Coasterville Commentary

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Saturday, October 31, 2009

TR: Coasterville Con 2009 - St. Louis Gateway Arch (8/8/09)

Trip Report: St. Louis Gateway Arch
St. Louis, MO
August 8, 2009


Last night we pulled into a hotel that we thought might be in a more upscale neighborhood based on the cars we saw. We kind of slept in today, pushing check out time to the limit. While taking our bags out to the car, we noticed two nice RV's in the hotel parking lot, and laughed, I thought the reason for a nice big RV was to not have to stay at hotels.

We left the hotel and headed towards the interstate and came across a shopping mecca, shops lining both sides of the street but set back aways, with a row of restaurants lining the sidewalks. I mean nice looking shopping centers, where even the fast food places look nice. We stopped to get some supplies at Target, then had some lunch at Culvers before heading on. We kept driving down the road between the shopping centers looking for the interstate, then when we got to the end of the shopping district the road just sort of dumps you out onto the interstate without much fanfare.

Okay, we are now heading towards St. Louis, when all of a sudden the interstate we are on is closed for construction, and we take a surprisingly well marked detour. The detour, I suspect takes you along one of the beltways to another one of the interstates going through St. Louis. When they say road work, we looked down as we went over on the overpass, and you could not see road, just tons of construction equipment and maybe a dirt road bed. Serious work going on there. We were glad to also see the turns on the detour were well marked all the way into downtown. We exited down by downtown, and following the instructions on the Arch brochure, you go forwards a block or two, then make a left to cross over the interstate, which sets you up to look at the arch through a nice greenspace, then another left, then a right and you come to the official parking area.

Parking for the St. Louis Arch is in a garage just north of the Arch itself. Parking here is reasonable, at $6, and I noteice an interesting tactic. Parking is a flat $6 if your stay is under 8 hours, and switches to a more expensive hourly scale if you park longer than that. The idea must be to keep parking reasonable for the tourists, while discouraging businessmen from parking here. We pull into the garage and score a "Pinch me I'm dreaming quality" parking space located right next to the stairs. We park, and just one flight of stairs up and we are on the obrder of the park that surrounds the Arch. We take a few seconds to get our bearings then start walking down a shaded trail cooled courtesy of nature's air conditioning and come out into the much warner green.

The Gateway Arch, or the Jefferson Memorial to Westward Expansion, or Gateway to the West, whatever you call it is a silver metallic 630' arch build in St. Louis's riverfront park. Sometimes referred to as a giant croquet wicket, an image not lost on the people who greated the American Roadtrip reality game this summer. Park enthusiasts sometimes imagine it as a giant SKycoaster, as some of the dual Skycoasters are described as looking like the St. Louis Arch. Eric wonders if anybody has ever flown a plane through the arch. Anyway the two legs of the arch appear to sink right down into the ground surrounded by a concrete pad that more or less serves as the front porch. Just inward of the two legs, ramps lead down under the green into the underground visitor center. Today, long lines stretched from the visitor center wrapped around the leg and continued into the park. Ugh.

I stand in line while Eric does some scouting work. While Eric is away, I notice the group ahead of us is already holding their tickets. I chat them up and learn the ticket sales are at a non descript carnival trailer along the edge of the parking garage right as you enter the park, had you used the garage elevators. Eric comes back and reports back that this is merely the line to get into the building. At about this point a park ranger points out there is almost no line at the entrance by the other leg.

Eric and I compare notes, and we head back to the parking garage, specifically to the carnival trailer, and I agree, nothing about it screams "Stop here for tickets" Let's see the tram to the top is $10, and we could bundle it with one or two movies, or a riverboat cruise. We decide on just the basic tram ride, and soon have tickets. As an advisory, the trailer is a credit card only operation. Okay, a check of watches reveals it to be about 1, our tickets are printed for 2:40, using their timed entry system. We take the time to return to our car to get some refreshments, a move I'm sure did not endear us to any of the people who saw us heading to the car and though they had just scored prime parking.

A bit later, we headed back up the stairs, down the shaded trail, and we headed over to the other leg of the arch. By this time the rangers had pretty much gotten the two lines evened out. For us the line streched back up the ramp and had just barely started to circle the leg of the arch. We heard somebody ask a ranger how long it would take, and he said about 30 minutes. The ranger knew what we was talking about as it took 30-40 minutes to get inside. The problem lies about halfway down the entrance ramp right after you go inside the doors. At that point they have installed, as they call it "An airport style security checkpoint". That isn't bad by itself, what is bad is they only have one metal detector and one baggage scanner at each of the two entrances. That and they have the system set so tight, you have to take off your belt, empty out your pockets, as well as do most of the other stuff you have to do at airports. At least they let you keep your shoes on.

Halfway down the ramp, there are three sets of double doors, what they have effectively done is make one set a dedicated exit, another set the dedicated entrance, and the middle set is barricaded off, but not locked, this is how the rangers get in and out. The middle set isn't that useful anyway because just inside the doors, the one wide ramp splits into two smaller ramps that go down ths side. This is to leave room in the center for the ramp that goes down from the visitor center to the tram station. Okay, once past security we head down the rest of the ramp into the visitors center. We can see another queue of people lining the ramps down to the tram station. I take a moment to ask the ranger maning the podium at the top of the ramp how early should we return, and he indicates we can line up 5 minutes before our assigned time slot. This means we have about an hour to explore.

The visitors center is a rectangular room situated between the two entryways from the park below. The entryways themselves flank the ramps down to the tram stations that take yo to the top of the arch. These entryways are in the center of the north and south sides of the visitor center. Set in the center of the room is the information desk, which is also your guest services. We stop at the visitor center to get park guides, I chuckle at the sign "Please take ONE guide per family" Yeah, right. Getting oriented to the vistor center, starting at the north entrance, you head east and you see the main gift shop, then the women's restroom, then you turn to go down the east wall. The east side is dominated by the ticketing center. I'm not sure what that trailer is out in the parking lot now, becuase this is a massive ticket center, with a sizeable queue waiting for it. Above the windows signs describe each attraction, tell you how much time to allow, and a little video screen by each attraction description tells you what time slot they are currently selling. I note the tram tour is up to 3:10, and says "Allow 60-90 minutes". Of interest sitting next to the ticket center is a mock up of a tram car. This is places here as a combination exhibit, photo opportunity, and a test seat. The capsules are incredibly small and compact, this will allow you to see if you can fit insdie and after getting inside if you have any claustrophobia issues. They should allow you to close the doors on the test car, that might really freak some people with claustrophobia out.

Anyway, continuing along from the ticket center, in the south east corner is the men's room, then on the southern side is another store, once which deals in stuff like coffee, cheese, candy, almost like an old time store. I don't quite gets its purpose here, but it was crowded inside.

Immediately to the west of the entrance ramps are two auditoriums, the one to the north is a regular theatre showing a documentary movie on the builidng of the arch, the one to the south is an IMAX theatre showing the Lewis and Clark IMAX movie. Either movie is $7 extra, and timed tickets are required. Heading west, a ranger station is tucked into a corner, and scattered in the visitor center are some drink vending machines. The machines sell 12 oz bottled water or 12 oz canned drinks for $1.25. That may seem high, but while we were there we saw the machines being restocked three times.

To the west of the visitor center is the museum. The museum is free, okay there is some fee to use the national park that was apparently included in our tram tour tickets, but they don't check those tickets on your way in, instead there is an honor box at the information desk for the fee. Fee + non enforcement = essentially free. Anyway the museum endeavors to tell the story of our exploration, starting with the indian lands that would form the west. It is actually a very large museum, and owing to the way you enter, it seems to spread out all around you from your commanding post by a statue of Jefferson in the entryway. I'm not sure if it is intentional but the as you go deeper into the museum you keep going down a few steps here and there, then you start going up stairs here and there. The effect is to create defined zones for exhibits, as well as to create seat walls. Starting at the northwest, the story starts with dealings with the indians, treaties and treaty medals, and non ashmedly saying the treaties would be less than genuine and meant to deceive the indians. Some parts of the museum even use audio animatronics to tell the story, sure there aren't Disney quality, but they are a nice touch. As you move to the south you move through history until by the time you hit the south end there is the token exhbit on space exploration. The museum includes many stuffed animals ("Please don't pet the animals, only real animals can regrow fur:), there is a conestoga wagon (The semi truck of the day), a nice size teepee, a big ships wheel. A military display of anicent battle flags and ammo. The room that has an exhibit on America's pastime, baseball, almost seems out of place. I noted they also have several ranger guided tours and activities going on. We explored the museum to while away the time until our tour.

At around 2:30 we headed to our assigned tram station ramp, that is the South ramp. We see the 2:30 group go in, and then all of us for the 2:40 group immediately form a line. The ranger takes immediate objection to this. "You can't line up here, its a fire hazard" Oky, so we turn to one another and okay we aren't in line we are mingling here. Somehow that is acceptable, even though its the same thing. The real fire hazard is effectively half the exits are blocked by security equipment. Okay, magically at 2:35 it isn't a fire hazard to form a line, I hate arbitrary BS rules. At 2:40 it is time for our tram ride, or so we think. What happens is a big game of Hurry Up and Wait.

At 2:40, tickets are torn and we are admitted to the upper half of the ramp. At this point, we stand still for about 10 minutes. (2:50) Then we advance again to the lower half of the ramp, at this point the rangers go down the line and start assigning seats to help faciliatate the boarding process. You are handed a plastic card that is color coded for your group, and has your seating assignment printed on it. This takes up part of the time, but not all of it as you essentially wait here another 10 minutes, then (3:00) we are admitted through the turnstile and told to move all the way into the next room. The room has some exhbiits on westward exploration obtensibly to help kill time so you don't realize you are still waiting in line. The main purpose of this room however, is that as you enter the room, they group you by family, post you for a grouo photo, and hand you a card on the hopes of selling you a souvenir photo on your way out. Again 10 minutes go by (3:10) and we are permitted to proceed, we are called to leave this room by capsule number, startng at 8 and working to 1. When your number is called, you can go down a set of stairs to the actual tram station. At the bottom, they collect the plastic boarding cards as you pass the operators console. Past the console there is a stairway running alonside the tram, the purprose of this is each capsule is a bit lower than the last. There is a railing down the center of the stairs, and you are asked to go down to your capsule but stay behind the center railing.

Once everybody is positioned. a ranger takes a microhone hidden next to car 4 and welcomes you. In addiiton to the safety spiel, you get the cliffs notes version of the history of the arch. Buiuilt in 1963, opened in 1967, design was the winner of hundered of designs submitted for a Westward expaqnsion monument. Key point was the designers alwways envisioned an observation area at the top, the problem was getting people up there, as no elevator system of the day could negotaite the curves the arch presented, as well as the fact the elevator system had to be totally concealed within the arch structure. A guy named Bowser created the present day capsule tram, a system described as part elevator, part train, part amusement park ride. Part elevator because it gets you to the top and back down, part train as there are eight capsules that are linked together and move like a train on a rail, and part amusement park ride becuase the capsules can sense when they are 5 or more degrees off level, and then will mechanically rotate to maintain a level upright position to within 5 degrees, similar in design to a ferris wheel. In fact I think the same basic system provides the mechanical leveling of the tubs on the London Eye. Anyway, they stress to us the fact the capsules are only 4' high. I knew when I looked at the doorway ahead of me it looked impossibly small, but I fugured there must be a trick, as I don't remember the doors being that small, but then last time I was in the arch was 20-25 years ago, I think. After the introductory speil, they show a short video and then the tram arrives.

I think they should mount a camera above the tram doors and capture the looks of the faces of the oncoming riders as they see first the outer doors in the solid wall open up, and then the inner doors of the capsules themselves open. When peole first see the teeny tiny capsules, with 5 rides crammed into them, the looks of shock and awe are all around. The people arriving get out and walk up the stairs on the side nearest the tram, then you are allowed to board. Be careful, there is no padding, and not only is the door less than 4' high, you have to step up into it. (Note, there are no ADA accomodations here) Once inside don't straighen up, instead move to one of the five seats. The first two are right next to the door and face inwards, the next two are at an angle, and the fith chair is along the back of the capsule and faces the doors. Once seated, the tub wall is your backrest, and you will be touching legs and arms with the person next to you. Forget personal space here. In effect the 5 chiars are set in a semi circle facing in. There are lights and speakers in the capsule. Then, if your a claustrpohic person, just when it couldn't get any worse the doors close.

They were nice enough to put four small windows in the doors, though part of one is obscured by a decal warning against tampering with the doors. In both loading areas there are little to no lights, but for most of the way up there are work light on so you can see the emergency stairs and the inside of the hollow arch structure. It is a most unique elevator ride to say the least, and another term I have heard for it is "Clothes Dryer: The Ride". Once at the top, the doors open and you exit out intoa congested tiny hallway almost filled with riders waiting to go down. Then its up the stairs past the other capsules then a few more stairs to the observation area. The observation room is long and narrow, and is slightly higher in the middle as it follos the curve of the arch. You are told not to stop at the first 2 windows until everybody has had a chance to exit the tram. The windows themselves are tiny, they are not the big large picture windows you might be expecting, instead the are wide, but not very tall. That means you will assuredly have to wait to get near one, then when you get one, owing to the triangular cross section of the arch you have to lean forward on the arch wall , so you actually look down through the window. It has been reported some have a problem with that feeling. On the west side you can see the old courthouse, the old cathedral, the stadiums, and the downtown area, and if yu look sharply down, the park under the arch. From the east, its the riverfront that is the prime viewing draw. You are welcome to spend as much time up here as you'd like. So all in all we boarded the tram at 3:20, and got to the top of the arch around 3:25, not bad for a 2:40 timed ticket entry, eh?.

I'm not sure how long we stayed up top, but you figure its probsbly not more than 10-15 minutes, then as directed you report to a ranger at either tram way, it doesn't matter, when you want to go down. They, actng as host will have you form a line down the center of the observation area if there is no availability on the next train, then once they have unloaded the tram, and those waiting in the loading area have loaded and the tram is away, they start assigning seats like the host in a restaurant assings tables. You go down to your assigned capsule and wait on the yellow portion of the stairs beterrn capsules for the tram to return and unload, ten you can load into it. The ride down is billed as being sightly faster than the ride up, but in between waiting to load, the actual ride down, and walking back to the visitor center, count on another 20 minutes to exit the arch, So just before 4, we have finsihed our 2:40 arch tram tour. When you reach the lower station you exit, and you get the moment I mentioned above the doors open, and you get to see the shock on the newcomers faces. You then exit up the stairs towards the operators console, but instead of taking the same stairs up to the visitor center you instead go down a hallway that runs parallel to the loading area, and then up a stairway at the other end which leads you to the ramp up into the visitors center.

Back in the visitors center, we took care of some needs, bought some souveniers, and then headed out through the north exit which would put us closer to the parking garage. Once back to the car, it was time for more refrshments then we started the drive home to Cincinnati. Our gamble to take I-70 through Indianapolis to try to avoid the construction on I-64 paid off, and after a stop at Red Lobster for dinner, we got to Coasterville, just before midnight. No hotel stay tonight, no sir.

Tomorrow: the conclusion of Coasterville Con 2009 - Kings Island.

Watch for it.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

TR: Coasterville Con 2009 - Six Flags St. Louis (8/7/09)

Trip Report: Six Flags St. Louis
St. Louis, MO
August, 7, 2009

Welcome to day 3 of Coasterville Con 2009. Today we go to an all new to me park: Six Flags St. Louis. We did better at getting out of our hotel this morning, in fact even with a stop at Denny's for breakfast, we got the park at 11AM on a 10:30 open.

First impressions of Six Flags start as you approach the park and look down into the valley and see splendors the park all laid out before you. We eagerly exited the interstate, another sign you are in the right place is the park side of the interstate is lined with the Six Flags. We made a right off the interstate and quickly found ourselves in a full access road almost all the way back to the interstate. Our luck of going to parks on very crowded days seems to be continuing. At the other end of the access road we had to stop and pay an exorbitant $15 for the right to park the car. After two days of free parking, this is really going to hit hard.

So after paying $15 we are led all the way around the perimeter of a paved, but in poor condition parking lot. Sure there are closer spaces but it seems like the entire center section is reserved for those who like to pay an obscene $25 to park their car. We are then left to find a space for ourselves. We manage to find a spot in the first row behind the RV lot on the waterpark side. Then seeing no trams, we have to hoof it to the front gate. And' we're paying $15 for this?

We get to the front of the lot, and I get the feeling the waterpark was a park expansion directly into the parking lot, which means what was probably a symetrical entrance place is cut in half. They have made use of the approach by putting the security checkpoint there. Not too much to report getting through the security checkpoint. Since Eric had a season pass, and I had acquired a discount ticket from Six Flags website itself for only $25, we bypassed the ticket booths and went up the ramp and through the front gate. I note the ticket cans have been modifed with a second long narrow slot to deposit the print at home tickets.

You enter the park into the proverbial main street, in this case 1904 St. Louis to coincide with the world's fair. The area is a big oval with shops and restaurants along the outer edges, as well as the access points to the various themed areas. In the center is the parks main theater, with its front doors facing the center of the park, and thhus the side closest to the main gate has more gift shops. I reallt liked the flags they had hanging from the main street like area. I suggest getting a Flashpass (Q-Bot) given the size of the crowd pouring into the park, but we decide to defer that decision.

Now we headed to the left, and the first path to the left would have let us to Evil Kenevil, the park's newest rollercoaster. You may be stunned to learn we passed that one up. Eric and I have a game plan when it comes to visiting large crowded parks where we still need to get the credits. That is to ride the low capacity coasters first, then the rest of the coasters, then if time allow we might move on to selected flat rides and repeat rides. It was with that in mind that we headed directly to Mr. Freeze. Taking a look at the full queue for Scooby Doo did not ease my fears about the crowd in the park.

Mr. Freeze sits in a superhero themed area of the park, and next to Colossus, the parks giant ferris wheel. I noted full cages have been added to the gondolas on the giant wheel. We headed to Mr. Freezes Ice Cream factory tours. At least thats what the facade said, the facade and the ride are worls apart. Once through the facadeyou walk back along walkway to the actual ride itself, and I mean long. Part of the walk is to get you up and over the parks river rapids ride, but I was just glad to keep passing the wait signs as we flew through the empty queue area outside. We got to the real queue area next to the station building and it too was empty. We walked up to the entrance door and passed through a turnstile to enter the building. We decided at the fork in the road to take the path to the furthest station. Rounding the corner Eric said, and here is the coolest part of the ride, as we walked past a big air conditioning vent. We walked up the stairs to find maybe a 3 train wait. Not bad for a shuttle coaster.

The really cool thing about Mr. Freeze is it is a shuttle coaster with two trains. Two trains and a double loading station even. It is so cool to watch, what happens is this: When a train returns from the main ride, it is brought to a stop on the final brakes in the station. Once the train has been brought to a complete stop, the entire track section containing the train slides over to its home loading station. The fins and such slide neatly under the load station floor, leaving a gap no larger than that in a regular coaster installation. Mounted to the moving track on the other side of the train is a mobile unload platform. When the track is lined up with the loading deck, the exit on the unload platform is lined up with the exit gate, so people exit to the movable platform, then exit out the gate at the rear of the station. Station gates them open and people move from the regular load platofrm into the train. There are loose article bins on the mobile unload platform, making them perhaps some of the safest storage bins in the park. Once the bars are checked, and all the staff members are totally off of and behind gates from the mobile track and platform, assuming the main ride is clear, the track section will slide back over to line itself up with the main track. The station lights even dim during a launch. In easier terms, you basically board the ride on the transfer table. But they did it even cooler than that, you see each station has its own semi-dependant tranfer track. I say semi dependant, becuase it can't move if the other station is using the main track, but if the other side is in the load position, and they are havng a delay in loading, the other side could, theoretically be ready again and could shoot another train into the main track without having to wait for the other side to cycle. It also means they can take one station down if need be.

Now, I admit I have torubles fitting into Flight of Fear, which is another Premier rides launcher that was converted to lap bars. I had been told the seatbelts were a Paramount Parks thing, and not to worry about Mr. Freeze. Well, Mr. Freeze is just as bad as, if not worse than Flight of Fear , as far as short seat belts go. Luckily for Eric and I we had two very helpful loaders who were able to convince the seatbelts to fasten. Then it was out turn to slide over to launch, then we launched and this is a no nonsense ride you launch directly into the top hat element, a mini Dragster if you will, but when you come out of the top hat, you do an element that reminds me of an overbanked turn as you loop around to the back of the top hat for the reverse spike. NEaring the top of the spike you can definitely feel its effects as it catches the train and pushe it up to the top of the spike, then you get to di it all again backwards. I have to admit that's a pretty neat ride, even if we didn't feel the need to ride it again. I note the ride has also received a new paint job with a darker shade of blue. Some time for photos, then we headed out the exit ramp that runs right alongside the entrance ramp.

We then headed through the parks arbor, it was nice to see they retained that, and headed up into a medevil themed section of the park. I was excited to see Excalibur, which in a rare Evolution flat ride, but remember flat rides come later in our touring strategy. We headed for Tony Hawk's Big Spin. This is a Gerstlauer spinning mouse. It is evident the area they use for the queue was minimally converted from a show venue. A fan shaped area, you enter by walking down a set of wooden stairs that look like an after thought given all the concrete around it, the fan shpaed area lends itself naturally to use as a queue maze. The area does have some displays and videos about Tony Hawk to keep you occupied. For us it was about 45 minutes for the first ride on Tony Hawk. When you get to the end of the fan shaped waiting area another wooden stairway takes you down to a short tunnel where you duck under the brake run, then turn and go up a set of boarding stairs alongisde the brake run. Operations here are like a perpetual motion machine. There is always one tub waitng to go into the station, but before it can go in the next tub has returned and the homing mechanism has been able to stop and realign it to its home posiiton. Then two cars go out of the station onto the ride, at about the same time the next two tubs start rolling into the station. They then flush load (yes they have the crew to do it) two cars at the same time. No sooner than you are seated and bars checked, they start sending you out. As such the line for this really moves at optimal speed, unlike say a similar ride at Indiana Beach.

So we enter the station, and I note the single ride line starts AFTER you get through the turnstile making it perhaps the most useless single rider line, even more than Mavericks. I noted no use of the single rider line. When you pass the turnstile you are assigned seats and move to the seats, this is seential in keeping people moving. It also has to help things when you realize the cars have no seatbelts, just lap bars, which are large rider friendly. I'd ridden a Gerstlauer spinner at Mall of America, and this is, at the very least a mirror image, but I think its even more custom than that. Its full of just the right kinds of turns and dips to ensure the cars keep spinning. As the people we were paired with said "Why do we get the fastest car, I hate spin rides!" Meanwhile I am trying to contain my excitement. The queue area seems to have been retrofitted from a prior use, but the land the coaster sits on seems to be terraformed just for the ride. I think there is even a walkway that goes under it, and the parks train ride may even duck under a part of it. We exit the ride, and I see the exit ramp has been divided so there is a dedicated Flashpass entrance lane. You come out a fair distance from the ride entrance, requring you to walk around the carousel and through a games midway to get back to the entrance.

We decide to head towards the Boss instead. Near the entrance to the boss is a food cart located directly outside a restroom building. While that may be disturbing in and of itself, there is a stench in the area that I noticed that would have repulsed me from the food cart. I had trouble staying in the spot long enough to read what the medevil style banner next to the food cart said (Restrooms). However, I don't think the stench is from the restrooms themselves, it smells more like a grease disposal tank might be located nearby.

As we head into the Boss's queue eric quips "Here comes the pain!" Boss is one of those rides that has not been getting rave reviews lately. The entrnace for the Boss resemlbes a castle forecourt but thats where it ends, once you are inside the castle gates (or maybe outside the castle gates since you are out of the medevil themed area) you come to the railroad track. Here those entering the ride must go up stairs, cross over the track, then walk back downstairs. Exiting riders just cross over the tracks at ground level (with the help of a park attendnat stationed there of course) From here you are near the rides helix, and just like Mr. Freeze, the entrance and exit ramps run side by side for a long, long, long, long, long way. when you get to the top of the hill, you cross over two bridges that go over the go kart track then you are at the station. For our first ride theline was back to that covered gazebo like thing right before the final section of bridge. When you get to the station you come right next to the exit but you have to walk around the permiter of the station (yes walking up and down stairs to get over the coster track) to get to the other side. We headed to the back seat. It took a bit longer than expected since the back seat in one of the cars was closed off.

Call me strange, but in some ways its nice to be in a Gerstaluer train. Sure it might not have padding, but its got acres of room, and very accomodating restraints. Owing to the lack of seatbelts, they can really get this one loaded pretty fast. So we exit the station, go throug the transfer table where I see one train sitting there. A quick turn to the right to go up the lift. I like the Burma Shave style signs advertising season passes on the way up. Only when you start climbing the lift do you see that mess of coaster track off to the left. Is that all part of the same ride? Well, yes it is. You get to the top of the lift turnaround, and dive down towards that coaster structure, slicing your way in through a small opening, then just when you think you are about go go back up, it hits you with anther drop, and then I think maybe even one more just for good measure before you climb the second hill. Turnaround and here you have a more tradition coaster section with hills and dips that form an impressive structure concealing the first drop trick. Looking for airtime, the ride has plenty of it, like laterals the ride has that too. After finishing this section of trackwaork, its time for the mid course brake, then you cut away from the structure to alongside the back of the ride, roughly paralel to the load station, this leads you into the helix finale. where you go into a long station approachthat wraps around the go kart track. This is another case where I think the ones who complain about this ride are wimps. Sure its intense, sure its got laterals, sure its tosses you around, sure its got airtime. For some reason Voyage does all the same things, and people love Voyage, and at least here you do get a brief respite to catch your breath. That said, I still rank Voyage higher, before you come with at me with the pitchforks and flaming torches.

We then hike the long trail all the way back to the park. I'm not sure, but I think The Boss might actually be located in Celebration City, connected to Six Flags by a long walkway. From here we start summiting the park. I may have mentioned the park sits down in a valley, well the front gate is at the lowest part of the valley, and as you work your way through the park, the further back you go, the higher it gets. We passed a kids area that is themed to a national park and then came to the area that houses Screamin Eagle, that is apparently themed to M&M World as the stairs up into the area are painted to look like a mountain of M&Ms. "It's the big rock candy mountain!" (Please tell me I don't have to embed a link to a YouTube of "Big Rock Candy Mountain")

At the base of the M&M stairs, there is clearly visible a disused queue maze, a Screamin Eagle sign, and another smaller sign pointing the way to the ride entrance. To get the ride entrance you go up the M&M stairs, and come to a games area that houses the Parks Giant Drop front and center. Its a Superman Power of Tower, and it was closed all day. They weren't even working on it, we did note the installation is no frills, and very compact. We found the entrance to Screaming Eagle tucked in the back of a row of games joints, where it is right next to the exit ramp. Another small sign marks the entrnace. Unfortunately for us, there were peole streaming out both the entrance and exit, as the ride had just gone down.

We backtracked and started heading back down the hill as we passed the Rush Street Flyer (Falling Star with a custom streetcar theme), a Yo-Yo, bumper cars and we came to a shoot the chutes rides. The point being the park still has lots of flat rides scattered about it. We were getting overheated about this point, so we decided to go stand on Tidal Wave's exit bridge to get an instant cool down. At first it appeared our plan would be foiled by one of those rotary turnstiles that used to appear at the entrance doors of discount stores everywhere, but quick observation let us know the thing will freely spin in both directions, meaning its totally useless. So we went up to the bridge, got about two or three drenchings (front and back) Ahh, that feels better. We then remembered the mine ride, which is located in about the center of the park.

We headed for the River King Mine Train, and uh, oh, this ride is closed as well. We headed to the Gotham City section of the park. We pass a round boarded up building and Eric tells me "Last time I was here there was a spinning barrels ride behind that fence just wasting away". We eventually make it to Ninja. Upon entering Ninja, I was glad to see the first queue house was entirely cut off. and the second queue maze was empty the line was just to the bottom of the steps. It's not a surprise that Six Flags likes to sponsor out its rides - Boss has the Mircale Whip sunscreens all around the station, Screamin Eagle has the M&M steps and signage, Ninja is Hinez Kethup. The sponsorship sign at the bottom of the stairs is a no line jumping sign in disqguise. "Patience is a Ninjas strongest weapon"Okay, so they gain points for incoprataing the rides theme into the sponsorship but lose it again by showing a now uncommon glass bottle of Heinz Ketchup, you know the ones that have almost all but vanished, owing in no small part the public's lack of patience in getting one of those bottles started. Strike the numbers boys, strike the numbers.

The ride does have some minimal theming in the name of two ninja statues flanking the entryway. We get up to the station, and one of the middle of the train rows is clearly marked "SINGLE RIDERS ENTER HERE" I thought maybe it led to a holding pen for single riders, but no its just a normal ride line. I guess they don't tolerate singles on this ride, depsite it being a high capacity ride. This is one of those Vekoma muli elements that would easily trick you into thiking its an Arrow ride. We climb into the back seat, and pull down the bright orange shoulder bars which have the "Don't Sit On Me!" super size grab bars. The ride itself is your standard 1980's multi element, you have the vertical loop, two corkscrews, a sidewiner, and the bad transitions you have come to expect.

We walked around the area, and is that a Joker themed swinging ship ride, thats a novel theme. We come around to Batman: The Ride, and Eric reports that after his recent experiences with Batman the Ride at Six Flags over Georgia, he's not even going to try this one, and I shouldn't have tried it either having just recently being denied Raptor a month earlier. But being bull headed, and needed the coaster credit after all, I headed into the queue. I had worn a Xavier shirt to the park, and yes it was a calculated move as St. Louis is home to A10 rival, St. Louis University. Entering the Batman queue was the first time that somebody both noticed the shirt and spoke up. Yes, the shirt drew attention, but at least judging by the people who spoke up, it seemed to draw positive attention, as Xavier is respected out in St. Louis, apparently. The Batman greeter being the first to speak up.

So you enter the ride through Batman City Park, and its another of the parks patented long non adjustable queues, this one has the added feature of having no straight sections as it seems to twist and turn and wind itself up the hill to the ride. There is no picking up speed here, then you exit the park area and go through the junkyard, industrial like area. I was glad to see the qaueue stay empty, take the shortest bath, and the line streched only back as far as right when you go inside, right before the giant box fan. I was glad to see they did not go with the big sweat box warehouse queue that Six Flags over Georigia went with.

We got up to the station, and first I held back to see if Row 4 or 5 had any Big Boy seats, but no such luck there. So knowing my chances for rejection were equal in any seat, I headed right for the traditional B&M "Hot Seat" which is the rear left corner. I sat down, lowered the bar and the bar locked, thn I started to attack the seatbelt, and my intial reaction was "Not a Chance!, Not even close!" The first ride attendant didn't have much luck either, but she called over this other ride attendant, who literally pput both hands on the shoulder bar, then jumped up in the air putting all his weight into the shoulder bar. Click-Click. Now that seatbelt reached. I thanked the man, and if you were allowed to tip ride operators...

Now onto Batman, the Ride, or should I call it eriR ehT: namtaB, as this is the mirror image. version. Well, I get to add another Batman to my collection, already having collected the rides at Great Adventure, Georgia, and Magic Mountain. It's the standard B&M Inverted coaster.

After riding Batman, we decided to head to the car for refreshments, since we were already so close to the front of the park. We headed back to the main street like area, and I like how they put the waterpark gate right inside the main gate, no needless treking all the way throught the park here. We got our hand stamps and walked back to our car. Not only did we enjoy refreshments, we also enjoyed an extended session of "Air Conditioning: The Ride" Looking around the parking lot, it was not an ERT on Air Conditioning: The Ride as others were also clearly enjoying 15 minutes or so of A/C. Turn the A/C on max point the vents right towards you and "Come to Papa!"

After our Air Conditiing session, we re-entered the park, and took a walk through the gift shops. We saw some things that had minor interest (Mr. Six Bobblehead anybody?) but we never did make it back to actually buy anything. We headed to River King Mine Ride, and would you know it, we saw it running while we were on Ninja, but its closed again.

We decide to take the train ride. The train has one of those classic entrances where you walk through the train station. The station itself has amenties like a cell phone charging machine, though I noted the iPhone connector was broken off. Take a while to read the arrivals and departures board. It has stuff like " Train 3: Arrives ; When it gets here. Leaves: Sometime Later. Train 5: Arrives: Looking of missing cabosse Leaves: When its found." The train cars look a lot like the ones at Kings Island, which makes sense, the parks about the same age, and they are both Crown. A local PBS station has bought adds on all the seatbacks. From what I understand they have only one train now, but they offer a nice ride. You start out by the entrance to River King Mine Train, cross the midway and go behind the scnees alongisde Mine Train where your train enginer will let off any excess steam, you then go behind Ninja and circle the Gotham City like area, so at one point you have Batman to one side, and the waterpark to the other side, you then cross back through the center of the park and stop close to theater in the center of the park. Wait for people to load or unload then continue along, past Colossus and Scooby Doo, then it circles around the area with the Antique Cars, Evil Kenevil, Log Flume and Boss. Did I mention the train ride is a coaster enthusiasts dream? You get to go past the train barn before cutting under Tony Hawk and passing alongside the kiddie land before returning to the station nearest Mine Train. I like how the kiddie land is themed to a national park and has a Mt Rushmore parody with loony tunes figures. One thing we had noted, almost every ride over spiel plugged the Glow in the Park parade, tonight at 9:10, the queue line televisions kept plugging the parade, and so did the PA announcements. We decided we are just going to have to watch this parade to see what the fuss is all about. Of course, we soon also realized this would mean eating a meal at the park, which wasn't exactlly an appealing prospect.

At this station you exit away from the station, up the stairs, and through the kiddieland. We headed back around to Screamin Eagle. The good news is it was running this time. We entered the queue area where first you walk around a paver that has the ride logo engraved in it. I then noted the disused hillside section of the queue. I was glad the lower queue house was also disused, but the line reached back almost to the queue house. From there you go up a series of switchback ramps up into the station.

We got to the station, and owing to a bad design, you enter at the front of the station, which means the congestion around the front car leads to near empty seat queues for the back car, once you squeeze your way through. Also of interest in the station, is not only does the ride not have lockers, it has enough storage cubbyholes for every seat on the train, not only that they are color coded for the train, and the columns are assigned by car with large arrows directing you fro your seat to your cubbie. We headed to our usual spot, the back seat, where else? Well, the seatbelts aren't quite as short as Thunder Run, but they were a struggle for me. All fastended in we head out of the station, up the lift, around the turnaround. The ride is basically an out and back design by John Allen. However, the ride is a terrain out and back, almost like a Voyage 30 years before Voyage. By theat I mean the drop off the lift hill is okay, the second drop is a small one, but then you cross over the lift approach and go down drop three into a ravine that was obscured from view by the loading station. Excellent, airtime to be had as well. You continue along like an out and back, but 2 or 3 more times, just when you are expecting a hill, you get hit with another drop as you go further and further down the hill. The ride squeals loudly on th efar turnaround, and then its the peppy return back to the station. Yes, a classic series of bunny hops, and such. This is a great coaster, maybe one of John Allen's best for number of airtime moments.

After sucessfully adding Screamin Eagle, the parks patriotic themed coaster to our list of accomplishments, we headed back to River King Mine Train, I mean third time's the charm, right? River King Mine Train is the parks original rollercoaster, boarding in almost the center of the park. It started like with two similar tracks, and was the scene of an early failed stand up conversion on one of its two tracks. That track was quickly restored to traditional mine car seating, and lasted until the late 80's when it went to Dollywood. I mention this becuase I had ridden that half at Dollywood before it headed to Magic Springs. Now it's time to ride the other half.

We entered the queue and after a short path entered a large station house. The station is roughly traingle shape and I think it probably once originally served both tracks, till they walled off the side where the missing track would be. Eric suggested they should go ahead an totally redo the station house. The problem with it is the ride loads the old fashioned way. There are no seat queues, instead when you come around the final turn of the queue you have an area barely wider than a queue lane that people walk down and stand behind gates. I think the idea is that you start with the front seat and fill the train front to back, though they do seem a bit tolerant if you are choosy.

The ride itself is classic old school arrow mine ride, you have the first lift and a twisty section near the front of the ride, then another lift hill and an out and back like section that runs alomst to Ninja and back, and then a third lift hill. The third lift hill leads directly into the mine tunnel, which conceals the biggest drop on the entire ride, which is the last drop. We exit the ride, and there is a bridge where you cross over the front part of the ride to exit into a cul de sac between mine ride and the railroad track. They have those rotary turnstiles to try to make it a one way path, except of the two, one of them is busted and spins the wrong way, so its pretty much unuseable. We had so much trouble finding the mine ride open, we went and rode it two more times while we were in the area. On one ride we overheard a hillarious guest comment. Realize that River King Mine Train and Ninja run right alonsgside each other at one point, and both feature black arrow style track. One one ride the riders in front of us looked over and said "Are we going through THAT!!!??!!!" Classic.

After River King Mine Train we decide to ride the railroad back around to the front of the park. But first, we stop in the restroom in the area. Okay, the door clearly says MEN, we walk in and the restroom is done in shades of pink and rose, but more importantly is missing a key piece of furniture that is essential to any self respecting mens room. That's right, no urinals. We do a double take, even go back outside to check the sign again. While we were in there, we noted we werewn't the only ones to do a double take,. At least the parks restrooms are clean, air conditioned, and they do a good job at keeping the floors dry. What more could you ask for?

We rode the train around to the other station, and then headed towards Evil Kenivil. I do like the original Screamin Eagle train coming out of the side of the gift shop. It even has its old style lap bars. We headed to the front of the park, and took a path under the railroad which comes out by the antique cars, and then we passed some sort of Nintendo sponsor pavillion where you could try out the new Wii Sports Resort. That's right, free video games in a Six Flags park. This area has the Antique Cars, Evil Kenevil, and the log flume. I understand this may have been the original kiddieland before it got moved to a more central location. That would follow the pattern for parks established in the early 70's to have its kiddieland off to the side. Now parks are starting to either put them near the center of the park, or scattter the kids rides throughout the park so the parents don't get 'stuck' in one spot all day. There are a couple kids rides in the area still, and Shazam, which is an interesting name for a Scrambler. HOwever, we are here to ride Evil Kenevil.

The first part of the queue is traditional Six Flags St Louis exit and entrance run right next to each other, then the entrnace line splits off and goes further back the path. Luckily for us the queue stretched back to just where you start to walk under the structure. Through the line they have displays all about Evil Kenevil, and the ride also has a patriotic theme, just like a classic Evil Kenievil costume. When we got to the front of the line, we headed to the back of the GCI train, knowing the troubles we have with their shared seat belts, we move to seperate cars. That amkes getting the belt fastened a lot easier, though Eric reported problems getting the lap bar down, but in the end he was able to get it locked all on his own. The ride, like a lot of GCI's is a midsize ride, not too big, in fact I think its the shortest wood coaster in the park for height and length. What the ride does focus on is numerous curves and cross overs. Thats not to say the ride doesn't have airtime, it does, not powerful like Boss or Screamin Eagle, but nice floating air nonetheless. It's not a bad ride at all, and I do think its better than Renegade, but for recent GCI's I have to give the nod to Kentucky Rumbler.

Sound the trumpets, we have now completed phase 1, ride all of the parks coasters. Time to head to second tier rides, and so we headed to Scooby Doo. Scooby Doo and the Scary Swamp or something like that. The ride has a facade of a victorian house along the midway, and the queue is outside in the gardens and appears to run alongside a creek. We walked throught he long straight part of the queue to the back alright, and the line was back to about the 45 minute wait sign, though we think it took closer to an hour. The other half of the garden queue back to the front is very windy so as to hide its true length. When you get to the front, you walk alongisde the front of the house and go in the front door. There is a very short section of indoor air conditioned queue before you go out the back door of the facade house that fronts the ride. At this point you go up some stairs, cross over the waterway, and read some instructional signs. Unlike most Sally dark rides, this one requires both accuracy and timing. That is because the targets can be lit in three different colors, Green worth 500 points, Amber for 750 points, or Red for 1000 points. Some targets cycle with green being the most common state, and others progress through the cycle by repreated hits. A far cry from the "All targets score 30" system I am used to. At the end of the bridge you go downstairs to a boarding platform set in the middle of a trough split, much as is used on traditional log flumes. I think they say the boats seat 4 in two rows of two, but getting more than 2 adults in there would seem to be a stretch. We board the boat, and I don't know if its the slow moving boat based ride system, but the ride aeemed to be much longer than your standard Sally dark ride. It had all the scenes I am used to from Scooby Doo and the Haunted Castle, but it had more scenes besides. I think this may be the best of the Scooby dark rides I have ridden, and I'm not just saying that because I won. At the end of the ride you exit to the center, up the stairs, across the trough, down the stairs and then back through the victorian house facade.

As we passed Mr. Freeze I was curious about a large sign placed in it's plaza. Apparently the ride was down to just one station, I'm sure glad we rode it earlier. We then were hungry and headed to Mooseburger Lodge. Mooseburger Lodge was bad in just about every respect, the prices were high, the service was slow, they didn't allow refills, and the burger was dry, I mean dry as in a liberal dousing in mustard and mayo didn't help the dry taste in my mouth, and thats besides the stale bun. To be fair you do get both fires and onion rings, and those are provided in a very generous quanitity. This is one of those meals you get to enjoy all night, if you know what I mean. They have Marty Moose and other hunting lodge type heads on the walls, along with a button to start the show. Don't be expecting animation, I think the show is just an audio recording, and you can imagine the figures come to life.

After dinner, Eric decided to run out to the car to try to remedy that bad meal, and I head to Screamin Eagle, a ride or two later, and Eric joins me for a Screamin Eagle ride. All rides taken in back seat thanks to the station setup. On oneof those rides, I rode with a cute girl with a St Louis University shirt on, that was a classic moment, as I was decked out in Xavier gear.

We then headed towards Boss, but when we came to Excalibur, we noted an empty queue area and the ride being loaded. We hurried through the empty queue area and got on the ride. First off, I reliaze the ride name Excalibur fits in with the medevil theming in the area, but it seem slike the statues closest to Excalibur are of archers, not knights with swords. Also the ride itself looks more like a catapult or trebuchet than a sword. The ride looks like an old Frisbee ride, except instead of a continuous ring of seats facing out, you have several four passenger cars facing outward. Also the main boom in the center of the ride extends up above the support structure to form a counterweight. We get loaded into the cars which feature a low fence along the front of the car so you keep your legs and feet in the car, and shoulder bars. They also feature on board audio, so you can hear the operators directions and spiels as if he were in the car with you. The ride is noteworthy as there are only three like it from this manufacturer in the hole world, and might, in fact, be the only one in active service. That doesn't excuse them from running it in a very wimpy program.

What happens is the ride starts spinning, causing the seats to tip back so you are looking up towards the sky as the ring of cars spins faster and faster, then after some build up the ride operator says something about catapulting you around, the ride then does a pretty slow revolution, it doesn't swing back and forth, it makes it all the way over and around on the first try. Once you complete your one revolution, the main boom stoops and the ring of cars slow down. That's it, this is a ride thats bark is much worse than its bite. The cars suggest they could flip upside down, but I don't think they really do, not for any appreiciable time anyway, when all the way up at the top, you pause for a few moments, but the cars are upright as they spin around.

We then head to Boss, this time the line is just back to the turnstile, so its getting shorter, we also noted they added the third train, which is helping thigns out. We had another great back seat Boss ride, and would have loved to power ride, except for the long long hike to get to and from the ride. It's especially frustrating as there is a cut throught hey could use right by the station, and the entry line wasn't even back to the cut through. I do note that they put the machine to activate your FlashPass all the way down by the midway, so even if you have Gold Flash Pass it would appear someone in your group still has to make the long needless hike between every cycle to reactivate their Q Bot.

We exited the ride and I noted they had a Schwarzkopf style Enterprise ride. I had ridden many HUSS Enterprise rides, but never a Schwarzkopf. Eric indicated he would be on Tony Hawk when I was done. Highland Fling (the Enterprise) happend to be a walk on, and so I walked right to a car. The HUSS version has the cars that seat two in an in-line fashion, though you usually only see one in a car anymore as people aren't fond of sitting in antohers crotch on rides anymore. The HUSS is identified by having tubs with mostly open sides to them, with the excpetion of a metal grillwork on the sides, with the panel on the outisde edge on a sliding track so it can move out of the way for loading.

The tubs on a Scwarzkopf have a more solid side with a small window on the side, and a door like opening towards the front. I don't know if you are meant to put two in these tubs as instead of the seat cushion being mere inches off the floor, the ride has a normal height seat with a footwell. That explains the more solid car sides. The other distingushing feature is the cage opens up like a grill cover, meaning the top flips up, hinged on top of the inner side and when you you lift it up the metal grillwork that fills in the window and door opening on thhe outer edge of the car also move up out of the way. I'm not sure if the car roofs actually lock or if the forces of the ride pushing down on them is sufficient to prevent them from beng opened mid ride. I found the tub much harder to get into, and not as comfortable to sit in as the HUSS ride, but once the lids are closed, the ride experience is pretty much the same, you start spinning around on a horizontal axis, then the ride raises up until you are spinning almost on a vertical axis, then lowers back down. I'm glad I got to ride this version, but I still think I'll take the HUSS version.

I got to Tony Hawk just as Eric was about to board, he rode, exited, and then both of us got in line, it was only about a 15 minute wait or so at this point. Whee, fun spin ride. We noticed it was getting pretty dark out, but we figured we have plenty of time, like almost a half hour until the parade. We head to Boss. Boss is almost a complete walk on at this point, so we walk onto the back seat, and we each ride solo. I think we have a contender for best night ride here, riht up there with Voyage, that is becuase there is very little lighting out on the course. So take an intense coaster I'm not too familar with an add disorientation due to darkness. I love it!

After ridign the Boss, we start to walk the parade route, we would like to think of ourselves as being seasoned park goers. We reflect this by grabbing spots that are as close to the front gate as possible, with no obstructions, usch as the parade route itself. We end up waiting by a smallish arcade that has all merchandise prize games inside, and doubles as the FlashPAss rental center. Well, they start out like Disney, they clear the parade route, they erect a rope and stanchion barricade, they start dimming the lights in phases before the actual parade. We were honestly expecting a short tacky 5 minute parade after which we would make some cracks about live entertainment at Six Flags. What we got was much more impressive. The parade runs about 25 minutes long, and has numerous floats that are well decorated, a cool sound track, and all kinds of walking pieces like the giant kinetic animal puppets, a real honest to goodness marching band (it wouldn't be a parade without one), Mr. Six riding like a dignitary in one of the parks antique cars to start the parade. From our vantage point we could see not only the parade appearing to come almost directly right at us (before turning) but also up into the park and every time we though the end was coming, we'd look up the hillside and see more parade coming. You can bet all the park characters also got a part in the parade, and iftting for a Six Flags park it ends with the big Looney Tunes "That's All Folks!" float.

As soon as we saw the last float, even though we had about 15 more minutes of park time,we headed to the park exit, and givin our planning we were out the gate, through the parking lot, and into our car before the crowds started showing up. I did note they park took down the Six Flags dislay right outside the park gates, but no the one lining the highway. Getting out of the parking lot was a lot easier, basically you head to the center, then the back, then te side opposite where you entered, then a roadway takes you back up along the highway to the main road. It was particuarly more pleasant than entering as it did not involve a $15 fee.

I was someone surprised Garmin gave us directions to our hotel that included how to exit Six Flags parking lot. Now, Garmin had told us our hotel was 20-30 minutes from the park, so we were surprised when it seemed like we had only gone a few exits and it told us to exit, then go several miles down a 55mph road. We were skeptical, but decided to put our faith in Garmin. We were downright worried when Garmin directed us onto a dark, twisty, 25mph road through dense woods. "I don't like the looks of this one bit" But she said we were almost to the hotel. We come out alongside some sort of general aviation airport and then yep, there is the hotel. We never doubted Garmin for a second, yeah right.

We get checked in and before heading to bed, we run out to a convenience store to restock on drinks, particularly Gatorade. You know you are in a nice part of town when you see two luxury cars in a convenience store parking lot. We get our 6 pack of Gatorade "You guys must be thirsty", though I think he was more surprised we didn't buy any beer from him.

We then headed to our room, and with a light schedule tomorrow, we can sleep in, somewhat.

Next up: The St. Louis Gateway Arch

Watch for it!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

TR: Coasterville Con 2009 - Holiday World (8/6/09)

TR: Holiday World
Santa Claus, IN
August 6, 2009


At the end of the last chapter, you may recall we arrived at our hotel just outside Louisville, KY after driving 3 hours from Indiana Beach and arriving around 1am. So, we had a short night, and hot on the road around 9am which should have been great timing as it would get up to Holiday World right around 10am. Well, recall that massive road construction project on I-64 that stretched clean across the great State of Indiana that I mentioned in the Holiwood Nights trip report? Well, it's still there, and that delayed our arrival at the park to about 10:30-10:45am.

We turned off I-64 and headed back the 7 mile drive to the park until we came to the intersection where you make the turn right by Holidog's Funtown. You may recall on my last visit we commented on the new traffic light, and that it looked like they were building a major new parking lot entrance. The new parking lot entrance was open, and staff were enthusiastically waving us towards it. Still no tollbooths, but the long windy access road takes you all the way to the back of the Legend Lot. The Legend lot itself is still gravel except for a few key places. Here parking attendants guided us to a parking space, then we walked to the end of our row and boarded a parking tram, just like those big name parks used to do. In this case the parking tram can only take you as far as the front of the Legend lot where a tram station has been built. Owing to the design of the tram station, for some people it may be shorter to walk BACK to tram stop 1, then have to walk clear around the fenced off tram circle. The tram lets you off right across from the tunnel, where further fences ensure you walk to the front gate by walking around the perimeter of the lot, not through the lot.

We were dismayed by the flood of people we saw pouring into the park. Pat Koch was standing at her usual post by the front gate welcoming people into the park. I had "won" some tickets through a television station promotion where they would let you buy tickets 2 for one. We entered the park using our $20 Media tickets instead of buying $40 general admission tickets.

Once inside the park, we realized we were hungry, so instead of heading right to a ride, we headed directly to Plymouth Rock Cafe. On the way there, we could see the lines for Paul Revere's Midnight Ride, Rough Riders, and Turkey Twirl, so its going to be that kind of day. What happned was our coaster trip happened to be the only summer like week we had all summer. Luckily, others must not have been hungry yet as we walked right up to the serving counter at Plymouth Rock. It's a cafeteria that offers your standard Meat Plus Three service. It's around $7-$10 depending on your entree choice, but for that I got a nice serving of roast turkey, sweet potato, green beans, fried apple, and a roll. Drinks, of course, are always free at Holiday World. The come-on here is the deserts are about $3 each, but of course we got one of those too. Pumpkin pie anyone? When the place first was announced they said there would be indoor seating, but that didn't materialize. We went outside and had a nice filling lunch, this realy is one of the better theme park dining bargains.

After lunch we checked out the line for Gobbler Getaway, full, and headed to Voyage. The line for Voyage was just backing up into the outside queue area, and although we feared the big indoor queue area may be open, we do need to ride something while we are here. We enter the Voyage queue, and upon entering the station building, were delighted to learn we were being sent directly upstairs instead of down into the basement to the large queue maze of doom. I don't think I've seen that lower level used since 2007.

We got up to the station and took seats near the back in 6.2. We noticed one thing, we saw a train take off, we saw a train pull in, we then saw a train on the back brake. Obviously they were runnign three trains today. So onto out ride, up the lift hill, and yes 5 airtime filled hills on the outbaound leg, then the nastiest turnaround you will see on a wood coaster, complete with drops, twists, 2 90 degree banks, and it just very intense. You take the first drop of the return leg and come out on the mid course brake, which is only like 6' off the ground, thanks to the terrain. You don't slow at all on the mid course, then you enter into the long tunnel and its a deep triple down in the dark to get the party started for the return leg.. The return leg weaves itself back and forth through the outbound leg structure while producing nice lateral and airtime moments of its own. You then get back near the station, after the final 90 degree bank turn, but don't think you are done, after a track job to align yourself witht he station house, you go through a tunnel in the lower level queue area, then come back up, then right back down into a tunnnel under the midway, where you pop up for the final turnaround right nect to the Pepsi Oasis building. The final brake is on a high section of track right above the big Thanksgiving banner as you enter the section. It's just a right hand turn and a slow return to the station from there. It may not have been running as intense as the post storm rides in May, but it was holding its own quite nicely. Eric's big complaint is the ride doesn't give you a chance to catch your breath, its just non stop intensity all the way through. We go back for another ride, and this time wait for the back seat. Yup, Voyage still has it, and is already starting to warm up.

We next head to Legend. WE walk down the stairs into the Legend quee area, and discover its queue area to be half full, and the indoor queue area to be full. We then deicde since we have waited that long to go ahead and wait for the back seat. I don't think I have waited this long for Legend since its one train days when it first opened. Like in May, I can say they are doing good things with Legend, it is running like it did when it was new, and the Four Turns of Doom are quite powerful.

We then headed up to Raven, and walking through the Raven queue I can see we must have just missed a crowd since the Raven queue was set up for its long configuration, but the line was just to the bottom of the steps. We, of course, waited for Raven's back seat. At least they had two trains on Raven and Legend. I'm not so sure about Raven, when I first rode it 1996, I thought it was great, but now probably thanks to having Voyage in the same park, the Fifth Drop doesn't do it for me anymore, and the whole ride seems short. I mean the first drop is good, and there are still laterals in the Lake Rudolph turn and the S turn after the big drop, it just doesn't seem as good as it used to.

We then decided to check out Splashin Safari. Visiting a water park in a park is a huge time investment. We did do the gift shop run on our way out to the parking lot, then hiked all the way back to the car, got swim bags, hiked all the way back into the park. Got into the park just in time to see Santa mingling in the fountain area. We headed to Splashin Safari, got in another line to rent lockers. Here locker rental is $10, just like the big name parks, but here you get $7 back when you return the key, not like the big name parks. I then headed into the bathhouse, and I don't know if I just hadn't noticed them before, or if they are reading my trip reports, but there are private changing rooms in the bathhouse, not many of them, but they are available. After getting changed and a quick shower (clever the way the have the pull rope mostly tacked down to the wall so it isn't hanging in the middle of the aisle), then it was to the self serve free sunscreen station to slather excessive amounts of free sunscreen all over the exposed parts of my body.

We then decided to go ride Pilgrims Plunge first. As we were walking through the waterpark we were talking about how this water park looked on our first visit in 1996. At the time they had a wave pool, a kids pool, a lazy river, that one slide tower nearest the park, and maybe Wautubee, but I'm not sure about Wautubee. They have since expanded with a long row of water slides (Otorongo, which is three slides), ZoomBabwe, Zinga (funnel slide), Jungle Racers) as well as add two or three wet water activity areas, including two of those water slide/play structures with the pourng barrels. Lately they have added a second wave pool, a second lazy river, and Bakuli (toilet bowl slide). Next year they get a watercoaster. They have easil built this up into a complete waterpark that could easily stand on its own. It is also quite huge now. This year the park added the Pilgrims Plunge shoot the chutes ride and placed it so it falls on the border of Splashin Safari and Thanksgiving. So we headed all the way to the back of Splashin Safari, then down a path that goes under Voyage. Remember that little gate I mentioned was blocking the path that people were jumping over in May, well its been replaced by a more substantial gate. So we go through the tunnel under the Plunge observatio area to come up the hill right by the Pilgrims Punge exit.

At this point there is a 'customs' station to make sure those Splashin Safari guests don't make it into Thanksgiving without propper atire. We pressed on and followed the numerous, large, "ENTER HERE" signs. Oh no, a totally full queue house, at least we have the worlds largest fan to keep us cool. You know what else, now that the park has ordered and received extra boats for the ride, the line really never stops moving, its like a 20-30 minute walk to get onto the ride. I was happy to see, that due to the extra boats they were needing to stop the boats in the station, hey I win all the way around on this. We get seated in the middle of a boat, pull down the lap bars and are on our way. Right after you leave the station you go down a long meandering river, and it was quite clear our boat was listing to the left, yeah not a lot of planning went into that seating arangement. After the meandering river you come to an area where you stop and wait for an elevator, then you get onto the elevator. I think we got the most wet sitting still waiting for the elevator to rise as water from above kept raining down on us. The elevator is fast, quiet, and creepy with the way it bows out. Once to the top you pause a few seconds before it pushes you out of the elevator and down the drop. You get to the bottom of the drop, and just when you are thinking "Is that it?" you get hit by the splashdown. Don't worry, you honestly don't get that wet. Then its the long run out, then the jouney past all the coin operated water geysers. Finally you hit the lift hill up into the station, and you exit. At this point they have temporary barriers that lead you past the on ride photo booth, but those can easily be avoided. I did note the lift hill does allow excess water to drain out of drains in the back of the boar. We then took the long walk back to Bahari River.

Bahari River is the parks newer lazy river. We were surprised to find no line for it, and in fact wound up going around three times, yes taking the longer path each time. I took great delight in trying to navigate myself into as many water falls, sprayers, and the like as I could. There is just something peaceful about a lazy river, even if I think they may have let a few too many people into this one as we kept getting jammed up.

After Bahari River, we took a look at Bakuli, the 60 minute wait didn't sound appetizing, but we walked up to the observation deck. Man, they have this planned out well, it seems that practically every raft makes exactly two spins around the toilet bowl, guided by water jets. We were surprised to see they would let multiple rafts into the toilet bowl area at one time. Still seeing as they were only putting 2 people in a raft, we decided to wait for another visit for this one.

In fact we decided we were out of water park mode, changed back to street clothes, returnied locker keys, and headed back to Thanksgiving. We ended the day with two more rides on Voyage, yes back seat, and yes they were even crazier than early in the day. We then did a photo walkthrough of the park, hit the gift shops, then headed out. I like how the Legends transfer track is now labeled as something like "Stable 2"

We exited the park, collected our car, and headed out the old entrance to the Legend Lot, and drove over to the post office. Eric wanted to send one of his young relatives a postcard from Santa. We had the postcard prepared, but the Santa Claus post office does not have a stamp vending machine for selling stamps after hours. Luckily Holiday Foods was able to set us up with some stamps. So the postcard gets mailed, and while in the post office we run into Will Koch. Talk for a few moments and are then on our way to St. Louis.

Six Flags St. Louis is a huge park I haven't been to, Eric hasn't been there in a good 10 years or so, it's Friday and with the way huge crowds have been following us, we figure we'd need all the time we could get at Six Flags St. Louis, and we also decided it would be good to get a good nights sleep, so we left Holiday World early, and set outrselves up at a hotel just 15 miles east of St. Louis. A quick drive through dinner of Culvers to end the night. Oh, and that I-64 road work followed us most of theway to St. Louis.

Next up: Six Flags St. Louis - watch for it!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

TR: Coasterville Con 2009 - Indiana Beach (8/5/09)

Trip Report: Indiana Beach
"On Beautiful Lake Schafer, Monticello, IN"
August 5, 2009


I am much delighted to bring you, after a 5 year hiatus, a report of Coasterville Con. I'm back with my friend Eric and we are back on the road doing what else, riding coasters, eating food, and seeing the sights.

I hadn't seen Eric in a few years, so I was much delighted when I met him after work on August 4. We went down that night to see the Reds take on the Cubs. Well, that didn't go over to well, as the Reds rolled over and played dead, and the fans made Great American Ball Park feel like Wrigley Field South.

But enough of that, around 9AM Wednesday, August 5th we are on the road with Miss Garmin navigating. This set us up to get to Shapiro's in Indianapolis right around 11AM for some nice corned beef sandwiches for lunch. I think Eric might have been a bit shocked at the size of his lunch. After lunch we take time to take photos of Lucas Oil Stadium, and then head up to Indiana Beach.

Okay, its like 2PM when we arrive on the scene at Indiana Beach. On the way to the park we pass a billboard that is both very true and misleading. It has a big full color picture of Cornball Express with the word "FREE" next to it in large friendly letters. In not so large letters under the word FREE are the words "General Admission" This is part of the new park managements changes to the park, in this case eliminating the general admission fee. We pull into the South parking lot and note that it might be a bit crowded today, we decline the opportunity to pay $5 to park in the first two rows of the South lot, opting to park in the third row for Free, and then walking through the empty first two rows. We were a bit of a ways away from the gate, so much so that we walked through a cluster of picnic shelters that proudly bore the sign: "NO PICNICS!" Huh?

We made our way to the front gate, and noticed the disused roto-gates at the exit. There are ticket windows at the top of the walkway into the park, but they had lines and we decided to take a chance on getting wristbands inside the park. So we walk right past those booths, head down a hillside and come to a new gatehouse built at the parking lot side of the suspension bridge. At some point in time, I think this is going to be a gated park. Right now this gatehouse has turnstiles on both sides, and a tensabelt barrier in the center for strollers and wheelchairs. An attendant is there enforcing dress code, I suppose, as they said nothing as we carried soft drinks right into the park. At the current time they have some turnstiles labeled "ENTER HERE YOUR FIRST TIME ONLY" and the others labeled "RE-ENTER ONLY" It all seems rather pointless, as there is no enforcement mechanism, so its just as easy to enter through whichever turnstile has the shortest wait. Hope they weren't tryingto get any real usage stats out of that gate.

We then walked across the suspension bridge, and I tell you this is one of the greatest amusement park entrances, big classic rollercoaster lining the lakeside, with a sky ride and giant wheel visible. We get to the other side of the bridge where the general admission booth is boarded up, we proceed to walk down the steep ramp into the park.

We start walking down the main midway, and as Eric pointed out, the park exudes an atmopshere of Fun with oldies music and a boardwalk that looks like it is stuck in the 60's. We passed by a lot of classic rides and noted the parks new Splash Battle attraction, but we'll come back to that. We get about halfway downt he midway, to about where the Shafer Queen dock is and we come to a ride ticket booth with a shorter line. We pulled out a Walgreen's receipt and managed to get two ride all day wristbands for $30, total. What a deal! Another policy change is eliminating the early and late ride sessions, if you buy a rides wristband its good all day. In fact whereas the old owners seemed to try to shorten your stay as much as possible with 7 hour wristbands, the new owners are going for 2 and 3 day packages. We recieved our bright yellow wristbands featuring a park logo and a barcode that wraps almost all the way around the band. Before we could use the wristbands the cahsier activated them at the ticket booth.

We then headed for the rides, we had noted Lost Coaster had a full queue, so we headed to Steel Hawg. Steel Hawg is definietely a parking lot coaster. You head as if you were going to the north exit, in fact I think it is out further than the old northen general admission gate. They have constructed a new stretch of midway with games and the like so you don't feel quite out there.

Steel Hawg is the park's newest coaster, and "the only custom steel coaster in Indiana" It's main gimick is that the lift hill is not straight down, its actually something like 111 degrees, yup it is steeper than straight down, so you get a little inversion on the first drop, later on you go through a longer section of track into a turnaround upside down, and then towards the end there is my favorite element, something akin to a corkscrew or barell roll that is part of a drop. The rest of the ride is your standard compact trackplan steel coaster. The queue area is about 1/2 to 3/4 full when we join, and we are all smiles and making time out here in the unshaded hot sun, owing to efficient three car operation, when we get about halfway up the stairs to the boarding station and the ride goes down. Luckily it is down only about 15 minutes and we wait it out.

So, all in all about 45 minutes later we are beng welcomed into the station. What interests me is that the ride is designed for two stop loading, yet they routed the queue up into the unload end of the station, and put the exit ramp at the load end of the station, so oncoming and outgoing riders have to criss cross each other. So they group us lead us to the wristband scanner, then we head to the car. The ride has several 4 seat cars, of which they were running three today, made by S&S. Therefore its not too surprising they used seats that are pretty similar to their popular Screamin Swing rides, a real acute angle seat and a nifty lapbar that folds down from the side, and then can move up/down/forward and back to get a custom fit, I found the system to be pretty acommodating, then shoulder fingers lower down much like a TOGO train.

Once in the train, we make a quick turnaround out of the station, and the ride wastes no time getting you to the top of the lift hill. A turnaround at the top, then a freaky first drop, round a couple more traditional turns, excpet the banking all seems to be the wrong way leading to some pretty interesting ride forces. Halfway through the ride, the rides puts your car upside down and holds it there as for a good 3-5 seconds as you go through a turnaround. All in all it was a really good ride, nowhere near as bad as some would have you believe. I was most surprised with how smooh the ride was, and with little to no head banging. This coaster concept is a definite winner.

After trying out Steel Hawg, we start to make our way through the park, with our next stop at Hoosier Hurricane. Hoosier Hurricane is the parks oldest wooden rollercoaster. You board in a station two stories above the midway. You first go up one flight of stairs to a bridge that runs from the stairway, past the stairs down to the log flume station, then a bit further you have stairs that go up further to the Hoosier Hurricane station. The bridge is divided into three lanes by railings, and one outer lane feeds the log flume entrance, the other feeds the coaster entrance and the middle is the exit lane for both rides. You are expected to exit all the way to the bottom after either ride, and it seems like they have reinforced the railings to make this point clear.

We get up to the Hoosier Hurricane station, and the line is halfway down the second flight of stairs. When you get to the top, you go up a third flight to cross over the track, then you go back down to station level, get your wristband scanned and then choose a seat queue. I suppose they are supposed to admit riders from the line to the station between every cycle while the train is out on the course, but they were only admitting riders every 4 or 5 cycles, so the line would stand still and grow quite long, then they would seemingly admit everybody to cram into the station. We got lucky and got back car rides. We noted they were only running one train, and noted the train was in rough shape with several parts of the upholstery damaged, and the advertising logos on the sides had been removed. Lucky for us the ride still has the older style lap bars and no head rests. Its about as close to classic as your are going to get on a newer ride. We are soon dispatched and handslapping with those waiting in line is at least tolerated. You go up the lift hill, do a little S turn to the right then its a classic out and back layout all the way to the end of the peninsula and back. It's not a ride that's going to win any awards, it's a family ride that fills the role of "Classic amusement park roller coaster" We exit the ride and continue on.

Our walk next takes us through some games areas where I note that Cool Cash is now required to play arcade games. Cool Cash is the parks new cashless midway system, its a fairly agressive looking cash control system. At first blush I think its overkill for this type park, and a big waste of resources, but then I haven't seen the books to know if cash control is a big problem for the park.

We came to an alcove where we were saddened to discover the Air Crow (Flying Skooters) was closed, and Tigrr (Jet Star) had a pretty scary looking line, out in the unshaded heat. Cornball Express is in the area and its line is halfway down its long stairway. We were 'entertained' in the Cornball Express line by a pair of young kids who were having a spitting for distance contest, I kid you not. At the top of the stairs, WE just missed the cutoff for the next train, and I looked at the wristband scanner, which is also setup to honor Cool Cash Cards as payment for the ride. I was shocked to learn the cash price of a ride on Cornball Express was $8.00! I think the wood coasters are $8, steel coasters are $6, major flat rides are $5. It would be a very expensive park to visit if you were paying per ride. At $30, one trip on all the parks coasters would break you even, even faster if you were using a two-for-1 special, like we were.

We settle into the back seat, I get recognized in the station, but I never did get to meet up with the person because by the time we exited the ride, they were out of sight. I'm happy to see Cornball still has the traditional style lap bars. Cornball is much more agressive than Hoosier Hurricane and is the parks twister style rollercoaster, seemingly built in mid air above the kiddieland section of the park, it is anything but a kiddie ride. This ride has nice potent airtime moments and everything.

We then decide to bite the bullet and go ride Lost Coaster (of Superstition Mountain) hereafter shortened to LoCoSuMo. It's a full queue, its running one train, and its a slow loader at best. I think I clocked this thing at 96-120 PPH. So what you have is a popular low capacity ride. The queue is right next to their famous taco stand, and I think they pump the smell from the kitchens into the ride waiting area. They also feel the need to paint directional arrows about every 5' or less through the queue, nevermind the fact you don't have much choice with the railing and all.

This ride uses ne stop loading, the train pulls in, people get unloaded, the next group gets counted off, has wristbands scanned and enters. The trains are unlike anythign else you have every seen. The trains consist of two cars, both shaped like clasic mine cars. Each car has two benches the front bench faces backwards, the back bench faces inwards, so you are looking at each other Face/Off style, and nobody has a good look at the trackwork ahead. You sit down in a plush overstuffed cushioned seat, and fasten lapbelts. The two riders furthest from the car door have to slide in under the lapbar, like on classic trains of old. After you are loaded the operator lowers the other half of the lapbar, covering the other two riders, then they close and lock the car door, this action checks the lapbar so it can't come back up. A real simple mechanical system. The cars also have roll cages, and netting has been fitted to the rollcages and is secured to the car sides all the way around, so you can't stick anything outside the car, when the lapbar is lowered, the net flap for the doorway is fastened to the lapbar, so when the bar comes down, the gap above the door is filled in. They then tell you to keep your hands inside the car, as if I had a choice.

The train then rolls off the station area and around to the elevator. You get a dark ride scene and an introduction about how rickety the elevator is and how you shouldn't trust it. When you get to the top get ready for the wildest ride. It's a wooden coaster, but it is tunneled for at least half of the time, which means you can class it as a scenic railway, but the layout is all impossibly tight turns, including many hairpins turns, so its also a wooden wild mouse. But its not content to leave you with just sharp turns, it also like to pepper the ride with several short but sudden drops, even in the corners. The coaster took the place of a dark ride though a mountain, and it sitll has some dark ride stunts, sound effects, and all, but the insanely tight twisitng ride is the main feature. It's got laterals, it's got airtime, and I think the people who say its overly rough are wimps. For some reason, I don't think we'll ever see another coaster quite like this one. There is one part where you come out of the mountain and you are on fairly level track and slow down. You think you are at the end of the ride until you realize you are in back of the mountain. Just when you realize this you go down a tight twisting drop and the ride gives you one last dose before it lets you go. Wow! We have a winner!

After LoCoSuMo we walk the midway and realize the park is indeed quite crowded. Most of the flat rides have good size lines, you can't even get near Den of Lost Theives, which is no big loss beacuse I rode it at least a dozen times last visit when I was trying to wait out a rain shower. We headed all the way to the end of the midway, where I waited throgh a three cycle wait to ride Double Shot. At first it was almost a no-go as I was not even close to geting the buckle fastened on the seat I was originally assigned to, but the operator took one look at it and immediately moved me to another seat that had a much longer belt. (End seat, nearest the queue on the side looking right out at the lake) I am pleased to report the Double Shot still packs quite a mean punch here at Indiana Beach.

We then started walking back the other way on the boardwalk, and were heading to our car when the dive and jetski shows took our interest. I like how the dive tower is done up to look like a pirate ship. Hmm, too major amusement parks in Indiana, and both have high dive shows, is that a state law or something. The guy who did the high high dive wearing a flaming suit was a bit over the top, and the jetski guy was entertaing the fans down below doing all kinds of acrobatic stunts in the water. Rolls and flips on a jetski, no problem.

We took a break to get refreshed and get refreshments, then we re entered the park, after upgrading our parking space to almost right across from the gate, still three rows back of course. Back in the park, and the Water Swings were open, they were closed earlier. We took a ride on the Water Swings, its a Chance Yo-Yo built with a pier just big enough to load the ride, once the ride is loaded and the ride is at full speed, the chairs swing out well past the edge of the pier to great effect, particualrly since the Yo-Yo mechanism works very well on this particular example.

Next up was Splash Battle - its queue area as about ahlf full. Unfortunatley they only had two boats on. Each boat does seat four riders, two facing front, and the other two facing back. Riders get secured merely by a seatbelt and a small door across the opening of the boat. To make like interesting each rider has a water cannon, its a manually operated cannon, meaning the harder you crank, the more water pressure you get. The layout is prety basic, you go out of the station, make a right, go to the other end ot the ride, do a hairpin turn comee back to make a turn around right next to the station, on its second trip out you do a S- curve and go through a short tunnel complete with water curtain, you then travel a nice striaght path past the midway, where people can pay a quarter for access to a water canyon for a minute or so. Its also pretty simple, its basically a dark ride ride system, something that is time tested. Looking back behind the ride, the park must have 6 or 7 boats for the thing, which may be too many owing to how short the ride is, but clearly two boats is too few. Basically one is loading while the other is out on the course, so we never got the chance to interact with the other boat, and no one was interested in taking up battle stations on the land, so its a real neat idea, but it just didn't deliver.

Next stop, we noticed Air Crow (Flying Skooter) was running so we high tailed it over there. We are extremly glad the line was only a one cycle wait becuase of how poorly the ride is operated. I kid you not, the ride coms to a stop. Owing to the way the ride is designed, the seatbelts in the 10 birds have to be opened one at a time with a tool. So after taking his own sweet time unloading the ride, the operator goes to the gate. He then admits the riders for car 1, walks them out to the ride, gets them belted in, then comes back to the gate, gets the riders for car 2, walks them out to the ride, gets them belted in, and repeats for all ten tubs. It is an excruciatingly painful process. Then the ride starts, it last maybe 60 seconds, and snapping is forbidden, which is a shame becuase I really had to hold back or I would have been putting on an air show.

After Air Crow, we take another spin on Cornball Express, then head to Frankenstien's Castle. The Castle is a pay extra haunted house, it's $4 and worth every dime. We were about to go in when we realized we would be in the same group as a little kid who was clearly upset at just the mild frights in the lobby. We deicded to hang back in the arcade next door for about ten minutes, then came back. We bought tickets, and did learn the kid didn't make it into the castle, which is probably for the best. You are led into a waiting area where there are some coffins, one even says it has a vacancy. Everyso often a group is admitted to the house where you start in one of those falling elevator illusions, this one seems particularly weak. You do get the rules about not touching the props, keep walking forward, and no backtracking. They have done a lot to discourage backtracking by putting several one way doors throughout the castle. I recall Sally modernized this a few years ago, and the tabluex through the house really bears that out. There are no live actors, but there are several tablueax as you walk through the haunted house. That isn't to say it's lost its fun house charm. Its got a moving foor, a shakerboard, a tilt room, a hall of doors (can you find the right one?), a falling balcony, a suspension bridge, a fat mans misery where both walls come closer and closer together until they leave a narrow passageway, a darkened area with rat sound effects complete with 'mousetails' that swat at your legs. At one point you do go out on a balcony overlooking the midway, all the better to mess up the dialation of your eyes after you have gotten used to the dark. As I said its a real neat haunt. They have a Frankenstein animatronic out front doing bally for the haunt, and during part of the spiel he acts like he is tipping his hat, but his head comes off with his hat. If that image you see for free outside the haunt upsets your children, forget about going inside.

From Frankenstien, we go to the roof of Dogs and Suds to wait a good 20-30 minutes to ride Tigrr, your standard Scwarzkopf Jet Star. They had two trains running, each with two cars. They were designed to seat two each, put almost every car goes out with a solo rider, folks just odn't like riding in somebody else's crotch anymore. This year the park added automotive style retracting belts to the cars, which larger riders should not fear, remember they are supposed to be able to wrap around two riders. It's a fun old rare ride.

We then finished the coaster collection with a ride on Galaxi. Galaxi is neatly places under a water slide complex, we got real lucky on timing arriving at this one, so we only had to wait 10-15 minutes, again 2 trains, each seating up to 8 people. She tried to put Eric and I in the same seat, but that just wasnt happening. That said, its pretty much your standard Galaxi except for the setting. At this point its starting to get dark, we head back to Steel Hawg but decide we only have time for either Steel Hawg or LoCoSuMo.

We make a big mistake and chose LoCoSuMo. We do stop in the big gift shop on the way to LoCoSuMo, where we look around, and I settle on a DVD about the park as well as an IB Crow talking bobblehead. Its a neat promotion item, the box credits William Robinson. When you bobble the crow he recites a short commercial for the park ending with the famous tag line "Proving once again, There IS more than corn in Indiana!" It was marked down from $13.99 for $5.

We then joined a long full LoCoSuMo queue, at this time an older man in a maintenance uniform was running the ride. This is not a good thing, as he was even slower than the crew that was here earlier, not only that he was more concerned with yelling at people to get off rails, no running etc, instead of running the ride. I mean he could have done this in the dead time while the train was out on the course, but nope he would wait until the train was sitting their empty to go all Law Enforcer. That took entirely too long, at one point the whole queue of people were contemplating all standing on the handrails en masse just to totally tick the guy off, or send him over the edge. Then he got you into the car and he was real particular about where you put your feet, how you held onto the lap bar, don't turn your head to side, dont have fun," Ride starts. He was the perfect example of how one worker with a bad attitude can bring your entire attitude about a park crashing down.

From what I gathered from chatting up workers, the park is not having a gret season at all. "You came on the only busy day we have had all season!", they are spendng lots of money on infrastrcture like the cash control system that I think is a waste of resources, while trying to run the park on as few staff members as they can get away with. What that meant was that today, when the park WAS crowded, they were in no way prepared to handle the crowds.

Such is life, we relax and finish our park visit by having a nice relaxing gourmet meal in the Skyroom. Seriously, what is a gourmet restaraunt doing in a park like this. Veal eaters are used to being lucky to find one veal entree on a menu, they had like five. And its great food at that, I had a Veal Picatta dinner (entree, salad, veg, potato, rolls w/ apple butter, and a coke all for around $20). Not bad for in park dining.

After our dinner we headed back to our car, much later than we had scheduled to leve the park, but it just took that long to do everything with the crowds and poor park operations. What's worse? We have about a three hour drive to our hotel just outside of Louisville, KY. So we pulled into our hotel just around 1AM, grabbed the keys (they had them setting out all ready to go what with us being the last people to check in and all)

Holiday World tomorrow!

Watch for it!