Coasterville Commentary

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Saturday, August 12, 2006

TR: Kennywood - 8/12/06

Trip Report: Kennywood

Pittsburgh, PA

August 12, 2006

This morning, I awoke at an undisclosed location in Columbus, OH with some sore shoulder blades from the Ohio State Fair the night before. Nothing a nice hot shower couldn't soothe away. Shortly after 9AM, Rideman collected me from the undisclosed location and we started making the drive to Kennywood. It was a mostly uneventful drive, we scored some cheap gas up in Cambridge, OH, and listened to the NPR lineup while we drove to the park. We were all smiles and making time, even made it through the Fort Pitt tunnel and onto I-376 okay. Then we found ourselves in a slow moving traffic jam, just after passing exit 3, which meant we were committed to crawling along at a snail's pace for at least 2 more miles. We wound up taking exit 5 and following the way to Sandcastle from which we could easily plot a course to Kennywood.

We pulled into the Kennywood parking area, and opted for the free parking. Kennywood has three or four lots, and the one closest to the park costs $5, all the other lots are free. It doesn't look like it matters as those who had headed for pay parking look to be returning to the free parking lane. Signs indicated to go to Lot 3. That is actually a good thing, because from lot 2, you take an escalator to lot 1, then walk through lot 1, lot 3 has a sky ride that floats you down the hillside, over lot 2, over lot 1, before gently depositing you directly outside the front gate. Did I mention the sky ride is free, and that lot 3 is free? The line of cars to get up to lot 3 was backed almost all the way back to Kennywood Blvd. This can't be a good thing.

We finally arrive at lot 3, and happen to notice a space on the end of an aisle that is empty and almost right by the exit to Kenny's Parkway (the sky ride). We snag the convenient parking space, and prepare to trek down to the park. We head over towards Kenny's Parkway despite the "Sorry, closed" sign, and note the line stretched pack across almost the width of lot 3. While waiting in line for Kenny's Parkway we note a blue and yellow swing set and other playground equipment appear to be setup in a corner of the parking lot. Remember that, a blue and yellow swing set. Kennywood could do something about the queue for Kenny's Parkway as it crosses over the main roadway through the parking lot. At least the line is constantly moving, and before too long, we are entering the station. We are given lane numbers then told to walk behind the chair in front of us and stop at the line, then sit down on the chair behind us. It's a smooth operation and soon we are on Kenny's Parkway heading towards the park.

My what a wonderful view of the park is afforded by the Skyway, you can see a good aerial shot, particularly of the Lost Kennywood section. You can also see their new for 2006 ride, the Swingshot, which looks just like a giant's blue and yellow swing set. See, I didn't make you wait too long for the payoff on that one. It's a nice leisurely ride down to the park gates, where we exit Kenny's Parkway and head to the entrance plaza. It should be noted there are other options, you can make the nasty looking hike down the hillside from lot 3, or the park will drive you from lot 3 to the main gate in a minibus. Kennywood has totally renovated their front gate plaza since my last visit, but they way in which they renovated makes it look even more classic and traditional than it looked before, if that makes any sense. We duck into one of the newer restrooms and find it to be way too small.

This summer Geauga Lake and Kennywood have been fighting it out for customers. Geauga Lake took the dubious step of renting a billboard less than a quarter mile from Kennywood and plastering it with an anti-Kennywood advertisement. "The park that's closer, isn't even close" That tasteless billboard has since been removed, I mean you don't backslap someone else's park, particularly a park so beloved by its fans as Kennywood. One great thing to come from this, however, is Kennywood started marketing in the Ohio area. From that targeted portal, Funday tickets to Kennywood only cost $18 as opposed to the regular $28.95 list price. I note that a child's ticket is normally $18, so they are using that old carnival come one "For a limited time, we're making you all children again! For a limited time everybody can enter on a child's $18 ticket" I pull my eTicket out of my pocket and turn it in as we go through the turnstile and metal detector.

Along with the new entrance plaza, the park has made it so that you can use either ramp to get down to the tunnel that goes under the main highway. It used to be there were two one way ramps. That said, the bulk of the crowd still turns right after entering the gate to head down the traditional way. At the bottom of the ramp, you go through a tunnel that takes you underneath the road and lets you out inside the park. This is still one of my favorite park entrances, the transition from the mundane parking lot then the tunnel to come out into the park is fantastic.

Well, I can see by my watch it is already 3pm and we are just entering the park, but we had been on the road since 9am, so the rides will have to wait just a little bit longer. We take care of business then head to the traditional starting off point, the Jack Rabbit.

The line for Jack Rabbit was all the way through its relatively small queue area and then wrapped back around the front of the ride almost reaching back to the exit ramp. We join the queue, from the queue area, I notice some things have changed with the Jack Rabbit. I really like the new logo with the rabbit that has a rocket pack strapped on. Also the trains have been repainted, instead of pink/blue/white, they are now pink/blue/green. Looking at the pink train again, the trim work does appear to be red, which would make the trains red/blue/green which is the same set of train colors as their other two wooden coasters. Today they had the green and red trains running, the queue area runs down one side of the coaster and while waiting in line we could see the ride has received a lot of recent trackwork. The line then wraps around the front of the ride and up into the station. Eventually we find ourselves heading to the front seat of the back car, where we sit down, and I notice the leather strap seatbelts are gone, and are replaced by regular automotive style belts, with the big square lift latch buckles. At least they left the classic slide-under lap bars intact.

We took a ride on the vintage Jack Rabbit. You make a turnaround out of the station and ride alongside the queue area, then down the first drop, back up, through a tunneled turnaround, then down the second drop and back up. At this point you come to the rides lift hill and you go way up, make the next turnaround over the station roof, and now you are running parallel to the first drop, when you encounter the main drop. The main drop is the infamous double dip, the first half takes you down so that you are about even with the approach to the first drop, then you level out of a little bit, then you go down the second half of the drop. In the back car the airtime, especially on the second half of the double down is unreal. You then head back up, go through the last turnaround, then one last dip and back up into the unload station. It's a fun little ride, maybe it's a one trick pony, but what a trick.

In accordance with one of the unwritten laws of Kennywood, we next headed to Racer. The line for Racer was completely through its queue area and wrapped around the shooting gallery. I also noticed the Pastimes area to be gone. The park has a way of making changes so that when they are done, you are convinced that things never changed, that it has been the new way all along. We carefully waited in the Racer queue, you see I said it was wrapped around the shooting gallery, and it's a shooting gallery that shoots back! It shoots back with water of course, but the gallery doesn't care if it hits players or innocent bystanders.

We made our way through the Racer line and were soon taking seats towards the back of the green train. (Green and blue running today). These trains are reputed to either be new PTC trains, or newly rehabbed PTC. They have the new open-style PTC seat dividers as seen on Legend, and now sport individual seatbelts, but they retain the more traditional double bar. Racer is one of only three single track racers in the world, which means when you come back you finish at the opposite side of the station than you started on. We were soon on our way along this relatively gentle figure 8 shaped racing coaster, there was some hand slapping going on around those turns however. We returned to the midway and took a walk around the lake. I noticed the one stage that had the Swing Around on top is gone, as is the Swing Around. We eventually walk all the way around the lake and wind up at Midway Refreshments for some Philly Cheesesteak. Hey, is it even right to order Philly Steak in Pittsburgh?

The park has done some interesting things, for starters it stays true to its roots as a picnic park, and so if you want to bring in your own picnic lunch and eat in their groves, you are welcomed and encouraged to do so, just don't bring in any alcoholic beverages. What this means for food prices, however, is that you get something that even though its not exactly street pricing, its much closer to street pricing than most other parks. This means the lines for the food stands are often long, and more amazing you will see people munching on snacks they got from one food stand while waiting for another food stand.

So we get in line at Midway Refreshments, and for $6.55 each later we have ordered a Philly Steak sandwich and a frozen beverage each. The park makes a great deal out of these frozen beverages, serving them up in souvenir quality take-home cups that look like the kind of cups you might get a margarita in at a tropical bar. They have some interesting flavors, namely tangerine and sour apple, which I remembered are also the flavors for the frozen Moose Juice/Goose Juice beverages at Islands of Adventure. So we have received our frozen beverages, and are watching the grill cook toss real steaks onto the grill, finely chop them up right before our eyes, add seasonings and toppings and several slices of cheese. Its going great, they scrape the sandwich off the grill, place it in a bun, put it in a paper boat and set the sandwiches on the back counter for the server to retrieve and serve to us. Only one small problem, they had just had their 4pm shift change. The cashier who was being relieved failed to inform the person coming on about what orders were still due. So our sandwiches sat on the back counter, the people BEHIND us in line were getting served. No one seemed to have the slightest clue who we were and why were still standing at the food pick up area. We tried the nice way of getting somebody's attention, but since they took no notice, we switched to the loud and rude way to get somebody's attention. This had the desired effect of getting us our sandwiches. We grabbed our food and headed over to the condiment counter. This was where the stand foreman came over to us and we discussed what had just happened, why we were angry, and all that. The foreman apologized for the bad service and did offer to remake everything. So a bit later we were enjoying our lunch. It was a great sandwich by the way.

After lunch, we decided to head towards Lost Kennywood. We got sidetracked and headed to Garfield's Nightmare. The queue for Garfield was almost but not entirely full. Garfield's Nightmare is the latest incarnation of the Old Mill. While you wait for the ride a documentary plays about the history of the Old Mill, including the famous bowling ball test. The documentary alternates with the safety announcements which Garfield makes, and throws in jokes after each one. The queue has been moved to the other side of the trough between the show building and the waterway. It still uses the same classic Old Mill boats and the same show buildings and waterway. We get grouped with a family and se take the back seat of the boat. As we head into the show building we are handed what must be the dirtiest pair of 3D glasses in existence. The inside of the building has been painted in bright vivid colors, no more dark areas, now it's a bright and cheery family dark ride. Rideman calls it a Garfield morality play, and that description fits because we see Garfield being his usual self - over eating, tormenting Odie, etc. The scenes of Garfield acting bad alternate with scenes where the tables are turned and suddenly Garfield is the one being tormented. It's a cute family ride, and includes a photo opportunity at the end. The building that was the Old Mill station now houses on ride photo booths for Garfield and the Turnpike Cars, as well as a concession stand.

We passed by the Grand Prix, Flying Carpet, King Kahuna, Wipeout and Musik Express. Wait, what happened to the Bayern Kurve? We find ourselves heading to Phantom's Revenge. According to the sign at the entryway, Phantom's Revenge will be a 30 minute wait, and the line stretched back just beyond the long bridge almost back to the queue maze. Phantom's Revenge is the new for 2001 renovation of the Steel Phantom arrow multi-element into a Morgan non inverting hypercoaster. The cars are very interesting as they retained the arrow track style, so it has unique two bench cars with low seat backs, but more interesting the lap bars fold down from the sides of the car. After waiting through the line, we headed for the front seat of the back car. I happily note they still don't have queue gates. We take our seats fasten the belts, drop the lap bars and off we go. The ride starts out like Steel Phantom as it uses the same lift, first drop and second hill How many times are you at the top of a 200' coaster and have to look UP to see where you parked. After the second hill, the track plan is all Morgan, and it is an airtime feast in that back car. Nice laterals and air on almost every hill, and not gentle air, some strong airtime as well. The lap bars give no place to grab a hold of, which helps to exaggerate the airtime effect. Interesting layout, interesting forces, unique back story and great airtime, what more can you ask out of a coaster? We exited the ride down into Lost Kennywood.

We walked past where the Roll-O-Plane used to sit, and made the turn by Pittfall. Pittfall had a scary looking line so we skipped PittFall and headed to Exterminator. Exterminator had an even scarier looking line, posted at 1 hour. We decided to head out of Lost Kennywood. We did stop at SwingShot, it had a full queue as well, but that was on my 'must-do' list. SwingShot is a brand new S&S Screaming Swing, its one of the larger ones, with two 16 passenger swings. The concept is that is an oversize playground swing that has some kick to it. Its one of those real simple ride ideas that makes you think "How come no one thought of this before?" After a lengthy wait in line, we are admitted to the ride area. No sooner had I sat down on the ride then we were all asked to return to the holding pen. Great, the ride has just gone down mechanical. I don't know what went wrong but it was solved by an technician who inserted a key in a panel, which caused a loud hiss from the air tanks, then they ran a test cycle, then they reopened.

I sat down, and the attendant came by and lowered and adjusted the lap bars. These bars also fold down from the side, then once it is down it goes straight down to tighten up across your hips. A short time later we were happily swinging back and forth while kicking our legs in the air and the whole bit. The swing swings fast and high, but the best part is at the top of each swing. There is no pause before the swing changes direction, which means you get an airtime moment as your body still wants to go up as the swing starts going back down. I especially noted this on my first ride when I had a loose lap bar. I know see why Cedar Fair has ordered a boatload of these, as they are a real fun ride with a small footprint.

From Swingshot, we headed to King Kahuna. Rideman sat out on King Kahuna, the King had a full queue but that was only 2 cycles long. I don't get the part of the queue where you walk through a volcano, particularly since the Enterprise next door is labeled Volcano. King Kahuna is a HUSS Top Spin, the regular sized edition, which still has the ball buster automatic lap bars. The ride started out with so much promise with 5 flips almost right at the start of the ride, but then petered out and didn't really do much after that. Also, the water effects have been cut down so they can't spray the riders. We did walk past the carousel which was playing Snow White music, namely the seven dwarves theme, hey exactly whose park am I in?

From the Top Spin, we start to head to Noah's Ark, which has a full queue. We skip Noah and head to the Thunderbolt. Thunderbolt also has a full queue, but it didn't spread out onto the midway. Thunderbolt also has a security guard there to enforce the line jumping rules. While waiting in line for Thunderbolt, I heard "This is the Voice of Kennywood: Kennywood Park will close tonight at 11:30" Thanks, Voice of Kennywood. The line for Thunderbolt moved pretty fast and we eventually wound up in the back seat. Rideman announced HE was the smallest rider, and therefore had to enter first. Thunderbolt has some strict no single rider rules, and furthermore they dictate which side of the seat you sit on. One of the more mysterious practices the park has is to not have a set operating schedule, sure the park may open around 11AM, but the closing time is not set in advance, except on certain special occasions. Therefore, its prudent to keep your ear open for the public address announcer (who goes by the moniker "Voice Of Kennywood") to reveal the closing time. Now we have a better idea of how much time we have left.

We take off on our Thunderbolt ride, I thought Thunderbolt was running rough, but it should be noted that Thunderbolt running rough was a better ride than some other parks wood coasters on their best days. After loading the train you are sent right out of the station and down a drop into the ravine, you come back up, turnaround, and drop again into the ravine, you are then brought back up and then engage the chain lift for a trip up 70', coming off the chain you turn right and drop into the 'spaghetti bowl' as i've heard it called . A double helix with hills in the back half. The helix generates ungodly laterals that squash the person sitting on the left. After the helix you hit the mid-course brake and then take the rides reported longest drop (95') into the ravine, to come back up, turnaround, drop again to come up into the brake shed, where you are stopped and then slowly brought through a turnaround into the station. I still like Thunderbolt, but not as much as I used to. Sorry, Thunderbolt, but there is a new Voyage.

We headed from Thunderbolt and then took a walk through kiddieland. I noted the line for the Traver Auto Race to be just a bit longer than I wanted to wait in. The park was getting hit hard today, "Nobody goes to an amusement park on a Saturday anymore, it's way too crowded" While in kiddieland, I do take a ride on Lil' Phantom. Lil' Phantom is the parks kidddie coaster. Its by the Great American Coaster Company, which apparently has the Schiff product line. In other words this is a classic style kiddie coaster. Last time I visited the park, you had to rent a kid to ride this, now the rule is "No maximum height restriction" I shamelessly joined the full queue that was spilling out onto the midway. Several cycles later, I was climbing into the back seat, fasten the belt, lower the lap bar. Yes, I think we received the usual strange looks from other park guests and a look of "Whatever floats your boat" from the ride crew, we were allowed to ride. I like how the ride uses a manual brake lever as its primary control, something missing from their classic wood coasters. We received our two laps, and man that's violent for a kids ride, not quite as violent as the Allen Herschell Little Dipper, but still it makes you wonder how many children get scared off of coasters by rides like this one. "You can't say you've ridden all the parks coasters, unless you've ridden all the parks coasters" A credit counter clicks off coaster #262 for me.

We continue to tour the kids area and note a real odd looking kiddie ride. It looks something like a mini tip top under a tent except the cars are geared to constantly spin. I haven't seen anything else quite like it, and Rideman noted that he hadn't either. We made our way out of kiddie land, saw a pavilion that would be just great to move the Whip to, and started to head back to the big park. We walked past Aero 360 (long line), we did take a walk through the cafeteria building but didn't order anything there. Instead we stopped at the Potato Patch and had some Potato Patch fries $3.60 and soft drink $1.90 while watching a magic show on the Kennyville Stage.

After our potato patch fries, we headed to Noah's Ark. Noah's Ark is a walk through fun house like attraction. The queue for it was about 3/4 full when we joined it. By the time we had gotten through the queue maze and were walking around the end of the ark Kennywood switched to night mode and all the lights started coming on. We eventually get to the front of Noah's Ark and I note they have loose article bins for the fun house. We are led into what must be Mt. Ararat and we head to a mining elevator. Our guide says the elevator will take us up to the ark, and we start to go up in the elevator while the automated spiel gives some hokey history about the elevator and the ark and all kinds of nonsense, when something happens, the elevator operator goes "Oh no, not again!", then the elevator crashes back down to the bottom of the shaft. When the elevator door opens you aren't back to the entryway, instead you down in some mine apparently beneath the park. Okay, that's one simulated elevator fall stunt.

Stepping out of the elevator, we go down a couple steps into the mine tunnel. Here the floor is all soft and squishy, you follow the squishy floor for a bit till the hard floor returns then you round a corner and come out into the catacombs. The stunt makes it look like you are walking across a pair of wooden beams and have to balance yourself to avoid falling into the crypt below. Part of the way across, the wood beams are reduced to stepping stones. Ignore the plexiglass that actually covers the crypt area. From the catacombs you enter a long area with just plain hallways painted black on both sides, really there is nothing to do or see here. I am about to turn a corner when this life size figure that looks just like Rideman pops out from around the corner. From there you make your way out of the Mt. Ararat area and onto the dock leading to the pilot house of the ark. Now, all the time the ark itself is slowly rocking back and forth, so while you are in the ark area you have to watch your footing. So you step off the steady dock and into the rocking ark. You pass through rooms that have tableaux showing what it might have looked like inside the ark, really they are well detailed. You do have to navigate a couple stairways that are also rocking back and forth, as well as some classic fun house floor stunts like shaker boards. There are few animated stunts that get triggered via magic eye placed a short distance in front of the stunt. Perhaps the most effective of these is a pop up gag that takes place at one end of the ark. I know its gotten me twice, because you think there is a solid wall on the other side, but there isn't, this is where the bottom of the ark is so instead of a wall it's a slanted floor/wall combo. Twice I have almost fallen in this same spot, you would think I would learn. The next set of stairs is where you step off the rocking part of the attraction back to solid stationary ground. You then head through a room in the underbelly of the ark that appears to roll from side to side. It's the haunted swing illusion, except it only rocks a little bit and doesn't roll over. Coming out of there its past the spitting cobra, then down a ramp into another queue area. To keep you entertained in the second queue there are some crazy mirrors and some neat light effects made through one of those persistence of vision tricks. You are then led into an area that looks like a submarine, and how does that fit on an ark? Anyway the intended effect here is that the boats walls have been compromised and you are taking on water, a lot of water. You see the walls buckle in and water starts spraying about the room. Just as the water is about to soak the metal bridge you are standing on the automatic doors behind you open up where upon you run out, hopefully screaming, just like the end of a Girl-to-Gorilla side show. However the effect doesn't really impress, and folks just wait for the doors to open up so they can exit.

We headed back into the Lost Kennywood area. We returned to check on Pitt Fall which was posting a 45 minute wait. We saw that it only had two of its four sides open. Seat belts have been added to Pitt Fall, and I noted they have added a sign cautioning that due to changes in the safety restraint, some riders, even those who were able to ride in the past, may not be able to ride. I was not interested in a 45 minute wait for a Giant Drop. We skipped it and headed over to Exterminator, which was still posting a 1 hour wait. I know that's an awful queue to wait in, so we skipped that one as well. We did take a ride on the Whip while we were in the area. They still haven't replaced the cover over the Whip building since it was destroyed in the tornado of 2002. It was a few cycles wait to ride the Whip but it was well worth it. I had forgotten how intense the forces on a Whip can be, the crushing g-force as it throws you back into your seat as you whip around the ends of the elongated oval course.

From the Whip we noted that Pittsburg Plunge did not have any riders, but it was a bit cold for that. We skipped the Swingshot for now and made our way back towards the front of the park. Phantom's Revenge was now posting a 1 hour wait as well. I knew from the website status page that the Flying Carpet had been down for some time, but they were nice enough to turn on the lights so I could see it lit up. We headed to the Wipeout. In the past the Wipeout was a no-single riders ride, but they have since relaxed that rule, probably about the same time they installed individual seatbelts in the seats. We sat in separate seats and were able to find a level of comfort not usually found in a Wipeout. For once I am glad that it seems Kennywood has slowed this ride down, before it was spinning almost too fast, particularly when you have another rider squashing you. Now it runs at a fast yet respectable speed for most of the ride, and kicks into high speed overdrive for the last 20 seconds or so. They also score points for the custom Kennywood scenery panels.

It's now dark out, and I am getting my first ever taste of Kennywood at night. It's not the neon paradise that Lakeside is, but it is so beautiful none the less. If Kennywood were a magic land during the day, at night it really is a blast from the past. Parks don't like to stay open late anymore for whatever reason. Kennywood regularly stays open late, and not only that for the most part the crowds seem to stay right up until close, even buying more food right up till close. The park has really shattered a lot of the myths started by the big major corporate theme park chains about what people want in an amusement park. They do it be simply continuing to operate their park the good old fashioned way.

We headed to the Grand Prix, again a few cycles wait, but then it was to a free for all bumper car ride. Seatbelts are optional, there is no center barrier in the floor, no one way driving rules, and apparently no rules against head on collisions. It's the way bumper cars were meant to be. After the bumper car ride we headed over to the Kangaroo where we waited a few more cycles to go on another ride from the past. The Kangaroo is an innocent looking ride with several three seat cars that go around in a circle. The trick to the ride, and it is a one trick pony, is that there is a jump ramp and one by one one each revolution your car goes up the jump ramp, goes airborne for a split second then comes gracefully back down to the ground. Several shock absorbers help smooth the cars decent. The upshot of it is that you get an airtime moment with each revolution. This is the original Flying Coaster. Often imitated recently, but never duplicated.

From the Kangaroo we head over to the Racer. Its getting late and they have security guards overseeing the Racer queue area. The Racer queue is at least within its permanent queue area now. We wind up on the same side in roughly the same spot as before, but sitting on opposite sides of the car so that Rideman can have the hand slapping fun this time. We then follow the Rule, and head to Jack Rabbit. The queue is back to where you start to go down the hillside, so it's a bit shorter than before. We get into the station and I head to the back seat, Rideman for some reason heads to the second to back seat instead. We go around the course, and when we hit the double dip, I decide to let out a blood curdling scream as I experience airtime nirvana, I mean it was nice strong airtime even after the loader had pulled my seatbelt tight. How blood curdling was that scream? Enough that Rideman turned around to make sure I was okay, you see I have ridden numerous coasters with Rideman, and I very seldom if ever scream. We do return to the station and exit the ride. I look at my watch, and it looks like we have time for one more ride.

We head over to Swingshot. The queue for Swingshot is near deserted so it's a much shorter wait. Again we enter the holding pen for next ride just in time to hear the autospiel announce the ride was going down mechanical. Not again, and with only 15 minutes till park close I was worried they may just close the ride and give up. We wished they would make some kind of announcement so that we could decide if we wanted to head elsewhere. The good news is the technician did arrive, insert key, turn key, air hiss, test cycle, reopen. I was able to get my second ride on Swingshot and it was just as fun as the first, I really want one of these closer to home.

As we exited Swingshot, the Kennywood closing music was playing, at least that's what Rideman said it was, we were in an area where you could not hear the PA system well, so it was just faint music I couldn't really pick out. We figured we were done for the day and started making our way to the front of the park. As we started to pass the Musik Express I darted into line and we were the last people admitted to the Musik Express. It was an interesting Musik ride because big nets have been added to the fronts of the lap bars that run from the top of the bar down to the floor, there will be no sliding out from under the lap bar on this Musik ride. It wasn't as fast at the Musik Ride we rode at the Ohio State Fair, but it was a fun ride anyway, and when it was done, Kennywood was closed for the day.

We made our way back past the Grand Prix, turn at the Turnpike to head through the tunnel that goes under the main road. One more ride tonight, and that is Kenny's Parkway back up to lot 3. When we got there the line was just starting to overflow out of the queue area, by the time we were halfway through the queue the line looked to stretch across the entrance plaza I thought it was a real nice touch when they tell each and every person "Thanks for coming to Kennywood, Goodnight!" as you board the chairlift. We took the nice calm relaxing ride up to Lot 3 and I realized that they have a built in system, to help reduce the crunch at the park gate in the morning, and to reduce the traffic crunch getting out of the lot, the speed of the chairlift really controls how fast people can move.

We make our way up to lot 3 and I note they have guards stationed observing the chairlift. We get to the upper lot, and as I mentioned we went through the chairlift exit gate and practically walked right into our car. Now I know why the spaces along the main roadway were left empty. Our car was a maroon purple when we pulled into the lot, its now a dust brown. We get the windows cleaned off, and get everything ready to go, and by the time we are heading down the ramps to exit the parking lot, its just after midnight. We head to Swissvale and back to I-376. We had already decided we were not going to attempt to head back to Columbus, OH tonight, and instead checked into a reserved hotel room at a Comfort Inn near the Pittsburgh airport.

Tomorrow we head to: Stricker's Grove.


Friday, August 11, 2006

TR: Ohio State Fair - 8/11/06

Trip Report: Ohio State Fair

Columbus, OH

August 11, 2006

I would be spending the weekend with fellow coaster enthusiast, Rideman, as we visited a couple amusement parks and the state fair. My day started off in Cincinnati, OH. I was to get a ride to the bus station at around 12:30, so I figured I could grab lunch at home and that would take care f me till later on in the day. I ventured into Oakley, OH and headed to Baba India for their luncheon buffet. I had timed it so I would arrive at the restaurant right at what I thought was their 11:00 opening. I arrive at the restaurant to find it dark, but a note on the door informed me that luncheon would start at 11:30. Fine, the library is just a block away, I'll duck into there while I wait. No dice as the library opens at noon. I eventually kill time by walking through a new organic/gourmet grocery store that just opened. I then return to the restaurant right at 11:30 and proceed to enjoy a buffet of fine Indian cuisine.

I then return home and find out that my ride to the bus station is running a bit late, but not to worry, I still made it down to the bus station right around 1:00 or so. My eTicket indicated a 2:15 departure with the notice that if checking luggage I must arrive at least 1 hour ahead of departure. I proceed into the newly renovated terminal and proceed directly back to a scary looking line at the ticket counter. Greyhound's eTicket system requires you exchange the web printout for a real ticket at the counter. I am about to get in the long line when I notice a lane off to the side, a lane with nobody in it which was marked "Web Ticket Will Call Only", it even had a blue carpet. I make for the web check in line and then the one person they had behind the ticket counter moved over to the web check in station after she finished with the current customer. Needless to say I was the recipient of lots of dirty looks, scowls and rude comments. Greyhound Bus fills busses on a first come first served basis, so in their mind I was cutting the line, what they can't quite grasp that I joined the virtual queue for the ticket line about four days ago when I used their online ticketing system.

Ok, ticket in hand, luggage placed on scale and then tagged, I returned with my luggage to the main terminal area and proceeded to Gate 4. There is an unwritten rule of etiquette amongst Greyhound riders that says you place your luggage in a line in front of the boarding door, and the line of luggage marks who was where in line. It seems nobody tampers with anybody else's bag, but that doesn't mean I venture anywhere I can't see my bag. I happened to grab the #2 spot. I then venture to the vending machines where I get a Cherry Coke in a 20oz. Bottle for the not quite reasonable price of $1.75. I then camped out till about 2:10pm, when the virtual queue of luggage was beginning to transform into an actual queue of people. The bus arrived a bit late, and then there was a delay in offloading a wheelchair rider, and hey that's neat the way they implemented wheelchair lifts. The lift is on the side of the bus and stows in one of the luggage compartments, then a huge door on the side of the bus opens up. Then those who were already on that same bus are given a chance to reboard before they open the regular line.

So I board the bus, find a seat and realize the legroom just isn't there to do anything productive on the laptop, so I use my Windows based laptop to run Apple software to provide me with musical entertainment for the ride up. Its about 108 miles to Columbus according to my ticket, and at about mile marker 73 I take a call from Rideman inquiring about my progress. I then arrive at the Columbus bus station without incident, claim my luggage and do some activities that most folks do after a 2 hour bus ride, make some phone calls, and head out to Third Street. A bit later Rideman pulls up I load luggage into his car, and we head off to the State Fair.

It's a short drive to the State Fair, and soon we are paying the almost reasonable $5 parking fee and head to row L of the yellow parking field. A short hike brought us to the admission plaza. I had a presale admission ticket in hand ($6), while Rideman did not, but at 5pm the lines for the ticket windows are short and soon Rideman had his $8 admission ticket. We head to the front gate where a new step has been added, the fair has added metal detectors. The way they run them is laughable, they have a metal detector for each admission lane, but there is no one monitoring it, instead they have a few representatives from the Ohio highway patrol overseeing the entire front gate, if a detector goes off they might look over at the person. I don't think I saw them actually intervene. A camera will make the metal detector buzz so I know for a fact they weren't actually doing anything when they buzzed. Something tells me the only reason the metal detectors are there is somebody said they had to be.

So we enter through the Cardinal gate and proceed up a main street that is lined with food joints and vendors of various products. Wait, its gone, for as long as anybody can remember there has been a vendor of cowboy boots and other western apparel that has operated out of a distinctive block-long booth, that booth seems to have just vanished. We didn't head directly to the midway, instead we headed to the Arts and Crafts building. Before you think we are nuts, there is a figure made out of Legos right outside the door to the Arts and Crafts building, and when we ventured deep enough into the building in one of the exhibition halls was a miniland Columbus that somebody had put together out of legos. You could see the airport, the state fair, downtown, and several other interesting Columbus inspired scenes. There was an incredible level of detail, and Rideman took the opportunity to get photos of it.

We then headed out, and then towards the midway. We turned the corner from the main drag to the path that leads back to the midway. Where the Giant Maze was last year was some sort of animal show, and next to that was a jumbo old time carnival sideshow. This particular sideshow seems to making the rounds as it was at the Florida State Fair, and my friend told me it also appeared at the Minnesota State Fair. Across from the side show is a Batcopter ride concession and a Euro Bungie. The fair seems to have gotten cold feet about booking in an actual bungee tower, or a slingshot ride anymore.

We head into the midway proper and head directly to the booth where we could purchase a pay one price ride wristband for $18. Individual ride tickets are available for $1 each, with rides taking between 1 and 3 tickets. Amusements of America has solved the problem with making you put your wrist through a tiny opening. They just hand you the wristband and a staff member sitting in a folding chair next to the ticket booth actually puts the armband on you. Suitably adorned with our armbands, I make a high speed beeline directly for the Space Roller.

That's not saying much as the Space Roller was anchoring this end of the midway. You may know that Space Roller is one of my favorite carnival amusement rides, and it did not disappoint here. I was able to grab an end seat and soon I was off on a competent round of Mondial Top Scan goodness. Space Roller is very hard to describe, but I'll try for those who have never seen one: Space Roller starts out with a large platform which is tilted at a slight angle so the back of the ride sits higher than the front, in the middle of the platform is a turret/piston thingee that has the power to both lift the bulk of the ride up and down vertically as to provide clearance from the ride platform while in run mode, as well as to spin. Mounted to the top of this raising turret is the main boom. Attached to the long end of the main boom is a windmill looking assembly which has the power to spin like a windmill, coming out from the windmill assembly are a multitude of spokes each spoke being mounted on a swivel assembly such that the blade can rotate around, mounted to the front side of each blade is a row of chairs (5-6 chairs), each chair secures one rider via OTSR. To the rider the individual blade rotation causes the chair to tumble either forwards or backwards. Are you reaching for the puke bucket yet? The ride also has two holding areas, of which the one nearest the operators booth was in use today.

After our ride on Space Roller, we head over to Fireball, which is a KMG Afterburner. As I head up to the ride deck I comment that my ride might be a real short one, as in it might be over before it even begins. We head up and sit down on this popular spinning swinging pendulum ride and the bars lower. My bar fails to lock and the operator gives it a slight push, before he sends both Rideman and I away. Just as I had predicted.

We head along one of the longer arms of the midway. To my left is a row of back end pieces like walk Arabian Daze, German Fun House, Thriller, Mardi Gras, Rainbow Rock, Haunted Castle, Ghost Pirates, and Ghoul City which wins points for having a spiral lift. On the right we pass a Wave Swinger, Flying Bobs, Ring of Fire and Spin Out until we come to the Crazy Mouse. There was a line for the Crazy Mouse but it moved quickly. The crew is good at making sure every car goes out with 4 people in it if at all possible. This is the good kind of Crazy Mouse the kind before Zamperla got their hands on it. We noted that unlike last year, they turned the coaster sideways so that it took up the maximum amount of midway footage. Our first ride we didn't get all that much spin action, I mean it's a fun ride, but we just didn't have a good load. The ride starts out like a wild mouse, you leave the station, turn left go along the front of the ride, turn left, up the lift hill, then you traverse the top layer switchbacks with the car locked to face forwards. , you come out of the switchbacks go down and up a dip, make the turnaround at the front of the ride, then you go down the big drop all the way to the ground, and then up what seems to be an impossibly tall hill, with a funky little double-up section near the top. You then enter the lower switchbacks, and here is where the car gets unlocked and is allowed to free spin. So you hopefully spin your way through the lower switchbacks, and around the next front turnaround. There are a couple speed hills as you head back to the rear of the ride for the final turnaround into the station. I still think it's a fun ride.

From the Crazy Mouse we head back past Belle City's fabulous looking Bertazzon Rock and Roll, it's a 1950's themed Musik ride complete with a 1950's style car sticking out of the sign in the front, and a 1950's style jukebox as the rides centerpiece. It's a great looking ride, but we skipped it for now. We headed past a closed set of Skooters, then passed by a Tilt-a-Whirl, Fun Slide and Trapeze (a Chance Yo-Yo) and headed for the Fabrri Bonzai. Bonzai is one of those rides whose primary goal in life is to take you around and around in vertical loops, and of course perform the obligatory stunt where they hang you upside down at the top for a few seconds. Bonzai featured the open style seating with no cages around the seats and a very minimal floor. It was a tight squeeze to fit into the ride but we did it. Due to the way I was positioned the ride wasn't exactly the most pleasant thing on the midway.

We then went by and noticed they have the Round Up and a Flying Bobs sitting in what just might be the worst locations on the midway. We walked past some food stands and went under the main Amusements of America front gate marquee. The whole main midway is a giant U shape with Space Roller and Fireball in the center of the U in the 'back' of the midway, and rides along the two arms. The arm of the U we had just left is perceived to be the lower traffic area, and we were heading to the higher traffic area. One thing I noticed is there did not seem to be as many game joints this year. Yeah, there was a full line of games, just not as many. Last year one whole side of this side of the midway was all games, this year they had a couple back end pieces mixed in, namely Playstation, Video Fun House, and Monkey Barrel.

This section of the midway is headed by the Merry Go Round, and the Giant Wheel, sitting behind them is a row of rides. We headed for the Hang Ten, which was billed as one of the new rides this year. Hang Ten is sort of like a an Enterprise that never lifts off the ground. You sit in a fairly open car secured with only a lap bar, then the cars go around in a circle along a platform that is higher at the back than it is at the front, but what makes it interesting is the mechanism in the center of the ride which seems to bounce the wheel of cars up and down in a wave pattern. It's a really fun ride, so I give it my nod of approval.

We headed next door to Avalanche and managed to get in line right before the crowd did. Avalanche is a Pinfari Zyklon coaster. It has a layout that is typical for a carnival coaster with a lot of helix like turns and tight clearances. The ride runs several two bench cars and we were grouped with another rider. We noted there were several block brakes along the ride that aren't used to trim so the ride runs pretty fast and all out. They have added magnetic brakes, so the final trim is now magnetic and hits hard, then the final brake run is lined with magnetic brakes. There are no brakes in the unload station, so after the car has been slowed down to a crawl the car is stopped by the manual brake action supplied by the arms of the unload attendants. It seems this coaster gets a new paint job almost every year, so it is really well taken care of.

We headed next door to the Gravitron. Rideman indicated it has some of the improvements which should make it a Starship 2000, but it still goes with the Gravitron signage complete with the panel of lights out front that seem to blink on and off at random, and just happen to spell out the word "THRILLER" every few seconds. The ride vehicle is painted a bright lime green. They have their fencing set up a bit different than most, so instead of one set of stairs to go up, and the other to go down, both sets may be used to load and unload. We boarded the Gravitron and were awarded with one of the bumpiest Gravitron rides ever, I mean you could see the ship bump up and down from the outside, add to that we had an operator who loved to play with the speed control so that the couches went up and down several times. Not quite the Gravitron experience I was hoping for.

Next door to the Gravitron is a blast from the past, its an Eyerly Sidewinder, which is the more modern looking car style for their popular Roll-O-Plane ride. Whereas the Roll-O-Plane emphasized roundness, the Sidewinder tubs are very angular. It was also at this point that Rideman did not ride as many rides. Rideman decided he didn't really need a Sidewinder ride, and as I was in line, they needed a single rider as they don't permit singles to ride, so I was paired with a much smaller rider. This means I got the side of the tub with the door. I was seated, the belt bar was lowered, the door locked and keyed. I then realized they have removed just about all the padding from the cages. Time for a defensive riding position to be assumed. All in all, it wasn't a bad ride, and I would say it was a much more pleasant ride experience than the Bonzai was. It could have been cooler if the ride would have tilted down and gone horizontal the way the one at Knobels does.

From the Sidewinder we next both rode the Orbiter. Here we were introduced to what Rideman has dubbed Mic-Man-In-A-Can. Yep all the announcements were prerecorded and the operator just hit the button for whatever announcement they needed to play. I liked the fake out ending on the Orbiter where they have actually started to bring the ride back down, then they decide to go for a little more, and the ride rises back up for another blast. Its clearly a spin ride where the center spindle raises up then the various arms tilt up, each arm holding three cars, then the until poles start spinning extremely fast. It's another spin ride lovers dream.

Next to the Orbiter sits the Power Surge. Rideman decided to sit Power Surge out as well. I did ride Power Surge. Power Surge is one of those demented spin rides that tosses you around like a rag doll every which way but loose. Even spins you upside down at times, I blame this ride for the sore shoulders I received.

From the Power Surge we headed past an Eli Scrambler and a Wisdom Tornado. Unfortunately the Tornado appeared to be out of service at the current time. We stepped next door to the Fabrri Drop Zone. It's a drop tower ride, and was quite a hit as we had to wait several cycles to ride. It may not be the tallest drop tower ride, but man it has it where it counts, when that ride carriage falls, man does it fall. Short but very effective drop. Oh, and the seats are sized for giants, which I give the ride additional points for.

After drop zone we passed by the smaller version of the Musik Express, where it was pointed out to me there was no music playing. Huh? A quick walk past another Skooters and the Wave Swinger brought our tour of the main midway full circle.

And look, right ahead of us is the Space Roller! Rideman sat the Space Roller ride out but I managed to score another end seat after waiting a few cycles in line. Can't get enough of the Space Roller goodness. At this time we decided we needed a ride break, so we stopped for an ice cream. What's better than ice cream? FREE Ice Cream. Yep, we grabbed some free ice cream from a vendor that was passing out samples that was located next door to Space Roller. While getting our free ice cream we were stopped by some low lifes who wanted to know if we were leaving, and it they could have our ride wristbands. That's a NO and a bigger NO!

We enjoyed our free ice cream as we walked back through the main midway, and then walked over to look at kiddieland. The main attraction in the kids area is the Giant Slide, but I noted the Giant Slide was included in the POP but also had a sizeable line. We looked around at the various kids rides for a bit. I noted they had a Wacky Worm and a Go-Gator coaster, as well as a Rocking Tug and a lot of cool kids rides that make you say "Where were these when I was a kid?"

We headed from the kids area to Schmidt's Sausage Haus for a brief dinner stop. I'll take a Bahama Mama spicy sausage with kraut and a jumbo iced tea from the iced tea booth nearby. Schmidts, it's a Columbus tradition! ($5.50 for the sausage and kraut, but it was a big footlong link, and $2.50 for the Jumbo iced tea. We took a walk along the midway while we let our food digest. If by letting our food digest, you mean rode on some more rides. Next up was the nifty fifty's themed Rock and Roll which is a very fast running Musik Express ride. It's the fairground classic, where an endless chain of cars travels around a circle at high speed while negotiating a series of hills and dips. A cool ride, and they run it both forwards and backwards, for which it gains bonus points.

After the Rock and Roll, I took a ride on the Spin Out. They needed a few riders to fill the claw, so I jumped on. The Spin Out, which already had at least 6 seats, including one whole arm of the claw roped off. Proceeded to cycle. I don't think it was as wild as other Spin Out rides I have received, which was a good thing, as there were a lot of nasty noises coming from the seatback behind me that sounded suspiciously like they were coming from the shoulder bar locking mechanism. After riding the Spin Out I was treated by my host to a Spin Out horror story that may have just ruined the ride for me.

Coming back around to the other end of the midway, time to score Space Roller ride #3. I want one of these things at a park nearest me. "Hello, PKI, I know what would go great in your Coney Mall section".

After the Space Roller ride, I decided to run to the car to fetch my camera, I probably should not have bothered because it was getting dark. But, oh a midway at night. We did stop at the Bricker Building for a convenience stop. I then noted that the booths along the main drag are starting to close. Its just after 9pm when we leave the fair and get our large green Ohio outline hand stamps. Oh wait, its Ohio Lottery day at the fair, and the hand stamp is the Ohio Lottery logo. We make a run to car, get camera, return to fair, make our way back past the useless metal detectors and head back to the midway. Yes we did get back in before the 10pm entrance gate cutoff.

We take a photo safari tour of the midway, and then head to the kids area. Given recent postings about taking photos in a kids area, particularly when you don't have kids, I decided to not take any photos back there. I did stop to get a Hawaiian Shaved Ice in a big flower looking cup. ($3)

After enjoying our shaved ice, we rode the Wacky Worm. I have been on the Wacky Worm style coaster before, but just not this Wacky Worm. We did get two laps around, and yes I was able to get the lap bar locked without too much effort. It's not bad for a kiddie coaster. Up above the coaster credit counter meekly clicks off coaster #261. I was not able to ride the Go-Gator. We did head over to and take a ride on the Rocking Tug. It's not quite Avatar at PKI, buts it's a fun little ride. Rocking Tug has the little doors at the ends of the rows that Avatar really needs so it can lose the 16 or older to ride in aisle seat rule. Oh and Rocking Tug has way more comfortable seats than Avatar.

After Rocking Tug, we go to ride the Giant Slide. It was a climb up "over 100 stairs", mind you these stairs are kiddie sized stairs and were annoying shallow. I dunno the slide needs a good wax job, or they need to use less coarse mats, because there was just too much friction getting in the way. It's not as great as the Giant Slide at LeSourdsville Lake was though it appears to be the same model. We did note the mats were cruder than they used to be, no foot pockets, no handles just a piece of coarse burlap.

We returned to the main midway where we took rides on the Hang Ten, Drop Zone, Tornado (which was running, and unlike Beech Bend no tub brakes) and the Skooter. Skooter is the type of ride I would not ride if this were a pay per ride show. I was given the worlds worst Skooter car , one that had a bad pick up brush, so that it would be traveling along, and then the car would die, then it would get bumped, spring back to life for a few seconds and die again. Not the most fun I have ever had on bumper cars, but hey do use the lap bar equipped cars so that is a plus.

After the bumper cars we head back towards Hang Ten for another spin. Hang Ten is a featured new ride on the midway this year, its sitting in one of the prime spots on the midway, the ride looks great and had an enthusiastic crew, yet they could hardly get people to ride it. Does the ride just not do enough sitting next to other rides, or did it just sort of get hidden between the Giant Wheel and the Avalanche. It just didn't seem to be getting the crowds it should have.

We noted the Giant Wheel line had finally gotten down to something reasonable, so we took a ride on the Giant Wheel so I could get some photos. It was a wheel ride. Not much to report.

WE took one last walk down the back side of the midway. We stopped at the Yo-Yo (Trapeze) for a ride. Yes, I was easily able to fit on the Yo-Yo, and it wins points for having the tilting mechanism working. From the YoYo we headed back to the Crazy Mouse for another ride. This time we got a lot better grouping and we got spun like a top. What made it more fun is we were with a group that clearly did not like being spun like a top.

We made our way to the end of the midway, and I glanced at my watch, which said it was just a few strokes shy of midnight. Midnight, that's when the monsters come out! That's when Cinderalla's carriage turns into a pumpkin, that's when the midway rides close. I had time for one more ride, better make it count. I knew what I had to do, I handed Rideman my camera and headed for a ride on Space Roller. Space Roller ride #4 baby! This ride was better than all the rest because it was the last ride of the night. The ride seemed to run a lot longer than the regular cycle, so long that at one point I looked down at the loading area while spinning upside down, and noted the holding pen to be empty. Ah, they are going to run us out till midnight I see.

After the Space Roller ride, we headed through the darkened fairgrounds back to our car. We then drove to an undisclosed location for the evening, where soon I was getting prepared to surf the web, and then get some sleep.

Tomorrow, it's off to Kennywood!