Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Camp Snoopy Mall of America

Camp Snoopy - Mall of America
September 2 and 6, 2005

"Come on baby, let's do the Twist!"

This report will cover two separate trips to the Mall of America, one on the evening of Friday, September 2, 2005, and the other on the morning of September 6, 2005.  The first visit was to be more your Amazing Race style get in, ride the coaster, get out type visit.  The whole purpose of the visit was to ensure that Hades at Mt. Olympus would be my 250th coaster.

Therefore after finishing up a day at Valleyfair, we headed to dinner, then headed to the Mall of America.  We wound up parking in Indiana, but I saw no sign of Holiday World.  (Note: Mall of America uses the names of States to designate the sections of its parking areas.)  As it was a mal, parking was free, and we soon entered the mall.  We entered the mall on the third floor, so after a couple quick escalator rides, we were down on the first floor, which is also the floor Camp Snoopy is on.  Camp Snoopy is located in the middle of the Mall of America in a huge greenhouse like area with jumbo skylights in the ceiling. The mall runs around all four sides of Camp Snoopy with access points to between camp Snoopy and the mall being in the center of each side at least on level 1, and often via stairs on the other levels.  Camp Snoopy is a free admission park, so there is no barrier at any of the access points, and you just walk on in.  The overall theme of Camp Snoopy is an outdoor summer camp theme.  Even though you are clearly inside, the landscape is lined with trees, and buildings that look like log cabins.  It’s a very rustic feel, and in some parts it can temporarily fool you into thinking you are really outside.

We entered Camp Snoopy and headed more or less in a direct line to their newest coaster, Timberland Twister. Timberland Twister is a spinning coaster from Gerstlauer.  For most Americans, their only other exposure to Gerstlauer is with their rather cruddy wood coaster trains, however if Timberland Twister is any indication they show promise in the small steel coaster arena.  The wait for Timberland Twister was all the way down from the station almost back to the midway, but none of the rides switchbacks were open.  I'd say about a 15 or so minute wait. We wait in line and reach the station where I scan a ticket that magically appeared in my possession through the ticket scanner.  Camp Snoopy offers both pay per ride and pay one price plans, with electronic tracking of riding privileges.  Each ride has a scanner and all tickets, wristbands and passes must be scanned before boarding any ride.  The computer validates the ticket, sees what kind of riding privilege you have left (in points, minutes or days) and makes any point deductions needed. The park also has several machines located throughout the park where you can check for yourself how many more points you have.  

According to my ticket, I have 45 points at my disposal for tonight's short visit.  I look up and see that Timberland Twister costs 6 points. (at 80 cents point that would be $4.80 if I actually paid for my point pass), well I just scanned that ticket so now I have 39 points and I have been admitted to the station waiting area.  At the boarding area we get lucky and we sit in the right hand seat, and no one sits in the left hand seat.  We fasten the seatbelts and lower the lap bars.  Soon the car is on its way out of the station and through a turnaround to the right to go up the lift hill.  The lift hill almost takes you up as high as you can go given the ceiling, then at the top of the lift a turnaround to the right starts the ride.  Unlike other companies spinning coasters, on Timberland Twister the car is unlocked and free to spin as soon as you crest the lift hill.  With our car about as out of balance as you can get, we started spinning like a top the moment the car left the lifthill.  The ride consists of a lot of gradual turns, but nothing as orderly as the sets of zig zags on most wild mouse type rides, then there is a helix, then the ride actually has a few drops and hills, who knows which way you'll be facing for any of them.  There is a mid course brake, but don't let it worry you any, and we came into the final brake still spinning.  You then advance from the final brake onto a positioning brake.  Here your car is held while the coaster attempts to gently stop your car from spinning, then realigns it so that the car will reenter the station in the same orientation it left. After the car is aligned correctly it advances to the unload area, where the bars open and you unload.  Mall of America has both load an unload on the same side, though I notice a platform was built on both sides of the track in the station, but the platform on the wrong side has no easy access back to the midway.  So it sorts signs "EXIT OTHER SIDE" while the side with the load and unload areas reads "EXIT THIS SIDE"

We exit, walk down the exit ramp, and get back in line the line seems to get shorter as the hour or so goes on.  We proceed to ride three more times, at a cost to me of 6 points each, Jerry has the annual passport.  On about the third or fourth ride we get a fully loaded car, so I can see clearly that with a fully loaded car the ride does not spin nearly as much, and if the car should happened to be well balanced you hardly spin at all.  Jerry does though no one part of the ride where if you lean to the side you can get some spin action out of an otherwise dead car in the helix.  Still I find Timberland Twister to be about the best of the compact mouse-style rides I have seen yet.  So that’s 18 points later, we decide to take a walk around Camp Snoopy.  My card has 21 points left.  We take a walk around the outer edge of the park, see home plate from when a baseball stadium stood here, I tried my skill at the shooting gallery, and we saw some sort of robotic dinosaur that you can pay extra to play with. We made our way around to the Treetop Tumbler

The Treetop Tumbler is I think the last remaining Zierrer Hexentantz in the United States. It's a very neat looking flat ride that consists of a multitude of cars that go around a center spindle.  After the ride starts the ride cars are raised up about halfway on this spindle through a really neat folding legs aranagment. Then each pair of cars is mounted on opposite ends of secondary booms that are connected to the main spindle.  Those secondary booms rotate in such a manner that the two cars on that boom start leapfrogging each other as they go around with one tub going over the other.  Yes this can provide airtime if run fast enough, and Camp Snoopy runs it fast enough for some minor airtime.  It’s a very rare ride piece, and part of the reason for that rarity is how finicky the ride is about proper balancing. It seems both tubs on each pair set have to be balanced. Riders are secured with seatbelts and a lap bar. We sat in separate cars both for comfort and so that we could balance each other, and the operator looping the unused seatbelt around the lap bar, and told us at the end of the ride to unfasten that belt first.  It won’t win any intensity awards, but it is a very fun ride. I noted a change in procedure from my prior visit, it used to be that riders were admitted through the ticket barrier into a bullpen.  The bullpen is still there but a rope has been added forcing the oncoming riders to wait in a single file line. Well Treetop Tumbler was 5 points, leaving me with 16 points which meant it was time for some planning so as not to be left with 1 or 2 utterly useless points. It should be noted the park has lockboxes scattered throughout the park where one can deposit tickets with 1 or 2 points left on them to be combined and donated to a local charity.  I could ride Timberland Twister twice and be left with 4 points with which I could ride a Major ride. Or I could ride Timberland Twister once, which would leave me 10 points which would be good for two Spectacular rides.  So lets see its two Super Spectaculars and a Major or 1 Super Spectacular and 2 Spectaculars.  Either way its three rides, for a total of 8 rides on the 45 point ticket.  We chose to go with the 2 Spectaculars.

We next headed to the Pepsi Ripsaw, which is the parks older coaster.  It’s a 5 point ride, and the entrance is on the second floor above the shooting gallery.  Ripsaw is wat looks like one of those Zierrer coasters with the 20+ car long trains. The ride is more like the parks train ride and does a better job of taking you around the park on an elevated railway than at being a coaster.  Sure it has a helix, it has a tunnel, and has some neat curves, but no real drops.  We take seats towards the rear of the train, and lower the two ratcheting lapbars in each seat.  Odd that it has separate ratcheting lap bars for each rider but no seat divider, but considering the size of the car, if it had a seat divider that would preclude bigger riders from riding at all.  It's a better solution than what Zamperla came up with that puts the support bar in the center of the car, with a policy that in most cases both riders legs are supposed to be in the same side of the center bar.  

We made sure each half of the bar was ratcheted equally, and had some small talk with the operators as we prepared for dispatch.  They seemed jealous that we were going to Mt. Olympus tomorrow.  The ride, as I said isn't thrilling at all, but it’s a coaster and you get to see the park.  Watch your eyes for the high beam in ride photo lamp right after the helix.  Man that thing can blind somebody.  About midway through the ride is a long tunnel were you can get a sneak peak of the theming inside the log flume ride. I hear the train storage, transfer track and other service areas are hidden inside the lengthy tunnel.  It is also noteworthy that you are powered all the way through the tunnel on drive tires. So I guess it barely counts as a coaster. We meander around and over the park some more before arriving back at the station.  I note the park's third coaster, Lil Shaver which is a completely powered kiddie coaster.  All ages are welcome, but hey that would make Hades my 251st coaster, can't have that, and after watching some parents get denied rides, I can safely assume I wouldn't fit anyway. It seems the park put its kiddie land in the middle of the park, with the bigger more family oriented rides along the outer edges.  

After Timberland Twister came round 1 on Ghost Blasters.  Ghost Blasters is a Sally interactive dark rides.  I really like the Sally dark rides, and I am competitive.  We shall call tonight's ride a practice run, as I was unfamiliar with the layout, the weapons system, and hey I left my glasses in the car.  You can safely assume that means I didn't win.

I have 6 points left, so we start to leave the Mall stopping back at Timberland Twister for one last ride before we leave.  We then head back to the third floor to claim our car but first Jerry shows me a real nifty flight simulator experience.  The cost is a bit high for my blood for a glorified video game, but for those dogfighting fans who get jollys flying simulated virtual fighter aircraft, it looked to be a real blast.  I also checked out the other large scale video game which is a racecar driving type game with big full size cars as seats on motion bases and big wraparound screens.  They even offer a 'driving school' where they teach tips and tactics for an extra fee.  It’s a bit more reasonable at $10 per game, but still a bit much.

We also stop at the candy store.  I am also a PEZ collector and they have a candy store at the mall I really like.  I didn't buy anything on this trip but did more of an evaluation of my collection by seeing what prices they were charging for some of the harder to find pieces in my collection.  I did though buy some Jalepeno (and other misguided flavor) Jelly beans from them, a $2 bag worth.

We then returned to Lake Pulaski to prepare for the big Wisconsin Dells Trip (Wisconsin Dells trip report sold separately), as well as another visit to the Minnesota State Fair.  

So we fast forward to Tuesday, September 6, 2005.  Well all good things must come to an end.  Tuesday is the day I fly back to Cincinnati, but I carefully arranged to have an afternoon flight back home, and the Mall Of America is extremely close to the airport.  This means we could stop by the Mall for a quick morning of rides and fun.  So that’s what we did after loading up the car, getting out on the road, realizing I forgot stuff at Jerry's house, going back to Jerry's house, getting the rest of my stuff, we finally headed out for Mall of America.  We parked in the Indiana section again, with a space very near the bridge to the mall entrance.  We entered the mall and headed to Camp Snoopy.

Jerry was nice enough to keep track of the local discount offers for me, and was thus able to provide me with a discount coupon which would allow me to obtain a ride all day wristband for the Camp Snoopy rides for $16.95 which I believe is about an $8 savings.  I make my way to the ticket line, purchase a wristband, and the clerk puts a wristband extender on my wristband claiming I had overly large wrists.   Its basically a stub part of a wristband that sticks to the sticky side of the wristband, and the extender itself has a sticky end which attaches to the rest of the wristband.  She also informed me that it was a limited operations day, and handed my a little piece of paper explaining what that meant.

Well of course, its after labor day, that means schools are in session, all part of the plan.  And it seems to be working, as Camp Snoopy is so empty is like having ERT. Oh, there are a few other families there, but for all intents and purposes, its wonderfully empty. According to the paper, all rides will be open at some point today.  Pepsi Ripsaw, Timberland Twister, Speedway (zamperla) and the carousel will be open all day.  Paul Bunyan's Log Chute will only be open 12-8.  All other riders will operate in blocks.  The "A" block of rides operate the first half of each hour the "B" block of rides operate the second half of each hour.

In "A" we have: Bumpers (bumper cars), Camp Bus (crazy bus - Zamperla), Bloomington Express, Snoopy Bounce, Red Baron, Ghost Blasters, Screaming Yellow Eagle (Chance falling star), and the ferris wheel.

In "B" we have Balloon Race, Frog Hopper, Li'l Shaver, Truckin (Convoy), Treetop Tumbler, Mighty Axe, Kite Eating Tree, and Spongebob Squarepants: The Ride.

Ignoring all that, we head right to Timberland Twister and right into an empty car.  Ahh, I like slow days!  The park operates Timberland Twister just a bit different on slow days with only one operator. That operator runs the ride like a cycle ride.  Which means they load one of the 2 cars operating, send the first car on its way, and stop it on the lift while they  load the other car, then the restart the lift, and dispatch the second car as soon as the block is clear.  Thus both cars are running as close together as is safe.  Then  the operaor goes and opens the gate, and admits the next group of riders, closes that gate, and comes back to the console in time to bring both operating cars into the two loading areas in the station. Then after both cars are parked, the bars are opened and riders are requested to open all 4 bars, even those in empty seats.  Both groups of riders exit and the cycle repeats.   As we were the only riders on the ride we loaded the car for maximum spin potential and had a very fun ride exited, rode again.  It is rumored that if the car comes into the positioning brake spinning too fast it will cause the ride to fault.  We're not sure that’s what happened but we came into the brakes spinning like you would not believe.  Next thing the ride went down for about 5 minutes while the operator called in a fault and the key operator reset the ride.

We got back in line and rode again, and woud up riding quite a few times.  It’s a real nice package integrating a good rollercoaster with high spin action.   We then took a Timberland Twister break at which point we stepped over to the Kite Eating Tree.  The Kite Eating Tree is just a custom theme version of your basic Zierrer Wave Swinger. What made it worth riding was that during its last overhaul, somebody hung some of the swings backwards.  On most wave swingers the swings are arranged in a 2-1-2-1-2-1-2, etc pattern, well on this ride the rows that only have 1 swing, its hung facing backwards.  This may or may not be intentional, and it has been allowed to persist for awhile so its not like the park seems to mind.  In fact it might be seen as a way to let the parents keep an eye on their children.  I could not resist a chance to ride a swing ride facing backwards, so we got in line, well we got on the ride the only two on the entire ride I think, and we both opted for backwards facing seats. So maybe I should call this the eerT gnitaE etiK.  The verdict is that is an interesting weird feeling.  Something a bit different than what you would normally expect.

After the KET (or is that the TEK) we took a look around the park. I note the way the ferris wheel is mounted so that the base of the wheel is even with the second story of the mall.  Great space saving design, that one is.  We go past the Pepsi Ripsaw and take rides up front, again the only riders on the entire ride.   We take a walk past Ghost Blasters but it is closed as this is the "B" cycle, we next come to Mighty Axe which is a "B" cycle ride, but it appears to be having trouble waking up with some maintenance types working on it.  

We return to Timberland Twister and a new Timberland Twister operator.  We take a load more rides on Timberland Twister, sometimes we are even allowed to stay seated for another ride, other times we have to walk around, and still other times we just have to get our tickets rescanned.  Had some interesting rides, like one with a small child wo was fearless, and after getting the Super Spin version was like "Wow, I've never seen it spin like that before!", to other strangers we met who generally received the ride well, even with spinning.  We did get paired with a man and girl pair once.  On our way up the lift it was clear that the child was pretty scared.  We were thankful that ride was one where we didn't spin so much.  We also had a ride where the maintenance guys remarked "How did you get it to spin like that?"  It was a great ride session and we rode a while longer until Ghost Blasters was scheduled to open.  We headed over to Ghost Blasters.  Ride 2, I lost again, ride 3, I lost again, ride 4, I lost AGAIN.   Today just isn’t my day!  I tried sitting in both sides of the car. I tried it wearing my glasses.  I admit it I just can't overcome quick draw Jerry. Wait a minute!  Hold your Fire!  Sally dark rides are supposed to have electronic measures in place to prevent machine gun style rapid fire.  I challenged Jerry on this point, and Jerry admitted that Ghost Blasters has disabled that little guard.  Its time for, oh darn its time for the other ride rotation.

Wait that means Mighty Axe should be opening up.  We walk over to an open Mighty Axe, and proceed to be the only two people to board.  Noticing a trend?  Mighty Axe is a Zamperla Roto Shake.  We board, the  shoulder bars come down and lock into the  number two hole, which should be okay.  The operator proceeds to try to run the ride but it won't start.  The operator releases the bars, tries to relock them, and then decides maybe we are too big.  So he escorts us over to the test seat and he tries both of us.  He claims Jerry flunked the test seat test and must exit, but he thinks I should be okay.  I get back on the ride, the bars come down, he thinks things are okay.  He raised the bridges, goes to the console, attempts to start the ride.  It won't start.  He comes back out lowered the bridges raised the bridges, back to console it won't start.  He hit a few more buttons, and I don't know what happened but the ride finally started.  They have gone ot of their way to make sure Mighty Axe gets as few flips as possible, its almost like a giant roll o plane, in that the gondola rolls in order to keep the riders upright as much as possible.  I mean you get one flip or two just for the thrill but the ride runs most of the course on a lame program.  We exit the ride and head back to Timberland Twister for another ride session.

Wee, another fun filled Timberland Twster session, then its back to Ghost Blasters.  I try to use my new found knowledge but even though I closed the gap between Jerrys score and my score, I failed to win rides 5 and 6.  That's it, I'm done with Ghost Blasters for the day.  5 rides in one day and 5 losses.  

We go back to Timberland Twister for, you guessed it, even more Timberland Twister rides. I take a look in the store selling Knott's Berry Farm products to see if they have boysenberry punch mix, but no dice.  We then head to Johnny Rockets for lunch.  It was a nice relaxing lunch, after which it was almost time to head to the airport, but oh I couldn't resist a few more rides on Timberland Twister.  Wristband abuse indeed!

We then take a quick walk through the mall and back out to the parking garage. Then Jerry drops me off at the airport where I spend the time by taking a nap.  I had an uneventful flight home except for I got ti ride in one of Comair's new 70 passenger jets.



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