Coasterville Commentary

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Lakemont Park - 10/8/06 - *RIDEFEST*

Trip Report: RideFest at Lakemont Park

Altoona, PA

October , 2006

Last night we had gone to Knoebels for Phall Phunphest, so today on the way home we decided to stop past Lakemont for Ridefest. We awoke in Danville, PA and after running a few erands we were on the road towards Lakemont. It's about a 2 hour drive between the two parks so around 1:00 we are pulling into the parking lot. Lakemont park is your typical small town amusement park, well that is if small town amusement parks still existed. Nothing too fancy, just a bunch of rides located around a lake with a picnic grove. That is until the 1980's when a big corporation bought the park and tried to turn it into something it wasn't, a big theme park. They didn't get much done before they declared the idea a failure and darn near bankrupted the park in the process. One of the few remnants of that era is a big massive front gate entry plaza. Its a nice looking gate, it just doesn't go with the park its attached to. Today every single gate was locked, and all the ticket windows were closed, but Rideman had attended a past Ridefest and knew we had to go to the parks administrative offices. The area labeled Administrative Offices was clearly intended to be Guest Relations during the Boyertown USA period. We walked in through one door of the GR office, announced our presense and Rideman was handed an envelope which contained all our personalized nametags, and our door rpize raffle tickets. I noted they had Lakemont Park staff shirts on sale for $5, but I just didn't see one my size. Also in the office area we deposited our raffle tickets into the ticket box and were given programs for the day and informed about some extra add-ons. We could purchase a go-karts wistband for $10, or we could sign up for a under stucture coaster photo tour for free. We noted the Skyliner tours had already occured, but there was still room for the second Leap the Dips tour, so Rideman and I registered for the Leap the Dips photo tour at 1:30. Also, in the arcade you could purchase an arcade wristband for $2.95 for all you can play arcade games, We decided not to purchase eithr wristband and headed out the other door of the GR office into the park,

Looking over the timetable, we saw how things were going to operate. It's important to note before you read about the park, that Lakemont Park had been closed since mid-September, and in fact they were already well under way at putting the rides into storage for the winter. It seems that the two wood coasters, go-karts, video arcade, and mini golf (free), would be open all day (11:30-5), and limitd other rides would be open in shifts, before lunch the Round Up and the Toboggan would be open, and after lunch it would be the Tilt-A-Whirl and the Antique Cars. All the other rides were already in storage, so it was sort of eerie walking past a carousel with no horeses, ferris wheel with no cars, and other flat rides in various stages of disassembly. I recalled the event fee for Ridefest was $17, which I thnk is quite high for what is offered, but then I am reminded that this event is a fundraiser for the ACE Preservation Fund. Looking at the schedue I note the Toboggan closes at 2pm, so we headed there first,

The Toboggan is an early Chance Rides portable rollercoaster. The rides signature element is a tight helix wrapped around a rocket ship, the rocket ship also contains the vertical lift hill. Looking a the ride from the midway, you see on the front side the unload and load area, then the rocket ship with its internal lift, and helix track around the outside, after you finsihe the helix, you have a dip then a turnaround to the left, a few speed hills, then a turnaround to the lft back to the unload station. These were once commonplace at most major fairs. Lakemont was running three cars, and they were running it more like a flat ride, meaning they loaded up all three cars, dispatched them one at a time, then when all thee cars had comleted the ourse, they unloaded all three. The Toboggan runs single bench individual cars, but to call it a car just doesn't quite do it justice, you see they are actually cages. When you ride you are totally enclosed in an expanded metal grillwork style cage. You have the somewhat high seatback behidn you, the solid (unpadded) roof above you, then to the sides and in front of you is the metal grillwork, exceot for a plexiglass panel positioned right in front of you so you can see better. As if the age weren't enough there is a monster lapbar that has a big bolster around it. I didn't recall any problems last time I rode this ride, so I walked up the steps (no line) and climbed into car 3. I had to contort my legs to get them both to slide in under the lap bar, basically crossing my legs was a must, then the operator closed and locked the cage, which brings the lapbar even tighter than it was to begin with. I will state that my girth was not the issue on this ride, instead the issue was my height. When the cage roof closed the top of my head was brushing the cage roof, the unpadded cage roof, on a ride that has airtime. This is not going to be good, Also I found I could nbot move my legs at all as they were pinned in under the lapbar and the nose of the car pretty good. I think I might have had just about every square inch of that car occupied. I know we never seem to see ourselves grow, but I can remember when I could ride this at fairs with a ride patner. While I waited for my ride, Coach Rideman came up beside the car and started giving me tips on how to survive without too much injury, instructions which were repeated by the ride operator who remakred I am just too tall for this. Eventuallymy car is fed into the rocket, and starts its peppy but noisy ride straight up to the top of the rocket. Once at the top, I spiral back down and as I reach the bottom of the spiral, I roll myself into a fetal position wrapped around the lapbar, my legs tight on the underside so I don't bouce up, and my head bent down over it to keep it clear of the cage roof, and after felling the forces of the ride I'm glad I did that, even though I don't feel too good. I announce that I am through with Chance Toboggans. Rideman is on the next cycle, and we just could not convince April to give it a try.

After Tobbogan, we head to Skyliner. We pass the go-karts where I note you can't buy a single ride ticket, you must get the armband if you wish to ride go-karts. I might have ridden if I could get a single ride ticket on them. We meet some more friends over by Skyliner, and then head up the ramp. No crowd at Skyliner, and I am soon climbing into the front seat with Rideman. Skyliner runs a classic train with older than traditional style lapbars, no seatbelts, and red seat cushions with no seat divders or headrests. This is an ACE Coaster Classic, and I note the train has been repainted green since my last visit with red trim, on the sides of the train, there is some theming with a baseball motif and the words "Go Curves" Like the Phoenix, thr Skyliner is also a coaster transplant this time from Roseland Park. According to Wiki I see we can credit the Boyertown USA people with purchasing the Skyliner and adding it to the park, so I guess they weren't all bad. Skyliner is a classic double out abnd back design, that is folded into an L shape. as you climb the lift, you can look to the right and see the locall minor league ballpark. The skyliner was running a bit rough, but with modest amounts of air and a couple laterals.

By the time our Skyliner ride is over its time to start heading towards Leap The Dips. We pause to talk with some friends at Toboggan, and is that somebody asking for a reride? We get to Leap the Dips at around 1:25. When we arrived at Leap the Dips there was a car with two people sitting in it, and they were needing two more riders, so Rideman and I jumped in the car with them. It seems Leap The Dips now operateds with a strict there must be 4 riders per car rule. Leap The Dips is the world's oldest surviving wooden coaster, although it had a parter running over in England for a couple seasons. This is a 1902 figure eight side friction wood coaster. We climb into the yellow car, and the operator pushes us out on the lift. We note it has a slighly unusual lift chain but even more unusual is the anti rollback system, there are a series of green wood paddles along the sides of the lift hill, as the train goes up, the train pushed the paddle out of the way, as the train passes the paddl edrops back into place. At the top of the lift you go through a cupola then out on the course. The ride is a multi layer figure 8, I would guess at least three layers high. The idea is that each time you get arond to the center crossover of he 8, the car drops down a small dip, sometimes followed by a short rise. Once the car picks up enough speed it starts to leap just an inch or two as it goes down the dip, thus the name Leap the Dips, which also means you get some small ammounts of airtime. Don't misunderstand the whole ride is only about 40' tall, the longest single drop is 9' and I don't think the ride get above 10 mph. Yet, its a nostaligc throwback to the past. The station looks like a train station with benches, antique scale, and no real queue area, there is one big wide stairway with a railing down the center, one side to go up the other to go down. No fence or gate or anything like that. The cars have 2 benches each seating 2 people, and are richly uphosltered and have flared sides, and no active safety restraints. At the end of the ride, the car is still stopped by use of Big Old Brake Levers. We had a few moments to mingle after our ride before Gary Baker called us to take our tour.

Leap The Dips hasn't had the best history recently, the ride was closed down about the time of the Boyertown USA project, apparently to be replaced by the Skyliner. The ride then fell into disrepair and it has been remarked that if the park could have afforded to take it down, they would have. A grass roots fundraising effore, spearheaded by the ACE was able to restore this ride and reopen it in 1999. It was then closed for much of the 2005 season. It s an antique ride and on the National Register, but apparenly it also has very high maintenance bills. Gary welcomed us, and we were invited to cross the track. We headed up the exit stairs, then stepped down into the wooden troughway in the station, then back up on the employee side of the track. Gary mentioned we were standing on the transfer table. He indicated the 8 slot car barn behind us where cars are stored, when one is needed this section of track rolls out along a spur track until it lines up with the parking space of the car barn, the car is slid on or off the transfer track into its parking space, then the transfer track is slide back into position. When it is ready to take a car on or off, another section of track slides under the boarding platform to allow the transfer track to allign with the main track. Gary noted they have 8 cars for Leap the Dips, however the Commonweath will only allow them to run 2 at a time, due to the lack of a blocking system. Apparently they can run two cars if they don't dispatch the second car until the first car has returned. Gary then noted that most days the ride only operates with one car like it is today, and with only one operator. Still one can imagine what it must have been like with 8 cars on at a time, with no computer, no block system, just skillfull timing of the dispatches. We looked around he station, then headed back to the car barn, where we could see the other 7 cars, and it looks like the seat cushions are being removed for safe winter storage. Gary mentioned they are trying different wheels and stuff to try to get the speed just right, some combinations of parts make the cars run faster than they would like, others will make it run too slow, they are still trying to find that winning combination. Gary mentioned they only had one car restored to show quality, and that was done by PTC and can be seen in a display case in front of the ride. The other cars were restored in house at much lower cost. We then walked down a stairway into the ride infield. Here is where the photo tour started and we were pretty much free to roam around the ride infield wherever we wanted, just us your common sense. Most of the infield is grass with some rockwork under the trackwork. The ride itself is white with green trim. We were given severasl laps of the ride to take photos videos whatever else we wanted. I noted what looks like a small house stands in the infield of the ride. After some time we were ushered back out of the ride area, apparently just in time for lunch.

I noted that it looks like most of the midway games booths have been bricked over, and we headed down another stretch of errie deserted midway, this time with all its rides dismantled. We then exited the park through a side gate. Alongisde the park there is a fancy row of buildings that was originally supposed to be Lakemont Parks answer to Main Street USA with shops and stuff, its not really stuff the park needed so now the buildings have now been leased out as an office park. One of these buildings is called the Casino. No, you won;t find any games of chance in there, instead you will find a banquet hall. We walked in and it was just like going to a fancy corporate dinner or weddig reception. The round tables were set with real silverware, cloth napkins, and glassware, on top of a real linen tablecloth, We headed over to some tables that had beverages on them as the bar was closed. Coffee, water, and soft drinks were available. We then took our places at table. At one end of the room is a fancy bar and at the other end is a big stage. There seems to be a balcony level as well overhead. Without ceremony the buffet line was opened. On the buffet there was tossed salad w/ Italian dressing, mixed vegetabkes, cheese lasagna, rolls, butter, and assorted deserts. The banquet hall staff was dishing out the lasagna. I skipped the mixed vegetabkes but did opt for the chocolate cake with peanut butter icing, We proceeded to eat lunch, then after lunch they gave away door prizes. Rideman won a Lakemont Park gift bag filled will assorted Lakemont Park souvenirs, April won a Sheetz gift card, and I won nothing. Everybody got a 2 for 1 coupon for Denny's. Also during lunch the go kart wristbands were on sale as well as Kennywood Phantom Fright Nights tickets, bargain priced at only $16. ACE made a presentation, noted the attendnace was juste under 100, noted that it is a very busy week for the Western PA region of ACE with Ridefest today, ACE day at Kennywood on Friday, and an event at Conneaut Lake Park on Saturday. Three events in a week, add the Knoebels event the night before and its an action packed week for the area in terms of coaster events, it was also mentioned that the money from todays event goes to the ACE Preservation Fund instead of to Lakemont Park. There was a show of hands as to how many people had ever been to Lakemont before, and of those how many had been to a Ridefest before. Their goal is to build Ridefest up to about 300-400 people. We learned the park had been closed for about 3 weeks now, and we could see they were well underway putting rides into winter storage, and that probably as soon as we leave the rest of the rides will begin disassembly. The rides that were open today were basically left set up just for our use.

Then the park owner had a Q&A session. We learned he was missing his wedding aniversary to be with us, and that he would like to close the park as quickly as possible at 5pm to get home to his wife. He thakes us for comng to the park, promoted the parks christmas time light event, and then took some questions. He got asked the enthusiasts favorite question "Whats new next year?" Allof his answers really point back to one thing so instead of a trnascript, here is the gist of what he said.

Lakemont Park caters to a unique market. In its market area, the median household income is around $20,000, and the area is economically depressed. Lakemont Parks normal ride pass price is only $7.95, with that kind of price the big modern new coasters and flat rides are clearly out of the parks budget at the current time. One of their most popular promotions is Dollar Day, and on that day, park admission is only $1, a ride pass is only $1. So for $2/person you get to ride all day, and again in his local market, without dollar days some of their citizens could never afford a day at a park. He mentioned possbily rasing the normal ride pass to $9.95 and making dollar days $2 days, He also mentioned they would like to add something new in the future. They are a free admission park, so they don't have a hard number on attendnace, but they do a lot of group picnics so they can rough an attendnace estimate becuse they know on average 1 in 3 people a a group picninc will purhcase a ride pass. He also mentioned that he used to only do one Dollar Day a month, but that led to park overcrowding that made the guests unhappy, it cuased the workers an un pleasant time, and has made the line for Skyliner reach the three hour mark. So now every Wedneday is Dollar Day which means that instead of getting 10,000 on those days, they get 4,000 each week. He made a big deal regarding a recent article in Amusement oday which was making a big deal about some parks annoucning they were lowering admission from $49 to $41, whereas Dollar Days desn't score even a mention, he defied anybody to fnd a better deal than $2 for a day of fun at an amusement park, and they have 28 rides, many of which are the same rides found at other more expensive parks, mini golf, a waterpark and more. I think he really made a point when he mentioned he was looking at one of those charts they put out once a year which compares what each park chagres for admission, parking, hot dog, soft drink. He said he found it interestng that there are 28 parks in the United States that charge more to park your car than Lakemont charges for a full price ride pass. My look at the time, its now 3:15, and lunch is ending. We renter the park through a back gate and peruse the gift shop which had been opened for our benefit. Not spotting anything in the gift shop we headed back inot the park. Rideman and I toyed with the idea of having a round of Traintown Mini Golf, but we ultimately wound up engaged in Coasternut Behavior. Yep, thats when a group of coaster enthusiasts is gathered up on the park midway, talking about coasters rather than riding coasters. We were engaged in convicing Rideman to stop by Kennywood on the way home, and truth be told it was quite an easy sale, We decided to get some more rides in at Lakemont park first.

Rideman and I headed over to Leap The Dips. We got into a car, the three of us, and then learned we needed a fourth to ride. How is this we are coaster enthusasts, at a coaster event, at an open coaster, and there is no one around we can even press into service to fill the fourth seat. Rideman calls April to help out, but by the time she arrived another group arrived. We negotiated arrangements so that everybody in both groups would get to ride at least once and some twice. So I wound up with two more Leap The Dips rides. In a nostalgic kind of way I really like this coaster.

After Leap the Dips I make my way around to the Skyliner. I see April in the first seat apparently going on a double ride as the train just flew through the station. I head up to the loading area and I learn that it was not an intentional double ride, instead the train literally blew through the station with the brakes unable to stop it. They stop the train on the lift, and leave that group out on the lift while the coaster mechanics readjust the skid brakes, taking them to their highest possible setting. Then the people in the back car are walked down the lift, and it is announced the back car would be closed for the remainder of the day. the train akes it back to unload, and we are invited to board "Front 2 cars only!" but now the brakes are so tight that the seats are now no longer lined up with the seat rows, so the back three rows actually seat the middle car, and the middle rows actually seat the first car. We had to do some reshuffling and not everyone who was supposed to be on the next train made it on. The Skylner station is truly a classic, there are no queue gates, not even queue rails, just a series of wooden posts and yellow lines to mark the queue lanes. I wind up in seat 4 and take what is surprisgnly a decent midtrain Skyliner ride. By the time we return to the station the crowd had appeared, and what with only filling 2 of the cars and all, we deicde to call it a day at Lakemont.

We are fortunate to stop and talk to Bill Linkenheimer on the way out of the park, so he is able to arrange to have some of those Kennywood presale tickets held at the Lakemont Park office for us, after chiding us about not getting them at dinner like we were supposed to, So, you heard this rightm we next headed to the Lakemont Park Administrative Offices, where we proceeded to purchase Kennywood Park tickets. We then head to the parking lot. Many thanks to Lakemont Park for having us, and to Gary Baker for the Leap the Dips photo tour. But now, after an ATM run, its off to Kennywood. We do stop at a local Weis store to pick up some White Birch Beer before we pass the western border of the Birch Beer availability zone.

TR: Kennywood Park - 10/8/06 *Phantom Fright Night*

Trip ReportL Phantom Fright Night at Kennywood

Pittsburgh, PA

October 8, 2006

Notice: I you are here to find out about the haunts at Kennywood, this is not the trip report for you, I view amusement park halloween events as another way to get more coaster rides.

We had left Lakemont Park around 5pm and had decided to make a stop at Kennywood. Consequently we made the drive from Altoona, PA to Pittsburgh, PA and were pulling into Kennywood right around 7:15pm. The park didn't open tonight until 7pm so we're right on time. The upper parking lots were closed, so we snagged a space in the free parking area at the back of Lot 1, and thanks to a well placed sidewalk we had a short walk to the gate, in fact I dare say its shorter than the walk some of the pay lot customers had. We had already purchased tickets at Lakemont for $16 each so we were all set. I could tell thsi would be no ordinary event when a large phantom figure was in the main entryway fountain and the front gate plaza just looked eerie. We made our way through the front gate and the metal detectors and were soon headed down the ramp. Kennywood has one of the greatest entrances with the gate actually being in the parking lot, then you go down a ramp, under the road and come out in the park. The park decided to turn the entrance tunnel into the first scare zone. They had the artifical fog cranked up so high you could harldy see down the ramp, and you almost had to feel for the tunnel entrance April wanted one of us on each side of her to guard her from the monsters, that may not have been the wisest choice as we were all set to help the monsters.

We entered the park and took an immiedate left turn and headed to Phantom's Revenge. It was probably a good idea as when we arrived the line still hadn't even filled the station area. When we boarded the train he line was already started to back up on the bridge. Rideman and April took seat 2, and I took seat 3. No issues with the seatbelts or the lap bars that drop down from the sides. We setart out on a ride that seems like Steel Phnatom with the same lift hill, and we glance into the parking lot and the rumours the park would be dead tonight weren't exactly true. We then go down the twisting first drop, up the second hill, down the second, hill slice through the Thunderbolt, then the sweeping river turn to cut back over the Thunderbolt then the turnarounbd in the rides feature section the bunny hill run from the second pass of Thunderbolt to the end of the ride is filled with ejector airtime hills. Man every hill is better than the last. This just may be one of the greatest hypercoasters ever.

We exited Phantom's Revenge, then headedover to SwingShot. SwingShot had a full queue, so we skipped that for now but noticed they decided to have a local radio personality do the bally tape for the ride. They learned nothing from when Hersheypark did something similar on Lightning Racer. We did wait around SwingShot for a few minutes for the rest of our crew to arrive at the park, then we all headed to Phantom's Revenge. It was close to an hour wait now, did I mention they didn't put the second train on. After a slow crawl we finally arrive at the station and break up into assorted seats. It seems there were several other coaster enthusiasts in the ride line as well. I wound up in seat 2 this time. If I thought seat 3 was great, seat 2 is even better. In fact seat 2 and the back seat are pretty close in terms of insane airtime on every hill.

We exited Phantom's Revenge and we were deciding what to do, eventually rides won out over haunts. The pathway under the Lost Kennywood arch was blocked off so you had to exit the Lost Kennywood section by Swingshot. This area was the Gorky Park scarezone, whose main feature was a heavy duty fog machine and some scareactors making great effect out of just banging some trash can lids. They apparently thought totally littering this part of the park would add to the atmosphere. It's amazing how sometimes its the smallest things. We amde our way around Volcano which had a great light show, noted the Flying Carpet which was broken in August was still down, they even totally roped it off tonight with temproary baricade walls. We passed the Parkside Terrace which is normally a cafeteria but was turned into a haunt. We then passed the carousel which whike the ride was closed it had some errie lights on it and was playing music that sounded like a carousel organ in super slow mode, almost a sick sounding organ

We made our way to Jack Rabbit and were delighted to find a short Jack Rabbit line, the line just down the ramp and halfway around the front of the ride. Didn't stop us from getting rudely line jumped. I wound up in seat 7 and we were soon off on a fun filled Jack Rabbit ride,and how come I always seem to wind up in the green train. I did note they had two trains on tonight so they were able to move people qucikly. I even decided to live large and hold my hands up through the infamous double down. They had added a few lighting effects and stuff to the rides tunnel for Fright Night. The train advanced forward, around past the queue area, down the drop up the hill, where my gaze at the lifthill was interupted by the tunel, through the tunnel turnaround, down the dip, up the lift. The lift has been modified to make accomodations for the newbrake fins, and they took a different tactic than PKI did with the Beast to solve the same issue. Crest the lift, turnaround, the airtime filled double dip, final trurnaound, final dip into the station brakes. The moment of truth, and quite frankly there is no noticable difference to the ride with the installation of the new braking system. Its odd that there are two brake fins per car, but the general effect is the same. The train pulled into unload and we exited down to the midway.

At the bottom of the exit ramp I noted the the game where you usually try to get the ball to land in little illy pad has been transformed so it looks like a toxic ooze pool. Yep even the games get trnasformed. We follow the Kennywood Rules which state a Jack Rabbit ride must be followed by a Racer ride, Its only a 1 cycle wait for Racer, and soon we are taking up the back seats of both trains. I even got a seat that seemed to have a generously long seatbelt. Racer was its dependable self, but there wasn't too much hand slapping going on excpet maybe Rideman and myself. Oh, and I'd almost forgotten about that one good airtime pop on the return run in the back seat. After Racer it was time for a snack, most of us went to get frozen slush drinks. $2.60 later I had a Tangy Tangerine Brain Freze (yep, the items in the consession stands get new names). One member of our group managed to get the last chicken on a stick out of a tent that was setup alongside the lake. We drank our Brain Freezes as we headed back to Thunderbolt. We passes the sick sounding carousel again, then I noted the irnoy that the dark ride wasn't open during the haunt event. The park had several paths closed, and it was hard to see down the open paths due the copious amounts of artifical fog in use. We eventually find our way to Thunderbolt then realize we have 5 people, and there are no singles on Thunderbolt. Many thanks to the two who each decided to take one for the team and sit a ride out. Thunderblt had strobe lighting going on around its station giving the ride a neat effect. The better effect was the line was completely inside the station area. A couple trains later I was getting into the middle seat of the back car. We took off and proceeded to have a much smoother Thunderbolt ride than I remember having in a while. We get back in line, and there is almst nobdy in the station, I see only two people in the front seat queue, so I duck into the front seat queue and Rideman heads in after me. April and Pete take seat 2. It even works out that we are on the same train. We are seated and its out of the station down the drop, up ad around the turnaroundk down the next drop, up and onto the chain lift. Wow I even got some air on the drop before the lift. We then tur into the helix, and all that stuff. That was possiblt the smoothest best Thunderbolt ride I haver ever had, Of all the wood coasters I rode this weekend who would guess Thunderbolt was running the best.

We left Thunderbolt and decided we had time for one more ride, I suggested the SwingShot and so we headed there, but not before a stop at the Round Stand for corn dogs. ($2.50 and they paint the mustard on for you). We make our way and I note the queue for Noah's Ark had been cut, as had the queue for Phantom's Revenge. After a brief incident we head to SwingShot. The line for SwingShot wsn't too bad and we were on in two or three cycles. Tonight they were only running one of their two swings, but I was able to board without the ride going down mechanical first, yes thats an improvement. The attendnat didn't push furher on my lapbar, so I got to ride again wth a fiarly loose bar which allowed me to get that unique feeling a the tops of the swings where you keep going up as the ride starts to go back down. All in all I really like the SwingShot, I hope Cedar Fair buys one of these for Kings Island,

By the time the ride ended the park had closed for the night at 11PM. We made ou way out though the closed park, but did make a restroom stop. Geez, they even changed out the lihgtbulbs in the restrooms. We left the park as there was a lot of hoot and hollering going on in the exit tunnel. We soon made our way back to our cars and the three of us started to make the drive home. We did stop in West Virginia for a late night Eat'N'Park meal and thus we arrived back at Coaster Central around 4AM, wished Rideman a good night, switched cars, then April andI made the drive to Coasterville, where I got in shortly after 6AM, then April made the drive to AprilVille.

Real fun weekend, can't wait to do it all again next year, but with some Flying Turns action!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

TR: Knoebels Groves - 10/7/06 *Phoenix Phall Phunphest*

Trip Report: Phoenix Phall Phunphest @ Knoebels Groves

Elysburg, PA

October 7, 2006

I must be crazy! Why else would I be so easily talked into the idea of going on an 1,100 mile weekend coaster outing. The day started for me at 3:15 AM when April and I left Cincinnati. One fuel stop and 107 miles later we had left Coasterville and arrived at Coaster Central. At Coaster Central, Rideman joined our happy crew, and we switched to Rideman's car. Withouttoo much ceremony we were leaving Coaster Central (Columbus, OH) and starting towards Elysburg, PA. We made a fueling stop at Cambridge, OH then a longer than needed breakfast stop at an Eat'N'Park restuarant. Things would have gone so well, except for the road construction on PA-22, which meant long stretches of the ride were limited to 40mph. All told we arrived at Danville, PA around 2:30, picked up our room keys, then headed for Knoebels.

April had a meeting time tomeet some friends in front of Phoenix, so first we drove back the campground road and dropped April off as close to Phoenix as we could get her, then Rideman took the car around to the main parking lot. Interestingly, the big roadside Knoebels sign is at the campground road, the road back to the parking lot is marked with a simple blue sign that reads "Amusement Park -->>" We make the turn and are soon passing under the entryway sign and heading towards a pretty full looking parking lot. One of the good things about ariving at the park so late is that we were able to vulture a parking space in row 4, which is the first non-handicap row of the lot.

Knoebels Groves is a great piece of Americana. The park got its start as a simple picnic grove and swimming hole, but for the nation's 150th birthday on July 4, 1926 the picnic grove turned into an amusement park. The park really is a time capsule, as it still has lots of classic and now rare rides, the buildings are all of an older style. I like to use the term "frozen in the fifties" even if quite a few of the rides are actually newer than that. The park has managed to add quite a number of rides and other attractions, while still maintainng a very rustic woodsy feel. In several parts of the park the paths are gravel, and there appears to be no organization to the layout of the park. Instead it looks like rides and other buildings were added wherever it was convenient. The best thing is they have managed to maintain that old time nostalgic park feel while still able to add some of the very latest rides. Knoebels also has a strong history of purchasing old rides from other parks, mostly as other parks have shut down. It is said the legacy of several parks lives on at Knoebels, and the park is proud of this legacy, on their website several ride descriptions will even tell you which park a ride was purhased from. One such ride is the star attraction, the Phoenix. Originally it was the Rocket at San Antonio's Playland park until Playland closed, and the Knoebels family purchasedandmoved the ride to Knoebels, and renamed it the Phoenix, partly toremember the fact the coaster once thought dead has sprung to new life. Some time later the park decided to host a fall coaster enthusiast costume party and riding event. That event became known as the Phoenix Phall Phunphest, which is the reason we are here today.

So we parked the car, and headed into the park. Phoenix Phall Phunphest (PPP) is only one of the events at the park this weekend. The other event this weekend is the Covered Bridge Festival, which is a hugely popular arts and crafts festival. The festival seems to run Friday-Sunday this weekend in the morning through 5pm, PPP conveniently starts on Saturday night at 6pn and runs until 10pm. What this meant for us was that when we walked into the park, the arts and crafts fest was in full swing and even though it takes place mostly in the picnic groves, part of it does take place in the front part of the park, which means the first stretch of pathway became narrow and tightly crowded once the crafts tents are added. We took a little walk around the park to take a fresh breath of that Knoebels atmosphere, then we headed to the handstamp booth. Knoebels maintains the traditions of classic amusement parks, including free parking, free gate admission, and the option to use either ride tickets or handstamps. So we went to the handstamp booth, which is clearly marked "Pay One Price All Day Ride Passes" While the park is dotted with numerous small booths selling ride tickets, handstamps are only sold at the handstamp booth in the center of the park, along with the original park entryway and sign.

We walk up to the handstamp booth and look over our options. Let's see there is the afternoon 12-5 ride handstamp for $18, the PPP handstamp for $15, or the combo for $31. One cool thing is if you buy the combo stamp you can either combo it with the saturday afternoon session of the sunday afternoon session. We knew we would not be in town tommorow, and we also knew with our late arrival time, there was no way we could ride $18 worth of rides today before 5pm. So we bought the PPP only stamps for $15. It's a cool purple handstamp that reads "Phunphest" in fancy script. Along with our handstamps we also recieve a special ticket book. I look through my ticket book: Free Scenic Skyway Ride, Free Midway Game, 2 Free slices of regular pizza, Free Soft Drink. Adding the cash value of those up comes up close to $11, but wait he Phunphest stamp is also good for the Haunted Mansion and Lazer Runner, both of which are normally upchage attractions. If you make full use of your PPP perks, the rides themselves are basically free.

We go to meet the rest of the gang over at the Phoenix Junction Steakhouse,. For those wondering if they saw me, I was the one in the purple t-shirt with a Purple People Bridge Climb logo. After introductions, April and her group head to the handstamp booth, and Rideman and I head to the swap meet at the Phoenix Junction Steakhouse. Various people have sales tables upon which you can buy a myriad of coaster books, videos, calendars, old park maps, park memorabillia, and much much more. We take some time to persue the sales tables. At the same time we run into several other coaster friends, then Rideman struck up a conversation with a Knoebels rides maintenance person. It was close to 4pm before we decided to take a ride or two. We headed over to what looks like an old trolley car parked next to Phoenix, it was there that we were able to each purchase a $5 book of ride tickets. We started to head for the Phoenix but then decided to take a different tactic. Phoenix had a short line, but what about the Flyers? We start to head to the Flyers.

On our way to the Flyers we pass the future site of the Flying Turns. The Flying Turns will be the first wooden bobsled (bobsleigh) coaster to be built in quite some time. The sturcture looks to be mostly built, and possibly had the park not suffered a real bad flood this summer, the ride may have been ready. A small display about the ride was set up in its future ticket booth. Interesting enough there is a television in the ticket booth that was showing a POV video of the not even completed Flying Turns ride. We head alongside the Flying Turns to about where you would have boarded the Whirlwind when we saw that they had a preview center setup. We visited the Flying Turns preview center. They had an aerial view of the ride, and you could get up close and personal with a low to the ground section of the trough. They had a ladder setup to get as close to the trough as possible, they had signs up about the ride and the design team, they had piles of wood to be used on the ride as well as markers for those that wanted to sign the Flying Turns wood, they had representatives on the spot to answer questions about the ride. All in all it was a very good preview, and I got to see the s steel ribbed wooden trough up close and personal. As we left the preivew center I noted a small cutway section of trough that they must be using to test different wood treatments as it had several splotches on it labeled with different wood treatment product names. We walk around the back of the Flying Turns and see the incomplete lift hill. We then walk down the campground road, and instead of crossing the service road and heading to Twister, we continue to walk around the Flying Turns and head to the Flyers.

The Flyers had a 2/3 full queue, so 2-3 rides and $1.00 each in tickets later we were boarding our Flyers. Knoebels Flyers are unlike any other, for one the tubs are mounted with the doors on the inside, and the ride spins in the opposite direction than normal. The mail sail on the Flyer feels to be canvas rather than metal. I fasten the length of nylon webbing strap seatbelt and prepare to FLY. The ride started and I need practice. Since PKI heartlessly removed the Flying Eagles two years ago *sniff*, I don't get around a good Flyer too often. It felt like I was doing everythign right, I just couldn't get that nice loud satisfying KERCHUNK sound followed by your back being rudely introduced to the seatback. I got a couple soft snaps but nothing like I used to be able to get at PKI or Knoebels. I like the carnival method of checking seatbelts b turning the ride on at low speed and checking the belts by standing in one spot and letting the tubs come around to you.

Having flown the Flyers. I wanted a different interactive flying experince. We headed to the Roto-Jet, I had not ridden Knoebels Roto-Jet, and I noted it was not open during PPP. There was no line for Roto-Jet so 80 cents in tickets later I was boarding a little red rocket. Roto-Jet is the precursor to the Astro Orbiter at the Disney parks, you know several litlle 1-2 person rocket ships rotate around a center tower,and the rider can control the height their rocketflies at by using a control lever. Getting into the rocket was a minor challenge but not muuch. I suppose a small child could get in with me but thats about it as my legs completely filled the pockets on either side of the seat. There are no seatbelts, with the seating design itself keeping you safely in your craft. I noted it was a long reach to the control lever in the front of the rocket, but Rideman made a hint, and I realized the lever could just as easily be controlled by a foot. Knoebels Roto-Jet spins faster than I ever remember Astro Orbiter spinning. I mean when the rocket is at the bottom, the lateral forces have you bent over the outer sidewall of your rocket. Much more pleasent ride if you fly high, The rockets control system is apprently a three position switch. On most rides of its type I am used to pulling back on the lever to go up, and if you release it goes down. Knoebels is pull back to go up,push forward to go down, but if you let go your rocket will maintain its present altitude. It was a fun old vintage ride.

We then walked around the park and took a look at the Teacups. The Teacups at Knoebels is actually a PTC Crazy Dasey, which means its half of a cudde up, which means that although you have no control of how the cup spins, you do get to be mesmerized as the cups switch turntables several times during the ride. It's not the Mad Tea Party at Disney, but that didn't stop them from posting a sign "The Mad Hatter invites you to ride the TEACUPS!" We opted to not ride the teacups, and after Rideman looked under the adjacent Tilt-A-Whirl to see that it was a cable drive machine we headed to the Cosmotron.

Or I guess I should say the Cosmotron 2. Cosmotron is a Musik ride in the dark. There was a short line for the Cosmotron but we were on the next available ride ($1.20 - this must be the high rent district), and I noted its the same price to ride or watch. The Musik Ride itself is mostly painted black, so we sat in seperate cars, and pulled down on the massive ratcheting overhead lapbars. After everybody was settled in the ride started to spin. Add flashing lights, add strobes, add loud music, and you have the Cosmotron experience. My favorite part of the ride is right when it starts to spin backwards and they activate the strobes. The Cosmotron ride was of a nice length and by the time we exited the ride we had time for just one more ride before the 12-5 ride session ended,

We headed over to one of Kenobels newest rides, which is actually a rare vintage Herschell Looper. At first it looked like there was quite a line to ride the Looper, but it turns out there were lots of people watching the Looper and not that many people in line. We were able to ride on the next available cycle,again that will be $1.20 each. In February I had taken an instant liking to the Chance Rok N Rol at the Florida State Fair and the Ocseola County Fair, and from a distance the Looper looks quite similar. Rideman and I were shown to our thin round cylinder shaped ride car. We took our seats and we started to feed the really wide seatbelts into the camlock mechanisms for the ride operator. The ride operator came around grabbed the end of the belts and with pulled them skin tight. You see the seatbelt is the only passenger restraint, there isnt even a cage door. The ride started and at first we are told not to step on the foot pedal, but once the ride gets up to speed we are allowed to press the pedal. You see the Looper comes with an automatic mode. If you step on the pedal it activated a brake which locks your ride tub to a large wheel that rides on the ride deck. Basically activate the pedal and the large wheel will cause your ride tub to loop continuosuly until you let go. We did let go a few times just to very the ride cycle, and getting the tub to stall out upside down for a revolution was pretty cool. All in all I'd say we had at least 16 flips. Its the closest I am going to come to a vertical loop all weekend,

After the Looper ride, the rides had shut down and so we met back up with the rest of the crew then headed to Ceasaris. I notice
I still have 80 cents inride tickets remaining that will have to wait for next year. Ceasari's is a pizza stand and is themed to look like a Roman temple. We join one of the about 8-10 long service lines and prepare for pizza. 15 minutes later we are still in line, and haven't moved up an inch, 30 minutes later, no change, at about 45 minutes later we start to seesoome movement, and about an hour later we have our pizza., We learn the vouchers are good only for 2 slices (or a fourth) of an 18" Cheese Pizza. Okay, everybody is getting the same thing, why did this just take an hour. It's not like the park didnt know the pizza shop was going to get slammed at 5pm, We grabbed our pizza, then headed over to the side patio to redeam our free drink voucher. I went with the White Birch Beer, which is best described as Wintergreen Soda, trust me, it's an acquired taste. April had a table saved for us, so we soon sat down to dinner. Well, the good news is the pizza is piping hot, very hot in fact, its also thin crust, so I decide to go for the pizza eating technique I learned in Roma, Itlalia which is to fold the pizza over something like a taco. Looking over the dinner tab that was a $6.80 value so I am currently $8.20 down,

After the pizza dinner, we decide to head towards the Haunted Mansion. The park is renowned for having one of the nations best haunted house rides, and it is normally not included in the POP plans, but PhunPhest is an exception. The house looks perfectly nice from the outside, a wide 2 story victorian, with a big wrought iron fence around it, and is that a raven on the sign. The sign claims the ride is a terrifying adventure in darkness. We walk through the front yard, and bypass the gaebo out front where you normally purchase ride tickets. The queue had just filled the permanent queue area, and with the ultra efficient Koebels ride crew the line was moving really fast. It seemed as if no time had passed when we walked pased the coffin shaped control booth right past the "No handstamps or armbands" sign and split up and boarded our little red cars. We boarded the car on the porch of the house, made a turnaround by the control booth and proceeded to the center ofthe front porch where we turned and went in the front doors. Ah, crash doors, two sets of them to ensure the tour through the living room is nice and dark. The first room doesn't seem too bad, it looks like a living room, and then there is the mysterious pipe organ, oh and watch out for that granfather clock, be sure to take a good look to find out what time it is. This haunted house has really well done tableuax and a variety of pop up stunts But is more than that, they house has several crash doors to add their distincitve unsettling noise and to make sure each room is kept nice and dark. I like the skull and mirror room, its a cool visual. At the end of that roomthey flash some bright lights right before the nexte crash door and the lift. The lift has a very simple effect, just hang some bits of string from the ceiling that are low enough to brush the riders hair. Upstairs you go through the haunted attic with a lot of cool classic stunts. Also upstairs the rolling barrel wasn't turning, but the room with the stange black and white patterns on the wall and weird music was working and I still don't get it. The truck lights and horns at the bottom of the ramp dowm is always a hit, and the final jungle scene was cool. The fake out water curtain did not appear to be working. We exited the Haunted Mansion where a crew was sending the car back to load the second after we got out. The Haunted Mansion is a $1.20 value, and so we are down to $7.00 to break even.

From the Haunted Mansion, we decided to head over to the Scenic Skyway. The Scenic Skyway is a chairlift style ride that takes riders up the mountainside accross from the park and back down. The park wins style points for having artifical snow in the Skyway station, The Skyway station is near the front of the park except that the ride runs away from the park. We form groups and head towards the trilift. We get to the loading area and learn that tickets will be required to ride depsite the fact this is PPP time. Luckily, my PPP ticket book has a Scenic Skyway ticket. I hand over my Skyway ticket while noting the Skyway is $3, so we are now just $4 down. The ride starts with a short rise to get up over the servive area and over the main parking lot entrance road. Once accross the street you go up through a narrow clearing in the hillside. Careful observers may note the zig-zag service/evacuation pathway. Going up there isn't much to see except to remark how tall the mountainside is, but once you hit the top and make the turnaround, all the way down you are treated to a stunning aerial view of the park. We get back to the ground and exit the Scenic Skyway.

As I exit the Skyway I learn the rest of our group is boarding the Flying Tigers. Flying Tigers is one of Knoebels newer rides, and I join the group in riding. I take a seat in the airplane shaped car and fasten the seatbelt. The Flying Tigers ride is similar to a Whip ride but with one major difference. The cars are suspended from above, and are mounted so they can swing out, sort of like a suspended coaster car. Therefore instead of being pushed back into the seat as you whip around the ends, instead the airplance shaped car swings out as if performing an aerial manuever. The end towers are red and white control tower looking things. New for this year, the park built a pavilion over the ride. All in all it's a fun ride. I note the ride price is $1, so I am now just $3 down,

After riding the new whip style ride, we decide to ride the old Whipper ride. This is the Mangels original, and had no wait. Classis red and green cars, with just a non-latching safety bar. I still find these rides funs as you whip around the ends. Knobels is somewhat original in that there is a crosswalk in the middle of the ride. I note the Whipper is 80 cents, so nowIam just $2.20 down.

Our next stop is the infamous High Speed Thrill Coaster. The HSTC might easily be confused for a kiddie coaster, but don't let looks fool you. Two cycles later I am climbingi into the second car from the back and lowering the big lap bar. The ride starts, and it starts out as a kiddie coaster, but wait till you get to the bunny hops along the course, and is that airtime. But wait, they then crank the lift hill up to high speec where is seems like they are launching the train. With each circuit the bunny hops seem to be taken faster and the airtime gets that much more extreme. If you want to cram maximum airtime into minimum space, this is the ride for you. There aren't that many full size coasters that outperform this one, As we exit the ride,we are satisfied to see the queue is much longer than when we got in line. Oh and thats another 80 cents value, so now I'm just $1.40 out and I haven't even gotten to the wood coasters yet.

Our next stop was to be the Skooters bumper cars. Knoebels Skooters are genuine vintage Lusse Auto Skooters, big heavy things that bump nice and hard. We arrived at the ride and the queue area was full and the line was overflowing out into the pathway. Knoebels Skooters may be good, but we decided not to wait in that line, In the area we looked at some of the parks decoration. Knoebels is a patriotic park and in this area is a replica of the famous Iwo Jima statue of US soldiers planting the United States Flag. Its mostly a bronze statue except that it does use a historically accurate fabric flag which adds color and makes the piece stand out. Rideman took a close look as I suppose he has seen a rendering of this scene where there are too many hands on the flagpole. Dave carefully looked at the statue and noted 5 soldiers and 10 hands on the flagpole, so everything is okay.

After our brief art appreciation moment, we decide to head to the Flyers. There is a full queue over at the Flyers and we join in. We noted even more friends in the Flyer queue, and Chuck remarked about how it seemed just like it used to be at Kings Island at night with all the enthusiasts gathered around the Flying Eagles. 2-3 cycles later I am taking my second flight of the day. I think my second flight was better than my first but still not as good as I remember this ride being in 2000. But wait, Tina managed to hang the cable on her Flyer, so evidently extreme riding is still possible. Tina gets treated to a chant of "Tina! Tina! Tina!" as the crowd roars its approval. Oh, and thats a $1 value so I just need to ride 40 cents more to break even.

I exit the Flyer just in time to see April and Rideman running down the midway, I try to catch up but thery had already gotten out of sight, so I decide to do some touring on my own, I walk back past the Flyer and head around the Flying Turns to the bidge that goes over to the park annex where Twister is located. Its now a nice plaza with a gift shop, snack bar, restrooms and the Twister. Next to Twister you can see their swimmng area. Twister is a massive coaster structure, and if it weren't for the Twister sign on the coaster it isn't obvious where the pathway to enter is. It looks like the crew that did the ride signs for Mt. Olympus did the Twister sign. I enter the Twister queue and note that had placed a couple classic haunted house stunts like the electric chair in the queue. I got to the place where they usually check tickets, and was surprised that there was still someone checking tickets, and accepting tickets. PPP used to be an ethusiast event and only the PPP handstamp would get you in rides, now its basically just a special evening ride session with a couple special promotions. There was just a station wait to ride Twister. I had heardto ride up front, and while the front seat line was long I went for seat 2. I next noted that although both trains were on the ride, they were only loading the purple train, so basically it was a single train operation.

Twister is adaped from the late Mister Twister from the original Elitch Gardens, with a few new quriks thrown in. I take my seat in seat 1.2 pull the lap bar down 3 clicks, then note there is so much play in the lap bar that it may as well be in click 1 as loose as it is. We exit the curved station and make a dive into a sweeping turnaround to the right, up chain lift 1, then a curve to the lleft which leads to a big turnaround to the right so you continue up lift 2 which is directly above lift 1. This is one of the major changes designed too conserve space. Once at the top of the second lift, another long sweeping turnaround to the right brings us to the first drop. Afte the first drop, the layout is a classic twister with lots of laterals and a few airtime pops. There was one combination airtime pop/lateral that had me thinking I might be going over the seat divider. The signature moment for the ride is the double helix that wraps all the way around the station. All in all I found Twister to be runnng very rough with the shuffling and all. It was actually making Beast look good. So I exited the ride down the exit ramp, and noted that Twister goes for $2.20 so I am now $1.80 to the good.

I cross back over the Twister bridge then it looks as if I have left the park and am walking down a service road. I'm glad I had my hand stamped as it looks like I am clean out of the park. I reenter the park near Fandango. I had heard things about Fandango, namely that it isn't tolerant of shall we say, larger riders, of which I am one. I decided to try Fandango anyway, so I got in line and was on the ride with just a 1 cycle wait. I sat down, but we were moved around in order to better balance the ride. The shoulder bar lowered automatically, then I reached down and had no trouble fastening the retracting seatbelt to the buckle of the front of the harness. But on this ride it isn't the seatbelt that is the limiting factor, I had to make the ride computer happy. A loader came around and saidhe needed topush in on my harness, it was really a light shove but just enough to make the computer happy. So I was now on Fandango, which is one of those new spinning pendulum rides that have become all the rage. It looks like this is the Moser Rides version. It has the outwards facing seats like the HUSS Giant Frisbee, but the ride itself is of a more regular size, like say a normal Frisbee. It also has a lot simpler moving floor with just two big panels instead of several pie wedge shaped pieces. The ride itself is much like Delirium at PKI, excpet I think Fandango is much more intense. I also note Fandango is $1.40 so now I am $3.20 to the good.

I pass by the Gasoline Alley which is the parks Antique Car ride, for PPP and then every Saturday in October they run a Haunted Antique Car Ride. The line for the haunted antique cars was just way too long, and then I found myself having to move over to the side of the path becuase the evenig costume parade was coming through. I decided to get out of the way by ducking into the Swiss Chalet. Inside the Swiss Chalet I picked up an event sweatshirt, it was last years I think which featured a phoenix train loaded with skeletons on a black background. I prefered it to this years shirt which looked sort of childish, so $20.95 later I had a sweatshirt. As I was walking towards my next ride, I decided that rather than trying to lug the bag around, that I'll just slide the new sweatshirt on over my prrple people bridge climb shirt, besides it was getting a bit cool.

I next headed to the Grand Carousel, its an antique 1913 carousel, and even though I'm not really a carousel enthusiast, this one is particularly interestng. You see, Knoebels is one of the few paks that still runs a ring machine on the carousel. I also noted their horses have the presumably real horsehair tails on the horses, something I had noted at the San Diego Loof Carousel. I got in line, and on my first attempt I was too far back in the line to get on the outside horses, so I didn't ride, and instead got back in line. You know its odd when the non-jumping horses are the first to go, its also odd when its mostly adults riding the carousel. I do score that outside seat on attempt 2 to ride the carousel. The ride starts and then the man comes around to take tickets or check handstamps. Thats an 80 cent value, so now I am $4 to the good. The first couple revolutions are a normal carousel ride, then the bell rings. The bell is the signal to assume the position, that is left hand firly grasping on to the caousel pole, right foot firmly in stirrup ans start to lean out to the right just a little bit. The next task is to try to quickly grab the rings from the ring dispenser. The ride turns at a good rate of speed so you don't have time to think about it, you have to pretty much reach grab and pull away all in one fluid motion, ifyou don't immediately grab the ring, let go and move your hand away, if you do grab the ring, you have to yank it out of the dispenser real fast. My technique is to have my second finger extended staight out, and try to poke that finger through the ring, then once I have the ring, immediately fold my finger towards the palmwhich both pulls the ring out and uses my palm to keep it n place until I have time to deal with it. While the ride is turning, you can transfer the ring to your other hand. Get the brass ring, get a free ride, just like the old days. The other alternative is to toss the ring into the lions mouth but that doesn't give you much time to get your hand in position to grab the next ring. You then hear a second bell, that is when the ring machine is retracted, and you are to go into ring toss mode, trying to get the rings into the lions mouth, on the final revolution theyinstruct you to toss in all remaingin rings at once, the rings are not souvenirs and you may not keep them.

From the Grand Carousel I head to the Skooter. I see the line for the Skooter hasn't gotten any shorter, but I decide to wait through it. It ws about a 20 minute wait for the Skooters. Ah, to be back in the Lusses, with their big metal and chrome bodies, the large steerng wheels, the simple velcro seatbelts. "One way only, no head on collisions" I did note that the King of the Skooters was not operating the ride. When riding most bumper car rides, I think "They don't make bumper car rides like they used to", well "These they make like they used to", Fast heavy cars, loud colissions, and more importantly hard collisions, you get a good bump on one of these and you will feel it. The skooters is one of those rides that makes Knoebels. When I had finished my Skooters ride the line had been cut, so noting the $1 value, I am $5 to the good and head for the main attraction, the Phoenix.

Phoenix line was out in the plaza in front of the ride, and I noted a few haunted touches had been added to the Phoenixlike a graeyard scene at the bottom of the ramp right past the ticket barrier, and a couple haunted props up in the station. I took my first ride in seat 2, where I noted the lift approach tunnel had some dark ride stunts put in it. As for the ride itself, it was running alright, but the airtime just wasn't waht I remembered excpet for the final pass. Oh, and how many other coasters can you handslap people in the station while going up the lift, and hey traditional style lapbar and no seatbelts. . I took my next ride in the back of the train, I was lined up for seat 11, but I noted a single rider getting into seat 12, so I took the upgrade to the back seat. So I rode in the back seat with the referee, and the back seat ride was much more impressive. Airtime on almostevery drop, and the double up double down rode like a dream in the back seat. The ride finished and I knew I needed to try out the money seat. Next time around it was seat 3. Sorry seat 3 fans, but even though I know seat 3 is a great seat, it just wasn't as good as the back seat. And hey, the back seat line was much shorter. So I take a few more rides,mostly in the back seat. All in all by the time they cut the line, I had scored 6 Phoenix rides, at $1.80 per that comes to $10.80 meaning I am $15.80 to the good for the event, As luck would have it, I saw the rest of my group while waiting to board my last Phoenix ride, so we could arrange a meet up spot.

After the Phoenx rides I went to look at the collection of parade floats sitting in Phoenix Plaza. They are unique floats as they are made out of old ride vehicles with go kart motors put in them. Let;s see there is a boat from the Motorboat Cruise. Behind that was a Flyer tub, which was mounted on a chasis, and is steered by a control mechanism that was mouted to the rudder handle. Next to that was a PTC coaster car, complete with traditional style lap bars. The front seat of the car is missing its seat divider but has been fitted with a steetring wheel. Its a red car witht the Knoebels logo in front. Lastly there is a Lusse Auto Skooter, with a big blue light on top of the stinger pole.

After looing at the parade vehicles, I headed to Phoenix Junction Steakhouse to meet up with everyone. Prize winners were announced, attendnace was annonced as being just over 1,600, but more interestingly some Flying Turns details were announced in a John Fetterman Q&A session. The POV video you see was made with a person walking the trough, the trains will seat 10 people, but won't be tandem seating like the originals. I don't think its really anything we hadn't heard before, but oh Knoebels is gonna be great next year.

We decide to skip out on the Bonfire, and instead make our way to our 'campsite' at Camp Red Roof, whereupon we make an expedition to Applebees to score dinner. All in all it was a great day at a great park, and the weekend is still young. Tommorow we go to both Lakemont and Kennywood!

Oh, and what does Knoebels use for handstamp ink, this stuff takes lots of effort and some good scrubbing to remove.


Sunday, October 01, 2006

TR: Paramount's Kings Island - 10/1/06

Trip Report: Paramount's Kings Island

Cincinnati, OH

October 1, 2006

I hadn't planned on going to the park today, but coming home from church the radio announcer said something that changed all that. He said that it would be 76 and sunny out today. I thought to myself, how many more days like this can I expect to have this year, and decided to spend it at the park. So after church I went home, changed from church going attire to theme park going attire. I also grabbed my camera and its accessories as the park had just been purchased by Cedar Fair and I wanted to document the park just in case Cedar Fair makes some big changes in the off season. I had also decided to renew my season pass, so I figured a few minutes online might save me several minutes in line. I soon had purchased, printed, and registered an eTicket for a Cedar Fair Maxx Pass. I grabbed a snack and was off to the park.

Owing to my late start, I didn't arrive at the park until 12:45. I had forgotten a beverage with my snack, so I stopped at a coke machine out in the parking lot and bought a coke for $1.00. Sure it was a can, but on a per unit basis it was still a way better deal than in the park. I made my way through the parking lot and realized it's not going to be too crowded today. I did note the chains up blocking off the exits from the Gold Pass lot, but noted the entrances to both the Gold Pass Lot and the Premier lot appear to be unattended. I soon made my way to the front gate plaza and noted Son of Beast was going to be closed. What a uhm, surprise.

I made my way to the season pass building and was happy to find the extra queue area empty, and registered e-ticket in hand I proceeded directly inside. The inside of the season pass building is still done up in its old time cameras and film strip motif. What has totally changed is the whole process. I showed my eTicket to the person at the front desk, as well as my 2006 PKI pass. He took my PKI Pass and stapled a yellow "Complimentary Parking" ticket onto my eTicket. I was then directed to a camera station.

I had some brief difficulty at the camera station. From what I could gather the person is supposed to scan the eTicket or pass ticket, then scan the parking ticket. I gathered the photographer made a mistake, then tried to just do it over, but when he rescanned the eTicket, it showed up as void, and already used. He had to call a supervisor over, who noted what happened, and was able to reset the barcode on my eTicket so it could be used again, but it would take the computer system 5-10 minutes to reset. They offered me a chair while I waited. During that time I heard that no parking passes are being sold yet, only the free parking for renewals. I also determined that the season pass crew knows little more about how passes work next year than we do. Eventually the computer releases the block on my eTicket and I am able to process. A quick photo is taken, and then I am handed a stiff piece of paper, it's a little bit more durable than Florida theme park tickets. On the front side it is red, and still has the film strip motif of the old PKI passes, except that it reads "Temporary Cedar Fair Maxx Pass" The back has room for my signature, a big block of fine print that I need to get out a heavy duty magnifying glass to read, a barcode, and a small Paramount's Kings Island logo. The fine print explains how a Maxx Pass works, good at PKI only in 2006, good at all CF ride parks in 2007. Any passholder perks are only good at park of issue, then the usual stuff. He indicated he thinks the plan is to mail the regular passes out but that is purely speculation on their part.

Pass in hand I exit the season pass building and make my way towards the metal detectors. Flanking the metal detection checkpoint is some fearfest theming in the flower beds, most notably two King Cobra cars with skeletons riding them on one side, and two Phantom Theater cars (again with skeletons) on the other side. I have not trouble clearing security, note the park closing time is 8pm, and head to the front gate. There were long lines at the stroller lanes (which don't have turnstiles), but almost no wait at the lines with turnstiles. I choose a regular lane, and am soon admitted to the park. I note as my paper pass is scanned the server puts my pass photo up on the ticket takers monitor. I enter the park and pass by the brochure rack as I can get a park map on the way out.

I enter the entrance plaza, and the first thing I notice is the big Paramount's Kings Island logo is gone, replaced by a section of cemetery fencing, some headstones, a Kings Island Fearfest logo, all flanked by two hearses. I head towards Acton Zone, and note the alpine chalet look of the return visit booth has been removed now that it is not selling WinterFest tickets. I also note both a magic show and "Monster Bash" have moved into the Paramount Theater. I head to Delirium and was nervous at first, but upon closer inspection noted the switchbacks in the queue area were not in use, and in reality the line was just a one cycle wait. I would have gotten on in the next cycle but I was the 51st person back in line. While waiting my turn I awndered if I should stow the fannypack (with camera) in the metal bins or take it on the ride. I decided to take it on the ride, and when I sat down found just enough room to the side of me to slide the fannypack, almost as if the ride were designed that way. No problems with the belt or bar, so I was soon swinging and spinning on one of the best new rides the park has installed in awhile.

After Delirium I head towards Top Gun. I note that Days Of Thunder (go-karts) are priced at $6 which is way too high for a dull oval track,. I get back in that area and note Son of Beast is barricaded with two trash cans at the entrance, a bench across the exit, and a greeter. I was headed to Top Gun when a sign caught me eye. I didn't have much time to read the sign until an Extreme Skyflyer attendant (Skycoaster) walked over to me and told me that I could ride for only $5 instead of the posted price of $15. I quickly made my way to the ticket booth and soon had a Skycoaster ticket. There were just two groups in front of me to be admitted to the harness shelter. There I was given a cubbyhole for my personal belongings and fitted into a harness. Lets see, last month I let some stranger help me into a harness, then tether me to a steel cable attached to a bridge, so that I could climb around on top of the bridge. This weekend I am letting some stranger help me into a harness, then tether me to a steel cable attached to a big arch, so that I may be winched up 153' and freefall back down. Harnessed up, I was sent to Flight Area 2, and there I found 4-5 groups ahead of me. I waited out the time by noting that Drop Zone could not get enough riders to fill a cycle, which is unusual for that ride. I also took the time to look about the Skycoaster harness, the first time I really had time to look it over.

Eventually, it was my time to fly. They invited me into the flight area, I went up on the lift, changed places with the other flyers, they had me connected to the cables, had lowered the lift all the way to the ground, and were ready to start the winch when. STOP!!!! They brought the lift back up, unhooked me from the cables and had me exit the flight area. A foreman type person came over to me and explained that they needed to perform a test flight, but that I would be welcome to join the staff member on that test flight, oh and the staff member has to pull the ripcord. Fine by me, so soon myself and a staff member were being attached to the cables and winched up 153'. I think I surprised the staff member when I remained totally calm throughout the entire flight. I mean I have done numerous Skycoasters now, the novelty has worn off, but hey for $5 why not? I return to the harness shelter, trade them the harness back for my belongings, and head back to the midway.

I next head to Top Gun. Lets just say the theming situation at Top Gun has not improved, but I was able to take a seat on the next train out. No waiting. Top Gun was its consistent good but short self. I was wanting to drop the main weapon out of my fighter plane onto the wooden coaster sitting next to it, but no such luck.

I next headed to Drop Zone, which was another walk on. I usually avoid Drop Zone because I have a hard time fitting into the seat. That was not a problem today as the buckle fastened easily, just don't ask me to get an inch of slack in the belt. Drop Zone may be 300' tall, but some of the smaller carnival models I have been on recently provide a much wilder ride. I bypassed Congo Falls and headed to a walk on Face/Off (are you noticing a trend?) I took a seat towards the rear of the train, and had a wonderful g-force filled ride on Face/Off. I then headed to Adventure Express. On the way there I noticed some scaffolding, orange barrels, and other construction equipment from the Worksite scare zone. Doesn't look like too much of an attraction. I also noticed Slingshot was closed for a private party.

Adventure Express was a walk on, and it was its reliable self. The dummers eyes were lit, and their hands were moving, and there seemed to be more light in lift 2, but the big temple god at the top was still turned off and had no light shone on him. Exiting Adventure Express, I noticed that Cyber Sez was closed, and headed into Coney Mall. (Or in its Fearfest persona Coney Maul).

I headed over to Racer, where I turned down a walk on for a one wait front seat ride. They are still stapling you in, and I noted that I had my wallet in the wrong pocket. That was a slightly painful ride. But not too bad, as I took a walk on backwards Racer ride. How come backwards side always seems to run smoother?

I headed down Coney Maul, next stopping in at Flight of Fear. Oh no the line is outside the hangar door, but it was taking the shortest possible route through the hangar. I waited it out and took a ride in the orange train. Flight of Fear is another ride I have had fit problems on in the past, but not so today. Its still a great ride but the mid course ride brings you to a total stop, which means you get hangtime in the final corkscrew.

I took a peek at Holiday Horror which is another scare zone. The evil version of Christmas, smashed santa statue, bones sticking out of the strands of lights and all that. I wonder when someone is gonna get offended at this and complain. I head on to a walk on Vortex. Vortex was running its usual self, so I go to take a look at the new 3 point challenge. 3 point challenge is a new basketball game that has taken over the former Flying Eagles site. Sniff. It's a new kind of basketball game, the person gets 40 seconds to shoot 12 3 point shots, The more shots they make the better their prize. They flash the game with Xboxes and Ipods. Did I mention you need most if not all 12 3-pointers to get the top prizes? It had a small queue to play and they get $5 per player.

From 3 Point Challenge, I headed over to Italian Job Stunt Track. Italian Job's line was just starting to back up into the queue house, so it was should have been about a 20 minute wait, except that they were only running 2 trains. I reached the front of the line and was grouped with a part of 3 and sent to row 3. I noted the special effects on Italian Job haven't really improved any, but at least the show scene still works. I thought I might have felt a faint pop of airtime, but that may just be wishful airtime.

I next headed over to Beast, and walked right onto a ride in seat 1.3, As I was riding Beast I noticed the newish orange ski fencing apparently in place for next week's coaster event. The Beast ran about its usual self, which means its fine up until the horseshoe tunnel, then in the ground hugging ravine section it starts shuffling and jackhammering like mad. The final helix while still the rides signature element is just brutal. I wonder if some coaster enthusiasts mistake ride brutality for a good ride. From what I have seen of the Beast queue this season, the average park goers seem to know the difference and are shying away from it.

After Beast, I headed down through Rivertown. I next passed a closed Tomb Raider, what a surprise. I then passed the train ride, during the summer the train ride serves as transportation to the water park, during FearFest it serves as the first part of one of the haunts, and during Nick or Treat as transportation to the pumpkin patch where a child can get their very own pumpkin to decorate. Having no interest in that I continued on and spotted a closed for the season White Water Canyon. By this time it was about 4:30 and I was getting hungry, I also spotted a sign for the new Wings Diner Buffet. Your seasoned park reviewer needs to check out this new eatery or this trip report wouldn't be complete, see the sacrifices I make for you?

So they have restricted entry to only the front center door, and have set up benches so you have to go straight ahead to where they have to entrance lanes setup. You pay on the way in, I think $12.99 for adults, $7.99 for children 10 and under, and there is a special admission ticket/buffet combo deal available online. I go inside, and $13.86 with the tax later I am taking a place at table. Okay they are using the same serving line from Wings but the queue rails have been removed. Starting from the far left, there is a beverage station (soft drinks, tea, coffee, water), then the rolls/butter, then the first steam table has fried chicken, mashed potatoes (made with redskins, skin is in the mashed potatoes) , chicken gravy, carrots, green beans. The second steam table is the pasta bar with spaghetti, bowtie pasta, marinara sauce, alfredo sauce, meatballs, and garlic sticks. Front and center the bottom shelf is a fairly decent salad bar with tossed salad fixins, cole slaw, potato salad, pasta salad, fruit salad and puddings. On the top shelf are deserts such as cheesecake, german chocolate cake, and brownies. On the other serving line in the first section you have chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese, and baked beans. The last station has buns, hamburger patties, grilled chicken patties, and seasoned potato wedges. Next to that is the toppings bar with cheese, lettuce, onion, pickle and tomato. Lastly you have another beverage station, but this one also sells beer. Condiments are over where the checkouts used to be. I note they are using paper plates, plasticware and paper cups on this buffet, and apparently you are responsible for bussing your table at the end of the meal. I tired just about everything, most of it is on par with what you would expect at one of their catered picnics. The only item I didn't like was the chicken nuggets, a bit too hard. But I especially liked the homestyle mashed potatoes and gravy. (Hey it's a gravy buffet, and it was installed just in time for Caoster Con XXX!) Deserts were good, and the all in all I would have to say the food is nothing special, but if you consider what a burger, fries, and a Coke would cost you out in the park, I'd say its an excellent deal, especially since you also get the salad and desert to go with it. While I ate I watched the Bengals game for a quarter. Hey, unlimited food and drink, and football on TV, does it get any better. I noted for the most part the Wings theme package is still in place. Those American flags on the outside still haven't returned.

After dinner, I headed towards the new Nick Universe. Hey I just overate at a buffet, and I got my money's worth on soft drinks alone, much less all the food. Nice tame kiddie rides seem to be just the picture. Again I wasn't in the mood for water rides so I passed on Wild Thornberries, but I did not the evil elephant had been given the day off.

I also decided to pass on a walk on Phantom Phlyer (Zamperla Kite Flyer), and instead headed to Rugrat's Runaway Reptar, a nice gentle family inverted coaster. It was just a two train wait to ride Rugrats and there really isn't much to report, it was about the same ride as always. I do like these family inverted coasters though.

Okay, so my stomach still hasn't settled, but I know, don't contents settle when being shaken? I headed over to Avatar. I was having doubts about my stomach as I was boarding the ride, but too late to back out now. Avatar was a walk on, hmm usually you can count on Nick being busy, especially with Nick or Treat going on. I am happy to announce that I easily survived my ride from Row 4, I am not as happy to mention that Avatar isn't the ride it used to be. It used to be you got 5 trips along the entire W shaped course, now you only get 3. I still think it, like Delirium are great additions to the park.

I next headed to Beastie, I mean Fairly Odd Coaster. Another walk on ride, so I took a ride in the back seat on this junior wood coaster. It's still the best running of the Kings Island wood coasters. After Fairly Odd coaster, I took a look at the formerly empty plaza caused by removing Jetson's Orbiters, and relocating the Hampton car ride. That big plaza is the site if the family friendly funhouse maze. I passed on that and headed to Scooby Doo and the Haunted Castle.

Wow, Scooby had a line, not too much of one though just spilling out of the secret passage into the front room. One thing I noted is that the formerly dark queue areas in Flight of Fear, and Scooby Doo have been brightened somewhat. There was no grouper so it was a seat yourself operation. I took a car and headed into the ride. Man, why do I have to get the special needs slowdown in the first spot between the ride start and the first target. Total waste of a ride slowdown. While the special effects on the other rides seem to be suffering, Scooby Doo is actually looking better. I mean I saw Scooby and Shaggy actually running around in circles, haven't seen that stunt work in a long time. It was a respectable scoring ride and soon I was back on the midway.

From there I decided to do a photo safari of the park, starting with Nick Universe, then through Rivertown. When I got towards the back of Rivertown I noted Tomb Raider was now open, so I decided to take a ride. I was leery about how my camera bag would hold up to being held upside down for 30 seconds solid, so I went ahead and rented one of the Smart Carte lockers then joined the queue. There was no queue and I walked right into the preshow room. The preshow played, the big door in front of us opened, then the door closed again. Our ride was being delayed because a rider on the previous ride lost a cell phone. Need I remind you the ride is the only one at PKI that has lockers right out in front for express use of the patrons of that ride, there is a big "No Carry On Gear" over the entrance, there is an announcement made in the pre show room, there is a chance to stash carry on items in cubbyholes in the "Rendevous Room", there is another announcement made in the actual ride chamber, there are fabric zipper pouches mounted to the ride and furnished for each rider. After all those warnings and provision by the park, I really have no sympathy in this case, besides its delaying my ride. We waited for them to either find the phone, or find the remnants of the phone. Then when they have the ride area clear, the big overhead door doesn't want to open, so there is another delay, why is it that no matter how short the line its this always turns into a half hour ordeal to ride? We are finally admitted to the ride chamber, and because of the large crowd that had no assembled they actually filled all three rows. That didn't improve ride performance any, as its still a pretty horrid ride. Normally Top Spins do not bother me, but when this one went upside down I had a real strange feeling in my sinus passages, it's the same feeling you get when you are underwater in a pool and you get water up your nose. Anyway I keep riding Tomb Raider in the hope it gets better, but it doesn't, but this time I wanted to take a ride just in case Cedar Fair does something to it. Oh, and I thought the ride chamber was brighter than usual you could actually see all the stunts around the walls. I exited Tomb Raider and continued my photo safari through Coney Mall.

I did stop at Shake Rattle and Roll (Troika) because it was loading, there was no wait and it's a fun ride. From there I continued my photo safari down Coney Mall, through Oktoberfest, and it was turning dark as I toured Action Zone. Therefore my Action Zone and International Street photos are not the best. Up on International Street they have the cemetery of gone but not forgotten rides, and a real cool lighting job on the Eiffel Tower. I noticed Scrooge's House from WinterFest has been pressed into service for some kind of FearFest show. I looked in both the Emporium and Thrills are Paramount shops but the only Kings Island only merch I could find are the retro 70's style shirts. I noted the Kings Islandoply games are marked down to $19.95, which is annoying as I paid near $30. I noted the purple lights in the entryway, and grabbed a Fright Guide from the brochure rack, then stopped past Guest Relations to get a regular park guide. I looked around the old King Cobra car for a awhile then headed out.

Next weekend is Knoebels!!!