Coasterville Commentary

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Sunday, November 25, 2007

TR: Halloween Haunt at Kings Island - 9/28/07

TR: Halloween Haunt at Kings Island
September 28, 2007
Mason, OH
T-Shirt of the day: Knoebel's Phoenix Phall Phunphest sweatshirt - the black one with the skeletons riding the Phoenix. Seemed appropriate for an amusement park Halloween event.


This year, Cedar Fair announced that they were upgrading the already successful "Fear Fest" Halloween event at Kings Island to the bigger and better "Halloween Haunt" event. The event to include 13 horrifying attractions, including 7 haunted mazes, 3 Fear Zones (which may as well be haunted mazes due to how they are run), 2 special live shows, and 1 special ridefilm in the Action FX Theater. From the past, I know that opening day is really the best day to go, partially because it's in September and people really aren't in the mood yet, it's a Friday so they don't get the use of the parks rides all day before the event, and all that.

With the circumstances of scary I-71 traffic on a Friday night, the desire to have dinner before arriving at the park, and other complications, I decided to leave for the event right after work. So I left work, threw the aforementioned sweatshirt on over my dress shirt and headed to the park with a meal stop along the way. Hmm, Skyline Chili! The event hours were 7pm-1am, so I thought I was doing great when I pulled into the parking lot around 6:45.

I made my way to the front gate, passing a haunted parking tram with skeletons as crew and passengers, shortly beyond that I stopped. The line to get in was clear back to the parking lot. Looking things over it looked like they only had one, maybe two metal detectors in use. Then I realized that even the one line wasn't moving. Man, I'm glad I can use this season pass and don't need to waste more time getting a ticket. This is how the situation stayed until right around 7pm. Being back in the parking lot, I missed the much talked about "Wall of Monsters" opening show. On the other hand shortly after park opening security finally decided to come out and man the metal detectors, except I don't think all of them were security, some looked like managers who were more interested in getting people into the park than screening people.

Thus, even though I was clearly far back in the original line, I was past security just a couple minutes past opening, and then I came to the front gate. The front gate had scareactors positioned next to the ticket takers so you had to come up close and personal with a scareactor to get into the park. As you might expect this slowed throughput down somewhat. I saw a clear path using the stroller gate in front of me, and scanned in that way. I had just noticed that some poor guy was getting the ultimate hot seat with an electric chair positioned where the map rack usually is when I started feeling vibrations in my own pocket. Uh oh, what can this be.

I pulled the cell phone out of my pocket, and looked at the screen "Rideman", I'll take this call. Okay, seems Dave and April are also coming to the park tonight, but their arrival time is currently estimated at 9:00. We agreed to meet up somewhere then, and I proceeded to International Street.

On International Street, this year instead of the tombstones memorializing attractions of the past, the flower beds instead tease the haunted attractions you will find in the park, with each section themed to and advertising a specific haunt. The bandstand has been themed to a haunted bar, the Tomb Raider statue has been decpaitated and the poor guy is being made to hold his own head. Welp, I guess since they won't be needing that statue next year if rumors are correct, so why not have a little fun with it before you send it back to Viacom, in pieces. I'm sure Viacom will love the alteration. Even the store windows have been redone. The coaster camp scene in front of the Emporium for instance has been changed to Death's office in a setting that stirred plenty of message board controversy with Death's hit list.

With that, I decide to take the contrarian approach. I figure most people would be heading for the much talked about Club Blood, so I headed to Nick Universe. There was only one attraction open in Nick Universe, and that was CarnEVIL, which from reports is a slight retouch of the former Circus of Horrors. CarnEVIL was staged in a long disused space that used to be the Enchanted Theater, which was a live performance venue located next to the Phantom Theater dark ride. The queue was routed in through the Little Bill's Giggle Coaster queue, the went through some temporary switchbacks that were setup in front of the Giggle Coaster by its photo booth. I followed another party in to be the first group of the night. Except one person ahead of me decided to invoke the "I hate gratuitous walking" rule and jumped over the ropes, unfortunately the security guard who was there decided to be a stickler for the rules, and made the person go through the attraction exit, then back through the line again the correct way. Mind you the 6 of us were, in sum, everybody at the attraction. Then the grouper took us inside and passed out 3D glasses. We got the usual safety rules, then she hollered in a loud voice "The person wearing is being a troublemaker, make sure they get special attention". With that our esteemed troublemaker goes darting out the entrance as if the building was on fire.

CarnEVIL is a good fit for Nick Universe. For one, it's the only haunt that has the lights on for most of the maze, all the better to see those special "3-D" patterns along the walls. I don't think this would scare anybody, unless you are of those people that has a distinct fear of clowns. The place is bright and cheery and themed to a fun house. You have the hall of doors, (plenty of good jump out opportunities there), a fortune teller, the light tunnel where you cross a bridge through a revolving drum and the light patterns along the wall make it feel like you are moving instead of the walls. My favorite scene in this one was the room that is all black with polka dots all over the walls, standing dead ahead of you is a scare actor dressed up in exactly the same pattern as the walls, add a strobe light to that and you have a great effect, such a good effect that it has been a staple in haunted houses in the area for quite some time. On the way out, you are allowed to keep your glasses, or toss them in a bin. I note nothing special or collectible about the glasses, so I toss them in the bin, and go up the exit ramp which comes out by the Scooby Doo Meet and Greet. With that, I have Nick Universe out of the way. I walk through what literally seems like an empty park until I come into Rivertown. The only other guest I see is someone who is just being admitted to Redbeard's Revenge, and then the door closes and I am literlly the only guest, I do a panoramic 360 look at the area. Strange.

I head to Redbeard's Revenge, which is a make over and retheme of last year's Cowboy Carnage. I note the former General Store is NOT a part of the attraction, except its porch and the entire pathway between the general store and the little sign carver's booth (man, I remember when that was the Rib Pit!) was filled with a rope queue maze for RedBeard's. Duly noting what happens when you try to short circuit the unneeded portion of the queue maze, I dutifully grumbled as I walked through the entire thing, did I mention it was empty? When I got to the gate, I got some grief for being alone. "Ya should have brought a crew with Ye" Soon enough the gate was opened, and I made the lone journey into the unknown. The first part of the attraction is outdoors in the space formerly used as the Back Porch Stage. I admit this area didn't quite work well in bright sunlight. About 30 seconds into the haunt, one of the Scareactors calls out to me by name. Did I leave my ID Badge on? A quick check reveals I did not. Creepy. I make my way at a fast clip though the boat dock themed outside area, as there was really nothing to obscure the path. Then I headed into the former Mining Company building which is the inside of the haunted pirate ship. The transition from sunlight to a dark building was brutal on the eyes, and I needed a bit of guidance to find my way into the indoor maze. Ah yes, this is more of a haunt than the fun filled CarnEVIL. I think my favorite scene is when you see, I think its the captain's wife looking all pretty in bed and just as you are looking at her someone else pops there head in through a slot right above the bed telling you to get moving on. Distraction, its a wonderful device in haunting. So I made my way through the haunted pirate ship and soon find myself back out on the midway next to Wings.

I headed through a sparsely populated Rivertown, noting that the log flume and white water canyon are closed as well as all the Nick rides. I cross the bridge and look at the train station. There is a haunt tied into the train ride that is infamous for being really bad at capacity. So bad, its been encouraged to try to ride it when it first opens. Well, it's not open yet, as its an outdoor haunt, so it doesn't open till 8pm, by which time it should be dark. I check my watch and it's like 7:20. I note nobody is in line yet, so I decide to chance it and go ride Beast. I note Tomb Raider is still closed, and head to Beast. I start wondering if Beast is open as I head up into the station. There might have been two people sitting in the Beast train, I jump into the second seat, and soon the three of us are off on a Beast ride. It wasn't a particularly noteworthy Beast ride, but it killed a few minutes. But tonight is more about the Haunts not the rides. After Beast, I remind myself how thankful I am that the fence between the Beast exit and Beast entrance has been removed. This meant I was able to get back to check on the train station without going up and down hills. Still no line for the train.

I take another chance, and head to a walk on Italian Job. Okay, they had a few people but everybody fit inside the station, and with the small crowd, I got in the front seat line. Italian Job gives airtime in only one seat, the front seat. So I had a rare thing, an Italian Job ride with airtime. Still, as I said, this isn't really about the rides. I head back to the train station.

This time there is one family in line, and a check of the watch reveals 7:50. I get in line for Tombstone TERRORtory. The usual train ride queue area has been augmented with a huge rope queue maze set out in front of the train station. At first we are held at the start of the queue maze until just before 8pm. At that time we are walked through the rope part of the queue maze but told to wait in front of the ice cream stand. 8:00 comes, 8:00 goes, and a train goes empty, after the train is out of view, we are invited into the train station. We go through the normal train queue area and a rope has been setup down the middle of the train station so in effect you go through the turnstiles, then have to walk all the way to the potato works end, then all the way back to the canyon end. In theory they will only open the loading gate at the far end.
A train arrives, and the one gate is open, we board the train, just in time to see the impatient crowd open all the other station gates and start a mass crush towards the train. How did they NOT forsee that happening. Anyway the train was loaded, and they seemed to take their own sweet time about it too. I don't think we pulled out of the station till 8:15. During the train ride the narrator tells you a rather lame ghost story to kill time. At least they have dropped the charade of the train breaking down, now the story is you have arrived in some abandoned ghost town. Ah, that does work better considering the train does stop at a train platform. You know that train platform you see on the left just past white water canyon wihen you ride the train, thats where the train stops and they tell everybody to get off the train. You exit to the platform then the directions were to exit the train and go to the left through the gate, well there are gtes at both ends, and I followed a crowd that went through the gate to the right into the grass field where the pumpkin patch is during the day. I think the crew is learning they have to take more control of the crowd as they didn't sound that happy. So we walked through the grass field and rejoined those that took the proper gate. The train returns to Rivertown empty.

You are then led down a paved road, and I know what is coming, so I am jockeying for position all the way down the road, but so are other people. At the end of the paved road, you cross over the railroad tracks, and go through a service gate that leads to the very back of the White Water Canyon observation area. The back part of the observation is a queue area where you again have to wait in line. Seems that now that they brought hundreds of people here at a time, they now want to group you into small groups. This works out about as well as you might expect, and soon you realize that its now 8:20, you were on the first train out, and you are now standing in a 10-15 minute line. In short this takes almost 45 minutes to get through, even with no line in front of you at the train station, I also suspect going back and getting back on the train is not an option.

They dutifully group us into our group, and we enter the walking part of the haunt. Which has some old west themeing and winds through the canyon observation area. Then they have what could have been the feature of the haunt, its a simple device where they have a small one person wide tunnel built with several sheets of burlap about 2' apart, oh and they are constantly blowing artificial smoke into this contraption. So you can't see whats ahead, you are worried that just beyond that next burlap sheet is a scene worse than death, but all in all nothing jumps out at you in this device. What actually happens is that people take it so apprehensively that they are going through it one at a time, and a huge bottleneck forms trying to get through it. This means that by the time you get out of it at the other side, the rest of the haunt is a long 'conga line' of people. Which means for the majority of the haunt you just have one long solid parade of guests going down the White Water Canyon exit path. From here on out the scareactors are innefectual at best, because you can see ahead what is going to happen, you just don't know who its going to happen to. I think it richly deserves the rating of SUCKFEST it received in the message boards. Oh it had its moments like the hanging heads in the covered bridge, or jumping up at you on the rampway up, but all in all this one did not end with a "It's over already!", it ended with a "Thank goodness thats over with"

Well Rivertown is out of the way. Anyway Rivertown is now the shrine to dead attractions tht was moved from International Street. It also has its moments like the BBQ across from the pizza parlor. Except its cannibals bbqing other humans. For a time, the Chick-Fill-A sign was moved to this area, and "Eat more Chicken" was changed to "Eat More Human" That disappeared, so I am supposing Chick-Fill-A told Cedar Fair that contrary to its "No limits" advertising,t here are some limits.

I head up into Coney Mall (Coney Maul for the event), and brreze through so fact I fail to reaize the overriding theme of the area. I head to Death Row, and by now I have caught up to the crowd. The line for Death Row was wrapped back to just after the Racer underpass. For those that remember the former haunt in this area (the asylum), the entrance and exit have been reversed, so you now enter through the door next to Firehawk, and exit through the door next to Racer. Death Row was also when the effects of the VIP Media Night promotion started showing. You see, members of the press and other VIP guests were accorded front of the line privileges, instead of having a private media night as had been done in past years. So the line moved even slower than it would normally, as I seemed to hit this at about the same time as the media. But it wasn't a bad place to be stuck, they had setup a stage in front out Flight Of fear and had a DJ there, and the DJ was trying to get people to embarrass themselves by getting up on stage and dancing. That and the guest services people who were running the media event were working at getting regular guests grouped so everybody was ready to go by the time we got to the door. Here a convict gives the safety speech, and tells us that they have Paris Hilton and OJ Simpson inside, Welcome to Death Row, as you enter he screams "We have FRESH FISH!"

Death Row, unlike the other haunts, is a true maze, complete with dead ends and everything. Its a maze made up of chain link fencing, mirrors, and black curtains, some of which you can go through, and some of which you can't. It's very diorienting and confusing, add to that a constant loud alarm siren, the fact that the only lighting in the maze is strobe lighting, and it can start to create a sense of panic almost immediately. I noticed that in this, as in other mazes, the mandated "Hands on the shoulder of the guest in front of you" lasts for maybe 15 seconds. In this maze, more than in other mazes, the group you enter with and the group you exit with may be two different things, as when people realize its a maze people seem to follow their own hunches. I think I score points for finding an off limits part of the maze, we pushed through a black curtain, and found an ordinary looking water cooler and some chairs, then we pushed through another black curtain and had started to continue our tour when the scareactors informed us we went the wrong way through a restricted area, and have to go back through and follow along the correct path. By the end of that experience, I most wanted to put that constant siren out of my misery. The scareactors here are mostly about keeping order in the maze, with the confusing panic enducing maze being the main attraction here. I exited out the door nearest Racer, and started to head towards Trail of Terror or whatever its called now, when I felt that familiar vibration in my pocket.

Ah, Dave and April are inside the park, we agree to meet in the middle of Coney Maul by the path back to X-Base. They take a little longer to get to me as they could not resist a walk on Drop Zone ride on the way back. We all meet, and we all head to Flight of Fear as a group. The Flight of Fear line is back to the entrance door, but it is going the short way. While waiting for Flight of Fear, April tells me she is sad to hear I can't make it to Knoebles. Hey, I was waiting for a perfect lead in, and April just handed it to me, I make the announcement that contrary to what I told Dave Monday, I AM in for Phall Phunphest next weekend. There was much joy and celebration and a little planning going on, which means the 20 minute wait for Flight of Fear went by like it was a few seconds. First I take a solo ride in the front seat, then Dave and April take the next train. If it weren't for that full stop on the mid course brake this would be a great ride, but remember today isn't about the rides.

After Flight of Fear, we head to Trail of Terror. To get to Trail of Terror you go through a service gate between Firehawk and Death Row, then down the long path to the Trail. Well first you have to pass the insulter in the little house that used to be Scrooge's house at Winterfest. I won't get onto the insulter except to say that element of Haunt has caused more controversy, flame wars, thread deletions, hurt feelings than anything else here. I'll just say that making fun of peoples handicaps should never be fair game, even if it is a "no limits" event. You know, usually when there is someone on a midway paid to insult you, the patron usually has a means of retalliation, there was no such outlet here. Yep, the insulter is usually sitting in a dunk tank, and they are paid to insult you to the point where you lay down good money to throw a baseball at a stiff target in the small chance of sending the insulter into a tank of what you hope is ice cold water.

It took a good 20-30 minutes wait for Trail of Terror, and you wait in a single file line down a service road to the entrance of the trail. To add further uneasiness there was somemysterious object making noise behind the chain link fence along the road. Eventually we were admitted to the Trail of Terror, it has a bunch of redneck themed scenes involving outhouse humor and so forth. This is where Micheal Vick's doghouse was moved to (it was along the midway in Action Zone) I though the outhouse labeled "Marshall University" was a bit gratuitous, must have been a UC fan/student that added that touch after their team lost to Marshall a week before the event. They did the usual gross looking port a potties, where the door opens and you get wet. Part of it was a hillbilly wedding, and here two the walking through dangling skulls was an element. Anther noteworthy element was the crawl, here you were expected to crawl through a dank dark musty sewer pipe for a ways, there never was a payoff to this other than walking crawling through a sewer pipe and feeling vulnerable, unlike the crawl in the old Curse of the Crypt where you crawled over a glass floor which lit up to reveal live snakes. I can also report there was a bypass for those that couldn't take it. This haunt ended with our first encounter with the chainsaw weilding maniac of the night, which had you running out of the train, right into the loving caring home of the Insulter.

After Trail of Terror, we stopped for some soft drinks and cheese coneys at Skyline, before continuing our little tour. Next up was Worksite, called a FearZone, it works like a maze. Instead of open access from either end as the fear zones used to be, they have been turned into one way paths, with a grouper at the start grouping people into small groups, which therefore means they have a queue area. There was a very short line by Antique Treats, and I love the fact they used an electronic road constnstruction sign as the marquee. This is the work zone from hell, with upended police cars, and construction equipment, and of course chainsaw guy was here as well. Orange barrels defined the pathway, and we found the whole thing so pointless we were breezing through it when a Scareactor said "Slow Down! You are proceeding too fast through this zone!" So we stopped to let the group ahead of us get some distance "I didn't say to STOP!!!" Well, make your mind up, either we follow right behind the group ahead of us or we don't. Worksite was pretty stupid.

What was stupider is that the line for CornSTALKERS was backed up up the hill and back to the Tomb Raider statue. Sure, we wanted to get to Italian Job, but not have to wait in that line to to it. We headed around Eiffell Tower to get back to Coney Maul, when we realized Cemetary, another Fearzone, was a walk in. Cemetary was setup in the old Paramount Story, or Tower Gardens before that. As soon as we entered Cemetary, we noticed something. All the scareactos were huddled in one spot talking with each other since they were obviously very bored. No other guests were in the entire haunt. They all had to dash out to their places, and then since nobody came in after us, they proceeded to all follow us through the maze. We were laughing so hard at how lame this was, then we found the exit and came out next to the Attitudes shop, which again this year is offering the "Have your photo taken lying down in a coffin" photo op. From here we walked down Coney Maul noting the old Phantom Theater props as well as some pieces from other former Hana Barbera rides that did not make the transition to Nick Universe.

The highlight of the area was the area in front of the Skeeball building, where the Carnival from Hell was setup. With a skeleton ticket seller, you entered an area where they had Whac-A-Skull instead of Whac-A-Mole, (no not to play, they were just props, other palces like Kennywood would have had an actual Whac-A-Skull game at their event if they wanted one), Scatterball had eyeballs in the game instead of the usual silver balls, peach basket had hollowed out stuffed animals as prizes. Posters advertised sideshow acts. Then there were the food concessions, the soft pretzel warmer had snakes in it, the shaves ice machine had something that was meant to be shaved flesh, the soft drink booth had a fountain head with such products as "Backwash", "Vomit", "Dr. Phleghm" "Snot Zero", "Blood" and "Diet Sewage"

We proceed to take rides on Beast and Italian Job, before heading up Coney Mall towards Oktoberfest. Its 12:30 when we come across a closed Adventure Express, then we go take a ride on Delirium. Finally at 12:45 we head to a closed Top Gun. Here, "Rideman" decided to go ride Son of Beast, while April and I tour Club Blood. There was maybe a one group wait for Club Blood. It also explained why Top Gun was closed, becuase Club Blood took over Top Gun's queue line, so you went down to the Top Gun chicken chute, then walked back the Top Gun line in reverse. Tonight there were being merciful and had a gate open just past the underpass.

Club Blood is the newest maze, in a brand new building loctated behind Extreme Ekyflyer. It is the much talked about R rated haunted maze. We enter and first you head down an ally towards Club Blood where the actors talk openly about drugs and the like, then you pass a bouncer to enter the club where scantily dressed women are doing exotic dancing and cages and poles are invovled but they do keep their clothes on. Hey, this is a family park after all. You then go though the very gross haunted clubs bathroom, where some ppor schmuck is worshiping a very nasty looking toilet. The second half of the attraction seems to be a haunted hospital, and the key scene is a nurse appearing to give head to a cadaver. Scary, no, risque yes, and potentially disturbing, yes.

It winds up that we all met back up by the Extreme Skyflyer at about the same time. We noted that Skycoaster was priced at only $5, so we decided to ride Skyflyer, mind you it is like 12:55 on a 1AM close.

We buy our tickets, and get in line behind maybe 3-4 groups in front of us in line plus the ones inside the attraction. They only had one side of Skyflyer open, and only a minimal crew. That means they same people that were walking groups out to a flight area (and they were using the FAR one by Drop Zone too), and guiding them through their flight, were also the ones running the harness shed. At first they were literally taking one group at a time all the way through the process before starting on the next group. We inquired about just calling the whole thing off and getting a refund, but they would not go for that. So finally, I guess when the waiting line to just us and the next group and us, they take both groups in and gets us harnessed up.

Then they walk us out to to the flight area. By the time we are invited to walk out onto the lift, it is 1:45 by my watch, The park has been closed for 45 minutes, and security is standing at the Skycoaster booth eager to get the area clear. The Skycoaster crew is also none to pleased to be working 'overtime'. They had little patience for our silliness, but we eventually start our way up to the top of the launch tower. We get a countdown, do I pull on command, of course not. I like to catch my groups off guard. He He. So we fly, and after having only made 3 or 4 swings, they are already all "Grab this loop when you fly back over" What, already, we still have tons of speed and momentum behind us. Now, I KNOW they probably think we were being smart asses and not cathing the ring, but the honest truth was that we were honestly trying to catch the ring that they were holding just a little bit out of reach, and we were going too fast. Avert trying this like 4 times, they grab the manual pole. At least the guy with the manual pole seems to know the right hight to hold it, the bad news is he was trying to stop a LOT of pounds of coaster nuts swinging. That approach failed when he let go of the pole just before wiping out on the lift. Yep, the Skycoaster crew REALLY loves us now. But eventually we get stopped, and escorted out. We turn in the harnesses and they shoo us out right into the waiting arms of security who gives us a personal escort out to the parking lot, seeing as the park is already all closed and cleared except for us.

Next up: Knoebels Phabulous Phoenix Phall Phun Phest.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

TR: Minnesota/Wisconsin - Day 6 - 9/4/07

TR:Minnesota/ Wisconsin 2007 – Day 6

September 4, 2007

Mall of America, Minneapolis, MN

T-Shirt of the day: Teal Americana Amusement Park golf shirt.


Well, this is it the final day, or should I say half day as I need to be on an airplane at 3:30, in Minnesota. Not wanting to waste the morning, Jerry and I went to the Mall of America. Yes, you can be assured there is an amusement park in that great big mall. So, being my final morning, I had to get all packed up and moved out, then we headed to the Mall.

We arrived at the mall shortly before 10 and parked in the East garage. I noted the garage entrances now have several sternly worded signs warning against overnight parking. Jerry told me that both the airport and the mall are on the same light rail line, about 1 station apart, and so the mall had become an unofficial long term parking option. The mall is responding with strict parking enforcement. We pull into the garage, and the sections are named after states, for example we wound up in the Indiana section, which coincidently, is the state I would be spending the night in, not my home state of Ohio.

We entered the mall using the bridge from the parking garage and wound up on the second floor, a quick ride down the escalator, walk around the elevators and special events area and there we are at the entrance to the park. The Mall of America, toted as five floors of shopping. The entire complex is a gigantic rectangle with the anchor stores on the corners, and in the middle a gigantic courtyard under a glass skylight. This courtyard houses the amusement park, and has entrances from several points along the shopping concourses, but the East entrance has the main ticket office, which on slow days like today, may be the only ticket booth open.The Park is a free admission park, so there is no barrier at any of the access points, and you just walk on in. The overall theme of the park is an outdoor summer camp theme. Even though you are clearly inside, the landscape is lined with trees, and buildings that look like log cabins. It’s a very rustic feel, and in some parts it can temporarily fool you into thinking you are really outside. I refer to it generically as "the park" because that is its real name. Gone are the days of Knott's and Cedar Fair management, and gone are the rights to the Peanuts characters, so what they did was go through the park and did a quick removal/cover up of anything Peanuts related, then rename the park, "The Park at Mall of America" How creative, and as it turns out only a placeholder name as the park has signed a deal with a new thematic license, and will become a "Nickelodeon Universe" but more on that later.

We go up to the ticket booth, Jerry has the annual pass, so he is covered but he gave me a coupon for $6 off the price of a wristband. My, this park has gotten more expensive, the price with coupon is just shy of $21, I remember that when the price was about $16 with coupon. Seems the full price goes for about $28 after taxes, but at least the parking is free. Being a mall amusement park, they also accommodate the short term visitor who only wants a ride or two, with an all electronic barcode based pay per ride system. This system you buy a bar coded ticket which is scanned at every ride you take, and as you ride points are deducted from your balance. Incidentally, the wristbands and annual passes are also bar coded and all must be scanned at every ride. Pay per ride tickets deduct points and show points remaining, wristband show the number of minutes remaining, and annual passes show the number of days remaining. I noticed that the per point price on rides has remained pretty steady, which means the gap between pay-per-ride and pay-one-price is getting larger instead of smaller as the trend seems to be in those very few parks left that offer both systems.

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

The park operates Timberland Twister just a bit different on slow days with only one operator. That operator runs the ride like a cycle ride. Which means they load one of the 2 cars operating, send the first car on its way, and stop it on the lift while they load the other car, then the restart the lift, and dispatch the second car as soon as the block is clear. Thus both cars are running as close together as is safe. Then the operaor goes and opens the gate, and admits the next group of riders, closes that gate, and comes back to the console in time to bring both operating cars into the two loading areas in the station. Then after both cars are parked, the bars are opened and riders are requested to open all 4 bars, even those in empty seats. Both groups of riders exit and the cycle repeats. As we were the only riders on the ride we loaded the car for maximum spin potential and had a very fun ride exited, rode again. In fact we rode again and again and again, I'd say for at least an hour or more straight.

We did have one ride interruption. It is rumored that if the car comes into the positioning brake spinning too fast it will cause the ride to fault. We're not sure that’s what happened but we came into the brakes spinning like you would not believe. Next thing the ride went down for about 5 minutes while the operator called in a fault and the key operator reset the ride. What made it funnier is the maintenance people stood and observed operations for awhile, and they left just as we were getting into a car.

So, as I said we rode till like 11:15 solid, then we headed to Ghost Blasters, imagining the person monitoring the ride ticket computer "You know those crazies who just rode the spinning coaster for an hour or more straight, well now they are headed to Ghost Blasters where you have to see straight!"

We next came to Ghost Blasters, a Sally interactive dark ride. The remodeling efforts have taken away some of the queue area, but we merely had to wait for the next cycle. Yes, in slow days Ghost Blasters is also a cycle ride, where they first load all the cars, or all the cars they have guests for, then dispatch them into the show building one at a time, then wait for all the cars to come out of the show building, then come around and unlock the lapbars, to unload and repeat the process. I was having fun with the practice targets outside the ride when Jerry said don't get too excited those don't count, as the scoreboard gets reset as you enter the ride.

Ghost Blasters and Scooby Doo and the Haunted Castle share a lot of the same scenes, just in a different order and obviously without the Scooby themeing. This is the more traditional style dark ride, so the ride is punctuated by several crash doors. I hate to admit it, but I lost to Jerry again this year, however Jerry didn't tell me until we were three fourths of the way through the ride that the park had disabled rapid fire shooting. See, most Sally dark rides have guards in place to prevent rapid fire shooting, but this particular model didn't have that in place, well it does now.

From Ghost Blasters, we head to the Treetop Tumbler with the goal of being there when it opens at 11:30. The Treetop Tumbler is I think the last remaining Zierrer Hexentantz in the United States. It's a very neat looking flat ride that consists of a multitude of cars that go around a center spindle. After the ride starts the ride cars are raised up about halfway on this spindle through a really neat folding legs aranagment. Then each pair of cars is mounted on opposite ends of secondary booms that are connected to the main spindle. Those secondary booms rotate in such a manner that the two cars on that boom start leapfrogging each other as they go around with one tub going over the other. Yes this can provide airtime if run fast enough, and Camp Snoopy runs it fast enough for some minor airtime. It’s a very rare ride piece, and part of the reason for that rarity is how finicky the ride is about proper balancing. It seems both tubs on each pair set have to be balanced. Riders are secured with seatbelts and a lap bar. We sat in separate cars both for comfort and so that we could balance each other, and the operator looping the unused seatbelt around the lap bar, and told us at the end of the ride to unfasten that belt first. It won’t win any intensity awards, but it is a very fun ride.

From the Treetop Tumbler, we went to ride the Pepsi Ripsaw. This is the parks older coaster. It’s a 5 point ride, and the entrance is on the second floor above the shooting gallery. Ripsaw is what looks like one of those Zierrer coasters with the 20+ car long trains. The ride is more like the parks train ride and does a better job of taking you around the park on an elevated railway than at being a coaster. Sure it has a helix, it has a tunnel, and has some neat curves, but no real drops. We take seats towards the front of the train, and lower the two ratcheting lapbars in each seat. Odd that it has separate ratcheting lap bars for each rider but no seat divider, but considering the size of the car, if it had a seat divider that would preclude bigger riders from riding at all. It's a better solution than what Zamperla came up with that puts the support bar in the center of the car, with a policy that in most cases both riders legs are supposed to be in the same side of the center bar. We made sure each half of the bar was ratcheted equally. The ride, as I said isn't thrilling at all, but it’s a coaster and you get to see the park. Watch your eyes for the high beam in ride photo lamp right after the helix. Man that thing can blind somebody. About midway through the ride is a long tunnel were you can get a sneak peak of the theming inside the log flume ride. I hear the train storage, transfer track and other service areas are hidden inside the lengthy tunnel. It is also noteworthy that you are powered all the way through the tunnel on drive tires. So I guess it barely counts as a coaster. We meander around and over the park some more before arriving back at the station.

While riding the Pepsi Ripsaw it would be a good time to fill you in on the park's future. As I mentioned it is about to become a Nickelodeon Universe, with an extensive make over. The Mystery Mine Ride (motion simulator) is already gone, and most of the area from the Mystery Mine to Ghost Blasters is completely ripped out, as are the big fountain in the middle of the park and much of the theme work in the center of the park. The walkways in the middle of the park are closed off, but they have kept as many rides as possible open. As the signs say "All attractions are open, please refer to the signs for access to rides. The center walkways are closed, please use the main walkway around the perimeter of the park" It seems like they are doing all they can to keep operations as normal as possible during the big make over.

We then head to the Mighty Axe. Mighty Axe is a Zamperla Roto Shake. We board the ride, the shoulder bars come down and lock, or so we think. Apparently the ride is not happy with the second locking position any longer. With that we are rejected from the Mighty Axe and head back to Timberland Twister.

We have another Timberland Twister marathon for at least an hour straight. By now a line has been forming but it never gets much past the ticket scanner. They also now have two operators, so the ride is now running interval more like a regular coaster. Recall that I have that 3:30 flight. At about 12:45 I decide I need to ride something different. We head to the Paul Bunyan Log Chute. I am very surprised that Jerry, Mr. I Hate Water Rides, is so willing to ride the log chute, and sit up front even.

Here I drag Jerry into a cave labeled "Log Chute" It's my least favorite style queue, a long twisty cave where you can't really see your progress. We were relieved to see the big room in the cave with a queue maze closed off. After no wait at all we found ourselves approaching the loading area. Log Chute uses a non-stopping loading system and we were soon in a log, with Jerry up front for a change. We leave the station and enter a long themed tunnel like a cheap Splash Mountain but if you recall quite similar to the log flume at knott's, you come out of the themed tunnel, (the Knott's product placement theming has been removed), take the tour past the food court, go floating atop the mountain looking structure, and eventually re-enter the interior of the cave which hides drop 1. You're ride is not over as you then climb an even bigger lift, travel along the mountaintop some more, pass by a different food court, then you turn and go down the BIG drop. This log flume however, has been designed to not get a rider too wet. Its really neat with the theming in the tunnels, and its really long path. You make one turnaround to the station.

Like last time, they made us exit back to the entrance side, then climb up and over a bridge, then back down to the platform on the exit side. It seems totally idiotic, but I at least got an explanation this time. In minimal staffing days like this, they don't have an unload side operator (not that that stops other parks), so they have you exit back to the load side so they only need one station operator. While exiting I must have braced on my arm wrong as I was exiting the log and I heard the snap of a wristband come flying off. Oh NOOOOOO!!!!!! I did learn the park is quite prepared for this to occur as a manager was paged and arrived at the Log Chute within minutes with a replacement wristband. She had been over at the Twister most of the morning and for small talk commented that "You finally wore it out, huh?" To which I responded, well after 25 or more Timberland Twister rides, she did not dispute the total.

Speaking of Timberland Twister, although I had only a few drops of water on me, we went back to Twister for a couple more rides on the spin dryer. In fact we rode about as long as we could before Jerry said "You know, we really ought to think about getting to the airport" So we left the park and headed to the third floor for the food court. I grabbed a quick cheesesteak and Great Steak and Potato Company (The steak was great, the potatoes were awful), and Jerry had some Long John Silvers. From the food court on the south side, we walked around to the east side, down an escalator, and back out into the parking garage.

We made the quick trip to the airport and I'd say we arrived at the airport around 2:15 (for a 3:30 flight). Luckily for me there was no line at all for security, and luckier still for me, it was the person behind that came up behind me that was chosen for all the extra screening. As I went to pick up my luggage to put it into the X-ray machine, my second Mall of America wristband snapped off. Man, they must be using the world's flimsiest wristbands.

But I get through security with no problems and head back to the waiting area next to my gate, pausing only to grab a soft drink from a news stand. I get to the gate with about 20 minutes to spare before they start boarding procedures.

As I start to board the plane, I get to the top of the stairs of the plane and the stewardess comments favorably about Americana Amusement Park, I quickly remember which shirt I have on. I comment that she must be from Cincinnati. From then on every time she passed me on the plane we would work in 5 or 10 seconds of chat about Americana Amusement Park.

Then some three hours later, thanks to the time zone change, I arrive at the "Cincinnati" airport around 6:30, which is not in Cincinnati at all. Then instead of going home, I head to Grand Victoria Casino for the night, in Rising Sun, Indiana.

And that ends the great 2007 Minnesota trip, but not the end of my trip reports. Checking the log here, I have two trips to Kings Island, as well as visits to Knoebels, Kennywood, and Stricker's Grove to write up.

Maybe I'll have it all done by the start of the next coaster season.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

TR: Minnesota/Wisconsin 2007 - Day 5 9/3/07

TR:Minnesota/ Wisconsin 2007 – Day 5

September 3, 2007

Minnesota State Fair, Falcoln Heights, MN

T-Shirt of the day: Dark blue shirt with American Flag and bald eagle design.

"Lights! Sounds! Motion!"

Well, so I haven't been the most timely person in writing these reports. Better late than never, I suppose. Anyway, this particular report represents my last full day in Minnesota for the 2007 trip. As has become our tradition, we spend Labor Day at the Minnesota State Fair. We left Jerry's house pretty early, on the order of 7:15-7:30, despite the fact the midway doesen't open until 10, and its only an hours drive to the fair. Jerry has long impressed on me the fact that Labor Day attracts a large crowd to the fair, and there just aren't enough parking spaces on the fairgrounds. Something like 9,000 parking spaces for 150,000 people, and the fair acknowledges this fact, and has implemented an extensive park and ride program, as well as a hefty $10 parking charge for on site parking. We opt to park on site, and Jerry being a self proclaimed morning person, I think he just likes arriving early.

As predicted, arriving around 8:20 or so we had no trouble finding a parking space and at that time there was nobody waiting at the entrance gate so we quickly entered the fair and soon found ourselves standing in a still mostly closed fair. Sure, the livestock area was a buzz with activity, but the exhibit areas don't open till 9, and a good number of the food stands aren't quite ready yet.

To kill some time , we walk down Judson Ave and watch them get the Rapids Ride ready. You see, this fair has a bunch of rides outside of the midways. They have not one but two sky rides, and the usual giant slide, but they also have a Space Tower observation tower ride, an Old Mill, a haunted house, go-karts, and a rapids ride. All of these rides come at extra cost of course, usually around $3-$4.

We continued around the front where the Bazar section, where you can enjoy food, crafts and culture from around the world was not open yet, and I noted several past exhibits such as the MN DoT, and the aviation exhibit were not present this year. As we walked around the space tower, there was a booth setup where they were selling decorative lawn ornaments made out of bundles up grass. We walked past some administrative office type buildings, and returned via Dan Patch Ave. It's sort of fun watching the fair wake up, as vendors are just getting their stands open and slowly the fair springs to life.

Right around 9 we headed to the DNR park, which has a bunch of natural resources exhibits, including a fire tower. By fire tower, I mean the elevated platforms you would find in rural, wooded areas or state parks where a fire spotter is posted watching out for the first sign of forest fire. According to the signs, sometime in the 1960's a full size fire tower was built at the state fair as an interactive exhibit where fairgoers could climb to the top of the fire tower and enjoy the view. Sometime in the late 1970's the firetower was closed to the public, and could only be looked at from the ground. More recently, in 2006, the firetower was reopened as an observation tower.

Jerry informed me that the fire tower is a very low capacity attraction, and that while they do offer a virtual queuing system, my best chance of seeing it would be to go first thing. When we arrived the towers small queue area was already half full, and they were not yet offering the virtual queue. It became apparent that the bottleneck is that they only allow about 6 people or so into the Fire Tower area at a time, once they have those people in, they admit one person to go up only once a person comes down. Even at this early time it still took about 15 minutes or so in line. We were then admitted to the fenced in tower area. The first flight of stairs is a fairly normal grade and starts some distance away from the tower and the first flight ends when you get within the main tower structure being mindful of a low beam. They do have bright yellow padding around that beam, from then on the stairway seems to get tighter and steeper with each landing. From the base of the stairs to about halfway up there is a railing separating the up and down sides, as you near the top, the center rail goes away on the landings as the landings become about 1 person wide. There are some more padded low beams as you near the last turn in the stairs before you go up through the trap door and into the room at the top of the tower.

Now, most know that last year, I spent Labor Day tackling a different climbing project, as a I climbed over the top of the Purple People Bridge, as a part of the short lived, and now defunct Purple People Bridge Climb. The top half of the fire tower stairs are every bit as steep as the stairs to the top of the bridge, and unlike the bridge, fire tower climbers are NOT issued fall prevention harnesses, or training or anything like that. To be fair, the stairway is fenced in, so I suppose the theory is that even if you should slip you might have a nasty spill down one flight, but it won't be life threatening. At the top of the tower, is a small room, and when I saw small room, I mean the trap door for the stairs is the most dominant feature of the room, circling the trapdoor is a narrow platform from which you can stand next to the windows and take a look out. Pictures under the windows give you an idea of what you can see on a clear day and how far the object is. You can't walk all the way around, as one corner has a rangers chair and table where an attendant is there to answer questions. So as you can see there isn't a whole lot of room up top for people to gather. They ask you to please limit your visit at the top of the tower to 5 minutes. After our time, we started the decent. I took the stairs down very gingerly, basically sliding one foot ahead till it hit the end of the tread them stepping down. It might have taken me awhile but I did make it back to the ground.

Once on the ground,it looked to be about 9:30 or so, so we started to head over to the Mighty Midway. We spent the time watching ride and game operators get their attractions ready for the day, and were happy to see the Tornado cars getting a nice fresh application of lube. We must have circled the midway 3 or 4 times waiting for the rides to open. I was going to start the day on Space Roller, I knew I had trouble fitting on it, so I figured in the morning before the crowds arrived would be my best chance at getting a crew willing to be patient enough to take the time to shove the shoulder bar into submission. It did not look like there were quite ready at 10am, so we decided to walk next door to Avalanche.

Avalanche is a Pinfari Zyklon coaster. Its your standard fairground coaster full of lots of helices and very few real drops. The ride was a walk on, and capacity is always on the crews mind. Instead of letting the two of take an entire car, one per bench, they loaded another pair into the seat behind us, despite the ride being a walk on. To be honest Jerry and I didn't mind as our take is the more weight you can cram into one of those tiny cars the better. We didn't have any hard encounters with trim brakes, and we also did not get the feeling like we were going to crash land into the car ahead of us like we have had on previous rides. All in all it was a fun ride, and while riding it, we noted the Space Roller had opened. We walked back to the Space Roller.

Those who have read my past fair TR's know that the Space Roller is one of my favorite rides, so why am I dreading it. Well, the story goes that Space Roller went in for some extensive rehab work this year, part of that rehab work is all new seats and shoulder harnesses. Anecdotal comments from those who have ridden, and those who have tried to ride this year, is that it is a tighter fit than it used to be. I walk up to the ride, and I do note that the part about new seats is true, the older seats were yellow, and the new seats are a baby blue color. I also note crotch belts have been added to the front center of the seats that fasten into the shoulder harness. I have also been told those belts are a non-issue. Well, may as well get it over wiht, find out if I can ride the thing or not anymore. I head up the entry area, where I note a new fence has been added narrowing the entrance to about 1 person wide. Wonder if they had trouble at another spot. I turn in 5 tickets, and head up to the top of the waiting area. Soon the current cycle ends, and I am admitted to the ride area. I am shown a seat, and sit down, the bars automatically lower, but of course fails to lock. This is not cause for immediate alarm as I have always needed a slight helping push. The loader fastens the seatbelt, then goes to work on pushing the bar. He tells me he has to push, I say "Okay" he pushes, no luck, he asks if he can push harder, I say okay, he pushes, no luck, he says he will give it one more try, but he has to really push hard. I say okay, he pushes HARD on the bar, it locks. It is a really tight fit, he makes sure I am alright before he leaves me to give the all clear. The ride starts, and what a glorious ride it was! This is all the goodness of Space Roller that I remember, and I will tell you something, being stapled that tight into the seat is actually a benefit, it is even more rideable than it was before, now that I am essentially one with the ride, with no room to slide or bounce around. I think I am given a slightly longer than average program, then the ride ends, and the loader comes around to let me out. One of the downsides of the new belts is that it is very hard to reach the end release buckle (with the red button on the bottom) while seated in the seat. I thank the guy for his patience and return to the midway. Jerry and I agreed that my morning ride today was better and longer than the ride I was givenon Thursday. Oh, the obligatory ride description: A Top Scan consistts of a lifting boom, attached to the lifting boom is the main boom. At one end of the main boom is the counterweight, at the other end is the ride vehicle. The ride vehicle end consists of 6 5-seat spokes set in a windmill like arangement. All 5 seats on a spoke face the same way. So first the lifting boom lifts the main boom up into the air, then the main boom starts spinning, and when it spins it is set at an angle so it is also raising and lowering the ride arm. Then the windmill with its 6 spokes starts rotating, then each spoke is mounted on a swivel so it can roll backards and forwards as inertia dictates. If a very impressive ride which turns you every which way but loose, and the inertia mounted spokes help ensure no two rides are the same. It is still, very much on of my favorite midway rides.

We head back up the midway, and our next stop is at the Techno Power. The Techno Power is the 'extreme' version of the popular Orbiter ride. It was developed during the craze was to reduce the big bulky ride tubs of the past down to bare essentials, basically a seat, with legs dangling free. The downside to this, is that while the Orbiter has rather loose non adjustable lap bars, the Techno Power has much more restrictive adjustable shoulder bars. I had heard an anecdote that the Orbiter was developed with no passenger restraints, and that they are added when they come to the United States, but a review of a German rides video, shot in Germany reveals the Orbiter had the lap bars in their video.

The ride consists of the main center tower, at the top of which extends seversal sweeps, the sweeps are L shaped so in the load poasition the ends of the sweeps are hanging straight down. At the end of each sweep are mounted three stub arms, each stub arm having 2 seats. The ride starts by lifting up from the load position to the run position, then the main tower starts spinning, then the sweep ends start spinning, then the seeps pivot up so that instead of hanging down, at their peak they are sticking almost straight out perpendicular to the ground. The ride spins around awhile at very high speed, then the sweeps pivot back down, then the ride stops spinning and lowers back into the load postion.

Jerry and I board the Techno Power, and the bars come down, and hit the locking position all on their own. The ride starts and when the sweeps are hanging down, the lateral forces push you towards the outside, but when the sweeps are in the upright position, the forces push you down into your seat. The upright position is also hard on your legs. All in all, its a great little spin ride. After spinning for a bit, the ride ends and we head on up the midway.

We start on lap 2 around the midway and wind up on the Magnum.
The ride is the Magnum, which is a Breakdance on serious drugs. The ride looks like a Breakdance at first glance, you have the huge main turntable, and on the turntable are mounted 5 turrets, mounted on top of each turret is a set of crossbars, at the ends of the crossbars, are mounted tubs, so 4 tubs per turret, 20 tubs on the ride. Like on the Breakdance, the tubs are mounted on a swivel so thet can spin by inertia, but instead of the car being mounted directly to the swivel, the key difference is the swivel ends in a set of uprights, from which the ride car is hung. This means that the cars can not only spin bi inertia, but they can also roll forwards and backwards by inertia. The main table spins, then the turrets start spinning, and from that point on, who knows what your individual tub might do, and yes rocking the car is perfectly allowed.

Jerry and I have ridden this before, and we also know they like to pair single riders. The problem with the two of us paired into the same tub is that the tub gets too heavy to get any good action. This time we get more aring and enter the ride with a few riders in between us, and amazingly they let both of us ride single. I wind up in Tub 20, which Jerry has proclaimed the best on the ride, and Jerry is in second best (#18), and I'm off on a chaotic exciting ride. During the ride I had several ulti flip sequences going, and I also had some interesting moments where I had the tub stuck upside down and still spinning around, once it even held for a complete rotation of the main turntable. In short, it was a great ride, but not for amateurs, and maybe not even for us, as while we didn't get sick or anything like that, it did mess with our equilibrium to the point where we wound up chatting with Justin for quite some time socializing and recovering.

After chatting with Justin, Jerry and I follow it up with another spin on Techno Power. Smooth, fast, powerful as always. After the second Techno Power ride, we head to the Coca Cola booth, and $2.50 later we each have a cold drink. We then go over and all at once wind up finding Paul Miller, Cameron, Loren, and Bill. We do that weird ride nut behavior where we are on a midway talking about rides instead of riding rides. After chatting, Paul, Cameron, Jerry and I wind up taking a ride on the Fighter.

The Fighter is a Mondial Swinger, as is Mondial's take on the circle swing ride. The ride has a lot of characteristics similar to a circle swing ride. It is big and round, with a stairway all the way around the ride, and in the center of the ride a main tower, where the top of the tower rises up from the load position to the ride position. The big difference is that at the top of the tower, instead or a large round cap that contains a multitude of swings on chains, the Swinger is different. The cap on top of the Swinger main pole is a large square shaped affair, on each corner of the square an arm hangs down, at the end of the arm is a cluster of 5 sweeps in a circular arangement. When the ride starts, the ride lifts up, then the main boom starts to rotate, then each of the four arms starts spinning its set of 5 sweeps. To make life even more interesting each arm is mounted with a hydraulic arm that is capeable of pushing the arm out from a vertical position to about 30-45 degrees off center.

Of course, I would be remiss not to mention the theming, that of a female ninja. On the top piece, in the center on all four sides, is a female ninjas face mounted above body armour clad boobs. The four arms coming down from the ride in effect are the ninja fighters arms, and you can clearly see her hands, and at the end of each hand the 5 armed sweep is meant to resemble some martial arts weapon. From theme, looks, sound system and entire package, its a stunning piece, and Minnesota recognized that fact by putting the ride in the "Spot of Honor" the front center ride on the midway.

We board the ride, with the very open chairs, and refreshingly for a big European super spectacular, the ride does NOT have shoulder bars. The ride instead has very simple non-adjustable loose fitting lap bars. We sit down, and lower the lapbars so that the flat metal plate at the end fits into the locking mechanism where a deadbolt type arrangement secures the bar. I have ridden this ride in the past, and now the ride can deliver a variety of ride experiences from mild to intense. For this particular ride, was needle was unlike Thursday, instead the needle was more towards the Wild side, as we were given a demonstration of the rides thrill ability. Jerry even looked over at me and said "What's with this hanging on stuff??"

From the Fighter, we intended to go to Tornado. Unfortunately no matter how persuasive we tried to be, we just could not get Cameron on the Tornado at this point in time. Paul had to go off towards the livestock area, which was his real main purpose for going to the fair to begin with, and Cameron headed to the Coca Cola booth. After Cameron got his drink, we headed to some television stations booth, where they had an exhibit about tornados going on. I got the impression they went through it to show me how cheesey it was. Bookended by some expository areas with photos, text and video clips is the show room. The main feature of the show room ae some high powered fans and some water misters which are meant to give you the feeling of what it would feel like to be inside a funnel cloud. We dubbed it Air Conditioning: The Ride, which is actually quite an attraction on a fairground on a hot day. We next went to another television stations booth to get their goodie bag, the main feature in the bag we were interested in was a FREE Park at Mall of America ticket. The catch is you don't know if the ticket is a free ride, a free day of rides, or a free year of rides until you go to the amusement park. Later review with a barcode scanner revealed that we had four tickets all with the same barcode, I'm not sure what it was, but I know that common sense would say they were all 1 free ride.

Enough visting exhibitor booths. We next headed to the Corn Roast. Its the main corn roast booth at the fair, and its a mass production operation with a gigantic corn roaster, vats of melted butter and all. To speed things up, the people passing out the corn don't deal in cash, instead the booth has ticket kiosks located out front, where you buy your $3 yellow Corn Roast ticket, then take the ticket into the booth and trade that for your ear of corn,. If a bucanneer is a terrible price to pay for corn, I don't want to hear about $3. We noted the main ticket booth had three long lines, but then the person manning a ticket booth off to the side was just standing there unnoticed, we went over to the side booth, bought tickets and soon were enjoying our ears of corn while walking through the fair, and conveniently finished up the corn right as we were arriving at the 1919 Root Beer Stand. Oh, and I regret the absence of Lemon Pepper at the corn booth.

I then visited the 1919 Root Beer Stand and most of wound up with $3 cups of gourmet root beer, well at least thats a 33oz. serving (no ice in root beer purist tradition). We enjoyed our root beers while we watched Cameron play some shoot-em-up game in the arcade. From the arcade, we headed to, you won't believe this, the SPAM booth. Loren and I decided to try the Deep Fried Spam Curds. Yup, deep fried mounds of Spam, instead of cheese, served with ranch dressing. I want to say I gave $4 for them. "Officially eating my way through the fair!" In all honestly, the Spam curds were rather bland and lifeless.

From the SPAM booth, we decided to take a walk through the main exposition hall underneath the Grandstand seating area. Once inside, I realized that fair expo halls are pretty much the same place all over. Cameron pointed out one booth that sells stationery, cards, books and other things entirely made of paper made from elephant droppings. After walking down a few aisles we left the expo hall. Cameron announced he had a need to see Machinery Hill, and it was clear he was putting off as long as possible getting back to the rides.

So we parted ways, Jerry and I started back towards the midway when Jerry mentioned to me that he remembered I wanted to get some photos, and that right now might be the best time, sky conditions wise. We headed out to the parking lot. On the way out, we had our inside lower arms stamped with readmission stamps that used the flimsiest,most water vulnerable ink they could possibly find. This stuff is so bad, that by the time we walked to our relatively close parking space, got our cameras, drank a bottle of water, and walked back to the gate, the stamps more resembled a smudge.

We started our photo safari with the exterior of the livestock buildings, and hey I did get some horse pictures as a group was marshaling for a show in the Colisseum. We then spent a LOT of time taking photos of the rides midway, From the rides midway we toured the Heritage Square area. This is more of a historical area, you can visit the blacksmith shop, the newspaper museum, see some classic cars and more. We went to the train. The train itself is from Royal American Shows, which was an old train based carnival that had the fair midway before they went indepedent. Outside the train car they have some old ride cars, like a car from a Herschell kiddie coaster, a very vintage tilt a whirl car, an old kiddie carousel, a Pretzel dark ride car, and some old sideshow canvas that looks remarkably similar to the canvas being used by the sideshow that is on the midway this year.

Inside the train, the first few cars are full of carnival lore, posters, photos, memorabilla, including an old gaming wheel, some sideshow props including a blade box, just like the one being used this year in the sideshow, the second half of the train is full of railroad exhibits. At least this year, I remembered that the watch your step sign is mounted right above the step, not an advance warning for the step. After the train, we went through the Minnesota State Fair History Museum, which has a lot of photos and artifacts from the history of the fair. A popular exhibit is a 1928 sale model of the fairground. There is a whole section on the hipprodrome and the old ice shows they used to have. Also in there are grandstand searchlights that have a military history behind them, old mascot outfits and more. A more disturbing artifact is a length of bungee cord from the 1992 bungee jump. The good news is I have now felt a bungee cord, the bad news is it did nothing to reassure me.

From the museum, we left Heritage Square, I saw a gourmet soft drinks stand, but no birch beer. Jerry and I continued our photo safari, making our way past the grandstand, through the arcade, and then up Machinery Hill. We opted NOT to take photos on the Kidway due to problems others have had with that related to parents seeing men without children taking photos of kiddie rides (and by connection kiddies). We did stop in a hardware store booth to get a photo of a t-shirt making fun of the whole Fair on a Stick craze "We also sell things on a stick, they are called Sledgehammers", and a dining hall "Absolutely nothing served on a stick". We got some photos of some farm and home implements like tractors, mowers, snow blowers, etc.

We continued around Machinery Hill, got some photos of trick skateboarding in the skatepark like area, noted the baseball exhibit is looking a little worse for wear after its run of the fair. I did stop at Giggles for some watermelon sherbert but the were out, so I setled for raspberry sherbert. I was eating my sherbert right when the lumberjacks climbed the two flag capped telephone pole likethings at the lumberjack show. This area has some rustic buildings like Giggles, a kettle corn stand, a bbq rib pit, the lumberjack show, and the Minnesota Bound store which is flanked out front by both American and Canadian flags.

We then took a break for a slice of Green Mill pizza each with soft drink. It was actually pretty good pizza, with some unique seasonings. We then took photos of some of the WPA era buildings. The Fine Arts building, Creative Activities Buildings, 4H building, and more were all provided when the fairgrounds were build courtesy the WPA. They are classic art deco buildings that are now architectural gems. The 4H building also has the military recruiting display, and a snowmobile display. Man those things have spedometers calibrated to 200MPH !!! I saw a booth featuring Beer Pizza. Jerry assured me they were two seperate products. We walked through another expo hall, and at about the same time my camera batteries died. My photo safari is over.

We finsihed up our circle tour stopping at the Empire to see the butter heads (they do popular Minnesotans heads in butter), we also stopped past Playworld Arcade to get photos of me playing Turret Tower. From there, we finished our lap, and Jerry offered to return cameras to car while I partook of the Dairy Farmers booth,. This booth features fresh milk for only $1, with free refills. It's the "All You Can Drink Milk" booth. I must have had like 6 or 7 cups, 12 oz. each. I do like fresh milk, and I have a tip for you. The milk flows from the refigerated tank and down nearest the windows facing Clough St. It is noticeably warmer by the time it hits the windows facng Judson Ave, and the windows on the other side were closed. I also noted several people turning the milk booth into the All-The-Milk-You-Can-Dunk-Cookies-In booth. Great idea, that. For my last cup I tried the chocolate, it had a nice rich chocolate flavor.

Jerry and I returned to the midway ready to ride. We have ride ticket sheets left, and only about 2.5 hours to use them. We took an educated guess, and were able to locate Cameron and Loren,however we never did see Paul again. Sorry Paul, I meant to ride more with you.

We took Cameron over for our much hyped Tornado ride. This time Cameron was willing to ride.
The Tornado somewhat resembles a Paratrooper, except I don't think it tips up near as high. The key different is that instead of the Paratrooper seats, the ride consists of 8 sweeps that hang down, each ending in a spherical shaped ride tub. Each ride tub has 4 chairs facing inward, and no other siding which again helps with the wide open feeling that many newer rides wish to instill. Riders are secured to the seats with T shaped lap bars.The key feature of the tub, however, is the Wheel of Delight (or the Wheel of Doom, depending on your point of view) in the center of the tub. This allows each ride group to spin or not spin the ride as fast or as slowly as they see fit. This particular unit is equipped with a modification I had not yet seen. Essentially the center pole between the wheel and the top of the tub has been covered with a red sleeve. The sleeve is not rigidly connected to the ride, and therefore can free spin. The idea, which apparently stemmed from an incident that occurred a couple years ago, is designed so that if you should grab hold of the center pole during the ride, instead of causing bodily injury, it will safely spin with you. I would expect this unit to have all the modifications, as I believe it is Wisdom Rides show model, that they themselves are exhibiting,

We board the Tornado and grab Tub 6. The ride starts, and as soon as the tub brakes release we have the tub spinning at a nice clip, however we got one of the tighter models, so we didn't get it spinning as fast as we know we are capable of.. During most of the ride, the outside world is a blur, and all I can see clearly are Jerry, Cameron and the wheel. To be sure, it is tiring to keep the tub spinning, but its worth it.

From Tornado, we got to Techno Power and Jerry, Cameron and I ride. It was mostly the same as usual except at the end of the ride, after the sweeps lowered, but before the ride center lowered, the unit poles stopped spinning. Not a bad feeling just different.

After Techno Power, Cameron and I were going to ride Space Roller until we saw the line. Yeah, it was probably at most a 1 or 2 cycle wait, but hey we are spoiled by walk on rides at the fair, plus a line probably means less effort into getting me onto the ride. Instead, Cameron and I walk over to Extreme.

It is Extreme, a KMG Afterburner. The afterburner is a pendulum ride where the pendulum ends in a 6 sided claw. The floor drops away, then the pendulum swings back and forth, then the claw starts spinning, At the peak of its swing the arm is swingng up well above 90 degrees. I say the ride would be the real test is I tried to ride a similar ride at the Florida State Fair, and could not fit, later last year, I tried to ride another ride just like it at the Ohio State Fair, and could not fit. I board the ride, take a seat, and the bars drop. Of course, it doesn't lock by itself, but it I got a tighter seat than Thursday as it took a lot harder push on the part of the loader to lock the bar. I like the spinning pendulum rides, the problem is my home park has Delirium, which is a massively large swinging pendlum ride. The small KMG ride just doesn't seem to do it anymore. The program they run on Extreme is prett mild except for the final 10 or 15 seconds, when it starts swinging back and forth with gusto, as the ride starts spinning at maniac speed. The problem is the intense part of the ride is much too short.

After Extreme, all four of us go for a ride on the Crazy Mouse.
We walk up to the loading area, turn in our tickets (5) and the ticket taker assigns us a car. We step into the assigned car, we put Cameron, the lightest of us by far on one end, and pull down the lapbars as the car continues to roll forward. We reach the end of the station area, and a visual check of the restraints is performed, then we roll out onto the course. The operator also makes special note of how obviously unbalanced we have the tub with the heaviest people together. There was a time when I thought the Crazy Mouse was a neat ride, then I saw the Gerstlauer version. The Crazy Mouse very much keeps to its Wild Mouse roots. We roll out of the station, make a left turn, and on every turn I think it was Loren and I that shouted "OPA!" in tribute to the Mt. Olympus ride, roll across the front of the ride, another left turn, then climb the lift, another left turn. We go around the ride marquee as we enter the top level switchbacks. At this point the ride is a normal Wild Mouse, as the cars are not free to spin yet. At the end of the switchbacks, you go down a short dip and rise, then make another left turn to again go across the front of the ride, this time on the mid course brake. The next left turn is the big one, as you go down the big drop, then up into a weird long extended uphill that flattens for a little bit towards the top, before climbing again for the final short hop. The bump adds an interesting experience to the ride, often accompanied by a wonder if you are going to make it to the top of the hill, to make that next left turn. Before the first switchback turn, you pass the mechanism which unlocks your car, for the second set of switchbacks you are free to spin, You make a few switchbacks, before heading straight towards the front of the ride, a drop, rise, and turnaorund at the front, then a drop, and you cut diagonally through the ride structure on mostly flat track that does have a bunny hop in the center. You then make one final turnaround and its into the brakes, then the mechanism that realigns your car to face forward, then lock it back into stationary mode. For all the things the Crazy Mouse does right getting you onto the ride, we must talk about how they get you off of the ride. The Crazy Mouse does not stop in unload. An unloader unlocks the lapbars, which you then raise. He then walks along side your car telling you to get out. He has a knack at telling you to jump out right as you pass a support column. He also probably means well, standing nearby to help people exit the tubs, but if you decide to instead jump out of the tub, it is quite easy to lland near or on his feet. . We then exit the ride, making sure to take care on the extra large last step, then walk down the exit path, dutifully ignoring the on ride photo booth.

Cameron and Loren are out of ride tickets, but they watch while Jerry and I show off on Magnum. Yes, we got good tubs, no we weren't paired up, yes we put on pretty good shows. At this point Cameron needed to go meet a friend over at the Haunted House. Jerry and I head over to the Spin Out.

The ride consists of a claw shaped passenger car with 6 'fingers' each holding 4 riders facing in. It sounds a bit like the Afterburner, but instead of being connected to a pendulum, the claw is connected to the end of a robotic arm. The arm is capable of turning the claw completely upside down, or anywhere in between, and is often the bearing that controls this rotation is constantly turning. The claw itself also spins, and the base that holds the robot arm is mounted on a turntable which is constantly spinning. You might see why its called the Spin Out. We hand in our tickets, and with just a slight press by the loader, we are cleared to ride. Jerry and I feel the lapbars click into place when the operator pressed in on them, we saw the alert lights go off. The ride starts. The claw makes it first big twist where it turns the claw upside down and spins it. Well, that's what it does normally this time I flipped upside down, then quickly righted itself, then the ride stopped in midair. What? Thats not supposed to happen. We stayed stuck up in the ai r for a few moments until a crew member started working with the mechanism at the base of the arm that holds the claw. Once he did that the ride returned to the load position.

As you can expect, there were a lot of cries of "Is that it?". Well that was it for Jerry and I as a crew member came up on the ride deck, opened our lapbars, gave us some ride tickets and sent us away. We didn't catch what happened due to the fact we could not really understand the attendant. All we could catch is that there was a problem with the safety bar. Of great, just what we want to hear. Now, if I had to venture a guess, I would say the safety bar was locked the entire time and was not the main cause for alarm, we suspec we had seats with finicky sensors and the first time we went upside down and all our weight was on the safety bar, it send a false positive to the console that it thought there was a lapbar malfunction. Which means, in the end, that everyone and everything responded appropriately to the alarm, and so it was all a big non-incident really.

So we take the walk of shame, and head right on over to Techno Power for one last ride on it. Now, Extreme, Spin Out and Techno Power have basically the same seat design, but they don't act the same.

After the Techno Power ride, we go take one last ride on Roc N Rol.
You heard that right, a Chance Rok-N-Rol. (user cues up a medly of "Rock and Roll is Here to Stay", "Old Time Rock and Roll", and "Rock and Roll Music") From what I understand, a state ride inspector commented that he had not seen one of these in at least 20 years. The ride consists of a center spindle which has a large round frame around the outside, mounted to the frame are 10 cylindrical cars mounted on edge. The cars resembles the tubs of a spin dryer, and as you are about to find out, that is quite the valid analogy. The tubs are closed in with a metal mesh on the inner side and on top, only the outer side of the car is open. The tub has two seats facing inwards, and in the middle of the two seats is a U shaped grab bar mounted to the inside wall of the tub.

So the ride starts, and the 10 tubs start spinning around the center pole, then the tubs unlock, and as the name suggests, you can Rock the tubs, and if you are sucessful, the tub will start rolling. Yes, in a refreshing blast from the past, it is a ride where the rider gets to control the ride experience. I recall that a couple years ago, a major local newspaper for the Twin Cities wrote a midway review panning the Tornado becuase it required the rider to exert real work to get their ride. However, with the Rok N Rol, sedentary riders need not worry, as there is a mechanism in the center of the ride, that when activated will automatically roll the tubs as they go past it. You have to watch these interactive attractions. This Rok N Rol has a skilled crew that likes to play with the flipping mechanism so that as the ride spins you can't always be sure if its going to flip you or not. They also like to act like your ride is coming to and en, slow it down, then speed it right back up. Oh and how do they hold the riders into the car. No shoulder bars, no lapbars, just seatbelts. Of course, they are not normal seatbelts, they are special extra wide seatbelts, and instead of a buckle, the ends of the belt are fed into a special camlock mechanism. The belt is fed into the camlock, then the cam is clamped shut. Once this happens it can be pulled tighter, but not looser. From early photos of the ride at the fair, it started the fair run, with not only a "No Single Riders", but also a "4 Riders per Tub" sign. I note both of those signs had been removed.

By this time, we were recognized by the crew and given the VIP escort to the tub with the longest seatbelts. Unfortunately, we did not return the favor with a good performance, I think both of us were starting to get tired out and we just couldn't seem to muster up the energy to hit spin dryer mode.

After Roc N Rol, we crossed over to the Zero Gravity, the Zero Gravity being Darton's take on modernizing their classic round up ride. They manged to do lots of things, they gave the ride a bit ore midway flash, they souped up the engine so it gets up to speed and slows down a lot faster, allowing for more actual ride time. The filled in the seldom used back exit with some more berths, they removed the potential hazard of a ride being hit by an unfastened chain, by replacing them with belts that don't even have buckles. A loop in the belt fitts over a peg to secure it. They improved access by having a nice wide stairway, and the secured the ride exit against premature exiting while the ride slows down. Now the stairway folds up and complete blocks the exit. All in all its a real nice update on the classic stick to the walls as the ride tips up to a steep angle while spinning ride. .

From the Zero Gravity, we try another of Darton's updates, the Downdraft. The Downdraft is an attempt to give their famous Hurricane ride the more open floorless cars. It wins points for using an overhead lapbar, and not shoulder bars, but it loses points for haing a no to comfortable seat mold, particularly once the ride starts spinning at full speed. Of course the cars do still bounce in and out, controlled by compressed air. For the Downdraft they have you exit out the back stairs, then have fences which force you to walk around the ride and make your final exit at the front of the ride.

From Downdraft, we took a ride on the Skywheel, commonly reffered to as the double ferris wheel. This ride set out to solve the ferris wheel problem, by having one wheel always in motion while the other one was going through its load/unload cycle. This culminates in the main ride cycle where both wheels start going around in a giant circle, as both small wheels are still spinning away. There was a bit of a line to ride the Skywheel but it was well worth it to ride such a well maintained example of this piece of history.

From the Skywheel, Jerry went to ride Magnum, and I went to ride Space Roller. The line for Space Roller had died down, and to make things better I foun a slightly bigger seat that took a bit less force on the part of the operator. What's more I think I manged to get my best ride on it yet, fo the 2007 season. From the Space Roller I went back to the Magnum and Jerry and I finished up MNSF 2007 with our final ride being on the Magnum.

We both managed to get great cars, he got 20 and I got 18, which meant we got a lot of flips and spins with little effort on our part. What made this ride particularly special was that the ride ran about as long at it usuall does, and the ride had then almost come back to a full stop when I noticed the song Ride Spinners start on the sound system. Sure its a song about spinning hubcaps but it fits the crazed spin ride fanatic as well. "We ride spinners, ride spinners, they don't stop" In fact someone else took a clip from that song and made a YTMND out of it. Check it out for yourself:

Anyway, right when the chorus of that song started up, the ride went back into high gear for another cycle, that would make it a double ride on Magnum in a great tub. What a way to end the fair! Jerry reports that the fair had a television commercial where they show somebody on the midway, and he is chanting "Lights!, Sounds! Motion!" over and over except each time through he starts sounding a bit more woozy, and it ends with "Lights! Sounds! Motion?, I'm getting too old for this"
Our version would end "Lights! Sounds! Motion? We're getting too tired for this!"

So we checked in with all our various friends along the midway, before heading out of the Mighty Midway. I did make a stop for some hot out of the oven Sweet Martha's chocolate chip cookies on my way out of the fair. Hmm, some of the best chocolate chip cookies you will ever eat!

We then headed back to the parking lot, and headed back home for the night.

One more day to come, stay tuned for the Park at Mall of America TR. (Posting that any day now, what it took my a month to get this one out????)