was soon shown to a raft. Before boarding the raft I noted a sign stating that "Personal Floatation Devices available" as well as a huge bin stuffed full of life vests. Given the fact that some park's rapids rides have capsized, I can't fault the idea. I declined the life vest offer, as did everybody else who was riding at the time. That means I didn't get to see if they use a life vest the way he majority of people using them, or if they use them LongWorld style. ( Blizzard River is designed to make sure you get totally drenched within the first 20 seconds of the ride thanks to a nice cascading waterfall that goes on for the entire first turnaround. In fact on Blizzard River, while I can't deny the rapids will drench your bottom side, the bigger threat is all the various water spraying devices that are all over the course, including in the two themed tunnels. I must admit the ride is nicely themed, if just a bit too wet. At the end of the ride you wait in a little covered part for your rafts turn to go up the lift hill. It would be really neat if they would blow hot air on you at this point to kinda help you dry off. Naw, they have fans in that area blowing nice cold air at you. Well, it is the Blizzard River after all. Our raft easily had 4" of water in the bottom oat the end of the ride. Rideman wondered why we just sat there in the unload area, uhm, because the ride operator told us to remain seated, that's all. Speaking of operators, the main console operator on Blizzard River wins the award for being the most enthusiastic with his microphone spiels.

Well, now I need to dry off, and this park does not have a Wave Singer. We made our way towards Thunder Run, where we noted the racecar simulator video game has been removed. We also noted that perhaps the park is showing mercy. SFKK is infamous for blocking off perfectly good walkways just to make you walk the LONG way, presumably past games, gifts, and food. For example there is a real short path from Top Eliminator to Thunder Run, and there are NO employee facilities along the path, but SFKK has installed two waist high gates on either end of the path, I mean you can see the whole length of the path, but you aren't allowed to take it, and they usually post a sentry nearby to make sure you don’t cheat, just because its so tempting. I mean you can see the Thunder Run station, but you have to walk clear around the back of the ride to get there. However, the park currently has the Thunder Run walkway open, much to my happiness.

We entered the Thunder Run queue and two trains later we were riding in the front seat. The male end of these seatbelts are ridiculously short, so short in fact that I find it easier to stand in front of my seat, buckle the seatbelt around my knees, the slide into the seat under the seatbelt, then lower the lapbar. Thunder Run must be some park executives 'baby' I mean this ride is well taken care of, runs nice and smooth, and even has some nice airtime. The ride starts with a turnaround to the left out of the station, up the lift hill, then another turnaround to the left,. The top of the lift is lined with flags that seem to mimic the lift hills in that park about an hour to the west. Thunder Run even got some sternly worded signs telling you that lapbars and seatbelts must be worn for the entire ride. Anyway around the turnaround then the first drop which runs right alongside the station, into the high banked turnaround to the left. I used to think this high bank turnaround was extreme, that is until I saw what they are doing with Voyage at that park one hour to the west. After the turnaround, you go over three airtime hills, then another turnaround to the left then you head back towards the station, go up a short hill, then you do another turnaround to the left, go out again a short ways, then one final turnaround to the left to point you back to the station. It’s a wonderful ride with nice airtime, and it seems to be lovingly cared for.

We exited Thunder Run and walked a short distance to ride the Flying Dutchman. Yep, this is the same Flying Dutchman ride that used to be at PKI where your ride in giant swings that look like Dutch style wooden shoes. Hey it’s the closest thing to a swing ride here. SFKK has taken the lapbars out of the shoes and replaced them with seatbelts with the plastic camera bag strap type buckles. So its not a high thrill ride, but it’s a fun ride, and its nice to see its still around to entertain us. We took a look around Belgian Village to confirm that yes, the Quake is finally GONE. The ride that hardly ever ran, was really noisy making nasty noises when it ran, and wasn't even a great ride. The waterpark took over that parcel of real estate for their newest waterslide. The fire engine ride is still there, and we looked over the International Carousel, which looks really nice. I mean we have to deduct a few points for the band organ not playing, but overall it’s a decent ride. I also note the games area that was in this area is boarded up and is labeled such that it appears to be the parks security office. No Crazy Ball for me this year. (Crazy Ball where you actually bet on what color hole a ball thrown onto a game board filled with a bunch of holes will fall into)

We next proceeded to ride the Roller Skater, which is the parks kiddie coaster. Yet another Vekoma ride. It looks like they have added seatbelts to this coaster, which is probably a good idea since the lapbars are loose fitting. It’s a kiddie coaster with an above average layout.

After the Roller Skater we headed back towards Twisted Twins, when we noted the midway that houses Mile High Falls and the Zeppelin is closed for a haunted trail. Ah, that’s why the Thunder Run shortcut was open today, it’s the only way to complete the loop. So we backtrack under Thunder Run, then past a very large and very closed Top Eliminator Dragster. I mean this ride must have its share of problems, its an extra charge attraction, and it seems to be closed on a routine basis This makes for a very long midway with absolutely nothing open along it until you get back to Twisted Twins. Which means that Twisted Twins is so far off the midway that unless you purposely went looking for it today, you would not find it. Due to the haunted trail all the games and stuff along the midway back to Twisted Twins was closed, including the restroom building. It’s a long hike back here just for Twisted Twins. At least the park has finally installed a shortcut gate in the queue so that you don't have to walk around it the long way every time. That should help as guests were trampling over whatever barriers they tried to put in peoples way to discourage the obvious line jump places. Today only the front (pink) coaster was running, and it made its presence known from a distance away. I mean whereas Thunder Run seems to be lovingly cared for, this coaster is literally SCREAMING out for TLC. I mean the trains scrapes and squeals its way around every curve, and owing to the twisty layout of this ride, that means it spends a good portion of the ride squealing for help. As expected we find a half full train in the station and are able to board right away. We take a seat in the back of the pink train, and soon we are off. The train starts squealing for mercy during the curves leading to the lift hill, not a good sign. We go up the lift and I look over and am dismayed to learn that the infamous Holiday World billboard that used to taunt Twisted Twins riders is now a Pepsi billboard. We crest the lift, turnaround, and take a nastily violent lunge down the first drop that first catapults you up into the lapbar, then as the train reaches bottom slams you back down into the seat just as hard. This would be great ridden in a proper train, but instead we have the Gerstaluers, with their totally unpadded benches, and their unpadded lapbars. YEOWCH. The ride doesn't get any better between the hard curves and the train squealing. Shame it could be so good, but this ride needs some TLC and some trackwork in the worst way. We take two more rides in the backseat before we must move. After about 5 rides we move on. The ride does seems a fair bit smoother up front.

Time to hike all the way back to Belgian Village. We award ourselves by taking a victory lap on Thunder Run. Aww, that's how a coaster should run, and I even got picked on by the Thunder Run crew for wearing a Holiday World shirt.

We continued through Belgian Village and were dismayed to learn that Swampwater Jacks is no longer a buffet, but is not just an overpriced burger outlet. I ask you, $9 for a hamburger and fries basket! That doesn't even include the soft drink! It should be noted that I did not purchase any food or beverage while at SFKK. We next headed to the car to get the camera to take pictures, yes this involved another trip over That Damned Bridge, where we walked around the backside of the older section to note that overall the amount of games in this park has decreased, and the ones that are left are almost all $3 and up a try. I also noted the theater right inside the park gate is currently being used as a walk through haunted house, at $4 extra per trip. Before heading to the car we look in both the Looney Tunes Shop and Exclusively Flags shops and in general were dismayed by this years merchandise collection. Almost nothing park specific, its almost all stuff that could be shipped off to any Six Flags park. You've been in one Six Flags park gift shop, you've seen em all. As a flag collector, I was also dismayed that a shop calling itself Exclusively Flags does not sell flags of any description. Anyway we go out, Rideman gets a camera and we take a second lap around the park.

For the most part we did a lot of talking and walking and picture taking but not much, if any, riding got accomplished the second lap around the park. As we made our third pass across That Damned Bridge it must be noted that the pathway is designed to offer a commanding view into the parks included waterpark, Hurricane Bay. I looked at the now closed for the season waterpark. I took a while to take in the view and noted that in the center of the sundeck by the wave pool is a stand that looks like a lifeguard shack. On top of the lifeguard shack is a flagpole, flying from the flagpole is one Hurricane flag. After closer reference to my guides, it seems that ONE hurricane flag is actually a tropical storm warning, and TWO hurricane flags is a hurricane warning, so maybe this is really Tropical Storm Bay. But wait a minute, AHA, Six Flags may be on to something here. Hurricane season ended at SFKK just after labor day, and as naturally follows hurricanes, the storm has been downgraded to a tropical storm, hence only one hurricane flag. Also hurricanes were found to nurture Tornado's and look thee in the corner of the waterpark, this year a Tornado has landed in Hurricane Bay. Tornado, the funnel shaped waterslide, of course, that has been popping up at waterparks across the nation this year. Who says Six Flags can't theme an area.

When I commented on this to Rideman, he commented "You seem to know a lot about flags" and then proceeded to ask: " "

Okay, so Rideman really asked the question in normal conversational English. It just so happens that I am familiar with how to make the semaphore alphabet. We continued around the park where upon taking a closer look at stuff, I noted that the waterpark has gone to Smart Care electronic lockers. Recall this is a waterpark, I wonder how you are supposed to protect the paper ticket with your locker combination.

We more or less took a walk around the park, then decided to start the drive for home. We still needed to fetch dinner, and get home, and Rideman still had a 2 hour drive after he dropped me off.

We stopped off at Cracker Barrel, where they were out of meatloaf, of course that meant that each of us 'ordered the meatloaf' A nice relaxing meal to end the weekend of fun and merriment, now all that’s left is the ride back home.

To conclude this report, both of us did return to our respective homes in safe condition, and thus ends the Fall Affair at Holiday World weekend.