Coasterville Commentary

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Friday, April 25, 2008

TR: Kings Island - 10/27/07

TR: Kings Island
Mason, OH
October 27, 2007

This wasn't meant to be my last park visit of the season, but alas thats the way it turned out. We all do some hard headed things that we later regret, especially when your hobby is involved. It is true I was getting over a cold, it is also true that the weather today was to be cool with patches of rain. I really shouldn't have gone to the park, but I hadn't had a normal day in the park for quite some time, it seemed I was always there for some other purpose. Besides I had not seen Masacre Manor or Dead Awakenings and both were reputed to be top notch Halloween Haunt attractions. So I started the day by printing out an e-ticket for a brand new Platinum Pass, and I found out the VIP Haunt dinner was sold out.

So I head to the park and arrive shortly after the noon opening and a light rain is falling. I head to the season pass center to exchange this e-ticket for my 2008 pass. The line is relatively short and soon a grouper assigns me to a camera station. I present to the clerk my e-ticket, 2007 Maxx Pass, and 2008 Platinum Pass. I had been told that they could just transfer my 2007 photo onto my 2008 pass without a new photo being taken. The clerk scans my cards and voucher but the photo transfer did not seem to work, but no problem, I just walked around to the business end of the camera and got a brand new picture. I asked about my Cedar Fair jacket, but they were not in stock yet, but I was given my season pass e-ticket back and told to present that e-ticket and my 2008 pass at jacket pickup when available.

I entered the park and looked around some of the Haunt theming around International Street. The Grim Reapers office in the Emporium window is definitely a highlight. From there I headed back to Firehawk, first lightening my load by dumping all non-essentials into a coin op locker for 75 cents. I head into Firehawk's line and noticed something is different. What is different is the park is in reduced staffing mode, typical of seasonal parks during the school year. For Firehawk, this means eliminating the attendant that controlled the pace and direction of the line from the queue maze into the twin stations. This means that instead of stopping at the end of the queue maze, the line continued as one solid line all the way to the loading area. More staff was eliminated by only running one of the two stations, but luckily they were running both trains out of that one station.

I have some bad luck with Firehawk, it seems like I always experience about 20 minutes of downtime while waiting for it. When I get to the station I take the shortest available line, joining another group of three. As usual I have to trouble with the vest harness arrangement, and the operator has to trouble with the lap bar, in fact they didn't really put any effort into tightening it. I actually sort of wish thwy would tighten it down as I find myself slipping around when it is on its minimum setting.

At the top of the lift, especially on your first ever ride, prepare for one of the finest acrobatic manuevers in multi-element history: The Lie-to-Fly. Its a simple element, the track twists 180* so that instead of lying down on top of the track you flip over and are suddenly lying down on your stomach, your full weight being held by just the restraints, and a wide open view in front of you. Your first few times, this gives you a very unsettling feeling at first, then it becomes one of the most interesting positions on a steel coaster. You do a dive head first through the structure, your eyes playing tricks on you. Is that support post far enough away? You soar over the station, then on the second pass, you do a fly-to-lie which flips you back up on your back, before you go down a drop and into the vertical loop. The Vertical-Loop-Headfirst-On-Your-Back is another highlight of this ride, and what a unique feeling it is. After the loop you Lie-To-Fly again, criss cross the structure once more before doing 720* worth of barrel rolls. You exit the rolls in the fly position, fly around in circles through the helix before one final Fly-to-Lie puts you back on your back for the brake run.I do still love this ride, and its a great addition to the park, and let me say it again "Vertical Loop on your Back!" and the sensation of flight. Its a great ride, and at the end of the ride I learn an unpleasant side effect of running two trains from one station is you spend some time lying in a not too comfortbale position on your back in the brake run.

From Firehawk, I head right next door to Flight of Fear and find the line hanging out the door sarting into the outdoor queue area. I had a hunch they might have the inside queues closed as they have in the past. I get in line and am delighted to learn, that yes we would be going the short way. I get to the station and find that the shortest line is actually the front seat. I take a seat, pull down the lap bar and have my usual fight with the seatbelt buckle. Its not that it won't reach, its that it doesn't want to lock, even when its all the way over the metal tab. Give that buckle a coulple good hard whacks against a hard surface and try again. (Operators are more likely to thing the bar needs tightened rather than to check the cheap piece of shit buckle). The ride itself was pretty good, the first three inversions are over before you have time to realize what just happened, the mid course brake is still on "Bring the train to a total stop" mode, but they have the multi colored show lights on, and the ride gains some speed in the long helix like section, but that corkscrew is just missing something when you aren't barreling through it at top speed.

From Flight of Fear, I head back to Vortex. The line for Vortex is back to base of the stairs up to the trestle, and even with only two trains on thats still reasonable. Vortex was being its usual reliable self, and yes I headed to the back seat to get one of the finest airtime moments in the park.

I exit Vortex, and head to the Action FX Theatre, there was a rumor they were showing Funhouse Express, and I happen to like that feature. I walked through the long empty queue trail and into the loading lanes at the theater doors. Even at that, it still seems to take forever, partially because the preshow for this ridefilm is only about 15 seconds long, on an endless loop, and partially due to that reduced staffing thing, they have one person loading the ride, having to check about 70 or more seatbelts, and not putting any hurry into it.

There was a film loop playing on the televisions in the area that was meant to set the scene for you. I say film loop, and the clip was about 20 seconds long and kept repeating. The basic story is that you have arrived at some old guys "scariest fun house ride" the old guy looks for his ride operator who is not at his post "Where's My Ride Operator!!!!" the old guy bellows, saying that he should have sacked Jimmy about 20 years ago. Must not be a good business relationship if this duo have been working this gig for 20 years and this how they get along. The old guy accuses Jimmy of sleeping on the job. Well Jimmy is dreaming but he is not asleep, instead he is under the fun house with sketch pads designing his own fun house ride, and he lets us know he his starting to build it right under the old guys nose. We see sketched of parts of the ride, take careful note when he shows us a flipbook animation of a stunt involving the riders car getting stomped on by a giant shoe, and also note that is the stunt he was drawing right before he gets interrupted by the old guy threatening him "If this ride's not running in ONE MINUTEā€¦."

I watch that clip just under a jillion times before I was admitted to the auditorium. Seated, seat belts checked, time for the feature. The film starts right where the preshow ended with you sitting in the dark ride car and Jimmy arriving at the operators console. The ride starts and you go through the crash doors into the funhouse, Far from the worlds' scariest fun house ride, the ride consists of carboard cutouts and looks pretty cheesy, you only have to endure about three stunts before the service lights come on right by the "spider falls on you" gag and then the old guy berated Jimmy for breaking the ride and fires Jimmy. You are slowly brought backwards through the now lit funhouse where you can see its got trash strewen about and looks run down. Jimmy says no I'll show you a real ride, and Jimmy and the ride console falls beneath ground, and then so does your ride car, and you wind up at the entrance to another dark ride "Clown Chaos" this one starts with a long roller coaster like tunnel, then an areas where it looks like you travel in suspended cars in a cave full of scary props then it just goes crazy as there is no more track, and you negotiate a serried of hills drops, spins, bumps, and stunts that are far beyond any realistic fun house ride. Careful observers will note the last stunt before the ride ends is a giant shoe coming down on your car, wihch just barely misses your car, and cuases a seesaw like effect with a loose board, throwing your car back up to the loading area for the old guys funhouse. Jimmy then gets rid of the Old Guy by sending him down to the basement, while he proudly unveils "Jimmy's Clown Chaos" Cute film, and time to take the long walk back to Coney Mall.

I verify that Three Point Challenge, (aka "License to print money") is still a big success, and head to Italian Job. The line for Italian Job was just backed up into the first switchback in the queue maze. I notice the grouper position has been eliminated in short staffing mode. I take advantage of this as the line now just goes all the way to the station, and I duck through the crowd and into the front seat, the only seat with any airtime. As usual the on board audio, working headlights, stair step drop effect and fishtailing are no where to be seen, but at least the show scene still works. Its a fun peppy little ride.

After Italin Job, I head to Beast. The line for Beast was backed up just enough to start heading down the ramp from the station area. As usual I headed to the front of the train and took a ride in seat 2. A non wheel seat is a good thing as Beast hasn't been running all that great lately. But still it's Beast, and the final helix is one of roller coastings greatest moments.

From Beast, I notice that Tomb Raider is still closed (what a uhm, surprise), the train is involved in some family friendly pumpkin patch attraction, White Water Canyon is closed, and its a bit too cold for Wild Thornberrys. I instead head to Reptar. The line for Reptar was a bit longer than I would have liked, and that line moves slow. But its the last day of the year, so I endure it as I haven't had many Reptar rides this year. It takes some time, and I snag a middle of the train ride with another single. (And getting that belt fastened with this jacket on was a challenge, but I did it. Reptar is a fun little family inverted coaster.

I finish up with Reptar and head to one mf my new favorites, Avatar, which has a near full queue. I decide to wait it out, and soon realize that Avatar is also in short staff mode with its grouper eliminated, one of the two loading lanes closed off, and everybody channeled into one entrance gate. I got to the ride, and man I have some terrible luck, getting the middle rows, but at least I didn't get the middle seat of the middle row the way I have had recently. I proceed to take a ride that is barely half of what it was when it was first opened up. You used to make 5 full trips over both humps, now its 2 with full spin, then on the third one the car locks at the far end and returns back to the station without spinning.

From Avatar, I take a ride on Fairly Odd Coaster, with the line bing almost all the way accross the trestle. I found the fastest way onto the train I could for a quick ride on this fun junior coaster, though I liked it better with the tunnel. I noted it is now after 5PM, and Nick Universe was slated to close at 5Pm so that parents hopefully take those under 13 OUT of the park before the 7PM transformation to Haunt.

I was walking past Scooby Doo and the Haunted Castle and I noted the ride was still open, even if the indoor queue maze was full and the line was backed out onto the midway. I enter the line and note I was about halfway through the indoor queue before they cut the line. I proceed to have a fun game through the ride through shooting gallery.

I noted it was gettng to be around 5:40, so I didn't have much time to get to Top Gun before it closes at 6pm. I hadn't been on Top Gun in a while either. I make a beeline to Top Gun, and am directed to go down the Top Gun exit, and then enter through what is usually the re-ride path. I go through the shortened, but empty queue area and proceed to a near empty station. I take a seat in the back seat of the train, and have a fun yet short ride on Top Gun. I find out I am on one of the last trains of the night, as when I got back to the reride gate on my way out it had been closed and converted over to be the entrance for the Club Blood haunt which uses the other part of Top Gun;s queue. I walk past Son of Beast, and notice the queue is back to the big tunnel under the road I guesstimate this at 45-60 minutes, which would ruin my plans to make a quick entrance into Massacare Manor. I skip Son of Beast and Face/Off and even Delirum and proceed to Octoberfest.

In Octoberfest, I take a quick no wait ride on Advneture Express. It's nice knowing Adventure Express is getting some care in the special effects department. I then head over to forwards Racer, and after a short wait take a ride in the back car. I could almost swear thee was a hint of airtime. I follow it up by what I have found out was my last ever ride on recaR. I took a ride in the back car of the backwards Racer. Man, am I going to miss this.

I head to the Masacare Manor haunted maze and find a lengthy line, in fact the line was backed up through Scramblers queue area, through Scrambler's ride area (The Scrambler has been removed for Haunt), hen wrapped around the perimeter fence of Scrambler. But its the last haunt I need to finish the set. I take my place in line and even with getting in line around 6:45 it still took about half an hour or so to get into the haunt. As usual linejumping is a big problem with the haunts, and I caught one guest with their hand in my pocket, too bad for them my wallet was not in that pocket. I resisted the urge to punch out said guest, But from them on tonight, I was on extra high alert for pickpockets. I tell you these Haunt events draw a BAD crowd.

As for Masacre Manor , it was one of the best haunts in the event. I mean it starts wth an actual theme setting introduction as a "realtor" greets you in the living room, then you tour the house, Easily the best haunt this season.

From Masacre Manor I headed back to the lockers at Firehawk to get my belongings, as I would not be headed back this way. I headed to Bubba Gump's for a fish and chips basket. It's a huge meal with three large piees of fish, fries and slaw. With a Coke it was a bit over $11.

From Bubba Gumps, I headed to International Showplace for Dead Awkenings. Dead Awakenings is a stage show designed for mature adults, and the park is sure to make that known before the show starts. Adult subjects are key to the show, including some bondage, what looks like either a rape or knifing scene, a suicide scene, straightjacketed dancers, and lots of song and dance by scantily dressed performers and a lot of fishnets. Even the music is a bit edgier than you would expect in a theme park show. I was seated center house towards the rear of the seating bowl, and it was fun watching the crowd reactions. Yes, there were a lot of walk outs, but I liked the ones where the wife/girlfriend/whatever looked sincerely ticked off, practically dragging their husband/boyfriend/whatever behind them who had this look like "I WAS enjoying this, but I know I had best better act morally offended for the sake of me own relationship" I admit, I quite liked the show, and as soon as it ended I made a mad dash to the Paramount Theater for "The Torture Chamber"

The Torture Chamber ended up being a 10-in-1 style circus sideshow, except with only about 5 stunts: (Human blockhead, walking on broken glass, sword swallowing, bed of nails, etc). The show itself wasn't as bad as some would have you beleive, IF you like the old style circus sideshow. The big problem was the magician by his own admission on his own website is more of a close up magician. He seemed lost on a big theatre stage. If they could have given him a wireless microphone it would have helped, but he would talk to the audience while standing no where near the microphone stand.

I took a lap around International Street, and the Paramount Clearance sale where everything is now $1 each is now beyond picked over and just a handful of items remain. From the gift shop glance, I headed out to the parking lot. I had intended to return Tuseday for Bare Bone Nights with my cousin, but for reasons beyond my control that visit did not happen.

And with that, my 2007 Trip Reports are all caught up, so I guess I can start 2008 trips now.

Extra Bonus: In early April, I headed up to the park to get the Cedar Fair Jacket. Free parking, everybody sent to handicap parking. I noted the Cedar Fair style Kings Island logo on the main marquee sign. I got in a short line at the season pass processing center and when I got to the front of the line I explained I already had a pass, just coming to get my jacket. I was told to go to the Group Sales building. I exit season pass processing, and head to the window at Group Sales, ask for my jacket. I present my E-ticket and 2008 pass as requested. The attendant scans my 2008 pass but doesn't even look at, much less take up my e-ticket, He askes what size I wanted, and being a cheap free jacket, I take the largest size they had, 3X. Its a very lightweight pull over style jacket with no pockets. You can't even use it as a rain poncho as it has no hood. It does have Cedar Fair VIP embroidered on the front int he usual corporate logo location.

I noted one of the big welcome signs in the front gate plaza is being held up by wooden braces, and the guest relations area looks different.

It's almost time to start the new season!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

TR: Stricker's Grove - 10/14/07

Trip Report: Stricker's Grove
Ross, Ohio
October 14, 2007

(Time to clear out the last two TR's of my 2007 TR backlog, just in time to start a 2008 backlog)

Stricker's Grove is a private picnic grove just west of Cincinnati that is kind enough to open their rides midway to the public on select days of the year. More recently they have added an October date, so with time running out on the amusement park season, I joined Dave and April and headed to the park.

We timed it to arrive at the park shortly after opening, so after scoring a free parking space and then heading to the very simple front gate, paid $12 each to enter the park. I have noticed the admission fees have been steadily rising here, but as a bonus in addition to the usual free beverage service they have in August, they added free popcorn, free snow cones, and free cotton candy to the offerings. We started with a raid of the free snacks then headed to the rides.

We all headed to the Flying Skooters, but I could plainly see we would not be getting on the next ride, so I headed next door to the Tornado. There had been reports in August that they were having trouble with the lap bars in the last car leading to seats 7 and 8 being closed. Well seat 7 is still closed, but 8 is open again. I climbed into seat 8 and noted the lap bars still have an unusal quirk that you have to push them down really far, like almost past the seat divider low, then it will lock but you will be able to lift it back up to the usual locking height. As for the ride, well the Tornado has gotten a bit rough but the all important airtime pops are still there.

I exited the Tornado and got in the Flying Skooters line right behind the group I had left. The gate opened and the rider count would seem to indicate that we would all be able to ride, but the ride operator let everbody in line into the ride, and I lost the race to the tubs. Annoying, but a harbinger of things to come.

So I took my ride after the rest of the group had ridden and moved onto the coaster, so I go and ride the coaster, again a train or so behind. Luckily the group engaged in Strange Coaster Nut Behavior which is when you stand around on a midway within walking distance of operating rides, and TALKING about rides instead of RIDING rides. Usually occurs out in the sun and not under any shade trees as well.

For the rest of the first ride session we spent most of our time on the Flying Skooters, and I was getting used to racing out to those tubs like a speed sprinter. However, the antics of the Flying Skooter operator were downright dangerous. He made your stereotypical carnival ride operator look like Mr. Safety himself. This guy would let everybody in line into the ride area, let the guests fight it out for tubs amongst themselves, let those that didn't get tubs back into the queue area. Then go start the ride without doing the customary visual inspection. After the ride starts odds are slim that he stayed by the console. Sometimes he would hop the rail into the Spin the Apple ride next door and bang on the backs on tubs as they came around, or walk around the permieter of the Flying Skooters area while the ride was running, or duck through a service gate under the Tornado station. However this was the mild stuff, he soon played Donkey Kong and climbed up the coaster structure itself to socialize with his friend on the Tornado crew. Later on he was even darting in between cars on the Flying Skooter. I know I almost accidently creamed him once, leading him to having to fall down fast and bite the grass while yelling some words you don't normally hear in a family park.

But enough about him, the park has other issues. For one the Teddy Bear and train rides were already closed for the season. Dave and I rode the Spin the Apple, which is a rare 6 tub Sellner spin ride, its good they chose the higher capacity model as three of the tubs were closed off. At least the tubs that were open seemed to work alright, and I noticed another rare feature, a 'window' in the back of the tubs.

Dave and I then rode the Electric Rainbow which is a Super Round Up that was transplanted from LeSourdsville Lake. They built a real nice operator booth, and entry/exit ramps for it as well as a big loading deck. While waiting for the ride, Dave made his usual joke about a huge ride safety sign "YOU MUST BE 42" TO RIDE - NO EXCEPTIONS!" Of course the sign means 42" or taller, but thats not what it really says, and its a mistake that is made on a lot of ride signs. He was laughing at that mistake, when he noticed an even bigger problem with the ride safety signage. Strickers Grove bought a bunch of stock ride safety signs that are meant to be used on practically any ride. The problem with the sign here is that it says quite clearly "DO NOT STAND UP ON THIS RIDE" I remind you its a Super Round Up, designed to be ridden standing up. I also noted the scenery panels for the hub of the wheel are still sitting underneath the ride.

After the Electric Rainbow ride, we went to the parking lot so Dave could get his camera and I could shed this sweatshirt as it got a bit hotter than I expected. So the Knoebels Phunfest sweatshirt came off, revealing the Holiday World Legend shirt underneath. On the way back into the park I picked up a $1.75 draft beer then met the rest of the group back by the Tornado. After finishing my beer it was more Tornado and Flying Skooters till about 3:45.

At 3:45 we positioned ourselves to be first in the food lines. You see the park midway shuts down from 4-5 for dinner. So I grabbed a double cheeseburger, served with chips, potato salad, and this year they served beans instead of the roast corn. I followed that up with a Strawberry topped funnel cake. All this for $cheap.

After the meal break we all took a ride on the Eli Ferris Wheel, then rode the Tornado and Flying Skooters a lot, with occasional trips to the front for more free snacks. Somewhere in there we took a ride on the Scrambler that never seemed to get up to full speed, and a satisfactory ride on the Tilt A Whirl that seemed to be using the tubs from LeSourdsville Lake.

We finished up the night on the Tornado where single rides turned to double rides, and then we even scored a triple ride to end the night. I took those final three rides in the back seat, and that was near brutal, but brutal in a fun way.

And with that quickie Strickers Grove TR, that just leaves me with one more 2007 trip report: Kings Island on 10/27/08. Watch for it