Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Saturday, February 23, 2008

TR: Kennywood Park - 10/7/07 *Phantom Fright Night*

Up and at em. Yesterday we were at Knobels and today we head back home with a brief stop at Kennywood. Our hotel had a ridiculously early 10AM check out time, but our room provided the perfect excuse to ask for an extension. It seems their hot water heaters are inadequate, and after waking up with a COLD shower, we called and complained and got some extra time.

Soon thereafter we were finally on the road around noon. It was a pretty smooth trip to Kennywood, with the occasional fuel, snack or relief stop. We had planned on grabbing pizza at Beto's on the way to Kenneywood, but that plan got scuttled when we learned the Steeler's were having a home game that afternoon. See, to get to Beto's we'd have to drive through Pittsburgh, eat, then drive back through Pittsburgh to get to the park. We were advised that plan would be very bad due to the fact Pittsburgh can't handle traffic.

We did eventually wind up at Swissville. near Kneenywood around 4:30 and ran into a Giant Eagle to pick up some discounted Kennywood tickets. We had no reason to rush to the park as it was only open for their Halloween event "Phantom Fright Nights". The event is usually only open on Friday and Saturdays, but with most schools having Monday off on this Columbus Day weekend, the park decided to open up on Sunday, with very short hours, 7pm-11pm. Note that they still charge full price to get in, and suprisingly it is still pretty crowded.

After picking up our discount tickets from Giant Eagle, which got the cost down to $16.50, we decided to go have dinner. We chose the Eat N Park at the same shopping center as the Giant Eagle. Its like a Perkins, Denny's or Big Boy restaurant. We knew we were in trouble when it was a slow time in the restaurant and the salad bar was in dire need of restocking, and the crew was not even trying to get it restocked. We had the usual slow refills you practically have to beg for, but the crowning blow was with April's dinner. She ordered the Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup special. Two very common, very basic items, what could possibly go wrong? Well the sandwich came out before the soup, with a comment that they managed to overcook the soup, and were fixing a new pot. Well, like most people who order Grilled cheese and tomato soup, she had planned on dunking the sandwich in the soup. Let's not forget, by the menu's own admission they were using Campbell's Tomato Soup. You know, open a can, pour contents into bowl, add water, heat. When the soup did arrive it was the most watered down Tomato Soup we had ever seen, a very pale orange. We had enough collective experience with Campbell's Tomato Soup to know that didn't look right. But by then the sandwich was cold. Partly because we had time to kill, and partly because "Hey, we're paying for this!" It took two servers, a manager, and a few tries, but they finally managed to get a fresh hot sandwich and a fresh hot bowl of soup out at the same time. Even after all that, we got no discount on the meal.

Anyway, on to the park. We arrived at the park around 6pm and found nobody at the toll booths, so we managed to park on the lower level of the parking lot for free. But, wait a minute, this park looks open, its not supposed to open for another hour. April goes to investigate. It seems that the park had a corporate buy out in the afternoon, which is all well and good, but the company that bought it out, had a ticket sales table sitting out front selling tickets to the general public. That meant if we hadn't taken out own sweet time getting there, and stopped for lunch and all, we could have had some more Kennywood time.

Right around 7pm, the gates opened, and it takes a little time to run people through security, check bags and all. We then turned right as is tradition and headed down the ramp into the park. Your haunt experience starts as you go down the ramp, as you can just see artificial fog billowing out of the tunnel under the road. Said tunnel is so full of smoke you are basically just blindly walking straight while the tunnel is crammed full of monsters. They want to set the tone for the evening right away, if you want to visit Phantom Fright Nights, you first have to survive this.

After going through the tunnel, we take a left and head for the headliner attraction, Phantom's Revenge. We got there right in the window when they were clearing the day guests out, and the evening guests were just coming in. We almost had a walk on for the first ride on Phantom, maybe a train or two wait because we wanted the back seat. The benefit of them having been open for the day, is they already had the second train on and running. Phantom's Revenge is still a top airtime ride, in fact I think I have moved it over Magnum XL200 as my favorite hypercoaster, I mean you get ejector air on just about every drop. Its an almost perfect ride. We exit Phantom in what is usually Lost Kennyoowd, but is a Gorky Park scare zone. Unlike other parks, you don't wait in line for Scare Zones here, you just sort of encounter them. To be clear, the big haunts do have lines, but the scare zones do not. This scare zone, first they go out of their way to make that area of the park as litter filled as possible, then they have stuff setup all around the Plunge area, and I think a more formal haunt in the Plunge. A highlight of the area is right by the Swingshot, were they again have foggers so think you can't see, and these guys get quite an effect just out of scraping metal garbage can lids across the pavement.

We went to ride Phantom again, and we were met with people walking back out of the line with ominous remarks "It 's at least an hour wait". They must not have noticed the second train was on, and the line was backed up to just about where it goes next to the lift hill. I'd say a half hour at most, another round of airtime perfection coming up.

After this ride, we decided to make a tour of the park, we headed towards Jack Rabbit, while first looking at their new Cosmic Chaos (Zamperla Disk'o), I was surprised to see that the main cash room is located directly off a midway and is clearly labeled. We headed around further through the food court (closed), and then around past the carousel and some flat rides where a "Carnival from Hell" themed area was set up.

We made it to the Jack Rabbit, and headed down the hill, the line was wrapped around the ride to the bottom of the hill. We were a bit concerned at first when we saw no activity, but once things started rolling, it seemed like no time. Dave and I got the next to last seat, and fastened the belt. After all these years the ride still does not have locking lap bars using the older style slide-under bars instead. It should be noted that the trains were recently totally rehabbed (if not replaced), and new modern seatbelts replaced the old leather belts, but it still remains very classic. Sure, its a one trick pony, but its very fun. 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 end of the ride, the unload station is so small it looks like a service area, so I am usually startled when I realize that yes, this is where you are supposed to exit the ride.

Next we stop at the Refreshments stand for some refreshments, before heading to Racer. There were some scareactors plying their haunted trade in the area between the two coasters. Racer almost had a full queue, but it moves fast. Racer did receive new trains a year or so ago, with the new hollow seat dividers, and seatbelts were added to the ride. They are in the standard PTC configuration and somewhat short, so I had a challenge getting the seatbelt on, then the traditional style lap bar seems to lock down lower than most. Its a fairly tight fit, which is ironic since the Racer is the mildest of the three wood coasters there.

After Racer, we continue our tour, noting the Aero 360 had already been disassembled and that the Ice Cream parlour was serving a limited menu. We didn't do any of the haunted mazes, but the scare zone alongside the path that used to lead to Gold Rush was pretty intense. Speaking of Gold Rush (or whatever its name was) Its show building was pretty much gone, we were startled by how fast the demolition on that has progressed.

We headed on to Thunderbolt, counted ourselves, and dangit, an odd number of people. That always seems to be the case, and Thunderbolt has a very strict no single riders policy. That means somebody has to sit out each time. In that time I managed to score two front of the train rides (rows 2 and 3). I have grown to like the front car on this ride, and like last year it was running remarkably smooth for Thunderbolt.

After Thunderbolt there was some confusion about riding Volcano, that turned into a "I thought you wanted to ride it!", "No, I thought you wanted to!" So in the end no one rode Volcano, we noted Noah's Ark had a long queue, and someone mentioned Pittfall, but the usual entrance to Lost Kennywood was closed. That means we had to walk right past the Phatnom's Revenge entrance, and Pittfall is located near the Phantom's Revenge exit (What other park has a ride where its entrance and exit are so far from each other?) So we took another ride through airtime perfection on Phantom, this time sitting towards the front of the train, and the line was about 15-20 minutes.

After Phantom, we did head to PittFall, where we found a 1 or 2 cycle wait waiting for us. They had said there was a rumor the park had lengthened the seatbelts on this ride, as in the summer a good number of the people in our group could not ride, that rumor was proven true when we had no problems riding, yes some needed a little operator assistance, but we all did get to ride. It was a fun fast ride on the Intamin Giant Drop, and we had a river view.

We next came to Exterminator, and about 45 minutes left until park close. I indicated I wanted to ride Exterminator, and nobody else did, so I went and rode Exterminator while they rode Swingshot. The outdoor queue area was empty, and the hallway into the building was empty, but the main queue room was full. Ugh, this is not gonna be fun. I could see another modification was made. Origianlly there was an unmarked button in easy reach that if pressed would set off lighting effects and a loud buzzer/siren that was real irritating, especially when people would press it over and over again. On my next trip I noticed that button had been disabled, now I note the button is back again but with a time delay circuit so it doesn't get overused. Oh, and since it wasn't 90 out, the building temperature was actually liveable. I find myself grouped with others on one of the last cars out for the night. I admit I had been eager to see the dark ride effects on this again, but tonight they ran the entire ride IN THE DARK, no lights, no special effects. I had noted the loaders were taking extra care pushing the lap bars down tighter than usual for these kind of rides. We were rewarded with a spinfest in the dark, so overall it was a fun ride.

I exited the ride, and hey I have 5-10 minutes left before park close. I head to Swing Shot, and alas the line has already been cut, I look to the queue area and note however there was nobody waiting. Yup, the ride had closed about 7 minutes early. I remember them saying they were going to try to go to Jack Rabbit after Swingshot, so not seeing them in the area, I start to head to Jack Rabbit. I pass by a string of closed rides despite the fact the park doesn't close for 5 more minutes. I know Kennywood likes the hard close, where they close the lines early so everything closes right at closing time, but hey, when you are only open 3 hours, charging full fare, give us a break here! I decide to stop in front of the tunnel exit, that way if they come from Swingshot, or come from Jack Rabbit they have to pass by this point. Its a strategy that worked out well, because about 5 minutes after park close, we all met up. They reported that Jack Rabbit had closed about 10 minutes before park close.

So we all head out to the parking lot, and it takes what Rideman said was the longest, slowest parade of cars from Kennywood to I-376, we don't know what took so long but that was painfully slow.

We call ahead and find out Beto's is open till the odd time of 12:55 or something like that. We all meet up at Beto's which is just east of the Fort Pitt tunnel. We managed to get there at like 12:10, to learn the dining room closes at midnight. They didn't mention that bit of trivia, but we decide the hoods of cars can make great picnic tables. We go into the carry out area and place our orders. Now, admittedly I had my doubts when the biggest selling points of the place were very low price, and very generous toppings. OK, what's the catch. The slices are pizza rectangles cut from a big sheet of cheese pizza, and just like at Knoebels they add whatever toppings you want on top of the premade cheesse pizza, and toss some more cheese over it. Unlike Knoebels it does not go back in the oven. So we get out to the car to find our warm slices of cheese pizza covered with a mountain of cold toppings and unmelted cheese. It was weird to say the least, not quite our cup of tea. But it was different, you have to give it that.

After Beto's it was the long drive to Columbus, where we arrive at Dave's house at about 4 or 5 in the morning. Dave and I had taken Monday off, so I took a nap at Dave's place, then the two of us went to Schmidt's German Village for their Autobhan Buffet. Very good German buffet, and it was weird at lunch being the only two guys with Bier sitting amongst businessmen having their lunch. It also gave me a chance to go past Schmidt's candy kitchen. Some say that Schmidt's has the best sugar free chocolate, and I had three diabetics back home that were counting on me to load them up.

Then all that was left was the ride back to Cincinnati.

Next up: Stricker's Grove
(Only 2 more TR's to go to get out of 2007!)


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